Wednesday, 25 April 2018

How We Got a 32% Organic Traffic Boost from 4 On-Page SEO Changes [Case Study]

Posted by WallStreetOasis.com

My name is Patrick Curtis, and I'm the founder and CEO of Wall Street Oasis, an online community focused on careers in finance founded in 2006 with over 2 million visits per month.

User-generated content and long-tail organic traffic is what has built our business and community over the last 12+ years. But what happens if you wake up one day and realize that your growth has suddenly stopped? This is what happened to us back in November 2012.

In this case study, I’ll highlight two of our main SEO problems as a large forum with over 200,000 URLs, then describe two solutions that finally helped us regain our growth trajectory — almost five years later.

Two main problems

1. Algorithm change impacts

Ever since November 2012, Google’s algo changes have seemed to hurt many online forums like ours. Even though our traffic didn’t decline, our growth dropped to the single-digit percentages. No matter what we tried, we couldn’t break through our “plateau of pain” (I call it that because it was a painful ~5 years trying).

Plateau of pain: no double-digit growth from late 2012 onward

2. Quality of user-generated content

Related to the first problem, 99% of our content is user-generated (UGC) which means the quality is mixed (to put it kindly). Like most forum-based sites, some of our members create incredible pieces of content, but a meaningful percentage of our content is also admittedly thin and/or low-quality.

How could we deal with over 200,000 pieces of content efficiently and try to optimize them without going bankrupt? How could we “clean the cruft” when there was just so much of it?

Fighting back: Two solutions (and one statistical analysis to show how it worked)

1. "Merge and Purge" project

Our goal was to consolidate weaker “children” URLs into stronger “master” URLs to utilize some of the valuable content Google was ignoring and to make the user experience better.

For example, instead of having ~20 discussions on a specific topic (each with an average of around two to three comments) across twelve years, we would consolidate many of those discussions into the strongest two or three URLs (each with around 20–30 comments), leading to a much better user experience with less need to search and jump around the site.

Changes included taking the original post and comments from a “child” URL and merging them into the “master” URL, unpublishing the child URL, removing the child from sitemap, and adding a 301 redirect to the master.

Below is an example of how it looked when we merged a child into our popular Why Investment Banking discussion. We highlighted the original child post as a Related Topic with a blue border and included the original post date to help avoid confusion:

Highlighting a related topic child post

This was a massive project that involved some complex Excel sorting, but after 18 months and about $50,000 invested (27,418 children merged into 8,515 masters to date), the user experience, site architecture, and organization is much better.

Initial analysis suggests that the percentage gain from merging weak children URLs into stronger masters has given us a boost of ~10–15% in organic search traffic.

2. The Content Optimization Team

The goal of this initiative was to take the top landing pages that already existed on Wall Street Oasis and make sure that they were both higher quality and optimized for SEO. What does that mean, exactly, and how did we execute it?

We needed a dedicated team that had some baseline industry knowledge. To that end, we formed a team of five interns from the community, due to the fact that they were familiar with the common topics.

We looked at the top ~200 URLs over the previous 90 days (by organic landing page traffic) and listed them out in a spreadsheet:

Spreadsheet of organic traffic to URLs

We held five main hypotheses of what we believed would boost organic traffic before we started this project:

  1. Longer content with subtitles: Increasing the length of the content and adding relevant H2 and H3 subtitles to give the reader more detailed and useful information in an organized fashion.
  2. Changing the H1 so that it matched more high-volume keywords using Moz’s Keyword Explorer.
  3. Changing the URL so that it also was a better match to high-volume and relevant keywords.
  4. Adding a relevant image or graphic to help break up large “walls of text” and enrich the content.
  5. Adding a relevant video similar to the graphic, but also to help increase time on page and enrich the content around the topic.

We tracked all five of these changes across all 200 URLs (see image above). After a statistical analysis, we learned that four of them helped our organic search traffic and one actually hurt.

Summary of results from our statistical analysis

  • Increasing the length of the articles and adding relevant subtitles (H2s, H3s, and H4s) to help organize the content gives an average boost to organic traffic of 14%
  • Improving the title or H1 of the URLs yields a 9% increase on average
  • Changing the URL decreased traffic on average by 38% (this was a smaller sample size — we stopped doing this early on for obvious reasons)
  • Including a relevant video increases the organic traffic by 4% on average, while putting an image up increases it by 5% on average.

Overall, the boost to organic traffic — should we continue to make these four changes (and avoid changing the URL) — is 32% on average.

Key takeaway:

Over half of that gain (~18%) comes from changes that require a minimal investment of time. For teams trying to optimize on-page SEO across a large number of pages, we recommend focusing on the top landing pages first and easy wins before deciding if further investment is warranted.

We hope this case study of our on-page SEO efforts was interesting, and I’m happy to answer any questions you have in the comments!


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Tuesday, 24 April 2018

The SEO Quick Fix: Competitor Keywords, Redirect Chains, and Duplicate Content, Oh My!

Posted by ErinMcCaul

I have a eight-month-old baby. As a mom my time is at a premium, and I’ve come to appreciate functionalities I didn’t know existed in things I already pay for. My HBONow subscription has Game of Thrones AND Sesame Street? Fantastic! Overnight diapers can save me a trip to the tiny airplane bathroom on a quick flight? Sweet! Oxiclean keeps my towels fluffy and vanquishes baby poop stains? Flip my pancakes!

Moz Pro isn’t just a tool for link building, or keyword research, or on-page SEO, or crawling your site. It does all those things and a little bit more, simplifying your SEO work and saving time. And if you’ve run into an SEO task you’re not sure how to tackle, it’s possible that a tool you need is right here just waiting to be found! It’s in this spirit that we’ve revived our SEO Quick Fix videos. These 2–3 minute Mozzer-led tutorials are meant to help you get the most out of our tools, and offer simple solutions to common SEO problems.

Take Moz Pro for a spin!

Today we’ll focus on a few Keyword Explorer and Site Crawl tips. I hope these knowledge nuggets bring you the joy I experienced the moment I realized my son doesn’t care whether I read him The Name of the Wind or Goodnight Moon.

Let’s dive in!

Fix #1 - Keyword Explorer: Finding keyword suggestions that are questions

Search queries all have intent (“when to give my baby water” was a hot Google search at my house recently). Here’s the good news: Research shows that if you’re already ranking in the top ten positions, providing the best answers to specific questions can earn you a coveted Featured Snippet!

Featured snippet example

In this video, April from our Customer Success Team will show you how to pull a list of keyword phrases that cover the who, what, where, when, why, and how of all the related topics for keywords you’re already ranking for. Here’s the rub. Different questions call for different Featured Snippet formats. For example, “how” and “have” questions tend to result in list-based snippets, while “which” questions often result in tables. When you’re crafting your content, be mindful of the type of question you’re targeting and format accordingly.

Looking for more resources? Once you’ve got your list, check out AJ Ghergich’s article on the Moz Blog for some in-depth insight on formatting and optimizing your snippets. High five!


Fix #2 - Site Crawl: Optimize the content on your site

Sometimes if I find a really good pair of pants, I buy two (I mean, it’s really hard to find good pants). In this case duplicates are good, but the rules of pants don’t always apply to content. Chiaryn is here to teach you how to use Site Crawl to identify duplicate content and titles, and uncover opportunities to help customers and bots find more relevant content on your site.

When reviewing your duplicate content, keep a few things in mind:

  • Does this page provide value to visitors?
  • Title tags are meant to give searchers a taste of what your content is about, and meant to help bots understand and categorize your content. You want your title tags to be relevant and unique to your content.
  • If pages with different content have the same title tag, re-write your tags to make them more relevant to your page content. Use our Title Tag Preview tool to help out.
  • Thin content isn’t always a bad thing, but it’s still a good opportunity to make sure your page is performing as expected — and update it as necessary with meaningful content.
  • Check out Jo Cameron’s post about How to Turn Low-Value Content Into Neatly Organized Opportunities for more snazzy tips on duplicate content and Site Crawl!

