Have Your Agency’s Clients Considered a Local Product Kiosk? Google Has. – Moz Blog

Posted by MiriamEllis

File this under fresh ideas for stagnant clients.

It’s 10:45 at night and I’m out of:

  • Tortillas
  • Avocados
  • Salsa

Maybe I just got off of work, like millions of other non-nine-to-fivers. Maybe I was running around with my family all day and didn’t get my errands done. Maybe I was feeling too sick to appear in a public grocery store wrapped in the ratty throw from my sofa.

And now, most of the local shops are closed for the night and I’m sitting here, taco-less and sad.

But what if it didn’t have to be that way? What if I could search Google and find a kiosk just a couple of blocks away that would vend me solutions, no matter what time of night or day?

Something old is becoming new again, just like home delivery. And for your agency’s local business clients, the opportunity could become an amazing competitive advantage.

What’s up with kiosks?

Something old

The automat was invented in Germany in the late 19th century and took off in the US in the decades following, with industry leader Horn & Hardart’s last New York location only closing in 1991. These famous kiosks fed thousands of Americans on a daily basis with on-demand servings of macaroni, fish cakes, baked beans, and chicory coffee. The demise of the automat is largely blamed on the rise of the fast food industry, with Burger Kings even opening doors at former automat locations.

Something new

A couple of weeks ago, I was watching an episode of my favorite local SEO news roundup in which Ignitor Digital’s Carrie Hill mentioned a meat vending kiosk. I was immediately intrigued and wanted to know more about this. What I learned sparked my imagination on behalf of local businesses which are always benefitted by at least considering fresh ideas, even if those ideas are actually just taking a page from history and editing it a bit.

Something inspirational

What I learned from my research is that the Applestone Meat Company is distinguishing itself from the competition by offering a 24/7 butcher shop via two vending installations in the state of New York. They also have a drive-up service window from 11am–6pm, but for the countless potential customers who are at work or elsewhere during so-called “normal business hours,” the meat kiosks are ever-ready to serve.

CEO Joshua Applestone says he was inspired by the memory of Horn & Hardart and he must be one smart local business owner to have taken this bold plunge. The company has already earned some pretty awesome unstructured citations from the likes of Bloomberg with this product marketing strategy and they’re planning to open ten more kiosks in the near future.

But Applestone isn’t alone. A kiosk can technically just be a fancy vending machine. Check out Chicago startup Farmer’s Fridge. They recently closed a $30 million Series C round led by one-time Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors. Their 200+ midwestern units provide granola, Greek yogurt, pasta, wraps, beverages, and similar on-the-go fare, and they donate leftovers to local food pantries.

Americans have long been accustomed to ATM machines. DVD and game rental stations are old news to us. We are nowhere near Japan, with its sixty-billion-dollar-a-year, national vending machine density of one machine per 23 citizens, and its automated sales of everything from ramen to socks to umbrellas. Geography and economics don’t point to the need to go to such a level in the US, but where convenience is truly absent, opportunity may reside. What might that look like?

Use your imagination

My corner of the world is famous for its sourdough bread. There are hundreds of regional bakeries competing with one another for the crustiest, lightest, most indulgent loaf. But, if you don’t make it to the local stores by early afternoon, your favorite brand is likely to have sold out. And if you’re working the 47-hour American work week, or gigging California night and day but don’t want to live on fast food, you’d likely be quite grateful to have your access to artisan baguettes restored.

Just imagine every bread bakery around the SF Bay Area installing a kiosk outside its front door, and you can hear the satisfied after-hours crunching, can’t you?

Applestone is selling unprepared meat, Farmer’s Fridge is selling prepared meals, and almost anything people nosh could be a candidate for a kiosk, but why should on-demand products be limited to food? I let my imagination meander and jotted down a quick list of things people might buy at various off-hours, if a machine existed outside the storefront:

  • Books/magazines
  • Weather-appropriate basic apparel (sweatshirts, socks, t-shirts)
  • First aid supplies
  • Baby care supplies
  • Emergency electronics (chargers, batteries, flashlights)
  • Basic auto repair supplies (headlight bulbs, wipers, puncture kits)
  • Personal care products (bathroom tissue, toiletries)
  • Office supplies (printer ink, paper, envelopes, stamps)
  • Household goods (lightbulbs, laundry soap, pantry basics)
  • Pet supplies
  • Travel/camping/athletic supplies
  • Basic craft supplies, small games, gifts, etc.

What if customers who do their morning bike ride at 5 AM knew they could stop by your client’s kiosk to fix a punctured tire? What if night workers knew they could pick up a box of light bulbs or bandages or cat food on their way to their shift? Think of the convenience — in some instances even life-saving help — that could be provided to travelers on the road at all hours, members of your community who are housing-insecure, or whole neighborhoods that lack access to basic goods?

Not every local business has the right model for a kiosk, but once I started to think about it, I realized just how many of them could. I’m initially envisioning these machines being installed at the place of business, but, where the scenario is right, a company with the right type of inventory could certainly place additional kiosks in strategic locations around the communities they wish to serve.

Kiosk Local SEO

Clearly, kiosks can generate revenue, but what could they do for clients’ online presence? The guidelines for representing your business on Google already support the creation of local business listings for ATMs, video rental stations, and express mail dropboxes. But I went straight to Google with the Applewood example to ask if this emerging type of kiosk would be permitted to create listings. They were kind enough to reply:

Twitter DM from Google rep: kiosks are able to create listings, as per guidelines

The link in the Twitter DM reply just pointed to the general guidelines, and I can find no reference to the term “Food Kiosk listing” in them. It’s the first time I’ve ever heard this terminology. But, clearly this representative is naming food kiosks as a “thing.” Google, it seems, is already quite aware of this business model. And the proof of their support is in the Maps pudding:

My, my! Talk about having the ability to hyperlocalize your local search marketing to fit Google’s extreme emphasis on user-to-business proximity. Enough to make any local SEO agency see conversions and dollar signs for clients.

Tip #1: Helpline phone numbers

I’ve written about ATM SEO in the past for financial publications, and so I’ll add one important tip for creating eligible Google listings for kiosks: guidelines require that you have a helpline phone number for kiosk users. I would post this number both on the listings and on the units, themselves. Note that this will likely mean you have a shared phone number on multiple listings, which isn’t typically deemed ideal for local search marketing, but if kiosks become your model and you avoid any semblance of creating fake listings, Google can likely handle it.

Tip #2: Unique local landing pages for your kiosks

I can also see value in creating unique location landing pages on client websites for their kiosks, especially if they aren’t stationed at your physical location. These pages could give excellent driving and walking directions for each unit, explain how to use the machine, feature reviews and testimonials for that location, and perhaps highlight new inventory.

Tip #3: Capitalize on your social media

Social media will also be an excellent vehicle for letting particular neighborhoods know about client kiosks and engaging with communities to understand their sentiments. Seek abundant feedback about what is and isn’t working for customers and how inventory could better serve their needs. And, of course, be sure every client is monitoring reviews like a low-flying hawk.

Is there an appetite for kiosks?

Image credit: Ben Chun

I’m a longtime observer of rural local SEO. I’ve learned that being intentional in noticing small things can lead to big ideas, and almost any novel concept is worth floating to clients. The tiny, free book lending kiosks sometimes officially branded “Little Free Libraries” are everywhere in my county, have become a non-profit initiative, and are driving Etsy sales of cute wooden contraptions. Moreover, my region is dotted with unstaffed farm stands that operate on the honor system, trusting neighbors to pay for what they take. I’d say our household purchases about half of our produce from them.

Within recent recall, the milkman and the grocery delivery boy seemed as distant as the phonograph. Now, consumers are showing interest in having whole meal kitsentire wardrobes, and just about everything delivered. The point being: don’t discount anything that renders convenience; not the traveling salesman, not the automat.

The decision to experiment with a kiosk isn’t a simple one. There will be financial aspects, like how to access a unit that works for the inventory being sold. There will be security questions, as most businesses probably won’t feel comfortable operating on the honor system.

But if the question is whether there is an appetite for the right kiosk, selling the right goods, in the right place, I’ll close today with a look at these provocative, illuminating reviews from just one location of Farmer’s Fridge:

Screenshot: Multiple positive five-star Yelp reviews praising existing kiosks

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Hypothesis Testing in SEO & Statistical Significance – Whiteboard Friday – Moz Blog

Posted by Emily.Potter

A/B testing your SEO changes can bring you a competitive edge and dodge the bullet of negative changes that could lower your traffic. In this episode of Whiteboard Friday, Emily Potter shares not only why A/B testing your changes is important, but how to develop a hypothesis, what goes into collecting and analyzing the data, and thoughts around drawing your conclusions.

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

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans. I’m Emily Potter, and I work at Distilled over in our London office. Today I’m going to talk to you about hypothesis testing in SEO and statistical significance.

At Distilled, we use a platform called ODN, which is the Distilled Optimization Delivery Network, to do SEO A/B testing. Now, in that, we use hypothesis testing. You may not be able to deploy ODN, but I still think today that you can learn something valuable from what I’m talking about.

Hypothesis testing

The four main steps of hypothesis testing

So when we’re using hypothesis testing, we use four main steps:

  1. First, we formulate a hypothesis.
  2. Then we collect data on that hypothesis.
  3. We analyze the data, and then… 
  4. We draw some conclusions from that at the end.

The most important part of A/B testing is having a strong hypothesis. So up here, I’ve talked about how to formulate a strong SEO hypothesis.

1. Forming your hypothesis

Three mechanisms to help formulate a hypothesis

Now we need to remember that with SEO we are trying to look to impact three things to increase organic traffic.

  1. We’re either trying to improve organic click-through rates. So that’s any change you make that makes yours appearance in the SERPs seem more appealing to your competitors and therefore more people will click your ad.
  2. Or you can improve your organic ranking so you’re moving higher up.
  3. Or we could also rank for more keywords.

You could also be impacting a mixture of all three of these things. But you just want to make sure that one of these is clearly being targeted or else it’s not really an SEO test.

