Python is a programming language that can help you uncover incredible SEO insights and save you time by automating time-consuming tasks. But for those who haven’t explored this side of search, it can be intimidating. In this episode of Whiteboard Friday, Britney Muller and a true python expert named Pumpkin offer an intro into a helpful tool that’s worth your time to learn.
Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high resolution version in a new tab!
Hey, Moz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Today we’re talking all about introduction to Python, which is why I have a special co-host here. She is a ball python herself, total expert. Her name is Pumpkin, and she’s the best.
What is Python?
So what is Python? This has been in the industry a lot lately. There’s a lot of commotion that you should know how to use it or know how to talk about it. Python is an open source, object-oriented programming language that was created in 1991.
Simpler to use than R
Some fun facts about Python is it’s often compared to R, but it’s arguably more simple to use. The syntax just oftentimes feels more simple and common-sense, like when you’re new to programming.
Big companies use it
Huge companies use it. NASA, Google, tons of companies out there use it because it’s widely supported.
It’s open source
It is open source. So pretty cool. While we’re going through this Whiteboard Friday, I would love it if we would do a little Python programming today. So I’m just going to ask that you also visit this in another tab, python.org/downloads. Download the version for your computer and we’ll get back to that.
Why does Python matter?
So why should you care?
Automates time-consuming tasks
Python is incredibly powerful because it helps you automate time-consuming tasks. It can do these things at scale so that you can free up your time to work on higher-level thinking, to work on more strategy. It’s really, really exciting where these things are going.
Log file analysis
Some examples of that are things like log file analysis. Imagine if you could just set up an automated system with Python to alert you any time one of your primary pages wasn’t being crawled as frequently as it typically is. You can do all sorts of things. Let’s say Google crawls your robots.txt and it throws out a server error, which many of you know causes huge problems. It can alert you. You can set up scripts like that to do really comprehensive tasks.
Internal link analysis
Some other examples, internal link analysis, it can do a really great job of that.
Discover keyword opportunities
It can help you discover keyword opportunities by looking at bulk keyword data and identifying some really important indicators.
It’s really great for things like image optimization. It can auto tag and alt text images. It can do really powerful things there.
It can also scrape the websites that you’re working with to do really high volume tasks.
Google Search Console data analysis
It can also pull Google Search Console data and do analysis on those types of things.
I do have a list of all of the individuals within SEO who are currently doing really, really powerful things with Python. I highly suggest you check out some of Hamlet Batista’s recent scripts where he’s using Python to do all sorts of really cool SEO tasks.
How do you run Python?
What does this even look like? So you’ve hopefully downloaded Python as a programming language on your computer. But now you need to run it somewhere. Where does that live?
Set up a virtual environment using Terminal
So first you should be setting up a virtual environment. But for the purpose of these examples, I’m just going to ask that you pull up your terminal application.
It looks like this. You could also be running Python within something like Jupyter Notebook or Google Colab. But just pull up your terminal and let’s check and make sure that you’ve downloaded Python properly.
Check to make sure you’ve downloaded Python properly
So the first thing that you do is you open up the terminal and just type in “python –version.” You should see a readout of the version that you downloaded for your computer. That’s awesome.
Activate Python and perform basic tasks
So now we’re just going to activate Python and do some really basic tasks. So just type in “python” and hit Enter. You should hopefully see these three arrow things within your terminal. From here, you can do something like print (“Hello, World!”). So you enter it exactly like you see it here, hit Enter, and it will say “Hello, World!” which is pretty cool.
You can also do fun things like just basic math. You can add two numbers together using something like this. So these are individual lines. After you complete the print (sum), you’ll see the readout of the sum of those two numbers. You can randomly generate numbers. I realize these aren’t direct SEO applications, but these are the silly things that give you confidence to run programs like what Hamlet talks about.
Have fun — try creating a random number generator
So I highly suggest you just have fun, create a little random number generator, which is really cool. Mine is pulling random numbers from 0 to 100. You can do 0 to 10 or whatever you’d like. A fun fact, after you hit Enter and you see that random number, if you want to continue, using your up arrow will pull up the last command within your terminal.
It even goes back to these other ones. So that’s a really quick way to rerun something like a random number generator. You can just crank out a bunch of them if you want for some reason.
Automating different tasks
This is where you can start to get into really cool scripts as well for pulling URLs using Requests HTML. Then you can pull unique information from web pages.
You can pull at bulk tens of thousands of title tags within a URL list. You can pull things like H1s, canonicals, all sorts of things, and this makes it incredibly easy to do it at scale. One of my favorite ways to pull things from URLs is using xpath within Python.
This is a lot easier than it looks. So this might be an xpath for some websites, but websites are marked up differently. So when you’re trying to pull something from a particular site, you can right-click into Chrome Developer Tools. Within Chrome Developer Tools, you can right-click what it is that you’re trying to scrape with Python.
You just select “Copy xpath,” and it will give you the exact xpath for that website, which is kind of a fun trick if you’re getting into some of this stuff.
What are libraries? How do we make this stuff more and more powerful? Python is really strong on its own, but what makes it even stronger are these libraries or packages which are add-ons that do incredible things.
This is just a small percentage of libraries that can do things like data collection, cleaning, visualization, processing, and deployment. One of my favorite ways to get some of the more popular packages is just to download Anaconda, because it comes with all of these commonly used, most popular packages.
So it’s kind of a nice way to get all of it in one spot or at least most of them.
So you’ve kind of dipped your toes and you kind of understand what Python is and what people are using it for. Where can you learn more? How can you start? Well, Codecademy has a really great Python course, as well as Google, Kaggle, and even the Python.org website have some really great resources that you can check out.
This is a list of individuals I really admire in the SEO space, who are doing incredible work with Python and have all inspired me in different ways. So definitely keep an eye on what they are up to:
But yeah, Pumpkin and I have really enjoyed this, and we hope you did too. So thank you so much for joining us for this special edition of Whiteboard Friday. We will see you soon. Bye, guys.
New year, new you — when it comes to SEO reporting, at least! We’re kicking off 2020 with a comprehensive yet gloriously simple recipe from Cyrus Shepard for creating truly effective SEO reports. From tying KPIs to business metrics to delivering bad news effectively, your reports have never looked so good.
Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high resolution version in a new tab!
Okay, so we have 400 broken pages. Ah, we rank number 7 for best plumbers in Idaho. Oh, hey, Moz fans. I’m Cyrus Shepard. Today I’m talking about SEO reports, specifically how to create 10x SEO reports.
I’ve gotten hundreds of SEO reports like this in my career, and I’ve got to tell you that’s useless. No one is reading those. This is unfortunate because this is your direct way to communicate the value of what you’re doing, drive action, and essentially make more money with your job. Now a good SEO report tries to accomplish three things:
You want to tie the report directly to your business metrics.
You want to show the value of SEO, what you’re doing, how SEO is delivering to those business metrics.
Finally, you want to drive action. When people read your SEO report, you want them to take action on specific things, fix site issues, those sorts of things, etc.
But people make a lot of mistakes. Typically, if you’ve created SEO reports, if you’ve read SEO reports, you’ve seen these mistakes over and over and over again:
It’s not a site audit. It’s not a list of every single thing that is wrong, every single traffic metric. It’s usually just the top things, the things that we want to focus people’s attention on.
It’s not something that only delivers good news. You see these time and time again, SEO reports, they paint a rosy picture. But people aren’t dumb. They know that if their business is not improving and you’re continually delivering good news, you’re not really tying SEO to the business.
So we want to create even reports.
5 things to include in every SEO report
Now over the years, with the reports I’ve created, I find that there are generally five key things that you want to include in every SEO report that help you drive action and show the value of SEO and ultimately help you make more money.
1. 2–4 KPIs
The first thing that you want to include in every SEO report is KPIs. These are key performance indicators. These tie directly to your business metrics. Generally, you want to include about two to four of these. You want to keep them top of mind.
A) Conversions, goals, sign-ups, downloads, etc.
Now, generally in SEO, these can be conversions, goals, e-commerce, how many things are you selling. It can be sign-ups for your email newsletter. It can be downloads.
Generally, anything having to do with money, your business metrics, or your key performance indicators, these are good things to include.
Pro tip: When reporting on your key performance indicator, organic traffic, the SEO work that you do is often the last conversion channel that people will use. So it’s good to use assisted conversions.
This is often found in Google Analytics or whatever analytics program that you use. This will set a look-back window and show how organic traffic, how your SEO efforts contributed even if their last visit was direct. So it’s good researching that and understanding how you can use assisted conversions in your reporting.
B) Traffic MoM, YoY
Another key performance indicator that is very common in SEO reports is traffic. In fact, some people like to lead with it. I like to lead with the business metrics. But it’s inevitable that if you’re doing an SEO report, you’re going to include traffic.
