The Very Best of the Moz Blog 2017: Our Top 50 Posts

Posted by FeliciaCrawford

Now, I know we technically have a few days left in 2017, but I’m ready to dive head-first into a fond, full-blown retrospective. Each year we look back on what we’ve published, compiling and sharing the pieces you liked best. Normally we divvy it up via various metrics: traffic, 1Metric score, total thumbs up, total comments, the best of YouMoz, and so on and so forth. This year, however, we’re doing things just a little differently.

A lot has changed in the past year…

The way we run the blog has changed in a few significant ways from the days of yesteryear. YouMoz, our user-generated content blog, was retired in the autumn of 2016 (though we hope to resurrect it in another form someday). We reduced our publishing frequency a bit, and refocused our content on core SEO topics after spending 2015 and 2016 branching out into other marketing subjects (like social media and content marketing). We also made some big changes with regards to commenting: we closed comments on posts older than 30 days (they became veritable spam factories), and implemented stricter moderation filters to better catch spammy comments fishing for either a link or easy MozPoints.

And if I’m being completely honest, I don’t think the “Best of” posts from years past have offered you, our beloved readers, as much value as they should’ve. The most excited comments on those posts occur when someone discovers a gem they’d missed, when a post reaches out to you from the masses of online content clamoring for your attention and speaks to you. The way we formerly ranked “the best” resulted in a lot of overlap; the same few posts with lots of thumbs up, a busy comments section, and high traffic overwhelmed the leaderboard.

What criteria now determines “best”?

At the end of 2017, we’re starting fresh. First, I’ve taken our ten most popular blog post categories by traffic — these represent the topics readers are actively seeking information on. Next, I thought about which metric matters most to me when I consider the success of a blog post. Traffic, thumbs, social shares… Nice to see, yes, but they don’t paint a very clear picture of a post’s impact. I found myself returning to my favorite blog post metric again and again: the comments.

A post with a lively comments section can be many things. Perhaps it sparked questions or debate; perhaps the findings were controversial; perhaps it was simply inspiring. Whatever the reason, a heavily commented-on post represents something that struck a chord, that convinced a person to peek out from behind their keyboard shield and contribute a thought, something that coaxed a little extra effort and commitment from our community. As a silent lurker myself, I am consistently blown away by the humility, genius, and generosity you all display in the blog comments section every day.

So there we have it: this year’s Best of the Moz Blog 2017 is a list of the top five most-commented posts in the top ten blog categories. That’s fifty unique blog posts throughout the year on a variety of topics, some of which you may have missed. Most blog posts fall into several of our categories, but every post will only be listed once; if it’s hit the top five in a more popular category, I’ve taken it out of the running for the rest. It’s my sincere hope that this list uncovers something useful for you, something that helps make your job and day just a little easier.

Without further ado, let’s get this party started!

(If you’re curious, check out the Best of 2016 and the Best of 2015, too.)


The top 5 Whiteboard Fridays

Whiteboard Friday is far and away our most popular blog category, earning three times as much traffic as the rest. Because it always overlaps with at least one other category, you’re bound to get a tidy grab bag of SEO takeaways with this list!

10 Things that DO NOT (Directly) Affect Your Google Rankings

Rand Fishkin, September 22nd

Thumbs: 85
Comments: 180

What do the age of your site, your headline H1/H2 preference, bounce rate, and shared hosting all have in common? You might’ve gotten a hint from the title: not a single one of them directly affects your Google rankings. In this rather comforting Whiteboard Friday, Rand lists out ten factors commonly thought to influence your rankings that Google simply doesn’t care about.

What Do Google’s New, Longer Snippets Mean for SEO?

Rand Fishkin, December 8th

Thumbs: 100
Comments: 136

Featured snippets and meta descriptions have brand-new character limits, and it’s a huge change for Google and SEOs alike. Learn about what’s new, when it changed, and what it all means for SEO in this episode of Whiteboard Friday. (And this is cheating, but for good measure, you might follow up with Dr. Pete’s official recommendation for meta description lengths in 2018.)

What Links Can You Get that Comply with Google’s Guidelines?

Marie Haynes, January 20th

Thumbs: 68
Comments: 112

If you’ve ever been the victim of a Google penalty, you know how painful it can be to identify the problem and recover from the hit. Even if you’ve been penalty-free thus far, the threat of getting penalized is a source of worry. But how can you avoid it, when it seems like unnatural links lurk around every corner?

In this Whiteboard Friday, we warmly welcome Google penalty and unnatural link expert Marie Haynes as she shares how to earn links that do comply with Google’s guidelines, that will keep your site out of trouble, and that can make a real impact.

7 ‹Title Tag› Hacks for Increased Rankings + Traffic – Whiteboard Friday

Cyrus Shepard, May 5th

Thumbs: 185
Comments: 103

You may find yourself wondering whether the humble title tag still matters in modern SEO. When it comes to your click-through rate, the answer is a resounding yes! In this Whiteboard Friday, we welcome back our good friend Cyrus Shepard to talk about 7 ways you can revamp your title tags to increase your site traffic and rankings.

Comment Marketing: How to Earn Benefits from Community Participation

Rand Fishkin, January 13th

Thumbs: 53
Comments: 97

It’s been a few years since we’ve covered the topic of comment marketing, but that doesn’t mean it’s out of date. There are clever, intentional ways to market yourself and your brand in the comments sections of sites, and there’s less competition now than ever before. In this Whiteboard Friday, Rand details what you can do to get noticed in the comments and the benefits you’ll reap from high-quality contributions.


