The 6 Values (and 4 Benefits) of Agile Marketing – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by AgileJim

You’ve probably heard of agile processes in regards to software development. But did you know those same key values can have a huge impact if applied to marketing, as well? Being adaptive, collaborative, and iterative are necessary skills when we live in a world where Google can pull the rug out from under us at a moment’s notice.

In today’s Whiteboard Friday, we welcome guest host Jim Ewel, founder of AgileMarketing.net, as he describes what’s important in the agile marketing process and why incorporating it into your own work is beneficial.

Agile Marketing

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

Video Transcription

Hey, Moz fans, this is Jim Ewel. I’m the blogger behind AgileMarketing.net, the leading blog on agile marketing, and I’m here to talk to you today about agile marketing.

Agile marketing is an approach to marketing that takes its inspiration from agile software development. Like agile software development, it has a set of values and it has a set of benefits, and we’re going to talk about those values and benefits today.

6 Values of Agile Marketing

Value number one: Responding to change over following a plan.

It’s not that we don’t plan. It’s just that we don’t write 30- to 40-page marketing plans. Instead, every quarter, we write a one-page plan that specifies our goals, our aspirations to get everybody on the same page, and then every two to four weeks, we reset our priorities. We say, “This is what we’re going to get done during this two- to four-week period.”

Value number two: Rapid iterations over “big bang” campaigns.

In traditional marketing, we get together in a room and we say, “We’re going to run a campaign for three to six months to a year.”

We hash out the idea of what we’re going to do for that campaign. Then we communicate to the agency. They come up with creative. They review it with us. We go back and forth, and eventually we’ll run that campaign for three to six months. And you know what happens at the end of that campaign? We always declare victory because we’ve spent so much money and time on that campaign that every time we say, “It worked.”

Well, we take a very different approach in agile marketing. We take an iterative approach. We start out with a little strategy. We meet for half an hour or an hour to figure out what do we think might work. Then we figure out how to test it. We measure the results, and this is very important, we document the learning.

If something doesn’t work, we test it out and it doesn’t work, it’s okay because we’ve learned something. We’ve learned what doesn’t work. So then we iterate again, and we try something else and we do that, we get that cycle going in a very effective way.

Value number three: Testing and data over opinions and conventions

Here, again, the importance is that we’re not following the highest-paid person’s opinion. No HiPPOs. It’s all about: “Did we test it? Do we have data? Do we have the right metrics?” It’s important to select the right metrics and not vanity metrics, which make us feel good, but don’t really result in an improvement to the business.

Value number four: Many small experiments over a few big bets

And I like to talk about here the 70:20:10 rule. The idea behind the 70:20:10 rule is that we spend 70% of our budget and 50% of our time on the things that we know that work. We do it broadly across all our audiences.

We then spend 20% of our budget and 25% of our time modifying the things that we know that work and trying to improve them. Maybe we distribute it in a little different way or we modify the content, we modify what the page looks like. But, anyways, we’re trying to improve that content.

And the last 10% of our budget and 25% of our time, we spend on wild ideas, things where we fully expect that only about 2 or 3 out of 10 ideas is really going to work, and we focus those things on those creative, wild ideas that are going to be the future 70% and 20%.

Value number five: Individuals and interactions over one-size-fits-all

Now, I like to think about this in terms of one of the experiences that I have with SEO. I get a lot of requests for link building, and a lot of the requests that I get are form requests. They write me a little message that they’re writing to hundreds of other people, and I don’t pay any attention to those requests.

I’m looking for somebody who really knows that I’m writing a blog about agile marketing, who’s interacting with me, who maybe says something about a post that I put on Agile Marketing, and those people are the ones that I’m going to give my business to, in effect, and I’m going to do some link building with them. Same thing applies to all of our marketing.

Value number six: Collaboration over hierarchy and silos

One of the key things in many marketing organizations is that different silos of the organization don’t seem to talk to each other. Maybe marketing isn’t talking to sales, or marketing hasn’t got the ear of senior management.

Well, one of the things we do in agile marketing is we put some processes in place to make sure that all of those groups are collaborating. They’re setting the priorities together, and they’re reviewing the results together.

4 Benefits of Agile Marketing

As a result of these six values, there are four important benefits to agile marketing.

I. The first is that you can get more done

I’ve taught a lot of teams agile marketing, and, as a whole, they tell me that they get about 30% to 40% more done with agile marketing. I had one team tell me they got 400% more done, but that’s not typical. So they’re getting more done, and they’re getting more done because they’re not doing rework and they’re working on the right priorities.

II. Getting the right things done

Because you’re working with sales, you’re working with senior management to set the priorities, you’re making sure with agile marketing that you’re getting the right things done, and that’s important.

III. Adapting to change

Part of our life today in marketing is that things change. We know that Google is going to change their PageRank algorithm in 2017. We don’t know exactly how, but we know it’s going to happen, and we need to be able to adapt to that change quickly and accurately, and we put processes in place in agile marketing to make sure that happens.

IV. Improved communications

Improved communications both within the marketing team and, probably even more important, outside the marketing team to sales and senior management.

By representing what we’re getting done on something like a Kanban board, everybody can see exactly what marketing is working on, where it’s at, and what they’re getting done.

So that’s agile marketing in a nutshell. I’d love to hear your comments, and thanks for watching.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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

Posted by AgileJim

You’ve probably heard of agile processes in regards to software development. But did you know those same key values can have a huge impact if applied to marketing, as well? Being adaptive, collaborative, and iterative are necessary skills when we live in a world where Google can pull the rug out from under us at a moment’s notice.

In today’s Whiteboard Friday, we welcome guest host Jim Ewel, founder of AgileMarketing.net, as he describes what’s important in the agile marketing process and why incorporating it into your own work is beneficial.

Agile Marketing

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

Video Transcription

Hey, Moz fans, this is Jim Ewel. I’m the blogger behind AgileMarketing.net, the leading blog on agile marketing, and I’m here to talk to you today about agile marketing.

Agile marketing is an approach to marketing that takes its inspiration from agile software development. Like agile software development, it has a set of values and it has a set of benefits, and we’re going to talk about those values and benefits today.

6 Values of Agile Marketing

Value number one: Responding to change over following a plan.

It’s not that we don’t plan. It’s just that we don’t write 30- to 40-page marketing plans. Instead, every quarter, we write a one-page plan that specifies our goals, our aspirations to get everybody on the same page, and then every two to four weeks, we reset our priorities. We say, “This is what we’re going to get done during this two- to four-week period.”

Value number two: Rapid iterations over “big bang” campaigns.

In traditional marketing, we get together in a room and we say, “We’re going to run a campaign for three to six months to a year.”

We hash out the idea of what we’re going to do for that campaign. Then we communicate to the agency. They come up with creative. They review it with us. We go back and forth, and eventually we’ll run that campaign for three to six months. And you know what happens at the end of that campaign? We always declare victory because we’ve spent so much money and time on that campaign that every time we say, “It worked.”

Well, we take a very different approach in agile marketing. We take an iterative approach. We start out with a little strategy. We meet for half an hour or an hour to figure out what do we think might work. Then we figure out how to test it. We measure the results, and this is very important, we document the learning.

If something doesn’t work, we test it out and it doesn’t work, it’s okay because we’ve learned something. We’ve learned what doesn’t work. So then we iterate again, and we try something else and we do that, we get that cycle going in a very effective way.

Value number three: Testing and data over opinions and conventions

Here, again, the importance is that we’re not following the highest-paid person’s opinion. No HiPPOs. It’s all about: “Did we test it? Do we have data? Do we have the right metrics?” It’s important to select the right metrics and not vanity metrics, which make us feel good, but don’t really result in an improvement to the business.

Value number four: Many small experiments over a few big bets

And I like to talk about here the 70:20:10 rule. The idea behind the 70:20:10 rule is that we spend 70% of our budget and 50% of our time on the things that we know that work. We do it broadly across all our audiences.

We then spend 20% of our budget and 25% of our time modifying the things that we know that work and trying to improve them. Maybe we distribute it in a little different way or we modify the content, we modify what the page looks like. But, anyways, we’re trying to improve that content.

And the last 10% of our budget and 25% of our time, we spend on wild ideas, things where we fully expect that only about 2 or 3 out of 10 ideas is really going to work, and we focus those things on those creative, wild ideas that are going to be the future 70% and 20%.

Value number five: Individuals and interactions over one-size-fits-all

Now, I like to think about this in terms of one of the experiences that I have with SEO. I get a lot of requests for link building, and a lot of the requests that I get are form requests. They write me a little message that they’re writing to hundreds of other people, and I don’t pay any attention to those requests.

I’m looking for somebody who really knows that I’m writing a blog about agile marketing, who’s interacting with me, who maybe says something about a post that I put on Agile Marketing, and those people are the ones that I’m going to give my business to, in effect, and I’m going to do some link building with them. Same thing applies to all of our marketing.

Value number six: Collaboration over hierarchy and silos

One of the key things in many marketing organizations is that different silos of the organization don’t seem to talk to each other. Maybe marketing isn’t talking to sales, or marketing hasn’t got the ear of senior management.

Well, one of the things we do in agile marketing is we put some processes in place to make sure that all of those groups are collaborating. They’re setting the priorities together, and they’re reviewing the results together.

4 Benefits of Agile Marketing

As a result of these six values, there are four important benefits to agile marketing.

I. The first is that you can get more done

I’ve taught a lot of teams agile marketing, and, as a whole, they tell me that they get about 30% to 40% more done with agile marketing. I had one team tell me they got 400% more done, but that’s not typical. So they’re getting more done, and they’re getting more done because they’re not doing rework and they’re working on the right priorities.

II. Getting the right things done

Because you’re working with sales, you’re working with senior management to set the priorities, you’re making sure with agile marketing that you’re getting the right things done, and that’s important.

III. Adapting to change

Part of our life today in marketing is that things change. We know that Google is going to change their PageRank algorithm in 2017. We don’t know exactly how, but we know it’s going to happen, and we need to be able to adapt to that change quickly and accurately, and we put processes in place in agile marketing to make sure that happens.

IV. Improved communications

Improved communications both within the marketing team and, probably even more important, outside the marketing team to sales and senior management.

By representing what we’re getting done on something like a Kanban board, everybody can see exactly what marketing is working on, where it’s at, and what they’re getting done.

So that’s agile marketing in a nutshell. I’d love to hear your comments, and thanks for watching.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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

Your Daily SEO Fix: Keywords, Concepts, Page Optimization, and Happy NAPs

Posted by FeliciaCrawford

Howdy, readers! We’re back with our last round of videos for this go of the Daily SEO Fix series. To recap, here are the other topics we’ve covered previously:

Today we’ll be delving into more keyword and concept research, quick wins for on-page optimization, and a neat way to stay abreast of duplicates and inaccuracies in your local listings. We use Moz Pro, the MozBar, and Moz Local in this week’s fixes.


Fix #1: Grouping and analyzing keywords by label to judge how well you’re targeting a concept


The idea of “concepts over keywords” has been around for a little while now, but tracking rankings for a concept isn’t quite as straightforward as it is for keywords. In this fix, Kristina shows you how to label groups of keywords to track and sort their rankings in Moz Pro so you can easily see how you’re ranking for grouped terms, chopping and analyzing the data as you see fit.


Fix #2: Adding alternate NAP details to uncover and clean up duplicate or inaccurate listings


If you work in local SEO, you know how important it is for listings to have an accurate NAP (name, address, phone number). When those details change for a business, it can wreak absolute havoc and confuse potential searchers. Jordan walks you through adding alternate NAP details in Moz Local to make sure you uncover and clean up old and/or duplicate listings, making closure requests a breeze. (This Whiteboard Friday is an excellent explanation of why that’s really important; I like it so much that I link to it in the resources below, too. 😉

Remember, you can always use the free Check Listing tool to see how your local listings and NAP are popping up on search engines:

Is my NAP accurate?


Fix #3: Research keywords and concepts to fuel content suggestions — on the fly

You’re already spying on your competitors’ sites; you might as well do some keyword research at the same time, right? Chiaryn walks you through how to use MozBar to get keyword and content suggestions and discover how highly ranking competitor sites are using those terms. (Plus a cameo from Lettie Pickles, star of our 2015 Happy Holidays post!)


Fix #4: Discover whether your pages are well-optimized as you browse — then fix them with these suggestions


A fine accompaniment to your on-the-go keyword research is on-the-go on-page optimization. (Try saying that five times fast.) Janisha gives you the low-down on how to check whether a page is well-optimized for a keyword and identify which fixes you should make (and how to prioritize them) using the SEO tool bar.


Further reading & fond farewells

I’ve got a whole passel of links if you’re interested in reading more educational content around these topics. And by “reading,” I mean “watching,” because I really stacked the deck with Whiteboard Fridays this time. Here you are:

And of course, if you need a better handle on all this SEO stuff and reading blog posts just doesn’t cut the mustard, we now offer classes that cover all the essentials.

My sincere thanks to all of you tuning in to check out our Daily SEO Fix video series over the past couple of weeks — it’s been fun writing to you and hearing from you in the comments! Be sure to keep those ideas and questions comin’ — we’re listening.

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

Posted by FeliciaCrawford

Howdy, readers! We’re back with our last round of videos for this go of the Daily SEO Fix series. To recap, here are the other topics we’ve covered previously:

Today we’ll be delving into more keyword and concept research, quick wins for on-page optimization, and a neat way to stay abreast of duplicates and inaccuracies in your local listings. We use Moz Pro, the MozBar, and Moz Local in this week’s fixes.


Fix #1: Grouping and analyzing keywords by label to judge how well you’re targeting a concept


The idea of “concepts over keywords” has been around for a little while now, but tracking rankings for a concept isn’t quite as straightforward as it is for keywords. In this fix, Kristina shows you how to label groups of keywords to track and sort their rankings in Moz Pro so you can easily see how you’re ranking for grouped terms, chopping and analyzing the data as you see fit.


Fix #2: Adding alternate NAP details to uncover and clean up duplicate or inaccurate listings


If you work in local SEO, you know how important it is for listings to have an accurate NAP (name, address, phone number). When those details change for a business, it can wreak absolute havoc and confuse potential searchers. Jordan walks you through adding alternate NAP details in Moz Local to make sure you uncover and clean up old and/or duplicate listings, making closure requests a breeze. (This Whiteboard Friday is an excellent explanation of why that’s really important; I like it so much that I link to it in the resources below, too. 😉

Remember, you can always use the free Check Listing tool to see how your local listings and NAP are popping up on search engines:

Is my NAP accurate?


Fix #3: Research keywords and concepts to fuel content suggestions — on the fly

You’re already spying on your competitors’ sites; you might as well do some keyword research at the same time, right? Chiaryn walks you through how to use MozBar to get keyword and content suggestions and discover how highly ranking competitor sites are using those terms. (Plus a cameo from Lettie Pickles, star of our 2015 Happy Holidays post!)


