Posted by dohertyjf
Working as an agency marketer is tough. I did it for a bit over two years and learned a lot of lessons. Along the way and since I have reflected about what would make me more successful as an agency marketer, and now that I am in-house at HotPads.com, I've come up with five things I wish I had known as an agency marketer. Never fear though, as there are some tidbits in there for the in-house crew as well!
For reference, here's a still of this week's whiteboard!
Howdy Moz fans. Welcome to Whiteboard Friday. My name is John Doherty. I currently lead Marketing at HotPads.com. Thank you Moz for having me back here on Whiteboard Friday. It's been a while since I've been here. I'm super-excited to be back in Seattle, able to get here on the camera and talk to you guys about a few things that are near and dear to my heart.
I've been at HotPads for about four months now. I joined them in San Francisco a few months ago, moving out from New York City to lead Marketing for HotPads, working with some of the other rentals businesses as well under the Zillow Inc. umbrella, both on the consumer side and the business-
But I worked for an agency for a couple of years. I worked for Distilled, based in New York City, and obviously I worked with a lot of clients, small clients, large clients, took a lot of pride in building relationships with my clients and getting things done. Distilled is phenomenal at that, and I felt like I learned a ton. I learned a ton about clients. But over the previous couple of months, I've really been reflecting and trying to figure out: What is really the difference between agency and in-house marketing?
I wrote a post about it on my own personal website, JohnFDoherty.com, which I don't write on there often enough. But I published a post on there recently about that difference. But today I want to take a little bit more focused approach to that, and I want to talk to you from the in-house perspective about five things that I wish I had known when I worked as an agency marketer working for clients.
So I have five points for you. Let's run through them real quick. First one is your client is the industry expert. What I mean by that is your client knows their industry, their vertical better than you know their vertical. You may be able to look at it from a domain authority perspective, who's ranking, who's creating content, who has social media going, who has a full-
So while you know the tactics, and one of the great things about agencies and one of the super valuable things about agencies is that you know the tactics and you can see across verticals. You know what's working in travel and what's working in real estate and what's working in video. You know what's going on across the broader spectrum. So that's where you can really add value to your client. You can tell them tactics, and you can tell them tactics that work across different verticals that they may not have thought about. But at the end of the day, they're the ones that know their business, and they know their vertical, from a business perspective, better than you do.
The second one is learn the whole marketing team. This is one that I struggled with early on in my career at Distilled. I was very focused on SEO, especially technical SEO, focused on site architecture and content and things like that. So I made sure to get to know the SEO. I made sure to get to know the SEO team, who does what, what's everyone's skills, all of that. For a long time, though, I failed to get to know their bosses. I failed to get to know who runs the marketing team. I failed to get to know the different sides of the marketing team and who does what. For example, in a big company, the marketing team may have five people in PR and three people in SEO and two people in email.
So talking tactics, such as email marketing strategies, with the SEO team when the SEO team has no ability to change the email marketing tactics isn't going to get you a long ways. However, this can be super valuable when you're talking with the SEO team about how they are going to be able to get buy-in with other teams to work together collaboratively with them to get more done on the SEO side. It's the old you scratch my back, I'm going to scratch yours sort of mentality.
The third is never forget that, as the agency, you are the outsource solution. Whether you like it or not, no matter how closely you get to your client, no matter how well you get to know them, no matter how often you go down to visit them, you are still the outsourced solution. You are not working there in-house with them all the time, part of the politics, seeing what's going on, knowing what the roadblocks are, knowing why certain things aren't getting done, or why certain things do get done. At the end of the day, you are still an outsourced solution that you were brought in for a reason. That's not necessarily a negative thing. Actually, from the in-house perspective now, I don't believe that's a negative thing at all, because you were brought in because you're the expert. You're the expert in SEO or technical SEO or link building or content marketing or social media marketing. You were brought in because that is what you own, and that's what you are known for, and so that is exactly the reason why you are there, not to be part of their marketing team.
However, what I learned in my time at Distilled is the closer you can get to the team, to the in-house team, the better you can get to know them, the more successful you are going to be.
This brings me to my fourth point. As an agency marketer, you're actually less responsible for results than you may think that you are. What I mean by this is ultimately the in-house team is the one that is responsible for the results. Myself, at HotPads, I am responsible for driving traffic, which drives leads which drives the business. If I hire an agency, you are not going to be responsible for driving traffic. You're going to be responsible for giving me deliverables that I can then use to go and turn into actionable things for my development team to do or for my marketing team to execute on.
To be successful as an agency marketer, what you need to do is you need to make sure that you are communicating with your client. That is the first and foremost, that you are communicating with your client, telling them when things are going to be in their inbox, what you're going to be delivering, why you are delivering it, what you're going to deliver next based off of the deliverable that you are currently working on, or spending a lot of time reporting. Honestly, I was really bad at this when I was at Distilled, reporting to my clients and telling them, "This is what we've done over the previous month, and this is what we're going to do over the next month."
That alone is invaluable to an in-house marketer, because then, as in-house marketer, if I'm given that from my agency that I'm working with, I can then go and set expectations with my bosses and tell them, "This is coming down from this agency. I expect it on this date. These are the things that they've done, and this is what we're doing with them."
Finally, this brings me to my fifth point, which is deadlines actually matter less than you think. Deadlines for deliverables actually matter a lot less than you might think. The reason for this is in-house marketers are very, very, very busy. Leading marketing at HotPads, I'm doing SEO. I'm helping out with the content strategy, helping my content manager with the content strategy, helping her meet the right people and get buy-in from the right people and figure out when to publish things and where do we publish things, and how do we push it on social media. I'm helping me email marketer get to know our developers and talk with people up here in our Seattle office, the email marketing team up here to find out what they're doing. We're strategizing about emails. I'm helping my link builder find new places to get links. We're strategizing about link building and measuring that and measuring the ROI on that.
So I'm very, very busy. Everyone on my team is very, very busy. All in-house marketers are very, very busy. We're all over the place. We're touching all sorts of different parts of marketing at some point and working very, very collaboratively, and I would suggest that any very successful in-house marketing team is all working collaboratively and not siloed away from other teams.
So all of this is to say that I really don't care about deadlines, and most in-house people aren't really going to care about deadlines. What's important for you as an agency marketer is going to be communicating with your client when something is going to be delivered. If you're going to be late, communicate that with them as soon as you're able to. If it's going to be a week late, let them know why. Things come up. Everyone understands that things come up. Maybe another client had an emergency. Maybe there was an algorithm change that they were hurt by, that their CEO is about to fire the whole marketing team if you don't jump in. Clients understand this. So what you need to do is you really need to communicate with them as soon as possible, as often as possible.
As an in-house marketer, speaking to the in-house guys for a second, you need to tell the agency exactly what you're dealing with, exactly what your responsibilities are. What keeps you busy day-to-day? There's nothing more frustrating as an agency marketer than being like, "Why can't I get a hold of my client? I know they're around. I know they're in there. Aren't they just like sitting there building links?" The answer is no. They're not just sitting there building links. They have a lot going on. So to be successful as an agency marketer, you need to find out from your clients exactly what keeps them busy day in, day out. So then you are able to not be a pain to them, but rather to help them do their job even better.
So these are five things that I wish I knew as an agency marketer now that I am in-house. Once again, my name is John Doherty. You can find me on Twitter, DohertyJF, and I'm happy to be back here. Please leave any comments you have below in the comments section. Thanks a lot. Have a great weekend.
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Posted by SamuelScott
This post was originally in YouMoz, and was promoted to the main blog because it provides great value and interest to our community. The author's views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of Moz, Inc.
In case you missed it, Google’s head of web spam, Matt Cutts, wrote this on January 20: “Okay, I’m calling it: if you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop.”
Three days later, Jen Lopez of Moz responded with this excellent post on “guest blogging with a purpose”:
As with anything, you don't want to be out there trying willy-nilly to get your posts on every blog for the sole purpose of building (probably bad) links. It's important to have this tied to your business and marketing goals, as you would with any other tactic. SEO is only one piece of the larger strategy, and if you focus solely on writing posts for link building purposes, you're missing out on a ton of other possibilities.
In Lopez’s post, I commented in some detail that “guest posts” are really just another name for what the public relations industry calls “by-lined articles” and that the goals of the two should be identical. In response later in that thread, Lopez and Everett Sizemore invited me to elaborate on the “PR side of SEO” in a detailed Moz post.
Well, let’s get to it!
(photo courtesy of Marvel Studios)
First, let’s set the record straight.