Now if you want to make that traffic report a little more valuable, you need comparisons, generally month-to-month comparisons or more useful year-over-year comparisons. This helps avoid the problem of like traffic was down because of Christmas or a certain holiday or regional event.
So when you compare year-over-year, you can show actual performance that varies a little more reasonably.
2. Search visibility & share of voice
Second, and this is where a lot of people stumble, search visibility or share of voice (SOV). Now where people stumble is this is not a rankings report.
A lot of SEO reports include rankings. Rankings, I’ve got to say, really aren’t the best thing to include in your reports. Rankings fluctuate. They are so personalized from country, device, and individuals. So including rankings for individual keywords is not very informative. Fortunately, there are many great alternatives that you can include that are much superior to rankings.
A) Search visibility (click estimates)
Search visibility, you’ll find this in many SEO tools. Moz has it. Different SEO tools have it. It’s basically an estimation of clicks for all your tracked keywords. So if you’re tracking hundreds or thousands of keywords, search visibility can show you an estimation of how much traffic you’re actually getting from those keywords based on rank and search volume and things like that.
B) Share of voice (visibility & volume)
Share of voice is very similar to that, but it’s not based on clicks. It’s based on visibility and volume. For enterprise, STAT does an excellent job with share of voice. What’s cool about share of voice is it tracks all of your keywords against all of your competitors for those keywords. So if you have 200 keywords ranking for best plumbers in Wisconsin, it will show you where all your competitors are and how much of that traffic you are actually gaining, whether it’s 13% or 30%. That way you can track against your competitors. It’s a much better metric than those individual keywords that don’t tell you much.
C) Rank index (grouped keywords)
Finally, if you don’t have access to the premium SEO tools, you can do something which is called a rank index. A.J. Kohn has an excellent post on this. It’s a little older, but still very relevant.
A rank index is basically grouping all of your keywords by type. For example, maybe they all have the word “plumber” in them. You track their rankings together as a group, hundreds or thousands of keywords, and you can see fluctuations. That gives you a much better performance indicator than those individual keywords.
3. Site health
This is your on-page work, your technical SEO. Again, where most people stumble, this is not an audit. You don’t want to list every issue on your site, all the 404s, all the 500s, and things like that because no one really wants to read those things. They get very repetitive.
Focus on your most important issues
Instead you want to focus only on your most important issues. Generally, when I create an SEO report, that’s three to five issues. If people want more information, you can deliver it to them. You can give them in-depth downloads, site stats, and all that. But for the report, we only want to focus people’s attention on three to five issues, that they can actually fix, that you want them to work on. We’re going to list the most important issues on there that we want them to take action on.
Pro tip: When you’re writing your site health report, use the word “because.” When you use the word “because,” it helps people take action. For example, “We have a lot of 404 pages on the site because we introduced some new broken links.” That tells people that we have a problem, this is why, and they want to take action.
Also, if you’ve made any progress since the last time you showed the report, you fixed those 404s, this is a good place to include it.
4. Content performance
One thing I like to include, that often isn’t, is content performance. This is your top content, whether it’s a blog or whatever content you produce, by links, shares, and traffic.
Drive actions through recommendations
Now the reason I like to point out to the site owners content performance is because I want to show them what’s performing well to encourage them to create more of it. I want to drive action through recommendations. This content, this blog post that Britney wrote did very, very well. We should have Britney write another one on this.
Suggest topics, keywords, and authors
By doing this, you’re helping your client or your boss or whatever help you by creating that content that’s going to do well.
Highlight low-performing content
Also, if you want to highlight low-performing content or content that has gone stale and is going down, this is also a helpful place to do that, just to help inform the decisions of your content team.
This is probably the most important one. This is the crux of the SEO report — opportunities. Opportunities is the key that you’re trying to drive here. These are recommendations.
4–5 recommendations per month
Based on everything that we talked about here, what are the four or five most important things that we can do right now to improve SEO next month?
You want to prioritize. This is the most important. This is the second.
Keep it simple
We want to employ KISS. If you’re not familiar with KISS, it’s an acronym, keep it simple, stupid. You’re not stupid. You’re just going to keep it simple.
You want to make your recommendations as simple and easy to follow as possible. One, two, three, four, that’s it. We’re not going to include everything. A lot of SEO reports want to list dozens of things. We want to hold those back. If you have dozens of fixes that you need fixed on the site, it’s probably not a great thing to put them in there because you’re going to overwhelm your clients and bosses and people taking action.
Provide exact steps monthly
Again, four to five a month or whatever sort of cadence you’re on, weekly, monthly, and how many things you think your client can reasonably tackle. Next month you’ll give them four to five more, and you’ll stay employed and you’ll continually have a new list of things to work on.
Tie fixes to KPIs
You want to make sure they’re tied to the KPIs.
We want to fix these because they directly influence these. In fact, I want to shake things up a little bit. I know we listed number five as opportunities. Don’t end your report with that. Make opportunities the number one thing in your report. Open it up, here are the opportunities, and then here are KPIs, search visibility, etc., so they know exactly what they should be working on.
We just released a new guide on SEO reporting. You should check it out:
What are the benefits of transcribing your podcasts and what’s the best way to go about getting them on your site? Niki Mosier breaks it down into 8 easy steps in this week’s episode of Whiteboard Friday.
Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high resolution version in a new tab!
Hey, Moz fans. Here’s another edition of Whiteboard Friday. I’m Niki Mosier, a senior SEO account manager at Two Octobers, and I’m here today to talk to you about the not-so-secret value of podcast transcripts.
I got the idea to play around with podcast transcripts after hearing Moz’s Britney Muller talk about machine learning and podcast transcripts at TechSEO Boost last fall.
+15% increase in organic traffic, +50% keyword lift
I ended up getting the opportunity to play around with this a little bit with a pro bono client we had at a previous job, the Davis Phinney Foundation. They do Parkinson’s research and Parkinson’s education. They were already podcasting, and then they also had a pretty robust blog, but they weren’t adding their podcast transcripts. After about three months of adding a couple of podcast transcripts, we saw some pretty good value for them. We saw a 15% increase in organic traffic to the website and a 50% increase to some keyword lift around the keywords that we were tracking.
Google is now indexing podcasts
Why we think this is relevant right now, as you may know, Google announced, at I/O 2019, that they are indexing podcasts. If you do a search for your favorite podcast, you’ll see that come up in the Google search results now. So adding that podcast transcript or any audio transcript to your website, whether that’s video, a webinar, or anything, just has some really good value.
How to transcribe & optimize your podcasts
I’m going to walk you through the process that I used for them. It’s super easy and you can turn around and apply it to your own website.
1. Download your audio file
So obviously, download the audio file, whether that’s MP3 or MP4 or whatever you have, from your video, podcast, or your webinars if you’re doing those.
2. Transcribe it
You need to be able to get that text transcript, so running it through either Temi or Otter.ai, both two resources that I’ve used, both really good. Otter.ai seems to be a little cleaner out of the gate, but I would definitely obviously go through and edit and make sure that all of your text and speaker transitions and everything is accurate.
3. Figure out which keywords the content should rank for
Next up is figuring out what keywords that you want that content to rank for, so doing some search volume research, figuring out what those keywords are, and then benchmarking that keyword data, so whether your website is already ranking for some of those keywords or you have new keywords that you want those pages or those posts to be ranking for.
4. Get a competitive snapshot
Next up is getting a competitive snapshot, so looking at who’s ranking for those keywords that you’re going to be trying to go after, who has those answer boxes, who has those featured snippets, and then also what are the people also ask features for those keywords.
5. Get your content on-site
Obviously getting that content on your site, whether that’s creating brand-new content, either a blog or a page to go with that podcast, video, webinar, or whatever it is, or adding to it to existing content.
Maybe you have some evergreen content that’s not performing well for you anymore. Adding a transcript to that content could really kind of give it a lift and make it work better for you.
6. Optimize the content
Next up is optimizing the content on your site, so adding in those keywords to your metadata, to your image alt tags, your H1 tags, and then also adding any relevant schema, so whether that’s blog post schema most likely or any other schema type that would be helpful, getting that up there on the page as well.
7. Make sure the page is indexed in Search Console
Once you’ve done all the hard work, you’ve got the transcript up there, you have your content and you have it optimized, you obviously want to tell Google, so going into Search Console, having them index that page, whether it’s a new page or an existing page, either way, dropping that URL in there, making sure Google is crawling it, and then if it is a new page, making sure it’s in your sitemap.
8. Annotate the changes in Google Analytics
Then the last thing is you want to be able to track and figure out if it’s working for you. So annotating that in Google Analytics so you know what page, when you added it, so you can have that benchmark date, looking at where you’re ranking, and then also looking at those SERP features. Have you gotten any featured snippets?
Are you showing up in those answer boxes? Anything like that. So that’s kind of the process. Super easy, pretty straightforward. Just play with it, test it out.
