Monthly Archives: May 2013

How My Mom Thinks Search Engines Work

Posted by Rob Toledo

With Mother’s Day in many countries having just passed (I learned this week that the UK celebrates Mothering Sunday earlier in the year), I thought it would be fun to have a conversation about SEO with one of the most incredible people on the entire planet: my mom. I asked her about what it is she believes our industry does on a daily basis as well as how she thinks search engines function in general.

The conversation was great; sort of similar to rubber duck debugging, except in this case the rubber duck was my mom, and instead of sitting there silently, she could comment when I started using terms she did not understand (and who can blame her; we’re pretty notorious for inventing words and phrases on whims).

Here are some of my favorite moments from the chat:

What do you think I do at work all day? “Work on your computer, fly toy helicopters, drink lattes… etc.”

Not going to lie, that’s pretty accurate; sorry, Will and Duncan!

What does SEO stand for?  “Search engine online”

Not quite, but at least she didn’t say “SEO optimization.”

Do you know what Bing is? “Bing bong?” *laughter ensues* “No, I had to look it up.”

I can appreciate the humor. I’m assuming she used Google but missed the irony; sorry, Duane.

How do search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo decide who to put at the top of a search result? “Don’t they base it mostly off of which sites are read the most?”

Not too far off, but how do they establish that list to begin with? “Test which ones people click on the most and then move them around a bunch to see what works best, right?”

Before I worked in SEO, this was how I thought it worked too; and in the grand scheme of things, this has some loose truth buried in there; partial credit.

How do search engines make money? “By putting those little ads all over the page.”

Nailed it.

If you were looking for a veterinarian close to you, what would you do? “I’d go to Google.com and type in “best veterinarian in Seattle” and look for people’s reviews. Or maybe ask a neighbor.”

Ah yes, the one thing that always thwarts a #1 ranking in the SERPs: a personalized recommendation from a friend.

If you were looking for advice on how to train a dog to stop barking, what would you search for? “How do I train my dog to stop barking, and then probably look for a website where people ask questions and then others give answers.”

I think she’s talking about Yahoo! Answers, the black hole of infinite internet wisdom…

How far down the page on the search results will you look? “Not too far, I don’t normally find what I want past the first couple listings.”

Besides being at the top of the page, what is the biggest factor on what you click on in the search results? “How many stars it has for reviews or if I recognize a company that I like.”

Ah yes, the trust factor.

If you don’t like the results for those searches, what would you do differently in your second search? “Probably give up. No, just kidding. Probably pick some different words to search for; maybe call someone depending on what I needed.”

Bonus question: If you were running a small flower shop, how would you try and get to the front page of Google for when people searched “fresh flowers”? “I’d name it AAA Best Fresh Flowers or something. I don’t know, probably call you, isn’t that your job?”

Phone book marketing at its finest.

OK that was fun, but why?

While those questions and subsequent answers might seem kind of silly, there is immense value in removing yourself from the SEO echo chamber and having occasional, down-to-earth conversations with someone from the 99% of search engine users who have minimal understanding of “under the hood” mechanics on results pages.

For me, working at an agency makes it pretty easy to get wrapped up in the lingo and terminology that many of us all comprehend without second thought. Phrases like WMT, dynamic urls, 301 redirects, SERPs, canonicalization, etc. are tossed around in casual conversation over morning coffee like we’re talking about the weather. But ask an outsider to translate, and I’m willing to bet we sound like toddlers speaking gibberish.

This is certainly not exclusive to SEO, as any of us who have friends in terminology-heavy industries like software, finance or medical fields can easily get lost listening in during a technical conversation. Or my personal favorite, ask someone in the US Military to spout off as many acronyms as they can remember and your head will be left spinning; it’s impressive.

Point being, it is important to understand that this gap in comprehension exists. When I was a bank teller in college, I would always find myself using terms and phrases that quickly earned perplexed looks from my customers. “It looks like the APR on your HELOC isn’t up-to-date; let’s have a PB take a look.”

I learned pretty quickly that in order to communicate effectively to my customers, it was vitally important that I spoke in a much more common language that they understood completely. Nobody likes to feel dumb; in my case, being a college kid trying to talk about personal finance to a partner at a law firm rarely ends well. “I’ll have my people take a look,” was always one of my favorite responses as the clarity in my error was bright as day.

For those of you who have been doing this whole SEO thing for a while now, think back to when you first started pitching the idea to bosses, your client list or even other marketing folks. I’m sure you can distinctly remember the looks you received during those conversations. One of my favorite responses of all time was, “Don’t most people just search for our brand name if they want to shop on our site?”

So, let’s simplify

One of most brilliant ads of the late 90s was the Apple Switch campaign.

Instead of focusing on RAM, graphics cards, processing speed and hard drive space, Apple took an approach that created a common user, the college student, the non-technical parents, the elderly, and simplified a message specifically for them:

We would all be doing ourselves a huge favor to make sure that our daily conversations with people not directly entrenched in the SEO industry use far less lingo and more conversational language. The VP of Marketing is always going to understand what more revenue means and probably cares far less about the specific details behind URL structure or anchor text distribution. Always start with the big picture then whittle your way down to the finer details only as far as your audience is willing to pay attention.

The takeaway

So how do we combat this echo chamber a bit? Here are some things that have really helped me out over the past year:

  1. Take non-SEOs out for coffee

On some recurring frequency, schedule a coffee date with friends who you’re certain have little to no grasp on SEO and get their opinion on how they search. Bonus points for diversifying the demographics along a wide gradient of technical and non-technical folks. Ask them how they search for any number of things (navigational, transactional, and informational).

You will quickly see how differently each person functions when they’re on the hunt for something. They will likely reveal some great tips to keep in mind for your future SEO projects. Keeping your ear to the ground on how the “common folk” search often offers immense value in preparing a strategy.

  1. Get active in non-SEO communities

One of my favorites is Hacker News, which has a very strong and relatively negative opinion of SEO. But these are the things that we need to read, because these are actual people’s opinions. I can hear Mike Pantoliano groaning from here, but reading through all the misconceptions a lot of these people have offers insight into what we as an industry need to continually work toward improving.

All the best work in the world amounts to nothing if the perception of the industry as a whole is negative. Folks like John Doherty, Rand Fishkin and Ross Hudgens are doing a great job defending the industry on HN, but there is plenty of work left. Besides, it’s always great to hear an opinion from the other side of the aisle.

  1. Follow lots and lots of non-SEOs on Twitter

We’re all guilty of it; take a look through the people you follow on Twitter. I’m betting the majority of those people are somehow related to SEO as well. I can appreciate you want to be up on the latest and greatest news when it comes to search, but try to diversify this list as much as possible. Take your non-search interests and look for the thought leaders in those spaces; the balance is invaluable!

What are your thoughts? I would love to hear how you talk about technical issues to non-technical clients. How do you bridge the gap?

And lastly, a very Happy Mother’s Day to all the hard working moms out there. Without you, we wouldn’t all be here!

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How to Rank: 25 Step SEO Master Blueprint

Posted by Cyrus Shepard

If you’re like most SEOs, you spend a lot of time reading. Over the past several years, I’ve spent 100s of hours studying blogs, guides, and Google patents. Not long ago, I realized that 90% of what I read each doesn’t change what I actually do – that is, the basic work of ranking a web page higher on Google.

For newer SEOs, the process can be overwhelming.

To simplify this process, I created this SEO blueprint. It’s meant as a framework for newer SEOs to build their own work on top of. This basic blueprint has helped, in one form or another, 100s of pages and dozens of sites to gain higher rankings.

Think of it as an intermediate SEO instruction manual, for beginners.

Level: Beginner to Intermediate

Timeframe: 2 to 10 Weeks

What you need to know: The blueprint assumes you have basic SEO knowledge: you’re not scared of title tags, can implement a rel=canonical, and you’ve built a link or two. (If this is your first time to the rodeo, we suggest reading the Beginners Guide to SEO and browsing our Learn SEO section.)

How To Rank SEO Blueprint

Table of Contents


Keyword Research

1. Working Smarter, Not Harder

Keyword research can be simple or hard, but it should always be fun. For the sake of the Blueprint, let’s do keyword research the easy way.

The biggest mistakes people make with keyword research are:

  1. Choosing keywords that are too broad
  2. Keywords with too much competition
  3. Keywords without enough traffic
  4. Keywords that don’t convert
  5. Trying to rank for one keyword at a time

The biggest mistake people make is trying to rank for a single keyword at a time. This is the hard way. It’s much easier, and much more profitable, to rank for 100s or even 1,000s of long tail keywords with the same piece of content.

Instead of ranking for a single keyword, let’s aim our project around a keyword theme.

2. Dream Your Keyword Theme

Using keyword themes solves a whole lot of problems. Instead of ranking for one Holy Grail keyword, a better goal is to rank for lots of keywords focused around a single idea. Done right, the results are amazing.

Easy Keyword Research

I assume you know enough about your business to understand what type of visitor you’re seeking and whether you’re looking for traffic, conversions, or both. Regardless, one simple rule holds true: the more specific you define your theme, the easier it is to rank.

This is basic stuff, but it bears repeating. If your topic is the football, you’ll find it hard to rank for  “Super Bowl,” but slightly easier to rank for “Super Bowl 2014” – and easier yet to rank for “Best Super Bowl Recipes of 2014.”

Don’t focus on specific words yet – all you need to know is your broad topic. The next step is to find the right keyword qualifiers.

3. Get Specific with Qualifiers

Qualifiers are words that add specificity to keywords and define intent. They take many different forms.

  • Time/Date: 2001, December, Morning
  • Price/Quality: Cheap, Best, Most Popular
  • Intent: Buy, Shop, Find
  • Location: Houston, Outdoors, Online

The idea is to find as many qualifiers as possible that fit your audience. Here’s where keyword tools enter the picture. You can use any keyword tool you like, but favorites include Wordstream, Keyword Spy, SpyFu, and Bing Keyword Tool and Übersuggest.

For speed and real-world insight, Übersuggest is an all-time SEO favorite. Run a simple query and export over 100 suggested keyword based on Google’s own Autocomplete feature – based on actual Google searches.

Did I mention it’s free?

4. Finding Diamonds in the Google Rough

At this point you have a few dozen, or a few hundred keywords to pull into Google Adwords Keyword Tool.

Pro Tip #1: While it’s possible to run over a hundred keyword phrases at once in Google’s Keyword Tool, you get more variety if you limit your searches to 5-10 at a time.

Ubersuggest and Google Keyword Tool

Using “Exact” search types and “Local Monthly” search volume, we’re looking for 10-15 closely related keyword phrases with decent search volume, but not too much competition.

Pro Tip #2: Be careful trusting the “Competition” column in Google Adwords Keyword Tool. This refers to bids on paid search terms, not organic search.

5. Get Strategic with the Competition

Now that we have a basic keyword set, you need to find out if you can actually rank for your phrases. You have two basic methods of ranking the competition:

  1. Automated tools like the Keyword Difficulty Tool
  2. Eyeballing the SERPs

If you have an SEOmoz PRO membership (or even a free trial) the Keyword Difficulty Tool calculates – on a 100 point scale – a difficulty score for each individual keyword phrase you enter.

Keyword Difficulty Tool

Keyword phrases in the 60-70+ range are typically competitive, while keywords in the 30-40 range might be considered low to moderately difficult.

To get a better idea of your own strengths, take the most competitive keyword you currently rank #1 or #2 for, and run it through the tool.

Even without automated tools, the best way to size up the competition is to eyeball the SERPs. Run a search query (non-personalized) for your keywords and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are the first few results optimized for the keyword?
  • Is the keyword in the title tag? In the URL? On the page?
  • What’s the Page and/or Domain Authority of the URL?
  • Are the first few results authorities on the keyword subject?
  • What’s the inbound anchor text?
  • Can you deliver a higher quality resource for this keyword?

You don’t actually have to rank #1 for any of your chosen words to earn traffic, but you should be comfortable cracking the top five.

With keyword themes, the magic often happens from keywords you never even thought about.

