It’s Content and It’s Links – Are We Making SEO Too Complicated? – Moz Blog

Posted by AndrewDennis33

Content and links — to successfully leverage search as a marketing channel you need useful content and relevant links.

Many experienced SEOs have run numerous tests and experiments to correlate backlinks with higher rankings, and Google has espoused the importance of “great content” for as long as I can remember.

In fact, a Google employee straight up told us that content and links are two of the three (the other being RankBrain) most important ranking factors in its search algorithm.

So why do we seem to overcomplicate SEO by chasing new trends and tactics, overreacting to fluctuations in rankings, and obsessing over the length of our title tags? SEO is simple — it’s content and it’s links.

Now, this is a simple concept, but it is much more nuanced and complex to execute well. However, I believe that by getting back to basics and focusing on these two pillars of SEO we can all spend more time doing the work that will be most impactful, creating a better, more connected web, and elevating SEO as a practice within the marketing realm.

To support this movement, I want to provide you with strategic, actionable takeaways that you can leverage in your own content marketing and link building campaigns. So, without further ado, let’s look at how you can be successful in search with content and links.

Building the right content

As the Wu-Tang Clan famously said, “Content rules everything around me, C.R.E.A.M,” …well, it was something like that. The point is, everything in SEO begins and ends with content. Whether it’s a blog post, infographic, video, in-depth guide, interactive tool, or something else, content truly rules everything around us online.

Content attracts and engages visitors, building positive associations with your brand and inspiring them to take desired actions. Content also helps search engines better understand what your website is about and how they should rank your pages within their search results.

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So where do you start with something as wide-reaching and important as a content strategy? Well, if everything in SEO begins and ends with content, then everything in content strategy begins and ends with keyword research.

Proper keyword research is the difference between a targeted content strategy that drives organic visibility and simply creating content for the sake of creating content. But don’t just take my word for it — check out this client project where keyword research was executed after a year of publishing content that wasn’t backed by keyword analysis:

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(Note: Each line represents content published within a given year, not total organic sessions of the site.)

In 2018, we started creating content based on keyword opportunities. The performance of that content has quickly surpassed (in terms of organic sessions) the older pages that were created without strategic research.

Start with keyword research

The concept of keyword research is straightforward — find the key terms and phrases that your audience uses to find information related to your business online. However, the execution of keyword research can be a bit more nuanced, and simply starting is often the most difficult part.

The best place to start is with the keywords that are already bringing people to your site, which you can find within Google Search Console.

Beyond the keywords that already bring people to your website, a baseline list of seed keywords can help you expand your keyword reach.

Seed keywords are the foundational terms that are related to your business and brand.

As a running example, let’s use Quip, a brand that sells oral care products. Quip’s seed keywords would be:

  • [toothbrush]
  • [toothpaste]
  • [toothbrush set]
  • [electric toothbrush]
  • [electric toothbrush set]
  • [toothbrush subscription]

These are some of the most basic head terms related to Quip’s products and services. From here, the list could be expanded, using keyword tools such as Moz’s Keyword Explorer, to find granular long-tail keywords and other related terms.

Expanded keyword research and analysis

The first step in keyword research and expanding your organic reach is to identify current rankings that can and should be improved.

Here are some examples of terms Moz’s Keyword Explorer reports Quip has top 50 rankings for:

  • [teeth whitening]
  • [sensitive teeth]
  • [whiten teeth]
  • [automatic toothbrush]
  • [tooth sensitivity]
  • [how often should you change your toothbrush]

These keywords represent “near-miss” opportunities for Quip, where it ranks on page two or three. Optimization and updates to existing pages could help Quip earn page one rankings and substantially more traffic.

For example, here are the first page results for [how often should you change your toothbrush]:

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As expected, the results here are hyper-focused on answering the question how often a toothbrush needs to be changed, and there is a rich snippet that answers the question directly.

Now, look at Quip’s page where we can see there is room for improvement in answering searcher intent:

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The title of the page isn’t optimized for the main query, and a simple title change could help this page earn more visibility. Moz reports 1.7k–2.9k monthly search volume for [how often should you change your toothbrush]:

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This is a stark contrast to the volume reported by Moz for [why is a fresh brush head so important] which is “no data” (which usually means very small):

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Quip’s page is already ranking on page two for [how often should you change your toothbrush], so optimizing the title could help the page crack the top ten.

Furthermore, the content on the page is not optimized either:

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Rather than answering the question of how often to change a toothbrush concisely (like the page that has earned the rich snippet), the content is closer to ad copy. Putting a direct, clear answer to this question at the beginning of the content could help this page rank better.

And that’s just one query and one page!

Keyword research should uncover these types of opportunities, and with Moz’s Keyword Explorer you can also find ideas for new content through “Keyword Suggestions.”

Using Quip as an example again, we can plug in their seed keyword [toothbrush] and get multiple suggestions (MSV = monthly search volume):

  • [toothbrush holder] – MSV: 6.5k–9.3k
  • [how to properly brush your teeth] – MSV: 851–1.7k
  • [toothbrush cover] – MSV: 851–1.7k
  • [toothbrush for braces] – MSV: 501–850
  • [electric toothbrush holder] – MSV: 501–850
  • [toothbrush timer] – MSV: 501–850
  • [soft vs medium toothbrush] – MSV: 201–500
  • [electric toothbrush for braces] – MSV: 201–500
  • [electric toothbrush head holder] – MSV: 101–200
  • [toothbrush delivery] – MSV: 101–200

Using this method, we can extrapolate one seed keyword into ten more granular and related long-tail keywords — each of which may require a new page.

This handful of terms generates a wealth of content ideas and different ways Quip could address pain points and reach its audience.

Another source for keyword opportunities and inspiration are your competitors. For Quip, one of its strongest competitors is Colgate, a household name brand. Moz demonstrates the difference in market position with its “Competitor Overlap” tool:

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Although many of Colgate’s keywords aren’t relevant to Quip, there are still opportunities to be gleaned here for Quip. One such example is [sensitive teeth], where Colgate is ranking top five, but Quip is on page two:

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While many of the other keywords show Quip is ranking outside of the top 50, this is an opportunity that Quip could potentially capitalize on.