2. Collecting the data

Now next, we collect our data. Again, at Distilled, we use the ODN platform to do this. Now, with the ODN platform, we do A/B testing, and we split pages up into statistically similar buckets. 

A/B test with your control and your variant

So once we do that, we take our variant group and we use a mathematical analysis to decide what we think the variant group would have done had we not made that change.

So up here, we have the black line, and that’s what that’s doing. It’s predicting what our model thought the variant group would do if we had not made any change. This dotted line here is when the test began. So you can see after the test there was a separation. This blue line is actually what happened. 

Now, because there’s a difference between these two lines, we can see a change. If we move down here, we’ve just plotted the difference between those two lines.

Because the blue line is above the black line, we call this a positive test. Now this green part here is our confidence interval, and this one, as a standard, is a 95% confidence interval. Now we use that because we use statistical testing. So when the green lines are all above the zero line, or all below it for a negative test, we can call this a statistically significant test.

For this one, our best estimate is that this would have increased sessions by 12%, and that roughly turns out to be about 7,000 monthly organic sessions. Now, on either side here, you can see I have written 2.5%. That’s to make this all add up to 100, and the reason for that is that you never get a 100% confident result. There’s always the opportunity that there’s a random chance and you have a false negative or positive. That’s why we then say we are 97.5% confident this was positive. That’s because we have 95 plus 2.5.

Tests without statistical significance

Now, at Distilled, we’ve found that there are a lot of circumstances where we have tests that are not statistically significant, but there’s pretty strong evidence that they had an uplift. If we move down here, I have an example of that. So this is an example of something that wasn’t statistically significant, but we saw a strong uplift.

Now you can see our green line still has an area in it that is negative, and that’s saying there’s still a chance that, at 95% confidence interval, this was a negative test. Now if we drop down again below, I’ve done our pink again. So we have 5% on both sides, and we can say here that we’re 95% confident there was a positive result. That’s because this 5% is always above as well.

3. Analyze the data to test hypothesis

Now the reason we do this is to try and be able to implement changes that we have a strong hypothesis with and be able to get those wins from those instead of just rejecting it completely. Now part of the reason for this is also that we say we’re doing business and not science.

Here I’ve created a chart of when we would maybe deploy a test that was not statistically significant, and this is based off how strong or weak the hypothesis is and how cheap or expensive the change is.

Strong hypothesis / cheap change

Now over here, in your top right corner, when we have a strong hypothesis and a cheap change, we’d probably deploy that. For example, we had a test like this recently with one of our clients at Distilled, where they added their main keyword to the H1.

This final result looked something like this graph here. It was a strong hypothesis. It wasn’t an expensive change to implement, and we decided to deploy that test because we were pretty confident that that would still be something that would be positive.

Weak hypothesis / cheap change

Now on this other side here, if you have a weak hypothesis but it’s still cheap, then maybe evidence of an uplift is still reason to deploy that. You’d have to communicate with your client.

Strong hypothesis / expensive change

On the expensive change with strong hypothesis point, you’re going to have to weigh out the benefit that you might get from your return on investment if you calculate your expected revenue based off that percentage change that you’re getting there.

Weak hypothesis / cheap change

When it’s a weak hypothesis and expensive change, we would only want to deploy that if it’s statistically significant.

4. Drawing conclusions

Now we need to remember that when we’re doing hypothesis testing, all we’re doing is trying to test the null hypothesis. That does not mean that a null result means that there was no effect at all. All that that means is that we cannot accept or reject the hypothesis. We’re saying that this was too random for us to say whether this is true or not.

Now 95% confidence interval is being able to accept or reject the hypothesis, and we’re saying our data is not noise. When it’s less than 95% confidence, like this one over here, we can’t claim that we learned something the way that we would with a scientific test, but we could still say we have some pretty strong evidence that this would produce a positive effect on these pages.

The advantages of testing

Now when we talk to our clients about this, it’s because we’re aiming really here to give a competitive advantage over other people in their verticals. Now the main advantage of testing is to avoid those negative changes.

We want to just make sure that changes we’re making are not really plummeting traffic, and we see that a lot. At Distilled, we call that a dodged bullet.

Now this is something I hope that you can bring into your work and to be able to use with your clients or with your own website. Hopefully, you can start formulating hypotheses, and even if you can’t deploy something like ODN, you can still use your GA data to try and get a better idea if changes that you’re making are helping or hurting your traffic. That’s all that I have for you today. Thank you.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Get the Bingeable & Shareable MozCon 2019 Video Bundle! – Moz Blog

Posted by FeliciaCrawford

MozCon 2019 was an absolute blast. There were endless snacks. There were Roger hugs. There were networking opportunities and Birds of a Feather tables and search epiphanies galore. And there were a ton of folks in our community who watched it all unfold from the perspective of a Twitter hashtag — fun to follow along with, but not quite the same impact as seeing the talks unfold in real-time.

If you’re still wishing you could’ve joined us in Seattle this past July, you’ll be happy to know that you can recreate the MozCon experience from the comfort of your home or office (or your home office, but hopefully not your office-home — seriously, Karen, the quarterly reports will still be there in the morning!).

Yep, you got it: the MozCon 2019 Video Bundle is available for your purchasing and viewing pleasure!

Get the MozCon 2019 video bundle


Tell me about the video bundle!

For those of you who attended in-person, good news: you’ve already got access! The video bundle is always included in the price of your MozCon ticket, so you can relive your three jam-packed days of learning as many times as you want — and if you aren’t too bummed that they already made you share your MozCon swag with them, be sure to share the vids with your team!

For the rest of us, the video bundle lets us enjoy the presentations at our own pace. It’s condensed MozCon-caliber information in a neat, on-demand package that you can — have we mentioned this? — share with your team. Seriously, we think they’ll like it. We were humbled to host some of the very brightest minds in SEO and digital marketing on our stage. With topics ranging from content marketing to technical SEO, PPC to local SEO, and just about everything in between, there are presentations to inspire just about any role in marketing (and your web dev just might be interested in a few talks, too).

What’s covered in the videos:

  1. The Golden Age of Search, Sarah Bird
  2. Web Search 2019: The Essential Data Marketers Need, Rand Fishkin
  3. Human > Machine > Human: Understanding Human-Readable Quality Signals and Their Machine-Readable Equivalents, Ruth Burr Reedy
  4. Improved Reporting & Analytics Within Google Tools, Dana DiTomaso
  5. Local Market Analytics: The Challenges and Opportunities, Rob Bucci
  6. Keywords Aren’t Enough: How to Uncover Content Ideas Worth Chasing, Ross Simmonds
  7. How to Supercharge Link Building with a Digital PR Newsroom, Shannon McGuirk
  8. From Zero to Local Ranking Hero, Darren Shaw
  9. Esse Quam Videri: When Faking it is Harder than Making It, Russ Jones
  10. Building a Discoverability Powerhouse: Lessons From Merging an Organic, Paid, & Content Practice, Heather Physioc
  11. Brand Is King: How to Rule in the New Era of Local Search, Mary Bowling
  12. Making Memories: Creating Content People Remember, Casie Gillette
  13. 20 Years in Search & I Don’t Trust My Gut or Google, Wil Reynolds
  14. Super-Practical Tips for Improving Your Site’s E-A-T, Marie Haynes
  15. Fixing the Indexability Challenge: A Data-Based Framework, Areej AbuAli
  16. What Voice Means for Search Marketers: Top Findings from the 2019 Report, Christi Olson
  17. Redefining Technical SEO, Paul Shapiro
  18. How Many Words Is a Question Worth?, Dr. Peter J. Meyers
  19. Fraggles, Mobile-First Indexing, & the SERP of the Future, Cindy Krum
  20. Killer E-commerce CRO and UX Wins Using A SEO Crawler, Luke Carthy
  21. Content, Rankings, and Lead Generation: A Breakdown of the 1% Content Strategy, Andy Crestodina
  22. Running Your Own SEO Tests: Why It Matters & How to Do It Right, Rob Ousbey
  23. Dark Helmet’s Guide to Local Domination with Google Posts and Q&A, Greg Gifford
  24. How to Audit for Inclusive Content, Emily Triplett Lentz
  25. Image & Visual Search Optimization Opportunities, Joelle Irvine
  26. Factors that Affect the Local Algorithm that Don’t Impact Organic, Joy Hawkins
  27. Featured Snippets: Essentials to Know & How to Target, Britney Muller

What you’ll get:

For just $299, you’ll get all of the MozCon education and inspiration with none of the air travel or traffic. The bundle includes:

  • 27 full-length presentation videos chock full of leading SEO innovations, thought leadership, and tips & tricks
  • Instant downloads and streaming to your computer, tablet, or mobile device
  • Downloadable slide decks for all presentations

If we could include a download of a Top Pot doughnut and some piping hot Starbucks, we would in a heartbeat. Alas, they don’t have the technology for that… yet.

Free preview – Running Your Own SEO Tests: Why It Matters & How to Do It Right by Rob Ousbey

Speaking of doughnuts, we wouldn’t expect you to buy a dozen sweet treats without taking a little taste first to see if you like ’em. It’s important to know that your doughnuts are both delicious, shareable, and relevant to your everyday work as an SEO — almost exactly like the MozCon video bundle. And just like the feeling of warmth and goodwill you receive when you come back to the office with a fragrant baker’s dozen, your teammates will thank you when you’ve got twenty-seven highly actionable talks to share with them — presentations that’ll hone your skills and level up your understanding of modern SEO and digital marketing.

That’s why we’ve released a talk we’re super proud of as your free preview of all the juicy goodness you can look forward to in the video bundle: Running Your Own SEO Tests: Why It Matters & How to Do It Right, presented by our very own Rob Ousbey. 