Case Study: Google Algo Update

When SEOmoz launched the Google Algorithm Change HIstory (run by Dr. Pete) we used a similar process for keyword research to explore the theme “Google Algorithm” and more specifically, “Google Algorithm Change.”

According to Google’s search tool, we could expect a no more than a couple thousand visits a month – best case – for these exact terms. Fortunately, because the project was well received and because we optimized around a broad keyword theme of “Google Algorithm,” the Algo Update receives lots of traffic outside our pre-defined keywords.

This is where the long tail magic happens:

Long Tail Keywords

How can you improve your chances of ranking for more long tail keywords? Let’s talk about content, architecture, on-page optimization and link building.


Content

6. Creating Value

Want to know the truth? I hate the word content. It implies words on a page, a commodity to be produced, separated from the value it creates.

Content without value is spam.

In the Google Algorithm Update example above, we could have simply written 100 articles about Google’s Algorithm and hoped to rank. Instead, the conversation started by asking how we could create a valuable resource for webmasters.

For your keyword theme, ask first how you can create value.

Value is harder to produce than mere words, but value is rewarded 100x more. Value is future proof & algorithm proof. Value builds links by itself. Value creates loyal fans.

Value takes different forms. It’s a mix of:

  1. Utility
  2. Emotional response
  3. Point of view (positive or negative)
  4. Perceived value, including fame of the author

Your content doesn’t have to include all 4 of these characteristics, but it should excel in one or more to be successful.

A study of the New York Times found key characteristics of content to be influential in making the Most Emailed list.

New York Times Most Emailed
Source: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1528077\

7. Driving Your Content Vehicle

Here’s a preview: the Blueprint requires you create at least one type of link bait, so now is a good time to think about the structure of your content.

What’s the best way to deliver value given your theme? Perhaps it’s an

  • Infographic
  • Video series
  • A new tool
  • An interview series
  • Slide deck
  • How-to guide
  • Q&A
  • Webinar or simple blog post

Perhaps, it’s all of these combined.

The more ways you find to deliver your content and the more channels you take advantage of, the better off you’ll be.

Not all of your content has to go viral, but you want to create at least one “tent-pole” piece that’s better than anything else out there and you’re proud to hang your hat on.

If you need inspiration, check out Distilled’s guide to Viral Linkbait or QuickSprout’s Templates for Content Creation.

8. Title – Most Important Work Goes Here

Spend two hours, minimum, writing your title.

Sound ridiculous? If you’re an experienced title writer like Rand Fishkin, you can break this rule. For the rest of us, it’s difficult to underplay the value delivered by a finely crafted title.

Write 50 titles or more before choosing one.

Study the successful titles on Inbound.org, Mashable, Wired, or your favorite publication.

Headline Formulas Work

Whatever you do, read this fantastic post by Dan Shure and the headline resources at CopyBlogger.

9. Length vs. Depth – Why it Matters

How long should your content be? A better question is: How deep should it be? Word count by itself is a terrible metric to strive for, but depth of content helps you to rank in several ways.

  1. Adds uniqueness threshold to avoid duplicate content
  2. Deeper topic exploration makes your content “about” more
  3. Quality, longer content is correlated with more links and higher rankings

I. Uniqueness

At a minimum, your content needs to meet a minimum uniqueness threshold in order for it to rank. Google reps have gone on record to say a couple sentences is sometimes sufficient, but in reality a couple hundred words is much safer.

II. Long Tail Opportunities

Here’s where the real magic happens. The deeper your content and the more in-depth you can explore a particular topic, the more your content becomes “about.”

The more your content is “about”, the more search queries it can answer well.

The more search queries you can answer well, the more traffic you can earn.

Google’s crawlers continuously read your content to determine how relevant it is to search queries. They evaluate paragraphs, subject headings, photographs and more to try to understand your page. Longer, in-depth content usually send more relevancy signals than a couple short sentences.

III. Depth, Length, and Links

Numerous correlation studies have shown a positive relationship between rankings and number of words in a document.

“The length in HTML and the HTML within the <body> tag were the highest correlated factors, in fact with correlations of .12 they could be considered somewhat if not hugely significant.

While these factors probably are not implemented within the algorithm, they are good signs of what Google is looking for; quality content, which in many cases means long or at least sufficiently lengthy pages.”

– Mark Collier The Open Algorithm

This could be attributed longer, quality content earning more links. John Doherty examined the relationship between the length of blog posts on SEOmoz and the number of links each post earned, and found a strong relationship.

Links based on wordcount

10. Content Qualities You Can Bank On

If you don’t focus on word count, how do you add quality “depth” to your content?

SEOs have written volumes about how Google might define quality including metrics such as reading level, grammar, spelling, and even Author Rank. Most is speculation, but it’s clear Google does use guidelines to separate good content from bad.

My favorite source for clues comes from the set of questions Google published shortly after the first Panda update. Here are a few of my favorites.

Google Panda Questions

11. LDA, nTopic, and Words on the Page

Google is a machine. It can’t yet understand your page like a human can, but it’s getting close.

Search engines use sophisticated algorithms to model your sentences, paragraphs, blocks, and content sections. Not only do they want to understand your keywords, but also your topic, intent, and expertise as well.

How do you know if your content fits Google’s model of expectations?

For example, if your topic is “Super Bowl Recipes,” Google might expect to see content about grilling, appetizers, and guacamole. Content that addresses these topics will likely rank higher than pages that talk about what color socks you’re wearing today.

Words matter.

SEOs have discovered that using certain words around a topic associated with concepts like LDA and nTopic are correlated with higher rankings.

Virante offers an interesting stand alone keyword suggestion tool called nTopic. The tools analyzes your keywords and suggests related keywords to improve your relevancy scores.

nTopic

12. Better than LDA – Poor Man’s Topic Modeling

Since we don’t have access to Google’s computers for topic modeling, there’s a far simpler way to structure your content that I find far superior to worrying about individual words:

Use the keyword themes you created at the beginning of this blueprint.

You’ve already done the research using Google’s keyword tool to find closely related keyword groups. Incorporating these topics into your content may help increase your relevancy to your given topic.

Example: Using the Google Algorithm project cited above, we found during keyword research that certain keywords related to our theme show up repeatedly, time and time again. If we conducted this research today, we would find phrases like “Penguin SEO” and “Panda Updates” frequently in our results.

Google suggests these terms via the keyword tool because they consider them closely related. So any content that explored “Google Algorithm Change” might likely include a discussion of these ideas.

Poor Man's Topic Modeling

Note: This isn’t real LDA, simply a way of adding relevant topics to your content that Google might associate with your subject matter.

13. Design Is 50% of the Battle

If you have any money in your budget, spend it on design. A small investment with a designer typically pays outsized dividends down the road. Good design can:

  • Lower bounce rate
  • Increase page views
  • Increase time on site
  • Earn more links
  • Establish trust

… All of which can help earn higher rankings.

“Design doesn’t just matter, it’s 50% of the battle.”
-Rand Fishkin

Dribbble.com

Dribbble.com is one of our favorite source of design inspiration.


Architecture

Here’s the special secret of the SEO Blueprint: you’re not making a single page to rank; you’re making several.

14. Content Hubs

Very few successful websites consist of a single page. Google determines context and relevancy not only by what’s on your page, but also by the pages around it and linking to it.

The truth is, it’s far easier to rank when you create Content Hubs exploring several topics in depth focused around a central theme.

Using our “Super Bowl Recipes” example, we might create a complete section of pages, each exploring a different recipe in depth.

Content Hub for SEO

15. Linking the Hub Together

Because your pages now explore different aspects of the same broad topic, it makes sense to link them together.

  • Your page about guacamole relates to your page about nachos.
  • Your page about link building relates to your page about infographics.
  • Your page about Winston Churchill relates to major figures of World War II.

Linking Your Content Hub

It also helps them to rank by distributing PageRank, anchor text, and other relevancy signals.

16. Find Your Center

Content Hubs work best with a “hub” or center. Think of the center as the master document that acts as an overview or gateway to all of your individual content pages.

The hub is the authority page. Often, the hub is a link bait page or a category level page. It’s typically the page with the most inbound links and often as a landing page for other sections of your site.

Center of the SEO Content Hub

For great example of Hub Pages, check out:


On-Page Optimization

17. Master the Basics

You could write an entire book about on-page optimization. If you’re new to SEO, one of the best ways to learn is by using SEOmoz’s On-page Report Card (free, registration required) The tool grades 36 separate on-page SEO elements, gives you a report and suggestions on how to fix each element. Working your way through these issues is an excellent way to learn (and often used by agencies and companies as a way to teach SEO principals)

On-Page Tool

Beyond the basics, let’s address a few slightly more advanced tactics to take advantage of your unique keyword themes and hub pages, in addition to areas where beginners often make mistakes.

18. Linking Internally for the Reasonable Surfer

Not all links are created equal (One of the greatest SEO blog posts ever written!) So, when you interlink your internal pages within your content hub together, keep in mind a few important points.

  1. Links from inside unique content pass more value than navigation links.
  2. Links higher up the page pass more value than links further down.
  3. Links in HTML text pass more weight than image links.

When interlinking your content, it’s best to keep links prominent and “editorial” – naturally link to your most important content pages higher up in the HTML text.

19. Diversify Your Anchor Text – Naturally

If Google’s Penguin update taught us anything, it’s that over-thinking anchor text is bound to get us in trouble.

When you link naturally and editorially to other places on the web, you naturally diversify your anchor text. The same should hold true when you link internally.

Don’t choose your anchor text to fit your keywords; choose your anchor text to fit the content around it.

Practically speaking, this means linking internally with a mix of partial match keyword and related phrases. Don’t be scared to link occasionally without good keywords in the anchor – the link can still pass relevancy signals. When it comes to linking, it’s safer to under-do it than over-do it.

Choose Descriptive Anchor Text

Souce: Google’s SEO Starter Guide

20. Title Tags – Two Quick Tips

We assume you know how to write a compelling title tag. Even today, keyword usage in the title tag is one of the most highly correlated on-page ranking factors that we know.

That said, Google is getting strict about over-optimizing title tags, and appears to be further cracking down on titles “written for SEO.” Keep this in mind when crafting your title tags

I. Avoid Boilerplates

It used to be common to tack on your business phrase or main keywords to the end of every title tag, like so:

  • Plumbing Supplies – Chicago Plumbing and Fixtures
  • Pipes & Fittings – Chicago Plumbing and Fixtures
  • Toilet Seat Covers – Chicago Plumbing and Fixtures

While we don’t have much solid data, many SEOs are now asserting that “boilerplate” titles tacked on to the end of every tag are no longer a good idea. Brand names and unique descriptive information is okay, but making every title as unique as possible is the rule of the day.

II. Avoid Unnecessary Repetition

Google also appears (at least to many SEOs) on what’s considered the lower threshold of “keyword stuffing.”

In years past it was a common rule of thumb never to repeat your keyword more than twice in the title. Today, to be on the safe side, you might be best to consider not repeating your keywords more than once.

21. Over-Optimization: Titles, URLs, and Links

Writing for humans not only gets you more clicks (which can lead to higher rankings), but hardly ever gets you in trouble with search engines.

As SEOs we’re often tempted to get a “perfect score” which means exactly matching our title tags, URLs, inbound anchor text, and more. unfortunately, this isn’t natural in the real world, and Google recognizes this.

Diversify. Don’t over-optimize.

22. Structured Data

Short and simple: Make structured data part of every webpage. While structured data hasn’t yet proven to be a large ranking factor, it’s future-facing value can be seen today in rich snippet SERPs and social media sharing. In some verticals, it’s an absolute necessity.

rich snippets

There’s no rule of thumb about what structured data to include, but the essentials are:

  • Facebook Open Graph tags
  • Twitter Cards
  • Authorship
  • Publisher
  • Business information
  • Reviews
  • Events

To be honest, if you’re not creating pages with structured data, you’re probably behind the times.

For an excellent guide about Micro Data and Schema.org, check out this fantastic resource from SEOGadget.


Building Links

23. The 90/10 Rule of Link Building

This blueprint contains 25 steps to rank your content, but only the last three address link building. Why so few? Because 90% of your effort should go into creating great content, and 10% into link building.