To analyze this opportunity, let’s look at the actual search results first.

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It’s immediately clear that the intent here is informational — something to note when we examine Quip’s page. Also, scrolling down we can see that Colgate has two pages ranking on page one:

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One of these pages is from a separate domain for hygienists and other dental professionals, but it still carries the Colgate brand and further demonstrates Colgate’s investment into this query, signaling this is a quality opportunity.

The next step for investigating this opportunity is to examine Colgate’s ranking page and check if it’s realistic for Quip to beat what they have. Here is Colgate’s page:

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This page is essentially a blog post:

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If this page is ranking, it’s reasonable to believe that Quip could craft something that would be at least as good of a result for the query, and there is room for improvement in terms of design and formatting.

One thing to note, that is likely helping this page rank is the clear definition of “tooth sensitivity” and signs and symptoms listed on the sidebar:

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Now, let’s look at Quip’s page:

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This appears to be a blog-esque page as well.

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This page offers solid information on sensitive teeth, which matches the queries intent and is likely why the pages ranks on page two. However, the page appears to be targeted at [tooth sensitivity]:

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This is another great keyword opportunity for Quip:

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However, this should be a secondary opportunity to [sensitive teeth] and should be mixed in to the copy on the page, but not the focal point. Also, the page one results for [tooth sensitivity] are largely the same as those for [sensitive teeth], including Colgate’s page:

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So, one optimization Quip could make to the page could be to change some of these headers to include “sensitive teeth” (also, these are all H3s, and the page has no H2s, which isn’t optimal). Quip could draw inspiration from the questions that Google lists in the “People also ask” section of the SERP:

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Also, a quick takeaway I had was that Quip’s page does not lead off with a definition of sensitive teeth or tooth sensitivity. We learned from Colgate’s page that quickly defining the term (sensitive teeth) and the associated symptoms could help the page rank better.

These are just a few of the options available to Quip to optimize its page, and as mentioned before, an investment into a sleek, easy to digest design could separate its page from the pack.

If Quip were able to move its page onto the first page of search results for [sensitive teeth], the increase in organic traffic could be significant. And [sensitive teeth] is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg — there is a wealth of opportunity with associated keywords, that Quip would rank well for also:

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Executing well on these content opportunities and repeating the process over and over for relevant keywords is how you scale keyword-focused content that will perform well in search and bring more organic visitors.

Google won’t rank your page highly for simply existing. If you want to rank in Google search, start by creating a page that provides the best result for searchers and deserves to rank.

At Page One Power, we’ve leveraged this strategy and seen great results for clients. Here is an example of a client that is primarily focused on content creation and their corresponding growth in organic sessions:

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These pages (15) were all published in January, and you can see that roughly one month after publishing, these pages started taking off in terms of organic traffic. This is because these pages are backed by keyword research and optimized so well that even with few external backlinks, they can rank on or near page one for multiple queries.

However, this doesn’t mean you should ignore backlinks and link acquisition. While the above pages rank well without many links, the domain they’re on has a substantial backlink profile cultivated through strategic link building. Securing relevant, worthwhile links is still a major part of a successful SEO campaign.

Earning real links and credibility

The other half of this complicated “it’s content and it’s links” equation is… links, and while it seems straightforward, successful execution is rather difficult — particularly when it comes to link acquisition.

While there are tools and processes that can increase organization and efficiency, at the end of the day link building takes a lot of time and a lot of work — you must manually email real website owners to earn real links. As Matt Cutts famously said (we miss you, Matt!), “Link building is sweat, plus creativity.”

However, you can greatly improve your chances for success with link acquisition if you identify which pages (existing or need to be created) on your site are link-worthy and promote them for links.

Spoiler alert: these are not your “money pages.”

Converting pages certainly have a function on your website, but they typically have limited opportunities when it comes to link acquisition. Instead, you can support these pages — and other content on your site — through internal linking from more linkable pages.

So how do you identify linkable assets? Well, there are some general characteristics that directly correlate with link-worthiness:

  • Usefulness — concept explanation, step-by-step guide, collection of resources and advice, etc.
  • Uniqueness — a new or fresh perspective on an established topic, original research or data, prevailing coverage of a newsworthy event, etc.
  • Entertaining — novel game or quiz, humorous take on a typically serious subject, interactive tool, etc.

Along with these characteristics, you also need to consider the size of your potential linking audience. The further you move down your marketing funnel, the smaller the linking audience size; converting pages are traditionally difficult to earn links to because they serve a small audience of people looking to buy.

Instead, focus on assets that exist at the top of your marketing funnel and serve large audiences looking for information. The keywords associated with these pages are typically head terms that may prove difficult to rank for, but if your content is strong you can still earn links through targeted, manual outreach to relevant sites.

Ironically, your most linkable pages aren’t always the pages that will rank well for you in search, since larger audiences also mean more competition. However, using linkable assets to secure worthwhile links will help grow the authority and credibility of your brand and domain, supporting rankings for your keyword-focused and converting pages.

Going back to our Quip example, we see a page on their site that has the potential to be a linkable asset:

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Currently, this page is geared more towards conversions which hurts linkability. However, Quip could easily move conversion-focused elements to another page and internally link from this page to maintain a pathway to conversion while improving link-worthiness.

To truly make this page a linkable asset, Quip would need add depth on the topic of how to brush your teeth and hone in on a more specific audience. As the page currently stands, it is targeted at everybody who brushes, but to make the page more linkable Quip could focus on a specific age group (toddlers, young children, elderly, etc.) or perhaps a profession or group who works odd hours or travels frequently and doesn’t have the convenience of brushing at home. An increased focus on audience will help with linkability, making this page one that shares useful information in a way that is unique and entertaining.

It also happens that [how to properly brush your teeth] was one of the opportunities we identified earlier in our (light) keyword research, so this could be a great opportunity to earn keyword rankings and links!

Putting it all together and simplifying our message

Now before we put it all together and solve SEO once and for all, you might be thinking, “What about technical and on-page SEO?!?”

And to that, I say, well those are just makeu…just kidding!

