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The author’s views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.
With more than 3 billion monthly searches, YouTube is not just a popular social networking platform, but the second largest search engine on the Internet. Five hundred hours of video footage was uploaded to YouTube every single minute in 2019 — and that figure has likely grown since.
YouTube has 2 billion active monthly users who watch over 1 billion hours of content on the platform every single day. With content coming in at that volume, it gives a more accurate sense of scale to think of any individual video not as a person shouting amidst a crowd, but as a single grain of sand on a beach. It’s not a perfect analogy, because grains of sand on the beach are not individually identifiable, searchable, or able to be organized and catalogued. YouTube videos are.
That doesn’t mean that it’s in a marketer’s best interest to have an “if we build it, they will come” mentality on YouTube. Content creators and marketers who publish video to YouTube sometimes assume that the most interesting content is naturally selected by the algorithm and pushed to the front page, to be rewarded with millions of views by some combination of timing, luck, and merit. But considering the sheer scale of content available on YouTube, it’s a bit more useful for our purposes to think of YouTube as the largest video library archive ever to have existed. The key to getting more views on YouTube videos isn’t to be special enough or loud enough to get noticed in the throng. Rather, the key is to tag your content with lots of detail-rich identifying information, making it searchable in the catalogue for viewers who are already looking for videos like yours.
YouTube is a search engine
Does this sound really similar to the SEO principles that get websites to rank on Google? That’s because it is. YouTube is a search engine for video, which means that videos can be optimized to perform better by making them easier to search for.
This post is a primer on how YouTube tags, catalogues, and recommends videos to their users, and how you can use those features as tools to help you set your video up for success. This assumes, of course, that generating more views on your videos is a part of your strategy. Many people use YouTube as a convenient hosting platform for their videos to embed to their own websites and social feeds, and attracting viewers on YouTube isn’t a priority for them. That’s a perfectly legitimate way to use the platform. We’re going to focus on how to optimize video content that is intended to attract new viewers and broaden your audience, and the technical steps needed to do it.
Plan for the audience you want, then work backwards
To increase the views on your YouTube videos, you need to start by making it easy to find you for those already interested. You can only do that effectively when you know who those people are, and why they would want to see what you post. Starting there, you can work backwards to tag your video as likely to be relevant to them.
The benefit of posting to mega-networks like YouTube is that the audience is already there without you having to build it. But because of the sheer amount of video content offered, waiting for viewers to find your stuff serendipitously is unlikely to get you more than a handful of views and very little return for your investment. For your video content to be worth the cost and effort of producing it, you need to proactively plan your content and posting around the specific people you want to see it and marketing outcomes you want to achieve.
Check out Moz’s resources on audience targeting and content strategy if you’re just getting started on that. With those basic outcomes in mind, you can start working backwards to determine what metrics you’ll need to watch to gauge your success, and how you’ll structure your content to get there.
A refresher on YouTube analytics
YouTube Studio Video Analytics, Overview, from “Relics from a Lost Future (Full Album 2021) [INSTRUMENTAL POST ROCK]” courtesy of Undercover Rabbis.
Before we take a deeper dive into YouTube keywords, it’s important to define the different KPIs that we use to measure the success of videos. In simplest terms, they’re the stats on your video that tell you whether your plan for video marketing is working or not. They include:
Watch time: This KPI measures the total amount of minutes a viewer spends watching your content. Content and channels that have longer watch times are elevated by YouTube in the recommendations and search results. A low average watch time can indicate that your viewers are getting bored or that your video is too long to hold their interest.
Retention rate: This is the percentage of audience members who stay to watch the video all the way through compared to those who leave before it’s over. The YouTube platform favors videos with high retention rates, judging them to be more likely to be relevant and recommending them to more viewers.
YouTube Video Analytics (under Overview) from “Bosses Hang (Godspeed You! Black Emperor Cover)” courtesy of Undercover Rabbis.
Engagement: This refers to the actions that viewers take beyond just watching the video, like taking the time to comment, like, share, subscribe, or bookmark for later. Engagement is often the most important metric for marketers to track, because it tells you how many people are interested enough in your content to take further action. Comments can paint a clear picture of how your content affected viewers. Shares gauge how much viewers value your video and your brand, and are crucial to growing a following. Likes and dislikes can help you evaluate what content did or did not work, and it further indicates to YouTube what content is likely to be high quality when recommending videos in users’ feeds.
Thumbnails: The thumbnail is the picture of your video that appears with the title on a results page or link. It provides a sneak peek of the content you’re sharing to help the viewer decide whether to watch it or not. A thoughtfully crafted thumbnail is easy to make and can have a big impact on how many viewers will ultimately choose to click and watch your video.
Title keywords: The keywords you use in your video title tells YouTube what’s in it, and helps guide viewers to your content when they search for similar words or phrases.
Re-watches: This metric measures the number of times viewers re-watch particular parts of your video. If there is a high re-watch rate, viewers are likely interested and invested in the topics you’re covering, and might want to know more. This can be useful for strategizing and planning future content.
Demographics: These stats account for the different types of viewers who are watching your content, segmented by gender, age, and geography.
It’s important to understand what these YouTube metrics are meant to measure. They all play an important part in your video rankings on both YouTube and Google, so it’s prudent to implement some basic best practices to keep these stats out of the gutter, as we’ll outline below. However, it’s important to keep your focus on the end goals, and not just chase the stats. Good metrics are to be used as indicators of your progress, not the goal in and of itself.
How Google ranks YouTube videos
YouTube views don’t only come from people already logged on to YouTube. Google is also a huge driver to your YouTube videos. Google needs to understand the content of your video in order to include it in search results. Google ranks YouTube content in the following ways:
Crawling the video and extracting a preview and thumbnail to show the user
Extracting meta tags and page texts from your video descriptions to tell the user more about the video’s content
Analyzing the video sitemap or structured data to determine relevance
Extracting audio to identify more keywords
Keywords aren’t pulled just from the text attached to your video in the descriptions and tags — they can also be pulled from the audio itself. This is why including the right keywords in your video script will help boost the video’s rankings on Google.
Choosing keywords is about relevance, not volume
This begs the question: what, then, are the “right” keywords? A better question might be: what makes a keyword the right one? Let’s return to the “YouTube is like an enormous library archive” analogy for a moment. If only making noise and getting noticed mattered, then the right keywords would be the ones that get the most search volume to attract the most viewers. But like we said, YouTube is too saturated a platform to count on viral spread. Search engines don’t really think in terms of “best and worst” videos to make their rankings. (Search engines don’t really think at all, but that’s a topic for another day.) Search engines are designed to identify “what video is best for this particular viewer, in this particular instance?” That’s not a question of volume or popularity. That’s a question of relevance.
It is rarely going to be an effective marketing goal to merely seek out lots and lots of viewers regardless of who they are. Most campaigns are better served by a smaller group of highly engaged fans than by millions of lukewarm passive viewers. If you spend all of your focus optimizing your content for Google’s bots, high volume and low engagement is what you’re likely to get. If you want to build a meaningful fan base, then you must build your content for the people watching it, not just the search engines ranking it.
Defining your audience and their needs
You must have a clear idea of who you are trying to address with your YouTube content if you want to know what to say to them. Defining your target audience first will make the SEO optimization process more goal directed and specific.
Identifying and defining your target audience can start with the motivations behind their video searches. Some common motivations include:
YouTube Studio Channel Dashboard courtesy of Undercover Rabbis.
I want to know: The user wants to learn more about a specific topic they’ve already identified. They’re likely to be interested in tutorials, how-to’s, and explainer videos.
I want to do: The viewer has a specific action already in mind that they want to take, like planning a trip or exploring a new hobby. They might watch videos either aspirationally or proactively, like vlogs for inspiration or travel guides for actionable tips.
I want to buy: The potential viewer is seeking information related to a specific product they want to purchase, including reviews or comparisons. They might look for unboxing videos, reviews from influencers, or product demos.
Understanding your audience, their pain points, and their purchase drivers is key to identifying which keywords can help guide those viewers to your YouTube videos. Keywords are the language viewers use to ask a search engine for specific content, which is why we often start with viewer intent and work from there. Jot down a few words or phrases that a viewer might use to describe what they want to see in your video. Think about both the featured topic (like “dogs” or “makeup” or “golf swing”) and format/genre (like “tutorial” or “vlog” or “Let’s Play” or “reacts”). List the relevant verbs, like “buy”, “play”, “learn”, “explain”, “explore”. By building out a word cloud like this, you’ll have a starting point for your keyword research.
Begin your keyword research with an autocomplete tool or competitor browsing
The simplest way to start the keyword research process is by playing around with a keyword tool (Moz offers a free Keyword Explorer,) or the search function right on YouTube and Google. Trying out some different searches that your audience is likely to make can give you insight into what your target audience is already searching for, what they’re interested in, and the specific words or phrases they use when they’re talking about it online.
Type one of your potential keywords into the search box. As you type, YouTube will suggest related popular searches — this is an autocomplete feature built right in. The Ubersuggest tool is also a good place to try this exercise, which will run through the alphabet for the first letter of the next word in your search phrase.
Gauging YouTube keyword search volume
It’s also good to know which of your keywords people search for most frequently. The free Google Trends application “YouTube search” option lets you compare potential keywords in your list to see which ones rank higher and appear in more searches. Keep in mind that higher search volume usually also means more competition to rank for that particular word or phrase.
You can also keep tabs on the keywords your competitors are using to compare to the ones on your list. Find channels within your niche that have a few thousand subscribers, and sort through the content using the “Most Popular” option. Click on the video with the highest number of views and make note of the keywords used in the title, tags, and description. This can show you which keywords might already be saturated in your market with high competition, or reveal gaps where there are opportunities to provide content.
Attaching keywords to your videos
YouTube Channel, Basic Info Keywords courtesy of SustainablePR.
When you’ve identified a list of high-value keywords, it’s time to put them to work. Here are all the places you can incorporate keywords when first posting your YouTube video:
Video file name: SEO optimization begins before you even upload the video. Include keywords prominently in the video file name.
Video title: The title should be punchy and concise. Think about what you would want to click on. Avoid using video titles longer than 70 characters, because they’ll get cut off on the search engine results page and thumbnails. Try to include the keyword towards the beginning of the title when you can.
Description: Many content creators make the mistake of only writing a couple of sentences in their video description. The more words your description has, the better. YouTube allows up to 5,000 characters for video descriptions, so be sure to utilize that real estate. Include strategically placed keywords, information about the video, an enticing hook, and a specific call to action.
Transcript: The video transcript, or caption, is another opportunity to include keywords because it provides additional text used by the platform’s ranking algorithm.
Tags: When tagging your video, include the top relevant keywords, the brand or channel name, and the more specific keyword phrases. Keep all tags under 127 characters. The more the merrier, as long as they are all relevant and concise. No one likes a bait and switch, and too broad a range of topics in your tags will signal to YouTube that your video isn’t strongly relevant to anything in particular at all.
Try audio keywords to get more traction
A unique way to include even more keywords in your video is to speak them in the video itself. Since Google and YouTube no longer need to crawl a transcript to understand what you’re saying, you can utilize audio keywords. Always try to include the keywords in the first two sentences you speak in the video to keep your viewer retention rate up.
Bottom line: prioritize relevance over volume, and start with the viewer and work backwards
If you take nothing else away from this guide, know that a search engine like Google or YouTube has no concept of what “best” means. It cannot judge a video by merit, and it does not rank individual videos as being more or less worthy of views. Only the viewers can make value judgments like that. A search engine can only make determinations of relevance, and only using the keywords we give it, as compared to the keywords provided by the user when they perform a search.
The search engine only knows if it provided the right video for the right search by interpreting the actions the user takes next. If you give YouTube and Google plenty of keywords to parse by completely filling out your description, tags, titles, and transcripts, your video will be returned in more searches. If the viewer then leaves comments or subscribes to your channel after watching, YouTube’s algorithm concludes that your video was highly relevant, and returns you in more searches. It’s a relatively straightforward cause-and-effect relationship, not a mystical process.
Play around with some of the free SEO tools and Learning Center resources that Moz makes available, and see what you turn up. A little bit of effort, forethought, and consistency goes a long, long way when it comes to improving your performance on YouTube.
The author’s views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.
There are so many ways to improve SEO, not least of which is link building. But do you feel like the quality of results from your link building strategy has started dwindling?
