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While Google Posts aren’t a ranking factor, they can still be an incredibly effective resource for increasing local business conversions — when used correctly. This week’s Whiteboard Friday host, Greg Gifford, shows you how to put your best post forward.
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Howdy, Moz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Fridays. I’m Greg Gifford, the Vice President of Search at SearchLab, a boutique digital marketing agency specializing in local SEO and paid search. I’m here today to talk about— you guessed it — Google Posts, the feature on Google My Business that lets you post interesting and attractive things to attract potential customers.
The importance of Google My Business
Mike Blumenthal said it first. Your Google My Business listing is your new homepage. Then we all kind of stole it, and everybody says it now. But it’s totally true. It’s the first impression that you make with potential customers. If someone wants your phone number, they don’t have to go to your site to get it anymore. Or if they need your address to get directions or if they want to check out photos of your business or they want to see hours or reviews, they can do it all right there on the search engine results page.
If you’re a local business, one that serves customers face-to-face at a physical storefront location or that serves customers at their location, like a plumber or an electrician, then you’re eligible to have a Google My Business listing, and that listing is a major element of your local SEO strategy. You need to stand out from competitors and show potential customers why they should check you out. Google Posts are one of the best ways to do just that thing.
How to use Google Posts effectively
For those of you who don’t know about Google Posts, they were released back in 2016, and they used to show up, up at the top of your Google My Business panel, and most businesses went crazy over them. In October of 2018, they moved them down to the very bottom of the GMB panel on desktop and out of the overview panel on mobile results, and most people kind of lost interest because they thought there would be a huge loss of visibility.
But honestly, it doesn’t matter. They’re still incredibly effective when they’re used correctly.
Posts are basically free advertising on Google. You heard that right. They’re free advertising. They show up in Google search results. Seriously, especially effective on mobile when they’re mixed in with other organic results.
But even on desktop, they help your business attract potential customers and stand out from other local competitors. More importantly, they can drive pre-site conversions. You’ve heard about zero-click search. Now people can convert without getting to your site. They appear as a thumbnail, an image with a little bit of text underneath. Then when the user clicks on the thumbnail, the whole post pops up in a pop-up window that basically fills the window on either mobile or desktop.
Now they have no influence on ranking. They’re a conversion factor, not a ranking factor. Think of it this way though. If it takes you 10 minutes to create a post and you do only one a week, that’s just 40 minutes a month. If you get a conversion, isn’t it worth doing? If you do them correctly, you can get a lot more than just one conversion.
In the past, I would have told you that posts stay live in your profile for seven days, unless you use one of the post templates that includes a date range, in which case they stay live for the entire date range. But it looks like Google has changed the way that posts work, and now Google displays your 10 most recent posts in a carousel with a little arrow to scroll through. Then when you get to the end of those 10 posts, it has a link to view all of your older posts.
Now you shouldn’t pay attention to most of what you see online about Posts because there’s a ridiculous amount of misinformation or simply outdated information out there.
Avoid words on the “no-no” list
Quick tip: Be careful about the text that you use. Anything with sexual connotation will get your post denied. This is really frustrating for some industries. If you put up a post about weather stripping, you get vetoed because of the word “stripping.” Or if you’re a plumber and you post about “toilet repairs” or “unclogging a toilet”, you get denied for using the word “toilet.”
So be careful if you have anything that might be on that no-no, naughty list.
Use an enticing thumbnail
The full post contains an image. A full post has the image and then text with up to 1,500 characters, and that’s all most people pay attention to. But the post thumbnail is the key to success. No one is going to see the full post if the thumbnail isn’t enticing enough to click on.
Think of it like you’re creating a paid search campaign. You need really compelling copy if you want more clicks on your ad or a really awesome image to attract attention if it’s a banner image. The same principle applies to posts.
Make them promotional
It’s also important to be sure that your posts are promotional. People are seeing these posts in the search results before they go to your site. So in most cases they have no idea who you are yet.
The typical social fluff that you share on other social platforms doesn’t work. Don’t share links to blog posts or a simple “Hey, we sell this” message because those don’t work. Remember, your users are shopping around and trying to figure out where they want to buy, so you want to grab their attention with something promotional.
Pick the right template
Most of the stuff out there will tell you that the post thumbnail displays 100 characters of text or about 16 words broken into 4 distinct lines. But in reality, it’s different depending on which post template you use and whether or not you include a call to action link, which then replaces that last line of text.
But, hey, we’re all marketers. So why wouldn’t we include a CTA link, right?
There are three main post types. In the vast majority of cases, you want to use the What’s New post template. That’s the one that allows for the most text in the thumbnail view, so it’s easier to write something compelling. Now with the What’s New post, once you include that call to action, it replaces that last line so you end up with three full lines of available text space.
Both the Event and Offer post templates include a title and then a date range. Some people dig the date range because the post stays visible for that whole date range. But now that posts stay live and visible forever, there’s no advantage there. Both of those post types have that separate title line, then a separate date range line, and then the call to action link is going to be on the fourth line, which leaves you only a single line of text or just a few words to write something compelling.
Sure, the Offer post has a cool little price tag emoji there next to the title and some limited coupon functionality, but that’s not a reason. You should have full coupon functionality on your site. So it’s better to write something compelling with a “What’s New” post template and then have the user click through on the call to action link to get to your site to get more information and convert there.
There’s also a new COVID update post type, but you don’t want to use it. It shows up a lot higher on your Google My Business profile, actually just below your top line information, but it’s text only. Only text, no image. If you’ve got an active COVID post, Google hides all of your other active posts. So if you want to share a COVID info post or updates about COVID, it’s better to use the What’s New post template instead.
Pay attention to image cropping
The image is the frustrating part of things. Cropping is super wonky and really inconsistent. In fact, you could post the same image multiple times and it will crop slightly differently each time. The fact that the crop is slightly higher than vertical center and also a different size between mobile and desktop makes it really frustrating.
The important areas of your image can get cropped out, so half of your product ends up being gone, or your text gets cropped out, or things get really hard to read. Now there’s a rudimentary cropping tool built into the image upload function with posts, but it’s not locked to an aspect ratio. So then you’re going to end up with black bars either on the top or on the side if you don’t crop it to the correct aspect ratio, which is, by the way, 1200 pixels width by 900 pixels high.
You need to have a handle on what the safe area is within the image. So to make things easier, we created this Google Posts Cropping Guide. It’s a Photoshop document with built-in guides to show you what the safe area is. You can download it at bit.ly/posts-image-guide. Make sure you put that in lowercase because it’s case sensitive.
But it looks like this. Anything within that white grid is safe and that’s what’s going to show up in that post thumbnail. But then when you see the full post, the rest of the image shows up. So you can get really creative and have things like here’s the image, but then when it pops up, there’s additional text at the bottom.
Include UTM tracking
Now, for the call to action link, you need to be sure that you include UTM tracking, because Google Analytics doesn’t always attribute that traffic correctly, especially on mobile.
Now if you include UTM tagging, you can ensure that the clicks are attributed to Google organic, and then you can use the campaign variable to differentiate between the posts that you published so you’ll be able to see which post generated more click-throughs or more conversions and then you can adjust your strategy moving forward to use the more effective post types.
So for those of you that aren’t super familiar with UTM tagging, it’s basically adding a query string like this to the end of the URL that you’re tagging so it forces Google Analytics to attribute the session a certain way that you’re specifying.
So here’s the structure that I recommend using when you do Google posts. It’s your domain on the left. Then ?UTM_Source is GMB.Post, so it’s separated. Then UTM_Medium is Organic, and UTM_Campaign is some sort of post identifier. Some people like to use Google as the source.
But at a high level, when you look at your source medium report, that traffic all gets lumped together with everything from Google. So sometimes it’s confusing for clients who don’t really understand that they can look at secondary dimensions to break apart that traffic. So more importantly, it’s easier for you to see your post traffic separately when you look at the default source medium report.
You want to leave organic as your medium so that it’s lumped and grouped correctly on the default channel report with all organic traffic. Then you enter some sort of identifier, some sort of text string or date that can let you know which post you’re talking about with that campaign variable. So make sure it’s something unique so that you know which post you’re talking about, whether it’s car post, oil post, or a date range or the title of the post so you know when you’re looking in Google Analytics.
It’s also important to mention that Google My Business Insights will show you the number of views and clicks, but it’s a bit convoluted because multiple impressions and/or multiple clicks from the same users are counted independently. That’s why adding the UTM tagging is so important for tracking accurately your performance.
Final note, you can also upload videos so a video shows in the thumbnail and in the post.
So when users see that thumbnail that has a little play button on it and they click it, when the post pops up, the video will play there. Now the file size limit is 30 seconds or 75 MB, which if you got commercials, that’s basically the perfect size. So even though they’ve been around for a few years, most businesses still ignore Posts. Now you know how to rock Posts so you’ll stand out from competitors and generate more click-throughs.
Hopefully you enjoyed the video. If you’ve got any additional tips to share, please throw them in the comments down below. Thanks for watching, and I’ll see you again next time.
Generation Z’s behaviors differ from the cohorts that came before it, creating a new challenge for businesses marketing to consumers within it. Gen Z’s presence is also growing in the marketing industry itself and, as such, learning how to work with and appeal to these young people is a critical step to take sooner rather than later.
Who is Generation Z?
