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

Posted by randfish

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

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the perfect blog post length and frequency

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about blog posts and, more broadly, content length and publishing frequency.

So these are things where a lot of the posts that you might read, for example, if you were to Google “ideal blog post length” or “ideal publishing frequency” will give you data and information that come from these sources of here’s the average length of content of the top 10 results in Google across a 5,000-keyword set, and you can see that somewhere between 2,350 and 2,425 words is the ideal length, so that’s what you should aim for.

I am going to call a big fat helping if baloney on that. It’s not only dead wrong, it’s really misleading. In fact, I get frustrated when I see these types of charts used to justify this information, because that’s not right at all.

When you see charts/data like this used to provide prescriptive, specific targets for content length, ask:

Any time you see this, if you see a chart or data like this to suggest, hey, this is how long you should make a post because here’s the length of the average thing in the top 10, you should ask very careful questions like:

1. What set of keywords does this apply to? Is this a big, broad set of 5,000 keywords, and some of them are navigational and some of them are informational and some of them are transactional and maybe a few of them are ecommerce keywords and a few of them are travel related and a few of them are in some other sector?

Because honestly, what does that mean? That’s sort of meaningless, right? Especially if the standard deviation is quite high. If we’re talking about like, oh, well many things that actually did rank number one were somewhere between 500 words and 15,000 words. Well, so what does the average tell me? How is that helpful? That’s not actually useful or prescriptive information. In fact, it’s almost misleading to make that prescriptive.

2. Do the keywords that I care about, the ones that I’m targeting, do they have similar results? Does the chart look the same? If you were to take a sample of let’s say 50 keywords that you cared about and you were to get the average content length of the top 10 results, would it resemble that? Would it not? Does it have a high standard deviation? Is there a big delta because some keywords require a lot of content to answer them fully and some keywords require very, very small amounts of content and Google has prioritized accordingly? Is it wise, then, to aim for the average when a much larger article would be much more appreciated and be much more likely to succeed, or a much shorter one would do far better? Why are you aiming for this average if that’s the case?

3. Is correlation the same as causation? The answer is hell no. Never has been. Big fat no. Correlation doesn’t even necessarily imply causation. In fact, I would say that any time you’re looking at an average, especially on this type of stuff, correlation and causation are totally separate. It is not because the number one result is 2,450 words that it happens to rank number one. Google does not work that way. Never has, never will.

INSTEAD of trusting these big, unknown keyword set averages, you should:

A. look at your keywords and your search results and what’s working versus not in those specific ones.

B. Be willing to innovate, be willing to say, “Hey, you know what? I see this content today, the number one, number two, number three rankings are in these sorts of averages. But I actually think you can answer this with much shorter content and many searchers would appreciate it.” I think these folks, who are currently ranking, are over-content creating, and they don’t need to be.

C. You should match your goals and your content goals with searcher goals. That’s how you should determine the length that you should put in there. If you are trying to help someone solve a very specific problem and it is an easily answerable question and you’re trying to get the featured snippet, you probably don’t need thousands of words of content. Likewise, if you are trying to solve a very complex query and you have a ton of resources and information that no one else has access to, you’ve done some really unique work, this may be way too short for what you’re aiming for.

All right. Let’s switch over to publishing frequency, where you can probably guess I’m going to give you similar information. A lot of times you’ll see, “How often should I publish? Oh, look, people who publish 11 times or more per month, they get way more traffic than people who publish only once a month. Therefore, clearly, I should publish 11 or more times a month.”

Why is the cutoff at 11? Does that make any sense to you? Are these visits all valuable to all the companies that were part of whatever survey was in here? Did one blog post account for most of the traffic in the 11 plus, and it’s just that the other 10 happened to be posts where they were practicing or trying to get good, and it was just one that kind of shot out of the park there?

See a chart like this? Ask:

1. Who’s in the set of sites analyzed? Are they similar to me? Do they target a similar audience? Are they in my actual sector? What’s the relative quality of the content? How savvy and targeted are the efforts at earning traffic? Is this guy over here, are we sure that all 11 posts were just as good as the one post this person created? Because if not, I’m comparing apples and oranges.

2. What’s the quality of the traffic? What’s the value of the traffic? Maybe this person is getting a ton of really valuable traffic, and this person over here is getting very little. You can’t tell from a chart like this, especially when it’s averaged in this way.

3. What things might matter more than raw frequency?

  • Well, matching your goals to your content schedule. If one of your goals is to build up subscribers, like Whiteboard Friday where people know it and they’ve heard of it, they have a brand association with it, it’s called Whiteboard Friday, it should probably come out once a week on Friday. There’s a frequency implied in the content, and that makes sense. But you might have goals that only demand publishing once a quarter or once a month or once a week or once every day. That’s okay. But you should tie those together.
  • Consistency, we have found, is almost always more important than raw frequency, especially if you’re trying to build up that consistent audience and a subscriber base. So I would focus on that, not how I should publish more often, but I should publish more consistently so that people will get used to my publishing schedule and will look forward to what I have to say, and also so that you can build up a cadence for yourself and your organization.
  • Crafting posts that actually earn attention and amplification and help your conversion funnel goals, whatever those might be, over raw traffic. It’s far better if this person got 50 new visits who turned into 5 new paying customers, than this person who published 11 posts and got 1 new paying customer out of all 11. That’s a lot more work and expense for a lot less ROI. I’d be careful about that.

*ASIDE:

One aside I would say about publishing frequency. If you’re early stage, or if you were trying to build a career in blogging or in publishing, it’s great to publish a lot of content. Great writers become great because they write a lot of terrible crap, and then they improve. The same is true with web publishers.

If you look at Whiteboard Friday number one, or a blog post number one from me, you’re going to see pretty miserable stuff. But over time, by publishing quite a bit, I got better at it. So if that is your goal, yes, publishing a lot of content, more than you probably need, more than your customers or audience probably needs, is good practice for you, and it will help you get better.

All right, everyone. Hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of Whiteboard Friday. We’ll see you again next week. Take care.

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5 Tips to Help Show ROI from Local SEO

Posted by JoyHawkins

Earlier this year, when I was first writing my advanced local SEO training, I reached out to some users who work for local SEO agencies and asked them what they’d like more training on. The biggest topic I got as a result was related to tracking and reporting value to small business owners.

My clients will often forward me reports from their prior SEO company, expressing that they have no idea what they were getting for their money. Some of the most common complaints I see with these reports are:

  • Too much use of marketing lingo (“Bounce Rate,” “CTR,” etc.)
  • Way too much data
  • No representation of what impact the work done had on the business itself (did it get them more customers?)

If a small business owner is giving you hundreds or thousands of dollars every month, how do you prove to them they’re getting value from it? There’s a lot to dig into with this topic — I included a full six pages on it in my training. Today I wanted to share some of the most successful tips that I use with my own clients.


1. Stop sending automated Google Analytics reports

If the goal is to show the customer what they’re getting from their investment, you probably won’t achieve it by simply sending them an Analytics report each month. Google Analytics is a powerful tool, but it only looks awesome to you because you’re a marketer. Over the past year, I’ve looked at many monthly reports that made my head spin — it’s just too much data. The average SMB isn’t going to be able to look at those reports and figure out how their bounce rate decreasing somehow means you’re doing a great job at SEO.

2. Make conversions the focus of your report

What does the business owner care about? Hint: it’s not how you increased the ranking for one of their 50 tracked keywords this month. No, what they care about is how much additional business you drove to their business. This should be the focus of the report you send them. Small business call conversions

3. Use dynamic number insertion to track calls

If you’re not already doing this, you’re really killing your ability to show value. I don’t have a single SEO or SEM client that isn’t using call tracking. I use Call Tracking Metrics, but CallRail is another one that works well, too. This allows you to see the sources of incoming calls. Unlike slapping a call tracking number on your website, dynamic number insertion won’t mess up NAP consistency.

The bonus here is that you can set up these calls as goals in Google Analytics. Using the Landing Page report, you can see which pages on the site were responsible for getting that call. Instead of saying, “Hey customer, a few months ago I created this awesome page of content for you,” you can say “Hey customer, a few months ago, I added this page to your site and as a result, it’s got you 5 more calls.”
Conversion goal completion in Google Analytics

4. Estimate revenue

I remember sitting in a session a couple years ago when Dev Basu from Powered by Search told me about this tactic. I had a lightbulb moment, wondering why the heck I didn’t think to do this before.

The concept is simple: Ask the client what the average lifetime value of their customer is. Next, ask them what their average closing ratio is on Internet leads. Take those numbers and, based on the number of conversions, you can calculate their estimated revenue.

Formula: Lifetime Value of a Customer x Closing Ratio (%) x Number of Conversions = Estimated Revenue

Bonus tip: Take this a step further and show them that for every dollar they pay you, you make them $X. Obviously, if the lifetime value of the customer is high, these numbers look a lot better. For example, an attorney could look like this:Example monthly ROI for an attorneyWhereas an insurance agent would look like this:
Example monthly ROI for an insurance agent

5. Show before/after screenshots, not a ranking tracker.

I seriously love ranking trackers. I spend a ton of time every week looking at reports in Bright Local for my clients. However, I really believe ranking trackers are best used for marketers, not business owners. How many times have you had a client call you freaking out because they noticed a drop in ranking for one keyword? I chose to help stop this trend by not including ranking reports in my monthly reporting and have never regretted that decision.

Instead, if I want to highlight a significant ranking increase that happened as a result of SEO, I can do that by showing the business owner a visual — something they will actually understand. This is where I use Bright Local’s screenshots; I can see historically how a SERP used to look versus how it looks now.


At the end of the day, to show ROI you need to think like a business owner, not a marketer. If your goals match the goals of the business owner (which is usually to increase calls), make sure that’s what you’re conveying in your monthly reporting.

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SEO Above the Funnel: Getting More Traffic When You Can’t Rank Any Higher

Posted by Tom.Capper

Normally, as SEOs, we follow a deceptively simple process. We identify how people are searching for our product, then we build or optimize pages or websites to match searcher intent, we make sure Google can find, understand, and trust it, and we wait for the waves of delicious traffic to roll in.

It’s not always that simple, though. What if we have the right pages, but just can’t rank any higher? What if we’re already satisfying all of the search volume that’s relevant to our product, but the business demands growth? What if there is no search volume relevant to our product?

What would you do, for example, if you were asked to increase organic traffic to the books section on Amazon? Or property search traffic to Rightmove (UK) or Zillow (US)? Or Netflix, before anyone knew that true online streaming services existed?