If you have a hard time building links, it may be because you have these numbers reversed.

Creating great content first solves a ton of problems down the line:

  1. Good content makes link building easier
  2. Attracts higher quality links in less time
  3. Builds links on its own even when sleeping or on vacation

If you’re new to marketing or relatively unknown, you may need to spend more than 10% of your time building relationships, but don’t let that distract you from crafting the type of content that folks find so valuable they link to you without you even asking.

90-10 Rule of Link Building

24. All Link Building is Relationships – Good & Bad

This blueprint doesn’t go into link building specifics, as there are 100’s of ways to build quality links to every good project. That said, a few of my must have link building resources:

  1. Jon Cooper’s Complete List of Link Building Strategies
  2. StumbleUpon Paid Discovery
  3. Citation Labs
  4. Promoted Tweets
  5. Ontolo
  6. eReleases – Press releases not for links, but for exposer
  7. BuzzStream
  8. Paddy Moogan’s excellent Link Building Book

These resources give you the basic tools and tactics for a successful link building campaign, but keep in mind that all good link building is relationship building.

Successful link builders understand this and foster each relationship and connection. Even a simple outreach letter can be elevated to an advanced form of relationship building with a little effort, as this Whiteboard Friday by Rand so graciously illustrates.

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25. Tier Your Link Building… Forever

The truth is, for professionals, link building never ends. Each content and link building campaign layers on top of previous content, and the web as a whole like layers of fine Greek baklava.

For example, this post could be considered linkbait for SEOmoz, but it also links generously to several other content pieces within the Moz family, and externally as well; spreading both the link love and the relationship building as far as possible at the same time.

SEOmoz links generously to other sites: the link building experience is not just about search engines, but the people experience, as well. We link to great resources, and build links for the best user experience possible. When done right, the search engines reward exactly this type of experience with higher rankings.

For an excellent explanation as to why you should link out to external sites when warranted, read AJ Kohns excellent work, Time to Long Click.

One of my favorite posts on SEOmoz was 10 Ugly SEO Tools that Actually Rock. Not only was the first link on the page directed to our own SEO tools, but we linked and praised our competitors as well.

Linkbait at its finest.

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Positioning Your Business for the Future of SEO – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by RonGarrett

Keeping up with the rapidly changing pace of SEO best-practices can sometimes be as difficult as juggling flaming batons while reciting the alphabet backwards. As an agency or business owner, you need a checklist to help make sure you're staying competitive, focusing on the right tactics, and building your business in the right direction. 

In today's Whiteboard Friday, Ron Garett discusses how to position your business for whatever the future of SEO may bring. Leave your thoughts and questions in the comments below!

Positioning Your Business for the Future of SEO – Whiteboard Friday

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For your viewing pleasure, here's an image of the whiteboard used in today's video:

 

Video Transcription

"Howdy SEOmoz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. My name is Ron Garrett, and I work with Distilled out of their New York office. I'm just down here this week in Seattle, and Rand invited me over to tape an edition of Whiteboard Friday. Either which way, I hope you like it.

Today I'm going to primarily be talking to agencies, business owners, freelancers, and consultants. The topic is positioning your business for the future of SEO. Now we all know that SEO is rapidly changing. The skills that you need to be successful in SEO, whether it's technical, being good with analytics and big data sets, UX design, content creation, all of these different facets, we need to constantly innovate and make sure that we're at the top of our game.

What I've done today is put together a checklist of things that you, as an agency or a business owner, can go through your business and review to make sure that you're staying competitive, to make sure that you're focusing on the things that you should be focusing on, and really trying to figure out where you should be building your business.

Let's go ahead and start off. Use the resources within your organization. Let's go ahead and start over here.

First, start talking to your salespeople. They're oftentimes the first defense to clients. So oftentimes when clients reach out, they're going to be the first to talk to the clients and get a sense of what they're looking for, get a sense of how they think about SEO, get a sense of how they're spending for SEO and how their teams are working, their digital, their content, all those different teams are working together to be able to bring SEO and integrate it. Try to figure out what they doing, how they're doing it, and how you can take that information and integrate it back into how you sell, how you talk to clients, those types of things.

Also talk to your consultants. They spend a great deal of time working with each of the clients that you have to have a deep understanding of their needs, what their business goals are, what the biggest opportunities are, and where the biggest flaws or weaknesses or challenges are within the organization. Talk to them and try to get a sense of where the common threads are across most of your clients.

Also, once you have a relationship with a client and your interests are aligned, reach out to them. Take them out to lunch and see how they're doing. Get a sense of what's going on in their organization, how they talk about SEO internally, how they spend on SEO internally. Is SEO at the table when everybody is discussing content strategy, technical and all these different things?

Also reach out to other companies in your industry. I think one of the things that I love most about the SEO community is the fact that it is just that. It's such a great community of people. Even if you have a competitor that you may compete against for business, they still may be a great resource for you to go out and chat and see what's worked well for them and what hasn't worked well for them and see what the commonalities are there.

Also make sure that you're following what's going on in the industry. Making sure that you are either putting on events or attending events is a great way to see what are some common topics that are coming up quite frequently. Take a look at the trends and the commonalities there.

Also take a look at the talent and the people that are coming up within the industry and the things that they're talking about, the things that they're passionate about, and the things working for them. That's a great way to keep a pulse on the industry.

Also take a look at emerging technology. There are some pretty impressive startups and impressive technology companies, like SEOmoz, Conductor, and all these different companies who are creating technology that allows SEO agencies and businesses to scale and be efficient within their organization. Take a look at those emerging technologies and see how you can utilize those as a business to take your business to the next level.

One big thing that we talk a lot about at Distilled is how we can continue to tinker and test ideas. This is really important because sometimes you won't have enough knowledge. You don't know what you don't know. We encourage and recommend all of our consultants to continuously test and continuously tinker with things and figure out some interesting things that are working and not working. Oftentimes there is no way that we can plan for those types of knowledge gaps that we get there.

I also want to discuss really quickly what's worked well for us here at Distilled is our value are set up as "Discover, Implement and Learn." That's really given us a nice framework to be able to make sure that we're constantly testing things, we're constantly putting things out there, we're constantly figuring out what works and what doesn't work, and we're integrating that back into the solutions that we're providing our clients. That's been quite nice.

Next, you as an organization figure out whether or not you want to specialize or whether or not you want to be a comprehensive business, whether or not you want to provide a specific solution, such as integrating SEO with PR, or whether or not you want to be a full-fledged agency where you're providing digital solutions from a technology standpoint, to content creation, to outreach, to digital PR. Really figure out what your niche is going to be. Even if you do choose to specialize, don't think that you can't take on other types of work. It just helps customers understand what your value proposition is and what they can expect when they come to you. You can always show them other things that you're capable of providing, but I think having that starting point can be really beneficial.

Here is a checklist that I put together of when you're looking to assess your business and figure out, "All right, where are my strengths? Where are my weaknesses? Where can I make improvements?" Start to look at if you were to make certain decisions within your business, what are the different risks and rewards that you would get out of making certain decisions and try to forecast a little bit. Try to take a look at some of the data that you've accumulated over time and think, "If I were to make this decision for my business today, what are some of the things that I can anticipate?"

Also, it's important to take a look at your current strategy to see what's working and what's not working and continue to improvise upon that. Reevaluate that strategy and figure out what's working and what's not working.

Also, I think it's important to have a good balance between aspirational and pragmatic. Take a look at the things that you as a business can accomplish in the short term, given the resources that you guys have, and how you need to think about achieving some of your long-term goals and being realistic. Figure out ways you can get that kind of minimal viable product out there. Figure out what's working and what's not working and continue to innovate on top of that. That can be really beneficial as well.

Also evaluate your company mission, vision, and values. I know a lot of companies are taking a look at the values and making a lot of their decisions based on their values. So making sure that with where your company is at and where your business is at that those things still apply. Those things can be really powerful drivers for why somebody would want to come work for you, why somebody would continue to stay working for you, and the purpose they get out of the job they have. Just make sure that you're constantly looking at and evaluate that.

I also think it's important to take a look at the client mix. Take a look at the percentage of clients that are currently on a project basis versus a retain basis. These types of things can influence cash position and cash flow within your organization, and looking for ways to either drive up the amount of retained clients that you have or figuring out just really beneficial projects that you can take on that are either going to drive the knowledge gap forward or drive the cash flow position forward. Just make sure that the types of projects that you are bringing on are helping you achieve your goals.

Take a look at your company and your employees, and take a look at their strengths and weaknesses. I think being pragmatic about that as well can be very beneficial, especially when you start to reach critical mass at your company. You go from 10 employees to 50 employees, 50 employees to 100 employees, and the dynamic of your company starts to shift, and you get a very eclectic group of people that end up coming in that all have different strengths and talents, and they get very passionate about different things. Understanding the dynamics that those play and what works well with one another can be really important for you to understand when making these types of business decisions.

It's also important to understand as a company your tolerance for risk. You can have all the aspirations in the world, but if your company hesitates to make certain types of decisions and you don't feel like it's a decision that you can fully make and commit to, it may be good to reevaluate whether or not that decision is something that you should look to make further down the line or what type of infrastructure or what things you would need to be able to make that decision sooner. Just being realistic about the tolerance levels that you have at your organization.

Take a look at how you currently make money. At different companies we love the places we work, and ultimately we have to be able to figure out ways to be able to make money. Taking a look at where your big drivers for cash are and how those are marking your company money can be really beneficial.

Future aspirations. We all want to have goals. We all want to work toward something that's going to create purpose for us, that's going to help us get to where we want to be, and we want to make sure they're big enough to where it's not easy for us to attain in the short term, but it's something that we can all believe in and work towards as a company. I think figuring out what your future aspirations are, both at a company level and at an employee level, can be very, very powerful.

Last, but not least, if you're looking to make investments in your organization, understanding the types of investments that you can and cannot make now based on your current cash flow position or whether or not you have access to capital and just understanding the dynamics between that can help determine how quickly you can make certain decisions or what types of clients you're going to have to bring on before you can make those types of decisions.

I know I've provided you with a lot of information today, but ultimately I wanted to help give you a framework and a checklist for you, the business owner or the agency, to take a step back and to evaluate your company, to evaluate your employees, to evaluate all the things that make you great, and to evaluate the areas where you need to make improvements and get to where you want to be. I think once you have a deeper understanding of all this, it will help you make business decisions, it will help you communicate those decisions to the employees there, and it can help empower people at your organization to do some pretty incredible things.

So get out there, keep building."

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Yin and Yang of Disavow

Posted by wilreynolds

Image Credit: Vermin

When Disavow first launched, many people felt like they were doing "Google's job." At first, I completely disagreed with that sentiment. I loved it. I needed disavow, and yes, Bing did get to it first! However, since Matt Cutts' announcement of Disavow at Pubcon to present day, I have started to change my tune a bit based on experiencing what I can only call disavow hell. I truly do understand Google's position on the tool, but I am thinking a lot of small business owners need more transparency, as they cannot battle what they are up against.

SEER recently took on a client for whom we have disavowed what feels like about 85% of their links. Their owner is an amazingly awesome woman whose business is getting hurt due to the efforts of her previous SEO firm. The firm left her business in a bad place. She was doing #RCS already, and had built a real business that helped people find solutions to the issues of her niche. She was doing content marketing and building assets that added value well before she employed an SEO firm. Instead of showing some discretion on their aggressive tactics, they slammed the gas and went full bore on the spam. Her business grew and she hired people, not knowing that her SEO firm was setting her up for failure.

At first, I was a big fan of disavow. Now that I am personally spending tons of time helping out on two clients affected negatively by the tool, I can't help but think…seriously, is the the best use of my time to help these clients succeed online? Instead of spending the same time strategizing on how to build assets that add value, I'm hunting down spammy link networks. Google, is this what you want me and the SEER Interactive team to be doing? After disavowing 5,800 domains and being declined again, I am starting to see this as a serious needle in a haystack. If it is a needle in a haystack for companies like SEER, can you imagine what it's like for the average small business owner?

