Why is everyone and their grandparents writing about content re-optimization?
I can’t speak for the people writing endless streams of blogs on the subject, but in Brafton’s case, it’s been the fastest technique for improving rankings and driving more traffic.
As a matter of fact, in this previous Moz post, we showed that rankings can improve in a matter of minutes after re-indexing.
But why does it work?
It’s probably a combination of factors (our favorite SEO copout!), which may include:
Age value: In a previous study we observed a clear relationship between time indexed and keyword/URL performance, absent of links:
More comprehensive content: Presumably, when re-optimizing content you are adding contextual depth to existing topics and breadth to related topics. It’s pretty clear at this point that Google understands when content has fully nailed a topic cluster.
It’s a known quantity: You’re only going to be re-optimizing content that has a high potential for return. In this blog post, I’ll explain how to identify content with a high potential for return.
How well does it work?
Brafton’s website is a bit of a playground for our marketing team to try new strategies. And that makes sense, because if something goes horribly wrong, the worst case scenario is that I look like an idiot for wasting resources, rather than losing a high-paying client on an experiment.
You can’t try untested procedures on patients. It’s just dangerous.
So we try new strategies and meticulously track the results on Brafton.com. And by far, re-optimizing content results in the most immediate gains. It’s exactly where I would start with a client who was looking for fast results.
In many cases, re-optimizing content is not a “set it and forget it,” by any means. We frequently find that this game is an arms race, and we will lose rankings on an optimized article, and need to re-re-optimize our content to stay competitive.
(You can clearly see this happening in the second example!)
So how do you choose which content to re-optimize? Let’s dig in.
Step 1: Find your threshold keywords
If a piece of content isn’t ranking in the top five positions for its target keyword, or a high-value variant keyword, it’s not providing any value.
We want to see which keywords are just outside a position that could provide more impact if we were able to give them a boost. So we want to find keywords that rank worse than position 5. But we also want to set a limit on how poorly they rank.
Meaning, we don’t want to re-optimize for a keyword that ranks on page eleven. They need to be within reach (threshold).
We have found our threshold keywords to exist between positions 6–29.
Note: you can do this in any major SEO tool. Simply find the list of all keywords you rank for, and filter it to include only positions 6-29. I will jump around a few tools to show you what it looks like in each.
You have now filtered the list of keywords you rank for to include only threshold keywords. Good job!
Step 2: Filter for search volume
There’s no point in re-optimizing a piece of content for a keyword with little-to-no search volume. You will want to look at only keywords with search volumes that indicate a likelihood of success.
Advice: For me, I set that limit at 100 searches per month. I choose this number because I know, in the best case scenario (ranking in position 1), I will drive ~31 visitors per month via that keyword, assuming no featured snippet is present. It costs a lot of money to write blogs; I want to justify that investment.
You’ve now filtered your list to include only threshold keywords with sufficient search volume to justify re-optimizing.
Step 3: Filter for difficulty
Generally, I want to optimize the gravy train keywords — those with high search volume and low organic difficulty scores. I am looking for the easiest wins available.
You do not have to do this!
Note: If you want to target a highly competitive keyword in the previous list, you may be able to successfully do so by augmenting your re-optimization plan with some aggressive link building, and/or turning the content into a pillar page.
I don’t want to do this, so I will set up a difficulty filter to find easy wins.
But where do you set the limit?
This is a bit tricky, as each keyword difficulty tool is a bit different, and results may vary based on a whole host of factors related to your domain. But here are some fast-and-loose guidelines I provide to owners of mid-level domains (DA 30–55).
Here’s how it will look in Moz. Note: Moz has predefined ranges, so we won’t be able to hit the exact thresholds outlined, but we will be close enough.
Now you are left with only threshold keywords with significant search volume and reasonable difficulty scores.
Step 4: Filter for blog posts (optional)
In our experience, blogs generally improve faster than landing pages. While this process can be done for either type of content, I’m going to focus on the immediate impact content and filter for blogs.
If your site follows a URL hierarchy, all your blogs should live under a ‘/blog’ subfolder. This will make it easy for you to filter and segment.
Each tool will allow you to segment keyword rankings by its corresponding segment of the site.
The resulting list will leave you with threshold keywords with significant search volume and reasonable difficulty scores, from blog content only.
Step 5: Select for relevance
You now have the confidence to know that the remaining keywords in your list all have high potential to drive more traffic with proper re-optimization.
What you don’t know yet, is whether or not these keywords are relevant to your business. In other words, do you want to rank for these keywords?
Your website is always going to accidentally rank for noise, and you don’t want to invest time optimizing content that won’t provide any commercial value. Here’s an example:
Go through the entire list and feel out what may be of value, and what is a waste of time.
Now that you have a list of only relevant keywords, you now know the following: Each threshold keyword has significant search volume, reasonable keyword difficulty, corresponds to a blog (optional), and is commercially relevant.
Onto an extremely important step that most people forget.
Step 6: No cannibals here
What happens when you forget about your best friend and give all your attention to a new, but maybe not-so-awesome friend?
You lose your best friend.
As SEOs, we can forget that any URL generally ranks for multiple keywords, and if you don’t evaluate all the keywords a URL ranks for, you may “re-optimize” for a lower-potential keyword, and lose your rankings for the current high value keyword you already rank for!
Note: Beware, there are some content/SEO tools out there that will make recommendations on the pieces of content you should re-optimize. Take those with a grain of salt! Put in the work and make sure you won’t end up worse off than where you started.
Here’s an example:
This page shows up on our list for an opportunity to improve the keyword “internal newsletters”, with a search volume of 100 and a difficulty score of 6.
Great opportunity, right??
Maybe not. Now you need to plug the URL into one of your tools and determine whether or not you will cause damage by re-optimizing for this keyword.
Sure enough, we rank in position 1 for the keyword “company newsletter,” which has a search volume of 501-850 per month. I’m not messing with this page at all.
On the flipside, this list recommended that I re-optimize for “How long should a blog post be.” Plugging the URL into Moz shows me that this is indeed a great keyword to reoptimize the content for.
Now you have a list of all the blogs that should be reoptimized, and which keywords they should target.
Step 6: Rewrite and reindex
You stand a better chance of ranking for your target keyword if you increase the depth and breadth of the piece of content it ranks for. There are many tools that can help you with this, and some work better than others.
We have used MarketMuse at Brafton for years. I’ve also had some experience with Ryte’s content optimizer tool, and Clearscope, which has a very writer-friendly interface.
Substep 1: Update the old content in your CMS with the newly-written content.
Substep 2: Keep the URL. I can’t stress this enough. Do not change the URL, or all your work will be wasted.
Substep 3: Update the publish date. This is now new content, and you want Google to know that as you may reap some of the benefits of QDF.
Substep 4: Fetch as Google/request indexing. Jump into Search Console and re-index the page so that you don’t have to wait for the next natural crawl.
Step 7: Track your results!
Be honest, it feels good to outrank your competitors, doesn’t it?
I usually track the performance of my re-optimizations a couple ways:
Page-level impressions in Search Console. This is the leading indicator of search presence.
A keyword tracking campaign in a tool. Plug in the keywords you re-optimized for and follow their ranking improvements (hopefully) over time.
Variant keywords on the URL. There is a good chance, through adding depth to your content, that you will rank for more variant keywords, which will drive more traffic. Plug your URL into your tool of choice and track the number of ranking keywords.
Re-optimizing content can be an extremely powerful tool in your repertoire for increasing traffic, but it’s very easy to do wrong. The hardest part of rewriting content isn’t the actual content creation, but rather, the selection process.
Which keywords? Which pages?
Using the scientific approach above will give you confidence that you are taking every step necessary to ensure you make the right moves.
About Jeff_Baker —
Jeff is a Director of Digital Marketing Strategy in Brafton’s San Francisco office. In his personal time, he is a woodworker and jogger.
Gone are the days of optimizing content solely for search engines. For modern SEO, your content needs to please both robots and humans. But how do you know that what you’re writing can check the boxes for both man and machine?
In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Ruth Burr Reedy focuses on part of her recent MozCon 2019 talk and teaches us all about how Google uses NLP (natural language processing) to truly understand content, plus how you can harness that knowledge to better optimize what you write for people and bots alike.
Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high resolution version in a new tab!
Howdy, Moz fans. I’m Ruth Burr Reedy, and I am the Vice President of Strategy at UpBuild, a boutique technical marketing agency specializing in technical SEO and advanced web analytics. I recently spoke at MozCon on a basic framework for SEO and approaching changes to our industry that thinks about SEO in the light of we are humans who are marketing to humans, but we are using a machine as the intermediary.
Those videos will be available online at some point.[Editor’s note: that point is now!] But today I wanted to talk about one point from my talk that I found really interesting and that has kind of changed the way that I approach content creation, and that is the idea that writing content that is easier for Google, a robot, to understand can actually make you a better writer and help you write better content for humans. It is a win-win.
The relationships between entities, words, and how people search
To understand how Google is currently approaching parsing content and understanding what content is about, Google is spending a lot of time and a lot of energy and a lot of money on things like neural matching and natural language processing, which seek to understand basically when people talk, what are they talking about?
This goes along with the evolution of search to be more conversational. But there are a lot of times when someone is searching, but they don’t totally know what they want, and Google still wants them to get what they want because that’s how Google makes money. They are spending a lot of time trying to understand the relationships between entities and between words and how people use words to search.
The example that Danny Sullivan gave online, that I think is a really great example, is if someone is experiencing the soap opera effect on their TV. If you’ve ever seen a soap opera, you’ve noticed that they look kind of weird. Someone might be experiencing that, and not knowing what that’s called they can’t Google soap opera effect because they don’t know about it.
They might search something like, “Why does my TV look funny?” Neural matching helps Google understand that when somebody is searching “Why does my TV look funny?” one possible answer might be the soap opera effect. So they can serve up that result, and people are happy.
As we’re thinking about natural language processing, a core component of natural language processing is understanding salience.
Salience, content, and entities
Salience is a one-word way to sum up to what extent is this piece of content about this specific entity? At this point Google is really good at extracting entities from a piece of content. Entities are basically nouns, people, places, things, proper nouns, regular nouns.
Entities are things, people, etc., numbers, things like that. Google is really good at taking those out and saying, “Okay, here are all of the entities that are contained within this piece of content.” Salience attempts to understand how they’re related to each other, because what Google is really trying to understand when they’re crawling a page is: What is this page about, and is this a good example of a page about this topic?
Salience really goes into the second piece. To what extent is any given entity be the topic of a piece of content? It’s often amazing the degree to which a piece of content that a person has created is not actually about anything. I think we’ve all experienced that.