If your answer is “yes”, you’re not alone. Link building has taken off in the content marketing world, but we’ve exhausted the typical strategies by overusing them.
There is one method to improve SEO and brand awareness that marketers haven’t utilized broadly yet — designing guestographics.
This is a strategy that we at Venngage have been using for years to earn backlinks and improve our SERP. Guestographics aren’t exactly a secret, but since so few content marketers know about them, here are our tips for creating and pitching them.
What is a guestographic?
A guestographic is essentially a guest infographic. We’ve used this term internally for years because it has a very specific purpose.
Guestographics are created in collaboration with other brands. It’s their content with our infographic design. This has become an effective way to improve SEO for both parties.
For example, we partnered with Hubspot to turn their lead generation ideas blog post into the infographic below:
Over the years, we’ve used this strategy to partner with numerous sites. It’s helped our team build connections in the industry, earn us backlinks, and improve our SEO.
Why should you create a guestographic?
Some types of content are easy to build backlinks to. Blog posts, survey results, and interviews often offer unique content that marketers are happy to include in their posts.
But what about pages for which you want unusual or specific anchor text? What about landing pages? How can you improve SEO for those pages through link building? You can spend all your time doing cold outreach and research and still not get the desired results. Offering to design guestographics can cut your work down significantly because you’ll get more positive responses.
For example, we wanted to build links to a page using the anchor text “infographic maker”, but we came up against a brick wall. That phrase is sales-y and sites didn’t want to hyperlink that specific anchor text.
However, when we offered to design an infographic for Mention, they were happy to add our link to our preferred anchor text when they credited our guestographic on their post. Both parties win.
Why does this strategy work? Because everyone loves visuals. They’re easy to skim. Plus, in the content-rich online space, visuals are better at attracting users.
And if you have original research, why not share it as an infographic, like this example, to appeal to a wider audience?
According to these link building statistics, original research and visuals are a killer combo in marketing.
We’ve produced 200 guestographics since we started using this strategy and they’ve generated 200,000 organic sessions per month. We’ve also improved our SEO and rank #1 on our highest converting pages. Here’s how we did it.
How to improve SEO with a guestographic
If you’re still wondering how to improve website SEO using guestographics, here’s the six-step strategy we’ve perfected.
1. Find the right guestographic content
One thing we’ve learned the hard way is that not all posts make for great infographic content. A super-long article with multiple headers and subheadings is going to be impossible to condense into one graphic.
You also don’t want to promise more than one guestographic. Whether you’re relying on a designer, agency, or an infographic solution like Venngage, designing takes time.
What we did find is that simple list articles make for great infographics. Lists are easy to read and follow an established pattern. All they lack is visual appeal, which is where Guestographics come in.
A list infographic template, like the example below, can be easily customized for different list articles.
But how do you find the list posts that will help improve your SEO? You can use a tool like Moz, SEMRush, or Ahrefs to find relevant content.
Since we’re looking for lists, we would go to the Keyword Overview in Moz and search for “10 tips for”. You can be more specific and search for “10 tips for content marketing”.
The next bit is a bit more manual. Click through to each link and skim through the content. You don’t want to offer a guestographic to a site that already has an infographic for their list.
You also want to look through the lists in detail. As we said, posts that are too complicated are hard to repurpose into an infographic.
On the other hand, if a post is particularly text-heavy but is formatted into a list, that would be the right target for you.
2. Define your audience
Before you pitch your guestographics to a site, take the time to define your target audience. Remember, the point of this exercise is to improve your website SEO. Getting backlinks is great, but if they’re not from your industry or relevant to your brand, the links won’t help your SERP.
Guestographics require some effort to create. You don’t want to hand them out to just anyone. That’s why we define our audience by creating user personas.
For inspiration, here’s an example of a customer persona profile.
How do you decide the ideal users for your brand? Analyze your existing customers. Where is the traffic to your site coming from? Who are the top purchasers?
If you feel like you don’t have enough demographic information, or can’t define user interests, send out a survey or quiz to collect this data. Speak to your users directly for more information.
The overlaps in interests, demographics, pain points, and solutions will help you define two to three ideal personas. These will become your targets when choosing sites to pitch to.
3. Choose keywords to improve website SEO
There are still a few stops on the way to the pitch. You know your ideal persona, but have you found the best keywords that will effectively improve website SEO?
Topic relevance is extremely important. If you’re in the real estate field, backlinks from sites that are printing school books won’t do anything for you.
Even if a keyword is lucrative, if it isn’t in your field, there’s no point targeting it. There won’t be much positive impact on your SEO.
In fact, getting backlinks from anywhere and everywhere could end up hurting your rankings. You don’t want Google to think you aren’t an authority or thought leader in your field.
We use Google Keyword Planner to choose primary and related keywords. If you want to know more, Loganix also has a helpful guide for finding long-tail keywords.
You can also find relevant keywords from the Google search bar. Type in a keyword and before pressing “enter”, look at the options presented.
List your set of keywords in a chart, like the example below. This will make it easier to find the right kind of content to create Guestographics for.
There’s another reason why keywords are important for this process: alt text. Marketers seem to forget that images also help you rank on Google.
Google’s Image Search isn’t as powerful a SERP tool as the text search, but it does impact your keywords and rankings. That’s why images need to be keyword optimized.
We use this SEO checklist to ensure that our keywords have been used in the correct areas, including in the image alt attributes:
Before you finalize your guestographic, check that the alt attributes and file name corresponds to your chosen keywords.
4. The guestographic pitch
Once you have a shortlist of content that would benefit from a guestographic, it’s time to pitch the site. Your pitch should be direct and offer the contact added value.
Remember, content editors are busy people. They get tons of emails in their inbox, many of them asking for the same thing. They can’t spare five minutes to read an email.
Since you’re offering a guestographic instead of a link collaboration, you already have the upper hand over your competitors. That’s a good start. But your pitch still needs to be perfect.
Here’s an example of a pitch that we’ve used in the past. It gets straight to the point, offers value, and states what we would like in return, which isn’t much.
Note how we give examples of past guestographics we created with major names in the industry. Name drops aren’t necessary, but they help show the contact that you mean business.
If you’re pitching your first guestographic and don’t have any examples to show, include something that displays your credentials.
After sending your pitch, follow up a few days later. Try not to exceed three follow-ups. If you haven’t received a reply by then, they’re not interested in the guestographic.
When you do get positive responses, you can start collaborating with the site. It took some trial and error for us to reach a process that didn’t require constant back and forth emails.
Here’s what we do. We ask the contact for an outline of the content, including:
Brand colors and fonts
Call to action
We also ask the contact to look at our templates for inspiration. This makes it easier for the design team as they already have some direction from the site.
Why do we ask for these details before the graphic design process? Because if we create the outline and send it for review to the client, they’re going to return with edits.
We make those edits and send them back for review, and go back and forth until everyone is frustrated and no work has been done. It’s better to get the outline first and work from there.
Also, design is a lot of work even when we’re using our templates. If we also have to provide the outline and review the process, that becomes a huge ask.
5. Design a memorable infographic
With the client’s checklist in place, you can begin designing a guestographic that will successfully improve SEO rankings for both you and your contact.
As a design platform, we’re used to creating infographics pretty regularly.
For organizations that don’t have designers, there are online design resources available (like Venngage) or you can outsource the process to freelance graphic designers.
6. Promoting guestographics to improve SEO ranking
You’ve done the work of creating a guestographic. Is that all it takes to improve SEO on Google? Unfortunately not. There’s still one more step.
The client site will be promoting their guestographic. It’s a huge selling point for their content, after all.
But you also need to promote it. Share the client’s post on social media and let the world know that you create guestographics. This will also help you attract more users.
That’s not all. Look for other sites that would be interested in similar content and ask them to share the guestographic. You can also offer the same service to them.
This is your chance to create a whole new outreach campaign. Use the guestographic as a tool to earn more links from new sites.
A guestographic is repurposed content. But it can be further repurposed for your content marketing strategy. Break the infographic down into multiple social media posts or a slideshow. This is a great way to stretch one piece of content over multiple platforms and to reach a wider audience.
The takeaway is: treat every guestographic as an opportunity to scale your backlinks strategy.
Conclusion: Use guestographics to organically improve your SEO on Google
Backlinks are an important part of improving your SEO, but getting backlinks continues to be a challenging process.
There’s a lot of work that goes into getting backlinks. Most sites are likely to refuse to link to you because of the sheer number of requests they get.
If you can offer additional value to your contacts, not only can you earn a backlink but you can also create a partnership that lasts longer than a single conversation.
With every new and relevant backlink, you let Google know that you’re an authority in your niche and a site that’s worth ranking at the top of the SERP.
That’s the power of guestographics. They add value to your partners and place you as a brand that is willing to go that extra mile for its users.
The author’s views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.
Creating the right content for your website needs serious planning and development. In an increasingly competitive world, it’s not enough that your audience loves it — Google has to love it too!
This article will show you how to create, optimize, and promote cornerstone content that drives traffic to your website and eventually converts visitors into loyal customers.
What exactly is cornerstone content?
The dictionary describes “cornerstone” as something essential, indispensable, basic, or the main foundation upon which something is constructed.
Cornerstone content, therefore, is the most important part of your website. It refers to a high-value piece of content that aims to increase traffic and brand awareness by showing what your business can offer.
Letting potential customers know what you’re all about will help define your brand and reflect your values. As well as creating a positive first impression, cornerstone content tells Google what your website wants to share.
Cornerstone content is not designed to convert visitors right away. The main aim is to pique their interest so that they’ll remember you and return when they actually need your services.
Cornerstone content is sometimes called “evergreen content”, which provides a clue to the type of articles that work best. As well as responding to trends, you should choose subjects that people consistently search for. If you’re a telecommunications company, for example, you could include a piece that explains some of the terminology (“What is VoIP?”) or how your products work (“The ultimate guide to video conferencing”).
The benefits of great cornerstone content
Cornerstone content is a hugely important tool in raising brand awareness, both through content itself and the way it’s optimized. It’s a golden chance to get your core message across to your target audience.
Done right, it will help you achieve a high ranking on the SERPs, which will drive all that lovely relevant traffic to your site. Remember that 75% of people don’t look beyond the first results page!
Cornerstone content gives you the opportunity to build natural links: from other pages on your website, from your social media channels, and from external sources who think your content is worth linking to. It’s a great way to position your business as an authority in your industry, which increases trust in your brand. And it also feeds your funnel, by attracting prospects who can be tracked and nurtured for optimum conversion rates.
Evergreen content can be used across all marketing channels to strengthen your brand identity — and it can even be repurposed into different formats to keep the website fresh.
If you focus your efforts on getting cornerstone content right, you’ll create something that continues to drive value for your business.
How to create great cornerstone content
Now we’ll show you how to create informative, engaging content and promote it to your target audience.
Do your research
Getting to know your customers and understanding their buyer persona is a crucial aspect of marketing. If you know who you’re aiming at, you’ll have a better idea of what to write about.
You need to ensure that your cornerstone piece is relevant, and the best way to do that is to communicate with your audience. Talk to existing customers, carry out surveys, and then analyze the data.
You’ll also need to find out what people are searching for online. Ideally, you’re looking for a subject that’s commonly searched for but doesn’t yield many results. When you’re aiming to move up the SERP rankings, the content you provide must be better than what’s already out there.
Ask yourself: what are the pain points faced by the target audience? What questions are they asking, and why aren’t they already being answered? The idea is to spot a problem that your business can help with — maybe using specialist knowledge or data to provide a unique solution.
Part of your research is to find out what keywords people use when they search on Google. You’ll need to choose the most appropriate keywords and phrases for your content, making sure they match the ones people are most likely to use when they type a question (which only you can answer!).
Once you’ve gathered the data you need, hang on to it! You’ll want to access it in the future to see how your target audience has evolved and how you can adapt. Using Platform as a Service (PaaS) storage solutions gives you a secure and efficient way to keep data (and content pieces) all in one handy place.
Plan your content
Cornerstone content usually takes the form of an in-depth article, such as “Everything you need to start selling online” or “Cloud computing: the complete guide”. While this is the most popular way to communicate brand values, there’s no law that says you have to stick with one type of content.
For example, you could consider posting a how-to guide with step-by-step instructions or a video tutorial. A searchable knowledge base could also prove helpful for visitors, while access to a free tool would definitely help them feel positive about you.
