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How Business Listings Are Made – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by David Mihm



As a local business owner, it’s important for your business to be listed in Google’s search results. But how do you fix your business listing if the information is incorrect? 


In this week’s edition of Local Whiteboard Friday, David Mihm sheds some light on the complicated process that Google uses to create its business listings.


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For reference, here’s a still of David’s whiteboard diagram.



Video Transcription



“Hey everybody. Welcome to another edition of WhiteboardFriday and in particular a local edition of Whiteboard Friday. I’m David Mihm,the Director of Local Search Strategy for SEOMoz, and I’m here to answer one ofthe most common questions that we get asked which is:  “Hey, how come my business informationis showing up incorrectly at Google?”


So they type in the name of their business, and there’seither a phone number wrong or their address is wrong or sometimes the markerfor where their business is, is in the wrong place. So I want to try to answerhow Google generates its business listings.


So the first step that a lot of business owners take, whichis a great step to take, is they go directly to Google. Google offers adashboard for businesses that Google Places as well as Google+, there are kindof two ways into it right now. A business owner goes and he enters his businessname, his address, his phone number, some categories, maybe the hours that heoperates his business, and he tells that directly to Google. Of course theexpectation is, “Oh well, I’m the business owner. I’m telling Google thisinformation. That’s how it should show up when Google spits out a searchresult.” But in reality that’s not actually how Google assembles a businesslisting. So I’m going to erase these lines, and I’ll try to walk you guysthrough how this process actually happens.


So for many of you, if you’re business owners, you go to oneof these places, the Google Places dashboard or the Google+ local dashboard,and you tell Google about your business and you find before you even get thereGoogle knows about your business. It can guess at what your address and phonenumber are for example.


So you might wonder where Google is finding thatinformation. Actually in the United Statesthere are three companies that aggregate business data for United Statesbusinesses. Again, this is the United States only, but in this country those guysare Infogroup, Neustar and Axiom. So Google buys or leases information from atleast one of these companies and pulls it into its index. But it doesn’t goright into Google’s index. It actually goes into a massive server cluster thattakes it into consideration as one data source.


So not only is the business owner one of these data sources,but you would have one data provider, maybe Infogroup is another data source.Neustar might be another data source and so and so forth. So imagine thisgraphic going quite far to the right, even off of the whiteboard just with someof these data aggregation services.


That all gets assembled at a server cluster, somewhere in Mountain View let’s justsay, that compiles kind of all of this information. These however, aren’t eventhe only places that Google gets data. These guys, these data sources actuallyalso, in addition to sending information to Google, they send data out to awhole bunch of other sites across the web. So Yelp, for example, getsinformation from one of these sources. Yellowpages.com gets information fromone of these sources. Many of you guys have seen my local search ecosysteminfographic that kind of details a little bit more about how this processworks.


Then Google goes out, and it crawls these sites across theweb and again throws that information into this server cluster. So again,imagine this table here going off basically to infinity, kind of off this page.


Additionally, in addition to these data aggregators, inaddition to websites, Google looks at government information. So if you’reregional, like your county has a place of businesses that are registered in aparticular county or maybe your secretary of state, Google is either probablygoing to crawl that information. In some cases the government publishes this inPDF format or something like that, and that gets pulled into this cluster againas one of these data points in this huge spreadsheet.


Another place that Google might get information believe itor not is Google Street View. Bill Slawski of SEO by the Sea recently gave akeynote at Local University in Baltimore, and there’s information in Google’spatents that suggest that street view cameras from these cars that they go outand they drive around trying to find driving directions are taking photos ofstorefronts with business name signage, with the address numbers right there onthe storefront, and that information gets pulled into this, what we call thecluster of information.


So there are all these different sources pulling in, and youas the business owner, you are only one of these data sources. So even thoughyou tell Google, “Hey, yes this is my address, this is my phone number,this is where I’m located,” if Google is seeing bad information, at any ofthese other places from these data aggregators, from websites, from governmententities, Google pulls data in from everywhere. So if every other source out,there or a lot of other sources out there that Google trusts, especially majordata aggregators or government entities, if they have your information wrong,that could lead to misinformation in the search results.


But there’s one final step actually before Google willpublish the information, the authoritative information from this cluster. Googleactually has human reviewers that are looking at this information. They arecalling businesses to verify things like categories, the buildings that certainbusinesses are located in, and these reviewers will again call a real businessoffline. So if you get a call and it says, “Hey, Mountain View is calling you, it mightactually be Google.” So pay special attention if your business receivesthose kind of calls. They might be trying to validate information that they’refinding from across the web.


The other thing to keep in mind is that Google accepts datafrom other reviewers, from other human reviewers via a website that it operatescalled Google Map Maker. So if you’re having trouble with your information fromone of these sources, you might check Google.com/mapmaker. It’s like aWikipedia for locations. Anybody in the world can go in there and update data.So it’s really, really important if you’re a business owner and you’re havingtrouble with Google publishing bad information about your business, you can’tjust go into the Google Places dashboard or the Google+ dashboard and fix thisinformation. You really need to go to all of these different sources. So thesemajor data aggregators, they’re different in every country. So if you’re fromsomewhere else in the world besides the United States, you need to do someresearch on who these guys are. You need to update your information at Internetyellow pages sites. You definitely need to update your information withgovernment authorities, and you probably want to check your information atleast on this Google Map Maker site, because all of these feed into thiscentral data cluster that then feeds into a Google search result for yourbusiness.


So I hope that explains a little bit about this verycomplicated process that Google has to assemble business listings. If you wantmore information in the text part of the page on which this Whiteboard ispublished, I’ll reference one of my colleagues at Local University,Mike Blumenthal. Mike has a great sort of text based layout of what I justexplained visually, and Mike is actually the inspiration for this idea of thedata cluster at Google Local.


So hope you enjoyed that Whiteboard Friday, and again formore information I’ll link to Mike Blumenthal’s blog down near the comments.


Thanks guys.”


Video transcription by Speechpad.com




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SEO Tactics Die, But SEO Never Will

Posted by Dr-Pete

Thisis a post that has been gnawing at the edges of my brain for years, and I thinkthe time has finally come to write it. Our recent Moz re-brand launched theinevitable 4,789th wave (and that’s just this year) of “SEO Is Dead” posts.This isn’t a post about our reasons for broadening our brand (Rand has talked extensively about that)– it’s a post about why I think every declaration of SEO’s demise missessomething fundamental about our future. This is going to get philosophical, soif you’d rather go make a sandwich, I won’t stop you.

The Essence ofSearch

Let’sstart with a deceptively simple question – How big is the internet? I’llattempt to answer that by creating a graph that borders on being silly:

Theinternet is so big that even Google got tired of counting,and it’s growing exponentially. Five years have passed since they announced the trillion mark, and the article suggests that URL variations now make thepotential indexed page count theoretically infinite.

Wecan’t just print out the internet and read it at our leisure. We need a filter –a way to sift and sort our collected content – and that’s essentially all thatsearch is. However search evolves or whatever happens to Google, the expansionof human knowledge is accelerating. Unless we suffer a technological cataclysm,we will need search, in some form, for the rest of human history.

Searchers andSearchees

Aslong as search exists, it also stands to reason that there will be two groupsof people: (1) People who want to find things, and (2) People who want to befound. On any given day, we may each be both (1) and (2), and the “people” whowant to be found could be businesses, governments, etc., but for every searchthere will be some entity who wants to have a prominent position in that searchresult.

Thedesire to be found isn’t new or unique to online search – just ask Melvil Dewey or call up “AAAAardvark Plumbing” in the Yellow Pages. What’s unique to online search is thatthe system has become so complex that automated technology governs who getsfound, and as the scope of information grows, that’s not about to change. Ultimately,whenever a system controls who will be found, then there will be a need forpeople who understand that system well enough to help entities end up on theshort list.

Thisgoes beyond manipulative, “black hat” practices – data needs to be structured,rules complied with, and many pieces put into place to make sure that theinformation we put out there is generally friendly with the systems thatcatalog and filter it. Over time, these systems will get more sophisticated,but they will never be perfect. As long as search exists, there will be a needfor experts who can optimize information so that it can be easily found.

SEO Is Not OneTactic

Whenwe say “SEO Is Dead!”, we’re usually reacting to the latest tactical fad orannouncement from Google. Ultimately, though, SEO is not one tactic and eventhough Google currently dominates the market, SEO doesn’t live and die withGoogle. I’m 42 years old, and the public internet as we know it now hasn’texisted for even half of my life. Google is a teenager, and I strongly suspectI’ll outlive them (or at least their dominance).

There’sno doubt that search is changing, and our industry is barely out of its infancy.In the broad sense, though, the need for people who can help construct findableinformation and attract people to that information will outlive any single tactic, anyindividual SEO expert, and even any search engine.

The Construct: Searchin 2063

Sergeihad spent his entire adult life learning how to manipulate The Construct. Fifteenyears earlier, the unthinkable had happened – the collected knowledge ofhumanity had grown so quickly that there was no longer enough space in theaccessible universe to store it in. The internet became The Construct, and it nowspanned both space and time.

Sinceno human could adequately comprehend 4-dimensional data (early attempts at neuralinterfaces drove a few pioneers to insanity), The Construct had to be projectedonto a 3-dimensional orb suspended in a vacuum, affectionately known as the “spaceegg.” With more than a decade of practice, Sergei manipulated the egg like anomelette chef at a 5-star brunch, and what his clients paid him made their $37mimosas look reasonable.

Thismorning was worse than most. The Construct’s AI had detected an unacceptablelevel of manipulation and was adjusting the Core Algo. Sergei could alreadysee the surface of the egg being rewritten, and the change was costing hisclients millions with every passing minute. Luckily, his defensive bots werealready at work, rewriting semantic data to conform to the ripples in the Algo. One thing was certain: the life of a Space Egg Optimizer was never dull.

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Followerwonk Partners with Buffer To Optimize Tweet Scheduling

Posted by @petebray








Today, we’re happy to announce a partnership between Followerwonk and Buffer to help you optimize your tweeting. We’re really excited to be teaming up with such a great product and company, and the combination of our apps really does advance the cause of our customers.


Before I dig into specifics of that relationship, I want to lay some groundwork to explain why we formed this partnership.


It all comes down to this little pearl:


Tweets are delicate


Tweets have a half-life of a mere 18 minutes. Poof! and their utility to reach new customers, drive traffic, and extend your reach is pretty much gone.





But it gets worse for our little tweets.


First, most of us have a heck of a job consistently coming up with good content to tweet day after day. It’s kinda like going to the gym: we start out strong, but most of us quickly fade to where we spend the entire time in the sauna.


Second, even if we do come up with lots of good content, we risk undermining our own performance.



 


I want to talk with you about ways to squeeze the most out of the content we do come up with. How can we maximally schedule our tweets to perform?


Cultivate your current audience


Given the gossamer-like nature of tweets, a simple first step is to schedule most of your tweets when your followers are most active.


This is where our relationship with Buffer helps.


First, go to Followerwonk and complete an Analysis of your followers. Once you’re finished, we’ll present a chart of their most active hours. (Mouse over each hour to view your local time.)




 



By itself, this insight is extraordinarily useful. There is significant variation from one person to the next in terms of when their followers are most active, and we can now take advantage of this data with the Buffer button integrated into Followerwonk.









When you click this new button, it will create a schedule on Buffer with as many times as you specify (you can specify from 1 to 99 times, currently). And when you do, you’ll find a new schedule on Buffer like this:






(Of course, if you don’t yet have a free account on Buffer, definitely grab one.)


We use a weighted, random distribution to divvy up the times you specify. This means that we don’t ignore off-hours; we just assign times to them less frequently. Fine-tune the schedule we create for you in Buffer.



Also, make sure you install the Buffer Chrome extension. Once you do, you’ll be presented with a Buffer alternative when you tweet on Twitter.







With this, you can take a moment before each tweet and consider: is this one of the top hours for my audience? If not, hit the Buffer button and rest assured the tweet will be queued up to go out at a more optimal time.


Aim for your future audience


Your tweets should not be solely determined by your current followers. A couple of reasons why:




  • You may have a lot of spam followers or who people who aren’t important to your business.