The top 5 posts in On-Page SEO

The results of our recent Moz Blog Reader Survey highlighted on-page SEO as the topic you’d most like to learn about, so it’s not surprising to see that this category sits right under Whiteboard Friday for popularity. There’s an interesting theme that emerges from these top posts: it seems we’re still working on many of the same things, but how we treat them has necessarily changed over time.

How Links in Headers, Footers, Content, and Navigation Can Impact SEO – Whiteboard Friday

Rand Fishkin, October 20th

Thumbs: 68
Comments: 92

Which link is more valuable: the one in your nav, or the one in the content of your page? Now, how about if one of those in-content links is an image, and one is text? Not all links are created equal, and getting familiar with the details will help you build a stronger linking structure. This Whiteboard Friday covers links in headers and footers, in navigation versus content, and how that can affect internal and external links, link equity, and link value between your site and others.

It’s Time to Stop Doing On-Page SEO Like It’s 2012

Rand Fishkin, February 6th

Thumbs: 84
Comments: 91

On-page SEO has evolved in the past five years. Rand outlines the changes in five succinct tactics: move beyond keyword repetition rules; searcher intent matters more than raw keywords; related topics are essential; links don’t always beat on-page; and topical authority is more important than ever.

The Wonderful World of SEO Meta Tags [Refreshed for 2017]

Kate Morris, April 13th

Thumbs: 46
Comments: 67

Which meta tags are absolutely necessary, which are dependent on your situation, and which should you absolutely ignore or remove? Kate Morris refreshes her original 2010 post on the subject of meta tags, sharing a few new tips and reiterating what’s remained the same over the past 7 years.

Designing a Page’s Content Flow to Maximize SEO Opportunity – Whiteboard Friday

Rand Fishkin, December 1st

Thumbs: 54
Comments: 48

Controlling and improving the flow of your on-site content can actually help your SEO. What’s the best way to capitalize on the opportunity present in your page design? Rand covers the questions you need to ask (and answer) and the goals you should strive for in this edition of Whiteboard Friday.

How to Do a Content Audit [Updated for 2017]

Everett Sizemore, March 22nd

Thumbs: 49
Comments: 31

Learn how to do content audits for SEO in this comprehensive, updated guide by Everett Sizemore, including tips for crawling large websites, rendering JavaScript content, and auditing dynamic mobile content.


The top 5 posts in Local SEO

Local SEO overlaps with what we think of as traditional SEO in many ways, so it’s not surprising at all to see this category near the top. There’s still a lot of doubt and apprehension, it seems, when it comes to local SEO best practices and what really works, and the top posts in this category reflect that.

Local SEO Spam Tactics Are Working: How You Can Fight Back

Casey Meraz, March 28th

Thumbs: 48
Comments: 75

It’s very clear that spam tactics in Google’s local results are earning higher rankings. In this post, Casey Meraz identifies exactly what spammers are doing to get ahead, what they can get away with, and what you can do to fight back against the problem plaguing local results.

Not-Actually-the-Best Local SEO Practices

Miriam Ellis, December 11th

Thumbs: 47
Comments: 72

Not all common practices in local SEO are the best practices. In fact, some of them can be pretty darn harmful. Check out Miriam’s list of what-not-to-dos (and what-you-should-actually-dos) in this comprehensive blog post.

The 2017 Local SEO Forecast: 10 Predictions According to Mozzers

Miriam Ellis, February 14th

Thumbs: 35
Comments: 67

From Google providing intimate details about businesses to Amazon expanding even further into the local scene, local SEO stood to see a lot of change this year. Check out what the SEOs at Moz had to say about what to prepare for in 2017.

Proximity to Searcher is the New #1 Local Search Ranking Factor

Darren Shaw, February 22nd

Thumbs: 58
Comments: 65

Forget everything you thought you knew about the most impactful local ranking factors — searcher proximity just may be the number-one thing influencing where a local business shows on the SERPs.

How to Perform a Basic Local Business Competitive Audit

Miriam Ellis, August 22nd

Thumbs: 32
Comments: 65

Are you outranked in Google’s Local Pack? Then it’s high time to perform a competitive business audit. Use this example analysis and downloadable spreadsheet to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of multiple businesses and devise a plan to win.


The top 5 posts in Basic SEO

Basic SEO is another category that enjoys a lot of overlap with other topics; perhaps that’s one reason why it’s so popular. This year’s top posts in this category cover a range of subjects, and all are pretty useful for someone learning (or leveling up in) SEO.

Aren’t 301s, 302s, and Canonicals All Basically the Same? – Whiteboard Friday

Dr. Pete, March 3rd

Thumbs: 62
Comments: 69

They say history repeats itself. In the case of the great 301 vs 302 vs rel=canonical debate, it repeats itself about every three months. In this Whiteboard Friday, Dr. Pete explains how bots and humans experience pages differently depending on which solution you use, why it matters, and how each choice may be treated by Google.

How to Prioritize SEO Tasks [+Worksheet]

Britney Muller, September 21st

Thumbs: 41
Comments: 64

An absolute essential if you want to keep yourself from getting overwhelmed, Moz’s own SEO Britney Muller offers five tips for prioritizing your SEO work: setting specific goals, identifying important pages for conversions, uncovering technical opportunities via a site crawl, time management, and providing consistent benchmarks and reporting.