Having submitted a few disavows and ending with them denied time and time again, I realized, man, this is a waste of time. However, we will keep at it because we'll never quit trying to help our clients succeed. Instead of the SEER team working on RCS and brainstorming on how to create valuable content that will add value (i.e. doing all the things Google says we should do), we are spending time trying to find link networks and things we don't know a ton about because we didn't build those crappy links to begin with.

We pitched a concept (to be shown at Mozcon, hopefully; buy your tickets now!) that got a client on several news stations (it was quite a rush seeing a SEER Idea on the 6:00 and 11:00 news, along with our CEO being interviewed), newspapers, and countless other sites, but we've minimized our work on it because our disavow requests for that client keep getting denied….you serious?? This is the best thing we've ever built, yet we are spending a portion of our time on disavow and trying to understand why one or two links somewhere is the tipping point over what we already disavowed. So we went nuclear, disavowing every link before SEER started with a DA under a certain level, that is not on blogspot.com style subdomains. Are we throwing out some of the good with the bad? Yup. But we want to get back to adding value and building things we can be proud of.

Google is giving spammers more business with disavow, not less

There are good people out there who are worried about their businesses, not just their rankings. These people will try to do what’s right to get back in Google's good graces, so they'll pay people to help them save their businesses. I know I would. Once they've decided to reach out for help, who are they going to go to? Probably the same types of people who built their crap link networks in the first place. Who knows how to remove spam links best, a spammer or a marketing agency?

Once again, the spammers get rewarded. Those who spammed the Internet spent their hours not creating value, but trying to create patterns in low-quality sites that Google wouldn't pick up on. It worked for years, and then suddenly, it didn't work anymore. Now the same people who created all the spam are the same ones these companies are relying on to find the patterns on how Google does it, since the companies who didn't do this stuff never spent their time architecting crappy links.

Disavow was needed. For the business owner in this example, she called and asked what's up the minute she realized these guys had hurt her business more than they helped. She had to spend countless hours away from building quality content and trying to grow her business in order to learn about link networks, and when she said, "Hey, can you guys remove these links you got?" her old firm charged her $12,000. If she declined to pay the price tag, they were holding her site ransom. If she agreed to the payment, she would be out 12k for link removal.

Ultimately, our business owner paid the fee. Two weeks later, disavow was announced, and – guess what – the old firm didn't remove even close to all the links. So again, I get the need for Disavow, but man, it also gets my team completely off what I'd like them to do. More importantly, it distracts my team from what Google would like them to do. Their time is taken away from building things that add value, and spent on figuring out how spam on the web used to work. This is definitely a skill I'd rather not be investing in, since we all know the shelf life of that skill is pretty limited.

Maybe someday Google will use Webmaster Tools as an understanding when a client moves to a new agency, consultant, etc. I'm not convinced that is the right solution, but I guess we need to start somewhere to figure out how we get away from spending time on spam. If you are building spam links (which would make you a spammer) or if you are spending time understanding spam to make disavow work (which is everyone else), it's a bad use of time for everyone.

Here are three big takeaways from what I've seen with my limited Disavow work:

1. Cut the bleeding, hardcore

This is the wrong time to get nitpicky about Disavowing links, especially if you have switched firms and 90% of what the old firm did was spam. Simply go into Webmaster Tools, pull the link report (with dates), and start Disavowing everything before the old firm started that has a low domain authority. It surprises me at how often people get picky.

I’d say you are better off over-Disavowing the links, and then go back when you have time and are out of the penalty to pick back out the ones you think you may have been too aggressive on. It's not a perfect solution, but this way, you get out of the penalty sooner rather than later.

2. Don't cry wolf (too much)

I have no proof of this, but I can only imagine that if you keep nibbling off one link at a time and submitting Disavows, Google may begin to get sick of it and might stop reviewing your requests as frequently.

I also remember that, when Disavow launched, the Google team was a bit worried that people would disavow the good links along with the bad. I have a sneaking suspicion that if you Disavow quality links, Google has ways of saying "you probably made a mistake and didn't mean that," especially when they compare the good links to their expansive list of bad links, link networks, etc.

3. Go do some real marketing!!!

You want rankings? You can't just stop doing the bad; you have to start doing the good! Put priority on doing the things Google wanted you to do all along. Reference the high quality stuff you've done in your re-consideration requests, and let Google know you are making real investments and turning over a new leaf.


So often when we talk about disavowing links, clients go…OMG well I’m going to lose some of my rankings… well, RIGHT BUDDY! When your rankings are propped up on fake marketing tactics and you haven’t done enough #RCS, then you are stuck with never having built real assets that attract real links. For the future of your business, you gotta start somewhere, and if your business isn't worth marketing in some way other than SEO, then you are probably the exact kind of site that Google doesn't want to rank well in most verticals.

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Site Audits: Deliverables, Follow Up, and Implementation

Posted by JonQ

You could be the best SEO in the world, with the best recommendations your clients ever seen; but if this information isn’t presented and communicated in the right way, the sad fact is that your hard work probably won’t change a thing. A couple of weeks back, Dan and I ran a very enjoyable Mozinar on this very topic. (A huge thank you to everyone who listened in!) If you did miss it, feel free to check out the recording and download the slides here. Rather than talking through the ins and outs of technical SEO, we really wanted to dive into what, in our experience, makes the difference between a site audit being left on the shelf, compared to a document that can potentially turn a business around.

On the back end of the Mozinar, we had a ton of great questions. Many focused specifically on the delivery and follow-up process, and how we approach this particular part of the job. There was quite a bit of interest in this area, so we thought a dedicated post on the latter part of our auditing process (see below) would give us a chance to dive in a little deeper. Although the follow-up and implementation clearly comes once your document has been delivered, a lot of the very early conversations have a big influence on how successful the project will ultimately end up being. I’ve found that getting a client in the mind-set of working together and buying into implementing your recommendations right from the start always makes getting work done so much easier!

Site Audit Process

Although this post is about the follow-up process, I also want to spend some time touching on other areas that have a direct influence on that part of the project. Let's go!

Sales kick-off and briefing

The sales process is such a critical part of any project; and not just for the obvious reasons. A well thought out sales conversation is the ideal opportunity to discuss goals, understand the clients business, and really find out what they need to achieve. Ron Garrett summed it up brilliantly in this post, and covered some great points with regards to the important details that every initial conversation with a potential client should cover. In terms of how the conversations held at the beginning of a project can impact on the effectiveness of your follow-up, it’s so important to make sure you’re starting the project with the right goals in mind. After all, how can you measure success if you don’t understand what KPIs make a true difference to your clients business?

Q: How much should I give away during the sales process?

On a very similar point, we had a couple of questions crop up in the Mozinar Q&A from people asking how much to give away during the sales process. Some people like to run a sample audit, whilst others won’t give anything away until they have ink on paper. Really, this is down to you. From my perspective, you have to be sensible with your time and learn to consider each situation by its own circumstances. I’ve been in the situation many times before where you sense the company in question is just inviting agencies to pitch in order to gain some free expert knowledge. It takes time to put a proposal together, so you have to make a judgement on the best use of that time. Feel each situation out and you should be just fine.

This is not just about selling projects; it’s about understanding the situation well enough to sell the right project to solve the right problem.

Kick-off and briefing

If you take a step back and think about all the projects you’ve worked on that haven’t worked out well, it’s crazy to think how much probably went wrong before you’d even started. If everyone was in an honest mood, I think we’d all admit to being involved in projects before where it all felt just a little too rushed. As a result, a good solid brief can be skipped meaning the team get dropped in with no idea at all of delivery dates, or what the client actually wants or needs from the project. Clearly, things don’t tend to go well from here. At best, the project just ends up being another report on another desk – at worst reputations get damaged.

So with implementation and a smooth follow-up in mind, what should a good brief cover? As a bare minimum, I suggest the following should always be included:

  • Deliverables
  • Key dates
  • Goals/objectives
  • KPIs
  • Key personnel

Why is this so important? One of the biggest and most common reasons for a project failing is that for a variety of reasons they simply miss the mark. Usually when a project doesn’t tick the right boxes, the issue can nearly always be traced back to the brief or a miscommunication at the start. The other point here is that if the project is simply being dumped on the team, they’re not likely to be too happy about it. Get your team excited and they in turn will get the client excited. If the client is excited about getting things done, suddenly getting work implemented is a far more enjoyable and productive process.

Deliverables

A major part of any project is the format in which you present your documentation. Sometimes a "highlights" presentation deck detailing the biggest issues is the way to go, whereas some situations require a detailed document and a large set of data to refer to. The best way to do this is really going to depend on who you’re delivering to, and what the initial outline of the project was. We had some really good questions on this during the webinar, so it felt right to pick out some of the best and answer them directly:

Q: What exactly should be delivered? A large document, a set of data, or just the top ten action points?

At SEOgadget, we’ve found that the best approach is to do a combination of all three, with the exact delivery style adjusted to whomever you’re meeting or presenting to. A typical situation for us would be to create a master document containing detailed explanations of our findings alongside all the necessary change requests. Of course, if we’re running crawls and conducting log-file analysis then there’s also going to be a pretty substantial amount of data on hand too. I like delivering the data for two reasons: first, data always backs up what you’re recommending. It’s always so much more valuable to show and not tell. Having the ability to clearly walk the client through exactly what you’ve found can work wonders for adding credibility to what you’re saying. Second, providing the data makes it much easier for a developer to work out what’s going on and gives a reference point for future questions should anything crop up. What’s more, in 90% of situations clients always ask for the data anyway!

Technical SEO List

Task lists also have a very valuable place. The first question that always comes back is, "OK, so where do we start?" If a question keeps cropping up, then answer it before it gets asked! At the top of all our documents we provide a prioritized list of all change requests (as seen above). This forms a great base for follow-up calls and meetings as everyone can refer back to the same task list. With development resource often being high in demand, it also enables you to start scheduling the biggest fixes first.

Q: Some clients are not "techy," and talking them website audit is not that easy. How many details we should give those clients? Should we spent a lot time and train them about SEO?

This is where being able to give a high-level view first is extremely important. Not everyone understands the details of SEO. You might not always be working directly with an SEO department; you could be working with a traditional marketing team or leading into an Ecommerce manager where their role touches on SEO, but it’s not something they do all day every day. In this case, the best approach is to deliver a "highlights" type of presentation. Break the problems down and focus on the benefits of resolving the issues. Show the client what you’ve found, but think more about explaining the benefits of fixing each issue will have on their business. It’s less about canonical tags and more about ROI. Again, get the client excited about the impact of fixing things and you’ll buy yourself a heap of influence. Even though you’re only presenting on a few key areas, you’ll still have the full document to refer back to in more detail later down the line.

Follow-up support

I’m a big believer in the idea that a technical project shouldn’t be about completing a review and then thinking it’s "job done." It’s so much more important to have the ability to really influence change and action. In fact, the most important part (and often hardest part!) of any technical audit is the follow-up process and getting your work implemented. A good SEO can diagnose issues – a great SEO follows up and makes sure these problems get fixed. Going right back to what we touched on earlier when talking about the sales process, having a good grasp of development resource can really help here. Do you have an understanding of what processes are in place for booking requests? Did you check when development resource is available and allocated for SEO? Getting ahead of the game in these areas is one of the biggest keys to winning!

Audit Follow-up

The follow-up process can be greatly helped by having a central resource to track changes and keep on top of progress or indeed challenges with implementing your recommendations. Using tools such as Basecamp or Asana  can be a great way of keeping communication clear, and for making sure you have the right tasks in front of the right people. If you’re not keen on using these tools, a simple Google Docs sheet to display tasks and provide a place to leave comments is sometimes all that’s needed. Combining this with regular calls or checking in via email gives you the ability to keep the project moving in the right direction, and the retain focus when you come to catching up in a meeting or on a call.

If you’ve got any further questions on the process side of technical SEO audits, feel free to drop them in the comments, or tweet myself or Dan and we’ll do our best to answer them.

