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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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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SEO and Community: Like Peanut Butter & Jelly

Posted by jennita




Community and SEO blog video intro – Jennifer Lopez

wistiaEmbed = Wistia.embed(“uzp07ef40o”, { version: “v1”, videoWidth: 700, videoHeight: 394, volumeControl: true, fullscreenButton: false, controlsVisibleOnLoad: true, playerColor: “0081c7”});


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

</A






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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How to Build Links to Your Blog – A Case Study

Posted by MatthewBarby

I recently took some time out to do a bit of travelling across East Asia (which was incredible!) and decided that I would, along with a group of friends, set up a travel blog. Knowing that I would be embarking on some amazing adventures, I thought it'd be a waste not to blog about them. Plus, the idea of bringing in a little extra cash to go into my travel fund helped in my decision.

After a month or so of development the site was finally ready and I wanted to start thinking about how to get some traffic going on the website. Whilst paid advertising and social media were a huge part of the strategy, I knew that appearing in the search engines for a wide selection of long-tail phrases was going to be instrumental to the blog's success. This is when I began developing my link building strategy and, after trialing out some very successful approaches, I've decided to now share my link building tactics with you all – you can thank me later 🙂

Identifying My Link Targets

As a brand new blog it can be really tough to gain links from high authority sites. Unless you have something particularly unique or special (and even then you might struggle), it's an uphill battle to get your content in front of anyone. With this in mind I decided to start off small. However, the general rule of thumb that I kept for any links that I was looking to build was this:

"The link must have a genuine potential to generate traffic back to the blog"

Resource/Links Pages

Many blogs and other websites have 'useful links' or ' useful resources' pages. These pages generally list partner websites, relevant blogs or other sites that they work with. Although these types of links aren't going to result in ground-breaking link building wins they could, if you prospect correctly, provide a link that will not just give you an SEO boost, but actually generate traffic to your site as well. These types of links are particularly relevant for the travel industry.

Links Page on a Blog

A lot of people write-off these types of links, classing them as 'spammy' or 'low quality links'. Now, whilst I agree that they aren't enormously powerful, I disagree that they are useless. To find the pages where I wanted to get a link placed back to my blog, I followed these quick steps:

  1. First, I ran this query through Google – intitle:travel blog inurl:"links" OR "resources".
  2. I then went into Google's search settings and selected to view 100 results per page instead of 10.
  3. Once I had 100 listings, I scraped all of the URLs using the 'Scrape Similar' plugin for Chrome and exported them to a .CSV file.
  4. I did a bit of manual work to remove irrelevant links and then grabbed the domain/page authority for each of the links using MozCheck.com and pasted this into the sheet. I could then sort the links by page authority and remove any that had a PA lower than ~25. This helped to find higher quality targets.
  5. After witling the list down to around 40 targets, I scanned the amount of outbound links on the pages using Niels Bosma's SEOtools plugin for Excel and sorted the list by pages with the lowest number of outbound links on them. This not only improved the power of the link by it also meant that there was more of a chance that I would get some traffic from the page.
  6. Finally, I got in touch with webmasters from the sites to see if they would list my site on theirs (using only branded anchor text) in exchange for their site appearing on the 'Our Friends' section of my blog.

Link Page Analysis

The end result was that I managed to gain around 15 links to my blog that actually brought through some traffic as well. This took me around 3-4 hours in total (including outreach) and helped to create a nice bit of domain diversity to the site's link profile. On top of this, it also helped me to start building a few relationships with webmasters that turned out to be very useful later down the line.

Useful: within this article I explain how to sort through link targets in Excel in a bit more detail.

**BONUS: here is the outreach email template that I used when contacting webmasters…

Hi NAME HERE,

Just thought I would drop you a quick mail regarding your website, DOMAIN URL HERE. I really enjoy the stuff you write and it has been getting me excited for my travelling trip!

I am starting up a travel blog myself and it has just gone live a couple of days ago. The blog will follow our group as we travel across East Asia and Australia (we leave today!). I was just wondering if you would be kind enough to drop a link to the blog (http://www.meltedstories.com) on your links page (URL OF THEIR LINKS PAGE HERE) as it would be a big help. I've added you onto my 'Our Friends' page anyway because it will be a great resource for my readers.

