The author’s views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.
Local SEO expert Joy Hawkins joins us for a special edition of Whiteboard Friday, giving you a sneak peek at her MozCon Virtual 2021 presentation: To Post or Not to Post: What We Learned From Analyzing Over 1,000 Google Posts.
Don’t forget to grab your ticket to see Joy and our other incredible speakers, July 12-14!
Hi, Moz fans. It’s Joy Hawkins, and today I’m going to be giving you a preview of the presentation I’m going to be doing later this year at MozCon. It’s all about Google My Business posts.
So if you are unfamiliar with posts, there are currently four different types of Google My Business posts. There are what we call the update posts, which is kind of your typical post that has an image and some text. There are what we call offer posts, event posts, and then last year Google actually released a new one called COVID posts. Now typically all these posts share some similarities, but they’re all a little different.
1. COVID Posts perform well
One of the things that we looked at in the study, that I’m going to be going over at MozCon, is which type performs better.
So specifically we wanted to know: Do they get more clicks? Do they get more conversions? We identified that two of the types definitely outperform the other two. So I’m not going to reveal both. But I’ll tell you that one of the two was the COVID post type. The reason for this I believe is that, unlike the other three types of posts, COVID posts get their own special spot in the knowledge panel.
So I’ve done my best to highlight this here. On the left here, you’ll see that at the bottom there’s usually the post carousel, and it’s underneath reviews, questions and answers, and products. So it’s kind of like shoved down in the search results. Now COVID posts on the other hand, which are featured over here on the right, they show up right at the top, right underneath the business information.
So they’re very visible, and it’s a really good place to get a quick message across. The only downside, of course, is that they don’t have photos. So keep that in mind when you’re figuring out which type to use.
2. Average CTR = 0.5%
Now the second thing that we discovered was that the average click-through rate on all the posts in our study was half a percent, so 0.5%, which means that you need about 200 views on a post before you’re going to get a click.
Now don’t let that discourage you. Keep in mind that that is only tracking clicks that happen on the actual post. So, in reality, people could be calling you more, they could be clicking on your website more, lots of other things. So there are still a lot of reasons why you would want to consider doing Google Posts.
3. GMB does not equal GA
The third thing on my list here is keep in mind, when you are tracking the results from posts, that what you see inside Google My Business Insights is not going to match what you see inside Google Analytics.
Now in this industry, often we use what are called UTM codes, which help you track things better in Google Analytics. If you’re unfamiliar with how those work or how to use them with Google Posts, I’m going to link to an article down below that will explain all of that. But the main thing that you’ve got to remember is that these numbers won’t match. So don’t expect them to match. If you do, you’re going to be very frustrated. Don’t go down that rabbit trail. Just remember that they are tracked differently and you’re going to get different numbers. So pick one and stick with it.
4. Justifications = 60 days
The fourth thing is in regards to justifications. Now if you’re unfamiliar with that term, you’re like, “What are justifications,” Miriam Ellis recently did a blog post here on Moz about this topic, and she explained it really well. So I’m not going to do what she did and explain it. Check out her article, and that will give you all the information you need.
But just in case you’re not familiar and you really don’t know what I’m talking about, I did my best — I’m not an artist — to draw it over here. So let’s say, for example, you’re on Google and you do a search for local SEO, and my agency, Sterling Sky, shows up in the search results.
If we had a post recently that mentioned local SEO, Google might grab that little snippet, the words essentially and stick it right there in the local pack results. This is what we call a justification. So they’re really cool, and it’s a great way to get more words and more messaging in front of your possible consumers. Now the thing to keep in mind here is that post justifications only look at posts that were done from the last 60 days.
So your older posts won’t be looked at. So you’ve got to have a post strategy that is pretty frequent.
5. Seasonal Posts = one of the worst
The fifth thing was that we wanted to look at content types. So people often ask me, “Joy, what should I post about? Like what am I supposed to put in the content in Google Posts?” It comes up a lot as a question.
So we, with our study, basically organized all the different posts we looked at into different categories. Then what I’m going to show at MozCon is the winners and the losers. So one from the losers, that did not perform well, were posts about seasonal topics. Now that shocked me to be completely honest. But what I’m talking about here is let’s say you have a dermatologist and it’s coming close to Christmas.
So you use like Christmassy wording and Christmas emojis and like Christmas stuff to try and make the post kind of be more relevant. These did not perform well. So it kind of surprised me, but that was one from our losers list.
6. Use emojis!
One from our winners list was emojis, point number six. So emojis are great. Some of you may be excited by this. Some of you might roll your eyes.
If you love emojis, this is one of the strategies that we saw that actually helped performance on Google Posts. So make sure you use emojis if you are trying to get people’s attention. Posts with them outperformed posts without them.
7. Update Posts = 6 months
Finally, the last tip I’m going to share with you today is in regards to the update posts. Now if you’re not familiar with the term “update posts,” I kind of made it up because there was no name for the traditional post inside Google My Business.
So it sent updates, so we just called it that. But this was the type of post that, if you remember when Google first launched this feature, you would do a post and it would last for seven days, and after seven days, it would get deleted from your knowledge panel. So it was essentially invisible, which was a little annoying because you don’t want to have to go and post every seven days. Because you can’t schedule a post natively inside Google My Business, it was a bit of a headache to try and keep up with this as a business owner.