Fix #4: Discover whether your pages are well-optimized as you browse — then fix them with these suggestions


A fine accompaniment to your on-the-go keyword research is on-the-go on-page optimization. (Try saying that five times fast.) Janisha gives you the low-down on how to check whether a page is well-optimized for a keyword and identify which fixes you should make (and how to prioritize them) using the SEO tool bar.


Further reading & fond farewells

I’ve got a whole passel of links if you’re interested in reading more educational content around these topics. And by “reading,” I mean “watching,” because I really stacked the deck with Whiteboard Fridays this time. Here you are:

And of course, if you need a better handle on all this SEO stuff and reading blog posts just doesn’t cut the mustard, we now offer classes that cover all the essentials.

My sincere thanks to all of you tuning in to check out our Daily SEO Fix video series over the past couple of weeks — it’s been fun writing to you and hearing from you in the comments! Be sure to keep those ideas and questions comin’ — we’re listening.

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

Can Google get users on board with “shortcuts in search”?

Google announced yesterday the launch of “shortcuts in search”, which will allow Android users in the US to access quick answers on a range of topics with the touch of a button.

Google announced yesterday the launch of “shortcuts in search”, which will allow Android users (only in the US, for now) to access quick answers on a range of topics with the touch of a button.

Fittingly, Google has termed these “tappable shortcuts” and they will lead searchers to instantaneous information on dozens of topics, including sports, restaurants, local amenities, and entertainment.

The new feature is available within the Google app in the US, although users will have to upgrade the app to the latest version before the shortcuts are accessible.

As Google continues its relentless release of new mobile-first products, this announcement is entirely aligned with the search engine’s strategy to keep pace with – and anticipate – trends in user behavior.

Tappable shortcuts lend themselves to a search experience that is more open-ended in nature than traditional Google queries. Notably, they also remove a fundamental element of the Google experience: either typing or voicing a query.

In a wider ecosystem that now includes maps, the knowledge graph, and structured data, it is understandable that Google has chosen to make this move now. With the addition to their fold of hardware like Google Home and the Pixel smartphones, combined with an upgraded Assistant on all Android phones, Google seems closer than ever to unifying the digital user journey.

The following (very short) video was also released yesterday to demonstrate how ‘shortcuts in search’ will work:

But will this initiative take off, what will it mean for SEO, and how will Google manage to integrate paid ads into this new search experience?

Will Google convince users to get on board?

The first phase will be to convince its vast user base to transition across to this way of discovering information.

The actual functionality underpinning this change has not been updated; it is merely a more streamlined way to surface information. Google Now has offered access to many of these features for some time, but user behaviors can be slow to change.

One could even suggest that this launch is Google giving a nudge to the public to show them just how much is possible through their products now.

At SMX West yesterday, Google’s Jason Douglas summarised one of their core objectives as simply trying to find the “easiest way to help the user get things done.”

No doubt, achieving that goal would go some way to convince people to take the small step of updating an app.

A mass migration of users to this app would have myriad benefits for Google. By keeping users enclosed within its own ecosystem of information, Google gains access to their data and, just as crucially, keeps those users out of Facebook’s grasp.

With machine learning at the core of everything Google does now, all of that data will only serve to improve the accuracy of search results, and those improved results will convince users to stay on the app.

How will Google rank these results?

This is an important question for SEO professionals, although it is a little early to answer it conclusively. Its degree of importance will also, of course, depend on just how many users elect to search by tapping on shortcuts.

Intriguingly, Jason Douglas implied at SMX West yesterday that as part of the wider Actions on Google initiative, consumers will be able to set preferences, not just on their sports teams or favorite restaurants, but also on the brands they like most.

Douglas went on to add:

“We’re trying to decide now how sticky those preferences should be. In some cases, you can set some preferences in the app. We’re trying to learn as we go. For shopping, is it convenience or best price that matters most? There are a lot of new ranking and quality challenges.”

The ramifications of that statement could be far-reaching, and it is understandable that Douglas chose to equivocate slightly on these points, refusing to take a definitive stance on such an important point.

Nonetheless, it is certainly plausible that user ‘preferences’ on certain brands would factor into personalized organic search results.

The advice to SEOs in that eventuality is as trite as it is true; all we can do is create great content and exceptional user experiences to ensure we make our way onto the preferred brands list.

Will Google offer paid placements?

Google has been open in stating that this new environment presents a huge challenge to its paid search business. Voice search is best suited to providing just one answer, which leaves little room for paid placements.

The inherent complexities for an auction-based bidding model like AdWords in this scenario are subtle and difficult to disentangle, but this is especially true if users state an overt preference for one brand over another.

For example, if a user has selected Kayak as a preferred flight aggregator over Skyscanner, how would that affect the price each would have to pay to rank first on that user’s travel searches? How would Google factor that into its auctions, at a grand scale?

If Skyscanner did choose to pay an inflated rate for first position, how would that sit with the user, who no doubt would recall selecting Kayak as their preferred brand?

These are challenges that Google is all too aware of, but there can be little doubt that ultimately, they will find a way to monetize this trend if it does take off.

What should we expect next?

We should expect any attempts to monetize this to be tentative at first – especially in the wake of the opprobrium raised by the recent ‘Ads on Google Home’ fiasco.

That said, Google’s decision to make these updates has been driven by what it foresees to be a new way of discovering information.

Therefore, we can first expect Google to entice users to use its new range of hardware and software through their ubiquity and ease of use, before making those first forays into transforming its paid search model to an interaction that no longer requires a user to search.

How to create SEO-friendly content

SEO-friendly content doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming, provided that you understand how on-page SEO can work alongside your content. Here’s how to create content that both your audience and search engines will enjoy.

Good content is important, but it also needs to rank high on SERPs if you want to reach a wider audience with it. Here’s how to create search engine-friendly content.

Quality is always important when producing new content, but it’s the SEO that can boost your efforts of reaching a target audience.

SEO-friendly content doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming, provided that you understand how on-page SEO can work alongside your content.

Here’s how to create content that both your audience and search engines will enjoy.

Create original content

There’s no point in creating new content if it’s not authentic enough to stand out. Even if you come up with an idea from a different source, it’s still up to you to offer your unique perspective that will add value to the particular topic.

Copyscape is a plagiarism checker that can help you test your site’s content for its originality. Duplicate content, by and large, is not appreciated by search engines and it won’t help you rank higher in SERPs.

If you find it difficult to come up with new content ideas, here are 21 quick ways to find inspiration for your next topic.

Optimize the title

Your headline is among the first things that users will come across when carrying out a search. This makes them important, and it’s useful to brainstorm as many variations as you can until you land on the best candidate.

Using your focus keyword in the headline can also be a good idea, but don’t try too hard to include it. Use power words and avoid redundancy to create a clear and appealing result. Aim for a headline of 55-60 characters, as this is what Google will display on the SERP.

Also, make sure that your URL is relevant to the title, rather than a sequence of numbers that only makes it more complicated.

Focus on structure

It’s not just the content, but also its structure, that helps search engines decide on the results they’ll display first. Thus, a clear structure with headings and paragraphs that facilitate reading are preferred both from a user perspective and also from a search perspective.

Headings also help search engines get a quick overview of your content, which is why it can be beneficial to feature your focus keyword at least once.

Whether you follow the structure of H1 to H6, or simply add H2 and H3 headings at relevant points throughout the text, consistent structure in your pieces of content is appreciated.

Use keywords

Keywords are less often used nowadays as the first signal to indicate what your post is about, but they are still helpful to offer an overview of the topic you’re focusing on.

Keyword research is still useful when trying to decide on the most interesting topics for your audience. Keywords can still be part of your content, provided that they are added in context and at the right balance. There’s no need to sacrifice the quality of your content to include more keywords, as keyword stuffing can lead to the opposite of the result you want.


Moz Keyword Explorer

Aim for readability

The readability of your content has to do with the simplicity of its language, the lack of grammatical or syntactical errors, and the sentence structure.

Online readability tests allow you to learn the “reading age” someone needs to understand your content, and they depend on:

  • sentence length
  • number of syllables per words
  • frequency of passive voice

Despite the different readability formulas, you can still gain valuable insights on your writing that become even more useful if you want to target a wide audience.

Is your content suitable for the audience you want to target?

Include internal and external links

Internal links can help you prove your authority in a particular field by creating a logical sequence from one post to the other. This may lead to a series of posts that offer additional value, making it easier for search engines to understand your key topics.

External, or outbound, links indicate that you are well aware of the topics you’re writing about, to the extent that you’re ready to use further sources to support your content. It’s more useful to link to reputable sources, as these links have bigger credibility.

Beware, excessive linking, either internal or external can lead to the exact opposite results. Make sure that every link serves its own purpose in your content.

Optimize images

The optimization of your images provides an additional opportunity to show up in search results, this time in image search.

As visual content becomes more and more prominent, it cannot be left out of SEO. Luckily it’s not time-consuming to optimise your images. All you have to do is keep in mind a few simple tips:

  • Always keep the file name relevant
  • Be careful with the file sizes, as they affect the page speed
  • Don’t forget to add alt text, or else a title for your image
  • Think like a user when naming your images
  • Focus on quality images and avoid generic ones

How to optimise images for SEO

Focus on the user

Every piece of content should have the user in mind. This also applies to SEO. You can’t create your next piece of content, or carry out keyword research, without knowing your audience.

What does your audience expect from you?

How can you enhance the user experience?

Does your site sabotage your content?

All the questions above can be answered by paying closer attention to your site, your content, and your target audience. Google rewards pages that focus on user experience, so never underestimate the power of the user.

Takeaway tips

If you want to create SEO-friendly content, here’s what you need to remember:

  • Focus on user intent
  • Be authentic
  • Come up with the best headlines for your content
  • Pay attention to the content’s structure
  • Use keywords wisely
  • Edit, proofread and aim for readability
  • Use both internal and external links to add further value
  • Optimize all your images to gain new opportunities for search ranking.

How to Do a Content Audit [Updated for 2017]

Posted by Everett


This guide provides instructions on how to do a content audit using examples and screenshots from Screaming Frog, URL Profiler, Google Analytics (GA), and Excel, as those seem to be the most widely used and versatile tools for performing content audits.


{Expand for more background}


TABLE OF CONTENTS


What is a content audit?

A content audit for the purpose of SEO includes a full inventory of all indexable content on a domain, which is then analyzed using performance metrics from a variety of sources to determine which content to keep as-is, which to improve, and which to remove or consolidate.

What is the purpose of a content audit?

A content audit can have many purposes and desired outcomes. In terms of SEO, they are often used to determine the following:

  • How to escape a content-related search engine ranking filter or penalty
  • Content that requires copywriting/editing for improved quality
  • Content that needs to be updated and made more current
  • Content that should be consolidated due to overlapping topics
  • Content that should be removed from the site
  • The best way to prioritize the editing or removal of content
  • Content gap opportunities
  • Which content is ranking for which keywords
  • Which content should be ranking for which keywords
  • The strongest pages on a domain and how to leverage them
  • Undiscovered content marketing opportunities
  • Due diligence when buying/selling websites or onboarding new clients

While each of these desired outcomes and insights are valuable results of a content audit, I would define the overall “purpose” of one as:

The purpose of a content audit for SEO is to improve the perceived trust and quality of a domain, while optimizing crawl budget and the flow of PageRank (PR) and other ranking signals throughout the site.

Often, but not always, a big part of achieving these goals involves the removal of low-quality content from search engine indexes. I’ve been told people hate this word, but I prefer the “pruning” analogy to describe the concept.

How & why “pruning” works


{Expand for more on pruning}


How to do a content audit

Just like anything in SEO, from technical and on-page changes to site migrations, things can go horribly wrong when content audits aren’t conducted properly. The most common example would be removing URLs that have external links because link metrics weren’t analyzed as part of the audit. Another common mistake is confusing removal from search engine indexes with removal from the website.

Content audits start with taking an inventory of all content available for indexation by search engines. This content is then analyzed against a variety of metrics and given one of three “Action” determinations. The “Details” of each Action are then expanded upon.

The variety of combinations of options between the “Action” of WHAT to do and the “Details” of HOW (and sometimes why) to do it are as varied as the strategies, sites, and tactics themselves. Below are a few hypothetical examples:

You now have a basic overview of how to perform a content audit. More specific instructions can be found below.

The process can be roughly split into three distinct phases:

  1. Inventory & audit
  2. Analysis & recommendations
  3. Summary & reporting

The inventory & audit phase

Taking an inventory of all content, and related metrics, begins with crawling the site.

One difference between crawling for content audits and technical audits:

Technical SEO audit crawls are concerned with all crawlable content (among other things).

Content audit crawls for the purpose of SEO are concerned with all indexable content.


{Expand for more on crawlable vs. indexable content}

All of this is changing rapidly, though. URLs as the unique identifier in Google’s index are probably going away. Yes, we’ll still have URLs, but not everything requires them. So far, the word “content” and URL has been mostly interchangeable. But some URLs contain an entire application’s worth of content. How to do a content audit in that world is something we’ll have to figure out soon, but only after Google figures out how to organize the web’s information in that same world. From the looks of things, we still have a year or two.

Until then, the process below should handle most situations.

Step 1: Crawl all indexable URLs

A good place to start on most websites is a full Screaming Frog crawl. However, some indexable content might be missed this way. It is not recommended that you rely on a crawler as the source for all indexable URLs.

In addition to the crawler, collect URLs from Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools, XML Sitemaps, and, if possible, from an internal database, such as an export of all product and category URLs on an eCommerce website. These can then be crawled in “list mode” separately, then added to your main list of URLs and deduplicated to produce a more comprehensive list of indexable URLs.

Some URLs found via GA, XML sitemaps, and other non-crawl sources may not actually be “indexable.” These should be excluded. One strategy that works here is to combine and deduplicate all of the URL “lists,” and then perform a crawl in list mode. Once crawled, remove all URLs with robots meta or X-Robots noindex tags, as well as any URL returning error codes and those that are blocked by the robots.txt file, etc. At this point, you can safely add these URLs to the file containing indexable URLs from the crawl. Once again, deduplicate the list.

Crawling roadblocks & new technologies

Crawling very large websites

First and foremost, you do not need to crawl every URL on the site. Be concerned with indexable content. This is not a technical SEO audit.


{Expand for more about crawling very large websites}


Crawling dynamic mobile sites

This refers to a specific type of mobile setup in which there are two code-bases –– one for mobile and one for desktop –– but only one URL. Thus, the content of a single URL may vary significantly depending on which type of device is visiting that URL. In such cases, you will essentially be performing two separate content audits. Proceed as usual for the desktop version. Below are instructions for crawling the mobile version.


{Expand for more on crawling dynamic websites}


Crawling and rendering JavaScript

One of the many technical issues SEOs have been increasingly dealing with over the last couple of years is the proliferation of websites built on JavaScript frameworks and libraries like React.js, Ember.js, and Angular.js.


{Expand for more on crawling Javascript websites}


Step 2: Gather additional metrics

Most crawlers will give you the URL and various on-page metrics and data, such as the titles, descriptions, meta tags, and word count. In addition to these, you’ll want to know about internal and external links, traffic, content uniqueness, and much more in order to make fully informed recommendations during the analysis portion of the content audit project.

