Monday, March 30, 2015

Spam Score: Moz's New Metric to Measure Penalization Risk

Posted by randfish

Today, I'm very excited to announce that Moz's Spam Score, an R&D project we've worked on for nearly a year, is finally going live. In this post, you can learn more about how we're calculating spam score, what it means, and how you can potentially use it in your SEO work.

How does Spam Score work?

Over the last year, our data science team, led by Dr. Matt Peters, examined a great number of potential factors that predicted that a site might be penalized or banned by Google. We found strong correlations with 17 unique factors we call "spam flags," and turned them into a score.

Almost every subdomain in Mozscape (our web index) now has a Spam Score attached to it, and this score is viewable inside Open Site Explorer (and soon, the MozBar and other tools). The score is simple; it just records the quantity of spam flags the subdomain triggers. Our correlations showed that no particular flag was more likely than others to mean a domain was penalized/banned in Google, but firing many flags had a very strong correlation (you can see the math below).

Spam Score currently operates only on the subdomain level—we don't have it for pages or root domains. It's been my experience and the experience of many other SEOs in the field that a great deal of link spam is tied to the subdomain-level. There are plenty of exceptions—manipulative links can and do live on plenty of high-quality sites—but as we've tested, we found that subdomain-level Spam Score was the best solution we could create at web scale. It does a solid job with the most obvious, nastiest spam, and a decent job highlighting risk in other areas, too.

How to access Spam Score

Right now, you can find Spam Score inside Open Site Explorer, both in the top metrics (just below domain/page authority) and in its own tab labeled "Spam Analysis." Spam Score is only available for Pro subscribers right now, though in the future, we may make the score in the metrics section available to everyone.

The current Spam Analysis page includes a list of subdomains or pages linking to your site. You can toggle the target to look at all links to a given subdomain on your site, given pages, or the entire root domain. You can further toggle source tier to look at the Spam Score for incoming linking pages or subdomains (but in the case of pages, we're still showing the Spam Score for the subdomain on which that page is hosted).

You can click on any Spam Score row and see the details about which flags were triggered. We'll bring you to a page like this:

Back on the original Spam Analysis page, at the very bottom of the rows, you'll find an option to export a disavow file, which is compatible with Google Webmaster Tools. You can choose to filter the file to contain only those sites with a given spam flag count or higher:

Disavow exports usually take less than 3 hours to finish. We can send you an email when it's ready, too.

WARNING: Please do not export this file and simply upload it to Google! You can really, really hurt your site's ranking and there may be no way to recover. Instead, carefully sort through the links therein and make sure you really do want to disavow what's in there. You can easily remove/edit the file to take out links you feel are not spam. When Moz's Cyrus Shepard disavowed every link to his own site, it took more than a year for his rankings to return!

We've actually made the file not-wholly-ready for upload to Google in order to be sure folks aren't too cavalier with this particular step. You'll need to open it up and make some edits (specifically to lines at the top of the file) in order to ready it for Webmaster Tools

In the near future, we hope to have Spam Score in the Mozbar as well, which might look like this:

Sweet, right? :-)

Potential use cases for Spam Analysis

This list probably isn't exhaustive, but these are a few of the ways we've been playing around with the data:

  1. Checking for spammy links to your own site: Almost every site has at least a few bad links pointing to it, but it's been hard to know how much or how many potentially harmful links you might have until now. Run a quick spam analysis and see if there's enough there to cause concern.
  2. Evaluating potential links: This is a big one where we think Spam Score can be helpful. It's not going to catch every potentially bad link, and you should certainly still use your brain for evaluation too, but as you're scanning a list of link opportunities or surfing to various sites, having the ability to see if they fire a lot of flags is a great warning sign.
  3. Link cleanup: Link cleanup projects can be messy, involved, precarious, and massively tedious. Spam Score might not catch everything, but sorting links by it can be hugely helpful in identifying potentially nasty stuff, and filtering out the more probably clean links.
  4. Disavow Files: Again, because Spam Score won't perfectly catch everything, you will likely need to do some additional work here (especially if the site you're working on has done some link buying on more generally trustworthy domains), but it can save you a heap of time evaluating and listing the worst and most obvious junk.

Over time, we're also excited about using Spam Score to help improve the PA and DA calculations (it's not currently in there), as well as adding it to other tools and data sources. We'd love your feedback and insight about where you'd most want to see Spam Score get involved.