As I’ve written elsewhere while using “The Avengers” as an example (Joss Whedon fans, unite!), "SEO" is actually just a slang term for a collection of best practices -- it is doing web development well, content creation well, social media well, PR well, and so on. This is why successful SEO, and digital marketing in general, necessitates that companies “assemble” a holistic, integrated team with expertise in numerous disciplines. And that includes public relations.
Rand Fishkin once tweeted a similar sentiment:
Here, I’ll cover how PR relates to content and linkbuilding.
PR By Any Other Name…
I can already hear the groans: “But, wait! I’m not a PR flak! I’m an inbound marketer!” I completely understand – as a former journalist, who only later went into SEO, I specifically had been looking for something in marketing that was not PR. But the fact remains that much of inbound marketing is just PR by another name:
It took me a long time to accept the fact that a lot of what we do as “SEOs” is actually, well, PR. But the sooner that we accept that fact and throw away our preconceived notions about PR, the sooner that we can start to learn, adopt and benefit from its best practices.
Here’s the kicker: Technologies and communications channels change, but people do not. Publicists, for example, may contact reporters with Twitter more than the telephone today – but it is still one human being talking with another human being. And PR experts know how to work with people. Social media is often just a communications channel – and not a discipline unto itself – that can be used by PR professionals, customer-service representatives, lead generators, and more.
The Basics of PR Strategy
There are many types of PR. But since the idea for this post was born out of a discussion on guest posts, I will discuss PR strategy here specifically on pitching content and story ideas to journalists and bloggers. This is a brief summary of some of the ways that The Cline Group works with our PR clients – and the resulting “hits” (in PR-speak) give them the added bonus of gaining quality, natural links and social media exposure as well!
The first thing to understand is that public relations is an art, not a science. There are specific, defined ways to create XML sitemaps, ensure that Google can crawl and index a website, avoid duplicate-content issues, reduce page-load time, and more. PR methods, however, can vary as drastically as the number of people using them.
Here, I will present the overall strategy that The Cline Group uses in our public-relations work. This strategic, step-by-step process delivers the best results.
1. Goal Identification
PR is not an end. It is a means to an end. The goal is not to “get coverage” – the goal is to get coverage that supports a company’s overall business and marketing goals. Here are some examples of our PR clients’ goals:
It is useless to create a PR strategy without first having a clear sense of the objective.
2. Target Market Identification
The PR team must then research and compile a list of the general targeted audiences based on the goals that the client established. Here are some for the above examples:
3. Messaging and Positioning
Once the goals are determined and the target markets are identified, then the PR team can determine the positioning (how will you brand the company/individual/product/content to the target markets) and messaging (what text, images, and more will you use to communicate the positioning).
Take one of our mobile-app clients, MediSafe Project. Which of the following pitches do you think would be more likely to interest reporters, and, in the end, their readers?
The second example is the opening paragraph of a Cult of Mac article. That coverage came from positioning MediSafe as a personal story rather than as just another random app.
4. Media List Creation
The next step is to compile a list of the outlets – and the most-appropriate writers at those outlets – that are read by the identified target audiences. The importance of this phase of the process cannot be emphasized enough.
An ideal media list should usually be comprised of publications that have all of the following (in both PR and digital contexts):
When compiling media lists, remember that time is a limited resource. There are only so many hours that a PR team can devote to a campaign. At one extreme, they could send the same, generic press release to thousands of outlets via a wire service and just hope for the best. At the other extreme, they could focus all of their efforts on a single reporter at a single outlet that is highly desired. A simplistic example: Say a PR executive has one hour of pitching time – should he or she spend one hour on one outlet or five minutes each on twelve outlets? Usually, you want to be somewhere in the middle.
5. Press Release Development and Pitching
The final stage is to craft the actual pitches and press releases. Sometimes the same press release can be used. Other times, it is best to create individualized, tailored releases for each type of outlet or each specific reporter. It just depends on the context.
One example of online pitching will be discussed in the next section.
A good PR strategy can lead to great SEO results such as this outcome from one single campaign for iOnRoad, a mobile app that was later bought by Harman International following our work (the PowerPoint slide originally contained an animated GIF of Hugh Laurie – a.k.a. Dr. House – from back in his British comedy TV days):
This one campaign netted 591 quality links from 253 authoritative domains – and a lot more.
Whether digital marketers are promoting a company, a product, or a piece of content, those who use this general strategy will be many steps ahead of the competition. Sizemore once summarized the importance with the following statement in this essay of his:
If I had to choose between your average link builder and an expert PR professional who knew how to approach and interact with media outlets and presented well on camera, I’d go for the public relations person any day of the week.
Twitter's a PR Gold Mine
Twitter specifically is an invaluable tool for PR pitching – but it must be used strategically and wisely in this context.
My colleague Scott Piro, our EMEA Managing Director and Chief Strategy Officer, has written a guide to using Twitter for media relations. I highly suggest that Mozzers read his essay for more details (not that I’m biased!), but I will summarize some of his points here:
Piro also gives two general examples of Twitter pitches:
PR: The Old and New Off-Page SEO
I’d like to close this post with the rest of my comment on Lopez’s earlier Moz essay:
When I was a journalist, the point of submitting freelance articles or op-ed articles was to publish a piece of quality content to build your "brand" (as a writer or pundit). It was not primarily to get links (especially when links did not exist before the public Internet). In PR, companies submit what are called "by-lined articles" to build a brand and raise awareness of your company among the readers of a certain publication. (If you sell widgets, then you want exposure in a media outlet that is read by people who buy widgets.) It is not primarily to get links. Today, it's called "guest posts."
The same is true today. When my company gets articles in specific, targeted media outlets for clients, the point is first to build a brand and second to get referral traffic (and hopefully leads or sales) via a link in the author's biography or elsewhere. No-follow or not, it didn't matter…
I now advocate that no one do anything with the primary purpose of "getting links." Do the great content, promote it on social media, and the links will come naturally, indirectly, and organically. You are earning them and not building them. One of these links are worth ten of the others.
Example: My agency gets a client a great by-line article in a great outlet. The article may contain a (do-follow or not) backlink or not. But it doesn't matter -- the exposure is what matters. Then, the readers will see the content and perhaps write about the company on their own blogs with links. It snowballs from there. But in the end, it's not directly about the links. As long as a company does all of the "SEO" best-practices, the good links will come themselves over time.
I would submit that this is what Google still likes. It is "guest posting" for reasons other than links. The same is true for press releases -- you distribute news releases to get coverage, not links. The links will then come later.
It all comes down to what I’ve called the “PR-based SEO process”:
The idea can be summarized as such:
If you can answer this question, you’ve got a great head start. As I wrote in the linked post above:
What can a company do that would interest journalists? The possibilities are limited only by the imagination – release a new product, hire a big-name executive, conduct an authoritative analysis of the state of the industry, and so on. Then, create quality, engaging content in the context of the action – a blog post, an infographic, a press release, a video, a podcast, and so on.
The next step is crucial: use traditional public relations to promote the company’s news – and use online PR and social media to promote the content created for the news to obtain backlinks, citations, and social-media mentions. This practice will yield far better online PR results than just stuffing backlinks into meaningless press releases.
Here’s the secret: Reporters want to write about you. Years ago, space in a newspaper and minutes in a broadcast were limited. Journalists could be picky. Today, however, they know as well as we do that “content is king” and the way to maximize traffic and (for their purposes) advertising revenue. Writers are under constant pressure to write and write and write since websites can support an almost-infinite amount of content.
So, it can be easier to convince them. Just give them a nudge through the strategies that we’ve presented here.
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Posted by gfiorelli1
A few months ago I published here on Moz SEO in the Personalization Age, where I explained why, once and for all, SEOs need to be aware of the personalization of SERPs and the mechanisms by which Google customizes our search results. I also suggested some ways to convert what at first sight is just a complication into a competitive advantage.
This post is the ideal continuation of that one.
Here, however, I won't dig into SEO theories and patents, but I will try to put order in all of the existing information about the elements that compose MyAnswers, highlighting some clarification that many - wrongly - absent-mindedly forget, and suggesting actions that can mean the difference between winning or not the personalized SERPs.
You can call this post "Guide to MyAnswers" if you want, although I do not pretend to have written a real guide.
Personalized private search
When we speak about personalized search results, it would be more correct to use the term private search results.
It is not just semantics but how Google refers to them, and is also a result of the confrontation with the European Community.
Private is slightly different from Personalized, since it implies that a SERP is personalized only by our web history and only by the direct contacts on Google Plus and Gmail.
Keep in mind this detail, because it will explain a point I will affirm later in the post.
A classic example of Private Search is this:
Private Search consists of two elements:
Right now you should be quite used to this feature offered by Google also in the desktop search.