You’re searching and you come to a page and you’re like, “This was too vague. This was too broad. This said that it was about one thing, but it was actually about something else. I didn’t find what I needed. This wasn’t good information for me.” As marketers, we’re often on the other side of that, trying to get our clients to say what their product actually does on their website or say, “I know you think that you created a guide to Instagram for the holidays. But you actually wrote one paragraph about the holidays and then seven paragraphs about your new Instagram tool. This is not actually a blog post about Instagram for the holidays. It’s a piece of content about your tool.” These are the kinds of battles that we fight as marketers.
Natural Language Processing (NLP) APIs
Fortunately, there are now a number of different APIs that you can use to understand natural language processing:
Is it as sophisticated as what they’re using on their own stuff? Probably not. But you can test it out. Put in a piece of content and see (a) what entities Google is able to extract from it, and (b) how salient Google feels each of these entities is to the piece of content as a whole. Again, to what degree is this piece of content about this thing?
So this natural language processing API, which you can try for free and it’s actually not that expensive for an API if you want to build a tool with it, will assign each entity that it can extract a salient score between 0 and 1, saying, “Okay, how sure are we that this piece of content is about this thing versus just containing it?”
So the higher or the closer you get to 1, the more confident the tool is that this piece of content is about this thing. 0.9 would be really, really good. 0.01 means it’s there, but they’re not sure how well it’s related.
A delicious example of how salience and entities work
The example I have here, and this is not taken from a real piece of content — these numbers are made up, it’s just an example — is if you had a chocolate chip cookie recipe, you would want chocolate cookies or chocolate chip cookies recipe, chocolate chip cookies, something like that to be the number one entity, the most salient entity, and you would want it to have a pretty high salient score.
You would want the tool to feel pretty confident, yes, this piece of content is about this topic. But what you can also see is the other entities it’s extracting and to what degree they are also salient to the topic. So you can see things like if you have a chocolate chip cookie recipe, you would expect to see things like cookie, butter, sugar, 350, which is the temperature you heat your oven, all of the different things that come together to make a chocolate chip cookie recipe.
But I think that it’s really, really important for us as SEOs to understand that salience is the future of related keywords. We’re beyond the time when to optimize for chocolate chip cookie recipe, we would also be looking for things like chocolate recipe, chocolate chips, chocolate cookie recipe, things like that. Stems, variants, TF-IDF, these are all older methodologies for understanding what a piece of content is about.
Instead what we need to understand is what are the entities that Google, using its vast body of knowledge, using things like Freebase, using large portions of the internet, where is Google seeing these entities co-occur at such a rate that they feel reasonably confident that a piece of content on one entity in order to be salient to that entity would include these other entities?
Using an expert is the best way to create content that’s salient to a topic
So chocolate chip cookie recipe, we’re now also making sure we’re adding things like butter, flour, sugar. This is actually really easy to do if you actually have a chocolate chip cookie recipe to put up there. This is I think what we’re going to start seeing as a content trend in SEO is that the best way to create content that is salient to a topic is to have an actual expert in that topic create that content.
Somebody with deep knowledge of a topic is naturally going to include co-occurring terms, because they know how to create something that’s about what it’s supposed to be about. I think what we’re going to start seeing is that people are going to have to start paying more for content marketing, frankly. Unfortunately, a lot of companies seem to think that content marketing is and should be cheap.
Content marketers, I feel you on that. It sucks, and it’s no longer the case. We need to start investing in content and investing in experts to create that content so that they can create that deep, rich, salient content that everybody really needs.
How can you use this API to improve your own SEO?
One of the things that I like to do with this kind of information is look at — and this is something that I’ve done for years, just not in this context — but a prime optimization target in general is pages that rank for a topic, but they rank on page 2.
What this often means is that Google understands that that keyword is a topic of the page, but it doesn’t necessarily understand that it is a good piece of content on that topic, that the page is actually solely about that content, that it’s a good resource. In other words, the signal is there, but it’s weak.
What you can do is take content that ranks but not well, run it through this natural language API or another natural language processing tool, and look at how the entities are extracted and how Google is determining that they’re related to each other. Sometimes it might be that you need to do some disambiguation. So in this example, you’ll notice that while chocolate cookies is called a work of art, and I agree, cookie here is actually called other.
This is because cookie means more than one thing. There’s cookies, the baked good, but then there’s also cookies, the packet of data. Both of those are legitimate uses of the word “cookie.” Words have multiple meanings. If you notice that Google, that this natural language processing API is having trouble correctly classifying your entities, that’s a good time to go in and do some disambiguation.
Make sure that the terms surrounding that term are clearly saying, “No, I mean the baked good, not the software piece of data.” That’s a really great way to kind of bump up your salience. Look at whether or not you have a strong salient score for your primary entity. You’d be amazed at how many pieces of content you can plug into this tool and the top, most salient entity is still only like a 0.01, a 0.14.
A lot of times the API is like “I think this is what it’s about,” but it’s not sure. This is a great time to go in and bump up that content, make it more robust, and look at ways that you can make those entities easier to both extract and to relate to each other. This brings me to my second point, which is my new favorite thing in the world.
Writing for humans and writing for machines, you can now do both at the same time. You no longer have to, and you really haven’t had to do this in a long time, but the idea that you might keyword stuff or otherwise create content for Google that your users might not see or care about is way, way, way over.
Now you can create content for Google that also is better for users, because the tenets of machine readability and human readability are moving closer and closer together.
Tips for writing for human and machine readability:
What I’ve done here is I did some research not on natural language processing, but on writing for human readability, that is advice from writers, from writing experts on how to write better, clearer, easier to read, easier to understand content.Then I pulled out the pieces of advice that also work as pieces of advice for writing for natural language processing. So natural language processing, again, is the process by which Google or really anything that might be processing language tries to understand how entities are related to each other within a given body of content.
Short, simple sentences
Short, simple sentences. Write simply. Don’t use a lot of flowery language. Short sentences and try to keep it to one idea per sentence.
One idea per sentence
If you’re running on, if you’ve got a lot of different clauses, if you’re using a lot of pronouns and it’s becoming confusing what you’re talking about, that’s not great for readers.
It also makes it harder for machines to parse your content.
Connect questions to answers
Then closely connecting questions to answers. So don’t say, “What is the best temperature to bake cookies? Well, let me tell you a story about my grandmother and my childhood,” and 500 words later here’s the answer. Connect questions to answers.
What all three of those readability tips have in common is they boil down to reducing the semantic distance between entities.
If you want natural language processing to understand that two entities in your content are closely related, move them closer together in the sentence. Move the words closer together. Reduce the clutter, reduce the fluff, reduce the number of semantic hops that a robot might have to take between one entity and another to understand the relationship, and you’ve now created content that is more readable because it’s shorter and easier to skim, but also easier for a robot to parse and understand.
Be specific first, then explain nuance
Going back to the example of “What is the best temperature to bake chocolate chip cookies at?” Now the real answer to what is the best temperature to bake chocolate cookies is it depends. Hello. Hi, I’m an SEO, and I just answered a question with it depends. It does depend.
That is true, and that is real, but it is not a good answer. It is also not the kind of thing that a robot could extract and reproduce in, for example, voice search or a featured snippet. If somebody says, “Okay, Google, what is a good temperature to bake cookies at?” and Google says, “It depends,” that helps nobody even though it’s true. So in order to write for both machine and human readability, be specific first and then you can explain nuance.
Then you can go into the details. So a better, just as correct answer to “What is the temperature to bake chocolate chip cookies?” is the best temperature to bake chocolate chip cookies is usually between 325 and 425 degrees, depending on your altitude and how crisp you like your cookie. That is just as true as it depends and, in fact, means the same thing as it depends, but it’s a lot more specific.
It’s a lot more precise. It uses real numbers. It provides a real answer. I’ve shortened the distance between the question and the answer. I didn’t say it depends first. I said it depends at the end. That’s the kind of thing that you can do to improve readability and understanding for both humans and machines.
Get to the point (don’t bury the lede)
Get to the point. Don’t bury the lead. All of you journalists who try to become content marketers, and then everybody in content marketing said, “Oh, you need to wait till the end to get to your point or they won’t read the whole thing,”and you were like, “Don’t bury the lead,” you are correct. For those of you who aren’t familiar with journalism speak, not burying the lead basically means get to the point upfront, at the top.
Include all the information that somebody would really need to get from that piece of content. If they don’t read anything else, they read that one paragraph and they’ve gotten the gist. Then people who want to go deep can go deep. That’s how people actually like to consume content, and surprisingly it doesn’t mean they won’t read the content. It just means they don’t have to read it if they don’t have time, if they need a quick answer.
The same is true with machines. Get to the point upfront. Make it clear right away what the primary entity, the primary topic, the primary focus of your content is and then get into the details. You’ll have a much better structured piece of content that’s easier to parse on all sides.
Avoid jargon and “marketing speak”
Avoid jargon. Avoid marketing speak. Not only is it terrible and very hard to understand. You see this a lot. I’m going back again to the example of getting your clients to say what their products do. You work with a lot of B2B companies, you will you will often run into this. Yes, but what does it do? It provides solutions to streamline the workflow and blah, blah. Okay, what does it do? This is the kind of thing that can be really, really hard for companies to get out of their own heads about, but it’s so important for users, for machines.
Avoid jargon. Avoid marketing speak. Not to get too tautological, but the more esoteric a word is, the less commonly it’s used. That’s actually what esoteric means. What that means is the less commonly a word is used, the less likely it is that Google is going to understand its semantic relationships to other entities.
Keep it simple. Be specific. Say what you mean. Wipe out all of the jargon. By wiping out jargon and kind of marketing speak and kind of the fluff that can happen in your content, you’re also, once again, reducing the semantic distances between entities, making them easier to parse.
Organize your information to match the user journey
Organize it and map it out to the user journey. Think about the information somebody might need and the order in which they might need it.
Break out subtopics with headings
Then break it out with subheadings. This is like very, very basic writing advice, and yet you all aren’t doing it. So if you’re not going to do it for your users, do it for machines.
Format lists with bullets or numbers
You can also really impact skimmability for users by breaking out lists with bullets or numbers.
The great thing about that is that breaking out a list with bullets or numbers also makes information easier for a robot to parse and extract. If a lot of these tips seem like they’re the same tips that you would use to get featured snippets, they are, because featured snippets are actually a pretty good indicator that you’re creating content that a robot can find, parse, understand, and extract, and that’s what you want.
So if you’re targeting featured snippets, you’re probably already doing a lot of these things, good job.
Grammar and spelling count!
The last thing, which I shouldn’t have to say, but I’m going to say is that grammar and spelling and punctuation and things like that absolutely do count. They count to users. They don’t count to all users, but they count to users. They also count to search engines.