So the good news is that several months ago Google changed this, and now these posts actually stay on your knowledge panel for a long time. But I wanted to know exactly how long they stayed on there, so I tracked some and came to the conclusion that they stay on your knowledge panel for six months. So essentially what that means is if you made one update post, never posted again, it would stay there for six months and then it would disappear, which is a lot better than seven days.
So keep these tips in mind when you are coming up with your post strategy. Obviously to get a lot more, feel free to check out my talk at MozCon upcoming later this year. Some of the things that I’ll be talking about there — there’s a lot that I didn’t cover — I’ll be addressing if posts impact ranking, which is probably the number one question that I get asked, and I’ll also be going through a lot more of the winning and losing strategies that we found from the study.
Thanks for listening, and if you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments.
Understanding search intent can be the secret ingredient that brings your content strategy from okay to outstanding. As an SEO Strategist at a digital marketing agency (Brainlabs), we often find clients on the brink of ranking success. They’re sitting on stellar content that simply isn’t ranking for their target keywords. Why? Oftentimes, the keywords and the intent simply don’t match.
Here we’ll discuss the different types of search intent, how to determine the best intent for given keywords, and how to optimize for search intent. First–let’s iron out the basics.
What is search intent?
Search intent (also known as user intent) is the primary goal a user has when searching a query in a search engine. Many times, users are searching for a specific type of answer or resource as they search.
Take pizza for example. Searching for a pizza recipe has a different intent than searching for a takeout pizza, which is also different from searching for the history of pizza. Though they all revolve around the same overall topic (pizza), these users all have different intents.
Why is search intent important for SEO?
Google cares about search intent
The short answer is: Satisfying search intent is a primary goal for Google, which in turn makes it a primary goal for SEOs. When a user searches for a specific term and finds irrelevant information, that sends a signal back to Google that the intent is likely mismatched.
For example, if a user searches “How to build a website,” and they’re shown a slew of product pages for CMS platforms and hosting sites, they’ll try another search without clicking on anything. This is a signal to Google that the intent of those results do not reflect the intent of the searcher.
Broaden your reach across funnel stages
When it comes to running a business and building a successful content marketing strategy, I can’t stress enough the importance of remembering search intent, and letting that be the driving force behind the pieces of content you create and how you create them.
And just why is this so important? The more specific your content is to various search intents, the more users you can reach, and at different stages of the funnel. From those who are still to discover your brand to those looking to convert, you can increase your chances of reaching them all by focusing your efforts on matching search intent.
You can improve rankings
Since Google’s primary ranking factors are relevance, authority, and user satisfaction, it’s easy to connect the dots and see how improving your keyword targeting to mirror search intent can improve your overall rankings.
Relevance: This has to do with your user’s behavior. If they find the information they’re looking for on your site, they’re less likely to return to Google within seconds and explore a different result (pogo-sticking). You’ll notice a difference in such KPIs as click-through rate and bounce rate when your content is relevant to search intent.
Authority: While much of a site’s authority is connected to backlinks, it’s also important to develop a strong internal linking strategy that signals to Google “I have a lot of content covering all angles and intents surrounding this topic” to rank well. Additionally, you can increase brand authority and visibility by creating valuable content around topics your brand is well versed in, that satisfies various intents.
User satisfaction: Does the content you create provide value and is it relevant to your audience? End of story.
Types of search intent
While there are endless search terms, there are just four primary search intents:
Now you may be thinking, that’s all well and good, but what do they mean for my content? Luckily, I’ve broken each one down with example terms that suggest intent. Keep in mind, however, that searches are not binary –– many will fall under more than one category.
As you may have guessed, searches with informational intent come from users looking for… information! This could be in the form of a how-to guide, a recipe, or a definition. It’s one of the most common search intents, as users can look for answers to an infinite number of questions. That said, not all informational terms are questions. Users searching for simply “Bill Gates” are most likely looking for information about Bill Gates.
How to boil an egg
What is a crater
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Directions to JFK Airport
Before they’re ready to make a purchase, users start their commercial investigation. This is when they use search to investigate products, brands, or services further. They’re past the informational stage of their research and have narrowed their focus to a few different options. Users here are often comparing products and brands to find the best solution for them.
Note: These searches often include non-branded localized terms such as “best body shop near me” or “top sushi restaurant NYC.”
Semrush vs Moz
Best website hosting service
WordPress or wix for blog
Transactional searchers are looking to make a purchase. This could be a product, service, or subscription. Either way, they have a good idea of what they’re looking for. Since the user is already in buying mode, these terms are usually branded. Users are no longer researching the product, they’re looking for a place to purchase it.
Buy Yeti tumbler
Shop Louis Vuitton bags
Van’s high tops sale
These searchers are looking to navigate to a specific website, and it’s often easier to run a quick search in Google than to type out the URL. The user could also be unsure of the exact URL or looking for a specific page, e.g. a login page. As such, these searches tend to be brand or website names and can include additional specifications to help users find an exact page.
MOZ beginner SEO
How to determine search intent
Consider keyword modifiers
As we briefly noted above, keyword modifiers can be helpful indicators for search intent. But it’s not enough just to know the terms, you may also be wondering, when it comes to keyword research, how do you find these terms?
Thankfully, there are a range of trusted keyword research tools out there to use. Their filter features will be most useful here, as you can filter terms that include certain modifiers or phrases.