In this post, I’m going to briefly outline four simple tactics for building your relevant organic traffic by increasing the overall size of the market, rather than by trying to rank higher. And none of them require building a single link, or making any changes to your existing pages.

1. Conquer neighboring territories

This is a business tactic as well as an SEO one, but it’s worth keeping an eye out for reasonably uncompetitive verticals adjacent to your own. You have an advantage in these, because you already have a brand, a strong domain, a website to build upon, and so forth. New startups trying to make headway in these spaces will struggle to compete with a fairly low-effort execution on your part, if you judge it well.

Start by ideating related products. For example, if you’re a property listings site, you might look at:

  • Home insurance
  • Home valuation
  • Flat-sharing listings
  • Area guides

Once you’ve outlined your list (it’s probably longer than my example), you can do your basic keyword research, and take a look at the existing ranking pages. This is a bit like identifying keyword opportunities, except you’re looking at the core landing pages of a whole vertical — look at their Domain Authorities, their branded search volumes, the quality of their landing pages, the extent to which they’ve done basic SEO, and ask whether you could do better.

In the example above, you might find that home insurance is well served by fairly strong financial services or comparison sites, but flat-sharing is a weak vertical dominated by a few fairly young and poorly executed sites. That’s your opportunity.

To minimize your risk, you can start with a minimal viable version — perhaps just a single landing page or a white-labeled product. If it does well, you know it merits further investment.

You’ve already established a trusted brand, with a strong website, which users are already engaging in — if you can extend your services and provide good user experiences in other areas, you can beat other, smaller brands in those spaces.

2. Welcome the intimidated

Depending on your vertical, there may be an untapped opportunity among potential customers who don’t understand or feel comfortable with the product. For example, if you sell laptops, many potential customers may be wary of buying a laptop online or without professional advice. This might cause them not to buy, or to buy a cheaper product to reduce the riskiness.

A “best laptops under £500,” or “lightest laptops,” or “best laptops for gaming” page could encourage people to spend more, or to buy online when they might otherwise have bought in a store. Pages like this can be simple feature comparisons, or semi-editorial, but it’s important that they don’t feel like a sales or up-sell function (even though that’s what the “expert” in the store would be!).

This is even more pertinent the more potentially research intensive the purchase is. For example, Crucial have done amazingly for years with their “system scanner,” linked to prominently on their homepage, which identifies potential upgrades and gives less savvy users confidence in their purchase.

Guaranteed compatible!

If this seems like too much effort, the outdoor retailer Snow and Rock don’t have the best website in the world, but they have taken a simpler approach in linking to buying guides from certain product pages — for example, this guide on how to pick a pair of walking boots.

Can you spot scenarios where users abandon in your funnels because of fear or complexity, or where they shift their spend to offline competitors? If you can make them feel safe and supported, you might be able to change their buying behavior.

3. Whip up some fervor

At the opposite end of the spectrum, you have enthusiasts who know your vertical like the back of their hand, but could be incited to treat themselves a little more. I’ve been really impressed recently by a couple of American automotive listings sites doing this really well.

The first is Autotrader.com, who have hired well-known automotive columnist Doug Demuro from Jalopnik.com to produce videos and articles for their enthusiast news section. These articles and videos talk about the nerdy quirks of some of the most obscure and interesting used cars that have been listed on the site, and it’s not uncommon for videos on Doug’s YouTube channel — which mention Autotrader.com and feature cars you could buy on Autotrader.com — to get well into 7-figure viewing counts.

These are essentially adverts for Autotrader.com’s products, but I and hundreds of thousands of others watch them religiously. What’s more, the resulting videos and articles stand to rank for the types of queries that curious enthusiasts may search for, turning informational queries into buying intent, as well as building brand awareness. I actually think Autotrader.com could do even better at this with a little SEO 101 (editorial titles don’t need to be your actual title tag, guys), but it’s already a great tactic.

Another similar site doing this really well is Bringatrailer.com. Their approach is really simple — whenever they get a particularly rare or interesting car listed, they post it on Facebook.

These are super low-effort posts about used cars, but if you take a step back, Bring a Trailer are doing something outrageous. They’re posting links to their product pages on Facebook a dozen or more times a day, and getting 3-figure reaction counts. Some of the lesson here is “have great product pages,” or “exist in an enthusiast-rich vertical,” and I realize that this tactic isn’t strictly SEO. But it is doing a lot of things that we as SEOs try to do (build awareness, search volume, links…), and it’s doing so by successfully matching informational or entertainment intents with transactional pages.

When consumers engage with a brand emotionally or even socially, then you’re more likely to be top-of-mind when they’re ready to purchase — but they’re also more likely to purchase if they’re seeing and thinking about your products, services, and sector in their feed.

4. Tell people your vertical exists

I won’t cover this one in too much detail, because there’s already an excellent Whiteboard Friday on the subject. The key point, however, is that sometimes it’s not just that customers are intimidated by your product. They may never have heard of it. In these cases, you need to appear where they’re looking using demographic targeting, carefully researched editorial sections, or branded content.

What about you, though?

How do you go about drumming up demand in your vertical? Tell me all about it in the comments below.

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Google (Almost Certainly) Has an Organic Quality Score (Or Something a Lot Like It) that SEOs Need to Optimize For – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Entertain the idea, for a moment, that Google assigned a quality score to organic search results. Say it was based off of click data and engagement metrics, and that it would function in a similar way to the Google AdWords quality score. How exactly might such a score work, what would it be based off of, and how could you optimize for it?

While there’s no hard proof it exists, the organic quality score is a concept that’s been pondered by many SEOs over the years. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand examines this theory inside and out, then offers some advice on how one might boost such a score.

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Google's Organic Quality Score

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about organic quality score.

So this is a concept. This is not a real thing that we know Google definitely has. But there’s this concept that SEOs have been feeling for a long time, that similar to what Google has in their AdWords program with a paid quality score, where a page has a certain score assigned to it, that on the organic side Google almost definitely has something similar. I’ll give you an example of how that might work.

So, for example, if on my site.com I have these three — this is a very simplistic website — but I have these three subfolders: Products, Blog, and About. I might have a page in my products, 14axq.html, and it has certain metrics that Google associates with it through activity that they’ve seen from browser data, from clickstream data, from search data, and from visit data from the searches and bounces back to the search results, and all these kinds of things, all the engagement and click data that we’ve been talking about a lot this year on Whiteboard Friday.

So they may have these metrics, pogo stick rate and bounce rate and a deep click rate (the rate with which someone clicks to the site and then goes further in from that page), the time that they spend on the site on average, the direct navigations that people make to it each month through their browsers, the search impressions and search clicks, perhaps a bunch of other statistics, like whether people search directly for this URL, whether they perform branded searches. What rate do unique devices in one area versus another area do this with? Is there a bias based on geography or device type or personalization or all these kinds of things?

But regardless of that, you get this idea that Google has this sort of sense of how the page performs in their search results. That might be very different across different pages and obviously very different across different sites. So maybe this blog post over here on /blog is doing much, much better in all these metrics and has a much higher quality score as a result.

Current SEO theories about organic quality scoring:

Now, when we talk to SEOs, and I spend a lot of time talking to my fellow SEOs about theories around this, a few things emerge. I think most folks are generally of the opinion that if there is something like an organic quality score…

1. It is probably based on this type of data — queries, clicks, engagements, visit data of some kind.

We don’t doubt for a minute that Google has much more sophistication than the super-simplified stuff that I’m showing you here. I think Google publicly denies a lot of single types of metric like, “No, we don’t use time on site. Time on site could be very variable, and sometimes low time on site is actually a good thing.” Fine. But there’s something in there, right? They use some more sophisticated format of that.

2. We also are pretty sure that this is applying on three different levels:

This is an observation from experimentation as well as from Google statements which is…

  • Domain-wide, so that would be across one domain, if there are many pages with high quality scores, Google might view that domain differently from a domain with a variety of quality scores on it or one with generally low ones.
  • Same thing for a subdomain. So it could be that a subdomain is looked at differently than the main domain, or that two different subdomains may be viewed differently. If content appears to have high quality scores on this one, but not on this one, Google might generally not pass all the ranking signals or give the same weight to the quality scores over here or to the subdomain over here.
  • Same thing is true with subfolders, although to a lesser extent. In fact, this is kind of in descending order. So you can generally surmise that Google will pass these more across subfolders than they will across subdomains and more across subdomains than across root domains.

3. A higher density of good scores to bad ones can mean a bunch of good things:

  • More rankings in visibility even without other signals. So even if a page is sort of lacking in these other quality signals, if it is in this blog section, this blog section tends to have high quality scores for all the pages, Google might give that page an opportunity to rank well that it wouldn’t ordinarily for a page with those ranking signals in another subfolder or on another subdomain or on another website entirely.
  • Some sort of what we might call “benefit of the doubt”-type of boost, even for new pages. So a new page is produced. It doesn’t yet have any quality signals associated with it, but it does particularly well.

    As an example, within a few minutes of this Whiteboard Friday being published on Moz’s website, which is usually late Thursday night or very early Friday morning, at least Pacific time, I will bet that you can search for “Google organic quality score” or even just “organic quality score” in Google’s engine, and this Whiteboard Friday will perform very well. One of the reasons that probably is, is because many other Whiteboard Friday videos, which are in this same subfolder, Google has seen them perform very well in the search results. They have whatever you want to call it — great metrics, a high organic quality score — and because of that, this Whiteboard Friday that you’re watching right now, the URL that you see in the bar up above is almost definitely going to be ranking well, possibly in that number one position, even though it’s brand new. It hasn’t yet earned the quality signals, but Google assumes, it gives it the benefit of the doubt because of where it is.

  • We surmise that there’s also more value that gets passed from links, both internal and external, from pages with high quality scores. That is right now a guess, but something we hope to validate more, because we’ve seen some signs and some testing that that’s the case.

3 ways to boost your organic quality score

If this is true — and it’s up to you whether you want to believe that it is or not — even if you don’t believe it, you’ve almost certainly seen signs that something like it’s going on. I would urge you to do these three things to boost your organic quality score or whatever you believe is causing these same elements.

1. You could add more high-performing pages. So if you know that pages perform well and you know what those look like versus ones that perform poorly, you can make more good ones.