Usually we refer to it for things like flight reminders, hotel and restaurant reservations, packages' deliveries, and for geo-targeted contextual suggestions.
Google Now generally operates in two eco-systems:
As I wrote in SEO in the Personalization Age, everybody can ask to be integrated into Google Now. Be advised that it is not an immediate inclusion, as a nine-step process is needed to obtain the approval from Google).
The integration is possible using one of these Schema for Gmail:
This video from the last Google I/O explains well all these options:
Every Schema for Gmail is interesting, but the most immediately useful ones are:
Review action, which offers us the opportunity to ask and let our clients to write reviews of our product, hotel, or service (or simply to evaluate them with the classic starred system) directly from their inbox. As you can see, it can be a big help in obtaining more reviews, as it responds to the old classic "Don't make me think" principle;
One-click action, which can be especially useful for eCommerce sites. Imagine you have users subscribed to your coupon/offers newsletter. When they will receive the newsletter with the One-click action SaveAction Schema implemented, they will be able to save the coupon in their Google Offers account.
If you want to dig more into the integration with Google Now, you can check out these two great posts:
I must admit that I still see many SEOs confused about how Google Plus influences Private Search.
To be honest, the fact that Google presents both Google Plus and Knowledge Graph (and sometimes Answers cards) in the same positions, or even mixed (i.e.: Google Plus Profiles enriched with Knowledge Graph information) is not helping to dispell this confusion. This, among other things, reflects something that still not everybody understands: Google Plus is a multi-platform product, and not only a Social Network.
Google Plus directly influences Private Search in three different ways, each one depending on the visibility we give to the message we share on G+:
1. Only You (or "shared privately")
As you can see, the visibility in SERPs is practically immediate (10 seconds is the time I needed to switch accounts).
Privately shared Google Plus posts can be also images, as Giorgio pointed out to me:
Opportunities in sharing privately
Imagine you did a good job building an authoritative profile on Google Plus, so that you have been circled by influencers.
When you don't have a close relationship with those influencers and your outreach emails may very well bounce back or be ignored, then sharing a private post with a link to content you think they may may like and share is a great alternative.
Thanks to this sort of inception marketing, the influencers will quite surely find that post in the first page for those keywords you are targeting them for and about which you have created the content you want them to promote.
If you have wisely crafted the post in order to have a catchy tagline (the first words, which will compose the title of the search snippet) and a convincing description with a strong call to action just after, then your post has a strong opportunity for being clicked, discovered, and shared by that influencer.
There are two kinds of limited Google Plus posts in SERPs.
Opportunities in limited sharing
Usually people tend to share posts only using the Public option. By doing so, they lose the opportunity to obtain more SERP real estate for branded searches.
A posts is public when a user or a brand shares it with all the Google Plus users. These posts are presented as organic search results, and they can rank as if they were a normal web page and even reach the first positions and remain in the SERPs if they earn links.
They aren't tagged with Public as it was once, but they present authorship data, and we always see them in the first page if we have circled that user/brand.
Opportunities in sharing publicly
The opportunities are obvious in this case.
The more people who have circled your profile or your business page, the more they will see your publicly shared posts in a outstanding position in the SERPs, including for very competitive head tail keywords.
Follow those simple rules about Google Plus posts' search snippets, and you will be able to obtain important volumes of organic traffic to your G+ profile and, from there, to your site.
Be aware, though, that Public shares tend to suffer when the Freshness effect decays and, if the post is not reinforced with backlinks, it will tend to slip out of the first page and, ultimately, from the SERPs.
The difference between Search Plus Your World (SPYW) and MyAnswers
This snapshot above is an example of how SPYW was working.
As you can see, Google was declaring how many personalized results were pulled in, enhancing them with the styled person icon, and showing the photo and name of the person who socially shared the content. It even offered us a list of people and pages on Google+ related to the search we did.
Now, with MyAnswers, this is not so anymore:
No indication of how many search snippets are personalizing the SERP. No person icon.
Of note, there is also no sign of the name of the person who socially shared the content if he is not in our Circles. The SERP, then, is personalized just with those Google Plus posts that were shared by people we have in our Circles.
Finally, there's no sign of "Suggested people and pages" in the right column.
These differences show one extremely important difference between SPYW and MyAnswers:
In SPYW, if we shared something with a friend, it was seen in a preferred position in SERPs by his friends, as well. In MyAnswers it is not.
Giorgio and I did a very simple experiment, with me sharing a post with him and "Extended Circles." The result was that Giorgio could see my post in a SERP when logged in with his personal account, but not when logged in with a test G+ profile that didn't have me circled but did have his personal account circled.
What does this mean? That sharing something with "Extended Circles," as Google itself explains in a somewhat involute way, offers an opportunity to make the post visible to un-circled profiles only in Google Plus, but not in SERPs.
As I was saying in the very beginning of this post, this is why we should speak of Private Search and not of Personalized Search.
And, as we will see, there's just one way to show something shared on Plus to friends of friends: the Google +Post Ads.
The MyAnswers catalogue
The version of the catalogue I outline here must be considered just a snapshot in time of the actual situation. As Dr. Pete taught us with his #MozCast updates, Google is continuously experimenting with new formats and layouts.
MyAnswers elements are present in the SERPs both in the right-hand column and in the main body of the SERPs.
On the right we can find:
Personal profiles of users we have circled
Personal Gmail contact information
This is "Only You" information pushed into the SERP from our Gmail, and Google shows it if the contact we have in Gmail doesn't have a Google Plus profile. Note that if he/she has a Google Plus profile, this one with an "Add to circles" button will be shown instead:
If the brand is not a node in the Knowledge Graph, the business page will be shown only if we have circled it.
If we haven't, that space on the right will be empty:
Please note that this particular example is quite strange, because Moz is present with a page in Wikipedia, so the absence of a Moz Knowledge Graph box, or of Knowledge Graph information in the Google Plus business box seems quite odd and is something we should investigate further.
Google Plus local pages
There are three cases, and in all of them the box is visible whether or not you're signed in. The biggest difference is that we won't see whether our circled friends have reviewed a local business if we are signed out.
1) A non-verified G+ local page, as in the case of the Osteria Satyricon in Bolonia (click and you will see how the "verified business" icon is absent).
2) A verified but not circled page, as in the case of the restaurant of a friend of mine in Valencia:
3) A verified and circled page:
Another possibility: A Knowledge Graph and Google Plus page/business page:
The box, as can be easily seen, is a composition of Knowledge Graph information (extract from Wikipedia and "People also search for") and Google Plus (number of followers and recent posts).
This box is also visible if you're not logged in.
Knowledge Graph, Google Plus, and Google Now
Substantially similar to the previous case, but with the "Keep me updated" button, which functions to push posts by the followed profile in our Google Now Cards.
It seems it is only shown if the person is a node in the Knowledge Graph and it is not available for Business Pages (at least I wasn't able to find any).
Google Plus Hashtags Search
Since last September it has been possible to search for hashtags in Google.
That means that if you tag a post on Plus with a hashtag, your content may have the opportunity to be shown in Google searches to people who have not circled you and are not signed in.
It would be worth an independent analysis of how Google chooses which public posts to show for a given hashtag, but what it is quite clear is that freshness is an important factor, as the posts shown tend to be the ones most recently shared.
Also pay attention to the hashtags you decide to use, as it seems that the hashtag must have at least a minimum of usage in order to be shown in Google search. For instance, I tried to search #MozCast and this was the result:
The only way to be always visible with a box in the right-hand column of the SERPs when people are not logged in and/or have not circled us is being present in the Knowledge Graph and having a Profile/Business Page on Plus, or having a verified Google Plus Local Page.
In the first case:
In the main body of a SERP we can find:
Shared Google Plus posts
As I mentioned previously, the Google Plus posts are visible both to people who are signed in and to those who are signed out if the posts are public, but they only easily rank in a top position for head-tail keywords for people who have circled us.
And, keep in mind that freshness has a key role.
URLs shared on Google Plus
If someone we have circled shares a URL in Google Plus, the web document shared will be shown on the first page in our private searches even if it isn't in a neutral search or in a more prominent position that actually is ranking:
Note that only one person needs to share the URL, which obviously means that if we were able to earn followers on Google Plus, the simple act of sharing the URL with them will make that page stand out in their SERPs, even for very competitive keywords.
URLs that have earned +1s
If someone we have circled +1s a web document, we will see that same page excel in the SERPs for all the keywords that page may rank for:
Google Plus local reviews
This represents a great opportunity for local businesses. If a business has been circled by an influencer, it should have to try being reviewed by him on Google Plus Local (Remember: You can do it using the Schema for Gmail, too).
