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The author’s views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.
Welcome back to Whiteboard Friday! To start us up after our break, guest host Cooper Hollmaier has put together a three-part series that shows how SEO and accessibility go hand-in-hand.
In part one, he introduces us to what accessibility in SEO means, goes through some common myths associated with the work to make websites optimized and accessible, and discusses some of the major impacts that work can have.
Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high resolution version in a new tab!
Hey, Moz fans. Welcome to the latest edition of Whiteboard Friday. I’m Cooper Hollmaier. Today we’re going to be talking about SEO and accessibility: the idea of optimizing not just for some of our audience, but all of our audience.
I’ve been doing SEO since 2016, and I started out working on small businesses, local mom-and-pop shops. Then I found the allure of e-commerce SEO, and I’ve been doing that ever since. Today I work on an in-house team doing technical SEO for a large outdoor e-commerce retailer.
The relationship between SEO and accessibility
Now, if you’re anything like me, you know that SEO is a little bit more than just code on the page and copy that’s crafted to meet searchers’ intent. Whether you’re a seasoned SEO pro or you’re looking for the latest tips as that mom-and-pop shop, or you’re maybe starting out in an SEO role for the first time, you understand that we have to take our content that we’re producing and we have to, in some way, make sure that it shows up in search engines.
So for me, as a technical SEO, maybe I’m thinking about things like my H1 tag or my paragraph tag or my title tag, for this example page here for Mozville Dog Rescue.
Now most of the time I would say my job revolves around the idea of making sure that what I’m doing, the stuff I’m producing, what I’m designing for, can be seen, digested, consumed, and then essentially regurgitated by our friend the bot.
Optimize for people, not just bots
But have you stopped to think about maybe there’s a larger audience out there? Maybe it’s more than just my bots. If you’re thinking that way, you’re moving towards the right direction. You’re moving towards a more inclusive approach. You’re thinking about more than just a search engine but also the users, the people that are consuming that content, engaging with it, and maybe even engaging with your business.
If you think about only optimizing for bots, you’re thinking about something kind of like someone sitting in a spotlight on a stage. You can see that person front and center, but you maybe can’t see the surrounding cast because they’re out there in the darkness. What we want to do is we want to think about a larger group of people.
We want to take that spotlight away and give everyone a chance to shine, everyone a chance to consume, engage with, and be delighted by the content that you’re producing. So as you’re thinking about search engine optimization, as you’re thinking about building a new product, service, experience, think about not just can a search engine bot see that. We know that’s important as an SEO.
How do people interact with your content?
But also think about can other people interact with, engage with, or be compelled by this content. If the answer is no, you have some issues. But I can give you a few tips on how to solve those issues. When you’re making some content, whether it’s marketing material both digitally and on a website or offline in some sort of print material, ask yourself these four things.
Content should be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust
Is my content perceivable? Is it able to be seen or understood, or does it exist for my user? Is it operable? Can they do something with it? Is it understandable? Am I writing at the right reading level? Am I explaining this in a way that’s going to be consumable by a large audience and maybe not just somebody with a PhD? Is that content robust? Is what I’m building available in multiple different formats, fonts, sizes, etc., so that, regardless of who my user is, they’re going to be able to understand what I’ve given them?
These are the four principles of web accessibility. These are the guidelines that the Web Consortium has given us, and you can apply them every time that you’re building something new, or even retrofitting something old.
For example, let’s say you have this playbill or you have maybe a menu for a restaurant. If I don’t offer that menu or that playbill in both a digital and a print format, I end up in a situation where someone who needs Braille, needs a screen reader, need some sort of assistive technology in order to understand and consume that content, is going to be kind of left out in the dark.
They’re not going to be able to do those things. In the example of a menu, I can’t order from a restaurant if I don’t know what they offer for me to order. So it’s important that we make sure that our content and the things we’re producing, the marketing materials that we’re developing, are perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust.
But okay, I’m only talking about maybe one example of disability.
Types of disability
When I say “disability,” what does that mean to you? You might think of an elderly family member who needs a cane to walk. You might think of your friend who has a hard time reading large words or gets anxious when there’s a math test coming up in class. If that’s the case, you’d be talking about only two types of disability, maybe body structure, shape and size disabilities for someone who’s walking with a cane, or cognitive disabilities or even learning disabilities that your friend might be experiencing.
There are a bunch of different other types of disabilities that even I didn’t know about until I learned about it. Those might include blindness, low vision, deaf-blindness, color blindness. I’m the first to admit here that this whiteboard being in blue and red and green and black may not be the most accessible for someone with colorblindness. That’s why it’s important that we have closed captioning and a transcript below this video. These all make this content more accessible.
Auditory, cognitive, anxiety, mood, seizure. You can see that this list is long and it’s not exhaustive. There are a ton of different types of disability, and many of them aren’t even perceivable by you or I. People may be suffering from disability and dealing with this in their life that you might not know.
So it’s important to recognize that we need to start optimizing content not just for bots but for people as well. We need to make sure that people are able to actually consume and engage with our content.
So how does this relate to your world as an SEO? Well, there’s a lot of similarities between accessibility work and SEO work, and I want to kind of break that down into some myths and legends.
Myths and legends
1. It has a small impact
Number one, commonly people will say accessibility only impacts a small group of people. We’re looking at this through a lens of able-bodied individuals who we think, okay, they can see my content if I write it on the page. But the reality is one in five people in the United States are dealing with a disability. That’s a lot of people.
That’s almost 60 million people. So it’s not a small problem if you ask me. For SEO, if I do something for SEO, if I write a tag title tag, if I write a meta description, if I craft my H1 in a certain way, I may not only be helping a bot, but I’m also helping probably other channels of marketing as well.
I’m going to help that email campaign have a better title. I’m going to have that pay-per-click ad that’s going to have a better page to go to. So small impact is really a myth. Accessibility and SEO both fall into that bucket where they impact a lot more people than I think we commonly realize.
2. It’s a short-term problem
Number two, it’s a short-term problem. For accessibility, the ability to be able to order from a menu or read this playbill is more than a short-term problem.
It’s going to happen every time I go to that business or this restaurant. So it’s important that we keep our accessibility work ongoing and continue to improve and evolve our practices. We know that for SEO it’s a zero-sum game, too. We know that the world is always changing. Search algorithms are changing. User intent and behavior is changing.
So it’s important that we stay on top of our SEO work and make sure that our business understands that SEO work if you’re working in an enterprise situation. So that way we’re not falling behind our competitors, and we’re not disadvantaging people that we may not realize we’re disadvantaging.
3. Worry about it at the end
Number three, we should do it at the end. I hear this a lot when we’re talking about SEO but for accessibility especially, too.
Hey, I have this website. Maybe we should do an audit. Then we can do some work to remediate this problem so that the website becomes accessible. It’s always faster, cheaper, and easier to make a website accessible from the get-go than to do it retroactively, and do this kind of retrofitting. For SEO, we know that it’s way easier and also a lot more effective if we build content for users with SEO insights to inform what they’re looking for, what questions we need to answer.
If you trying to optimize something after the fact, a lot of times I think you’ll find that the content that you’re producing feels like it’s SEO driven. It’s not going to feel like it’s for a customer because it wasn’t. You’re coming in after the fact.
4. It costs too much
Number four, it cost too much money. You know what cost a lot of money? Lawsuits. If you don’t work on accessibility first and foremost, in the beginning of the process and in an ongoing fashion, you’ll find I think that accessibility lawsuits can cost your business a lot more, and they can be detrimental.
But so can SEO and penalties. If you take a shortcut, if you don’t take the time to think about what your user needs, how this is going to be received by a search engine as well as customers in general, I think you’ll find that those penalties are going to hurt a lot more than doing it right the first time and doing it in an ongoing fashion.
5. It’s distracting
Number five, it’s distracting.
For accessibility, in a lot of cases the things that we’re going to be implementing aren’t going to be visible to your average user. They’re going to be visible to assistive technology and the screen readers and the things that people with disabilities might be using to interact with the same content that someone else is. But in most cases, it’s better to be correct and there and visible in terms of what a screen reader can see than be impossible to use altogether.
For SEO, we know that bad and unethical SEO is obvious. We’ve seen keyword stuffing. We’ve seen a bunch of links on a page that don’t belong or don’t really provide value to my customer. That is more distracting I think, than doing the work to make it right.
Okay, so there’s some similarities between accessibility and SEO.
In most cases, there is a very large impact if you do it right. It’s not a short-term problem. It’s ongoing. We shouldn’t do it at the end. We should be doing it at the beginning. It really doesn’t cost that much money if you do it right compared to if you do it wrong and get it wrong. Then number five is, in most cases, the best work goes unnoticed because it’s organic, it’s ethical, it’s honest.
The impact of accessibility work
So what’s the impact of doing accessibility work and also I guess doing SEO work that aligns with accessibility practices?
1. Makes the impossible, possible!
Number one, it helps people with disabilities first and foremost. It makes the impossible possible.
2. It helps businesses
Number two, it helps businesses. You as a business owner or as someone who’s optimizing a website for a business or even maybe someone who is just trying to get into SEO and learn more, it’s going to help your public perception.