2. You can improve the quality score of existing pages. So if this one is kind of low, you’re seeing that these engagement and use metrics, the SERP click-through rate metrics, the bounce rate metrics from organic search visits, all of these don’t look so good in comparison to your other stuff, you can boost it, improve the content, improve the navigation, improve the usability and the user experience of the page, the load time, the visuals, whatever you’ve got there to hold searchers’ attention longer, to keep them engaged, and to make sure that you’re solving their problem. When you do that, you will get higher quality scores.

3. Remove low-performing pages through a variety of means. You could take a low-performing page and you might say, “Hey, I’m going to redirect that to this other page, which does a better job answering the query anyway.” Or, “Hey, I’m going to 404 that page. I don’t need it anymore. In fact, no one needs it anymore.” Or, “I’m going to no index it. Some people may need it, maybe the ones who are visitors to my website, who need it for some particular direct navigation purpose or internal purpose. But Google doesn’t need to see it. Searchers don’t need it. I’m going to use the no index, either in the meta robots tag or in the robots.txt file.”

One thing that’s really interesting to note is we’ve seen a bunch of case studies, especially since MozCon, when Britney Muller, Moz’s Head of SEO, shared the fact that she had done some great testing around removing tens of thousands of low-quality, really low-quality performing pages from Moz’s own website and seen our rankings and our traffic for the remainder of our content go up quite significantly, even controlling for seasonality and other things.

That was pretty exciting. When we shared that, we got a bunch of other people from the audience and on Twitter saying, “I did the same thing. When I removed low-performing pages, the rest of my site performed better,” which really strongly suggests that there’s something like a system in this fashion that works in this way.

So I’d urge you to go look at your metrics, go find pages that are not performing well, see what you can do about improving them or removing them, see what you can do about adding new ones that are high organic quality score, and let me know your thoughts on this in the comments.

We’ll look forward to seeing you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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How to Find Your Competitor’s Backlinks – Next Level

Posted by BrianChilds

Welcome to the newest installment of our educational Next Level series! In our last episode, Brian Childs equipped copywriters with the tools they need to succeed with SEO. Today, he’s back to share how to use Open Site Explorer to find linking opportunities based upon your competitors’ external inbound links. Read on and level up!


In Moz’s SEO training classes, we discuss how to identify and prioritize sources of backlinks using a mix of tools. One tactic to quickly find high Domain Authority sites that have a history of linking to pages discussing your topic is to study your competitors’ backlinks. This process is covered in-depth during the SEO Link Building Bootcamp.

In this article, I’ll show how to create and export a list of your competitor’s backlinks that you can use for targeting activities. This assumes you’ve already completed keyword research and have identified competitors that rank well in the search results for these queries. Use those competitors for the following analysis.


How to check the backlinks of a site

Step 1: Navigate to Open Site Explorer

Open Site Explorer is a tool used to research the link profile of a website. It will show you the quality of inbound links using metrics like Page Authority, Domain Authority, and Spam Score. You can do a good amount of research with the free version, but to enjoy all its capabilities you’ll need full access; you can get that access for free with a 30-day trial of Moz Pro.

Step 2: Enter your competitor’s domain URL

I suggest opening your competitor’s site in a browser window and then copying the URL. This will reduce any spelling errors and the possibility of incorrectly typing the domain name. An example of a common error is incorrectly adding “www” to the URL when that’s not how it renders for the site.

Step 3: Navigate to the “Inbound Links” tab

The Inbound Links tab will display all of the pages that link to your competitor’s website. In order to identify sources of links that are delivering link equity, I set the parameters above the list as follows: Target This – Root Domain, Links Source – Only External, and Link Type – Link Equity. This will show all external links providing link equity to any page on your competitor’s site.

Step 4: Export results into .csv

Most reports in Open Site Explorer will allow you to export to .csv. Save these results and then repeat for your other competitors.

Step 5: Compile .csv results from all competitors

Once you have Open Site Explorer exports from the top 5–10 competitors, compile them into one spreadsheet.

Step 6: Sort all results by Page Authority

Page Authority is a 1–100 scale developed by Moz that estimates the likelihood of a page’s ability to rank in a search result, based on our understanding of essential ranking factors. Higher numbers suggest the page is more authoritative and therefore has a higher likelihood of ranking. Higher Page Authority pages also will be delivering more link equity to your competitor’s site. Use Page Authority as your sorting criteria.

Step 7: Review all linking sites for opportunities

Now you have a large list of sites linking to your competitors for keywords you are targeting. Go down the list of high Page Authority links and look for sites or authors that show up regularly. Use your preferred outreach strategy to contact these sites and begin developing a relationship.


Want to learn more SEO processes?

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11 Lessons Learned from Failed Link Building Campaigns

Posted by kerryjones

We’ve created more than 800 content campaigns at Fractl over the years, and we’d be lying if we told you every single one was a hit.

The Internet is a finicky place. You can’t predict with 100% accuracy if your content will perform well. Sometimes what we think is going to do OK ends up being a massive hit. And there have been a few instances where we’d expect a campaign to be a huge success but it went on to garner lackluster results.

While you can’t control the whims of the Internet, you can avoid or include certain things in your content to help your chances of success. Through careful analysis we’ve pinpointed which factors tend to create high-performing content. Similarly, we’ve identified trends among our content that didn’t quite hit the mark.

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In this this post, I’ll share our most valuable lessons we learned from content flops. Bear in mind this advice applies if you’re using content to earn links and press pickups, which is what the majority of the content we create at Fractl aims to do.

1. There’s such a thing as too much data.

For content involving a lot of data, it can be tempting to publish every single data point you collect.

A good example of this is surveying. We’ve fallen down the rabbit hole of not only sharing all of the data we’ve collected in a survey, but also segmenting the data out by demographics — regardless of whether or not all of that data is super compelling. While this can give publishers a large volume of potential angles to choose from, the result is often unfocused content lacking a cohesive narrative.

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Only include the most insightful, interesting data points in your content, even if that means tossing aside most of the data you’ve gathered.

One example of this was a survey we did for a home security client where we asked people about stalker-ish behaviors they’d committed. The juiciest survey data (like 1 in 5 respondents had created a fake social account to spy on someone — yikes!) ended up getting buried because we included every data point from the survey, some of which wasn’t so interesting. Had we trimmed down the content to only the most shocking findings, it probably would have performed far better.

Furthermore, the more data you include, the more time it takes for a publisher to wade through it. As one journalist told us after we sent over an epic amount of data: “Long story short, this will take too much time.”

Consider this: It shouldn’t take a publisher more than 10 seconds of looking at your project to grasp the most meaningful data points. If they can’t quickly understand that, how will their readers?

2. Turning published data into something cool doesn’t always yield links.

If you’re going to use data that’s already been reported on, you better have a new spin or finding to present. Journalists don’t want to cover the same stats they have already covered.

A great example of this is a project we created about the reasons startups fail. The majority of the data we used came from CB Insights’ startup post mortems list, which had performed really well for them. (As of the time I’m writing this, according to Open Site Explorer it has 197 linking root domains from sites including BBC, Business Insider, Fortune, Vox, CNBC, and Entrepreneur — impressive!)

It worked well once, so it should work again if we repackage it into a new format, right?

We used the startups featured on the CB Insights list, added in a handful of additional startups, and created a sexy-looking interactive node map that grouped together startups according to the primary reasons they went under.

While the content didn’t end up being a failure (we got it picked up by Quartz, woo!), it definitely didn’t live up to the expectations we had for it.

Two problems with this project:

  1. We weren’t saying anything new about the data.
  2. The original data had gotten so much coverage that many relevant publishers had already seen it and/or published it.

But of course, there are exceptions. If you’re using existing data that hasn’t gotten a ton of coverage, but is interesting, then this can be a smart approach. The key is avoiding data that has already been widely reported in the vertical you want to get coverage in.

3. It’s difficult to build links with videos.

Video content can be extremely effective for viral sharing, which is fantastic for brand awareness. But are videos great for earning links? Not so much.

When you think of viral content, videos probably come to mind — which is exactly why you may assume awesome videos can attract a ton of backlinks. The problem is, publishers rarely give proper attribution to videos. Instead of linking to the video’s creator, they just embed the video from YouTube or link to YouTube. While a mention/link to the content creator often happens organically with a piece of static visual content, this is often not the case with videos.

Of course, you can reach out to anyone who embeds your video without linking to you and ask for a link. But this can add a time-consuming extra step to the already time-intensive process of video creation and promotion.

4. Political ideas are tough to pull off.

Most brands don’t want to touch political topics with a ten-foot pole. But to others, creating political content is appealing since it has strong potential to evoke an emotional reaction and get a lot of attention.

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We’ve had several amazing political ideas fail despite solid executions and promotional efforts. It’s hard for us to say why this is, but our assumption has been publishers don’t care about political content that isn’t breaking (because it’s always breaking). For this reason, we believe it’s nearly impossible to compete with the constant cycle of breaking political news.

5. Don’t make content for a specific publisher.

We’ve reached out to publishers to collaborate during content production, assuming that if the publisher feels ownership over the content and it’s created to their specifications, they will definitely publish it.

In general, we’ve found this approach doesn’t work because it tends to be a drain on the publishers (they don’t want to take on the extra work of collaborating with you) and it locks you into an end result that may only work for their site and no other publishers.

Remember: Publishers care about getting views and engagement on their site, not link generation for you or your client.

6. Hyperlocal content is a big risk.

If you focus on one city, even with an amazing piece of content featuring newsworthy information, you’re limited in how many publishers you can pitch it to. And then, you’re out of luck if none of those local publishers pick it up.

On the flip side, we’ve had a lot of success with content that features multiple cities/states/regions. This allows us to target a range of local and national publishers.

Note: This advice applies to campaigns where links/press mentions are the main goal – I’m not saying to never create content for a certain locality.

7. Always make more than one visual asset.

And one of those assets should always be a simple, static image.

Why?

Many websites have limits to the type of media they can publish. Every publisher is able to publish a static graphic, but not everyone can embed more complex content formats (fortunately, Moz can handle GIFs).

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In most cases, we’ve found publishers prefer the simplest visualizations. One classic example of this is a project where we compared reading levels and IQ across different states based on a analysis of half a million tweets. Our Director of Creative, Ryan Sammy, spent a painstaking amount of time (and money) creating an interactive map of the results.

What did most publishers end up featuring? A screenshot of a Tableau dashboard we had sent as a preview during outreach…

8. Be realistic about newsjacking.

Newsjacking content needs to go live within 24 to 48 hours of the news event to be timely. Can you really produce something in time to newsjack?