Details about Spam Score's calculation

This section comes courtesy of Moz's head of data science, Dr. Matt Peters, who created the metric and deserves (at least in my humble opinion) a big round of applause. - Rand

Definition of "spam"

Before diving into the details of the individual spam flags and their calculation, it's important to first describe our data gathering process and "spam" definition.

For our purposes, we followed Google's definition of spam and gathered labels for a large number of sites as follows.

  • First, we randomly selected a large number of subdomains from the Mozscape index stratified by mozRank.
  • Then we crawled the subdomains and threw out any that didn't return a "200 OK" (redirects, errors, etc).
  • Finally, we collected the top 10 de-personalized, geo-agnostic Google-US search results using the full subdomain name as the keyword and checked whether any of those results matched the original keyword. If they did not, we called the subdomain "spam," otherwise we called it "ham."

We performed the most recent data collection in November 2014 (after the Penguin 3.0 update) for about 500,000 subdomains.

Relationship between number of flags and spam

The overall Spam Score is currently an aggregate of 17 different "flags." You can think of each flag a potential "warning sign" that signals that a site may be spammy. The overall likelihood of spam increases as a site accumulates more and more flags, so that the total number of flags is a strong predictor of spam. Accordingly, the flags are designed to be used together—no single flag, or even a few flags, is cause for concern (and indeed most sites will trigger at least a few flags).

The following table shows the relationship between the number of flags and percent of sites with those flags that we found Google had penalized or banned:

ABOVE: The overall probability of spam vs. the number of spam flags. Data collected in Nov. 2014 for approximately 500K subdomains. The table also highlights the three overall danger levels: low/green (< 10%) moderate/yellow (10-50%) and high/red (>50%)

The overall spam percent averaged across a large number of sites increases in lock step with the number of flags; however there are outliers in every category. For example, there are a small number of sites with very few flags that are tagged as spam by Google and conversely a small number of sites with many flags that are not spam.

Spam flag details

The individual spam flags capture a wide range of spam signals link profiles, anchor text, on page signals and properties of the domain name. At a high level the process to determine the spam flags for each subdomain is:

  • Collect link metrics from Mozscape (mozRank, mozTrust, number of linking domains, etc).
  • Collect anchor text metrics from Mozscape (top anchor text phrases sorted by number of links)
  • Collect the top five pages by Page Authority on the subdomain from Mozscape
  • Crawl the top five pages plus the home page and process to extract on page signals
  • Provide the output for Mozscape to include in the next index release cycle

Since the spam flags are incorporated into in the Mozscape index, fresh data is released with each new index. Right now, we crawl and process the spam flags for each subdomains every two - three months although this may change in the future.

Link flags

The following table lists the link and anchor text related flags with the the odds ratio for each flag. For each flag, we can compute two percents: the percent of sites with that flag that are penalized by Google and the percent of sites with that flag that were not penalized. The odds ratio is the ratio of these percents and gives the increase in likelihood that a site is spam if it has the flag. For example, the first row says that a site with this flag is 12.4 times more likely to be spam than one without the flag.

ABOVE: Description and odds ratio of link and anchor text related spam flags. In addition to a description, it lists the odds ratio for each flag which gives the overall increase in spam likelihood if the flag is present).

Working down the table, the flags are:

  • Low mozTrust to mozRank ratio: Sites with low mozTrust compared to mozRank are likely to be spam.
  • Large site with few links: Large sites with many pages tend to also have many links and large sites without a corresponding large number of links are likely to be spam.
  • Site link diversity is low: If a large percentage of links to a site are from a few domains it is likely to be spam.
  • Ratio of followed to nofollowed subdomains/domains (two separate flags): Sites with a large number of followed links relative to nofollowed are likely to be spam.
  • Small proportion of branded links (anchor text): Organically occurring links tend to contain a disproportionate amount of banded keywords. If a site does not have a lot of branded anchor text, it's a signal the links are not organic.

On-page flags

Similar to the link flags, the following table lists the on page and domain name related flags:

ABOVE: Description and odds ratio of on page and domain name related spam flags. In addition to a description, it lists the odds ratio for each flag which gives the overall increase in spam likelihood if the flag is present).