Don't worry if you don't want to add our blog, but if you let me know your Twitter handle anyway then I will make sure we follow you and drop you some retweets! You can follow us at @melted_stories.

Feel free to get in touch at any time though!

Matthew Barby
Just an Honest Backpacker 🙂
http://www.meltedstories.com
@melted_stories
facebook.com/MeltedStories

Prospecting Through Competitive Research

The next stage of my link building strategy was to do some competitive research. For many SEOs this is a staple part of any link building campaign and can reveal some very interesting insights into what other websites related to your own are doing to acquire links.

Competitive Link Finder Tool

My first port of call is always the amazing, and strangely under-rated, 'Competitive Link Finder' tool from SEOmoz. By simply plugging in the URLs of five other travel blogs, similar in style to mine, I was able to instantly get 20 solid link targets from a list of around 45. This took me 15 minutes to do and I just placed all of the links into an outreach spreadsheet that I created. Here are the types of links that I found:

  • High authority travel blogs that my competitors have guest posted on.
  • Blogs that run weekly 'photo of the week' competitions that will link to your photo if you win.
  • Good quality travel-niche directories.
  • 'Top travel blogger' lists and competitions.
  • Content that my competitors have collaborated on in order to get a mention.
  • Links to interview articles where my competitors have answered questions on a high authority blog and have received a link in return.

All this within 15 minutes – not bad, eh?

Every bit of information that I gathered I kept inside a link prospecting spreadsheet. This formed the basis of my link building strategy and allowed me to identify a list of targets that I could approach with a variety of content and propositions. My advice for any blog owner would be to do the same because it allows you to sustain your link building efforts in the long term. Then, every few months, I do some further research and add to the spreadsheet.

Acquiring Links from Your Targets

Now that I'd done some competitive link research, it was time to plan out the approaches that I would take to actually acquire links from my targets. This can often be the place where many people hit a brick wall. During the early stages of my time at Wow Internet, I found that I was overcomplicating the process of acquiring links. However, the reality is that it's often best to keep things simple. You don't necessarily have to spend a fortune on creating an amazing infographic, or bit of video content. More often than not, all you need to do is simply ask (I know, crazy, right?).

Oh, so you're spending another few thousand on an infographic?

Guest Blogging

Guest blogging has taken some stick recently and I can, in some cases, see why. A recent post on the SEOmoz blog by James Finlayson outlined the slippery slope of poor guest post content and I completely agree. This brings me back to my initial link building rule:

"The link must have a genuine potential to generate traffic back to the blog"

Forget judging your guest blog opportunities based solely on the PA/DA of the site and start thinking more about site engagement. If I see a website with a domain authority score of 40 but there are no comments from readers and minimal social shares, then I would generally ignore this site, in favour of a site with lower DA but more comments/social shares. This is particularly important when building links to a blog, so as the old saying goes – don't judge a book by its cover!

Finding Guest Blogging Opportunities and Gaining Them

I had already found a handful of guest blogging opportunities from my competitive research, but I knew I would need a much greater sample size to work with in order to build a solid profile of high quality links. This, unfortunately, takes quite a bit of time. This is where I took a leaf out of Paddy Moogan's book.

I recently read Paddy's link building book (which was awesome) and he talked about outsourcing menial research tasks through oDesk in order to save time and increase productivity overall. One thing that Paddy stressed was to only outsource micro-tasks and leave as little obscurity to the task as possible. With this in mind I put together an extensive brief for the task of finding travel blogs that accepted guest posts and fit the following criteria:

  • PR of at least 2.
  • The blog must be English speaking and related to travel.
  • Must have some form of interaction on the blog posts.
  • Should have social shares on the recent articles.
  • Must have posted new content within the last 2 months.

**BONUS: you can take a look at the full brief that I used for the link research project here.

As you can see in the link research brief, I didn't just want to simply gather the URLs of the blogs but I tried to get as much information on them as possible. This was so that I could use this valuable data for other link building methods and also to connect with the blog owners through social media and build long-term relationships with them. The data that I asked the oDesk applicant to gather for me was:

  • The website URL.
  • The name of the website.
  • A contact name.
  • A contact email (if possible).
  • The URL of the contact page.
  • Twitter handle of the contact.
  • The Facebook page URL of the website (if relevant).
  • The title of the most recent article posted (this is so I can easily see if the website is relevant without having to visit each one and check).