Social media stars might be the first people who come to mind when you think of Gen Z (also affectionately called Zoomers), but this age group is more than just TikTokers and YouTubers. Although the purported birth years of this generation vary across different sources, Pew Research refers to them as individuals born from 1997 and onward. With that in mind, it may come as a surprise that these Americans now make up about 28.7% of the total population. For context, Baby Boomers now account for a smaller proportion of just 21.8%, and Millennials around 22%.
Even more shocking than these statistics may be the fact that the oldest members of Generation Z are now well into their twenties. While it’s easy to think of this group as teenagers and children, they’ve grown up quickly, and are now major players in the world’s economy. In fact, this group has an annual spending power of around $143 billion, and currently accounts for approximately 40% of global consumers.
It’s well known that members of this cohort are digital natives and have been raised alongside technology. In 2014, the UK’s Office of Communications tested the technological proficiency of children versus adults only to find that the average 6-year-old outperformed those in their 40s. It’s safe to assume most members of this new generation have a solid grasp of technology, and a skill set that rivals people much older. This may be even more prevalent now with the rising use of digital resources due to the COVID-19 crisis.
Pew Social Trends noted in a recent essay that much like Millennials, who faced the Great Recession during their coming-of-age years, Gen Z will be affected by the pandemic for a long time to come. With a job market that is more competitive than ever and digital skills in high demand, a career in search may become increasingly attractive. Although search engine optimization is ever-changing, its importance has been unwavering for nearly two decades, making it a stable option in an unpredictable world.
How do Zoomers interact with marketing as a whole?
When it comes to targeting this cohort, its members are creating new challenges for businesses. First and foremost, their relationships with brands are very different than those of the generations that came before them. Reports from IBM in association with the National Retail Federation found that, for Gen Z, brand loyalty must be earned. Zoomers are looking for a reflection of their personal values in brands and are prepared to hold them accountable. Beyond their resistance to conventional brand loyalty, research has also found that they are more difficult to engage.
Generally speaking, in this day and age, consumers are bombarded with thousands of ads a day and have become harder to reach. As such, it’s not shocking that a common statistic claims that members of Gen Z have the smallest attention spans of just eight seconds. However, Fast Company presents this information in a new light by explaining that they actually have “8-second filters”. These filters allow them to quickly process the tremendous amounts of information they encounter each day to hone in on what they actually care about, uniquely preparing them to glaze over advertising attempts (as they’ve been conditioned to do basically since birth).
To combat this trend, marketers have been pursuing a variety of novel strategies and methods. For example, experiential marketing has proven to be effective with Gen Z, and they’re also especially excited by virtual reality.
While there are many new marketing opportunities available, social media continues to be a major channel for Gen Z engagement. This is especially true when it comes to video content on sites like YouTube and TikTok. All in all, as these consumers move away from traditional television viewership, the need for alternative marketing avenues grows.
How does Gen Z use search?
With all of this background information in mind, it’s easy to see that search is well-positioned to access this target demographic. Generation Z may not be as responsive to direct advertisements, but they’re accustomed to searching.
As a matter of fact, search engines have been around longer than Gen Z has, with the first search engine appearing in 1990, so it’s no surprise that their use is second nature to this age group. Zoomers fully understand how to use search tools, and they have the capacity to quickly evaluate SERPs prior to deciding on which link will get their click.
They’ve always had the answers to any question readily available, so they also use search for more intentional discovery. Despite their noted “8-second filter”, Fast Company additionally found that they could become deeply focused on topics they find to be worthwhile. Furthermore, their nonchalance towards brand loyalty means they may be less likely to opt for a big brand website over others.
Finally, their use and reliance on mobile devices can’t be overlooked or overstated. The stereotype that people are now glued to their phones has some merit, and companies like Google have taken notice. They’ve already begun catering towards this shift, with things like mobile-first indexing and AMP pages now taking on greater importance. IBM and NRF discovered that, in a global survey of 15,600 Gen Z-ers, 60% would not use an app or site that loads too slowly. This puts the importance of mobile site speed into a greater perspective for SEOs hoping to capture this demographic through search.
The findings of a recent Fractl survey clearly align with each of these trends. They found that out of all the generations, Gen Z has the highest preference for long-tail queries. They know that a short-tail query will produce broad results, and they may not find what they’re looking for. In addition, their mobile usage has created an uptick in voice assistant search functions, which utilize these multi-word phrases as well.
Zoomers working as SEOs
Although this age group is well equipped to use search engines, it’s likely that the concept of SEO still remains somewhat foreign to them. A quick Coursera search shows that there are almost no SEO-specific college courses currently available to students. While some general digital marketing classes may have a chapter or section on SEO, that information can oftentimes be outdated due to the ever-changing nature of search. There are also a few certificate programs and online workshops, but the aforementioned issue is still present. In summary, the most accessible way for students to learn is through their own research, an internship, or some other similar experience that they happen upon.
That said, this industry can provide a fantastic career path for members of Gen Z, should they discover and choose to pursue it. Working in search allows you to develop a variety of skills from critical thinking to problem-solving and data analysis. Those in the SEO community are always up to date on the latest tech and trends, which is valuable in many facets of business. Furthermore, working within an agency provides the opportunity to learn about a vast range of industries and niches. Many SEOs even pick up web development, data science, and programming experience along the way, and these are three competencies that are in very high demand. All things considered, the many hard and soft skills that can be developed through SEO work are the foundations for being successful throughout a career.
Zoomers already have an aptitude for work in technology-based spaces, and those with the determination can pick up expertise quickly in this field. Prime examples of this include the use of SEO tools and content management systems. For instance, once a CMS such as WordPress is learned, that knowledge can be easily transferred to others like Drupal, HubSpot, and so on. The same can be said for tools like Google Analytics and Search Console, because understanding how to evaluate data within those platforms can be translated to a variety of others. In essence, SEO and Gen Z could truly be a match made in digital marketing heaven.
Understanding client-side Gen Z-ers
While SEO may not yet be a mainstream career path for most young people, those in the digital marketing field will likely encounter it at some point. As such, it’s important to keep in mind that members of this generation will also be working on the client side of search.
As previously mentioned, some Zoomers are already part of the workforce, and the presence of this cohort will only continue to grow. In the year 2020 alone, Gen Z made up approximately 24% of the worldwide workforce.
With an influx of new workers on the horizon, working with them may be a unique experience given their strong grasp of technology. On top of that, they’re also more familiar with concepts like analytics and data science as those careers are seeing a boom in the higher education sector. Members of this age group shouldn’t be underestimated when it comes to absorbing the ins-and-outs of SEO from the client’s point of view.
As Gen Z continues entering the workforce, likely in entry-level positions, it’s important to remember that they’ll be decision-makers in a few short years. They’ll have an increasing ability to influence budgeting decisions, so it’s absolutely critical to think about ways to connect with them now and communicate the value of SEO to save time, energy, and money in the long run. A few steps to work through are as follows:
- Understand that they’re eager to learn and can do so quickly.
- Walk them through the reasoning behind each recommendation to build their knowledge over time. As with clients of any age, this improves trust and helps them to see how SEO really works.
- Take them seriously and listen to their insights.
- They may have concerns, as any client might when it comes to SEO strategies and how they play into the overall marketing plan. Listen to what they have to say, as they may be new, but they could still provide impactful insights.
- Embrace novel ideas and creative thinking.
- Fresh ideas are never a bad thing, but it can be easy to feel resistant towards those that seem to come out of left field. Fight the impulse to immediately shut these down and instead seriously consider how they could be incorporated into the project.
- Don’t shy away from using new tools and technologies.
- As mentioned above, Gen Z isn’t intimidated by new forms of technology. Share interesting findings from tools like HotJar, Tableau, or Google Tag Manager to make SEO more exciting for them.
- Be candid and transparent about performance analytics.
- Be up front about the state of the site’s performance to build their confidence and appreciation for search. In the age of instant gratification, there are few things more satisfying than a positive trend line. On the other side of that, be sure to research and determine the causes for any downturns.
While Gen Z may be a mystery in many ways, two things are certain: they are well on their way to dominating many industries, and they shouldn’t be overlooked. Likewise, if you’re not preparing for their arrival, you might already be falling behind.
Give these findings and tips some thought, and if there are already Gen Z-ers in your organization, try to take time to pick their brains. Go ahead and learn to embrace the change – as we so often do in SEO – because these TikTokers and YouTubers will only be growing in influence.
As a Senior Analytics Strategist working at an agency with clients across industries, I’ve seen wildly contrasting performance throughout the pandemic. Certain online retailers and auto sites were far surpassing any historical performance, while others had to cut back budgets significantly. The variances in revenue performances also empirically correlated with time frames when the public received more support, in the form of stimulus checks.
My team at Portent conducted the study detailed below to verify our hypotheses that the pandemic caused revenue increases in online retailers and auto industries, and that those spikes correlated with stimulus distributions. We discovered a few specific factors that increased the probability of confirming our hypothesis along the way.
“Unprecedented” has undoubtedly been the word of the year, and it’s touched all aspects of life and business. There have been changes in consumer behavior across all industries — we’ve unfortunately seen swaths of shutdowns in particular markets while others have sustained or are even thriving. This post will provide some observations in online behavior along with some consumer data that should be used as predictive indicators through the rest of the pandemic.
