An Agency Workflow for Google My Business Dead Ends

Posted by MiriamEllis

There are times when your digital marketing agency will find itself serving a local business with a need for which Google has made no apparent provisions. Unavailable categories for unusual businesses come instantly to mind, but scenarios can be more complex than this.

Client workflows can bog down as you worry over what to do, fearful of making a wrong move that could get a client’s listing suspended or adversely affect its rankings or traffic. If your agency has many employees, an entry-level SEO could be silently stuck on an issue, or even doing the wrong thing because they don’t know how or where to ask the right questions.

The best solution I know of consists of a combination of:

  • Client contracts that are radically honest about the nature of Google
  • Client management that sets correct expectations about the nature of Google
  • A documented process for seeking clarity when unusual client scenarios arise
  • Agency openness to experimentation, failure, and on-going learning
  • Regular monitoring for new Google developments and changes
  • A bit of grit

Let’s put the fear of often-murky, sometimes-unwieldy Google on the back burner for a few minutes and create a proactive process your team can use when hitting what feels like procedural dead end on the highways and byways of local search.

The apartment office conundrum

As a real-world example of a GMB dead end, a few months ago, I was asked a question about on-site offices for apartment complexes. The details:

  • Google doesn’t permit the creation of listings for rental properties but does allow such properties to be listed if they have an on-site office, as many apartment complexes do.
  • Google’s clearest category for this model is “apartment complex”, but the brand in question was told by Google (at the time) that if they chose that category, they couldn’t display their hours of operation.
  • This led the brand I was advising to wonder if they should use “apartment rental agency” as their category because it does display hours. They didn’t want to inconvenience the public by having them arrive at a closed office after hours, but at the same time, they didn’t want to misrepresent their category.

Now that’s a conundrum!

When I was asked to provide some guidance to this brand, I went through my own process of trying to get at the heart of the matter. In this post, I’m going to document this process for your agency as fully as I can to ensure that everyone on your team has a clear workflow when puzzling local SEO scenarios arise.

I hope you’ll share this article with everyone remotely involved in marketing your clients, and that it will prevent costly missteps, save time, move work forward, and support success.

Step 1: Radical honesty sets the stage right

Whether you’re writing a client contract, holding a client onboarding meeting, or having an internal brand discussion about local search marketing, setting correct expectations is the best defense against future disappointments and disputes. Company leadership must task itself with letting all parties know:

  1. Google has a near-monopoly on search. As such, they can do almost anything they feel will profit them. This means that they can alter SERPs, change guidelines, roll out penalties and filters, monetize whatever they like, and fail to provide adequate support to the public that makes up and interacts with the medium of their product. There is no guarantee any SEO can offer about rankings, traffic, or conversions. Things can change overnight. That’s just how it is.
  2. While Google’s monopoly enables them to be whimsical, brands and agencies do not have the same leeway if they wish to avoid negative outcomes. There are known practices which Google has confirmed as contrary to their vision of search (buying links, building listings for non-existent locations, etc.). Client and agency agree not to knowingly violate Google’s guidelines. These guidelines include:

Don’t accept work under any other conditions than that all parties understand Google’s power, unpredictability, and documented guidelines. Don’t work with clients, agencies, software providers, or others that violate guidelines. These basic rules set the stage for both client and agency success.

Step 2: Confirm that the problem really exists

When a business believes it is encountering an unusual local search marketing problem, the first task of the agency staffer is to vet the issue. The truth is, clients sometimes perceive problems that don’t really exist. In my case of the apartment complex, I took the following steps.

  1. I confirmed the problem. I observed the lacking display of hours of operation on GMB listings using the “apartment complex” category.
  2. I called half-a-dozen nearby apartment complex offices and asked if they were open either by appointment only, or 24/7. None of them were. At least in my corner of the world, apartment complex offices have set, daily business hours, just like retail, opening in the AM and closing in the PM each day.
  3. I did a number of Google searches for “apartment rental agency” and all of the results Google brought up were for companies that manage rentals city-wide — not rentals of units within a single complex.

So, I was now convinced that the business was right: they were encountering a real dead end. If they categorized themselves as an “apartment complex”, their missing hours could inconvenience customers. If they chose the “apartment rental agency” designation to get hours to display, they could end up fielding needless calls from people looking for city-wide rental listings. The category would also fail to be strictly accurate.

As an agency worker, be sure you’ve taken common-sense steps to confirm that a client’s problem is, indeed, real before you move on to next steps.