One week and $30 later, I had a list of 50 different guest blog targets – amazing! Don't underestimate the power of giving a good brief to a freelancer; it really can make the world of difference.

Useful: the name of the freelancer I used for the link research project (who is now also doing some further research for me now, as well) is Michael Howells. Here's a link to his oDesk profile.

**DOUBLE BONUS!: as I'm feeling particularly generous, I'm going to give you the list of 50 awesome travel-related guest blog opportunities that Michael gathered for me. You're welcome 🙂

List of 50 awesome travel guest blog opportunities

Once I had the list of guest blog targets, it was then time to identify which would be the best places to start reaching out to. This is an important and often over-looked stage of many outreach campaigns. Bearing in mind that I had only a little bit of content on my blog, I needed to try and find an angle to work on with my pitch. To do this I split up my guest blog targets into sub-sections based on their primary theme (i.e. if five of the websites all specialised in backpacking on a budget then they would go in the same group).

Once I'd categorised all of the websites in my list, I had to now decide what I would use in my pitch to the webmasters that would gain their trust and allow me to post on their site. In my armoury were a wealth of photos that I had taken during my time travelling and a whole host of first-hand experiences. From looking at many of the websites that I was targeting for links, it was clear that they were heavily focused around lots of good images and most of them preferred to have the author’s voice clearly present throughout most of their articles. Knowing this, I carried out the following steps:

  1. Highlighted blogs that talked about East Asia specifically in a few of their articles.
  2. Narrowed down the list to find which of them accepted guest authors more frequently.
  3. Picked ten initial targets and began to follow all of their social media accounts, comment on their articles and share their content through my blog's Twitter/FB/G+/Pinterest.
  4. Got in touch with the webmasters in a friendly, quick email that let them know who I was, my travel plans and a brief intro to my blog. I then mentioned that I was looking to write for some travel blogs about my adventures and wanted to see if they would consider letting me do this on their blog.
  5. If I received a reply, I made sure that I looked at the types of articles they posted on their blogs and then gave only relevant suggestions for possible article titles.

After I had a few articles published on different travel blogs it meant that I could reference these articles in my next flurry of outreach. This proved to be really effective as I progressed and gaining guest post opportunities seemed to get easier and easier. One tip that I would give to anyone doing any outreach is not to mention 'links' at all in your written communication as you risk losing your legitimacy as a genuine blogger. Travel blog owners particularly don't enjoy this.

**Bonus: Here's one of the outreach emails that I sent to a travel blog owner (as you can see, I keep it as personal as possible):

Hi Shannon,

I hope you're well. We spoke around a month ago simply about a link exchange for my travel blog, Melted Stories. I have something slightly different to ask about now!

Firstly I just want to say how much me and my girlfriend enjoy your blog (especially considering my girlfriend, Laura, is also a vegetarian).

I know that you don't really do this on your blog but my girlfriend and I have just finished 2 months of travelling around and experiencing Thailand and I wondered if you would consider letting us do a guest post on your blog?

It would be related to an experience that we had within Thailand and one that we feel would fit in with your audience. For example, we recently visited Chiang Mai and took a trip across to all the best places to see, including spending a day looking after ex-working elephants and visiting the tigers (that are most definitely not drugged!).

I won't babble on too much because I know you must be busy but you can take a look at some of both myself and Laura's writing at these links (below) and if you could let me know either way that would be great.

http://www.meltedstories.com/monkeys-muay-thai-and-magical-marine-life-in-ko-phi-phi/
http://www.meltedstories.com/sun-sea-and-snorkelling-in-koh-tao-3/

Also, we would love to have you write on our blog so if that's something that would interest you then you can have a free reign on what you talk about!

Matt
http://www.meltedstories.com
@melted_stories

Take Guest Blogging to the Next Level – Become a Columnist

I have to admit that this wasn't something that I necessarily planned from the outset but, as I moved forward with the guest blogging activities that I was doing, it became an obvious next step.

One of the first articles that I wrote was for the WildJunket Magazine, an online general travel publication. During my conversations with the magazine editor, Nellie Huang, I started to form a good relationship and she then asked me if I would consider becoming a regular columnist on the blog, specialising in 'travel tech'. I jumped at the chance, of course, and as a result of this I write 2-3 articles a month for the website and get some great links back to my blog. Not only this but WildJunket have a huge social following and loads of activity on their website. This was certainly something that I could use to my advantage.