Your process may vary, but we generally try to pull in everything we need using as few sources as possible. URL Profiler is a great resource for this purpose, as it works well with Screaming Frog and integrates easily with all of the APIs we need.

Once the Screaming Frog scan is complete (only crawling indexable content) export the “Internal All” file, which can then be used as the seed list in URL Profiler (combined with any additional indexable URLs found outside of the crawl via GSC, GA, and elsewhere).

This is what my URL Profiler settings look for a typical content audit for a small- or medium-sized site. Also, under “Accounts” I have connected via API keys to Moz and SEMrush.

Once URL Profiler is finished, you should end up with something like this:

Screaming Frog and URL Profiler: Between these two tools and the APIs they connect with, you may not need anything else at all in order to see the metrics below for every indexable URL on the domain.

The risk of getting analytics data from a third-party tool

We’ve noticed odd data mismatches and sampled data when using the method above on large, high-traffic websites. Our internal process involves exporting these reports directly from Google Analytics, sometimes incorporating Analytics Canvas to get the full, unsampled data from GA. Then VLookups are used in the spreadsheet to combine the data, with URL being the unique identifier.

Metrics to pull for each URL:

  • Indexed or not?
    • If crawlers are set up properly, all URLs should be “indexable.”
    • A non-indexed URL is often a sign of an uncrawled or low-quality page.
  • Content uniqueness
    • Copyscape, Siteliner, and now URL Profiler can provide this data.
  • Traffic from organic search
    • Typically 90 days
    • Keep a consistent timeframe across all metrics.
  • Revenue and/or conversions
    • You could view this by “total,” or by segmenting to show only revenue from organic search on a per-page basis.
  • Publish date
    • If you can get this into Google Analytics as a custom dimension prior to fetching the GA data, it will help you discover stale content.
  • Internal links
    • Content audits provide the perfect opportunity to tighten up your internal linking strategy by ensuring the most important pages have the most internal links.
  • External links
  • Landing pages resulting in low time-on-site
    • Take this one with a grain of salt. If visitors found what they want because the content was good, that’s not a bad metric. A better proxy for this would be scroll depth, but that would probably require setting up a scroll-tracking “event.”
  • Landing pages resulting in Low Pages-Per-Visit
    • Just like with Time-On-Site, sometimes visitors find what they’re looking for on a single page. This is often true for high-quality content.
  • Response code
    • Typically, only URLs that return a 200 (OK) response code are indexable. You may not require this metric in the final data if that’s the case on your domain.
  • Canonical tag
    • Typically only URLs with a self-referencing rel=“canonical” tag should be considered “indexable.” You may not require this metric in the final data if that’s the case on your domain.
  • Page speed and mobile-friendliness

Before you begin analyzing the data, be sure to drastically improve your mental health and the performance of your machine by taking the opportunity to get rid of any data you don’t need. Here are a few things you might consider deleting right away (after making a copy of the full data set, of course).


Things you don’t need when analyzing the data


{Expand for more on removing unnecessary data}

Hopefully by now you’ve made a significant dent in reducing the overall size of the file and time it takes to apply formatting and formula changes to the spreadsheet. It’s time to start diving into the data.

The analysis & recommendations phase

Here’s where the fun really begins. In a large organization, it’s tempting to have a junior SEO do all of the data-gathering up to this point. I find it useful to perform the crawl myself, as the process can be highly informative.

Step 3: Put it all into a dashboard

Even after removing unnecessary data, performance could still be a major issue, especially if working in Google Sheets. I prefer to do all of this in Excel, and only upload into Google Sheets once it’s ready for the client. If Excel is running slow, consider splitting up the URLs by directory or some other factor in order to work with multiple, smaller spreadsheets.

Creating a dashboard can be as easy as adding two columns to the spreadsheet. The first new column, “Action,” should be limited to three options, as shown below. This makes filtering and sorting data much easier. The “Details” column can contain freeform text to provide more detailed instructions for implementation.

Use Data Validation and a drop-down selector to limit Action options.

Step 4: Work the content audit dashboard

All of the data you need should now be right in front of you. This step can’t be turned into a repeatable process for every content audit. From here on the actual step-by-step process becomes much more open to interpretation and your own experience. You may do some of them and not others. You may do them a little differently. That’s all fine, as long as you’re working toward the goal of determining what to do, if anything, for each piece of content on the website.

A good place to start would be to look for any content-related issues that might cause an algorithmic filter or manual penalty to be applied, thereby dragging down your rankings.

Causes of content-related penalties

These typically fall under three major categories: quality, duplication, and relevancy. Each category can be further broken down into a variety of issues, which are detailed below.


{Expand to learn more about quality, duplication, and relevancy issues}

It helps to sort the data in various ways to see what’s going on. Below are a few different things to look for if you’re having trouble getting started.


{Expand to learn more about what to look for}


Taking the hatchet to bloated websites

For big sites, it’s best to use a hatchet-based approach as much as possible, and finish up with a scalpel in the end. Otherwise, you’ll spend way too much time on the project, which eats into the ROI.

This is not a process that can be documented step-by-step. For the purpose of illustration, however, below are a few different examples of hatchet approaches and when to consider using them.


{Expand for examples of hatchet approaches}

As you can see from the many examples above, sorting by “Page Type” can be quite handy when applying the same Action and Details to an entire section of the website.

After all of the tool set-up, data gathering, data cleanup, and analysis across dozens of metrics, what matters in the end is the Action to take and the Details that go with it.

URL, Action, and Details: These three columns will be used by someone to implement your recommendations. Be clear and concise in your instructions, and don’t make decisions without reviewing all of the wonderful data-points you’ve collected.

Here is a sample content audit spreadsheet to use as a template, or for ideas. It includes a few extra tabs specific to the way we used to do content audits at Inflow.

WARNING!

As Razvan Gavrilas pointed out in his post on Cognitive SEO from 2015, without doing the research above you risk pruning valuable content from search engine indexes. Be bold, but make highly informed decisions:

Content audits allow SEOs to make informed decisions on which content to keep indexed “as-is,” which content to improve, and which to remove.

The reporting phase

The content audit dashboard is exactly what we need internally: a spreadsheet crammed with data that can be sliced and diced in so many useful ways that we can always go back to it for more insight and ideas. Some clients appreciate that as well, but most are going to find the greater benefit in our final content audit report, which includes a high-level overview of our recommendations.

Counting actions from Column B

It is useful to count the quantity of each Action along with total organic search traffic and/or revenue for each URL. This will help you (and the client) identify important metrics, such as total organic traffic for pages marked to be pruned. It will also make the final report much easier to build.

Step 5: Writing up the report

Your analysis and recommendations should be delivered at the same time as the audit dashboard. It summarizes the findings, recommendations, and next steps from the audit, and should start with an executive summary.

Here is a real example of an executive summary from one of Inflow’s content audit strategies:

As a result of our comprehensive content audit, we are recommending the following, which will be covered in more detail below:

Removal of about 624 pages from Google index by deletion or consolidation:

  • 203 Pages were marked for Removal with a 404 error (no redirect needed)
  • 110 Pages were marked for Removal with a 301 redirect to another page
  • 311 Pages were marked for Consolidation of content into other pages
    • Followed by a redirect to the page into which they were consolidated

Rewriting or improving of 668 pages

  • 605 Product Pages are to be rewritten due to use of manufacturer product descriptions (duplicate content), these being prioritized from first to last within the Content Audit.
  • 63 “Other” pages to be rewritten due to low-quality or duplicate content.

Keeping 226 pages as-is

  • No rewriting or improvements needed

These changes reflect an immediate need to “improve or remove” content in order to avoid an obvious content-based penalty from Google (e.g. Panda) due to thin, low-quality and duplicate content, especially concerning Representative and Dealers pages with some added risk from Style pages.

The content strategy should end with recommended next steps, including action items for the consultant and the client. Below is a real example from one of our documents.

We recommend the following three projects in order of their urgency and/or potential ROI for the site:

Project 1: Remove or consolidate all pages marked as “Remove”. Detailed instructions for each URL can be found in the “Details” column of the Content Audit Dashboard.

Project 2: Copywriting to improve/rewrite content on Style pages. Ensure unique, robust content and proper keyword targeting.

Project 3: Improve/rewrite all remaining pages marked as “Improve” in the Content Audit Dashboard. Detailed instructions for each URL can be found in the “Details” column

Content audit resources & further reading

Understanding Mobile-First Indexing and the Long-Term Impact on SEO by Cindy Krum
This thought-provoking post begs the question: How will we perform content inventories without URLs? It helps to know Google is dealing with the exact same problem on a much, much larger scale.

Here is a spreadsheet template to help you calculate revenue and traffic changes before and after updating content.

Expanding the Horizons of eCommerce Content Strategy by Dan Kern of Inflow
An epic post about content strategies for eCommerce businesses, which includes several good examples of content on different types of pages targeted toward various stages in the buying cycle.

The Content Inventory is Your Friend by Kristina Halvorson on BrainTraffic
Praise for the life-changing powers of a good content audit inventory.

http://spot.goinflow.com/ecommerce-content-audit-toolkit

Everything You Need to Perform Content Audits

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

Posted by Everett


This guide provides instructions on how to do a content audit using examples and screenshots from Screaming Frog, URL Profiler, Google Analytics (GA), and Excel, as those seem to be the most widely used and versatile tools for performing content audits.


{Expand for more background}


TABLE OF CONTENTS


What is a content audit?

A content audit for the purpose of SEO includes a full inventory of all indexable content on a domain, which is then analyzed using performance metrics from a variety of sources to determine which content to keep as-is, which to improve, and which to remove or consolidate.

What is the purpose of a content audit?

A content audit can have many purposes and desired outcomes. In terms of SEO, they are often used to determine the following:

  • How to escape a content-related search engine ranking filter or penalty
  • Content that requires copywriting/editing for improved quality
  • Content that needs to be updated and made more current
  • Content that should be consolidated due to overlapping topics
  • Content that should be removed from the site
  • The best way to prioritize the editing or removal of content
  • Content gap opportunities
  • Which content is ranking for which keywords
  • Which content should be ranking for which keywords
  • The strongest pages on a domain and how to leverage them
  • Undiscovered content marketing opportunities
  • Due diligence when buying/selling websites or onboarding new clients

While each of these desired outcomes and insights are valuable results of a content audit, I would define the overall “purpose” of one as:

The purpose of a content audit for SEO is to improve the perceived trust and quality of a domain, while optimizing crawl budget and the flow of PageRank (PR) and other ranking signals throughout the site.

Often, but not always, a big part of achieving these goals involves the removal of low-quality content from search engine indexes. I’ve been told people hate this word, but I prefer the “pruning” analogy to describe the concept.

How & why “pruning” works


{Expand for more on pruning}


How to do a content audit

Just like anything in SEO, from technical and on-page changes to site migrations, things can go horribly wrong when content audits aren’t conducted properly. The most common example would be removing URLs that have external links because link metrics weren’t analyzed as part of the audit. Another common mistake is confusing removal from search engine indexes with removal from the website.

Content audits start with taking an inventory of all content available for indexation by search engines. This content is then analyzed against a variety of metrics and given one of three “Action” determinations. The “Details” of each Action are then expanded upon.

The variety of combinations of options between the “Action” of WHAT to do and the “Details” of HOW (and sometimes why) to do it are as varied as the strategies, sites, and tactics themselves. Below are a few hypothetical examples:

You now have a basic overview of how to perform a content audit. More specific instructions can be found below.

The process can be roughly split into three distinct phases:

  1. Inventory & audit
  2. Analysis & recommendations
  3. Summary & reporting

The inventory & audit phase

Taking an inventory of all content, and related metrics, begins with crawling the site.

One difference between crawling for content audits and technical audits:

Technical SEO audit crawls are concerned with all crawlable content (among other things).

Content audit crawls for the purpose of SEO are concerned with all indexable content.


{Expand for more on crawlable vs. indexable content}

All of this is changing rapidly, though. URLs as the unique identifier in Google’s index are probably going away. Yes, we’ll still have URLs, but not everything requires them. So far, the word “content” and URL has been mostly interchangeable. But some URLs contain an entire application’s worth of content. How to do a content audit in that world is something we’ll have to figure out soon, but only after Google figures out how to organize the web’s information in that same world. From the looks of things, we still have a year or two.

Until then, the process below should handle most situations.

Step 1: Crawl all indexable URLs

A good place to start on most websites is a full Screaming Frog crawl. However, some indexable content might be missed this way. It is not recommended that you rely on a crawler as the source for all indexable URLs.

In addition to the crawler, collect URLs from Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools, XML Sitemaps, and, if possible, from an internal database, such as an export of all product and category URLs on an eCommerce website. These can then be crawled in “list mode” separately, then added to your main list of URLs and deduplicated to produce a more comprehensive list of indexable URLs.

Some URLs found via GA, XML sitemaps, and other non-crawl sources may not actually be “indexable.” These should be excluded. One strategy that works here is to combine and deduplicate all of the URL “lists,” and then perform a crawl in list mode. Once crawled, remove all URLs with robots meta or X-Robots noindex tags, as well as any URL returning error codes and those that are blocked by the robots.txt file, etc. At this point, you can safely add these URLs to the file containing indexable URLs from the crawl. Once again, deduplicate the list.

Crawling roadblocks & new technologies

Crawling very large websites

First and foremost, you do not need to crawl every URL on the site. Be concerned with indexable content. This is not a technical SEO audit.


{Expand for more about crawling very large websites}


Crawling dynamic mobile sites

This refers to a specific type of mobile setup in which there are two code-bases –– one for mobile and one for desktop –– but only one URL. Thus, the content of a single URL may vary significantly depending on which type of device is visiting that URL. In such cases, you will essentially be performing two separate content audits. Proceed as usual for the desktop version. Below are instructions for crawling the mobile version.


{Expand for more on crawling dynamic websites}


Crawling and rendering JavaScript

One of the many technical issues SEOs have been increasingly dealing with over the last couple of years is the proliferation of websites built on JavaScript frameworks and libraries like React.js, Ember.js, and Angular.js.


{Expand for more on crawling Javascript websites}


Step 2: Gather additional metrics

Most crawlers will give you the URL and various on-page metrics and data, such as the titles, descriptions, meta tags, and word count. In addition to these, you’ll want to know about internal and external links, traffic, content uniqueness, and much more in order to make fully informed recommendations during the analysis portion of the content audit project.

Your process may vary, but we generally try to pull in everything we need using as few sources as possible. URL Profiler is a great resource for this purpose, as it works well with Screaming Frog and integrates easily with all of the APIs we need.

Once the Screaming Frog scan is complete (only crawling indexable content) export the “Internal All” file, which can then be used as the seed list in URL Profiler (combined with any additional indexable URLs found outside of the crawl via GSC, GA, and elsewhere).

This is what my URL Profiler settings look for a typical content audit for a small- or medium-sized site. Also, under “Accounts” I have connected via API keys to Moz and SEMrush.