Fix #3 - Keyword Explorer: Identify your competitors’ top keywords

Cozily nestled under a few clicks, Keyword Explorer holds the keys to a competitive research sweet spot. By isolating the ranking keywords you have in common with your competitors, you can pinpoint their weak spots and discover keywords that are low-hanging fruit — phrases you have the content and authority to rank for that, with a little attention, could do even better. In this video, Janisha shows you how targeting a competitor’s low-ranking keywords can earn you a top spot in the SERPS.

Finding competitors' keywords: A Venn diagram

Check out all that overlapped opportunity!

For a few more tips along this line, check out Hayley Sherman’s post, How to Use Keyword Explorer to Identify Competitive Keyword Opportunities.


Fix #4 - Site Crawl: Identify and fix redirect chains

Redirects are a handy way to get a visitor from a page they try to land on, to the page you want them to land on. Redirect chains, however, are redirects gone wrong. They look something like this: URL A redirects to URL B, URL B redirects to URL C… and so on and so forth.

These redirect chains can negatively impact your rankings, slow your site load times, and make it hard for crawlers to properly index your site.

Meghan from our Help team is here to show you how to find redirect chains, understand where they currently exist, and help you cut a few of those pesky middle redirects.

Looking for a few other redirect resources? I’ve got you covered:


Alright friends, that’s a wrap! Like the end of The Last Jedi, you might not be ready for this post to be over. Fear not! Our blog editor liked my jokes so much that she's promised to harp on me to write more blog posts. So, I need your help! Find yourself facing an SEO snafu that doesn’t seem to have a straightforward fix? Let me know in the comments. I might know a Moz tool that can help, and you might inspire another Quick Fix post!

Get a free month of Moz Pro

If you’re still interested in checking out more solutions, here’s a list of some of my favorite resources:

Stay cool!


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Monday, 23 April 2018

ROPO: 2018's Most Important Multichannel Digital Marketing Report

Posted by RobBeirne

Digital marketers have always had one drum they loudly beat in front of traditional advertising channels: "We can measure what we do better than you." Now, we weren't embellishing the truth or anything — we can measure digital advertising performance at a much more granular level than we can traditional advertising. But it's not perfect. Multichannel digital marketing teams always have one niggling thought that keeps them awake at night: online activity is driving in-store sales and we can't claim any credit for it.

Offline sales are happening. Sure enough, we're seeing online shopping become more and more popular, but even so, you’ll never see 100% of your sales being made online if you're a multichannel retailer. Whether it’s a dress that needs to be tried on or a TV you want to measure up before you buy, in-store purchases are going nowhere. But it's more important than ever to make sure you don't underestimate the impact your online advertising has on offline sales.

ROPO: Research Online Purchase Offline has plagued multichannel retailers for years. This is when awareness and hot leads are generated online, but the customers convert in-store.

There is one other problem hampering many multichannel businesses: viewing their online store as "just another store" and, in many cases, the store managers themselves considering the website to be a competitor.

In this article, I'll show you how we've improvised to create a ROPO report for DID Electrical, an Irish electrical and home appliance multichannel retailer, to provide greater insight into their customers' multichannel journey and how this affected their business.

What is ROPO reporting?

Offline conversions are a massive blind spot for digital marketers. It's the same as someone else taking credit for your work: your online ads are definitely influencing shoppers who complete their purchase offline, but we can't prove it. Or at least we couldn't prove it — until now.

ROPO reporting (Research Online Purchase Offline) allows multichannel retailers to see what volume of in-store sales have been influenced by online ads. Facebook has trail-blazed in this area of reporting, leaving Google in their wake and scrambling to keep up. I know this well, because I work on Wolfgang's PPC team and gaze enviously at the ROPO reporting abilities of our social team. Working with DID, we created a robust way to measure the offline value of both PPC and SEO activity online.

To create a ROPO report, multichannel retailers must have a digital touch point in-store. This isn't as complicated as it sounds and can be something like an e-receipt or warranty system where you email customers. This gives you the customer data that you'll need to match offline conversions with your online advertising activity.

As I mentioned earlier, Facebook makes this nice and simple. You take the data gathered in-store, upload it to Facebook, and they will match as many people as possible. Our social team is generally seeing a 50% match rate between the data gathered in-store and Facebook users who've seen our ads. You can watch two of my colleagues, Alan and Roisin, discussing social ROPO reporting in an episode of our new video series, Wolfgang Bites:

Clearly, ROPO reporting is potentially very powerful for social media marketers, but Google doesn't yet provide a way for me to simply upload offline conversion data and match it against people who've seen my ads (though they have said that this is coming for Google AdWords). Wouldn't this be a really boring article for people working in SEO and PPC if I just ended things there?

Google ROPO reporting

DID Electrical were a perfect business to develop a ROPO report for. Founded back in 1968 (happy 50th birthday guys!), a year before tech was advanced enough to put man on the moon, DID strives to "understand the needs of each and every one of their customers." DID have an innovative approach to multichannel retail, which is great for ROPO reporting because they're already offering e-receipts to customers purchasing goods for over €100. Better still, the email delivering the e-receipts also has a link to a dedicated competition. This sits on a hidden landing page, so the only visitors to this page are customers receiving e-receipts.

They were nearly set for ROPO reporting, but there was just one extra step needed. In Google Analytics, we set the unique competition landing page URL as a goal, allowing us to reverse-engineer customer journeys and uncover the extent of Google PPC and SEO's influence over in-store sales. Before I unveil the results, a few caveats.

The ROPO under-report

Despite our best efforts to track offline conversions, I can't say ROPO reporting reflects 100% of all in-store sales influenced by digital ads. In the past, we've been open about the difficulties in tracking both offline conversions and cross-device conversions. For example, when running a social ROPO report, customers might give a different email in-store from the one attached to their Facebook account. For an SEO or PPC ROPO report, the customer might click a search ad on a work computer but the open their e-receipt on their smartphone. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the beast, ROPO reporting just isn't 100% accurate, but it does give an incredible indication of online's influence over offline sales.

I expect to see improved reporting coming down the line from Google, and they're definitely working on a ROPO reporting solution like Facebook's upload system. While our approach to ROPO reporting does shine a light on the offline conversion blind spot, it's entirely likely that digital advertising's influence goes far beyond these (still mightily impressive) results.

It’s also important to note that this method isn’t intended to give an exact figure for every ROPO sale, but instead gives us an excellent idea of the proportion of offline sales impacted by our online activities. By applying these proportions to overall business figures, we can work out a robust estimate for metrics like offline ROI.

Results from ROPO reporting

I'm going to divide the results of this ROPO reporting innovation into three sections:

  1. PPC Results
  2. SEO Results
  3. Business Results

1. PPC results of ROPO reporting

First of all, we found 47% of offline customers had visited the DID Electrical website prior to visiting the store and making a purchase. Alone, this was an incredible insight into consumer behavior to be able to offer the team at DID. We went even further and determined that 1 in 8 measurable offline sales were influenced by an AdWords click.

2. SEO results of ROPO reporting

This method of ROPO reporting also means we can check the value of an organic click-through using the same reverse-engineering we used for PPC clicks. Based on the same data set, we discovered 1 in 5 purchases made in-store were made by customers who visited the DID site through an organic click prior to visiting the store.

3. Business results of ROPO reporting

ROPO reporting proved to be a great solution to DID's needs in providing clarity around the position of their website in the multichannel experience. With at least 47% of offline shoppers visiting the site before purchasing, 1 in 8 of them being influenced by AdWords and 1 in 5 by SEO, DID could now show the impact online was having over in-store sales. Internally, the website was no longer being viewed as just another store — now it's viewed as the hub linking everything together for an improved customer experience.