We’ve found newsjacking is hard to pull off in an agency setting since you have to account for production timelines and getting client feedback and approval. In-house brands have a more feasible shot at newsjacking if they don’t have to worry about a long internal approval process.

9. Watch out for shiny new tools and content formats.

Just because you are using cool, new technology doesn’t automatically make the content interesting. We’ve gotten caught up in the “cool factor” of the format or method only to end up with boring (but pretty) content.

10. Avoid super niche topics.

You greatly increase your risk of no return when you go super niche. The more you drill down a topic, the smaller your potential audience becomes (and potential sites that will link become fewer, too).

There are a ton of people interested in music, there are fewer people interested in rap music, there are even fewer people interested in folk rap music, and finally, there are so few people interested in ’90s folk rap. Creating content around ’90s folk rap will probably yield few to no links.

Some questions to ask to ensure your topic isn’t too niche:

  • Is there a large volume of published content about this topic? Do a Google search for a few niche keywords to see how many results come up compared to broader top-level topics.
  • If there is a lot of content, does that content get high engagement? Do a search in Buzzsumo for keywords related to the niche topic. Is the top content getting thousands of shares?
  • Are people curious about this topic? Search on BloomBerry to see how many questions people are asking about it.
  • Are there online communities dedicated to the topic? Do a quick search for “niche keyword + forum” to turn up communities.
  • Are there more than 5 publishers that focus exclusively on the niche topic?

11. Don’t make content on a topic you can’t be credible in.

When we produced a hard-hitting project about murder in the U.S. for a gambling client, the publishers we pitched didn’t take it seriously because the client wasn’t an authority on the subject.

From that point on, we stuck to creating more light-hearted content around gambling, partying, and entertainment, which is highly relevant to our client and goes over extremely well with publishers.

It’s OK to create content that is tangentially related to your brand (we do this very often), but the connection between the content topic and your industry should be obvious. Don’t leave publishers wondering, why is this company making this content?”

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Learning from failure is crucial for improvement.

Failure is inevitable, especially when you’re pushing boundaries or experimenting with something new (two things we try to do often at Fractl). The good news is that with failure you tend to have the greatest “a-ha!” moments. This is why having a post-campaign review of what did and didn’t work is so important.

Getting to the heart of why your content is rejected by publishers can be extremely helpful — we collect this information, and it’s invaluable for spotting things we can tweak during content production to increase our success rate. When a publisher tells you “no,” many times they will give a brief explanation why (and if they don’t, you can ask nicely for their feedback). Collect and review all of this publisher feedback and review it every few months. Like us, you may notice trends as to why publishers are passing up your content. Use these insights to correct your course instead of continuing to make the same mistakes.

And one last note for anyone creating content for clients: What should you do when your client’s campaign is a flop? To mitigate the risk to our clients, we replace a campaign if it fails to get any publisher coverage. While we’ve rarely had to do this, putting this assurance in place can give both you and your client peace of mind that a low-performing campaign doesn’t mean their investment has gone to waste.

What have you observed about your content that didn’t perform well? Does your experience contradict or mirror any of the lessons I shared?

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Overcoming Corporate Roadblocks for Enterprise SEO Efficacy

Posted by jaredgardner

“You don’t have an SEO strategy problem. You have an organizational efficacy problem.”

That is typically what I tell our new clients at Red Door Interactive (RDI). Poor organizational efficacy can be caused by several things, most commonly a lack of labor, a lack of knowledge, or a lack of senior executive buy-in and direction. Many people would say “efficiency” is a more accurate term than “efficacy,” but I like to remind people that you can do ineffective SEO in a very efficient manner. If the work doesn’t move the needle, then there’s a fatal flaw in your SEO program.

At RDI, we specialize in marketing services for mid to large enterprise clients with annual revenues of our ideal client ranging from $50M/year to $20B/year. The size of clients that we work with have 50+ person marketing departments, and some with more than 1,000. Implementing profitable and evolving SEO programs is much more difficult for non-agile companies and those with marketing that predates the internet. Despite having more resources and built-in topical authority, enterprise SEO can be much harder than SMB SEO — not only because the SEO challenges are greater, but because it introduces another layer of organizational challenges.

What is enterprise SEO?

This same question was on a slide at a recent SEO meetup lead by Ratish Naroor, Director of SEO at Overstock.com. Ratish’s opinion of what constitutes enterprise SEO differed from mine in a few areas. Ratish’s main qualification was that the site in question had one million organic landing pages. At RDI, we work with companies that drive hundreds of millions of dollars a year in revenue through organic search. Often these sites have less than 5,000 pages, yet their digital marketing departments are twice the size of many marketing teams at e-commerce-first companies. In my opinion, there’s more to consider than just the number of pages. I like to focus on the organization itself and not the size of its site; organizations whose website is its product take SEO more seriously. E-commerce retailers like Overstock, real estate sites like Zillow, and travel sites like Trip Advisor or Expedia all invest heavily in SEO programs. Many times, “old companies” that have been around 40+ years will have “old management” stakeholders who are a little late to the digital marketing party and more resistant to change. Does this late adoption of SEO and digital marketing make the organization itself any less enterprise? I don’t believe so.

If it’s not just page count that matters, where do you draw the line for “enterprise SEO”? Here’s how I classify it:

  1. Corporate team structure, budgeting, and approval process. There’s no hard number here, but typically 20 or more people are involved in taking web pages from an idea to a 200 status code. Some companies are so lean it will blow you away, so think more than just the total head count.
  2. Organic search as a channel can drive realistic business. SEO isn’t for every company, so it’s crucial that the company can drive top-line revenue growth through organic search.
  3. Unique and difficult SEO challenges. This may include large page counts where scaling on-page changes and crawl control is important, competitive industries where search terms have high paid CPAs, or international SEO operating in multiple languages and countries.

How do you succeed at enterprise SEO?

When working with an enterprise organization, there are three major areas to address in order to minimize internal SEO challenges and to see real follow-through in implementing high-value SEO ideas, strategies, and tactics.

1. Create a culture of SEO through visibility

SEO can’t succeed in a silo. To get your strategies implemented, you will need full participation and cooperation with content producers, developers, legal, and department heads. It’s important to remember that companies of this size will have an established culture. Sometimes this culture is dysfunctional, and overcoming it will be an uphill battle. Tom Critchlow recently described this culture as a “grain.” The direction and depth of this “grain” is going dictate how much time you spend on this step, and the best way to get people involved is to keep your work visible to the decision makers:

  • Automated reporting: Focus on showing each team/person metrics they can control
    • Dev teams: Technical crawl reports with issues such as internal redirects or 404 reports are relevant things that they can control. We like DeepCrawl for crawl reporting.
    • VPs and directors: High-level performance reports like M/M and Y/Y traffic and conversions give them a bird’s eye view of the site and the effects of your SEO efforts. Tying this data to a dollar figure will help make your case. This can include simple analytics data from Google Analytics, or more advanced tools such as our favorite BI tool, DOMO, or its competitor Tableau.
    • Product owners/business units: Keyword-level data and traffic to a specific site section that a team works on. An enterprise SEO tool like BrightEdge or Conductor can make these reports easy to manage.
    • Pro tip: Include the email of the SEO lead on these reports and encourage questions.
  • Trainings
    • Many marketers still think SEO is something you sprinkle on at the end of a content project, or “something our IT team handles.” It’s up to you to break down those assumptions and educate their team on the idea that that SEO is symbiotic with every marketing channel and department. These trainings can vary quite a bit, so find what works for the company you are working in/with. We have seen success with the following formats: lunch and learns, video recordings for SEO suites mentioned above, team-specific trainings focused on the area the team controls such as development or content research. While I’d love to say that we turned all the marketers into great SEOs, that’s rarely the case. What we typically see — and are thrilled when it happens — is an email from a product manager that says, “Hey, we are launching a new product next quarter and you mentioned it’s good to do keyword research for new pages; can you help?”
  • Open brainstorms
    • Share your knowledge and promote contributions to the program. When I started at RDI 2.5 years ago, our SEO program was good, but it was siloed. We had 3 people working on their own projects for clients and not really collaborating with each other. To share ideas between the (much larger) SEO team and other teams, we started hosting weekly meetings called the “SEO Brainshare.” Each week, one team member picks a topic or challenge and we workshop it with whoever wants to participate. We typically see 5–10 people from other teams at RDI join the meeting, which increases SEO knowledge and keeps our department top of mind. After a year of hosting these meetings religiously, we have seen a large influx in SEO work being incorporated into new and existing client programs, as well as a more multi-channel approach to everything we do at RDI.

2. Teamwork and navigating a political environment

As an agency, we have to be clear with our main point of contact: “You can’t change your SEO results without changing your site. We need you to be the driver of change at your organization. RDI will arm you with the ideas, rationale, and detailed instructions, but you have to get the people in your organization to act.”

While my experience is very agency-focused, in-house SEOs will have to explain a similar scenario to their managers, and the managers of the content, creative, and development teams. The best way to enable yourself for success is make sure you have access to all the players needed for SEO greatness, and they each know what’s at stake and have a certain degree of ownership from their managers. If the product owner doesn’t have a KPI tied to organic traffic or conversions on their pages, it’s highly unlikely they will prioritize and take ownership of organic traffic to those pages.

For a real-world example, I’ve presented challenges and opportunities to Senior VPs and CMOs at Fortune 100 companies where executives have said, “Wow this is a huge opportunity. Why haven’t we done this yet?” and our main client contact responds, “Because XX department hasn’t been tasked with supporting us from their management, so this isn’t their problem.” That’s where the politics really start to come in. You typically need to go high enough up the marketing department ladder to convince someone with power to back your initiative and direct people outside of your department to support you, holding those other people accountable for the results of the team.

3. Don’t get lost in the noise — focus on return

This is undoubtedly the hardest to nail. SEO results by nature are highly ambiguous. There is a constant flux of right vs wrong, causation vs correlation, and my least favorite, the best choice between two “good” options. I recently listened to a podcast where Bill Hunt (an OG of SEO, BTW) said, “If you can’t put a dollar number on it, you won’t get a dollar for it.” The hardest thing for me to do as I grew my SEO strategies from local businesses to enterprises was to eliminate SEO busy work. I needed to move away from tasks like updating ALT tags because a crawl tool flagged them as “errors,” and start focusing on projects that would have a monetary impact — like creating new site sections, reworking high-ranking titles for CTR, and consolidating competing content.