Google’s algorithms have undergone significant changes in recent years. Traditional ranking signals don’t hold the same sway they used to, and they’re being usurped by factors like UX and brand that are becoming more important than ever before. What’s an SEO to do? The answer lies in testing. Sharing original data and results from clients, Rob highlights the necessity of testing, learning, and iterating your work, from traditional UX testing to weighing the impact of technical SEO changes, tweaking on-page elements, and changing up content on key pages. Actionable processes and real-world results abound in this thoughtful presentation on why you should be testing SEO changes, how and where to run them, and what kinds of tests you ought to consider for your circumstances.

Gather the team, grab some snacks, and get ready to binge these presentations Netflix-Original-Series-style. 

Get the MozCon 2019 video bundle

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The Unique World of Franchise Marketing [Guide Sneak Peek] – Moz Blog

Posted by MiriamEllis

Image credit: Dion Gillard

Can franchises make good digital marketing agency clients? There are almost 750,000 of them in the US alone, employing some 9 million Americans. Chances are good you’ll have the opportunity to market a business with this specialized model at some point. In this structure:

The Franchisor grants permission to others to operate under its trademark, selling approved goods and services supported by an operating system and marketing.

The Franchisee is the person or group paying the franchisor for the right to use the trademark and the benefits of the operating system and marketing.

Seems simple enough. But it’s this structure that gives franchise marketing its unique complexities. For your agency, the challenge is that you can’t enter these marketing relationships equipped solely with your knowledge of corporate or local search marketing.

You need to deeply understand the setup to avoid bewilderment over why implementation bogs down with franchise clients and why players lose track of their roles, or even overwrite one another’s efforts.

In this post, we’ll give you some quick and useful coaching on the franchise model, but if your agency just got a phone call from Orangetheory or Smoothie King, you can get the bigger playbook right away.

Download The Practical Guide to Franchise Marketing

Roles and goals make franchises unique clients

Image credit: woodleywonderworks

Imagine a post-game locker room scene. On the field, all players seemed united by the goal of winning. But now, at different press conferences, the owner is saying the coach failed to meet standards, the coach is saying the owner should keep his opinions to himself, and several of the star players are saying they didn’t get the ball enough.

Franchises can be just like that when there’s confusion over roles and goals. Read on to get a peek into the playbook we’ve prepared to help the team as a whole work better together:



This post is excerpted from our new primer: The Practical Guide to Franchise Marketing.

Franchise marketing is a unique kind of activity. It does share a lot of qualities with corporate marketing (on the awareness side) and with SMB marketing (on the local side) but as we noted earlier, it’s sort of a joint custody arrangement that — like all custody arrangements — can get contentious at times.

Everyone wants the best for the brand, but everyone’s “best” is very much a matter of their own perspective and goals. Typically in this arrangement, there are at least two stakeholders, though sometimes there are more. The stakeholders and their goals tend to play out as follows:

Corporate Franchisor goals

  • Creating a strong brand to license more franchisors.
  • Controlling that brand so it isn’t negatively impacted.
  • Supporting franchisees with strong branding and resources so they succeed.

Master Franchisor goals

  • Working with corporate to protect the brand.
  • Licensing more local franchisors.
  • Supporting franchisees with resources so they succeed.

Regional or Area Franchisee goals

  • Driving customer traffic and revenue at individual locations.
  • Growing their portfolio of locations.
  • Supporting location managers with resources so they succeed.

Owner/Operator Franchisee goals

  • Increasing location(s) foot traffic.
  • Increasing location(s) revenue.
  • Building customer loyalty at the location(s).

In what ways is franchise marketing different from corporate or standard SMB marketing? There are some unique challenges that franchisors and franchisees face which are worth unpacking. Some of them are:

    • Conflicting goals between franchisor/franchisee
    • Faster turnover of locations and addresses
    • Different opening hours, menus and promotions from location to location
    • Unique local sales and marketing opportunities and challenges
    • Competitors on both the brand side but also among local SMBs
    • Lack of clearly defined marketing roles causing work to be overwritten, duplicated, or even neglected


    Getting your agency’s head in the game

    Image credit: yourgoodpaljoe

    Your agency can be a better coach to franchises by having a playbook that respects how they differ from corporate or SMB clients at the very outset. But differences don’t have to equal weaknesses. Are you ready to draft a game plan that draws from the strengths of both franchisors and franchisees? 

    The Practical Guide to Franchise Marketing

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    Take the 2019 Local Search Marketing Industry Survey – Moz Blog

    Posted by MiriamEllis

    We couldn’t do it without you! In 2018, over 1,400 marketers responded to our State of Local SEO industry survey. We all learned so much from your responses about the day-to-day realities of marketing local businesses. This year, we can do even better because your answers will give us all valuable comparative data to analyze, YoY.

    Who can take the survey?

    Anyone who markets local businesses in any way is eagerly invited. Whether you market a single location, work for an agency with some local business clients, or are an in-house SEO for a brand with thousands of locations, we would love your participation! Whether you do just a little local search marketing or a lot, are a novice or an adept, your insights have value.

    What is the survey about?

    Unlike a typical local ranking factors poll, The Local Search Marketing Industry Survey digs deep into marketers’ experiences with tactics, challenges, clients, Google, and the working environment. For example, we learned last year that:

    • 90% of respondents felt Google’s emphasis on proximity was detrimental to SERP quality
    • 62% felt there aren’t enough quality local search marketing training materials available
    • 60% lacked a comprehensive review management strategy
    • 49% felt utilization of Google Business Profile features were impacting local rank
    • 35% had no link building strategy in place
    • 17% of enterprises had no in-house SEO staff

    With your help, we’ll see what’s changed and what hasn’t. There are fresh questions, too, which we hope will uncover new stories to spark new strategies for local brands and their marketers.

    There will be four lucky winners!

    Everyone is a winner with access to the data we’ll be sharing from this large survey. But we’d like to offer a little extra thank-you for your time and knowledge.

    Every respondent who completes the full survey will be automatically entered for a chance to win one of four $50 Visa gift cards. Winners will be selected at random, and we hope they will use these gift cards to shop someplace local and awesome this holiday season!

    Take the survey

    Look forward to seeing the results in early 2020, when we compile them into our State of Local SEO 2020 Industry Report. Curious about last year’s insights? Check them out here, and thank you for participating!

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    The Featured Snippets Cheat Sheet and Interactive Q&A – Moz Blog

    Posted by BritneyMuller

    Earlier this week, I hosted a webinar all about featured snippets covering essential background info, brand-new research we’ve done, the results of all the tests I’ve performed, and key takeaways. Things didn’t quite go as planned, though. We had technical difficulties that interfered with our ability to broadcast live, and lots of folks were left with questions after the recording that we weren’t able to answer in a follow-up Q&A.

    The next best thing to a live webinar Q&A? A digital one that you can bookmark and come back to over and over again! We asked our incredibly patient, phenomenally smart attendees to submit their questions via email and promised to answer them in an upcoming blog post. We’ve pulled out the top recurring questions and themes from those submissions and addressed them below. If you had a question and missed the submission window, don’t worry! Ask it down in the comments and we’ll keep the conversation going.

    If you didn’t get a chance to sign up for the original webinar, you can register for it on-demand here:

    Watch the webinar

    And if you’re here to grab the free featured snippets cheat sheet we put together, look no further — download the PDF directly here. Print it off, tape it to your office wall, and keep featured snippets top-of-mind as you create and optimize your site content. 

    Now, let’s get to those juicy questions!


    1. Can I win a featured snippet with a brand-new website?

    If you rank on page one for a keyword that triggers a featured snippet (in positions 1–10), you’re a contender for stealing that featured snippet. It might be tougher with a new website, but you’re in a position to be competitive if you’re on page one — regardless of how established your site is.

    We’ve got some great Whiteboard Fridays that cover how to set a new site up for success:

    2. Does Google provide a tag that identifies traffic sources from featured snippets? Is there a GTM tag for this?

    Unfortunately, Google does not provide a tag to help identify traffic from featured snippets. I’m not aware of a GTM tag that helps with this, either, but would love to hear any community suggestions or ideas in the comments!

    It’s worth noting that it’s currently impossible to determine what percentage of your traffic comes from the featured snippet versus the duplicate organic URL below the featured snippet.

    3. Do you think it’s worth targeting longer-tail question-based queries that have very low monthly searches to gain a featured snippet?

    Great question! My advice is this: don’t sleep on low-search-volume keywords. They often convert really well and in aggregate they can do wonders for a website. I suggest prioritizing long tail keywords that you foresee providing a high potential ROI.

    For example, there are millions of searches a month for the keyword “shoes.” Very competitive, but that query is pretty vague. In contrast, the keyword “size 6 red womens nike running shoes” is very specific. This searcher knows what they want and they’re dialing in their search to find it. This is a great example of a long tail keyword phrase that could provide direct conversions.

    4. What’s the best keyword strategy for determining which queries are worth creating featured snippet-optimized content for?

    Dr. Pete wrote a great blog post outlining how to perform keyword research for featured snippets back in 2016. Once you’ve narrowed down your list of likely queries, you need to look at keywords that you rank on page one for, that trigger a snippet, and that you don’t yet own. Next, narrow your list down further by what you envision will have the highest ROI for your goals. Are you trying to drive conversions? Attract top-of-funnel site visitors? Make sure the queries you target align with your business goals, and go from there. Both Moz Pro and STAT can be a big help with this process.

    A tactical pro tip: Use the featured snippet carousel queries as a starting point. For instance, if there’s a snippet for the query “car insurance” with a carousel of “in Florida,” “in Michigan,” and so on, you might consider writing about state-specific topics to win those carousel snippets. For this technique, the bonus is that you don’t really need to be on page one for the root term (or ranking at all) — often, carousel snippets are taken from off-SERP links.

    5. Do featured snippets fluctuate according to language, i.e. if I have several versions of my site in different languages, will the snippet display for each version?

    This is a great question! Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to do international/multi-language featured snippet research just yet, but hope to in the future. I would suspect the featured snippet could change depending on language and search variation. The best way to explore this is to do a search in an incognito (and un-logged-in) browser window of Google Chrome.

    If you’ve performed research along these lines, let us know what you found out down in the comments!