If you make a website that’s accessible, it’s going to be obvious and people are going to thank you for that. They’re going to say, “Oh, this company cares about all people and a diverse group of abilities.” It’s going to be a more durable experience for your customers. When you start to think about things like text alternatives and captioning and transcripts and you kind of build this practice up over time and you really build this habit of doing accessible work and inclusive work, you’re going to find that your website is more durable.
It’s less likely to be hit by these algorithm changes and things like that, where people have taken the short-term approach. I know you’re going to love this. It’s going to help your SEO. It’s going to give you a bigger audience. You’ve now taken your spotlight focus on just your bots and you’ve expanded it to see the entire stage in front of you. So a bigger audience is going to be in front of you as well for a business, and that means more money and more people and honestly a lot less problems.
I think we all know this one, but lawsuits. If you do this, if you start implementing accessibility work, you start thinking about accessibility first and foremost as you’re developing things, you’re going to have a lot less lawsuits. People aren’t going to complain. They aren’t going to be upset by your lack of accessibility because you won’t have any. It will be accessible and inclusive for all people.
3. It helps family and friends
Then number three, doing accessibility work, thinking about accessibility, thinking about whether my website, whether my marketing material is going to be able to be consumed and enjoyed by people is going to help those family and friends who are working with people with disabilities. It’s going to make things possible for people with disabilities. It’s going to make their lives more independent and therefore release a little bit of that burden on family and friends.
It’s also going to allow you, as a practitioner, as an SEO or maybe another discipline, to have a chance to interact with people with more diverse perspectives, learn more, get a richer, more intimate experience with these different users and craft a better overall experience.
So as you can see, accessibility and SEO are very similar, and it’s important to recognize that we need to kind of shift our mindset from thinking about just optimize for bots, how can I get Google to see this, how can I get other search engines to see this, and think about people first and use the rich insights that we get from search engine optimization and the tools they give us for free to make a big impact on people and everyday life.
Okay, so now what do I do with this information? — is the question you might have. Well, you can learn and test. So you can learn a little bit more about accessibility by checking out Global Accessibility Awareness Day. You can join a meetup. There are tons of people out there who are as passionate as I am about accessibility, who can show you the way and give you tips and tricks on how to think about this.
You can subscribe to a newsletter. I’ve included a bit.ly link here, bit.ly/wbf-week, for White Board Friday. You can sign up for a weekly newsletter from Accessibility Weekly and get more tips and tricks and really cool stories about how people are doing this and implementing this work on their own business. Then you can also test your actual pages. Once you kind of get this awareness and start understanding how accessibility fits into your workflow, you can use either WAVE or Axe, and I’ve included the bit.ly links here and down below, and you can look at those tools as just another thing you can do to make sure that the things you’re producing are visible, they’re accessible, they’re able to be accessed by assistive technology.
Thanks for spending some time with me today and talking about SEO and accessibility. I really hope that this changes your perspective and gives you a broader idea of how you can impact people’s daily lives with the SEO and the accessibility work you’re doing for your own business. Thanks. Have a good one.
Ranking highly for a keyword you’ve been targeting is a great feeling. However, it’s crucial to ensure that ranking will actually benefit you.
The keywords you target should be relevant to your business and have the ability to increase organic traffic and drive conversions. But how do you determine which keywords are going to be of value?
In these Daily SEO Fix videos, we show you how you can use Moz’s keyword metrics to help you evaluate how much of an impact ranking for certain keywords will have.
If you’d like some more tips on analyzing keyword metrics with Moz Pro, you can book a one-on-one walkthrough with a member of our onboarding team. It’s a free, personalized call which will show you how to get the most out of Moz Pro.
Using keyword metrics to analyze a list of keywords
In this video, Emilie shows you how to find out the average monthly volume, difficulty score, organic CTR, and priority within a keyword list.
You can use this information to examine the overall keyword metrics for a specific topic area and to pinpoint the most common SERP features.
Importing CSV to Keyword Explorer
Keyword research often involves collating data from a variety of sources. For example, you may be using a spreadsheet from a client alongside your own keyword research.
The data you have gathered can be pieced together to give you a clearer understanding of the value and relevance of your keywords.
Maddie shows you how to import a CSV of your own keywords into Moz Pro. You can use them to create a keyword list or you can track them in your campaign.
Keyword Explorer: Advanced Exporting Tips
Exporting a keyword list from Keyword Explorer will allow you to analyze your keyword data in a spreadsheet.
In this Daily SEO Fix, Emilie will explain how you can filter and export a CSV of your keyword list and show you what insights you can take from it.
Advanced Google Sheets Metrics Look Up
In this video, Jo shows you how to merge keyword data from Moz Pro with your existing keyword data.
This can be particularly helpful if you’re using a variety of data sources to research keyword opportunities. Adding all of your keywords to a single spreadsheet makes it easier to organize and analyze them.
Wil is the Founder and Vice President of Innovation at Seer Interactive, and will be back at MozCon this year with his presentation: The 3 Most Important Search Marketing Tools…Your Heart, Your Brain, & Your [Small] Ego.
Ahead of the show, set to take place on July 12-14, 2021, we talked with Wil about the impact of 2020 on Seer Interactive, what challenges marketers must overcome when analyzing data, and the key insights he’ll cover in this year’s MozCon presentation.
Question: 2020 was quite a year, how did the Seer team adjust? What were some of your favorite projects?
Wil: We went through all the emotions 🙂
Everyone stayed healthy for the most part, that was always my focus — how are our teams and their parents doing? The focus was on helping people manage this time.
My favorite project was the work we did to help our clients use all their warehoused data to find quick places to trim spending… The fact that our data was warehoused for all clients made it easy to support them, as they were being asked some pretty tough questions about budgets and how customers are changing.
Question: You have a long history of mind-blowing presentations at MozCon, which always include innovative ways of looking at data and strategy. What’s your creative process?
Wil: I read. I like to go back to psychology and how people buy. I love reading books on marketing before the web existed. How can I think differently if I’m reading all the same things as my peers?
I love taking books that have nothing to do with search and apply those learnings to our day to day. I usually am finishing my presentations up until the last minute because I keep pulling data, finding new ways to add value, and deliver, then practice, practice, practice.
Question: This year, you’ll be discussing how marketers can transform how they think about data by tapping into three tools they already have access to: the head, the heart, and their ego. What is the single most important takeaway our MozCon viewers should walk away with from your presentation?
Wil: That tools are not competitive advantages, yet we all obsess over “tips and tricks” and “tools” — but the best tools are your brain, your heart, and your small ego.
Question: At last year’s MozCon, you talked about how CMOs and marketing teams can increase visibility by speaking the language of CEOs and CFOs. Will we see any of the same themes come through in your presentation this year?
Wil: Always. I think one of the values I bring is I try to help us better understand how to connect our work to how the C-suite makes decisions. You know — profits, revenue, leveraging existing assets, ROI, customer acquisition, etc. That’s a different language than rankings, canonicals, MSV, etc. I want to be a translator between the two.
Question: What do you think is the biggest challenge for marketers when analyzing data?
Wil: Limits of tools, tools have UIs — UIs are critical, but you don’t get the full power of the data because often it’s been pre-processed for the average customer. That limits innovation, to me.
The other challenge is siloed thinking. Oftentimes, we aren’t thinking about how we could use paid data to impact technical SEO, or whether COVID positivity rate influences SEO, or if medicare.gov data can benefit local SEO. That is my world though.
Lastly, learning the tools that allow you to slice data and combine it and visualize it is a big hurdle.
Question: Who in the MozCon lineup are you most excited to watch this year? Anything else you are looking forward to?
Wil: I gotta pick one? If I had to, it’s Ross Simmonds. When he speaks, the stuff just makes sense, but I haven’t been doing it. I always think, I wish I was more like that dude. 🙂
A big thank you to Wil for his time! To learn more about Wil’s upcoming presentation, see details on our other speakers, and to purchase your ticket, make sure you click the link below!
The author’s views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.
It’s a competitive world out there. Everyone’s after a piece of the pie, and in these uncertain times, businesses need to work harder than ever to stand out from the herd.
One of the best ways to achieve this is to develop a unique brand voice for your company – one that will appeal to customers and get noticed via SEO.
What exactly is a “brand voice”? It’s simply the way your organization expresses its messaging in terms of style and tone. Your voice should demonstrate your core values and appeal to your target customers.
It’s vital that this voice is consistent across all aspects of your communications, from blogs to adverts to signage. If your content doesn’t stay on-brand, your audience won’t make the association between your latest product or service and the ones they’ve enjoyed before, and the crucial loyalty factor is gone.
This article will show you a few tricks to help develop a unique voice, structure your content, and turn Google’s algorithms to your advantage at the same time.
Developing your brand voice
This isn’t quite as easy as you might think. Your brand voice has to reflect who you are as a business, and ensure it “speaks” to potential customers on the right level, whether they’re already familiar with your brand or they’ve just found you in a Google search.
This means really getting to know your customers – find out what they need and how they want it presented to them. Consider the demographics: age, gender, profession, financial situation, lifestyle. It’s also helpful to carry out a competitor analysis for companies in a similar industry and see how their brand voice works for them.
When you know who you’re talking to, you can tailor your brand voice to the people who are (hopefully) going to listen to it, and target them through clever SEO techniques.