There are a few ways to estimate the impact of a fix. Most involve some form of search volume X expected CTR X conversion rate. Here’s the formula in theory:

(Expected click-through rate at current position X search volume for that term) X (conversion rate of site section) = Current non-brand conversions for a keyword

Now you need to see how many non-brand conversions you would get if you achieved the rank you feel is plausible (this is more of an art than science; I like to use the rank of the top competitor as “achievable”):

(Expected click-through rate at target position X search volume for that term) X (conversion rate of site section) = Target non-brand conversions for a keyword

Then run a percent change for delta for those two numbers and you have the amount of new conversions for your project.

Ideally you want to do this at scale, since you want to look at more than a single search term for a site change. Here is the excel formula for that:

=IFERROR(B3*(VLOOKUP(G3,’Rank CTR’!A:B,2,0)),0)

For this you’ll need to have a CTR curve table in a table labeled “Rank CTR.” We used the CTR table from AWR for unbranded search, but feel free to use any CTR curve you feel is most accurate for your industry. You can even build upon your own data in Google Search Console.

You will need to do this once for current estimated traffic and again after you have set your target rank numbers, then run a delta to get percent change. (The above formula and CTR curve can be found in the Content Gap Analysis template on our site.)

Working in the agency world, the pressure for our recommendations to have a return is extremely high because those recommendations are measured against the cost of the retainer, even when the project might be something that tends to have a negative impact, like a domain migration. At RDI, the closest thing we have to a secret sauce for this is our Content Gap Analysis. Here’s a sample of how we present findings to clients:

You can grab the Excel template from our site linked above.

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. In the Content Gap Analysis we look at what competitors are doing, then measure the estimated traffic for a topic area. This kind of analysis looks for gaps on our client’s site where competitors have content and we do not. We can examine the likelihood of us being successful in our next content endeavor and to put a number on the estimated traffic a competitor’s site section or page is getting. Once you find opportunities with a forecastable impact, prioritize them in content or site projects and try not to juggle too many balls at once — at least until some content projects have shipped. Don’t forget to quickly communicate the success of a project to accelerate the two factors mentioned above, even if it’s just a quick email with a screenshot from Google/Adobe Analytics.

Focus on the needle-movers and communicate the value of your ideas clearly

Enterprise SEO is great because it allows you the opportunity to work on sites with serious impact and serious challenges. Sometimes you must take the good with the bad, and in enterprise SEO the bad is typically the bureaucracy that comes with large companies. Focus on what matters, don’t piss anyone off, and don’t relent on the need for progress. Happy optimizing! Please share how you have conquered organization challenges in your work in the comments below!

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Writing with Markdown for Better Content & HTML: Why & How To – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by wrttnwrd

Content creation is hard enough without adding bad HTML into the mix. Echoing his recent talk at MozCon, we’re excited to welcome Ian Lurie from Portent, Inc. on this episode of Whiteboard Friday. Learn how to cut out the cruddy code produced from writing in word processors by adopting Markup and text editors as your go-to writing solution.

https://fast.wistia.net/embed/iframe/defdgc0kto?videoFoam=true

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Markdown Why and How-to

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Hey, Moz fans. My name’s Ian Lurie. I am the CEO and founder of Portent Inc. I am also the Chief Content Badger there. I’m here today to talk to you about Markdown and how you can use Markdown to avoid all sorts of content and HTML tragedies.

1. The tragedy of content creation

So first thing you’ve got to understand: The one great tragedy of content creation is HTML. If you’re a writer or producer or someone like that and you’re creating content, you always run into the problem of trying to get that blog post live or trying to get that page live or whatever else, and you end up with one of four possibilities.

  • You get bad HTML, because you’re trying to write it yourself and you don’t know how. I’m one of those people, at least I was until recently.
  • You have no HTML at all because you can’t do it, and there’s no one else to do it, so you end up pasting plain text directly into your word processor.
  • You get really slow HTML, because it takes you a long time to punch in all of those tags, or you can find a producer, but it’s going to take a long time to find that producer.
  • You get really bad HTML, because you write in a word processor, like Word or OpenText or something like that, and you save as HTML, which delivers something that would make any decent HTML programmer pretty much weep tears of blood because it looks so horrible. It adds all this extra stuff. It doesn’t render correctly in most browsers, so you don’t want to do that either.

So the problem is: How do you create HTML as a writer, without having it interfere with your writing process, right? You don’t want to be typing stuff in and all of a sudden you have to stop to write in tags. Without slowing things down because you don’t want to have to go back and edit all the HTML either. How do you do that?

2. Yay, markdown!

Well, yay for us, there’s this thing called Markdown, and Markdown was created by a developer who runs a blog called Daring Fireball, and I will link to the Markdown Syntax Guide on that site so you can very easily look at it and see it. It is designed to be a really simple way to write in plain text and, with a few simple characters, tag it so that it will turn into really clean, really good HTML.

The great things about Markdown:

  • You do write in plain text, so any text editor. You can use one on your phone. You can use one on your laptop. It can be TextEdit, Notepad, anything. I’m going to name a specific text editor in a minute that I think is the best one for you to use. But it could be anything, and you can edit it in anything. It’s fully portable.
    • That means it’s really fast, right? Text editors don’t bog down with updates, generally. They don’t run into those kinds of problems, so they run really, really fast.
    • Text is future-proof. When the day comes that we’re no longer reading stuff in text and opening text files, we’ll all be communicating directly head-to-head, and we won’t worry about all this stuff anyway because you won’t need HTML. I’m getting a little bit ahead of myself, but it is future-proof, because 50 years from now you will still be able to open a plain text file.
    • It’s relatively crash-free. I’ve always said I’ve never had a text editor crash. It’s true. I’ve never had one, but as soon as I say that, everybody starts raising their hands and saying, “I had my text editor crash.” Maybe it’s because you’re on Windows. I don’t know. I shouldn’t say that. But it’s relatively crash-free, all right? So it’s much more stable than using a word processor.

So you’ve got all these big advantages. You’ve still got the problem of how are you going to turn it into what you want it to be?

  • Well, Markdown converts to just about anything. If you’re willing to go out and study the tools and learn more advanced things like Pandoc, which I’m not going to really talk about today, you can convert Markdown into Word documents. You can convert them into HTML. You can convert them into slides. I’ve turned them directly into PDFs. You can even do this really fancy typesetting with a piece of software called LaTeX. So there is nothing you can’t do with Markdown.

3. Tools & process

How do you do it? Well, the first thing is you need certain tools to fit a process. Like almost any writing process, you write, you preview, and then you convert. If you do that in Microsoft Word, you use Microsoft Word to do your writing, you use Word to do your preview, and then you convert by either saving the file and giving it to someone else, or converting it to PDF or, and please don’t do this, converting it to HTML.

If you’re doing Markdown…

  • You do your writing in any text editor. I will strongly recommend Atom.io, and you’ll see why in a minute. And I’ll include a link in the text. But just understand Atom.io has many, many advantages. It’s really lightweight. It’s fast. It’s built to handle Markdown, so everything you need is built into it. There’s tons of advantages.
  • Then you preview it. Well, you can use a website called Dillinger.io. You can use a piece of software on the Mac called Marked 2. But the best way is to just use Atom.io, because it has preview built into it.
  • Then you convert it to HTML, and again you can use Atom.io.

I should point out just five to seven days ago, I talked about using a tool called Sublime Text. Sublime Text is excellent for this. I hadn’t fully tested Atom.io yet. I have now, and I’m actually switching. I’ve been using Sublime Text for probably five years now. I’m very sorry Sublime folks, but I’m actually switching to Atom.io, because as a primarily Markdown writer and a very basic text writer, it’s very good for me.

4. Making it work

So now it’s time to actually get to work, right? So you need to go and download Atom.io. Install it. It’s free, by the way. It costs nothing. Did I mention free? Like zero dollars.

  • You start writing. Usually, as soon as I start writing, I…
  • Save my file and then I save it a lot. And again, because it’s a text editor, saving only takes a couple seconds, so it’s much, much easier. You save it whatever you want your file name to be with a .md on the end. The .md tells Atom.io and, by the way, almost any other Markdown-literate tool out there, that this is a Markdown file so that when you open it, it will highlight your syntax correctly. I’m going to get to syntax in a minute, but it will highlight and differentiate between the markup and the actual words and sentences that you’re writing. So it’s very easy to spot that you formatted something as a heading, for example.
  • You do more writing. You keep saving. Always save it. They don’t crash. I’ve never had them crash, but apparently other people have.
  • Then you go to Packages in the menu, click Markdown Preview and you click TogglePreview. Now, you can do that at the very start, and then what you’ll have is two parallel panes where in one pane you’re doing your writing, and in the other one it’s showing you exactly how the page is going to look. Or you can just do it at the end. I do it at the end because it’s distracting. I don’t like seeing how it’s going to look at the same time.
  • You right-click in that preview. You click Copy HTML, and you’ll have flawless HTML. I mean flawless. It even converts little single quotes and double quotes to the correct smart quote, so double left-hand, double right-hand curly quotes, whatever.

5. Syntax

Syntax is really simple. Again, I’m going to link to the syntax. I’m not going to give you the complete course on the syntax. The truth is this is 50% of what you’ll probably need right here.

But just as an example, if you want to do a level one heading, you do a single pound sign or a hash, a space, and then whatever your text is. When you convert it to HTML, it will automatically become H1, heading one, closing H1. Same thing with H2. You just do two hashes. You can imagine what you do for H3. It’s three hashes.

Paragraphs are created automatically. So if you write some text and you hit Enter or return twice, you’ll get a clean paragraph. If you want, by the way, for this to be a hard break instead, then you just do two spaces and then return, and it’ll put a BR there instead of a paragraph.

Lists become lists, and this is one of the toughest things for writers. It was always the thing that slows me down the most is lists are pretty complicated in HTML. Well, here, you just go one, two, three, just normally your text, and when you save it and convert it, it’s going to become order list, list item, list item, list item, closing order list. It’s that easy. If you want to do a bulleted list, you just use asterisks instead. It’ll do the same thing.

Links, I got really excited so I had to add this up here. Links are also really simple and in fact, again, super simplified in Markdown. What you’ve got here is you put your text in brackets, then in parentheses you put your web address. It will convert to a full link with the text as your proper link text. You can do the same thing with images. All you do is add an exclamation mark at the start.

So Markdown really lets you take your skills as a writer, focus on those skills, write really well, and convert it to equally good HTML. Then you’ve got HTML that’s ready to be pasted into WordPress or whatever other system you want, or just to be used as a separate page.