    6. Why do featured snippet opportunities fluctuate in number from day to day?

    Change really is the only constant in search. In the webinar, I discussed the various tests I did that caused Moz to lose a formerly won featured snippet (and what helped it reappear once again). Changes as simple as an extra period at the end of a sentence were enough to lose us the snippet. With content across the web constantly being created and edited and deprecated and in its own state of change, it’s no wonder that it’s tough to win and keep a featured snippet — sometimes even from one day to the next.

    The SERPs are incredibly volatile things, with Google making updates multiple times every day. But when it comes down to the facts, there are a few things that reliably cause volatility (is that an oxymoron?):

    • If a snippet is pulling from a lower-ranking URL (not positions 1–3); this could mean Google is testing the best answer for the query
    • Google regularly changing which scraped content is used in each snippet
    • Featured snippet carousel topics changing

    The best way to change-proof yourself is to become an authority in your particular niche (E-A-T, remember?) and strive to rank higher to increase your chances of capturing and keeping a featured snippet.

    7. How can I use Keyword Lists to find missed SERP feature opportunities? What’s the best way to use them to identify keyword gaps?

    Keyword Lists are a wonderful area to uncover feature snippet (and other SERP feature) opportunity gaps. My favorite way to do this is to filter the Keyword List by your desired SERP feature. We’ll use featured snippets as an example. Next, sort by your website’s current rank (1–10) to determine your primary featured snippet gaps and opportunities.

    The filters are another great way to tease out additional gaps:

    • Which keywords have high search volume and low competition? 
    • Which keywords have high organic CTR that you currently rank just off page one for?

    8. What are best practices around reviewing the structure of content that’s won a snippet, and how do I know whether it’s worth replicating?

    Content that has won a featured snippet is definitely worth reviewing (even if it doesn’t hold the featured snippet over time). Consider why Google might have provided this as a featured snippet:

    • Does it succinctly answer the query? 
    • Might it sound good as a voice answer? 
    • Is it comprehensive for someone looking for additional information? 
    • Does the page provide additional answers or information around the topic? 
    • Are there visual elements? 

    It’s best to put on your detective hat and try to uncover why a piece of content might be ranking for a particular featured snippet:

    • What part of the page is Google pulling that featured snippet content from? 
    • Is it marked up in a certain way? 
    • What other elements are on the page? 
    • Is there a common theme? 
    • What additional value can you glean from the ranking featured snippet?

    9. Does Google identify and prioritize informational websites for featured snippets, or are they determined by a correlation between pages with useful information and frequency of snippets? 

    In other words, would being an e-commerce site harm your chances of winning featured snippets, all other factors being the same?

    I’m not sure whether Google explicitly categorizes informational websites. They likely establish a trust metric of sorts for domains and then seek out information or content that most succinctly answers queries within their trust parameters, but this is just a hypothesis.

    While informational sites tend to do overwhelmingly better than other types of websites, it’s absolutely possible for an e-commerce website to find creative ways of snagging featured snippets.

    It’s fascinating how various e-commerce websites have found their way into current featured snippets in extremely savvy ways. Here’s a super relevant example: after our webinar experienced issues and wasn’t able to launch on time, I did a voice search for “how much do stamps cost” to determine how expensive it would be to send apology notes to all of our hopeful attendees. 

    This was the voice answer:

    “According to stamps.com the cost of a one ounce first class mail stamp is $0.55 at the Post Office, or $.047 if you buy and print stamps online using stamps.com.”

    Pretty clever, right? I believe there are plenty of savvy ways like this to get your brand and offers into featured snippets.

    10. When did the “People Also Ask” feature first appear? What changes to PAAs do you anticipate in the future?

    

    People Also Ask boxes first appeared in July 2015 as a small-scale test. Their presence in the SERPs grew over 1700% between July 2015 and March 2017, so they certainly exploded in popularity just a few years ago. Funny enough, I was one of the first SEOs to come across Google’s PAA testing — you can read about that stat and more in my original article on the subject: Infinite “People Also Ask” Boxes: Research and SEO Opportunities

    We recently published some great PAA research by Samuel Mangialavori on the Moz Blog, as well: 5 Things You Should Know About “People Also Ask” & How to Take Advantage

    And there are a couple of great articles cataloging the evolution of PAAs over the years here:

    When it comes to predicting the future of PAAs, well, we don’t have a crystal ball yet, but featured snippets continue to look more and more like PAA boxes with their new-ish accordion format. Is it possible Google will merge them into a single feature someday? It’s hard to say, but as SEOs, our best bet is to maintain flexibility and prepare to roll with the punches the search engines send our way.

    11. Can you explain what you meant by “15% of image URLs are not in organic”?

    Sure thing! The majority of images that show up in featured snippet boxes (or to be more accurate, the webpage those images live on) do not rank organically within the first ten pages of organic search results for the featured snippet query.

    12. How should content creators consider featured snippets when crafting written content? Are there any tools that can help?

    First and foremost, you’ll want to consider the searcher

    • What is their intent? 
    • What desired information or content are they after? 
    • Are you providing the desired information in the medium in which they desire it most (video, images, copy, etc)? 

    Look to the current SERPs to determine how you should be providing content to your users. Read all of the results on page one:

    • What common themes do they have? 
    • What topics do they cover? 
    • How can you cover those better?

    Dr. Pete has a fantastic Whiteboard Friday that covers how to write content to win featured snippets. Check it out: How to Write Content for Answers Using the Inverted Pyramid

    

    You might also get some good advice from this classic Whiteboard Friday by Rand Fishkin: How to Appear in Google’s Answer Boxes

    13. “Write quality content for people, not search engines” seems like great advice. But should I also be using any APIs or tools to audit my content? 

    The only really helpful tool that comes to mind is the Flesch-Kincaid readability test, but even that can be a bit disruptive to the creative process. The very best tool you might have for reviewing your content might be a real person. I would ensure that your content can be easily understood when read out loud to your targeted audience. It may help to consider whether your content, as a featured snippet, would make for an effective, helpful voice search result.

    14. What’s the best way to stay on top of trends when it comes to Google’s featured snippets?

    Find publications and tools that resonate, and keep an eye on them. Some of my favorites include:

    1. MozCast to keep a pulse on the Google algorithm
    2. Monitoring tools like STAT (email alerts when you win/lose a snippet? Awesome.)
    3. Cultivating a healthy list of digital marketing heroes to follow on Twitter
    4. Industry news publications like Search Engine Journal and, of course, the Moz Blog 😉
    5. Subscribing to SEO newsletters like the Moz Top 10

    One of the very best things you can do, though, is performing your own investigative featured snippet research within your space. Publishing the trends you observe helps our entire community grow and learn. 


    Thank you so much to every attendee who submitted their questions. Digging into these follow-up thoughts and ideas is one of the best parts of putting on a presentation. If you’ve got any lingering questions after the webinar, I would love to hear them — leave me a note in the comments and I’ll be on point to answer you. And if you missed the webinar sign-up, you can still access it on-demand whenever you want.

    We also promised you some bonus content, yeah? Here it is — I compiled all of my best tips and tricks for winning featured snippets into a downloadable cheat sheet that I hope is a helpful reference for you:

    Free download: The Featured Snippets Cheat Sheet

    There’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to win your own snippets when you’re armed with data, drive, and a good, solid plan! Hopefully this is a great resource for you to have on hand, either to share around with colleagues or to print out and keep at your desk:

    Grab the cheat sheet

    Again, thank you so much for submitting your questions, and we’ll see you in the comments for more.

    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!

    Machine Learning 101 – Whiteboard Friday – Moz Blog

    Posted by BritneyMuller

    Machine learning is only growing in importance for anyone working in the digital world, but it can often feel like an inaccessible subject. It doesn’t have to be — and you don’t have to miss out on the competitive edge it can give you when it comes to SEO task automation. Put on your technical SEO cap and get ready to take notes, because Britney Muller is walking us through Machine Learning 101 in this week’s episode of Whiteboard Friday.

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

    Video Transcription

    Hey, Moz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Today I’m talking about all things machine learning, something, as many of you know, I’m super passionate about and love to talk about. So hopefully, this sparks a seed in some of you to explore it a bit further, because it is truly one of the most powerful things to happen in our space in a very long time. 

    What is machine learning?

    So a brief overview, in a nutshell, machine learning is actually a subset of AI, and some would argue we still haven’t really reached artificial intelligence. But it’s just one facet of the overall AI. 

    Traditional programming

    The best way to think about it is in comparison to traditional programming. So traditional programming, you input data and a program into a computer and out comes the output, whether that be a web page or calculator you built online, whatever that might be.

    Machine learning

    With machine learning, what you do is you put in the data and the desired output and put this into a computer, and you get a program, otherwise known as a machine learning model. So it’s a bit flipped, and it works extremely well. There are two primary types of machine learning:

    1. You have supervised, which is where you’re basically feeding a model labeled training data, 
    2. And then unsupervised, which is where you’re feeding a program data and letting it create clusters or associations between data points. 

    The supervised is a bit more common. You’ll see things like classification, linear regression, and image recognition. Things like that are all very common. If you think about machine learning in terms of, okay, there’s all of this data that you’re putting into the model, data is the biggest part of machine learning. A lot of people would argue that if machine learning was a vehicle, data would be the fuel.

    It’s a really important part to understand, because unless you have the right types of data to feed a model, you’re not going to get the desired outcome that you would like. 

    A machine learning model example

    So let’s look at an example. If you wanted to build a machine learning model that predicts housing prices, you might have all of this information.

    You might have the current price, square foot of these homes, land, the number of bathrooms, the number of bedrooms, you name it. It goes on and on. These are also known as features. So what a model is going to try to do, when you put in all of this data, it’s going to try to understand associations between this information and come up with a model that best predicts home prices in the future.

    The most basic of these machine learning models is linear regression. So if you think about inputting the data where maybe you just put in the price and the square foot, and you can kind of see the data like this. 