When you’ve chosen the type of content you want to produce, think about how long it will take and the costs involved. Decide if you’re going to keep it in-house or outsource the work, or a mixture of both.
Remember that previous content can be repurposed for another format or channel. This is a good way to stay on-budget, as you don’t have to pay for a whole new article. A clever writer can transform existing content into something that feels fresh and new, even if it covers the same ground.
Write your masterpiece
Cornerstone content should be well-planned and superbly-written, making sure the reader is interested, informed, and inspired. It must be relevant and genuinely helpful, not only solving the customer’s problem but making them want to learn more about you.
Accuracy is also crucial, as the reputation of your brand is at stake. Content should sound suitably authoritative, perhaps including links from other expert sources—this will also help your search engine rankings, as trustworthy websites tend to rank highly.
Keywords should be built into the natural flow of the writing, avoiding keyword-stuffing. Taking advantage of software like Hemingway or Grammarly is a great way to check that your writing is easy to read and informative.
And the piece should obviously deliver on what the headline or intro promises — an article called “What exactly is machine learning?” should explain the terminology and provide easily-understandable examples.
You should also avoid being too pushy. Although you’re trying to attract visitors, cornerstone content isn’t about aggressive sales tactics. A subtle approach will plant the seed in a potential customer’s mind while addressing their query in a trustworthy way.
Visual appeal is just as important as written content, so be sure to include attractive images and graphics to keep the reader engaged. Ideally, you need the whole piece to be so impressive that readers want to share it, or even link to it in their own content.
Optimize your content
You’ve created some outstanding cornerstone content, so now you need to ensure it’s fully optimized for maximum hits. It goes without saying that your website should be easy to access and navigate on any device, paying particular attention to mobile optimization.
Your primary keyword must appear in the URL and the title tag — which is also your headline — so it should be especially appealing. Google is trying to offer the most relevant results, so it helps if the title answers the exact question being asked.
As well as using keywords in the body text, make sure you’re using them in subheadings. This makes it easy for readers to see at a glance what the content is about, and for search engines to recognize its relevance.
It also pays to optimize visual content by including alt text, using relevant keywords in image file names, and making sure images are fast-loading. And the top-of-funnel position means cornerstone content should always be available for free.
Promote your content
Smart promotional tactics will help your content reach as wide an audience as possible. You’ve already sorted the SEO strategy, but there are plenty of other tools at your disposal — and some won’t cost you a penny.
If you already have an email database, use this to let people know about new cornerstone content. Consider an extra incentive to encourage them to visit your page, such as a special offer on products or services.
Marketing automation tools can be used to send out mail shots, or schedule social media posts — this will save time as well as helping you nurture leads. But remember that a dash of personalization is always appreciated, and will make the recipient more likely to access, share, or link to your content.
Cornerstone content can be adapted for different channels, focusing on the platforms that work best for your company (you’ll already have identified these via your detailed customer research).
Organic social promotion is great for your budget, but you may also want to invest in paid promotion to reach a more targeted audience. Don’t forget data analytics so you can see who’s responding and alter your strategy accordingly.
Links and sharing
Another way to generate leads is to direct visitors to personalized post-click landing pages. You don’t want to annoy people by having suggestions pop up when they’re in the middle of reading your content, but how about an exit banner with a special offer just as they’re about to leave?
Of course, visitors may have landed elsewhere on your site, so you need to provide plenty of internal links to cornerstone content and make it easy to click straight through to new material.
Including cross-references and backlinks in other similar posts will increase exposure to cornerstone content. This can also help boost your rankings, as Google tends to favor a robust internal linking structure.
Finally, make it simple for visitors to share your content with others by adding social media buttons. If your content references industry influencers, it might incentivize them to share content with their many followers.
Search engines love websites whose content is fresh and highly relevant. Regular updates let Google know that your content is up-to-the-minute, which helps your SERPs position.
Cornerstone content should be updated frequently to include things like new trends and the latest stats. If it mentions specific products, check they’re still available and that the prices are accurate.
You should also make sure the website works properly, with no broken links or slow-loading images. Fonts and layouts can start to look old-fashioned after a while, too, so it’s worth revamping the look of the pages from time to time.
Remote IT support comes in handy when teams are working on content maintenance — they may need swift assistance to fix an issue before potential customers are put off by a slow-running site or inability to access content.
You’re ready to start creating content!
More than 90 percent of online content gets no traffic at all from Google. Creating cornerstone content that’s impressive and fully optimized is a great way to make sure this doesn’t happen to you.
If you follow the advice in this article, you’ll be able to create cornerstone content that’s loved by audiences and Google alike.
I’m new in town and have never heard of your business before. I’m looking for an explanation that’s as quick and easy to read as a street sign.
You have just a few seconds to convey to me what your local business offers and why customers like it. Then I’ll take a few seconds to determine whether what you’ve said matches my needs.
From this moment forward, we either walk the next steps of the consumer-brand journey arm-in-arm, or I wing off in another direction looking for a better match. I could become a loyal customer for decades, or I might never think of your business again.
That’s how important and fleeting the moment of opportunity can be when a customer encounters a unique selling proposition (USP) highlighted by a local business. In Chapter 3 of The Essential Local SEO Strategy Guide, we reference how a clear USP underpins SEO, and it’s a topic that deserves a deeper dive. For new neighbors, travelers, and residents in search of new goods and services, the USP is a sign you can hang in many places.
In this article, we’ll actively practice writing compelling USPs for real-world local businesses based on six simple components. Further, I’ll teach you to see a brand you’re marketing from the viewpoint of customers on the basis of user generated content (UGC).
First, what’s a USP?
A unique selling proposition in marketing is a brief statement that’s typically defined as distinguishing a brand and its offerings from its competitors. It’s not the same thing as the catchphrase found in slogans and jingles (e.g. “Reach out and touch someone” or “Just Do It”), which, while memorable, may only vaguely hint at what a business is or does. Instead, a USP should clearly define whether what a business is, does, and has matches the intent of the customer, and the art involved is in learning to convey a lot of meaning in very few words.
If you learn best from real-world examples, here’s an independent grocery store that has put its slogan and mission statement on its website homepage:
If we were tasked with creating a USP, just from this information, we would write something like this:
Shop the oldest and largest organic grocery store in Marin County to actively support our community’s health and sustainability.
If I happen to be looking for a market with a big selection of organics that’s been trusted by locals for many years and I want my dollars to work towards sustainability, my intent will have been perfectly matched by this USP.
Local businesses have an advantage over virtual competitors in that circumstances auto-generate one of the “unique” aspects of the company message: being present in a specific town or city makes your brand a unique resource for people there, as opposed to selling to the world at large. Pair locale with local rarity for a smart combination. The “selling” aspects of this type of content should inspire actionable language on your part; words like “shop”, “experience”, “visit” are mini calls-to-action embedded in the USP. Think of the “proposition” as making an offer you hope the right potential customer can’t refuse because it ideally matches their intent.
There are just 19 words in our sample USP, but it contains multiple intent signals, and now we need to learn how to break those down by type so that you can develop your own messaging for the local brands you market.
Surface QUAAAC components for your strongest USP
Image credit: Hedera Baltica
I recently learned that one of the great secrets to QVC’s multi-billion-dollar success is to get shoppers to ask the question, “Is this me?” and then answer with a, “Yes”. USPs should work just like this! You’ll have noticed that we turned the slogan and mission statement toward the customer in our example USP above, in hopes that they will see themselves in the details. In other words, we’re hoping the customer will ask, “Is this me who wants to shop for organic groceries at a time-honored store, and contribute to sustainability?” and find themselves saying, “Yes”.
Choosing the right details to highlight, when you have a limited amount of space, really matters! Let’s get our ducks in a row with a practice session of writing USPs together, breaking down our options into six basic components:
If our example grocery store decided that it was the high quality of their inventory that should star in their USP, based on what they’ve learned matters most to their customers, we could write a proposition like this:
Shop all-organic groceries, many sourced locally from our community’s best farmers, for peak quality you can taste!
In other instances, customers’ search for value underlies their quest for quality. They want to know what the highest quality is that they can afford on their budget. In that case, a USP might emphasize cheapness, deals, discounts, or specials. Brands like Imperfect Foods aim to deliver inventory that’s of good quality, if not flawless, and that’s easier on wallets, as made clear by their USP:
Get sustainable, affordable groceries delivered weekly to your door.
The skill required here is to match the economic realities of your customer base to the best quality their money can buy. Whether the inventory is luxury goods or the most affordable deals, nearly all customers want good value.
If your business model relies on providing something rare, uniqueness might deserve emphasis in your USP. For our grocery store, we might say:
Tired of reading labels? Shop trustingly at Marin County’s only 100% organic grocery store.
Perhaps my favorite example of a USP based on uniqueness comes from Redwood Yurok Canoe Tours, which reads:
Come and explore the powerful Klamath River on a spiritual adventure that will take you back in time, hearing only the quiet chatter of wildlife as you glide along the water’s surface.
This Indigenous-owned business is offering an experience you literally cannot get anywhere else in the world, and it’s a great illustration of building romance around rarity.
Simple availability can be an easy USP starting point for almost any business, because so many customer searches begin with the question, “I wonder if X business offers X good or service.”
I often recall seeing storefront signage for a business that had started out as “Pens Unlimited” and then presumably appended the slogan “More than just pens” to its messaging as they expanded, leaving me guessing about what the company actually offered. If your inventory is highly varied, it can be a challenge to fit it all into a business name or slogan, but a slightly longer USP can help. Our grocery store might highlight availability like this:
Shop organic produce, dry goods, supplements and award-winning prepared meals at Marin’s largest natural foods store.
As another example, the website of this SMB shoe store may not be state-of-the-art, but their USP immediately answers the question of “I wonder if they have X?”:
Shoe store offering fashionable dress, comfort, boots, and athletic shoes for men and women.
If a potential customer wanted to know if this particular shop had comfort footwear, this USP does the job.
This is a proposition that works well when customers need a resource they can trust based on the availability of expertise or the proof of longevity. Our grocery store might say:
Shop Marin’s only grocery store owned by a sitting board member of the Organic Trade Association — locals have trusted our organic commitment since 1969.
Certifications can go a long way towards conveying authority. I found information of this kind buried deep in the loam of a Washington plant nursery, which could be brought forward to their homepage as an authority-based USP like this:
Shop plants with three Master Gardeners and two Certified Professional Horticulturists on-site to help you grow your dream garden!
Some of my personal favorite USPs send signals of brand-consumer affinity — they convey that the local business operates on the basis of certain values shared by customers. Our sample grocery store is fertile ground for authentic proofs of community building, and could write a USP like this:
Be the change! Shopping with us benefits your whole community, from free organic meal programs for students and elders, to our Deep Green Energy commitment, to profits shared by all employees.
Meanwhile, outdoor outfitter Patagonia takes a similar approach with this USP:
Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.
And sometimes, a USP can blend more than one element. The gorgeous website of The Red Door catering company has signals of both authority and affinity that could be stirred together for an inspirational, aspirational message, like:
MBE-Certified, Women-Owned, ICA member caterers prepare local, organic feasts for your unforgettable event.
When ease is paramount for customers, convenience-based USPs can send a good message. Our grocery store might write:
Try convenient online ordering, curbside pickup, and prepared meals, or walk in just minutes from any downtown neighborhood to our organic grocery store.
Sometimes, location is all it takes to convey convenience. I love this ultra-simple USP from Deer Valley Grocery, which happens to have a beautiful waterside destination location:
“Enjoy breakfast and lunch lakeside.”
It can’t get shorter or sweeter than that.
I hope this practice session was useful. Now, we need to determine the most effective components for a particular local business you’re marketing.
Let customer content inspire your USP
Sentiment trends in your reviews, Q&A, and social media comments can point the way to what your customers value most about what your business does. These forms of user-generated content (UGC) can be a big help in determining which elements could be most effective if centered in your USP.
Start by searching Google for your brand name so that your Google Business Profile appears on the left of the screen (if your brand name search doesn’t work, add your city to your query. If that doesn’t work, you may need to learn the basics of local SEO first so that you build enough authority for Google to associate branded searches with your local business listing). Click on the “View All Reviews” portion of your profile and look at the Place Topics Google has surfaced in the oval tabs at the top of your review display.