For instance, if you’re targeting a youthful audience, you might use a chatty and friendly style with a few emojis thrown in. If your content is aimed at older professionals, it’s probably better to keep things a bit more formal.
Content should always be informative and helpful. You might use jargon if your audience is familiar with a subject, but simple language is often best for explaining something technical. Make sure you always back it up with trustworthy sources.
The key to creating engaging content that gets top rankings on search engines is to inject some personality. Some marketers like to push the boundaries with wacky ideas and irreverent humor, but only if it’s appropriate for the audience and the brand. Consider creating a tone and voice “style guide” to be used by everyone in your organization, ensuring consistency across all content.
Optimizing your brand voice
So, you’ve developed your unique brand voice, now how do you let people hear it? Well, you need to optimize your content to pick up the most traffic from search engines.
The trick here is to respond to keyword trends without compromising your brand voice. Your SEO and marketing teams will need to work together on this. SEO will boost your website’s performance on search engines in order to reach the top positions on Google. Most people don’t read beyond the first SERP, so getting into the top ten is crucial for your company’s success.
We’ll show you some tips on how to get there by optimizing your content structure, title tags, and meta description copy.
#1 Define your keywords
Usually, it’s pretty easy to identify your own keywords: they’ll include the name of your brand, its identity, and the things it sells or provides. Keywords are the major descriptors of your brand and its USP – and the hooks that will draw in your target customers. But if you’re not sure how to pick a primary keyword, you can use an online tool such as Moz Pro’s Keyword Explorer.
Keyword research is an important part of your SEO strategy – identify popular words and phrases that people search for, and structure your content around those topics while keeping your message on-brand.
#2 Create catchy title tags
A title tag is an HTML element that specifies the title of a web page (not to be confused with the H1-tag, which is the displayed “title” on the actual page). Its main function is to tell visitors what they’ll find if they visit that web page.
The title tag is the first thing a potential visitor will see when your site pops up in an online search, so this is your chance to make a great first impression! You’re aiming to tempt the searcher to click through to the appealing content in your post.
Ideally, a title tag should:
If you’re already a well-known business, make sure your brand name is included in the title tag. List posts are always popular, so using numbers in the tag is an enticing hook. For example, if you were writing about an alternative to Zoom, your title could be “8 powerful Zoom alternatives for video conferencing”.
People don’t want to read old information, so add a date to your tag – or at least say when it was last updated. They do like thorough and authoritative articles, though. Think “The Ultimate/Complete Guide To…”.
Make sure all title tags are unique to avoid confusion, and ensure every page on your website has its own title tag. Finally, be aware that Google may rewrite your title tags if it doesn’t think they’re up to scratch!
Tip: Test your tags. A/B testing and measuring the traffic generated from new keywords will help you work out what you’re doing right or wrong.
#3 Write an enticing meta description
A meta description is the text block or “snippet” that appears underneath the title tag in the search results. This is where you have a bit more room (150 to 160 characters) to describe and summarize the contents of your page – and encourage the reader to click on your post.
Keywords are just as important here, as search engines will highlight those words in the SERP. But you can also optimize your meta descriptions to reflect your brand voice and appeal to visitors.
The more inviting the copy is, the more it will motivate people to click, thus increasing your SERP ranking over time. You can set up your meta descriptions to include your logo, an image, or a review – all things that will draw the reader’s eye.
Tip:If you don’t write a meta description, the search engine will probably create one for you – and it may not be what you want to say!
#4 Use the headline as a hook
Great, you’ve successfully enticed a visitor to click through to your site. Now you just have to keep them engaged, as highly optimized landing pages are essential to increasing conversions.
The reader is already interested in your organization, so pull them in further with an attention-grabbing headline. It’s a good idea to include a variation of your keyword, but you can add other wording to make the reader keen to learn more.
Most people will take a quick scan through the article before deciding whether or not to read the whole thing. Using catchy H2s and H3s with variations of the primary keyword will confirm that this is the article they were looking for – as well as breaking up the text and making it easier to read.
#5 Let your brand voice sing
The main article copy is where your brand voice really comes into its own. Great copy can make your brand memorable, so inject plenty of personality to keep the reader entertained as well as informed.
Scatter some keywords throughout the copy, but there’s no need to shoehorn in the exact phrasing if it’s grammatically clunky. It’s more important to meet the search intent and answer the questions that led the visitor to your door.
Choosing the right topic to write about is an important aspect of your brand communication. It should respond to your target customers’ needs as well as fitting with your marketing strategy. People enjoy reading hands-on, actionable content that will actually add value to their lives. If you can attract the right customers, you can help them build a long-term association with your company.
#6 Be picture perfect
Images are almost as important as words when it comes to promoting your brand. Posts with images get 94% more views, so it’s vital to deliver appealing visual content.
Images improve the user experience by making your content more appealing and memorable, and providing a break from the body text. You can also use graphics to explain complex ideas in a visual way.
Pictorial content will give you a big SEO boost by increasing the time people spend on your site, and ensuring you also appear in the image search results.
For brand consistency, make sure your corporate colors and company logo appear across all channels. If these elements help to show off your brand personality, so much the better.
#7 Find a good influencer
Partnering with industry influencers is a good way to attract more traffic to your site, as their followers will be encouraged to connect with you. It’s best to build links with influencers who match your own brand voice and values, to make those connections more obvious.
Even if you don’t go as far as forging a partnership, you can still take inspiration from influencers by following and subscribing to their content. Remember, you’re not looking to copy someone else’s style – just learn from people who do it well.
Looking to the future
Once you’ve calibrated your brand voice for SEO and your business is reaping the rewards, don’t stop there! There are a few more strategies to consider for future content campaigns.
Monitor social media
As social media continues to grow in popularity, it pays to monitor other companies’ channels and identify which social media posts get the best engagement. You can then use these insights to structure the tags and descriptions of your own pages, to increase the chances of traffic.
Get ready for voice search
You should also ensure that your organization is optimized for voice search, which is set to take off over the next few years. Thanks to “digital assistants” such as Alexa, Siri, and Cortana, potential customers are conducting searches in a different way.
Because people tend to use complete questions in a voice search (rather than typing a few words into Google), search engine algorithms will focus on analyzing overall intent instead of exact keywords. This means long-tail keywords will become standard for all search rankings.
If your company wants to attract international customers, you should consider a multilingual marketing strategy. This will help your brand voice appeal to people around the world by making your content accessible across different languages and cultures.
SEO is the key to getting your brand voice heard
Your brand voice is one of your most important assets when it comes to attracting potential customers in a highly competitive world.
If you make the effort to understand those customers and their needs, you’ll be able to speak their language and work out the best ways to entice them in. When people buy into the values demonstrated by a consistent brand voice, visitors will be converted into loyal followers.
Optimize your title tags, meta descriptions, and web content successfully, and you’ll see an increase in site traffic – helping you rise up those all-important SERP rankings.
The author’s views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.
As a self-taught SEO, I struggled (and failed) for years to understand how to build links to my site and the sites of my clients. I’ve built my agency on writing quality content that ranks in search engines and drives sales, but the one piece of the puzzle I was missing was how to build powerful links to that content.
Like most SEO consultants who don’t focus on link building as a central business offering, for a long time, the entire process of link building at scale seemed overwhelming, and every link building campaign I launched failed to generate the results I needed.
I would spend hours writing content, testing numerous tools to discover link opportunities, validating each site, and finally reaching out to site owners in a desperate attempt to secure high-quality backlinks. But nothing seemed to work, and as my success rates dropped, so did my confidence in myself as an SEO.
It wasn’t until I started to look through my entire link building process that I realized I needed to spend more time qualifying sites to ensure I didn’t waste time on low-quality sites or irrelevant content.
Over the course of a few years, I slowly started to develop a system to help me discover, prospect, and secure powerful links for myself and my clients. This process was made around me being the only person doing the work, so I had to find ways to minimize wasted time or resources along the way.
A quick note for readers
I’m not a professional link builder, and I’ve found that this process to qualify potential sites works for me and my needs. This process is by no means optimal, and since link building is a powerful SEO tool, you should be sure to do a lot of research to determine the best approach for your specific needs. What works for me might not work for you. I highly recommend you look at Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to Link Building, or pick up The Ultimate Guide To Link Building by Garrett French and Eric Ward.
So again, before we go through my qualifying process in the pre-pitch phase of link building, I just want to reiterate that this process is not perfect, it won’t work for all types of link building campaigns, and it will continue to be improved upon. I created this process based on my needs and goals, and it works on a few assumptions:
You are a solo or small team, and need to maximize your time throughout the process.
You are looking for broken link building and guest post opportunities. This will not work for local link building or other related strategies.
You have access to various tools like Moz, Ahrefs, and Majestic, and you know how to pull data from those resources.
You are more concerned with maximizing your time than you are about finding every site available.
With that said, I hope it helps other SEOs shave some time off their link building process and combine it with other approaches for the best results possible!
Qualification & audit in the pre-itch phase
No one will deny that link building is one of the most important pieces of any SEO strategy. While you may have an impeccable technical setup and the best content on the internet, the truth is that Google will not reward your efforts if you don’t have the types of links to your site that signal authority.