Technical and on-page elements play a major role in successful SEO and getting these elements wrong can derail the success of any content you create and undermine the equity of the links you secure.

Let’s be clear: if Google can’t crawl your site, you’re not showing up in its search results.

However, I categorize these optimizations under the umbrella of “content” within our content and links formula. If you’re not considering how search engines consume your content, along with human readers, then your content likely won’t perform well in the results of said search engines.

Rather than dive into the deep and complex world of technical and on-page SEO in this post, I recommend reading some of the great resources here on Moz to ensure your content is set up for success from a technical standpoint.

But to review the strategy I’ve laid out here, to be successful in search you need to:

  1. Research your keywords and niche – Having the right content for your audience is critical to earning search visibility and business. Before you start creating content or updating existing pages, make sure you take the time to research your keywords and niche to better understand your current rankings and position in the search marketplace.
  2. Analyze and expand keyword opportunities – Beyond understanding your current rankings, you also need to identify and prioritize available keyword opportunities. Using tools like Moz you can uncover hidden opportunities with long-tail and related key terms, ensuring your content strategy is targeting your best opportunities.
  3. Craft strategic content that serves your search goals – Using keyword analysis to inform content creation, you can build content that addresses underserved queries and helpful guides that attract links. An essential aspect of a successful content plan is balancing keyword-focused content with broader, more linkable content and ensuring you’re addressing both SEO goals.
  4. Promote your pages for relevant links – Billions of new pages go live each day, and without proper promotion, even the best pages will be buried in the sea of content online. Strategic promotion of your pages will net you powerful backlinks and extra visibility from your audience.

Again, these concepts seem simple but are quite difficult to execute well. However, by drilling down to the two main factors for search visibility — content and links — you can avoid being overwhelmed or focusing on the wrong priorities and instead put all your efforts into the strategies that will provide the most SEO impact.

However, along with refocusing our own efforts, as SEOs we also need to simplify our message to the uninitiated (or as they’re also known, the other 99% of the population). I know from personal experience how quickly the eyes start to glaze over when I get into the nitty-gritty of SEO, so I typically pivot to focus on the most basic concepts: content and links.

People can wrap their minds around the simple process of creating good pages that answer a specific set of questions and then promoting those pages to acquire endorsements (backlinks). I suggest we embrace this same approach, on a broader scale, as an industry.

When we talk to potential and existing clients, colleagues, executives, etc., let’s keep things simple. If we focus on the two concepts that are the easiest to explain we will get better understanding and more buy-in for the work we do (it also happens that these two factors are the biggest drivers of success).

So go out, shout it from the rooftops — CONTENT AND LINKS — and let’s continue to do the work that will drive positive results for our websites and help secure SEOs rightful seat at the marketing table.

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The Content Distribution Playbook – Whiteboard Friday – Moz Blog

Posted by rosssimmonds

If you’re one of the many marketers that shares your content on Facebook, Twitter, and Linked before calling it good and moving on, this Whiteboard Friday is for you. In a super actionable follow-up to his MozCon 2019 presentation, Ross Simmonds reveals how to go beyond the mediocre when it comes to your content distribution plan, reaching new audiences in just the right place at the right time.

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

Video Transcription

What’s going on, Whiteboard Friday fans? My name is Ross Simmonds from Foundation Marketing, and today we’re going to be talking about how to develop a content distribution playbook that will drive meaningful and measurable results for your business. 

What is content distribution and why does it matter?

First and foremost, content distribution is the thing that you need to be thinking about if you want to combat the fact that it is becoming harder and harder than ever before to stand out as a content marketer, as a storyteller, and as a content creator in today’s landscape. It’s getting more and more difficult to rank for content. It’s getting more and more difficult to get organic reach through our social media channels, and that is why content distribution is so important.

You are facing a time when organic reach on social continues to drop more and more, where the ability to rank is becoming even more difficult because you’re competing against more ad space. You’re competing against more featured snippets. You’re competing against more companies. Because content marketers have screamed at the top of their lungs that content is king and the world has listened, it is becoming more and more difficult to stand out amongst the noise.

Most marketers have embraced this idea because for years we screamed, “Content is king, create more content,”and that is what the world has done. Most marketers start by just creating content, hoping that traffic will come, hoping that reach will come, and hoping that as a result of them creating content that profits will follow. In reality, the profits never come because they miss a significant piece of the puzzle, which is content distribution.

In today’s video, we’re going to be talking about how you can distribute your content more effectively across a few different channels, a few different strategies, and how you can take your content to the next level. 

There are two things that you can spend when it comes to content distribution: 

  1. You can spend time, 
  2. or you can spend money. 

In today’s video, we’re going to talk about exactly how you can distribute your content so when you write that blog post, you write that landing page, when you create that e-book, you create that infographic, whatever resource you’ve developed, you can ensure that that content is reaching the right people on the right channel at the right time.

◷: Owned channels

So how can you do it? We all have heard of owned channels. Owned channels are things that you own as a business, as a brand, as an organization. These are things that you can do without question probably today. 

Email marketing

For example, email marketing, it’s very likely that you have an email list of some sort. You can distribute your content to those people. 

In-app notifications

Let’s say you have a website that offers people a solution or a service directly inside of the site. Say it’s software as a service or something of that nature. If people are logging in on a regular basis to access your product, you can use in-app notifications to let those people know that you’ve launched a blog post. Or better yet, if you have a mobile app of any sort, you can do the same thing. You can use your app to let people know that you just launched a new piece of content.

Social channels

You have social media channels. Let’s say you have Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook. Share that content to your heart’s desire on those channels as well. 

On-site banner

If you have a website, you can update an on-site banner, at the top or in the bottom right, that is letting people know who visit your site that you have a new piece of content. Let them know. They want to know that you’re creating new content. So why not advise them that you have done such?

Sales outreach

If you have a sales team of any sort, let’s say you’re in B2B and you have a sales team, one of the most effective ways is to empower your sales team, to communicate to your sales team that you have developed a new piece of content so they can follow up with leads, they can nurture those existing relationships and even existing customers to let them know that a new piece of content has gone live. That one-to-one connection can be huge. 