Following the deeper understanding into multichannel retail offered by ROPO reporting, DID was also able to augment their budget allocations between digital and traditional channels more efficiently. These insights have enabled them to justify moving more of their marketing budget online. Digital will make up 50% more of their overall marketing budget in 2018!

Getting started with ROPO reporting

If you're a digital marketer within a multichannel retailer and you want to get started with ROPO reporting, the key factor is your in-store digital touchpoint. This is the bridge between your online advertising and offline conversion data. If you're not offering e-receipts already, now is the time to start considering them as they played a critical role in DID’s ROPO strategy.

ROPO Cheat Guide (or quick reference)

If you're a multichannel retailer and this all sounds tantalizing, here’s the customer journey which ROPO measures:

  1. Customer researches online using your website
  2. Customer makes purchase in your brick-and-mortar store
  3. Customer agrees to receive an e-receipt or warranty delivered to their email address
  4. Customer clicks a competition link in the communication they receive
  5. This action is captured in your Google Analytics as a custom goal completion
  6. You can now calculate ROAS (Return On Advertising Spending)

The two critical steps here are the digital touchpoint in your physical stores and the incentive for the customer’s post-conversion communication click. Once you have this touchpoint and interaction, measuring Facebook's social ROPO is a simple file upload and using what I’ve shown you above, you’ll be able to measure the ROPO impact of PPC and SEO too.

If you do have any questions, pop them into the comments below. I have some questions too and it would be great to hear what you all think:

  • If you're a multichannel retailer, are you in a position to start ROPO reporting?
  • Does your company view your website as a hub for all stores or just another store (or even a competitor to the physical stores)?
  • Have you seen a shift in marketing spend towards digital?

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Friday, 20 April 2018

Marketing Lessons Learned from 16 Years of Building Moz - Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

The lessons Rand has learned from building and growing Moz are almost old enough to drive. From marketing flywheels versus growth hacks, to product launch timing, to knowing your audience intimately, Rand shares his best advice from a decade and a half of marketing Moz in today's edition of Whiteboard Friday.

Marketing Lessons Learned from 16 Years of Building Moz

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

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we are going to chat about some of the big lessons learned for me personally building this company, building Moz over the last 16, 17 years.

Back in February, I left the company full-time. I'm still the Chairman of the Board and contribute in some ways, including an occasional Whiteboard Friday here and there. But what I wanted to do as part of this book that I've written, that's just coming out April 24th, Lost and Founder, is talk about some of the elements in there, maybe even give you a sneak peek.

If you're thinking, "Well, what are the two or three chapters that are super relevant to me?" let me try and walk you through a little bit of what I feel like I've taken away and what I'm going to change going forward, especially stuff that's applicable to those of us in web marketing, in SEO, and in broader marketing.

Marketing flywheels > growth hacks

First off, marketing flywheels, in my experience, almost always beat growth hacks. I know that growth hacks are trendy in the last few years, especially in the startup and technology worlds. There's been this sort of search for the next big growth hack that's going to transform our business. But I've got to be honest with you. Not just here at Moz, but in all of the companies that I've had experience with as a marketer, this tends to be what that looks like when it's implemented.

So folks will find a hack. They'll find some trick that works for a little while, and it results in this type of a spike in their traffic, their conversions, their success metrics of whatever kind. So they've discovered a way to game Facebook or they found this new black hat trick or they found this great conversion device. Whatever it is, it's short term and short lasting. Why is this? It tends to be because of something Andrew Chen calls — and I'll use his euphemism here — it's called the "Law of Shitty Click-through Rates," which essentially says that over time, as people get experienced with a sort of marketing trend, they become immune to its effects.

Marketing Lessons Learned from 16 Years of Building Moz - Whiteboard Friday

You can see this in anything that sort of tries to hack at consciousness or take advantage of psychological biases. So you get this pattern of hack, hack, hack, hack, and then none of the hacks you're doing work anymore. Even if you have a tremendously successful one, even if this is six months in length, it tends to be the case that, over time, those diminish and decline.

Conversely, a marketing flywheel is something that you build that generates inertia and energy, such that each effort and piece of energy that you put into it helps it spin faster and faster, and it carries through. It takes less energy to turn it around again and again in the future after you've got it up and spinning. This is how a lot of great marketing works. You build a brand. You build your audience. They come to you. They help it amplify. They bring more and more people back. In the web marketing world, this works really well too.

Marketing Lessons Learned from 16 Years of Building Moz - Whiteboard Friday

So most of you are familiar with Moz's flywheel, but I'll try and give it a rough explanation here. We start down here with content ideas that we get from spending lots of time with SEOs. We do keyword research, and we optimize these posts, including look at Whiteboard Friday itself.

What do we do with Whiteboard Friday? You're watching this video, but you'll also see the transcript below. You'll see the podcast version from SoundCloud so that you can listen to the text rather than watch me if you can do audio only for some reason. Each of these little images have been cut out and placed into the text below so that someone who's searching in Google images might find some of these and find their way to Whiteboard Friday. A few months after it goes up here, hosted with Wistia on Moz, it will be put up on YouTube.com so that people can find it there.

So we've done all these sorts of things to optimize these posts. We publish them, and then we earn amplification through all the channels that we have — email, social media, certainly search engines are a big one for us. Then we grow our reach for next time.

Early in the days, early in Moz's history, when I was first publishing, I was writing every blog post myself for many, many years. This was tremendously difficult. We weren't getting much reach. Now, it's an engine that turns on its own. So each time we do it, we earn more SEO ranking ability, more links, more other positive ranking signals. The next time we publish content, it has an even better chance of doing well. So Moz's flywheel keeps spinning, keeps getting faster and faster, and it's easier and easier. Each time I film Whiteboard Friday, I'm a little more experienced. I've gotten a little better at it.

Flywheels come in many different forms

Flywheels come in a lot of forms. It's not just the classic content and SEO one that we're describing here, although I know many of you who watch Whiteboard Friday probably use something similar. But press and PR is a big one that many folks use. I know companies that are built on primarily event marketing, and they have that same flywheel going for them. In advertising, folks have found these, in influencer-focused marketing flywheels, and community and user-generated content to build flywheels. All of these are ways to do that.

Find friction in your flywheels

If and when you find friction in your flywheel, like I did back in my early days, that's when a hack is really helpful. If you can get a hack going to grow reach for next time, for example, in my early days, this was all about doing outreach to folks in the SEO space who were already influential, getting them to pay attention and help amplify Moz's content. That was the hack that I needed. Essentially, it was a combination of the Beginner's Guide to SEO and the Search Ranking Factors document, which I've described here. But that really helped grow reach for next time and made this flywheel start spinning in the way that we wanted. So I would urge you to favor flywheels over hacks.

Marketing an MVP is hard

Second one, marketing an MVP kind of sucks. It's just awful. Great products are rarely minimum viable products. The MVP is a wonderful way to build. I really, really like what Eric Ries has done with that movement, where he's taken this concept of build the smallest possible thing you can that still solves the user's problem, the customer's problem and launch that so that you can learn and iterate from it.

I just have one complaint, which is if you do that publicly, if you launch your MVP publicly and you're already a brand that's well known, you really hurt your reputation. No one ever thinks this. No one ever thinks, "Gosh, you know, Moz launched their first version of new tool X. It's pretty terrible, but I can see how, with a few years of work, it's going to be an amazing product. I really believe in them." No one thinks that way.

What do you think? You think, "Moz launched this product. Why did they launch it? It's kind of terrible. Are they going downhill? Do they suck now? Maybe I should I trust their other tools less." That's how most people think when it comes to an MVP, and that's why it's so dangerous.