Step 3: Search for a similar scenario

As a considerate agency SEO, avoid wasting the time of project leads, managers, or company leadership by first seeing if the Internet holds a ready answer to your puzzle. Even if a problem seems unusual, there’s a good chance that somebody else has already encountered it, and may even have documented it. Before you declare a challenge to be a total dead-end, search the following resources in the following order:

  1. Do a direct search in Google with the most explicit language you can (e.g. “GMB listing showing wrong photo”, “GMB description for wrong business”, “GMB owner responses not showing”). Click on anything that looks like it might contain an answer, look at the date on the entry, and see what you can learn. Document what you see.
  2. Go to the Google My Business Help Community forum and search with a variety of phrases for your issue. Again, note the dates of responses for the currency of advice. Be aware that not all contributors are experts. Looks for thread responses from people labeled Gold Product Expert; these members have earned special recognition for the amount and quality of what they contribute to the forum. Some of these experts are widely-recognized, world-class local SEOs. Document what you learn, even if means noting down “No solution found”.
  3. Often, a peculiar local search issue may be the result of a Google change, update, or bug. Check the MozCast to see if the SERPs are undergoing turbulent weather and Sterling Sky’s Timeline of Local SEO Changes. If the dates of a surfaced issue correspond with something appearing on these platforms, you may have found your answer. Document what you learn.
  4. Check trusted blogs to see if industry experts have written about your issue. The nice thing about blogs is that, if they accept comments, you can often get a direct response from the author if something they’ve penned needs further clarification. For a big list of resources, see: Follow the Local SEO Leaders: A Guide to Our Industry’s Best Publications. Document what you learn.

    If none of these tactics yields a solution, move on to the next step.

    Step 4: Speak up for support

    If you’ve not yet arrived at an answer, it’s time to reach out. Take these steps, in this order:

    1) Each agency has a different hierarchy. Now is the time to reach out to the appropriate expert at your business, whether that’s your manager or a senior-level local search expert. Clearly explain the issue and share your documentation of what you’ve learned/failed to learn. See if they can provide an answer.

    2) If leadership doesn’t know how to solve the issue, request permission to take it directly to Google in private. You have a variety of options for doing so, including:

    In the case of the apartment complex, I chose to reach out via Twitter. Responses can take a couple of days, but I wasn’t in a hurry. They replied:

    As I had suspected, Google was treating apartment complexes like hotels. Not very satisfactory since the business models are quite different, but at least it was an answer I could document. I’d hit something of a dead-end, but it was interesting to consider Google’s advice about using the description field to list hours of operation. Not a great solution, but at least I would have something to offer the client, right from the horse’s mouth.

    In your case, be advised that not all Google reps have the same level of product training. Hopefully, you will receive some direct guidance on the issue if you describe it well and can document Google’s response and act on it. If not, keep moving.

    3) If Google doesn’t respond, responds inexpertly, or doesn’t solve your problem, go back to your senior-level person. Explain what happened and request advice on how to proceed.

    4) If the senior staffer still isn’t certain, request permission to publicly discuss the issue (and the client). Head to supportive fora. If you’re a Moz Pro customer, feel free to post your scenario in the Moz Q&A forum. If you’re not yet a customer, head to the Local Search Forum, which is free. Share a summary of the challenge, your failure to find a solution, and ask the community what they would do, given that you appear to be at a dead end. Document the advice you receive, and evaluate it based on the expertise of respondents.

    Step 5: Make a strategic decision

    At this point in your workflow, you’ve now:

    • Confirmed the issue
    • Searched for documented solutions
    • Looked to leadership for support
    • Looked to Google for support
    • Looked to the local SEO industry for support

    I’m hoping you’ve arrived at a strategy for your client’s scenario by now, but if not, you have 3 things left to do.

    1. Take your entire documentation back to your team/company leader. Ask them to work with you on an approved response to the client.
    2. Take that response to the client, with a full explanation of any limitations you encountered and a description of what actions your agency wants to take. Book time for a thorough discussion. If what you are doing is experimental, be totally transparent about this with the client.
    3. If the client agrees to the strategy, enact it.

    In the case of the apartment complex, there were several options I could have brought to the client. One thing I did recommend is that they do an internal assessment of how great the risk really was of the public being inconvenienced by absent hours.