If he agrees, all his followers will see your search snippet enhanced by his annotation, and if that is 4 or 5 stars...
We should not forget that Google Plus and private search are also influencing our YouTube experience when signed in.
If we click on the Social link in the left menu, we will see all the YouTube videos people we have circled have shared on Google Plus:
Also remember that if someone we have circled not only shares a YouTube video but also comments about it on Google Plus, then we will see his comment in the YouTube page of that video too. Just check the latest Matt Cutts video about Paid Links, and you will see a good example of this. Note, though, that that same Matt Cutts video doesn't show any "Google Plus activity" in the SERPs.
Last December Google launched the Beta of +Post Ads.
+Post Ads may be defined as the Google version of the old (and now dismissed) Facebook Promoted Posts.
For Google they also are:
The +Post Ads are included in the Google GDN, therefore we can easily target the right audience and do really targeted inbound marketing with practically every kind of content we can create on Google Plus:
Users can interact with the +Post Ad directly in the site where it is published without the need to visit our Google Plus page. Obviously, they need to have a Google Profile.
From an SEO point of view, +Post Ads are a great opportunity. In fact, the more people who share and +1 the ad (and comment on it if it is a video), the more all the people in their Circles will start seeing our post standing out in SERPs (and YouTube) even for the most competitive keywords.
Private Search, with its combination of Google Now and Social Search (aka: Google Plus) represent a big percentage of the SERPs users see, and its majority in case of mobile search users on Android devices.
Google Plus, then, due to its cross-product platform nature, influences the search experience also of the users not using it as a Social Network.
For these reasons we must understand how Private Search works, recognize its elements in the SERPs and take advantage of the opportunities it offers to us..
Maybe it's time to start optimizing our Google Plus content, don't you think?
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Posted by MackenzieFogelson
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that it's hard work to build great content that:
a) people want to read
This becomes especially true when you're building content for a company that's not your own.
This post isn't about Lesson #12,753 we've so valiantly learned here at Mack Web as we grow our small (but mighty) integrated web marketing team.
It's about you and the exceptional content you need to be building on behalf of the clients you work for.
That said, if you're like us, you find solace in, and learn a great deal from, the trials and tribulations other companies face. I've broken this post into three parts, each of which tackles a big question you might be wondering about:
Sit tight. I've got some ideas.
We've got a content generation process that has been working pretty well for us now, but it took a ton of failing to develop it.
For a while, we were treating content generation like a factory. We had clients. They needed a strategy. That strategy called for content. We gave the specs and details for the content to our writer. She generated the content. We optimized it. It went live. We did outreach. Rinse. Repeat.
It's not that the content we were producing in our "factory" was bad. It wasn't thin. It just didn't serve a purpose beyond meeting preconceived frequency expectations for their blog. Although it was intended to add value to the conversation, it wasn't going to rise above the ever-growing noise and help them build their business and further their brand.
Our factory approach was fine for a short while, but as we started to grow, level-up, and recognize that the lack of effectively executed, fully integrated content marketing strategies would make it increasingly difficult for us to earn audience engagement, we realized our content had to be better. It had to serve a higher purpose for the brand and it needed to integrate all the appropriate channels.
Which meant, of course, that we couldn't create it in a silo anymore.
General brand stuff vs. expert content
We've found that, for the most part, our clients have needed our help with two distinct types of content in order to build their audience: general brand stuff and expert content.
General brand stuff is the content that—if you've really done your diligence to fully understand the company, their industry, their persona, and the story they're trying to tell—you can essentially create content without putting too much extra work on their plate.
You still work together throughout the process (which I'll get into more in just a bit), but really you're taking the lead, doing the majority of the work, and ensuring you have approval as you move through the different stages in the content generation process.
Expert content is content that requires the knowledge of a subject matter expert (which hopefully you will find inside the company) to produce. The expert stuff places a great deal of the content generation responsibility on the client. Your job is to act as a guide, facilitator, and editor so that you're ensuring strategic alignment, brand integrity, and that the content actually gets created and connected to its intended audience.
When you're working with a subject matter expert to develop content, it's really important that you're taking as much weight off the expert as possible, and you're also earning their trust. You can do this in a few ways:
Allow the expert to drive
You may suggest trending topics and direction based on strategy and goals but, depending on your expert's writing prowess, you don't want to get in the way by controlling the process too much. Their time is extremely limited so you want to make the process as enjoyable and efficient as possible.
If the expert is driving, your goal is to cater to their needs and aid them in any way possible. Take the time to listen, observe, understand their writing process, and how you can fit into that. As facilitator and editor you'll be providing feedback on basic grammar, transitions, focus, and depth, but you're also working to keep them on task and accountable for deadlines.
Provide the expert with the structure
Maybe the expert doesn't necessarily want the freedom to drive, but they could use your help getting the structure together. It really depends on the expert, what they're comfortable with, and what their schedule will allow.
If they need your help getting the ball rolling, you can interview them for the key takeaways, write the outline for them, and provide them with anything else they need to get that first draft going.
We've also had great success writing the first draft for the expert so that they have something to take apart, integrate their expertise, personal anecdotes and voice, and then we help them put it back together.
In general, expert content will take longer to come together. You're usually talking about people with extremely busy schedules, and unless they find value in what content marketing is doing for their brand and company, it could take months to get content out of them.
What we've found is if you're properly balancing the creation of both expert and general brand stuff, you can fill any production gaps with minimal involvement on the client's part. That way you're still getting content out and you won't have lengthy time lapses in the execution of deliverables from your content strategy.
As we've been growing our team and our content department, we've been working to get more out of less. We have found that investing in processes that document the stages of our everyday operations (like our client on-boarding process and the base ongoing monthly stuff we do for nearly every client) has really helped us to be more efficient, but that hasn't always been the case.
Don't get me wrong; I am a very systems- and process-oriented person. I like things to be neat, organized, and, well, systematic. As much as I believe in investing in them, I've come to learn that you can waste a lot of time and precious resources on processes that don't work, don't get used, and don't help you become more efficient.
With processes, it's not about developing something that stands the test of time (because they never do). It's more about providing guidance and suggestions for a more efficient workflow. That tends to come in the form of checklists that you're continually iterating as living, breathing, dynamic entities inside your organization.
As such, this is what we've discovered to be incredibly helpful when developing our processes:
1) Determine the problem the process is going to solve
Clearly you're taking the time to develop a process so that you can make something you do every day (or something you repeat quite often) a whole lot easier. For us, we knew we needed to create better content and work more collaboratively with our clients in order to do that. We thought a process for managing content generation might help us make those improvements.
2) Identify the people who are going to use the process
This is key. If you yourself will not actually be facilitating a process you develop, it will almost certainly die. You need the specific, relevant individuals on your team to not only believe in it, but own it, or it will go unused.
I no longer develop processes for the company and simply present them to the team to be used. I now work with the team to develop processes and the team figures out what checklists and supporting documents they need to make the process work.
3) Find the tools that will allow you to run the process
These tools don't have to be expensive. We use a lot of free software like Google Docs, Spreadsheets, and Trello. Your tools don't have to be fancy; they just need to be accessible so that the people on the team who are using them can get to them easily.
4) Use the process
We've realized that every time we use a process it's going to change. That's just how it goes. There will be specific parts of your processes that won't get altered for long periods of time, but in general, as you use them, be attentive to contrast, taking note of the stuff you'll want to take some time to analyze and eventually change.
5) Modify the process
At some point, you'll need to dedicate the time to analyze your processes, make the adjustments, and then test those modifications. This is a continuous cycle if you want your processes to really work for you and provide a return on spending the time and resources to create them in the first place. Make sure it's your team who's taking ownership of this, not management.
Some pieces to facilitate the process
As we've developed a content generation process to produce better content, we've discovered that engaging the client and using these pieces have really made a big difference:
1) Use Strategy & 2) Pitch Content
We're trying to remove as much content responsibility and workload from the client as possible. We definitely need them invested and involved, but they've hired us as an extension of their team with the hopes that we'll free up their internal resources.To that end, we use the "unless we hear differently" model as often as we can throughout the content generation process.
3) Collect Data
When we're ready to collect data for the content, the client is familiar with the strategy that has been developed and what we're working toward. We've already done a great deal of listening so that we can come to the client and say (with confidence), "Hey, here's how we'd like this to go. Can we have your feedback?"
Once we've worked through some of these initial conversations, we send over a data collection (a template, if you will) that looks like this:
This data collection doc communicates our intent and requests the information we need. The "unless I hear differently" part comes into play in the suggested key takeaways and then asking the client to help us come up with additional details, photos, and anecdotes to support them.