Marketing Lessons Learned from 16 Years of Building Moz - Whiteboard Friday

So I made this silly chart here. But if the quality goes from crap to best in class and the amplification worthiness goes from zero to viral, it tends to be the case that most MVPs are launching way down here, when they're barely good enough and thus have almost no amplification potential and really can't do much for your marketing other than harm it.

If you instead build it internally, build that MVP internally, test with your beta group, and wait until it gets all the way up to this quality level of, "Wow, that's really good," and lots of people who are using it say, "Gosh, I couldn't live without this. I want to share it with my friends. I want to tell everyone about this. Is it okay to tell people yet?" Maybe it's starting to leak. Now, you're up here. Now, your launch can really do something. We have seen exactly that happen many, many times here at Moz with both MVPs and MVPs where we sat on them and waited. I talk about some of these in the book.

MVPs, great to test internally with a private group. They're also fine if you're really early stage and no one has heard of you. But MVPs can seriously drag down reputation and perception of a brand's quality and equity, which is why I generally recommend against them, especially for marketing.

Living the lives of your customer/audience is a startup + marketing cheat code

Last, but not least, living the lives of your customers or your audience is a cheat code. It is a marketing and startup cheat code. One of the best things that I have ever done is to say, "You know what? I am not going to sequester myself in my office dreaming up this great thing I think we should build or I think that we should do. Instead, I'm going to spend real time with our customers."

Marketing Lessons Learned from 16 Years of Building Moz - Whiteboard Friday

So you might remember, at the end of 2013, I did this crazy project with my friend, Wil Reynolds, who runs Seer Interactive. They're an SEO agency based here in the United States, in Philadelphia and San Diego. They do a lot more than SEO. Wil and I traded houses. We traded lives. We traded email accounts. I can't tell you how weird it is answering somebody's email, replying to Wil's mom and being like, "Oh, Mrs. Reynolds, this is actually Rand. Your son, Wil, is answering my email off in Seattle and living in my apartment."

Marketing Lessons Learned from 16 Years of Building Moz - Whiteboard Friday

That experience was transformational for me, especially after having gone through the pain of building something that I had conceptualized myself but hadn't validated and hadn't even come up with the idea from real problems that real people were facing. I had come up with it based on what I thought could grow the company. I seriously dislike ideas that come from that perspective now.

So since then, I just try not to assume. I try not to assume that I know what people want. When we film a Whiteboard Friday, it is almost always on a topic that someone I have met and talked to either over email or over Twitter or in person at an event or a conference, we've had a conversation in person. They've said, "I'm struggling with this." I go, "I can make a Whiteboard Friday to help them with that." That's where these content ideas come from.

When I spend time with people doing their job, I was just in San Diego a little while ago meeting with a couple of agencies down there, spending time in their offices showing off a new links tool, getting all their feedback, seeing what they do with Open Site Explorer and Ahrefs and Majestic and doing their work with them, trying to go through the process that they go through and actually experiencing their pain points. I think this right here is the product and marketing cheat code. If you spend time with your audience, experiencing their pain points, the copy you write, what you design, where you place it, who you try and get to influence and amplify it, how you serve them, whether that's through content or through advertising or through events, or whatever kind of marketing you're doing, will improve if you live the lives of your customers and their influencers.

Whatever kind of marketing you're doing will improve if you live the lives of your customers and their influencers.

All right, everyone. Hope you've enjoyed this edition of Whiteboard Friday. If you have feedback on this or if you've read the book and checked that out and you liked it or didn't like it, please, I would love to hear from you. I look forward to your comments. We'll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com


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Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Enterprise Local SEO is Different: A Checklist, a Mindset

Posted by MiriamEllis

Image credit: Abraham Williams

If you’re marketing big brands with hundreds or thousands of locations, are you certain you’re getting model-appropriate local SEO information from your favorite industry sources?

Is your enterprise checking off not just technical basics, but hyperlocalized research to strengthen its entrance into new markets?

Before I started working for Moz in in 2010, the bulk of my local SEO experience had been with small-to-medium business models. Naturally, the advice I was able to offer back then was limited by the scope of my work. But then came Moz Local, and the opportunity to learn more about the more complex needs of valued enterprise customers like Crate & Barrel with more than 170 locations, PAPYRUS with 400, or Bridgestone Corporation with 2000+.

Now, when I’m thumbing through industry tips and tactics, I’m better able to identify when a recommended practice is stemming from an SMB mindset and falling short of enterprise realities, or is truly applicable to all business models. My goal for this post is to offer:

  • Examples of commonly encountered advice that isn’t really best for big brands
  • An Enterprise Local SEO Checklist to help you shape strategy for present campaigns, or ready your agency to pursue relationships with bigger dream clients
  • A state-to-enterprise wireframe for initial hyperlocal marketing research

Not everything you read is for enterprises

When a brand is small, like a single location, family-owned retail shop, it’s likely that a single person at the company can manage the business’ Local SEO, with some free education and a few helpful tools. Large, multi-location brands, just by dint of organizational complexities, are different. Before they even get down to the nitty gritty of building citations, enterprises have to solve for:

  • Standardizing data across hundreds or thousands of locations
  • Franchise relationships that can muddy who controls which data and assets
  • Designating staff to actually manage data and execute initiatives, and building bridges between teams that must work in concert to meet goals
  • Scaling everything from listings management, to site architecture, to content dev
  • Dealing with a hierarchy of reports of bad data from the retail location level up to corporate

I am barely scratching the surface here. In a nutshell, the scale of the organization and the scope of the multi-location brand can turn a task that would be simple for Mom-and-Pop into a major, company-wide challenge. And I think it adds to the challenge when published advice for SMBs isn’t labeled as such. Over the years, three common tips I’ve encountered with questionable or no applicability to enterprises include:

Not-for-enterprises #1: Link all your local business listings to your homepage

This is sometimes offered as a suggestion to boost local rankings, because website home pages typically have more authority than location landing pages do. But in the enterprise scenario, sending a consumer from a listing for his chosen location, to a homepage, and then expecting him to fool around with a menu or a store locator widget to finally reach a landing page for the location he’s already designated that he wanted is not respecting his user experience. It’s wasting his time. I consider this an unnecessary risk of conversions.

Simultaneously, failure to fully utilize location landing pages means that very little can be done to customize the website experience for each community and customer. Directly-linked-to landing pages can provide instant, persuasive proofs of local-ness, in the form of real local reviews, news about local sponsorships and events, special offers, regional product highlights, imagery and so much more that no corporate homepage can ever provide. Consider these statistics:

“According to a new study, when both brand and location-specific pages exist, 85% of all consumer engagement takes place on the local pages (e.g., Facebook Local Pages, local landing pages). A minority of impressions and engagement (15%) happen on national or brand pages. - Local Search Association

In the large, multi-location scenario, it just isn’t putting the customer first to swap out a hoped-for ranking increase for a considerate, well-planned user experience.

Not-for-enterprises #2: Local business listings are a one-and-done deal

I find this advice particularly concerning. I don’t consider it true even for SMBs, and at the enterprise level, it’s simply false. It’s my guess that this suggestion stems from imagining a single local business. They create their Google My Business listing and build out perhaps 20–50 structured citations with good data. What could go wrong?

For starters, they may have forgotten that their business name was different 10 years ago. Oh, and they did move across town 5 years ago. And this old data is sitting somewhere in a major aggregator like Acxiom, and somehow due to the infamous vagaries of data flow, it ends up on Bing, and a Bing user gets confused and reports to Google that the new address is wrong on the GMB listing … and so on and so on. Between data flow and crowdsourced editing, a set-and-forget approach to local business listings is trouble waiting to happen.