    You see that as the square foot goes up, so does the price. A model over time, in looking at this data, is going to start to find the smoothest line through the data to have the most accurate predictions in the future.

    What you don’t want it to do is to fit every single data point and have a line that looks like that — that’s also known as overfitting — because it doesn’t play nice for new data points. You don’t want a model to get so calculated to your dataset that it doesn’t predict accurately in the future.

    A way to look at that is by the loss function. That’s maybe getting a bit deeper in this, but that’s how you would measure how the line is being fit. Let’s see. 

    What are the machine learning possibilities in SEO?

    So what are some of the possibilities in SEO? How can we leverage machine learning in the SEO space?

    Automate meta descriptions

    So there are couple ways that people are already doing this. You can automate meta descriptions by looking at the page content and using a machine model to summarize the text. So this literally summarizes the content for you and pares it down to a meta description length. Pretty incredible. 

    Automate titles

    You could similarly do this for titles, although I don’t suggest you do this for primary pages. This isn’t going to be perfect. But if you have a huge, huge website, with hundreds of thousands of pages, it gets you halfway there. It’s really interesting to start playing around in that space with these large websites.

    Automate image alt text

    You can also automate alt text for images. We see these models getting really good at understanding what’s in an image. 

    Automate 301 redirects

    301 redirects, Paul Shapiro has an incredible write-up and basically process for that already. 

    Automate content creation

    Content creation, and if that scares some of you or if you doubt that these models can currently create content that is decent, I challenge you to go check out Talk to Transformer.

    It is a pared-back version of OpenAI, which was founded by Elon Musk. It’s pretty incredible and a little scary as to how good the content is just from that pared back model. So that is for sure possible in the future and even today. 

    Automate product/page suggestions

    In addition to product and page suggestions.

    So this is just going to get better. Imagine us providing content and UX specifically for the unique users that come to our site, highly personalized content, highly personalized experiences. Really exciting stuff moving forward. 

    Resources

    I’ve got some resources I highly suggest you check out.

    Google Codelabs is one of my favorites, just because it walks you through the steps. So if you go to Google Codelabs, filter by TensorFlow or machine learning, you can see the possible examples there. Colab notebooks or Jupyter notebooks are where you’ll likely be doing any of the machine learning that you want to do on your own.

    Kaggle.com is the number one resource for data science competitions. So you get to really see what are the examples, how are people using machine learning today. You’ll see things like TSA has put up over $1 million for a data science team to come up with a model that predicts potential threats from security footage.

    This stuff gets really interesting really fast. It’s also so important to have diversity and inclusion in this space to avoid really dangerous models in the future. So it’s something to definitely think about. 

    TensorFlow is a great resource. It’s what Google put out, and it’s what a lot of their machine learning models is built off of. They’ve got a really great JavaScript platform that you can play around with. 

    Andrew Ng has an incredible machine learning course. I highly suggest you check that out. 

    Then Algorithmia is sort of a one-stop shop for models. So if you don’t care to dip your toes into machine learning and you just want say a summarizer model or a particular type of model, you could potentially find one there and do a plug-and-play of sorts.

    

    So that’s pretty interesting and fun to explore. The last thing is a machine learning model is only as good as the data. I can’t express that enough. So a lot of machine learning and data scientists, it’s all data cleaning and parsing, and that’s the bulk of the work in this field.

    It’s important to be aware of that. So that’s it for Machine Learning 101. Thank you so much for joining me, and I hope to see you all again soon. Thanks.

    Video transcription by Speechpad.com


    If you enjoyed this episode of Whiteboard Friday, you’ll be delighted by all the cutting-edge SEO knowledge you’ll get from our newly released MozCon 2019 video bundle. Catch more useful technical tips in Britney’s talk, plus 26 additional future-focused topics from our top-notch speakers:

    Grab the sessions now!

    We suggest scheduling a good old-fashioned knowledge share with your colleagues to educate the whole team — after all, who didn’t love movie day in school? 😉

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    SEO Analytics for Free – Combining Google Search with the Moz API – Moz Blog

    Posted by Purple-Toolz

    I’m a self-funded start-up business owner. As such, I want to get as much as I can for free before convincing our finance director to spend our hard-earned bootstrapping funds. I’m also an analyst with a background in data and computer science, so a bit of a geek by any definition.

    What I try to do, with my SEO analyst hat on, is hunt down great sources of free data and wrangle it into something insightful. Why? Because there’s no value in basing client advice on conjecture. It’s far better to combine quality data with good analysis and help our clients better understand what’s important for them to focus on.

    In this article, I will tell you how to get started using a few free resources and illustrate how to pull together unique analytics that provide useful insights for your blog articles if you’re a writer, your agency if you’re an SEO, or your website if you’re a client or owner doing SEO yourself.

    The scenario I’m going to use is that I want analyze some SEO attributes (e.g. backlinks, Page Authority etc.) and look at their effect on Google ranking. I want to answer questions like “Do backlinks really matter in getting to Page 1 of SERPs?” and “What kind of Page Authority score do I really need to be in the top 10 results?” To do this, I will need to combine data from a number of Google searches with data on each result that has the SEO attributes in that I want to measure.

    Let’s get started and work through how to combine the following tasks to achieve this, which can all be setup for free:

    • Querying with Google Custom Search Engine
    • Using the free Moz API account
    • Harvesting data with PHP and MySQL
    • Analyzing data with SQL and R

    Querying with Google Custom Search Engine

    We first need to query Google and get some results stored. To stay on the right side of Google’s terms of service, we’ll not be scraping Google.com directly but will instead use Google’s Custom Search feature. Google’s Custom Search is designed mainly to let website owners provide a Google like search widget on their website. However, there is also a REST based Google Search API that is free and lets you query Google and retrieve results in the popular JSON format. There are quota limits but these can be configured and extended to provide a good sample of data to work with.

    When configured correctly to search the entire web, you can send queries to your Custom Search Engine, in our case using PHP, and treat them like Google responses, albeit with some caveats. The main limitations of using a Custom Search Engine are: (i) it doesn’t use some Google Web Search features such as personalized results and; (ii) it may have a subset of results from the Google index if you include more than ten sites.

    Notwithstanding these limitations, there are many search options that can be passed to the Custom Search Engine to proxy what you might expect Google.com to return. In our scenario, we passed the following when making a call:

    https://www.googleapis.com/customsearch/v1?key=<google_api_id>&userIp=
    <ip_address>&cx<custom_search_engine_id>&q=iPhone+X&cr=countryUS&start=
    1</custom_search_engine_id></ip_address></google_api_id>

    Where:

    • https://www.googleapis.com/customsearch/v1 – is the URL for the Google Custom Search API
    • key=<GOOGLE_API_ID> – Your Google Developer API Key
    • userIp=<IP_ADDRESS> – The IP address of the local machine making the call
    • cx=<CUSTOM_SEARCH_ENGINE_ID> – Your Google Custom Search Engine ID
    • q=iPhone+X – The Google query string (‘+’ replaces ‘ ‘)
    • cr=countryUS – Country restriction (from Goolge’s Country Collection Name list)
    • start=1 – The index of the first result to return – e.g. SERP page 1. Successive calls would increment this to get pages 2–5.

    Google has said that the Google Custom Search engine differs from Google .com, but in my limited prod testing comparing results between the two, I was encouraged by the similarities and so continued with the analysis. That said, keep in mind that the data and results below come from Google Custom Search (using ‘whole web’ queries), not Google.com.

    Using the free Moz API account

    Moz provide an Application Programming Interface (API). To use it you will need to register for a Mozscape API key, which is free but limited to 2,500 rows per month and one query every ten seconds. Current paid plans give you increased quotas and start at $250/month. Having a free account and API key, you can then query the Links API and analyze the following metrics:

    Moz data field

    Moz API code

    Description

    ueid

    32

    The number of external equity links to the URL

    uid

    2048

    The number of links (external, equity or nonequity or not,) to the URL

    umrp**

    16384

    The MozRank of the URL, as a normalized 10-point score

    umrr**

    16384

    The MozRank of the URL, as a raw score

    fmrp**

    32768

    The MozRank of the URL’s subdomain, as a normalized 10-point score

    fmrr**

    32768

    The MozRank of the URL’s subdomain, as a raw score

    us

    536870912

    The HTTP status code recorded for this URL, if available

    upa

    34359738368

    A normalized 100-point score representing the likelihood of a page to rank well in search engine results

    pda

    68719476736

    A normalized 100-point score representing the likelihood of a domain to rank well in search engine results

    NOTE: Since this analysis was captured, Moz documented that they have deprecated these fields. However, in testing this (15-06-2019), the fields were still present.

    Moz API Codes are added together before calling the Links API with something that looks like the following:

    www.apple.com%2F?Cols=103616137253&AccessID=MOZ_ACCESS_ID&
    Expires=1560586149&Signature=<MOZ_SECRET_KEY>

    Where:

    • http://lsapi.seomoz.com/linkscape/url-metrics/” class=”redactor-autoparser-object”>http://lsapi.seomoz.com/linksc… – Is the URL for the Moz API
    • http%3A%2F%2Fwww.apple.com%2F – An encoded URL that we want to get data on
    • Cols=103616137253 – The sum of the Moz API codes from the table above
    • AccessID=MOZ_ACCESS_ID – An encoded version of the Moz Access ID (found in your API account)
    • Expires=1560586149 – A timeout for the query – set a few minutes into the future
    • Signature=<MOZ_SECRET_KEY> – An encoded version of the Moz Access ID (found in your API account)

    Moz will return with something like the following JSON:

    Array
    ( [ut] => Apple [uu] => <a href="http://www.apple.com/" class="redactor-autoparser-object">www.apple.com/</a> [ueid] => 13078035 [uid] => 14632963 [uu] => www.apple.com/ [ueid] => 13078035 [uid] => 14632963 [umrp] => 9 [umrr] => 0.8999999762 [fmrp] => 2.602215052 [fmrr] => 0.2602215111 [us] => 200 [upa] => 90 [pda] => 100
    )

    For a great starting point on querying Moz with PHP, Perl, Python, Ruby and Javascript, see this repository on Github. I chose to use PHP.