◷: Social media / other channels

So when you’ve done all of that, what else can you do? You can go into social media. You can go into other channels. Again, you can spend time distributing your content into these places where your audience is spending time as well. 

Social channels and groups

So if you have a Twitter account, you can send out tweets. If you have a Facebook page, of course you can put up status updates.

If you have a LinkedIn page, you can put up a status update as well. These three things are typically what most organizations do in that Phase 2, but that’s not where it ends. You can go deeper. You can do more. You can go into Facebook groups, whether as a page or as a human, and share your content into these communities as well. You can let them know that you’ve published a new piece of research and you would love for them to check it out.

Or you’re in these groups and you’re looking and waiting and looking for somebody to ask a question that your blog post, your research has answered, and then you respond to that question with the content that you’ve developed. Or you do the same exact thing in a LinkedIn group. LinkedIn groups are an awesome opportunity for you to go in and start seeding your content as well.

Medium

Or you go to Medium.com. You repurpose the content that you’ve developed. You launch it on Medium.com as well. There’s an import function on Medium where you can import your content, get a canonical link directly to your site, and you can share that on Medium as well. Medium.com is a great distribution channel, because you can seed that content to publications as well.

When your content is going to these publications, they already have existing subscribers, and those subscribers get notified that there’s a new piece being submitted by you. When they see it, that’s a new audience that you wouldn’t have reached before using any of those owned channels, because these are people who you wouldn’t have had access to before. So you want to take advantage of that as well.

Keep in mind you don’t always have to upload even the full article. You can upload a snippet and then have a CTA at the bottom, a call to action driving people to the article on your website. 

LinkedIn video

You can use LinkedIn video to do the same thing. Very similar concept. Imagine you have a LinkedIn video. You look into the camera and you say to your connections, “Hey, everyone, we just launched a new research piece that is breaking down X, Y, and Z, ABC. I would love for you to check it out. Check the link below.”

If you created that video and you shared it on your LinkedIn, your connections are going to see this video, and it’s going to break their pattern of what they typically see on LinkedIn. So when they see it, they’re going to engage, they’re going to watch that video, they’re going to click the link, and you’re going to get more reach for the content that you developed in the past. 

Slack communities

Slack communities are another great place to distribute your content. Slack isn’t just a great channel to build internal culture and communicate as an internal team.

There are actual communities, people who are passionate about photography, people who are passionate about e-commerce, people who are passionate about SEO. There are Slack communities today where these people are gathering to talk about their passions and their interests, and you can do the same thing that you would do in Facebook groups or LinkedIn groups in these various Slack communities. 

Instagram / Facebook stories

Instagram stories and Facebook stories, awesome, great channel for you to also distribute your content. You can add a link to these stories that you’re uploading, and you can simply say, “Swipe up if you want to get access to our latest research.” Or you can design a graphic that will say, “Swipe up to get our latest post.” People who are following you on these channels will swipe up. They’ll land on your article, they’ll land on your research, and they’ll consume that content as well. 

LinkedIn Pulse

LinkedIn Pulse, you have the opportunity now to upload an article directly to LinkedIn, press Publish, and again let it soar. You can use the same strategies that I talked about around Medium.com on LinkedIn, and you can drive results. 

Quora

Quora, it’s like a question-and-answer site, like Yahoo Answers back in the day, except with a way better design. You can go into Quora, and you can share just a native link and tag it with relevant content, relevant topics, and things of that nature. Or you can find a few questions that are related to the topic that you’ve covered in your post, in your research, whatever asset you developed, and you can add value to that person who asked that question, and within that value you make a reference to the link and the article that you developed in the past as well.

SlideShare

SlideShare, one of OGs of B2B marketing. You can go to SlideShare, upload a presentation version of the content that you’ve already developed. Let’s say you’ve written a long blog post. Why not take the assets within that blog post, turn them into a PDF, a SlideShare presentation, upload them there, and then distribute it through that network as well? Once you have those SlideShare presentations put together, what’s great about it is you can take those graphics and you can share them on Twitter, you can share them on Facebook, LinkedIn, you can put them into Medium.com, and distribute them further there as well.

Forums

You can go into forums. Let’s think about it. If your audience is spending time in a forum communicating about something, why not go into these communities and into these forums and connect with them on a one-to-one basis as well? There’s a huge opportunity in forums and communities that exist online, where you can build trust and you can seed your content into these communities where your audience is spending time.

A lot of people think forums are dead. They could never be more alive. If you type in your audience, your industry forums, I promise you you’ll probably come across something that will surprise you as an opportunity to seed your content. 

Reddit communities

Reddit communities, a lot of marketers get the heebie-jeebies when I talk about Reddit. They’re all like, “Marketers on Reddit? That doesn’t work. Reddit hates marketing.” I get it.

I understand what you’re thinking. But what they actually hate is the fact that marketers don’t get Reddit. Marketers don’t get the fact that Redditors just want value. If you can deliver value to people using Reddit, whether it’s through a post or in the comments, they will meet you with happiness and joy. They will be grateful of the fact that you’ve added value to their communities, to their subreddits, and they will reward you with upvotes, with traffic and clicks, and maybe even a few leads or a customer or two in the process.

Do not ignore Reddit as being the site that you can’t embrace. Whether you’re B2B or B2C, Redditors can like your content. Redditors will like your content if you go in with value first. 

Imgur

Sites like Imgur, another great distribution channel. Take some of those slides that you developed in the past, upload them to Imgur, and let them sing there as well.

There are way more distribution channels and distribution techniques that you can use that go beyond even what I’ve described here. But these just a few examples that show you that the power of distribution doesn’t exist just in a couple posts. It exists in actually spending the time, taking the time to distribute your stories and distribute your content across a wide variety of different channels.

$: Paid marketing

That’s spending time. You can also spend money through paid marketing. Paid marketing is also an opportunity for any brand to distribute their stories. 

Remarketing

First and foremost, you can use remarketing. Let’s talk about that email list that you’ve already developed. If you take that email list and you run remarketing ads to those people on Facebook, on Twitter, on LinkedIn, you can reach those people and get them engaged with new content that you’ve developed.