Once URL Profiler is finished, you should end up with something like this:

Screaming Frog and URL Profiler: Between these two tools and the APIs they connect with, you may not need anything else at all in order to see the metrics below for every indexable URL on the domain.

The risk of getting analytics data from a third-party tool

We’ve noticed odd data mismatches and sampled data when using the method above on large, high-traffic websites. Our internal process involves exporting these reports directly from Google Analytics, sometimes incorporating Analytics Canvas to get the full, unsampled data from GA. Then VLookups are used in the spreadsheet to combine the data, with URL being the unique identifier.

Metrics to pull for each URL:

  • Indexed or not?
    • If crawlers are set up properly, all URLs should be “indexable.”
    • A non-indexed URL is often a sign of an uncrawled or low-quality page.
  • Content uniqueness
    • Copyscape, Siteliner, and now URL Profiler can provide this data.
  • Traffic from organic search
    • Typically 90 days
    • Keep a consistent timeframe across all metrics.
  • Revenue and/or conversions
    • You could view this by “total,” or by segmenting to show only revenue from organic search on a per-page basis.
  • Publish date
    • If you can get this into Google Analytics as a custom dimension prior to fetching the GA data, it will help you discover stale content.
  • Internal links
    • Content audits provide the perfect opportunity to tighten up your internal linking strategy by ensuring the most important pages have the most internal links.
  • External links
  • Landing pages resulting in low time-on-site
    • Take this one with a grain of salt. If visitors found what they want because the content was good, that’s not a bad metric. A better proxy for this would be scroll depth, but that would probably require setting up a scroll-tracking “event.”
  • Landing pages resulting in Low Pages-Per-Visit
    • Just like with Time-On-Site, sometimes visitors find what they’re looking for on a single page. This is often true for high-quality content.
  • Response code
    • Typically, only URLs that return a 200 (OK) response code are indexable. You may not require this metric in the final data if that’s the case on your domain.
  • Canonical tag
    • Typically only URLs with a self-referencing rel=“canonical” tag should be considered “indexable.” You may not require this metric in the final data if that’s the case on your domain.
  • Page speed and mobile-friendliness

Before you begin analyzing the data, be sure to drastically improve your mental health and the performance of your machine by taking the opportunity to get rid of any data you don’t need. Here are a few things you might consider deleting right away (after making a copy of the full data set, of course).


Things you don’t need when analyzing the data


{Expand for more on removing unnecessary data}

Hopefully by now you’ve made a significant dent in reducing the overall size of the file and time it takes to apply formatting and formula changes to the spreadsheet. It’s time to start diving into the data.

The analysis & recommendations phase

Here’s where the fun really begins. In a large organization, it’s tempting to have a junior SEO do all of the data-gathering up to this point. I find it useful to perform the crawl myself, as the process can be highly informative.

Step 3: Put it all into a dashboard

Even after removing unnecessary data, performance could still be a major issue, especially if working in Google Sheets. I prefer to do all of this in Excel, and only upload into Google Sheets once it’s ready for the client. If Excel is running slow, consider splitting up the URLs by directory or some other factor in order to work with multiple, smaller spreadsheets.

Creating a dashboard can be as easy as adding two columns to the spreadsheet. The first new column, “Action,” should be limited to three options, as shown below. This makes filtering and sorting data much easier. The “Details” column can contain freeform text to provide more detailed instructions for implementation.

Use Data Validation and a drop-down selector to limit Action options.

Step 4: Work the content audit dashboard

All of the data you need should now be right in front of you. This step can’t be turned into a repeatable process for every content audit. From here on the actual step-by-step process becomes much more open to interpretation and your own experience. You may do some of them and not others. You may do them a little differently. That’s all fine, as long as you’re working toward the goal of determining what to do, if anything, for each piece of content on the website.

A good place to start would be to look for any content-related issues that might cause an algorithmic filter or manual penalty to be applied, thereby dragging down your rankings.

Causes of content-related penalties

These typically fall under three major categories: quality, duplication, and relevancy. Each category can be further broken down into a variety of issues, which are detailed below.


{Expand to learn more about quality, duplication, and relevancy issues}

It helps to sort the data in various ways to see what’s going on. Below are a few different things to look for if you’re having trouble getting started.


{Expand to learn more about what to look for}


Taking the hatchet to bloated websites

For big sites, it’s best to use a hatchet-based approach as much as possible, and finish up with a scalpel in the end. Otherwise, you’ll spend way too much time on the project, which eats into the ROI.

This is not a process that can be documented step-by-step. For the purpose of illustration, however, below are a few different examples of hatchet approaches and when to consider using them.


{Expand for examples of hatchet approaches}

As you can see from the many examples above, sorting by “Page Type” can be quite handy when applying the same Action and Details to an entire section of the website.

After all of the tool set-up, data gathering, data cleanup, and analysis across dozens of metrics, what matters in the end is the Action to take and the Details that go with it.

URL, Action, and Details: These three columns will be used by someone to implement your recommendations. Be clear and concise in your instructions, and don’t make decisions without reviewing all of the wonderful data-points you’ve collected.

Here is a sample content audit spreadsheet to use as a template, or for ideas. It includes a few extra tabs specific to the way we used to do content audits at Inflow.

WARNING!

As Razvan Gavrilas pointed out in his post on Cognitive SEO from 2015, without doing the research above you risk pruning valuable content from search engine indexes. Be bold, but make highly informed decisions:

Content audits allow SEOs to make informed decisions on which content to keep indexed “as-is,” which content to improve, and which to remove.

The reporting phase

The content audit dashboard is exactly what we need internally: a spreadsheet crammed with data that can be sliced and diced in so many useful ways that we can always go back to it for more insight and ideas. Some clients appreciate that as well, but most are going to find the greater benefit in our final content audit report, which includes a high-level overview of our recommendations.

Counting actions from Column B

It is useful to count the quantity of each Action along with total organic search traffic and/or revenue for each URL. This will help you (and the client) identify important metrics, such as total organic traffic for pages marked to be pruned. It will also make the final report much easier to build.

Step 5: Writing up the report

Your analysis and recommendations should be delivered at the same time as the audit dashboard. It summarizes the findings, recommendations, and next steps from the audit, and should start with an executive summary.

Here is a real example of an executive summary from one of Inflow’s content audit strategies:

As a result of our comprehensive content audit, we are recommending the following, which will be covered in more detail below:

Removal of about 624 pages from Google index by deletion or consolidation:

  • 203 Pages were marked for Removal with a 404 error (no redirect needed)
  • 110 Pages were marked for Removal with a 301 redirect to another page
  • 311 Pages were marked for Consolidation of content into other pages
    • Followed by a redirect to the page into which they were consolidated

Rewriting or improving of 668 pages

  • 605 Product Pages are to be rewritten due to use of manufacturer product descriptions (duplicate content), these being prioritized from first to last within the Content Audit.
  • 63 “Other” pages to be rewritten due to low-quality or duplicate content.

Keeping 226 pages as-is

  • No rewriting or improvements needed

These changes reflect an immediate need to “improve or remove” content in order to avoid an obvious content-based penalty from Google (e.g. Panda) due to thin, low-quality and duplicate content, especially concerning Representative and Dealers pages with some added risk from Style pages.

The content strategy should end with recommended next steps, including action items for the consultant and the client. Below is a real example from one of our documents.

We recommend the following three projects in order of their urgency and/or potential ROI for the site:

Project 1: Remove or consolidate all pages marked as “Remove”. Detailed instructions for each URL can be found in the “Details” column of the Content Audit Dashboard.

Project 2: Copywriting to improve/rewrite content on Style pages. Ensure unique, robust content and proper keyword targeting.

Project 3: Improve/rewrite all remaining pages marked as “Improve” in the Content Audit Dashboard. Detailed instructions for each URL can be found in the “Details” column

Content audit resources & further reading

Understanding Mobile-First Indexing and the Long-Term Impact on SEO by Cindy Krum
This thought-provoking post begs the question: How will we perform content inventories without URLs? It helps to know Google is dealing with the exact same problem on a much, much larger scale.

Here is a spreadsheet template to help you calculate revenue and traffic changes before and after updating content.

Expanding the Horizons of eCommerce Content Strategy by Dan Kern of Inflow
An epic post about content strategies for eCommerce businesses, which includes several good examples of content on different types of pages targeted toward various stages in the buying cycle.

The Content Inventory is Your Friend by Kristina Halvorson on BrainTraffic
Praise for the life-changing powers of a good content audit inventory.

http://spot.goinflow.com/ecommerce-content-audit-toolkit

Everything You Need to Perform Content Audits

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The SEO benefits of using WordPress to publish your content

Creating and launching a fully-fledged website is not enough to get your brand noticed by itself. In order to improve your online visibility, you … read more

Creating and launching a fully-fledged website is not enough to get your brand noticed by itself.

In order to improve your online visibility, you will need to carry out SEO (search engine optimization) practices.

If you want to achieve a higher ranking on Google and other search engines, you’ll need to get serious about search engine optimization. Luckily, if you use WordPress as your Content Management System (CMS), there are a number of in-built features that make optimizing your content for search significantly easier.

So what is it that makes WordPress such a strong platform for SEO? Let’s take a look.

1. Permalink Structure

Permalinks are the permanent URLs for your web pages, posts, categories and tag archives. It is the web address used to link to your individual blog post and web page. By default, permalinks look something like this:

http://mysite.com/p?=17

This structure makes it difficult for search engine crawlers to read and index your web pages and posts. That means you will need to make it more accessible for both search engines and we visitors.

Fortunately, WordPress allows you to customize your URL permalinks for each of your posts and pages, adding a clear description of your page’s content as well as any relevant keywords – this makes your URL structure search-engine friendly.

To change your default permalink URLs, you will need to go to Settings → Permalink. You can change it either using /post-name/, or /category/post-name. You can also set it using date and name, but I would prefer you to use “Post Name” to optimize your permalink structure for search engines. The custom permalink URL structure will look something like this:

http://mysite.com/%postname%/

Tip: After creating a custom permalink structure, make sure you save all the changes.

2. Easy to create SEO-friendly titles

The “title tags”, or the title of a blog post, is one of the crucial aspects when it comes to getting a better ranking on search engine result pages. The title tags not only tell search engines what your web page is all about, but also leave the first impression on the people who see your post title in the search results.

Since search engines focus more on the initial words of the titles, make sure you add your keywords at the start of your title tag – this will help you rank better. So, WordPress allows you to optimize your title tags for SEO using the All-in-One-SEO-Pack plugin:

After installing this plugin, you will need to access your WordPress admin panel → go to Settings → All in One SEO Pack and add the following:

  • Post Title: %post_title%
  • Page Title: %page_title%

This will help you create unique, engaging, relevant, and search engine friendly title tags for your site, which in turn increase your CTR as well as page views.

3. Creating unique Meta Descriptions for SEO

A meta description is a snippet of content that you can see under the page link within a Google search result page. It gives a brief summary of your blog post or a web page to both the search engine bots as well as web audiences. This will help you get better ranking on SERPs.

It means that creating unique, engaging and search engine friendly meta descriptions for all your posts and pages can improve your visibility across search engines, and can also help you get a higher click-through rate.

The default WordPress settings makes it easy for you to optimize your meta descriptions for Google and other search engines. Better yet, you can use the Yoast SEO plugin or All in One SEO Pack to automatically create SEO-friendly meta descriptions for your WordPress site.

4. It’s easy to generate an XML Sitemap in WordPress

WordPress allows you to create and submit an XML sitemap easily to search engine webmaster tools. An XML sitemap allows you to tell Google and other search engine bots about all your web pages and posts exist on your site. It simply allows search engine crawlers to read and index your site quickly and easily.

Luckily, WordPress offers a ton of plugins that can help you generate an XML sitemap for all your pages, posts, custom post types, categories, and tags. You can use Yoast SEO, or Google XML sitemap plugins to let search engines better index your WordPress site.

For an example: We are using Yoast SEO plugin to generate an XML sitemap for your WordPress site. After installing and activating the plugin, you will need to enable the XML Sitemaps. To do that, go to the SEO → XML Sitemaps and click on the checkbox to enable this functionality.

Make sure you configure it and save the settings. This will generate the sitemap for your WordPress site.

5. Use of categories and tags

The main purpose of categories and tags are to help web visitors navigate your blogs quickly and easily, which in turn, help you get a better search ranking (if used properly). In a nutshell, categories are the table of contents for your blog, while tags are the index that helps a search engine to interpret your blog’s subject matter with ease.

Both the categories and tags help you create a better structure and allow Google to notice it while indexing the blog posts of your WordPress. So, make sure you have all the subcategories, and have a well-structured post to make it as easy as possible for search engine crawlers to “read” your content.

To add categories, you will need to go to the Posts → Categories and Tickets → Labels.

Ensure that you use the best tricks to optimize the categories and tags in WordPress for SEO.

6. Simple and clean code

The code behind WordPress is simple and clean, allowing search engine bots to index your site with ease. Since it is an open source platform, you will see constant modifications in terms of security, performance, and functionalities to let Google and other search engines to position your site higher up the SERP.

Although WordPress already performs well in this particular area, making sure that you install well-coded themes and plugins to ensure the high quality of your WordPress site.

7. Optimization of Images for SEO

If you want to drive more web traffic towards your site, then you can’t overlook image optimization. It is one of the crucial aspects of good SEO.

Image optimization is all about creating engaging, relevant image titles and alt text so that you will get better visibility on Google and other image search engines. WordPress makes it easy to add titles and alt text to your images when you upload them to its CMS, so that image optimization is simply a matter of filling in the right fields.

8. Linking to related posts

Allow search engines to crawl your older posts quickly and easily using the related posts plugin. It is a great WordPress plugin that can help you add a link to related posts within your new content, thereby increasing your SEO capabilities with ease.

The plugin makes it incredibly simple to add related posts to your blog posts and pages, re-ordering related posts via drag and drop functionality, without generating a single piece of code.

Other key points on WordPress SEO:

(a) Since Google loves fast-loading websites, WordPress makes it easy for you to optimize the speed of your site by:

  • Compressing the CSS and JS files
  • Minimizing HTTP requires
  • Optimizing image file sizes
  • Using Caching
  • Use of CDN services
  • Upgrading the core WordPress, installed themes and plugins on a regular basis.

(b) WordPress enables you to create a new page with fresh, updated and improved content to help you get better ranking on SERPs.

(c) It’s easy to tweak the slug of an old version of a post to post-name-original.

Wrapping up

If you use WordPress as your Content Management System (CMS), these tips should hopefully help to you use it in the most effective way to boost your search ranking.

All you need to do is understand the out-of-the-box WordPress SEO functionalities and how get the most out from them, and you can drive quality traffic towards your website.

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

Posted by purna_v

I was conned into my love of cooking by my husband.

Never having set foot in the kitchen until the grand old age of 22, my husband (then boyfriend) — a former chef — said he’d teach me some simple recipes. I somewhat enjoyed the process but very much enjoyed the lavish praise he’d bestow upon me when eating whatever I whipped up.