  • Since they are already followers, you’ve already “converted” them. Part of your goal on Twitter should be to find new potential converts.

  • There’s potentially a lot of “low hanging fruit” in other hours that you might not typically reach.


This is where the Followerwonk integration with Buffer really excites me! You can now create schedules based not just on the most active hours of your followers, but of any other person’s followers.


I’ll explain how to do this in a moment. But first, I want to address what is central to this approach: whether or not tweets can reach out beyond your current followers.




Yes, tweets can extend out of your network


I analyzed 4,757 active Twitter accounts pulled from a sub-set of Followerwonk users. (This isn’t a random sample, but it’s far easier for us to analyze these users, as we track all of their data internally.)


Here’s the breakdown of their activity:







Note the last one.


A huge number of users are retweeting content from those they don’t follow. That’s really revealing, as many folks assume that engagement is limited to your existing social network. But it’s not. And it’s this sort of boundary-breaking activity that’s golden.


I then took those approximately 5,000 users and crawled 610,779 of their tweets and retweets. Of those items, here’s the breakdown:







I love retweets. (In fact, we based an entire influence metric around them.) And here we see that they’re an important component of most users’ activities! They’re almost as important as @mentions, in fact.


Let’s zoom in further and look just at retweets.







Here, we see that roughly 27% of retweeted tweets are of users the retweeter doesn’t follow. That’s big! And it means that there’s serious penetration of content into new networks.


Without doing an actual survey, it’s impossible to say exactly how users get their content retweeted by non-followers. But I have a few ideas.





Notice that retweets of non-followers have a larger number of @mentions. This is useful! It suggests that, in part, this breakout strategy is due to @mentioning others (and the recipient retweeting them).


If we consider retweets as a proxy for readership, we see that tweets can and do frequently extend beyond one’s current followers. This ability for a tweet to transcend a social network is likely due to any number of factors, including the “discovery” tab on Twitter, retweets of third parties, search, @engagement or #hashtag components of the tweet, and so on.


I draw out this point to highlight that you shouldn’t feel restricted to just tweet when your followers are online. Certainly, that’s an important consideration for any basic Twitter strategy, but keep in mind that your tweeting during certain hours has assembled an audience whose activity probably closely matches your current schedule. Time to break that mold? 


The benefits of off-hour targeting


At any given time on Twitter, here’s what your potential audience probably looks like:




 



Here’s the thing: your current followers are likely a large percent of those “attentive and eager” readers who you’ve captured during your active hours. And while you certainly need to continue to cultivate that crowd, it’s perhaps less easy for you to find new prospects. You’ve already gotten a lot of the “low hanging fruit.”


But just think: there are active and eager fans in other hours, and they’ve probably never seen a single tweet from you. With the right content, you can probably do a terrific job at reaching them.


Let’s discuss how.



First, find a competitor or affinity brand on the other side of the world. Do an analysis and notice the active hours for her followers. Quite different than yours, eh?




 



Look at the full report to better understand the characteristics of their followers. The word clouds might reveal biographic details that might be of use. Look, too, at her most influential followers. These folks can help you spread your message.







Now think about content. Since few of your current followers are online during this user’s followers’ most active hours, you can think of a content strategy designed exclusively to this audience of far-flung prospects:




  • Tweet in a different language

  • Include responsible and constructive @mentions as in-roads into this audience

  • Use our comparison reports to find relationship overlaps between you and this competitor; DM or otherwise engage with shared followers who are in the off-hour timezone

  • Target content to the audience (for example, if you’re and SEO targeting France, you might focus on Francophone search engines)

Once you’ve tailored the content, queue them up in Buffer with a schedule based on the analysis of this far-off competitor.



Smart scheduling = lots of opportunities


Unlike Google+ and other social networks, you can’t separately target people on Twitter. Theoretically, all your tweets reach all your followers.


But, of course, they really don’t.


As I’ve highlighted above, you can use schedules as a basic means to separately target different swaths of your current and future audience. For most people, off-hour targeting affords a unique means to reach new territory.


But it’s not always of course: if you’re a local business, it probably won’t work well to be targeting folks in France! However, we think that there are a lot of other creative ways you can utilize analyses of competitors, suppliers, and local experts to fine-tune a scheduling and content strategy.


We’re extremely excited about our new relationship with Buffer. There are lots of ingenious ways to combine activity analysis like these and targeting scheduling.


We look forward to extending this partnership with great new things in the future!


(And so I don’t have to go all off-hours, why not follow me on Twitter right now?)



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SEO and Community: Like Peanut Butter & Jelly

Posted by jennita




Community and SEO blog video intro – Jennifer Lopez

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More and more businesses and organizations of all sizes are realizing the importance of building an online community. I’m curious though, have you considered integrating SEO into your Community management, or even making sure you’re considering Community in your SEO tasks?


Now, usually when you think about SEO, you’re thinking aboutGoogle searches, building links, creating good content, getting your contentshared, keyword research, crawlers, bots, indexation, and so on. You probablyhave thought about the conversion funnel and getting people to buy your productor sign up for your newsletter. But have you ever thought about how using yourSEO can help you actually build a community?


When it comes to community, you think customer service, blogging, user-generated content, forum threads, interacting on social media, industry events, and casual meetups. Essentially it’s all about the people, right?


But I want to talk about these two areas can work togethernicely. Not only is it important to build a community because they will helpyou with your SEO, but you want to use your SEO to help find the community aswell!


Hello RelationshipBuilding


Combining your SEO and Community efforts means you’rebuilding relationships with people, not just ranking higher. You’re investing in your future by ensuring that youhave those brand advocates, link builders, content sharers, etc. for years tocome. Since it’s the people who promote you because they trust and like youand/or your service, they’re the ones to focus on.


Not only will building a community help your SEO, but you’ll find the opposite true as well. Think about it, your future community members are the ones searching for you. How often have yousearched for a brand name, rather than going directly to their website? In aprevious job, we did usability studies and asked people to walk through variousscenarios. At the end of each one, we asked them to go back to the home page.More than half of the users typed in the brand name in Google to get back tothe home page, rather than clicking the logo. INSANE right? But it happens.


Also, when you do your SEO right, you’ll attract the people who fit right into the community. For example, doing a search for “geeky family…” quickly brings up thinkgeek.com. That’s the *exact* type of person they’re looking for, and exactly what I’d like to see. 🙂




Who do you think is going to link to you? Yep, that would beyour community. They’re the “linkerati”, those folks who have blogs, owncompanies, and they tweet, pin and circle.





Mmm hmmm. Links, shares, tweets, likes, etc.



Use Your Community to Improve Your SEO


Ok, you’re going to tell me “Yeah, it’s called Link Building,Jen.” And you’re right! But the part that’s different is that you’re going tofocus on building a relationship with people. The content you create will bewhat your community cares about and really wants to link to. That means you’re probablygoing to have talk less about yourself.


One important piece in this is making sure you have someonein charge of the community. You probably already have someone focused on SEO,but what about your community? Kate Morris wrote a great post earlier this yeartitled, YourBest Link Building Tool in 2013: Community Manager. It’s so true! Getsomeone to care about your SEO, Social, Community, and Content together (just oneperson, or a team!), and you’re going to find that whole link building thingsgets a bit easier.


Following are some tactics to build a relationship with yourcommunity and get some great links from them at the same time:


Make it super easy toshare.


This sounds pretty straightforward right? I mean, you’dnever actually put up great content then make it difficult for people to share,right? Sadly, this happens more often than I’d like to think. It often occurswhen you have different people working on various aspects of a site. Forexample, I’ve seen times when the Social person assumes the Developer obviouslyknows to do this, and the SEO thinks the Social person will make sure it’sdone, and so on.


Or sometimes your CEO wants the only CTA on the page to be a subscribe to the blog via email button. ehem.







Not only do you want it to be easy, but also you want tofocus on sites that your community cares most about. I know I want a big easybutton to push, don’t make me think.







Focus your content onwhat your community cares about.


It’s cool and all to put together an amazing piece ofcontent, but if *your*community, the people who care about your brand, isn’t interested in it, thenyou’re not getting the full potential from that content. 


Take Mint.com for example. They have online software to help you do your finances… boooooring. But their blog is extremely useful because they talk about what their community/users care about. They don’t *just* focus on themselves all the time.







This also isn’t something that’s *only* on your site. You want to to this with your social content as well. One of the best examples of this, is the way ThinkGeek plays to their community of geeks. 🙂 *giggle*







There are various ways to do find out what your people careabout, and one of the easiest ways is to simply ask. Set up a quick and easyform and ask people to tell you what they want to read about. We did this backon the blog several years ago and it shaped the content we wrote for the nextyear and a half (at least).


Feedback on the SEOmoz Blog: What Can We Do For You?



<A

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There are also quite a few great tools out there that helpyou curate content and find out what the people in your community talk about.


Additional Reading:


Webinar with Gianluca Fiorelli – Social Content Curation:Why, How, and What


Give them data, orsomething else they want.


Again, this is one of those that seems like simple commonsense. But we all seem to mess it up. Whether you’re a job board, a datingsite, a webinar provider, an online store, or even a news site, you have data.You have information about the people who use your site, what they do on yoursite and how they use it. This information is extremely interesting and canmake for great content.


OKCupid blog – OKTrends


OkCupid did a great thing with their blog, they took the data gathered from use of their site, to create amazing content that get shared like crazy. Why do these posts get shared so much? They’re relatable and they use real data from real people. They’re not giving out names or private information, but they are using their data in super unique ways.







What information do you have that you can turn into interesting content?


Make it easilyembeddable


Please, for the love of all things grumpy cat, make it easyto re-use the amazing content you create. When your community loves somethingthat you’ve created, they’ll want to re-use it. Then make sure the embed code,has not only a link, but also the embed code.


Simply Hired







Slideshare does an excellent job of this. They’ve essentiallymade it so that their community is building links to them every day, over andover. When you embed a Slideshare presentation, it adds a link and an easy wayto embed the presentation yourself. Brilliant!



Using Social Analytics For Testing from Jennifer Lopez


This is a presention I gave last month at Interactivity Digital in Florida. Right after I finished the presentation, I uploaded it to Slideshare. It’s a really great way to get reach a new audience and they do a great job of getting users to create links back t their site. 🙂


Make sure they’resharing the way you want them to


Have you ever found a website or page that you were so excited about that you couldn’t wait to tell all your friends about it? But when you share it on Facebook, the page doesn’t look quite right. This happened to me when I found out about the Nutella Truck. All the excitement of thinking that a Nutella truck would come through Seattle got me all giddy. This is the page I wanted to share:





However, when I tried to share it on Facebook, this is what actually showed up:





Yikes! When you look at the code on the page, they did have a title tag. But they were missing a meta description and the image on the page was a CSS background image. The only text on the page that Facebook could find was the “No Purchase Necessary” mumbo jumbo which made for a bad sharing experience. The only good that came from this experience was that I now have a great example of what not to do. 😀


Open Graph tags


Make sure your open graph tags are set up correctly. DanaLookadoo wrote a great post that walks you through the importanceof the open graph tags and how to set it all up. Essentially having these tags set up will ensure that when your content is shared on Facebook and Google+ the way you want it to show up.


Facebook Debugger


Did you know, that the first time a link is shared on Facebook, it gets cached. Usually this makes perfect sense, but there are times when the first share of a page changes. Take for example, the open graph code we originally had on moz.com. It was all about the upcoming launch and talked about “Top Secret Project.” Obviously, on launch day, we changed all the information, but Facebook still had the old open graph information. So when people started sharing the new site, it still looked like this:





But no problem, we ran on over to the Facebook Debugger: https://developers.facebook.com/tools/debug, input the page, and it recached the page. After doing this, Keri then shared the page on her feed to make sure it looked right. Voila!





By running the page through the Facebook debugger, we recached the page which pulled in all the new information. So from that point forward, all new shares were correct!

Twitter Cards
Setting up Twitter Cards is a really great way to get a rich snippet of your content directly into the Twitter feed. So rather than having to click on the link to see what it’s all about, you get a nice preview. Here’s a good example of a post from yesterday at Search Engine Land:




Last year, AJ Kohn wrote a great post about how to implement Twitter cards. I definitely recommend checking out his post on how to set it all up on your site.