The observations of changes in online behavior were pulled and anonymized from 16 of our clients across 8 different industries. We narrowed those 8 industries down to three categories defined by Google Analytics for the purposes of this analysis: Shopping (10), Travel (3), and Autos & Vehicles (3).
The sites included in this analysis were limited to the US where possible and ranged in monthly revenue from $16K to $103K and in monthly sessions from 4K to 44K.
Observation #1: Stimulus checks resulted in increases in online behavior
Stimulus checks initiated the first revival of spending since the start of the pandemic. Granted, it was only about a month between the first notice of a lockdown and the beginning of stimulus payments. However, that increase in spend remained at higher levels after the majority of stimulus checks were distributed for most sites in this analysis—of course, excluding the Travel sites.
The first round of stimulus checks provided some form of relief to single Americans that made less than $99K a year, with those who made less than a $75K salary receiving the full $1,200. There were differences in limits depending on whether you have children or how you filed your taxes.
There was a noticeable jump in both sessions and revenue during the (1) week of April 13th, when $80M worth of stimulus payments were deposited for taxpayers who had direct deposits set up. By the (2) week of April 20th, additional rounds of deposits were made to those who manually set up direct deposits through the IRS. And by the (3) week of June 3rd, the IRS had delivered $270B in stimulus checks to Americans. At this point, revenue and sessions began to normalize below that period of stimulus distributions until the undeniable Black Friday sales occurred.
Observation #2: The impact depends on the market
There were obvious industries that were impacted most by the changes in consumer behavior and are still barely recovering: travel, in-store retail, and restaurants, to name those that were hit the hardest. On the other hand, some industries are actually performing better than before, such as online retail sales and food and beverage stores.
The analyses from S&P Global and the U.S. Census Bureau were accurately reflected in our study as well. Through the end of November, the average revenue for the Shopping sites in our analysis was 27.5% higher than our dip seen in March while sessions were 24.4% higher.
What came as a surprise, however, was that the Autos & Vehicles sites actually sustained higher averages than the Shopping sites. The sites in this industry saw 26.8% higher sessions and 36.8% higher revenue compared to the dip seen in the beginning of the pandemic and also well above prior levels in the beginning of the year.
The stark jump in sessions and revenue also aligned with when the distribution of stimulus checks began. In hindsight, the increase in consumer spending in this industry could have been anticipated considering the limitations and fear associated with traveling by plane. Online behavior is higher in the summer months as well, as those who were becoming restless from quarantining began to take road trips to satisfy their wanderlust.
There were a few other predictable trends that we identified in our study:
- There was one quick spike in athletic wear purchases with the average sustaining higher than pre-pandemic levels.
- There was a prolonged spike in revenue and especially traffic for baking goods and flour purchases, which remained at much higher levels compared to prior numbers. Then there was the seasonal influx of interest during the holidays. Interestingly, the conversion rate was 123% higher during the holidays compared to its peak in the beginning of the pandemic.
- With parents and families stuck at home, there was an exponential and lengthy growth in online behavior for children’s toys. Although the growth has tapered, it continues to see an upward trend.
- As expected, travel sites have taken the largest hit out of our study with a significant drop that has resulted in little to no recovery. The increase in revenue and sessions in the summer is almost entirely attributed to a resort that saw a similar increase in interest from the wanderlusts of the Autos & Vehicles sites.
Observation #3: There’s a positive correlation between AOV and % change in revenue
There was a fairly strong correlation of 0.76 between average order value (AOV) and % change in revenue YoY* for Shopping sites only. The consumer behavior on Autos & Vehicles sites was more dependent on stimulus checks and weather while the behavior on Travel sites was dependent on the feeling of safety.
*The data in this chart was pulled with the following notes:
- YoY comparison was for November 2019 vs. November 2020 (November being the highest performing month based on seasonality)
- Two anomalies were excluded from this data: (1) A flour company and, (2) A company with an AOV of nearly $2K
This one makes intuitive sense if you think about who’s been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Industries that are still thriving are ones that were able to more easily transition to 100% remote work and ones that had enough funds to weather some dropoff in clientele. Those who were fortunate enough to be employed in those industries during this time are also more likely to be paid higher than the median. In fact, only 30% of parents earning $200K or more lost their jobs since the pandemic, compared to 65% of parents earning less than $25K. Those who lost jobs in higher income brackets were also more likely to be able to find work again.
High-income spenders weren’t significantly impacted by the pandemic aside from the first few months, during which the change in consumer spending came from uncertainty. Although high- and low-income brackets both saw significant drops in spending initially, high-income consumers returned to levels comparable to January 2020 while low-income consumers were still about 10% below on average through September 2020.
Considerations to forecast future performance
There’s quite honestly nothing novel in this analysis that hasn’t been surfaced through market research, and these observations have been corroborated by economic data. The key takeaways here are to pay attention to the trends we’re seeing, think about how they relate to your target audience or customer, and pay attention to new developments that may signal a shift toward normalcy once again as you re-enter the digital marketplace.
Stay informed of economic trends
Keep up-to-date with economic research published by S&P and monitor news releases from the Bureau of Economic Analysis to identify trends in Personal Income, Disposable Personal Income (DPI), Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE). The PCE started dipping in July, which correlates with the changes in consumer behavior we saw in our study. Although the reports don’t come out immediately, staying updated on the direction of these trends could inform your efforts.
Consider your target audience
It’s important to narrow down your research to your target audience. If your business is international, you likely won’t be as impacted by future stimulus checks in the US. However, different international markets will recover at differing rates.
Similarly, it’s important to keep your industry in mind. S&P is already estimating that the most-affected industries may not recover fully until 2022. This means that industries like in-store retail, travel, and service will have to find alternative ways to pivot during this time to return to normal levels.
Once you’ve considered your market and industry, weigh the risks based on your AOV and the income level of your average consumer. The higher the average income level, the more likely it is that your market has already recovered or the higher your chances are of being able to adjust successfully.
Additional federal support
Although the support from the US government throughout the pandemic has been lackluster at best, there’s a possibility of additional support. The recent round of stimulus checks were more limited than the first, meaning the impact on consumer behavior might be less noticeable. Economists are guessing that consumers would rather save this smaller amount than put it back into the economy. However, these bills should be accounted for in forecasting with the hopeful potential of additional (and more significant) federal support.
The distribution of vaccinations is likely to take at least several months to be impactful and possibly even longer to reach herd immunity. During this time of forward movement in the pandemic, we will all need to monitor and predict consumer behavior in unprecedented ways until we begin to see normalcy again.
Structured data is one of the most effective ways to increase the visibility of your website content and increase the sustainability of your SEO as Google implements regular updates to the SERP environment. Over the last five years, many of Google’s most game-changing SERP features have been driven by the use of structured data from across the web. Google for Jobs, Google Shopping, featured snippets, how-to instructions, recipe cards, knowledge panels, and other rich snippets all serve content from sites with structured data.
So, when we think about how small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can compete in today’s ever-evolving SERP landscape, time and time again, well-implemented structured data is what makes the difference.
In this blog I’ll explain the following:
- What is structured data?
- Why should SMEs prioritize structured data implementation?
- How do you identify which structured data is best for your SEO strategy?
- Strategies for adding schema to your site
- How to measure and demonstrate the impact of structured data
In my experience, well-implemented structured data is effective for websites of all sizes and in all verticals. For my own clients, schema implementation has enabled growth, improved performance on search and created opportunities to reach new audiences.
- For an established national retail brand with a thriving social media following, schema optimisations contributed to a 50% increase in organic conversions within a month. And six months on, the improvements we made to product markup, organisation, and blog schema had helped drive a 230% increase in organic conversion value.
- For a local recruitment site, we combined niche targeted schema and sitemap optimization to increase both organic clicks and impressions by over 80% each, within four months.
- For an international B2B retailer, improving existing schema formed the basis for marketing strategy that enabled us to grow our tally of ranking keywords by an average of 70% across three countries, increase our revenue by 35% when compared to the previous period, and create new marketing channels, within 6 months.
- For a professional services provider, we built E-A-T centric schema optimisations into a blog and were able to improve average ranking position by 30% in 3 months and by 43% within a year.
Though the target markets, objectives and audiences differed in each case, I was able to use schema markup as a strategic underpinning of a wider SEO and marketing strategy. This is because schema has become a fundamental element of scalable SEO.
What is structured data in SEO?
On a website, structured data is a means of defining content with a uniform set of names and values, so that bots and machines can better read, index, understand, and serve the content of your site. While the phrase “structured data” can include elements like open graph for social media, microdata, or indeed any set of data that is organized uniformly (think of your CRM), generally when SEOs talk about structured data, we’re referring to structured data markup in JSON-LD as specified by Schema.org and recommended by Google.
Why is Schema.org structured data so strategically important?
Schema.org has become structured data HQ, because its framework — sets of vocabularies and relationships — was created and is maintained through a cross-platform partnership between Google, Microsoft, Yandex, and other major search engines. They regularly create new schema types and relationships aimed at making the information on the web more easily accessible to users.
What does that mean in practice?
Sometimes when I’m explaining structured data to clients, I describe it as a means of essentially turning your beautiful website into a spreadsheet for robots. They can prioritize and process the critical information about the content of the page without having to understand the layout of your particular WordPress theme, reams of CSS, or navigate your Joomla configuration.