That’s it. I hope you have fun working with Markdown, and please leave any questions you have in the comments and I will get to them and answer them as quickly as I can. Thanks.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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

Posted by jcar7

In the nearly three years the MeetEdgar blog went live, we’ve published more than 250 posts, written over 300,000 words, searched for hundreds of .gifs, and used our own tool to share our content 2,600 times to over 70,000 fans on social media.

After all that work, it seems silly to share a post just once. Nobody crumples up an oil painting and chucks it in the trash after it’s been seen one time — and the same goes for your content.

You’ve already created an “art gallery” for your posts. Resharing your content just lets the masses know what you’ve got on display. Even if hundreds or thousands of people have seen it all before, there’s always someone new to your content.

In a social media landscape that’s constantly changing, building a solid foundation of evergreen content that can be shared and shared again should be a key part of your social media strategy.

Otherwise, your art gallery is just another building in the city.

But wait… aren’t we supposed to be writing fresh content?

Yes! One of the biggest misconceptions about resharing is that it’s a spammy tactic. This is just not true — provided that you’re resharing responsibly. We’ll explain how to do that in just a moment.

Resharing actually does double-duty for your brand. It not only gets the content that you spent your valuable time creating in front of more eyeballs (and at optimal times, if you want to get fancy), it also frees you up to have more authentic, real-time social interactions that drive people to your site from social media — since you’ve got content going out no matter what.

Did we mention that resharing is good for SEO? Moz Blog readers know that the more people engage with a post, the better your blog or site looks to search engines. And that’s only one facet of the overall SEO boost (and traffic boost!) resharers can see.

How resharing impacts SEO

Big brands are probably the most prolific content resharers. Heck, they don’t even think twice about it:

BuzzFeed is a perfect example of the value of repeating social updates, because they don’t necessarily NEED to.

So why do they do it anyway? Because it gets results.

Social sharing alone has an impact on SEO, but social engagement is really where it’s at. Quality content is totally worth the up-front time and cost, but only if it gets engagement! You up your chances of engagement with your content if you simply up your content’s exposure. That’s what resharing does awesomely.

With literally zero tweaks to the content itself, BuzzFeed made each of those social posts above double in value. Chances are, the people who saw these posts the first time they were shared are not the same people who saw them when they were reshared.

But simply resharing social posts isn’t the only way to get more engagement with your content. This post covers how companies large and small do resharing right, and highlights some of the best time-saving content strategies you can implement for your brand right now.

1 – Start at the source: Give old posts a new look

Lots has changed in five years — the world got three new Fast & Furious movies and LKR Social Media transformed from a consulting service into social media automation software.

We’ve done the math: three months is one Internet year and five years is basically another Internet epoch. (This may be a slight exaggeration.) So when we transferred some of our founder’s older evergreen blog posts to the new MeetEdgar blog, we took stock of which of those posts had picked up the most organic traffic.

One thing that hadn’t changed in five years? A blog post about how Vin Diesel was winning the social media game was still insanely popular with our readers:

Screen Shot 2017-07-24 at 11.53.06 AM.pngScreen Shot 2017-07-24 at 11.54.34 AM.png

Writing blog posts with an eye toward making them as evergreen as possible is one of the smartest, most time-saving-est content marketing strategies out there.

There weren’t a ton of tweaks to make, but we gave this popular post some love since so many people were finding it. We pepped up the headline, did a grammar and content rundown, refreshed links and images, updated social share buttons, and added more timely content. The whole process took less time than writing a brand new post, and we got to share it with tens of thousands of followers who hadn’t seen it when it was originally published.

So… check your metrics! Which evergreen posts have performed the best over time? Which have lots of awesome organic traffic? Make a list, do a content audit, and start updating!

2 – Find your social sharing “sweet spot” by repackaging your content

When you read studies that say many social media users reshare social posts without ever clicking through to the content itself… it can be a little disheartening.

Okay, a LOT disheartening.

You’ve probably spent tons of time creating your content, and the thought that it’s not getting read NEARLY as often as it could be is a recipe for content marketing burnout. (We’ve all been there.)

But it’s not all for naught — you might just need to experiment until you find the “sweet spot” that gets people to read and share. One way to do that is to simply repackage content you’ve already written.

The tried-and-true “best of” post offers a reprieve from the content-creation grind while still delivering tons of value to your fans and readers.

Repackaging is best when it reframes your content with a new focus — like rounding up similar posts based on a theme. (You can do this in reverse, too, and turn one great post into a bunch of fresh content to then share and reshare!)

If you can get people to your site, a “best of” post encourages readers to stay longer as they click links for the different articles you’ve gathered up, and engage with content they may never have thought to look up separately.

Most fun of all, you can repackage your content to target new or different subsets of your audience on social media. (More on that in the next section.)

3 – Social shake-up: Reaching and testing with different audiences

“What if the same person recognizes something that I’ve already posted in the past?” you might be asking right about now. “I don’t want to annoy my followers! I don’t want to be spammy!”

Forget about people resharing social posts without reading the content behind the links — most people don’t see your social posts at all in the first place.

This is just one of those uncomfortable facts about the Internet, like how comment sections are always a minefield of awful, and how everyone loves a good startled cat .gif.

That doesn’t mean you should repeat yourself, word-for-word, all the time. Chances are, you have more than one type of reader or customer, so it’s important not just to vary your content, but also to vary how you share it on social media.

Savvy marketers are all over this tactic, marketing two sides (or more) of the same coin. Here are a couple of examples of social sharing images from a Mixpanel blog post:

Option A

Option B

Both Option A and Option B go to the same content, but one highlights a particularly juicy stat (problem statement: “97% of users churn”) and the other hits the viewer with an intriguing subheader (solution statement: “behavior-based messaging”). In this way, Mixpanel can find out what pulls in the most readers and tweak and promote that message as needed.

Pull a cool anecdote from your post or highlight a different stat that gets people excited. It can be as easy as changing up the descriptions of your posts or just using different images. There’s so much to test and try out — all using the same post.

4 – Automate, automate, automate

Remember, your best posts are only as good as the engagement they get. That fact, however, doesn’t mean you have to keep manually resharing them on social media day in and day out.

Unless, of course, you’re into that boring busywork thing.

Automating the whole process of resharing evergreen content saves tons of time while keeping your brand personality intact. It also frees you up to have real-time interactions with your fans on social media, brainstorm new post ideas, or just go for a walk, and it solves the time crunch and the hassle of manually re-scheduling posts, while actually showcasing more of your posts across the massive social media landscape. Just by spacing out your updates, you’ll be able to hit a wider range of your followers.

(This is probably a good time to check whether your social media scheduling tool offers automatic resharing of your content.)

Now, social media automation isn’t a substitute for consistently creating great new content, of course, but it does give your existing evergreen content an even better opportunity to shine.

Win with quality, get things DONE with resharing

It’s noisy out there. The law of diminishing returns — as well as declining social reach — means that a lot of what you do on social media can feel like shouting into the void.

And there’s not a huge ROI for shouting into voids these days.

Responsible resharing is an important part of your overall content marketing strategy. As long as you keep your content fresh, create new quality content regularly, and talk to your fans where and when they’re most active, chances are people won’t see the same thing twice. The data shows you’ll get more clicks, more traffic, and better SEO results — not a bad bonus to that whole “saving lots of time” thing.

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45 Local SEO Pitfalls & How to Avoid Them

Posted by MiriamEllis

localseopitfallfinal.jpg

The classic 1982 Activision game, Pitfall!, was so challenging that most players believed you could only win by running out the 20-minute clock. The real point of this adventure, however, was to gather up all of the treasures before the clock ran out on you.

Isn’t that just like business?

You’ve opened the doors of your local enterprise in hopes of gathering up enough revenue before it’s time to retire, and you’re determined to make enough of a success to secure some dignity in your golden years.

I’m not a professional economist, but I’ve read their statistics on how half of US businesses don’t make it past their 5th year. I’m a local SEO, and what I’ve learned is that to be agile enough to beat the odds, local business owners have to swing over the obvious pitfalls that less savvy competitors are doomed to become mired in. A plumbing company fakes a string of locations by using their siblings’ houses to build citations, a dentist hires a notorious marketing agency to pay global workers for fictitious reviews, an auto dealership takes a quick link building shortcut and ends up with a long-term search engine penalty. Missteps like these can force a local business to bog down, coping with cleaning up mess instead of making a beeline towards lasting success.

I’m a local business fan, and I don’t want to see you fail. So hang on tight to that vine in your local jungle. This is your guide to riding high, right over those bottomless pits.


Business plan

This is all about starting out on the right foot, long before opening day. Avoid these common mistakes before they become deep-seated liabilities.

1. Indistinct name

Consumers need to be able find you via a branded search, looking your business up by name after they hear it mentioned. If you name your men’s clothing shop “Yacht Club,” don’t be surprised if Google shows searchers local marinas instead of a branded result for your business. You can plan to build the kind of authority that lets Google know that people looking up “Banana Republic” are searching for clothing and not a political science lesson, but in your early days, a vague name could slow the growth of your brand recognition and rankings.

2. Limiting name

If your business plan includes growth into other service offerings or other geographic markets, don’t tie yourself to a name that limits you. For example, a new lawn care business in Plano hopes to one day offer full landscaping services and open a second office in Dallas. They’ll find this harder to do if they’ve named their business “Plano Lawn Care.” Be sure your name can encompass future growth. While it’s very smart to use core keywords in your business name, be sure they won’t hold you back in the future.

3. Ineligible location

Don’t make the mistake of believing you can fully market a local business with a PO box or unstaffed virtual office as your public address. Both of these will render your company ineligible to create local business listings, severely limiting your Internet visibility. If you don’t yet have a real office, use your home address and list yourself on only those directories that allow you to hide your address if you have privacy concerns.

4. Undesirable location

You will likely only rank in Google’s local packs for the city in which you’re physically located. If you’re opening a location beyond the borders of a big city you’re hoping to serve, don’t expect to rank locally for big-city searchers. If the success of your business depends on serving a major nearby city, then having an office in that locale is a must. To see Google’s concept of any city’s borders, look it up in Google Maps. Anything outside the red boundary is likely to be out of the running.

5. Filter-sensitive location

In the past, it was considered a best practice to locate your business next to other businesses in the same industry (think of doctors parks and auto rows). Being near this “industry centroid” was believed to be beneficial for rankings. However, since Google’s Possum update rolled out in 2016, a new business located within the same building or block as its competitors may find itself filtered out of the local results. Because of this, you may want to base your business some distance from others in your geo-industry, if possible. Depending on your city or town’s layout, this may or may not be possible to do.