Make your communitydo the work. [UGC baby!]


This sounds a little harsh, but I mean it in the nicest way possible. Your community members will write content in the form of blog posts, comments, reviews, etc. if you give them an easy way to do it. Here at Moz, we have YouMoz and Q&A that serve has the big areas for us where you, the user, are creating the content.


Another example I like to show off is ModCloth. What I like most, is the way they have their reviews set up. Not only do you add your commentary, but you also add your height, waist, bra, and hip sizes. Plus, buyers can add the size they bought and show pictures of themselves in the clothing! This is a really great way to show off the product and build up your community content at the same time.







Use your SEO to build your Community


“But this is what already I do!” you say. And it’s partially true,you’re working on getting your site/pages ranking for certain keywords. But areyou thinking about how they will become longtime community members and brandadvocates because of it? I want to walk you through a couple scenarios.


Let’s say that I was looking for more information aboutyoung people who get cancer and how they are coping with it. I might do asearch something like this:









Which would lead me to a site called StupidCancer.org, which just happens to be acommunity for young people living with and recovering from cancer and treatments.Because they’ve done a good job of targeting their site to the correct group ofpeople, I easily found their site.






Let’s try another scenario, where I would take my searchfurther than just getting to the site. In this scenario, I’m looking forsomething to do with my daughter this weekend, so I start to do a search.







Obviously redtri.com is doing a great job ranking for theterms I’m looking for, as they show up for both the #1 and #2 spots. Once I getto the site, I realize that they have weekly calendars with really great stuff forkids! From there I check out both their Twitter and Facebook pages anddetermine that Facebook is the right one for me and I “like” them.


I start getting updates about new kids plays in town and funthings to do over the weekend. So what do I do, I share them! I click on them!I take my daughter to do fun things!






Because of that very first search, I now visit the sitepretty much every week. I rely on them to tell me what’s going on in the city forkids. And I recommend the site, over and over again.

These are only two scenarios of using SEO to build yourcommunity, but there are tons more. I’d like to challenge you to work with your other team members, theperson who manages social, the dev who works on the blog, the SEO, etc. to seehow you can work together. What can you do to make sure you’re making the best peanut butter and jelly sandwich out there?

[ok, did I just take that PB & J think too far?]


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I Think I Might Have Been Wrong About Voice Search

Posted by willcritchlow


I roundly mocked voice search for such a long time.


I mocked it in public:



We still use keyboards


And I argued internally at Distilled against it being an important trend.


But I think I might have been wrong.


Before I explain why I think I might have been wrong, I want to give you a few of bits of information in my defence:




  • I don’t drive much, and almost never on my own; I commute on the train and most of my driving is with my family.

  • I work in an open-plan office without so much as a cubicle to shield my embarrassing experiments with voice search from the world.

  • I actually don’t like using the phone much, so it may have passed me by that talking into that small device is a perfectly acceptable thing that normal people do.

My main arguments why voice search wasn’t an important trend were:


1. You look stupid talking into your phone


In hindsight, perhaps this was the most shortsighted of all my arguments. Of course we don’t always look entirely sensible holding a bit of technology up to our ears, but it seems like we have made it socially acceptable in most environments.





Image courtesy of travosaurus


More importantly, I think that I underestimated the speed with which things can become socially normal. I’m personally more up for trying this kind of new thing than most, and I think I underestimated everyone else’s willingness to try new things.



Date with a Glasshole


I increasingly make calls on my computer. Between Google+ Hangouts, Skype, and GoToMeeting, I probably average 2-3/day, so even in my cubicle-less existence it’s becoming more and more normal for me to talk to my computer.


2. You can’t edit things easily


Anyone who tried early voice dictation software is familiar with the process of trying to get it to recognise stop words and having it write out what you said:




“Delete word back. DELETE WORD BACK. Screw it.”






My imagined future of voice search had all kinds of similar problems. While some people are reporting that third parties can activate Google Glass, I imagine that is just teething difficulties.


There are two big things that give me hope for the future of voice search in terms of query editing:


(a) So much context is going with each query


You only have to look at Google Now to realise how far this has come:



Google Now


You know that when they are capable of returning results for things you haven’t even searched for yet (see Danny’s write-up), they must be doing a lot of enhancement of queries with implicit data even when you are explicitly searching. Here’s how we’ve been thinking about it at Distilled:



Implicit queries


All of this gives Google ever-increasing ability to get the query right by appending context and other information to it.


(b) Conversational search is amazing


Of all the many things that should impress me (like Google’s ability to return results for a never-seen-before query in a fraction of a second), conversational search is perhaps one of the more gimmicky in its current incarnation.


We’ve long had results that shifted in response to previous queries but it’s new that you are able to explicitly reference previous queries. It’s amazing how slick this is (when it works) and it feels futuristic to be able to ask your computer:




  • “How old is Barack Obama?”

  • “How tall is he?”

  • “Who is his wife?”

  • “How old is she?”

Or to ask for the time in multiple time zones:







All of this makes me think that query correction may not be needed too much, and when it is, it may not be too much of a problem. It’s already quicker than typing for relatively easily spoken mid-length queries.


3. It doesn’t matter anyway — they’re just queries


I honestly hadn’t thought too much about the marketing implications, because I figured that not only was voice search not going to catch on, but that even if it did, it would make no practical difference to us as marketers. I figured the way it would work would be something like:



Voice –> text –> query –> result


In actuality, the clumsiness of voice input appears to be a driving force behind Google relying less on the query itself and more on the implicit and explicit input from the user.


I wonder if we should have seen this coming, with “(not provided)” foreboding the death of the keyword? I had interpreted the statements from Googlers about “the death of the number one ranking” as being all about naive personalisation (location, search history, etc.). In fact, it appears that they are talking about the capability to process a whole load of new implicit inputs, including things like:




  • Device

  • Current activity

  • Daily routine

  • Interests

  • Significant places

  • Social network

  • Calendar entries

  • Gmail information (flight confirmations, etc.)

Voice search is a powerful driver towards queryless search and (more importantly, I think) query-enhanced search, where sparse input information is combined with ambient and personal information to return the results you need right now.




Is voice search the future, then?


I think it’s part of the future. I don’t see it cannibalising much of desktop search, where I imagine it’ll remain a novelty or an add-on, and I expect much of the its application to mobile search is incremental on top of more complex written queries.


The more important part in my mind is the impact of the technology it takes to power voice search. The fact that Google can roll out voice search this effective speaks not only to their natural language processing ability but also to the maturity of their ability to understand the web.


What should we do as marketers?


As web marketers, we need to realise that the dumb robot we’ve been considering all these years is rapidly becoming smarter. I think the actions for marketers have far less to do with voice search itself than with a real understanding of the underlying technology.


If you haven’t seen this video (I found it via Justin), I highly recommend taking the time to watch at least the first half hour (up to the Q&A):


 


…and that’s from over two years ago. It’s quite stunning how far Google’s understanding of the web has come, and technologies like Google Now are highlighting ability to put it all together.


The biggest actions I would recommend are therefore to prioritise all the things that help Google understand rather than just index your site. That means things like:




  • Authorship information

  • Structured markup (and structured data)

  • Accurate meta information for objects and pages

  • Machine-readable feeds of anything they consume (location data, prices, new content)

Conceptually, I think we need to change our mindset around keywords. “(not provided)” isn’t the only thing taking away query information; queries will increasingly be composed largely of implicit information alongside the explicit query.


Even if “(not provided)” rolled back (some chance!), we would still be left with less and less information to explain why and how a particular visitor arrived on our site and why we ranked for them. I see analytics and reporting moving towards a content- and user-centric model (across repeat visits and across devices), and moving away from a transactional, session-based view of keywords. You can set yourself up for future success by moving towards content-centric metrics now, and by implementing user-centric tracking with your analytics platform of choice (or waiting for it to come to universal analytics).



I’m looking forward to some disagreement in the comments, but remember: there’s a lot of science left to come. 








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Inside YouMoz: How To Guest Blog for Moz

Posted by KeriMorgret

Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes at YouMoz? Here’s an explanation of what we’re looking for, how to put together a good post, and some frequently asked questions.

I’ve had the privilege of being at the helm of the YouMoz editorial team for almost two years now, and have been amazed and awed by the content that you all have shared. On an average weekday, we get 5-10 submissions, and we publish about 10% of our submissions. I wanted to share more about who we are, what makes for a good YouMoz post, and how to get in that top 10%.

Who Reviews Posts?

  • Miriam Ellis is a Moz Associate specializing in copywriting and Local SEO. She provides the initial review of your post.
  • Melissa Fach is a Moz Associate with extensive editorial experience in the industry. She is one of the people who will closely review your post and provide you with feedback.
  • Keri Morgret (that’s me!) I’m a Moz employee on the community team. I also will closely review posts and give you feedback, as well as do a final check of your post before publishing it on the YouMoz blog.
  • Erica McGillivray, Jen Lopez, Ashley Tate, and Trevor Klein also help with the review process as needed.

What is the Review Process?

  1. All posts are reviewed for obvious spam and if the post has already been published. In these cases, we decline the submission and leave a note for the author.
  2. Miriam makes an initial review of the post and leaves internal notes for the team. The post status changes from “Pending Review By Editor” to “Pending – Reviewed By Editor”. This doesn’t mean it’s going to get published, but please know that only about half of the submissions even make it this far. To check the post status, go to Manage Posts (visible when looking at the Moz Blog), click the Posts tab, and then look for the status and any notes from the editor.
  3. Melissa or I do an in-depth review of the post, with other people from Moz giving additional opinion or reviewing posts as needed. We’ll make a decision to decline the post, return the post to the author for edits, or to publish the post. We will either leave a note in the editor comments field of the post, or (usually) email the author at the email address on their profile with our decision.

    Don’t panic if your post was returned to you! Many of the posts on the YouMoz blog (and even those that have been promoted to the main blog) have gone through the revision process. This means we think your post has potential, and there are some things that could be improved to make it a great post for YouMoz.

  4. When a post is approved for publishing, I do one final check for spelling, grammar, valid links, image attribution, and several other details. We try to notify the author of publication at least several hours to a few days before we publish. It is beneficial for the author to be able to respond to any comments by our readers, and to promote their post (Roger will also share the post on Twitter).

What Content is a Good Fit for YouMoz?

Actionable, detailed content with references tends to do the best on YouMoz, and case studies or examples are particularly popular. Think about the readers of this post, and try to make it so this is something that the reader could take to their boss and say, “Let’s give this a try. Here’s a post where this person tried it, they got good results, and they explain how to implement it.” This post is from a security company, but a wide variety of people could follow their tutorial using Google Analytics to develop an FAQ strategy. This post used screenshots of GA to explain step-by-step what they did complete with an example to cut and paste, and provided information about how it impacted their company.

We want to publish original content that has not been published elsewhere. By original, we mean both “don’t submit an exact copy of a post that is already online” and “don’t take the outline of a post and change word order enough to pass Copyscape”. YouMoz readers are looking for new information that they haven’t already read on another site.

Include enough details so others can replicate your actions or your processes. Try to anticipate the questions someone might ask or alternative explanations and address that in your post. Here are two examples:

  • If you’re discussing a tactic that increased your traffic, include additional information that might be relevant. For example, if you’ve been revising content about pumpkin carving and state the increase in traffic is due to the authorship you implemented, yet the traffic comparison is the month of October (the end of October is Halloween in the US and when people carve pumpkins) to the month of September, readers are likely to comment that it was increased search queries that led to the traffic rise, not the inclusion of authorship. Instead, in this case you could compare October this year to the previous October, and compare pages with authorship implemented to pages without authorship implemented.
  • If you’re examining a search engine result page, include information about which search engine you were using (google.com? google.co.uk?), your location, if you were logged out (generally, it’s best to use an incognito window in a browser to help minimize personalization based on your search history and cookies), what query you ran, if you modified any parameters in the URL, if other people saw the same results, and any other relevant information.

Back up the “what to do” statements with information about “how to do”. References are often key to a good YouMoz post. You don’t need to explain how to do every single step, but give enough context and a brief explanation, then link to where there is authoritative information. A good example is this post about spring cleaning your website. If this same post with no links had been submitted, it would not have been approved. Instead, the post did well and was promoted to the main blog.