Things like grammar, spelling, and punctuation are very, very easy signals for a machine to find and parse. Google has been specific in things, like the “Quality Rater Guidelines,”that a well-written, well-structured, well-spelled, grammatically correct document, that these are signs of authoritativeness. I’m not saying that having a greatly spelled document is going to mean that you immediately rocket to the top of the results.
I am saying that if you’re not on that stuff, it’s probably going to hurt you. So take the time to make sure everything is nice and tidy. You can use vernacular English. You don’t have to be perfect “AP Style Guide” all the time. But make sure that you are formatting things properly from a grammatical standpoint as well as a technical standpoint. What I love about all of this, this is just good writing.
This is good writing. It’s easy to understand. It’s easy to parse. It’s still so hard, especially in the marketing world, to get out of that world of jargon, to get to the point, to stop writing 2,000 words because we think we need 2,000 words, to really think about are we creating content that’s about what we think it’s about.
Use these tools to understand how readable, parsable, and understandable your content is
So my hope for the SEO world and for you is that you can use these tools not just to think about how to dial in the perfect keyword density or whatever to get an almost perfect score on the salience in the natural language processing API. What I’m hoping is that you will use these tools to help yourself understand how readable, how parsable, and how understandable your content is, how much your content is about what you say it’s about and what you think it’s about so you can create better stuff for users.
It makes the internet a better place, and it will probably make you some money as well. So these are my thoughts. I’d love to hear in the comments if you’re using the natural language processing API now, if you’ve built a tool with it, if you want to build a tool with it, what do you think about this, how do you use this, how has it gone. Tell me all about it. Holla atcha girl.
Content and links — to successfully leverage search as a marketing channel you need useful content and relevant links.
Many experienced SEOs have run numerous tests and experiments to correlate backlinks with higher rankings, and Google has espoused the importance of “great content” for as long as I can remember.
In fact, a Google employee straight up told us that content and links are two of the three (the other being RankBrain) most important ranking factors in its search algorithm.
So why do we seem to overcomplicate SEO by chasing new trends and tactics, overreacting to fluctuations in rankings, and obsessing over the length of our title tags? SEO is simple — it’s content and it’s links.
Now, this is a simple concept, but it is much more nuanced and complex to execute well. However, I believe that by getting back to basics and focusing on these two pillars of SEO we can all spend more time doing the work that will be most impactful, creating a better, more connected web, and elevating SEO as a practice within the marketing realm.
To support this movement, I want to provide you with strategic, actionable takeaways that you can leverage in your own content marketing and link building campaigns. So, without further ado, let’s look at how you can be successful in search with content and links.
Building the right content
As the Wu-Tang Clan famously said, “Content rules everything around me, C.R.E.A.M,” …well, it was something like that. The point is, everything in SEO begins and ends with content. Whether it’s a blog post, infographic, video, in-depth guide, interactive tool, or something else, content truly rules everything around us online.
Content attracts and engages visitors, building positive associations with your brand and inspiring them to take desired actions. Content also helps search engines better understand what your website is about and how they should rank your pages within their search results.
So where do you start with something as wide-reaching and important as a content strategy? Well, if everything in SEO begins and ends with content, then everything in content strategy begins and ends with keyword research.
Proper keyword research is the difference between a targeted content strategy that drives organic visibility and simply creating content for the sake of creating content. But don’t just take my word for it — check out this client project where keyword research was executed after a year of publishing content that wasn’t backed by keyword analysis:
(Note: Each line represents content published within a given year, not total organic sessions of the site.)
In 2018, we started creating content based on keyword opportunities. The performance of that content has quickly surpassed (in terms of organic sessions) the older pages that were created without strategic research.
Start with keyword research
The concept of keyword research is straightforward — find the key terms and phrases that your audience uses to find information related to your business online. However, the execution of keyword research can be a bit more nuanced, and simply starting is often the most difficult part.
The best place to start is with the keywords that are already bringing people to your site, which you can find within Google Search Console.
Beyond the keywords that already bring people to your website, a baseline list of seed keywords can help you expand your keyword reach.
Seed keywords are the foundational terms that are related to your business and brand.
As a running example, let’s use Quip, a brand that sells oral care products. Quip’s seed keywords would be:
[electric toothbrush set]
These are some of the most basic head terms related to Quip’s products and services. From here, the list could be expanded, using keyword tools such as Moz’s Keyword Explorer, to find granular long-tail keywords and other related terms.
Expanded keyword research and analysis
The first step in keyword research and expanding your organic reach is to identify current rankings that can and should be improved.
Here are some examples of terms Moz’s Keyword Explorer reports Quip has top 50 rankings for:
[how often should you change your toothbrush]
These keywords represent “near-miss” opportunities for Quip, where it ranks on page two or three. Optimization and updates to existing pages could help Quip earn page one rankings and substantially more traffic.
For example, here are the first page results for [how often should you change your toothbrush]:
As expected, the results here are hyper-focused on answering the question how often a toothbrush needs to be changed, and there is a rich snippet that answers the question directly.
Now, look at Quip’s page where we can see there is room for improvement in answering searcher intent:
The title of the page isn’t optimized for the main query, and a simple title change could help this page earn more visibility. Moz reports 1.7k–2.9k monthly search volume for [how often should you change your toothbrush]:
This is a stark contrast to the volume reported by Moz for [why is a fresh brush head so important] which is “no data” (which usually means very small):
Quip’s page is already ranking on page two for [how often should you change your toothbrush], so optimizing the title could help the page crack the top ten.
Furthermore, the content on the page is not optimized either:
Rather than answering the question of how often to change a toothbrush concisely (like the page that has earned the rich snippet), the content is closer to ad copy. Putting a direct, clear answer to this question at the beginning of the content could help this page rank better.
And that’s just one query and one page!
Keyword research should uncover these types of opportunities, and with Moz’s Keyword Explorer you can also find ideas for new content through “Keyword Suggestions.”
Using Quip as an example again, we can plug in their seed keyword [toothbrush] and get multiple suggestions (MSV = monthly search volume):
[toothbrush holder] – MSV: 6.5k–9.3k
[how to properly brush your teeth] – MSV: 851–1.7k
[toothbrush cover] – MSV: 851–1.7k
[toothbrush for braces] – MSV: 501–850
[electric toothbrush holder] – MSV: 501–850
[toothbrush timer] – MSV: 501–850
[soft vs medium toothbrush] – MSV: 201–500
[electric toothbrush for braces] – MSV: 201–500
[electric toothbrush head holder] – MSV: 101–200
[toothbrush delivery] – MSV: 101–200
Using this method, we can extrapolate one seed keyword into ten more granular and related long-tail keywords — each of which may require a new page.
This handful of terms generates a wealth of content ideas and different ways Quip could address pain points and reach its audience.
Another source for keyword opportunities and inspiration are your competitors. For Quip, one of its strongest competitors is Colgate, a household name brand. Moz demonstrates the difference in market position with its “Competitor Overlap” tool:
Although many of Colgate’s keywords aren’t relevant to Quip, there are still opportunities to be gleaned here for Quip. One such example is [sensitive teeth], where Colgate is ranking top five, but Quip is on page two:
While many of the other keywords show Quip is ranking outside of the top 50, this is an opportunity that Quip could potentially capitalize on.
To analyze this opportunity, let’s look at the actual search results first.
It’s immediately clear that the intent here is informational — something to note when we examine Quip’s page. Also, scrolling down we can see that Colgate has two pages ranking on page one:
One of these pages is from a separate domain for hygienists and other dental professionals, but it still carries the Colgate brand and further demonstrates Colgate’s investment into this query, signaling this is a quality opportunity.
The next step for investigating this opportunity is to examine Colgate’s ranking page and check if it’s realistic for Quip to beat what they have. Here is Colgate’s page:
This page is essentially a blog post:
If this page is ranking, it’s reasonable to believe that Quip could craft something that would be at least as good of a result for the query, and there is room for improvement in terms of design and formatting.
One thing to note, that is likely helping this page rank is the clear definition of “tooth sensitivity” and signs and symptoms listed on the sidebar:
Now, let’s look at Quip’s page:
This appears to be a blog-esque page as well.
This page offers solid information on sensitive teeth, which matches the queries intent and is likely why the pages ranks on page two. However, the page appears to be targeted at [tooth sensitivity]:
This is another great keyword opportunity for Quip:
However, this should be a secondary opportunity to [sensitive teeth] and should be mixed in to the copy on the page, but not the focal point. Also, the page one results for [tooth sensitivity] are largely the same as those for [sensitive teeth], including Colgate’s page:
So, one optimization Quip could make to the page could be to change some of these headers to include “sensitive teeth” (also, these are all H3s, and the page has no H2s, which isn’t optimal). Quip could draw inspiration from the questions that Google lists in the “People also ask” section of the SERP:
Also, a quick takeaway I had was that Quip’s page does not lead off with a definition of sensitive teeth or tooth sensitivity. We learned from Colgate’s page that quickly defining the term (sensitive teeth) and the associated symptoms could help the page rank better.
These are just a few of the options available to Quip to optimize its page, and as mentioned before, an investment into a sleek, easy to digest design could separate its page from the pack.
If Quip were able to move its page onto the first page of search results for [sensitive teeth], the increase in organic traffic could be significant. And [sensitive teeth] is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg — there is a wealth of opportunity with associated keywords, that Quip would rank well for also:
Executing well on these content opportunities and repeating the process over and over for relevant keywords is how you scale keyword-focused content that will perform well in search and bring more organic visitors.
Google won’t rank your page highly for simply existing. If you want to rank in Google search, start by creating a page that provides the best result for searchers and deserves to rank.
At Page One Power, we’ve leveraged this strategy and seen great results for clients. Here is an example of a client that is primarily focused on content creation and their corresponding growth in organic sessions:
These pages (15) were all published in January, and you can see that roughly one month after publishing, these pages started taking off in terms of organic traffic. This is because these pages are backed by keyword research and optimized so well that even with few external backlinks, they can rank on or near page one for multiple queries.
However, this doesn’t mean you should ignore backlinks and link acquisition. While the above pages rank well without many links, the domain they’re on has a substantial backlink profile cultivated through strategic link building. Securing relevant, worthwhile links is still a major part of a successful SEO campaign.
Earning real links and credibility
The other half of this complicated “it’s content and it’s links” equation is… links, and while it seems straightforward, successful execution is rather difficult — particularly when it comes to link acquisition.
While there are tools and processes that can increase organization and efficiency, at the end of the day link building takes a lot of time and a lot of work — you must manually email real website owners to earn real links. As Matt Cutts famously said (we miss you, Matt!), “Link building is sweat, plus creativity.”
However, you can greatly improve your chances for success with link acquisition if you identify which pages (existing or need to be created) on your site are link-worthy and promote them for links.
Spoiler alert: these are not your “money pages.”
Converting pages certainly have a function on your website, but they typically have limited opportunities when it comes to link acquisition. Instead, you can support these pages — and other content on your site — through internal linking from more linkable pages.