If Google is indexing podcasts, why does this matter?
Then kind of lastly, why is this still important if Google is already indexing podcasts? They may come out and do their own transcription of your podcast or your video or whatever content you have on the site.
Obviously, you want to be in control of what that content is that’s going on your site, and then also just having it on there is super important. From an accessibility standpoint, you want Google to be able to know what that content is, and you want anyone else who may have a hearing impairment, they can’t listen to the content that you’re producing, you want them to be able to access that content. Then, as always, just the more content, the better. So get out there, test it, and have fun. Thanks, Moz fans.
Clean, useful Google Analytics data is all-important — both for you, and for the clients and colleagues that will be working on the site in the future. Ruth Burr Reedy shares her absolute best tips for getting your Analytics data accurate, consistent, and future-proof in this week’s Whiteboard Friday.
Hi, Moz fans. I’m Ruth Burr Reedy, and I am the Vice President of Strategy at UpBuild. We’re a technical marketing agency specializing in technical SEO and advanced web analytics. One of the things I wanted to talk about today, Whiteboard Friday, is about analytics.
So when I talk to SEOs about analytics and ask them, “When it comes to analytics, what do you do? What do you do first? When you’re taking on a new client, what do you do?” SEOs are often really eager to tell me, “I dive into the data. Here’s what I look like.Here are the views that I set up. Here’s how I filter things. Here’s where I go to gain insights.”
But what I often don’t hear people talk about, that I think is a super important first step with a new client or a new Analytics account, or really any time if you haven’t done it, is making sure your Analytics data is accurate and consistent. Taking the time to do some basic Analytics housekeeping is going to serve you so far into the future and even beyond your time at that given client or company.
The people who come after you will be so, so, so thankful that you did these things. So today we’re going to talk about actually accurate analytics.
Is your Analytics code on every page?
So the first question that you should ask yourself is: Is your Analytics code on every page? Is it?
Are you sure? There are a lot of different things that can contribute to your Analytics code not actually being on every single page of your website. One of them is if portions of your site have a different CMS from the main CMS that’s driving your site.
Forums, subdomains, landing pages
We see this a lot with things like subdomains, with things like forums. A really common culprit is if you’re using a tool like Marketo or HubSpot or Unbounce to build landing pages, it’s really easy to forget to put Analytics on those pages.
Over time those pages are out there in the world. Maybe it’s just one or two pages. You’re not seeing them in Analytics at all, which means you’re probably not thinking about them, especially if they’re old. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t still exist and that they aren’t still getting views and visits.
Find orphan pages
So, okay, how do we know about these pages? Well, before you do anything, it’s important to remember that, because of the existence of orphan pages, you can’t only rely on a tool like Screaming Frog or DeepCrawl to do a crawl of your site and make sure that code is on every page, because if the crawler can’t reach the page and your code is not on the page, it’s kind of in an unseeable, shrouded in mystery area and we don’t want that.
Export all pages
The best way, the most sure way to make sure that you are finding every page is to go to your dev team, to go to your developers and ask them to give you an export of every single URL in your database. If you’re using WordPress, there’s actually a really simple tool you can use. It’s called Export All URLs in the grand tradition of very specifically named WordPress tools.
But depending on your CMS and how your site is set up, this is something that you can almost certainly do. I need a list of every single URL on the website, every single URL in our database. Your dev team can almost certainly do this. When you get this, what you can do, you could, if you wanted, simply load that list of URLs. You’d want to filter out things like images and make sure you’re just looking at the HTML documents.
Dedupe with Screaming Frog
Once you had that, you could load that whole thing into Screaming Frog as a list. That would take a while. What you could do instead, if you wanted, is run a Screaming Frog crawl and then dedupe that with Screaming Frog. So now you’ve got a list of your orphan pages, and then you’ve got a list of all of the pages that Screaming Frog can find. So now we have a list of every single page on the website.
We can use either a combination of crawler and list or just the list, depending on how you want to do it, to run the following custom search.
What to do in Screaming Frog
Configuration > Custom > Search
So in Screaming Frog, what you can do is you can go to Configuration and then you go to Custom Search. It will pop up a custom search field. What this will allow you to do is while the crawler is crawling, it will search for a given piece of information on a page and then fill that in a custom field within the crawler so that you can then go back and look at all of the pages that have this piece of information.
What I like to do when I’m looking for Analytics information is set up two filters actually — one for all of the pages that contain my UA identifier and one for all of the pages that don’t contain it. Because if I just have a list of all the pages that contain it, I still don’t know which pages don’t contain it. So you can do this with your unique Google Analytics identifier.
If you’re deploying Google Analytics through Google Tag Manager, instead you would look for your GTM Number, your GTM ID. So it just depends how you’ve implemented Analytics. You’re going to be looking for one of those two numbers. Almost every website I’ve worked on has at least a few pages that don’t have Analytics on them.
What you’ll sometimes also find is that there are pages that have the code or that should have the code on them, but that still aren’t being picked up. So if you start seeing these errors as you’re crawling, you can use a tool like Tag Assistant to go in and see, “Okay, why isn’t this actually sending information back to Google Analytics?” So that’s the best way to make sure that you have code on every single page.
Is your code in the <head> and as high as possible?
The other thing you want to take a look at is whether or not your Analytics code is in the head of every page and as close to the top of the head as possible. Now I know some of you are thinking like, “Yeah, that’s Analytics implementation 101.” But when you’re implementing Analytics, especially if you’re doing so via a plug-in or via GTM, and, of course, if you’re doing it via GTM, the implementation rules for that are a little bit different, but it’s really easy for over time, especially if your site is old, other things to get added to the head by other people who aren’t you and to push that code down.
Now that’s not necessarily the end of the world. If it’s going to be very difficult or time-consuming or expensive to fix, you may decide it’s not worth your time if everything seems like it’s firing correctly. But the farther down that code gets pushed, the higher the likelihood that something is going to go wrong, that something is going to fire before the tracker that the tracker is not going to pick up, that something is going to fire that’s going to prevent the tracker from firing.
It could be a lot of different things, and that’s why the best practice is to have it as high up in the head as possible. Again, whether or not you want to fix that is up to you.
Update your settings:
Once you’ve gotten your code firing correctly on every single page of your website, I like to go into Google Analytics and change a few basic settings.
1. Site Speed Sample Rate
The first one is the Site Speed Sample Rate.
So this is when you’re running site speed reports in Google Analytics. Typically they’re not giving you site timings or page timings for the site as a whole because that’s a lot of data. It’s more data than GA really wants to store, especially in the free version of the tool. So instead they use a sample, a sample set of pages to give you page timings. I think typically it’s around 1%.
That can be a very, very small sample if you don’t have a lot of traffic. It can become so small that the sample size is skewed and it’s not relevant. So I usually like to bump up that sample size to more like 10%. Don’t do 100%. That’s more data than you need. But bump it up to a number that’s high enough that you’re going to get relevant data.
2. Session and Campaign Timeout
The other thing that I like to take a look at when I first get my hands on a GA account is the Session and Campaign Timeout. So session timeout is basically how long somebody would have to stay on your website before their first session is over and now they’ve begun a new session if they come back and do something on your site where now they’re not being registered as part of their original visit.
Historically, GA automatically determined session timeout at 30 minutes. But this is a world where people have a million tabs open. I bet you right now are watching this video in one of a million tabs. The longer you have a tab open, the more likely it is that your session will time out. So I like to increase that timeout to at least 60 minutes.
The other thing that Google automatically does is set a campaign timeout. So if you’re using UTM parameters to do campaign tracking, Google will automatically set that campaign timeout at six months. So six months after somebody first clicks that UTM parameter, if they come back, they’re no longer considered part of that same campaign.
They’re now a new, fresh user. Your customer lifecycle might not be six months. If you’re like a B2B or a SaaS company, sometimes your customer lifecycle can be two years. Sometimes if you’re like an e-com company, six months is a really long time and you only need 30 days. Whatever your actual customer lifecycle is, you can set your campaign timeout to reflect that.
I know very few people who are actually going to make that window shorter. But you can certainly make that longer to reflect the actual lifecycle of your customers.
Then the third thing that I like to do when I go into a Google Analytics account is annotate what I can. I know a lot of SEOs, when you first get into a GA account, you’re like, “Well, no one has been annotating.Ho-hum. I guess going forward, as of today, we’re going to annotate changes going forward.”
That’s great. You should definitely be annotating changes. However, you can also take a look at overall traffic trends and do what you can to ask your coworkers or your client or whatever your relationship is to this account, “What happened here?” Do you remember what happened here? Can I get a timeline of major events in the company, major product releases, press releases, coverage in the press?
Things that might have driven traffic or seen a spike in traffic, product launches. You can annotate those things historically going back in time. Just because you weren’t there doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. All right. So our data is complete. It’s being collected the way that we want to, and we’re tracking what’s happening.