5 Tactics to Earn Links Without Having to Directly Ask – Whiteboard Friday

Rand Fishkin, July 28th

Thumbs: 71
Comments: 63

Typical link outreach is a tired sport, and we’ve all but alienated most content creators with our constant link requests. In this Whiteboard Friday, Rand outlines five smart ways to earn links to your site without having to beg.

“SEO Is Always Changing”… Or Is It?: Debunking the Myth and Getting Back to Basics

Bridget Randolph, July 19th

Thumbs: 56
Comments: 60

We’re so fond of the idea that SEO is hard because it’s always changing. But is that really true? Bridget Randolph challenges a common industry refrain and brings us back to the basics of what’s really important in our work.

How to Target Multiple Keywords with One Page – Next Level

Brian Childs, June 15th

Thumbs: 45
Comments: 56

In this edition of our educational Next Level series, you’ll learn an easy workflow for researching and targeting multiple keywords with a single page.


The top five posts in Link Building

A thousand years from now, when the Space Needle has toppled into Puget Sound and our great-great-great-great-etc. grandchildren are living on Mars, link building will still prove to be one of the most popular subjects on the Moz Blog. And you get a double-whammy of goodness this year, because they just so happen to all be Whiteboard Fridays!

Should SEOs Care About Internal Links? – Whiteboard Friday

Rand Fishkin, May 26th

Thumbs: 85
Comments: 87

Internal links are one of those essential SEO items you have to get right to avoid getting them really wrong. Rand shares 18 tips to help inform your strategy, going into detail about their attributes, internal vs. external links, ideal link structures, and much, much more in this edition of Whiteboard Friday.

How to Prioritize Your Link Building Efforts & Opportunities – Whiteboard Friday

Rand Fishkin, February 17th

Thumbs: 73
Comments: 81

We all know how effective link building efforts can be, but it can be an intimidating, frustrating process — and sometimes even a chore. In this Whiteboard Friday, Rand builds out a framework you can start using today to streamline and simplify the link building process for you, your teammates, and yes, even your interns.

The 3 Easiest Link Building Tactics Any Website Can Use to Acquire Their First 50 Links – Whiteboard Friday

Rand Fishkin, September 8th

Thumbs: 81
Comments: 77

Without a solid base of links, your site won’t be competitive in the SERPs — even if you do everything else right. But building your first few links can be difficult and discouraging, especially for new websites. Never fear — Rand is here to share three relatively quick, easy, and tool-free (read: actually free) methods to build that solid base and earn yourself links.

When and How to Use Domain Authority, Page Authority, and Link Count Metrics – Whiteboard Friday

Rand Fishkin, June 16th

Thumbs: 50
Comments: 71

How can you effectively apply link metrics like Domain Authority and Page Authority alongside your other SEO metrics? Where and when does it make sense to take them into account, and what exactly do they mean? In this Whiteboard Friday, Rand answers these questions and more, arming you with the knowledge you need to better understand and execute your SEO work.

Image Link Building – Whiteboard Friday

Britney Muller, December 15th

Thumbs: 48
Comments: 63

Image link building is a delicate art. There are some distinct considerations from traditional link building, and doing it successfully requires a balance of creativity, curiosity, and having the right tools on hand. In this Whiteboard Friday, Moz’s own SEO and link building aficionado Britney Muller offers up concrete advice for successfully building links via images.


The top 5 posts in Advanced SEO

2017’s top posts in the advanced SEO category cover just about every post type we like to publish (and that you like to read): in-depth case studies, Whiteboard Fridays, best practice advice, and solid how-tos.

[Case Study] How We Ranked #1 for a High-Volume Keyword in Under 3 Months

Dmitry Dragilev, April 19th

Thumbs: 73
Comments: 140

If you’ve been struggling to take the number-one spot in the SERPs for a competitive keyword, take a cue from this case study. Dmitry Dragilev shares his team’s 8-step methodology for ranking first in a popular niche.

How Google AdWords (PPC) Does and Doesn’t Affect Organic Results – Whiteboard Friday

Rand Fishkin, November 17th

Thumbs: 68
Comments: 89

It’s common industry knowledge that PPC can have an effect on our organic results. But what effect is that, exactly, and how does it work? In this Whiteboard Friday, Rand covers the ways paid ads influence organic results — and one very important way they don’t.

SEO Best Practices for Canonical URLs + the Rel=Canonical Tag – Whiteboard Friday

Rand Fishkin, July 14th

Thumbs: 62
Comments: 87

If you’ve ever had any questions about the canonical tag, well, have we got the Whiteboard Friday for you. In this episode, Rand defines what rel=canonical means and its intended purpose, when it’s recommended you use it, how to use it, and sticky situations to avoid.

How to Uncover Hidden Keyword-Level Data Using Google Sheets

Sarah Lively, February 13th

Thumbs: 42
Comments: 83

Which keywords are driving your organic traffic? Keyword-level data doesn’t have to be (not provided). Sarah Lively shares a smart solution using two free add-ons for Google Sheets.

How Long Should Your Meta Description Be? (2018 Edition)

Dr. Pete, December 19th

Thumbs: 49
Comments: 76

The end of November saw a spike in the average length of SERP snippets. Across 90K results, we found a definite increase but many oddities, such as video snippets. Our data suggests that many snippets are exceeding 300 characters, and we recommend a new meta description limit of 300 characters.