So how do you identify linkable assets? Well, there are some general characteristics that directly correlate with link-worthiness:
Usefulness — concept explanation, step-by-step guide, collection of resources and advice, etc.
Uniqueness — a new or fresh perspective on an established topic, original research or data, prevailing coverage of a newsworthy event, etc.
Entertaining — novel game or quiz, humorous take on a typically serious subject, interactive tool, etc.
Along with these characteristics, you also need to consider the size of your potential linking audience. The further you move down your marketing funnel, the smaller the linking audience size; converting pages are traditionally difficult to earn links to because they serve a small audience of people looking to buy.
Instead, focus on assets that exist at the top of your marketing funnel and serve large audiences looking for information. The keywords associated with these pages are typically head terms that may prove difficult to rank for, but if your content is strong you can still earn links through targeted, manual outreach to relevant sites.
Ironically, your most linkable pages aren’t always the pages that will rank well for you in search, since larger audiences also mean more competition. However, using linkable assets to secure worthwhile links will help grow the authority and credibility of your brand and domain, supporting rankings for your keyword-focused and converting pages.
Going back to our Quip example, we see a page on their site that has the potential to be a linkable asset:
Currently, this page is geared more towards conversions which hurts linkability. However, Quip could easily move conversion-focused elements to another page and internally link from this page to maintain a pathway to conversion while improving link-worthiness.
To truly make this page a linkable asset, Quip would need add depth on the topic of how to brush your teeth and hone in on a more specific audience. As the page currently stands, it is targeted at everybody who brushes, but to make the page more linkable Quip could focus on a specific age group (toddlers, young children, elderly, etc.) or perhaps a profession or group who works odd hours or travels frequently and doesn’t have the convenience of brushing at home. An increased focus on audience will help with linkability, making this page one that shares useful information in a way that is unique and entertaining.
It also happens that [how to properly brush your teeth] was one of the opportunities we identified earlier in our (light) keyword research, so this could be a great opportunity to earn keyword rankings and links!
Putting it all together and simplifying our message
Now before we put it all together and solve SEO once and for all, you might be thinking, “What about technical and on-page SEO?!?”
Technical and on-page elements play a major role in successful SEO and getting these elements wrong can derail the success of any content you create and undermine the equity of the links you secure.
Let’s be clear: if Google can’t crawl your site, you’re not showing up in its search results.
However, I categorize these optimizations under the umbrella of “content” within our content and links formula. If you’re not considering how search engines consume your content, along with human readers, then your content likely won’t perform well in the results of said search engines.
Rather than dive into the deep and complex world of technical and on-page SEO in this post, I recommend reading some of the great resources here on Moz to ensure your content is set up for success from a technical standpoint.
But to review the strategy I’ve laid out here, to be successful in search you need to:
Research your keywords and niche – Having the right content for your audience is critical to earning search visibility and business. Before you start creating content or updating existing pages, make sure you take the time to research your keywords and niche to better understand your current rankings and position in the search marketplace.
Analyze and expand keyword opportunities – Beyond understanding your current rankings, you also need to identify and prioritize available keyword opportunities. Using tools like Moz you can uncover hidden opportunities with long-tail and related key terms, ensuring your content strategy is targeting your best opportunities.
Craft strategic content that serves your search goals – Using keyword analysis to inform content creation, you can build content that addresses underserved queries and helpful guides that attract links. An essential aspect of a successful content plan is balancing keyword-focused content with broader, more linkable content and ensuring you’re addressing both SEO goals.
Promote your pages for relevant links – Billions of new pages go live each day, and without proper promotion, even the best pages will be buried in the sea of content online. Strategic promotion of your pages will net you powerful backlinks and extra visibility from your audience.
Again, these concepts seem simple but are quite difficult to execute well. However, by drilling down to the two main factors for search visibility — content and links — you can avoid being overwhelmed or focusing on the wrong priorities and instead put all your efforts into the strategies that will provide the most SEO impact.
However, along with refocusing our own efforts, as SEOs we also need to simplify our message to the uninitiated (or as they’re also known, the other 99% of the population). I know from personal experience how quickly the eyes start to glaze over when I get into the nitty-gritty of SEO, so I typically pivot to focus on the most basic concepts: content and links.
People can wrap their minds around the simple process of creating good pages that answer a specific set of questions and then promoting those pages to acquire endorsements (backlinks). I suggest we embrace this same approach, on a broader scale, as an industry.
When we talk to potential and existing clients, colleagues, executives, etc., let’s keep things simple. If we focus on the two concepts that are the easiest to explain we will get better understanding and more buy-in for the work we do (it also happens that these two factors are the biggest drivers of success).
So go out, shout it from the rooftops — CONTENT AND LINKS — and let’s continue to do the work that will drive positive results for our websites and help secure SEOs rightful seat at the marketing table.
If you’re one of the many marketers that shares your content on Facebook, Twitter, and Linked before calling it good and moving on, this Whiteboard Friday is for you. In a super actionable follow-up to his MozCon 2019 presentation, Ross Simmonds reveals how to go beyond the mediocre when it comes to your content distribution plan, reaching new audiences in just the right place at the right time.
What’s going on, Whiteboard Friday fans? My name is Ross Simmonds from Foundation Marketing, and today we’re going to be talking about how to develop a content distribution playbook that will drive meaningful and measurable results for your business.
What is content distribution and why does it matter?
First and foremost, content distribution is the thing that you need to be thinking about if you want to combat the fact that it is becoming harder and harder than ever before to stand out as a content marketer, as a storyteller, and as a content creator in today’s landscape. It’s getting more and more difficult to rank for content. It’s getting more and more difficult to get organic reach through our social media channels, and that is why content distribution is so important.
You are facing a time when organic reach on social continues to drop more and more, where the ability to rank is becoming even more difficult because you’re competing against more ad space. You’re competing against more featured snippets. You’re competing against more companies. Because content marketers have screamed at the top of their lungs that content is king and the world has listened, it is becoming more and more difficult to stand out amongst the noise.
Most marketers have embraced this idea because for years we screamed, “Content is king, create more content,”and that is what the world has done. Most marketers start by just creating content, hoping that traffic will come, hoping that reach will come, and hoping that as a result of them creating content that profits will follow. In reality, the profits never come because they miss a significant piece of the puzzle, which is content distribution.
In today’s video, we’re going to be talking about how you can distribute your content more effectively across a few different channels, a few different strategies, and how you can take your content to the next level.
There are two things that you can spend when it comes to content distribution:
You can spend time,
or you can spend money.
In today’s video, we’re going to talk about exactly how you can distribute your content so when you write that blog post, you write that landing page, when you create that e-book, you create that infographic, whatever resource you’ve developed, you can ensure that that content is reaching the right people on the right channel at the right time.
◷: Owned channels
So how can you do it? We all have heard of owned channels. Owned channels are things that you own as a business, as a brand, as an organization. These are things that you can do without question probably today.
For example, email marketing, it’s very likely that you have an email list of some sort. You can distribute your content to those people.
Let’s say you have a website that offers people a solution or a service directly inside of the site. Say it’s software as a service or something of that nature. If people are logging in on a regular basis to access your product, you can use in-app notifications to let those people know that you’ve launched a blog post. Or better yet, if you have a mobile app of any sort, you can do the same thing. You can use your app to let people know that you just launched a new piece of content.
You have social media channels. Let’s say you have Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook. Share that content to your heart’s desire on those channels as well.
If you have a website, you can update an on-site banner, at the top or in the bottom right, that is letting people know who visit your site that you have a new piece of content. Let them know. They want to know that you’re creating new content. So why not advise them that you have done such?
If you have a sales team of any sort, let’s say you’re in B2B and you have a sales team, one of the most effective ways is to empower your sales team, to communicate to your sales team that you have developed a new piece of content so they can follow up with leads, they can nurture those existing relationships and even existing customers to let them know that a new piece of content has gone live. That one-to-one connection can be huge.
◷: Social media / other channels
So when you’ve done all of that, what else can you do? You can go into social media. You can go into other channels. Again, you can spend time distributing your content into these places where your audience is spending time as well.
Social channels and groups
So if you have a Twitteraccount, you can send out tweets. If you have a Facebook page, of course you can put up status updates.
If you have a LinkedIn page, you can put up a status update as well. These three things are typically what most organizations do in that Phase 2, but that’s not where it ends. You can go deeper. You can do more. You can go into Facebook groups, whether as a page or as a human, and share your content into these communities as well. You can let them know that you’ve published a new piece of research and you would love for them to check it out.
Or you’re in these groups and you’re looking and waiting and looking for somebody to ask a question that your blog post, your research has answered, and then you respond to that question with the content that you’ve developed. Or you do the same exact thing in a LinkedIn group. LinkedIn groups are an awesome opportunity for you to go in and start seeding your content as well.
Or you go to Medium.com. You repurpose the content that you’ve developed. You launch it on Medium.com as well. There’s an import function on Medium where you can import your content, get a canonical link directly to your site, and you can share that on Medium as well. Medium.com is a great distribution channel, because you can seed that content to publications as well.
When your content is going to these publications, they already have existing subscribers, and those subscribers get notified that there’s a new piece being submitted by you. When they see it, that’s a new audience that you wouldn’t have reached before using any of those owned channels, because these are people who you wouldn’t have had access to before. So you want to take advantage of that as well.
Keep in mind you don’t always have to upload even the full article. You can upload a snippet and then have a CTA at the bottom, a call to action driving people to the article on your website.
You can use LinkedIn video to do the same thing. Very similar concept. Imagine you have a LinkedIn video. You look into the camera and you say to your connections, “Hey, everyone, we just launched a new research piece that is breaking down X, Y, and Z, ABC. I would love for you to check it out. Check the link below.”
If you created that video and you shared it on your LinkedIn, your connections are going to see this video, and it’s going to break their pattern of what they typically see on LinkedIn. So when they see it, they’re going to engage, they’re going to watch that video, they’re going to click the link, and you’re going to get more reach for the content that you developed in the past.
Slack communities are another great place to distribute your content. Slack isn’t just a great channel to build internal culture and communicate as an internal team.
There are actual communities, people who are passionate about photography, people who are passionate about e-commerce, people who are passionate about SEO. There are Slack communities today where these people are gathering to talk about their passions and their interests, and you can do the same thing that you would do in Facebook groups or LinkedIn groups in these various Slack communities.
Instagram / Facebook stories
Instagram stories and Facebook stories, awesome, great channel for you to also distribute your content. You can add a link to these stories that you’re uploading, and you can simply say, “Swipe up if you want to get access to our latest research.” Or you can design a graphic that will say, “Swipe up to get our latest post.” People who are following you on these channels will swipe up. They’ll land on your article, they’ll land on your research, and they’ll consume that content as well.