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Mozscape API Wiki Update

Posted by Zach Corleissen

Greetings, Mozfolk! My name is Zach, and I'm a technical writer here at SEOmoz.

We've consistently heard from you that Mozscape needs better documentation. I'm pleased to tell you: your requests have been granted! The Mozscape wiki just underwent a thorough update and review by developers, help teamsters, and testers. We incorporated your feedback from help tickets and forums to make Mozscape easier for new users to learn, and more functional for experienced users to reference.

Hopefully this documentation update helps you get the most value from Mozscape. If you haven't taken a look through our documentation yet, we hope it encourages you to see how Mozscape data can help your business grow.

Legacy documentation: a (very) brief history

Like documentation at most startups, the legacy documentation for Mozscape was inconsistent. Not all features were documented; for example, metadata supports a command called index_stats, which returns information about the contents of the current Mozscape Index update. It's been in production for a while, but hasn't been documented until now. (Check it out, it's pretty cool.)

When features changed, sometimes the changes weren't documented. Well-intentioned authors added and edited content in ways that weren’t always comprehensive, followed by other well-intentioned authors who did the same. Not everything made sense, either; the next_update and last_update features of the metadata API return dates for the next scheduled and most recent Mozscape Index updates, but the value returned is in Unix Epoch format, which only makes semi-intuitive sense if you already understand the "Expires" part of signed authentication.

I compare Mozscape legacy documentation to how pearls are formed: created in gradual layers; often valuable; frequently irritating.

With these updates, the Mozscape documentation is definitely on the mend and ready for your viewing pleasure.

What's new (and a new feature)

The What's New page makes it easier to track feature changes in future updates. From now on, any time we add or change features in Mozscape, the change and the date it went live will appear there.

For example: as of May 15th, Mozscape now supports HTTP Secure.

Mozscape supports HTTPS

What's different: easier to learn

If you're an SEOmoz PRO user and have never tried Mozscape, now is the perfect time!

Our help team emphasized that we need a better introduction to Mozscape, especially for how Mozscape calls are formed. We responded by streamlining the introduction and improving the way we describe Mozscape’s call anatomy.

What's different: easier to reference

The query parameters are now organized in the way you're actually using them: Scope and Sort together, and Limit and Offset together. We distributed parameters and values specific to each endpoint into their respective articles; for example, possible Scope values for the links endpoint…

…are discrete from the possible values of Scope for the anchor-text endpoint:

Glossary entries are re-pointed to existing (and often better) resources on SEOmoz's main site whenever possible, and we added a few much-needed entries. (How did we get this far without defining target and source URLs?)

What's different: complete parameter value tables

A complete list of parameter values is a big improvement for Mozscape users. For example, the links API accepts the Sort parameter, but the possible values of Sort weren't listed. Also, only some values of the Sort and Scope parameters are compatible. Today's doc update addresses both of these:

What's different: better organization

We're excited to release re-organized topics and reduced duplicate information. An example of all three is free vs. paid access to Mozscape. Here's what it looked like before:

Here's what it looks like with one of the most-requested features: a side-by-side comparison of free versus paid access to Mozscape.

The legacy documentation referred to different “versions” of Mozscape for free and paid users. This isn't technically accurate, as there's only one version of Mozscape with different access tiers. Also: notice the cleaner fonts and layout? Our awesome UI guy, Kenny brought the API wiki in line with our site-wide standards.

Best Practices is a single article now. It used to be a category:

Most of the "best practices" in the legacy documentation weren't best practices per se; they were required practices. For example: there's no way to use Mozscape without signed authentication, making it a practice that's "required" rather than "best." With the update, Best Practices now lives up to its name with value-adding information about batching calls and maximizing your value by making requests in parallel.

What's different: less information?

Our users are pretty hardcore (a good thing!), so you may notice that two or three topics now contain less information than previously. For example, some response fields were listed as being "for internal use and subject to change".

If a response field can only be generated from an internal call, there's no reason to expose it to users, so we removed them from the documentation…and it would be a rare feature indeed that wasn't subject to change.

I know what you might be saying. "But less information is less transparent! Less transparent is less TAGFEE!"

That's true; transparency is critical for good documentation. When it comes to user guides, though, more does not always mean better. TAGFEE also means empathy; if extraneous details make it harder to learn Mozscape, then the documentation lacks empathy, and that's bad. We're striving for the right balance between abundant information (transparency) and providing knowledge that will actually help you (empathy). Mozscape is awesome, and we want it to be as valuable for you as possible.

Closing with a question

How can we keep improving Mozscape documentation? Please let us know in the comments!

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The Clients I Can’t Afford To Take

Posted by Bill Sebald

Creating demand where none currently exists is the expertise of a bullshit artist. Some in sales would take offense to that statement; some would agree. Where I believe this talent fails is with a particular kind of recurring revenue service – consulting and agency work. Inevitably you run out of steam and alibis. If you can’t produce what you promise, you either have to pack up your wagon and flee to another dusty town (which, let’s face it, is how some SEOs and digital marketers practice), or suffer sleepless nights worrying about facing your clients in the morning.

Personally, I don’t like traveling. I also really like my sleep.

This is a post about how I choose better clients. It starts with introspection, and ends with a connection. For each of these tips, I’m thinking specifically of a client I let walk away. If a strong partnership is what you seek, then you have to be able to decline potential clients. The customer is not always right. Sometimes they’re downright dangerous.

Now, I know this isn’t possible in every company. An agency I worked with rarely says no to work. Bad clients pile on and contribute to driving away employees in routine mass departures. When I was worked there relationships got contentious, and frankly, I didn’t see a lot of flawless consulting happening. The phrase we used around the office to convince ourselves this was normal was, “that’s agency life.”

I came to learn that wasn’t agency life.

To remind ourselves of some of the marketing ideologies we learned in college; most retailers employ the marketing department philosophy, whereas search fits the marketing concept. In SEO marketing we want to answer the searches being made more often than any other task, which may not fit nicely into a clients’ ROI demands. Luckily, this is something we can get ahead of with early, open communication with the prospect. Sometimes you're able to reset expectations, sometimes not (where I kindly refer them to someone more of their mindset). It's important to ask goal-oriented questions here, and give a real thought to what you're positioned to achieve. What do they consider success? Does it match your beliefs? Have they had SEO before, and what were their frustrations? Are you better for them? Can you help them help you help them?

If you can truly embrace what you are as a service provider, and nurture deals accordingly, you’re in a very fortunate position. If you can perform SEO under the auspice of what is required for the client, instead of what the client thinks needs to be done, you’re well on your way to a successful partnership.

Clients I Avoid

Sometimes you need to cut the line before you reel in the catch. Once the catch breaks the water line, do you see a snagged horseshoe crab? Cut it. Did you pull in flounder? Invite me over for dinner. I’m a student of psychology and naturally think I size people up pretty well. There are basically three traits (or character flaws) that I am on high-alert for. As soon as I hit one, not only do I feel compelled to be reserved, but I close up – sometimes prematurely. Here are some of the personality types I avoid, and some tips on uncovering their true identities.

(Caveat: First impressions aren’t always accurate. First impressions should not the last chance to make a good impression. It’s very easy to misread people. I do keep that in the back of my head, just to balance me out.)

The Egomaniac

Some prospects may want to impress you. Sometimes they routinely impress themselves. Personally, I find them awfully hard to communicate with. You know the traits – they ask you questions only to cut you off and answer themselves. They are micro-managers. They brag incessantly about their past experiences. They believe they’re the only one that can truly defeat Superman.

They’re the type of person to say, “I didn’t get to where I am by not speaking up.” While on paper that sounds like a good trait, these can also be the people who have trouble accepting someone else’s expertise. They may not see the value of your otherwise salient recommendations. They tend to only respect other egomaniacs

But sometimes this is a front. Sometimes the egomaniac is socially awkward. A good skill in business is recognizing emotions, character flaws, and humanity when it really exists. Sometimes the egomaniac thinks he needs to be a killer. I have seen this disguise many, many times in my career.

I remember a client who managed to take down an entire marketing department with a previous agency. He was a product of a big name business advisor firm (name left out to prevent lawsuits) and drove some of my co-workers into therapy – honestly. There may have been no pleasing him, but the powers that be refused to cut ties. We weren’t able to do what we knew was best; we ultimately became an order taker for someone who wasn’t an expert in our field, but thought he was. This guy may truly be a serial killer at large.

Alternatively, I recall meeting with a prospect that ran an unimpressive ecommerce business. During the initial meeting I found myself listening to an hour long diatribe about him and how he shaped the company into what they are today. Interesting and something worth knowing in detail down the line, but I was there to talk about how I could help with their SEO. After finally asking two questions, in which I maybe got three words out, it was pretty clear this wasn’t going to be a productive meeting. Still, I stayed with the pitch process. Fortunately I made the right move, as this marketing director turned out to be more bark than bite. We’ve had a pretty successful three year run together, once the pretences went away. 

I need a point person I want to spend time with. If the real soul of the point person and company can’t be lured out quickly, it may be a dead deal for me. 

What to Do

Embrace the company culture and team’s personality. Try to be yourself, not who you think they want you to be. Ultimately you want a partner and a friend, not just a client and paycheck. If you don’t have an egomaniac account manager, this relationship could go down in flames. 

Make it personal, but don’t take it personally. I always try finding something in common with the prospects. It’s a sales tactic for sure, and an ice breaker, but I find it useful to quickly peel back the personality layers. I try to see who they really are. I remember a client pitch where I learned the CMO was in a Philly band. Knowing the band, and playing music myself, we were able to connect on a non-business level. I know this is a crazy concept for some agencies that prefer to be more formal, but It really helps you understand the personality and temperament of the people you’re going to be working with.  

Maybe it’s not your call to accept or deny the egomaniac, micro-managing client. In some cases you can still make it work. Communication (and some good habits) can go a long way in getting the client to bond with you, without you throwing away any integrity. We’ve all had a micro-managing boss at one time in our lives. Take some learnings from that experience. There are plenty of great tips online for that problem that can be leveraged with a micromanaging client:

The Dictator

Some clients (think they) know exactly what they want. That can be a good thing. Sometimes though, they don’t want it the way you deliver it. It’s vital to know when you simply can’t deliver. How can you under-promise and over-deliver if you aren’t structured to meet their simplest expectations? Have you ever gotten a hamburger right at McDonald’s when you told them to make it special? No – it’s impossible. The employees have panic attacks behind the grill. It’s not how McDonald’s is built.

I had one prospect reach out to me about six months ago. We had worked together in a small capacity before. He told me precisely what he was looking for – he required someone to manage a department that needed to communicate with the Sydney office at 6 am, and required I hit a certain goal each month. This was a goal I not only didn’t believe was reasonable, but probably impossible (not to mention the only time I’m up at 6 am is when I haven’t fallen asleep yet). 

My services aren’t excessively flexible by design – I simply can’t answer all the demands of most dictators. My services have a specific design with defined specialties. I know my team’s strengths and weaknesses. I know my plan in and out, and would have struck out with his needs. I had to face the facts and let that prospect go, even though it was a nice payday.

What to Do

Try to break the “we’ll take anything” model. That’s how people get hurt – including your employees. A client’s SEO and digital marketing need has become ubiquitous. Maybe they’ll be open to your specialized take on their business?

Never over-promise. Never wear a hat you don’t own. Stay calm. SEOs are in a great position already, with a great inherent value. Sometimes there are other providers who can do a better job than you in a certain area, so why not let them? Build some relationships between other service providers and create “friendly-competition”. When a client says "I want this," say "we do this." Keep it professional and offer to help them find someone who fits their model. 

This may create serendipity and good karma. I’ve actually gotten referrals from prospects I’ve turned down. Not often, but it’s the magic of networking, relationships, and good deeds. Never underestimate the power of serendipity:

The Negotiator

It’s great to be on the payer side of negotiation. I find negotiating deals quite fun. But when the tables are turned, and I’m the service provider, I flex very little in price. It’s less because I’m a jerk and more because of my respect for my work and values.

Wharton grads are taught to believe in what they’re worth; anything less and you’re potentially softening the product. When a client tells me his budget is X, and I need it to by upwards around Y, the negotiation needs to stop. This was a huge lesson I learned after years of thinking about cash flow, and not quality of life.