Cool. Now let’s talk about account setup. I have found that many, many people do not take the time to be intentional and deliberate when it comes to how they set up their Google Analytics account. It’s something that just kind of happens organically over time. A lot of people are constrained by defaults. They don’t really get what they’re doing.
What we can do, even if this is not a brand-new GA account, is try to impose some structure, order, consistency, and especially some clarity, not only for ourselves as marketers, but for anybody else who might be using this GA account either now or in the future. So starting out with just your basic GA structure, you start with your account.
Your Account Name is usually just your company name. It doesn’t totally matter what your Account Name is. However, if you’re working with a vendor, I know they’d prefer that it be your company name as opposed to something random that only makes sense to you internally, because that’s going to make it easier for them. But if you don’t care about that, you could conceivably name your account whatever you want. Most of the time it is your company name.
Then you’ve got your property, and you might have various properties. A good rule of thumb is that you should have one property per website or per group of sites with the same experience. So if you have one experience that goes on and off of a subdomain, maybe you have mysite.com and then you also have store.mysite.com, but as far as the user experience is concerned it’s one website, that could be one property.
That’s kind of where you want to delineate properties is based on site experiences. Then drilling down to views, you can have as many views as you want. When it comes to naming views, the convention that I like to use is to have the site or section name that you’re tracking in that specific view and then information about how that view is set up and how it’s intending to be used.
Don’t assume that you’re going to remember what you were doing last year a year from now. Write it down. Make it clear. Make it easy for people who aren’t you to use. You can have as many views as you want. You can set up views for very small sections of your site, for very specific and weird filters if there are some customizations you want to do. You can set up as many views as you need to use.
1. Raw data – Unfiltered, Don’t Touch
But I think there are three views that you should make sure you have. The first is a Raw Data view. This is a view with no filters on it at all. If you don’t already have one of these, then all of your data in the past is suspect. Having a view that is completely raw and unfiltered means if you do something to mess up the filtering on all your other views, you at least have one source of total raw data.
I know this is not new information for SEOs when it comes to GA account setup, but so many people don’t do it. I know this because I go into your accounts and I see that you don’t have it. If you don’t have it, set it up right now. Pause this video. Go set it up right now and then come back and watch the rest, because it’s going to be good. In addition to naming it “Raw Data Unfiltered,” I like to also add something like “Don’t Touch” or “For Historical Purposes Only,” if you’re not into the whole brevity thing, something that makes it really clear that not only is this the raw data, but also no one should touch it.
This is not the data we’re using. This is not the data we’re make decisions by. This is just our backup. This is our backup data. Don’t touch it.
2. Primary view – Filtered, Use This One
Then you’re going to want to have your Primary view. So however many views you as a marketer set up, there are going to be other people in your organization who just kind of want the data.
So pick a view that’s your primary filtered view. You’re going to have a lot of your basic filters on this, things like filtering out your internal IP range, filtering out known bots. You might set up some filtering to capture the full hostname if you’re tracking between subdomains, things like that. But it’s your primary view with basic filtering. You’re going to want to name that something like “Use This One.”
Sometimes if there’s like one person and they won’t stop touching your raw data, you can even say like, “Nicole Use This One.” Whatever you need to label it so that even if you got sick and were in the hospital and unreachable, you won the lottery, you’re on an island, no one can reach you, people can still say, “Which of these 17 views that are set up should I use? Oh, perhaps it’s the one called ‘Use This One.'” It’s a clue.
3. Test view – Unfiltered
Then I like to always have at least one view that is a Test view. That’s usually unfiltered in its base state. But it’s where I might test out filters or custom dimensions or other things that I’m not ready to roll out to the primary view. You may have additional views on top of those, but those are the three that, in my opinion, you absolutely need to have.
4. All Website Data
What you should not have is a view called “All Website Data.” “All Website Data” is what Google will automatically call a view when you’re first setting up GA. A lot of times people don’t change that as they’re setting up their Analytics. The problem with that is that “All Website Data” means different things to different people. For some people, “All Website Data” means the raw data.
For some people, “All Website Data” means that this is the “Use This One” view. It’s unclear. If I get into a GA account and I see that there is a view named “All Website Data,” I know that this company has not thought about how they’re setting up views and how they’re communicating that internally. Likely there’s going to be some filtering on stuff that shouldn’t have been filtered, some historical mishmash.
It’s a sign that you haven’t taken the time to do it right. In my opinion, a good SEO should never have a view called “All Website Data.” All right. Great. So we’ve got our views set up. Everything is configured the way that we want it. How that’s configured may be up to you, but we’ve got these basic tenets in place.
Let’s talk about goals. Goals are really interesting. I don’t love this about Google Analytics, but goals are forever. Once you set a goal in GA, information that is tracked to that number or that goal number within that goal set will always be tracked back to that. What that means is that say you have a goal that’s “Blue Widget Sales” and you’re tracking blue widget sales.
Goals are forever
Over time you discontinue the blue widget and now you’re only tracking red widget sales. So you rename the “Blue Widget Sales” widget to now it’s called “Red Widget Sales.” The problem is renaming the goal doesn’t change the goal itself. All of that historical blue widget data will still be associated with that goal. Unless you’re annotating carefully, you may not have a good idea of when this goal switched from tracking one thing to be tracking another thing.
This is a huge problem when it comes to data governance and making decisions based on historical data.
The other problem is you have a limited number of goals. So you need to be really thoughtful about how you set up your goals because they’re forever.
Set goals based on what makes you money
A basic rule is that you should set goals based on what makes you money.
You might have a lot of micro conversions. You might have things like newsletter sign-ups or white paper downloads or things like that. If those things don’t make you money, you might want to track those as events instead. More on that in a minute. Whatever you’re tracking as a goal should be related to how you make money. Now if you’re a lead gen biz, things like white paper downloads may still be valuable enough that you want to track them as a goal.
It just depends on your business. Think about goals as money. What’s the site here to do? When you think about goals, again, remember that they’re forever and you don’t get that many of them.
Group goals efficiently
So any time you can group goals efficiently, take some time to think about how you’re going to do that. If you have three different forms and they’re all going to be scheduling a demo in some way or another, but they’re different forms, is there a way that you can have one goal that’s “Schedule a Demo” and then differentiate between which form it was in another way?
Say you have an event category that’s “Schedule a Demo” and then you use the label to differentiate between the forms. It’s one goal that you can then drill down. A classic mistake that I see with people setting up goals is they have the same goal in different places on the website and they’re tracking that differently. When I say, “Hey, this is the same goal and you’re tracking it in three different places,” they often say, “Oh, well, that’s because we want to be able to drill down into that data.”
Great. You can do that in Google Analytics. You can do that via Google Analytics reporting. You can look at what URLs and what site sections people completed a given goal on. You don’t have to build that into the goal. So try to group as efficiently as possible and think long term. If it at any time you’re setting up a goal that you know is someday going to be part of a group of goals, try to set it up in such a way that you can add to that and then drill down into the individual reports rather than setting up new goals, because those 20 slots go quick.
Name goals clearly
The other thing you’re going to want to do with goals and with everything — this is clearly the thesis for my presentation — is name them clearly. Name them things where it would be impossible not to understand exactly what it is. Don’t name your goal “Download.” Don’t name your goal “Thank You Page.”
Name your goal something specific enough that people can look at it at a glance. Even people who don’t work there right now, people in the future, the future people can look at your goals and know exactly what they were. But again, name them not so specifically that you can’t then encompass that goal wherever it exists on the site. So “Download” might be too broad.
“Blue Widget White Paper Download” might be too specific. “White Paper Download” might be a good middle ground there. Whatever it is for you, think about how you’re going to name it in such a way that it’ll make sense to somebody else, even if you don’t work there anymore and they can’t ask you. Now from talking about goals it kind of segues naturally into talking about events, event tracking.
Event tracking is one of the best things about Google Analytics now. It used to be that to track an event you had to add code directly to a page or directly to a link. That was hard to do at scale and difficult to get implemented alongside conflicting dev possibilities. But now, with Google Tag Manager, you can track as many events as you want whenever you want to do them.
You can set them up all by yourself, which means that now you, as the marketer, as the Analytics person, become the person who is in charge of Google Analytics events. You should take that seriously, because the other side of that coin is that it’s very possible to get event creep where now you’re tracking way too many events and you’re tracking them inefficiently and inconsistently in ways that make it difficult to extract insights from them on a macro level.
What do you want and why?
So with events, think about what you want and why. Any time somebody is like, “I want to track this,” ask them, “Okay, what are we going to do with that information?” If they’re like, “I don’t know. I just want to know it.” That might not be a good case to make to track an event. Understand what you’re going to do with the data. Resist the urge to track just for tracking’s sake.
Resist data for data’s sake. I know it’s hard, because data is cool, but try your best.
