Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Local SEO Agency’s Complete Guide to Client Discovery and Onboarding

Posted by MiriamEllis

Why proper onboarding matters

Imagine getting three months in on a Local SEO contract before realizing that your client’s storefront is really his cousin’s garage. From which he runs two other “legit” businesses he never mentioned. Or that he neglected to mention the reviews he bought last year. Worse yet, he doesn’t even know that buying reviews is a bad thing.

The story is equally bad if you’re diligently working to build quality unique content around a Chicago client’s business in Wicker Park but then realize their address (and customer base) is actually in neighboring Avondale.

What you don’t know will hurt you. And your clients.

A hallmark of the professional Local SEO department or agency is its dedication to getting off on the right foot with a new client by getting their data beautifully documented for the whole team from the start. At various times throughout the life of the contract, your teammates and staff from complementary departments will be needing to access different aspects of a client’s core NAP, known challenges, company history, and goals.

Having this information clearly recorded in shareable media is the key to both organization and collaboration, as well as being the best preventative measure against costly data-oriented mistakes. Clear and consistent data play vital roles in Local SEO. Information must not only be gathered, but carefully verified with the client.

This article will offer you a working Client Discovery Questionnaire, an Initial Discovery Phone Call Script, and a useful Location Data Spreadsheet that will be easy for any customer to fill out and for you to then use to get those listings up to date. You’re about to take your client discovery process to awesome new heights!

Why agencies don’t always get onboarding right

Lack of a clearly delineated, step-by-step onboarding process increases the potential for human error. Your agency’s Local SEO manager may be having allergies on Monday and simply forget to ask your new client if they have more than one website, if they’ve ever purchased reviews, or if they have direct access to their Google My Business listings. Or they could have that information and forget to share it when they jump to a new agency.

The outcomes of disorganized onboarding can range from minor hassles to disastrous mistakes.

Minor hassles would include having to make a number of follow-up phone calls to fill in holes in a spreadsheet that could have been taken care of in a single outreach. It’s inconvenient for all teammates when they have to scramble for missing data that should have been available at the outset of the project.

Disastrous mistakes can stem from a failure to fully gauge the details and scope of a client’s holdings. Suddenly, a medium-sized project can take on gigantic proportions when the agency learns that the client actually has 10 mini-sites with duplicate content on them, or 10 duplicate GMB listings, or a series of call tracking numbers around the web.

It’s extremely disheartening to discover a mountain of work you didn’t realize would need to be undertaken, and the agency can end up having to put in extra uncompensated time or return to the client to renegotiate the contract. It also leads to client dissatisfaction.

Setting correct client expectations is completely dependent on being able to properly gauge the scope of a project, so that you can provide an appropriate timeline, quote, and projected benchmarks. In Local, that comes down to documenting core business information, identifying past and present problems, and understanding which client goals are achievable. With the right tools and effective communication, your agency will be making a very successful start to what you want to be a very successful project.

Professional client discovery made simple

There’s a lot you want to learn about a new client up front, but asking (and answering) all those questions right away can be grueling. Not to mention information fatigue, which can make your client give shorter and shorter answers when they feel like they’ve spent enough time already. Meanwhile your brain reaches max capacity and you can’t use all that valuable information because you can’t remember it.

To prevent such a disaster, we recommend dividing your Local SEO discovery process into a questionnaire to nail down the basics, a follow-up phone call to help you feel out some trickier issues, and a CSV to gather the location data. And we’ve created templates to get you started...

Client Discovery Questionnaire

Use our Local SEO Client Discovery Questionnaire to understand your client’s history, current organization, and what other consultants they might also be working with. We’ve annotated each question in the Google Doc template to help you understand what you can learn and potential pitfalls to look out for.

If you want to make collecting and preserving your clients’ answers extra easy, use Google Forms to turn that questionnaire into a form like this:

You can even personalize the graphic, questions, and workflow to suit your brand.

Client Discovery Phone Script

Once you’ve received your client’s completed questionnaire and have had time to process the responses and do any necessary due diligence (like using our Check Listings tool to check how aggregators currently display their information), it’s time to follow up on the phone. Use our annotated Local SEO Client Discovery Phone Script to get you started.

local seo client discovery phone script

No form necessary this time, because you’ll be asking the client verbally. Be sure to pay attention to the client’s tone of voice as they answer and refer to the notes under each question to see what you might be in for.

Location Data CSV

Sometimes the hardest part of Local SEO is getting all the location info letter-perfect. Make that easier by having the client input all those details into your copy of the Location Data Spreadsheet.

local seo location data csv

Then use the File menu to download that document as a CSV.

You’ll want to proof this before uploading it to any data aggregators. If you’re working with Moz Local, the next step is an easy upload of your CSV. If you’re working with other services, you can always customize your data collection spreadsheet to meet their standards.

Keep up to date on any business moves or changes in hours by designing a data update form like this one from SEER and periodically reminding your client contact to use it.

Why mutual signals of commitment really matter

There are two sides to every successful client project: one half belongs to the agency and the other to the company it serves. The attention to detail your agency displays via clean, user-friendly forms and good phone sessions will signal your professionalism and commitment to doing quality work. At the same time, the willingness of the client to take the necessary time to fill out these documents and have these conversations signals their commitment to receiving value from their investment.

It’s not unusual for a new client to express some initial surprise when they realize how many questions you're asking them to answer. Past experience may even have led them to expect half-hearted, sloppy work from other SEO agencies. But, what you want to see is a willingness on their part to share everything they can about their company with you so that you can do your best work.

Anecdotally, I’ve fully refunded the down payments of a few incoming clients who claimed they couldn’t take the time to fill out my forms, because I detected in their unwillingness a lack of genuine commitment to success. These companies have, fortunately, been the exception rather than the rule for me, and likely will be for your agency, too.

It’s my hope that, with the right forms and a commitment to having important conversations with incoming clients at the outset, the work you undertake will make your Local team top agency and client heroes!


Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don't have time to hunt down but want to read!



from Moz Blog http://ift.tt/1VTZhzp
via IFTTT

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Measuring Content: You’re Doing it Wrong

Posted by MatthewBarby

The traditional ways of measuring the success or failure of content are broken. We can’t just rely on metrics like the number of pageviews/visits or bounce rate to determine whether what we’re creating has performed well.

“The primary thing we look for with news is impact, not traffic,” says Jonah Peretti, Founder of BuzzFeed. One of the ways that BuzzFeed have mastered this is with the development of their proprietary analytics platform, POUND.

POUND enables BuzzFeed to predict the potential reach of a story based on its content, understand how effective specific promotions are based on the downstream sharing and traffic, and power A/B tests — and that’s just a few examples.

Just because you’ve managed to get more eyeballs onto your content doesn’t mean it’s actually achieved anything. If that were the case then I’d just take a few hundred dollars and buy some paid StumbleUpon traffic every time.

Yeah, I’d generate traffic, but it’s highly unlikely to result in me achieving some of my actual business goals. Not only that, but I’d have no real indication of whether my content was satisfying the needs of my visitors.

The scary thing is that the majority of content marketing campaigns are measured this way. I hear statements like “it’s too difficult to measure the performance of individual pieces of content” far too often. The reality is that it’s pretty easy to measure content marketing campaigns on a micro level — a lot of the time people don’t want to do it.

Engagement over entrances

Within any commercial content marketing campaign that you’re running, measurement should be business goal-centric. By that I mean that you should be determining the overall success of your campaign based on the achievement of core business goals.

If your primary business goal is to generate 300 leads each month from the content that you’re publishing, you’ll need to have a reporting mechanism in place to track this information.