Since all link building boils down to outreach, I needed to have amazing content to offer the right people to land links from the right sites. Whether I was performing broken link building, resource page link building, or reaching out to powerful sites for guest posting, I needed to make sure I limited the amount of time and resources wasted on irrelevant sites.
The first step of any successful link building campaign is to make sure that you have the right content for the desired audience. At this point, let’s assume that you have a great piece of content that’s relevant for a long list of potential sites. For me, the most important aspect to consider is my time, so this is where pre-qualifying sites is crucial. I have to cut out as many sites as possible as quickly as possible, and focus on the sites out there with the best fit.
Step 1: Bulk disqualifications
Once you know that your content will solve a problem, you can run various footprints through a tool like Scrapebox, NinjaOutreach, or Pitchbox to develop a large group of potential sites to reach out to.
Depending on the industry and footprints used in the discovery phase, you might end up with a list of a few thousand potential sites. While it’s exciting to see that many, you can also lose a lot of time by reaching out to sites that are irrelevant or low-quality.
Disqualify various URL parameters
Before I look at metrics or other aspects of a site, I’ll prune my initial list of sites based on specific words in their URL that I think will yield poor results for my outreach efforts. I do this with simple commands in Excel or a Google Sheets document to search for and remove each row with a URL that includes footprints like “wiki”, “forum”, and “news”.
While this process isn’t perfect, I’ve found that these types of sites usually offer a low-quality link on a generic page buried deep in their content archive.
Remove blatant guest posting sites
Now that we removed sites with specific parameters in the URL, I like to remove sites that are obviously made for guest bloggers. While guest blogging has been a good strategy for me, sites that appear to be built around guest posts are usually unscrupulous sites that I don’t want a link from. While not always the case, I’ve found that these sites are likely part of a Private Blog Network (PBN) and could yield low impact for my link building efforts.
To prune out these types of sites, I will pre-qualify sites like I did in the previous step by taking out sites with “submit”, “write for us”, or “guest post” in the URL and move them to my “junk” spreadsheet that I keep and examine later on.
Step 2: Use tools to identify powerful sites
At this stage, I’ve removed quite a few sites from the initial list based on their URL. Now I can assume that the sites I have in my list aren’t trying to generate guest posts, and my efforts won’t result in a link buried deep within a wiki page.
It’s important to note that the exact metrics I consider acceptable will vary based on industry, client goals, and if I’m performing local link building campaigns vs. national outreach efforts. But to simplify things, I’ll use the general baseline with the metrics below when evaluating a typical client for authoritative outreach campaigns.
Obviously, not all sites are disqualified, but if a site has high metrics but upon further examination I find the site is low quality, then I know that site was only built for rankings and I will disqualify that site from my target list.
Majestic website metrics
The most important factor to consider in any outreach campaign is the topical relevance and authority of a site based on the industry that you’re working in. It’s important to ensure that all backlinks are relevant to the target page from a topical and contextual perspective.
Since topical authority and relevance are so important for outreach efforts, I run my list of sites through Majestic SEO so my spreadsheet of prospective sites are all related by topic and context to the piece of content I want to point links to.
Once I have a list of topically relevant sites, I will run that list through Majestic and only keep those sites that return CF/TF of 12 or above. I may adjust this baseline depending on the number of results, but I have found that sites with CF/TF below 12 tend to be weaker sites that won’t move the needle.
It should also be noted that I only keep sites where the CF and TF scores are at least 50% of each other. For example, I will not consider a site with CF 50, but a TF 10 score.
This step will whittle down my initial list and usually leave me with about 20-30% of it. I take all sites that aren’t relevant to the destination site and place them in a separate spreadsheet to review later.
Ahrefs website metrics
Now that I have a list of topically relevant sites that also meet a minimum threshold in Majestic SEO, I will move on to Ahrefs. I copy/paste the remaining sites into the Build Analyze tool to find sites with at least 500 monthly traffic and a DR of 15 or above.
This step helps me identify “real” sites that generate traffic before I manually review the site.
Moz website metrics
Finally, I take the list of sites that are topically relevant and have strong baseline metrics through the Moz Pro tool. Since I can’t justify the cost of Moz API for my small team and limited use case, I need to do URL checks manually at this stage, so it’s important to do everything I can in previous steps to ensure I only work with sites that show good potential.
I check my list of sites in Moz through their Link Research tool to understand the strength of a root domain and quickly identify any spam sites that might have survived previous steps. I also look at the Moz Spam Score to determine whether a site requires more manual review.
Depending on the scope of my link building campaign, the industry I’m targeting, and geographic region (among other factors), I usually only reach out to sites with a DA of 10 or above. I’ve found the Moz DA tool is pretty accurate when evaluating the “realness” factor of a site, and anything below a 10 DA is likely a PBN site.
My final step to evaluate a site through SEO tools is to look at the Spam Score to catch any leftover low-quality sites that may have passed the other checks:
Like most tools, you can get false positives, since it’s pretty easy to stand a site up just to generate “good” SEO metrics. For this reason, I like to take the final step of a manual review of websites before I reach out to website owners.
Step 3: Manual review
Now that I have a small list (usually 10-20% of the original list that I started with) of sites that meet benchmarks set in each tool, I’ll begin the manual process of reviewing the remaining sites.
I think it’s important to manually check sites before reaching out to them, because I can usually find sites that are part of a PBN or those sites that were built just to sell links based on their design and functionality.
As I review these sites, I keep an eye out for obvious signals of a poor site. I almost always disqualify a site at this stage that has excessive advertising on it, because I can assume the site is only built to increase their sales commissions and not the quality of content for real people.
Use SEO tools to save time during the link prospecting phase
No matter the scope of your outreach or the industry you work in, all outreach campaigns take a lot of time and resources. Most SEOs know that bad link building can result in a whole host of problems, and as the only person in our agency who performs outreach, I need to protect my time.
The balance between scalability, quality, and efficiency is made or broken during the prospecting phase of any link building campaign. I use various SEO tools to help me save time and determine the best sites for my outreach efforts. Not only does this stack of SEO tools help me identify those sites, it also means that I’m more likely to successfully communicate with a real person at a real site to build links with.
Feel free to test out this process for yourself, and I’d love your thoughts on how to improve it in the comments below!
The excitement of finishing a competitive keyword research project often gives way to the panic of fleeing from an avalanche of opportunities. Without an organizing principle, a spreadsheet full of keywords is a bottomless to-do list. It’s not enough to know what your competitors are ranking for — you need to know what content is powering those rankings and how you’re currently competing with that content. You need a blueprint to craft those keywords into a compelling structure.
Recently, I wrote a post about the current state of long-tail SEO. While I had an angle for the piece in mind, I also knew it was a topic Moz and others had covered many times. I needed to understand the competitive landscape and make sure I wasn’t cannibalizing our own content.
This post covers one method to perform that competitive content research, using Google’s advanced search operators. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll pare down the keyword research and start our journey with just one phrase: “long tail seo.”
Find your best content (site:)
long tail seo site:moz.com
“long tail seo” site:moz.com
First, what has Moz already published on the subject? By pairing your target keywords with the [site:] operator, you can search for matching content only on your own site. I usually start with a broad-match search, but if your target phrases are made up of common words, you could also use quotation marks and exact-match search. Here’s the first piece of content I see:
Our best match on the subject is a Whiteboard Friday from five years ago. If I had nothing new to add to the subject and/or I was considering doing a video, this might end my journey. I don’t really want to compete with my own content that’s already performing well. In this case, I decide that I’ve got a fresh take, and I move forward.
Target a specific folder (inurl:)
long tail seo site:moz.com inurl:learn
long tail seo site:moz.com/learn
For larger sites, you might want to focus on a specific section, like the blog, or in Moz’s case, our Learning Center. You have a couple of options here. You could use the [inurl:] operator with the folder name, but that may result in false alarms, like:
This may be useful, in some cases, but when you need to specifically focus on a sub-folder, just add that sub-folder to the [site:] operator. The handy thing about the [site:] operator is that anything left off is essentially a wild card, so [site:moz.com/learn] will return anything in the /learn folder.
Find all competing pages (-site:)
long tail seo -site:moz.com
Now that you have a sense of your own, currently-ranking content, you can start to dig into the competition. I like to start broad, simply using negative match [-site:] to remove my own site from the list. I get back something like this:
This is great for a big-picture view, but you’re probably going to want to focus in on just a couple or a handful of known competitors. So, let’s narrow down the results …
Explore key competitors (site: OR site:)
long tail seo (site:ahrefs.com OR site:semrush.com)
By using the [OR] operator with [site:] and putting the result in parentheses, you can target a specific group of competitors. Now, I get back something like this:
Is this really different than targeting one competitor at a time? Yes, in one important way: now I can see how these competitors rank against each other.
Explore related content #1 (-“phrase”)
long tail seo -“long tail seo”
As you get into longer, more targeted phrases, it’s possible to miss relevant or related content. Hopefully, you’ve done a thorough job of your initial keyword research, but it’s still worth checking for gaps. One approach I use is to search for your main phrase with broad match, but exclude the exact match phrase. This leaves results like:
Just glancing at page one of results, I can see multiple mentions of “long tail keywords” (as well as “long-tail” with a hyphen), and other variants like “long tail keyword research” and “long tail organic traffic.” Even if you’ve turned these up in your initial keyword research, this combination of Google search operators gives you a quick way to cover a lot of variants and potentially relevant content.