The top 5 posts in Technical SEO

Technical SEO posts are some of my favorite categories to publish (which is perhaps a strange sentiment coming from a poetry major). The debate that recently raged — about whether it’s necessary or unnecessary for SEO — will always stick with many of us, as will Rand’s excellent Whiteboard Friday rebuttal on the topic.

XML Sitemaps: The Most Misunderstood Tool in the SEO’s Toolbox

Michael Cottam, April 11th

Thumbs: 43
Comments: 83

XML sitemaps are a powerful tool for SEOs, but are often misunderstood and misused. Michael Cottam explains how to leverage XML sitemaps to identify and resolve indexation problems.

JavaScript & SEO: Making Your Bot Experience As Good As Your User Experience

Alexis Sanders, June 20th

Thumbs: 56
Comments: 79

More and more, we’re realizing it’s incredibly important for us as SEOs to understand JavaScript’s impact on search experience. Can search engines see your content and experience your site the way a user does? If not, what solutions can you use to fix it?

Pros and Cons of HTTPS Services: Traditional vs Let’s Encrypt vs Cloudflare

JR Ridley, September 13th

Thumbs: 38
Comments: 78

Thinking about going secure? It’s more important than ever, with Google issuing security warnings for many non-secure sites in Chrome. This comparison of three popular HTTPS services will help you determine the best option for implementing an SSL certification on your site.

Mastering Google Search Operators in 67 Easy Steps

Dr. Pete, March 1st

Thumbs: 82
Comments: 76

Google search operators are like chess – knowing how the pieces move doesn’t make you a master. Dive into 67 examples, from content research to site audits, and level up your search operator game.

Unlocking Hidden Gems Within Schema.org

Alexis Sanders, October 18th

Thumbs: 45
Comments: 69

Schema.org can be a confusing resource if you’re trying to learn how to use and implement structured data. This mini-guide arms you with the right kind of thinking to tackle your next structured data project.


The top 5 posts in Keyword Research

The posts generating the most buzz in our keyword research category seem to revolve around quick yet effective wins and tactical advice. And with time constraints being one of the biggest challenges reported in our Reader’s Survey, it’s really no surprise.

The Lazy Writer’s Guide to 30-Minute Keyword Research

Britney Muller, July 26th

Thumbs: 52
Comments: 54

Keyword research doesn’t have to be a marathon bender. A brisk 30-minute walk can provide incredible insights — insights that connect you with a wider audience on a deeper level. Britney Muller shares several ways to get your keyword research tasks done efficiently and well.

The Keyword + Year Content/Rankings Hack – Whiteboard Friday

Rand Fishkin, February 10th

Thumbs: 63
Comments: 49

What’s the secret to earning site traffic from competitive keywords with decent search volume? The answer could be as easy as 1, 2, 3 — or more precisely, 2, 0, 1, 7. In this Whiteboard Friday, Rand lets you in on a relatively straightforward tactic that can help you compete in a tough space using very fresh content.

3 Tactics for Hyperlocal Keywords – Whiteboard Friday

Rand Fishkin, February 24th

Thumbs: 63
Comments: 47

Trying to target a small, specific region with your keywords can prove frustrating. While reaching a high-intent local audience is incredibly valuable, without volume data to inform your keyword research, you’ll find yourself hitting a wall. In this Whiteboard Friday, Rand shares how to uncover powerful, laser-focused keywords that will reach exactly the right people.

Which of My Competitor’s Keywords Should (& Shouldn’t ) I Target? – Whiteboard Friday

Rand Fishkin, November 24th

Thumbs: 45
Comments: 44

You don’t want to try to rank for every one of your competitors’ keywords. Like most things with SEO, it’s important to be strategic and intentional with your decisions. In this Whiteboard Friday, Rand shares his recommended process for understanding your funnel, identifying the right competitors to track, and prioritizing which of their keywords you ought to target.

NEW in Keyword Explorer: See Who Ranks & How Much with Keywords by Site

Rand Fishkin, October 23rd

Thumbs: 41
Comments: 43

It’s not often that a product-focused post makes our blog’s Best of the Year list, so this is both interesting and heartening to see. We worked really hard to bring better data and more usefulness to Keyword Explorer this year, and y’all left some really kind sentiments in the comments. Thanks for always being here for us, folks! 🙂


The top 5 posts in Content

I won’t say it, I promise. 😉 But content is just as important as ever, and the rather vague advice of “create great content and the rest will come” has certainly gotten a bit exhausting over the years. We’ve made an effort to publish more actionable ways to think about and use content, and it seems like that’s been resonating with you so far!

Refurbishing Top Content – Whiteboard Friday

Britney Muller, February 3rd

Thumbs: 66
Comments: 82

You’ve got top-performing content on your site that does really well. Maybe it’s highly converting, maybe it garners the most qualified traffic — but it’s just sitting there gathering dust. Isn’t there something else you can do with content that’s clearly proven its worth?

As it turns out, there is! In this Whiteboard Friday, Britney Muller shares three easy steps for identifying, repurposing, and republishing your top content to juice every drop of goodness out of it.

What We Learned From Analyzing 1.4 Million Featured Snippets

A.J. Ghergich, January 17th

Thumbs: 48
Comments: 78

From optimal snippet length, to practical application tips, to which queries prefer tables, lists, or paragraphs, learn everything you need to know to supercharge your snippet wins.