    How many people did they estimate would stop by after 5 PM in a given month and find the office closed? Would that be 1 person a month? 20 people? Did the convenience of these people outweigh risks of incorrectly categorizing the complex as an “apartment rental agency”? How many erroneous phone calls or walk-ins might that lead to? How big of a pain would that be?

    Determining these things would help the client decide whether to just go with Google’s advice of keeping the accurate category and using the description to publish hours, or, to take some risks by miscategorizing the business. I was in favor of the former, but be sure your client has input in the final decision.

    And that brings us to the final step — one your agency must be sure you don’t overlook.

    Step 6: Monitor from here on out

    In many instances, you’ll find a solution that should be all set to go, with no future worries. But, where you run into dead-end scenarios like the apartment complex case and are having to cobble together a workaround to move forward, do these two things:

    1. Monitor outcomes of your implementation over the coming months. Traffic drops, ranking drops, or other sudden changes require a re-evaluation of the strategy you selected. *This is why it is so critical to document everything and to be transparent with the client about Google’s unpredictability and the limitations of local SEOs.
    2. Monitor Google for changes. Today’s dead end could be tomorrow’s open road.

    This second point is particularly applicable to the apartment complex I was advising. About a month after I’d first looked at their issue, Google made a major change. All of a sudden, they began showing hours for the “apartment complex” category!

    If I’d stopped paying attention to the issue, I’d never have noticed this game-changing alteration. When I did see hours appearing on these listings, I confirmed the development with apartment marketing expert Diogo Ordacowski:

    Moral: be sure you are continuing to keep tabs on any particularly aggravating dead ends in case solutions emerge in future. It’s a happy day when you can tell a client their worries are over. What a great proof of the engagement level of your agency’s staff!

    When it comes to Google, grit matters

    Image Credit: The Other Dan

    “What if I do something wrong?”

    It’s totally okay if that question occurs to you sometimes when marketing local businesses. There’s a lot on the line — it’s true! The livelihoods of your clients are a sacred trust. The credibility that your agency is building matters.

    But, fear not. Unless you flagrantly break guidelines, a dose of grit can take you far when dealing with a product like Google My Business which is, itself, an experiment. Sometimes, you just have to make a decision about how to move forward. If you make a mistake, chances are good you can correct it. When a dead end with no clear egress forces you to test out solutions, you’re just doing your job.

    So, be transparent and communicative, be methodical and thorough in your research, and be a bit bold. Remember, your clients don’t just count on you to churn out rote work. In Google’s increasingly walled garden, the agency which can see over the wall tops when necessity calls is bringing extra value.

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

    Reblogged 1 month ago from tracking.feedpress.it

    3 ways to Improve your Link Building Workflow with the Site Explorer update

    Everybody hates changing an established workflow and I’m no exception – I avoid doing so unless I see significant value. The recent change to the default setting in Site Explorer is one example of such value and I’m going to give you three ways you can improve your workflow right now. 1. The first is…

    The post 3 ways to Improve your Link Building Workflow with the Site Explorer update appeared first on Majestic Blog.

    Reblogged 4 years ago from blog.majestic.com

    How to Defeat Duplicate Content – Next Level

    Posted by EllieWilkinson

    Welcome to the third installment of Next Level! In the previous Next Level blog post, we shared a workflow showing you how to take on your competitors using Moz tools. We’re continuing the educational series with several new videos all about resolving duplicate content. Read on and level up!


    Dealing with duplicate content can feel a bit like doing battle with your site’s evil doppelgänger—confusing and tricky to defeat! But identifying and resolving duplicates is a necessary part of helping search engines decide on relevant results. In this short video, learn about how duplicate content happens, why it’s important to fix, and a bit about how you can uncover it.

    Next Level – Identifying Duplicate_pt1

    [
    Quick clarification: Search engines don’t actively penalize duplicate content, per se; they just don’t always understand it as well, which can lead to a drop in rankings. More info here.]

    Now that you have a better idea of how to identify those dastardly duplicates, let’s get rid of ’em once and for all. Watch this next video to review how to use Moz Analytics to find and fix duplicate content using three common solutions. (You’ll need a Moz Pro subscription to use Moz Analytics. If you aren’t yet a Moz Pro subscriber, you can always try out the tools with a
    30-day free trial.)