This requires less work from the client, but involves them in the process. We've found that this also puts more meaning into the content because the client is participating by contributing the stories and first-hand experiences that we don't necessarily know (and that they sometimes forget to tell us during interviews and conversations about content).
4) Develop an outline with key takeaways
Once we get all of the information we need from data collection, we create a more thorough outline of the post to get another level of approval from the client before we proceed to first draft state. This saves a ton of time. From data collection to outline, things shift from the initial, proposed direction, so providing an official outline gives us the opportunity to once again communicate exactly what the client can expect and earn their feedback and approval.
In the official outline, if we have them available at that time, we will integrate all resources and media so that we're clearly communicating what we'll be writing about and what we'll be referencing. This provides the client with an opportunity to investigate the proposed resources and provide any direction change before we fully draft the content.
5) Provide a first draft with diagramming
Once we're ready to present the first draft of the content, there's a couple really important things we do before sending it across:
Indicate key takeaways (and feedback)
This part takes me back to my English teaching days. When we turn in the first draft, we actually diagram the post to illustrate the pieces of the original outline and where the key takeaways ended up. And, if the client provided some very specific direction or feedback to us, we make sure to indicate that they were heard by pointing those out in the diagramming.
This has really helped to reduce revisions because it's a subtle way to remind the client that what we are presenting in this content is what we've all agreed to throughout the process. And, as we're drafting the content, if we feel the need to go in a different direction, we use the diagramming as an opportunity to justify the change.
Provide the entire experience
When we provide the first draft of the content to the client, we sell it. We provide it in ready-to-publish form complete with links, videos, and photos embedded so that the client gets the full experience of what it would look like live.
Writing is a very personal thing and it's very easy to get emotionally invested in the content. Using data collection, outlines, and diagramming first drafts removes the emotion and keeps everyone accountable and focused on the content. If we're reminding the client why things are the way they are throughout our interactions, they're less likely to be distracted by new ideas or different approaches. We can rely on the process to keep the client (and, honestly, sometimes the writer) focused on the intent of this piece of content. And ultimately, this helps us create better content.
These deliverables have also streamlined the way we produce content and they really show the client that we get them and are trying to make life easier for them. Even though they are more involved in the process, we're displaying more initiative and skill which further reduces the burden on their end.
Working with the client in this way has earned more trust and flexibility. We're able to demonstrate better leadership, confidence, and how much we know (and care) about their business.
The more trust we earn and the more efficient the process becomes, the more we accomplish for our clients. But even with improved efficiency, there's only so much a small team can do in-house. In order to scale, we've got to recruit outside help.
Like I mentioned, a team like ours is too small to effectively write all of the content for our clients in-house. Using contract writers has allowed us to conveniently scale our content department and provide better content for our clients.
There are three really important things we've discovered as we've been building our base of trusted writers:
1) Find writers who are a value match
You've got to be willing to do your due diligence and hold out for writers who are a match for your values and expectations as a company.
2) Set them up for success
You need to spend time getting the writers invested in the client they are going to write for. Set them up for success by providing them with as much information about the client that you would expect your in-house, full-time team members to know.
3) Invest in their growth
Just like an employee, you need to be willing to help your writers grow. Writing is hard and even the best writers struggle. If you want to develop lasting relationships and continue to get great content from your contract writers, you've got to be willing to invest time in their growth and development.
As we're looking for great writers, we use a Google spreadsheet to keep track of the writers that we're interested in working with.
We review writing samples, check their references, and interview them in person or via video so that we can get a feel for whether they're a value match for us and that their writing style and voice will match up with one of our clients.
Once we've selected a writer, as they write for our clients, we assess their work. After they complete a few pieces of content for us, we can get a feel for their strengths. We can also identify trends. Do they honor their commitments with us? Do they communicate well? Are they responsive? Are they willing to learn? Maybe they're not a match for the client we have them paired with but they'd be great with another. We use the same Google spreadsheet to keep track of this stuff and also include any patterns we're noticing or feedback we're getting from clients about the content.
Helping your writers grow
No matter how well you qualify your writers, there will be a trial-and-error period with every single one. If you want long-term relationships with them, you've really got to invest the time (beyond this trial period) and continue to help them grow.
When we receive a piece of content from a writer, our in-house content strategist reviews it before it's handed off to the client for feedback. She reviews for quality, alignment of purpose, and also basic editing stuff. She diagrams the key takeaways to ensure that the content is on track with what the client approved in the outline/key takeaway part of the process.
If the post needs a little bit of work, our content strategist determines whether the edits are minor enough just to make them as she's diagramming, or if she needs to schedule time with the writer to have them adjust the post.
We are diligent about communicating with our writers. If they're learning and improving along the way, we're spending less time on revisions and providing our clients with the content they need to build their brand.
An ongoing challenge
Content plays such a huge role when building a brand and a business. Trying some of these things in our content generation process has really helped us to create better partnerships with our clients, and certainly, better content.
This stuff may be working for us now, but we realize that building great content is always going to be hard (especially as the saturation problem gets worse). It's our job to continue pushing beyond what could just get us by and discover what's really going to make a difference in our clients' businesses.
Of course, this addresses just one small part of that challenge. I certainly have not covered everything that would help you build great contracted content for your clients. Share your secrets with me below.
Posted by Kristina Kledzik
Now that it's 2014, the question isn't "should I build a mobile site?" It's "how do I build a good mobile site?" Mobile sites are, at their core, just sites; but redesigning your site for very small screens and linking your mobile site to your desktop site gives you a lot more to think about.
I've put together a checklist of a) aspects of mobile sites that are often broken yet overlooked, and b) optimization options that many people miss. Where you need more information, I've included a link rather than a full description, so that people smarter than me can help you with the details.
Connecting your mobile site with your desktop site
Check your redirects
Allow mobile visitors to see the desktop version of the site
Dynamically served sites: Check the Vary-HTTP header
Separate URL sites: Check rel=alternate/canonical tags
Use Google Webmaster Tools to see if Google is having a hard time crawling your mobile site
(We have one error. :( )
Check/add the mobile XML sitemap
Review the mobile site as you would review any site
Check the site speed for mobile devices
Use server-side redirects
View the site on a variety of mobile devices
Check the size of links
Check that no elements rely on Flash
Make sure the mobile site design matches the desktop site design
Use a viewport tag
Don't use pop-ups
Responsive sites: Review where elements end up
Make sure visitors can reach all pages on the mobile site
Separate sites: Link to desktop-only pages as well as mobile pages
Map mobile to desktop pages
Edit wordy content
Remove unnecessary images
View videos on the mobile site to make sure they load and run properly
Use an HTML5 video player
Make your videos responsive
Does each page title look good on two lines?
Does your meta description still work with only 120 characters?
Is your mobile URL user-friendly and keyword rich?
Run pages through the W3C's mobileOK checker to make sure you haven't missed any small coding errors. It's fairly finicky, but that makes sure it finds a lot of issues you may have overlooked.
Further reading on building a great mobile site:
Building Your Mobile-Friendly Site, a Distilled guide by me and Bridget Randolph
How to do a Mobile Site SEO Audit by Aleyda Solis
Posted by randfish
There are some great arguments to be made on both sides of the question of whether links are losing value in Google's algorithm. In some ways, it seems that they are -- and in some, they're more valuable than ever. In today's Whiteboard Friday, Rand explores both sides of the argument, offering some concrete advice to SEOs on how they can navigate today's waters.
Here's the link to coverage of Google's testing removing links from the algorithm, and to the roundup post where links as a ranking signal are discussed (in particular, check out Russ Jones' reply in the comments). For reference, here's a still of this week's whiteboard!
Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Today, I want to talk a little bit about links losing their value in Google's ranking algorithm.
So Google recently came out and talked about how they had tested a version of their search engine, of search quality algorithms, ranking algorithms, that did not include links as a ranking signal. Of course, a lot of SEOs went "Wait, they did what?"
But it turns out Google actually said they really did not like the results. They didn't like what they saw when they removed links from the ranking elements. So maybe SEOs are going, "Okay, can I breathe easy, or are they going to keep trying to find ways to take links out of the ranking equation?" Certainly, links for a long time have been an extremely powerful way for SEOs and folks to move the needle on indexation, on rankings, on getting traffic from search engines.
I'm going to personally come out and say that, in my opinion, we will continue to see links in Google's rankings systems for at least the next five and probably the next ten years. Whether they continue to be as important and as powerful as they've been, I think is worthy of a discussion, and I do want to bring up some points that some very intelligent marketers and SEOs have made on both sides of the issue.
So, first off, there are some folks who are saying, "No, this is crazy. Links are actually growing in value." I thought Russ Jones from Virante made some excellent comments on a recent blog post where some experts had been asked to do a thought experiment around what Google might do if links were to lose signals.