Become a Columnist

After I had written a few articles for Nellie I got in touch with her to discuss any ways in which she could help me out, for example, with sharing my content, getting in touch with other bloggers and any other ways she could suggest. The response was really positive and Nellie allowed me to use the WildJunket press pack when contacting websites and she also said that if I wanted to write a sponsored post for companies on the blog then that is fine too (as long as it fit in with the editorial guidelines). On top of this she agreed to share anything I wished on the WildJunket social media accounts, which was great. I then added the following paragraph into my outreach emails:

As well as running Melted Stories, I am also a regular columnist for Wild Junket, which receives over 1.65 million pageviews a month and has a Twitter following of just under 30,000. Any article that I did write for you would be shared across all of my personal social media accounts, plus that of Wild Junket and Melted Stories, so it could be a win-win situation 🙂

This dramatically increased the number of replies that I received from webmasters. My advice would be to try and secure a similar type of setup on related blogs within your own industry. Look for blogs that have clear topic areas and, once you've built a relationship with the webmasters, suggest that you could become a regular columnist specialising in a specific topic on their blog.

Tip: Industry-relevant online magazines can be a particularly good target for this.

Sponsored Posts and Paid Tweets

This is likely to cause some controversy amongst a few readers, but in my opinion this can be a fantastic way of driving traffic through to your website and encouraging links back to your content.

Sponsored Posts

A sponsored post is, in essence, a guest post that you pay for. Many websites, especially within the travel industry, will allow you to write an article promoting your products/services in return for payment. Matt Cutts has voiced his opinion on this activity a few times and has said the following:

"Clear disclosure of sponsorship is critical, and that includes disclosure for search engines. If link in a paid post would affect search engines, that link should not pass PageRank (e.g. by using the nofollow attribute)."

My suggestion is not simply to find blogs that offer this and then place a link to your site within them. What I would suggest is using sponsored posts to increase your online community. To do this I found websites that had a particularly large social following, loads of interactivity on the website and a captive niche audience. I then wrote a post related to my travels and a little intro to my travel blog. What I found was that I was able to bring over some good levels of traffic from the post and capture some new readers for my blog – exactly what I wanted!

NOTE: If I ever pay for a sponsored post then I make sure that any links back to my site are 'nofollowed' because it's not worth the risk of having a Google penalty imposed.

Paid Tweets

These are similar, in a way, to sponsored posts and are pretty self-explanatory – you pay someone to tweet something from their twitter account.

Again, there are going to be a few people who say how wrong this is and that they would never do this for one of their clients, etc, etc. What I would say to those people is that if you would be prepared to pay for advertising space on someone's website then what's the difference in paying them to tweet your content on Twitter?

Paid Tweet Example

I must admit that I've only done this a couple of times and have had varying results, but in one case I managed to generate a few hundred visits to one of the articles on my blog, which is often more than I would get with a banner ad and for a fraction of the cost! There is also the advantage of being able to expand your own Twitter following in the process, which is another added bonus.

Useful: You can use BuySellAds.com to search for Twitter users that sell tweets within your niche.

Bringing it all Together

It's still early days for my travel blog but I've had some awesome initial results and hopefully this article has given you a few ideas of your own to help you go out and build some quality links to your blog. The key message that I'm trying to convey here is the importance of building relationships online and forming a solid community within your blog.

Simple things like blog commenting, which was traditionally a staple part of link building, has now become a fantastic way to build relationships with bloggers and actually drive traffic back to your own blog. A lot of link building can be quite indirect and it isn't always the quickest to do, but if you follow my one simple rule then you should be able to keep on the right track:

"The link must have a genuine potential to generate traffic back to the blog"

I'd love to hear your own link building triumphs, so be sure to let me know in the comments of the blog or get in touch with me on Twitter or Google+. Before you do that, here's an awesome photo of my partner and me with a tiger in Thailand…

Visiting the Tigers in Thailand

 

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How My Mom Thinks Search Engines Work

Posted by Rob Toledo

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

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

Here are some of my favorite moments from the chat:

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

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

What does SEO stand for?  “Search engine online”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nailed it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ah yes, the trust factor.

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

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

Phone book marketing at its finest.