As you take over, now that you are the person in charge of events, which you are, you’re taking this on, this is yours now, develop naming conventions for your events and then become the absolute arbiter of those conventions. Do not let anybody name anything unless it adheres to your conventions.
Now how you name things is up to you. Some suggestions, for category, I like that to be the site section that something is in or maybe the item type. So maybe it’s product pages. Maybe it’s forms. Maybe it’s videos. However you are going to group these events on a macro level, that should be your category.
The action is the action. So that’s click, submit, play, whatever the action is doing.
Then the label is where I like to get unique and make sure that I’m drilling down to just this one thing. So maybe that’s where I’ll have the actual CTA of the button, or which form it was that people filled out, or what product it was that they purchased. Again, think about information that you can get from other reports.
So for example, you don’t need to capture the URL that the event was recorded on as part of the label, because you can actually go in and look at all of your events by URL and see where that happened without having to capture it in that way. The important thing is that you have rules, that those rules are something that you can communicate to other people, and that they would then be able to name their own categories, actions, and labels in ways that were consistent with yours.
Over time, as you do this and as you rename old events, you’re going to have a more and more usable body of data. You’re going to be increasingly comparing apples to apples. You’re not going to have some things where Click is the action and some things where Click is the label, or things that should be in one category that are in two or three categories. Over time you’re going to have a much more usable and controllable body of event data.
Then you need to be ruthless about consistency with usage of these naming conventions. There will be no just setting up an event real quick. Or, in fact, there will be just setting up an event real quick, but it will be using these rules that you have very thoroughly outlined and communicated to everybody, and that you are then checking up to make sure everything is still tracking the same way. A big thing to watch for when you’re being ruthless about consistency is capitalization.
Capitalization in category action and label and event tracking will come back as two different things. Capital “C” and lowercase “c” category are two different things. So make sure as you’re creating new events that you have some kind of standardization. Maybe it’s the first letter is always capitalized. Maybe it’s nothing is ever capitalized.
It doesn’t matter what it is as long as it’s all the same.
Think about the future!
Then think about the future. Think about the day when you win the lottery and you move to a beautiful island in the middle of the sea and you turn off your phone and you never think about Google Analytics again and you’re lying in the sand and no one who works with you now can reach you. If you never came back to work again, could the people who work there continue the tracking work that you’ve worked so hard to set up?
If not, work harder to make sure that’s the case. Create documentation. Communicate your rules. Get everybody on the same page. Doing so will make this whole organization’s data collection better, more actionable, more usable for years to come. If you do come back to work tomorrow, if in fact you work here for the next 10 years, you’ve just set yourself up for success for the next decade.
Congratulations. So these are the things that I like to do when I first get into a GA account. Obviously, there are a lot of other things that you can do in GA. That’s why we all love GA so much.
But to break it down and give you all some homework that you can do right now.
Check for orphan pages
Tonight, go in and check for orphan pages.
When it comes to Analytics, those might be different or they might be the same as orphan pages in the traditional sense. Make sure your code is on every page.
Rename confusing goals and views (and remove unused ones)
Rename all your confusing stuff. Remove the views that you’re not using. Turn off the goals that you’re not using. Make sure everything is as up to date as possible.
Guard your raw data
Don’t let anybody touch that raw data. Rename it “Do Not Touch” and then don’t touch it.
Annotate as much as you can. Going forward you’re going to annotate all the time, because you can because you’re there, but you can still go back in time and annotate.
Remove old users
One thing that I didn’t really talk about today but you should also do, when it comes to the general health of your Analytics, is go in and check who has user permissions to all of your different Analytics accounts.
Remove old users. Take a look at that once a quarter. Just it’s good governance to do.
Update sampling and timeouts
Then you’re going to update your sampling and your timeouts. If you can do all of these things and check back in on them regularly, you’re going to have a healthy, robust, and extremely usable Analytics ecosystem. Let me know what your favorite things to do in Analytics are. Let me know how you’re tracking events in GTM.
I want to hear all about everything you all are doing in Analytics. So come holler at me in the comments. Thanks.
Are your clients your allies in SEO, or are they passive spectators? Could they even be inadvertently working against you? A better understanding of expectations, goals, and strategy by everyone involved can improve your client relations, provide extra clarity, and reduce the number of times you’re asked to “just SEO a site.”
In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Kameron Jenkins outlines tactics you should know for getting clients and bosses excited about the SEO journey, as well as the risks involved in passivity.
(We were inspired to revisit this classic Whiteboard Friday by our brand-new Mini Guide to SEO Reporting! These two resources go together like a fine La Croix and a well-aged cheese.)
Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!
Hey, everyone, and welcome to this week’s edition of Whiteboard Friday. I am Kameron Jenkins, and I’m the SEO Wordsmith here at Moz. Today I’m going to be talking with you about how to turn your clients from spectators, passive spectators to someone who is proactively interested and an ally in your SEO journey.
So if you’ve ever heard someone come to you, maybe it’s a client or maybe you’re in-house and this is your boss saying this, and they say, “Just SEO my site,” then this is definitely for you. A lot of times it can be really hard as an SEO to work on a site if you really aren’t familiar with the business, what that client is doing, what they’re all about, what their goals are. So I’m going to share with you some tactics for getting your clients and your boss excited about SEO and excited about the work that you’re doing and some risks that can happen when you don’t do that.
So let’s dive right in. All right, first we’re going to talk about tactics.
1. Share news
The first tactic is to share news. In the SEO industry, things are changing all the time, so it’s actually a really great tactic to keep yourself informed, but also to share that news with the client. So here’s an example. Google My Business is now experimenting with a new video format for their post feature. So one thing that you can do is say, “Hey, client, I hear that Google is experimenting with this new format. They’re using videos now. Would you like to try it?”
So that’s really cool because it shows them that you’re on top of things. It shows them that you’re the expert and you’re keeping your finger on the pulse of the industry. It also tells them that they’re going to be a part of this new, cutting-edge technology, and that can get them really, really excited about the SEO work you’re doing. So make sure to share news. I think that can be really, really valuable.
2. Outline your work
The next tip is to outline your work. This one seems really simple, but there is so much to say for telling a client what you’re going to do, doing it, and then telling them that you did it. It’s amazing what can happen when you just communicate with a client more. There have been plenty of situations where maybe I did less tangible work for a client one week, but because I talk to them more, they were more inclined to be happy with me and excited about the work I was doing.
It’s also cool because when you tell a client ahead of time what you’re going to do, it gives them time to get excited about, “Ooh, I can’t wait to see what he or she is going to do next.” So that’s a really good tip for getting your clients excited about SEO.
3. Report results
Another thing is to report on your results. So, as SEOs, it can be really easy to say, hey, I added this page or I fixed these things or I updated this.
But if we detach it from the actual results, it doesn’t really matter how much a client likes you or how much your boss likes you, there’s always a risk that they could pull the plug on SEO because they just don’t see the value that’s coming from it. So that’s an unfortunate reality, but there are tons of ways that you can show the value of SEO. One example is, “Hey, client, remember that page that we identified that was ranking on page two. We improved it. We made all of those updates we talked about, and now it’s ranking on page one. So that’s really exciting. We’re seeing a lot of new traffic come from it.I’m wondering, are you seeing new calls, new leads, an uptick in any of those things as a result of that?”
So that’s really good because it shows them what you did, the results from that, and then it kind of connects it to, “Hey, are you seeing any revenue, are you seeing new clients, new customers,” things like that. So they’re more inclined to see that what you’re doing is making a real, tangible impact on actual revenue and their actual business goals.
4. Acknowledge and guide their ideas
This one is really, really important. It can be hard sometimes to marry best practices and customer service. So what I mean by that is there’s one end of the pendulum where you are really focused on best practices. This is right. This is wrong. I know my SEO stuff. So when a client comes to you and they say, “Hey, can we try this?” and you go, “No, that’s not best practices,”it can kind of shut them down. It doesn’t get them involved in the SEO process. In fact, it just kind of makes them recoil and maybe they don’t want to talk to you, and that’s the exact opposite of what we want here. On the other end of that spectrum though, you have clients who say, “Hey, I really want to try this.I saw this article. I’m interested in this thing. Can you do it for my website?”
Maybe it’s not the greatest idea SEO-wise. You’re the SEO expert, and you see that and you go, “Mm, that’s actually kind of scary. I don’t think I want to do that.” But because you’re so focused on pleasing your client, you maybe do it anyway. So that’s the opposite of what we want as well. We want to have a “no, but” mentality. So an example of that could be your client emails in and says, “Hey, I want to try this new thing.”
You go, “Hey, I really like where your head is at. I like that you’re thinking about things this way. I’m so glad you shared this with me. I tried this related thing before, and I think that would be actually a really good idea to employ on your website.” So kind of shifting the conversation, but still bringing them along with you for that journey and guiding them to the correct conclusions. So that’s another way to get them invested without shying them away from the SEO process.