6. Lack of policies

Without clear staff training documentation or customer service policies, you’re likely to earn more negative reviews. A lack of a user-generated content policy for your website may end up in spammy or abusive use of your blog/forum comments or onsite testimonials.

7. Unrealistic expectations

Don’t expect to open your doors on day one and unseat all of your established online competitors on day two. Don’t let any agency persuade you that it will be easy to dominate the local or local-organic results. Your competitors have likely worked long and hard to get where they are, and you’ll need to do the same. Have a realistic plan for financial survival until you reach the point where a good portion of your traffic and transactions are stemming from your web presence. Be prepared to invest in PPC if you want early traffic.

8. Lack of demand

Even the best local SEO in the world isn’t going to be able to make up for a business idea that’s a non-starter. Does your city have need for another laundromat with 5 already available in your neighborhood, another book store with Amazon in the mix, a vegan restaurant when less than 1% of the local population dines that way? Maybe yes, maybe no. Maybe you’ll be able to create the demand with exceptional service and marketing, but don’t expect your local SEO marketer to be able to do it for you. Business research comes first, SEO second.

9. Lack of clarity

If you can’t clearly communicate the value proposition of your business in a few powerful words, you can’t expect your customers or marketers to. Every day, agencies hear from business owners who are unable to verbalize what their business offers that’s valuable to the public. While good marketers can often help a company hone its message for maximum impact, the local business owner must first research their own geo-industry to hit on the realization of what makes their company a desirable community resource. Maybe their service is the fastest in town, their clients’ white teeth cost less, their rooms are the only pet-friendly stays in the city. Whatever the unique selling point is, the business owner needs to be able to say what it is before the consumer or marketer can interpret it for further use.


Website


If you can get your website right the first time around, you’ll avoid the hassle of having to undergo a complete overhaul of your most valuable online asset a year or two down the road.

10. Limiting URL

As with the business name, don’t limit yourself with a domain name that only features one facet of your business if you have plans for future expansion of services or geography. For example, don’t choose a URL like sugarlandmuffler.com if you hope one day to open full-service auto repair garages in Dallas and Houston as well. Choose your domain name with an eye to the future.

11. Strange URL

Know that .com extensions are still the most recognized type of domain name. If you want consumers to easily remember and easily find your website, get a .com whenever possible. When not possible, watch this Whiteboard Friday on choosing domain names for other options.

12. Long URL

Long domain names are harder to type, harder to speak out loud, and may get shortened on social media. Local businesses should aim for a delicate balance between brevity, branding, and keyword usage in choosing a domain name, weighing which factors will ultimately have the most positive impact on the business.

13. Limiting provider

Don’t sign up for any hosting or marketing service that a) limits the size or SEO opportunities of the website you build, or b) results in your business assets being held hostage by a particular provider. For example, a website-builder-type offer that restricts you to having a 10-page website or only 300 words on a page will stifle growth. Similarly, an agency that threatens to undo any work you’ve paid for if you choose to end your contract in future is an undesirable choice. Be sure you are in direct control of your domain, hosting, and website, and that no service you sign up for limits your growth.

14. Limiting technology

Any website development technology that prevents your website from being discovered, crawled or indexed by Google represents a waste of investment. For example, websites built entirely in Flash present technical problems to both search engines and users and should be avoided. Similarly, any website development approach that fails to serve users on all devices (laptop, tablet, mobile, ambient) guarantees a loss of marketing opportunity.

On another note, should you choose to use unusual or unpopular technology to develop your website, future agencies you want to hire may not want to work with you. For example, a site built on Wix might be difficult to fully optimize, and an SEO agency may require you to switch to something like WordPress in order to accept you as a client. Read more about the basics of SEO friendly design.

15. Multi-site approach

The practice of building multiple websites to represent different locations or different services of a business is particularly prevalent in local commerce. This approach often stems from a desire to rank more broadly on the basis of exact match domains, but there are many reasons why this strategy isn’t commonly endorsed by experts, including:

  1. Marketing efforts being spread too thin, divided up across multiple sites instead of concentrated into building a single brand.
  2. Thin or duplicate content resulting from lack of resources needed to manage more than one site.
  3. Possible NAP confusion leading to local ranking problems if the same name, address, or phone number appear on more than one website.
  4. A fundamental dishonesty in which a single business attempts to fool consumers into thinking it’s multiple companies


With rare exceptions, it’s better to pour all your efforts into building a single, powerful local brand on a single, powerful website.

16. Poor content strategy

Local businesses don’t benefit by publishing website content that is insufficient, cursory, unedited, duplicative, or developed solely for the purpose of feeding keywords to search engine bots. At a minimum, each local business should create the basic pages (home, about, contact, testimonials) + a page for each main service they offer and each of their physical locations. Service-area businesses (like plumbers) should develop a page for each of their main service cities. Each page that is built should feature original, thorough, intelligently optimized copy that serves a specific goal.

Beyond the basic pages, each local business should have a plan for ongoing content publication that’s proportional to its level of local/industry competition and consumer demand. This could include on-site blogging, off-site social sharing, and other strategies.

For more on local content development, read:

17. Poor architecture

If the size, complexity, or navigational options of your website are preventing consumers from getting to the pages you’ve built for their use, you’re actively losing opportunities. The larger your site, the more likely it is that you’ll have to research solutions like siloing to maximize discovery of your content by the right users and resultant conversions.

18. Lack of contact info

At minimum, your name, address, and phone number (NAP) should be published on every page of your website, either in its masthead or footer, and you should have a “Contact Us” page highly featured in your main navigation menu. Be sure your complete NAP are the first things presented on the contact page. Phone numbers should be click-to-call enabled for mobile users. Don’t forget thorough driving directions and a map. For larger enterprises, contact information should include options for live chat and after-hours support.


Finally, beware of inconsistencies and typos. Audit the entire text of your website and all of its design elements to catch NAP irregularities. Don’t be “Green Tree Consulting” in your logo and “Green Tree Consultants” on your About page. Your website remains the most authoritative source of information about your business, both in the eyes of consumers and search engines.

19. Lack of CTAs

A page without a call-to-action is a page without a point. A website exists to support the desires of consumers, while simultaneously supporting the objectives of the business. Don’t leave it up to chance that people will intuit which actions you’re hoping they’ll take; tell them in plain, bold language that you’d like them to click for further reading, to make a call, to fill out a form, to attend an event, or to take advantage of a special. Every page of your website, from homepage to landing page to contact page, should feature a totally obvious call to action.

20. Link building shortcuts

Every local business wants to earn links that boost their visibility and ranking strength, but because of the extreme value search engines continue to place on links as a measure of relevance, the temptation to take shortcuts is irresistible to some business owners. A local business might intentionally or accidentally get mixed up in a link farm or get caught buying links. Before you take a risky step that might result in a horrendously costly Google penalty, read our beginner’s guide to good and bad linking practices.

21. Mishandling changes

When fundamental business changes occur, like a rebrand or a move to a new website, failure to adhere to specific best practices can result in a massive loss of rankings, traffic, and transactions. For example, a chiropractor hopes to maintain as much of their Internet visibility as possible while transitioning from their old domain, mychiro.net, to a new one, joneschiropractic.com, but they fail to set up permanent 301 redirects between the two sites and lose all of the former authority they’d built up. When a foundational aspect of your business changes, research proper technical procedures for managing the transition in a way that helps (instead of hurts) your SEO and marketing. Our Moz Q&A forum is an excellent place to search for current best practices, or to ask your own question if you’re a Moz Pro member.


Local business listings


They’re highly visible, highly interactive, and can drive major traffic to your website and your business, but if managed incorrectly, local business listings can end up undermining your entire operation. Take maximum control of your citations to avoid these prevalent problems.

22. Guideline non-compliance

Failure to adhere to a local business platform’s guidelines can result in suspensions and/or public shaming. Guideline violations can be detected both algorithmically and manually, and can be reported to platforms by the public, competitors, and marketers. Google can read street-level signage and can tell if your businesses are located in a series of legitimate commercial offices or in a string of your friends’ houses. Before you list yourself on any platform, know its policies and be sure you stick to them to avoid negative outcomes.

23. NAP inconsistency

Consistency of your listings on the primary data sources is considered the fifth most important local search ranking factor. This means that your name, address, phone number, and website must be accurate and consistent on the majors (Acxiom, Factual, Localeze, and Ingroup) as well as on powerful platforms like Google My Business, Facebook, Apple Maps, Foursquare, Yelp, and Bing. Inconsistencies not only weaken search engines’ trust in the validity of your data, but also misdirect your potential customers. While Google doesn’t look at suite numbers and doesn’t care about differences of abbreviation (st. vs. street), conflicting versions of your NAP must be discovered and corrected ASAP. Try our free Check Listing tool for an instant consistency check.

24. Listing incompleteness

A complete local business listing can feature your name, address, phone number, website, email address, hours of operation, driving directions, images, social media links, videos or video links, additional phone numbers, fax number, attributes, reviews, owner responses, and links to other media like menus. Whether you manage your listings manually or use software like Moz Local to automate distribution of your location data at scale, make sure you fill out as many available fields as possible. This ensures that a customer is given every chance to connect with your business in a variety of ways. Missing data = missed opportunities.

25. Duplicate listings

At their worst, duplicate listings can misdirect consumers, violate guidelines, and divide your ranking strength and reviews among multiple entities. For each physical location you operate, you should have just one listing per platform, unless you qualify for multi-practitioner or multi-department listings. Discovering and resolving duplicates is one of the core tasks of local SEO, and because duplicates can originate from a variety of scenarios (accidental creation, automated creation, business moves, mergers/acquisitions, rebrands, etc.) every business must be on the lookout. Not sure if you have duplicates? Enter your name and zip in the Moz Check Listing tool to begin your search.

26. Wrong focus

Local business listings are critical infrastructure for nearly every local enterprise, but it’s possible to overdo it or to put focus on the wrong platforms. Rule of thumb: Get accurately listed on the major sites that serve all industries and then hand-select a few additional platforms that are authoritative for your industry and geography. Don’t waste effort getting listed on dozens or hundreds of low-level directories that receive little human use or don’t rank for your core terms.