I want to write a case study, but am not able to share sales figures or visitor data. What can I do?

Find out what data you can share. Perhaps you can’t share the exact number of visits the site received or the raw dollar figure of the sales, but you can share that traffic increased by 10% compared to the previous year, or that the time on site increased. This post about opening up content on their website doesn’t have exact visitor information, but does include enough information to show that their experiment had a positive impact.

If you don’t have any data you can share as an example, consider sharing something that you’ve built to help you learn something or be more efficient. This post breaks down how the author reviewed job descriptions to build a list of topics to learn more about, and how he prioritized that list.

Google just announced that they are doing XYZ, and I’d like to write about it for YouMoz!

We usually don’t cover general industry news on YouMoz. There are a number of other blogs that are quite good at covering the latest announcements from the search engines, including Search Engine Land and Search Engine Roundtable. What works for YouMoz is a post talking about what Google is doing, and how it impacts the business, what you can do to take advantage of or mitigate the latest development, or other actionable information. An example is determining how the shutdown of Google Reader might impact your bottom line, example spreadsheets, and how to explain this to your C-level executives.

How many words should I write?

We don’t have a minimum or maximum word count. Generally posts run from 1000-3000 words, but we have published posts that were fewer than 500 words and posts that were over 10,000 words.

What about links?

Relevant links are encouraged in posts. The previously mentioned post about spring cleaning your website had a considerable number of links to resources. You can link to your own site or a client’s site in your post, if it is relevant and on-topic. In this post about lessons from a 100k pageview post, the author links to content from his company’s blog. The YouMoz is all about how that post got over 100,000 pageviews, and is a very appropriate example.

Unfortunately, we often see posts that start out “My coworkers at our Springfield SEO agency were having coffee the other day” with a link to the SEO services page of their agency and a post that has no inherit need for that link. If your post only links to your own properties, that’s going to be viewed by many users as a bit too promotional for your own site. There is a Blog Bio section of your profile where you can have a link back to your company in your bio that will show at the bottom of the post (it’s not displaying at the moment, but it will be fixed shortly).

Affiliate links are not allowed.

Do I need to have a degree in writing to write for YouMoz? What if English is not my first language?

You don’t need to have perfect spelling and grammar to have a post published on YouMoz, nor does English need to be your native language. However, we are not a college writing lab. We will give you feedback about what could make your post work better for our readers, and we will check for spelling and obvious grammar mistakes, but we are not able to go through a post line-by-line and help you rewrite it.

Give yourself plenty of time to research the post (including finding the examples, references, and images), write the post, have others review what you’ve written, then come back and look at your writing anew after you’ve had a break from it. Take in the feedback other people have given, and do one last review in a word processor for spelling and grammar mistakes. This post about Author Rank needed only two typos fixed out of 2600+ words, and needed very little work from the editors. The author later revealed that four coworkers had reviewed his post and given feedback. The post has 166 thumbs up, only one thumb down, and from the first comment had requests to promote it to the main blog.

Be aware that people from all over the world read YouMoz, and may not understand references that are regional in nature or specific figures of speech. It can be helpful to avoid some idioms, and add additional information for context.

Technical Details

Finding Images

Images are great to have in a post! If you’re not making screenshots of your own material (info on that below), please be sure that you have the right to use the images you are submitting. Here’s one post on finding photos for your blog post, including using stock photos, Creative Commons pictures, and commissioning your own photos. Including a note at the end of your post about your image sources would be really helpful! We will erase before publishing, but this saves us from having to email you asking about the image source.

Adding Images

Here are some tips that will help your image look good in the post, and minimize the amount of back-and-forth needed with the editorial staff.

Our biggest request is that you resize your browser or your spreadsheet before taking screenshots. Often a computer screen is set at 1200 pixels wide, and the site (or application) adjusts to fill that whole space. When you take a screenshot and that width and then need to reduce it to the 730 pixels wide for the blog, the image can be hard to read.

If you adjust column headings to remove extra horizontal space (wrapping the text can help), or adjust the width of your browser before taking a screenshot, it can make a big difference. The two images below are before and after examples of removing extra space in a spreadsheet. Both are the exact same width, but one is much more readable.

You don’t need Photoshop or fancy image editing tools. I’m on a PC, and use a combination of Paint and Irfanview (free) to resize images, automatically crop extra white space, and with the RIOT plugin you can “save for web” and have a reasonable file size for your image.

To insert an image in your post, you’ll first need it hosted somewhere (your own site, or a free hosting site like imgur.com (if your post is published, we’ll automatically copy your images to our CDN). In the post, click the Insert Image icon, then paste in your image URL. Your image will now appear in the post.

Formatting your post

Using headings is a great way to help organize your post! If you’re using our editor to compost your post, headings can be found when you click the paragraph icon. Text alignment is adjusted when you click the icon shown below.

If you’re accustomed to our old editor and resistant to change, you might give this editor a try. We have no relation to and do not support it, but it may be a more familiar interface for you. You can paste the source code from that editor into the source code view of our editor (click the </> button in the toolbar for that view).

Spelling and grammar checking

After you’ve finished your post and had it reviewed by some trusted people, do one last check for spelling and grammar. One method that works well to catch many mistakes is to paste your post as plain text into Word, then select the language as your local language, and make sure that “do not check spelling or grammar” is unchecked. I’ve often found that Word decides that part of the text is a different language, or that you somehow don’t want it to check all of your document. Here’s a handy page on setting your language in Word that will help you find this semi-hidden setting.

FAQs

How does a post get promoted to the main blog?

This is the most common question! There is no exact formula, but instead we look for how the community has felt about the post. Some indicators of this are the number of thumbs, the number and type of comments, reaction on social media, and post analytics. If you wrote an awesome post that got on Hacker News but didn’t get a ton of thumbs or comments on the post itself (because it was discussed on HN and those users didn’t sign up here just to thumb), we’re going to notice that and take it into consideration.

Did you know that we have post analytics that are available on every post? Take a look!

We generally promote posts within a week or two of them going up on YouMoz. We’re considering looking back a couple of months and evaluating posts that were slower to catch on with the audience but did well and were not time-sensitive. Please give us your feedback about this in the comments! 

Why do some posts go straight to the main blog?

The technical infrastructure we have is responsible for some “YouMoz” posts going straight to the main blog. For our regular main blog authors, we have special permissions for them to be able to post directly to the main blog. For authors doing just a single post on the main blog, having them submit to YouMoz and promote it right away is the easiest technical way to do things.

Why is the review period so long?

We strive to be TAGFEE in our reviews, and give quality feedback to all legitimate posts, even the ones we decline. Sometimes it takes a while to read through the post and get into the author’s head and understand where they are coming from, what they are trying to say, and compose an email back to the author explaining how their post could be improved.

The editing team has a wide variety of knowledge, but we sometimes need to send a technical post off to another Moz employee or associate for them to review. We don’t want to publish a post that has incorrect information that could do harm to a site, for example.

Various things can interfere with author communication. The email address in the profile might be sales@somecompany.com and the email doesn’t get passed along to the author, or the email goes into a spam bucket. Sometimes we have posts that are 90% there and just need a couple of small tweaks, and we never hear back from the author for whatever reason.

Sometimes we’ll be short an employee because of a vacation, we’ll launch a new product, migrate domains, or need to email every single Moz user and answer their questions. Sometimes, it all happens in the same week. The awesome thing about this team is that we’re cross-trained and can pitch in to help each other. At times, it means we’ll have a bunch of people tackle YouMoz and the review period is nice and short, and at other times it means that we need to devote our energies to other tasks and the YouMoz queue grows again.

We Want You to Write for YouMoz!

Are you ready to write a post? We hope you can take what you’ve learned here and decide to Submit a YouMoz Post!

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The Positive ROI of Conferences: A Deep Look at #MozCon

Posted by Erica McGillivray

It’s conference season! Our inbound marketing conference, MozCon, July 8th-10th in Seattle, is just around the corner, and we often get asked by your our community how to approach your boss, CMO, CEO, etc., about coming to MozCon. You want to know more about the value for you and your company or clients, about how we spend those MozCon dollars, and what you can expect once you’re here. And furthermore, some of you might be considering coming on your own dime, especially if you’re a freelancer, student, or owner of a small business.

Conferences can be spendy when you add up ticket costs, travel, hotel, meals, and more. It’s important that you can justify a positive ROI when it comes to your budget. At Moz, we’re big believers in what you can learn at conferences, whether in sessions or through networking, (clear ROI) and in the power of serendipity (which can have a less concrete ROI).

Aleyda on stage!

Let’s take a deep-dive into what MozCon looks like both from a value and a cost standpoint. MozCon’s truly an amazing three-day conference where you’ll take away a ton of actionable tips to implement on your site(s) and make new friends, whether the fellow community member sitting next to you, a Mozzer, or one of our industry leaders who are speaking.

And for those of you ready to take the MozCon plunge:

Buy Your Ticket Today!

What’s the ROI of My Ticket

MozCon ROI

Actionable Tactics

This year, MozCon has an astounding 35 speakers! They’ll be talking about everything from linking building and international SEO to analytics, conversion rate optimization, and email marketing. We have an incredibly strong mix of topics with something for everyone. Our goal is really for you to bring something back with you from every session, which is why every single speaker has a keynote-style session to deliver this information. It’s a bit like the best of 35 college courses distilled down to the heart of the subject.

With the exception of our community speakers, who are selected from your pitches, all our speakers are curated from our MozCon selection committee. After speakers have accepted for MozCon, we work with them to ensure that they’re going to bring their very best, unique content to MozCon. Topics are chosen both by what said speaker’s an expert on, but also what they’re currently excited about. 

This year, every speaker had a kick-off call to establish their topic and set up expectations. Even many seasoned speakers can be intimidated by the MozCon stage, and one of my jobs is to make sure that they are ready and confident about their talk. Speakers are also required to send in a draft or outline of their presentation so we can make sure they’re on track. Every year, our post-MozCon survey shows that MozCon goers have extremely high expectations. By seeing a draft, we can offer advice. A lot of which is based on what you, the audience, expects from speakers. We make a lot of suggestions about actionable tactics, setting up the audience with what Nancy Duarte calls “the new bliss” to conclude their talks, and pushing content to the next level.

Speakers can send in as many drafts as they’d like for us to review, and final drafts are due about a week before MozCon. Which means I hope speakers are relaxing and practicing their talk, instead of hustling to put last minute slides together. For Mozzers, we’ve put together several practice sessions (first one was Friday!) for us internally to run through MozCon presentations.

Every single speaker is incredibly excited to be up on that stage and giving you their best. In fact, last year, Paddy Moogan really showed this spirit when he offered, for anyone who didn’t learn something from his talk, that he’d buy them a beer and talk with them specifics about their website. Talk about TAGFEE! I don’t doubt there will be some similar offers this year.

Inspiration

After actionable tactics, you’re sure to come back inspired by MozCon. I know the best conferences I’ve come back from were the ones that I couldn’t wait to get back to work or dive more into learning. Not to mention, the videos are included in the ticket costs, which means you can share the MozCon love with your coworkers and rewatch them yourself when you need a recharge in-between MozCons.

While we certainly stress actionable tactics with our speakers, inspiration comes through with every talk. The tactics may help you win, but the inspiration will fuel the fire. And who doesn’t benefit by your productivity being up? You may find yourself excited about a topic you’ve delved into or seen yourself doing. You may understand what a coworker does a little better. You may have a deeper understanding of something you’re already very much an expert in. It says a lot that even MozCon speakers hang out for the other talks to learn too!

A lot of us work around people who doesn’t quite “understand” what is we do. Being in a room full of other marketers will keep you on your toes and make you so excited. Who doesn’t want to nerd out about OG tags and that link you got in Forbes.

Making Friends

Other people might call this “networking,” but at Moz, we’re a little more about making friends, who happen to be professional contacts. The MozCon audience is an incredible community. I’ve never met a group of people who were sharper, more giving of their knowledge and time, and, of course, TAGFEE. 