The Perfect Blog Post Length and Publishing Frequency is B?!!$#÷x – Whiteboard Friday

Rand Fishkin, August 18th

Thumbs: 76
Comments: 65

The perfect blog post length or publishing frequency doesn’t actually exist. “Perfect” isn’t universal — your content’s success depends on tons of personalized factors. In this Whiteboard Friday, Rand explains why the idea of “perfect” is baloney when it comes to your blog, and lists what you should actually be looking for in a successful publishing strategy.

Learning to Re-Share: 4 Strategies to Renew, Refresh, and Recycle Content for Bigger Reach

Jen Carney, August 2nd

Thumbs: 31
Comments: 51

You’ve spend too much time and effort on content creation to share it only once. Check out four smart strategies you can implement today to improve the reach of your existing content.

How to Build the Right Content Marketing Strategy for SEO Growth

Alli Berry, November 15th

Thumbs: 30
Comments: 51

Keywords are important for innumerable SEO tasks, but driving your content marketing strategy isn’t one of them. Your strategy should be based on the audience you’re trying to reach if you want your organic traffic to convert.


Paid Search Marketing

While it perhaps seems a little strange for an SEO blog to cover, paid search plays an important part in our digital marketing world, and as reported in our Reader’s Survey, plenty of us wear more than one hat. Here are the top posts from 2017 that generated the most commentary about all things paid:

Do iPhone Users Spend More Online Than Android Users?

Martin Meany, October 11th

Thumbs: 27
Comments: 71

iPhone users tend to spend 3x as much as Android users, according to an analysis of 31 million mobile e-commerce sessions. Digital marketers can capitalize on this revelation via Facebook and AdWords.

Branding Success: How to Use PPC to Amplify Your Brand

Purna Virji, February 21st

Thumbs: 34
Comments: 44

You might be surprised to learn that branding and PPC go hand-in-hand. Find out how to leverage your PPC campaigns to strengthen your brand and win conversions and loyalty from your customers.

No, Paid Search Audiences Won’t Replace Keywords

Kirk Williams, May 30th

Thumbs: 33
Comments: 29

Keywords or audience targeting? Kirk Williams sets out to argue that far from being dead, keywords are still the most useful tool in the paid search marketer’s toolbox.

Paid Social for Content Marketing Launches – Whiteboard Friday

Kane Jamison, September 29th

Thumbs: 31
Comments: 29

Stuck in a content marketing rut? Relying on your existing newsletter, social followers, or email outreach won’t do your launches justice. Boosting your signal with paid social both introduces your brand to new audiences and improves your launch’s traffic and results. In this Whiteboard Friday, we’re welcoming back our good friend Kane Jamison to highlight four straightforward, actionable tactics you can start using ASAP.

The Step-By-Step Guide to Testing Voice Search Via PPC

Purna Virji, March 21st

Thumbs: 30
Comments: 24

Conversational interfaces are becoming more and more popular, but it’s hard to know where to start when it comes to voice search. A $50 PPC budget is enough to jumpstart your voice search keyword list and strategy — learn how in this step-by-step guide.


Top comments by thumbs up

Comments are my favorite blog post success metric, and it simply wouldn’t do if we didn’t honor the folks who contributed the most popular comments in 2017. Thank you, all of you, for sharing your thoughts with the greater Moz and SEO community, and for taking precious time out of your day to make the blog a more interesting and better place. And for all the comment lurkers out there like me, I offer you solemn solidarity and zero judgment (but I’d be delighted to see y’all venture out from behind the screen now and again ;).

1. Praveen Sharma on “10 Things that DO NOT (Directly) Affect Your Google Rankings – Whiteboard Friday” – 58 thumbs up

Short, sweet, accurate, relevant advice is the name of the game. 🙂 We’ve had feedback before that some readers come to the blog for the comments as much as the post itself, and this example shows why. Thanks for sharing your insight, Praveen!

2. SEOMG on “7 ‹Title Tag› Hacks for Increased Rankings + Traffic – Whiteboard Friday” – 42 thumbs up

Much like the above, this comment exemplifies clear, useful examples related to the post topic. You rock, SEOMG!

3. Praveen Sharma on “The 3 Easiest Link Building Tactics Any Website Can Use to Acquire Their First 50 Links – Whiteboard Friday” – 39 thumbs up

Swooping in again with another helpful tidbit to add to the blog post at hand, Praveen’s made it on the Top 10 list twice. We really appreciate your contributions, Praveen!

4. Trevor Klein on “Moz Transitions: Rand to Step Away from Operations and into Advisory Role in Early 2018” – 38 thumbs up

A bittersweet comment that clearly struck a chord with many in our community. Rand, I hope you know how much we all love and appreciate you! And Trevor, thank you so much for your candid and genuine thoughts; you truly spoke for all of us there.

5. Gianluca Fiorelli on “SEO Best Practices for Canonical URLs + the Rel=Canonical Tag – Whiteboard Friday” – 30 thumbs up

Gianluca’s comments on the Moz Blog are legendary; each one is a treasure, a miniature blog post in and of itself. Thank you for sharing your smarts with us, Gianluca!

6. Rand Fishkin on “What Do Google’s New, Longer Snippets Mean for SEO? – Whiteboard Friday” – 28 thumbs up

By using the comments section to clarify a few points about his Whiteboard Friday video and highlight his advice, Rand adds extra value and oomph to the post as a whole… and the community responded. 🙂 Thank you for always leaving 10X comments, Rand!