  • Thin content: If a site has a relatively small ratio of content to navigation chrome it's likely to be spam.
  • Site mark-up is abnormally small: Non-spam sites tend to invest in rich user experiences with CSS, Javascript and extensive mark-up. Accordingly, a large ratio of text to mark-up is a spam signal.
  • Large number of external links: A site with a large number of external links may look spammy.
  • Low number of internal links: Real sites tend to link heavily to themselves via internal navigation and a relative lack of internal links is a spam signal.
  • Anchor text-heavy page: Sites with a lot of anchor text are more likely to be spam then those with more content and less links.
  • External links in navigation: Spam sites may hide external links in the sidebar or footer.
  • No contact info: Real sites prominently display their social and other contact information.
  • Low number of pages found: A site with only one or a few pages is more likely to be spam than one with many pages.
  • TLD correlated with spam domains: Certain TLDs are more spammy than others (e.g. pw).
  • Domain name length: A long subdomain name like "" may indicate keyword stuffing.
  • Domain name contains numerals: domain names with numerals may be automatically generated and therefore spam.

If you'd like some more details on the technical aspects of the spam score, check out the video of Matt's 2012 MozCon talk about Algorithmic Spam Detection or the slides (many of the details have evolved, but the overall ideas are the same):

We'd love your feedback

As with all metrics, Spam Score won't be perfect. We'd love to hear your feedback and ideas for improving the score as well as what you'd like to see from it's in-product application in the future. Feel free to leave comments on this post, or to email Matt (matt at moz dot com) and me (rand at moz dot com) privately with any suggestions.

Good luck cleaning up and preventing link spam!

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!

5 Trends to Watch in the Mobile-First Search Era

In this forward-thinking mobile world, let’s look ahead to the five key mobile trends to watch.

Friday, March 27, 2015

What Does an SEO Do In Their Day-to-Day Work - Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

There's a common misconception that SEO is a "one and done" task -- that you clean up and optimize a site, and once that's done, you can focus your efforts elsewhere. There's so much more to the day-to-day work of an SEO, though, and in today's Whiteboard Friday, Rand walks us through those ongoing parts of the job.

For reference, here's a still of this week's whiteboard!

What Does and SEO do in Their Day-to-Day Work board

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week I want to tackle a question I get sometimes about the day-to-day activities of an SEO and what should you do after you've completed that first site audit, sort of fixed the problems, what does the day-to-day work look like?

A lot of SEOs, especially those coming from consulting backgrounds or who've joined companies as in-house SEOs who've had kind of this big project based SEO work to do, find themselves struggling after that's done. Typically, that process is pretty straightforward. You kind of do an audit. You look at all the things on the site. You figure out what's wrong, what's missing, where are opportunities that we could execute on. Maybe you do some competitive analysis, some market analysis. You identify those fixes. You work with teams to make those changes, validate the results have been completed, and then you're sort of in this, "Well, do I go back and audit again and try to iterate and improve again?"

That doesn't feel quite right, but it also doesn't necessarily feel quite right to go to the very, very old-school SEO model of like, "All right, we've got these keywords we're trying to rank for. Let's optimize our content, get some links, check our rankings for them, and then try to rinse and repeat and keep improving." This model's pretty broken I'd say and just not reflective of the reality of opportunities that are in SEO or the reality of the tactics that work today.

So the way that I like to think about this is the SEO audit, an SEO focused audit -- which is trying to say, "What traffic could we get? What's missing? What's broken and wrong?" -- only works at the low level and the very tactical trenches of a marketing process or a business process. What you really need to do is you want to be more incrementally based, but you need to be informed by and you need to be evolving your tactics and your work based on what is the business need right now.

So this process is about saying, "What are the top level company and marketing goals overall? For everyone in the company, what are we trying to accomplish this year, this quarter, the next three year plan? What are we trying to achieve?" Then figure out areas where SEO can best contribute to that work, and then from there you're creating tactical lists of projects that maybe you're going to positively move the right needles, the ones that you've identified, and then you're going to evaluate and prioritize which ones you want to implement first, second, and third in what order, and test implement those.

So, hey we've figured out that we think that a new blog section for this particular piece of content, or we think that getting some user generated content, building up some community around this section would be terrific, or we think outreach to these kinds of publications or building up our social stats in these worlds will expose us to the right people who can earn us the amplification we'll need to rank better, etc., etc. Okay, this is a fine process, and you're going to want to do this, I would say, at least annually and maybe even think about it quarterly.

All this work is essentially centered on a customer profile universe, a universe of people. I've got my person X, Y, and Z here, but your customer universe may involve many different personas. It may involve just one type of person you're targeting that you're always trying to reach over and over again, but it probably involves also the people who influence that direct subsection of your market.