Highly encouraged that I seemingly had an innate culinary genius, I looked to grow my repertoire of recipes. As a novice, I found recipe books inspiring but confusing. For example, a recipe that called for cooked chicken made me wonder how on Earth I was meant to cook the chicken to get cooked chicken.

Luckily, I discovered the life-changing power of fully illustrated, step-by-step recipes.

Empowered by the clear direction they provided, I conquered cuisine after cuisine and have since turned into a confident cook. It took me only a few months to realize all that praise was simply a ruse to have me do most of the cooking. But by then I was hooked.

When it comes to voice search, I’ve talked and written a lot about the subject over the past year. Each time, the question I get asked is “What’s the best way to start?”

Today I’ll share with you an easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide to empower you to create your own voice search test. It’s sure to become one of your favorite recipes in coming months as conversational interfaces continue their rapid adoption rate.

Testing voice search? But it’s not monetized.

That’s correct. It’s not monetized as of yet. However, the usage rates have been growing exponentially. Already search engines are reporting that:

  • One out of ten searches are voice (per Baidu)
  • Twenty percent of all mobile Android searches are voice (Google)
  • Usage spans all age ranges, as we discovered at Cortana (which is owned by Microsoft, my employer):

1_Cortana.png

With Cortana being integrated into Windows 10, what we’re seeing is that age range demographics are now comparable to what eMarketer is reporting for overall smartphone usage. What this means: Using digital assistants is becoming more and more common. It’s no longer an edge case.

More importantly, voice searches done on the search engines can often have PPC ads in the resultant SERPs — as you’ll see in my examples below.

Why a PPC test?

It’s easier to get started by testing voice search via PPC since you can get more detailed reporting across multiple levels.

I would recommend taking a teeny-tiny budget — even $50 is often good enough — and putting it toward a voice search test. (Don’t fret, SEOs, I do have some tips in here for you as well.)

Before we start…

Here’s a quick reminder of how voice searches differ from text searches:

  1. Voice has longer queries
  2. Natural language means more question phrases
  3. Natural language reveals intent clearly
  4. Voice search has high local value
  5. And greatly impacts third-party listings

You can read about it in more detail in my previous Moz article on the subject.


Let’s get cooking!

Step 1: See what, if any, voice activity exists for you currently

Goal: Find out what voice-related activity exists by identifying Assumed Voice Queries.

Estimated time needed: 30 min

Tools needed: Search Query Reports (SQRs) and Excel

A good place to start is by identifying how your audience is currently using voice to interact with you. In order to do this, we’ll need to look for what we can term “assumed voice queries.”

Sidebar: What are Assumed Voice Queries?

Since the search engines do not currently provide separate detailed reporting on voice queries, we can instead use the core characteristics of these queries to identify them. The subtle difference between keyboard search and voice search is “whom” people think they are interacting with.

In the case of keyboard search, the search box clearly ties to a machine. Searchers input logical keywords they think will give them the best search results. They generally leave out filler words, such as “the,” “of,” “a,” and “and.” They also tend not to use question words; for example, “bicycle store,” rather than “what is a bicycle store?”

But when a searcher uses voice search, he is not using a keyboard. It’s more like he’s talking to an actual human. You wouldn’t say to a person “bicycle store.” You might say: “Hey Cortana, what is the best place to buy a bicycle near me?”

The key difference between text and voice search is that voice queries will be full thoughts, structured the way people speak, i.e. long-tailed queries in natural language. Voice searches tend to be approximately 4.2 words or longer on average, according to research from both Google and Microsoft Cortana.

Thus, assumed voice queries would be keywords that fit in with these types of queries: longer and looking like natural language.

Caveat: This isn’t going to be 100% accurate, of course, but it’s a good place to start for now.

Even just eight months ago, things were fairly black and white. Some clients would have assumed voice queries while others didn’t. Lately, however, I’m seeing that most clients I look at have some element of assumed voice queries, indicative of how the market is growing.

Okay, back to step 1

a.) Start by downloading your search term report from within your Bing Ads or Google AdWords account. This is also commonly referred to as the search query report. You want to run this for at least the past 30 or 60 days (depending on volume). If you don’t have a PPC account, you can pull your search term report from Google Search Console or Bing Webmaster Tools.

2_SQR.png

b.) Open it up in Excel, so we can get sorting.

3_Excel sheet.png

c.) Sort the columns to just the essentials. I usually keep only the search term, as well as the impression columns. For larger accounts, you may prefer to leave on the campaign and ad group name columns as well.

4_SortColumns.png

d.) Sort by query length to isolate the search queries that are 5+ keywords in length — I’m going with 5 here simply to increase the odds that these would be assumed voice queries. A simple Excel formula — taught to me by my colleague John Gagnon—- can help count the number of words:

5_Formula.png

Replace A1 with the actual cell number of your search term, and then drag that formula down the sheet. Here it becomes C2 instead of A1:

6_formulainaction.png

e.) Calculate and sort, first by query length and then by impressions to find the assumed voice search queries with the most impressions. The result? You’ll get your final list — success!

7_finallist.png


Step 2: Extrapolate, theme, sort

Goal: Find additional keywords that could be missing and organize the list based on intent.

Estimated time needed: 45 min

Tools needed: Keyword tools of choice and Excel

Now that you can see the assumed voice queries, you’ll have handy insights into your customer’s motivation. You know what your audience is searching for, and also important, what they are not searching for.

Next, we need to build upon this list of keywords to find high-value potential queries we should add to our list. There are several helpful tools for this, such as Keyword Explorer and Answer the Public.

a.) Go to the keyword research tool of your choice. In this example, I’ve used SEMRush. Notice how they provide data on organic and paid search for our subject area of “buy (a) bicycle.”

8_SEMRUSH.png

b.) Next, let’s see what exists in question form. For any given subject area, the customer could have myriad questions along the spectrum of motivation. This output comes from a query on Answer the Public for “buy a bicycle,” showing the what, when, where, why, and how questions that actually express motivational intent:

9_answer the publix.png

c.) These questions can now be sorted by degree of intent.

  • Is the searcher asking a fact-based question, looking for background information?
  • Are they farther along the process, looking at varieties of the product?
  • Are they approaching making a purchase decision, doing comparison shopping?
  • Are they ready to buy?

Knowing the stage of the process the customer is in can help tailor relevant suggestions, since we can identify core themes and sort by intent. My brilliant colleague Julie Dilleman likes to prepare a chart such as this one, to more effectively visualize the groupings:

10_Intentsort.png

d.) Use a research tool such as Bing Ads Intelligence or your demographic reports in Google Analytics to answer core questions related to these keywords, such as:

  • What’s the searcher age and gender breakdown for these queries?
  • Which device is dominating?
  • Which locations are most popular?

These insights are eminently actionable in terms of bid modifications, as well as in guiding us to create effective ad copy.


Step 3: Start optimizing campaigns

Goal: Review competitive landscape and plan campaign optimizations.

Estimated time needed: 75 min

Tools needed: PPC account, NAP listings, Schema markup

To get the lay of the land, we need to look at what shows up for these searches in the voice platforms with visual interfaces — i.e., the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) and Digital Personal Assistants — to see what type of results show up. Does the search provide map listings and reviews? Where are they pulling the data from? Are ads showing?

a.) Run searches across multiple platforms. In my example, I am using Siri, Google app and Cortana on my desktop.

Near me-type searches:

12_NearME.png

These all had map listings in common — Apple maps, Google maps, and Bing maps, respectively.

Research-type queries:

13_Research.png

Siri got it wrong and led me to a store, while both Google and Bing Ads provided me with SERPs to answer my question.

Quick answer-type queries:

While Siri pulled up multiple results from a Bing search, both Google and Cortana found what they considered to be the most helpful answer and read them aloud to me while also providing the option for looking at additional results.

14_quickanswer.png

b.) Optimize your NAPs. Make sure you have listings that have an accurate name, address, phone number, and open hours on the top business listings such as Apple Maps, Google My Business, and Bing Places for Business.

15_NAP.png

c.) Ensure you have proper Schema markup on your site. The more information you can provide to the search engines, the more effectively they can rank and display your site. Be sure to add in:

  • Contact info
  • Reviews
  • Articles/Events/Content

d.) Optimize your PPC campaigns.

  1. Choose a small handful of voice search queries from your list across different intents.
  2. Add to new ad groups under existing campaigns. This helps you to take advantage of historical quality score benefits.
  3. Adjust bid modifiers based on your research on age, gender, and device.
  4. Adjust bids based on intent. For example, the following keywords demonstrate completely different levels of purchase intent:
    • Do I need a hybrid or mountain bike? – More research-based.
    • Who invented the bicycle? – Zero purchase intent. Add this as a negative keyword.
    • When does bike store XYZ open today? – High likelihood to purchase. Bid up.

Step 4: Be the best answer

Goal: Serve the right message at the right time in the right place.

Estimated time needed: 60 min

Tools needed: Creativity and Excel

Make sure you have the relevant ad for the query. Relevance is critical — the results must be useful or they won’t be used.

Do you have the right extensions to tailor toward the motivational intent noted above and the consumer’s ultimate goal? Make it easy for customers to get what they want without confusion.

Voice searches cover a variety of different intents, so it’s important to ensure the ad in your test will align well with the intent of the query. Let’s consider this example:

If the search query is “what’s the best waterproof digital camera under $500?” then your ad should only talk about digital cameras that are waterproof and around the $500 range. Doing this helps make it more seamless for the customer since the selections steps along the way are much reduced.

A few additional tips and ideas:

a.) Voice searches seem to frequently trigger product listing ads (PLAs) from the search engines, which makes sense since the images make them easier to sort through:

16a_Goog.png16b_Bing.png

If you can but haven’t already done so, look at setting up Shopping Campaigns within your PPC accounts, even just for your top-selling products.

b.) For results when the SERPs come up, be sure to use ad extensions to provide additional information to your target audience. Consider location, contact, conversion, and app information that is relevant. They make it easy for customers to find the info they need.

17_extensions.png

c.) Check citations and reviews to ensure you’re showing up at your best. If reviews are unfavorable, consider implementing reputation management efforts.

18_citations.png

d.) Work to earn more featured snippets, since the search engines often will read them out as the top answer. Dr. Pete has some excellent tips in this Moz article.

e.) Your helpful content will come to excellent use with voice search — share it as a PPC ad for the higher-funnel assumed voice queries to help your test.

19_SEOContent.png

f.) Video has been getting much attention — and rightly so! Given the increased engagement it can provide, as well as its ability to stand out in the SERPs, consider offering video content (as extensions or regular content) for relevant assumed voice queries.

20a_Goog.png20b_Bing.png


Step 5: Analyze. Rinse. Repeat.

Goal: Review performance and determine next steps.

Estimated time needed: 60 min

Tools needed: Analytics and Excel

Here’s where the power of PPC can shine. We can review reporting across multiple dimensions to gauge how the test is performing.

Quick note: It may take several weeks to gather enough data to run meaningful reports. Remember that voice search volume is small, though significant.

a.) First, determine the right KPIs. For example,

  • Lower-funnel content will, of course, have the most conversion-specific goals that we’re used to.
  • Research-type queries will need to be measured by micro-conversions and different KPIs such as form fills, video views, and leads generated.

b.) Pull the right reports. Helpful reports include:

  • The keyword performance report will show you the impressions, clicks, CTR, quality score, conversions, and much more about each individual keyword within your campaigns. Use the keyword report to find out which keywords are triggering your ads, generating clicks, and leading to conversions. You can also identify keywords that are not performing well to determine whether you want to delete them.
  • Ad performance reports show you the impressions, clicks, spend, and conversions for each ad. Use this report to help you determine which ads are leading to the most clicks and conversions, and which are not performing. Remember, having underperforming ads in your campaigns can pull down the quality of your campaign.
  • Filter by device and by demographics. This combination telling us what devices are dominating and who is converting can help us to adjust bids and create more effective ad copy.
  • Create a campaign report looking at your PLA performance. Do tweaks or major overhauls to close gaps versus your expectations.

c.) Determine where you can personalize further. AgilOne research indicates that “more than 70% of consumers expect a personalized experience with the brands they interact with.”

21_personalized.png

Carefully pairing the the most ad messaging with each assumed voice query is incredibly important here.


Let’s recap

Step 1. See what, if any, voice activity exists for you currently.

Step 2. Extrapolate. Theme. Sort.

Step 3. Start optimizing campaigns.

Step 4: Be the best answer.

Step 5. Analyze. Rinse. Repeat.

Pretty do-able, right?

It’s relatively simple and definitely affordable. Spend four or five hours completing your own voice search test. It can open up worlds of opportunity for your business. It’s best to start testing now while there’s no fire under us and we can test things out in a low-risk environment — an ideal way to get a leg-up over the competition. Bon appétit!

Have you tried some other tests to address voice search queries? Please do share in the comments below.

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

Posted by purna_v

I was conned into my love of cooking by my husband.

Never having set foot in the kitchen until the grand old age of 22, my husband (then boyfriend) — a former chef — said he’d teach me some simple recipes. I somewhat enjoyed the process but very much enjoyed the lavish praise he’d bestow upon me when eating whatever I whipped up.

Highly encouraged that I seemingly had an innate culinary genius, I looked to grow my repertoire of recipes. As a novice, I found recipe books inspiring but confusing. For example, a recipe that called for cooked chicken made me wonder how on Earth I was meant to cook the chicken to get cooked chicken.

Luckily, I discovered the life-changing power of fully illustrated, step-by-step recipes.

Empowered by the clear direction they provided, I conquered cuisine after cuisine and have since turned into a confident cook. It took me only a few months to realize all that praise was simply a ruse to have me do most of the cooking. But by then I was hooked.

When it comes to voice search, I’ve talked and written a lot about the subject over the past year. Each time, the question I get asked is “What’s the best way to start?”

Today I’ll share with you an easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide to empower you to create your own voice search test. It’s sure to become one of your favorite recipes in coming months as conversational interfaces continue their rapid adoption rate.

Testing voice search? But it’s not monetized.

That’s correct. It’s not monetized as of yet. However, the usage rates have been growing exponentially. Already search engines are reporting that:

  • One out of ten searches are voice (per Baidu)
  • Twenty percent of all mobile Android searches are voice (Google)
  • Usage spans all age ranges, as we discovered at Cortana (which is owned by Microsoft, my employer):

1_Cortana.png

With Cortana being integrated into Windows 10, what we’re seeing is that age range demographics are now comparable to what eMarketer is reporting for overall smartphone usage. What this means: Using digital assistants is becoming more and more common. It’s no longer an edge case.

More importantly, voice searches done on the search engines can often have PPC ads in the resultant SERPs — as you’ll see in my examples below.

Why a PPC test?

It’s easier to get started by testing voice search via PPC since you can get more detailed reporting across multiple levels.

I would recommend taking a teeny-tiny budget — even $50 is often good enough — and putting it toward a voice search test. (Don’t fret, SEOs, I do have some tips in here for you as well.)