Explore related content #2 (intext: -intitle:)
intext:”long tail seo” -intitle:”long tail seo”
Another handy trick is to use the [intext:] operator to target your phrase in the body of the content, but then use [-intitle:] to exclude results with the exact-match phrase in the title. While the results will overlap with the previous trick, you can sometimes turn up some interesting side discussions and related topics. Of course, you can also use [intitle:] to laser-target your search on content titles.
Find pages by dates (####..####)
long tail seo 2010..2015
In some cases, you might want to target your search on a date-range. You can combine the four-digit years with the range operator [..] to target a time period. Note that this will search for the years as numbers anywhere in the content. While the [daterange:] operator is theoretically your most precise option, it relies on Google being able to correctly identify the publication date of a piece, and I’ve found it difficult to use and a bit unpredictable. The range operator usually does the job.
Find top X lists (intitle:”#..#”)
intitle:”top 11..15″ long tail seo
This can get a little silly, but I just want to illustrate the power of combining operators. Let’s say you’re working on a top X list about long-tail SEO, but want to make sure there isn’t too much competition for the 11-15 item range you’re landing in. Using a combo of [intitle:] plus the range operator [..], you might get something like this:
Note that operator combos can get weird, and results may vary depending on the order of the operators. Some operators can’t be used in combination (or at least the results are highly suspicious), so always gut-check what you see.
Putting all of the data to work
If you approach this process in an organized way (if I can do it, you can do it, because, frankly, I’m not that organized), what you should end up with is a list of relevant topics you might have missed, a list of your currently top-performing pages, a list of your relevant competitors, and a list of your competitors’ top-performing pages. With this bundle of related data, you can answer questions like the following:
Are you at risk of competing with your own relevant content?
Should you create new content or improve on existing content?
Is there outdated content you should remove or 301-redirect?
What competitors are most relevant in this content space?
What effort/cost will it take to clear the competitive bar?
What niches haven’t been covered by your competitors?
No tool will magically answer these questions, but by using your existing keyword research tools and Google’s advanced search operators methodically, you should be able to put your human intelligence to work and create a specific and actionable content strategy around your chosen topic.
If you’d like to learn more about Google’s advanced search operators, check out our comprehensive Learning Center page or my post with 67 search operator tricks. I’d love to hear more about how you put these tools to work in your own competitive research.
Life rushed back into Jayda’s lungs, sharp and unforgiving. To her left, shards of a thousand synonyms. To her right, the crumbling remains of a mountain of long-tail keywords. As the air filled her lungs, the memories came rushing back, and with them the crushing realization that her team was buried beneath the debris. After months of effort, they had finally finished their competitive keyword research, but at what cost?
It’s time to get down to business and convince your boss that you HAVE to go to MozCon Virtual 2021.
You’re already well acquainted with the benefits of MozCon. Maybe you’re a MozCon alumnus, or you may have lurked the hashtag once or twice for inside tips. You’ve likely followed the work of some of the speakers for a while. But how are you going to relay that to your boss in a way that sells? Don’t worry, we’ve got a plan.
(And if you want to skip ahead to the letter template, here it is!)
Step #1 – Gather evidence
Alright, so just going in and saying “Have you seen any of Britney Muller’s Whiteboard Fridays lately?!” probably won’t do the trick — we need some cold hard facts that you can present.
MozCon delivers actionable insights
It’s easy to say that MozCon provides actionable insights, but how do you prove it? A quick scroll through our Facebook Group can prove to anyone that not only is MozCon a gathering of the greatest minds in search, but it also acts as an incubator and facilitator for SEO strategies.
If you can’t get your boss on Facebook, just direct them to the blog post written by Croud: Four things I changed immediately after attending MozCon. Talk about actionable! A quick Google (or LinkedIn) search will return dozens of similar recaps. Gather a few of these to have in your tool belt just in case.
Or, if you have the time, pick out some of the event tweets from previous years that relate most to your company. The MozCon hashtag (#MozCon) has plenty of tweets to choose from — things like research findings, workflows, and useful tools are all covered.
The networking is unbeatable
The potential knowledge gain doesn’t end with keynote speeches. Many of our speakers stick around for the entire conference and host niche- and vertical-specific Birds of a Feather sessions. If you find yourself with questions about their strategies, you’ll often have the ability to ask them directly.
Lastly, your peers! There’s no better way to learn than from those who overcome the same obstacles as you. Opportunities for collaboration and peer-to-peer learning are often invaluable, and can lead to better workflows, new business, and even exciting partnerships.
Step #2 – Break down the costs
This is where the majority of the conversation will be focused, but fear not, Roger has already done most of the heavy lifting. So let’s cut to the chase. The goal of MozCon isn’t to make money — the goal is to break even and lift up our friends in search. Plus, since it’s a virtual conference, the price is unbeatable! If you purchase a ticket before May 31, 2021, you’ll get access to Early Bird pricing, and if you’re Moz subscribers, you get a $20 discount off General Admission!
You’ll also have the option to save 15% if you bundle the ticket with either of Moz Academy’s SEO certifications: Technical SEO or SEO Essentials.
Every year we work with our speakers to bring cutting-edge content to the stage. You can be sure that the content you’ll be exposed to will set you up for a year of success.
Videos for everyone
While your coworkers won’t be able to enjoy the live sessions, they will be able to see all of the talks via professional video and audio. Your ticket to MozCon includes a professional video package which allows you (and your whole team) to watch every single talk post-conference, for free.
Step #3 – Be prepared to prove value
It’s important to go into the conference with a plan to bring back value. It’s easy to come to any conference and just enjoy the presentations and events, but it’s harder to take the information gained and implement change.
Make a plan
Before approaching your boss, make sure you have a plan on how you’re going to show off all of the insights you gather at MozCon! Obviously, you’ll be taking notes — whether it’s to the tune of live tweets, bullet journals, or doodles, those notes are most valuable when they’re backed up by action.
Putting it into action
Set expectations with your boss. “After each day, I’ll select three takeaways and create a plan on how to execute them.” Who could turn down nine potential business-changing strategies?!
And it really isn’t that hard! Especially not with the content that you’ll have access to. At the close of each day, we recommend you look back over your notes and do a brain-dump.
- How did today’s content relate to your business?
- Which sessions resonated and would bring the most value to your team?
- Which strategies can easily be executed?
- Which would make the biggest impact?
After you identify those strategies, create a plan of action that will get you on track for implementing change.
If you have clients on retainer, ongoing training for employees is something those clients should appreciate — it ensures you’re staying ahead of the game. Offer to not only debrief your in-house SEO team, but to also present to your clients. This sort of presentation is a value add that many clients don’t get and can set your business apart.
These presentations can be short blurbs at the beginning of a regular meeting or a chance to gather up all of your clients and enjoy a bit of networking and education.
Still not enough?
Give the boss a taste of MozCon by having them check out some videos from years past to get a taste for the caliber of our speakers.
Lastly, the reviews speak for themselves. MozCon is perfect for SEOs of any level, no matter where they’re located!
Our fingers are crossed!
Alright, friend, now is your time to shine. We’ve equipped you with some super-persuasive tools and we’ll be crossing our fingers that the boss gives you the “okay!” Be sure to grab the letter template and make your case the easy way:
We hope to see your smiling face at MozCon Virtual 2021!
Page Level Query Analysis at Scale with Google Colab, Python, & the GSC API [Video Instructions Included]
The YouTube playlist referenced throughout the below blog can be found here:6 Part YouTube Series [Setting Up & Using the Query Optimization Checker]
Anyone who does SEO as part of their job knows that there’s a lot of value in analyzing which queries are and are not sending traffic to specific pages on a site.
The most common uses for these datasets are to align on-page optimizations with existing rankings and traffic, and to identify gaps in ranking keywords.
However, working with this data is extremely tedious because it’s only available in the Google Search Console interface, and you have to look at only one page at a time.
On top of that, to get information on the text included in the ranking page, you either need to manually review it or extract it with a tool like Screaming Frog.
You need this kind of view:
…but even the above view would only be viable one page at a time, and as mentioned, the actual text extraction would have had to be separate as well.
Given these apparent issues with the readily available data at the SEO community’s disposal, the data engineering team at Inseev Interactive has been spending a lot of time thinking about how we can improve these processes at scale.
One specific example that we’ll be reviewing in this post is a simple script that allows you to get the above data in a flexible format for many great analytical views.
Better yet, this will all be available with only a few single input variables.
A quick rundown of tool functionality
The tool automatically compares the text on-page to the Google Search Console top queries at the page-level to let you know which queries are on-page as well as how many times they appear on the page. An optional XPath variable also allows you to specify the part of the page you want to analyze text on.
This means you’ll know exactly what queries are driving clicks/impressions that are not in your <title>, <h1>, or even something as specific as the first paragraph within the main content (MC). The sky’s the limit.
For those of you not familiar, we’ve also provided some quick XPath expressions you can use, as well as how to create site-specific XPath expressions within the “Input Variables” section of the post.