I recently had a prospect that came to me and asked if I was available for consulting. As I always do, I brought up the budget question early on. He said, “I can spend about $300 a month.” Now I know some SEOs can stretch that and get rankings. I’m always impressed by these guys, but at that rate, I would fall on my face (and my sword). I’d fail at providing the only values I know how to create. I’d be scrambling to get good work done, and in the end, it would probably not be worth the aggravation after taxes.

Still, I tried to help him find someone who was better suited, while advising that his monthly fee was more likely to attract amateurs that might cost him more in the end. He was able to come up a little and I was able to refer him to another local SEO who fit his needs much better. Again, investing in serendipity.

I can’t say this enough – Take a bad deal financially and you will pay for it. I’ve never seen a need to pad the price for negotiation in our industry. We’re not selling used cars here.

What to Do

Don’t budge unless you’ve priced yourself out of the market. Also, don’t risk putting yourself in a bad relationship because you settled. It doesn’t tend to work out in marriage, government, or business. 

Clearly display all the items a client could be getting in an engagement with you and encourage the prospect to see the value if they “pay up” instead of going with an amateur. If you have a price you’re proud of, then you should also have results and confidence to stand behind.

Some agencies find it very difficult to talk about money, as it gets slipped in as a line item at the back of a proposal. These proposals are often written after hours of conversations. I propose you bring the money conversation early to qualify your prospects. I go so far as put my rates and packages right on my website and always encourage my prospects to review those pages in an introductory email. I don’t like wasting hours on a deal that was never meant to be. I’ve found this to be a very positive technique to getting deals signed quickly, as some clients prefer the openness and honesty. Not everyone likes haggling, and will happily pay a price when they know it’s fair.

Conclusion

Sometimes a bad client can teach you how to be a better consultant, but I don’t wish a bad client upon anyone. In my 10+ years of consulting, I’d like to think the lessons I learned (some of which I’m sharing here) can really be learned through some tough and common sense. 

Agencies are busy places, but you need to take time (off-sites work nicely) to really figure out what your service model is. Whether it’s from the top down, or just your specific department, having a thought out manifesto on the clients you’re not going to take could be transformational to the success of your consulting business. 

Oh, and if by chance you encounter a hybrid of all these client-types above, the only tip I have is… flee. I’ve yet to find any way to tame this three-headed egotistical, dictating, negotiating creature. That’s schizophrenia on a level I can’t even comprehend.

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How to Rank: 25 Step SEO Master Blueprint

Posted by Cyrus Shepard

If you’re like most SEOs, you spend a lot of time reading. Over the past several years, I’ve spent 100s of hours studying blogs, guides, and Google patents. Not long ago, I realized that 90% of what I read each doesn’t change what I actually do – that is, the basic work of ranking a web page higher on Google.

For newer SEOs, the process can be overwhelming.

To simplify this process, I created this SEO blueprint. It’s meant as a framework for newer SEOs to build their own work on top of. This basic blueprint has helped, in one form or another, 100s of pages and dozens of sites to gain higher rankings.

Think of it as an intermediate SEO instruction manual, for beginners.

Level: Beginner to Intermediate

Timeframe: 2 to 10 Weeks

What you need to know: The blueprint assumes you have basic SEO knowledge: you’re not scared of title tags, can implement a rel=canonical, and you’ve built a link or two. (If this is your first time to the rodeo, we suggest reading the Beginners Guide to SEO and browsing our Learn SEO section.)

How To Rank SEO Blueprint

Table of Contents


Keyword Research

1. Working Smarter, Not Harder

Keyword research can be simple or hard, but it should always be fun. For the sake of the Blueprint, let’s do keyword research the easy way.

The biggest mistakes people make with keyword research are:

  1. Choosing keywords that are too broad
  2. Keywords with too much competition
  3. Keywords without enough traffic
  4. Keywords that don’t convert
  5. Trying to rank for one keyword at a time

The biggest mistake people make is trying to rank for a single keyword at a time. This is the hard way. It’s much easier, and much more profitable, to rank for 100s or even 1,000s of long tail keywords with the same piece of content.

Instead of ranking for a single keyword, let’s aim our project around a keyword theme.

2. Dream Your Keyword Theme

Using keyword themes solves a whole lot of problems. Instead of ranking for one Holy Grail keyword, a better goal is to rank for lots of keywords focused around a single idea. Done right, the results are amazing.

Easy Keyword Research

I assume you know enough about your business to understand what type of visitor you’re seeking and whether you’re looking for traffic, conversions, or both. Regardless, one simple rule holds true: the more specific you define your theme, the easier it is to rank.

This is basic stuff, but it bears repeating. If your topic is the football, you’ll find it hard to rank for  “Super Bowl,” but slightly easier to rank for “Super Bowl 2014” – and easier yet to rank for “Best Super Bowl Recipes of 2014.”

Don’t focus on specific words yet – all you need to know is your broad topic. The next step is to find the right keyword qualifiers.

3. Get Specific with Qualifiers

Qualifiers are words that add specificity to keywords and define intent. They take many different forms.

  • Time/Date: 2001, December, Morning
  • Price/Quality: Cheap, Best, Most Popular
  • Intent: Buy, Shop, Find
  • Location: Houston, Outdoors, Online

The idea is to find as many qualifiers as possible that fit your audience. Here’s where keyword tools enter the picture. You can use any keyword tool you like, but favorites include Wordstream, Keyword Spy, SpyFu, and Bing Keyword Tool and Übersuggest.

For speed and real-world insight, Übersuggest is an all-time SEO favorite. Run a simple query and export over 100 suggested keyword based on Google’s own Autocomplete feature – based on actual Google searches.

Did I mention it’s free?

4. Finding Diamonds in the Google Rough

At this point you have a few dozen, or a few hundred keywords to pull into Google Adwords Keyword Tool.

Pro Tip #1: While it’s possible to run over a hundred keyword phrases at once in Google’s Keyword Tool, you get more variety if you limit your searches to 5-10 at a time.

Ubersuggest and Google Keyword Tool

Using “Exact” search types and “Local Monthly” search volume, we’re looking for 10-15 closely related keyword phrases with decent search volume, but not too much competition.

Pro Tip #2: Be careful trusting the “Competition” column in Google Adwords Keyword Tool. This refers to bids on paid search terms, not organic search.

5. Get Strategic with the Competition

Now that we have a basic keyword set, you need to find out if you can actually rank for your phrases. You have two basic methods of ranking the competition:

  1. Automated tools like the Keyword Difficulty Tool
  2. Eyeballing the SERPs

If you have an SEOmoz PRO membership (or even a free trial) the Keyword Difficulty Tool calculates – on a 100 point scale – a difficulty score for each individual keyword phrase you enter.

Keyword Difficulty Tool

Keyword phrases in the 60-70+ range are typically competitive, while keywords in the 30-40 range might be considered low to moderately difficult.

To get a better idea of your own strengths, take the most competitive keyword you currently rank #1 or #2 for, and run it through the tool.

Even without automated tools, the best way to size up the competition is to eyeball the SERPs. Run a search query (non-personalized) for your keywords and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are the first few results optimized for the keyword?
  • Is the keyword in the title tag? In the URL? On the page?
  • What’s the Page and/or Domain Authority of the URL?
  • Are the first few results authorities on the keyword subject?
  • What’s the inbound anchor text?
  • Can you deliver a higher quality resource for this keyword?

You don’t actually have to rank #1 for any of your chosen words to earn traffic, but you should be comfortable cracking the top five.

With keyword themes, the magic often happens from keywords you never even thought about.

Case Study: Google Algo Update

When SEOmoz launched the Google Algorithm Change HIstory (run by Dr. Pete) we used a similar process for keyword research to explore the theme “Google Algorithm” and more specifically, “Google Algorithm Change.”

According to Google’s search tool, we could expect a no more than a couple thousand visits a month – best case – for these exact terms. Fortunately, because the project was well received and because we optimized around a broad keyword theme of “Google Algorithm,” the Algo Update receives lots of traffic outside our pre-defined keywords.

This is where the long tail magic happens:

Long Tail Keywords

How can you improve your chances of ranking for more long tail keywords? Let’s talk about content, architecture, on-page optimization and link building.


Content

6. Creating Value

Want to know the truth? I hate the word content. It implies words on a page, a commodity to be produced, separated from the value it creates.

Content without value is spam.

In the Google Algorithm Update example above, we could have simply written 100 articles about Google’s Algorithm and hoped to rank. Instead, the conversation started by asking how we could create a valuable resource for webmasters.

For your keyword theme, ask first how you can create value.

Value is harder to produce than mere words, but value is rewarded 100x more. Value is future proof & algorithm proof. Value builds links by itself. Value creates loyal fans.

Value takes different forms. It’s a mix of:

  1. Utility
  2. Emotional response
  3. Point of view (positive or negative)
  4. Perceived value, including fame of the author

Your content doesn’t have to include all 4 of these characteristics, but it should excel in one or more to be successful.

A study of the New York Times found key characteristics of content to be influential in making the Most Emailed list.

New York Times Most Emailed
Source: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1528077\

7. Driving Your Content Vehicle

Here’s a preview: the Blueprint requires you create at least one type of link bait, so now is a good time to think about the structure of your content.

What’s the best way to deliver value given your theme? Perhaps it’s an

  • Infographic
  • Video series
  • A new tool
  • An interview series
  • Slide deck
  • How-to guide
  • Q&A
  • Webinar or simple blog post

Perhaps, it’s all of these combined.

The more ways you find to deliver your content and the more channels you take advantage of, the better off you’ll be.

Not all of your content has to go viral, but you want to create at least one “tent-pole” piece that’s better than anything else out there and you’re proud to hang your hat on.

If you need inspiration, check out Distilled's guide to Viral Linkbait or QuickSprout’s Templates for Content Creation.

8. Title – Most Important Work Goes Here

Spend two hours, minimum, writing your title.

Sound ridiculous? If you’re an experienced title writer like Rand Fishkin, you can break this rule. For the rest of us, it’s difficult to underplay the value delivered by a finely crafted title.

Write 50 titles or more before choosing one.

Study the successful titles on Inbound.org, Mashable, Wired, or your favorite publication.

Headline Formulas Work

Whatever you do, read this fantastic post by Dan Shure and the headline resources at CopyBlogger.

9. Length vs. Depth – Why it Matters

How long should your content be? A better question is: How deep should it be? Word count by itself is a terrible metric to strive for, but depth of content helps you to rank in several ways.

  1. Adds uniqueness threshold to avoid duplicate content
  2. Deeper topic exploration makes your content “about” more
  3. Quality, longer content is correlated with more links and higher rankings

I. Uniqueness

At a minimum, your content needs to meet a minimum uniqueness threshold in order for it to rank. Google reps have gone on record to say a couple sentences is sometimes sufficient, but in reality a couple hundred words is much safer.

II. Long Tail Opportunities

Here’s where the real magic happens. The deeper your content and the more in-depth you can explore a particular topic, the more your content becomes “about.”

The more your content is “about”, the more search queries it can answer well.

The more search queries you can answer well, the more traffic you can earn.

Google’s crawlers continuously read your content to determine how relevant it is to search queries. They evaluate paragraphs, subject headings, photographs and more to try to understand your page. Longer, in-depth content usually send more relevancy signals than a couple short sentences.

III. Depth, Length, and Links

Numerous correlation studies have shown a positive relationship between rankings and number of words in a document.

“The length in HTML and the HTML within the <body> tag were the highest correlated factors, in fact with correlations of .12 they could be considered somewhat if not hugely significant.

While these factors probably are not implemented within the algorithm, they are good signs of what Google is looking for; quality content, which in many cases means long or at least sufficiently lengthy pages.”

– Mark Collier The Open Algorithm

This could be attributed longer, quality content earning more links. John Doherty examined the relationship between the length of blog posts on SEOmoz and the number of links each post earned, and found a strong relationship.

Links based on wordcount

10. Content Qualities You Can Bank On

If you don’t focus on word count, how do you add quality “depth” to your content?