    Workflow summary

    Here’s a review of the three common solutions to conquering duplicate content:

    1. 301 redirect. Check Page Authority to see if one page has a higher PA than the other using Open Site Explorer, then set up a 301 redirect from the duplicate page to the original page. This will ensure that they no longer compete with one another in the search results. Wondering what a 301 redirect is and how to do it? Read more about redirection here.
    2. Rel=canonical. A rel=canonical tag passes the same amount of ranking power as a 301 redirect, and there’s a bonus: it often takes less development time to implement! Add this tag to the HTML head of a web page to tell search engines that it should be treated as a copy of the “canon,” or original, page:
      <head> <link rel="canonical" href="http://moz.com/blog/" /> </head>

      If you’re curious, you can
      read more about canonicalization here.

    3. noindex, follow. Add the values “noindex, follow” to the meta robots tag to tell search engines not to include the duplicate pages in their indexes, but to crawl their links. This works really well with paginated content or if you have a system set up to tag or categorize content (as with a blog). Here’s what it should look like:
      <head> <meta name="robots" content="noindex, follow" /> </head>

      If you’re looking to block the Moz crawler, Rogerbot, you can use the robots.txt file if you prefer—he’s a good robot, and he’ll obey!
      More about meta robots (and robots.txt) here.

    Can’t get enough of duplicate content? Want to become a duplicate content connoisseur? This last video explains more about how Moz finds duplicates, if you’re curious. And you can read even more over at the
    Moz Developer Blog.

    We’d love to hear about your techniques for defeating duplicates! Chime in below in the comments.

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

    Reblogged 4 years ago from tracking.feedpress.it

    ★ VIDEO SEO WORKFLOW | Increase video views & social signals | Ripplefire.com

    Video SEO is a great way for your to stay above the fold in Google searches. Improving your social signals and the sharability of your content has become a f…

    Reblogged 4 years ago from www.youtube.com

    Amplify Your Game – Optimization Techniques 101

    Part 2 in the series Amplify Your Game. In this video we cover some of the Unity editor workflow advantages gained by using AT2 and specific optimization tec…

    Reblogged 4 years ago from www.youtube.com

    How To Select The Perfect Clients

    Posted by Bill.Sebald

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    This should never happen.

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

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

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

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

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

    A different kind of online dating

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

    Photo from Chuck Woolery’s
    Twitter profile

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

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

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

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

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

    Once again, this should never happen.

    How to qualify a client

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

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

      Now we’re up to number 3:

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

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

    It’s all in the details

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Never drop the transparency

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

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

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

    Ask the right questions

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

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

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

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

    Questions for the prospect:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    4. What’s your mission or positioning statement?

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

    5. How do you stand out?

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

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

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

     

    7. Who are your competitors?

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

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

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

    9. What CMS are you on?

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

    10. What does your internal team look like?

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

    11. What do you use for analytics?

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

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

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

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

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

    Conclusion

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

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

    Reblogged 4 years ago from feedproxy.google.com

    Conquer Your Competition with these Three Moz Tools – Next Level

    Posted by EllieWilkinson

    Welcome to the second edition of Next Level! In the first Next Level blog post, the Success Team and Help Team here at Moz created 10 video walkthroughs to help you “power up” your knowledge of the Moz tools. We’re continuing the educational series with a new video and a workflow showing you how to take on your competitors using Moz. Read on and level up!


    For SEOs, the battle to rank highest in the search results often comes down to survival of the fittest. But if you know how to size up your competition, you can gain the upper hand and become king of the jungle! Come on a SERP-fari in this Next Level video and try these three ways to use the Moz tools to out-hunt all the other lions.

    Workflow summary

    To review, here’s an outline of the three steps to scoping out the competition!

    (You’ll need a Moz Pro subscription to use Keyword Difficulty and Fresh Web Explorer. If you aren’t yet a Moz Pro subscriber, you can always try out the tools with a 30-day free trial.)

    1. After you’ve entered three competitors in your Moz Analytics campaign settings, head over to the Keyword Difficulty tool to get a detailed look at the search results for keywords you’re targeting. Don’t forget to run a full SERP analysis report for even more data!
    2. Next, investigate your competitors’ recent links and brand mentions using Fresh Web Explorer to get some content and link building ideas.
    3. Finally, head over to Followerwonk to find potential Twitter followers to poach from your competitors.

    Looking for other resources to help you plan your attack? Here are some that might help. Go get ’em, tiger! (But watch out for zebras…)

    If you have other ways of using the Moz tools to rule the jungle, we’d love to hear them! Sound off in the comments below.