LinkedIn Pulse, you have the opportunity now to upload an article directly to LinkedIn, press Publish, and again let it soar. You can use the same strategies that I talked about around Medium.com on LinkedIn, and you can drive results.
Quora, it’s like a question-and-answer site, like Yahoo Answers back in the day, except with a way better design. You can go into Quora, and you can share just a native link and tag it with relevant content, relevant topics, and things of that nature. Or you can find a few questions that are related to the topic that you’ve covered in your post, in your research, whatever asset you developed, and you can add value to that person who asked that question, and within that value you make a reference to the link and the article that you developed in the past as well.
SlideShare, one of OGs of B2B marketing. You can go to SlideShare, upload a presentation version of the content that you’ve already developed. Let’s say you’ve written a long blog post. Why not take the assets within that blog post, turn them into a PDF, a SlideShare presentation, upload them there, and then distribute it through that network as well? Once you have those SlideShare presentations put together, what’s great about it is you can take those graphics and you can share them on Twitter, you can share them on Facebook, LinkedIn, you can put them into Medium.com, and distribute them further there as well.
You can go into forums. Let’s think about it. If your audience is spending time in a forum communicating about something, why not go into these communities and into these forums and connect with them on a one-to-one basis as well? There’s a huge opportunity in forums and communities that exist online, where you can build trust and you can seed your content into these communities where your audience is spending time.
A lot of people think forums are dead. They could never be more alive. If you type in your audience, your industry forums, I promise you you’ll probably come across something that will surprise you as an opportunity to seed your content.
Reddit communities, a lot of marketers get the heebie-jeebies when I talk about Reddit. They’re all like, “Marketers on Reddit? That doesn’t work. Reddit hates marketing.” I get it.
I understand what you’re thinking. But what they actually hate is the fact that marketers don’t get Reddit. Marketers don’t get the fact that Redditors just want value. If you can deliver value to people using Reddit, whether it’s through a post or in the comments, they will meet you with happiness and joy. They will be grateful of the fact that you’ve added value to their communities, to their subreddits, and they will reward you with upvotes, with traffic and clicks, and maybe even a few leads or a customer or two in the process.
Do not ignore Reddit as being the site that you can’t embrace. Whether you’re B2B or B2C, Redditors can like your content. Redditors will like your content if you go in with value first.
Sites like Imgur, another great distribution channel. Take some of those slides that you developed in the past, upload them to Imgur, and let them sing there as well.
There are way more distribution channels and distribution techniques that you can use that go beyond even what I’ve described here. But these just a few examples that show you that the power of distribution doesn’t exist just in a couple posts. It exists in actually spending the time, taking the time to distribute your stories and distribute your content across a wide variety of different channels.
$: Paid marketing
That’s spending time. You can also spend money through paid marketing. Paid marketing is also an opportunity for any brand to distribute their stories.
First and foremost, you can use remarketing. Let’s talk about that email list that you’ve already developed. If you take that email list and you run remarketing ads to those people on Facebook, on Twitter, on LinkedIn, you can reach those people and get them engaged with new content that you’ve developed.
Let’s say somebody is already visiting your page. People are visiting your website. They’re visiting your content. Why not run remarketing ads to those people who already demonstrate some type of interest to get them back on your site, back engaged with your content, and tell your story to them as well? Another great opportunity is if you’ve leveraged video in any way, you can do remarketing ads on Facebook to people who have watched 10 seconds, 30 seconds, 20 seconds, whatever it may be to your content as well.
Then one of the opportunities that is definitely underrated is the fact that Quora now offers advertising as well. You can run ads on Quora to people who are asking or looking at questions related to your industry, related to the content that you’ve developed, and get your content in front of them as well.
Then influencers, you can do sponsored content. You can reach out to these influencers and have them talk about your stories, talk about your content, and have them share it as well on behalf of the fact that you’ve developed something new and something that is interesting.
Think differently & rise above mediocrity
When I talk about influencer marketing, I talk about Reddit, I talk about SlideShare, I talk about LinkedIn video, I talk about Slack communities, a lot of marketers will quickly say, “I don’t think this is for me. I think this is too much. I think that this is too much manual work. I think this is too many niche communities. I think this is a little bit too much for my brand.“
I get that. I understand your mindset, but this is what you need to recognize. Most marketers are going through this process. If you think that by distributing your content into the communities that your audience is spending time is just a little bit off brand or it doesn’t really suit you, that’s what most marketers already think. Most marketers already think that Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn is all they need to do to share their stories, get their content out there, and call it a day.
If you want to be like most marketers, you’re going to get what most marketers receive as a result, which is mediocre results. So I push you to think differently. I push you to push yourself to not be like most marketers, not to go down the path of mediocrity, and instead start looking for ways that you can either invest time or money into channels, into opportunities, and into communities where you can spread your content with value first and ultimately generate results for your business at the end of all of it.
So I hope that you can use this to uncover for yourself a content distribution playbook that works for your brand. Whether you’re in B2C or you’re in B2B, it doesn’t matter. You have to understand where your audience is spending time, understand how you can seed your content into these different spaces and unlock the power of content distribution. My name is Ross Simmonds.
I really hope you enjoyed this video. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out on Twitter, at TheCoolestCool, or hit me up any other way. I’m on every other channel. Of course I am. I love social. I love digital. I’m everywhere that you could find me, so feel free to reach out.
I hope you enjoyed this video and you can use it to give your content more reach and ultimately drive meaningful and measurable results for your business. Thank you so much.
If Ross’s Whiteboard Friday left you feeling energized and inspired to try new things with your content marketing, you’ll love his full MozCon 2019 talk — Keywords Aren’t Enough: How to Uncover Content Ideas Worth Chasing — available in our recently released video bundle. Learn how to use many of these same distribution channels as idea factories for your content, plus access 26 additional future-focused SEO topics from our top-notch speakers:
If you’ve been searching for a quick hack to write content for featured snippets, this isn’t the article for you. But if you’re looking for lasting results and a smart tactic to increase your chances of winning a snippet, you’re definitely in the right place.
Borrowed from journalism, the inverted pyramid method of writing can help you craft intentional, compelling, rich content that will help you rank for multiple queries and win more than one snippet at a time. Learn how in this fan-favorite Whiteboard Friday starring the one and only Dr. Pete!
Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!
Hey, Moz fans, Dr. Pete here. I’m the Marketing Scientist at Moz and visiting you from not-so-sunny Chicago in the Seattle office. We’ve talked a lot in the last couple years in my blog posts and such about featured snippets.
It’s tough, because I’m a content marketer and I don’t like to think that there’s a trick to content. I’m afraid to give people the kind of tricks that would have them run off and write lousy, thin content. But there is a technique that works that I think has been very effective for featured snippets for writing for questions and answers. It comes from the world of journalism, which gives me a little more faith in its credibility. So I want to talk to you about that today. That’s called the inverted pyramid.
1. Start with the lead
It looks something like this. When you write a story as a journalist, you start with the lead. You lead with the lead. So if we have a story like “Penguins Rob a Bank,” which would be a strange story, we want to put that right out front. That’s interesting. Penguins rob a bank, that’s all you need to know. The thing about it is, and this is true back to print, especially when we had to buy each newspaper. We weren’t subscribers. But definitely on the web, you have to get people’s attention quickly. You have to draw them in. You have to have that headline.
2. Go into the details
So leading with the lead is all about pulling them in to see if they’re interested and grabbing their attention. The inverted pyramid, then you get into the smaller pieces. Then you get to the details. You might talk about how many penguins were there and what bank did they rob and how much money did they take.
3. Move to the context
Then you’re going to move to the context. That might be the history of penguin crime in America and penguin ties to the mafia and what does this say about penguin culture and what are we going to do about this. So then it gets into kind of the speculation and the value add that you as an expert might have.
How does this apply to answering questions for SEO?
So how does this apply to answering questions in an SEO context?
Lead with the answer, get into the details and data, then address the sub-questions.
Well, what you can do is lead with the answer. If somebody’s asked you a question, you have that snippet, go straight to the summary of the answer. Tell them what they want to know and then get into the details and get into the data. Add those things that give you credibility and that show your expertise. Then you can talk about context.
But I think what’s interesting with answers — and I’ll talk about this in a minute — is getting into these sub-questions, talking about if you have a very big, broad question, that’s going to dive up into a lot of follow-ups. People who are interested are going to want to know about those follow-ups. So go ahead and answer those.
If I win a featured snippet, will people click on my answer? Should I give everything away?
So I think there’s a fear we have. What if we answer the question and Google puts it in that box? Here’s the question and that’s the query. It shows the answer. Are people going to click? What’s going to happen? Should we be giving everything away? Yes, I think, and there are a couple reasons.
Questions that can be very easily answered should be avoided
First, I want you to be careful. Britney has gotten into some of this. This is a separate topic on its own. You don’t always want to answer questions that can be very easily answered. We’ve already seen that with the Knowledge Graph. Google says something like time and date or a fact about a person, anything that can come from that Knowledge Graph. “How tall was Abraham Lincoln?” That’s answered and done, and they’re already replacing those answers.
Answer how-to questions and questions with rich context instead
So you want to answer the kinds of things, the how-to questions and the why questions that have a rich enough context to get people interested. In those cases, I don’t think you have to be afraid to give that away, and I’m going to tell you why. This is more of a UX perspective. If somebody asks this question and they see that little teaser of your answer and it’s credible, they’re going to click through.
“Giving away” the answer builds your credibility and earns more qualified visitors
So here you’ve got the penguin. He’s flushed with cash. He’s looking for money to spend. We’re not going to worry about the ethics of how he got his money. You don’t know. It’s okay. Then he’s going to click through to your link. You know you have your branding and hopefully it looks professional, Pyramid Inc., and he sees that question again and he sees that answer again.
Giving the searcher a “scent trail” builds trust
If you’re afraid that that’s repetitive, I think the good thing about that is this gives him what we call a scent trail. He can see that, “You know what? Yes, this is the page I meant to click on. This is relevant. I’m in the right place.” Then you get to the details, and then you get to the data and you give this trail of credibility that gives them more to go after and shows your expertise.
People who want an easy answer aren’t the kind of visitors that convert
I think the good thing about that is we’re so afraid to give something away because then somebody might not click. But the kind of people who just wanted that answer and clicked, they’re not the kind of people that are going to convert. They’re not qualified leads. So these people that see this and see it as credible and want to go read more, they’re the qualified leads. They’re the kind of people that are going to give you that money.
So I don’t think we should be afraid of this. Don’t give away the easy answers. I think if you’re in the easy answer business, you’re in trouble right now anyway, to be honest. That’s a tough topic. But give them something that guides them to the path of your answer and gives them more information.
How does this tactic work in the real world?