OK that was fun, but why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, let’s simplify

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

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

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

The takeaway

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

  1. Take non-SEOs out for coffee

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

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

  1. Get active in non-SEO communities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How to Rank: 25 Step SEO Master Blueprint

Posted by Cyrus Shepard

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

For newer SEOs, the process can be overwhelming.

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

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

Level: Beginner to Intermediate

Timeframe: 2 to 10 Weeks

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

How To Rank SEO Blueprint

Table of Contents


Keyword Research

1. Working Smarter, Not Harder

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

The biggest mistakes people make with keyword research are:

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

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

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

2. Dream Your Keyword Theme

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

Easy Keyword Research

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

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

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

3. Get Specific with Qualifiers

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

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

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

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

Did I mention it’s free?

4. Finding Diamonds in the Google Rough

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

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

Ubersuggest and Google Keyword Tool

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

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

5. Get Strategic with the Competition

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

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

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

Keyword Difficulty Tool

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

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

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

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

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

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

Case Study: Google Algo Update

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

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

This is where the long tail magic happens:

Long Tail Keywords

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


Content

6. Creating Value

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

Content without value is spam.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. Driving Your Content Vehicle

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

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

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

Perhaps, it’s all of these combined.

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

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

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

8. Title – Most Important Work Goes Here

Spend two hours, minimum, writing your title.

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

Write 50 titles or more before choosing one.

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

Headline Formulas Work

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

9. Length vs. Depth – Why it Matters

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

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

I. Uniqueness

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

II. Long Tail Opportunities

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

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

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

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

III. Depth, Length, and Links

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

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

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

– Mark Collier The Open Algorithm

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

Links based on wordcount

10. Content Qualities You Can Bank On

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

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

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

Google Panda Questions

11. LDA, nTopic, and Words on the Page

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

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

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

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

Words matter.

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

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

nTopic

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poor Man's Topic Modeling

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

13. Design Is 50% of the Battle

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

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

… All of which can help earn higher rankings.

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

Dribbble.com

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


Architecture

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

14. Content Hubs

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

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

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

Content Hub for SEO

15. Linking the Hub Together

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

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

Linking Your Content Hub

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

16. Find Your Center

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

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

Center of the SEO Content Hub

For great example of Hub Pages, check out:


On-Page Optimization

17. Master the Basics

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

On-Page Tool

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

18. Linking Internally for the Reasonable Surfer

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

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

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

19. Diversify Your Anchor Text – Naturally

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

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

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

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

Choose Descriptive Anchor Text

Souce: Google’s SEO Starter Guide

20. Title Tags – Two Quick Tips

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

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

I. Avoid Boilerplates

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

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

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

II. Avoid Unnecessary Repetition

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

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

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

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

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

Diversify. Don’t over-optimize.

22. Structured Data

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

rich snippets

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

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

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

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


Building Links

23. The 90/10 Rule of Link Building

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

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

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

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

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

90-10 Rule of Link Building

24. All Link Building is Relationships – Good & Bad

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

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

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

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

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25. Tier Your Link Building… Forever

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

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

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

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

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

Linkbait at its finest.

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Positioning Your Business for the Future of SEO – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by RonGarrett

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

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

Positioning Your Business for the Future of SEO – Whiteboard Friday

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

 

Video Transcription

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So get out there, keep building."

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Yin and Yang of Disavow

Posted by wilreynolds

Image Credit: Vermin

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

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

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

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

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

Google is giving spammers more business with disavow, not less

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Cut the bleeding, hardcore

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

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

2. Don't cry wolf (too much)

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

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

3. Go do some real marketing!!!

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


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

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Site Audits: Deliverables, Follow Up, and Implementation

Posted by JonQ

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

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

Site Audit Process

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

Sales kick-off and briefing

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

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

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

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

Kick-off and briefing

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

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

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

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

Deliverables

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

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

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

Technical SEO List

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

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

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

Follow-up support

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

Audit Follow-up

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

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

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Mozscape API Wiki Update

Posted by Zach Corleissen

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

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

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

Legacy documentation: a (very) brief history

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

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

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

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

What's new (and a new feature)

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

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

Mozscape supports HTTPS

What's different: easier to learn

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

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

What's different: easier to reference

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

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

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

What's different: complete parameter value tables

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

What's different: better organization

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

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

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

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

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

What's different: less information?

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

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

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

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

Closing with a question

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

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