On a more micro-level, you’ll want to be tracking and using engagement metrics to enable you to influence the achievement of your business goals. In my opinion, all content campaigns should have robust, engagement-driven reporting behind them.

Total Time Reading (TTR)

One metric that Medium uses, which I think adds a lot more value than pageviews, is "Total Time Reading (TTR)." This is a cumulative metric that quantifies the total number of minutes spent reading a piece of content. For example, if I had 10 visitors to one of my blog articles and they each stayed reading the article for 1 minute each, the total reading time would be 10 minutes.

“We measure every user interaction with every post. Most of this is done by periodically recording scroll positions. We pipe this data into our data warehouse, where offline processing aggregates the time spent reading (or our best guess of it): we infer when a reader started reading, when they paused, and when they stopped altogether. The methodology allows us to correct for periods of inactivity (such as having a post open in a different tab, walking the dog, or checking your phone).” (source)

The reason why this is more powerful than just pageviews is because it takes into account how engaged your readers are to give a more accurate representation of its visibility. You could have an article with 1,000 pageviews that has a greater TTR than one with 10,000 pageviews.

Scroll depth & time on page

A related and simpler metric to acquire is the average time on page (available within Google Analytics). The average time spent on your webpage will give a general indication of how long your visitors are staying on the page. Combining this with ‘scroll depth’ (i.e. how far down the page has a visitor scrolled) will help paint a better picture of how ‘engaged’ your visitors are. You’ll be able to get the answer to the following:

“How much of this article are my visitors actually reading?”

“Is the length of my content putting visitors off?”

“Are my readers remaining on the page for a long time?”

Having the answers to these questions is really important when it comes to determining which types of content are resonating more with your visitors.

Social Lift

BuzzFeed’s “Social Lift” metric is a particularly good way of understanding the ‘virality’ of your content (you can see this when you publish a post to BuzzFeed). BuzzFeed calculates “Social Lift” as follows:

((Social Views)/(Seed Views)+1)

Social Views: Traffic that’s come from outside BuzzFeed; for example, referral traffic, email, social media, etc.

Seed Views: Owned traffic that’s come from within the BuzzFeed platform; e.g. from appearing in BuzzFeed’s newsfeed.

BuzzFeed Social Lift

This is a great metric to use when you’re a platform publisher as it helps separate out traffic that’s coming from outside of the properties that you own, thus determining its "viral potential."

There are ways to use this kind of approach within your own content marketing campaigns (without being a huge publisher platform) to help get a better idea of its "viral potential."

One simple calculation can just involve the following:

((social shares)/(pageviews)+1)

This simple stat can be used to determine which content is likely to perform better on social media, and as a result it will enable you to prioritize certain content over others for paid social promotion. The higher the score, the higher its "viral potential." This is exactly what BuzzFeed does to understand which pieces of content they should put more weight behind from a very early stage.

You can even take this to the next level by replacing pageviews with TTR to get a more representative view of engagement to sharing behavior.

The bottom line

Alongside predicting "viral potential" and "TTR," you’ll want to know how your content is performing against your bottom line. For most businesses, that’s the main reason why they’re creating content.

This isn’t always easy and a lot of people get this wrong by looking for a silver bullet that doesn’t exist. Every sales process is different, but let’s look at the typical process that we have at HubSpot for our free CRM product:

  1. Visitor comes through to our blog content from organic search.
  2. Visitor clicks on a CTA within the blog post.
  3. Visitor downloads a gated offer in exchange for their email address and other data.
  4. Prospect goes into a nurturing workflow.
  5. Prospect goes through to a BOFU landing page and signs up to the CRM.
  6. Registered user activates and invites in members of their team.

This is a simple process, but it can still be tricky sometimes to get a dollar value on each piece of content we produce. To do this, you’ve got to understand what the value of a visitor is, and this is done by working backwards through the process.

The first question to answer is, “what’s the lifetime value (LTV) of an activated user?” In other words, “how much will this customer spend in their lifetime with us?”

For e-commerce businesses, you should be able to get this information by analyzing historical sales data to understand the average order value that someone makes and multiply that by the average number of orders an individual will make with you in their lifetime.

For the purposes of this example, let’s say each of our activated CRM users has an LTV of $100. It’s now time to work backwards from that figure (all the below figures are theoretical)…

Question 1: “What’s the conversion rate of new CRM activations from our email workflow(s)?”

Answer 1: “5%”

Question 2: “How many people download our gated offers after coming through to the blog content?”

Answer 2: “3%”

Knowing this would help me to start putting a monetary value against each visitor to the blog content, as well as each lead (someone that downloads a gated offer).

Let’s say we generate 500,000 visitors to our blog content each month. Using the average conversion rates from above, we’d convert 15,000 of those into email leads. From there we’d nurture 750 of them into activated CRM users. Multiply that by the LTV of a CRM user ($100) and we’ve got $75,000 (again, these figures are all just made up).

Using this final figure of $75,000, we could work backwards to understand the value of a single visitor to our blog content:

 ((75,000)/(500,000))

Single Visitor Value: $0.15

We can do the same for email leads using the following calculation:

(($75,000)/(15,000))

Individual Lead Value: $5.00

Knowing these figures will help you be able to determine the bottom-line value of each of your pieces of content, as well as calculating a rough return on investment (ROI) figure.

Let’s say one of the blog posts we’re creating to encourage CRM signups generated 500 new email leads; we’d see a $2,500 return. We could then go and evaluate the cost of producing that blog post (let’s say it takes 6 hours at $100 per hour – $600) to calculate a ROI figure of 316%.

ROI in its simplest form is calculated as:

(((($return)-($investment))/($investment))*100)

You don’t necessarily need to follow these figures religiously when it comes to content performance on a broader level, especially when you consider that some content just doesn’t have the primary goal of lead generation. That said, for the content that does have this goal, it makes sense to pay attention to this.

The link between engagement and ROI

So far I’ve talked about two very different forms of measurement:

  1. Engagement
  2. Return on investment

What you’ll want to avoid is actually thinking about these as isolated variables. Return on investment metrics (for example, lead conversion rate) are heavily influenced by engagement metrics, such as TTR.

The key is to understand exactly which engagement metrics have the greatest impact on your ROI. This way you can use engagement metrics to form the basis of your optimization tests in order to make the biggest impact on your bottom line.

Let’s take the following scenario that I faced within my own blog as an example…

The average length of the content across my website is around 5,000 words. Some of my content way surpasses 10,000 words in length, taking an estimated hour to read (my recent SEO tips guide is a perfect example of this). As a result, the bounce rate on my content is quite high, especially from mobile visitors.

Keeping people engaged within a 10,000-word article when they haven’t got a lot of time on their hands is a challenge. Needless to say, it makes it even more difficult to ensure my CTAs (aimed at newsletter subscriptions) stand out.

From some testing, I found that adding my CTAs closer to the top of my content was helping to improve conversion rates. The main issue I needed to tackle was how to keep people on the page for longer, even when they’re in a hurry.

To do this, I worked on the following solution: give visitors a concise summary of the blog post that takes under 30 seconds to read. Once they’ve read this, show them a CTA that will give them something to read in more detail in their own time.

All this involved was the addition of a "Summary" button at the top of my blog post that, when clicked, hides the content and displays a short summary with a custom CTA.

Showing Custom Summaries

This has not only helped to reduce the number of people bouncing from my long-form content, but it also increased the number of subscribers generated from my content whilst improving user experience at the same time (which is pretty rare).

I’ve thought that more of you might find this quite a useful feature on your own websites, so I packaged it up as a free WordPress plugin that you can download here.

Final thoughts

The above example is just one example of a way to impact the ROI of your content by improving engagement. My advice is to get a robust measurement process in place so that you’re able to first of all identify opportunities, and then go through with experiments to take advantage of the opportunity.