Thin content isn’t credible.
So I’m going to talk about how that looks in a more real context. My fear is this. Don’t take this and run off and say write a bunch of pages that are just a question and a paragraph and a ton of thin content and answering hundreds and hundreds of questions. I think that can really look thin to Google. So you don’t want pages that are like question, answer, buy my stuff. It doesn’t look credible. You’re not going to convert. I think those pages are going to look thin to Google, and you’re going to end up spinning out many, many hundreds of them. I’ve seen people do that.
Use the inverted pyramid to build richer content and lead to your CTA
What I’d like to see you do is craft this kind of question page. This is something that takes a fair amount of time and effort. You have that question. You lead with that answer. You’re at the top of the pyramid. Get into the details. Get into the things that people who are really interested in this would want to know and let them build up to that. Then get into data. If you have original data, if you have something you can contribute that no one else can, that’s great.
Then go ahead and answer those sub-questions, because the people who are really interested in that question will have follow-ups. If you’re the person who can answer that follow-up, that makes for a very, very credible piece of content, and not just something that can rank for this snippet, but something that really is useful for anybody who finds it in any way.
So I think this is great content to have. Then if you want some kind of call to action, like a “Learn More,” that’s contextual, I think this is a page that will attract qualified leads and convert.
Moz’s example: What is a Title Tag?
So I want to give you an example. This is something we’ve used a lot on Moz in the Learning Center. So, obviously, we have the Moz blog, but we also have these permanent pages that answer kind of the big questions that people always have. So we have one on the title tag, obviously a big topic in SEO.
Here’s what this page looks like. So we go right to the question: What is a title tag? We give the answer: A title tag is an HTML element that does this and this and is useful for SEO, etc. Right there in the paragraph. That’s in the featured snippet. That’s okay. If that’s all someone wants to know and they see that Moz answered that, great, no problem.
But naturally, the people who ask that question, they really want to know: What does this do? What’s it good for? How does it help my SEO? How do I write one? So we dug in and we ended up combining three or four pieces of content into one large piece of content, and we get into some pretty rich things. So we have a preview tool that’s been popular. We give a code sample. We show how it might look in HTML. It gives it kind of a visual richness. Then we start to get into these sub-questions. Why are title tags important? How do I write a good title tag?
One page can gain the ability to rank for hundreds of questions and phrases
What’s interesting, because I think sometimes people want to split up all the questions because they’re afraid that they have to have one question per page, what’s interesting is that I think looked the other day, this was ranking in our 40 million keyword set for over 200 phrases, over 200 questions. So it’s ranking for things like “what is a title tag,” but it’s also ranking for things like “how do I write a good title tag.” So you don’t have to be afraid of that. If this is a rich, solid piece of content that people are going to, you’re going to rank for these sub-questions, in many cases, and you’re going to get featured snippets for those as well.
Then, when people have gotten through all of this, we can give them something like, “Hey, Moz has some of these tools. You can help write richer title tags. We can check your title tags. Why don’t you try a free 30-day trial?” Obviously, we’re experimenting with that, and you don’t want to push too hard, but this becomes a very rich piece of content. We can answer multiple questions, and you actually have multiple opportunities to get featured snippets.
So I think this inverted pyramid technique is legitimate. I think it can help you write good content that’s a win-win. It’s good for SEO. It’s good for your visitors, and it will hopefully help you land some featured snippets.
So I’d love to hear about what kind of questions you’re writing content for, how you can break that up, how you can answer that, and I’d love to discuss that with you. So we’ll see you in the comments. Thank you.
You’ve got top-performing content on your site that does really well. Maybe it’s highly converting, maybe it garners the most qualified traffic — but it’s just sitting there gathering dust. Isn’t there something else you can do with content that’s clearly proven its worth?
As it turns out, there is! In this ever-popular episode of Whiteboard Friday, Moz’s Senior SEO Scientist, Britney Muller, shares three easy steps for identifying, repurposing, and republishing your top content to juice every drop of goodness out of it.
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Hey, Moz fans, welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. I’m Britney Muller, Moz’s SEO and Content Architect, and I’m so excited to talk to you today about refurbishing your top content. Any of you watching likely have top content, either on your site or a client’s site, that does really, really well. Whether that’s getting the most traffic or converting the most users, it does really well. The problem is that we let it just sit there, and we’re not getting the amplification that we could out of that content. So I’m going to talk to you today about how to sort of funnel in more qualified leads. So how do we do that?
Step 1: Identify your site’s top traffic pages.
Analytics is so great for this and to further evaluate which of those pages are converting the highest, have the most engagements, and are bringing in most of your traffic.
It’s super important to keep in mind that there are other forms of content. It’s not always necessarily just a page on your website. It could be a video somewhere, it could be a really great podcast, it could even be a printout, and I’ve run into this a few times where the information isn’t currently digital, but they use it in a clinic or in an office setting that could do really great things for the website. So keep that in mind.
Step 2: Simplify and repurpose
For the sake of our example, I’m going with a long-form content of how to choose the right college. Maybe this brings in lots of applicants for a particular school or university. So what could they better be doing with this piece of content? So that brings us to step two, which is simplify and repurpose. We all want to consume information differently. There are different use cases, you name it. So to take a long-form piece of content and to put it together in a PowerPoint, really simplify it and break it up into slides. From there, you can use those slides or take new raw footage to make a really, really powerful video on how to choose the right college.
If you have these two steps done, you’re kind of set up for success for images. You could either take images from your PowerPoint or your video and have really great informational text below it.
Lastly, audio, how easy would it be to take this long-form piece and to make it into an audio option or a podcast even, allowing your visitors maybe another option when they get to this page? So it’s fun to experiment with that as well.
You can interweave some of these other forms of content back into the original piece, and now you’re learning a lot more about your audience and a lot more about how they want to consume your content.
Step 3: Publish on popular platforms
I can already feel people getting really squeamish about this, but you shouldn’t. Let me say there are two big reasons why you should be taking advantage of this. One, these are all really, really powerful sites. They rank really well. Two, they have a huge audience, and their audiences are actively seeking information that you’re providing on your site. So if you’re not going to be providing expertise and information on these sites, someone will, right? So you want to take advantage of that, and you want to take the opportunity.
So you could take your PowerPoint and upload it to SlideShare. SlideShare ranks so, so well. You could take your video and upload it to YouTube, with the caveat of putting it on Vimeo or Wistia first. You want to make sure that you are self-hosting for up to three months, and then you can transfer your video to YouTube. That way you’re getting the authority of that video, and Youtube.com isn’t ranking first for it.
Instagram is great for those images, but, again, I would always put the text below it and keep your images really clean and not have too much text on them, and then to obviously hashtag appropriately.
Then Pinterest, Quora, people are actively asking questions that you have all the answers to, so to be the expertise in the field and to take advantage of people asking, “How do I choose the right college?” Reddit and LinkedIn are other options to further amplify.
Step 4: Measure the referral metrics
Measure the impact of republishing on these sites. There are a couple of ways to do this. These are some of my favorite engagement metrics. So you have number of viewed pages, you have time on site, bounce rate is always good to look at, and, obviously, conversions. So this really starts to paint a picture of: Where are you seeing the qualified leads? Where is your qualified traffic coming from?
Then the next time you go to a new content strategy, maybe you leave out these three because you didn’t get much traffic from them, but maybe you saw a bunch of qualified leads from SlideShare. So that brings you to pivot, like the “Friends” episode. It allows you to pivot.
So now, we have a strategy moving forward. We know what platforms work best for your website or your business, and you’re kind of setting yourself up for success down the road.
I would love, love, love to hear if you have experimented with these strategies, what has worked for you, what hasn’t. Also feel free to ask me any questions down below. Thank you so much for joining us for this edition of Whiteboard Friday, and I will see all again soon. Thank you.
In 2019, high-authority links remain highly correlated with rankings. However, acquiring great links is becoming increasingly difficult. Those of you who operate publications of any variety, especially those who enjoy high domain authority, have likely received several link building requests or offers like this each day:
“Please link to my suspect site that provides little or no value.”
“Please engage in my shady link exchange.”
“I can acquire 5 links of DA 50+ for $250 each.”
Or maybe slightly more effectively:
“This link is broken, perhaps you would like to link here instead.”
“You link to X resource, but my Y resource is actually better.”
This glut of SEOs who build links through these techniques above have been consistently eroding the efficacy of this style of little-to-no-value ad outreach link building. In the past, perhaps it was possible to convert 2% of outreach emails of this style to real links. Now, that number is more like 0.2 percent.
Link building outreach has become glorified email spam—increasingly ignored and decreasingly effective. And yet, high-authority links remain one of the single most important ranking factors.
So where do we go from here?
Let’s start with a few axioms.
The conclusion: Leveraging data journalism to tell newsworthy stories re-enables effective promotion of content via outreach/pitching. Doing so successfully results in the acquisition of high domain authority links that enjoy the potential for viral syndication. Overall data journalism and outreach represents one of the only remaining scaleable high-authority link building strategies.
How can I leverage data journalism techniques to earn coverage?
To answer this question, I conducted my own data journalism project about the state of data journalism-driven link building! (Meta, I know.)
The primary goal was to understand how major publications (the places worth pitching content) talk about data journalism findings from external sources. By understanding how data journalism is covered, we lay the groundwork for understanding what types of data journalism, themes, and strategies for outreach can be most effective for link building.
We pulled 8,400 articles containing the text “study finds.” This keyword was used as a heuristic for finding data-driven news stories created by outside sources (not done internally by the news publication themselves). We then supplemented these articles with additional data, including links built, social shares, and Google’s Machine Learning topic categorization.
The categories derived by Google’s classifier can have multiple tiers based on the keywords in the article titles, giving us four ways to show the results within each category: The main topic area (containing all relevant subcategories), just the first subcategory, just the second subcategory, and just the third subcategory.
Which outlets most frequently cover data-driven stories from external pitches?
Let’s begin by taking a look at which top-tier news outlets cover “study finds” (AKA, any project pitched by an outside source that ran a survey or study that had “findings”).
For companies conducting studies, they hope to win press coverage for, these top sites are prime targets, with editorial guidelines that clearly see outside pitches of study findings as attractive.
It’s not surprising to see science-based sites ranking at the top, as they’re inherently more likely to talk about studies than other publications. But sites like The Independent, Daily Mail, The Guardian, CNN, Washington Post, and NBC News all ranked highly as well, providing great insight into which established, trusted news sources are willing to publish external research.
Which topic areas do these publishers write about most?
Diving a little deeper, we can explore which topics are covered in these publications that are associated with these external studies, providing us insight into which verticals might be the best targets for this strategy.
There are many unique insights to be gleaned from the following charts depending on your niche/topical focus. This data can easily be used as a pitching guide, showing you which publishers are the most likely to pick up and cover your pitches for the findings of your study or survey.