So now that we’ve talked about those tactics, we’re going to move on to the risks. These are things that could happen if you don’t get your clients excited and invested in the SEO journey.
1. SEO becomes a checklist
When you don’t know your client well enough to know what they’re doing in the real world, what they’re all about, the risk becomes you have to kind of just do site health stuff, so fiddling with meta tags, maybe you’re changing some paragraphs around, maybe you’re changing H1s, fixing 404s, things like that, things that are just objectively, “I can make this change, and I know it’s good for site health.”
But it’s not proactive. It’s not actually doing any SEO strategies. It’s just cleanup work. If you just focus on cleanup work, that’s really not an SEO strategy. That’s just making sure your site isn’t broken. As we all know, you need so much more than that to make sure that your client’s site is ranking. So that’s a risk.
If you don’t know your clients, if they’re not talking to you, or they’re not excited about SEO, then really all you’re left to do is fiddle with kind of technical stuff. As good as that can be to do, our jobs are way more fun than that. So communicate with your clients. Get them on board so that you can do proactive stuff and not just fiddling with little stuff.
2. SEO conflicts with business goals
So another risk is that SEO can conflict with business goals.
So say that you’re an SEO. Your client is not talking to you. They’re not really excited about stuff that you’re doing. But you decide to move forward with proactive strategies anyway. So say I’m an SEO, and I identify this keyword. My client has this keyword. This is a related keyword. It can bring in a lot of good traffic. I’ve identified this good opportunity. All of the pages that are ranking on page one, they’re not even that good. I could totally do better. So I’m going to proactively go, I’m going to build this page of content and put it on my client’s site. Then what happens when they see that page of content and they go, “We don’t even do that. We don’t offer that product. We don’t offer that service.”
Oops. So that’s really bad. What can happen is that, yes, you’re being proactive, and that’s great. But if you don’t actually know what your client is doing, because they’re not communicating with you, they’re not really excited, you risk misaligning with their business goals and misrepresenting them. So that’s a definite risk.
3. You miss out on PR opportunities
Another thing, you miss out on PR opportunities. So again, if your client is not talking to you, they’re not excited enough to share what they’re doing in the real world with you, you miss out on news like, “Hey, we’re sponsoring this event,”or, “Hey, I was the featured expert on last night’s news.”
Those are all really, really good things that SEOs look for. We crave that information. We can totally use that to capitalize on it for SEO value. If we’re not getting that from our clients, then we miss out on all those really, really cool PR opportunities. So a definite risk. We want those PR opportunities. We want to be able to use them.
4. Client controls the conversation
Next up, client controls the conversation. That’s a definite risk that can happen. So if a client is not talking to you, a reason could be they don’t really trust you yet. When they don’t trust you, they tend to start to dictate. So maybe our client emails in.
A good example of this is, “Hey, add these 10 backlinks to my website.” Or, “Hey, I need these five pages, and I need them now.” Maybe they’re not even actually bad suggestions. It’s just the fact that the client is asking you to do that. So this is kind of tricky, because you want to communicate with your client. It’s good that they’re emailing in, but they’re the ones at that point that are dictating the strategy. Whereas they should be communicating their vision, so hey, as a business owner, as a website owner, “This is my vision. This is my goal, and this is what I want.”
As the SEO professional, you’re receiving that information and taking it and making it into an SEO strategy that can actually be really, really beneficial for the client. So there’s a huge difference between just being a task monkey and kind of transforming their vision into an SEO strategy that can really, really work for them. So that’s a definite risk that can happen.
Excitement + partnership = better SEO campaigns
There’s a lot of different things that can happen. These are just some examples of tactics that you can use and risks. If you have any examples of things that have worked for you in the past, I would love to hear about them. It’s really good to information share. Success stories where maybe you got your client or your boss really bought into SEO, more so than just, “Hey, I’m spending money on it.”
But, “Hey, I’m your partner in this. I’m your ally, and I’m going to give you all the information because I know that it’s going to be mutually beneficial for us.” So at the end here, excitement, partner, better SEO campaigns. This is going to be I believe a recipe for success to get your clients and your boss on board. Thanks again so much for watching this edition of Whiteboard Friday, and come back next week for another one.
What are “fraggles” in SEO and how do they relate to mobile-first indexing, entities, the Knowledge Graph, and your day-to-day work? In this glimpse into her 2019 MozCon talk, Cindy Krum explains everything you need to understand about fraggles in this edition of Whiteboard Friday.
Hi, Moz fans. My name is Cindy Krum, and I’m the CEO of MobileMoxie, based in Denver, Colorado. We do mobile SEO and ASO consulting. I’m here in Seattle, speaking at MozCon, but also recording this Whiteboard Friday for you today, and we are talking about fraggles.
So fraggles are obviously a name that I’m borrowing from Jim Henson, who created “Fraggle Rock.” But it’s a combination of words. It’s a combination of fragment and handle. I talk about fraggles as a new way or a new element or thing that Google is indexing.
Fraggles and mobile-first indexing
Let’s start with the idea of mobile-first indexing, because you have to kind of understand that before you can go on to understand fraggles. So I believe mobile-first indexing is about a little bit more than what Google says. Google says that mobile-first indexing was just a change of the crawler.
They had a desktop crawler that was primarily crawling and indexing, and now they have a mobile crawler that’s doing the heavy lifting for crawling and indexing. While I think that’s true, I think there’s more going on behind the scenes that they’re not talking about, and we’ve seen a lot of evidence of this. So what I believe is that mobile-first indexing was also about indexing, hence the name.
Knowledge Graph and entities
So I think that Google has reorganized their index around entities or around specifically entities in the Knowledge Graph. So this is kind of my rough diagram of a very simplified Knowledge Graph. But Knowledge Graph is all about person, place, thing, or idea.
Nouns are entities. Knowledge Graph has nodes for all of the major person, place, thing, or idea entities out there. But it also indexes or it also organizes the relationships of this idea to this idea or this thing to this thing. What’s useful for that to Google is that these things, these concepts, these relationships stay true in all languages, and that’s how entities work, because entities happen before keywords.
This can be a hard concept for SEOs to wrap their brain around because we’re so used to dealing with keywords. But if you think about an entity as something that’s described by a keyword and can be language agnostic, that’s how Google thinks about entities, because entities in the Knowledge Graph are not written up per se or their the unique identifier isn’t a word, it’s a number and numbers are language agnostic.
But if we think about an entity like mother, mother is a concept that exists in all languages, but we have different words to describe it. But regardless of what language you’re speaking, mother is related to father, is related to daughter, is related to grandfather, all in the same ways, even if we’re speaking different languages. So if Google can use what they call the “topic layer”and entities as a way to filter in information and understand the world, then they can do it in languages where they’re strong and say, “We know that this is true absolutely 100% all of the time.”
Then they can apply that understanding to languages that they have a harder time indexing or understanding, they’re just not as strong or the algorithm isn’t built to understand things like complexities of language, like German where they make really long words or other languages where they have lots of short words to mean different things or to modify different words.
Languages all work differently. But if they can use their translation API and their natural language APIs to build out the Knowledge Graph in places where they’re strong, then they can use it with machine learning to also build it and do a better job of answering questions in places or languages where they’re weak. So when you understand that, then it’s easy to think about mobile-first indexing as a massive Knowledge Graph build-out.
We’ve seen this happening statistically. There are more Knowledge Graph results and more other things that seem to be related to Knowledge Graph results, like people also ask, people also search for, related searches. Those are all describing different elements or different nodes on the Knowledge Graph. So when you see those things in the search, I want you to think, hey, this is the Knowledge Graph showing me how this topic is related to other topics.
When you put this in that context, it makes more sense. He wants the entity understanding, or he knows that the entity understanding is really important, so the href lang is also really important. So that’s enough of that. Now let’s talk about fraggles.
Fraggles = fragment + handle
So fraggles, as I said, are a fragment plus a handle. It’s important to know that fraggles — let me go over here —fraggles and fragments, there are lots of things out there that have fragments. So you can think of native apps, databases, websites, podcasts, and videos. Those can all be fragmented.
Even though they don’t have a URL, they might be useful content, because Google says its goal is to organize the world’s information, not to organize the world’s websites. I think that, historically, Google has kind of been locked into this crawling and indexing of websites and that that’s bothered it, that it wants to be able to show other stuff, but it couldn’t do that because they all needed URLs.
But with fragments, potentially they don’t have to have a URL. So keep these things in mind — apps, databases and stuff like that — and then look at this.
So this is a traditional page. If you think about a page, Google has kind of been forced, historically by their infrastructure, to surface pages and to rank pages. But pages sometimes struggle to rank if they have too many topics on them.