Now multiply this by 1,000 business locations. And throw in that the enterprise opened two new stores yesterday and closed one. And that they just acquired a new chain and have to rebrand all its assets. And there seems to be something the matter with the phone number on 25 listings, because they’re getting agitated complaints at corporate. And they received 500 reviews last week on Google alone that have to be managed, and it seems one of their competitors is leaving them negative reviews. Whoa – there are 700 duplicate listings being reported by Moz Local! And the brand has 250 Google Questions & Answers queries to respond to this week. And someone just uploaded an image of a dumpster to their GMB listing in Santa Fe…

Not only do listings have to be built, they have to be monitored for data degradation, and managed for inevitable business events, responsiveness to consumers, and spam. It’s hard enough for SMBs to pull all of this off, but enterprises ignore this at their peril!

Not-for-enterprises #3: Just do X

Every time a new local search feature or best practice emerges, you’ll find publications saying “just do X” to implement. What I’ve learned from enterprises is that there is no “just” about it.

Case in point: in 2017, Google rolled out Google Posts, and as Joel Headley of healthcare practice growth platform PatientPop explained to me in a recent interview, his company had to quickly develop a solution that would enable thousands of customers to utilize this influential feature across hundreds of thousands of listings. PatientPop managed implementation in an astonishingly short time, but typically, at the enterprise level, each new rollout requires countless steps up and down the ladder. These could include achieving recognition of the new opportunity, approval to pursue it, designation of teams to work on it, possible acquisition of new assets to accomplish goals, implementation at scale, and the groundwork of tracking outcomes so that they can be reported to prove/disprove ROI from the effort.

Where small businesses can be relatively agile if they can find time to man-up to new features and strategies, enterprises can become dangerously bogged down by infrastructure and communications gaps. Even something as simple as hyperlocalizing content to the needs of a given community represents a significant undertaking.

The family-owned local hardware store already knows that the county fair is the biggest annual event in their area, and they’ve already got everything necessary to participate with a booth, run a contest, take photos, sponsor the tractor pull, earn links, and blog about it. For the hardware franchise with 3,000 stores, branch-to-corporate communication of the mere existence of the county fair, let alone gaining permission to market around it, will require multiple touches from the location to C-suites, and back again.

Checklist for enterprise local SEO preparedness

If you’re on the marketing team for an enterprise, or you run an agency and want to begin working with these larger, rewarding clients, you’ll be striving to put a checkmark in every box on the following checklist:

☑ Definition of success

We’ve determined which actions = success for our brand, whether this is increases for in-store traffic, sales, phone calls, bookings, or some other metric. When we see growth in these KPIs, it will affirm for us that our efforts are creating real success.

☑ Designation of roles

We’ve defined who will be responsible for all tasks relating to the local search marketing of our business. We’ve equipped these team members with all necessary permissions, granted access to key documentation, have organized workflows, and have created an environment for documentation of work.

☑ Canonical data

We’ve created a spreadsheet, approved and agreed upon by all major departments, that lists the standardized name, address, phone number, website URL, and hours of operation for each location of the company. Any variant information has been resolved into a single, agreed-upon data set for each location. This sheet has been shared with all stakeholders managing our local business listings, marketing, website and social outreach.

☑ Website optimization

Our keyword research findings are reflected in the tags and text of our website, including image optimization. Complete contact information for each of our locations is easily accessible on the site and is accurate. We’ve implemented proper markup, such as Schema or JSON-LD, to ensure that our data is as clear as possible to search engines.

☑ Website quality

Our website is easy to navigate and provides a good, usable experience for desktop, mobile and tablet users. We understand that the omni-channel search environment includes ambient search in cars, in homes, via voice. Our website doesn’t rely on technologies that exclude search engines or consumers. We’re putting our customer first.

☑ Tracking and analysis

We’ve implemented maximum controls for tracking and analyzing traffic to our website. We’re also ready to track and analyze other forms of marketing, such as clicks stemming from our Google My Business listings traffic being driven to our website by articles on third party sources, and content we’re sharing via social media.

☑ Publishing strategy

Our website features strong basic pages (Home, Contact, About, Testimonials/Reviews, Policy), we’ve built an excellent, optimized page for each of our core products/services and a quality, unique page for each of our locations. We have a clear strategy as to ongoing content publication, in the form of blog posts, white papers, case studies, social outreach, and other forms of content. We have plans for hyperlocalizing content to match regional culture and needs.

☑ Store locator

We’ve implemented a store locator widget to connect our website’s users to the set of location landing pages we’ve built to thoughtfully meet the needs of specific communities. We’ve also created an HTML version of a menu linking to all of these landing pages to ensure search engines can discover and index them.

☑ Local link building

We’re building the authority of our brand via the links we earn from the most authoritative sources. We’re actively seeking intelligent link building opportunities for each of our locations, reflective of our industry, but also of each branch’s unique geography.

☑ Guideline compliance

We’ve assessed that each of the locations our business plans to build local listings for complies with the Guidelines for Representing Your Business on Google. Each location is a genuine physical location (not a virtual office or PO box) and conducts face-to-face business with consumers, either at our locations or at customers’ locations. We’re compliant with Google’s rules for the naming of each location, and, if appropriate, we understand how to handle listing multi-department and multi-practitioner businesses. None of our Google My Business listings is at risk for suspension due to basic guideline violations. We’ve learned how to avoid every possible local SEO pitfall.

☑ Full Google My Business engagement

We’re making maximum use of all available Google My Business features that can assist us in achieving our goals. This could include Google Posts, Questions & Answers, Reviews, Photos, Messaging, Booking, Local Service Ads, and other emerging features.

☑ Local listing development

We’re using software like Moz Local to scale creation of our local listings on the major aggregators (Infogroup, Acxiom, Localeze and Factual) as well as key directories like Superpages and Citysearch. We’re confident that our accurate, consistent data is being distributed to these most important platforms.

☑ Local listing monitoring

We know that local listings aren’t a set-and-forget asset and are taking advantage of the ongoing monitoring SaaS provides, increasing our confidence in the continued accuracy of our data. We’re aware that, if left unmanaged, local business listing data can degrade over time, due to inputs from various, non-authoritative third parties as well as normal data flow across platforms.

☑ In-store strategy

All public-facing staff are equipped with the necessary training to implement our brand’s customer service policy, answer FAQs or escalate them via a clear hierarchy, resolving complaints before they become negative online reviews. We have installed in-store signage or other materials to actively invite consumer complaints in-person, via an after-hours helpline or text message to ensure we are making maximum effort to build and defend our strong reputation.

☑ Review acquisition

We’ve developed a clear strategy for acquiring reviews on an ongoing basis on the review sites we’ve deemed to be most important to our brand. We’re compliant with the guidelines of each platform on which we’re earning reviews. We’re building website-based reviews and testimonials, too.

☑ Review monitoring & response

We’re monitoring all incoming reviews to identify both positive and negative emerging sentiment trends at specific locations and we’re conversant with Net Promoter Score. We’ve created a process for responding with gratitude to positive reviews. We’re defending our reputation and revenue by responding to negative reviews in ways that keep customers who complain instead of losing them, to avoid needless drain of new customer acquisition spend. Our responses are building a positive impression of our brand. We’ve built or acquired solutions to manage reviews at scale.

☑ Local PR

Each location of our brand has been empowered to build a local footprint in the community it serves, customizing outreach to match community culture. We’re exploring sponsorships, scholarships, workshops, conferences, news opportunities, and other forms of participation that will build our brand via online links and social mentions as well as offline WOM marketing. We’re continuously developing cohesive online/offline outreach for maximum impact on brand recognition, rankings, reputation, and revenue.

☑ Social media

We’ve identified the social platforms that are most popular with our consumer base and a best fit for our brand. We’re practicing ongoing social listening to catch and address positive and negative sentiment trends as they arise. We’ve committed to a social mindset based on sharing rather than the hard sell.