More than anything, I'd recommend that you take a step back and re-evaluate the way that you're measuring your content campaigns to see if what you're doing really aligns with the fundamental goals of your business. You can invest in endless tools that help you measure things better, but if core metrics that you're looking for are wrong, then this is all for nothing.


Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don't have time to hunt down but want to read!



from Moz Blog http://ift.tt/1rh6wEz
via IFTTT

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

What 300+ Content Marketing Campaigns Can Teach You About Earning Links

Posted by KelseyLibert

[Estimated read time: 9 minutes]

300-campaigns-header.png

In a recent Whiteboard Friday about 10x content, Rand said to expect it to take 5 to 10 attempts before you’ll create a piece of content that’s a hit.

If you’ve been at the content marketing game for a while, you probably agree with Rand. Seasoned content marketers know you’re likely to see a percentage of content flops before you achieve a big win. Then, as you gain a sense for why some content fails and other content succeeds, you integrate what you’ve learned into your process. Gradually, you start batting fewer base hits and more home runs.

At Fractl, we regularly look back at campaign performance and refine our production and promotion processes based on what the data tells us. Are publishers rejecting a certain content format? Is there a connection between Domain Authority (DA) and the industry vertical we targeted? Do certain topics attract the most social shares? These are the types of questions we ask, and then we use the related data to create better content.

We recently dug through three years of content marketing campaigns and asked: What factors increase content’s ability to earn links? In this post, I’ll show you what we found.

Methodology

We analyzed campaign data from a sample of 345 Fractl campaigns that launched between 2013 and 2016. To compare linking performance, we set benchmarks based on the industry averages for links per campaign from our content marketing agency survey: High success (more than 100 placements), moderate success (20–100 placements), and low success (fewer than 20 placements).

We looked at the relationship between the number of placements and the content’s topic, visual assets, and formatting. "Placement" refers to any time a publisher wrote about the campaign. In terms of links, a placement could mean dofollow, cocitation, nofollow, or text attribution.

Which content elements can increase link earning potential?

The chart below highlights the largest differences between our high- and low-success campaigns.

Content Marketing Campaigns-02.png

We found the following characteristics were present in content that earned the most links:

  1. Highly emotional
  2. Broad appeal
  3. Comparison
  4. Pop culture-themed

The data confirmed our assumptions about why some content is better than others at attracting links, as all four of the above characteristics were present in some of our biggest hits. As an example, our Women in Video Games campaign checked all four of those boxes.

vice-screenshot.pngIt paired a highly emotional topic (body image issues) with a strong visual contrast. It also included a pop culture theme that appealed to a niche audience (video game fans) while also resonating with a broader audience. To date, this campaign has amassed nearly 900 placements, including links from high-authority sites such as BuzzFeed, Huffington Post, MTV, and Vice Motherboard.

Read on for more takeaways on how to increase your content’s link-earning potential.

Content that evokes a strong emotional response is extremely effective at earning links.

Emotional impact was the greatest differentiator between our most successful campaigns and all other campaigns, with those that secured over 100 placements being 3 times more likely to feature a strong emotional hook than less successful campaigns.

Example: The Truth About Hotel Hygiene

hotel-hygiene-exposed.png

Our Truth About Hotel Hygiene earned more than 700 placements thanks to a high "ick" factor, which gave it emotional resonance paired with universal interest (most people use hotels). We’ve also found including an element of surprise helps strengthen the content’s emotional impact. This study definitely surprised readers with a shocking finding: The nicest hotels had the most germs.

Example: Perceptions of Perfection

perceptions.png

In our Perceptions of Perfection campaign, audiences were surprised to see drastically how designers altered a woman’s photo to fit their country’s standards of beauty. The surprise factor added an additional layer of emotionality to the already emotional topic of women’s body image issues, which helped this campaign get nearly 600 placements.

Choose content topics with wide appeal to increase potential for high-quality links.

So we’ve proven emotionally provocative content can attract a lot of links, but what about high-quality links? We found a correlation between high average domain authority and content topics with mass appeal. Broad topics appeal to a greater range of publishers, thus increasing the number of relevant high-authority sites your content can be placed on.

Some verticals may have an advantage when it comes to link quality too. Campaigns for our travel, entertainment, and retail clients tend to have a high average domain authority per placement since these verticals naturally lend themselves to content ideas with mass appeal.

Some examples of campaign topics with a DA-per-placement average above 55:

  • Cities That Hate Tourist
  • Most Googled Brands in Each State
  • Data Breaches by State and Sector
  • Airline Hygiene Exposed
  • Deadliest Driving States

Pro tip: A site’s influence matters more than the type of link you’ll acquire from it. Don’t fear nofollow links; for two of our best-performing campaigns of all time, the initial links were nofollows from high-authority sites. A nofollow link on a high-authority site can lead to syndication on hundreds of other sites that will give dofollow links.

Use rankings and comparisons to fuel online discussion.

Contrast was a recurring theme in our high-performing campaigns, with strong contrasts achieved through visual or numerical comparisons. More than half of our highest-performing campaigns centered around a ranking or comparison, compared to just a third of our lowest-performing campaigns. Pitting two or more things against one another fuels discussion around the content, which can lead to more placements.

Example: Comparing Siri, Cortana, and Google Now

cortana-compared.png

Comparing Cortana was a hands-on study for which participants gave a command to their virtual assistant and rated their satisfaction with the response. Comparing the three most widely used smartphone assistants attracted the attention of techies (especially Apple fans) as well as the broader public, since most people have one of these assistants on their smartphone.

Example: Airport Rankings

airport-rankings.png

The Airport Rankings campaign looked at which airports offered the best and worst experiences, based on data including the volume of canceled flights, delays, and lost luggage. Local publishers loved this campaign; many focused on the story around how their regional airport fared in the rankings. Since most travelers have lived through at least one terrible airport experience, the content was extremely relatable too.

Pro tip: Side-by-side visualizations pack a high-contrast visual punch that helps drive linking and social shares. This type of contrasting imagery is extremely powerful visually since it’s easy to process. It helps evoke an immediate response that quickly engages viewers.

Incorporate a geographic angle to earn international or regional links.

Did you notice a majority of the broad-topic campaigns with a high domain authority listed above also had a geographic angle? In addition to broad appeal, geography-focused topics help attract interest from international and regional publishers, thus securing additional links.

Example: Most Popular Concert Drugs

concert-drug-mentions.png

The Most Popular Concert Drugs, one of our most successful campaigns to date with nearly 1,900 placements, examined the connection between music festivals and drug mentions on Instagram. Many global sites featured the story for its worldwide festivals, including publishers in the U.K., France, Italy, Australia, and Brazil. Had we limited our selection to U.S. festivals, it’s doubtful this campaign would have attracted as much attention.

Example: Most Instagrammed Locations

instagram-locations-us.jpg

As with the example above, pairing a geographic angle with Instagram data proved to be a winning formula for the Most Instagrammed Locations campaign. We featured the most Instagrammed places in both the U.S. and Canada, which helped the campaign secure additional coverage from Canadian publishers.

Pro tip: To extend a campaign’s reach to the offline world, consider pitching relevant TV and radio stations with geo-themed content that offers new data; traditional news outlets seem to love these stories. We’ve had multiple geo-focused campaigns featured on national and local news stations simply because they saw the story getting covered by online media.

Include pop culture references to pique audience interest.

Our campaigns with more than 100 pickups were nearly twice as likely to incorporate a pop culture theme than our campaigns with fewer than 20 pickups. Content that ties in pop culture is primed for targeting a niche of dedicated fans who will want to share and discuss it like crazy, while it simultaneously resonates on a surface level for many people. Geek-culture themes, such as comic books and sci-fi movies, tend to attract a lot of attention thanks to rabid fan bases.