So for instance, what I’ve shown you here is a page about vegetables. This page may be the best page about vegetables, and it may have the best information about lettuce, celery, and radishes. But because it’s got those topics and maybe more topics on it, they all kind of dilute each other, and this great page may struggle to rank because it’s not focused on the one topic, on one thing at a time.
Google wants to rank the best things. But historically they’ve kind of pushed us to put the best things on one page at a time and to break them out. So what that’s created is this “content is king, I need more content, build more pages” mentality in SEO. The problem is everyone can be building more and more pages for every keyword that they want to rank for or every keyword group that they want to rank for, but only one is going to rank number one.
Google still has to crawl all of those pages that it told us to build, and that creates this character over here, I think, Marjory the Trash Heap, which if you remember the Fraggles, Marjory the Trash Heap was the all-knowing oracle. But when we’re all creating kind of low- to mid-quality content just to have a separate page for every topic, then that makes Google’s life harder, and that of course makes our life harder.
So why are we doing all of this work? The answer is because Google can only index pages, and if the page is too long or too many topics, Google gets confused. So we’ve been enabling Google to do this. But let’s pretend, go with me on this, because this is a theory, I can’t prove it. But if Google didn’t have to index a full page or wasn’t locked into that and could just index a piece of a page, then that makes it easier for Google to understand the relationships of different topics to one page, but also to organize the bits of the page to different pieces of the Knowledge Graph.
So this page about vegetables could be indexed and organized under the vegetable node of the Knowledge Graph. But that doesn’t mean that the lettuce part of the page couldn’t be indexed separately under the lettuce portion of the Knowledge Graph and so on, celery to celery and radish to radish. Now I know this is novel, and it’s hard to think about if you’ve been doing SEO for a long time.
But let’s think about why Google would want to do this. Google has been moving towards all of these new kinds of search experiences where we have voice search, we have the Google Home Hub kind of situation with a screen, or we have mobile searches. If you think about what Google has been doing, we’ve seen the increase in people also ask, and we’ve seen the increase in featured snippets.
They’ve actually been kind of, sort of making fragments for a long time or indexing fragments and showing them in featured snippets. The difference between that and fraggles is that when you click through on a fraggle, when it ranks in a search result, Google scrolls to that portion of the page automatically. That’s the handle portion.
So handles you may have heard of before. They’re kind of old-school web building. We call them bookmarks, anchor links, anchor jump links, stuff like that. It’s when it automatically scrolls to the right portion of the page. But what we’ve seen with fraggles is Google is lifting bits of text, and when you click on it, they’re scrolling directly to that piece of text on a page.
So we see this already happening in some results. What’s interesting is Google is overlaying the link. You don’t have to program the jump link in there. Google actually finds it and puts it there for you. So Google is already doing this, especially with AMP featured snippets. If you have a AMP featured snippet, so a featured snippet that’s lifted from an AMP page, when you click through, Google is actually scrolling and highlighting the featured snippet so that you could read it in context on the page.
But it’s also happening in other kind of more nuanced situations, especially with forums and conversations where they can pick a best answer. The difference between a fraggle and something like a jump link is that Google is overlaying the scrolling portion. The difference between a fraggle and a site link is site links link to other pages, and fraggles, they’re linking to multiple pieces of the same long page.
So we want to avoid continuing to build up low-quality or mid-quality pages that might go to Marjory the Trash Heap. We want to start thinking in terms of can Google find and identify the right portion of the page about a specific topic, and are these topics related enough that they’ll be understood when indexing them towards the Knowledge Graph.
Knowledge Graph build-out into different areas
So I personally think that we’re seeing the build-out of the Knowledge Graph in a lot of different things. I think featured snippets are kind of facts or ideas that are looking for a home or validation in the Knowledge Graph. People also ask seem to be the related nodes. People also search for, same thing. Related searches, same thing. Featured snippets, oh, they’re on there twice, two featured snippets. Found on the web, which is another way where Google is putting expanders by topic and then giving you a carousel of featured snippets to click through on.
So we’re seeing all of those things, and some SEOs are getting kind of upset that Google is lifting so much content and putting it in the search results and that you’re not getting the click. We know that 61% of mobile searches don’t get a click anymore, and it’s because people are finding the information that they want directly in a SERP.
That’s tough for SEOs, but great for Google because it means Google is providing exactly what the user wants. So they’re probably going to continue to do this. I think that SEOs are going to change their minds and they’re going to want to be in those windowed content, in the lifted content, because when Google starts doing this kind of thing for the native apps, databases, and other content, websites, podcasts, stuff like that, then those are new competitors that you didn’t have to deal with when it was only websites ranking, but those are going to be more engaging kinds of content that Google will be showing or lifting and showing in a SERP even if they don’t have to have URLs, because Google can just window them and show them.
So you’d rather be lifted than not shown at all. So that’s it for me and featured snippets. I’d love to answer your questions in the comments, and thanks very much. I hope you like the theory about fraggles.
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.
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:
There’s a lot of hype and misinformation about the new Google algorithm update. What actually is BERT, how does it work, and why does it matter to our work as SEOs? Join our own machine learning and natural language processing expert Britney Muller as she breaks down exactly what BERT is and what it means for the search industry.
Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!
Hey, Moz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Today we are talking about all things BERT and I’m super excited to attempt to really break this down for everyone. I don’t claim to be a BERT expert. I have just done lots and lots of research. I’ve been able to interview some experts in the field and my goal is to try to be a catalyst for this information to be a little bit easier to understand.
There is a ton of commotion going on right now in the industry about you can’t optimize for BERT. While that is absolutely true, you cannot, you just need to be writing really good content for your users, I still think many of us got into this space because we are curious by nature. If you are curious to learn a little bit more about BERT and be able to explain it a little bit better to clients or have better conversations around the context of BERT, then I hope you enjoy this video. If not, and this isn’t for you, that’s fine too.
Word of caution: Don’t over-hype BERT!
I’m so excited to jump right in. The first thing I do want to mention is I was able to sit down with Allyson Ettinger, who is a Natural Language Processing researcher. She is a professor at the University of Chicago. When I got to speak with her, the main takeaway was that it’s very, very important to not over-hype BERT. There is a lot of commotion going on right now, but it’s still far away from understanding language and context in the same way that we humans can understand it. So I think that’s important to keep in mind that we are not overemphasizing what this model can do, but it’s still really exciting and it’s a pretty monumental moment in NLP and machine learning. Without further ado, let’s jump right in.
Where did BERT come from?
I wanted to give everyone a wider context to where BERT came from and where it’s going. I think a lot of times these announcements are kind of bombs dropped on the industry and it’s essentially a still frame in a series of a movie and we don’t get the full before and after movie bits. We just get this one still frame. So we get this BERT announcement, but let’s go back in time a little bit.
Natural language processing
Traditionally computers have had an impossible time understanding language. They can store text, we can enter text, but understanding language has always been incredibly difficult for computers. So along comes natural language processing (NLP), the field in which researchers were developing specific models to solve for various types of language understanding. A couple of examples are named entity recognition, classification. We see sentiment, question answering. All of these things have traditionally been sold by individual NLP models and so it looks a little bit like your kitchen.
If you think about the individual models like utensils that you use in your kitchen, they all have a very specific task that they do very well. But when along came BERT, it was sort of the be-all end-all of kitchen utensils. It was the one kitchen utensil that does ten-plus or eleven natural language processing solutions really, really well after it’s fine tuned. This is a really exciting differentiation in the space. That’s why people got really excited about it, because no longer do they have all these one-off things. They can use BERT to solve for all of this stuff, which makes sense in that Google would incorporate it into their algorithm. Super, super exciting.
Where is BERT going?
Where is this heading? Where is this going? Allyson had said,
“I think we’ll be heading on the same trajectory for a while building bigger and better variants of BERT that are stronger in the ways that BERT is strong and probably with the same fundamental limitations.”
There are already tons of different versions of BERT out there and we are going to continue to see more and more of that. It will be interesting to see where this space is heading.
How did BERT get so smart?
How about we take a look at a very oversimplified view of how BERT got so smart? I find this stuff fascinating. It is quite amazing that Google was able to do this. Google took Wikipedia text and a lot of money for computational power TPUs in which they put together in a V3 pod, so huge computer system that can power these models. And they used an unsupervised neural network. What’s interesting about how it learns and how it gets smarter is it takes any arbitrary length of text, which is good because language is quite arbitrary in the way that we speak, in the length of texts, and it transcribes it into a vector.
It will take a length of text and code it into a vector, which is a fixed string of numbers to help sort of translate it to the machine. This happens in a really wild and dimensional space that we can’t even really imagine. But what it does is it puts context and different things within our language in the same areas together. Similar to Word2vec, it uses this trick called masking.
So it will take different sentences that it’s training on and it will mask a word. It uses this bi-directional model to look at the words before and after it to predict what the masked word is. It does this over and over and over again until it’s extremely powerful. And then it can further be fine-tuned to do all of these natural language processing tasks. Really, really exciting and a fun time to be in this space.