He made some good points, one of which was as Google filters out . . . so let's say I've got this webpage on Google, and as I filter out the value that are passed from some links through algorithms like Penguin or through filtration systems that remove either Web spam or low-quality links or links that we don't find valuable in our relevancy algorithms, it actually is the case that these other links grow in importance. In fact, as Russ wisely pointed out, many of the other kinds of signals that Google might potentially replace links with, things around user and usage data, things around social signals, all of those things actually can be validated through the link graph, and you can use the link graph to add additional context and information about those other signals. So I think there's a point to be made.
People have also pointed out that as we get into this world where no-follow is very, very common, a lot of websites putting no-follow on there, social sharing is oftentimes a much more common form of evangelizing or sharing information than linking is. Before we had the popularity of Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn and Google+ and all these networks, that social sharing would have been bloggers and people in forums linking out to these resources.
There's also, unfortunately, created a lot by Google themselves, and Bing to a certain extent, too, there are many, many webmasters and site owners and editorial specialists on the Web who have a fear of linking out. They worry that by linking to something bad or if they link out and then something happens to that website they link out to, that maybe something will happen to their site.
As a result, it's actually become a greater and greater challenge over time to earn editorial links for everyone. This is interesting because it actually suggests that there is more value when you do earn those editorial links. So I think there's a very credible case to be made.
On the flip side, there are SEOs who are pointing out, hey, look links are definitely a diminishing signal because there are elements in a ranking system, and anytime you have elements in a ranking system and you add new signals of relevancy, new signals of usefulness, of importance, of popularity, whatever those are, the pie chart has to squish those in. Then, the portion that used to be links, all of this stuff here, just this portion is still link-
One good way of explaining this is think of, for example, Olympic ice skating, where you have judges who give rankings. Those judges, they'll give a score -- a 7.5 and an 8.5. They have criteria that they look at. As new criteria get added, the criteria for other pieces necessarily becomes a little bit less important.
Now, in Google's ranking system, it's not quite the same logic. We don't have a pie chart that can add signals and remove signals. It's not like everybody has a score out of just 10. But the ability of pages and sites to move up in the rankings is influenced by the elements that are in here in a similar fashion.
So what really should SEOs do? What should we take away from this sort of debate and discussion and this testing of Google by removing links from their algorithmic signals and not liking those results? Well, in an ideal world, in a best-case scenario, as a marketer, the way that I believe we should be thinking about this is to invest in the marketing, in the tactics and channels that provide value in multiple ways.
By "multiple ways," I mean provide value in terms of branding; provide value in terms of direct traffic; provide value in terms of growing my social network; provide value in terms of growing my e-mail network, in terms of growing my influence and thought leadership in this sphere; all those kinds of things.
If I can get those multiple ways and still earn links? So content marketing is one that a lot of SEOs and marketers have been investing in because it does these things. Content marketing means that I get social shares. It means that I get more social followers. It means that I grow the people who pay attention to my brand and are aware of my brand. That content can also earn links, which helps me in the search engine rankings. That's the ideal world. There are many forms of this. Content marketing isn't the only one.
It can also be good, not quite as good, to refocus the energy that you might currently be expending on building all kinds of links and instead concentrate very carefully on the few links that really matter. As we've seen here, even for those who are arguing, "No, it's becoming less important," it's not becoming less important. Those folks are saying, "Hey, there are a lot of things getting filtered out, and it's harder and harder to earn the good editorial links." Focusing on getting those is still very valuable.
Do not do these things -- keep getting any and every link. We've talked about this many times on Whiteboard Friday. You guys are all familiar. Especially the non-editorial kind. It's too dangerous a world. If you're building a site that you want to last in the search engines for a long period of time, many months and years in the future, you can't afford to be actively, proactively going and getting non-editorial links.
Please, don't ignore the value that you get from activities that might not directly earn you a link -- things that could get you brand mentions and grow your brand, things that could build up your resource of content, things that could build up your social channels -- just because those things don't earn you a link.
A great example of this one is a lot of folks have been talking about guest posting. Of course, I did a Whiteboard Friday right before Google made their announcement about guest posting. Guest blogging, guest posting, in that classic SEO for a link fashion, is not a great idea. But it can still be a great channel to earn brand awareness and attention, to earn direct traffic. I mean, a lot of folks can post on forums, on sites that earn them an additional audience, and that additional audience in the future might turn into people who share and link and become customers. So that's a beautiful world. Don't ignore the value of that.
I'm sure there's going to be some great debate and discussion in the comments, and I really look forward to hearing from all of you. Take care. We'll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday.
Posted by Aleyda
If you're reading this post right now, chances are that you have experienced this (or know someone who has): You have the deadline of a blog post coming, but you still don't know what to write about.
Sometimes you get away by writing about breaking news or a trend in your field, by doing a review of a new product or service, or by covering a recent conference or meetup that you have attended, but you can't do this all the time. You also want to write about something that is not only useful but also attractive, something that allows you to connect with your audience.
And you might be an experienced blogger, copywriter, or marketer. You might also know your audience pretty well; you have built your personas, completed and developed keyword research, and have already tried some techniques to get through the "writer's block." You have browsed through the content of prolific creators to get inspired and even tried Portent's content idea generator, but you still have a hard time finding a relevant and exciting blog post idea each time that your deadline approaches.
This likely happens because although you know where to find the data—and might even have it already—to get you inspired and identify ideas, the hardest part is to make it actionable, since it's so easy to get lost in such a vast amount of information.
What you need in order to identify blog post ideas that will allow you to connect with your audience is an actionable and simple process that is easily repeatable, applicable to any industry, and scalable:
Step 1: Gather the relevant data
How can we avoid getting lost when there's so much data available through so many sources? By focusing only on gathering the most important data that's relevant to your goal: Identifying a relevant and attractive blog post idea for your web audience.
Here's the data that you will need:
1. Your own most popular posts
You don't need to go through all of your previous posts, just select the most popular ones:
After gathering the data, consolidate these two "Top 20%" lists, eliminate the duplicates, and create a spreadsheet with the following information for each post:
Now you know which of the posts has been, until now, your own most popular content. You know what has attracted better traffic and visibility in social networks, and the social networks that your audience prefers.
2. Your competitors' most popular posts
It's time to collect the most popular posts from your competitors, and although you don't likely have access to their full analytics, you can still identify some important statistics:
With this information you can consolidate these two lists into one and create a spreadsheet for the top 20% of posts by your competitors that includes the following data:
Here you have another very valuable and highly targeted source of information:
3. Your community's and influencers' most shared content
Besides your own top content and that of your competitors, you can also identify which content is most liked in your own social communities—the different groups that are connected to each other and form your audience.
For Twitter, you can get your communities and the influencers, topics, and locations per communities by using Tribalytics, just by adding your Twitter handle:
Once you identify your different communities, their most popular topics, and influencers, you can get even more specific by using Twtrland to obtain the most popular tweets for your influencers:
Create a list with the top content shared in your influencers' top tweets and segment it using the different topic areas identified for your communities. Complete it with social and search popularity-related data for each one of them:
Here's another very relevant input for your blog post ideas: The content that your influencers like to share and that has been popular in your own Twitter communities.
4. The hottest relevant content in social networks
After having identified the posts topics and pieces that have performed better for you, your competitors, and in your social communities in the past, you can identify which have been the overall most popular pieces of content in social networks about those same topics in the latest times.
Organize the best-performing content that you have now into different topics categories or areas and use Buzzsumo to search for them.
Download the most shared content in social networks for each category. You will have a list with the following information:
Consolidate the lists, segmenting again per category and organize it by prioritizing the overall best performing content for your topics in social networks.
5. Your relevant web industry questions
Another very relevant source of blog post ideas is the questions asked by your online community in social networks, such as Twitter, and on sites like Quora.
Go to your relevant topic's questions, and create a list with the highest-voted questions. Automate this process by creating an IFTTT recipe for their RSS feeds, by adding them directly into a Google Docs Spreadsheet.
You can complete the previous list of questions with the ones that users make directly in Google by using the SEOchat related keywords tool, a multi-level suggestion keyword finder that will give you the queries that your audience searches for in Google about your desired topics.
By doing this, you will learn which are the biggest questions that people ask on the web about your relevant topics. A direct source of ideas to create posts that answer them.
6. Your industry web content requests
Subscribe to HARO or ProfNet and get daily email alerts each time a media outlet asks for the input of a specialist about your selected categories of content. Create filters to apply a label to those emails that specifically include one of your relevant content topics:
By doing this you will learn how journalists are looking to cover these topics and the type of content they're writing about them already. This can serve as an ongoing reference for content ideas: See what important sites are writing about your relevant topics at the moment.