☑ Spam-ready

We’re aware that our brand, our listings, and our reviews may be subject to spam, and we know what options are available for reporting it. We’re also prepared to detect when the spammy behaviors of competitors (such as fake addresses, fake negative/positive reviews, or keyword stuffing of listings) are giving them an unfair advantage in our markets, and have a methodology for escalating reports of guideline violations.

☑ Paid media

We’re investing wisely in both on-and-offline paid media and carefully tracking and analyzing the outcomes of online pay-per-click, radio, TV, billboards, and phone sales strategy. We’re exploring new opportunities, as appropriate and as they emerge, like Google Local Service Ads.

☑ Build/buy

When any new functionality (like Google Posts or Google Q&A) needs to be managed at scale, we have a process for determining whether we need to build or acquire new technology. We know we have to weigh the pros/cons of developing in-house or buying ready-made solutions.

☑ Competitive difference-maker

Once you’ve checked off all of the above elements, you’re ready to move forward towards identifying a USP for your brand that no one else in your market has explored. Be it a tool, widget, app, video marketing campaign, newsworthy acquisition, new partnership, or some other asset, this venture will require deep competitive and market research to discover a need that has yet to be filled well by your competitors. If your business can serve this need, it can set your brand apart for years to come.

Free advice, specifically for local enterprises

It’s asserted that customers may forget what you say, but they’ll never forget how you make them feel.

Call me a Californian, but I continue to be amazed by automotive TV spots that show large trucks driving through beautiful creeks (thanks for tearing up precious riparian habitat during our state-wide drought) and across pristine arctic snowfields (instantly reminding me of climate change). Meanwhile, my family have become Tesla-spotters, seeing that “zero emissions” messaging on the tail of every luxury eco-vehicle that passes us by. As consumers, we know how we feel.

Technical and organizational considerations aside, this is where I see one of the greatest risks posed to the local enterprise structure. Insensitivity at a regional or hyperlocal level -- the failure to research customer needs with the intention of meeting them — has been responsible for some of the most startling bad news for enterprises in recent recall. From ignored negative reviews across fast food franchises, to the downsizing of multiple apparel retailers who have been unable to stake a clear claim in the shifting shopping environment, brands that aren’t successful at generating positive consumer “feelings” may need to reevaluate not just their local search marketing mindset, but their basic identity.

If this sounds uncomfortable or risky, consider that we are seeing a rising trend in CEOs taking stands on issues of national import in America. This is about feelings. Consumers are coming to expect this, and it feeds down to the local level.

Hyperlocalized market research

If your brand is considering opening a new branch in a new state or city, you’ll be creating profiles as part of your research. These could be based on everything from reading local news to conducting formal surveys. If I were to do something like this for my part of California, these are the factors I’d be highlighting about the region:

California

Enterprises

We’ve been blasted by drought and wildfire. In 2017, alone, we went through 9,133 fires. On a positive note, Indigenous thought-leadership is beginning to be re-implemented in some areas to solve our worst ecological problems (water scarcity, salmon loss, absence of traditional forestry practices).

Can your brand help conserve water, re-house thousands of homeless residents, fund mental health services despite budget cuts, make legal services affordable, provide solutions for increased future safety? What are your green practices? Are you helping to forward ecological recovery efforts at a tribal, city or state level?

We’re grumbling more loudly about tech gentrification. If you live in Mississippi, sit down for this. The average home price in your state is $199,028. In my part of California, it’s $825,000. In San Francisco, specifically, you’ll need $1.2 million dollars to buy a tiny studio apartment... if you can find one. While causes are complex, people I talk with generally blame Silicon Valley.

Can your brand be part of this conversation? If not, you’re not really addressing what is on statewide consumers’ minds. Particularly if you’re marketing a tech-oriented company, taking the housing crisis seriously and coming up with solutions for even a modest amount of relief would certainly be positive and newsworthy.

We’ve turned to online shopping for an interesting variety of reasons. And it’s not just because we’re techie hipsters. The retail inventory in big cities (San Francisco) can be overwhelming to sort through, and in small towns (Cloverdale), the shopping options are too few to meet our basic and luxury desires.

Can your brand thrive in the gaps? If you’re located in a metro area, you may need to offer personal assistance to help consumers filter through options. If you’ve got a location somewhere near small towns, strategies like same-day delivery could help you remain competitive.


We’ve got our Hispanic/Latino identity back. Our architecture, city and street names are daily reminders that California has a lot more to do with Mexico than it ever did with the Mayflower. We may have become part of the U.S. in 1850, but pay more attention to 2014 — the year that our Hispanic/Latino community became the state’s largest ethnic group. This is one of the most vibrant happenings here. At the same time, our governor has declared us a sanctuary state for immigrants, and we’re being sued for it by the Justice Department.

Can your brand celebrate our state’s diversity? If you’re doing business in California today, you’ll need bilingual marketing, staff, and in-store amenities. Pew Research publishes ongoing data about the Hispanic/Latino segment of our population. What is your brand doing to ensure that these customers feel truly served?

We’re politically diverse. Our single state is roughly the same size as Sweden, and we truly do run the political gamut from A–Z here. Are citizens removing a man-made dam heroically restoring ecology or getting in the way of commerce? You’ll find voices on every side.

Can your brand take the risk of publicizing its honest core values? If so, you are guaranteed to win and lose Californian customers, so do your research and be prepared to own your stance. Know that at a regional level, communities differ greatly. Those TV ads that show trucks running roughshod through fragile ecosystems may fly in some cities and be viewed with extreme distaste in others.


Money is top of mind. More than ⅓ of Californians have zero savings. Over½ of the citizens have less than $1000 in savings. We invest more in Welfare than the next two states combined. And while our state has the highest proportion of resident billionaires, they are vastly outnumbered by citizens who are continuously anxious about struggling to get by. Purchasing decisions are seldom easy.

Can your brand employ a significant number of residents and pay them a living wage? Could your entry into a new market lift poverty in a town and provide better financial security? This would be newsworthy! Have ideas for lowering prices? You’ll get some attention there, too.

Obviously, I’m painting with broad strokes here, just touching on some of the key points that your enterprise would need to consider in determining to commence operations in any city or state. Why does this matter? Because the hyperlocalization of marketing is on the rise, and to engage with a community, you must first understand it.

Every month, I see businesses shutter because someone failed to apprehend true local demand. Did that bank pick a good location for a new branch? Yes — the next branch is on the other side of the city. Will the new location of the taco franchise remain open? No — it’s already sitting empty while the beloved taco wagon down the street has a line that spills out of its parking lot all night long.

Summing up

"What helps people, helps business." - Leo Burnett

The checklist in this post can help you create an enterprise-appropriate strategy for well-organized local search marketing, and it’s my hope that you’ll evaluate all SEO advice for its fitness to your model. These are the basic necessities. But where you go from there is the exciting part. The creative solutions you find to meet the specific wants and needs of individualized service communities could spell out the longevity of your brand’s success.


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Monday, 16 April 2018

How to Use Instagram Like a Beauty Brand

Posted by zeehj

Does your brand’s activity on its social accounts impact its search rankings? Maybe. Maybe not. But does it matter anyway?

I shouldn’t have to convince you that investing in a social media for your company is worth it; even in light of Facebook’s recent data breach, we are so reliant upon our social profiles for real human interaction that leaving them is not a real option. In fact, the below statistics from Pew Research Center’s 2018 Social Media Use Survey indicate that we’re not going to give up our social media profiles any time soon.

Humans are social creatures. It makes sense that we love being on social networking sites. We crave interaction with fellow humans. We’re also highly likely to trust the recommendations of our friends and family (Nielsen) and those recommendations often influence our purchasing decisions. We ask our loved ones for advice on where to put our dollars in myriad ways, all at different price points:

  • What coffee shop do you like to go to?
  • Which mascara is that?
  • What are you reading right now?
  • Where’d you get that tie?
  • What neighborhoods are you looking to move to?
  • What schools are you looking to send Anna to?