In a nutshell, BERT is the first deeply bi-directional. All that means is it’s just looking at the words before and after entities and context, unsupervised language representation, pre-trained on Wikipedia. So it’s this really beautiful pre-trained model that can be used in all sorts of ways.
What are some things BERT cannot do?
Allyson Ettinger wrote this really great research paper called What BERT Can’t Do. There is a Bitly link that you can use to go directly to that. The most surprising takeaway from her research was this area of negation diagnostics, meaning that BERT isn’t very good at understanding negation.
For example, when inputted with a Robin is a… It predicted bird, which is right, that’s great. But when entered a Robin is not a… It also predicted bird. So in cases where BERT hasn’t seen negation examples or context, it will still have a hard time understanding that. There are a ton more really interesting takeaways. I highly suggest you check that out, really good stuff.
How do you optimize for BERT? (You can’t!)
Finally, how do you optimize for BERT? Again, you can’t. The only way to improve your website with this update is to write really great content for your users and fulfill the intent that they are seeking. And so you can’t, but one thing I just have to mention because I honestly cannot get this out of my head, is there is a YouTube video where Jeff Dean, we will link to it, it’s a keynote by Jeff Dean where he speaking about BERT and he goes into natural questions and natural question understanding. The big takeaway for me was this example around, okay, let’s say someone asked the question, can you make and receive calls in airplane mode? The block of text in which Google’s natural language translation layer is trying to understand all this text. It’s a ton of words. It’s kind of very technical, hard to understand.
With these layers, leveraging things like BERT, they were able to just answer no out of all of this very complex, long, confusing language. It’s really, really powerful in our space. Consider things like featured snippets; consider things like just general SERP features. I mean, this can start to have a huge impact in our space. So I think it’s important to sort of have a pulse on where it’s all heading and what’s going on in this field.
I really hope you enjoyed this version of Whiteboard Friday. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments down below and I look forward to seeing you all again next time. Thanks so much.
Video and podcasts are only growing in popularity, proving to be an engaging way to reach your audience and find ways to talk about your industry or product. But it’s a crowded market out there, and finding a good idea is only half the battle. Join video marketing extraordinaire Phil Nottingham from Wistia as he explores how we can both uncover great ideas for a podcast or video series and follow through on them in this week’s episode of Whiteboard Friday.
Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high resolution version in a new tab!
Howdy, Moz fans. My name is Phil Nottingham, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Today we’re going to talk about how to come up with a great idea for your video series or podcast. I think a lot of businesses out there understand that there’s just this great opportunity now to do a longer form series, a show in podcast or video form, but really struggle with that moment of finding what kind of idea could take them to the next level and help them stand out.
I think the most common error that businesses make is to start with the worst idea in the world, which is interviewing our customers about how they use our product. I’m sure many of you have accidentally fallen down this trap, where you’ve thought, “Ah, maybe that will be a good idea.” But the thing is even if you’re Ferrari or Christian Louboutin or the most desirable product in the world, it’s never going to be interesting for someone to sit there and just listen to your customers talking about your product.
The problem is that your customers are not a unique group of people, aside from the fact that they use your product. Usually there isn’t anything else that brings them together. For this kind of content, for a video series and podcast to really stand out and to grow in terms of their audience, we need to harness word of mouth. Word of mouth doesn’t grow through the way we often think about audience growth in marketing.
Many of us, particularly in the performance marketing space, are used to thinking about funnels. So we get more and more traffic into the funnel, get more people in there, and ultimately some of them convert. But the way word of mouth works is that a small group of people start communicating to another group of people who start communicating to another group of people. You have these ever-expanding circles of communication that ultimately allow you to grow your audience.
How to find a niche audience
But that means you need to start with a group of people who are talking to one another. Invariably, your customers are not talking to each other as a kind of rule of thumb. So what you need to do is find a group of people, an audience who are talking to each other, and that really means a subculture, a community, or maybe an interest group. So find your group of customers and work out what is a subset of customers, what kind of community, wider culture they’re part of, a group of people who you could actually speak to.
The way you might find this is using things like Reddit. If there’s a subculture, there’s going to be a subreddit. A tool like SparkToro will allow you to discover other topics that your customer base might be interested in. Slack communities can be a great source of this. Blogs, there’s often any sort of topic or a niche audience have a blog. Hashtags as well on social media and perhaps meetup groups as well.
So spend some time finding who this audience is for your show, a real group of people who are communicating with one another and who ultimately are someone who you could speak to in a meaningful way.
Once you’ve got your audience, you then need to think about the insight. What the insight is, is this gap between desire and outcome. So what you normally find is that when you’re speaking to groups of people, they will have something they want to achieve, but there is a barrier in the way of them doing it.
This might be something to do with tools or hardware/software. It could be just to do with professional experience. It could be to do with emotional problems. It could be anything really. So you need to kind of discover what that might be. The essential way to do that is just through good, old-fashioned talking to people.
Social media interactions,
Data that you have from search, like using Google Search Console,
Internal site search,
That kind of thing might tell you exactly what sort of topics, what problems people are having that they really try to solve in this interest group.
Solve for the barrier
So what we need to do is find this particular little nugget of wisdom, this gold that’s going to give us the insight that allows us to come up with a really good idea to try and solve this barrier, whatever that might be, that makes a difference between desire and outcome for this audience. Once we’ve got that, you might see a show idea starting to emerge. So let’s take a couple of examples.
A few examples
Let’s assume that we are working for like a DIY supplies company. Maybe we’re doing just sort of piping. We will discover that a subset of our customers are plumbers, and there’s a community there of plumbing professionals. Now what might we find about plumbers? Well, maybe it’s true that all plumbers are kind of really into cars, and one of the challenges they have is making sure that their car or their van is up to the job for their work.
Okay, so we now have an interesting insight there, that there’s something to do with improving cars that we could hook up for plumbers. Or let’s say we are doing a furniture company and we’re creating furniture for people. We might discover that a subset of our audience are actually amateur carpenters who really love wooden furniture. Their desire is to become professional.
But maybe the barrier is they don’t have the skills or the experience or the belief that they could actually do that with their lives and their career. So we see these sort of very personal problems that we can start to emerge an idea for a show that we might have.
So once we’ve got that, we can then take inspiration from existing TV and media. I think the mistake that a lot of us make is thinking about the format that we might be doing with a show in a very broad sense.
Don’t think about the format in a broad sense — get specific
So like we’re doing an interview show. We’re doing a talk show. We’re doing a documentary. We’re doing a talent show. Whatever it might be. But actually, if we think about the great history of TV and radio the last hundred years or so, all these really smart formats have emerged. So within talk show, there’s “Inside the Actors Studio,” a very sort of serious, long, in-depth interview with one person about their practice.
There’s “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” which has got lots of kind of set pieces and sketches and things that intermingle with the interview. There’s “Ellen,” where multiple people are interviewed in one show. If we think about documentaries, there’s like fly-on-the-wall stuff, just run and gun with a camera, like “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” Carrying on the food thing, there’s “Chef’s Table,” where it’s very planned and meticulously shot and is an exposé of one particular chef.
Or something like “Ugly Delicious,” which is a bit more like a kind of exploratory piece of documentary, where there’s kind of one protagonist going around the world and they piece it together at the end. So you can think about all these different formats and try to find an idea that maybe has been done before in TV in some format and find your way through that.
A few more examples
So let’s think about our plumber example. Plumbers who love cars, well, we could do “Pimp My Ride for Tradesmen.”
That’s an interesting idea for a talk. Or let’s say we’re going after like amateur carpenters who would love to be professional. We could easily do “American Idol for Lumberjacks or Carpenters.” So we can start to see this idea emerge. Or let’s take a kind of B2B example. Maybe we are a marketing agency, as I’m sure many of you are. If you’re a marketing agency, maybe you know that some of your customers are in startups, and there’s this startup community.
One of the real problems that startups have is getting their product ready for market. So you could kind of think, well, the barrier is getting the product ready for market. We could then do “Queer Eye for Product Teams and Startups,”and we’ll bring in five specialists in different areas to kind of get their product ready and sort of iron out the details and make sure they’re ready to go to market and support marketing.
So you can start to see by having a clear niche audience and an insight into the problems that they’re having, then pulling together a whole list of different show ideas how you can bring together an idea for a potential, interesting TV show, video series, or podcast that could really make your business stand out. But remember that great ideas are kind of 10 a penny, and the really hard thing is finding the right one and making sure that it works for you.
So spend a lot of time coming up with lots and lots of different executions, trying them out, doing kind of little pilots before you work out and commit to the idea that works for you. The most important thing is to keep going and keep trying and teasing out those ideas rather than just settling on the first thing that comes to mind, because usually it’s not going to be the right answer. So I hope that was very useful, and we will see you again on another episode of Whiteboard Friday.