New School vs. Old School

Trending pop culture phenomena are best for making your content feel relevant to the current zeitgeist (think: a Walking Dead theme that appeals to fans of the show while also playing up the current cultural obsession with zombies).

On the other hand, old school pop culture references are effective for creating strong feelings of nostalgia (think: everything in BuzzFeed’s ’90s category). If your audience falls within a certain age bracket, consider what would be nostalgic to them. What did they grow up with, and how can you weave this into your content?

Example: Fictional Power Sources

fictional-power-sources.png

Fictional Power Sources looked at which iconic weapons, vehicles, and superpowers featured in movies were the most powerful. Rather than focusing on one movie, we featured a handful of popular movies — including Star Wars, Back to the Future, and The Matrix — which increased it the campaign’s appeal to movie fans.

Example: Sitcom Cribs

sitcom-cribs.png

Sitcom Cribs looked at the affordability of the living spaces on various TV shows — could the “Friends” characters really afford their trendy Manhattan digs? By featuring a lot of older TV shows, this campaign had a high nostalgia factor for audiences familiar with classic ’90s sitcoms. Including newer TV shows kept the campaign relevant to younger audiences too.

Pro tip: To increase the appeal, feature a range of pop culture icons as opposed to just one, such as a list of movies, musicians, or TV shows. This adds to the range of pop culture fans who will connect with the content, rather than limiting the potential audience to one fan base.

Earning high-quality links is just one benefit of creating content that incorporates high emotionality, contrast, broad appeal, or pop culture references. We’ve also found these characteristics present in our campaigns that perform well in terms of social sharing.

In particular, emotional resonance is a key ingredient, not only for earning links but also for getting your content widely shared. Our campaigns that received more than 20,000 social shares were 8 times more likely to include a strong emotional hook than campaigns that received fewer than 1,000 shares.

Content Marketing Campaigns-03.png

How can you ensure these elements are incorporated into your content, thus increasing its linking and sharing potential? In a previous post, I walk through exactly how we create campaigns like the examples I shared above. Check it out for a step-by-step guide to creating engaging, highly shareable content.

shareworthy-content-guide.png

What observations have you made about your most successful content? I'd love to hear your thoughts on which content elements attract the most links and shares.


Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don't have time to hunt down but want to read!



from Moz Blog http://ift.tt/1WnjWKy
via IFTTT

Monday, April 25, 2016

Can We Predict the Google Weather?

Posted by Dr-Pete

Four years ago, just weeks before the first Penguin update, the MozCast project started collecting its first real data. Detecting and interpreting Google algorithm updates has been both a far more difficult and far more rewarding challenge than I ever expected, and I've learned a lot along the way, but there's one nagging question that I've never been able to answer with any satisfaction. Can we use past Google data to predict future updates?

Before any analysis, I've always been a fan of using my eyes. What does Google algorithm "weather" look like over a long time-period? Here's a full year of MozCast temperatures:

Most of us know by now that Google isn't a quiet machine that hums along until the occasional named update happens a few times a year. The algorithm is changing constantly and, even if it wasn't, the web is changing constantly around it. Finding the signal in the noise is hard enough, but what does any peak or valley in this graph tell you about when the next peak might arrive? Very little, at first glance.

It's worse than that, though

Even before we dive into the data, there's a fundamental problem with trying to predict future algorithm updates. To understand it, let's look at a different problem — predicting real-world weather. Predicting the weather in the real world is incredibly difficult and takes a massive amount of data to do well, but we know that that weather follows a set of natural laws. Ultimately, no matter how complex the problem is, there is a chain of causality between today's weather and tomorrow's and a pattern in the chaos.

The Google algorithm is built by people, driven by human motivations and politics, and is only constrained by the rules of what's technologically possible. Granted, Google won't replace the entire SERP with a picture of a cheese sandwich tomorrow, but they can update the algorithm at any time, for any reason. There are no natural laws that link tomorrow's algorithm to today's. History can tell us about Google's motivations and we can make reasonable predictions about the algorithm's future, but those future algorithm updates are not necessarily bound to any pattern or schedule.

What do we actually know?

If we trust Google's public statements, we know that there are a lot of algorithm updates. The fact that only a handful get named is part of why we built MozCast in the first place. Back in 2011, Eric Schmidt testified before Congress, and his written testimony included the following data:

To give you a sense of the scale of the changes that Google considers, in 2010 we conducted 13,311 precision evaluations to see whether proposed algorithm changes improved the quality of its search results, 8,157 side-by-side experiments where it presented two sets of search results to a panel of human testers and had the evaluators rank which set of results was better, and 2,800 click evaluations to see how a small sample of real-life Google users responded to the change. Ultimately, the process resulted in 516 changes that were determined to be useful to users based on the data and, therefore, were made to Google's algorithm.

I've highlighted one phrase — "516 changes". At a time when we believed Google made maybe a dozen updates per year, Schmidt revealed that it was closer to 10X/week. Now, we don't know how Google defines "changes," and many of these changes were undoubtedly small, but it's clear that Google is constantly changing.

Google's How Search Works page reveals that, in 2012, they made 665 "improvements" or "launches" based on an incredible 118,812 precision evaluations. In August of 2014, Amit Singhal stated on Google+ that they had made "more than 890 improvements to Google Search last year alone." It's unclear whether that referred to the preceding 12 months or calendar year 2013.

We don't have a public number for the past couple of years, but it is incredibly unlikely that the rate of change has slowed. Google is making changes to search on the order of 2X/day.

Of course, anyone who has experience in software development realizes that Google didn't evenly divide 890 improvements over the year and release one every 9 hours and 51 minutes. That would be impractical for many reasons. It's very likely that releases are rolled out in chunks and are tied to some kind of internal process or schedule. That process or schedule may be irregular, but humans at Google have to approve, release, and audit every change.

In March of 2012, Google released a video of their weekly Search Quality meeting, which, at the time, they said occurred "almost every Thursday". This video and other statements since reveal a systematic process within Google by which updates are reviewed and approved. It doesn't take very advanced math to see that there are many more updates per year than there are weekly meetings.

Is there a weekly pattern?

Maybe we can't predict the exact date of the next update, but is there any regularity to the pattern at all? Admittedly, it's a bit hard to tell from the graph at the beginning of this post. Analyzing an irregular time series (where both the period between spikes and intensity of those spikes changes) takes some very hairy math, so I decided to start a little simpler.

I started by assuming that a regular pattern was present and looking for a way to remove some of the noise based on that assumption. The simplest analysis that yielded results involved taking a 3-day moving average and calculating the Mean Standard Error (MSE). In other words, for every temperature (each temperature is a single day), take the mean of that day and the day on either side of it (a 3-day window) and square the difference between that day's temperature and the 3-day mean. This exaggerates stand-alone peaks, and smooths some of the noisier sequences, resulting in the following graph:

This post was inspired in part by February 2016, which showed an unusually high signal-to-noise ratio. So, let's zoom in on just the last 90 days of the graph:

See peaks 2–6 (starting on January 21)? The space between them, respectively, is 6 days, 7 days, 7 days, and 8 days. Then, there's a 2-week gap to the next, smaller spike (March 3) and another 8 days to the one after that. While this is hardly proof of a clear regular pattern, it's hard to believe the weekly pacing is entirely a coincidence, given what we know about the algorithm update approval process.