Additionally, you can filter keywords by SERP feature. Taking informational intent for example, you can filter for keywords that rank for knowledge panels, related questions, and featured snippets.
Read the SERPs
Another way to determine search intent is to research the SERPs. Type in the keyword you’re targeting into the search bar and see what Google comes up with. You’ll likely be able to tell by the types of results what Google deems the most relevant search intent for each term.
Let’s take a closer look at search results for each intent type.
SERP results for informational intent
As mentioned above, informational keywords tend to own SERP results that provide condensed information. These include knowledge grabs, featured snippets, and related questions. The top results are most likely organic results, and consist of Wikipedia, dictionary, or informative blog posts.
SERP results for preferential/commercial research intent
Preferential intent is similar in that results may include a featured snippet, but they’ll also include paid results at the top of the SERP. The results will also likely provide information about the brands searched, rather than topical information.
In the example below, the organic results compare product features between competing site hosts, rather than explaining what site hosts are and how they function.
SERP results for transactional intent
Transactional SERPs are some of the most straightforward to spot. They usually lead with paid results and/or shopping results, shopping carousels, and reviews. The organic results are largely product pages from online and brick and mortar retailers, and depending on the search, can include maps to their locations.
SERP results for navigational intent
Since users with navigational intent already know which website they’re looking for, these results usually feature the most relevant page at the top: e.g. if the user searches “Spotify”, Spotify’s homepage will be the first result, whereas the login page will take first position for “Spotify login.”
Additional features such as site links, knowledge cards, and top stories may also be present, depending on the specific search.
Look at the full picture
Keep in mind that terms often have more than one search intent, so looking only at keywords or the SERP is rarely enough to truly define it. That said, taking this holistic approach will bring you closer to the most prominent intent.
It’s also important to note that SERPs are volatile, so while a keyword may rank for one intent this month, that could change next month.
How to optimize for search intent
Match metadata and content type to the intent
You’ve done your research and know which keywords you’re targeting with which pages. Now it’s time to optimize. A solid place to start is with your pages’ metadata –– update your title tag, H1, and H2s to reflect your specific keyword targeting. To increase click-through rate, try to leverage your title tag with some snappy copy (without creating clickbait).
Examine the competition
As with most competitions, it’s a good idea to suss out the current winners prior to the event. So, before jumping in to creating new pages or reformatting existing content, take a look at the top-ranking pages and ask yourself the following questions:
How are they formatted?
What’s their tone?
Which points do they cover?
What are they missing?
You can now use your answers to create the best, most relevant piece of content on the topic.
Format content for relevant SERP features
Just as you used the SERP features as clues to search intent, they can also be used to inform your pages’ formatting and content. If the featured snippet contains a numbered list, for example, it’s safe to say that Google appreciates and rewards that format for that term.
In a similar vein, if the SERP returns related questions, be sure to answer those questions clearly and concisely in your content.
When creating SEO content around search intent, be sure to keep the following in mind:
Understand the search intent before optimizing content
When discovering new terms, use specific modifiers in your keyword research
Use the SERPs to determine optimal formatting and content options
Creating SEO optimized content for specific search intents is simple, but not easy. Follow these guidelines and you’ll be well on your way to giving users the content they need in a format that they want.
With businesses making the move to serve their customers primarily online and the footfall of customers in physical stores dropping dramatically, the value of SEO has been rediscovered. Businesses are now paying closer attention to their online experience and how they can compete on the internet.
This post will offer a guide to businesses looking to enhance their organic reach and traffic, by providing some SEO solutions to issues they might be experiencing. This includes information suitable for businesses that haven’t engaged with SEO as a channel before, as well as those who have had more experience with it. The goal is to gain more traffic and increase conversions.
Scenario 1: You don’t know what keywords you should be ranking for
Targeting the right keywords is central to getting a return from SEO. Targeting the most valuable and relevant keywords to your product/service is crucial.
How to know what keywords to target:
They should be relevant to your product/service offering
They should have a search volume large enough to target an audience that is worthwhile. This can vary depending on the country, how specific your product/service is, and seasonality. Using your judgment is crucial here; your own knowledge about your specific industry and market will help you target the right keywords with the search demand relevant to your business.
Tools to conduct your keyword research:
Moz Keyword Explorer → a keyword research tool that offers access to millions of keywords that can help form your list. You can see keyword suggestions, current ranking websites, and all the metrics on the keyword itself. Cost: Create a free account to get you started.
Ahrefs ‘Keyword Explorer’ or ‘Keyword Generator’ → these tools are amazing for finding new keywords to target, variations, seeing their search volume, generating keyword ideas, and more. Cost: They offer a 7 day trial for $7.
Google Trends → is a platform that lets you look at the search trend for a select group of keywords. You can compare the keywords to each other, and look into the monthly search trends around the topic. Looking at these trends can also help you avoid targeting the wrong keywords. Sometimes, some keywords have a higher average monthly search volume when compared to another, however, the other keyword might suddenly receive a high search interest due to an emerging trend. Cost: It’s free!
Answer The Public → will let you view questions that are commonly searched for around your keyword. This can help with generating content ideas, as well as provide insight into the types of things people are searching for around your important keywords. Cost: It’s free!