Post setup usage & datasets
Once the process is set up, all that’s required is filling out a short list of variables and the rest is automated for you.
The output dataset includes multiple automated CSV datasets, as well as a structured file format to keep things organized. A simple pivot of the core analysis automated CSV can provide you with the below dataset and many other useful layouts.
… Even some “new metrics”?
Okay, not technically “new,” but if you exclusively use the Google Search Console user interface, then you haven’t likely had access to metrics like these before: “Max Position,” “Min Position,” and “Count Position” for the specified date range – all of which are explained in the “Running your first analysis” section of the post.
To really demonstrate the impact and usefulness of this dataset, in the video below we use the Colab tool to:
[3 Minutes] — Find non-brand <title> optimization opportunities for https://www.inseev.com/ (around 30 pages in video, but you could do any number of pages)
[3 Minutes] — Convert the CSV to a more useable format
[1 Minute] – Optimize the first title with the resulting dataset
Okay, you’re all set for the initial rundown. Hopefully we were able to get you excited before moving into the somewhat dull setup process.
Keep in mind that at the end of the post, there is also a section including a few helpful use cases and an example template! To jump directly to each section of this post, please use the following links:
[Quick Consideration #2] — This tool has been heavily tested by the members of the Inseev team. Most bugs [specifically with the web scraper] have been found and fixed, but like any other program, it is possible that other issues may come up.
If you encounter any errors, feel free to reach out to us directly at [email protected] or [email protected], and either myself or one of the other members of the data engineering team at Inseev would be happy to help you out.
If new errors are encountered and fixed, we will always upload the updated script to the code repository linked in the sections below so the most up-to-date code can be utilized by all!
Things you’ll need:
Google Cloud Platform account
Google Search Console access
Video walkthrough: tool setup process
Below you’ll find step-by-step editorial instructions in order to set up the entire process. However, if following editorial instructions isn’t your preferred method, we recorded a video of the setup process as well.
As you’ll see, we start with a brand new Gmail and set up the entire process in approximately 12 minutes, and the output is completely worth the time.
Keep in mind that the setup is one-off, and once set up, the tool should work on command from there on!
Editorial walkthrough: tool setup process
Download the files from Github and set up in Google Drive
Set up a Google Cloud Platform (GCP) Project (skip if you already have an account)
Create the OAuth 2.0 client ID for the Google Search Console (GSC) API (skip if you already have an OAuth client ID with the Search Console API enabled)
Add the OAuth 2.0 credentials to the Config.py file
Part one: Download the files from Github and set up in Google Drive
Download source files (no code required)
1. Navigate here.
2. Select “Code” > “Download Zip”
*You can also use ‘git clone https://github.com/jmelm93/query-optmization-checker.git‘ if you’re more comfortable using the command prompt.
Initiate Google Colab in Google Drive
If you already have a Google Colaboratory setup in your Google Drive, feel free to skip this step.
1. Navigate here.
2. Click “New” > “More” > “Connect more apps”.
3. Search “Colaboratory” > Click into the application page.
4. Click “Install” > “Continue” > Sign in with OAuth.
5. Click “OK” with the prompt checked so Google Drive automatically sets appropriate files to open with Google Colab (optional).
Import the downloaded folder to Google Drive & open in Colab
1. Navigate to Google Drive and create a folder called “Colab Notebooks”.
IMPORTANT: The folder needs to be called “Colab Notebooks” as the script is configured to look for the “api” folder from within “Colab Notebooks”.
2. Import the folder downloaded from Github into Google Drive.
At the end of this step, you should have a folder in your Google Drive that contains the below items:
Part two: Set up a Google Cloud Platform (GCP) project
If you already have a Google Cloud Platform (GCP) account, feel free to skip this part.
1. Navigate to the Google Cloud page.
2. Click on the “Get started for free” CTA (CTA text may change over time).
3. Sign in with the OAuth credentials of your choice. Any Gmail email will work.
4. Follow the prompts to sign up for your GCP account.
You’ll be asked to supply a credit card to sign up, but there is currently a $300 free trial and Google notes that they won’t charge you until you upgrade your account.
Part three: Create a 0Auth 2.0 client ID for the Google Search Console (GSC) API
1. Navigate here.
2. After you log in to your desired Google Cloud account, click “ENABLE”.
3. Configure the consent screen.
- In the consent screen creation process, select “External,” then continue onto the “App Information.”
Example below of minimum requirements:
- Skip “Scopes”
- Add the email(s) you’ll use for the Search Console API authentication into the “Test Users”. There could be other emails versus just the one that owns the Google Drive. An example may be a client’s email where you access the Google Search Console UI to view their KPIs.
4. In the left-rail navigation, click into “Credentials” > “CREATE CREDENTIALS” > “OAuth Client ID” (Not in image).
5. Within the “Create OAuth client ID” form, fill in:
6. Save the “Client ID” and “Client Secret” — as these will be added into the “api” folder config.py file from the Github files we downloaded.
These should have appeared in a popup after hitting “CREATE”
The “Client Secret” is functionally the password to your Google Cloud (DO NOT post this to the public/share it online)
Part four: Add the OAuth 2.0 credentials to the Config.py file
1. Return to Google Drive and navigate into the “api” folder.
2. Click into config.py.
3. Choose to open with “Text Editor” (or another app of your choice) to modify the config.py file.
4. Update the three areas highlighted below with your:
CLIENT_ID: From the OAuth 2.0 client ID setup process
CLIENT_SECRET: From the OAuth 2.0 client ID setup process
GOOGLE_CREDENTIALS: Email that corresponds with your CLIENT_ID & CLIENT_SECRET
5. Save the file once updated!
Congratulations, the boring stuff is over. You are now ready to start using the Google Colab file!
Running your first analysis may be a little intimidating, but stick with it and it will get easy fast.
Below, we’ve provided details regarding the input variables required, as well as notes on things to keep in mind when running the script and analyzing the resulting dataset.
After we walk through these items, there are also a few example projects and video walkthroughs showcasing ways to utilize these datasets for client deliverables.
Setting up the input variables
XPath extraction with the “xpath_selector” variable
Have you ever wanted to know every query driving clicks and impressions to a webpage that aren’t in your <title> or <h1> tag? Well, this parameter will allow you to do just that.
While optional, using this is highly encouraged and we feel it “supercharges” the analysis. Simply define site sections with Xpaths and the script will do the rest.
In the above video, you’ll find examples on how to create site specific extractions. In addition, below are some universal extractions that should work on almost any site on the web:
‘//title’ # Identifies a <title> tag
‘//h1’ # Identifies a <h1> tag
‘//h2’ # Identifies a <h2> tag
Site Specific: How to scrape only the main content (MC)?
Chaining Xpaths – Add a “|” Between Xpaths
‘//title | //h1’ # Gets you both the <title> and <h1> tag in 1 run
‘//h1 | //h2 | //h3’ # Gets you both the <h1>, <h2> and <h3> tags in 1 run
Here’s a video overview of the other variables with a short description of each.
‘colab_path’ [Required] – The path in which the Colab file lives. This should be “/content/drive/My Drive/Colab Notebooks/”.
‘domain_lookup’ [Required] – Homepage of the website utilized for analysis.
‘startdate’ & ‘enddate’ [Required] – Date range for the analysis period.
‘gsc_sorting_field’ [Required] – The tool pulls the top N pages as defined by the user. The “top” is defined by either “clicks_sum” or “impressions_sum.” Please review the video for a more detailed description.
‘gsc_limit_pages_number’ [Required] – Numeric value that represents the number of resulting pages you’d like within the dataset.
‘brand_exclusions’ [Optional] – The string sequence(s) that commonly result in branded queries (e.g., anything containing “inseev” will be branded queries for “Inseev Interactive”).
‘impressions_exclusion’ [Optional] – Numeric value used to exclude queries that are potentially irrelevant due to the lack of pre-existing impressions. This is primarily relevant for domains with strong pre-existing rankings on a large scale number of pages.
‘page_inclusions’ [Optional] – The string sequence(s) that are found within the desired analysis page type. If you’d like to analyze the entire domain, leave this section blank.
Running the script
Keep in mind that once the script finishes running, you’re generally going to use the “step3_query-optimizer_domain-YYYY-MM-DD.csv” file for analysis, but there are others with the raw datasets to browse as well.
Practical use cases for the “step3_query-optimizer_domain-YYYY-MM-DD.csv” file can be found in the “Practical use cases and templates” section.
That said, there are a few important things to note while testing things out:
2. Google Drive / GSC API Auth: The first time you run the script in each new session it will prompt you to authenticate both the Google Drive and the Google Search Console credentials.
- GSC authentication: Authenticate whichever email has permission to use the desired Google Search Console account.
If you attempt to authenticate and you get an error that looks like the one below, please revisit the “Add the email(s) you’ll use the Colab app with into the ‘Test Users'” from Part 3, step 3 in the process above: setting up the consent screen.
Quick tip: The Google Drive account and the GSC Authentication DO NOT have to be the same email, but they do require separate authentications with OAuth.
3. Running the script: Either navigate to “Runtime” > “Restart and Run All” or use the keyboard shortcut CTRL + fn9 to start running the script.