Place Topics are an accessible, free form of basic sentiment analysis, highlighting topics mentioned most frequently in your reviews. If we had no other information about our grocery store than this, we could write a customer-centric USP along these lines:
Done with Whole Foods? Shop sustainable, fresh produce, our scrumptious salad bar, and healthy vegan choices at our Mill Valley market.
The great thing about Place Topics is that when you click on them, they sort the review corpus to show only reviews that contain the chosen topic. For example, when I click the “produce” tab, this deepens my understanding of exactly what customers are saying about the fruits and veggies at this store:
If we decided produce was uppermost in our customers’ minds, we could refine our USP like this:
Shop “the best produce in Marin” — unlike Whole Foods, we’re 100% organic and locally-owned!
Definitely dig deeply into your reviews to find out what really resonates with your customers. Moz Local customers have the added advantage of our sentiment analysis and trend features to help you go beyond Google and understand dominant review topics across multiple platforms.
If a local business has active social media profiles, customer likes and comments can also provide insight. Looking back through our grocery store’s Facebook posts, I caught the moment early in 2020 when a simple inspirational post received an unusually high amount of likes and loves, and comments from customers saying how much they missed the store and wished delivery was available:
Happily, the business was able to utilize this moment of community interaction to announce the debut of their curbside and delivery service:
A major change in operations, which so many local businesses underwent as a result of the pandemic, could be a strong reason to temporarily alter a company’s core USP for the purpose of quickly disseminating new information. For example, the market might have publicized this message:
Your organic groceries are now available via curbside and delivery in Fairfax and San Anselmo through our new shopping cart.
Other sources of USP-inspiring UGC could include FAQs the business receives via Google Q&A, phone calls, and form submissions — very good reasons to be empowering relevant staff to actively track this type of sentiment. Meanwhile, searcher behavior (if not content) could further refine your USP messaging. Consider using Google Trends or keyword research tools like Moz Keyword Explorer to discover popular search terms related to what your business offers, and that could be effective if incorporated into your proposition.
Where should you publicize your local business USP?
Image Credit: Chris Hottentot
One you’ve put in the work of crafting a strong USP, be sure you are nesting it in as many places as make sense, including:
Website about/mission page
Website contact page
Website location landing pages
Website title tags
Website meta description tags
Website Header tags
Alt tags (if appropriate to describing images)
Google My Business description
Google Q&A (if it answers an FAQ)
Descriptions on all local business listings and review profiles (use Moz Local for a quick data push!)
Carefully-worded review requests in hopes that reviewers will talk about aspects of your USP that matter most to them
Social media profiles
Social media posts
Digital ad campaigns
Guest post profiles
Storefront or in-store signage
Radio and television ad campaigns
Print news campaigns
Mailers, circulars, and other print assets
With such amazing, multifarious applications, it’s easy to see the worth of investing time and care into developing a meaningful USP. You might adjust the wording slightly, based on medium, and you might even create several propositions for different purposes, seasons, or testing periods.
What I think you’ll learn from practicing perfecting your USP is that, like so much else in marketing, it comes down to great storytelling in a limited space, with eyes firmly set on engaging customers with a message of readiness that deftly meets their needs.
Tom advised SEOs to take advantage of Google Discover, which is actually a massive, untapped traffic opportunity as it’s more responsive to speed than organic search.
“For most sites I see that are taking Google Discover even remotely seriously, they are getting more traffic from Discover than from organic search.” – @THCapper dropping shocking stats. #MozConpic.twitter.com/kJSPDKCTTn
— Rob Ousbey (@RobOusbey) July 14, 2021
Before he signed off, Tom reiterated:
Prioritize high traffic pages
Metrics can be gamed/optimized
Don’t do any of this at the expense of speed
We won’t dig into the how for all of this here, so definitely check out his presentation in the video bundle!
Luke Carthy — The Ultimate How-To for Faceted Navigation SEO in E-Commerce
After an introduction that got the whole chat laughing (“Hi, I’m Morgan Freeman. Welcome to the afterlife.”), Luke Carthy showed us how he generated a 25% increase in organic traffic using faceted navigation.
Wait, what’s faceted navigation? You’ve definitely run into it if you’ve ever shopped online. Think about the stores that allow you to filter and sort your search. Behind that search is a faceted nav, defining, filtering, and sorting URLs on a website.
If it’s so common, what’s wrong with it? As Luke explains, faceted navs generate hundreds of long, parameterized, filtered URLs. It’s messy, it’s bloated, and bots can’t easily crawl them.
SEOs tend to counteract this bloat by “nofollowing the shit out of” faceted URLs. But when we do that, all of that long-tail gold disappears.
So what’s the solution? As Luke says, “It’s all about balance!”
(Side note: how cute is this photo??)
Luke shared some ways to “make facets sexy” by:
- Understanding your site’s taxonomy
- Using filters only to add granularity
- Using “-” (dash) instead of “_” (underscore)
- Filtering parameter URLs in GA to spot opportunities
- Using a consistent structure
- Limiting indexable parameter options
There were a bunch more actionable tips in this presentation, but we won’t spoil it all for you!
Okay, wow, this presentation is EXTREMELY actionable for anyone who handles e-commerce sites.
— Brie E Anderson (@brie_e_anderson) July 14, 2021
Miracle Inameti-Archibong — Harnessing the Natural Language Toolkit for More Productive SEO
In her quick presentation, MozCon newcomer Miracle walked us through ways to use Natural Language Processing to do our SEO tasks — like keyword research — and even shared some of her own resources to help us do it!
With Miracle’s comprehensive Natural Language Processor with Python, you can analyze up to 10,000 keywords with the click of a button and group them based on category, frequency, and search intent. Don’t worry — even if you aren’t a programmer, Miracle’s scripts are easy enough to plug and play so you can start analyzing immediately.
Okay, wow, this presentation is EXTREMELY actionable for anyone who handles e-commerce sites.
— Brie E Anderson (@brie_e_anderson) July 14, 2021
Miracle then walked us through how to get the script up and running step-by-step. The results were mind-bending. In just a few short clicks, she produced a wealth of keyword data sure to fuel some brilliant strategies and ideas.
To be honest, there was so much information in such a short time frame, this is one we’ll have to revisit again to absorb every tip possible, but click below to access Miracle’s scripts:
Amanda Milligan — A Live Guide to Finding & Filling the Gaps in Your Link Strategy
Amanda kicked off her first MozCon presentation by reiterating the importance of quality over quantity, to the tune of enthusiastic cheers from the MozCon chat box. In today’s climate, quality content is what will get you that authority and trustworthiness today’s marketers (and Google) crave. Quantity may give you a short term boost, but it won’t last and it won’t compound.
@millanda on creating link-worthy content:
“Always remember that it’s not just about the link juice, but about the excellence you’ve created and the value you’ve provided as a result.” #mozcon#SEO#linkbuildingpic.twitter.com/yT7uqIS7OL
— Katie Bradley (@KtBee21) July 14, 2021
But Google is just a robot and they base their assumptions on links: Who owns them and who links to whom? If your competitors are ranking on time.com and you aren’t, then Google will see your competitors more favorably and rank them higher in the SERP.
Amanda reminds us that these gaps are opportunities. If your competitor can get a link on Time.com, then so can you!
Amanda jumps straight to Moz Pro’s Link Intersect — “This tool was made for this kind of analysis!” — measuring up Chewy.com to competitors Petco.com and Petsmart.com to reveal the places where Chewy’s competitors link, but Chewy doesn’t.
One such article on CNN.com links to Petsmart and Petco and features a very cute guinea pig in a suit of armor — is it possible for Chewy to obtain a link to CNN? Yes!
Developing the content is only half the battle. Once you have something you think will resonate, it’s time to start pitching, which is arguably “where many link builders fall short.” In the pitching process, Amanda offers a fool proof plan of attack: “Pitch your content exclusively at first, and then once published, you can begin to take it elsewhere.” Publishers love exclusive content because they can leverage it to drive more views to their own content.
Amanda also drives home another link building golden rule: make sure you research and position your pitches and tailor them to the publisher. Gone are the days of mass outreach, and that won’t serve you well in the long run.
Once you’ve done the work, it’s time to track and record your progress. Take note of all the places your content shows up (anchor text, images, etc.) or whether it is do-follow or not.
Finding & filling gaps in your link strategy:
– Identify brands building great links
– See who links to them, but not to you (use a tool like Moz’s link intersect)
– Analyze the types of content earning links
– Consider similar angles@millanda#MozConpic.twitter.com/lsH0DcbVfk
— Ọla King (@justolaking) July 14, 2021
Check out Amanda’s Whiteboard Friday on crafting the perfect pitch email for more tips!
Lily Ray — From the Medic Update to Now: How the E-A-T Ecosystem Has Transformed Organic Search
Lily Ray has been studying the evolution of Google and E-A-T for a few years now, and in this presentation, she outlined key changes in how Google perceives content – specifically when it comes to the rise of misinformation.
Since 2016, and especially in the last year, more people turn to Google for information on things like politics, vaccines, COVID, and other important topics. This makes it increasingly necessary for Google to surface reliable information. In times of crisis, things become even more critical, and according to the data, Google begins to favor more authoritative sources versus relevant sources. We don’t know exactly how this is determined, but in her study, the data shows that Google favorably ranks content from reputable sources for potentially controversial keywords.
If there is one thing that Lily wants us to walk away with, it’s the “E-A-T matters in crisis”, and is Google’s quality standard for evaluating content, authors, and websites.
As a result of this, Google saw a sharp decline in search visibility for questionable news sources, which then expanded to include health and science sites, regardless of the technical optimization on those sites.
@lilyraynyc explains E-A-T at #MozCon
E-A-T was created in 2014 to make sure the quality of the content they are surfacing is meeting the needs of the users.
In 2017 many of the fake news were wiped off the SERPs. Then this continued in 2018 with the YMYL sites pic.twitter.com/6PUCFwKrbV
— TurnDigi (@TurnDigi) July 14, 2021
Lily digs into keyword comparisons, showing how more authoritative sites became increasingly more visible between 2018 and 2021.
— Casie Gillette (@Casieg) July 14, 2021
Most of the sites that lost visibility were doing some questionable things including:
Leveraging questionable authors
Had poor reputations
Published deceptive content
Lacked sufficient sources
Published dangerous medical advice
Included hate speech
Included excessive affiliate or sales links
“Winning sites make it really clear who they are, who writes for them, how they make money on the sites, why they should trust them […]—all of these great things that really instill trust in the user.” @lilyraynyc#MozCon
— Melina Beeston (@mkbeesto) July 14, 2021
From there, Lily dug into 10 key ways Google has changed, and we encourage you to check out her slides and take a look for yourself.
What do all these changes mean for SEO? The landscape is more complex and competitive than ever, so it’s important to be reasonable with your organic search goals and always put E-A-T at the forefront of your SEO Strategy.
— Amsive Digital (@Amsive_Digital) July 14, 2021
Kameron Jenkins — The Content Refresh: How to Do More With Less
Kameron Jenkins is no stranger to content. She manages multiple blogs and currently works for e-commerce powerhouse, Shopify.
When it comes to content, she knows that the best way to regain lost traffic and give your content new life is through a content refresh. In her presentation, she walked us through her exact process for identifying and updating old content. Surprisingly, most content marketers only dedicate 10-25% of their time to content refreshes, even though a content refresh can lead to more ROI in the long term.
Content people! About what % of your team’s publishing calendar is *refreshes (vs. brand new content)?
*taking something that was previously published and updating it.
— Kameron Jenkins 👋 (@Kammie_Jenkins) May 11, 2021
How do you identify the content that could benefit from a refresh? Look at your Google Analytics Landing Page report alongside Google Search Console, and prioritize content based on goal conversions, trending topics, and business priorities.
Kind of like this: pic.twitter.com/5hoaova2zL
— Noah Learner (He/Him) (@noahlearner) July 14, 2021
Oh heck, I loooove anyone who has a favorite GA view. But add in GSC data exports… I think I’m in heaven.
Pageviews going down in GA
Losing rank for specific keywords in GSC
Opportunity for content revamp#MozCon
— Brie E Anderson (@brie_e_anderson) July 14, 2021
Next, it’s time to refresh. When moving into the execution, you’ll want to ask yourself three key questions:
Other content refresh opportunities to look out for are consolidation, query targeting, and internal linking.