Google Search Console → this tool helps you track the performance of your website in the organic search results, and is an excellent resource when it comes to SEO. It can be used to discover what keywords your website is currently ranking for, and what keywords are performing better/worse over a period of time. (If you haven’t already set this up for your site, please do so now!) Cost: It’s free!
After all this, you combine your keywords, de-dupe and filter them out accordingly, to keep relevant keywords that you want to target in a list.
What do I do once I have my list of keywords?
Optimize your website to include them! This can involve:
1. Updating your on-page metadata.
Page titles = should be unique to the page, clear and relevant, and under 60 characters (so it doesn’t get cut off in the search results).
Meta Descriptions = include important keywords, without “keyword stuffing” (which is when you cram a lot of keywords in together and it doesn’t read well). This should be up to 150-160 characters to avoid it being cut off.
H1s = these are the on-page headings, typically displayed at the top of the page, These should be relevant to the page, as they provide structure to the article and context to Google and the user.
2. Create content around the keywords. Tools like Answer The Public will provide you with some ideas of questions/topics asked around important keywords. Make a blog post out of those! Make sure you have a title for it that includes those keywords, and is easily understandable. Internal linking is also an important factor in pages ranking well. Link important pages (these are usually the pages that are most linked to on your site, such as those included in your main navigation), to those that you want to rank well. Passing link equity between these pages signals to Google that these pages are worth showing to the user.
Spot check → the keywords that you know your website ranks well for suddenly aren’t ranking your site in the same position.
“Average position” in Google Search Console → this metric shows the average position ranking of your website as a whole, as well as having a table that displays various keyword ranks.
Rank trackers → A tool called STAT lets you enter in a list of keywords, which you then “run” to track over a few days. Once it’s finished tracking, you get access to up to date information on how keywords are ranking, for what pages and access to multiple reports surrounding the performance. This is a great tool to see what keywords are dropping in ranks, or increasing.
Ways to fix it:
Check robots.txt and sitemaps → to make sure Google is able to access them, and all pages that are included should be. (This is also included in a tech audit).
Technical SEO audit → will show you any technical issues that might be occurring on the site that have affected rankings. This can be done by running a crawl of your website (could use Screaming Frog or Deepcrawl, for example). Things that can arise are a group of 404 pages, noindex,nofollow directives, incorrect canonical tags, lack of internal linking, etc.
Errors and warnings → Google Search Console displays all the errors and warnings that are occurring on the site. These should be looked into, as they could affect the performance of pages.
Recent changes to your site → Changes such as redirects or rebranding can affect how your site performs in the search results. Depending on the scale of the change, organic performance can be expected to change, but if the pages are optimized and free of technical errors, no long term effect should occur.
Algorithm updates → As ranking algorithms determine how pages are ranked in the search engine result pages (SERPs), algorithm updates change the way your site adheres to their ranking guidelines and, as a result, how your pages rank. Keeping up to date with any algorithm announcements or glitches can help you keep track of your organic performance. Twitter is a good channel to get up-to-date industry news, and you can follow notable figures in the industry like Marie Haynes or Barry Shwartz (to name just a couple) for their commentary. In addition, tools like MozCast (free!) will show you the current level of volatility in the SERPs.
Make sure your key pages are being crawled and indexed → use the “Coverage” report in Google Search Console to check what pages are being indexed and what pages have warnings. You can also do a manual check on Google, by typing into the URL bar: site:yourwebsite.com/web-page-slug operator. No results will show up if your page isn’t indexed.
Scenario 3: Your user experience is poor
User experience has become more important than ever. Regardless of whether your website is ranking first for all important keywords (we’re talking in an ideal world), it won’t make a difference if users don’t know how to interact with your site once they’ve landed on it. They’ll drop off and go to your competitor. Ensuring you have a well developed user journey and usability on your website is critical to successful SEO.
How to identify this as an issue:
This is something that involves your judgement, as unfortunately there isn’t a tool that will tell you if your site is delivering a poor user experience. Generally, if you get frustrated when using your own site or there are some things that annoy you when you’re navigating other websites, that’s what we call a poor user experience. Some practices that can help highlight if this is an issue are:
Run a survey to ask users about their experience on the site. For example, a common question to include would be, “Did you find what you were looking for?” This short but direct approach can facilitate a relevant and direct response from customers, which can be easily acted on. Some tools you can use for this include Google Forms, SurveyMonkey and WuFoo.
Compare site speed with competitors. This can be done using a tool such as Crux, which can give you an indication of how fast/slow your site is in comparison.
HotJar can show you how people navigate a page. This can highlight what areas they spend more time on, where they’re attracted to click, and what they’re missing.
Google Tag Manager can record click tracking. This is helpful to see if people are acting on your calls to action, such as filling out a form or pressing a certain button.
Ways to fix it:
Optimize your on-page content. This involves updating any content on your website to ensure it’s relevant to your audience and up-to-date. Content should be easily read by someone who has no context to the product/services offered on the website. You can also:
Optimise your content layout. For example, include a numbered list to show your content in a different form, which can help target featured snippets.
Update any old blog posts with new, relevant information and optimize the meta data to include keywords.
Make sure all metadata is relevant to the page and optimized.
Include CTAs. A clear call-to-action should be present on all pages. These could be included in the main navigation, so it appears on all pages, or placed near the top of each page. CTAs give direction and a point of action to the customer, ensuring that if they want to engage further, it’s easy to do so. For example, common CTAs include “Contact us”, “Sign up here”, or “Book Now”.