4. Populated datasets/folder structure: There are three CSVs populated by the script – all nested within a folder structure based on the “domain_lookup” input variable.
Automated Organization [Folders]: Each time you rerun the script on a new domain, it will create a new folder structure in order to keep things organized.
Automated Organization [File Naming]: The CSVs include the date of the export appended to the end, so you’ll always know when the process ran as well as the date range for the dataset.
5. Date range for dataset: Inside of the dataset there is a “gsc_datasetID” column generated, which includes the date range of the extraction.
6. Unfamiliar metrics: The resulting dataset has all the KPIs we know and love – e.g. clicks, impressions, average (mean) position — but there are also a few you cannot get directly from the GSC UI:
‘count_instances_gsc’ — the number of instances the query got at least 1 impression during the specified date range. Scenario example: GSC tells you that you were in an average position 6 for a large keyword like “flower delivery” and you only received 20 impressions in a 30-day date range. Doesn’t seem possible that you were really in position 6, right? Well, now you can see that was potentially because you only actually showed up on one day in that 30-day date range (e.g. count_instances_gsc = 1)
Quick tip #1: Large variance in max/min may tell you that your keyword has been fluctuating heavily.
Quick tip #2: These KPIs, in conjunction with the “count_instances_gsc”, can exponentially further your understanding of query performance and opportunity.
Access the recommended multi-use template.
Recommended use: Download file and use with Excel. Subjectively speaking, I believe Excel has a much more user friendly pivot table functionality in comparison to Google Sheets — which is critical for using this template.
Alternative use: If you do not have Microsoft Excel or you prefer a different tool, you can use most spreadsheet apps that contain pivot functionality.
For those who opt for an alternative spreadsheet software/app:
Below are the pivot fields to mimic upon setup.
You may have to adjust the Vlookup functions found on the “Step 3 _ Analysis Final Doc” tab, depending on whether your updated pivot columns align with the current pivot I’ve supplied.
Project example: Title & H1 re-optimizations (video walkthrough)
Project description: Locate keywords that are driving clicks and impressions to high value pages and that do not exist within the <title> and <h1> tags by reviewing GSC query KPIs vs. current page elements. Use the resulting findings to re-optimize both the <title> and <h1> tags for pre-existing pages.
Project assumptions: This process assumes that inserting keywords into both the <title> and <h1> tags is a strong SEO practice for relevancy optimization, and that it’s important to include related keyword variants into these areas (e.g. non-exact match keywords with matching SERP intent).
Project example: On-page text refresh/re-optimization
Project description: Locate keywords that are driving clicks and impressions to editorial pieces of content that DO NOT exist within the first paragraph within the body of the main content (MC). Perform an on-page refresh of introductory content within editorial pages to include high value keyword opportunities.
Project assumptions: This process assumes that inserting keywords into the first several sentences of a piece of content is a strong SEO practice for relevancy optimization, and that it’s important to include related keyword variants into these areas (e.g. non-exact match keywords with matching SERP intent).
We hope this post has been helpful and opened you up to the idea of using Python and Google Colab to supercharge your relevancy optimization strategy.
As mentioned throughout the post, keep the following in mind:
Github repository will be updated with any changes we make in the future.
There is the possibility of undiscovered errors. If these occur, Inseev is happy to help! In fact, we would actually appreciate you reaching out to investigate and fix errors (if any do appear). This way others don’t run into the same problems.
Other than the above, if you have any ideas on ways to Colab (pun intended) on data analytics projects, feel free to reach out with ideas.
Have you noticed that we’re all playing one large marketing industry game of Concentration these days, in which we’re matching everything we do to intent? Google is playing it, SEOs are playing it, local SEOs are playing it…
Because Google wants its SERPs (and we want our SERPs) to stand out as the places where people find exactly what they need. Google is coming at this goal from several different angles, but there’s one particular hand I want to be sure to deal you in on today if you’re marketing local businesses: local justifications.
It’s okay if this is totally new to you — I’ve noticed that local justifications have gone largely unremarked. Today, we’ll quantify the prominence of these fascinating snippets, and show you how to play a winning hand that can enable you to stand out from your local SERP competitors in exciting ways!
What are local justifications?
A local justification is an extra snippet of text Google can display on business listings in the local packs, local finders, and Google Maps to signal to searchers that a feature of the business specifically matches their perceived intent.
In the above example, Google is matching my search for “accent chairs corte madera” with a highlighted notification that these furnishings are available at nearby stores. These notifications really stand out in the listings and have the potential to improve click-through rates on your listings.
Justifications have been around since at least 2019, and it was former Google staffer Joel Headley whom I first heard share Google’s terminology for this listing feature.
How common are local justifications?
My wise friend and colleague, Dr. Peter J. Meyers, has done an outstanding job tracking the presence of all kinds of featured snippets in the SERPs over the years. I was thrilled when he offered to track local justifications for me so that we could try to put a number on just how common this form of textual snippet has become in the local packs.
Pete fired up MozCast, which tracks 10K keywords daily — half of which are generic to the US and half of which are localized to specific cities across the country. Here is what he found for us regarding desktop results:
2,063 of 5,000 localized keywords returned a local pack (that’s 41%)
2,018 of the 2,063 local packs contained the typical three listings (that’s 98%)
1,175 of the 2,063 local packs featured justifications (that’s 57% — wow!)
And of these 1,175 local packs containing justifications, 32% had them on one listing, 355 had them on two of the listings, and 445 had them on all three of the listings.
Pete wanted to be sure we mentioned that MozCast is skewed towards head terms rather than longer-tail terms, and he was most commonly noticing justification types for broad product/service keywords and categories. What we both thought was amazing is that more than half the local SERPs contained justifications, most commonly on all three listings in the local packs.
If Google is dealing out justifications at this lavish rate, local business owners and their marketers should definitely ante up, and start acting to influence these snippets as much as possible.
Cards on the table time.
What are the types of local justifications and how can you influence them?
There’s a virtual Animal Rummy deck of local justifications in play now, taking intent-matching to new heights. It’s quite possible that I haven’t spotted all of them, and if you know of others, please mention them in the comments. These are the seven types I’ve most commonly seen, with notes on how to influence them when it’s possible to do so.
Review justifications are sourced from Google My Business reviews. Finesse your review acquisition requests to prompt customers to discuss specific, longer-tail aspects of what the business provides, and you could see their language excerpted like this to specifically match the refined intent of a searcher. I’ll mention here that my search was for “organic produce X city”, but I also saw Google making semantic connections between “organic produce” and “organic vegetables” that they highlighted from other reviews.
Website justifications are pulled from the website linked in your GMB listing. Note that the linked URL does not have to be the page that mentions the topic featured in the justification. In my example, the listing pointed to the website homepage, which did not specifically mention “jewelry repairs” in the main body of the page. Rather, that terminology was in a dropdown link in the navigation menu, which then points to a page for that service.
That being said, you might experiment with optimizing the GMB landing page with a term you’d especially like to see highlighted as a justification, and see if Google picks up on it. It’s wonderful to think that, as you have full control over your website’s content, your on-page strategies will underpin your justification efforts.
Likewise, you have full control over your Google posts content, and highlighting longer-tail intent in what you write about, like “custom-created engagement rings”, could win you an eye-catching justification like this. The good news is that these justifications don’t have to be pulled from your most recent post. I saw examples of excerpted content from posts that were over a month old.
These appear to be pulled straight from the Services section of your Google My Business dashboard. I believe the Services section debuted in 2018, and if it’s available in the left hand navigation menu of your dashboard, definitely add as many relevant services as you can think of to influence this type of justification.
Around 2017, Google really began ramping up its menu features in relevant GMB dashboards. I haven’t been able to confirm whether menu justifications stem solely from GMB listing menus, so be sure your menu is also accurate on your website — and on any third-party delivery services you may be using — to prevent inaccurate information in this type of justification.
In stock justifications
In stock justifications appear to originate from Google’s “See What’s In Store” (SWIS) program, which leads to results like this for the Crate and Barrel location in my example. Google’s SWIS function debuted in 2018, linked to their partnership with point-of-sales solutions provider Pointy — a company they then acquired in early 2020. In 2021, the best starting point for determining eligibility and uploading inventory is this Google Merchant Center doc: List your local products for free on Google. Google Platinum Product Expert Yan Gilbert confirmed for me that you’ll likely need to use a solution like Pointy or DBAPlatform to get this up and running, and verification can take several months, but the visibility of your inventory could be well worth it.
The nice thing about SWIS is that, for now at least, the product interface guides users to your website, rather than having transactions take place through Google for a fee. If you’re eligible, definitely consider joining this program to boost your chances of earning “In stock” justifications.
Sold here justifications
This is the most mysterious of the seven justification types I’ve seen. It stems from data Google has about your business, but the sources are unconfirmed, and could include your website, your reviews, and the user feedback Google aggregates from the “Know this place?” fact-checking pop-ups associated with Google Maps. Because we can’t verify a single source for this data, this would be one of those cases where you simply want to employ the general best practice of publishing as much information as you can, in as many places as you can, about the products being sold by any local business you’re marketing.