Whether you’re adding industry folks on Twitter or finding a local group to hang out post-MozCon, you’ll probably find that connection at MozCon. I know some employers worry about “networking” at conferences and that their employees might come home with connections for new jobs. But more what I see is excited people, who’ve found connections who often end up solving those “omg, I’m trying to do this and it is not working” and then a community member steps in to share knowledge. This sharing of knowledge doesn’t stop when attendees have returned to their respective homes.

Make new friends

1:1 with Mozzers and Speakers

We highly encourage all speakers and all Mozzers to mix and mingle with attendees. This year, we’ll all be eating in the same room. (Yay for the new venue!) And not to mention, we’ll all be in the same big room as speakers are on stage. In the past, we’ve always had an overflow room for people interested in getting some work done or stepping aside to chat. But this year, there’s going to be a larger space with comfortable furniture — and don’t worry, a screen to watch to the presentations — so you chat and meet-and-greet between sessions or take a brain breather from all the fun.

Most of our speakers are highly approachable to ask them follow up questions after their talks or just in general get to meet them. I mean, who doesn’t want to get their photo taken with Rand? 😉 

This year, all Mozzers will be wearing blue t-shirts labeled with “staff” so you won’t miss us. (Don’t worry, we have three identical ones, so we’ll be fresh smelling during MozCon.) We’re here not only to point out where the coat rack is, but also just hang out and give you insights into what it’s like to work at Moz. Everyone from our engineers and finance team to marketing and help will be attending MozCon for our own learning experience and to meet each and every one of you. We seriously love to talk all things Moz. And who knows, you might get some extra insights into the future of what we’re cooking.

Tuesday Night Party

No one throws a party like that robot Roger. Okay, we can’t always bring Roger with us — those robot repair bills are astronomical! — but we do know how to throw a great party. Okay, this might not be something to write home to the boss about, unless you do solve that work problem that night, but it is a place to make more friends and also relax after all that learning. We provide noms and drinks, not to mention plenty of karaoke. 

This year’s party takes place the EMP Museum. Where you’ll not only be able to sing your heart out on stage, but you’ll also be able to find a quiet place to chat with someone or tour the EMP Museum. You know, they have Daleks in the basement, David Bowie’s infamous Labyrinth gear, and a whole amazing tribute to Seattle’s favorite hometown band, Nirvana. Seriously, for those of you just flying in and out for MozCon, you’ll have a chance to take a tour of one of Seattle’s most unique and fun museums. I think it’s pretty rad.

Roger Hugs

Every year that loveable robot of ours, Roger Mozbot, makes his way out from crunching your data to the breaks during MozCon. He gets his own photo booth, and you can get all the hugs from him. Plan on bringing some props and lots of love. Because this fellow can’t get enough hugs from you.

Roger and Phil are BFF

Fun

See EVERYTHING. If you don’t find some fun at MozCon, I will personally buy you a cupcake. (Cupcakes are the international sign of fun, right?)

Yummy Food

For those of you following us on social media, you may have noticed a theme: we love good food. I can’t think of a Mozzer who doesn’t fancy themselves something of a foodie. We can seriously give Anthony Bourdain and Guy Fieri a run for their money as our staff includes a former chef, a former bartender, and someone we’re sure has sampled every dessert from Seattle to South Africa. Whether you’re looking for a great steak, an amazing mixed drink, or some blasted broccoli, some Mozzer will be able to point the way. (Seriously, stay tuned because my fellow Mozzers are crowdsourcing a list of the most delicious places in Seattle to eat at and more.) We bring the same enthusiasm to our menus at MozCon. But more on that soon.

Okay, that’s the incredible value you can get from coming to MozCon. But what about the actual price? Why does a PRO member ticket cost $999? What do we actually do with that money?

What’s the Breakdown of the Cost of My Ticket?

Every bit of money made for MozCon goes directly back into MozCon. Moz has actually never turned a profit on MozCon (or covered its costs) from MozCon ticket sales. And that’s okay, because we don’t have to. Other conferences have to get sponsors and have exhibitor halls to make extra cash because they need it to cover conference costs. We’re pretty privileged that we don’t have to. Don’t get me wrong, it’s our goal every year to cover costs; but we’d rather you have a world-class experience you won’t ever forget than say not pay for international travel for some speakers or skimp on a/v.

Let’s get into specific costs. Transparency, ftw. I’ve broken down the costs from a $999 and how much goes to what. (Now, I realize that not everyone bought a $999 ticket; some people aren’t PRO members, some people got early bird deals, etc. But the $999 is our standard ticket, and varying ticket costs cover for those other tickets.)

Food and Beverage – $365

The Cost of MozConYep, food and beverage makes up the biggest costs to us. Your ticket includes breakfast and lunch each day (six meals!), two snacks (mid-morning and mid-afternoon), and one Tuesday evening party. As I mentioned above, Mozzers are foodies, and we don’t cut corners when it comes to your meals during MozCon. We do this for a few reasons: it makes your experience more awesome and you’re more likely to stick around during mealtimes, which means hanging out with Mozzers and Speakers.

Let’s face it, no one likes it when you’re handed a cardboard box with a turkey sandwich and a smashed cookie. Or in this vegetarian’s case, some wilted lettuce and a soggy apple. (If I’ve learned one thing from conference and airline catering, it’s that no one thinks vegetarians like cookies!) Not to mention, usually you see the Speakers and others sneaking out when they look at those cardboard boxes.

If we didn’t have meals, it’s true, you might be able to save your employer some monies by eating at Subway every day. (Subway affectionato and Mozzer Andrew Dumont probably has coupons he’d let you have.) But you’re going to have to find where you want to eat, maybe take some friends, leave the conference, find the place, order, put the recipe in that very special place you won’t forget it, eat, and then find your way back. Sure, Seattle has tons of delicious options, but I recommend coming in the weekend before or heading out Monday and Wednesday nights for that sort of exploration.

This cost also covers the catering staff, who besides cooking the food, will be making sure everything goes smoothly with serving and stays neat and tidy. They also assist in special meals for those of you who are vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, kosher, halal, or have other allergens. (Don’t worry, fellow vegetarians, there’s plenty of great noms for us in the main buffet.) Remember, these catering folks are the ones refilling the coffee, so we love them. 

Speakers – $158

MozCon truly brings in top-notch industry speakers who are experts in their fields and great presenters. We cover these speakers travel costs and hotels, and we believe that it’s worth every penny. MozCon speakers are the heart-and-soul of MozCon, along with Roger hugs, so we want all our Speakers to be wrapped in that great Seattle hug.

A/V and Video – $157 

Okay, this is probably another bucket were you’re like “What, Moz, A/V is how much of my ticket cost? Almost as much as Speakers?” Last year, the MozCon crew decided that we really needed to make the next step into making MozCon truly world-class. Many Speakers from 2012 said that they felt like rock stars on our stage. A/V sends all the signals from when to clap for the next speakers to when to quite down after a break. Not to mention, we’ve, by popular demand, baked the price of MozCon Videos into the ticket costs.

Our 13-person a/v crew ensures our speakers’ presentations look sharp and do all the exciting things they’re supposed to. No matter if they’re playing video or rapping Mad Men-style like Mike King did last year, we want to be able to support it. Plus, an impeccable stage means all eyes are always where they’re supposed to be. Our a/v crew does more than just the stage. They also do the lighting — just say no to fluorescents you can’t dim or control –, play any music, make sure we have video in the lounge area, and generally make MozCon feel like one heck of an amazing show. 

A/V also assists with getting us the MozCon Videos all pretty and ready for you. We truly couldn’t put on such an amazing show and deliver such awesome videos post-show. How else are you going to catch all those tips that you missed writing down because they were flying off the stage so quickly? Or share with your coworker, who’s planning on going next year, what happened.

Interior Design and Signage – $75

The Washington State Convention Center is basically a big room with four walls, concrete floors, and fluorescent bank lights. The good news is, unlike a hotel, we can really make it ours. The bad news is that isn’t cheap. Just covering that cement floor with carpet is $30,000. But we wouldn’t want to hear people’s shoes on the floor over analytic tactics from Avinash Kaushik. We also need to make sure we have tables, chairs, registration booths, and all those others conference basics. At MozCon, we don’t make you balance your laptop on your lap with your drink, your phone, and your snack. Instead, we have tables where everyone can put down their laptops, drinks, etc., which leads to far more productivity and less spillage. 🙂 Not to mention my Cliff Bars never fly over seats and hit people in the backs of their heads as I struggle to open the package while holding onto all my stuff. (Sorry, friends at SES NYC!)

Happy MozCon goers

Networking Party – $70 

I’ve already talked a lot about the Tuesday night party at the EMP Museum. It’s going to be pretty awesome. Not only are you getting to see the Museum exhibits (normally $20 per adult), but you’re getting food and drink and some amazing extras. Wine, beer, and well drinks are all on us. Anyone who’s ever thrown a wedding, anniversary, office, or birthday party with the cost of alcoholic beverages factored in knows that it starts to add up quickly.

Electrical – $40 

The first time I helped run a large event — GeekGirlCon 2012, approximately 2,000 people over two days — I was shocked to receive a post-event bill in the thousand plus dollar range for overages on electrical even when I’d put down a deposit for overages. Not even counting what was already included in my contract. Electricity runs everything. We not only have our big stage at MozCon, but we also just have to keep the lights on, keep the room temperature optimal, and make sure that you can charge your laptop, tablet, and phone so nothing goes dead during MozCon. MozCon’s a little unique in that each table is equipped with electrical plugs so no one ever cries over a dead battery. Or worse, has to switch to live tweeting on a smart phone! 😉

Swag – $35

This year, each MozCon attendee will get a Roger figurine. Yep, I think that’s all you need know. 🙂 

Roger for everyone!

We also will give out some other pretty nifty swag items, including limited edition MozCon t-shirts and a host of other Moz-branded items. Yep, be the first one to get some Moz swag at MozCon.

Credit Card Processing Fees – $33

Pretty boring. But have you ever been annoyed when purchasing tickets, say on TicketMaster, at the additional “processing fees”? Unlike other events, who make the price go up in your shopping cart, we adjust for them and pay EventBrite monthly.

WiFi – $28

Yes, yes, we know. WiFi hasn’t been one of our shining moments at past MozCons. However, with our move to a new venue, we are much more confident in the wifi situation for MozCon. Ideally, each and every one of you will be able to log into the MozCon wifi and tweet (#MozCon), email with coworkers (only pictures of you hugging Roger), and Facebook (with grandma, of course) whenever you need to.

Venue – $23

Besides this being a space cost, the venue costs also include convention center staff, aka the green coats, who assist in all things badge-checking, directional, and more. They work about every event at the convention center and know the place inside and out. Just don’t forget your badge in your hotel room!

Misc Labor – $15

While most of our labor costs are tied up either in a/v, catering, or venue costs and Mozzers’ salaries, we do have to bring in a few outside this sphere to help out. You’ll see our photographer, Rudy Lopez, taking all the photos. And there will be some behind-the-scenes magic that happens before and after MozCon like riggers putting up and taking down signs. 

Erica and the MozCon speakers

I hope this transparency about values and hard costs of MozCon give you a better insight both into how MozCon operates and what to consider when talking to the person who’s signing off your MozCon ticket and travel. Or heck, maybe helping you make that decision as a freelancer, student, or otherwise self-employed person to send yourself or as a boss, to send your employees. I also hope this might inspire other conference runners to share a little bit about the value and costs of their conferences.

MozCon is truly a celebration of the inbound marketing community. Around the MozPlex, we like to refer to it as a hug from us to our community. My dream is that each and every one of you has the opportunity to join us for MozCon. I can’t wait to meet you and to see you inspired and ready for the next step in your career and your journey as a marketer. Conferences can really be a great stepping stone and have a huge positive ROI for you and your company.

Still in the undecided camp? In the words of LeVar Burton, “but you don’t have to take my word for it”:

“MozCon is like Disneyland for SEO’s, jampacked with super-geeky SEO Magic Tricks and great chances to meet and say hello to others in the search industry.” – Pete Campbell

Why MozCon was the Best Investment I Made in 2011 by Mike King

Plus, if you’re interested in that $999 PRO price, sign up for your 30 day free trial and get that MozCon discount. 🙂

See you there!

Buy Your Ticket Today!