Is it easy to convert? When you land on the homepage, is the CTA clear? Are there any barriers that might stop a customer to complete that action (such as requiring a customer to login or register before a purchase)? Making the journey easy and clear from entering the site to converting is crucial, as obstacles can easily deter a potential customer.
This guide discussed 3 common scenarios that digital marketers experience. Not knowing what keywords to target, or how to go about it can be difficult to navigate. By using the suggested tools and collecting relevant keywords to target your pages will help improve your rankings. The guide by Cyrus Shephard elaborates further on this. Similarly, being able to identify when your rankings have dropped is important to ensure you stay up to date with any issues that could be causing this fluctuation. If you’d like to read more about this, I recommend “SEO Rankings Drop: A Step-By-Step Guide to Recovery”. Lastly, serving a good user experience has become an important element in digital marketing. If you want to expand your knowledge on this, Rand Fishkin has more to share on this area. Hope this article was helpful and can provide some direction of areas that you can check when you’re faced with an issue and don’t know where to start!
That’s why the mantra “link building is relationship building” exists. Often, before you build a link, you have to build a relationship with the site owner first. This means anything from following them on Twitter, commenting mindfully on their posts, writing emails to them to discuss their content without pitching links, etc. It’s a productive strategy, but also a time-intensive one.
However, there’s another — relatively quick — link building strategy.
Is your ear itching? If you’re the superstitious type, this means that someone is talking about you.
Sometimes a webmaster will publish your brand name, products, or target keywords on their site without actually linking to your site. In SEO, these are known as “fresh mention” opportunities. These are typically some of the easiest link building opportunities available, since you don’t really have to explain yourself to the site owner. Mostly, you just have to ask them to put an <a href> tag in the code.
But how do you find these fresh mentions? There are multiple methods and tools, but today I’m going to highlight the one I use most often: Google Alerts.
Google Alerts is beneficial in a myriad of ways beyond the world of link building and SEO, but there’s no doubt that it’s the best way to stay on top of your fresh mention opportunities. Allow me to explain how you can use it!
Setting up Google Alerts
First off, the obvious: you need the correct link. To start using Google Alerts, head over to Google Alerts. You can technically set up alerts without a Gmail account, but I would recommend having one. If you don’t have one, click here to find out how to set one up.
When you have an account set up and land on Google Alerts, you will see a page that looks like this:
No, there’s not much to see. Not yet anyway.
Let’s take a basic example. Say you want to create an alert for mentions of link building. Simply type the phrase into the bar at the top.
You will see something similar to the image above, even before you click on anything else. The first box asks for which email address you want to receive the alerts (I’ve erased mine for the purpose of this article, but trust me, it’s there). Below that will be examples of recent alerts for your query.
Click the “Create Alert” button, and alerts will be sent to your selected inbox going forward. However, you can customize a few settings before you do so. Click the “Show options” dropdown next to the button to see a list of settings you can adjust:
Each item is auto-filled with the default setting. You can adjust the settings so that you only get alerts from specific regions, for certain types of content, and more. In general, I have found the default settings to suffice, but there are valid reasons you might want to change them (if you’re only interested in video content, for example).
When you’re done with the settings, you can create the alert!
Google Alert tips
From that point on, assuming you stuck with the default option of once-a-day emails, you’ll get an email every 24 hours that looks like this:
Notice the returns in this example include pages that talk about each individual word from your query (in this example the word “link” and the word “building”). Obviously, this isn’t helpful, and it’s a waste of time to sift through these results.
So, how can you make sure that you only get results for an exact phrase? Quotation marks!
I (intentionally) made this mistake when setting up this alert. Notice in the image from the first section that “link building” didn’t include quotation marks around it. Without them, Google Alerts will return results like the ones in the image above.
The quotation marks indicate that you’re looking for an exact match of that phrase, so when you set up an alert using them you will get something that looks like this:
Much better, right?
Note that you can combine terms with and without quotation marks in one alert. Say for example I was looking for content related to link building around images. Instead of “link building images,” a phrase not likely to occur too often, I could use:
This will return results that include both the exact phrase “link building” AND the term “images”.
Set up multiple alerts
If you’re using Google Alerts for link building, I recommend setting up more than one alert. Consider some of the following:
Your brand name
Your products or services
Your focus keywords
Personalities associated with your brand
If you’re concerned about all the emails flooding your inbox, adjust the settings to decrease the frequency or stagger delivery days. You can also set up a separate Gmail account that only serves to receive these emails. I personally find the former to be the better option, but I know people who do the latter.
Consider setting up alerts for your competitors as well. Doing so may give you a window into their link building and publicity strategies that you can learn from. Along with that, you might find new potential target sites that aren’t mentioning you. If they mention your competitor, it’s likely they are relevant to your niche.
Also include common misspellings of any of the list items above. While Google’s algorithm is typically smart enough to correct such misspellings in its search, a few valuable results may seep through even still.
Google Alerts can be helpful for other purposes other than link building. Certainly, if you’re engaged in an online reputation management campaign, they’re a necessity. Some use Alerts to track the kind of publicity their competitors are getting as well.