7. Eric Hahn on “10 Things that DO NOT (Directly) Affect Your Google Rankings – Whiteboard Friday” – 26 thumbs up

The discussion in the thread spurred by this helpful, on-topic comment is the kind of lively, educational back-and-forth we love to witness. Thank you for inspiring folks to ask questions and learn, Eric!

8. Igor Gorbenko on “What Do Google’s New, Longer Snippets Mean for SEO? – Whiteboard Friday” – 25 thumbs up

It makes me really happy that our community has — and rewards — such awesome personality. Igor, thank you for your wit and your insights! ᕕ(⌐■_■)ᕗ ♪♬

9. Tim Soulo on “Moz Transitions: Rand to Step Away from Operations and into Advisory Role in Early 2018” – 22 thumbs up

The blog community definitely resonated with all the heartfelt, personal stories shared on this post. Tim, thank you for sharing!

10. Gianluca Fiorelli on “Comment Marketing: How to Earn Benefits from Community Participation – Whiteboard Friday” – 21 thumbs up

In an incredibly meta turn of events, Gianluca’s comment on our Comment Marketing Whiteboard Friday rounds out the list of 2017’s top comments on the Moz Blog. I don’t think there’s a person on this Internet that’s done a better job of personal comment marketing than Gianluca! 🙂


Here’s to you!

Thank you all, each and every one of you, for helping to keep our little community a thriving, nurturing place to learn SEO, share ideas, and hey, even make mistakes now and again. It’s an honor to have a hand in providing content to such a TAGFEE and brilliant group of people, and I can’t describe how excited I am for all that 2018 will bring.

Let me know in the comments how you liked the change-up this year, what other “Best of” formats or lists you might find helpful, and any other ponderings or thoughts you might have — and thank you again for reading!

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Reblogged 1 year ago from tracking.feedpress.it

Darryl, the man behind dotmailer’s Custom Technical Solutions team

Why did you decide to come to dotmailer?

I first got to know dotmailer when the company was just a bunch of young enthusiastic web developers called Ellipsis Media back in 1999. I was introduced by one of my suppliers and we decided to bring them on board to build a recruitment website for one of our clients. That client was Amnesty International and the job role was Secretary General. Not bad for a Croydon company whose biggest client before that was Scobles the plumber’s merchants. So, I was probably dotmailer’s first ever corporate client! After that, I used dotmailer at each company I worked for and then one day they approached a colleague and me and asked us if we wanted to work for them. That was 2013.  We grabbed the opportunity with both hands and haven’t looked back since.

Tell us a bit about your role

I’m the Global Head of Technical Solutions which actually gives me responsibility for 2 teams. First, Custom Technical Solutions (CTS), who build bespoke applications and tools for customers that allow them to integrate more closely with dotmailer and make life easier. Second, Technical Pre-sales, which spans our 3 territories (EMEA, US and APAC) and works with prospective and existing clients to figure out the best solution and fit within dotmailer.

What accomplishments are you most proud of from your dotmailer time so far?

I would say so far it has to be helping to turn the CTS team from just 2 people into a group of 7 highly skilled and dedicated men and women who have become an intrinsic and valued part of the dotmailer organization. Also I really enjoy being part of the Senior Technical Management team. Here we have the ability to influence the direction and structure of the platform on a daily basis.

Meet Darryl Clark – the cheese and peanut butter sandwich lover

Can you speak a bit about your background and that of your team? What experience and expertise is required to join this team?

My background is quite diverse from a stint in the Army, through design college, web development, business analysis to heading up my current teams. I would say the most valuable skill that I have is being highly analytical. I love nothing more than listening to a client’s requirements and digging deep to work out how we can answer these if not exceed them.

As a team, we love nothing more than brainstorming our ideas. Every member has a valid input and we listen. Everyone has the opportunity to influence what we do and our motto is “there is no such thing as a stupid question.”

To work in my teams you have to be analytical but open minded to the fact that other people may have a better answer than you. Embrace other people’s input and use it to give our clients the best possible solution. We are hugely detail conscious, but have to be acutely aware that we need to tailor what we say to our audience so being able to talk to anyone at any level is hugely valuable.

How much of the dotmailer platform is easily customizable and when does it cross over into something that requires your team’s expertise? How much time is spent on these custom solutions one-time or ongoing?

I’ll let you in on a little secret here. We don’t actually do anything that our customers can’t do with dotmailer given the right knowledge and resources. This is because we build all of our solutions using the dotmailer public API. The API has hundreds of methods in both SOAP and REST versions, which allows you to do a huge amount with the dotmailer platform. We do have a vast amount of experience and knowledge in the team so we may well be able to build a solution quicker than our customers. We are more than happy to help them and their development teams build a solution using us on a consultancy basis to lessen the steepness of the learning curve.

Our aim when building a solution for a customer is that it runs silently in the background and does what it should without any fuss.

What are your plans for the Custom Tech Solutions team going forward?

The great thing about Custom Technical Solutions is you never know what is around the corner as our customers have very diverse needs. What we are concentrating on at the moment is refining our processes to ensure that they are as streamlined as possible and allow us to give as much information to the customer as we can. We are also always looking at the technology and coding approaches that we use to make sure that we build the most innovative and robust solutions.

We are also looking at our external marketing and sharing our knowledge through blogs so keep an eye on the website for our insights.

What are the most common questions that you get when speaking to a prospective customer?