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

    Reblogged 4 years ago from feedproxy.google.com

    The Coming Integration of PR and SEO

    Posted by SamuelScott

    Earlier this year, I published a Moz post that aimed to introduce the
    basic principles of public relations that SEOs and digital marketers, I argued, need to know. (Specifically, the post was on media relations and story-pitching as a means of getting coverage and “earning” good links.)

    Following the positive response to the post, Moz invited me to host a recent Mozinar on the integration of PR and SEO. (
    You can listen to it and download the slides here for free!) As a former print journalist who later became a digital marketer, I love to discuss this niche because I am very passionate about the topic.

    In summary, the Mozinar discussed:

    • Traditional marketing and communications theory
    • Why both inbound and outbound marketing are needed
    • An overview of the basic PR process
    • How to use PR software
    • Examples of messaging and positioning
    • Where to research demographic data for audience profiles
    • How to integrate SEO into each step of the workflow
    • How SEO and PR teams can help each other
    • Why the best links come as natural results of doing good PR and marketing
    • “Don’t think about how to get links. Think about how to get coverage and publicity.”

    At the end of the Mozinar, the community had some intriguing and insightful questions (no surprise there!), and Moz invited me to write a follow-up post to provide more answers and discuss the relationship between SEO and PR further.

    Follow-ups to the PR Mozinar

    Before I address the questions and ideas at the end of the Mozinar, I just wanted to give some more credit where the credit is certainly due.

    People like me, who write for major publications or speak at large conferences, get a lot of attention. But, truth is, we are always helped immensely by so many of our talented colleagues behind the scenes. Since the beginning of my digital marketing career, I have known about SEO, but I have learned more about public relations from observing (albeit from a distance) The Cline Group’s front line PR team in Philadelphia over the years.

    So, I just wanted to thank (in alphabetical order)
    Kim Cox, Gabrielle Dratch, Caitlin Driscoll, Max Marine, and Ariel Shore as well as our senior PR executives Bill Robinson and DeeDee Rudenstein and CEO Josh Cline. What I hope the Moz community learned from the Mozinar is what I have learned from them.

    Now, onto the three Mozinar Q&A questions that had been left unanswered.

    • Why do you use Cision and not Vocus or Meltwater or others?

    I do not want to focus on why The Cline Group specifically uses Cision. I would not want my agency (and indirectly Moz) to be seen as endorsing one type of PR software over another. What I can do is encourage people to read these writings from 
    RMP Media Analysis, LinkedIn, Alaniz Marketing and Ombud, then do further research into which platform may work best for them and their specific companies and needs.

    (Cision and Vocus recently agreed to merge, with the combined company continuing under the Cision brand.)

    • Do you have examples of good PR pitches?

    I’ve anonymized and uploaded three successful client pitches to our website. You can download them here: a
    mobile-advertising network, a high-end vaporizer for the ingestion of medicinal herbs and a mobile app that helps to protect personal privacy. As you will see, these pitches incorporated the various tactics that I had detailed in the Mozinar.

    Important caveat: Do not fall into the trap of relying too much on templates. Every reporter and every outlet you pitch will be different. The ideas in these examples of pitches may help, but please do not use them verbatim. 

    • Are there other websites similar to HARO (Help a Reporter Out) that people can use to find reporters who are looking for stories? Are the other free, simpler tools?

    Some commonly mentioned tools are
    My Blog U, ProfNet, BuzzStream and My Local Reporter. Raven Tools also has a good-sized list. But I can only vouch for My Blog U because it’s the only one I have used personally. It’s also important to note that using a PR tool is not a magic bullet. You have to know how to use it in the context of the overall public relations process. Creating a media list is just one part of the puzzle.

    An infographic of integration

    And now, the promised infographic!

    I told the Mozinar audience we would provide a detailed infographic as a quick guide to the step-by-step process of PR and SEO integration. Well, here it is:

    pr-seo-infographic-final.jpg

    A second credit to my awesome colleague
    Thomas Kerr, who designs most of The Cline Group’s presentations and graphics while also being our social media and overall digital wizard.

    Just a few notes on the infographic:

    First, I have segmented the two pillars by “PR and Traditional Marketing” and “SEO & Digital Marketing.” I hate to sound stereotypical, but the use of this differentiation was the easiest way to explain the integration process. The “PR” side deals with
    people and content (e.g., messaging, media relations, and materials, etc.), while the “SEO” side focuses on things (e.g., online data, analytics, and research, etc.). See the end of this post for an important prediction.