There are other excellent link building tools out there that can complement your “fresh mention” strategy if you are a link builder, but Google Alerts is an essential. I hope you find Google Alerts as helpful for link building as I have. If you have other tools or suggestions, please mention them in the comments below.
Currently, many businesses face challenging times and are moving their SEO budget to disciplines which offer quicker wins.
But you can also create instant results with SEO, and it can be done on a small budget even when you are up against bigger players in your industry.
In this blog post I will show you my framework to do SEO sprints. I will show you how you can use Google’s ability to index and rank faster to your advantage. Later, you will be presented with a case study, where we used SEO sprints for a chain of opticians. The result: an increase in bookings of vision tests of 73%.
But first, let’s have a look at the layout on page one of Google (for most queries).
Today, the four Google Ads at the top of the SERP cover most of the pixels above the fold. In many cases, your screen can also be covered with a Google Shopping ad. Apart from the ads, Google fills up the space on page one with SERP features such as featured snippets or their own platforms such as Youtube or Google Maps.
In some industries, Google will even place their booking search engine at the top. Examples are Google Flights or Google Hotels.
During the last few months we have seen more desktop traffic, but in general users are moving to mobile. An iPhone’s screen of 758 pixels makes it nearly impossible to rank above the fold for an organic result.
We, as SEOs, have to rethink our way of doing SEO.
The Google challenge
Do you know your numbers?
For a particular query, how high is the expected click-through-rate if you rank number one? Is it 20%? Twenty-five? These are the typical estimations coming from CTR benchmark studies. But in reality, for competitive queries, the right CTR will be much lower, which means that you could be basing your business case on the wrong numbers.
As an example: In the retail industry I have a client ranking consistently at number one for a broad generic term with a monthly search volume of 2.8K. How high do you think their CTR is?
They are not the only ones with a meager CTR. Doing some research, I discovered that positions three and four for this query had CTRs of 1.1% and 2.4%, respectively.
When CTRs used to be higher, I went after the big keywords. At the peak of my “Big Keywords” career, I reached the number one ranking in Google (Denmark) for the biggest keyword in the banking industry: “Lån” (loan). It took one and a half years to go from the bottom of page three to number one in Google, and the investment paid off handsomely for the client.
The strategy was straightforward, with a focus on technical SEO, on-page, and off-page factors. In other words, SEO as we have always approached it. However, working with SEO in a silo frustrated me, because I felt that we could get better and faster results by working together across disciplines and across departments.
In October 2018, a new insight gave me the chance to rewire my SEO thought process. This led me to develop a new framework aligning SEO with other marketing activities.
The big insight: Google indexes and ranks faster
Back in the year 2000, Google updated their index every five to eight weeks. This gave SEO a reputation as a discipline where patience was key, and where results were a long-term project. This understanding is still common inside the industry, and many SEOs will still tell their clients to be patient and expect the results to come inside one or two years.
However, if you do it right, this is not the case anymore.
Let’s fast-forward to 2018: I discovered that Google had changed gears.
My client was planning to run a marketing campaign starting in October. My SEO team was invited late to the party, as I only met with the client two weeks before the campaign launch.
I was not too optimistic about the time frame to get them results, but we gave it a shot.
The results surprised me.
Inside 20 days, they went from not being indexed to ranking in the top three for their main keyword.
I was baffled. This was not the Google I knew.
This insight was huge, because it meant that SEO could break free of the classic silo and be part of other marketing activities.
The idea of the SEO sprint was born.
What is an SEO sprint?
Let’s stop and think for a minute.
How often do marketing campaigns ignore SEO? SEO data can actually be a central element in marketing, because the data reveals the inner feelings of users when they search on Google. This is data which would be very hard to get from qualitative interviews.
Have you tried to convert mentions to links months after a PR campaign ran?
Ever worked on an SEO project where you never talked to the PPC team (even though they have valuable information, like which keywords convert, that you can use for your SEO work)?
Have you delivered a tech audit with a long list of to-dos without really knowing what the business strategy was, hence the priorities of the SEO tasks?
These are examples of SEO working in a silo. Silos waste knowledge and they miss the big picture. Instead, SEO activities should be aligned with the marketing plan.
When you rank at the top of Google for the keywords and user intentions which support your business strategy, it is due to teamwork across your marketing department.
This is what SEO sprints are all about: Based on the company’s business strategy, SEO sprints are an integrated part of your marketing mix. They are SEO activities which support a marketing campaign, where the objective is to be present at the most important touch points in Google for particular customer journeys.
An SEO sprint consists of five steps:
I’ll dig into each of these steps in the case study below.
The secret behind a successful SEO sprint
In late 2018, I performed other SEO sprints, which proved to me that there was an opportunity to work differently within SEO. For example: a New Year’s campaign where the client’s main keyword went from out-of-index to the bottom of page one within 10 days. While they didn’t make the top three, they still obtained a 6% CTR from a ready-to-buy audience.
So, how can you use a sprint to rank faster in Google? Do sprints focus on links, content, or page speed?
Those factors are only partly important. The main ranking factor is the competition. Let’s face it: You rank number one at the mercy of your competition. It matters a lot for your ranking if competitors don’t focus their SEO efforts in the same direction as you.
In my experience, when broad media sites and forums rank, it’s a good sign that competition is not so strong. The ideal scenario is when competition is manageable and Google results have low volatility, meaning the results don’t fluctuate much. This is a signal to me that I can rank quickly and remain at the top of Google for a longer period.