    Harvesting data with PHP and MySQL

    Now we have a Google Custom Search Engine and our Moz API, we’re almost ready to capture data. Google and Moz respond to requests via the JSON format and so can be queried by many popular programming languages. In addition to my chosen language, PHP, I wrote the results of both Google and Moz to a database and chose MySQL Community Edition for this. Other databases could be also used, e.g. Postgres, Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server etc. Doing so enables persistence of the data and ad-hoc analysis using SQL (Structured Query Language) as well as other languages (like R, which I will go over later). After creating database tables to hold the Google search results (with fields for rank, URL etc.) and a table to hold Moz data fields (ueid, upa, uda etc.), we’re ready to design our data harvesting plan.

    Google provide a generous quota with the Custom Search Engine (up to 100M queries per day with the same Google developer console key) but the Moz free API is limited to 2,500. Though for Moz, paid for options provide between 120k and 40M rows per month depending on plans and range in cost from $250–$10,000/month. Therefore, as I’m just exploring the free option, I designed my code to harvest 125 Google queries over 2 pages of SERPs (10 results per page) allowing me to stay within the Moz 2,500 row quota. As for which searches to fire at Google, there are numerous resources to use from. I chose to use Mondovo as they provide numerous lists by category and up to 500 words per list which is ample for the experiment.

    I also rolled in a few PHP helper classes alongside my own code for database I/O and HTTP.

    In summary, the main PHP building blocks and sources used were:

    One factor to be aware of is the 10 second interval between Moz API calls. This is to prevent Moz being overloaded by free API users. To handle this in software, I wrote a “query throttler” which blocked access to the Moz API between successive calls within a timeframe. However, whilst working perfectly it meant that calling Moz 2,500 times in succession took just under 7 hours to complete.

    Analyzing data with SQL and R

    Data harvested. Now the fun begins!

    It’s time to have a look at what we’ve got. This is sometimes called data wrangling. I use a free statistical programming language called R along with a development environment (editor) called R Studio. There are other languages such as Stata and more graphical data science tools like Tableau, but these cost and the finance director at Purple Toolz isn’t someone to cross!

    I have been using R for a number of years because it’s open source and it has many third-party libraries, making it extremely versatile and appropriate for this kind of work.

    Let’s roll up our sleeves.

    I now have a couple of database tables with the results of my 125 search term queries across 2 pages of SERPS (i.e. 20 ranked URLs per search term). Two database tables hold the Google results and another table holds the Moz data results. To access these, we’ll need to do a database INNER JOIN which we can easily accomplish by using the RMySQL package with R. This is loaded by typing “install.packages(‘RMySQL’)” into R’s console and including the line “library(RMySQL)” at the top of our R script.

    We can then do the following to connect and get the data into an R data frame variable called “theResults.”

    library(RMySQL)
    # INNER JOIN the two tables
    theQuery <- " SELECT A.*, B.*, C.* FROM ( SELECT cseq_search_id FROM cse_query ) A -- Custom Search Query INNER JOIN ( SELECT cser_cseq_id, cser_rank, cser_url FROM cse_results ) B -- Custom Search Results ON A.cseq_search_id = B.cser_cseq_id INNER JOIN ( SELECT * FROM moz ) C -- Moz Data Fields ON B.cser_url = C.moz_url ; "
    # [1] Connect to the database
    # Replace USER_NAME with your database username
    # Replace PASSWORD with your database password
    # Replace MY_DB with your database name
    theConn <- dbConnect(dbDriver("MySQL"), user = "USER_NAME", password = "PASSWORD", dbname = "MY_DB")
    # [2] Query the database and hold the results
    theResults <- dbGetQuery(theConn, theQuery)
    # [3] Disconnect from the database
    dbDisconnect(theConn)

    NOTE: I have two tables to hold the Google Custom Search Engine data. One holds data on the Google query (cse_query) and one holds results (cse_results).

    We can now use R’s full range of statistical functions to begin wrangling.

    Let’s start with some summaries to get a feel for the data. The process I go through is basically the same for each of the fields, so let’s illustrate and use Moz’s ‘UEID’ field (the number of external equity links to a URL). By typing the following into R I get the this:

    > summary(theResults$moz_ueid) Min. 1st Qu. Median Mean 3rd Qu. Max. 0 1 20 14709 182 2755274 > quantile(theResults$moz_ueid, probs = c(1, 5, 10, 25, 50, 75, 80, 90, 95, 99, 100)/100) 1% 5% 10% 25% 50% 75% 80% 90% 95% 99% 100% 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.0 20.0 182.0 337.2 1715.2 7873.4 412283.4 2755274.0 

    Looking at this, you can see that the data is skewed (a lot) by the relationship of the median to the mean, which is being pulled by values in the upper quartile range (values beyond 75% of the observations). We can however, plot this as a box and whisker plot in R where each X value is the distribution of UEIDs by rank from Google Custom Search position 1-20.

    Note we are using a log scale on the y-axis so that we can display the full range of values as they vary a lot!

    A box and whisker plot in R of Moz’s UEID by Google rank (note: log scale)

    Box and whisker plots are great as they show a lot of information in them (see the geom_boxplot function in R). The purple boxed area represents the Inter-Quartile Range (IQR) which are the values between 25% and 75% of observations. The horizontal line in each ‘box’ represents the median value (the one in the middle when ordered), whilst the lines extending from the box (called the ‘whiskers’) represent 1.5x IQR. Dots outside the whiskers are called ‘outliers’ and show where the extents of each rank’s set of observations are. Despite the log scale, we can see a noticeable pull-up from rank #10 to rank #1 in median values, indicating that the number of equity links might be a Google ranking factor. Let’s explore this further with density plots.

    Density plots are a lot like distributions (histograms) but show smooth lines rather than bars for the data. Much like a histogram, a density plot’s peak shows where the data values are concentrated and can help when comparing two distributions. In the density plot below, I have split the data into two categories: (i) results that appeared on Page 1 of SERPs ranked 1-10 are in pink and; (ii) results that appeared on SERP Page 2 are in blue. I have also plotted the medians of both distributions to help illustrate the difference in results between Page 1 and Page 2.

    The inference from these two density plots is that Page 1 SERP results had more external equity backlinks (UEIDs) on than Page 2 results. You can also see the median values for these two categories below which clearly shows how the value for Page 1 (38) is far greater than Page 2 (11). So we now have some numbers to base our SEO strategy for backlinks on.

    # Create a factor in R according to which SERP page a result (cser_rank) is on
    > theResults$rankBin <- paste("Page", ceiling(theResults$cser_rank / 10))
    > theResults$rankBin <- factor(theResults$rankBin)
    # Now report the medians by SERP page by calling ‘tapply’
    > tapply(theResults$moz_ueid, theResults$rankBin, median) Page 1 Page 2 38 11 

    From this, we can deduce that equity backlinks (UEID) matter and if I were advising a client based on this data, I would say they should be looking to get over 38 equity-based backlinks to help them get to Page 1 of SERPs. Of course, this is a limited sample and more research, a bigger sample and other ranking factors would need to be considered, but you get the idea.

    Now let’s investigate another metric that has less of a range on it than UEID and look at Moz’s UPA measure, which is the likelihood that a page will rank well in search engine results.

    > summary(theResults$moz_upa) Min. 1st Qu. Median Mean 3rd Qu. Max. 1.00 33.00 41.00 41.22 50.00 81.00 > quantile(theResults$moz_upa, probs = c(1, 5, 10, 25, 50, 75, 80, 90, 95, 99, 100)/100) 1% 5% 10% 25% 50% 75% 80% 90% 95% 99% 100% 12 20 25 33 41 50 53 58 62 75 81 

    UPA is a number given to a URL and ranges between 0–100. The data is better behaved than the previous UEID unbounded variable having its mean and median close together making for a more ‘normal’ distribution as we can see below by plotting a histogram in R.

    A histogram of Moz’s UPA score

    We’ll do the same Page 1 : Page 2 split and density plot that we did before and look at the UPA score distributions when we divide the UPA data into two groups.

    # Report the medians by SERP page by calling ‘tapply’
    > tapply(theResults$moz_upa, theResults$rankBin, median) Page 1 Page 2 43 39 

    In summary, two very different distributions from two Moz API variables. But both showed differences in their scores between SERP pages and provide you with tangible values (medians) to work with and ultimately advise clients on or apply to your own SEO.

    Of course, this is just a small sample and shouldn’t be taken literally. But with free resources from both Google and Moz, you can now see how you can begin to develop analytical capabilities of your own to base your assumptions on rather than accepting the norm. SEO ranking factors change all the time and having your own analytical tools to conduct your own tests and experiments on will help give you credibility and perhaps even a unique insight on something hitherto unknown.

    Google provide you with a healthy free quota to obtain search results from. If you need more than the 2,500 rows/month Moz provide for free there are numerous paid-for plans you can purchase. MySQL is a free download and R is also a free package for statistical analysis (and much more).

    Go explore!

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    5 Things You Should Know About "People Also Ask" & How to Take Advantage – Moz Blog

    Posted by SamuelMangialavori

    It’s undeniable that the SERPs have changed considerably in the last year or so. Elements like featured snippets, Knowledge Graphs, local packs, and People Also Ask have really taken over the SEO world — and left some of us a bit confused.

    In particular, the People Also Ask (PAA) feature caught my attention in the last few months. For many of the clients I’ve worked with, PAAs have really had an impact on their SERPs.

    If you are anything like me, you might be asking yourself the same questions:

    • How important are these SERP features?
    • How many clicks do they “steal” from SEO?
    • And most importantly: who are these people that also ask SO MANY questions? Somehow, I always imagine the hipster-looking man from Answer the Public being the leader of such a group of people…

    The first part of the post focuses on five things I’ve learned about People Also Ask, while the second part outlines some ideas on how to take advantage of such features.

    Let’s get started! Here are five things you should know about PAAs.