How can you stand out from the competition in your content refresh? Incorporate original research and expert quotes to beef up the authority and originality of your post.
Lastly, maximize your conversions by testing out your CTA placement and make your offers relevant to your audience.
She left us with some wise words of wisdom, “SEO is like owning a car. Even when the car is paid off, you still need to conduct regular maintenance to keep that engine running.”
Some tips for getting more value from your existing content:
– Refresh decaying content to rank faster, increase ROI & maintain brand credibility
– Remember session loss ≠ Traffic loss
– Leverage GA & GSC data
– Prioritize by trend, conversions & value@Kammie_Jenkins#MozConpic.twitter.com/SAVTtAFMIC
— Ọla King (@justolaking) July 14, 2021
— Barb Davids 🤓🏃♀️🍻 (@BarbDavids) July 14, 2021
Wil Reynolds — The 3 Most Important Search Marketing Tools…Your Heart, Your Brain, & Your [Small] Ego
Wil brought the energy yet again for his ninth MozCon presentation, closing out the conference with a bang. His message was simple yet powerful: Your top three tools are your heart, your brain, and your small ego. But what does that mean, exactly?
Wil began by introducing the concept of intellectual humility, or the recognition that some of the things you believe just might be wrong. He urged us to listen to the people around us who say there’s a better way — even brand-new coworkers or recent college grads whose ideas you might otherwise discount.
— Casie Gillette (@Casieg) July 14, 2021
And don’t feel badly that you might be wrong — Wil posits that not knowing your own ignorance is just part of the human condition. He shared a quote from Upton Sinclair that was especially poignant:
It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.
A hundred years ago, no business needed SEO. They needed customers, profits, and sales. And as true then as it is now, they needed to know their customers.
One slide stood out loud and clear: The less you understand your customer, the more you spend to acquire them. And as Wil said, reports that lack dollar signs don’t land on real decision makers’ desks. Here’s where your brain comes in.
— Michael Tolosa (@TolosaSEO) July 14, 2021
Wil presented a bit of a conundrum: making decisions based on your gut may be easy and comfortable, but it’s the data that gets you the insights you need to create and test hypotheses. However, exhaustive data — the kind of data where opportunity lives — is probably too big for your laptop to handle. What’s an SEO to do?
Of course he had answers! Wil’s suggestion was to harness the power of ngrams. With the help of a tool like PowerBI or BigQuery and using ngrams to examine all the search terms, you can find all your ranking results and see where your search term isn’t in the title.
Transform your SEO data into winning insights:
– Shrink your ego & question assumptions
– Don’t rely on best practices.
– Tools are a start, not an end.
– Business is about $
– Understanding your customer saves $
– What people do & say are different@wilreynolds#mozconpic.twitter.com/IB7CcQ4IpN
— Ọla King (@justolaking) July 14, 2021
There’s too much goodness to cram into a short recap, so you’ll definitely want to get yourself a copy of the MozCon video bundle when it’s ready for purchase. Until then, a few final suggestions from Wil:
Examining all your data is the only way to capture all your opportunities; resist the urge to pare it down to the top 20%. Every time you shrink your data down, you’re missing out on opportunities that someone else can see.
See every data set through a competitive lens: if all else is the same, how do you create value?
Combine your paid and SEO data together — get the dollar signs in those reports and get in front of key decision makers
Learn SQL. You’ll be able to search for exactly what you need within your own data, you won’t have to rely on others, and your hypotheses will benefit from your newfound data freedom.
Be brave enough to suck at something new. Stop doing the thing that you feel comfortable with. Run your own experiments and validate your hypotheses. It’ll be worth it in the end!
Hey #MozCon thank you!
1 – Surround yourself with people willing to show you a new way (show >> tell) – its easy to find people to tell you you are doing it wrong, find the people who build stuff to show you a new way.
— Wil Reynolds (@wilreynolds) July 14, 2021
Thanks everyone for a wonderful show! And we’ll see you in person next year!
— Taylor Berg (@taylorannberg) July 15, 2021
Day one of MozCon Virtual gave us a great start to this year’s conference – from surviving the COVID news agenda, to the science of purchasing power, to game-changing ways to use the Google Search Console API. If day one was a preview of things to come, I knew we were all in for a treat as we headed into day two!
With that said, day two has arrived!
Me, rolling into #MozCon Day 2.
I’ll need to catch up on Day 1 in the recordings.
— 👋 SEO Patti 💉 💪 (@SEOPatti) July 13, 2021
Oh, and before I forget, remember that dance breaks are not just okay, but encouraged at MozCon.
— Moz (@Moz) July 13, 2021
Ross Simmonds – Why Marketers Should Think More Like Investors To Drive Content Results
In this session, Ross talked about the parallels between content marketing/SEO and the world of investing. I am a lover of analogies, so I was excited to see how Ross was going to show us how an investment mindset can be applied to content marketing and SEO. As someone who loves SEO, and investing, I was pumped for this one.
Ross began by telling a story about his investment in General Motors stock. He put a lot of money into the stock…and it crashed. Ross had not done enough research into GM before making his investment.
The lesson: you need to invest time into doing your homework! You need to understand the market before you jump in. The same applies to SEO.
We all hope that our investments will deliver a return, but in 2020 we were all tested during the pandemic. Many companies put the investment of SEO on pause…and that was a mistake. Even during a recession, people still have a strong desire for content and information.
As Ross explained, every piece of content you create is an asset, and to see the most from our investments, we need to “invest more — guess less”.
There are so many types of content you can create but it’s so important to recognize the risk and reward for each type of content. 💸
What is your goal? What kind of return do you want?
— Elizabeth Linder 🌻 (@Its_Liz_Linder) July 13, 2021
Content presents money printing capabilities, and major companies are starting to realize this.
— Tiffany Gilkey (She/Her) (@TiffanyLG23) July 13, 2021
Needless to say, Ross left us all wanting to diversify our content portfolios!
— Matthew Kaminsky (@m5kaminsky) July 13, 2021
Areej AbuAli — Taking Charge of Your Indexability: How to Optimize and Prioritize Your Technical Work
If you’re ready to take control of your website indexing, this session is for you! With a focus on aggregators and classifieds, Areej shared advice on how to best reduce index bloat for large websites.
Love listening to @areej_abuali talk about the ultimate head-scratcher in SEO: where to draw the line between which pages should/should not be indexed on very largescale sites where many URLs risk not being crawled/indexed.
— Lily Ray 😏 (@lilyraynyc) July 13, 2021
She acknowledged that, while we are fully in control of how Google crawls and indexes our site, it can feel scary!
“It’s okay to feel overwhelmed when working on something new…”
— Shannon McGuirk (@ShannonMcGuirk_) July 13, 2021
So if we’re suggesting audits, let’s focus on recommendations that can have an impact. Let’s “drop the 100-page audit!”. Websites do not (and most probably should not) need to have every single page indexed. Instead, focus on indexing pages that have the potential to provide good search results.
Honestly, there were so many amazing insights from this presentation, this is one you’ll want to revisit!
Always love watching @areej_abuali share her insights.
So many tips !
– Manage expectations before, during and after !!
– Under-promise and Over-deliver
– Be honest and transparent – share the progress#Mozcon@Moz
Thank you Areej ! pic.twitter.com/vunXizDH6W
— J Turnbull (@SEOJoBlogs) July 13, 2021
Joy Hawkins — To Post or Not to Post: What We Learned From Analyzing Over 1,000 Google Posts
What value do Google Posts have, and how should the average SMB prioritize them? Joy Hawkins dove headfirst into the data from two studies to answer these questions.
Joy opened up by sharing a Mario Kart analogy. Joy is a super competitive person. She shared how she followed a similar approach for this study as she did when she was working towards beating Dave DiGregorio at Mario Kart. Let’s just say that it required a lot of research, tracking, and analysis.
— Joy Hawkins (@JoyanneHawkins) July 13, 2021
Joy shared a disclaimer and some initial considerations for the presentations data:
The first study Joy covered analyzed over 1,000 Google Posts to see what types perform better based on clicks and conversions while measuring the impact of various features such as stock photos, emojis, titles, and more. Here are the types of Google Posts that Joy analyzed:
Joy also summarized the worst-performing post types. And the winners are:
Products (or services)
Who We Are (bios)
The second study looked at whether posting on Google has any influence on where your business ranks in the local pack. The conclusion? Google Posts had no measurable impact on rankings.
Joy summarized by providing a “Successful Google Post Blueprint” — this is one to save for later!
🧐 Everything you need to know about Google Posts but were afraid to ask…here’s the blueprint from @JoyanneHawkins
— Andy Simpson (@ndyjsimpson) July 13, 2021
Joyce Collardé — Maximize Your Conversions: Harnessing Full-Funnel Optimization for B2B Success
In this session, Joyce covered the long sales cycles for B2B businesses that pose a unique set of challenges for converting visitors into coveted users. Success requires a strategic approach that goes beyond the landing page to include your entire site.
— Elizabeth Rule (@ownyourserp) July 13, 2021
Joyce walked through strategies for three tried-and-true methods for increasing your conversion rate and winning more business:
Goal #1: Attracting users to your website
Goal #2: Giving users the best experience and leading them to conversion points
Goal #3: Tracking success and encouraging return visitors
Some actionable tips from @JoyceCollarde‘s talk – Maximize Your Conversions: Harnessing full-funnel optimization for B2B success:
— Ọla King (@justolaking) July 13, 2021
Casie Gillette — Counterintuitive Content: How New Trends Have Disrupted Years of Bad Advice
I love the honesty in this tweet from Casie!
What the heck?! My presentation has already been recorded…why am I still nervous? 😬 It’s not too early for a beer right… #MozCon
— Casie Gillette (@Casieg) July 13, 2021
In her presentation, Casie looked at content from an entirely different perspective and talked about how you can start creating content on your own terms, because really, there’s no one way to do content marketing.
According to Casie, counterintuitive marketing is “the idea of bucking trends to do what is right for YOUR site”. Casie showed that more content is NOT always best. Sometimes optimizing existing content can be far more powerful than creating new content.
— Noah Learner (He/Him) (@noahlearner) July 13, 2021
There is no one size fits all solution to content marketing. Things change and sometimes you need to think counterintuitively.
— Laura Green (@GreenLauraV) July 13, 2021
How do we do this? Casie suggests a few focus areas:
Don’t copy competitors, but pay close attention to what they are doing for ideas. What is working well that we can do better?
Utilize social media platforms, such as LinkedIn where you can gather intel on the ads that your competitors are running.
Search and keywords
Don’t forget to go back each year and re-evaluate the keywords that you are targeting
Remember, that just because something is driving traffic, it doesn’t mean that it’s the right traffic.
📢📢📢”Just because something is driving traffic doesn’t mean it’s the right traffic.” — @Casieg
Re-evaluate your keywords to make sure intent matches your goals.#MozCon
— Elizabeth Linder 🌻 (@Its_Liz_Linder) July 13, 2021
— Melina Beeston (@mkbeesto) July 13, 2021
Brie E Anderson — Reporting for Duty: Why You Need to Start Using GA4 TODAY
Despite some pre-conference nerves, Brie absolutely blew us away with all her insights!
Me 10 minutes before my presentation goes live at #MozCon:
– reevaluating EVERYTHING
– do I know anything?
– I should have put my dog photos in my slides
– what would @BritneyMuller do?
– pops a buspirone
– stares at screen
Okay… let’s do this I guess 😅 pic.twitter.com/jzJmi0XXSQ
— Brie E Anderson (@brie_e_anderson) July 13, 2021
She also challenged us to get started with GA4 now — before we have to.
Why You Need to Start Using GA4 today by @brie_e_anderson
– Collect pre-defined events
– Event-specific dashboards
– Track micro, macro events & conversions
– Better, more visual graphs
– Identify outliers fast
– Predictive analytics & AI
— Ọla King (@justolaking) July 13, 2021
Brie told us that in GA4 we’ll find:
But also highlighted that it is NOT a replacement for Universal Analytics, so you need to track both.