Before we start…

Here’s a quick reminder of how voice searches differ from text searches:

  1. Voice has longer queries
  2. Natural language means more question phrases
  3. Natural language reveals intent clearly
  4. Voice search has high local value
  5. And greatly impacts third-party listings

You can read about it in more detail in my previous Moz article on the subject.


Let’s get cooking!

Step 1: See what, if any, voice activity exists for you currently

Goal: Find out what voice-related activity exists by identifying Assumed Voice Queries.

Estimated time needed: 30 min

Tools needed: Search Query Reports (SQRs) and Excel

A good place to start is by identifying how your audience is currently using voice to interact with you. In order to do this, we’ll need to look for what we can term “assumed voice queries.”

Sidebar: What are Assumed Voice Queries?

Since the search engines do not currently provide separate detailed reporting on voice queries, we can instead use the core characteristics of these queries to identify them. The subtle difference between keyboard search and voice search is “whom” people think they are interacting with.

In the case of keyboard search, the search box clearly ties to a machine. Searchers input logical keywords they think will give them the best search results. They generally leave out filler words, such as “the,” “of,” “a,” and “and.” They also tend not to use question words; for example, “bicycle store,” rather than “what is a bicycle store?”

But when a searcher uses voice search, he is not using a keyboard. It’s more like he’s talking to an actual human. You wouldn’t say to a person “bicycle store.” You might say: “Hey Cortana, what is the best place to buy a bicycle near me?”

The key difference between text and voice search is that voice queries will be full thoughts, structured the way people speak, i.e. long-tailed queries in natural language. Voice searches tend to be approximately 4.2 words or longer on average, according to research from both Google and Microsoft Cortana.

Thus, assumed voice queries would be keywords that fit in with these types of queries: longer and looking like natural language.

Caveat: This isn’t going to be 100% accurate, of course, but it’s a good place to start for now.

Even just eight months ago, things were fairly black and white. Some clients would have assumed voice queries while others didn’t. Lately, however, I’m seeing that most clients I look at have some element of assumed voice queries, indicative of how the market is growing.

Okay, back to step 1

a.) Start by downloading your search term report from within your Bing Ads or Google AdWords account. This is also commonly referred to as the search query report. You want to run this for at least the past 30 or 60 days (depending on volume). If you don’t have a PPC account, you can pull your search term report from Google Search Console or Bing Webmaster Tools.

2_SQR.png

b.) Open it up in Excel, so we can get sorting.

3_Excel sheet.png

c.) Sort the columns to just the essentials. I usually keep only the search term, as well as the impression columns. For larger accounts, you may prefer to leave on the campaign and ad group name columns as well.

4_SortColumns.png

d.) Sort by query length to isolate the search queries that are 5+ keywords in length — I’m going with 5 here simply to increase the odds that these would be assumed voice queries. A simple Excel formula — taught to me by my colleague John Gagnon—- can help count the number of words:

5_Formula.png

Replace A1 with the actual cell number of your search term, and then drag that formula down the sheet. Here it becomes C2 instead of A1:

6_formulainaction.png

e.) Calculate and sort, first by query length and then by impressions to find the assumed voice search queries with the most impressions. The result? You’ll get your final list — success!

7_finallist.png


Step 2: Extrapolate, theme, sort

Goal: Find additional keywords that could be missing and organize the list based on intent.

Estimated time needed: 45 min

Tools needed: Keyword tools of choice and Excel

Now that you can see the assumed voice queries, you’ll have handy insights into your customer’s motivation. You know what your audience is searching for, and also important, what they are not searching for.

Next, we need to build upon this list of keywords to find high-value potential queries we should add to our list. There are several helpful tools for this, such as Keyword Explorer and Answer the Public.

a.) Go to the keyword research tool of your choice. In this example, I’ve used SEMRush. Notice how they provide data on organic and paid search for our subject area of “buy (a) bicycle.”

8_SEMRUSH.png

b.) Next, let’s see what exists in question form. For any given subject area, the customer could have myriad questions along the spectrum of motivation. This output comes from a query on Answer the Public for “buy a bicycle,” showing the what, when, where, why, and how questions that actually express motivational intent:

9_answer the publix.png

c.) These questions can now be sorted by degree of intent.

  • Is the searcher asking a fact-based question, looking for background information?
  • Are they farther along the process, looking at varieties of the product?
  • Are they approaching making a purchase decision, doing comparison shopping?
  • Are they ready to buy?

Knowing the stage of the process the customer is in can help tailor relevant suggestions, since we can identify core themes and sort by intent. My brilliant colleague Julie Dilleman likes to prepare a chart such as this one, to more effectively visualize the groupings:

10_Intentsort.png

d.) Use a research tool such as Bing Ads Intelligence or your demographic reports in Google Analytics to answer core questions related to these keywords, such as:

  • What’s the searcher age and gender breakdown for these queries?
  • Which device is dominating?
  • Which locations are most popular?

These insights are eminently actionable in terms of bid modifications, as well as in guiding us to create effective ad copy.


Step 3: Start optimizing campaigns

Goal: Review competitive landscape and plan campaign optimizations.

Estimated time needed: 75 min

Tools needed: PPC account, NAP listings, Schema markup

To get the lay of the land, we need to look at what shows up for these searches in the voice platforms with visual interfaces — i.e., the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) and Digital Personal Assistants — to see what type of results show up. Does the search provide map listings and reviews? Where are they pulling the data from? Are ads showing?

a.) Run searches across multiple platforms. In my example, I am using Siri, Google app and Cortana on my desktop.

Near me-type searches:

12_NearME.png

These all had map listings in common — Apple maps, Google maps, and Bing maps, respectively.

Research-type queries:

13_Research.png

Siri got it wrong and led me to a store, while both Google and Bing Ads provided me with SERPs to answer my question.

Quick answer-type queries:

While Siri pulled up multiple results from a Bing search, both Google and Cortana found what they considered to be the most helpful answer and read them aloud to me while also providing the option for looking at additional results.

14_quickanswer.png

b.) Optimize your NAPs. Make sure you have listings that have an accurate name, address, phone number, and open hours on the top business listings such as Apple Maps, Google My Business, and Bing Places for Business.

15_NAP.png

c.) Ensure you have proper Schema markup on your site. The more information you can provide to the search engines, the more effectively they can rank and display your site. Be sure to add in:

  • Contact info
  • Reviews
  • Articles/Events/Content

d.) Optimize your PPC campaigns.

  1. Choose a small handful of voice search queries from your list across different intents.
  2. Add to new ad groups under existing campaigns. This helps you to take advantage of historical quality score benefits.
  3. Adjust bid modifiers based on your research on age, gender, and device.
  4. Adjust bids based on intent. For example, the following keywords demonstrate completely different levels of purchase intent:
    • Do I need a hybrid or mountain bike? – More research-based.
    • Who invented the bicycle? – Zero purchase intent. Add this as a negative keyword.
    • When does bike store XYZ open today? – High likelihood to purchase. Bid up.

Step 4: Be the best answer

Goal: Serve the right message at the right time in the right place.

Estimated time needed: 60 min

Tools needed: Creativity and Excel

Make sure you have the relevant ad for the query. Relevance is critical — the results must be useful or they won’t be used.

Do you have the right extensions to tailor toward the motivational intent noted above and the consumer’s ultimate goal? Make it easy for customers to get what they want without confusion.

Voice searches cover a variety of different intents, so it’s important to ensure the ad in your test will align well with the intent of the query. Let’s consider this example:

If the search query is “what’s the best waterproof digital camera under $500?” then your ad should only talk about digital cameras that are waterproof and around the $500 range. Doing this helps make it more seamless for the customer since the selections steps along the way are much reduced.

A few additional tips and ideas:

a.) Voice searches seem to frequently trigger product listing ads (PLAs) from the search engines, which makes sense since the images make them easier to sort through:

16a_Goog.png16b_Bing.png

If you can but haven’t already done so, look at setting up Shopping Campaigns within your PPC accounts, even just for your top-selling products.

b.) For results when the SERPs come up, be sure to use ad extensions to provide additional information to your target audience. Consider location, contact, conversion, and app information that is relevant. They make it easy for customers to find the info they need.

17_extensions.png

c.) Check citations and reviews to ensure you’re showing up at your best. If reviews are unfavorable, consider implementing reputation management efforts.

18_citations.png

d.) Work to earn more featured snippets, since the search engines often will read them out as the top answer. Dr. Pete has some excellent tips in this Moz article.

e.) Your helpful content will come to excellent use with voice search — share it as a PPC ad for the higher-funnel assumed voice queries to help your test.

19_SEOContent.png

f.) Video has been getting much attention — and rightly so! Given the increased engagement it can provide, as well as its ability to stand out in the SERPs, consider offering video content (as extensions or regular content) for relevant assumed voice queries.

20a_Goog.png20b_Bing.png


Step 5: Analyze. Rinse. Repeat.

Goal: Review performance and determine next steps.

Estimated time needed: 60 min

Tools needed: Analytics and Excel

Here’s where the power of PPC can shine. We can review reporting across multiple dimensions to gauge how the test is performing.

Quick note: It may take several weeks to gather enough data to run meaningful reports. Remember that voice search volume is small, though significant.

a.) First, determine the right KPIs. For example,

  • Lower-funnel content will, of course, have the most conversion-specific goals that we’re used to.
  • Research-type queries will need to be measured by micro-conversions and different KPIs such as form fills, video views, and leads generated.

b.) Pull the right reports. Helpful reports include:

  • The keyword performance report will show you the impressions, clicks, CTR, quality score, conversions, and much more about each individual keyword within your campaigns. Use the keyword report to find out which keywords are triggering your ads, generating clicks, and leading to conversions. You can also identify keywords that are not performing well to determine whether you want to delete them.
  • Ad performance reports show you the impressions, clicks, spend, and conversions for each ad. Use this report to help you determine which ads are leading to the most clicks and conversions, and which are not performing. Remember, having underperforming ads in your campaigns can pull down the quality of your campaign.
  • Filter by device and by demographics. This combination telling us what devices are dominating and who is converting can help us to adjust bids and create more effective ad copy.
  • Create a campaign report looking at your PLA performance. Do tweaks or major overhauls to close gaps versus your expectations.

c.) Determine where you can personalize further. AgilOne research indicates that “more than 70% of consumers expect a personalized experience with the brands they interact with.”

21_personalized.png

Carefully pairing the the most ad messaging with each assumed voice query is incredibly important here.


Let’s recap

Step 1. See what, if any, voice activity exists for you currently.

Step 2. Extrapolate. Theme. Sort.

Step 3. Start optimizing campaigns.

Step 4: Be the best answer.

Step 5. Analyze. Rinse. Repeat.

Pretty do-able, right?

It’s relatively simple and definitely affordable. Spend four or five hours completing your own voice search test. It can open up worlds of opportunity for your business. It’s best to start testing now while there’s no fire under us and we can test things out in a low-risk environment — an ideal way to get a leg-up over the competition. Bon appétit!

Have you tried some other tests to address voice search queries? Please do share in the comments below.

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

5 Email Marketing Problems (And How to Fix Them)

Did you know the average person receives 121 emails per day? According to the blog, 11 downright spooky email marketing stats on MyEmma.com, that’s more than enough competition to deal with when you’re competing for someone’s clicks. So, let’s pretend your subject lines are stellar, your content is always first-rate, and people are clicking your calls to action like they can’t get enough of your information. Maybe we don’t even have to pretend. Maybe you are on point and your email marketing is kicking…well, you get the picture. That all… Read More

The post 5 Email Marketing Problems (And How to Fix Them) appeared first on Webolutions.

Did you know the average person receives 121 emails per day? According to the blog, 11 downright spooky email marketing stats on MyEmma.com, that’s more than enough competition to deal with when you’re competing for someone’s clicks. So, let’s pretend your subject lines are stellar, your content is always first-rate, and people are clicking your calls to action like they can’t get enough of your information. Maybe we don’t even have to pretend. Maybe you are on point and your email marketing is kicking…well, you get the picture. That all… Read More

The post 5 Email Marketing Problems (And How to Fix Them) appeared first on Webolutions.

Helpful Tips for Doing Search in a Low-Volume Niche

Posted by Jeremy_Gottlieb

SEO — you know, that thing you do whereby everyone and their mother will find your site on the web. Easy, right? “Can you SEO this page for me?” or “We’re about to launch a webinar. Can you SEO-ify it, please?” I’m sure most of you reading this can probably relate to these types of questions and the ensuing pressure from bosses or clients. If you’re lucky, you work in a realm where there’s plenty of search volume to chase, featured snippets to occupy, and answer boxes to solve. But what about those who work in the low-search volume niches typically seen in B2B, or with companies pioneering a new product or service that no one really knows about yet (so they obviously can’t be searching for it)?

This blog post is for you, the digital marketer who toils and struggles to drive search visibility where there hardly is any. Let’s get to work.

Search, as I’ll refer to it here, includes both paid and organic. Neither of these may ultimately be the best channel for your organization, but after reading this post, hopefully you’ll be able to verify whether your search channels are humming along and working harmoniously, while leaving other sources of user acquisition to bear the brunt of the load. Three topics I will cover in this post are SEO, paid search, and CRO, but please keep in mind: these are not the only possible digital marketing actions that can be done for an organization in a low-search volume niche. This is just a glimpse into what may be possible, and hopefully it can spark inspiration for you or your client in ways you’d either forgotten about or hadn’t thought of. Whether you’re just starting out in digital marketing or you’ve been around for a while, I hope this will be able to provide some direction.

1. SEO

Sometimes I think of SEO as a skyscraper, though this may just be because I’m surrounded by them in Distilled’s New York City office (come join us!). In order to reach greater heights via SEO, you need to make sure the foundation of your building is in order. And what I mean by “foundation” is the technical structure of your site. Things that you’d want to check will include:

  • Is the link profile clean?
  • Does the site have strong internal linking?
    • Do pages get created and then fall into a black hole?
  • Can search engines crawl the site?
    • Are there noindex, robots.txt, canonical, or other tags that hide desired content from being ranked?
  • Has the site been hacked?
  • Are there descriptive and unique title tags and meta descriptions?
  • Is tracking set up properly (i.e. Google Analytics)?
  • Does the site appear trustworthy and authoritative?

Targeting transactional queries

Once the foundation is in order, it’s time to begin the keyword research. Establish which queries are most vital to the organization, how much search volume they have, and which ones are most likely to yield conversions, whatever that means to the organization. With your foundation in order, you can take the most important queries and try to match them to existing pages on the site, such as the homepage and key product/services pages. It may turn out that the queries an organization should be targeting don’t have pages available yet. That’s okay — you’ll just need to create them. I generally recommend that shorter-tail queries (two or three words) be targeted by primarily by product or service pages, with longer queries either handled by those very pages or by a Q&A section and/or a blog. This is just one way to handle a hierarchy and avoids a cluttered navigation with hundreds of long-tail queries and content, though it is by no means a rule.