    1. PAA can occupy different positions on the SERP

    I don’t know about you all, but I wasn’t fully aware of the above until a few months ago; I just assumed that most of the time PAAs appeared in the same location, IF and only IF it was actually triggered by Google. I didn’t really pay attention to this featured until I started digging into it.

    Distinct from featured snippets (which appear always at the top of the SERP), PAAs can be located in several different parts of the page.

    Let’s look at some examples:

    Keyword example: [dj software]

    Example of SERP where PAA is at the top of the page

    For the keyword [dj software], this is what the SERP looks like:

    • 3 PPC ads
    • Related videos
    • 4 PAA listings at the top of the page
    • 10 organic results

    Keyword example: [cocktail dresses under 50 pounds]

    Example of SERP where PAA is in the middle of the page

    For the keyword [cocktail dresses under 50 pounds], this is what the SERP looks like:

    • Shopping ads
    • 1 PPC ad
    • Image carousel
    • 3 organic results
    • 4 PAA listings in the middle of the page

    Keyword example: [tv unit]

    Example of SERP where PAA is at the bottom of the page

    For the keyword [tv unit], this is what the SERP looks like:

    • Shopping ads
    • 1 PPC ad
    • 10 organic results
    • 3 PAA listings at the bottom of the page

    Why does this matter to you?

    Understanding the implications of the different positions of PAA in the SERPs impacts organic results’ CTR, especially on mobile, where space is very precious.

    2. Do PAAs have a limit?

    I’m just giving away the answer now: No-ish.

    This feature has the ability to trigger a potentially infinite number of questions on the topic of interest. As Britney Muller researched in this Moz post, the initial 3–4 listing could continue into the hundreds once clicked on, in some cases.

    With one simple click, the 4 PAA questions can trigger three more listings, and so on and so forth.

    Has the situation changed at all since the original 2016 Moz article?

    Yes, it has! What I’m seeing now is actually very mixed: PAAs can vary extensively, from a fixed number of 3–4 listings to a plethora of results.

    Let’s look at an example of a query that’s showing a large number of PAAs:

    Keyword example: [featured snippets]

    Example of SERP where the number of PAA expands when clicked upon, and is not fixed

    For the query [featured snippets], the PAA listings can be expanded if clicked on, which process generates a large number of new PAA listings that appear at the bottom of such SERP feature.

    For other queries, Google will only show you 4 PAA listings and such number will not change even if the listings get clicked on:

    Keyword example: [best italian wine]

    Example of SERP where the number of PAA listings is fixed and does not expand

    For the query [best italian wine], the PAA listings cannot be expanded, no matter how many times you hover or click on them.

    Interestingly, it also appears that Google does not keep this feature consistent: a few days after I took the above screenshots, the fixed number of PAAs was gone. On the other hand, I’ve recently seen instances where the keywords have a fixed amount of only 3 PAAs instead of 4.

    Now, the real question for Google would be:

    “What methodology are they using to decide which keywords trigger an infinite amount of PAAs and which keywords cannot?”

    As you might have guessed by now, I don’t have an answer today. I’ll continue to work on uncovering it and keep you folks posted when/if I get an answer from Google or discover further insights.

    My two cents on the above:

    The number of PAAs does not relate to particular verticals or keywords patterns at the moment, though this may change in the future (e.g. comparative keywords more or less inclined to a fixed amount of PAAs.)

    Google’s experiments will continue, and they may change PAAs quite a bit in the next one to two years. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw questions being answered in different ways. Read the next point to know more!

    Why does this matter to you?

    From an opportunity standpoint, the number of questions you can scrape to take advantage of will vary.

    From a user standpoint, it impacts your search journey and offers a different number of answers to your questions.

    3. PAAs can trigger video results

    I came across this by reading an article on Search Engine Roundtable.

    Example PAA with video results

    I wasn’t able to replicate the above result myself in London — but that doesn’t matter, as we’re used to seeing Google experimenting with new features in the US first.

    Answering a PAA listing with a video makes a lot of sense, especially if you consider the nature of many of the queries listed:

    • What is…
    • How to…
    • Why is/are…

    And so on.

    I expect this to be tested more and more by Google, to a point where most of the keywords that are currently showing video results in the SERPs will trigger video results in the PAA listings, too.

    Keyword example: [how to clean suede shoes diy]

    Example of SERP for keywords that often trigger video results

    Video results will matter more and more in the near future. Why is that?

    Just examine how hard Google is working on the interpretation and simplification of video results. Google has added key moments for videos in search results (read this article to know more). This new feature allows us to jump to the portion of the video that answers our specific query.

    Why does this matter to you?

    From an opportunity standpoint, you can optimize your YouTube and video results to be eligible to appear in PAAs.

    From a user standpoint, it enriches your search journey for PAA queries that are better answered with videos.

    4. PAA questions are frequently repeated for the same search topic and also trigger featured snippets

    This might be obvious, but it’s important to understand these three points:

    1. Most PAA questions also trigger featured snippets
    2. The same PAA question (& answer) can be triggered for different keywords
    3. The same answer/listing that appears for a certain question in a PAA can also appear for different questions triggered by PAAs

    Let’s look at some examples to better visualize what I mean:

    1. PAA questions also trigger Featured Snippets

    Keyword 1: [business card ideas]

    Keyword 2: [what is on a good business card?]

    Example of PAA listings for case n.1

    The keyword [business card ideas] triggers some PAA listings, whose questions, if used as the main query, trigger a featured snippet.

    2. Different keywords can trigger the same PAA question and show the same result. 

    The same listing that appears for a PAA question for keyword X can also appear for the same question, triggered by a different keyword Y.

    Keyword 1: [quality business cards]

    Keyword 2: [business cards quality design]

    Example of PAA listings for case n.2

    To summarize: Different keywords, same question in the PAA and same listing in the PAA.

    3. Different questions listed in a PAA triggered by different keywords can show the same result. 

    The same listing that appears for a PAA question for keyword X can also appear for the same question, triggered by a different keyword Y.

    Keyword 1: [quality business cards]

    Keyword 2: [best business cards online]

    Example of PAA listings for case n.3

    To summarize: Different keywords, different question in the PAA but same listing in the PAA.

    The above keywords are clearly different, but they show the same intent:

    “I’m looking for a business card by using terms that highlight certain defining attributes — best & quality.”

    Small Biz Trends in the above screenshot has created a page that matches that particular intent. Keyword intent is a crucial topic that the SEO community has been talking about for a few years by now.

    Why does this matter to you?

    From an opportunity standpoint, your PAA listings can trigger featured snippets and also have the possibility to cover a portfolio of different keyword permutations.

    5. PAAs have a feedback feature

    Most of you have probably glanced over this feature but never really paid attention to it: at the bottom of the last PAA listing, there is often a little hyperlink with the word Feedback.

    By clicking on it, you’re shown the following pop-up:

    Example of feedback for PAA

    Google states that this option is available “on some search results” and it allows users to send feedback or suggest a translation. Even if you do go through the effort, Google says they will not reply to you directly, but rather collect the info submitted and work on the accuracy of the listings.

    Does this mean they’ll actually change the PAA listing based off of feedback?

    Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer for this (I’ve tried to submit feedback manually and nothing really happened) but I think it’s very unlikely.

    The only for-sure thing you get from Google is the following response:

    Google’s response after feedback submission

    Why does this matter to you?

    From an opportunity standpoint, if you notice that PAA listings (for questions you are trying to appear for) are not accurate, you can flag it to Google and hope they’ll change it.

    Now that we’ve covered some interesting facts, how can we take advantage of PAA?

    Determine how deeply your SERP is being affected by PAA (and other SERP features)

    This task is fairly straightforward, but I guarantee you very few people actually pay much attention to it. When monitoring your rankings, you should really try to dig deeply into which other elements are affecting your overall organic traffic & organic CTR.

    Start by asking yourself the following questions:

    • What elements affect the SERP for my core keywords?
    • How often do these SERP elements appear?
    • How deeply are they affecting my organic results?

    You might spot an increasing amount of paid results (in the form of shopping ads for products or text ads for services) appearing for many of your key terms.

    Established tools like SEMrush, Sistrix, and Ahrefs can show you the number of ads, overall spending, & how the ads look at a keyword level.

    Kw: [hr software]

    SEMrush ads history graph by keyword

    Or it may be the case that organic SERP elements, such as video results, are being triggered in the SERP for many of your informational queries, or that featured snippets appear for a high percentage of your navigational & transactional terms, and so on.

    Recently, I came across a client where over 90% of their primary keywords triggered PAAs at the top of the SERP. 90%!

    Which tools can help?

    At Distilled we use STAT, which reports on such insights in a really comprehensive manner with a great overview of all the SERP elements.

    This is what the STAT SERP features interface looks like:

    STAT SERP features

    Ahrefs also does a great job of allowing you to download the SERP features of the top twenty results for any of the keywords you’re interested in.

    Understanding where you stand in the current SERP landscape & how your SEO has been affected by it is a crucial step prior to implementing any SERP strategy.

    Tactics to take advantage of PAAs

    There are several ways to incorporate PAAs into your SEO strategy. It’s already been written about many times online, so I’m going to keep it simple and focus on a few easy tactics that I think will really improve your workflow:

    1. Extract PAA listings

    This one’s pretty straightforward: how can we take advantage of PAAs if we cannot find a way to extract those questions in the first place?

    There are several ways to “scrape” PAAs, more or less compliant with Google’s Terms & Conditions (such as using Screaming Frog).

    Personally, I like STAT’s report, so I’ll talk about how easy it is to extract PAA listings using this tool:

    • One of the features of STAT’s reporting is called “People also ask (Google),” which is pretty self-explanatory: for the keywords you’ve decided to track in the tool, this report will provide the PAA questions they trigger and the URLs appearing for those listings, along with their exact rankings within the PAA box.

    This is an example of how the report will look like after you’ve downloaded the “People also ask (Google)” report:

    STAT PAA report

    2. Address questions in your content

    Once you have a list of all PAA questions and you are able to see which URLs rank for such results, what should you do next?