Let’s say somebody is already visiting your page. People are visiting your website. They’re visiting your content. Why not run remarketing ads to those people who already demonstrate some type of interest to get them back on your site, back engaged with your content, and tell your story to them as well? Another great opportunity is if you’ve leveraged video in any way, you can do remarketing ads on Facebook to people who have watched 10 seconds, 30 seconds, 20 seconds, whatever it may be to your content as well.

Quora ads

Then one of the opportunities that is definitely underrated is the fact that Quora now offers advertising as well. You can run ads on Quora to people who are asking or looking at questions related to your industry, related to the content that you’ve developed, and get your content in front of them as well. 

Influencer marketing

Then influencers, you can do sponsored content. You can reach out to these influencers and have them talk about your stories, talk about your content, and have them share it as well on behalf of the fact that you’ve developed something new and something that is interesting.

Think differently & rise above mediocrity

When I talk about influencer marketing, I talk about Reddit, I talk about SlideShare, I talk about LinkedIn video, I talk about Slack communities, a lot of marketers will quickly say, “I don’t think this is for me. I think this is too much. I think that this is too much manual work. I think this is too many niche communities. I think this is a little bit too much for my brand.

I get that. I understand your mindset, but this is what you need to recognize. Most marketers are going through this process. If you think that by distributing your content into the communities that your audience is spending time is just a little bit off brand or it doesn’t really suit you, that’s what most marketers already think. Most marketers already think that Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn is all they need to do to share their stories, get their content out there, and call it a day.

If you want to be like most marketers, you’re going to get what most marketers receive as a result, which is mediocre results. So I push you to think differently. I push you to push yourself to not be like most marketers, not to go down the path of mediocrity, and instead start looking for ways that you can either invest time or money into channels, into opportunities, and into communities where you can spread your content with value first and ultimately generate results for your business at the end of all of it.

So I hope that you can use this to uncover for yourself a content distribution playbook that works for your brand. Whether you’re in B2C or you’re in B2B, it doesn’t matter. You have to understand where your audience is spending time, understand how you can seed your content into these different spaces and unlock the power of content distribution. My name is Ross Simmonds.

I really hope you enjoyed this video. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out on Twitter, at TheCoolestCool, or hit me up any other way. I’m on every other channel. Of course I am. I love social. I love digital. I’m everywhere that you could find me, so feel free to reach out.

I hope you enjoyed this video and you can use it to give your content more reach and ultimately drive meaningful and measurable results for your business. Thank you so much.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com


If Ross’s Whiteboard Friday left you feeling energized and inspired to try new things with your content marketing, you’ll love his full MozCon 2019 talk — Keywords Aren’t Enough: How to Uncover Content Ideas Worth Chasing — available in our recently released video bundle. Learn how to use many of these same distribution channels as idea factories for your content, plus access 26 additional future-focused SEO topics from our top-notch speakers:

Grab the sessions now!

And don’t be shy — share the learnings with your whole team, preferably with snacks. It’s what video was made for!

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Building a Local Marketing Strategy for Franchises [Guide Sneak Peek] – Moz Blog

Posted by MiriamEllis

A roller is a good tool for painting a house in big, broad strokes. But creating a masterpiece of art requires finer brushes.

Franchises face a unique challenge here: they know how to market at the national level, but often lack the detailed tools for reaching their local customers at a granular level. Google has stated that localization of search results is the greatest form of personalization they currently engage in. For franchises, where local sensitivity is lacking in the marketing plan, opportunity is being lost.

Don’t settle for this. Know that less-motivated competitors are losing this opportunity, too. This creates a large, blank canvas for a franchise you’re marketing to paint a new picture which takes state, regional and community nuances into account.

One famous example of localized marketing is McDonald’s offering SPAM in Hawaii and green chile cheeseburgers in New Mexico. For your franchise, it could revolve around customizing content for regional language differences (sub sandwich vs. po’ boy), or knowing when to promote seasonal merchandise at which locations (California vs. North Dakota weather).

What you need is marketing plan capable of scaling from national priorities to hyperlocal customers. Want the complete strategy now?

Get The Practical Guide to Franchise Marketing

From paint roller to sumi-e brush: A franchise marketing plan

Today, we’ll explore the basics of getting to know your local customers, so that your national franchise can customize how you serve them. Build a strategy around the following:



Your step-by-step guide to how to create a local marketing strategy

Finding your target audience

First, you need to understand who your customers are. If you have an existing franchise, you can do this fairly easily by simply observing or asking them. You might run an online survey, or you might do some quick spot interviews right in your place of business. What you want to work out is:

  • Demographics: What are the common ages, genders, income levels, and other relevant characteristics of your customers.
  • Psychographics: How do your customers think? What are their attitudes, behaviors and beliefs as they relate to your franchise?
  • Pain points: What problems do your customers have that you could potentially solve? Maybe they want to eat healthy but have no time. Maybe they want a gym that will help them become better athletes.
  • Consumption habits: How do your customers decide where to buy? Are they online? Do they have smartphones? Do they prioritize reviews/recommendations? Do they like video, or podcasts? Which social platforms do they frequent? What events do they attend?

Understanding the customer’s journey

Marketers spend a lot of time thinking about what we call the “customer journey.” This is just another way of saying we want to understand what happens between us and customers before they know our brand exist, after they discover it, up until they buy, and then beyond.

The best way to do this is to divide that experience into steps, understanding that some people will drop out of the process at every stage. Most corporate franchisers will recognize this as the “sales funnel.”

Here’s a simplified version of a sales funnel. Take the time to determine what happens at each stage in your own customers’ experience, and you’ll be a long way toward understanding how you can influence and help customers from one step to the next. 