Most questions seem to revolve around reassurance such as “Have you done this before?”, “How safe is my data?”, “What about security?”, “Can you talk to my developers?”, “Do I need to do anything?”.  In most instances, we are the ones asking the questions as we need to find out information as soon as possible so that we can analyse it to ensure that we have the right detail to provide the right solution.

Can you tell us about the dotmailer differentiators you highlight when speaking to prospective customers that seem to really resonate?

We talk a lot about working with best of breed so for example a customer can use our Channel Extensions in automation programs to fire out an SMS to a contact using their existing provider. We don’t force customers down one route, we like to let them decide for themselves.

Also, I really like to emphasize the fact that there is always more than one way to do something within the dotmailer platform. This means we can usually find a way to do something that works for a client within the platform. If not, then we call in CTS to work out if there is a way that we can build something that will — whether this is automating uploads for a small client or mass sending from thousands of child accounts for an enterprise level one.

What do you see as the future of marketing automation technology?  Will one size ever fit all? Or more customization going forward?

The 64 million dollar question. One size will never fit all. Companies and their systems are too organic for that. There isn’t one car that suits every driver or one racquet that suits every sport. Working with a top drawer partner network and building our system to be as open as possible from an integration perspective means that our customers can make dotmailer mold to their business and not the other way round…and adding to that the fact that we are building lots of features in the platform that will blow your socks off.

Tell us a bit about yourself – favorite sports team, favorite food, guilty pleasure, favorite band, favorite vacation spot?

I’m a dyed in the wool Gooner (aka Arsenal Football Club fan) thanks to my Grandfather leading me down the right path as a child. If you are still reading this after that bombshell, then food-wise I pretty much like everything apart from coriander which as far as I’m concerned is the Devils own spawn. I don’t really have a favorite band, but am partial to a bit of Level 42 and Kings of Leon and you will also find me listening to 90s drum and bass and proper old school hip hop. My favorite holiday destination is any decent villa that I can relax in and spend time with my family and I went to Paris recently and loved that. Guilty pleasure – well that probably has to be confessing to liking Coldplay or the fact that my favorite sandwich is peanut butter, cheese and salad cream. Go on try it, you’ll love it.

Want to meet more of the dotmailer team? Say hi to Darren Hockley, Global Head of Support, and Dan Morris, EVP for North America.

Reblogged 2 years ago from blog.dotmailer.com

Meet Dan Morris, Executive Vice President, North America

  1. Why did you decide to come to dotmailer?

The top three reasons were People, Product and Opportunity. I met the people who make up our business and heard their stories from the past 18 years, learned about the platform and market leading status they had built in the UK, and saw that I could add value with my U.S. high growth business experience. I’ve been working with marketers, entrepreneurs and business owners for years across a series of different roles, and saw that I could apply what I’d learned from that and the start-up space to dotmailer’s U.S. operation. dotmailer has had clients in the U.S. for 12 years and we’re positioned to grow the user base of our powerful and easy-to-use platform significantly. I knew I could make a difference here, and what closed the deal for me was the people.  Every single person I’ve met is deeply committed to the business, to the success of our customers and to making our solution simple and efficient.  We’re a great group of passionate people and I’m proud to have joined the dotfamily.

Dan Morris, dotmailer’s EVP for North America in the new NYC office

      1. Tell us a bit about your new role

dotmailer has been in business and in this space for more than 18 years. We were a web agency, then a Systems Integrator, and we got into the email business that way, ultimately building the dotmailer platform thousands of people use daily. This means we know this space better than anyone and we have the perfect solutions to align closely with our customers and the solutions flexible enough to grow with them.  My role is to take all that experience and the platform and grow our U.S. presence. My early focus has been on identifying the right team to execute our growth plans. We want to be the market leader in the U.S. in the next three years – just like we’ve done in the UK –  so getting the right people in the right spots was critical.  We quickly assessed the skills of the U.S. team and made changes that were necessary in order to provide the right focus on customer success. Next, we set out to completely rebuild dotmailer’s commercial approach in the U.S.  We simplified our offers to three bundles, so that pricing and what’s included in those bundles is transparent to our customers.  We’ve heard great things about this already from clients and partners. We’re also increasing our resources on customer success and support.  We’re intensely focused on ease of on-boarding, ease of use and speed of use.  We consistently hear how easy and smooth a process it is to use dotmailer’s tools.  That’s key for us – when you buy a dotmailer solution, we want to onboard you quickly and make sure you have all of your questions answered right away so that you can move right into using it.  Customers are raving about this, so we know it’s working well.

  1. What early accomplishments are you most proud of from your dotmailer time so far?

I’ve been at dotmailer for eight months now and I’m really proud of all we’ve accomplished together.  We spent a lot of time assessing where we needed to restructure and where we needed to invest.  We made the changes we needed, invested in our partner program, localized tech support, customer on-boarding and added customer success team members.  We have the right people in the right roles and it’s making a difference.  We have a commercial approach that is clear with the complete transparency that we wanted to provide our customers.  We’ve got a more customer-focused approach and we’re on-boarding customers quickly so they’re up and running faster.  We have happier customers than ever before and that’s the key to everything we do.

  1. You’ve moved the U.S. team to a new office. Can you tell us why and a bit about the new space?

I thought it was very important to create a NY office space that was tied to branding and other offices around the world, and also had its own NY energy and culture for our team here – to foster collaboration and to have some fun.  It was also important for us that we had a flexible space where we could welcome customers, partners and resellers, and also hold classes and dotUniversity training sessions. I’m really grateful to the team who worked on the space because it really reflects our team and what we care about.   At any given time, you’ll see a training session happening, the team collaborating, a customer dropping in to ask a few questions or a partner dropping in to work from here.  We love our new, NYC space.