While you should try to rank for all your keywords, the key is to identify and prioritize important, low-competition keywords to get results quickly. When you have established yourself, then you can start to build out your topical authority and aim for the keywords with tougher competition.
DriveSafe glasses are glasses produced by ZEISS. You can use them as normal eye glasses, but they are particularly useful to avoid being blinded by the headlights of oncoming cars at night. They retail at $500 (USD), so it is not a low-priced item, but they are the safest solution in the market.
The target group of the DriveSafe campaign is primarily 35-year-old women and above. They are not worse off than men when it comes to seeing badly at night, but our research showed that they are more ready to do something about it. Our main objective was to have them book an eyesight test at their local Nyt Syn optician.
After running the first DriveSafe campaign in Q4 2018, which was fairly successful, we managed to triple the organic traffic during the second SEO sprint a year later.
During the period, 23.7% of the organic traffic to nytsyn.dk went to the DriveSafe pages. More importantly, Nyt Syn increased their bookings by 73% for the second campaign when compared to the first.
How we did it
Before we started our SEO tasks, we needed to understand the objective of the DriveSafe campaign and how SEO would support the business goals.
In order to translate the marketing strategy into SEO activities, I use customer journeys to map out the customer needs and define the content touchpoints on Google.
This was our SEO mission statement:
“We are present in Google when users make queries related to night vision with the intent to solve a user challenge leading to the booking of an eyesight test.”
You need to understand user behavior before you can execute your strategy. Fortunately, it has never been easier to get access to data. While many still stick to one tool (e.g. Google Keyword Planner or Moz), I have come to realize that the more tools you add, the more you will identify your user’s intentions. I use Google’s own tools (Google Search Console, Google Analytics) and different Clickstream tools (e.g. Moz Keyword Explorer). Each tool will bring something new to the table.
To this stack I also add the company’s own data sources, like live chat. It’snot only a tool to communicate with your customers! No one ever contacts a company simply to engage in small talk. The data from the chat history is a gold mine of user questions. Zendesk and Internal Site Search are two other underestimated resources, where small observations can turn into big insights.
In the end we managed to identify hundreds of keywords within the range from general symptom searches to specific product requests.
Insights depend on the strength of your data. If you don’t dive deep enough during data retrieval, you won’t get a full understanding of user behavior, thus missing out on important user intentions. By looking at the keyword list, we identified various user intentions. With them in hand we created customer journeys to map out which content to build or repurpose.
Here are the user intentions mapped out in different stages of the customer journey for this campaign:
Awareness: What is night blindness?
Consideration: Do I have a bad night vision? Can I use glasses with yellow tint?
Decision: DriveSafe glasses from ZEISS
We discovered four interesting insights from the data:
1. Early funnel content is notoriously underestimated. We identified the bridge between the symptom searches for “night blindness” in the early stage of the customer journey and the need to drive safely at night. By creating the page “What is night blindness?”, we answered the users’ symptom questions and moved them on in the funnel towards our solution.
2. The keyword data revealed a need from users to test their eye sight online. We converted a general eye vision test into a night vision test. The test took off. More than 180,000 users ended up completing the test via different channels.
To boost the general authority of the DriveSafe pages and this particular online test, we also acquired links. Apart from the extra authority, the referral traffic was decent.
3. We could see that users went for a premature choice when looking for a solution. If you are a mountain bike rider, you probably use cheap plastic glasses with yellow tint. These are not good for driving at night, but this was the best guess for many users.
An interview with a professor from the School of Optometry in Denmark revealed that glasses with yellow tint let in too much blue light. This is the light which our eyes are exposed to at night. Instead of ignoring users searching for yellow tinted glasses, we decided to warn them instead. The page “Don’t use glasses with yellow tint!” attracted a lot of traffic. It also showed that you can rank number one for keywords which counter the primary user intention on page one of Google.
4. The optometry industry jargon is different than the terms that users search for. Company policy can sometimes prevent you from optimizing your site for the user terms, but Nyt Syn embraced the opportunity.
There are 800 monthly searches for the query “natbriller” (night glasses). This is not an industry term, but we decided to create a page with it anyway It paid off. Nyt Syn has now ranked consistently number one and two on Google for this important keyword for more than a year, bringing in lots of profitable traffic.
The search terms mentioned in the last two insights. are low competition, low volatility keywords, which made us rank quickly. An instant result motivates the team, and it builds authority in the eyes of Google. Subsequently, this enabled us to rank for more difficult search terms. Today we rank in the top three for over 100 non-branded keywords, and every tenth search results in a click on a DriveSafe page.
From these insights, the Nyt Syn content team went to work on the pages we needed to be present at every important touch point in Google.
The team is small with only one content writer. However, this case shows that you don’t need to be a big team to beat your competitors as long as you know where to focus. In total, five pages were created and a couple of existing pages were repurposed.
You need some time at this step, since it takes time to write great content. At this point we also prepared a link building strategy based on advertorials, which we rolled out during the campaign.
We were ready to launch.
We use a dashboard to constantly measure the performance and gain new insights. This enabled us to change course midway if necessary.
Here are two good examples:
1. One month after the launch of the second SEO sprint, Nyt Syn decided to run two Facebook campaigns based on the SEO data. The first campaign aimed at getting users to take the online night vision test. The second campaign told users to avoid glasses with yellow tint for night driving.