    Second, I have put social media on the online side because that is where the practice seems to sit in most companies and agencies. However, social media is really just a set of PR and communications channels, so it will likely increasingly move to the “traditional marketing” side of things. Again, see the end.

    Third, there is a CMO / VP of Marketing / Project Leader (based on the structure of a company and whether the context is an agency or an in-house department) column between SEO and PR. This position should be a person with enough experience in both disciplines to mediate between the two as well as make judgment calls and final decisions in the case of conflicts. “SEO,” for example, may want to use certain keyword-based language in messaging in an attempt to rank highly for certain search terms. “PR” might want to use different terms that may resonate more with media outlets and the public. Someone will need to make a decision.

    Fourth, it is important to understand that companies with numerous brands, products or services, and/or a diverse set of target audiences will need to take additional steps:

    The marketing work for each brand, product, or service will need its own specific goal and KPI(s) in step one. Separate audience research and persona development will need to be performed for each distinct audience in step two. So, for a larger company, such as the one described above, parts of steps 3-8 below will often need to be done, say, six times, once for each audience of each product.

    However, the complexity does not end there.

    Online and offline is the same thing

    Essentially, as more and more human activity occurs online, we are rapidly approaching a point where the offline and online worlds are merging into the same space. “Traditional” and “online” marketing are all collectively becoming simply “marketing.”

    Above is our modern version of traditional communications and marketing theory. A sender decides upon a message; the message is packaged into a piece of content; the content is transmitted via a desired channel; and the channel delivers the content to the receiver. Marketing is essentially sending a message that is packaged into a piece of content to a receiver via a channel. The rest is just details.

    As Google becomes smarter and smarter, marketers will need to stop thinking only about SEO and think more like, well, marketers. Mad Men’s Don Draper, the subject of the meme at the top of the page, would best the performance of any link builder today because he understood how to gain mass publicity and coverage, both of which have always been more important than just building links here and there. The best and greatest numbers of links come naturally as a
    result of good marketing and not as a result of any direct linkbuilding. In the 2014 Linkbuilding Survey published on Moz, most of the (good) tactics that were described in the post – such as “content plus outreach” – are PR by another name.

    At SMX West 2014 (where I gave a talk on SEO and PR strategy), Rand Fishkin took to the main stage to discuss what the future holds for SEO. Starting at 6:30 in the video above, he argued that there will soon be a bias towards brands in organic search. (For an extensive discussion of this issue, I’ll refer you to Bryson Meunier’s essay at Search Engine Land.) I agree that it will soon become crucial to use PR, advertisingand publicity to build a brand, but that action is something the Don Drapers of the world had already known to do long before the Internet had ever existed.

    But things are changing

    The process that I have outlined above is a little vague on purpose. The lines between SEO and PR are increasingly blurring as online and offline marketing becomes more and more integrated. For example, take this very post: is it me doing SEO or PR for our agency (while
    first and foremost aiming to help the readers)? The answer: Yes.

    In a Moz post by Jason Acidre on
    SEO and brand building, I commented with the following:

    Say, 10 years ago, “SEOs” were focused on techie things: keyword research, sitemaps, site hierarchy, site speed, backlinks, and a lot more. Then, as Google became smarter and the industry become more and more mature, “SEOs” woke up one day and realized that online marketers need to think, you know, like marketers. Now, I get the sense that digital marketers are trying to learn all about traditional marketing as much as possible because, in the end, all marketing is about
    people — not machines and algorithms. What the f&*# is a positioning statement? What is a pitch? I just wish “SEOs” had done this from the beginning.

    Of course, the same thing has been occurring in the inverse in the traditional marketing world. Traditional marketers have usually focused on these types of things: messaging documents, media lists, promotional campaigns, the 4 Ps, and SWOT analyses. Then, as more human activity moved to the Internet, they also woke up one day and saw an anarchic set of communications channels that operate under different sets of rules. Now, on the other end, I get the sense that traditional marketers are trying to learn as much as possible about SEO and digital marketing. 
    What the f&^% is a rel=canonical tag? What is Google+ authorship? I just wish traditional marketers had done this from the start.