    This is the more complicated part: think how your content strategy can incorporate PAA findings and start experimenting. Similarly to featured snippets, PAAs should be included in your content plan. If that’s not yet the case, well, I hope this blog post can convince you to give it a go!

    Since I am not focusing (sadly, for some) on content strategy with this article, I will not dwell on the topic too much. Instead, I’ll share a few tips on what you could do with the data gathered so far:

    Understand what type of results such PAA questions are triggering: are they informational, navigational, transactional?

    Many people think featured snippets and PAA questions are triggered by heavily informational or Q&A pages: trust me, do NOT assume anything. heck your data and behave accordingly. Keyword intent should never be taken for granted.

    Create or re-optimize your content

    Depending on the findings in the previous point, it may be a matter of creating new content that can address PAA questions or re-optimizing the existing content on your site.

    If you discover that you have a chance at ranking in a PAA with your current transactional/editorial pages, it might be best to re-optimize what you have.

    It may also be the case that one of the following options can be enough to rank in PAAs:

    • Adding questions and answers to your content (don’t limit yourself to just the bottom of the page)
    • Using the right headings to mark up such elements (h1, h2, h3, whatever works for your page)
    • Copying the formatting of results that are currently appearing in PAA
    • Simply changing the language used on your site

    If you do not have any content to cover a certain keyword theme, think about creating new ones that would match the keyword intent that Google is favoring. Editorial content with SEO in mind (don’t limit yourself to PAA, but look at the overall SERP spectrum) or simple FAQs pages could really help win PAA or featured snippets.

    Depending on your KPIs (traffic, leads, signups, etc), tailor your newly optimized content and be ready to retain users on your site

    Once users land on your site after clicking on a PAA listing, what do you want them to see/do? Don’t do half the job, worry about the entire user journey from the start!

    3. Test schema on your page

    The SEO community has gone a bit cray-cray over the new FAQs schema — my colleague Emily Potter wrote a great post on it.

    FAQs and how-to schema represent an interesting opportunity for SERP features such as featured snippets and PAAs, so why not give it a go? Having the right content & testing the right type of schema may help you win precious snippets or PAAs. In the future, I expect Google to increase the amount of markup that refers to informational queries, so stay tuned — and test, test, and test some more!

    Think of the extended search volume opportunity

    Without digging too much into this topic (it deserves a post on its own), I’ve been thinking about the following idea quite a lot recently:

    What if we started looking at PAAs as organic listings, hence counting the search volume for the keywords that trigger such PAAs?

    Since PAAs and other elements have been redefining the SERPs as we know them, maybe it’s time for us marketers to redefine how these features are impacting our organic results. Maybe it’s time for us to consider the extended search opportunity that such features bring to the table and not limit ourselves at the tactics mentioned above.

    Just something to think about!

    PAA can be your friend

    By now, I hope you’ve learned a bit more about People Also Ask and how it can help your SEO strategy moving forward.

    PAA can be your friend indeed if you’re willing to spend time understanding how your organic visibility can be influenced by such features. The fact that PAAs are now popular for a large portfolio of queries makes me think Google considers them a new, key part of the user journey.

    With voice search on the rise, I expect Google to pay even more attention to elements like featured snippets and People Also Ask. I don’t think they’re going anywhere soon — so my dear fellow SEOs, you should start optimizing for the SERPs starting today!

    Feel free to get in touch with us at Distilled or on Twitter at @SamuelMng to discuss this further, or just have a chat about who these people who also ask so many questions actually are…

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    Intro to SEO Competitive Analysis 101 – Whiteboard Friday – Moz Blog

    Posted by Cyrus-Shepard

    A good, solid competitive analysis provides you with priceless insights into what’s working for other folks in your industry, but it’s not always easy to do right. In this week’s edition of Whiteboard Friday, Cyrus walks you through how to perform a full competitive analysis, including:

    • How to identify your true competitors
    • Keyword gap analysis
    • Link gap analysis
    • Top content analysis

    Plus, don’t miss the handy tips on which tools can help with this process and our brand-new guide (with free template) on SEO competitive analysis. Give it a watch and let us know your own favorite tips for performing a competitive analysis in the comments!

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

    Video Transcription

    Howdy, Moz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. I’m Cyrus Shepard. Today we’re talking about a really cool topic — competitive analysis. This is an introduction to competitive analysis.

    What is competitive analysis for SEO?

    It’s basically stealing your competitors’ traffic. If you’re new to SEO or you’ve been around awhile, this is a very valuable tactic to earn more traffic and rankings for your site.

    Instead of researching blindly what to go after, competitive analysis can tell you certain things with a high degree of accuracy that you won’t find other ways, such as:

    • what keywords to target, 
    • what content to create, 
    • how to optimize that content, and 
    • where to get links.

    How to do an SEO competitive analysis

    How does it do this?

    Well, instead of researching just in a keyword tool or a link tool, with competitive analysis you look at what’s actually working for your competitors and use those tactics for yourself.

    This often works so much better than the old-style ways of research, because you can actually improve upon what other people are actually doing and make those tactics work for you.

    1. Identify your top competitors

    So to get started with competitive analysis, the first challenge is to actually identify your top competitors.

    This sounds easy. You probably think you know who your competitors are because you type a keyword into Google and you see who’s ranking for your desired keyword. This does work, to certain degree.

    Another way to do it is to look at the keywords you rank for, because the challenge is you probably rank for far more keywords than you believe you do.

    Moz, for instance, ranks for hundreds of thousands or possibly even millions of keywords, and we want to know at scale who are all the competitors ranking for all those different queries. This is very hard to do manually.

    Fortunately there are a lot of SEO tools out there — Ahrefs, SEMrush — many tools that can tell you look at all the keywords that you rank for across thousands of SERPs and then calculate, using advanced metrics, exactly who your true competitors are.

    I’m happy to announce that Moz just released a tool that does exactly this. We’re going to link to it in the transcript below.

    It’s called Domain Analysis. It’s a free tool. Anybody can use it.

    You simply type in your domain, and we look through all the keywords that your site ranks for in our database, we look at all the competitors, and we use some advanced heuristics and we match those up and we tell you who your true competitors are. Once you know your true competitors, you can continue with the rest of the analysis.

    2. Perform a keyword gap analysis

    The first step that most people take in doing an SEO competitive analysis is identifying the keyword gap. Now for a long time, when I was new to SEO, I heard this term “keyword gap” and I didn’t really know what it meant. But it’s actually really simple.

    It’s simply what keywords do my competitors rank for that I don’t rank for, and that’s the gap. The idea is that we want to close that gap if the keyword is valuable or high volume. The trick is you can do this on your own manually. You can see all the keywords you rank for using an advanced keyword tool and then list all the keywords your competitors rank for and then combine those lists in Excel. It’s a long, tedious process.

    Fortunately, again, major SEO tools, such as Moz, can do this at scale for you within seconds. If you go to Moz Keyword Explorer, you simply enter your domain, enter your top competitor’s domain that we found in this first step, and it will list all the keywords that your competitors rank for that you don’t rank for. 

    You can then pull this into a spreadsheet and find keywords with high volume or keywords that are valuable and relevant to your business.

    This is an important point. You don’t just want to go willy-nilly after any keyword your competitor ranks for. You want to actually find the keywords that are relevant to your business.

    3. Perform a link gap analysis

    So after you do that, we also have the cousin of a keyword gap analysis — link gap analysis.

    This is a very similar concept, because you need links to rank. But where do you find the links? So you want to ask, “Who links to my competitors but does not link to me?”

    The theory here is that if someone is linking to your competitor on a similar topic, they are more likely to link to you because they are in that business of linking out to that type of content.

    An advanced tip is you often want to look at two or more competitors. The idea is that if someone is linking to multiple sources but not to you, it’s more likely they’ll link to you if you have superior content.

    Again, SEO tools can provide something like this. You can list all the backlinks to yourself or your competitors and combine them in a spreadsheet. But the tools make it much easier.

    In Moz’s Link Explorer, you simply enter your competitor, you enter another competitor and yours, and you can find all the people who are linking to those competitors but not to you.

    An advanced tip that I like to use is do it at the page level. Don’t look for domains that are linking to your competitors. Look for specific pages and you can do this in Link Explorer. We’re going to show you in a little more detail in a guide I’m going to link to at the bottom of this post.

    4. Perform a top content analysis

    So we understand links, we understand the keywords. But what content do we want to create?

    Top content analysis, this is very easy to do these days. You’re basically looking for content that earns your competitors a lot of traffic or a lot of links.

    The idea is if other people are linking to these things, then it’s highly probable that you can earn links with similar but better content. So the idea is you go to a tool like Link Explorer. You can sort by top pages, and you pick out the content that has the most links for your competitor. Then don’t just re-create the content, but make it better. This is called the skyscraper technique, the idea of finding content that does really well and then making it better.

    Then once you have this, you go back to your link gap analysis and you reach out to those people who are linking to that content and you ask them for links, showing them the better content.


    So that’s it in a nutshell. When we put it all together, we have a very valuable process. We can go back to our individual pages, look at those pages that are ranking for our competitors. When you’re all done, you can actually take your page, plug it into your keyword gap, and see all the keywords the page is ranking for.

    Our original keyword gap analysis looked at the domain, but now we just want to know what the page is ranking for. We can add that into our own page and make the page even better. We can again reach out to the same people who are linking to this page, show them our better content, and that is the process.

    New Guide & Free Template

    Whew, I’m exhausted. This is a huge process. I went over it really quickly. Fortunately, if it went by a little fast for you, we just released a guide, “An Introduction to SEO Competitive Analysis.” We’re going to link to it.

    Get the Guide + Free Template

    Guide to SEO Competitive Analysis

    It explains all these processes in much more detail. It’s free to use. I hope you enjoy it.

    Hey, I really enjoyed making this video. If you found value in it, give it a thumbs up. Please share on social media and we’ll talk to you next time. Thanks, everybody.

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