Yes, those same searches occur online. They also frequently occur in tandem with testimonials from the people in our lives (depending on how thorough we want or need to be).

So if you have a thing that you want to sell to a group of people and you’re still not pursuing a social strategy, I don’t understand what you’re doing. Yes, it’s 2018 and I still find myself trying to persuade clients to proactively use (the right) social networks to promote their brand.

For the sake of this piece, we’re going to focus on organic usage (read: free, not paid advertising) of Instagram. Why just Instagram? 35% of US adults say they use Instagram as of 2018, up from 28% in 2016. This was the greatest growth across top social networking sites reported by Pew Research Center. Additionally, its 35% usage puts it at the third most popular social networking platform, behind only Facebook and YouTube.

Other good news? It may be easier for brands’ posts to appear in users’ Instagram feeds than on their Facebook feeds: Facebook still wants to prioritize your family, friends and groups, while The New York Times reports that Instagram is updating its algorithm to favor newer posts rather than limit the accounts in your feed.

So should every brand have an Instagram? Maybe? But notice I’ve been primarily using the word “brand,” not “company” or “business.” That’s deliberate. Companies (only) provide customers with a service or sell a product. Brands provide customers (followers) with an identity. (If you want to dive further into this, I highly recommend this presentation by former Distiller Hannah Smith.)

The best companies are brands: they’ve got identities with which consumers align themselves. We become loyal to them. We may even use the brands we purchase from and follow as self identifiers to other people (“I’m a Joe & the Juice kind of guy, but not Starbucks,” “I never use MAC, only NARS,” “Me, shop at Banana Republic?! I only go to Everlane!”). Not every company should be on Instagram — it doesn’t make much sense for B2Bs to invest time and energy into building their company’s presence on Instagram.

Instagram is not for your consulting firm. And probably not for your SaaS company, either (but prove me wrong)!

It’s for celebrities. It’s to show off your enviable trip. It’s for fashion blogs. Sneakerheads. Memes. Art. Beauty brands. It’s really great for beauty brands. Why? Instagram is obviously great for sharing pretty photos — and if you’re a beauty company, well, it’s a no-brainer that you should have an active account. And it also has incredible built-in features to organically promote your posts, engage customers, and sell products with actual links to those products on your photos.

So, if you’re going to use Instagram, do it right. If you want to do it right, do it like a beauty brand.

First things first: Why do beauty companies’ IG posts look better?

Glossier

Onomie

Milk

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: each account features beautiful models, pretty sceneries, and cosmetics in clean packaging. That said, it’s not just the subject of the IG photos that matters: each of these IG accounts’ photos have been curated and edited together, so that their photos look cohesive when you view them in IG’s grid format. How do they do that? Let’s look at three posts from these accounts.

Glossier

Onomie

Milk

It’s hard (for me) to pick apart precisely why these photos are aesthetically pleasing — and it doesn’t help that I’m neither a photographer, nor a designer. That said, here is my rudimentary, non-designer take on why these photos look great together:

#1: Their subjects are beautiful (duh)

#2: There are limited primary focal points, and tons of negative space (though the medicine cabinet and floral arrangement photos are arguably “busy”)

#3: Their hues are complementary (pinky-pearlescent-pastels, anyone?)

There’s a lot of pink. And white. And pastels. And more pink. And then, occasionally, pops of color (think: a new violet lipstick shade).

Color schemes remain consistent across Onomie’s, Milk’s, and Glossier’s photos — these beauty brands don’t suddenly change their color palettes from one photo to the next. In fact, they are most likely implementing the same Instagram filters for each photo, or at least editing the color balances so that the photos complement each other. They are deliberately catering to Instagram’s 3x3 grid photo format (or 3x4, or 3x5, depending on your screen size). While many users do see IG posts in their “feeds” when they open the app, users are still motivated to look at IG accounts’ for a number of reasons: IG profiles are the only place where you can add hyperlinks on Instagram, and is also where accounts can pin stories for users to revisit.

But how on earth do they do it? They may have professional photographers, or graphic designers they can beg to normalize their color balances across photos. However, I don’t think that most companies necessarily need this mastery in-house in order to have an Instagram profile that looks good to mere mortals.

What I can assure you is that they plan, plan, plan out their posts in advance. In order to do this effectively, of course, you need the right tools. Here’s your starter pack of IG apps:

  • VSCO
    • Freemium phone app
    • Enables you to edit photos like a master — VSCO goes way beyond a small set of filters
    • Has its own community and image feed within the app, separate from IG
    • VSCO can’t post directly to IG (yet), but you can easily download any edited photo
  • Planoly
    • Freemium desktop tool and phone app
    • Can visualize your photos in a grid format with your other IG photos
    • Built-in analytics
    • Can schedule and post directly to IG, with captions and hashtags
  • Unum
    • Free
    • Offers some photo editing tools
    • Can drag and drop photos to plan out how they will appear alongside your other uploads, in grid format
    • Can post to IG, but no scheduling features

This may sound like a lot of work, and for non-designers in particular it’s pretty challenging. That said, the fruits of your labor can be used again and again. In fact, that’s precisely what these beauty brands do on IG: if they’re featuring a product (again, hello lipstick shades), they show off that product’s different colors, on different skintones. Basically, rinse and repeat with your IG photos: this repetition is great for those with sparse content calendars, and still looks great.

Okay, but they’re not popular just because of their looks, right? Why are beauty brands on IG so damn popular?

Yes, looks matter. IG is a visual platform. Sorry not sorry. And yes, we’re talking about beauty brands that have budgets to advertise their accounts and products on IG, which also contributes to their popularity. However, that’s not the whole story.

They use hashtags and photo tags.

Hashtags

Just like on Twitter (and Facebook, to a degree), hashtags are a natural way to boost exposure and get “discovered.” That’s largely because IG users can also follow hashtags, in the same manner as following a handle. And, just like on Twitter, it matters which hashtags you use. IG also allows users to add up to 30 hashtags per post — and yes, this can look spammy, but if you’re using IG like a beauty brand, you’ll separate your caption from your hashtags with periods-used-as-line-breaks or as a separate comment after you post.

So, where should you begin hunting for hashtags? Unfortunately, the Cambridge Analytica debacle has extended to Facebook’s other properties, including Instagram. It seems like one direct response to this is to limit the number of API calls we can make of IG. This means awesome services like websta.me can’t serve up the same amount of information around hashtags as they once did.

That said, Tagboard is one option for content and social media marketers to use. I like to use it to suss out hashtag intent (in answering whether this the right hashtag to use for this post). *Readers: if you’ve got tools you love to find hashtags on IG, add them in the comments below for us, please!

Otherwise, your best bet (as far as I know) is to search for hashtags directly in Instagram’s Discover area, under Tags. There, you can see how many times those hashtags have been used (what’s popular?) and then click through to see what photos have been tagged.

Photo tags

Beauty brands also take advantage of photo tagging on their posts when they can: if they are featuring a celebrity (like the magnificent Tracee Ellis Ross), they can tag her IG directly onto this post. Not only does this let Tracee (or, more likely, her social media manager) know, but depending on her settings this photo now shows up under her tagged photos on her profile — for her fans to discover.

Similarly, if you’re a business selling products and you’ve been approved for shopping on IG, you can also tag your products in your photos so that users can click through directly to their product pages. This is a no-brainer. Just do it.

They talk to their followers.

We already know that it’s best practice to engage and respond to followers on social media (within reason), and IG is no different. Onomie, Milk and Glossier all have downright spirited conversations in their photos’ comments sections by prompt fellow ‘grammers to participate in a few ways. They:

They add stories.