    In fact, such a separation between SEO and PR is quickly dying. Here is a simplified version of the marketing and communications process I outlined at the beginning:

    Traditional marketers and communications professionals have used this process for decades, and almost everything that (the umbrella term of) SEO does can fit into one of these boxes. A message can appear in a newspaper article or in a blog post. Content can be a sales brochure or an e-book. A channel can be the television or Facebook. A lot of  technical and on-page SEO is simply good web development. The most-effective type of off-page SEO is just PR and publicity. Public-relations executives, as I
    have written elsewhere, can also learn to use analytics as yet another way to gauge results.

    It all goes back to this tweet from Rand, which I cite in nearly every offline conversation with the marketing community:

    SEO as an entity (sorry for the pun)
    unto itself is quickly dying. The more SEO entails, the more the umbrella term becomes useless in any meaningful context. For this reason, it is crucial that digital marketers learn as much as possible about traditional marketing and PR.

    So, in the end, how does one integrate public relations and SEO? By simply doing good
    marketing.

    Want more? Don’t forget to watch the Mozinar — I’d love to get your feedback in the comments below!

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

    Reblogged 4 years ago from feedproxy.google.com

    Automatic Image Ordering and SEO for WordPress

    Quick workflow on how to use the Easy, Automatic Image Ordering and SEO for wordpress (Free Plugin)

    Reblogged 4 years ago from www.youtube.com

    Open Site Explorer’s New Link Building Opportunities Section (and a Slight Redesign)

    Posted by randfish

    Why hello there! You’re looking marvelous today, you really are. And, in other good news, Open Site Explorer has a bit of a new look—and an entirely new section called “Link Opportunities” to help make some link prospecting tasks easier and more automated. Come with me and I’ll show you; it’ll be fun 🙂

    The new look

    We know a lot of folks liked the old tab structure but we ran out of space. With this redesign we now have the flexibility to add new features and functionality simply by popping in new sections on the left sidebar menu. It’s a little bit more like Moz Analytics, too, and we figure some cohesion between our products is probably wise.

    • New side navigation with plenty of room to grow and add new features (spam scoring and analysis, for example, will be coming in Q4—but shhh… I didn’t actually ask for permission to talk about that yet. I figure begging forgiveness will work.)
    • Improved filtering that lets you slice and dice your link data more easily.
    • Notice How Fast the New OSE Is? Oh yeah, that’s the stuff 🙂

    You can still access the old Open Site Explorer’s design for a few more weeks, but the new features will exist only in the new version.

    Introducing the new link opportunities section

    Need help finding outreach targets for your link building campaign? We’re introducing three new reports that will help you build a curated list of potential targets. The new reports are available to all Moz Pro subscribers. If you’re a community member, sign up for a
    Moz Pro Free Trial and you, too, can kick it with the new functionality.


    Reclaim links

    A filtered view of Top Pages that lets you easily export a ranked list of URLs to fix.


    Unlinked mentions

    Powered by FreshScape, you can use
    Fresh Web Explorer queries to find mentions of a brand or site without links. Ping sources that may have talked about your brand, website, people, or products without giving you a link and you can often encourage/nudge that link into existence (along with the great SEO benefits they bring)


    Link intersect

    Find pages that are linking to your competitors but not you. By entering two competitive domains (they don’t have to be directly competitive; anyone you think you should be on lists with, or mentioned by the press alongside, is a good candidate), you can see pages that link to those sites but not yours. Getting creative with your targets here can reveal loads of awesome link opportunities.


    This, however, is just the beginning. Be on the lookout for additional insights and opportunities as we improve our link index—we’ve just recently grown the size of Freshscape, which powers Fresh Web Explorer and two of the sections in link opportunities, so you should find lots of good stuff in there, but it can be a challenge. If you’re struggling with query formatting or getting creative around potential opportunities, let us know (in the comments or via Q&A) and we can give you some pointers or maybe find some searches that do the trick.

    What about the old OSE?

    We changed the workflow a bit and want to make sure you’ve got time to adjust. If you’re cranking through monthly reports or audits and want a more familiar OSE experience, you can switch to OSE Classic for a limited time. Just click on the “View in OSE Classic” link in the top right, and we’ll default to the old version.

    But keep in mind new features and enhancements, like improved performance and Link Opportunities, will only be available in the new release. We’ll keep OSE Classic active until December 3rd in case you’re feeling nostalgic.

    We’d love your feedback

    If you’re using the new OSE and find problems, wish we’d change something, or have a particularly awesome experience, we’d love to hear from you in the comments below, in Q&A, or (especially if your issue is urgent/something broken) via our help team.

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

    Reblogged 5 years ago from feedproxy.google.com