This pattern is less clear in other months, and I'm not suggesting that a weekly update cycle is the whole picture. We know Google also does large data refreshes (including Penguin) and sometimes rolls updates out over multiple days (or even weeks). There's a similar, although noisier, pattern in April 2015 (the first part of the 12-month MSE graph). It's also interesting to note the activity levels around Christmas 2015:

Despite all of our conspiracy theories, there really did seem to be a 2015 Christmas lull in Google activity, lasting approximately 4 weeks, followed by a fairly large spike that may reflect some catch-up updates. Engineers go on vacation, too. Notice that that first January spike is followed by a roughly 2-week gap and then two 1-week gaps.

The most frequent day of the week for these spikes seems to be Wednesday, which is odd, if we believe there's some connection to Google's Thursday meetings. It's possible that these approximately weekly cycles are related to naturally occurring mid-week search patterns, although we'd generally expect less pronounced peaks if change were related to something like mid-week traffic spikes or news volume.

Did we win Google yet?

I've written at length about why I think algorithm updates still matter, but, tactically speaking, I don't believe we should try to plan our efforts around weekly updates. Many updates are very small and even some that are large on average may not effect our employer or clients.

I view the Google weather as a bit like the unemployment rate. It's interesting to know whether that rate is, say, 5% or 7%, but ultimately what matters to you is whether or not you have a job. Low or high unemployment is a useful economic indicator and may help you decide whether to risk finding a new job, but it doesn't determine your fate. Likewise, measuring the temperature of the algorithm can teach us something about the system as a whole, but the temperature on any given day doesn't decide your success or failure.

Ultimately, instead of trying to predict when an algorithm update will happen, we should focus on the motivations behind those updates and what they signal about Google's intent. We don't know exactly when the hammer will fall, but we can get out of the way in plenty of time if we're paying attention.


Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don't have time to hunt down but want to read!



from Moz Blog http://ift.tt/1Smy9Gr
via IFTTT

Friday, April 22, 2016

How to Influence Branded Searches and Search Volumes to Earn Big Rewards - Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

What have you been doing with branded searches? If the answer is "not much," it may be time to shift your focus a bit. In today's Whiteboard Friday, Rand explores the huge benefits of turning some of your unbranded searches into branded and offers some key tactical advice.

How to Influence Branded Searches and Search Volumes to Earn Big Rewards Whiteboard

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we're going to chat a little bit about how to influence branded search and get a load of benefit out of that. Some of these things that I'm going to talk about today are more theoretical. Like we think they work. We've experimented. We've seen some other folks experiment. We're pretty sure. Then some of them are solid. We know that these things influence. Regardless, I think I can persuade you that trying to turn more of your unbranded search into branded search is a hugely positive thing. Generating more branded search in general is also hugely positive. Let me show you what I mean with some examples first.

Non-branded search

Non-branded search, these are essentially the search terms, the queries and phrases that we are all pursuing. We're trying to rank for them. This is searchers who have not yet expressed a brand preference. They're searching. Let's say we're talking to a chemist or a lab instructor at a school and they're trying to put together all their materials for their lab. So they're searching for things like test tubes and lab equipment and chemical safety goggles. They're trying to figure out the best prices and the best products, the ones that'll be the safest, the ones that'll be best for their class. Those are unbranded. They have expressed no brand preference. They haven't said, "Oh I want this kind and I know that."

Branded search

Branded searches are more like, "Oh I know I want a Fisher test tube, Fisher Scientific." Fisher test tubes is what I'm looking for, or lab equipment from Thermo. Thermo Scientific makes a bunch of lab equipment that you can buy prepackaged, kind of all together. Or chemical goggles, "I know I want the 3M variety." 3M has, like, these awesome chemical goggles. They're very safe, very good for this stuff.

These branded searches are preferable in many ways for the brands that own and control these companies than the non-branded searches. Here's why.

A. Increase ease of ranking and conversion

Obviously it is way, way easier to rank well for "3M chemical goggles" if you are 3M than ranking for just "chemical goggles" if you're 3M. You're competing against far fewer folks. A lot of people won't even use your brand name. Even the people who do, like maybe on Amazon.com, you'll still get some benefit from that because they're searching for your brand.

It also increases the propensity to convert, meaning that if someone performs that branded search, they're more likely to actually buy that product. They're generally speaking further down the funnel. They've sort of decided to at least investigate your brand, and now you have a chance to pitch them. They're familiar. They know your brand name at least. That's a real positive thing.

B. Affecting search suggest

The second thing that's nice is you can affect search suggest, meaning that if lots of people, for example, started searching for "3M chemical goggles" instead of "chemical safety goggles" or "chemical goggles," it would actually be the case that over time what you'd see Google do is in the dropdown box for "chemical safety goggles," 3M, the word, would start to be associated with it. You'd see that in search suggest. It might be at the very bottom.

For example, if you do a search for "whiteboard," today in Google, Whiteboard Friday is somewhere on that list, but it's usually way down towards the bottom. In some geographies it's probably not there at all. Over time if we get more and more people searching for Whiteboard Friday, it'll move up in search suggest. So that means people will be more likely to perform that query. At least they'll see it and say, "Oh that must be a brand," or "I must have some association with that, or maybe I'm supposed to," or "I want to investigate that, I'm curious about it."

C. Improve rankings for non-branded queries

This is one of those speculative things. We believe that right now search volume for branded terms does have an impact on ranking for the non-branded version of the query.

We saw Google file some patents around this, but we also saw some tests in this direction that looked promising, basically saying that if . . . Let's do Fisher for this one. Let's say people start searching for Fisher test tubes a lot more. Google might say, "You know, I think Fisher is very relevant to the search query 'test tubes.' Let's move Fisher up in the rankings for just the unbranded phrase 'test tubes,' because that volume is suggesting to us that this brand is more relevant to this query than maybe we initially presumed." That's huge as well. If you can drive up that search volume, now you can start to get benefit in the non-branded rankings.

D. Appear in "related searches" feature

You can appear in the related search feature. Related searches is usually somewhere between the middle of the page and the very bottom of the page, most of the time at the very bottom of the search page. That's a powerful way for those 10% to 20% of people that scroll all the way to the bottom before making a click selection or before deciding to change their query, those related searches are a powerful way to suggest, just like search suggest is, that they should, instead of searching for the non-branded term, search for your branded query. The related searches, by the way, is also we think influenced by content, which I'll talk about in a second.

E. Create an association between your brand and a keyphrase

Create an entity-style association. This is essentially the idea of co-occurring keywords. If Google is crawling the web and they see tons of documents, high-quality, trustworthy documents that contain the word "test tubes" that also contain the word "3M," oftentimes in close proximity to the word "test tubes," they'll over time start to associate the word "test tubes" with the word "3M." That can impact suggest. It can impact related. It can impact rankings. It has a bunch of positive potential impact. That can make you more relevant for all sorts of things around search that are just awesome.

F. Affect future searches and personalization

Then the last one, which is also cool and powerful, is that this can affect search personalization, meaning, for example, let's say someone does a search for "3M chemical goggles." They click on 3m.com. Maybe they buy them. Maybe they don't. Next time they do a search, for example let's say "chemical aprons," well it turns out that Google already knows that person has visited 3M in the past. They might see that behavior and, because they're logged into their account, they might show them 3M higher up in the rankings. They might show them 3M higher in the search suggest as they start typing. That personalization is another powerful way that you're getting benefit from branded search.

There are all these benefits. We want to make this happen. How do we do it?

What are the tactics that an SEO can actually use?

It turns out SEOs, we're going to have to work pretty cross-departmentally in our marketing teams to be able to make this happen because some of the best tactics require things that SEO doesn't always own and control entirely. Sometimes you do, sometimes not.

The first one, if we can create curiosity and drive search volume via brand advertising, that's an awesome way to go.