Mapping a sales funnel


  1. Awareness
    This is where a customer first discovers you exist and starts to form an opinion about you based on what they see. Often, this is managed by the activities being conducted by corporate franchisors (like a national TV ad campaign). But, it can also happen through franchisee-generated references and referrals (like a searcher discovering you via a Google Maps search on their phone).
  2. Discovery
    This is where a customer has already absorbed information about you and your product and begins to actively try to learn more about it. This stage often encompasses online research. It local word-of-mouth queries between potential customers and their friends and family.
  3. Evaluation
    This is where a customer has decided to probably purchase something similar to what you offer, but is trying to decide where to buy. They might stop by your business in this stage, or they may give you a call. They might visit your online website or listings to look at your hours, or menu or price list. This stage is influenced by both franchisor and franchisee activity.
  4. Intent
    Now the customer has decided to buy from you — which means they are your customer to lose. Franchisors can lose them at this stage through misinformation in the brand’s local business listings — like incorrect hours or bad directions that lead customers to the wrong place and cause them to give up. Franchisees could lose the business through poor on-premises experiences — like uncleanliness, long wait times, low inventory, pricing, or poor customer service.
  5. Purchase
    This is where the transaction takes place, and is generally entirely within the control of the franchisee.
  6. Loyalty
    This stage determines whether the customer will return to buy again, and whether or not they will become an advocate for your business, give you good reviews, or rate you poorly. Again, this is typically within the control of the franchisee unless the issue is a decision made at the franchisor level, such as product/menu, pricing or policy.

Sometimes this whole funnel can take place in the time it takes to spot a sign for ice cream and purchase a double scoop sundae. Sometimes it may take weeks, as your customers labor over the right financial advisor to choose.

Understanding how your customer is thinking and what goes into making the decision to use you is important and will guide decision-making and sales activity at both the franchisor and franchisee levels.

Scoping out the competition

Most brands have already worked out their positioning with regard to other national brands, so this one is mainly for franchisees. Take some time to figure out who your direct competitors are in your local market. They might be other big brands, but there will also probably be local SMBs that are not on the corporate franchisor’s radar.

Understand:

  • Where they are stronger or weaker, compared to you
  • Who they attract, compared to you
  • How they are marketing their business

Having this information should help you to position yourself to win a bigger piece of the local pie. Is your competitor a gym that has better weight training and machines than you? Are they marketing mainly to younger men and athletes? Are they advertising on local radio? Perhaps you should double down on your cardio and yoga classes and try to attract more women or older clientele. Maybe adding some nutrition classes will encourage people trying to lose weight. And so on.

Building your authority

Once you’ve figured out who your customers are, how they buy, and how you plan to position your franchise in the local market, it’s time to put that plan into action by creating some content to support it.

For franchisors at corporate this means putting in the time to create an informative, interesting brand website with dynamic, engaging content. Your content should aim to educate, inform and/or entertain, rather than only sell. The more points of engagement your website offers to customers, the more reason they have to read, share, and link to your content, building authority. Your most valuable content will, of course, be the elements or pages that directly convert visitors into customers.

The content you put out over social media should follow this same precept, and lead back to your site as often as possible. Experts suggest that “60% of your posts you create should be engaging, timely content, 30% should be shared content, and only 10% should be promoting your products & services.” (Medium)

Invest some time in link building, in order to show Google’s algorithm how influential your site is and boost your authority and ranking.

Here are a few tips:

    • Use Moz’s “Find Opportunities” feature to locate sites which are linking to your competitors and not you (yet).
    • Look for people who are already referencing your site and ask them to hyperlink to you.
    • Do a little PR or news-making and ask articles to link to your site. (This is something local franchisees can excel at.)
    • Ask for links from local trade organizations, community organizations or commerce groups.
    • Sponsor events and ask for a link.
    • Start a scholarship and post it on local .edu sites.

Find out more about link building and unstructured citation and how to increase them in The Guide to Building Linked Unstructured Citations for Local SEO

Managing channels and budgets efficiently

Armed with good, authoritative content and an effective website, you’ll want to focus on how you manage all the channels available to you. This also includes managing your budget effectively. Most franchisor budgets are focused on the brand, and many franchisees don’t have a lot left over for local marketing, but here are some things to think about.

  • Listings first: Your listings aren’t expensive to manage, but they give your marketing it’s biggest overall value — in some cases literally guiding people to your registers. Make great local business listings your top priority.
  • Claim everything: Franchisors, be sure you are the one in control of your directory listings and social profiles. Complete your Google My Business profile and establish a presence on key social media and review platforms like Facebook and Yelp.
  • Budget wisely: Do the strategy work to understand who your customers are and how best to reach them before you allocate your franchisor or franchisee marketing dollars.


Pointillism for franchises

Adept franchise marketing requires the eye of Seurat: the ability to see life in hundreds of tiny points, making up a masterpiece. For you, franchise pointillism includes:

  • Points representing each customer
  • Points for the customer’s community, as a whole
  • Points representing your locations on the map
  • Points across the web where engagement happens
  • Points offline where engagement happens
  • Points of resource at all levels of the franchise, from franchisor to franchisee

Ready for expert help from Moz in seeing the finer points? Download your copy:

The Practical Guide to Franchise Marketing

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The Marketing Tactics People Love (And Love to Hate) [Exclusive Survey] – Moz Blog

Posted by amandamilligan

I’ve always considered the most challenging part about digital marketing to be prioritizing.

There are hundreds of tactics available to you, and it can be overwhelming to determine which of them are most appropriate for your marketing goals and your target audience. (And we all know what happens when you try to do too much — you do it all poorly.)

It’s critical to analyze the attitudes and behaviors of your current and potential clients/customers in order to best communicate with them in the methods they prefer.

But every now and then, it’s also helpful to zoom out and see how different marketing tactics are faring in general.

That’s why we surveyed 500+ Americans, asking them their thoughts on a variety of inbound and outbound marketing tactics.

Our objective was to better understand which tactics might be most effective on a broad scale and how people might feel about the various tactics they encounter.

Here are the biggest insights.

1. Very few channels “die”

Here’s the thing: The marketing industry experiences a constant ebb and flow. A tactic like email marketing becomes popular, everyone does it, the space becomes diluted, and then other tactics start to gain traction as people seek out “quieter” channels.

That doesn’t mean those tactics no longer work. It just means it becomes harder for your message to be seen because the volume of content out there for people to read is expansive. You have to work harder for it, have an intimate understanding of the information your audience wants, and test relentlessly.