Here is a view of the overall category and subcategory distribution for the top publishers.
As you can see, it’s…a lot. To get more actionable breakdowns, we can look at different views of the topical categories. The categories derived by Google’s classifier can have multiple tiers based on the keywords in the article titles, giving us several ways to show the results within each category.
You can explore the Tableau sheets to get into the nitty-gritty, but even with these views, a few more specialized publications, like InsideHigherEd.com and blogs.edweek.org, emerge.
Which topic areas drive the most links?
Press mentions are great, but syndication is where data journalism and content-based outreach strategy really shines. I also wanted to understand which topic areas drive link acquisition. As it turns out, some topics are significantly better at driving links than others.
Note that the color of the bar charts is associated with volume of sharing by topic—the darker the bar on the chart, the higher it was shared. With this additional sharing data, it’s plain to see that while links and social shares are highly correlated, there are some categories that are top link builders but do not perform as well on social and vice versa.
This next set of data visualizations again explore these topic areas in detail. In each batch, we see the median number of links built as an overall category aggregate and then by each category.
Which domains generate the most links when they pick up a data-driven story?
Another interesting question is which domains overall result in the largest number of links generated for “study finds” stories. Below is that ranking, colored by the median number of total shares for that domain.
Notice that while The Independent ranked supreme in the earlier graph about including the most “study finds” pieces, they don’t appear at all on this graph. Sites like The Guardian, CNN, The Washington Post, and NBC News, however, score highly on both, meaning they’re probably more likely to publish your research (relatively speaking, since all high-authority sites are tough to get coverage on), and if you’re successful, you’re probably more likely to get more syndicated links as a result.
Which topic areas are the most evergreen?
Now, let’s look at each category by BuzzSumo’s “evergreen score” to see what kind of content will get you the most bang for your buck.
The evergreen score was developed by BuzzSumo to measure the number of backlinks and social shares an article receives more than a month after it’s published.
When you’re considering doing a study and you want it to have lasting power, brainstorm whether any of these topics tie to your product or service offering, because it appears their impact lingers for longer than a month:
What this all means
Link building through data-driven content marketing and PR is a predictable and scalable way to massively impact domain authority, page authority, and organic visibility.
1. Which publishers make sense to pitch to?
Do they often cover external studies?
Do they cover topics that I write about?
Does their coverage lead to a high volume of syndicated links?
2. Does my topic have lasting power?
To really make the most of your content and outreach strategy, you’ll need to incorporate these tips and more into your content development and pitching.
In previous articles on Moz I’ve covered:
These ideas and methodologies are at the heart of the work we do at Fractl and have been instrumental in helping us develop best practices for ideation, content creation, and successful outreach to press. Pulling on each of these levers (and many others), testing, and accumulating data that can then be used to refine processes is what begins to make a real impact on success rates and allows you to break through the noise.
If you want to discuss the major takeaways for your industry, feel free to email me at [email protected].
Did anything surprise you in the data? Share your thoughts below!
It’s easy to find writers; they’re everywhere — from a one-second Google search to asking on LinkedIn.
But hiring the best ones? That’s the daunting task marketers and business owners face. And you do not just need writers, you need exceptional SEO content writers.
Mainly because that’s what Google (aka the largest traffic driver of most sites) has clearly been clamoring for since their Panda update in 2011, RankBrain in 2015, and their “Fred” update (and by the way, Gary Illyes from Google coined “Fred’ for every unnamed Google update) in March, 2017.
It’s obvious how each of these major updates communicates Google’s preference for excellent SEO writers:
If you’re a frequent Moz reader, you probably know how they work — but if not: Panda penalizes every webpage with content that adds little to no value to people online, giving more visibility to content pieces that do. On its own, the RankBrain update has made Google almost as smart as humans — when choosing the most relevant and high-quality content to rank on page #1 of search engine result pages (SERPs).
The “Fred” update further tackled sites with low-quality content that aren’t doing anything beyond providing information that’s already available on the internet. It also penalized sites that prioritized revenue above user experience.
It is evident that Google has, through these core updates, been requiring brands, publishers, and marketers to work with SEO content writers who know their onions; the ones who know how to write with on-page SEO mastery.
But how do you find these exceptional wordsmiths? Without a plan, you will have to screen tens (or even hundreds) of them to find those who are a good fit.
But let’s make it easier for you. Essentially, your ideal SEO writers should have two key traits:
Good on-page SEO expertise
A great eye for user experience (i.e. adding relevant images, formatting, etc.)
A writer with these two skills is a great SEO writer. But let’s dig a bit deeper into what that means.
(Note: this post is about hiring exceptional SEO content writers — i.e., wordsmiths who don’t need you monitoring them to do great work. So, things can get a bit techie as you read on. I’ll be assuming your ideal writer understands or is responsible for things like formatting, on-page SEO, and correctly uploading content into your CMS.)
1. On-page SEO knowledge
By now, you know what on-page SEO is. But if not, it’s simply the elements you put on a site or web page to let search engines understand that you have content on specific topics people are searching for.
So, how do you know if a writer has good on-page SEO knowledge?
Frankly, “Can you send me your previous writing samples?” is the ideal question to ask any writer you’re considering hiring. Once they show their samples, have them walk you through each one, and ask yourself the following questions:
Question A: Do they have ‘focus keywords’ in their previous samples?
Several factors come into play when trying to rank any page, but your ideal writer must know how to hold things down on the keyword side of things.
Look through their samples; see if they have optimized any content piece for a specific keyword in the past so you can know if they’ll be able to do the same for your content.
Question B: How do they use title tags?
Search engines use title tags to detect the headings in your content.
You know how it works: put “SEO strategy” — for example — in a few, relevant headings on a page and search engines will understand the page is teaching SEO strategy.
Essentially, your ideal SEO writer should understand how to use them to improve your rankings and attract clicks from your potential customers in search results.
Are title tags really that important? They are. Ahrefs, for instance, made their title tag on a page more descriptive and this alone upped their traffic by 37.58%.
So, look through the titles in your candidate’s samples, especially the h1 title. Here’s what you should look for when examining how a candidate uses HTML tags:
i. Header tags should, ideally, not be more than 60 characters. This is to avoid results that look like this in SERPs:
(three dots in front of your titles constitutes bad UX — which Google frowns at)
ii. The subheadings should be h2 (not necessarily, but it’s a plus)
iii. Headings under subtopics should be h3 (also not necessary, but it’s a plus)
Look for these qualities in your candidate’s work and you’ll be able to confirm that they properly implement title tags in their content, and can do the same for you.
But some writers may not have control over the title tags in their published works — that is, the sites they wrote for probably didn’t give them such access. In this case, request samples they published on their own site, where they actually have control over these tags.
Question C: What do they know about internal linking?
Orbit Media once shared how they used internal linking to shoot a blog post from position #29 up to #4.
So, it’s important that your writers know how to contextually link to your older content pieces while writing new content. And it works for good reason; internal linking helps you:
Communicate the relevance and value of your pages to Google (the more links a page gets, the more authority it has in Google’s eyes)
Demonstrate to Google that your site contains in-depth content about any specific topic
Tell Google your site has easy navigation — which means it has good UX and is well-structured.
Internal linking is a major key to search ranking, so you need writers who have internal linking in their pocketful of tools. But also ensure they do it using proper anchor texts; in a recent LinkedIn post, expert editor Rennie Sanusi hinted at two key anchor text elements to look for in your candidate’s samples:
[Anchor texts] should clearly explain where they’ll take your reader to
[Anchor texts] shouldn’t be too long
Question D: Do they write long-form content?
The average word count of a Google first page result is 1,800+ words long — according to research from Backlinko.
Google has been all about in-depth content since its inception; you’re probably familiar with their mission statement:
Every algorithm change they make is geared toward achieving this mission statement, and ranking long-form content helps them in the process as well.
Because, to them, writing longer content means you’re putting more information that searchers are looking for into your content.
So you need writers who can produce long-form content. Check their samples and confirm they know how to write long-form content on a regular basis.
Question E: Have they ranked for any important keywords?
Ultimately, you need to see examples of important keywords your ideal content writer has ranked for in the past. This is the utmost test of their ability to actually drive search traffic your way.
That’s it for finding writers who know on-page SEO. But as you know, that’s only one part of the skills that makes a great SEO content writer.
The other important bit is their ability to write content that engages humans. In other words, they need to know how to keep people reading a page for several minutes (or even hours), leading them to take actions that are important to your business.
2. A great eye for user experience
Keeping readers on a page for long durations also improves your ranking.
In the aforementioned Backlinko study, researchers analyzed 100,000 sites and found that “websites with low average bounce rates are strongly correlated with higher rankings.”
And you know what that means; your ideal SEO writer should not only write to rank on search engines, they must also write to attract and keep the attention of your target audience.
So, look for the following in their samples:
Headlines and introductions that hook readers
You need writers who are expert enough to know the types of headlines and opening paragraphs that work.
It’s not a hard skill to spot; look through their samples. If their titles and introductions don’t hook you, they probably won’t hook your audience. It’s really that simple.
Explainer images and visuals
The report also revealed that: “Content with at least one image significantly outperformed content without any images.”
But of course, they have to be relevant images (or other visual types). And many times (if not most of the time), that means explainer images — so look out for those in their samples. And there are two examples of explainer images:
Example #1: Explainer images with text and pointers
This one has elements (an arrow and a text) on it, explaining how the image is relevant to the topic the content is about.
Example #2: Explainer images without text and pointers
Why does this image not have any text or arrows on it? It’s a self-explanatory screenshot, that’s why.
As long as it’s used appropriately — where the “online sales of Nike products” is mentioned in the content — it gets its message across.
In general, your ideal SEO writers need to know how to use tools like Skitch and Canva to create these images. Remember, you’re on a hunt for the exceptional ones.
References and citing resources
Your ideal writer should link to stats or studies that make their points stronger. This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Check the links in their samples and make sure they cite genuine resources.
Illustrations make understanding easier. Especially if you’re in a technical industry (and most industries have their geeky side), your ideal writer should know how to explain their points with examples.
Simply search their samples — using Command + F (or Ctrl F if you’re using Windows) — for “example,” “instance,” or “illustration.” This works, because writers usually mention things like “for example,” or “for instance” when providing illustrations.
Excellent SEO content writers = Higher search rankings
Getting SEO content writers who have all the skills I’ve mentioned in this article are possible to find. And hiring them means higher search rankings for your content. These writers are, again, everywhere. But here’s the thing — and you’ve probably heard it before: You get what you pay for.
Exceptional SEO content writers are your best bet, but they’re not cheap. They can send your search traffic through the roof, but, like you: They want to work for people who can afford the quality they provide. So, if you’re going on a hunt for them, ready your wallet.