You've seen more and more of this. You have seen advertisements probably on television and YouTube ads. You've seen branded ads on display ads. You've probably heard things on the radio that say search for us, all that kind of stuff. All that classic media, everything from billboards to radio — I know I'm drawing televisions with rabbit ears still. There are probably no TVs in the US that still have rabbit ears. Magazines, print, whatever, billboards, all of that brand advertising can drive people to then be curious about the brand and to want to investigate them more. If you hear a lot about 3M goggles and the cool stuff they're doing, well, you might be tempted to perform a search.

You can embed searches as well.

Be careful with this one. This can get spammy and manipulative and could get you into trouble. You can do it. If you do it in authentic white hat ways, you'll probably be okay.

The idea is basically telling customers like, "Hey, if you want to research us, learn more about 3M's goggles, don't just take our word for it. Search Google. Go find what people are saying, what reviews are saying about our product." You see I think it was LG or Samsung ran a big one of these where they were suggesting people do a Google search, because it turns out their phone had been very, very highly rated by all the top folks who'd done a review of them. You can do that in email. You could do it over social networks. You could do it in content. You're essentially driving people directly to the Google search result page. That could be an embedded link, or it simply could be a suggestion to search and check people out.

You can also use public relations and content marketing, especially guest contributions and content marketing.

You can use events and sponsorship, all of that stuff to essentially drive latent interest and curiosity, kind of like we did with brand advertising but in a little more organic fashion. If The New York Times writes a piece about you, if you speak at a conference . . . This is me wildly gesticulating at a conference. It looks like I'm very dangerously, precariously perched to fall into the crowd there. Guest contributions on a website, maybe something like a Fortune.com, which takes some guest posts, driving people to want to learn more about the brand or the product that you've mentioned.

Then finally, you can create those keyword associations that we talked about, the entity-style associations, through word proximity and co-occurrence in web documents.

I put just web documents here, but really it's important, trustworthy web documents from sources that Google likes and trusts and indexes. That means looking at: Where are all the places potentially on the web that lab equipment is talked about or would be talked about maybe in the future? How do I influence those authors, those creators, those publications to potentially consider including my brand, Thermo Scientific, in their documents? Or how do I create content for places like these that include my brand and include the unbranded term "lab equipment?"

Bunch of tactics, bunch of great opportunities here. I'd love to hear from you folks about what you've done around influencing branded search and how you've seen it affect your SEO campaigns overall. I'll look forward to catching up with you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com


Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don't have time to hunt down but want to read!



from Moz Blog http://ift.tt/246yP6T
via IFTTT

Thursday, April 21, 2016

How Long Does Link Building Take to Influence Rankings?

Posted by Kristina Kledzik

[Estimated read time: 9 minutes]

If you’re an SEO, chances are, you’ve recommended link building as a tactic. And, unless you work for a very trusting firm, you’ve probably been met with the question, “When will we see a return on our investment, and how much will we see?”

This is a question I’ve been asked numerous times, but never had a good answer for. The truth is, a new link doesn't affect rankings immediately. That makes it hard to tie an individual link to SERP rankings increases, since there will usually be several other links and on-page changes made to a target page between the time when you get that first link and when you finally see increases in rankings.

So, I set out to figure this out myself. I'm lucky enough to be working for a company with nearly 200,000 indexed pages, which gets hundreds of new links each month naturally, through PR and through my link building efforts. That means I've got a lot of pages that only got 1–2 links in the last 6 months, and didn't go through many on-page changes.

I picked out 76 links pointing to pages which are all similar to each other in content, and we didn't change that content (significantly) for 6 months. I focused on rankings for target keywords with a 25–35% Keyword Difficulty Rating. I looked at two versions of their target keywords, so I could have a bit more data. The results aren't super surprising to SEOs, but they're often questioned by the managers of SEOs, and now you have graphs to prove what you've been saying all along.

It takes 10 weeks on average to see 1 rank jump

This graph shows an up-and-to-the-right trend for average increase in rank over weeks after link was created.

More links do have a more immediate effect. Jacob at Exstreamist promoted some material that got him around 20 links to one of his pages, which was being outranked by other pages with about 6 more inbound links. It took his page 5–10 weeks to move from #9 to #5.

It seems that each link has a small to medium effect initially, but that effect increases over time. If you add a lot of links at once, you're not only going to see faster results, you're going to see much bigger results over time.

The lower the rank, the more effect a link has

This graph shows the average increase in rank by starting rank over weeks after link was created.

The pages that I observed that were already ranking on the first page of SERPs didn't show much of a rankings increase with one link, barely moving over one spot in 22 weeks. In contrast, pages ranking on the second or deeper pages of SERPs took off after 8–9 weeks.

Keep in mind that I am working with a fairly small data set, so I don't recommend that you promise a 10 spot jump after 22 weeks.

Higher DA will move the needle faster

This graph shows average increase in rank by Domain Authority range over weeks after the link was created.

Wondering where DA 50+ links are on this graph? I didn’t have enough to pages other than the homepage to get meaningful averages. Sorry, guys.

Unsurprisingly, a higher DA will have a bigger effect — in fact, you can see that the average rank change for a page that got a link from a site with a DA below 25 actually dropped after 13 weeks, then recovered to barely two ranks up.

I generally have a rule that I don’t want to spend any time or money on sites with DAs under 25. This chart shows that they’re not completely devoid of value, but be prepared for a very, very small change in rank with these guys.

Interestingly, both the DA 0–25 and DA 25–50 sets showed their first big jump after 10 weeks, but anecdotally, I've heard that higher DA links will have faster effects. This may be because higher DA sites get crawled more often (so the link will be discovered sooner), but I think this may be a purposeful delay in the algorithm. Google's probably taking a bit more time to trust a link from a lower-quality site.

Cool! So, if I start link building now, I'll see results in 10 weeks or sooner!

Actually, no. It takes a while to get links from a (legitimate) link building campaign. Each step is going to take a varying amount of time, based on the company you work for and the resources you already have. Here’s a list of steps you should keep in mind.

1. Getting the resources

Finding an agency (1–3 months)

The easiest route when you’re starting out is to hire an agency, since they’ll come prepared with a whole team of experienced link builders and will recommend their own tried-and-true strategies. Based on my experience watching businesses scope out Distilled when I worked there, the decision-making process is going to take you 1–3 months. It can be more if you’re a large company with a lot of bureaucracy, or if you’re trying to get a really good deal. Once you’ve chosen your partner in crime, you’ll usually have to wait a couple of weeks to a month to formally start.

Hiring a link builder in-house (1–2 months)

If it’s easier for you to hire a person than an agency, or if you think this is the best long-term strategy, you may end up needing to hire someone. The best candidates here are going to be people with link building experience, a customer service background, and/or bloggers who have successfully built up their own communities. According to Fast Company, it takes about 23 days to hire someone, so include that in your timeline.

Work with PR (almost immediate)

You can work with your PR team to start optimizing their media hits to also include good links. The success of this strategy will vary based on whether you’re going for general Domain Authority link building — in which case, all of those homepage links they’re getting will help you a lot — or trying to build Page Authority to individual landing pages, in which case they’ll probably have a hard time helping you out.

It's worth pointing out that I don't know any SEO who relies solely on PR wins to drive their link building strategy, so branch out if at all possible. If you're low on budget, though, try buying your PR team some drinks and getting them on your side.

2. Coming up with a link building strategy (2 weeks–1 month)

Once you’ve got link builders working for you, you’re going to need to come up with reasons why people will want to link to you. Here are some broad ideas, from fastest to longest ramp-up time:

Your company as a resource (1 week)

One way to get links is to find pages that are listing resources for something that your company provides. For example, if you’re Lyft, you can look for blogs and other sites that list ways you can make money with a flexible schedule.