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Meet Your Community-Building Team

Posted by Mackenzie Fogelson

Building a community around your brand isn’t just about the strength of your social media presence. It’s not about how you manage your social media outlets or whether you’re on Facebook, Google+, or Twitter. It’s not about how many blog posts you write or how often you use video or email marketing.

It’s about building a company.

A thriving community — one that brings visibility, targeted traffic, trust, credibility, conversions, customers, and ultimately revenue — is built upon a solid business that is investing tirelessly in its products, its services, and improving the experience it provides for its customers. 

If you want to build your business and a community around your brand, you’ve got to provide value. You’ve got to create the right content. You’ve got to effectively integrate SEO. And, most importantly, you’ve got to have the right team. 

And I’m not just talking about your marketing team.

 

Time to drop the silos

If you want your team to be successful at building your community and your business, you’ve got to think differently. And you’ve got to drop the silos.

 

 

Your team’s specific jobs and designations are important to the day-to-day running of your company’s business (otherwise I wouldn’t have bothered writing this post). But there is one big overarching truth for each and every person associated with the company: In the broad scope, it doesn’t matter what your job title is, what department you’re in, or what your job description is. Your role is to do whatever it takes to make the company thrive.

Everyone who works in your company is on the same team: the team that wants to accomplish the stuff that matters and will make your business a success.

So who’s gonna do the work?

As we’ve worked with companies (in many different industries and all with unique challenges) to build their communities and their businesses, we’ve been asked to help them understand the roles that are involved and also provide guidance as to best structure their team.

 

 

In our experience, what follows are some of the roles that are necessary to have on your community- and business-building team.

But before we get into that, please note:

  1. I’m not suggesting that you hire one person for each of these roles. Depending on the size (and the goals) of your company you may have many people doing many things. This is simply a rundown based on our experience with both small and large companies who have embarked on this community-building extravaganza. My intention is to provide some general guidance that you can then apply to your unique situation.?
  2. There’s a whole bunch of stuff that surrounds building your community and your business that goes way beyond defining roles and team infrastructure like earning buy-in, defining goals, developing strategy, execution and testing, and evaluating and adjusting. You can get more information about all that good stuff in my SearchLove slide deck. ??

    Today, I’m going to focus specifically on the roles of the team.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled program. 

Allow me to introduce you to your community building team:

Project management?

Who’s responsible

Someone to keep the entire team on schedule and on task. Even if you’re working with an external team (agency or other partners) who will take the lead on this role, you need to have someone inside your company who is responsible for being the internal project manager. 

What’s required

Although this person may not be the one doing the daily nitty-gritty client work, they will interface with all of your internal and external teams on an ongoing basis to ensure that whatever needs to get done actually gets done, and that everyone is working toward the same goals and off of the same creative strategy. ??Ideally, when bringing in an outside agency, you want to work together to clearly define the expectations for this role, how it relates to communication, and who specifically is being held responsible for getting stuff done.


Community management?

Who’s responsible

Someone who can represent your brand on social media, as well as monitor and manage the rest of your team’s social media activity.

Depending on your goals, your community manager will most likely assume two identities: one as your brand (your logo is their face):

And one for their own individual presence under your brand:

 

 

What’s required

Because this role is so demanding, I would highly recommend (especially for you smaller companies out there) that it’s not filled by your CEO or someone who cannot commit their attention on a daily basis. And, please, for the love of Dr. Pete, don’t assign this role to an intern.

Community management is a lot of hard work (I repeat: A LOT). Especially if you already have a thriving community, managing it requires a great deal of attention, engagement, and consistency on a daily basis. Your community manager is on a podium every day representing your brand, so be sure to choose the person for this role very wisely.

In addition to the normal stuff like sharing value (and not just your own), your community manager will be responsible for communicating what’s going on with your company, like events and products or service stuff. They will take the lead on engaging and answering questions that may arise (with customer or product support). Even more important is facilitating social monitoring and listening (which is imperative) and probably (depending on size) handling some reputation management.

If that’s not enough, there will always be opportunities (things that they observe that could contribute to the growth of your business, or simply to building relationships) that arise in their interaction in and among the community that will require further investigation. That’s a lot of load to carry so your community manager needs to be one amazing (and capable) person.

Hands down, you’ll want to have an excellent communicator in this position as they are the social face of your company. ??If you’re working with an agency to assist with community management, you can share the load, but be sure to work together as a team to develop a plan for how management will work. Be present and involved with strategy, execution, engagement, and ensure whatever is being done is what’s best for your company and is working toward the goals that have been set.


Strategy, creativity, analysis, and direction?

Who’s responsible

Someone (or a few someones) who will develop and facilitate the direction of your web marketing and community building efforts. If you’re working with an agency, you can certainly lean on them to lead this piece with your direct involvement. 

What’s required

The most important part of this role is to ensure that all teams (both internal and external) are working together to align all efforts with the goals that have been set for your whole business (not just for SEO, social, and content). Remember all of those departments I talked about above that are part of your whole team? This is where they can play a role and contribute to strategy and direction (and certainly creativity).

It’s important that this role has worked with all of your teams to break those goals down into measurable KPIs that inform the creative campaigns that will accomplish these objectives.

Of course, your efforts don’t mean much if you’re not measuring and analyzing what’s working and what’s not. The person (or people) who are in the strategy/creativity/analysis/direction role need to provide strategic guidance based on actual data so that you can have confidence that you’re moving in the right direction. 

Many of our clients also work with additional partnering agencies that drive offline or PR efforts (more on this below). If that’s the case for you, make sure that all teams and partners are on the same page, working toward the same goals and being extra careful to maintain the consistency and integrity of the brand.


Design?

Who’s responsible

Someone who can create any graphic assets that you need (and make you look really, really good). This can be an internal designer or your partnering agency. If you’re working with an external team, again, ensure that you’re maintaining the consistency and integrity of the brand. 

What’s required

Your designer is going to be responsible for designing and styling things like blog posts and infographics, social media assets, email marketing templates, banners and headers, and probably even landing pages.

The deal with the design role is just like every other role on this team. Don’t silo. Your designer is more of a production person who would probably rather be doing the work than dictating strategy, but they still have creative ideas and valuable feedback that would be worth hearing in the initial planning stages. Don’t be lame. Make them a part of the entire process.


Content

Who’s responsible

Someone who can write a variety of content like their life depended on it, because as you know, content is not just blog posts. We’ll just call this genius the content strategist.

What’s required

Your content strategist needs to be able to adapt to the context that’s necessitating the content. And above all, the content they develop needs to be driven by the overarching goals and strategy set forth for the business.

You want a content strategist who can be creative and, well, strategic. It’s important that this person is thoughtful not only about audience but also about how to balance creativity and conversion.

Outreach is going to be a big part of your content strategist’s job, both pre- and post-launch (more on this below). The person who’s creating your content needs to think about who’s going to care about that content before they even write it (Paddy Moogan’s rule. If you haven’t, you should read his book). They also need to be connecting with the SEO in the early planning stages in order to determine how this piece of content will be optimized, as well as determining if it’s been done before (and, in that case, how it can be done different/better).

If you don’t have the resources in-house to develop the content you need, you can outsource this role to an agency. And yes, they can assist you in creating strong, quality content that effectively represents your brand, but this takes a lot of work and collaboration; you need to be present and a part of the process.

You will want that agency to understand your business, so let them ask a lot of questions. If you’re too busy to answer their questions in an email, grant them a phone interview or allow them to sit in front of the CEO (or whoever else they need information from who may not be readily available) so they can extract exactly what they need to produce stellar content on your behalf. Then, of course, provide your input and revisions once you’ve seen a draft.

Like any member of your team, your content strategist can’t work in a silo. Content plays an enormous role in accomplishing the goals you have set for your business, so make your content strategist a part of the entire process from the very beginning (starting with goals and strategy development) so that they fully understand the bigger picture of why this content needs to exist.

After the content they’ve created has been released into the world, be sure to provide them with access to the data so that they can determine how well it performed and what could be done differently the next time around.


SEO

Who’s responsible

Someone who loves research, analysis, keywords, and probably Google so that they can properly and effectively manage and lead the optimization of all the stuff. Ideally, you also want this person to have more than a passing knowledge of strategy.

What’s required

The most important thing to note with the SEO role (I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again) is that no man is an island. You need an advanced SEO who will contribute as one of the most powerful players on your team. 

Like all the other roles on your community building team, the SEO needs to be involved right from the beginning. If you have the right SEO on your team, their ginormous analytical brain will be contributing to strategy. Not just SEO strategy, but the strategy you’re using to drive your whole business. They can be relied upon to provide some left-brain steadiness to your presumably right-brained creatives.

And don’t forget content, outreach, creativity, and direction, too. 

The best thing about your SEO is that they can provide you with the information you need to make data driven decisions about your business, but they can’t do that if they’re sitting in the corner building links all day long. Whoever ends up playing this role for you, give them the credit they deserve and know they’re capable of a whole lot more than keywords.


Email marketing? (and other stuff, too)

Who’s responsible

Someone who can design, develop, and coordinate email marketing campaigns to deliver the value your team is creating in relationship to your strategy (in other words, someone who will know how to effectively use email marketing to build relationships and grow your business). 

What’s required

Email marketing is a great way to build community with the people who want to be a part of it as well as those who already are. Your existing customers are your best brand advocates, so you’ll want to make sure that you’ve got email marketing covered somewhere among the members of your team.

And — wait for it — don’t silo this role either. Because email marketing can be used to accomplish many goals, this role requires big-picture thinking right from the beginning, so don’t leave this person out.

Certainly there will be other tools that you’ll need your team to use besides email marketing (I’m sure Phil Nottingham is wondering when the heck I’m going to talk about video). Whatever vehicles you’ll be using to execute your strategy, make sure you’ve designated someone on your team to fully embrace this responsibility so it can be used to build your community and reach the goals you’ve set for your business.


Reading and learning

?Who’s responsible

Several people who are continually reading and learning about your industry, looking for the good stuff to send along to your community and any innovative or creative ideas that might just grow your business.

This role is up to everyone who’s on your team.

But that’s not to say that everyone on your team needs to be on social media. You can involve everyone in the company in the knowledge seeking and soaking portion, and then select specific people (like your community manager and others who want to work with social media) to be the face of your brand and share that information on your social media outlets.

What’s required

A whole lot of reading, learning, and sharing. Internally at Mack Web we use a Google Spreadsheet that allows everyone on the team to contribute to the knowledge that is shared with our community. This not only builds the strength of our team, but also provides our community with a lot of variety.

 

 

We each focus on a specific subject about which we’re passionate (content, operations, design, business, marketing, etc.) so that we’re not all reading the same stuff. Each day we put at least one post into the queue for our community manager to use.

I don’t have to tell you that reading and learning is imperative to the success of your business and the development of your team. It’s also integral to the growth of your community. When you’re sharing other people’s useful content, you’re providing your followers with something of value and also opening the door to a relationship with the people generating the content.

If you’re working with an agency, they can help you identify what you can read and share (as well as who you can follow) in order to build your community.

Ideally, your agency partners should be reading all of these things, too, and bringing opportunities to your attention. If you’ve got everyone on your entire team contributing with knowledge, your company will be unstoppable.

Reading and learning is probably the most important of all the roles, and can dramatically accelerate the growth of your business and your community.


Outreach?

Who’s responsible

Several people who are developing relationships and helping to keep those people and the rest of your community involved in what you’re doing, so that they can partake in it and benefit from it. Call it link building or relationship building, outreach is something that your entire team can do.

 

What’s required

Outreach is so much more than getting a link, and it needs to be done all the time, not just online or via email, (and not just when you want to ask someone for a favor).

Everyone can do parts of outreach. Sales can work the in-person and the online relationships. Marketing can do its part to determine where the team is going to earn links with the amazing creative content they’re developing. The best people on your team for outreach are the ones that love combining the digital world with the face-to-face, because that’s where the magic happens.

Because the role of outreach really falls on everyone, find the people who are passionate about people, and teach them authentic ways to make it part of their natural routine at work and throughout each day.


Website stuff?

Who’s responsible

Someone who is committed to executing changes on the website. Like everyone on your team, make sure whoever is responsible for this role understands the goals of the company and is part of strategy execution so that they’re able to prioritize. There are always a lot of shiny things (new plugins, new applications, other fancy new doodads) that come in the form of tiny little emergencies. Involving your webmaster with goals and creative strategy will keep things running smoothly.