This means that information a bot has on a page can be more consistent and resilient, even if the content changes day-to-day. So, in the example of a retailer with seasonal specials and campaigns that change the front end home page layout, structured data tells Google the same information about the page in the same way every time:
Why should SMEs prioritize structured data implementation?
Simply put, structured data gives you the chance to jump the queue on the SERP.
When we look at the ways in which Google has enhanced its SERPs over the last few years, what we see consistently is the use of JSON-LD structured data in combination with Google APIs to create new features and new channels for content. Rich snippet SERP features like Google for Jobs, Google Shopping, featured snippets, how-to instructions, recipe cards, knowledge panels, and other monumental changes to the SERP have all been driven or improved by the creation and utilization of structured data frameworks.
Users love these features because they’re multi-media search enhancements, and are impossible to miss as they often take up the entire viewport on mobile:
Not a plain blue link in sight.
In many cases, your content cannot be included in these attractive rich snippets without structured data. So, if you literally want to get ahead of the competition, structured data needs to be a component in your SEO strategy.
What are the other advantages of structured data for small businesses?
Along with increased visibility, structured data implementation offers the following advantages for small businesses:
- You will likely outpace your local competitors. SMEs are likely to feature within local pack search results with other small businesses. Here, competition for keywords is fierce, but many have yet to incorporate structured data into their sites. This is an opportunity to increase your visibility, gain more market share, and therefore increase conversions.
- Schema markup is a fully scalable optimization. While some SEO tasks like content creation can require pages to be optimized one-by-one, Schema markup can be built into the structure of the page. This means that once it’s set up, every new product listing page, for instance, would already have the optimization as you expand the site, whether you stock six products or six thousand. The time this saves is especially significant for small marketing teams.
- Schema markup implementation can be carried out as a single project within a few months. This can be a win for clients and SEOs, because in many cases, there is a clear demarcation before and after, followed by solid results which help to build confidence in further SEO activities, give clear ROI and satisfy clients looking for quick wins.
How do you identify which structured data is best for SEO strategy?
With almost 800 types of schema markup available to add to a website, it can be difficult to decide which are the best for your page, but to start, you can introduce or improve some new elements to help you better perform online and complement your existing content or e-commerce SEO strategy.
Does your site pass the schema markup need-to-have checklist?
There are certain sets of schema markup that apply to almost every site, and others — like Product and Job Postings — that are niche critical to effective SEO. As a general rule of thumb, every time I get a new client, I run through the following initial checks:
- Do the homepage and about pages have Organisation or Local Business schema?
- Do the blogs have schema for Articles or Blog Postings?
- Do the team pages have Person schema?
- If it’s an e-commerce site, does it have the niche critical Product schema?
- If it is a recruiter site, does it have the niche critical Job Postings schema?
- If the business is in another niche with dedicated Google SERP features, does it have the necessary markup?
If you answered “no” to any of these questions and the site doesn’t have the appropriate markup, then you should add schema markup to your site.
If the answer to these questions is “yes”, then it’s important to test the quality of the implementation before moving on to the next step. To do this, take a look at Search Console’s Rich Results Report to review pages at scale, or use their Structured Data Testing Tool and Rich Results Test to inspect individual pages. If you see errors, they should be addressed.
How to Find Address Schema Errors
First, take a look at Search Console’s Rich Results Report to review pages at scale and identify which content is being read as Valid, Valid with Errors or Error.
Valid: If your markup is ‘Valid’, then it is being crawled and indexed correctly. These pages are unlikely to require further action.
Errors: Pages with markup that is identified with an ‘Error’ tend to have incorrect syntax, so you should review the individual page and correct the code as soon as possible. When the changes are complete, use the Validate Fix button, to request reassessment.
Valid with Warning: If your content is showing as ‘Valid a Warning’, then you are likely displaying schema markup with a Missing field. These warnings do not make the page or the markup invalid, but they can make the page less competitive, because the content is less targeted. Review your content to ensure that your schema is reflecting as much of the on page content as possible in order to reduce these errors, and therefore increase the performance of your schema markup.
Structured Data Testing Tool and Rich Results Test allow you to troubleshoot improvements to structured data on individual pages. Each of these tools you can enter the URL in question and you will receive itemised information on any errors or warnings.
The missing fields highlighted here correspond to properties within the Event schema type. So, to improve this markup, you would look up the definitions of the relevant properties on schema.org and, where applicable, use their example HTML to guide your optimizations.
In this instance, to improve the performance of my schema, I may need to build new performer fields into the CMS, or to work with the dev team to add the content from existing CMS data fields into the schema regex.
In either case you will be making improvements that help you better target and serve users.
Strategies for adding schema to your site
If you need to add schema to your site there are a few options for implementation.
Adding schema to single static pages
For some single pages with largely static content, adding markup types like Local Business, Organization, or a single FAQ page, can be a straightforward process of generating the code and placing it into the HTML of the page. Major CMS platforms like Shopify and WordPress have plugins to assist with generating the markup for these pages which is easy to implement. Those with custom CMS configurations can use tools like the Schema Markup Generator to generate the JSON-LD, then pass it onto the development team to push it live.
Adding scalable schema for bulk implementation
Bulk schema implementation is almost essential for high volume content creators. This applies to e-commerce shops, but also to those who regularly post standard format content like recipes, blogs, articles, job vacancies, events, training courses, etc.
For these pages, the most effective way to get the most out of the schema on your site is to automate the process by building it into the structure of your site. In most instances, this involves a four phase approach, working in coordination with your developers and clients.
- Start with your sitemap. You should have a dynamic XML sitemap that helps Google index pages as they are created, and includes the elements that are listed within the structured data. For an e-commerce site, this means having a sitemap that includes the product listings pages, but also the image sitemap and customer service pages.
- Organize your content. For bulk implementation, you should work with your content, and try to assign a type and property to each standard field for content on your page. Treat it like a formula that can be applied to each page with the same format. If you don’t have fields that correspond with the required properties for your schema type, add them. If you have a bulk of information, try to ensure that you have properties that support the USPs of your content. Then work with your developers to update your template so that the schema generates consistently across the site.
- Connect with relevant Google APIs. Once your sitemap is solid, your content is optimised and your markup is in place. check to see if the schema you’re using has an API and, if it does, get your site connected to it. Some of the most-used rich results connect directly with dedicated Google APIs, which further integrate with PPC tools to round out your marketing mix.
Examples of Schema Types with Dedicated Google APIs
- Lodging schema connects with the Hotel API and can be used with Google Hotels PPC
- Job Posting schema connects with the Indexing API to enable inclusion in Google for Jobs
- Product schema connects with Content API to enable inclusion in Google Shopping search results and ad listings.
How to measure and demonstrate the impact of schema markup
Measuring Schema Enable Rich Results in Search Console
The impact of schema markup which generates rich results, can be easily monitored and measured in Search Console. Within the Enhancements tab, you can monitor the quality of your implementation and any current or recent errors.
To monitor impressions, rankings, clicks and CTR, visit the Search Appearance tab under Performance. This tab provides historic data that can be compared to earlier configurations of the site.
Within Google Analytics, your tracking and monitoring will depend upon your implementation. For instance, google-jobs-apply clicks may show as a separate source from standard search results within Organic. But I’ve also seen Google Shopping clicks show as part of the (other) channel. In either case, annotate your implementation dates to monitor relevant content for changes in clicks, impressions, and conversions.
For many small businesses, Search Console data should be sufficient but there are also tools which can help you drill down further into the data.
Taking a strategic, integrated approach to structured data implementation helps SMEs to stay competitive in today’s search environment because of its scalability, versatility and measurability. Furthermore, the applicability of schema markup as the underpinning of a cohesive content and advertising strategy, brings much needed efficiencies for SME marketers who want to make the most out of their content.
Want to learn more about technical SEO? Check out the Moz Academy Technical SEO Certification Series, an in-depth training series that hones in on the nuts and bolts of technical SEO.
SEO is a dynamic industry. What worked some weeks ago might not work again right now.
As an SEO professional, you need to know the latest trends and emerging technologies, to keep up with the ever-changing demand of the industry. That way, you can stay on top of your game and become more efficient in your business.
In this post, I’ll share with you seven emerging technologies in the SEO industry and how they impact your work as an SEO expert. Finally, I’ll show you how to apply them in your business for optimal results.
If you want to scale your SEO processes in 2021 and beyond, you should watch out for these technologies, and start implementing them in your business right away.
1. Natural Language Processing (NLP)
In December 2019, Google officially rolled out the Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers (BERT) algorithm update worldwide. This update brought NLP to the fore, and it’s been a technology to watch out for in the SEO industry since.
With NLP, Google can understand what a word in a sentence means by looking at its context.
This means that Google no longer relies on the specific words or phrases that users are searching for to provide them with the right answers. Rather, they’re looking at the intent behind each search.
Here’s an example of how BERT (an offshoot of NLP), affects a search query according to Google.
Before NLP, if someone searches for the query “2019 brazil traveler to usa need a visa”, Google thinks that this is an informational query to confirm if a U.S citizen can travel to Brazil without a visa. Hence, it shows a Washington Post article that answers the question on top of the SERPs.
As you can see, the context behind this search is someone wanting to travel to the USA from Brazil who needs a visa. While it was difficult for Google to figure out what these kinds of queries meant in the past, with BERT, the algorithm understands the context behind each search and provides the user with the right information.