Targeting higher-funnel queries

Once the key queries have been locked down and the content plan created, we can move on to more informational queries. It’s very likely that these more higher-part-of-the-funnel queries will require content that’s less sales-y and will be more informational, making desired conversions (like consultation signups) less likely from this crowd, at least on the first interaction. You’ll need to build strong content that answers the users’ queries and establishes the organization as thought leaders and experts at all levels of a particular niche.

Let’s say, for example, we’re responsible for driving traffic for an organization that allows people to invest in solar energy. Lots of people buy stocks and bonds and real estate, but how many invest in solar energy or power purchase agreements? Transactional-type queries, those most likely to provide us with customers, don’t get searched all that much.

Now, let’s take a look at some longer-tail queries that are tangentially related to our main offering:

These queries clearly have more search volume, but appear to be more informational. “CSR” (in the above example) most often means “corporate social responsibility,” a term frequently aligned with impact investing, where investments not only are expected to produce financial returns, but have a positive social effect as well. From these queries we’d be able to help provide proof to users and search engines that the organization is indeed an expert in the particular realm of solar energy and investing. Our desired audience may come to us with different initial intents, but we can begin to funnel people down the path towards eventually becoming clients.

As will be discussed further in this post, the point here is to drive traffic organically, even if that very traffic is unlikely to convert. With optimizations to the content, we’ll be able to solicit emails and try to drive visitors further into the funnel, but first we just need to make sure that we’re enhancing our visibility and driving more unpaid traffic.

Key tips:

  • Target transactional queries with pages optimized for the ideal conversion
  • Target informational queries and modify pages to push the user deeper into the funnel towards more transactional pages
    • If a blog is perceived as a waste of resources and useless traffic, it’s probably not being fully leveraged

2. Paid search

Oftentimes, organizations will use SEO and paid search for their user acquisition, but will silo the two channels so that they don’t work together. Simply put, this is a mistake. Using paid spend for Google or Bing Adwords in conjunction with an organization’s SEO efforts will assist the company’s bottom line.

Get your tracking right

When beginning a paid campaign, it’s absolutely vital to set up tracking properly from the beginning. Do not miss this step. Without setting up tracking properly, it will be impossible to tie back conversions to paid and organic and see their relationship. If you already have paid attribution set up, double-check to ensure that there’s no double counting from having multiple GA tracking snippets, or if you’re using a landing page generator like Unbounce or HubSpot, that you’ve added in tracking on those platforms. Sometimes when using landing page generator tools (like HubSpot), you might elect to have an in-line thank you section display instead of redirecting someone to an external link. If you use an in-line thank you, the URL will not change and will make tracking more difficult in Google Analytics. This is not impossible to get around (events tracking can do the trick), but is something to keep in mind.

Bid on your money keywords

Without getting too fancy, a very important next step is to identify the transactional, important keywords — the ones that might be costly to buy, but that are worth the spend. Waiting for results from organic search or for the different channels to successfully harmonize may take longer than a boss or C-suite might be willing to wait for, so getting results directly from traditional paid search will require a strong setup from the get-go.

The magic of RLSA

Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSAs) allow organizations to remarket to specific people who have visited a specific page on their site, either by bidding on keywords one typically wouldn’t bid on, or by altering the bid up or down. This doesn’t create new traffic; it only displays to those who have visited your site in the past. The magic of this is that when done properly, you can potentially achieve lower cost-per-clicks and conversions, as the audience seeing these ads is already familiar with your brand.

Let’s use, for example, the strategy of creating content around “what are alternative investments?” or “how to invest responsibly?”. These would be informational-level queries, representing topics people would like to investigate further. While the ideal scenario for our business would be that everyone would automatically want to invest with us, we know this isn’t likely to be the typical case. Instead, we’ll use organic search to earn traffic from less competitive, informational queries, and use RLSA to bid on queries that would ordinarily be too competitive for us, like “investing” or “how to start investing.” By using pixels and remarketing to anyone who visited our “what are alternative investments” page, we know that the person is more familiar with us and we can try to bid on broader queries that may have been either too expensive for us in the first place, or unlikely to generate conversions. In this case, because the user is already familiar with the brand, it can lead to higher click-through and conversion rates.

Much has already been written about RLSA strategies, so for more information you can begin here:

Advanced remarketing

Another option is to create more informational content for queries that are less competitive than some other terms, but that also isn’t as likely to get people to convert when they visit (i.e. most blog content). Let’s say that our blog captures email addresses, either through forms, popups, or some other means. With our captured emails, we’d be able to build an email list and submit it to Adwords, then target people in Google Search, Gmail, and YouTube. We can target existing users (people aligned with a particular email) or people who are similar to the audience and share similar web habits. With this tool, we can expand our potential audience.

If one were to run broad-match search ads against a general population (not one that had been cookied by a site), it would likely get very expensive very quickly and would be likely to have low conversion rates. Using broad match with RLSAs is a smart approach that mitigates the risk of complete budget destruction from people with little intent to convert, while allowing organizations to see what people are searching for; it can be an extremely powerful tool for keyword discovery.

By using broad search and RLSAs, your organization will be able to find out faster what people are actually searching for. Any keywords that cost money but that aren’t relevant or aren’t converting can be added to a negative keyword filter. Ones that are valuable should be added to exact match and, depending on the keyword, may be worthy of having content developed for it so that traffic can be captured without paying for each individual click.

Key tips:

  • Make sure tracking is properly set up
  • Ensure you’re bidding on transactional queries
  • Landing pages MUST have a clear goal and be optimized for one desired conversion
  • RLSAs can be used for keyword discovery and may enable you to bid on more transactional, generally competitive keywords

3. CRO

It’s not uncommon for organizations operating in low-search volume niches to also have fairly long sales cycles. The endgame of what we’re trying to accomplish here is to drive people from an informational mindset to a transactional mindset. We’re operating under the assumption that there are few searches for the service or good we’re trying to provide, so we’re going to get people to our service or good via the backdoor. The way we’ll do this is by guiding people from content that speaks to an informational query to our conversion pages.

To be clear, getting the ultimate conversion on our site might not require sending someone to a product page. It’s totally possible that someone may be interested in our ultimate goal after having landed on a tangentially-related page.

Let’s use the example again of the solar energy investment company. We’ll say that our ultimate goal is to get people to open an account where they actually invest in a power purchase agreement (PPA). Understanding what a PPA is isn’t important, but what should be conveyed is that getting anyone to actually spend money and link a bank account to the site is not a simple task. There’s friction — people need to trust that they won’t be robbed, that their financial information will be protected, and that their money is actually going where they expect it to go. Knowing that there’s friction in the funnel, we’re likely going to need multiple points of engagement with the potential client and will need to provide information and trust signals along the way to answer their questions.

Hunting microconversions

That said, our first goal should be to optimize and provide high-quality landing pages for the person who searches “solar energy investment.” Once we handle that low-hanging fruit, we need to move on to the tangential queries, like “what are the advantages of solar energy?”. Within this page, we should frame the benefits of solar energy and use multiple call-to-actions or banners to persuade someone to learn more about how to invest in solar energy. It’s totally plausible that someone who searches for “what are the advantages of solar energy?” has no interest in investing whatsoever and will leave the page as soon as their question is deemed answered. It’s also possible that they never even make it to the landing page itself because the Google SERP has answered the question for them:

We can’t be scared of this tactic just because Google is stealing content and placing the information within the search results. Featured snippets still have very high click-through rates (meaning users still visit that content) and we don’t know which queries will trigger featured snippets tomorrow or in six months from now. All we can do is create the best content for users’ queries.

For the visitors who are interested in the potential of solar energy investment, there are several ways that we can keep them engaged:

  1. Email capture popups
    1. This can be done via time-elapsed or exit intent versions
  2. Static or sticky call-to-actions (for products, demos, or email capture) either within the content or adjacent to the text in right or left-hand rails

AMP to accelerate traffic growth

Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) are one of my favorite SERP enhancements that Google has made in the past few years. As a quick reminder, AMP provide cached, streamlined HTML that makes loading pages on mobile crazy-fast. AMP pages also show a little lightning bolt icon in the SERPs; eventually this will condition users that any page without a lightning bolt will be slow. They don’t allow for interstitials or popups, and even have their own area within search results. Google is heavily investing in this space and is incentivizing publishers to do so as well. Creating AMP variations of your organization’s content can be a strong idea for driving more web traffic, but it can come with some potential pitfalls that you should be aware of.

Tracking

AMP pages require their own Google Analytics tracking and it does not come standard. If you use a CMS or GTM that automatically places GA tracking code within the head, you will not automatically be covered with AMP pages. Make sure you set up tracking properly.

No popups

I just mentioned that email capture popups are a great way to ensure multiple points of engagement with users who otherwise may have just visited a particular site one time. By capturing emails, you can doing remarketing, send product emails, keep people apprised of updates with your organization, and create similar audiences, among other benefits as well. However, once you create AMP and they begin to replace your m. or responsive pages on mobile within the search results, your popups will no longer appear. While you won’t be able to get the true functionality of popups, a suitable workaround is to add email form capture in-line within your AMP content:

form-error.gif

When it comes to CRO for pages that receive organic traffic, it’s not the end of the world if a person doesn’t undertake an action; we’re not paying for them. Just by visiting our page, we can cookie them and remarket to them on search and other paid channels like Facebook and Twitter. We’ve extracted value from our visitors and they don’t even know it.

On the other hand, when a visitor arrives via paid search, we need to be doing everything in our power to make sure that the person undertakes a desired action. That desired action could be providing an email in exchange for a download, scheduling a consultation, purchasing a product, or providing other information. It bears repeating, though: if you’re paying for clicks and have not made a concerted effort to design your landing page in such a way that users are most likely to undertake the desired action, you’re wasting money. I do not claim that there is some sort of silver bullet that will work across every single niche and every single audience for every single product. Using a gated landing page for one client may work best for some, while soliciting user information via a form might work best for another. The only way to know is to test and see how users interact.

Key tips:

  • Some ultimate conversions have a lot of friction; don’t shy away from microconversions
  • If you already get traffic and it “doesn’t convert,” think critically about how it would be possible to re-engage with those users or what they might feel comfortable providing you with at their level of interest
  • AMP pages need separate GA tracking and do not allow popups

Tying it all together

Let’s recap this. When an organization cannot bank on a large enough search volume in its particular niche to provide the necessary runway for growth, it needs to think creatively about how to best harmonize organic and paid search channels. Truthfully, all organizations (regardless of the size of the search volume in their niche) should do this, but it’s particularly important in low-search volume niches because without it, growth is likely to be far slower and smaller than it could be.

For the sake of argument, we assume that the product or service doesn’t have much popularity, so we need to expand into informational queries, the topics that one would search before they know that they could use the service or product.

We need to ensure that we quickly and properly identify the transactional queries in our niche, and build pages that fulfill the intent of the user’s query. These pages should almost always have a call-to-action that allows people to take advantage of their interest immediately.

However, we’re looking for growth, so we need to think even bigger. We need to provide content for the people who are searching for queries that demonstrate some sort of interest in our niche, but don’t necessarily know that they want our service or product. We build out those pages, populating them with content and resources that fulfill the user’s query, but also provide calls-to-action that capture emails and/or drive users further into the funnel. People who don’t realize that they want your product or service may not react well to hard sells and high barriers to entry. Asking for an email address can be far more palatable and keep the conversation going.

If using AMP pages to gain more visibility, make sure that you have properly set up Google Analytics first and have added in email form captures at different points within the content, not just at the end — most of your readers won’t make it there. Depending on what our strategy is, we may also want to begin cookie-ing users for remarketing.

When using paid search, as with organic search, we need to make sure that we’re properly targeting the transactional queries we need — the ones where people are most likely to undertake a desired action. By using RLSAs we can also potentially bid on more generic, short-tail queries that might have yielded low conversion rates if we were to have exposed them to the broader Internet community at large, but could prove very successful if we only show them to people who have visited our site or specific pages. In addition to possibly converting at a higher rate than a regular paid search campaign, RLSAs can serve as a great keyword discovery tool without completely decimating your budget.

In the vast majority of cases, traffic for traffic’s sake is useless. If your traffic doesn’t undertake the actions that you want them to, chances are it will be declared useless and investment into content creation may decrease. I’ve seen it happen. Your traffic does not need to convert via buying a product or scheduling a demo the first time they visit, but if you have microconversions (like email capture) set up, you’ll put yourself in a much better position to re-engage with your visitors, find new similar visitors, and drive more conversions.

One last nugget of wisdom from Distilled’s own Head of PPC, Rich Cotton:

The main benefit of one agency running PPC and SEO is communication; aligning marketing messages, sharing data, keeping a consistent user experience, making lines of communication for the client easier. By ensuring that your PPC and SEO teams are working together, PPC can fill gaps in SERP exposure for organic, test new copy, and share important keyword data that PPC still has control of.

Rather than competing, when drawing up attribution models, an integrated approach allows us to share the value driven and work holistically for the benefit of the client, rather than fight to prove that our channel was the more effective one. Your marketing dollars will go where they are most needed, not be argued over by inter-agency politics.

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

Posted by Jeremy_Gottlieb

SEO — you know, that thing you do whereby everyone and their mother will find your site on the web. Easy, right? “Can you SEO this page for me?” or “We’re about to launch a webinar. Can you SEO-ify it, please?” I’m sure most of you reading this can probably relate to these types of questions and the ensuing pressure from bosses or clients. If you’re lucky, you work in a realm where there’s plenty of search volume to chase, featured snippets to occupy, and answer boxes to solve. But what about those who work in the low-search volume niches typically seen in B2B, or with companies pioneering a new product or service that no one really knows about yet (so they obviously can’t be searching for it)?

This blog post is for you, the digital marketer who toils and struggles to drive search visibility where there hardly is any. Let’s get to work.

Search, as I’ll refer to it here, includes both paid and organic. Neither of these may ultimately be the best channel for your organization, but after reading this post, hopefully you’ll be able to verify whether your search channels are humming along and working harmoniously, while leaving other sources of user acquisition to bear the brunt of the load. Three topics I will cover in this post are SEO, paid search, and CRO, but please keep in mind: these are not the only possible digital marketing actions that can be done for an organization in a low-search volume niche. This is just a glimpse into what may be possible, and hopefully it can spark inspiration for you or your client in ways you’d either forgotten about or hadn’t thought of. Whether you’re just starting out in digital marketing or you’ve been around for a while, I hope this will be able to provide some direction.

1. SEO

Sometimes I think of SEO as a skyscraper, though this may just be because I’m surrounded by them in Distilled’s New York City office (come join us!). In order to reach greater heights via SEO, you need to make sure the foundation of your building is in order. And what I mean by “foundation” is the technical structure of your site. Things that you’d want to check will include:

  • Is the link profile clean?
  • Does the site have strong internal linking?
    • Do pages get created and then fall into a black hole?
  • Can search engines crawl the site?
    • Are there noindex, robots.txt, canonical, or other tags that hide desired content from being ranked?
  • Has the site been hacked?
  • Are there descriptive and unique title tags and meta descriptions?
  • Is tracking set up properly (i.e. Google Analytics)?
  • Does the site appear trustworthy and authoritative?