— Kavi Kardos (@therarevos) July 13, 2021
You might ask, then what are the benefits of using GA4? I’ll let some of Brie’s fans outline some highlights:
— Jason Dodge (@dodgejd) July 13, 2021
— Noah Learner (He/Him) (@noahlearner) July 13, 2021
Holy analytics, Batman – #GA4 lets you *make your own line graphs* with *built-in anomaly detection*!!! This is perfect for those of us who only trust the visuals we create ourselves 😂 @brie_e_anderson#MozCon
— Kavi Kardos (@therarevos) July 13, 2021
What are you waiting for? Get your website into GA4!
Rob Ousbey — Beyond the Basics: 5 SEO Tricks for Uncovering Advanced Insights from Your SEO Data
In this session, Rob showed us how to breathe new life into our standard SEO data, and we walked away with more advanced insights — and new tools — that are sure to impress our team (and our boss!)
— Greg Gifford (@GregGifford) July 13, 2021
And what are the five SEO tricks?
1. Find link opportunities from the SERP
2. Group ranking keywords to spot split opportunities
3. Tag URLs to find real issues
4. Tag GA for category-level insights
5. Tag competitors’ top URLs for ideas
Be sure to check out Rob’s presentation in the MozCon video bundle when it’s out on Friday for even more amazing tips!
Thanks for such an eye opening #mozcon presentation @RobOusbey and some AWESOME #seotools . Looking forward to honing my keyword, topic, and URL clustering skills to scope out #SEO wins even faster 💨 https://t.co/GxRrKvseQp
— Elizabeth Rule (@ownyourserp) July 13, 2021
Britney Muller — The Cold Hard Truth about CTR and Other Common Metrics
Britney closed out day two by showing us how to quash our reporting woes and make easy work of identifying exactly why your website’s performance changed.
She asked us what makes superforecasters — a group that has predicted future events with a great deal of accuracy — so successful. Before giving us the answer, she reminded us that it’s really easy to be led astray by data — but had some tips and tools to share to help make sure we don’t get too off track.
So, what made superforecasters so successful? Their ability to rethink everything. To do the same, Britney challenged us to:
Think like a scientist
Define our identity in terms of values, not opinions
Seek out information that goes against our views
— Chase Freezman (@ChaseFreezman) July 13, 2021
AMAZING. Best quote by far. Already blown away by this talk. pic.twitter.com/5s0Zznee0g
— Elizabeth Rule (@ownyourserp) July 13, 2021
— Taylor Murchison (@TaylorMurchison) July 13, 2021
Day two — done!
Wow! Only one more day left for this year’s MozCon! What stood out the most for you on day two? Tell us on Twitter with #MozCon!
Our favorite time of the year is here! The second ever MozCon Virtual kicked off yesterday with attendees from over 35 countries. There were networking rooms, photo booth pics, and live tweets. It almost felt like we were back together in one place (just minus the donuts).
Lack of donuts aside, everyone was super excited to be back at MozCon for another action-packed conference. Day one’s speakers brought their A-game and really got people thinking.
Already had several 🤯 moments at #MozCon and it’s only Day 1! Can’t wait for tomorrow. Cheers!
— Kavi Kardos (@therarevos) July 12, 2021
For those of you who may have missed it, or those of you who had a hard time keeping up with this three ring circus, here’s a quick recap!
Sara Bird — Welcome to MozCon
Moz’s fearless leader started MozCon Virtual off with a bang! She introduced Moz Group, a result of the merger with J2. Then, she announced two product releases — one in alpha and one in beta! Both will be further explained by Mozzers later in the week.
— Rob Ousbey (@RobOusbey) July 12, 2021
Sara’s introduction concluded with a moving tribute to Russ Jones. You can share your own memories with Russ or donate to his family at RememberingRussJones.com.
Shannon McGuirk — Lessons in Surviving the Covid News Agenda & What it Means for the Future of Digital PR
As always, Shannon started out strong with some radical transparency. She walked us through Aira’s journey through COVID and how it changed everything.
— Areej AbuAli (@areej_abuali) July 12, 2021
In past MozCon presentations, Shannon has shown us the outreach strategies that Aira has depended on for several years, but 2020 threw everyone for a loop. In the first two weeks of lockdown, Aira lost 50% of their revenue. Something had to change.
Actually, everything had to change.
We got insight into Aira’s three-prong, PR future-proofing system that developed as a result:
Ideation: using the ROR framework of relevancy, opinion, resolution
Production: create proven frameworks that can be customized for your client
Promotion: through accessing, communicating, and having perspective
Shannon gave us the nitty gritty of how this system works for Aira, complete with actual photos of their best-performing, always-ready frameworks. Honestly, it felt like we were seeing something confidential, but we were here for it.
They have templates for production that are wireframed and customizable.
— Brie E Anderson (@brie_e_anderson) July 12, 2021
Flavilla Fongang — The Science of Purchasing Behavior: How to Use it Effectively to Attract & Convert More Prospects Into Customers
Flavilla was ready to prescribe some tactical medicine to those looking to increase their conversion rate. She jumped right in with explaining how our brains function. Ya know, limbic system, neocortex, and reptilian brain? Don’t worry, we didn’t either!
She broke them down as the emotional brain (limbic), rational (neocortex), and fight or flight (reptilian). Then Flavilla asked the big question: which brain has the most impact on buying decisions? The answer (which shocked most) was the reptilian brain.
Flavilla took us through six ways the reptilian brain can be stimulated.
— Noah Learner (He/Him) (@noahlearner) July 12, 2021
But it wouldn’t be a MozCon presentation without something that can be put into action today. Flavilla dropped all sorts of tactics to test: putting the CTA closer to the consumer’s picture, using the power of the gaze, tapping into negative emotion, showing contrast (think before and after), and putting the most important information first.
We could have listened to Flavilla talk all day long. Hearing her take on buyer behavior was a bit like looking into a glass ball and getting answers to all of our questions. We can’t wait to put it into action!
Dr. Pete Meyers — Rule Your Rivals: From Data to Action
Always a crowd pleaser, Dr. Pete showed off a new Moz tool currently in Beta: True Competitor. True Competitor is a project Moz has been working on for the last few years, and this year it’s finally ready to take the stage! (You can request early access to True Competitor here.)
Dr. Pete used the new tool to remind us that those we assume to be our competitors sometimes aren’t actually our competition at all. Instead of focusing on who we think we’re losing traffic to, we need to be focused on who is preventing us from making money.
There’s a big difference between who you “think” your competition is and who you compete with in the SERPs. #MozCon
— Jason Dodge (@dodgejd) July 12, 2021
Using the new True Competitor tool, and a few cool search modifiers, Dr. Pete was able to find some opportunity keywords to test out.
The process looked a bit like this:
Use True Competitor to identify potential keywords
Use search modifiers to find the ranking pages for the competition
Find Moz’s current ranking content
Create content using the similar keywords
Link to the most updated and relevant content
— Noah Learner (He/Him) (@noahlearner) July 12, 2021
We knew that Dr. Pete would bring the heat, but it’s safe to say he outdid himself this year.
Great talk by @dr_pete from the #mozcon.
Don’t make assumptions about your competitors
Do not make a massive novel – come up with a plan including what is missing from your site content issues.
Track what works/what doesn’t and amend accordingly.
— J Turnbull (@SEOJoBlogs) July 12, 2021
Noah Learner — Game-Changing Ways to Use the Google Search Console API
This first-time MozCon speaker came ready to play! Right away, Noah gave us some perspective on the actual limitations of Google Search Console. As most of us know, Search Console only gives you access to 1,000 rows. Well, Noah knew that there was a lot more data to be seen and started dabbling with the API.
Apparently this led to a 15-hour journey down the GSC rabbit hole, as Noah started working on creating a custom Google Search Console tool using Big Query and Google Data Studio. This tool, Explorer for Search, has already gotten some buzz from those in the industry.
— Taylor Murchison (@TaylorMurchison) July 12, 2021
Honestly, if you look at the Twitter feed for #MozCon, there aren’t a ton of tweets because nobody could keep up with him! Noah moved rapidly through exactly how he built Explorer for Search with his team, and how they’re using it.
— Jordan Choo (@JordanChoo) July 12, 2021
Almost instantly, Noah and his team found over $300,000 of keywords that weren’t available in Search Console. They did this through building in position sorting, top of funnel/ bottom of funnel sorting, branded vs. non branded filters, and more.
We cannot wait to play with this and get started with the Search Console API!
Dana DiTomaso — Build for Search: Modern Web Dev That Puts SEO First
A long time MozCon favorite, Dana DiTomaso put on her coach’s hat for this year’s session. Far too often, we find ourselves in awkward situations that require us to scrap all of our work and start over again.
“Developers [also] come in way too late […] and come in and say, “oh, I can’t do that” […] or “this isn’t going to work on mobile,” and now you have to start the design all over again. @danaditomaso#MozCon
— Melina Beeston (@mkbeesto) July 12, 2021
Dana ran into this way too many times, so she and her team came up with a better solution. She was ready to make us, and our web dev processes, agile(ish).
She showed us her team’s entire process from presenting keyword research (IN A PIE CHART?!), to using GatherContent to create a website blueprint for clients, all the way to wireframe creation and presentation.
SEO projects shouldn’t be done in silos.
SEO, UX, Design, Dev, & Content teams should all be involved early and often(as needed).
The Agile project management method is a great framework that makes this easy to do.
— Ọla King (@justolaking) July 12, 2021
At each step, anyone can jump in and see what is going on and add to the conversation or process. It’s far less linear and allows for more collaboration.
Jackie Chu — Internationalization Errors: How to Go Global Without Losing All of Your Traffic
With a track record like Jackie’s, it’s hard to imagine not blowing minds. Jackie started by explaining one of the most complex SEO concepts: Hreflang. This explanation led to a few tactical suggestions right off of the bat:
Define target language and country
Self-canonicalize all URLs
Use consistent URL patterns
Honestly, there were so many takeaways from this presentation that they were hard to keep track of. Imagine, all of that information on Hreflang alone was in the first 17 slides… and this presentation was 60 slides long!
Great tip by @jackiecchu about using extra signals beyond hreflang to show Google which version of your site is targeted to which international audience, such as linking to that country’s respective social profiles, or editing the NAP to reflect that country’s info.#mozconpic.twitter.com/2T24euwRyZ
— Lily Ray 😏 (@lilyraynyc) July 12, 2021
You’ll definitely want to revisit this presentation in the video bundle, available Friday, to glean all insights possible!
Cyrus Shepard — Mastering 3 Click + Engagement Signals for Higher Rankings/Traffic
Cyrus, a long-time MozCon emcee, takes the stage himself this year to discuss how Google may — or may not — use user engagement signals as an input in ranking websites.
Cyrus started by explaining how 20 years of Google patents describe three different types of click signals they could measure: first clicks, long clicks, and last clicks. He then walked through a multitude of small-scale SEO experiments that attempted to influence these click signals to see if he could influence rankings.
Some of the experiments included:
Optimizing Meta Descriptions in non-traditional ways
Removing Title Tag “Boilerplate”
Improving the visibility of “Related Articles”
— Brie E Anderson (@brie_e_anderson) July 12, 2021
Finally, Cyrus shared some case studies including the migration of the Moz Q&A — which involved over 100,000 URLs — and how they improved user engagement.
What a great URL path migration process and conduction from @Moz‘s SEO team! Moving the Q&A section with some important checklist is something, but also, when it comes to user-generated content, it’s hard to change. So @CyrusShepard came with over 16% success after that. #MozConpic.twitter.com/bIHk8uVHA6
— Roman Adamita (@AdamitaRoman) July 12, 2021
At the end, Cyrus emphasized that SEO is not about manipulating numbers, but that “User satisfaction is ranking factor #1.” After watching this presentation, you’ll definitely walk away with several ideas for engaging your visitor.
Today is the last day to purchase MozCon Virtual 2021 tickets! As a sneak preview of the amazing content you can expect to see, please enjoy this very special Whiteboard Friday episode from MozCon speaker Dana DiTomaso, where she walks you through the ways you can measure and improve your website engagement in order to determine whether or not you actually need to redo your website.
And don’t forget to grab your ticket to see Dana’s presentation, Build for Search: Modern Web Dev That Puts SEO First, along with our other amazing speakers on July 12-14:
Howdy, Moz fans. My name is Dana DiTomaso. I’m President and partner at Kick Point, and we’re a digital marketing agency headquartered in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. I’m going to be talking to you today about a question that I think many people have, which is how do you actually measure website engagement.