How to utilize NLP in your SEO processes
With NLP, informational content is more crucial than ever. However, optimizing for BERT isn’t something you can do as an SEO.
Rather, you should focus on creating high-quality content that answers search queries accurately. When you do, you’ll definitely rank well.
This Moz article shows you how to write amazing pieces of content for search engines and people.
2. Natural Language Generation (NLG) for short-form content
With NLG, SEOs can now produce meaningful phrases and sentences just like a natural language, but using technology.
Instead of battling with writers’ block and spending hours thinking of what to write, NLG removes that burden through automation. And if you’re a content creator, this helps you focus just on polishing the content and making it read better.
While there are a lot of use cases for NLG, at the moment, it’s better used to write short-form content such as headlines, product descriptions, meeting memos, and so on.
How to use NLG as an SEO
There are a lot of use cases for NLG technologies. With a tool such as Copy.ai, you can create landing page hero text, Facebook primary text, blog introductions, email subject lines, listicles, meta descriptions, and so on.
Here’s an example of some listicles I created for the topic “quality blog content” using this tool:
As you can see, if I wanted to write an article on this topic, I can use some of these suggestions as an outline for my post. With these, I can focus instead on researching the individual sub-topics.
Here’s another example of some website taglines that I created for Moz by entering the brand name and a brief description of “The Ultimate SEO tool you can trust” into the tool:
If you were starting a new brand as an SEO, you can use NLG tools such as this, to discover awesome taglines to use for your brand.
TF*IDF stands for “Term Frequency times Inverse Document Frequency”. This measures how you use a term on a particular page and how it compares to a collection of pages for that specific keyword.
While TF*IDF might seem like a measurement of keyword density, it’s actually measuring how important a keyword phrase is by comparing it to that keyword’s frequency in a large set of documents.
Although it’s not yet clear if Google uses TF*IDF in its algorithm, it’s a good practice to incorporate it into your on-page SEO strategy.
Before applying TF*IDF, you need to create a piece of content targeting a particular keyword. Once that’s done, plug the content into a TF*IDF tool. Some recommended options are Text Tools, SEO PowerSuite, Ryte, and Surfer SEO.
How to use TF*IDF in your SEO processes
With technology and some information about your keyword, TF*IDF tools usually suggest some phrases you can add or remove from your pages. As an SEO, you can optimize your page based on these suggestions to meet the required TF*IDF score for that keyword.
That way, you can figure out some phrases which are closely related to the keyword you’re writing about, but not present in your content. When you add these phrases and words to your content, it makes your article topically relevant and helps your page rank better in the SERPs.
4. GPT-3 for automated content creation
In September 2020, The Guardian published a story on its website that was written by a robot. Since then, Generative Pre-trained Transformer Number 3 (GPT-3) has been a hot topic in the SEO industry.
The GPT-3 API works in an interesting way because it’s been trained with a large pool of datasets to mimic how humans write. This includes the Common Crawl dataset, Wikipedia, relevant historical books, and so on.
When you provide the GPT-3 API with a writing prompt, it tries to predict exactly what would come after that, based on the information it’s read on the Internet.
The screenshot below is an example of GPT-3-generated content that went viral on Hacker news some months ago. Most users commented on it, just like they would on a regular post, without knowing that it was written by a robot.
How to Use GPT-3 for automated content creation
- Email writing: As an SEO, you most likely recognize that writing great emails is a skill that’ll help your business grow, yet find it difficult to do so. With GPT-3, you can write emails easily. All you need to do is provide some bullet points outlining all you want to cover in the email, and it’ll automatically write it for you.
- First draft writing: Creating the first draft is the most difficult aspect of writing. With GPT-3, you can create the first draft of your content, and then edit it afterwards to meet your brand voice. This saves you a lot of time and makes you more efficient.
5. SEO A/B testing
Most SEOs focus more on user A/B testing and less on SEO A/B testing. While user testing involves randomly assigning visitors (users) of your website to different versions of your pages, and eventually deciding on the one to use based on the performance. In SEO A/B testing, the users are Googlebots and not end-users, and they’re typically shown the same version of the page.
What this means is that when you implement SEO/AB testing, you’re only showing users or Google only one version of the page, and not multiple pages.
How to implement SEO/AB testing
There are different ways to implement SEO A/B testing, depending on what you want to achieve for your business. If you’re just starting out, some things you can test include:
- Title tags
- Meta description
Take for instance, Etsy conducted a title tag SEO A/B testing for some of its pages, and within a few days, they started seeing significant traffic changes to their pages.
If you’re an intermediate/advanced SEO, you can test other things such as:
- AMP pages
- Internal anchor texts
- Schema markup
- New content
- And so on
For example, SearchPilot ran an internal link SEO A/B testing for a grocery store, and saw a 25% increase in organic traffic.
Conducting SEO A/B tests such as these will help you know exactly what works well for your brand and what doesn’t. That way, you can make more informed decisions when optimizing your pages for SEO.
For instance, if your traffic decreased to a particular page after making changes to it during the SEO A/B test, it shows that the test didn’t work out.
Typically, you should expect to start seeing results from your SEO A/B testing as soon as Google crawls your variant page. If Google crawls your test page within say 7-14 days, then you can compare it with the main page.
6. Automated on-page content optimization
When creating a long-form piece of content, you typically:
- Check the top-ranking pages on the SERPs
- Go through each piece of content ranking on the SERPs
- Figure out the specific headings and subheadings the pages are covering
- Identify the missing points in the pages
- Create a better outline of our own piece.
- And so on
This usually takes a lot of time. You have to spend hours manually checking one piece of content after another and taking note of the most important points to include in your own piece.
How to use automated on-page content optimization
With Frase AI, you can shorten the time you use for content research. Say you want to write about “how to lose weight fast”, you can input the main keyword into the tool.
Once done, it’ll automatically check the top-ranking pages in the SERPs, and provide you with some useful information you can use when creating your content. These include the top results for the keyword, statistics and data you can add in your content, questions your target audience are asking on Quora, Reddit, and Google’s People Also Ask.
With a tool such as Content Harmony, you can automatically create content briefs that meet search intent in less time.
All you need to get started is your keyword. Once you input it into the software, it automatically analyzes the SERPs using different data points. Afterwards, you can build your content briefs from there.
7. Non-text content factors
Non-text content factors are becoming more prominent in SEO because they help you create a nicer user experience on your website pages.
If you read a piece of content with blocks of texts all over it, you’ll most likely find it unappealing to look at. And with the upcoming enforcement of Core Web Vitals by Google in March 2021, non-text content factors will have a huge impact on SEO.
Some of these non-text content factors include:
- Audio clips
- Downloadable files such as PDFs
How to use non-text content factors for SEO
- Canva: With this tool, you create high-quality non-stock images for your pages.
- Venngage: If you want to create infographics that catches your readers’ attention, then you should use Venngage.
- Invideo: Invideo helps you create and edit videos online in a few minutes with different ready-made templates.
- Animaker: If you don’t have a design background and want to create animated videos, then this tool will help you greatly.
With these tools, you can make your pages and posts more appealing. Hence, your readers will spend more time on your website, and your bounce rate will eventually decrease drastically.
As we look forward into the future of the SEO industry, new technology developments will definitely play a significant role. While some of them are already in use, others are still in development.
If you’re an SEO who wants to remain on top of things in the industry, then you should keep an eye out for these emerging technologies and start applying them to grow your business. Have more SEO tech to add to this list? Let me know in the comments.
Do you ever have to explain the importance of Domain Authority to clients or co-workers who have little or no SEO experience? If so, this week’s WBF host — Andy Crestodina — walks through how to get your message across successfully.
Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high resolution version in a new tab!
SEO is actually really hard to explain. There are so many concepts. But it’s also really important to explain so that we can show value to our clients and to our employers.
My name is Andy Crestodina. I’m the co-founder of Orbit Media Studios. We’re a web design company here in Chicago. I’ve been doing SEO for 20 years and explaining it for about as long. This video is my best attempt to help you explain a really important concept in SEO, which is Domain Authority, to someone who doesn’t know anything at all about SEO, to someone who is non-technical, to someone who is maybe not even a marketer.
Here is one framework, one set of language and words that you can use to try to explain Domain Authority to people who maybe need to understand it but don’t have a background in this stuff whatsoever.
Search ranking factors
Okay. Here we go. Someone searches. They type something into a search engine. They see search results.
Why do they see these search results instead of something else? The reason is: search ranking factors determined that these were going to be the top search results for that query or that keyword or that search phrase.
There are two main search ranking factors, in the end two reasons why any web page ranks or doesn’t rank for any phrase. Those two main factors are, first of all, the page itself, the words, the content, the keywords, the relevance.
SEOs, we call this relevance. So that’s the most important. That’s one of the key search ranking factors is relevance, content and keywords and stuff on pages. I think everyone kind of gets that. But there’s a second, super important search ranking factor. It’s something that Google innovated and is now a really, really important thing across the web and all search.
It’s links. Do these pages have links to them? Are they trusted by other websites? Have other websites kind of voted for them based on their content? Have they referred back to it, cited it? Have they linked to these pages and these websites? That is called authority.
So the two main search ranking factors are relevance and authority. Therefore, the two main types of SEO are on-page SEO, creating content, and off-site SEO, PR, link building, and authority. Because links basically are trust. Web page, links to web page, that’s kind of like a vote.