Step 2: Ask the relevant questions
Once you have gathered all the previous data you will have a very complete, but still manageable, prioritized and categorized source of potential blog post ideas from different type of sources:
Analyze and make this data actionable with the next steps:
Prioritize those ideas that have the highest level of interest and that haven't been published yet.
Step 3: Identify your blog post opportunities
For each of the highly prioritized potential ideas for posts, ask the following questions to filter them further and validate your opportunities:
The winning idea will be those for which you answer yes to the questions.
In case that you have identified a topic that has been already covered in the past with a blog post, but it complies with the rest of the previous criteria so is still attractive to pursue, then think about how you can create a unique selling proposition that differentiates yours from what came before. Two common options are:
Some examples; rinse and repeat.
I contribute my writing to Moz, State of Digital, and at WooRank and it´s fundamental for me to have a process to follow to be able to come up each month with new blog posts ideas, so I've followed this process in the past to write these posts:
It has worked pretty well for me in the past and hopefully it does for you too!
Do you use a process to identify your blog posts ideas? I would love to hear about it.
Posted by Chad_Wittman
This post was originally in YouMoz, and was promoted to the main blog because it provides great value and interest to our community. The author's views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of Moz, Inc.
Facebook continues to make significant changes in the news feed. This time Facebook has decreased the importance (technically the "weight") of status updates. With these changes occurring so rapidly in the news feed, many brand managers want to know how to stay on top of it all.
We dug deep into the data to see what the latest change was and wanted to introduce a philosophy to stay ahead of the constant changes. We analyze and monitor this type of data for thousands of Facebook pages with a tool called EdgeRank Checker.
On Jan. 21, Facebook released a blog post explaining that status updates from pages are less engaging than status updates from friends. In other words, status updates were going to lose exposure in the news feed.
The change was implemented nearly immediately, as we saw organic reach begin to dip rapidly. In the graph below, you'll see a ~40% decrease from the two weeks after Jan. 21, as compared to the two weeks before:
While frustrating for many brands, status updates aren't displayed nearly as often as links and photos, as they typically don't provide as much value to the business. Status updates are typically used for gathering general opinions or quick message updates, whereas links can drive actual traffic.
During this change, the other content types were not significantly impacted. Most experienced a very moderate decrease, which is most likely due to normal fluctuations. Interestingly, videos have now become the strongest performer in the news feed. Our sample size for posts with videos is less than optimal, but our historical data shows a similar pattern. For brands that have the capability to deliver engaging videos, it should be considered as an interesting content outlet in the future.
How does a brand stay ahead?
As we study each change in the news feed, a common theme begins to appear. Content that creates value tends to bubble to the top. Google has a similar approach with search results. We see Facebook slowly becoming similar to Google in that capacity. When we examine the brands that are less impacted by negative changes, they tend to have strong engagement—specifically shares. Why is this? We think we can explain this phenomenon with a concept called Content Originator.
Brands that actually create the content (thus, Content Originators) are the ones that experience the most value in the news feed. We've seen Google take a similar approach with examining inbound links. Content Originators actually have less to do with Facebook specifically, as compared to the maturation of any social network. Twitter most likely experiences similar results, which you can see as a Tweet propagates across the world—the Content Originator gets more exposure.
The reason that Content Originators are able to succeed with an onslaught of changes is that they are able to utilize natural distribution networks such as shares. While Facebook's algorithms may not weigh their initial post as heavily as before, strong engagement and shares are strong signals to distribute the content further.
The news feed is filled with increasing competition that boasts larger and larger budgets to gain exposure within the feed. Being a Content Originator helps slice through the noise created by so many pages re-reporting news. The re-reporting of news is something that Facebook is attempting to decrease through these changes. It is also possible that brands will begin to gain additional exposure through the "Trending" section if they're the Content Originator of a new and trending topic.
In an example below, you can see the local value that Facebook provides in the trending result. A story that was shared on Facebook 2,000+ times from CarolinaLive (not quite a Content Originator, but as close as you can get in a situation like this, as compared to a CNN-type news source) is given the extra exposure. The next object listed is from Fox Carolina News, again more of a Content Originator than the national brand of Fox News.
The example above is meant to illustrate how Facebook perceives Content Originators elsewhere in their platform. We use things like this as clues to better understand how the news feed works.
Facebook decreased organic reach of status updates by ~40% on Jan. 21. For most brands, this doesn't have a large impact on their strategy, as they are mostly using links and photos to further increase their brand. Using a concept called Content Originator might help craft a content strategy that stays ahead of news feed changes. Facebook may be placing additional value on content originators in the news feed, and is surely valuing brands with strong engagement—especially ones with high share levels.
We studied roughly 50,000 posts from 800 different pages for the two weeks before and after Jan. 21. For most metrics, we examined the median of each page's average performance over the time period analyzed. Engagement is defined as likes + comments + shares for this study.
Posted by Jeffalytics
This post was originally in YouMoz, and was promoted to the main blog because it provides great value and interest to our community. The author's views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of Moz, Inc.
Over the past two years I have flipped and flopped on my stance on (not provided) keywords in Google Analytics. For a long time I took a stance against complaining about missing keyword data in GA by asking the question "Why Do You Care So Much About (not provided)?"
Then at some point last fall while I was hanging out with some of my fellow GACPs, their complaints about the data we were missing behind the fog of https: search results influenced me enough to join the ranks of (not provided) complainers.
Not Provided Trends from Not Provided Count
Fortunately, that was only short-lived. Knowing that (not provided) will eventually be 100% of our search keywords, I'm back to my old stance of saying "deal with it" when it comes to complaints about missing keywords in Google Analytics.
But how do we deal with it?
Let's start with defining the problem. Keywords have long fueled everything in SEO. From research through ranking through reporting, our lives as search analysts have been about granular keyword data. While in recent years the most effective SEO strategies have grown to center around creating great content, much of the industry is still conditioned around keywords being at the center of the universe. For many, keywords are the universe.
While most practitioners are gradually coming around to the changes in Google's preferences for ranking sites with high-quality content, we are also tasked with re-training all of those who have grown accustomed to receiving keyword data over the years.
Missing keyword data in Google Analytics is causing trouble for Internet marketers because our peers, bosses and clients are used to seeing this data in their reports. It's almost as if we are Pavlov, our report recipients are Pavlov's dog, and keywords are conditioned response.
Image found on The Thinking Blog
With a conditioned response to keyword data, it becomes tragic when it is taken away. When something is taken away, our instincts illicit a negative reaction. We are conditioned to behave this way.
The key to surviving is to give them more meat. Better meat!
We can do better than keyword reporting
While keywords have always been at the center of the SEO universe, reporting too heavily keyword data has long been a crutch for propping up weak and unoriginal marketing efforts. There are better ways to measure your organic search marketing performance, and many of them are already available for you within Google Analytics.
Instead of fixating on a handful of fat head keywords, it's time to train executives to focus on what really matters to your business: how organic search brings revenue (and ultimately profit) into your organization.
Fortunately, there are alternatives to measuring search performance purely based on keyword data. What follows are 10 ways that you can prove the value of your SEO efforts in a (not provided) world.
I first gave this presentation in January, 2014 at Superweek in Hungary. For those of you who learn best by going through slides, you can view all of the slides here:
For those of you who would benefit from an explanation of what these slides mean, the rest of this post is for you.
What follows are 10 ways that you can use Google tools to prove the value of your SEO efforts, even after (not provided) reaches 100%. Some of these may seem obvious, while I'm hopeful that others will give you an "aha" moment.
1) Measure overall organic traffic over time
While search marketers may judge themselves by their abilities to rank for certain keywords, your organization will likely be judging you on two things: overall traffic and conversions. The good news is that if your site has been in existence for at least 13 months and you have goals configured in GA, you can work to prove your value by showing the recent growth that you have brought to the organization.
This can easily be done using the date comparison tool within Google Analytics. An executive in your organization may be used to seeing reports featuring information about individual keywords, but they will quickly forget about keywords if you can show them that you have grown organic search traffic by 200% year over year. The memory of keywords will be completely erased from their mind when they see the revenue growth of 150% year over year!
Revenue growth and profit erase the memories of keywords. Mind Eraser image from Wikipedia.
Executives are often compensated based on that same growth and profit. Showing them that you are a source of growth or profit for your organization is a key to obtaining more resources for your team, rising through the ranks of the organization and increasing your overall compensation.
Wouldn't it be great if the loss of granular keyword data were the key to your personal financial gain?