Your potential here is going to vary based on what your company does and how well you understand the solutions your business offers and who appreciates them. Allow at least a week to prospect potential sites to reach out to.

Your expertise as a resource (2 weeks–1 month)

People are always looking for experts online, and your company probably has some valuable knowledge you can share. For example, if you’re Periscope Data, a company that lets you turn your database into graphs and tables for easier understanding, you might have a hard time finding many sites that are looking for your exact product. But you can put together advice on how to properly write SQL, and boom: thousands of more linking opportunities!

In this case, you’re going to need to both prospect to find the right sites to connect with, then you’re going to want to offer either quotes, guest posts, or resources on your site to entice them. That’ll take a few weeks to a month.

Infographics (1–3 months)

Infographics may be a little overused by SEOs, but high-quality visual assets can get a lot of attention. Just keep in mind that if you don’t work closely with your PR team, you may end up with a lot of posts sharing your infographic, but not linking back to your site.

To put together a good infographic, you’re going to need a compelling idea, clever/unique data, and a good visual designer. They’ll take you at least two months as you get started (but bank on three), though you may be able to get the time down to one month, if your company is a smoothly running machine.

In-depth research (1–3 months)

Write a really unique or really well-researched, well-written article, and you can probably get a lot of shares even without a visual component. This works best for companies that are leaders in their specific field and have a lot of data that their upper management is okay with them sharing.

Expect for this to take just as much time as an infographic — your writer needs just as much time, if not more, as a visual designer. OKCupid’s (previously) famous blog took 2–4 weeks of developer time and 4–8 weeks of a writer’s time for each post.

3. Executing (2 weeks–1 month)

Once you’ve got your strategies in place, you’re going to need to email each prospect, possibly going back and forth with them as they take their time to get back to you, post the wrong link, or need more persuading. You may get a few immediate wins, but remember that you’re not paying them, so you’re at the bottom of their priority list.

Kicking off a link building campaign? Here’s what to plan for:

  • 1–4 months: Find a link building agency and start them at the beginning of a month, OR
  • 1 month: Find an in-house link builder
  • 1 month: Come up with your top link building strategies
  • 1–3 months: Prospect for potential sites to target, and pull together the content that you need to entice those links
  • 2 weeks–1 month: Execute! It’ll take awhile to write all the emails you need to write, and respond to the feedback you get
  • 5–10 weeks: Wait for those links to take effect! Tell your team not to panic for at least 10 weeks (although effects will continue to grow beyond that)

All in all, that means that it may take you 6 months–1 year from beginning to end before you start seeing noticeable effects from your link building efforts.

As an SEO, I feel the need to reiterate: SEO is an investment. Yes, it’s going to take you a lot of time to get those results. But do you see how those rankings keep moving up and to the right, even after you’ve secured those links? Set your manager’s expectations that this is going to be a long process, but the money you pay now is going to pay off continually as long as you keep on top of your competition.

Good luck, and happy link building!


Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don't have time to hunt down but want to read!



from Moz Blog http://ift.tt/22PAlrn
via IFTTT

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Battleground Mobile: Why (& How) to Prepare for the Future

Posted by EricEnge

[Estimated read time: 12 minutes]

The world of mobile continues to explode. Major players like Google, Facebook, and Apple are investing massively in efforts to establish themselves as the dominant player in the new markets that are emerging as a result. These companies are betting in a big way on continuing changes in mobile usage and in user expectations for mobile devices, and that means you should be, too. It means you need to have a mobile-first mentality.

The investments by these companies are happening at many different levels. For example, Google has already made mobile friendliness a ranking factor, and intends to increase the strength of that signal in May 2016. But there's much more to this story, so let's dig in!

Continuing rise of mobile devices

Sure, you've heard it before, but the growth of installed mobile devices is probably happening even faster than you think:

According to this data, PCs, tablets, and smartphones will only be about 25% of the installed Internet-enabled devices by 2020. Just a few years ago, these represented two-thirds of the installed Internet devices. In the biz world, this is what we call a "disruptive change."

Many of the new device types will probably have a fairly passive role in our lives (such as smart refrigerators, smart thermostats, and other Internet of Things devices). By this, I mean that I don't expect them to become devices that we interact with heavily.

However, many classes of these devices will be ones that we'll interact with substantially, such as smart TVs, Internet media devices, and wearables.

Here's a recast view of that same chart focusing on just this class of devices:

Looking at this new chart, we see that PCs and tablets — the devices that have a fairly substantial keyboard available — still make up only about 40% of the installed devices.

Rise of voice search

So how will we interact with those devices? The primary way of doing that will be via voice.

In the recent keynote event I did with Gary Illyes, he indicated that the number of voice searches Google received in 2015 was double that of 2014, so they're definitely seeing a steep rise in voice search volume.

The recent interview that Danny Sullivan did with Amit Singhal underscored this. The now-retired Head of Search Quality at Google (he retired as of February 29, 2016) spent a year living primarily on mobile phones. One of the interesting exchanges in the interview:

Danny Sullivan: Do you tend to type more or do you voice-search more?
Amit Singhal: I'm swiping and voice-searching far more than letter-typing.

At another point in the interview he also says: "I realized ... that on mobile devices, that I wanted to act more." This notion is backed up by something Gary Illyes said in our recent keynote event: "We get, I think, 30 times as many action queries by voice as by typing."

This emergence of voice search is a big deal. As Singhal noted above, this leads to much more voice search, and voice queries use natural language queries far more than typed searches. This appears to be one of the major reasons behind Google developing and launching its RankBrain algorithm.

Who's winning the mobile wars so far?

Recently, I watched a great video of a presentation by Chartbeat's Tony Haile. In this video he shows some interesting data on content consumption, as well as the mobile market. One of the more fascinating charts is this one showing that Facebook utterly dominates consumption of major news events:

Note that this particular chart is for one single story on The Atlantic, entitled "What ISIS Really Wants," but it's a compelling chart just the same. In addition, Facebook has 678 million users (47% of all their users) that access their platform solely from mobile devices, and 934 million of their 1.44 billion users (65%) access Facebook from a mobile device every day.

Taking this a step further, you can see how Facebook's dominance here plays out on a minute-by-minute basis, using (once again) the ISIS news story as an example:

In this view, you see Google leading the early surge, but once Facebook spikes, its volume quickly overwhelms that of Google. So in this view, it looks like Facebook is dominating major news cycles. In contrast, Google owns the lulls in the news cycles:

Another interesting note from the Haile presentation is that overall mobile traffic share is continuing to grow, and is pushing towards 60% and higher of all traffic. However, he notes that this is "not because it's killing desktop, it's because it's outgrowing it."

Haile also points out that there are 5 types of things that you can do with content. These are:

  1. Create
  2. Host
  3. Curate
  4. Distribute
  5. Monetize

Facebook has historically been used to curate and distribute content. With their new Facebook Instant Articles initiative, they are now taking on the hosting and monetization of content. I'll discuss that more below.

So does this mean that Facebook is the runaway winner in mobile? No, as the charts above focused on the major news cycles, but nonetheless, it shows that Facebook has some strong advantages over Google that you might not have expected.

Mobile apps

Another thing that many underestimate is the growing importance of the apps market. comScore's September 2015 Mobile App Report provides some compelling data to help you increase your understanding of where apps fit into the overall market.