That’s a vote of confidence. That’s saying that this web page is probably credible, probably important. So links are credibility. Good way to think about it. Quantity matters. If a lot of pages link to your page, that adds credibility. That’s important that there’s a number of sites that link to you.
Also important is the quality of those links. Links from sites that they themselves have many links to them are worth much more. So links from authoritative websites are more valuable than just any other link. It’s the quantity and the quality of links to your website or links to your page that has a lot to do with whether or not you rank when people search for a related key phrase.
If a page doesn’t rank, it’s got one of two problems almost always. It’s either not a great page on the topic, or it’s not a page on a site that is trusted by the search engine because it hasn’t built up enough authority from other sites, related sites, media sites, other sites in the industry. The name for this stuff originally in Google was called PageRank.
Capital P, capital R, one word, PageRank. Not web page, not search results page, but named after Larry Page, the guy who kind of came up with this, one of the co-founders at Google. PageRank was the number, 1 through 10, that we all used to kind of know. It was visible in this toolbar that we used back in the day.
They stopped reporting on that. They don’t update that anymore. We don’t really know our PageRank anymore, so you can’t really tell. So the way that we now understand whether a page is credible among other websites is by using tools that emulate PageRank by similarly crawling the internet, looking to see who’s linking to who and then creating their own metrics, which are basically proxy metrics for PageRank.
Moz has one. It’s called Domain Authority. When spelled with the capital D and captial A, that’s the Moz metric. Other search tools, other SEO tools also have their own, such as SEMrush has one called Authority Score. Ahrefs has one called Domain Rating. Alexa, another popular tool, has one called Competitive Power. They’re all basically the same thing. They are showing whether or not a site or a page is trusted among other websites because of links to them.
Now we know for a fact that some links are worth much, much more than others. We can do this by reading Google patents or by experiments or just best practices and expertise and firsthand knowledge that some links are worth much more.
But it’s not just that they’re worth a little more. Links from sites with lots of authority are worth exponentially more. It’s not really a fair fight. Some sites have tons and tons and tons of authority. Most sites have very, very little. So it’s on a curve. It’s a log scale.
It’s on an exponential curve the amount of authority that a site has and its ranking potential. The value of a link from another site to you is on an exponential curve. Links from some sites are worth exponentially more than links from other smaller sites, smaller blogs. These are quantifiable within these tools, tools like Moz, tools that emulate the PageRank metric.
And what they can do is look at all of the pages that rank for a phrase, look at all of the authority of all of those sites and all of those pages, and then average them to show the likely difficulty of ranking for that key phrase. The difficulty would be more or less the average authority of the other pages that rank compared to the authority of your page and then determine whether that’s a page that you actually have a chance of ranking for or not.
This could be called something like keyword difficulty. I searched for “baseball coaching” using a tool. I used Moz, and I found that the difficulty for that key phrase was something like 46 out of 100. In other words, your page has to have about that much authority to have a chance of ranking for that phrase. There’s a subtle difference between Page Authority and Domain Authority, but we’re going to set that aside for now.
“Squash coaching,” wow, different sport, less popular sport, less content, less competitive phrases ranking for that key phrase. Wow, “squash coaching” much less competitive. The difficulty for that was only 18. So that helps us understand the level of authority that we would have to have to have a chance of ranking for that key phrase. If we lack sufficient authority, it doesn’t matter how awesome our page is, we’re not likely to ever rank.
So it’s really important to understand one of the things that Domain Authority tells us is our ranking potential. Are we sufficiently trusted to be able to target that key phrase and potentially rank for that? That’s the first thing that the Domain Authority defines, measures, shows. The second thing that it shows, which I mentioned a second ago, is the value of a link from another site to us.
So if a super authoritative website links to us, high Domain Authority site, that Domain Authority in that case of that site is showing us the value of that link to us. A link from a site, a brand-new blog, a young site, a smaller brand would have a lower Domain Authority, indicating that that link would have far less value.
So bottom line, Domain Authority is a proxy for a metric inside Google, which we no longer have access to. It’s created by an SEO tool, in this case Moz. When spelled with a capital D, capital A, it’s Moz’s own metric. It shows us two things. Domain Authority is the ranking potential of pages on that domain. And secondly, Domain Authority measures the value of another site should that site link back to your site. That’s it.
Hope this was helpful. Feel free to pass this along to anyone that you’re trying to explain this to. Add to it. Let us know in the comments. Hope this was useful, and it was a huge pleasure and honor to be able to make a Whiteboard Friday for Moz. Again, Andy from Orbit Media. Thanks, everybody.
Untie the ribbons and hear the paper crackle — it’s a handcrafted gift, ready for you to unwrap!
This guide is a labor of love that Moz has worked on through the toughest year in local SEO, with hopes of a stronger 2021 for local brands. It’s free, it’s jam-packed with over eight chapters of actionable local search marketing strategies for your agency or local business, it’s…
What is The Essential Local SEO Strategy Guide?
Moz is publishing this free guide to support digital marketing agencies and local business owners who want to gain an excellent understanding of topics and tactics within local search marketing.
This multi-chapter guide covers:
- Understanding Google’s local SERPs
- Assessing demand and analyzing local markets
- Analyzing on-page SEO and local business listings
- Analyzing and developing a reputation and reviews strategy
- Analyzing local business content and creating a publishing strategy
- Crafting a robust local marketing strategy
- Local search automation, analytics, and reporting
It also includes a special chapter on local SEO in the time of COVID-19 and a handy local search glossary.
Who will get value from this guide?
Any reader who has a beginning-to-intermediate acquaintance with local SEO should find next-level education in this guide to improve their skill set. Experts will find useful and practical perspectives to help them communicate with teams, stakeholders, and clients, thus improving the chances of buy-in for projects.
If you’re responsible for marketing any aspect of a local business, The Essential Local SEO Strategy Guide contains workflows you can implement today to achieve local brand and agency goals.
Share this guide with:
- Single and multi-location local businesses.
- Brick-and-mortar models, service-area businesses, and hybrids.
- All relevant staff at your local brand, from in-house marketers to key customer service personnel, from bloggers, to webmasters, to social media managers.
- Incoming staff at your digital marketing agency who need training in local SEO to become a greater asset to your company.
- Any member of your team tasked with the many facets of marketing local businesses.
- Friends, family and colleagues who own a local business and could use a great playbook for a better 2021.
What makes this guide different?
This highly detailed and illustrated guide is special, in that it teaches not just the “how” of local SEO, but the “why”.
Expert explanations will help you see the big picture of local SEO as a sensible whole, rather than just random tactics in no particular order. We’re not aware of another free guide on the market that delves more deeply into the mindset of serving local communities with the objective of turning a local business into a local household name.
This robust guide will help you put the three pillars of local search — proximity, prominence, and relevance — to work for the brands you’re marketing, and build the visibility and reputation essential to success.
Moz knows local businesses are the backbone of the economy, and we want to do everything we can to support sustainable, diverse, thriving towns and cities through the presence of strong local brands. We hope you’ll take this guide as our gift to help build a better future for the local businesses you’re marketing. Unwrap it today!
Add value to SEO reports with storytelling
Monthly SEO reports are a vital part of any SEO strategy because they provide an outlet to educate customers, show ROI, and guide the conversion for upsells.
While SEO reports are crucial in many ways, they are usually reduced to boilerplate PDF templates sent to clients each month with a generic message. If this describes your SEO reporting approach, you’re missing out on vital opportunities to retain clients and upsell with carefully crafted storytelling strategies.
SEO reporting has always been an important part of my deliverables. Whether I’m working with clients through my agency, StrategyBeam, or when I worked in a corporate team, I found that good reporting made a big difference with trust building and overall strategy. Regardless of who you’re working with — national brands or local businesses — I’ve found that solid SEO reporting helps ground the client relationship. Over the past eight years, I’ve been able to grow StrategyBeam to a mid-six-figure agency. Customer service and results have always been our bread and butter, and SEO reports help us show how we stand out from the competition, and create long-term relationships with our clients.
Be sure to incorporate SEO reports into your regular cadence if you are struggling to keep a client, or you just want a way to engage with your clients in a deeper way. Now, more than ever we need to show clients the value we bring to the table.
So, let’s take a look at the things all useful SEO reports should include, and how you can use storytelling tactics to build a relationship with your customers, prove your strategies’ value, and uncover upsell opportunities today!
1. Organic impressions, clicks, and CTR
While SEO has a broad reach, you need to get the right message to the right people if you want them to click through to your content and convert.
This is why a good SEO report should include high-level metrics like organic impressions and clicks. While this information doesn’t provide much insight into on-page performance, it does offer a jumping-off point for you to talk to your customer about changes in market trends and user behavior.
I like to cover high-level data at the start of each reporting call to set the table for more detailed discussions with customers. I’ve used this data to recommend additional work for clients and use these metrics to show YoY improvement, and justify work during specific periods.
I present data from Google Search Console and Google Analytics to help my clients understand how we can influence their site’s overall performance. Here are a few points that I touch on based on current click and impressions:
- What it means: Impressions = how often content appears, clicks = how many times people click on SERPs.
- Where to find it: Google Search Console
- When to use it: Identify content and build approach. Build sprints to address problem areas. Pages that are performing between 3-12 should be optimized, and low CTR should improve meta, interlinking, and technical considerations.