Fractl surveyed 500+ people and asked them, “What is the most effective way for a company to attract your business?” The top result at 54.33% was “Appearing in search results when I’m looking for something I need or want.” The bottom result at 20.71% was “Being promoted or endorsed by an influencer on social media or elsewhere.”

The prime example of this revealed in this survey is that when asked what people think is the best way to attract their business, they picked snail mail (53.31%) over email (38.37%).

A couple of years ago, I’d never have thought to consider direct mail over email. It’s costly and people tend to find mail cumbersome, sending a lot of it straight to the trash.

But over time, some have started to feel that way about email. It’s hard to filter out all of the spam, discern between good pitches and bad ones, and just sort through what feels like an endless stream of messages. Direct mail has started to feel more like a novelty. In fact, 28% of our respondents said they’ve never clicked on the “Promotions” Gmail tab.

The takeaway: Don’t let anyone tell you a channel is dead (except for maybe MySpace and other sites that are abandoned.) Take advantage of “quiet” channels but only if it makes sense for your audience. Focus on them, and the appropriate channel for you will become more obvious.

For example, some brands are seeing success endeavoring into the print magazine realm, a “quieter” channel that appeals to their specific audiences. (And how many times have we heard that print is dead?)

2. Don’t seem intrusive

Privacy has certainly been a hot topic these days, but we shouldn’t be focusing solely on GDPR and other regulations (that’s where don’t be intrusive comes in). It’s not just about what’s legal — it’s also about what’s off-putting. Unsurprisingly, people don’t like to feel like they’re being oddly approached or “followed” online (or anywhere).

That probably explains why our survey found that of the 78% of people who said they notice retargeted ads, 56% have negative feelings toward them. That’s a pretty large amount of negativity for a tactic. In a separate question, 53% said they have ad blockers, choosing to bypass ads altogether.

Outbound marketing is about reaching out to people cold, but there’s an art to this.

Fractl surveyed 500+ people and asked them if they felt positively, negatively, or neutrally about different marketing tactics. Website and blog articles had the best sentiment. Website ads had the worst sentiment.

Traditional advertising achieves No. 2 on the sentiment scale, and my interpretation of this is that people are so used to seeing advertisements on television and hearing them on the radio that it no longer has an intrusive vibe.

Email, sponsored social media posts, and ads still can carry that feeling, though.

Does that mean you shouldn’t utilize these tactics? Of course not. It does mean you have to be very strategy in applying them, though, or you’ll turn off your audience almost immediately.

The takeaway: When utilizing outbound strategies, make sure the recipients understand why they’re receiving the information and ensure what you’re providing speaks to a want or need of theirs. Make the value you’re providing immediately clear.

For example, I made a reservation at an Italian restaurant called Osteria Morini about a year ago. I received an email from them with the subject line “Fall Pasta Classes are Here!” Even though I didn’t remember signing up for their updates, I opened the email because I knew exactly what they were trying to tell me and I was interested. I also just went back and checked; they’ve only emailed me once since the reservation. That’s an extreme — I don’t advocate you sending one email a year — but only send emails with real value.

3. Prioritize search

It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that search engine optimization won out as one of the strongest strategies out there.

Notice in the first graph in the article that appearing in search results was listed as the best way to earn respondents’ business, and in the second graph, you’ll see that reading the type of content you’d find on those results carries the best sentiment.

Not only is it effective, but it’s also a common practice.

Fractl surveyed 500+ people and asked them, “In the last week, have you done any of the following?” The top result at 89% was “Used online search to find information about a company or product.” The bottom result at 30.4% was “Read a company or brand blog post.”

Using search engines to find answers is essentially an inherent online experience; nearly everyone does it, and if you’re not showing up in the SERPs, you can be missing out on massive opportunities to increase your brand awareness, connect with potential clients/customers, and build authority in your space.

I’d say authority is a huge piece of why search is so important to people. When you rank highly, it’s almost like the online equivalent of being published — “people” (other sites and Google) — vouch for you.


Fractl surveyed 500+ people and asked them, “How do you learn about a company or product?” The top result at 86.4% was “Do an online search.” The bottom result at 15.8% was “Download content from their site.”

The authority piece is greater represented in the graph above. Reading customer reviews comes in right behind performing searches for how people learn more about a company or product, because people are constantly looking for authority and quality indicators in order to make the best decisions possible. (This is why E-A-T has been such a hot topic lately.)

The takeaway: SEO should always be a primary objective of your marketing team. If you’re in a competitive space and finding it difficult to rank for your target keywords, focus on the long-tail for queries that are directly relevant to your business. That way, you’re building authority with people who are already close to becoming customers/clients.

For example, when searching for daily planners, I noticed there are a few related keywords regarding daily planners that start as early as 5 a.m. The Better Dayplanner has an article that ranks for these types of keywords, meaning that people looking for something very specific will see them first. Sure, the search volume is low, but the traffic is as relevant as you can get.

Conclusion

After reading through this article (and reviewing the full inbound and outbound marketing survey), you can get a sense of which of your tactics may need modifying and which opportunities may be present. There’s no universally right or wrong answer; it’s highly dependent on the specifics of your brand and your target audience. But knowing general trends and preferences can help you shape your strategy so it’s as effective as possible.

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Finding Ideas for a Video Series or Podcast – Whiteboard Friday – Moz Blog

Posted by PhilNottingham

Video and podcasts are only growing in popularity, proving to be an engaging way to reach your audience and find ways to talk about your industry or product. But it’s a crowded market out there, and finding a good idea is only half the battle. Join video marketing extraordinaire Phil Nottingham from Wistia as he explores how we can both uncover great ideas for a podcast or video series and follow through on them 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

Howdy, Moz fans. My name is Phil Nottingham, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Today we’re going to talk about how to come up with a great idea for your video series or podcast. I think a lot of businesses out there understand that there’s just this great opportunity now to do a longer form series, a show in podcast or video form, but really struggle with that moment of finding what kind of idea could take them to the next level and help them stand out.

1. Audience

I think the most common error that businesses make is to start with the worst idea in the world, which is interviewing our customers about how they use our product. I’m sure many of you have accidentally fallen down this trap, where you’ve thought, “Ah, maybe that will be a good idea.” But the thing is even if you’re Ferrari or Christian Louboutin or the most desirable product in the world, it’s never going to be interesting for someone to sit there and just listen to your customers talking about your product.