SEOs have written volumes about how Google might define quality including metrics such as reading level, grammar, spelling, and even Author Rank. Most is speculation, but it’s clear Google does use guidelines to separate good content from bad.

My favorite source for clues comes from the set of questions Google published shortly after the first Panda update. Here are a few of my favorites.

Google Panda Questions

11. LDA, nTopic, and Words on the Page

Google is a machine. It can’t yet understand your page like a human can, but it’s getting close.

Search engines use sophisticated algorithms to model your sentences, paragraphs, blocks, and content sections. Not only do they want to understand your keywords, but also your topic, intent, and expertise as well.

How do you know if your content fits Google’s model of expectations?

For example, if your topic is “Super Bowl Recipes,” Google might expect to see content about grilling, appetizers, and guacamole. Content that addresses these topics will likely rank higher than pages that talk about what color socks you’re wearing today.

Words matter.

SEOs have discovered that using certain words around a topic associated with concepts like LDA and nTopic are correlated with higher rankings.

Virante offers an interesting stand alone keyword suggestion tool called nTopic. The tools analyzes your keywords and suggests related keywords to improve your relevancy scores.

nTopic

12. Better than LDA – Poor Man's Topic Modeling

Since we don’t have access to Google’s computers for topic modeling, there’s a far simpler way to structure your content that I find far superior to worrying about individual words:

Use the keyword themes you created at the beginning of this blueprint.

You’ve already done the research using Google’s keyword tool to find closely related keyword groups. Incorporating these topics into your content may help increase your relevancy to your given topic.

Example: Using the Google Algorithm project cited above, we found during keyword research that certain keywords related to our theme show up repeatedly, time and time again. If we conducted this research today, we would find phrases like “Penguin SEO” and “Panda Updates” frequently in our results.

Google suggests these terms via the keyword tool because they consider them closely related. So any content that explored “Google Algorithm Change” might likely include a discussion of these ideas.

Poor Man's Topic Modeling

Note: This isn't real LDA, simply a way of adding relevant topics to your content that Google might associate with your subject matter.

13. Design Is 50% of the Battle

If you have any money in your budget, spend it on design. A small investment with a designer typically pays outsized dividends down the road. Good design can:

  • Lower bounce rate
  • Increase page views
  • Increase time on site
  • Earn more links
  • Establish trust

… All of which can help earn higher rankings.

“Design doesn’t just matter, it’s 50% of the battle.”
-Rand Fishkin

Dribbble.com

Dribbble.com is one of our favorite source of design inspiration.


Architecture

Here’s the special secret of the SEO Blueprint: you’re not making a single page to rank; you’re making several.

14. Content Hubs

Very few successful websites consist of a single page. Google determines context and relevancy not only by what’s on your page, but also by the pages around it and linking to it.

The truth is, it’s far easier to rank when you create Content Hubs exploring several topics in depth focused around a central theme.

Using our “Super Bowl Recipes” example, we might create a complete section of pages, each exploring a different recipe in depth.

Content Hub for SEO

15. Linking the Hub Together

Because your pages now explore different aspects of the same broad topic, it makes sense to link them together.

  • Your page about guacamole relates to your page about nachos.
  • Your page about link building relates to your page about infographics.
  • Your page about Winston Churchill relates to major figures of World War II.

Linking Your Content Hub

It also helps them to rank by distributing PageRank, anchor text, and other relevancy signals.

16. Find Your Center

Content Hubs work best with a “hub” or center. Think of the center as the master document that acts as an overview or gateway to all of your individual content pages.

The hub is the authority page. Often, the hub is a link bait page or a category level page. It’s typically the page with the most inbound links and often as a landing page for other sections of your site.

Center of the SEO Content Hub

For great example of Hub Pages, check out:


On-Page Optimization

17. Master the Basics

You could write an entire book about on-page optimization. If you’re new to SEO, one of the best ways to learn is by using SEOmoz’s On-page Report Card (free, registration required) The tool grades 36 separate on-page SEO elements, gives you a report and suggestions on how to fix each element. Working your way through these issues is an excellent way to learn (and often used by agencies and companies as a way to teach SEO principals)

On-Page Tool

Beyond the basics, let’s address a few slightly more advanced tactics to take advantage of your unique keyword themes and hub pages, in addition to areas where beginners often make mistakes.

18. Linking Internally for the Reasonable Surfer

Not all links are created equal (One of the greatest SEO blog posts ever written!) So, when you interlink your internal pages within your content hub together, keep in mind a few important points.

  1. Links from inside unique content pass more value than navigation links.
  2. Links higher up the page pass more value than links further down.
  3. Links in HTML text pass more weight than image links.

When interlinking your content, it’s best to keep links prominent and “editorial” – naturally link to your most important content pages higher up in the HTML text.

19. Diversify Your Anchor Text – Naturally

If Google’s Penguin update taught us anything, it’s that over-thinking anchor text is bound to get us in trouble.

When you link naturally and editorially to other places on the web, you naturally diversify your anchor text. The same should hold true when you link internally.

Don’t choose your anchor text to fit your keywords; choose your anchor text to fit the content around it.

Practically speaking, this means linking internally with a mix of partial match keyword and related phrases. Don’t be scared to link occasionally without good keywords in the anchor – the link can still pass relevancy signals. When it comes to linking, it’s safer to under-do it than over-do it.

Choose Descriptive Anchor Text

Souce: Google's SEO Starter Guide

20. Title Tags – Two Quick Tips

We assume you know how to write a compelling title tag. Even today, keyword usage in the title tag is one of the most highly correlated on-page ranking factors that we know.

That said, Google is getting strict about over-optimizing title tags, and appears to be further cracking down on titles “written for SEO.” Keep this in mind when crafting your title tags

I. Avoid Boilerplates

It used to be common to tack on your business phrase or main keywords to the end of every title tag, like so:

  • Plumbing Supplies – Chicago Plumbing and Fixtures
  • Pipes & Fittings – Chicago Plumbing and Fixtures
  • Toilet Seat Covers – Chicago Plumbing and Fixtures

While we don’t have much solid data, many SEOs are now asserting that “boilerplate” titles tacked on to the end of every tag are no longer a good idea. Brand names and unique descriptive information is okay, but making every title as unique as possible is the rule of the day.

II. Avoid Unnecessary Repetition

Google also appears (at least to many SEOs) on what’s considered the lower threshold of “keyword stuffing.”

In years past it was a common rule of thumb never to repeat your keyword more than twice in the title. Today, to be on the safe side, you might be best to consider not repeating your keywords more than once.

21. Over-Optimization: Titles, URLs, and Links

Writing for humans not only gets you more clicks (which can lead to higher rankings), but hardly ever gets you in trouble with search engines.

As SEOs we're often tempted to get a "perfect score" which means exactly matching our title tags, URLs, inbound anchor text, and more. unfortunately, this isn't natural in the real world, and Google recognizes this.

Diversify. Don’t over-optimize.

22. Structured Data

Short and simple: Make structured data part of every webpage. While structured data hasn’t yet proven to be a large ranking factor, it’s future-facing value can be seen today in rich snippet SERPs and social media sharing. In some verticals, it’s an absolute necessity.

rich snippets

There’s no rule of thumb about what structured data to include, but the essentials are:

  • Facebook Open Graph tags
  • Twitter Cards
  • Authorship
  • Publisher
  • Business information
  • Reviews
  • Events

To be honest, if you’re not creating pages with structured data, you’re probably behind the times.

For an excellent guide about Micro Data and Schema.org, check out this fantastic resource from SEOGadget.


Building Links

23. The 90/10 Rule of Link Building

This blueprint contains 25 steps to rank your content, but only the last three address link building. Why so few? Because 90% of your effort should go into creating great content, and 10% into link building.

If you have a hard time building links, it may be because you have these numbers reversed.

Creating great content first solves a ton of problems down the line:

  1. Good content makes link building easier
  2. Attracts higher quality links in less time
  3. Builds links on its own even when sleeping or on vacation

If you’re new to marketing or relatively unknown, you may need to spend more than 10% of your time building relationships, but don’t let that distract you from crafting the type of content that folks find so valuable they link to you without you even asking.

90-10 Rule of Link Building

24. All Link Building is Relationships – Good & Bad

This blueprint doesn't go into link building specifics, as there are 100's of ways to build quality links to every good project. That said, a few of my must have link building resources:

  1. Jon Cooper's Complete List of Link Building Strategies
  2. StumbleUpon Paid Discovery
  3. Citation Labs
  4. Promoted Tweets
  5. Ontolo
  6. eReleases – Press releases not for links, but for exposer
  7. BuzzStream
  8. Paddy Moogan's excellent Link Building Book

These resources give you the basic tools and tactics for a successful link building campaign, but keep in mind that all good link building is relationship building.

Successful link builders understand this and foster each relationship and connection. Even a simple outreach letter can be elevated to an advanced form of relationship building with a little effort, as this Whiteboard Friday by Rand so graciously illustrates.
 

 

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25. Tier Your Link Building… Forever

The truth is, for professionals, link building never ends. Each content and link building campaign layers on top of previous content, and the web as a whole like layers of fine Greek baklava.

For example, this post could be considered linkbait for SEOmoz, but it also links generously to several other content pieces within the Moz family, and externally as well; spreading both the link love and the relationship building as far as possible at the same time.

SEOmoz links generously to other sites: the link building experience is not just about search engines, but the people experience, as well. We link to great resources, and build links for the best user experience possible. When done right, the search engines reward exactly this type of experience with higher rankings.

For an excellent explanation as to why you should link out to external sites when warranted, read AJ Kohns excellent work, Time to Long Click.

One of my favorite posts on SEOmoz was 10 Ugly SEO Tools that Actually Rock. Not only was the first link on the page directed to our own SEO tools, but we linked and praised our competitors as well.

Linkbait at its finest.

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!

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Mozscape’s Second May 2013 Index Is Live!

Posted by bradfriedman

We've got new, delicious data for you! The second Mozscape index of the month is now live. Consume all the data with your favorite apps, including Open Site Explorer, the Mozbar, your PRO campaigns, and the Mozscape API.

Below is the histogram with the crawl dates.

Crawl histogram for May 15, 2013 Mozscape index

Here are the metrics for this index:

  • 90,641,413,665 (91 billion) URLs
  • 7,388,144,649 (7.4 billion) Subdomains
  • 158,669,066 (159 million) Root Domains
  • 926,144,106,342 (926 billion) Links
  • Followed vs. Nofollowed
    • 2.14% of all links found were nofollowed/li>
    • 57% of nofollowed links are internal
    • 43% are external
  • Rel Canonical – 14.42% of all pages use a rel=canonical tag
  • The average page has 79 links on it
    • 68 internal links on average
    • 11 external links on average

And the correlations with Google's US search results:

  • Page Authority – 0.36
  • Domain Authority – 0.19
  • MozRank – 0.24
  • Linking Root Domains – 0.30
  • Total Links – 0.25
  • External Links – 0.29

Please feel free to leave feedback! You can find a list of our previous index updates with metrics here.

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Moz on, Brad out.

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!

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#MozCon 2013 Agenda

Posted by Erica McGillivray

Holy cannoli, it's MozCon 2013 Agenda time! July 8th-July 10th here in Seattle are going to be out-of-this-world.

I know many of you have been asking for the complete MozCon schedule, and we've been working hard with all our 2013 speakers to find those perfect words to express how awesome MozCon's going to be. I'm thrilled for the variety of programming we'll have from local SEO and mobile content strategy to video and marketing analytics. There will be plenty of amazingess to fill your brain.

You'll see that we have some MozCon favorites returning like Avinash Kaushik, Wil Reynolds, and Joanna Lord, and we've invited some great new folks like Kyle Rush, Karen McGrane, and Dana DiTomaso. Those are some insanely smart industry experts! You'll learn a ton of actionable info to take home and start implementing on your site(s) right after MozCon.

And for those of you wanting to know about the party… This year we're raising the roof of the EMP Museum. That's right, we wanted to meet and greet our community while hiding from Daleks. We've listened to your needs, and the EMP's amazing space works for those who want to rock out to karaoke as well as those interested in quieter conversations with a new friend.