I think it’s something a lot of people struggle with because you might be approaching a period with your website where you’re thinking: Is time to redo the website? Is the website actually meeting our goals? But you may not have a lot of the things set up in order to measure engagement in a way that helps you answer those questions. A lot of times you might just be shooting in the dark and saying, “I think this is what’s happening.”
But is it truly what’s happening? You may think you need to add an expensive tool, some sort of screen measurements or something like that in order to get what you need. But there’s a lot you can do with basic setup in Google Tag Manager and Google Analytics to measure website engagement. So that’s what I’m going to talk to you about today. So over here I have different ways to measure, and then here behind me I have different ways to improve.
Ways to measure website engagement
So we’re going to start with the stuff we’re going to measure, and then we’re going to move on to the things we’re going to improve.
1. Scroll depth
So first off, think about scroll depth. This is one of the basic metrics that I think people think about but they don’t really do a lot with. So one of the things that if you’re using Google Analytics 4, there’s a built-in scroll depth metric, which you might already be using, but that only measures 90% scroll and that might be too far for a lot of people.
What I would recommend is, if you’re not using GA4 yet or if you’re still using just Universal, even if you are using 4, make sure you’re also measuring at least 25%, 50%, 75%, and 100%. You can also measure 90%. You can also measure 10%. I’ve seen lots of different ways. You can measure 1%. It seems a little much, but you can do that too.
What you’re looking for there is the idea of setting individual triggers for each of these scroll depths, because what you want to know is when that 25%, 50%, 75%, and 100% is hit, but you don’t just want to save them as events in Google Analytics, because there isn’t a lot you can do with that in terms of math. What you want to do is you want to set each scroll depth as a custom metric.
If you aren’t familiar with custom metrics, in Google Analytics there are dimensions and there are metrics. So a dimension is something like the city that people were from or the page that they were visiting. A metric is the number of page views or users that happened. So, in this case, it’s the number of times that somebody viewed a page versus the number of times that people went 25% of the way down the page or 50% or 75%.
When you save those as custom metrics, then you can do some math to figure out what the average scroll depth is, for example, and that’s a really nice way to figure out if people are actually looking at your stuff or if they are interested, or maybe there’s a really interesting CTA that’s driving them away, but then they’re not seeing something even cooler further down, or maybe the page looks like it ends, so they’re not going any further. There are lots of interesting things you can figure out from that.
2. Was an important CTA viewed?
The next thing is: Was an important CTA actually viewed? So I think this is a metric that not a lot of people really think about. You sprinkle CTAs all over your site, but you don’t know if anyone is actually looking at them. A page view tells you nothing, because a page view is just I opened up the page and I might have done it accidentally.
Maybe I hit back right away. It’s still a page view. I could have the tab open in my browser forever. Maybe I don’t want to get rid of it yet. That’s a page view too. It doesn’t mean they actually saw anything useful or did anything with that information. So one of the things you can do in Google Tag Manager is you can create something called an element visibility trigger.
An element visibility trigger is basically what it sounds like. Was the element visible? So let’s say, for example, you want to record each call to action, and each call to action is in a specific div called CTA, for example. So in Google Tag Manager, you would set up an element visibility trigger, and you would say every time the CTA is visible I want you to record an event, and then you would know how many times people actually saw that CTA.
Another example we’ve done for this is sometimes clients will have forms that are only open if you click a button, and so then we would record how many times people actually clicked that button to open the form, because your conversion rate, if you’re just looking at page views, isn’t really accurate. It’s not actually seeing the form itself. So that way you’re getting a much better sense of how many people are actually viewing the form and how many people are actually filling out the form, and that can also help you make some good user behavior decisions with regards to your website.
3. Form engagement
Now, moving on to form engagement, some other stuff that I think you should be measuring is people, how they engage with forms, because, let’s be honest, that required thing, it sucks. I know a lot of people are like, “Well, not all the fields are required. Look at this huge form that we have, but only 6 fields of the 18 are required.” That’s still not a great experience.
We’ve had forms for a long time now. Not a lot of people still know that the little star means required. They think they have to fill everything out. It seems intimidating. They walk away. I think it’s pretty well-accepted knowledge by now, but I also think a lot of people are like, “Oh, but we have to have this big form for reasons.” So what you want to know is how people are engaging with that form.
I find it really useful, particularly when you’re in that situation where you’re saying to a client or your team, “I think we have too many fields in this form.” They’re like, “No, everybody uses them.” You’re like, “Do they?” Now you’ll know through this engagement trigger.
4. Google Translate usage
Something else that I like to check too is Google Translate usage, because again maybe your site is just in English, but you maybe are wondering, “Is it worth translating our site into Spanish or French?”
There are more languages than English in the world. So one of the things you can check is if people are using Google Translate to view your website. Again, in the transcript, I will link to a recipe for Google Tag Manager to actually check if people are using Google Translate to view your site, which is really interesting and frankly pretty eye-opening for clients a lot of the time. So I recommend using that as well.
5. Accessibility tool use
Then accessibility tool use. Accessibility is a conversation that I think every company should be having with regards to their website, because people use assistive devices to manage their website usage and how they’re actually engaging with websites. Not a lot of websites really make accessible experiences unfortunately. So one of the tools that we use is called Monsido Page Assist.
If you go to our website at kickpoint.ca, you’ll see this little widget down in the corner, and then if you click that, then we record that, yes, somebody actually engaged with this. Then we can see what percentage of people on our site are using that widget in order to make their experience better, and then we know maybe we need to improve something or maybe this is just them changing the fonts or whatever it might be.
So that’s another really good thing that you might want to measure when you take a look at your website.
Ways to improve website engagement
So I’ve given you some ideas of stuff you can measure. Now, how are ways that you can improve just generally with this data or overall in terms of your website? So this is this section over here, the ways to improve section.
1. Tie metrics to your revenue and conversion goals
So the first thing obviously, and I always talk about this in every talk, is you really need to make sure to tie these metrics to your revenue goals.
I think that is just one of the biggest mistakes that people make, when reporting in Analytics or really anything, is you’re not tying it to anything. You’re measuring for the sake of measuring, but you’re not saying what the impact of this is. So, for example, visitors who see this call to action are 90% more likely to convert than people who don’t. Being able to measure that and being able to say that stat with confidence, maybe not that stat specifically, but a stat, when thing A happens, we make more money, that is how you get changes done, and that’s one of the best ways to communicate this.
So if you can take any of this measurement stuff and communicate it in a way that really gets it across to whoever is the decision-maker, if it isn’t you, that if you make this change, you’re going to make more money, hit your goals, get to your revenue goals faster, that is a really easy way to make sure that this stuff happens.
2. Record the full referrer path
Now you might know that in Google Analytics there is a dimension called referrer path, but it isn’t necessarily useful. The full referrer path is something that’s available in the browser a lot of the time, but it isn’t something that is captured by default in Google Analytics. By capturing that full referrer path, you can get a little bit more information about exactly where people are coming from.
I find that that is also really helpful information because it can help you sort of segment out a little bit better and say it isn’t just people from say Reddit who are coming to the site. It’s people coming from Reddit from this specific subreddit, and those are the people buying our stuff. That is additional information that you didn’t necessarily have available to you. So that, I call it the “complete referrer,” is a nice custom dimension to add into your Google Analytics implementation to just get that little bit more information to help you make better decisions and figure out ways to improve.
3. Use a ?subscriber=yes parameter
Then the third thing, this is like a personal pet peeve of mine. If I’m already on your newsletter, don’t show me a giant pop-up asking me to sign up for your newsletter when I click a link in your newsletter to get to your website. People think, “Well, I don’t know how to do this.” So here’s how you do it. You can add a parameter to your URLs. It’s like ?subscriber=yes, for example.
Then when you deliver that popover CTA, don’t deliver it if that parameter exists in the URL that the person is viewing. That means they’re already on the list. You can show them something saying, “Thank you for being a subscriber.” It might be a little bit creepy, because people may not know how you know that they’re a subscriber. But that’s one of the ways that you can just generally improve things for your user experience.
So only show the CTA to the people who could conceivably convert, because otherwise you’re just wasting bandwidth. I’m already on your mailing list. Stop trying to sell me. You already sold me. So I would really recommend adding this parameter. You can think about it for others CTAs as well. So, for example, if someone comes to the website via a link in an invoice or a receipt, like they bought something, then don’t try to sell them the thing that they just bought.
There are lots of things you can do with Google Tag Manager and reading different parameter outputs in URLs and then making decisions based on what’s shown or not shown based on what’s in those URLs. That’s again an easy way to improve things without necessarily having to measure a lot of engagement. It’s just using the tools that you already have access to in order to make the user experience better for the people coming to your website.
So hopefully some of this measurement stuff, the ways to measure and the ways to improve, will help you build a better website experience. Maybe you still do need a new website. Maybe the website you have is difficult to manage and it’s really expensive, or it’s a big old flaming pile of trash. Who knows what could be wrong with it? But don’t throw it out just yet.
If you’re not sure, measure some stuff first and then make a call whether or not it’s time to do your website. Thank you.
Tweet your questions and comments about website engagement using #MozBlog!
Faceted navigation allows customers to narrow down search results based on specific product attributes. They typically exist on Product Listing Pages (PLPs) and are a great way to help users intuitively discover products but managing this filtering system is a common SEO challenge. Crawling and indexation need to be controlled.
However, if we look beyond their inherent functionality, facets can offer us considerable potential. By centering your secondary navigation on long-tail keyword opportunities, you’ll be able to strategically utilize consumer intent, secure additional web conversions, and boost revenue levels.
Match consumer intent with long-tail search queries
Having an established brand and a solid domain backlink profile won’t guarantee success. This is great news for smaller brands, as industry giants aren’t necessarily going to win at this game.
If we search for “long sleeve wedding dresses”, we can see how David’s Bridal’s optimized facet page (Domain Authority: 67/100, Page Authority: 47 / 100) has obtained the top ranking position, while Nordstrom’s result (Domain Authority: 87/100, Page Authority: 39/100) appears in the third position for this particular query. We’ll take a look at what makes this page so effective later.
When looking at how we can optimize faceted navigations, it’s important to recognize that product attributes convey consumer needs and aspirations. If, for example, I’m looking for a wedding dress, then I may tailor my search by the color, fabric, neckline shape, and the sleeve length.
According to the search demand curve, long-tail queries account for up to 70% of all organic searches. They are highly targeted queries that offer big traffic-driving opportunities.
In the last few years, we’ve seen a big shift in the industry towards capitalizing this intent with long-form content. Blog articles and style guides have become the go-to methods for many to capture these visitors, as we can see from the examples taken from Marks & Spencers’ “Inspire Me” section:
People often look for inspiration when they’re shopping, and these pages provide an effective way to add more internal links to category and product pages. But relying on this approach is one-dimensional, given that these deeper content pages tend to have lower PageRank. An extensive amount of time and effort will, therefore, be required to achieve the desired result.
In comparison, Product Listing Pages usually target broader search terms, and faceted navigations typically exist as passive functions. This is because they’re often blocked from crawlers, making them devoid of any SEO value. Waterstones (a well-known British bookstore) is one retailer that applies this rule for their on-page filters:
In this particular example, I’ve applied a filter to only show me books for 5 – 8 year olds, but the appended URL (https://www.waterstones.com/category/childrens-teenage/facet/498) is blocked in the robots.txt file. This is going to prevent such pages from being served in the SERPs despite them having the potential to meet specific customer needs. This shows that there can be a fundamental disconnect in matching customer intent to the pages we’re providing them in the organic results.
From the diagram below, we can see how editorial content typically focuses on the “awareness” and “interest” stages, whilst Product Listing Pages tend to be more in line with the “consideration” and “purchase” phases:
Serving the right content to users throughout their buying journey is pivotal to success. For many retailers, competitors are continuing to prioritize broader, high-volume keywords in saturated markets. They’re targeting the same terms to secure a proportion of the same search traffic. This is a very challenging prospect to face, and without carving out a gap in the marketplace, they won’t necessarily deliver the results they seek to secure. Likewise, relying on informational guides to target long-tail keywords means that you’re missing a large percentage of users who have very specific buying requirements. Yes, they’re ready to make a purchase!
By shifting your focus to address your customer’s real needs and expectations, you’ll be able to deliver a satisfying, frictionless experience at every interaction and all the way through to that final purchase.