Once you’ve built your core set of listings, have a plan for monitoring them on an ongoing basis, make edits to them as needed, post updates to them where appropriate, and respond to your reviews. Once that’s done, attend to other tasks. If you and your direct competitors each have about 50 citations, you getting another 25 of them from low-quality directories isn’t going to move the ranking, traffic, or conversion needle. Shift focus to something that will.

27. Poor photos

It’s been reported that good photos on your GMB listing will earn you 35% more clicks-to-website and 42% more clicks-for-driving directions. Given that it’s increasingly speculated that user actions influence local rankings, these statistics alone encourage you to select high-quality local business listing photos. Moreover, because many platforms take a crowd-sourcing approach to the imagery that represents your business, it’s important to monitor your listing photos to catch anything that’s inappropriate.

You might choose to hire a Google Trusted Photographer, or, you can use some pro tips like these to go solo in creating the best possible imagery for your business.

28. Map marker misplaced

Google has been known to place map markers in the middle of oceans. If something this peculiar happens to you, your best bet is to report it in their support forum as it could stem from a bug. However, strange map marker locations can also stem from an error on your part, or the placement of your marker in the center of a bunch of zip codes you’ve entered in the GMB dashboard. If the normal process of moving the pin inside your GMB dashboard doesn’t result in a fix, definitely reach out to the forum for support, fully documenting your issue. A misplaced pin can equal totally lost customers.

29. Driving directions wrong

If your map marker is misplaced, your driving directions will be inaccurate, but bad driving directions can result from other scenarios, too. Bad or incomplete mapping on Google’s part has lead to tragic accidents and litigation, but even where no physical peril is involved, incorrect directions should be reported to Google’s forum or via this process to prevent customer inconvenience and loss.

30. Lack of monitoring

Because of the way local data flows across the ecosystem and the way in which many listings are subject to public editing, citations aren’t a one-and-done task. Ongoing monitoring is essential to catch inaccurate data appearing, as well as the appearance of new duplicate listings and the ongoing influx of consumer sentiment in the form of reviews.


The need for ongoing monitoring has led to the development of automated programs like Moz Local which will alert you if core NAP on your Google My Business listing changes, if a new duplicate arises, or if you receive a new review. For larger enterprises and multi-location businesses, the ability to scale monitoring is a major time-saver.

31. Mishandling changes

Rebrands, mergers/acquisitions, moves, change of phone number or website, opening or closing branches, bringing new practitioners aboard… there are many changes the average local business may face, and for each one, there’s a set of correct steps to follow to defend your local rankings. Mishandling changes can result in lost visibility, lost transactions, lost reviews, and more. When your business goes through a transition, big or small, be sure you’ve researched best practices for handling the technical side of it well. Here’s a good place to get started when it comes to your Google My Business listing.


Reviews


Reviews aren’t opt-in. Your customers are telling the story of your business whether you create a profile or not. Reviews impact rankings and can have an incredible effect on the success or failure of your local business… so choose success, with the right strategy.

32. Too few

A business without reviews is like a job applicant without references. 84% of people trust reviews as much as a personal recommendation, and if too few people are recommending your business, a critical piece of your marketing is missing. This looks particularly unappealing when your competitors have earned a good body of positive sentiment. At the same time, Google-based reviews are believed to impact local pack rankings, mainly by sheer numbers but also with a growing emphasis on sentiment. Again, a shortage of reviews = a missing piece of your ranking strategy.

33. Too fast

You need a review acquisition plan, but avoid any tactic that results in a large number of reviews coming in all at once on a single platform — they may be filtered out due to suspicious velocity. Aim for a steady trickle of incoming sentiment instead of a flood.

34. Guideline non-compliance

Each review platform has its own guidelines, and knowing them can make the difference between a healthy online reputation and public shaming. It’s important to know the unique guidelines of the various sites, as some are more stringent than others. Yelp, for example, forbids business owners from asking for reviews, while Google allows it. Across the board, review sites prohibit paying for reviews and conflicts of interest, but if you’re about to launch a new campaign requesting reviews on specific platforms, be sure your strategy won’t lead to review takedowns or being called out by the public or the platform.

35. Lack of acquisition plan

Studies show that 91% of consumers read online reviews, that 82% of people visit a review site because they intend to make a purchase, and that 7/10 customers will leave a review if asked to. And yet, it’s startlingly clear looking at the neglected review profiles of countless local businesses that no plan has been put into place to earn these highly influential assets. While Yelp specifically forbids direct asks for Yelp reviews, most other platforms are fine with it, and each company should try a variety of techniques (time-of-service, email, print, social, etc) for acquiring reviews to find out what works best for them. Without an acquisition plan, the business is opting to forego all of the traffic and transactions that reviews could yield.

36. Lack of monitoring

No big brand would want to face a 33% decline in revenue or the closure of 13% of its stores, but outcomes like these can arise when a business ignores trending consumer sentiment citing problems that require urgent fixes. Reviews provide free quality control data to businesses large and small, and it’s only by monitoring this sentiment on an ongoing basis you can quickly identify emerging problems and step in with solutions that could save the brand. For example, a restaurant chain could notice from reviews that a particular location is suddenly being cited for broken fixtures or long wait times, signaling a need for intervention at that branch.


At minimum, brands large and small must either manually monitor their profiles on a schedule proportional to the daily or weekly volume of reviews they typically receive, or automate the process with software like Moz Local that tracks incoming reviews on the majors.

37. Lack of owner responses

The owner response function offered by many review platforms signifies direct reputation management, free marketing, free advertising, damage control, and quality control all in one feature. And yet, countless local businesses forego the immense power of this capability, allowing the public to have a totally one-sided conversation about their brands with zero company input. It would be impossible to count the number of review profiles out there heaping praise and blame on brands that sit unanswered, without thanks, without apologies or rectification. If your local business prides itself on customer service, it’s essential to integrate reviews and owner responses in your concept of what modern consumer relations look like.


You’d never advocate ignoring an in-store customer who congratulated you or voiced a complaint, but if your business is overlooking owner responses, this is precisely what you’re doing.

38. Poor owner responses

Kudos to every business owner who actively engages with their customer base via owner responses… unless those responses make things worse. Hallmarks of a poor response include lack of apology, lack of accountability, rude language, blame shifting and dishonesty. Here’s a real-world example of an unfortunate owner response that made a bad situation worse, with tips for how a better reply could have saved the day.

One of the most helpful things to remember in crafting owner responses is that as few as 4% of customers may take the time to complain about a problem they encountered with your business. Complaints give you the chance to act, but silence leaves you in the dark about your company’s true satisfaction rating. Complaints, including negative reviews, are invaluable. Treat complainers very, very well.

39. Poor staff training

One revealing survey discovered that 57% of customer complaints relate to poor/absent service and poor employee behavior. The fault here is obvious and lies squarely on the shoulders of the any owner who hasn’t done their due diligence in creating clear customer support documentation, detailed employee guidelines, and regular staff training sessions. Owners must hire people who can be taught to represent the brand well to the public. The viability of your business is in the hands of your staff — hire, train, and support them with this in mind.

40. Review kiosks

Whether it’s okay to set up a device in your shop to ask customers for reviews at the time of service continues to be a local marketing forum FAQ. Google is partly to blame for this, because they’ve changed their position on this practice radically over time. Their current guidelines specifically prohibit review kiosks, and sentiment received in this manner is likely to be filtered out. In fact, there’s anecdotal evidence to support reviews getting removed when left by customers using in-store Wi-Fi, even on their own devices. While you can’t prevent that scenario, formal kiosks shouldn’t be part of your marketing plan. Better to collect emails at the time of service and write to the customer within a few days.


Social media


Consumers expect to be able to contact you via social media with their requests for help, their complaints, and their suggestions. Modern customer service must include social media listening and responsiveness, but take notes from the mistakes other brands have made so that you can avoid them.

41. Poor social skills

Anyone tasked with representing your brand on Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, etc. should be familiar with infamous social media “fails” and have the skills to avoid them. Sadly, there have been numerous cases like that of a major auto brand whose marketing agency insulted the city of Detroit with a profane tweet suggesting that locals don’t know how to drive. Your social media expert must constantly guard against typos, poor wording that can be misconstrued, poor timing, and anything that reveals any type of insensitivity to any audience.

42. Guideline non-compliance

Each social platform has its own rules which, if broken, can result in removal of specific content or suspension of your profile. For example, if your local business decides to run a promotion, Facebook forbids the use of personal timelines and friend connections for the event. Failure to familiarize your company and social staff with each platform’s guidelines can result in wasted investments and public embarrassment.

43. Wrong platform

Different social media platforms tend to serve different demographics, and while it’s good to experiment with a variety of communities, knowing usage statistics can be helpful in picking the best places to connect with the most relevant audience. For example, if your business want to publicize a senior discount day it hosts once a week, you’ll likely reach more interested customers on Facebook (used by 36% of US citizens 65+) than on Instagram (used by only 5% of this age group). Similarly, certain industries tend to be natural matches for different platforms, like Twitter for tech-related companies, or Pinterest for businesses with a strong visual component. Be prepared to explore your options so that you’re not wasting efforts on the wrong platform for your specific geo-industry.

44. Neglect

Social media platforms have become a component of customer service, as they are viewed by consumers as a convenient way to contact your business. If you set up a profile on a site where your local community is active, don’t neglect it. Regularly monitor the account for questions and complaints and respond quickly.

45. Selling vs. sharing

If you’re new to social media, the first lesson to learn is that while being helpful, generous, entertaining, and empathetic can win your brand a loyal following, the hard sell is better placed elsewhere. Yes, you can promote your products and specials as part of your social media campaigns, but a business that does nothing but “sell” isn’t going to engage any social community.


Social media, managed properly, can be an immensely powerful environment for local businesses to connect with customers, to learn about their preferences, to become household words in local consumers’ daily lives because of the way the business integrates itself as a go-to resource for a particular type of experience on Facebook, Snapchat, Google Posts, or Twitter. Experimentation and regular practice can point the way to a winning mix of sharing vs. selling over time.


Success ahead!

Marketers know that one of the most important things they teach clients is what not to do. Local search marketing, with its mirror connection to the real world and its real-time pace, is particularly riddled with potential pitfalls. Being human, business owners are entitled to make a few mistakes. It’s okay! Particularly if you recover from them with some grace, good humor, and a determination not to repeat them. But it’s my hope that this article is one you’ll share with clients and team members so that no one gets tangled up in errors that are easy to avoid with a little quiet thought and a great deal of good planning.


By knowing what not to do, your adventure is more than half-won. Wishing you all the treasures and success ahead!

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