What’s required

Website work could be anything from revamping the navigation and implementing user experience changes to integrating a blog and executing on-page SEO.

If you’re working with an agency to lead your community building and web marketing efforts, they will most likely provide your internal team or another partnering agency with all of the instructions for what needs to be implemented.


Offline stuff?

Who’s responsible

The people who are handling all of the offline stuff like print collateral, events, and maybe PR.

What’s required

Offline stuff often affects the online stuff. Things like events, conferences, and product launches. It’s imperative that internal and external teams work together (and with the direction of the project manager) in order to ensure that everyone is effectively leveraging all efforts and working toward the same goals. 


Now go on, you — go build your team

I’m sure there’s a role I’ve missed, perhaps one imperative to the specific goals of your business. This is just a start. It may be what what works for a little while until your business undergoes a change. At that point, you’ll need to reassess and reconfigure the roles of your team into what works for you.

The biggest thing I can leave you with is this: Think differently about your team and the roles everyone plays. Expand your understanding of what each and every person and department can contribute to your digital marketing. There’s a lot more involved in building your community than managing your social media. By now you know that’s because it’s not just a community you’re building. It’s your business.

If you want all of the benefits that a thriving community brings, focus on building the best company you can possibly build. Move beyond marketing initiatives and focus on your vision. Understand your customers better, and learn what they need to make their lives better. Let the passion and drive for what you do transform your company and your community, and put the right team in place to do it.

Looking forward to your thoughts below.

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Determining Relevance: How Similarity Is Scored

Posted by Matt Peters

Today’s web search engines have sophisticated ways of measuring whether a web page is related to a given query, based on decades of research in Information Retrieval. Come join me as I explore the inner workings of a search engine’s relevance engine and explain what it means for SEOs.



Determining Relevance


When a user submits a query to a search engine, the first thing it must do is determine which pages in the index are related to the query and which are not. Throughout this post, I will refer this as the “relevance” problem. More formally, we can state it as follows:


Given a search query and a document, compute a relevance score that measures the similarity between the query and document.


The “document” in this context can also refer to things like the title tag, the meta description, incoming anchor text, or anything else that we think might help determine whether the query is related to the page. Practically, a search engine computes a number of relevance scores using different page elements and weights them all to arrive at one final score.


The relevance problem has been extremely well studied in the research community. The first papers go back several decades, and it is still an active area of research. In this post, I focus on the most influential approaches that have stood the test of time.


Relevance vs Ranking

Conceptually, we can separate relevance determination from ranking the relevant documents, even if they are implemented as a single step inside a search engine. In this mental framework, the relevance step first makes a binary (True/False) decision for each page, then the ranking step orders the documents to return to the user.




I’ll present some data later in this post that vividly illustrates this split and how it relates to different ranking signals.



Query and Document Models



Translating the query and document from raw strings into something we can do computation with is the first hurdle in computing a similarity score. To do so, we make use of “query models” and “document models.” The “models” here are just a fancy way of saying that the strings are represented in some other way that makes computation possible.





The above image illustrates this process for the query “philadelphia phillies” and the Wikipedia page about the Phillies. The final step in computing the similarity score runs the query and document representations through a scoring function.



Query Models



The following image illustrates some different types of query models:





The building blocks at the bottom include things like tokenization (splitting the string into words), word normalization (such as stemming where common word endings are removed), and spelling correction (if a query contains a misspelled word, the search engine corrects it and returns results for the corrected word).


Built on top of these building blocks are things like query classification and intent. If the search engine determines that a particular query is time sensitive it will return news results, or if it thinks the query intent is transactional it will display shopping results.


Finally, at the top of the pyramid are more abstract representations of the query such as entity extraction or latent topic representations (LDA). Indeed, Google knows that the “philadelphia phillies” are a major league baseball team and since it is baseball season returns last night’s score at the top of the search results (in addition to the knowledge graph on the right).



Document Models



Like query models, there are several different types of document models commonly used in search.





TF-IDF is one of the oldest and most well known approaches that represents each query and document as a vector and uses some variant of the cosine similarity as the scoring function. A language model encodes some information about the statistics of a language and includes knowledge such as the phrase “search engine optimization” is much more common then “search engine walking.” Language models are used heavily in machine translation and speech recognition, among other applications. They are also extremely useful in information retrieval. Yet another class of models uses the probability ranking principle, which directly models the probability of relevance given the query and document. Of these, Okapi BM25 has been shown to be particularly effective.



Correlation study



By now, you are probably wondering if search engines actually use any of these things, and if so, which ones are the most important. To explore this, we designed a correlation study similar to ones we have run in the past (see this for some background on the general approach). In this case, we collected the top 50 results from Google-US for about 14,000 keywords. This resulted in about 600,000 pages that we then crawled and used to compute a number of different similarity scores.





As you can see, the language model approach performed the best with a mean Spearman correlation of 0.10, consistent with results published in the research literature.


If we do some stemming of both the query and document first and recompute, the correlations increase slightly across the board:





This suggests that Google is indeed doing some type of word normalization or stemming in their relevance calculation.



Relevance vs Ranking revisited



Comparing these correlations vs Page Authority (an aggregate in-link metric in our Mozscape index) on the same data set, we see a substantial difference:



 


This begs the question: if these sophisticated similarity scores are so useful, why aren’t the correlations higher? The answer lies in the conceptual relevance vs ranking split I discussed earlier.


To convince myself, I constructed an experiment as illustrated below:



 


To run the experiment, I first took 450 random pages from our dataset stratified across the top 50 results (so that they include nine #1 ranked pages, nine #2 ranked pages, etc.). Then I added the 450 random pages to the top 50 pages in each search result to make one group of 500 pages for each keyword. Since 50 of these pages are in the search result, and 450 are not, 10% of them are relevant to the keyword and 90% are not (the assumption here is that if the page appears in a Google search then it is relevant). Then for each keyword, I collected the Page Authority and Language Model similarity score and sorted by each (the tables in the middle).


Finally, I computed the Precision at 50, which is the percentage of the top 50 results sorted by PA/Language Model score that are actually in the search result. This directly measures the extent to which PA or the Language Model can separate relevant from irrelevant pages. Since 10% of the 500 documents are in the search result, we can achieve a 10% precision by randomly sorting them. This 10% precision is our baseline (bottom gray bars in the image).


The results are striking. The PA precision is very close to the baseline, which says that is does no better then a random number at determining relevance even though it does do a good job at ranking the top 50 once they are known to be relevant. On the other hand, the Language Model precision is close to 100%. Put another way, the Language Model is nearly perfect in determining which of the 500 pages are in the search result, but does a poor job at actually ranking those relevant documents.



Takeaways



This type of query-document similarity scoring is well established in the research literature and underlies every modern information retrieval system. As such, it is fundamental to search and is immune to algorithm change.


Since search engines use sophisticated query and document models, there is no need to optimize separately for similar keywords. For example, any page targeting “movie reviews” will also target “movie review.”


Finally, you can use the conceptual split between relevance and ranking in your workflow. When creating or modifying existing content, first concentrate on making the page relevant to a broad set related keywords. Then concentrate on increasing the search position.



More Ranking Factors results coming soon



These are the first results we’ve released from the 2013 Ranking Factors project. As in years past, the project includes both an industry survey and large correlation study. I’ll be presenting the results at MozCon this year (so get your tickets if you haven’t already!), and we’ll be following it up with a full report sometime later this summer.



To dig deeper



Here are all the slides from my SMX Advanced talk:



 


I highly recommend the book Introduction to Information Retrieval by Manning et al. It is available for free online reading from their site and provides a comprehensive description of everything discussed in this post (and much, much more). In particular, see Chapters 2, 6, 11 and 12.


Thanks for reading. I look forward to continuing the discussion in the comments below!



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The Positive ROI of Conferences: A Deep Look at #MozCon

Posted by Erica McGillivray

It’s conference season! Our inbound marketing conference, MozCon, July 8th-10th in Seattle, is just around the corner, and we often get asked by your our community how to approach your boss, CMO, CEO, etc., about coming to MozCon. You want to know more about the value for you and your company or clients, about how we spend those MozCon dollars, and what you can expect once you’re here. And furthermore, some of you might be considering coming on your own dime, especially if you’re a freelancer, student, or owner of a small business.

Conferences can be spendy when you add up ticket costs, travel, hotel, meals, and more. It’s important that you can justify a positive ROI when it comes to your budget. At Moz, we’re big believers in what you can learn at conferences, whether in sessions or through networking, (clear ROI) and in the power of serendipity (which can have a less concrete ROI).

Aleyda on stage!

Let’s take a deep-dive into what MozCon looks like both from a value and a cost standpoint. MozCon’s truly an amazing three-day conference where you’ll take away a ton of actionable tips to implement on your site(s) and make new friends, whether the fellow community member sitting next to you, a Mozzer, or one of our industry leaders who are speaking.

And for those of you ready to take the MozCon plunge:

Buy Your Ticket Today!

What’s the ROI of My Ticket

MozCon ROI

Actionable Tactics

This year, MozCon has an astounding 35 speakers! They’ll be talking about everything from linking building and international SEO to analytics, conversion rate optimization, and email marketing. We have an incredibly strong mix of topics with something for everyone. Our goal is really for you to bring something back with you from every session, which is why every single speaker has a keynote-style session to deliver this information. It’s a bit like the best of 35 college courses distilled down to the heart of the subject.

With the exception of our community speakers, who are selected from your pitches, all our speakers are curated from our MozCon selection committee. After speakers have accepted for MozCon, we work with them to ensure that they’re going to bring their very best, unique content to MozCon. Topics are chosen both by what said speaker’s an expert on, but also what they’re currently excited about. 

This year, every speaker had a kick-off call to establish their topic and set up expectations. Even many seasoned speakers can be intimidated by the MozCon stage, and one of my jobs is to make sure that they are ready and confident about their talk. Speakers are also required to send in a draft or outline of their presentation so we can make sure they’re on track. Every year, our post-MozCon survey shows that MozCon goers have extremely high expectations. By seeing a draft, we can offer advice. A lot of which is based on what you, the audience, expects from speakers. We make a lot of suggestions about actionable tactics, setting up the audience with what Nancy Duarte calls “the new bliss” to conclude their talks, and pushing content to the next level.

Speakers can send in as many drafts as they’d like for us to review, and final drafts are due about a week before MozCon. Which means I hope speakers are relaxing and practicing their talk, instead of hustling to put last minute slides together. For Mozzers, we’ve put together several practice sessions (first one was Friday!) for us internally to run through MozCon presentations.

Every single speaker is incredibly excited to be up on that stage and giving you their best. In fact, last year, Paddy Moogan really showed this spirit when he offered, for anyone who didn’t learn something from his talk, that he’d buy them a beer and talk with them specifics about their website. Talk about TAGFEE! I don’t doubt there will be some similar offers this year.

Inspiration

After actionable tactics, you’re sure to come back inspired by MozCon. I know the best conferences I’ve come back from were the ones that I couldn’t wait to get back to work or dive more into learning. Not to mention, the videos are included in the ticket costs, which means you can share the MozCon love with your coworkers and rewatch them yourself when you need a recharge in-between MozCons.

While we certainly stress actionable tactics with our speakers, inspiration comes through with every talk. The tactics may help you win, but the inspiration will fuel the fire. And who doesn’t benefit by your productivity being up? You may find yourself excited about a topic you’ve delved into or seen yourself doing. You may understand what a coworker does a little better. You may have a deeper understanding of something you’re already very much an expert in. It says a lot that even MozCon speakers hang out for the other talks to learn too!

A lot of us work around people who doesn’t quite “understand” what is we do. Being in a room full of other marketers will keep you on your toes and make you so excited. Who doesn’t want to nerd out about OG tags and that link you got in Forbes.

Making Friends

Other people might call this “networking,” but at Moz, we’re a little more about making friends, who happen to be professional contacts. The MozCon audience is an incredible community. I’ve never met a group of people who were sharper, more giving of their knowledge and time, and, of course, TAGFEE. 