Step 1: Conduct long-tail keyword research
Build a really comprehensive view of your potential customers by harnessing data from a variety of sources, including:
b) The SERPs — get inspiration from the auto-suggest results, People Also Ask, and the related search links at the bottom of the page.
c) Competitor activity — aside from using SEO monitoring software, you can use a data mining extension tool like Scraper, which will extract faceted options directly from competitor Product Listing Pages. These tools are often free to download and allow you to quickly transfer product categories.
d) Your Google Search Console, Analytics, and PPC accounts to determine which keywords and URLs are securing the highest number of visits and web conversions. Internal search data can also give you great consumer insights.
e) Speak to your merchandising team to understand product demands and fulfillment capabilities.
Step 2: Group into meaningful sub-topics
Once you’ve collated all this information into a spreadsheet, you’ll be able to discover long-tail, consideration-orientated keywords. While individually they may not boast huge monthly search estimates, they can collectively highlight where purchase intentions can be better fulfilled.
To help illustrate this point, we can look at a small subset of lingerie keywords and the facets the searches represent:
From the table above we can quickly see a pattern emerging with color and material variations appearing across the search terms. We can then substantiate this information with session and revenue estimates with the use of a recognized CTR model. This enables us to help forecast the potential organic uplift and quantify the size of the prize for a number of different scenarios that are on offer from each new facet combination. This may include estimations for securing position 10, 7, 5, 3 and 1 in Google.
One thing to note here is that it’s worth excluding synonyms, as they will falsely inflate your calculations. An example here would be to exclude “storage drawers” (22.2k monthly searchers) when reviewing the performance for “chest of drawers” (201k m/s). Including both variants will cause a false positive result and will lead you to draw incorrect conclusions.
Step 3: Dig deeper into broader terms around offers, ratings, and price
These product filters are found in the “Sort” dropdown box and, from my experience, these are set to “noindex” from the outset as they simply allow users to re-order page results. Certainly, content management systems like Shopify and Shopware have this as a default.
This makes sense since their purpose is to allow visitors to simply sort or narrow page content rather than offering alternative results and additional value (which is offered through faceted navigation). As such, filter typically produce duplicate results which should not be discoverable beyond the immediate moment. But this hard-and-fast rule doesn’t always apply perfectly in the real world. This is why we need to look at our individual industries and understand what’s important to our unique set of customers.
If we look at the world of gifting, we often see people shopping with a particular budget in mind. Therefore, terms like “birthday gift under £20” (40 m/s) or “Secret Santa gift under £10” (2.9k m/s) are reasonably common, and opening up relevant listing pages could be useful for shoppers.
Step 4: The technical steps
Facet taxonomies are hugely complex and the number of attributes that can be strung together increases with the size of the domain. We, therefore, need to carefully manage the flood gates and mitigate against any potential risks including crawl inefficiencies and link equity dilution.
We can do this by:
1. Avoiding thin/doorway pages by regularly re-assessing your product offering. For instance, you may consider there to be little value in creating a new listings page if you’re selling a very small range of low price point products. In this case, you may decide against opening up an additional Product Listing Page when you sell as few as 10 eligible products. However, this is not a fixed rule, so it’s quite possible that your criteria may be lower for particular product lines. Either way, these numbers will change over time. Consider seasonal trends, when new collections are launched, and when they become discontinued. Setting up a product retirement strategy to manage expired products and categories at scale in parallel with this step is also highly recommended.
2. Prevent content cannibalization by arranging selected facets according to their value and significance. “Size” is very important for some electrical goods like TVs, laptops, and cameras, but is less so for beauty accessories or vacuum cleaners. You must also make sure page content is distinctive and reflects the focus of your chosen facet(s). Refer to step 5 for more details.
3. Follow the sequence in which adjectives and facets are typically selected by your customers. This can vary depending on where your audience lives. So, whilst products generally have five or more distinguishable features, English vernacular determines that we use more than four adjectives (e.g. size + color + material + shape) to describe something.
4. Control the controllables by dealing with overlapping variations. This typically occurs when multiples co-exist and each exhibits good search metrics. For instance, it’s reasonable for someone to simultaneously look for several color and/or fabric combinations in the different ways below.
When this situation occurs, we should follow the same linguistic rules as above and choose a preferred sequence. In this case, it would be color + material + product type.
In comparison to the noindex tag suggested for on-page filters you should canonicalize unnecessary facets to their parent page (remembering that this is merely a hint and not a directive). This will enable you to control how crawlers deal with highly comparable result pages and will, therefore, help to prevent your site from being demoted in the SERPs. Dynamic search parameters should continue to be defined with a “noindex, nofollow” meta robots tag, disallowed in the robots.txt file, and configured through Google’s URL parameter tool (within your Search Console account) to tell crawlers the purpose of your parameters and how you would like them to be treated. This is a helpful guide on parameter handling for Googlebots, but bear in mind that this last tip won’t influence how Bing or Yahoo user-agents interpret these pages.
5. Open your facets in phases and cultivate it into a test-and-learn process. This will enable you to identify issues a lot sooner and implement facet-wide solutions in a timely manner. Without having to unravel these additional layers of complexity, problems such as crawl inefficiencies, PageRank dilution, or excessive indexation can be swiftly resolved.
To show you what this could look like, I’ve provided a phasing plan that was created for one of our e-commerce clients. Our research showed a significant SEO opportunity for opening up some of the facets and filters: potential +£263Kpcm for the “colour + type” facet (UK):
What’s more, when we extended our forecast to include other facet combinations, we calculated an additional revenue opportunity of up to +£207K/pcm (before filtering out combinations with no products offering).
Step 5: Optimize your facet URLs
Optimize your new facet category URLs to establish relevancy for your selected search terms. The key on-page elements to focus on include:
David’s Bridal is a good example of a retailer that has done this well. Looking back at the ‘Long Sleeve Wedding Dress’ Product Listing Page, we can see that they’ve curated unique content and followed fundamental optimization tactics on the landing page in a way that feels helpful to the user.
Page Title: Long Sleeve Wedding Dresses & Gowns | David’s Bridal
Meta Description: Do you dream of wearing a long sleeve wedding dress on your big day? Shop David’s Bridal wide variety of wedding gowns with sleeves in lace & other designs!
6. Provide accessibility and build page authority
Once you’ve opened up your new facet Product Listing Pages, you need to begin cultivating link equity towards them. This will ensure that they don’t exist as orphan URLs with no PageRank:
Ensure they’re referenced in your product XML sitemap.
If you have one feature per facet URL, then add them to your faceted navigation across CLP and Product Listing Page pages.
If you have two or more features per facet URL, then create a “Popular Searches” or “Related Searches” option within your CLPs.
Utilize your mega menu to showcase your new category landing pages. This will not only allow you to direct a large proportion of link equity, but it will also secure the highest click-through rate amongst your visitors.
Integrate your editorial strategy by creating engaging content with in-copy links. Think about how you can use descriptive long-tail anchor text about the Product Listing Page you want to link to rather than relying on “click here” or “see more”.
Connect to them via href links so you’re not solely relying on links from the main navigation or content hyperlinks. As this is difficult to do at scale, it can be done through modules such as “related categories”, “other subcategories”, “related products”, etc.
Devise strategic outreach campaigns that will secure quality, external backlinks to them.
Implementing this holistic and robust strategy will help you to secure exponential growth from your new commercial landing pages.
There is a great deal of organic opportunity that exists within your faceted navigation if you begin to leverage mid- and long-tail search terms.
Seek out the opportunity from extended keyword research and competitor analysis before deciding which variants fulfill consumer demands and deliver optimal organic sessions and onsite conversions. Configure a single faceted URL for each opportunity and open them up for crawl and indexation. Ensure PageRank is distributed to them (both internally and externally) and develop your landing page content in line with quality optimization practices. This approach will help you to avoid having crawl inefficiencies, over indexation, cannibalization, or having thin doorway pages. In turn, your website will be better suited to attract highly-targeted users and guide them down the purchase funnel.
Maximizing UX and reducing reliance on other marketing channels means that your faceted navigation can truly deliver organic ROI. We have seen this work for our clients.
Resident Moz search scientist Dr. Pete Meyers returns to the MozCon stage this year, and we’re so excited for his presentation: Rule Your Rivals: From Data to Action. In our last interview before the show, we talked with Dr. Pete about 2020, the trends he’s seeing in the SERPs, and what makes competitive analysis effective.
Read the full interview below, and don’t forget to grab your ticket to see Dr. Pete and our other amazing speakers at MozCon Virtual 2021 (ticket sales end Friday, July 9!):
Question: 2020 was quite a year, how was this year for you? Did you have any favorite projects?
Dr. Pete: Honestly, there were a lot of days this past year when it felt like just staying alive and sane were our main project (and I’m not sure I completed the sane part). Here at Moz, the Product team and I have been hard at work on an upcoming suite of competitive analysis tools, and I’m excited to finally get the first part of that out to the world. We should have news at MozCon and a limited beta going out in the next couple of months.
Question: What key trends are you noticing in the SERP right now? What should brands pay attention to when competing for features?
Dr. Pete: It’s been a challenging year in SEO, as the volatility of the SERPs in many ways matches the volatility of the world. It’s been a big year for e-commerce and a bad year for brick-and-mortar, for obvious reasons, and as we return to a new normal, we really need to stay on top of things and monitor how changing consumer behavior is impacting SERPs, both because Google is changing to adapt and because search behavior itself is changing. SERP features are becoming more and more niche, and I think it’s really important to know your own industry and SERP space. There are a lot of features now that might only impact 1% of us, but for that 1% the impact is massive. There’s no one-sized-fits-all advice in 2021.
Question: How do you think the SERPs will evolve over the next year?
Dr. Pete: In just the past month, we’ve had two Core Updates (which is unprecedented) and the beginning of the Core Web Vitals (CWV) ranking updates. While I believe that CWV as a ranking factor is pretty low-volume right now, Google is clearly signaling to us that they want fast, user-friendly sites, and that’s something that all of us should be working toward anyway, regardless of our SEO. We need to be aware of the entire searcher experience and the SERPs as a journey, not a static collection of rankings and features.
Question: You’ll be talking about how to turn data into competitive insights at MozCon. What inspired you to tackle this topic in 2021?
Dr. Pete: I’ve actually been working on this particular project for at least four years, and generally questioning how we do competitive analysis and how we can improve that process. One thing the pandemic really drove home is that the “competition” isn’t a single or static set of companies — our competitive landscape is constantly changing. So, the idea of being able to re-evaluate that landscape and not just treat it as a one-and-done report took on new life in 2021.
Question: What are the biggest challenges brands face when conducting competitive analysis?
Dr. Pete: First, it’s incredibly time-consuming. Second, what you end up with after a ton of work is usually a giant spreadsheet of keywords or link prospects that’s ultimately not very actionable. No one is going to take a competitive analysis with tens of thousands of keywords and write a thousand unique, well-researched pieces of content. So, I think the big challenges are making the process both easier and more focused.
Question: What’s your #1 tip for conducting effective competitive analysis?
Dr. Pete: Don’t assume you know who your competition is or that they’re just one set of businesses. Your online/SERP competitors may look very different from your brick-and-mortar competitors, and the competition is always evolving. At the same time, you might have content competitors and product competitors and even partner-competitors, and those groups might not overlap much or require the same strategies to compete with.
Question: What are the key takeaways you want viewers to walk away with?
Dr. Pete: I hope people walk away with a better sense of how to evaluate their competition and turn that analysis into an actionable content strategy that considers not just keywords, but their target competitors’ content and their own historical content. While I’m going to be teasing some of our upcoming product features, I’ll also be demonstrating how to do some of this work with Google (including some tips and tricks with advanced search operators).
Question: Who in the MozCon line up are you most excited to watch this year? Anything else you are looking forward to?
Dr. Pete: I’m really behind where I want to be on Natural Language Processing (NLP) work, so I’m excited to see Miracle Inameti-Archibong’s talk. I’ve been a big fan of some of Miracle’s work over the past year or two. Excited to see Jackie Chu speak, too, and hear more about her role at Uber. I always value hearing from in-house SEOs at big brands, since so many of my own contacts are agency folks. Always eager to see my returning favorites, too, like Wil Reynolds. Of course, I’m probably most excited to watch my boss, Tom Capper, because he’s brilliant and very handsome and did not at all make me say that.