But ensure you get their samples and ask the questions in this guide as you deem fit. If you’re paying for content that’ll help you rank higher on Google, then you really should get what you pay for.
Did you find any of my tips helpful? Let me know in the comments below!
Search can’t live in a silo. If you want to see success, cross-collaboration across your organic, content, and paid teams is absolutely key. But that takes a huge amount of effort, from untangling communication to cross-training to getting buy-in from everyone involved. What’s a search marketer to do?
If you missed her talk this year at MozCon 2019, here’s your chance to make up for it! In today’s edition of Whiteboard Friday, Heather Physioc shares her framework for successfully integrating your organic, paid, and content practices for a smoother search experience.
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Hey, everybody, and welcome back to Whiteboard Friday. My name is Heather Physioc, and I’m Group Director of Discoverability at VMLY&R. Today we’re going to talk about nine tips to help integrate your organic search, paid search, and content practices.
1. Announce change all at once, but roll out changes one at a time
So your first tip is that you want to announce change all at once, but then you want to roll out the changes one at a time.
It can be overwhelming to integrate practices and change processes. So you don’t want to try to do everything all at the same time. It’s like trying to boil the ocean, and it’s too much to stick. So while you want to get everybody on board and aligned to the benefits and challenges they’ll be facing as you integrate, then you just progressively roll out the changes iteratively over time.
2. Document new products & processes
Next, as you develop new capabilities and processes and offerings together, you’re going to document those processes in a shared, living wiki, because those processes are going to continue to change.
So my team uses Confluence, where we document our shared workflows, but everybody on the team has access and total trust to continue refining those in the ways that they see are best for the team.
3. Make recommendations and report together
Your next step should be obvious, but a lot of people are not doing it. You should be making recommendations and reporting together. So a lot of times we’ll collect all our data for reporting from all our different channels.
We’ll smash some slides together at the last minute before we throw it over the fence to the client. It ends up with a pretty shallow, almost meaningless set of data that doesn’t tell a story. So we should be getting together, sharing our insights, observations, and findings in the room together to find the story that is the most meaningful and help prioritize for our clients the best marketing decisions they can make from that data.
4. Cross-train to build advocacy across teams
So your next tip is to cross-train so you can build advocacy across the teams. We host a lot of workshops and hands-on training. We’ve even done job swaps where we had SEOs writing performance content for product detail pages. It creates this wonderful sense of empathy and understanding for what others need in order to do their jobs well.
But it also creates these great mental checks where you ask yourself, “Am I including the right people at the right times? Is there anyone else who could add value here? Could my work be impacting someone else?” So the purpose here is not necessarily to know how to do each other’s jobs so much as it is to empower people to be able to advocate for, speak about, and cross-sell your other teams.
5. Reintroduce the team or capability
Next, when you’ve done your integration of processes and people, everyone else in the organization may not necessarily know what that means for them. So you’ll want to reintroduce your team or your new capability to the rest of the organization. Put faces with names.
Talk about what the new capability is and does and the value it brings to the organization. Tell people how to engage with that new offering and what it means for their project or initiative or client.
6. Market the joint wins
Up next, we’re going to market the joint wins. As you’re continuously integrating, you should always be looking for wins or warnings that you can share with others so they can learn how to better engage with your offerings.
So if you have a great case study, where you integrated paid and organic or organic and content, make sure you’re marketing those stories out to your colleagues, your clients, your bosses, and of course your team.
7. Hold roundtables to deep-dive search opportunities
Up next, we’re going to do roundtables so we can deep dive search opportunities with other departments. So of course it makes sense to have roundtables between organic search and paid search or organic search and performance content, but also think beyond your immediate team.
Think about other marketing teams, like social media and pairing search behavior insights with social listening data. Or think about geographic teams. What if you sat your organic search team down with your Europe group to figure out what opportunities make the most sense for that region? Or even sales and IT and finding those areas of intersection, where you can do great search work that supports more parts of the organization.
8. Host mutual lunch & learns to cross-pollinate
Next, think about hosting mutual lunch and learns so you can start to cross-pollinate different skill sets. So similar to the roundtables, this is where you’re going to bring different groups together to talk about capabilities. But think about more than just presenting your capabilities to other people. Also be sure to invite them to present their capabilities to your group. For example, we’ve invited the project management team or the client engagement team to make us stronger in our search work through the value that they bring.
9. Give ownership of change to others
And finally, as you’re making all of these changes, it can’t just come from the top, one person just handing change down for everyone else to implement. It has to be organic, pardon the pun, and everybody should have ownership over the direction that we’re heading together. So when we make changes to products or processes or we start to integrate different groups or spin up little teams to work on specific objectives, we make sure that those individuals from each side have ownership to make those decisions together and roll it out to the rest of the group.
It helps make sure we’ve considered all the angles and greatly impacts our ability to get buy-in across the team. So those are nine quick tips to integrate organic search, paid search, and content practices. Let us know what you think in the comments below. I want to hear your tips too, and we’ll see you next time on Whiteboard Friday.
Take a moment to think about how you’ve used the internet today. Which posts made you stop scrolling through your Instagram feed? What webpages did you spend the most time on? What content did you enjoy?
If you’re like most of us, there’s a good chance that videos played a factor in your answers to all three of those questions. So it’s no surprise that marketing experts have been encouraging brands to use more video for years now.
Despite all this hype, many small to medium brands still use very few videos in their marketing, if they use any at all. In our experiences with clients, we’ve seen companies struggle in four major areas:
Talent. Most small marketing teams don’t have people experienced with creating or starring in videos.
Buy-in. Companies that use video well have many people across the organization committed to leveraging video content, including leadership, salespeople, customer service representatives, and subject-matter experts. But achieving this level of buy-in across an organization can be very difficult.
Consistency. While many brands have figured out how to produce frequent and consistent written content, few have figured out how to do so with video.
With challenges this significant, it’s no wonder why most brands still don’t include video as a major component of their marketing efforts. The good news is that these barriers to entry give you an opportunity to beat your competitors to the punch – but that window is closing quickly.
To help our clients reap everything video marketing has to offer, we’ve put together a framework that makes building a video marketing strategy much easier to approach and manage.
The ABCs of video content
The first thing that must happen before a marketing team can successfully use video in today’s world is usually a mental shift: If your marketing team or company leadership thinks about producing video the same way they did a decade ago, it will be very difficult to create enough video content to truly make a difference because you’ll constantly face the challenges mentioned above.
The greatest thing about creating video content today is that it doesn’t always have to be this large-scale production. The days of spending thousands of dollars and weeks of time on every video you create are officially over.
We believe that every brand needs a strong mix of video content across three levels: A-level, B-level, and C-level.
A-level video content
A-level videos are the videos that most brands are already used to creating. These videos are polished and well-produced, and therefore the most expensive to create. If your company has ever created a television commercial or a brand overview video for your website, it was probably an A-level video.
A-level videos work best when you need to create a strong impression on the viewer. If it’s the first time someone is interacting with your brand or another situation when you need to convey that your company is professional and credible, an A-level video will likely work best. This is what makes them great for commercials, product videos, and company overviews.
Don’t use A-level videos when your primary goal is to convey authenticity or build a relationship with your viewer. A-level videos also aren’t cost-effective for most brands to use as consistent, regular video content to support your social media, video SEO, email communications, or blog.
A brand will need much fewer A-level videos than B or C. As such, the key to getting the most from your investment in A-level video content is repurposing. You should always consider how you can use clips or footage from your A-level content for things like social media posts, presentations, across your website, or as a quick way to add a little polish to a B or C-level video.
To create A-level videos, most brands will need to work with a third party video company or marketing agency. These videos will be scripted, shot with high-end cameras by people who really know how to use them, will often feature paid on-camera talent, and will be professionally edited.
When a brand produces high volumes of video content, the majority of it is usually B-level. These videos are planned, but not perfect. Most of the how-to videos and vlogs you watch would fit into this category.
B-level videos work great when your goal is to build a relationship with your video viewers because they allow you to show more authenticity than A-level videos, and their lower cost makes them perfect for a consistent video strategy. This level works well for educational content, social media videos, a video series, team or personal intro videos, simple product demos, and video testimonials.
The best thing about B-level videos is that they can often be created by your own staff. Even if you decide to outsource them, they will be much cheaper than A-level videos because you can produce multiple videos at the same time or engage a third-party for just one part of the production process, such as editing.
To create a B-level video, all you’ll need is a basic script outline (bullet points work great), someone on your staff willing to get on camera, some basic video equipment, and an entry-level video editing program. If you don’t have people on your staff who are comfortable shooting video from a smartphone and editing it together, we recommend seeking training or considering hiring a student or recent graduate with those skills.
The keys to success with B-level videos are authenticity, volume, and consistency.
Authenticity. Brands that achieve success with these videos aren’t worried about memorizing lines and being perfect on camera. You’d be amazed at how much the occasional “um” will make you sound more human and help you connect with your audience. With that said, you do want to feature someone who is comfortable on camera, even if it takes them some practice to get there.
Volume. As long as you’re creating valuable content, the more videos you have, the better.
Consistency. Just like with a blog, magazine, or newsletter, publishing videos at a consistent interval allows you to more easily build an engaged audience of return viewers.
Examples of B-level video include this one from Solo, Simple Strat (hi!), and Moz, below:
C-level video content
This is the level where brands can really connect with their audience and stand out from the competition. C-level videos are raw, unpolished, and extremely effective in humanizing your brand and the team behind it.
To create a C-level video, all you need to do is pull out your cell phone or turn on your webcam, press record, and start talking. You may want to prepare a few quick bullet points of what you’re going to talk about, but even that is often unnecessary. These videos are great for sharing lessons on-location from industry events, making key employees shine on their social media channels, helping your salespeople stand out in their prospects’ email inboxes, and adding a personal touch to your customer service communications.
The most powerful aspects of C-level videos are that they can be personalized for individual people and they can help you get information out in almost realtime. You can use them to pack an extra punch in any email you send or to share lessons as you learn them or think about them — which is often when you’re most passionate about them and before the competition has a chance to talk about them.
C-level videos still require good lighting and audio quality, so we do recommend purchasing a cheap portable light and lapel microphone, but you can easily get everything you need for under $50. These videos don’t require anyone else to shoot them, and you often don’t need to do any editing beyond occasionally cutting out or combining a couple of video clips.
Now that you know the different levels of video content you’ll need, it’s time to put together your plan. Thinking about these levels as you begin to determine your video topics and schedules will make it easier to determine the resources you’ll need, your ideal number and frequency of videos, and how each video will fit into your larger marketing strategy and goals. Just remember your ABCs and get ready to experience the difference that video will make for your brand.
Are you currently working on a video marketing strategy for the year? What have you found useful (or not) so far?