Whether you’re adding industry folks on Twitter or finding a local group to hang out post-MozCon, you’ll probably find that connection at MozCon. I know some employers worry about “networking” at conferences and that their employees might come home with connections for new jobs. But more what I see is excited people, who’ve found connections who often end up solving those “omg, I’m trying to do this and it is not working” and then a community member steps in to share knowledge. This sharing of knowledge doesn’t stop when attendees have returned to their respective homes.

Make new friends

1:1 with Mozzers and Speakers

We highly encourage all speakers and all Mozzers to mix and mingle with attendees. This year, we’ll all be eating in the same room. (Yay for the new venue!) And not to mention, we’ll all be in the same big room as speakers are on stage. In the past, we’ve always had an overflow room for people interested in getting some work done or stepping aside to chat. But this year, there’s going to be a larger space with comfortable furniture — and don’t worry, a screen to watch to the presentations — so you chat and meet-and-greet between sessions or take a brain breather from all the fun.

Most of our speakers are highly approachable to ask them follow up questions after their talks or just in general get to meet them. I mean, who doesn’t want to get their photo taken with Rand? 😉 

This year, all Mozzers will be wearing blue t-shirts labeled with “staff” so you won’t miss us. (Don’t worry, we have three identical ones, so we’ll be fresh smelling during MozCon.) We’re here not only to point out where the coat rack is, but also just hang out and give you insights into what it’s like to work at Moz. Everyone from our engineers and finance team to marketing and help will be attending MozCon for our own learning experience and to meet each and every one of you. We seriously love to talk all things Moz. And who knows, you might get some extra insights into the future of what we’re cooking.

Tuesday Night Party

No one throws a party like that robot Roger. Okay, we can’t always bring Roger with us — those robot repair bills are astronomical! — but we do know how to throw a great party. Okay, this might not be something to write home to the boss about, unless you do solve that work problem that night, but it is a place to make more friends and also relax after all that learning. We provide noms and drinks, not to mention plenty of karaoke. 

This year’s party takes place the EMP Museum. Where you’ll not only be able to sing your heart out on stage, but you’ll also be able to find a quiet place to chat with someone or tour the EMP Museum. You know, they have Daleks in the basement, David Bowie’s infamous Labyrinth gear, and a whole amazing tribute to Seattle’s favorite hometown band, Nirvana. Seriously, for those of you just flying in and out for MozCon, you’ll have a chance to take a tour of one of Seattle’s most unique and fun museums. I think it’s pretty rad.

Roger Hugs

Every year that loveable robot of ours, Roger Mozbot, makes his way out from crunching your data to the breaks during MozCon. He gets his own photo booth, and you can get all the hugs from him. Plan on bringing some props and lots of love. Because this fellow can’t get enough hugs from you.

Roger and Phil are BFF

Fun

See EVERYTHING. If you don’t find some fun at MozCon, I will personally buy you a cupcake. (Cupcakes are the international sign of fun, right?)

Yummy Food

For those of you following us on social media, you may have noticed a theme: we love good food. I can’t think of a Mozzer who doesn’t fancy themselves something of a foodie. We can seriously give Anthony Bourdain and Guy Fieri a run for their money as our staff includes a former chef, a former bartender, and someone we’re sure has sampled every dessert from Seattle to South Africa. Whether you’re looking for a great steak, an amazing mixed drink, or some blasted broccoli, some Mozzer will be able to point the way. (Seriously, stay tuned because my fellow Mozzers are crowdsourcing a list of the most delicious places in Seattle to eat at and more.) We bring the same enthusiasm to our menus at MozCon. But more on that soon.

Okay, that’s the incredible value you can get from coming to MozCon. But what about the actual price? Why does a PRO member ticket cost $999? What do we actually do with that money?

What’s the Breakdown of the Cost of My Ticket?

Every bit of money made for MozCon goes directly back into MozCon. Moz has actually never turned a profit on MozCon (or covered its costs) from MozCon ticket sales. And that’s okay, because we don’t have to. Other conferences have to get sponsors and have exhibitor halls to make extra cash because they need it to cover conference costs. We’re pretty privileged that we don’t have to. Don’t get me wrong, it’s our goal every year to cover costs; but we’d rather you have a world-class experience you won’t ever forget than say not pay for international travel for some speakers or skimp on a/v.

Let’s get into specific costs. Transparency, ftw. I’ve broken down the costs from a $999 and how much goes to what. (Now, I realize that not everyone bought a $999 ticket; some people aren’t PRO members, some people got early bird deals, etc. But the $999 is our standard ticket, and varying ticket costs cover for those other tickets.)

Food and Beverage – $365

The Cost of MozConYep, food and beverage makes up the biggest costs to us. Your ticket includes breakfast and lunch each day (six meals!), two snacks (mid-morning and mid-afternoon), and one Tuesday evening party. As I mentioned above, Mozzers are foodies, and we don’t cut corners when it comes to your meals during MozCon. We do this for a few reasons: it makes your experience more awesome and you’re more likely to stick around during mealtimes, which means hanging out with Mozzers and Speakers.

Let’s face it, no one likes it when you’re handed a cardboard box with a turkey sandwich and a smashed cookie. Or in this vegetarian’s case, some wilted lettuce and a soggy apple. (If I’ve learned one thing from conference and airline catering, it’s that no one thinks vegetarians like cookies!) Not to mention, usually you see the Speakers and others sneaking out when they look at those cardboard boxes.

If we didn’t have meals, it’s true, you might be able to save your employer some monies by eating at Subway every day. (Subway affectionato and Mozzer Andrew Dumont probably has coupons he’d let you have.) But you’re going to have to find where you want to eat, maybe take some friends, leave the conference, find the place, order, put the recipe in that very special place you won’t forget it, eat, and then find your way back. Sure, Seattle has tons of delicious options, but I recommend coming in the weekend before or heading out Monday and Wednesday nights for that sort of exploration.

This cost also covers the catering staff, who besides cooking the food, will be making sure everything goes smoothly with serving and stays neat and tidy. They also assist in special meals for those of you who are vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, kosher, halal, or have other allergens. (Don’t worry, fellow vegetarians, there’s plenty of great noms for us in the main buffet.) Remember, these catering folks are the ones refilling the coffee, so we love them. 

Speakers – $158

MozCon truly brings in top-notch industry speakers who are experts in their fields and great presenters. We cover these speakers travel costs and hotels, and we believe that it’s worth every penny. MozCon speakers are the heart-and-soul of MozCon, along with Roger hugs, so we want all our Speakers to be wrapped in that great Seattle hug.

A/V and Video – $157 

Okay, this is probably another bucket were you’re like “What, Moz, A/V is how much of my ticket cost? Almost as much as Speakers?” Last year, the MozCon crew decided that we really needed to make the next step into making MozCon truly world-class. Many Speakers from 2012 said that they felt like rock stars on our stage. A/V sends all the signals from when to clap for the next speakers to when to quite down after a break. Not to mention, we’ve, by popular demand, baked the price of MozCon Videos into the ticket costs.

Our 13-person a/v crew ensures our speakers’ presentations look sharp and do all the exciting things they’re supposed to. No matter if they’re playing video or rapping Mad Men-style like Mike King did last year, we want to be able to support it. Plus, an impeccable stage means all eyes are always where they’re supposed to be. Our a/v crew does more than just the stage. They also do the lighting — just say no to fluorescents you can’t dim or control –, play any music, make sure we have video in the lounge area, and generally make MozCon feel like one heck of an amazing show. 

A/V also assists with getting us the MozCon Videos all pretty and ready for you. We truly couldn’t put on such an amazing show and deliver such awesome videos post-show. How else are you going to catch all those tips that you missed writing down because they were flying off the stage so quickly? Or share with your coworker, who’s planning on going next year, what happened.

Interior Design and Signage – $75

The Washington State Convention Center is basically a big room with four walls, concrete floors, and fluorescent bank lights. The good news is, unlike a hotel, we can really make it ours. The bad news is that isn’t cheap. Just covering that cement floor with carpet is $30,000. But we wouldn’t want to hear people’s shoes on the floor over analytic tactics from Avinash Kaushik. We also need to make sure we have tables, chairs, registration booths, and all those others conference basics. At MozCon, we don’t make you balance your laptop on your lap with your drink, your phone, and your snack. Instead, we have tables where everyone can put down their laptops, drinks, etc., which leads to far more productivity and less spillage. 🙂 Not to mention my Cliff Bars never fly over seats and hit people in the backs of their heads as I struggle to open the package while holding onto all my stuff. (Sorry, friends at SES NYC!)

Happy MozCon goers

Networking Party – $70 

I’ve already talked a lot about the Tuesday night party at the EMP Museum. It’s going to be pretty awesome. Not only are you getting to see the Museum exhibits (normally $20 per adult), but you’re getting food and drink and some amazing extras. Wine, beer, and well drinks are all on us. Anyone who’s ever thrown a wedding, anniversary, office, or birthday party with the cost of alcoholic beverages factored in knows that it starts to add up quickly.

Electrical – $40 

The first time I helped run a large event — GeekGirlCon 2012, approximately 2,000 people over two days — I was shocked to receive a post-event bill in the thousand plus dollar range for overages on electrical even when I’d put down a deposit for overages. Not even counting what was already included in my contract. Electricity runs everything. We not only have our big stage at MozCon, but we also just have to keep the lights on, keep the room temperature optimal, and make sure that you can charge your laptop, tablet, and phone so nothing goes dead during MozCon. MozCon’s a little unique in that each table is equipped with electrical plugs so no one ever cries over a dead battery. Or worse, has to switch to live tweeting on a smart phone! 😉

Swag – $35

This year, each MozCon attendee will get a Roger figurine. Yep, I think that’s all you need know. 🙂 

Roger for everyone!

We also will give out some other pretty nifty swag items, including limited edition MozCon t-shirts and a host of other Moz-branded items. Yep, be the first one to get some Moz swag at MozCon.

Credit Card Processing Fees – $33

Pretty boring. But have you ever been annoyed when purchasing tickets, say on TicketMaster, at the additional “processing fees”? Unlike other events, who make the price go up in your shopping cart, we adjust for them and pay EventBrite monthly.

WiFi – $28

Yes, yes, we know. WiFi hasn’t been one of our shining moments at past MozCons. However, with our move to a new venue, we are much more confident in the wifi situation for MozCon. Ideally, each and every one of you will be able to log into the MozCon wifi and tweet (#MozCon), email with coworkers (only pictures of you hugging Roger), and Facebook (with grandma, of course) whenever you need to.

Venue – $23

Besides this being a space cost, the venue costs also include convention center staff, aka the green coats, who assist in all things badge-checking, directional, and more. They work about every event at the convention center and know the place inside and out. Just don’t forget your badge in your hotel room!

Misc Labor – $15

While most of our labor costs are tied up either in a/v, catering, or venue costs and Mozzers’ salaries, we do have to bring in a few outside this sphere to help out. You’ll see our photographer, Rudy Lopez, taking all the photos. And there will be some behind-the-scenes magic that happens before and after MozCon like riggers putting up and taking down signs. 

Erica and the MozCon speakers

I hope this transparency about values and hard costs of MozCon give you a better insight both into how MozCon operates and what to consider when talking to the person who’s signing off your MozCon ticket and travel. Or heck, maybe helping you make that decision as a freelancer, student, or otherwise self-employed person to send yourself or as a boss, to send your employees. I also hope this might inspire other conference runners to share a little bit about the value and costs of their conferences.

MozCon is truly a celebration of the inbound marketing community. Around the MozPlex, we like to refer to it as a hug from us to our community. My dream is that each and every one of you has the opportunity to join us for MozCon. I can’t wait to meet you and to see you inspired and ready for the next step in your career and your journey as a marketer. Conferences can really be a great stepping stone and have a huge positive ROI for you and your company.

Still in the undecided camp? In the words of LeVar Burton, “but you don’t have to take my word for it”:

“MozCon is like Disneyland for SEO’s, jampacked with super-geeky SEO Magic Tricks and great chances to meet and say hello to others in the search industry.” – Pete Campbell

Why MozCon was the Best Investment I Made in 2011 by Mike King

Plus, if you’re interested in that $999 PRO price, sign up for your 30 day free trial and get that MozCon discount. 🙂

See you there!

Buy Your Ticket Today!

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