- How to optimize: High impressions + low clicks = update title and meta description. Low impressions = add FAQ schema.
Even though clicks and impressions don’t convey too much information about a website’s performance, you can use this part of your SEO report to ease into upsell opportunities and show your SEO chops when it comes to the broader scope of SEO marketing and how everything is interconnected.
2. Keyword ranking
Since SEO is all about getting specific pages to rank for target keywords, you need to include keyword performance and rankings in your SEO report. I love using keyword information to jumpstart a conversation with my clients around user intent and bringing SEO strategy back to their business goals.
I love using this time to show that I understand SEO is more than keywords and Google. At the end of the day, if my SEO strategy is not driving qualified traffic and boosting conversions, then my clients will find another agency.
Keywords are the basis of search engines, and I like to use keyword ranking data to tie in the “bigger picture”, along with specific SEO tactics and push to secure more sales.
Here are a few talking points to consider with keyword performance in my monthly SEO reports and client check-ins:
- Show snapshots of keyword tools like Moz Keyword Tool and Ahrefs to show patterns. Tie MoM changes into an SEO report template to show progress and boost each client call’s energy.
- Recommend content optimizations, outreach, and other SEO tactics to drive target keywords. Tie keyword ranking to your services, results, and your client’s business goals.
- Run a quick technical SEO audit and content audit to provide new opportunities for additional work. This is a great way to improve your client’s site’s performance while also increasing trust and monthly income.
Keyword rankings give a strong signal around user intent, market trends, and competitor strategies. You can use keyword rankings in your SEO reports to focus attention on success and move the conversation towards upselling opportunities to shift gears and align your SEO strategy with your clients’ business goals.
3. Describe how people engage with your content
SEO strategies are typically described in abstract terms, so it’s our job as SEO professionals to connect the dots for clients whenever possible between SEO metrics and their business goals.
You probably spend a lot of time talking about different SEO marketing angles, like the customer journey, website performance, and user intent. All of these factors influence how search engines rank content, and even more importantly, all of these factors influence conversion rates.
However, SEO is abstract and challenging for our clients to understand. That’s why we need to include concrete terms, visuals, and explanations in our reports for ongoing education and trust-building measures.
For example, I manage SEO and content for a large player in the shipping industry. This industry is extremely niche, but each sale can lead to 8-figure deals for my client. I was able to illustrate to the client about how they could increase leads by expanding their existing content Hub/Spoke model and use their SEO reports to talk them through different aspects of their business like:
- Categorize content on your site and assign specific metrics and goals for your clients.
- Track content based on topics and what content moved people through the customer journey.
- Use Content Drill Down in Google Analytics to show how readers move through the website. This information is valuable to highlight opportunities to optimize content.
- Jumpstart a conversation around other SEO tactics like interlinking, blogging, and on-page optimizations.
Showing how people engage with my client’s website was a key part to increase education, and help visualize how your monthly SEO work impacts your client’s website. If you can point out a bottleneck in the customer journey and offer CRO, interlinking, or on-page optimizations, then you are on your way to build client trust and slide into an upsell opportunity.
4. Google Analytics events
Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager can be used to show how your SEO and CRO strategies impact user behavior when they reach your website. You can educate your customers about on-page SEO by tracking clicks on specific CTAs throughout individual pages.
In recent months I’ve started working with several clients on CRO and content optimization projects. Not only are these great ways to help clients reach their goals, but they are also high-margin projects that can show immediate results.
One of the metrics I focus on when I review clients’ results is how people engage with their CTAs. This means that I have to connect Google Tag Manager and Google Analytics to show that our optimizations push more website visitors to valuable pages like contact forms and sales pages.
For example, I recently ran a small test for a client to show them that with some on-page SEO tweaks we could improve CTR for various posts and pages. I identified a few pages that would show the best results, closed the project, and after a month of testing I was able to include CTA clicks on different pages that I optimized.
After a few months of on-page optimizations I can see a big improvement for CTR and lead generation on their site. Here is a quick screenshot of CTA clicks on the client’s site from the pages/posts I optimized:
This small test was a success and lead to ongoing monthly optimizations across their deep content library. As a result, I am able to show the impact our on-page optimizations make to their lead quality and bottomline.
This is a perfect example of how we can use reports to build rapport, show our knowledge, and test ideas with clients. Plus, it can all lead to beneficial upsells- but none of this is possible without a good looking and informative report to backup our claims.
While this is not a big part of my SEO reporting process, I try to include metrics around user behavior to explain how people engage with on-page content. This information can also help tie high-level SEO metrics to business goals, which are significant parts of the overall story I convey to my clients each month.
5. Add local SEO info
Local SEO is an essential part of an SEO strategy to drive qualified leads and sales for local business owners. You can save a lot of time by using a tool like Moz Local to keep NAP and listings consistent for your clients, and you can use excellent local SEO reporting tools to show the results of your local SEO tactics.
I have several clients that offer local SEO services. Not only do these services offer immediate value to these clients, but the local SEO services also provide me with a great way to pitch additional services like outreach, page optimizations, and blogging.
While local SEO is not a great fit for all of your clients, you can unwrap great opportunities if you offer honest solutions to address their needs and present precise data to show your efforts’ value.
Be sure to include local SEO metrics in your SEO reports when it makes sense, and point out the metrics that matter to business owners like phone calls, foot traffic, and driving directions!
Use SEO analytics to tell a story and build customer trust!
Reports are not the main reason many SEOs started in this profession, but monthly SEO reports help us paint a picture of our clients’ SEO efforts. You’ll be able to show the value of your SEO services and keep clients longer if you know how to tell a story around each metric, and tie results back to your agency!
A comprehensive audit of your B2B website can mean the difference between winning new clients and losing them to the competition. In this brand new episode of Whiteboard Friday, guest host Carly Schoonhoven walks you through four areas that can take your audits to the next level.
Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high resolution version in a new tab!
Hello and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. My name is Carly Schoonhoven, and I’m a Senior SEO Manager at Obility. We’re a B2B digital marketing agency here in Portland, Oregon. Now if you work for an agency, you know that sometimes a really valuable SEO audit can be the difference between winning over a client and losing out to someone else.
So something I sometimes struggle with is how to level up your basic SEO audit into something that’s really impactful for a B2B company that is in need of a long-term, strategic plan. Now when I’m talking about an SEO audit, I’m not just talking about a technical audit, something you can just pull from Screaming Frog.
It’s really about getting a clear picture of a site’s current SEO compliance and most importantly showing the ways, both in the short and long term, that you can work with them to help them achieve their goals. So today I’m going to walk you through my approach to SEO audits and walk you through step by step. Now before we get started pulling data, there are a couple of things I like to figure out first.
Competitors and goals
Number one is competitors. So SEO, it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. If we want to improve our rankings, a competitor is likely going to have to lose rankings. So it’s really important to get an idea of what competitors you’re going to be looking at so you can see how you stack up in relation to them. Now, again, it’s really important to make sure that your competitors are realistic.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been given Google as a competitor. Now maybe they’re a competitor for you, but it’s really important to make sure that you’re being realistic and finding competitors that are of a similar size so that the insights you’re providing are actually going to be valuable and actionable. So if someone gives you Google as a competitor, think about it, maybe provide some alternatives.
Another thing I like to take a look at is goals. So if you’re evaluating a company, ask them what their goals are. Maybe they just launched a new product and they really would like some specific insights as to how they can improve that content. Or maybe they’re going through a site migration in a few months, and they really want some insights related to that.
So good audits are not one size fits all. So you can really level up your audit by making sure that it’s tailored to the site and the company you’re looking at specifically. So now that we’ve got our competitors, we’ve got our goals, let’s get started by taking a look at keywords.
Obviously, keywords are so important. It’s where you need to start because keywords are the backbone of SEO. Now this is an audit. We’re not doing a full keyword research strategy here. This shouldn’t take you all day. But there are a couple of tools that you can use so that you can get some really interesting and helpful information about keywords without having to put in a whole bunch of time.
So Moz’s Keyword Explorer is a really great place to start. I love to use the Compare Link Profiles tool, and this is a really good way to take a look at one site versus its competitors and see how it’s doing from a really high level. It’ll help you identify if there’s someone who’s really elite, who’s ranking for 20 times more keywords than you, that’s maybe not the most realistic competitor to monitor yourself against.
You can see if maybe there’s a site that’s really comparable. Or if there’s a site that’s not ranking for hardly any keywords, that’s not going to be one you have to worry about. So it’s a really good place to start just to get sort of an idea of the competitive landscape. Another really helpful thing to look at is the keyword overlap. So we’ve seen total keywords.
But what are those keywords specifically that are performing well? So my lovely drawing here of a keyword overlap chart gives you an idea. So let’s say the blue is your top competitor, green is competitor two, and then the red is you. So you really want to take a look at that area where your competitors overlap but you don’t have any keywords that are ranking.
This is so important, because maybe you’ll identify a topic area where all of your competitors have content for, but the site you’re looking at doesn’t. This is a really good place to start and can help you provide some initial content suggestions and get sort of a window into your competitors’ content strategies. So speaking of content, let’s talk about looking at content for an SEO audit.