The two campaigns worked great and increased the number of bookings significantly. This was a perfect example of using SEO data across channels.
2. During the campaign we obtained some nice customer testimonials. With the customers’ permission, we placed them on the DriveSafe pages. This enabled us to display the five star ratings in the Google SERPs, which lifted the general CTR overnight by 2-5%.
Learning and adjusting is central to SEO sprints. With Google’s ever-changing landscape, we need to be agile and ready to adapt. We learn from each SEO sprint and use what worked for the next sprint to constantly improve the results.
The third SEO sprint for DriveSafe is set for September. What can we do to build upon our past achievements?
Let me leave you with some insights gained, which you can hopefully use for your own campaigns:
1. GSC data tells us when users will start searching for night vision search terms. This means that we know when to launch our campaign next time. For SEO sprint one, we had a blank page. We could only use Google Trends data, so it started in October. Now we run it from mid-September because the data tells us that users are asking Google earlier.
2. GSC data will reveal new user intentions because we are building up more data. This data, coupled with customer feedback, creates a base to produce even more relevant content and thereby a better chance to own the most important touch points on Google.
3. From our PPC data, we now have more data to know which keywords generate orders and vice versa. We will have more GSC data to add new keywords to our Google Ads.
4. By A/B testing the communication on Google Ads and Facebook, we know which words and which USPs work. We can use these insights to update titles and meta descriptions to communicate more directly on Google.
5. We know that SEO insights can be used to create successful Facebook campaigns. We will double down on Facebook and test other channels such as Instagram.
6. We know which links brought us referral traffic, so we will focus on similar links for the third sprint. While it is only correlated data, we can compare the ranking history with the publication of advertorials to look for keyword jumps. Some advertorials are duds. Some are gold. It does help us to pick the better link opportunities.
7. We got the star ratings for the DriveSafe pages. By studying the Google landscape, we can see which other Schema markups we should add.
Companies are currently looking for instant results, which make them put SEO on hold. However, with SEO sprints you have an agile framework to get quick results — when done right.
You can use Google’s speed in indexing and ranking results to your advantage. It will enable your organization to integrate SEO as part of the marketing mix. While you can now rank inside a few days or weeks, fast rankings will depend on the level of competition on page one in Google. When you have low competition and low volatility for keywords with strategic importance, then you have found your sweet spot for quicker results and stable traffic long-term.
SEO sprints consist of five steps, and they can be performed on a small budget inside a short period. The learnings from one SEO sprint are passed on to the next one, so you can reuse what worked efficiently.
If you want a quick overview of top SEO metrics for any domain, today we’re officially launching a new free tool for you: Domain Analysis.
One thing Moz does extremely well is SEO data: data that consistently sets industry standards and is respected both for its size (35 trillion links, 500 million keyword corpus) and its accuracy. We’re talking things like Domain Authority, Spam Score, Keyword Difficulty, and more, which are used by tens of thousands of SEOs across the globe.
With Domain Analysis, we wanted to combine this data in one place, and quickly show it to people without the need of creating a login or signing up for an account.
The tool is free, and showcases a preview of many top SEO metrics in one place, including:
Domain Analysis includes a number of new, experimental metrics not available anywhere else. These are metrics developed by our search scientist Dr. Pete Meyers that we’re interested in exploring because we believe they are useful to SEO. Those metrics include:
Keywords by Estimated Clicks
You know your competitor ranks #1 for a keyword, but how many clicks does that generate for them? Keywords by Estimate Clicks uses ranking position, search volume, and estimated click-through rate (CTR) to estimate just how many clicks each keyword generates for that website.
Top Featured Snippets
Search results with featured snippets can be very different than those without, as whoever “wins” the featured snippet at position zero can expect outsized clicks and attention. These are potentially valuable keywords. Top Featured Snippets tells you which keywords a site ranks for that triggers a featured snippet, and also whether or not that site owns the snippet.
Branded keywords are a type of navigational query in which users are searching for a particular site. These can be some of the website’s most valuable keywords. Typically, it’s very hard — for anyone outside of Google — to accurately know what a site’s branded keywords actually are. Using some nifty computations in our database, here you’ll find the highest volume keywords reflecting the site’s brand. Cool, right?
Top Search Competitors
Knowing who your top search competitors are is important for any serious SEO competitive analysis. Sadly, most people simply guess. You may know who competes for your favorite keyword, but what happens when you rank for hundreds, thousands, or hundreds of thousands of keywords? Fortunately, we can comb through our vast database and make these calculations for you. Top Search Competitors shows you the competitors that compete for the same keywords as this domain, ranked by visibility.
“People Also Ask” have become a ubiquitous feature of Google search results, and represent a good starting point for keyword research and topic optimization. Top Questions shows questions mined from People Also Ask boxes for relevant keywords.
A few notes about the new Domain Analysis tool:
The tool is 100% free
Limited to 3 reports/day
Moz Pro users get unlimited reports
Experimental metrics are just that. These are not (yet) available in Moz Pro.
Metrics are meant to give you a quick overview of any domain. If you want to dive deeper for further analysis, we suggest signing up for a Moz Pro account
Also, we’re looking for feedback! What do you think of the new Domain Analysis Tool? Let us know in the comments below.