2) Segment organic search traffic by landing page
Now that we understand how focusing on the end result is the best area to focus with our bosses and our bosses bosses, we have to deal with the reality that it's very hard to optimize the ocean.
Knowing that you have tens of thousands of search visits to your site without any indicator of what drove them there is an ocean of useless data. That's what we are dealing with when staring at a screen with (not provided) keywords.
Not exactly useful
Good news: there are multiple alternatives to looking at the view above. In fact, if you can probably skip this report entirely. The quickest and easiest solution to find some level of granularity in Google Analytics is to look at the Landing Page primary dimension while in the organic keywords report. This will give you a view of the pages on your site that are driving the most organic traffic.
In my case, I can see that there are several pages on my site that are drawing organic search traffic. Since I wrote these posts, I can tell exactly what each page is about based solely on the article URL. For example, the #1 traffic driver for me is a post I wrote about auto posting your content to social media. I wrote this post after growing super frustrated about a lack of information on the topic during my previous Google searches.
As is often the case with my blog, I tend to write lengthy posts on a topic after growing frustrated on the information that is currently showing up in online searches. If I have to view 10 search results pages to piece together the answer to my question, then there is a tremendous opportunity to outrank the existing articles by writing something more comprehensive.
My SEO strategy for Jeffalytics is to provide the best answer to a question that I recently struggled with myself. I rarely worry about keywords, because I am concentrating on providing the answer and not fixated on keywords. I also understand that much of the traffic coming to the site will be from the long tail.
Reporting on the success of your pages vs. individual keywords gives you a much quicker indication of what content is working. Amplifying what is working is a key impactor of future success.
In your case, you may find that the #1 landing page for your site is your home page by a large margin. This is common for established brands and the home page often represents a branded query. If you want to get advanced with your reporting, try inferring brand/non-brand to your landing pages based on the URL and reporting on each separately.
Note: I am sure that my blog would benefit from a stronger keyword focus, but I can only do so much as a single author hobby blogger.
3) Use landing pages as a secondary dimension
If you are accustomed to looking at the organic keywords report in GA, or if your (not provided) count is still providing valuable data, then you may want to view the landing page as a secondary dimension within this report. This can be easily done by choosing landing page as a secondary dimension within the keyword report.
4) Use filters to make (not provided) more meaningful
The first three suggestions we give for dealing with (not provided) work out of the box with your Google Analytics account. For those of you who are bold enough to experiment with filtering the data coming in through your website, you can combine the organic keywords and landing pages into a single field by creating filters for your views in Google Analytics. The good folks at Econsultancy provided an awesome guide on how you can steal some of your keyword data back using advanced filters in GA.
*Please note that when applying filters to your data it is highly recommended to only do this with a NEW VIEW. Do not apply to existing views to your site for two reasons: 1) You might screw up the filter, which could prevent your site from collecting data and 2) The filter is not retroactively applied, so there's little advantage to applying to your main reporting profile anyway since you can't do an apples to apples comparison.
By applying the following filter to a new view, your (not provided) keywords become more meaningful.
As you can see, the keyword not only becomes more meaningful, but it also frees up a secondary dimension for further analysis that would not be available to you otherwise. Think about all of the awesome analysis you can do now!
5) Use multi-channel funnels to prove value
Two areas that always suffer with last click attribution are organic search and social. This is because the visitors we receive from these sources are often at the top of the marketing funnel and don't often purchase on the first site visit. While we may influence their future purchase with our company, it doesn't always happen on the first date. It often takes a paid search ad, remarketing, email marketing or a direct visit to complete the buying process for these visitors.
Here is an example of how the content marketing funnel looks for a startup I am working with.
Notice how prominent organic search and content marketing are at the top of the decision process and how they tail off as people begin to make purchases. This is the type of behavior that many companies experience when trying to draw in new customers (note that this is a simplified picture and YMMV). The above funnel is based loosely on industry specific research provided by Think Insights.
The easiest way to understand whether your business is impacted by a similar decision making funnel is to look at the multi channel funnels functionality within Google Analytics. My favorite is the assisted conversions report, because it allows us to see very clearly whether any of our traffic driving channels are understated with last click attribution.
Understanding our last click + assisted revenue numbers can double the measurable impact of our organic search efforts.
6) Hook up with Google Webmaster Tools
The closest direct replacement to (not provided) keyword data is the integration between Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools. By hooking up the two tools with each other, we unlock a wealth of keyword data that is slowly becoming more accurate.
While these reports are not available in Google Analytics out of the box, if you utilize the asynchronous version of the GA tracking code or Google Tag Manager, you can use these tools to verify ownership of your website through Google Webmaster tools. Once verified, you can connect the two products and have keyword data start rolling in to the Search Engine Optimization reports in Google Analytics.
From here you can begin to see impressions for individual keywords, clicks and click through rates for Google search. While I don't find the information to be extremely reliable, the data is improving.
The key I have found once again to ensure accuracy is to once again look at the landing pages report as opposed to the "queries' section. In my case, the queries section only shows 6,720 clicks from Google off 161,182 impressions while the Landing Pages report shows 28,139 clicks for the same 90 day time period.
This is actually very accurate when compared to my organic landing pages for the same time period:
The difference in my case is that they only show the top 1,000 queries, which does not represent all of the long tail keywords that drive traffic. On the other hand, since I don't have close to 1,000 pages on this site, the top 1,000 landing pages do not get cut off by this limitation.
Some of this may be attributed to the changes Google made on December 31, 2013 to have more detailed search queries in Webmaster Tools.
Google Webmaster Tools data may not be perfect, but in many cases it is all we have.
7) Segment organic search traffic by demographics
If you are not using the new Demographics reports in Google Analytics, you are seriously missing out on some amazing data. You're also not alone, because these reports are so new that very few people are using them to their fullest.
The demographic report data is provided by Doubleclick and requires you to utilize the dc.js version of Google Analytics in order to access the data. This may require changing the code on your site if you are not already using the dc.js version of GA to enable remarketing. It is also not compatible with Universal Analytics at the moment. For Google Tag Manager users it's as simple as checking a box in your tag settings for GA.
For those of you who can navigate the above process and enable the reports, you can see some very cool data about who is interacting with your site. You can segment by the age range and gender of your visitors to understand who fits into your target market.
Better yet, you can create a secondary dimension that allows you to understand how an age range or gender performs by traffic source. Ever wonder whether males or females are better searchers? Do younger visitors convert better than older ones? You can answer these questions and adjust your search strategy based on the key demographics for your site.
8) Use dashboards to surface the most important metrics
I love that we can share dashboards, segments and reports between accounts in Google Analytics. This makes it easier to consistently work across accounts and also allows users to have access to the works of analytics professionals in the click of a button. One of these professionals is Dan Barker, who grew so tired of having keywords (not provided) in Google Analytics that he created a website with resources dedicated to dealing with the problem. His site, Not Provided Kit, provides 6 different add-ons that you can install into your Google Analytics account.
I especially like the custom dashboard that helps you understand some of the key information behind not provided keywords for your website. Brilliant!
For a wealth of custom dashboards and reports, I highly recommend that you check out the Google Analytics Solutions Gallery.
9) Paid and organic search reports in AdWords
Stepping outside of Google Analytics, these last two ways of dealing with (not provided) also come from Google. The first is utilizing the relatively new Paid & Organic keyword report in Google AdWords. This report marries data from your AdWords account and Google Webmaster Tools to help you understand where you have the best keyword coverage. This report helps you understand how often your site appears in paid and organic search for a given keyword that you are targeting.
If your company is heavily involved in both paid search and organic, you can get started by linking AdWords and Webmaster Tools. From there, I recommend reading How to Use Google AdWords Paid & Organic Report by Lunametrics.
10) Use Google Trends
If you are still interested in understanding the interest and performance of individual keywords over time, you can always utilize Google Trends to gain insights into the popularity of a keyword over time or compare the relative search volume for two similar terms. This data can help you understand if interest is growing or shrinking in recent times, as well as aid you in targeting one keyword over another in your content marketing efforts.
Now if only Google used their own tools to see how interest in not provided has grown 500% since it was introduced into our lexicon in 2011.
It's time to come clean
When something is taken away from us, it's hard not to react negatively to the change. As Avinash put it in his article about this very topic, you need to go through the five stages of grief to come out clean on the other side. It almost reminds me of Andrew Dufresne in the Shawshank Redemption.
Andy Dufresne crawled through a river of (not provided) keywords and came out clean on the other side.
Free yourself of the burden of how things used to be. Keywords as you knew them are probably never coming back, so use this as an opportunity to advance your career, get paid more and make your company lots of money.
Hopefully these 10 tips will help you better understand where you can look to get at the data you need. Happy Analysis!