So this is probably where I spend the most time personally when I do audits, because it’s really valuable and there are also so many different things to look at and you can find something new pretty much every time. When you’re looking at a B2B site in particular, however, one thing you want to make sure you’re taking a look at is the funnel. Do they have content for all of the funnel stages, and are they funneling people from one stage to the next?
So take a look at their site like you’re someone visiting it for the first time. Take a look at their awareness content and see: Are there mid-funnel CTAs? Are they making the next step they want me to take clear? Or what is that ultimate conversion that they want people to take in the purchase stage? Do they have a really clear contact form?
Is it easy to navigate to the demo, if that’s a really important conversion to them? Take a look at their content and what they’re doing, specifically making sure that they have content for the full funnel. This is another good opportunity to evaluate your competitors. So do the same thing on your competitors’ sites. See if there’s something they’re doing really, really well, that the site you’re looking at is not.
Take some screenshots. Share some specific things a competitor is doing that maybe you can learn from and find a way to do your own version of on your site.
All right. Another area to always make sure you include is technical, because we all know that even if you have the best, amazing content on your site, if your technical SEO is a mess, it’s not really going to matter if you’re not able to get that content indexed.
So a good place to start is to do Moz’s On-Demand Crawl so you can take a look at things like 404 errors, duplicate content, maybe they have missing metadata on all of their really valuable top pages. That’s good information to have and to share. Then you also want to expand that to look at things like site speed. Maybe they have really poor site speed, and it’s nothing that they’ve ever prioritized.
Use Google’s Page Speed Insights. See if there are some specific recommendations that you can give them and that you can help them fix, because ultimately it’s about trying to get them to want to work with you and showing how you could help them fix those issues. You can also take a look at things that might be impacting indexation. Take a look at their robots.txt.
Take a look at their sitemap. Just check all the boxes and make sure that there’s nothing that might be impacting their search appearance.
Finally, I always like to take a look at off-site. This is another great use of Moz. I love to use Moz’s Compare Link Profiles option to get an idea of how you stack up with your competitors when it comes to off-site.
Now I know that off-site is really difficult. Link building is hard, and it takes a long time to really show results. But knowing how you stack up against your competitors, when it comes to Domain Authority and it comes to total links, really helps you get an idea of how hard it’s going to be and how long it’s going to take to catch up with your competitors in the search engine results page.
So I always like to take a look at Domain Authority, external links, linking domains and really just finding insights as far as who’s going to be the most difficult, who is the most authoritative, and where do we stand today. You can also take a look at specific backlink profiles and link overlap, very similar to the competitor overlap.
See if there’s a site where all of your competitors have backlinks from and you don’t. Maybe it’s really relevant, an industry publication, and you can provide them that and you can help them eventually, hopefully, get a link from there too. All right. So we’ve taken a look at keywords, content, technical, and off-site. If you followed all the steps, you should have a really great audit with some super actionable, short-term and long-term action items to provide.
So I hope this was really helpful, and thank you for joining me.
If there’s one thing that most marketers have in common, it’s that we want more leads.
Sure, not all leads are good. Some are even downright unqualified. But leads are what drive business, and as a result, many of us are held accountable for generating more of them.
Out of all of the lead generation strategies out there, there’s one that I find particularly effective: search engine optimization (SEO) and conversion rate optimization (CRO) working together.
While this may seem obvious, you’d be surprised how many marketing teams are really good at one or the other, but fail to find the balance between both.
Below, I’ll share why it’s critical to find alignment between SEO and CRO, and how to do it so that both of these functions work together to drive qualified leads for your business.
SEO and CRO: Why you can’t have one without the other
Being discoverable is more important than it’s ever been. If a prospective buyer can’t find your business online, there’s a good chance that you’re leading them right into the arms of your competitors.
By now, most businesses understand the importance of having a presence in organic search results. SEO is more than just a buzzword, it’s a given. And it’s critical to growing brand awareness and driving traffic to your website.
But there’s a catch.
Traffic doesn’t magically turn into paying customers and revenue. Ask yourself, when someone clicks on an organic result and lands on your website, what kind of browsing experience are they having? Is your site easy to navigate? Are your web pages optimized to guide the user towards an action?
Traffic without conversions is essentially just a vanity metric. CRO is the piece that ties it all together.
Put simply, conversion rate optimization is the process of optimizing a web page to lead a user toward a desired action. Typically, this action comes in the form of a conversion. This can be a demo request, email newsletter sign up, webinar registration — you get the gist.
The idea here is to entice the user to move further down the marketing funnel in some way.
SEO is what brings people to your website and CRO is what gets them to convert.
It sounds like a match made in marketing heaven, but achieving alignment is often easier said than done.
Start with a strong SEO foundation
I could write thousands of words on what it takes to build a strong SEO foundation for your website, but that’s not what this article is about. With that being said, a discussion about the relationship between SEO and CRO wouldn’t be complete without a mention of it.
Earlier, I said you can’t have SEO without CRO. But this goes both ways.
While it’s true that conversions are a meaningful standalone metric, you can’t have conversions without web visitors. Plus, experimentation and testing is a big part of what makes CRO so effective. It can be difficult to run tests if your website doesn’t get a healthy amount of traffic. More on this later.
A successful SEO strategy fuels the inbound marketing engine to bring new prospective buyers to your site on a regular basis. With SEO, your entire marketing team could be on PTO for a week and your website will still be generating traffic on its own.
If you’re still working to build a powerful SEO strategy, there are countless SEO resources that are available to you.
Be intentional about your content
Content and SEO go hand-in-hand.
When a buyer goes to a search engine, they want to find content that brings them an answer to their question.
As marketers, we want to create that content and match it to a buyer’s specific search query. We do this through extensive keyword research and on-page optimization to ensure that every piece of content that’s published has a likelihood to rank on page one.
Although this approach to content creation is effective at generating organic traffic, sometimes we forget to think about how a piece can drive impact beyond just ranking number one for a keyword.
CRO doesn’t just apply to landing pages or core solutions pages. There are elements of CRO that apply to your long-from content as well.
When strategizing topic ideas and doing keyword research, assign a goal to every piece of content that you publish. Ask yourself, “what action do I want the reader to take when they land on this page?”
Build this goal into your content calendar and incorporate it as a call-to-action (CTA) on each page that you publish.
As always, be mindful of the reader and their position in the funnel. Someone that lands on “The Beginner’s Guide to Marketing Automation” probably isn’t ready for a live demo just yet.
Instead, guide that reader toward a less intimidating action, such as signing up for your email newsletter. A good CTA shouldn’t feel spammy or overly promotional, it should provide additional value to the reader overall.
Following this process forces you to think beyond just traffic — you’re focusing on conversions before you even hit the “publish” button.
Test, optimize, and repeat
User experience (UX) is at the heart of both SEO and CRO.
If your website is slow, glitchy, and hard to navigate, it’s going to negatively affect both traffic and conversions. The goal is to continuously refine your website to ensure that anyone who lands on it has a frictionless browsing experience — thereby increasing their likelihood to convert.
This is why split testing is so important.
Split testing, sometimes referred to as A/B testing, is the process of testing multiple variants of a web page to determine which one converts at a higher rate. This is a core practice among marketers who specialize in CRO. You can test different types of lead forms, CTA buttons, copy variants, and even page layouts.
Here’s an example of a split test between a single and multi-step lead form:
Some SEOs may be hesitant to run split tests because they worry it will negatively affect organic rankings. The truth is that Google not only encourages testing, but it even has its own tool that helps marketers to run split tests.
As long as you’re abiding by Google’s webmaster guidelines, you should see no major negative impact on organic traffic due to testing.
It’s also worth noting that you can’t reach statistical significance in your split tests without a big enough sample size. In other words, you need traffic to have accurate test results.
There’s no hard and fast rule for what counts as “enough traffic” but the general consensus is that your web visitors should be in the thousands, at least. I recommend using this sample size calculator tool to get a better idea of a number that’s unique to your website.
This is yet another example of how closely intertwined SEO and CRO truly are. Earlier we discussed how important it is to start with a solid foundation in SEO, now you know how it fits into the bigger picture.
The common thread here?
CRO and SEO have a symbiotic relationship. What’s good for one is good for the other. And both are working toward the same common goal of generating revenue.
Identify marketing funnel gaps
When looking at the big picture of your inbound marketing efforts, SEO and CRO can help you identify and fix any gaps in your funnel.
Let’s say you have a product page that ranks #1 for its primary keyword and generates lots of traffic. But, when you dig into the conversion data, you notice that only a small percentage of users that land on that page actually convert.
This is a red flag that something is off with the page.
It could be the messaging, the offer, or the lead form. Just because it works for Google doesn’t mean it’s working for your audience. And their opinion is the only one that matters.
This goes the other way around too.
Say you have a product page that’s converting at a high rate, but you notice that it’s one of the lowest-trafficked pages on your site. This should alert you to revisit the content on that page and identify opportunities to re-optimize it. If you don’t, there are likely hundreds of potential conversions that you’re missing out on.
SEO and CRO is kind of like the digital marketing version of the chicken and the egg. You can’t be really good at one without the other.
Realistically, it doesn’t matter what came first. What does matter is achieving alignment between these two key marketing tactics. By doing so, your website has the potential to become a major driver of leads and revenue for your business.
If there’s one thing you take away from this article, it’s to integrate your SEO and CRO efforts and view them as one cohesive part of your lead generation strategy.