Intent is a high card, but questions remain
It’s inspiring to think our local search marketing efforts can influence Google’s ability to more closely match local search intent, but there are questions surrounding them that deserve further study, including:
Why aren’t the other 43% of the businesses we looked at winning justifications? If they have websites, reviews, posts, inventory, and other qualifying assets, why doesn’t Google give them justifications treatment? Obviously, you can never force Google to display something like a justification, but if you have the assets required to merit this treatment, why would Google withhold it?
Why does Google choose one justification type over another? For example, if a business has both a review and a Google post that mention “organic salad”, how does Google decide to display the review justification over the posts justification, or vice versa? Is there some sort of if-then hierarchy happening here in which one type of justification is considered more powerful than another?
To what exact degree does the presence of justifications impact CTR? A study on this, alone, would be great.
Would one type of justification have a more significant impact on CTR than another? For example, is an in-stock justification a much better call-to-action than a review justification, generating more user actions? If you do a study on this, please let me know, as I’d love to read it.
I hope the Moz community will be inspired to investigate these concepts further, but for now, the main takeaway is that if we can nudge Google to better match the intent of searchers via the diverse types of content emanating from our efforts, it’s a high card for the local brands we market.
Why is that?
Because even when we achieve good visibility in local packs, local finders, and Maps, we’re still aiming to be the one business that really stands out in a dense field of options. If any aspect of our listing signals to a customer that our business is the one that can best fulfill their intent, it’s such a win. Justifications would certainly qualify as a big signal, and happily, one that’s at least partially actionable for the local brands you market.
When you’re trying to build quality links, one of the best ways to do that is by creating interesting content and pitching writers to secure media coverage.
But in order to be successful, your content has to be newsworthy.
One of the most common newsworthy elements is timeliness, meaning the information is either brand new or relevant right now.
Most brands aren’t operating full newsrooms and don’t have the capacity to cover breaking news, but there are still ways to participate in relevant, newsworthy conversations — and surveys are a great option.
I’m going to walk through how you can utilize surveys to add value to conversations, and earn the interest of writers at top publications.
Step 1: Identifying the trends
Saying “trends” is honestly too broad, because a trend can last for hours, days, months, or even years. Obviously, the shorter the trend, the harder it’ll be to contribute in a timely fashion.
For the purpose of building links, I tend to ignore Google Trends, Twitter trends, and other rapidly changing interests, because you’ll need at least a handful of days to put a survey together, and there’s no guarantee the topic will still be popular by the time you’re done.
Instead, I look for trends that last in the range of months, as they accommodate longer-term conversations and give you the room to explore new angles and perspectives without racing against time.
Here are some ways to identify these types of trends:
Keyword research: When keywords and topics have a high volume, that means there’s a great deal of interest; often these tools use historical data to inform their volume estimates, so it’s safe to assume these topics didn’t just start trending.
Exploding Topics: The goal of this site is to help people identify trends before they peak so you can contribute while the conversation is becoming more and more relevant. Keep tabs on topics related to your industry to get ideas.
BuzzSumo: When using this tool, check out the Content Analyzer and type in your niche. But don’t just look at the stories that have gotten the most engagement — see if there’s a story or pattern in the first couple of pages of results. Perhaps there’s an underlying trend there.
Join communities: See what topics are being discussed where your audience connects with others. Are their Facebook groups, Slack/Discord channels, Twitter chats, or anything else where these conversations are happening? Make sure to pay attention.
Publisher stories: Keep tabs on your target publications. What are they publishing stories about? What do these stories have in common?
For example, let’s look at a project we did for our client Signs.com called American Mask Mandates. As you know, COVID-19 has been a very unfortunate “trend” that’s been thrust upon us, and because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime event, the scary novelty of it has generated a lot of news stories. But you can go even further than that — what else related to COVID-19 is trending?
We knew mask-wearing debates were appearing constantly in the media, but it was hard to tell exactly where the general public stood on the matter separate from all the noise those sensational stories stirred up.
When we identified this trend, we decided to survey 1,000 people to get their thoughts on the issue, and we framed the timeliness and trending aspect of the story in our project’s introduction:
Once you have a few trends like this in mind, you can move on to the next part of ideation.
Step 2: Consider new perspectives
When people discuss topics that aren’t cut-and-dry (which are sometimes the most interesting topics), they often rely on their own experience to understand it.
Because of this, there are perspectives that aren’t being fully represented in the conversation, and that’s where a survey can provide a ton of value.
Ask yourself these questions to identify hidden perspectives you can tap into:
What does the general audience think about this topic overall? (Follow-up: Are people afraid/unwilling to share their views publicly?)
What is the sentiment around certain points made in this conversation?
Are all groups being represented here?
At this point, you should have a solid brainstorm going about 1) who you should survey and 2) what you could ask them that would unearth new insights.
For the Signs.com example, we knew this was a contentious topic, and we wanted to get a sense of how extreme the views were in the general public (rather than the few that are the loudest). But we also made sure to have a sample size of people from the different political parties for insightful demographic breakdowns (more on that later).
Here’s an example of one of the assets we created:
Despite all the controversy, our survey revealed a vast majority of people said masks should be worn in public. And while baby boomers were more likely to think masks were unnecessary, it was still only about 5% of surveyed baby boomers who felt that way.
By taking this perspective, we were able to get closer to the truth about perceptions of a trending topic. And the media was interested: we earned coverage for this project on Washington Examiner, MarketWatch, MSN, and more.
So how can you draft a survey with similar results?
Step 3: Drafting the survey
A guide on survey building could be a whole separate post, so I’m not going to go through this step-by-step. I will, however, provide some best practices on how to get the most fascinating takeaways out of your survey — while eliminating sources of bias.
First, you’ll want to make a list of potential questions to ask. A great way to spark ideas here is to consider what you want the final results to look like (which will of course change based on the data).
Imagine how the takeaway or eventual article headline would read. If we use the Signs.com project as an example, a theory we had was that we (the public) aren’t actually as in-conflict as we’re led to believe. From there, we imagined what the headline (that actually ended up featured on MarketWatch) could be as a result of our survey questions:
The benefit of doing this is to help you visualize whether the potential results of your survey will actually be newsworthy or interesting enough to publish. It also helps you frame your questions in a way to get the format of answers you’re looking for.
For example, the headline on Washington Examiner and MSN is: “New consensus for mask use and $225 fine for refusing.” When you’re able to imagine a potential headline like this, which cites how much the public says people should be fined for breaking mask rules, you know to ask a question about that in a specific way. If you’d asked for ranges rather than providing a fill-in-the-blank, for example, that would have meant a much clunkier headline.
However, you have to be careful not to bring your hypotheses into the survey in the form of bias.
The way you form questions can definitely impact the results you get and make them significantly more subjective if you’re not careful. Consider the following:
Are your scales biased? Are you asking, “How annoying is this?” rather than something like “Do you find this acceptable or unacceptable?”. Providing both sides of the scale makes for a less-biased question.
Are all potential options presented? If you force someone to choose the answers you provide, you could be pigeon-holing them into choosing something they don’t actually want to choose. Always include an “Other” option as well as a “None” or “Not applicable” option.
Does your question tap into social desirability bias, where people feel like they need to answer your question in a way that is socially acceptable? For example, someone may not want to admit how many drinks they have per week if they’re heavy drinkers. (You can perhaps move forward if you phrase things in a non-judgmental way, ask respondents for honest answers, and remind them their input is anonymous.)
Sometimes it’s best to just ask for a fill-in-the-blank. Look at this insight we got from asking respondents how much they think people should be fined for not following mask regulations:
While sometimes ranges can help get an insight you’re looking for, fill-in-the-blank options help you see more specific insights. Here, you can see Democratic respondents would like a higher fine, a result which may have been lost if done with ranges.
Finally, make sure you’re asking inclusive demographic questions (and later break down your results by demographic). Doing so might reveal trends you may not have discovered otherwise, like that millennials worry about something baby boomers don’t, or that women have a different opinion than men on an issue. This is a good way to illustrate the opinion of groups who may not be well represented in a conversation.
When we broke things down by generation and political affiliation, we saw that, while there were some differences, they weren’t nearly as dramatic as some would assume. This is an important insight we would have missed otherwise.
Step 4: Promoting the results
Our strategy when doing surveys is to do all of the analysis and create images like the ones I showed previously in the article. The images should depict the data in straightforward graphs, and takeaways should highlight the key parts of your report. We build an accompanying write-up around these insights, and then we pitch everything to writers.
Remember that tip about imagining headlines? That’s going to come in handy here, too. Now that you have the final data, ask yourself: what is the most surprising or impactful information you can glean from the results?
Have this in mind when writing your pitch email, and include the key interesting facts in your pitch. Essentially, you don’t want writers guessing why they should care about your survey.
Perhaps you can even reference the trend you’re referring to and a time when that writer or publication covered the trend in a different way. How does your survey complement that story?
Surveys give you access to a wealth of public opinion. When you’re reading content, be mindful of what you’re wondering about. Can you confirm or deny the assumptions you’re making by launching a survey? How can tapping into other people’s perspectives add more context and value to a conversation?
Sharing your survey results can not only enliven a conversation and give it more depth — it can demonstrate you care about the topic and are willing to do the work to contribute in a meaningful way. And if you create the content and use an earned media strategy to get it out there, you can get the dual benefits of building links and brand authority simultaneously.