Targeting transactional queries

Once the foundation is in order, it’s time to begin the keyword research. Establish which queries are most vital to the organization, how much search volume they have, and which ones are most likely to yield conversions, whatever that means to the organization. With your foundation in order, you can take the most important queries and try to match them to existing pages on the site, such as the homepage and key product/services pages. It may turn out that the queries an organization should be targeting don’t have pages available yet. That’s okay — you’ll just need to create them. I generally recommend that shorter-tail queries (two or three words) be targeted by primarily by product or service pages, with longer queries either handled by those very pages or by a Q&A section and/or a blog. This is just one way to handle a hierarchy and avoids a cluttered navigation with hundreds of long-tail queries and content, though it is by no means a rule.

Targeting higher-funnel queries

Once the key queries have been locked down and the content plan created, we can move on to more informational queries. It’s very likely that these more higher-part-of-the-funnel queries will require content that’s less sales-y and will be more informational, making desired conversions (like consultation signups) less likely from this crowd, at least on the first interaction. You’ll need to build strong content that answers the users’ queries and establishes the organization as thought leaders and experts at all levels of a particular niche.

Let’s say, for example, we’re responsible for driving traffic for an organization that allows people to invest in solar energy. Lots of people buy stocks and bonds and real estate, but how many invest in solar energy or power purchase agreements? Transactional-type queries, those most likely to provide us with customers, don’t get searched all that much.

Now, let’s take a look at some longer-tail queries that are tangentially related to our main offering:

These queries clearly have more search volume, but appear to be more informational. “CSR” (in the above example) most often means “corporate social responsibility,” a term frequently aligned with impact investing, where investments not only are expected to produce financial returns, but have a positive social effect as well. From these queries we’d be able to help provide proof to users and search engines that the organization is indeed an expert in the particular realm of solar energy and investing. Our desired audience may come to us with different initial intents, but we can begin to funnel people down the path towards eventually becoming clients.

As will be discussed further in this post, the point here is to drive traffic organically, even if that very traffic is unlikely to convert. With optimizations to the content, we’ll be able to solicit emails and try to drive visitors further into the funnel, but first we just need to make sure that we’re enhancing our visibility and driving more unpaid traffic.

Key tips:

  • Target transactional queries with pages optimized for the ideal conversion
  • Target informational queries and modify pages to push the user deeper into the funnel towards more transactional pages
    • If a blog is perceived as a waste of resources and useless traffic, it’s probably not being fully leveraged

2. Paid search

Oftentimes, organizations will use SEO and paid search for their user acquisition, but will silo the two channels so that they don’t work together. Simply put, this is a mistake. Using paid spend for Google or Bing Adwords in conjunction with an organization’s SEO efforts will assist the company’s bottom line.

Get your tracking right

When beginning a paid campaign, it’s absolutely vital to set up tracking properly from the beginning. Do not miss this step. Without setting up tracking properly, it will be impossible to tie back conversions to paid and organic and see their relationship. If you already have paid attribution set up, double-check to ensure that there’s no double counting from having multiple GA tracking snippets, or if you’re using a landing page generator like Unbounce or HubSpot, that you’ve added in tracking on those platforms. Sometimes when using landing page generator tools (like HubSpot), you might elect to have an in-line thank you section display instead of redirecting someone to an external link. If you use an in-line thank you, the URL will not change and will make tracking more difficult in Google Analytics. This is not impossible to get around (events tracking can do the trick), but is something to keep in mind.

Bid on your money keywords

Without getting too fancy, a very important next step is to identify the transactional, important keywords — the ones that might be costly to buy, but that are worth the spend. Waiting for results from organic search or for the different channels to successfully harmonize may take longer than a boss or C-suite might be willing to wait for, so getting results directly from traditional paid search will require a strong setup from the get-go.

The magic of RLSA

Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSAs) allow organizations to remarket to specific people who have visited a specific page on their site, either by bidding on keywords one typically wouldn’t bid on, or by altering the bid up or down. This doesn’t create new traffic; it only displays to those who have visited your site in the past. The magic of this is that when done properly, you can potentially achieve lower cost-per-clicks and conversions, as the audience seeing these ads is already familiar with your brand.

Let’s use, for example, the strategy of creating content around “what are alternative investments?” or “how to invest responsibly?”. These would be informational-level queries, representing topics people would like to investigate further. While the ideal scenario for our business would be that everyone would automatically want to invest with us, we know this isn’t likely to be the typical case. Instead, we’ll use organic search to earn traffic from less competitive, informational queries, and use RLSA to bid on queries that would ordinarily be too competitive for us, like “investing” or “how to start investing.” By using pixels and remarketing to anyone who visited our “what are alternative investments” page, we know that the person is more familiar with us and we can try to bid on broader queries that may have been either too expensive for us in the first place, or unlikely to generate conversions. In this case, because the user is already familiar with the brand, it can lead to higher click-through and conversion rates.

Much has already been written about RLSA strategies, so for more information you can begin here:

Advanced remarketing

Another option is to create more informational content for queries that are less competitive than some other terms, but that also isn’t as likely to get people to convert when they visit (i.e. most blog content). Let’s say that our blog captures email addresses, either through forms, popups, or some other means. With our captured emails, we’d be able to build an email list and submit it to Adwords, then target people in Google Search, Gmail, and YouTube. We can target existing users (people aligned with a particular email) or people who are similar to the audience and share similar web habits. With this tool, we can expand our potential audience.

If one were to run broad-match search ads against a general population (not one that had been cookied by a site), it would likely get very expensive very quickly and would be likely to have low conversion rates. Using broad match with RLSAs is a smart approach that mitigates the risk of complete budget destruction from people with little intent to convert, while allowing organizations to see what people are searching for; it can be an extremely powerful tool for keyword discovery.

By using broad search and RLSAs, your organization will be able to find out faster what people are actually searching for. Any keywords that cost money but that aren’t relevant or aren’t converting can be added to a negative keyword filter. Ones that are valuable should be added to exact match and, depending on the keyword, may be worthy of having content developed for it so that traffic can be captured without paying for each individual click.

Key tips:

  • Make sure tracking is properly set up
  • Ensure you’re bidding on transactional queries
  • Landing pages MUST have a clear goal and be optimized for one desired conversion
  • RLSAs can be used for keyword discovery and may enable you to bid on more transactional, generally competitive keywords

3. CRO

It’s not uncommon for organizations operating in low-search volume niches to also have fairly long sales cycles. The endgame of what we’re trying to accomplish here is to drive people from an informational mindset to a transactional mindset. We’re operating under the assumption that there are few searches for the service or good we’re trying to provide, so we’re going to get people to our service or good via the backdoor. The way we’ll do this is by guiding people from content that speaks to an informational query to our conversion pages.

To be clear, getting the ultimate conversion on our site might not require sending someone to a product page. It’s totally possible that someone may be interested in our ultimate goal after having landed on a tangentially-related page.

Let’s use the example again of the solar energy investment company. We’ll say that our ultimate goal is to get people to open an account where they actually invest in a power purchase agreement (PPA). Understanding what a PPA is isn’t important, but what should be conveyed is that getting anyone to actually spend money and link a bank account to the site is not a simple task. There’s friction — people need to trust that they won’t be robbed, that their financial information will be protected, and that their money is actually going where they expect it to go. Knowing that there’s friction in the funnel, we’re likely going to need multiple points of engagement with the potential client and will need to provide information and trust signals along the way to answer their questions.

Hunting microconversions

That said, our first goal should be to optimize and provide high-quality landing pages for the person who searches “solar energy investment.” Once we handle that low-hanging fruit, we need to move on to the tangential queries, like “what are the advantages of solar energy?”. Within this page, we should frame the benefits of solar energy and use multiple call-to-actions or banners to persuade someone to learn more about how to invest in solar energy. It’s totally plausible that someone who searches for “what are the advantages of solar energy?” has no interest in investing whatsoever and will leave the page as soon as their question is deemed answered. It’s also possible that they never even make it to the landing page itself because the Google SERP has answered the question for them:

We can’t be scared of this tactic just because Google is stealing content and placing the information within the search results. Featured snippets still have very high click-through rates (meaning users still visit that content) and we don’t know which queries will trigger featured snippets tomorrow or in six months from now. All we can do is create the best content for users’ queries.

For the visitors who are interested in the potential of solar energy investment, there are several ways that we can keep them engaged:

  1. Email capture popups
    1. This can be done via time-elapsed or exit intent versions
  2. Static or sticky call-to-actions (for products, demos, or email capture) either within the content or adjacent to the text in right or left-hand rails

AMP to accelerate traffic growth

Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) are one of my favorite SERP enhancements that Google has made in the past few years. As a quick reminder, AMP provide cached, streamlined HTML that makes loading pages on mobile crazy-fast. AMP pages also show a little lightning bolt icon in the SERPs; eventually this will condition users that any page without a lightning bolt will be slow. They don’t allow for interstitials or popups, and even have their own area within search results. Google is heavily investing in this space and is incentivizing publishers to do so as well. Creating AMP variations of your organization’s content can be a strong idea for driving more web traffic, but it can come with some potential pitfalls that you should be aware of.

Tracking

AMP pages require their own Google Analytics tracking and it does not come standard. If you use a CMS or GTM that automatically places GA tracking code within the head, you will not automatically be covered with AMP pages. Make sure you set up tracking properly.

No popups

I just mentioned that email capture popups are a great way to ensure multiple points of engagement with users who otherwise may have just visited a particular site one time. By capturing emails, you can doing remarketing, send product emails, keep people apprised of updates with your organization, and create similar audiences, among other benefits as well. However, once you create AMP and they begin to replace your m. or responsive pages on mobile within the search results, your popups will no longer appear. While you won’t be able to get the true functionality of popups, a suitable workaround is to add email form capture in-line within your AMP content:

form-error.gif

When it comes to CRO for pages that receive organic traffic, it’s not the end of the world if a person doesn’t undertake an action; we’re not paying for them. Just by visiting our page, we can cookie them and remarket to them on search and other paid channels like Facebook and Twitter. We’ve extracted value from our visitors and they don’t even know it.

On the other hand, when a visitor arrives via paid search, we need to be doing everything in our power to make sure that the person undertakes a desired action. That desired action could be providing an email in exchange for a download, scheduling a consultation, purchasing a product, or providing other information. It bears repeating, though: if you’re paying for clicks and have not made a concerted effort to design your landing page in such a way that users are most likely to undertake the desired action, you’re wasting money. I do not claim that there is some sort of silver bullet that will work across every single niche and every single audience for every single product. Using a gated landing page for one client may work best for some, while soliciting user information via a form might work best for another. The only way to know is to test and see how users interact.

Key tips:

  • Some ultimate conversions have a lot of friction; don’t shy away from microconversions
  • If you already get traffic and it “doesn’t convert,” think critically about how it would be possible to re-engage with those users or what they might feel comfortable providing you with at their level of interest
  • AMP pages need separate GA tracking and do not allow popups

Tying it all together

Let’s recap this. When an organization cannot bank on a large enough search volume in its particular niche to provide the necessary runway for growth, it needs to think creatively about how to best harmonize organic and paid search channels. Truthfully, all organizations (regardless of the size of the search volume in their niche) should do this, but it’s particularly important in low-search volume niches because without it, growth is likely to be far slower and smaller than it could be.

For the sake of argument, we assume that the product or service doesn’t have much popularity, so we need to expand into informational queries, the topics that one would search before they know that they could use the service or product.

We need to ensure that we quickly and properly identify the transactional queries in our niche, and build pages that fulfill the intent of the user’s query. These pages should almost always have a call-to-action that allows people to take advantage of their interest immediately.

However, we’re looking for growth, so we need to think even bigger. We need to provide content for the people who are searching for queries that demonstrate some sort of interest in our niche, but don’t necessarily know that they want our service or product. We build out those pages, populating them with content and resources that fulfill the user’s query, but also provide calls-to-action that capture emails and/or drive users further into the funnel. People who don’t realize that they want your product or service may not react well to hard sells and high barriers to entry. Asking for an email address can be far more palatable and keep the conversation going.

If using AMP pages to gain more visibility, make sure that you have properly set up Google Analytics first and have added in email form captures at different points within the content, not just at the end — most of your readers won’t make it there. Depending on what our strategy is, we may also want to begin cookie-ing users for remarketing.

When using paid search, as with organic search, we need to make sure that we’re properly targeting the transactional queries we need — the ones where people are most likely to undertake a desired action. By using RLSAs we can also potentially bid on more generic, short-tail queries that might have yielded low conversion rates if we were to have exposed them to the broader Internet community at large, but could prove very successful if we only show them to people who have visited our site or specific pages. In addition to possibly converting at a higher rate than a regular paid search campaign, RLSAs can serve as a great keyword discovery tool without completely decimating your budget.

In the vast majority of cases, traffic for traffic’s sake is useless. If your traffic doesn’t undertake the actions that you want them to, chances are it will be declared useless and investment into content creation may decrease. I’ve seen it happen. Your traffic does not need to convert via buying a product or scheduling a demo the first time they visit, but if you have microconversions (like email capture) set up, you’ll put yourself in a much better position to re-engage with your visitors, find new similar visitors, and drive more conversions.

One last nugget of wisdom from Distilled’s own Head of PPC, Rich Cotton:

The main benefit of one agency running PPC and SEO is communication; aligning marketing messages, sharing data, keeping a consistent user experience, making lines of communication for the client easier. By ensuring that your PPC and SEO teams are working together, PPC can fill gaps in SERP exposure for organic, test new copy, and share important keyword data that PPC still has control of.

Rather than competing, when drawing up attribution models, an integrated approach allows us to share the value driven and work holistically for the benefit of the client, rather than fight to prove that our channel was the more effective one. Your marketing dollars will go where they are most needed, not be argued over by inter-agency politics.

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3 Lifecycle Marketing Phases To Grow Your Business

As contacts move from prospects to loyal customers their needs and relationship with your business naturally change. Your messaging and marketing tactics should also change. That’s where lifecycle marketing thrives.  The three phases for most businesses are attract, sell and wow. Within each of these, there are specific actions (and unique marketing messages) to maximize your reach and grow your business. 1st Phase of Lifecycle Marketing: Attract Before anyone becomes a customer, they first need to develop interest in your brand. The attract phase focuses on targeting ideal customers and eventually collecting… Read More

The post 3 Lifecycle Marketing Phases To Grow Your Business appeared first on Webolutions.

As contacts move from prospects to loyal customers their needs and relationship with your business naturally change. Your messaging and marketing tactics should also change. That’s where lifecycle marketing thrives.  The three phases for most businesses are attract, sell and wow. Within each of these, there are specific actions (and unique marketing messages) to maximize your reach and grow your business. 1st Phase of Lifecycle Marketing: Attract Before anyone becomes a customer, they first need to develop interest in your brand. The attract phase focuses on targeting ideal customers and eventually collecting… Read More

The post 3 Lifecycle Marketing Phases To Grow Your Business appeared first on Webolutions.