We had a spectacular reception this week to celebrate the opening of this office with customers, partners and the dotmailer leadership team in attendance. Please take a look at the photos from our event on Facebook.

Guests and the team at dotmailer's new NYC office warming party

Guests and the team at dotmailer’s new NYC office warming party

  1. What did you learn from your days in the start-up space that you’re applying at dotmailer?

The start-up space is a great place to learn. You have to know where every dollar is going and coming from, so every choice you make needs to be backed up with a business case for that investment.  You try lots of different things to see if they’ll work and you’re ready to turn those tactics up or down quickly based on an assessment of the results. You also learn things don’t have to stay the way they are, and can change if you make them change. You always listen and learn – to customers, partners, industry veterans, advisors, etc. to better understand what’s working and not working.  dotmailer has been in business for 18 years now, and so there are so many great contributors across the business who know how things have worked and yet are always keen to keep improving.  I am constantly in listening and learning mode so that I can understand all of the unique perspectives our team brings and what we need to act on.

  1. What are your plans for the U.S. and the sales function there?

On our path to being the market leader in the U.S., I’m focused on three things going forward: 1 – I want our customers to be truly happy.  It’s already a big focus in the dotmailer organization – and we’re working hard to understand their challenges and goals so we can take product and service to the next level. 2 – Creating an even more robust program around partners, resellers and further building out our channel partners to continuously improve sales and customer service programs. We recently launched a certification program to ensure partners have all the training and resources they need to support our mutual customers.  3 – We have an aggressive growth plan for the U.S. and I’m very focused on making sure our team is well trained, and that we remain thoughtful and measured as we take the steps to grow.  We want to always keep an eye on what we’re known for – tools that are powerful and simple to use – and make sure everything else we offer remains accessible and valuable as we execute our growth plans.

  1. What are the most common questions that you get when speaking to a prospective customer?

The questions we usually get are around price, service level and flexibility.  How much does dotmailer cost?  How well are you going to look after my business?  How will you integrate into my existing stack and then my plans for future growth? We now have three transparent bundle options with specifics around what’s included published right on our website.  We have introduced a customer success team that’s focused only on taking great care of our customers and we’re hearing stories every day that tells me this is working.  And we have all of the tools to support our customers as they grow and to also integrate into their existing stacks – often integrating so well that you can use dotmailer from within Magento, Salesforce or Dynamics, for example.

  1. Can you tell us about the dotmailer differentiators you highlight when speaking to prospective customers that seem to really resonate?

In addition to the ones above – ease of use, speed of use and the ability to scale with you. With dotmailer’s tiered program, you can start with a lighter level of functionality and grow into more advanced functionality as you need it. The platform itself is so easy to use that most marketers are able to build campaigns in minutes that would have taken hours on other platforms. Our customer success team is also with you all the way if ever you want or need help.  We’ve built a very powerful platform and we have a fantastic team to help you with personalized service as an extended part of your team and we’re ready to grow with you.

  1. How much time is your team on the road vs. in the office? Any road warrior tips to share?

I’ve spent a lot of time on the road, one year I attended 22 tradeshows! Top tip when flying is to be willing to give up your seat for families or groups once you’re at the airport gate, as you’ll often be rewarded with a better seat for helping the airline make the family or group happy. Win win! Since joining dotmailer, I’m focused on being in office and present for the team and customers as much as possible. I can usually be found in our new, NYC office where I spend a lot of time with our team, in customer meetings, in trainings and other hosted events, sales conversations or marketing meetings. I’m here to help the team, clients and partners to succeed, and will always do my best to say yes! Once our prospective customers see how quickly and efficiently they can execute tasks with dotmailer solutions vs. their existing solutions, it’s a no-brainer for them.  I love seeing and hearing their reactions.

  1. Tell us a bit about yourself – favorite sports team, favorite food, guilty pleasure, favorite band, favorite vacation spot?

I’m originally from Yorkshire in England, and grew up just outside York. I moved to the U.S. about seven years ago to join a very fast growing startup, we took it from 5 to well over 300 people which was a fantastic experience. I moved to NYC almost two years ago, and I love exploring this great city.  There’s so much to see and do.  Outside of dotmailer, my passion is cars, and I also enjoy skeet shooting, almost all types of music, and I love to travel – my goal is to get to India, Thailand, Australia and Japan in the near future.

Want to find out more about the dotfamily? Check out our recent post about Darren Hockley, Global Head of Support.

Reblogged 2 years ago from blog.dotmailer.com

Stop Ghost Spam in Google Analytics with One Filter

Posted by CarloSeo

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

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

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

Types of spam

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

Ghosts

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

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

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

Crawlers

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

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

Most common mistakes made when dealing with spam in GA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

bounce.png

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

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

Assuming your site has been hacked

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

landing page

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

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

What should you worry about?

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

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

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

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

You only need one filter to deal with ghost spam

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

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

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

Ghost-Spam.png

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

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

Valid-Referral.png

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

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

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

Valid-list

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

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

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

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

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

Then create a Custom Filter.

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

filter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bonus resources to help you manage spam

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

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

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

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

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Reblogged 3 years ago from tracking.feedpress.it

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

Posted by randfish

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

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

Video transcription

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We have to be able to understand things like;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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