MozCon party
Sing your heart out if you choose.

If that hasn't got you purchasing your ticket yet…


MozCon 2013 Agenda


Monday

8:00am – 9:00am Breakfast

9:00 am – 9:30am Intro: The Year in SEO, Marketing, and Moz with Rand Fishkin

9:30am – 10:00am Really Targeted Outreach with Richard Baxter
We’ve all sent guest post pitches and "link building requests" and begged for precious links any way and anywhere we can. But, that simply isn’t marketing. We have all the tools for a better way of finding our audience and determining what they love. Richard will show you a data-driven approach to marketing your brand to your target audience. No more guesswork, you’ll know exactly how to get the right eyeballs on your content.

10:00am – 10:30am International SEO and the Future of Your ROI with Aleyda Solis
Take a bold step into the international market. Aleya will walk you through how to calculate the possible ROI of international sales, how to sell it to your boss or client, and the practical how-to's of international implementation on your site.

10:30am – 10:50am Break

10:50am – 11:50am Simplifying Complexity: Three Ideas For Higher ROI with Avinash Kaushik
One of the awesome realities of our existence is that we have to deal with a lot of complexity. Often the natural response to that is to try and overpower that with even more complexity. In this session, we'll apply the Occam's Razor to three user cases and learn practical tips.

11:50am – 1:20pm Lunch

1:20pm – 1:50pm Wordless Wednesdays: How to Swaggerjack the Power of Visual Memes with Lena West
Image-heavy, responsive websites are all the rage, but can be problematic for SEO, load times, and other inbound marketing concerns. But how does this balance out with the popularity of images-based memes like "Wordless Wednesday"? Lena will examine these visual memes and their impact on traffic, and she'll talk about how you can parlay the power of visual memes into serious search and traffic results.

1:50pm – 2:20pm Rapid Fire Link Building Tips for Your Content with Ross Hudgens
You've built your content and made it King. Now what? Ross teaches you how to take your content and turn it into links for your site. Whether you're just hunting for backlinks or building up social shares, you'll find all the tips to get your community engaged and building those links for you.

2:20pm – 3:00pm Hot Off the Press: 2013 Ranking Factors with Matt Peters
Moz's data scientist Dr. Matt walks you through the 2013 Ranking Factors. He'll be breaking down Google's cutting-edge ways of how they figure out if your pages are relevant beyond keywords. You'll walk away with an understanding of the data and the knowledge to craft a sound SEO strategy.

3:00pm – 3:30pm Strings to Things: Entities and SEO with Matthew Brown
In the last year, Google and Bing have both indicated a shift to entity-based search results as part of their evolution. Google has unscored this point with rich snippets and Knowledge Graph, and Bing has now upped the ante on personal search results with Bing Snapshots. Find out how you can adopt strategies to stay ahead of the curve in the new world of semantic search results.

3:30pm – 3:50pm Break

3:50pm – 4:20pm The Mobile Content Mandate with Karen McGrane
Do you think "no one will ever want to do that on mobile"? Chances are, someone already wants to. Karen will discuss why you need to deliver content wherever your customer wants to consume it — and the risks of ignoring mobile users. She'll also explain how to start your mobile content strategy, define what you want to publish, construct the relationship between your mobile and desktop site, and evolve your editorial workflow and content management tools.

4:20pm – 4:50pm Building a Better Business with Digital Marketing with Mackenzie Fogelson
Extraordinary businesses and communities are built with a higher purpose than just making money. Mack will walk you through how you can achieve bigger objectives for your clients or for your own business. Using the power of digital marketing tools (along with passion and hard work), you'll learn how to shape and foster your company and the community around it.

4:50 – 5:20pm The 7 Heavenly Habits of Inspired Inbound Marketers with Dharmesh Shah
Curious about how some of the world's best inbound marketers work? How do they come up with ideas for content? What's their policy on handling Twitter mentions? How much do they really spend on A/B testing? Dharmesh will walk you through these habits and more.


Tuesday

8:00am – 9:00am Breakfast

9:00am – 9:30am Building a Winning Video Marketing Strategy with Phil Nottingham
Phil's going to guide to you through the process of building a video content strategy from inception to launch. He'll explain the creative and technical tactics required to win the internet with video. By the end of this session, you'll know where to host your video, how to optimize it, what kind of content you should be creating, and how to get professional quality returns without spending a fortune.

9:30am – 9:45am The Next Generation of Mozscape with Phil Smith
As we crawl the web, collecting data, our Mozscape has run into a few pitfalls as we've grown. Phil's been working on an incremental indexing for the next generation of Mozscape, and he'll give you insights on how this faster, fresher, and scalable index will be useful to you.

9:45am – 10:00am How to Moz Lingo: Cross-Team Communication When Crisis Hits with Carin Overturf
Mozzy does not alway mean bright and shiny. Sometimes things go south, and it's these times when good communication across all teams, technical and not-so-technical, is critical. Carin brings the tactics she's learned about effective crisis management after surviving a few storms as a technical manager on the Mozscape team.

10:00am – 10:15am Empower Your Customers to Become Your Evangelists with Aaron Wheeler
You have the power to turn customers into one of your strongest, most cost-effective marketing teams. By creating great experiences for customers during good times and bad, they'll share their successes and demonstrate the value you've given them to a broader audience, much to the delight of your marketing and customer service teams.

10:15am – 10:30am Engineer Your Life: Agile for Work and Play with Miranda Rensch
Agile development, it's not just for software companies anymore. Miranda will show us how you can use an agile process to plan anything from side-projects, marketing launches, and personal improvement goals. You'll come away with templates and processes to try in your own team or at home!

10:30am – 10:50am Break

10:50am – 11:20am Let's Play for Keeps: Building Customer Loyalty with Joanna Lord
We all know that customer loyalty is a key ingredient in building brands, hitting revenue goals, and cultivating a community. Joanna will walk you through how the landscape has changed, and she'll leave you with tools and tips on how to build customer loyalty that lasts.

11:20am – 11:50pm Ecommerce SEO: Cutting Edge Tactics That Scale with Adam Audette
Fight Panda and other modern SEO realities by using the best on-page techniques and content strategies for your ecommerce site. Adam teaches you how to sustainably improve your click-through-rates as SERPs become noisier and properly prepare for G+ and Graph Search. Then he'll round things out be giving practical advice on how to build your ecommerce team and work flows.

11:50pm – 1:20pm Lunch

1:20pm – 1:50pm Building Your Business: Relationship and Other Critical "Soft" Skills with Brittan Bright
Ever dealt with a difficult client or a boss who just didn't understand? Brittan teaches you essential relationship building skills and tips and tricks for making your business interactions smooth and easy. Whether you're always putting out fires or pitching new ideas, you won't want to miss this.

1:50pm – 2:20pm Win Through Optimization and Testing with Kyle Rush
Kyle shares his knowledge from the front lines of the most intense web campaign to date: the 2012 US presidential election. His team won big for Obama with a data-driven approach. Kyle will explore tactics like how they increased donations by 49% and help you implement these wins for your site.

2:20pm – 2:50pm How Gender and Cultural Differences in Web Psychology Affect the Customer Experience with Nathalie Nahai
Are you missing half your audience? Your site may be giving off the wrong psychology signals and causing potential customers to click away. Nathalie covers how gender and cultural differences impact your business and winning tactics to change the message and convert more customers.

2:50pm – 3:20pm Breaking Up with Your Keyword-Based KPIs with Annie Cushing
Raise your hand if you hate (not provided)? Annie shows you how to raise your battle cry by finding your keyword data elsewhere. By changing your focus from (not provided) to what your landing pages can tell you, you'll be able to audit your site even better than before.

3:20pm – 3:40pm Break

3:40pm – 4:10pm End-to-End Local Optimization with David Mihm
The paradox of Local Search has always been that it's one of SEO's most time-consuming areas, and yet, the businesses who stand to gain the most have the smallest budgets and limited internal resources. Whether you're an agency serving SMB clients or a large brand with hundreds of locations, scaling your efforts is critical. Learn how to increase the efficiency of your Local optimization process with these tips and tools from David.

4:10pm – 4:40pm Next Level Local Tactics: Making Your SEO Stand Out with Dana DiTomaso
Competing against giant brands in the Local SEO space can be daunting, but Dana's here to turn your epic battle into an epic win. She'll show you how to put personality into your local search efforts so that local searchers want to know who you are. Dana's practical tactics and advice for thinking around the problem will crank your creativity up to 120%.

4:40pm – 5:10pm Cater to Your Audience via UX with Allison Urban
User experience is critical to making your audience feel your site, services, or products are for them. Allison will use case studies to show why UX matters and how it conveys respect for your customers. Then she'll deliver tactics and advice she learned while working on MailChimp's redesign.

5:10pm – 5:40pm Living in the Future of User Behavior with Will Critchlow
As the technology space constantly changes, users and their behavior adjust with the tide. But what should we do? Will takes a look at where the trends are going and gives you the tactics and tips to keep up and maybe get ahead of the game.

7:30pm – 11:00pm Party at the EMP


Wednesday

08:00am – 9:00am Breakfast

9:00am – 9:40am Beyond 10 Blue Links: The Future of Ranking with Pete Meyers
In the year since we launched MozCast, the face of Google has changed dramatically. We’ve seen the roll-out of 7-result SERPs, the rapid expansion of Knowledge Graph, mass-adoption of authorship, and dozens of new features, rich snippets, and widgets. Ranking is no longer just a number, and achieving it is a moving target. Find out how to think like a brand and carve out a place in the SERP of the future.

9:40am – 10:10am Using Metrics to Build Social Media Engagement with Carrie Gouldin
Between Edgerank, noise, and upcoming networks, social metics are daunting. Carrie will show you what makes interesting content, how to track links, read metrics, and keep your followers hungry for more. By testing and trying new things, she's built up a 25-50% engagement rate for ThinkGeek's Facebook and you can too for your brand.

10:10am – 10:30am Break

10:30am – 11:00am The Search for Company Culture and Why It Matters with Sarah Bird
Whether you realize it or not, your company has a culture. Is it helping you or holding you back? Learn how to identify your company culture, foster the culture you want, and avoid common pitfalls. Sarah will share what she's learned at Moz, and why what works for one company might not work for yours.

11:00am – 12:00pm Why the Internet Hates Us and Can #RCS Change That Perception? with Wil Reynolds
Post-MozCon 2012, Wil has been focused on helping you get things done by using #RCS paired with facts and figures from his own company, his clients, and insights from 30 members of top US design agencies. He's also been reviewing the successes, the failures, and the steps his team put into place for change. Wil wants to get the word out that it's time to stop chasing all the shiny SEO shortcuts!

12:00pm – 1:30pm Lunch

1:30pm – 2:00pm Building Your Community From the Ground Up with Jen Lopez
What if we had to start over and rebuild the Moz community from scratch? Jen walks us through the steps, from how to start building an audience all the way through to how she'd build her team. Learn actionable tactics and deep insights that you can apply to building your community, both internally and externally, for your business.  

2:00pm – 3:20pm Community Speakers!
This could be you! We're having four community speakers. Have you tossed your hat in the ring? Applications due Tuesday, May 14th at 5pm PDT.

3:20pm – 3:40pm Break

3:40pm – 4:40pm The Secret Ingredients of Better Marketing with Rand Fishkin
Content bombards our online experience. Ads and salespeople interrupt us. But every now and then, marketing is truly remarkable and its message transforms from unwelcome to irresistible  What makes it stand out? Why do some companies inspire us to take action and to share them? The ingredients have been hidden too long. It's time we discovered the what, why, and how behind crafting better marketing.

4:40pm – 5:10pm Ultimate Q&A
Get your questions answered by our amazing speakers. Unlike the traditional give-it-up, Ultimate Q&A gives you the opportunity to pinpoint what amazing tips you'd like to know and gives you the actionable and inspirational information you crave.


Wowzers, that's a lot of crazy amazing stuff. See you there!

Roger loves everyone!

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!

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