The problem is that your customers are not a unique group of people, aside from the fact that they use your product. Usually there isn’t anything else that brings them together. For this kind of content, for a video series and podcast to really stand out and to grow in terms of their audience, we need to harness word of mouth. Word of mouth doesn’t grow through the way we often think about audience growth in marketing.

Many of us, particularly in the performance marketing space, are used to thinking about funnels. So we get more and more traffic into the funnel, get more people in there, and ultimately some of them convert. But the way word of mouth works is that a small group of people start communicating to another group of people who start communicating to another group of people. You have these ever-expanding circles of communication that ultimately allow you to grow your audience.

How to find a niche audience

But that means you need to start with a group of people who are talking to one another. Invariably, your customers are not talking to each other as a kind of rule of thumb. So what you need to do is find a group of people, an audience who are talking to each other, and that really means a subculture, a community, or maybe an interest group. So find your group of customers and work out what is a subset of customers, what kind of community, wider culture they’re part of, a group of people who you could actually speak to.

The way you might find this is using things like Reddit. If there’s a subculture, there’s going to be a subreddit. A tool like SparkToro will allow you to discover other topics that your customer base might be interested in. Slack communities can be a great source of this. Blogs, there’s often any sort of topic or a niche audience have a blog. Hashtags as well on social media and perhaps meetup groups as well.

So spend some time finding who this audience is for your show, a real group of people who are communicating with one another and who ultimately are someone who you could speak to in a meaningful way. 

2. Insight

Once you’ve got your audience, you then need to think about the insight. What the insight is, is this gap between desire and outcome. So what you normally find is that when you’re speaking to groups of people, they will have something they want to achieve, but there is a barrier in the way of them doing it.

This might be something to do with tools or hardware/software. It could be just to do with professional experience. It could be to do with emotional problems. It could be anything really. So you need to kind of discover what that might be. The essential way to do that is just through good, old-fashioned talking to people. 

  • Focus groups, 
  • Surveys, 
  • Social media interactions, 
  • Conversations, 
  • Data that you have from search, like using Google Search Console, 
  • Internal site search, 
  • Search volume 

That kind of thing might tell you exactly what sort of topics, what problems people are having that they really try to solve in this interest group.

Solve for the barrier

So what we need to do is find this particular little nugget of wisdom, this gold that’s going to give us the insight that allows us to come up with a really good idea to try and solve this barrier, whatever that might be, that makes a difference between desire and outcome for this audience. Once we’ve got that, you might see a show idea starting to emerge. So let’s take a couple of examples.

A few examples

Let’s assume that we are working for like a DIY supplies company. Maybe we’re doing just sort of piping. We will discover that a subset of our customers are plumbers, and there’s a community there of plumbing professionals. Now what might we find about plumbers? Well, maybe it’s true that all plumbers are kind of really into cars, and one of the challenges they have is making sure that their car or their van is up to the job for their work.

Okay, so we now have an interesting insight there, that there’s something to do with improving cars that we could hook up for plumbers. Or let’s say we are doing a furniture company and we’re creating furniture for people. We might discover that a subset of our audience are actually amateur carpenters who really love wooden furniture. Their desire is to become professional.

But maybe the barrier is they don’t have the skills or the experience or the belief that they could actually do that with their lives and their career. So we see these sort of very personal problems that we can start to emerge an idea for a show that we might have. 

3. Format

So once we’ve got that, we can then take inspiration from existing TV and media. I think the mistake that a lot of us make is thinking about the format that we might be doing with a show in a very broad sense.

Don’t think about the format in a broad sense — get specific

So like we’re doing an interview show. We’re doing a talk show. We’re doing a documentary. We’re doing a talent show. Whatever it might be. But actually, if we think about the great history of TV and radio the last hundred years or so, all these really smart formats have emerged. So within talk show, there’s “Inside the Actors Studio,” a very sort of serious, long, in-depth interview with one person about their practice.

There’s “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” which has got lots of kind of set pieces and sketches and things that intermingle with the interview. There’s “Ellen,” where multiple people are interviewed in one show. If we think about documentaries, there’s like fly-on-the-wall stuff, just run and gun with a camera, like “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” Carrying on the food thing, there’s “Chef’s Table,” where it’s very planned and meticulously shot and is an exposé of one particular chef.

Or something like “Ugly Delicious,” which is a bit more like a kind of exploratory piece of documentary, where there’s kind of one protagonist going around the world and they piece it together at the end. So you can think about all these different formats and try to find an idea that maybe has been done before in TV in some format and find your way through that. 

A few more examples

So let’s think about our plumber example. Plumbers who love cars, well, we could do “Pimp My Ride for Tradesmen.”

That’s an interesting idea for a talk. Or let’s say we’re going after like amateur carpenters who would love to be professional. We could easily do “American Idol for Lumberjacks or Carpenters.” So we can start to see this idea emerge. Or let’s take a kind of B2B example. Maybe we are a marketing agency, as I’m sure many of you are. If you’re a marketing agency, maybe you know that some of your customers are in startups, and there’s this startup community.

One of the real problems that startups have is getting their product ready for market. So you could kind of think, well, the barrier is getting the product ready for market. We could then do “Queer Eye for Product Teams and Startups,”and we’ll bring in five specialists in different areas to kind of get their product ready and sort of iron out the details and make sure they’re ready to go to market and support marketing.

So you can start to see by having a clear niche audience and an insight into the problems that they’re having, then pulling together a whole list of different show ideas how you can bring together an idea for a potential, interesting TV show, video series, or podcast that could really make your business stand out. But remember that great ideas are kind of 10 a penny, and the really hard thing is finding the right one and making sure that it works for you.

So spend a lot of time coming up with lots and lots of different executions, trying them out, doing kind of little pilots before you work out and commit to the idea that works for you. The most important thing is to keep going and keep trying and teasing out those ideas rather than just settling on the first thing that comes to mind, because usually it’s not going to be the right answer. So I hope that was very useful, and we will see you again on another episode of Whiteboard Friday.

Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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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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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.

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