First, let's took at the share that apps represent of all digital media time:

Per this chart, usage in all 3 segments is growing (including desktop), but the growth of time in apps is happening at a far greater rate than any other segment. In addition, time spent on apps exceeds that of time on desktop and the mobile web together. Note that not all app time is on smartphones, as usage in tablets have high app usage as well, but smartphone app usage by itself represents 44% of all digital media time spent:

I gotta tell you, seeing that 44% number was a "wow" moment for me. Facebook and Google have both recognized the importance of this growing usage pattern. You can see this in the following chart of the top 25 installed apps by user count:

The top 6 apps, as well as 8 of the top 9 apps, are all provided by either Facebook or Google. Ever wonder why Google keeps Google Plus around? Might have something to do with that app coming in at position 18 among the most-installed apps. This makes G+ a huge potential source of data for Google.

Facebook has the clear lead here too, though, as it's the number-one installed app, and it's considered the number one app for 48% of those that have it installed:

One of the big problems with Apps for most publishers is even after you get installed is driving ongoing usage. According to Google, "only one quarter of installed apps are used daily while one quarter are are left completely unused."

One method that Google offers to help app publishers is app indexing. This will enable content within apps to show up in search results for related queries:

Google currently has 50 billion links within apps indexed, and "25% of searches on Android return deep links to apps for signed-in users. In addition to driving re-engagement, app indexing on Android will also surface install buttons for users who do not yet have your app installed. Since 1 in 4 apps are already being discovered through search, app indexing is a simple and free method for acquiring new users." Here are some examples of app install buttons showing up in the SERPs:

As shown here, the query that led to this showing up in the SERP was the name of the business, Priceza. However, Google's Mariya Moeva provided me with other examples of "app seeking queries" that might bring up such an install button:

  1. restaurant finder
  2. grocery shopping list
  3. breaking news app

The benefits of app indexing should be obvious, but Google shares many case studies here. One of these from AliExpress showed an 80–90% increase in search impressions, and a 30–40% increase for searches on Android for users that had the app installed.

This leads to bringing users back to your app, and this offers compelling value as app engaged users tend to be more loyal, place higher dollar value orders, and order more frequently. Part of the upside in terms of visibility results from the fact that app indexing is used by Google as a ranking signal, though the scope of that boost isn't clear.

Driving initial installs, and then getting help to get users back to your app seems like a good thing!

Speed, speed, and more speed

You've heard this, too: that speed is paramount. But you might still have no idea how important. You may well have seen data like this:

Or you may have seen data from some of the Akamai travel site performance study that showed:

  1. Three second rule: 57 percent of online shoppers will wait three seconds or less before abandoning a site
  2. 65% of 18–24 year olds expect a site to load in two seconds or less

It would be tempting to look at all this data and then start setting specific goals as to how fast you need to be, but I want to discourage you from thinking about it that way. Instead, I'm going to give you a different goal:

Be faster than your competition

In today's hyper-connected world, the real issue is that any time you offer some subpar aspect to what you do, the competitive alternative is only a click or two away. Understanding the implications of that, and applying it in all your online thinking is one of the most important things you can do.

Don't just focus on being faster than they are today either, but make yourself faster than they will be in 6 months or a year from now.

For some basic help you can check your pages out in Google's Page Speed Insights tool. However, both Facebook and Google offer initiatives for dramatically speeding up your web pages, and that's what I'll explore next.

Facebook Instant Articles

Facebook Instant Articles officially launched on May 12th, 2015. The idea behind the program is to dramatically speed up performance of content on mobile devices. When the program initially launched, it was available only to some publishers, such as the NY Times, the Washington Post, Buzzfeed, Business Insider, NBC News, and Mic.

The benefits that the program offers is near-instant loading of content on mobile devices, and the opportunity to get Facebook to sell your ad space for you (though you can still sell it yourself if you want to). If Facebook sells the ads for you, the split has been reported at 70% to you and 30% kept by Facebook, though that does not appear to be a hard-and-fast number.

Instant Articles come with some neat visualization features too, such as rapid scrolling, zooming capabilities, and the ability to connect to maps functionality.

However, the platform is a proprietary one, with Facebook hosting the content. This will be scary to some. To try and ease those concerns, Facebook does enable publishers to sell their own ads if they prefer, without any need to pay Facebook a cut, or to include their own analytics on the Instant Articles.

As of April 12, 2016, this program will be opened up to all publishers. According to Peter Kafka of re/code: "When I asked reps there if that included one-person operations — that is, someone typing their own stuff on a Tumblr page or Medium page or whatever — they said yes, with a tiny bit of hesitation."

Accelerated Mobile Pages

In October of 2015, Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) were announced. Like Facebook Instant Articles, its goal is to load pages on mobile devices instantly. One of the fundamental differences about AMP is that it's an ope source project, with participants such as:

  1. Google
  2. Pinterest
  3. Twitter
  4. Wordpress
  5. The Guardian

AMP relies on two basic principles to make it operate faster:

  1. The permitted HTML is very limited, with the basic goal being that all code is already pre-rendered to minimize need for server accesses when rendering a page.
  2. The pages can be cached by third parties. For example, Google already has the caching infrastructure in place, but companies such as Pinterest and Twitter can set up their own if they choose.

To make this work, you are only allowed to use fairly limited CSS, and the AMP-supplied JavaScript library. You can more or less forget about AJAX, or forms, for example.

There are also some hoops you need to jump through to implement analytics on these pages, run your ads, and deal with unsupported functionality, but workarounds do exist. For example, according to Paul Shapiro at SMX West, iframes are "the holy grail of unsupported functionality" for AMP:

Also, to implement analytics, you'll need to use special tags. Paul Shapiro recommends the PageFrog plugin to help with that for both AMP and Facebook Instant Articles:

Expect the AMP platform to evolve rapidly, as there are many interested parties working on this and many of the current shortcomings will get better over time.

Developing an action plan

The cumulative weight of all these changes represents a significant disruptive event. These are the times when businesses can rapidly accelerate their growth, or lose the opportunity and get stuck playing catch-up. I'm pretty sure which of those two scenarios I prefer. The first steps, really, are to understand what are the specific opportunities for connecting with your customers over mobile, and prioritizing among them.

You should have a basic mobile-friendly site, as that's already a ranking factor. But, your thought process needs to go deeper than that. For example, start understanding what type of mobile experience your customers want to be having. I'd urge you to put significant creative thinking into this question, as the best mobile experience might involve approaches that are quite different from what you do on your current website.

The strategic shift you need to make is to make your business mobile-first. Any time you think about adding something to your website, for example, stop coming up with the desktop design first and relying on responsive web design to handle mobile for you. Start thinking about your mobile experience first, and then consider the desktop variation second.

As you engage in that thought process, be willing to incorporate some of the specific elements I've discussed within this article. Here's a summary of those items, and how they might fit in:

  1. Should you build an app? Yes, if you believe you can put enough value into an app to generate installs and bring users back to use it on an ongoing basis.
    • While I did not discuss this in this article, make sure to perform App Store Optimization to help generate more installs as well.
    • Implement Google's app indexing. This may help you generate more installs, and should also help bring people back to your app on a regular basis
  2. Should you implement Facebook Instant Articles? I'm a big fan of trying this out for your article-level content. It can't hurt to have it load instantly within Facebook, particularly if you do any level of Facebook promotion. We're planning to test it here at STC and see what it does for us.
  3. Should you implement AMP? I'm in the same camp on this one: you should try this, and we're testing it here at STC.

As for the impact of natural language (voice) search, this just increases the emphasis on the quality of your content and your focus on natural language in that content, instead of obsessing over tweaking the content for search engines.

This list really just itemizes the tactical opportunities for you, and the biggest point is that you need to start operating from a mobile-first mindset at all levels in your online business efforts.


Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don't have time to hunt down but want to read!



from Moz Blog http://ift.tt/1ViL6DF
via IFTTT