IG’s “Stories” feature is another great tool that Onomie, Milk, and Glossier all use. They’re like IG posts, but ephemeral (they only last 24 hours) and do not live in your main feed: users can access these stories from the top of their IG feeds, and from the account’s main icon. In some cases — especially brands selling products — these accounts may choose to “pin” evergreen stories to their IG profiles, so that users can access them beyond the 24-hour lifespan.

Stories are an excellent way to gather additional insights from followers (outside of comments) because you can run polls (with clickable elements) to collect simple data (“Should our next product help alleviate dry or oily skin?”). What’s more is that, depending on users’ notification preferences, stories automatically push notifications to followers’ phone screens. This means that even if a user is not using the app, they will be notified of new, temporary content.

If your brand (or your client) isn’t taking advantage of IG’s great marketing tools, it’s time to stop waiting and get ‘gramming. Especially if your target audiences are using the platform, there is no reason not to test out all the ways it allows you to engage its community.

Share your favorite IG tools, tips, and accounts below, so that other Moz readers can get inspired. And if you’re passionate about marketing, come join our team, and help me convince more awesome brands to take over Instagram. (JK. Kinda.)


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Friday, 13 April 2018

Sustainable Link Building: Increasing Your Chances of Getting Links - Whiteboard Friday

Posted by Paddy_Moogan

Link building campaigns shouldn't have a start-and-stop date — they should be ongoing, continuing to earn you links over time. In this edition of Whiteboard Friday, please warmly welcome our guest host Paddy Moogan as he shares strategies to achieve sustainable link building, the kind that makes your content efforts lucrative far beyond your initial campaigns for them.

Sustainable Link Building: Increasing Your Chances of Getting Links

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Video Transcription

Hi, Moz fans. Welcome to Whiteboard Friday. I'm not Rand. I'm Paddy Moogan. I'm the cofounder of Aira. We're an agency in the UK, focusing on SEO, link building, and content marketing. You may have seen me write on the Moz Blog before, usually about link building. You may have read my link building book. If you have, thank you. Today, I'm going to talk about link building again. It's a topic I love, and I want to share some ideas around what I'm calling "sustainable link building."

Problems

Now, there are a few problems with link building that make it quite risky, and I want to talk about some problems first before giving you some potential solutions that help make your link building less risky. So a few problems first:

I. Content-driven link building is risky.

The problem with content-driven link building is that you're producing some content and you don't really know if it's going to work or not. It's quite risky, and you don't actually know for sure that you're going to get links.

II. A great content idea may not be a great content idea that gets links.

There's a massive difference between a great idea for content and a great idea that will get links. Knowing that difference is really, really important. So we're going to talk a little bit about how we can work that out.

III. It's a big investment of time and budget.

Producing content, particularly visual content, doing design and development takes time. It can take freelancers. It can take designers and developers. So it's a big investment of time and budget. If you're going to put time and budget into a marketing campaign, you want to know it's probably going to work and not be too risky.

IV. Think of link building as campaign-led: it starts & stops.

So you do a link building campaign, and then you stop and start a new one. I want to get away from that idea. I want to talk about the idea of treating link building as the ongoing activity and not treating it as a campaign that has a start date and a finish date and you forget about it and move on to the next one. So I'm going to talk a little bit about that as well.

Solutions

So those are some of the problems that we've got with content-driven link-building. I want to talk about some solutions of how to offset the risk of content-driven link building and how to increase the chances that you're actually going to get links and your campaign isn't going to fail and not work out for you.

I. Don't tie content to specific dates or events

So the first one, now, when you coming up with content ideas, it's really easy to tie content ideas into events or days of the year. If there are things going on in your client's industry that are quite important, current festivals and things like that, it's a great way of hooking a piece of content into an event. Now, the problem with that is if you produce a piece of content around a certain date and then that date passes and the content hasn't worked, then you're kind of stuck with a piece of content that is no longer relevant.

So an example here of what we've done at Aira, there's a client where they launch a piece of content around the Internet of Things Day. It turns out there's a day celebrating the Internet of Things, which is actually April 9th this year. Now, we produced a piece of content for them around the Internet of Things and its growth in the world and the impact it's having on the world. But importantly, we didn't tie it exactly to that date. So the piece itself didn't mention the date, but we launched it around that time and that outreach talked about Internet of Things Day. So the outreach focused on the date and the event, but the content piece itself didn't. What that meant was, after July 9th, we could still promote that piece of content because it was still relevant. It wasn't tied in with that exact date.

So it means that we're not gambling on a specific event or a specific date. If we get to July 9th and we've got no links, it obviously matters, but we can keep going. We can keep pushing that piece of content. So, by all means, produce content tied into dates and events, but try not to include that too much in the content piece itself and tie yourself to it.

II. Look for datasets which give you multiple angles for outreach

Number two, lots of content ideas can lead from data. So you can get a dataset and produce content ideas off the back of the data, but produce angles and stories using data. Now, that can be quite risky because you don't always know if data is going to give you a story or an angle until you've gone into it. So something we try and do at Aira when trying to produce content around data is from actually different angles you can use from that data.

So, for example:

  • Locations. Can you pitch a piece of content into different locations throughout the US or the UK so you can go after the local newspapers, local magazines for different areas of the country using different data points?
  • Demographics. Can you target different demographics? Can you target females, males, young people, old people? Can you slice the data in different ways to approach different demographics, which will give you multiple ways of actually outreaching that content?
  • Years. Is it updated every year? So it's 2018 at the moment. Is there a piece of data that will be updated in 2019? If there is and it's like a recurring annual thing where the data is updated, you can redo the content next year. So you can launch a piece of content now. When the data gets updated next year, plug the new data into it and relaunch it. So you're not having to rebuild a piece of a content every single time. You can use old content and then update the data afterwards.

III. Build up a bank of link-worthy content

Number three, now this is something which is working really, really well for us at the moment, something I wanted to share with you. This comes back to the idea of not treating link building as a start and stop campaign. You need to build up a bank of link-worthy content on your client websites or on your own websites. Try and build up content that's link worthy and not just have content as a one-off piece of work. What you can do with that is outreach over and over and over again.

We tend to think of the content process as something like this. You come up with your ideas. You do the design, then you do the outreach, and then you stop. In reality, what you should be doing is actually going back to the start and redoing this over and over again for the same piece of content.

What you end up with is multiple pieces of content on your client's website that are all getting links consistently. You're not just focusing on one, then moving past it, and then working on the next one. You can have this nice big bank of content there getting links for you all the time, rather than forgetting about it and moving on to the next one.

IV. Learn what content formats work for you

Number four, again, this is something that's worked really well for us recently. Because we're an agency, we work with lots of different clients, different industries and produce lots and lots of content, what we've done recently is try to work out what content formats are working the best for us. Which formats get the best results for our clients? The way we did this was a very, very simple chart showing how easy something was versus how hard it was, and then wherever it was a fail in terms of the links and the coverage, or wherever it was a really big win in terms of links and coverage and traffic for the client.

Now, what you may find when you do this is certain content formats fit within this grid. So, for example, you may find that doing data viz is actually really, really hard, but it gets you lots and lots of links, whereas you might find that producing maps and visuals around that kind of data is actually really hard but isn't very successful.

Identifying these content formats and knowing what works and doesn't work can then feed into your future content campaign. So when you're working for a client, you can confidently say, "Well, actually, we know that interactives aren't too difficult for us to build because we've got a good dev team, and they really likely to get links because we've done loads of them before and actually seen lots of successes from them." Whereas if you come up with an idea for a map that you know is actually really, really hard to do and actually might lead to a big fail, then that's not going to be so good, but you can say to a client, "Look, from our experience, we can see maps don't work very well. So let's try and do something else."

That's it in terms of tips and solutions for trying to make your link building more sustainable. I'd love to hear your comments and your feedback below. So if you've got any questions, anything you're not sure about, let me know. If you see it's working for your clients or not working, I'd love to hear that as well. Thank you.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com


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