From there, you can take the, "Hey, you know what, person Z is really interested in and consumes and searches for these types of content topics and these kinds of keywords, so we're going to start by taking keyword set A or content set A and figure out our keyword list and our content list. We're going to create, launch, and promote work that supports that." It could be content pieces, could be video, could be some combination of those things in social media, all forms of content. It could be tools, whatever you want, an application.

We're going to launch that, promote it, and then work on some amplification, and then we're going to measure and learn, which is a critical part of that process. I want to not only see what are my results, but what can I learn from what we just did and hopefully I'll get better and better at iterating on this process. This process will work iteratively, kind of similar to our broken process over here or to our site audit process there. It will work iteratively, and then every now and then you should pop back up and go, "Hey, you know what, I feel like we've exhausted the easiest 80% of value that we're going to get from 20% of the work on keyword set A. Let's move on and go visit keyword set B now, and then let's go visit content set C."

Occasionally, you're even going to want to move one step up and say, "Hey, you know what, maybe our personas or our market is changing a little bit. We want to try targeting some new customers. We're going to look at these folks over here or this guy over here and see if we can reach them and their influencers with new kinds of content and topics and keywords, and that sort of thing."

If your site is rocking and rolling, if you've completed your audit, things are just smooth sailing, then this kind of a process is going to work much better, so long as it's tied to real business objectives. Then when you achieve results here, you can point back to, "Hey, remember I told you these are the areas SEO can contribute to our overall goals, and now I can connect these up directly. The metrics that I get from all this SEO stuff can tie directly to those areas, can tie directly to the business goals." Everyone from the CEO on down is going to love what you're doing for the company.

All right everyone, I hope you'll join me again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Google’s Mobile Algorithm Puts Customers First [#SESMiami]

Google will begin prioritizing mobile-friendly sites because that's what users have grown to expect, said developer programs tech lead Maile Ohye in her SES Miami keynote speech.

Ad Blocking: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

How does the emergence of ad-blocking browser plugins and applications affect search marketers?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Optimizing for AdWords Display Campaigns: Demographics, Ads, Mobile

Consider the following tips when rolling up your sleeves for optimizations in the Google Display Network.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

11 Ways for Local Businesses to Get Links

Posted by Casey_Meraz

Let's face it: Local link building is hard. Even if you have the budget and resources needed to earn or build links it will take time. Having a strong link profile is essential to your website's success in search engines.

If you're new to link building and want to develop a more in-depth understanding, check out this great resource from MOZ on link building here.

In this guide we will look at 11 practical ways you can start earning links for your local business, which will make an impact on your bottom line today.

Who should care about local link building?

When I talk about local link building I don't mean that these links are for local businesses exclusively. If you're trying to boost the authority of your website, one good way is to get links from locally relevant sources. This guide is for all types of businesses who want to increase their site's link authority.

Since local business types vary from fast food restaurants, to ski rental shops, to law firms, and everything in-between, the tactics below are applicable across the spectrum.

About these links

Some of these links are harder to get than others. While it's easy to start with the low hanging fruit, you should put a plan together to go after the harder ones. These are the links your competitors won't get because they're just too darn lazy. This is how real businesses set themselves apart in the customer's eyes and the search engine's eyes and build a brand that's worth remembering. Aim for quality over quantity and don't settle for crummy links.

How do you define a good link?

I recently read an article by Eric Enge from Stonetemple that summed up what type of links you should be looking for pretty nicely. In this article he mentioned three key points to help define the type of links you're looking for. They were:

  1. Links that will drive direct referral traffic
  2. Links that build visibility with your target audience for your brand
  3. Links that build your reputation

The link building methods I'll be covering today will achieve at least one of the goals each. I always think it's important to "think outside of the link" and the above three points make that practical. In addition to getting the link for an SEO benefit, will it actually drive relevant traffic? If so, that's a great link to chase. The same goes for links built that place you in front of your target audience and links that build your reputation.

Keeping this in mind, lets build some links!

#1 Create controversy and get in the news

Creating a controversial story may seem hard at first glance, but it reminds me of this quote from Peter Marshall "If you don't stand for something you will fall for anything." If your clients don't have any controversy or a cause to believe in, then they aren't real people.

You can't agree with 100% of the people 100% of the time and you just have to find out what that is. Some companies like Spirit Airlines seem to do this quite often, but the little guys can do this too with minimal investment.

Using this method you can get links from places like:

The Wall Street Journal, The Denver Post and other local newspapers, Lexis Nexis

Actual case study

We were recently working with an attorney who was looking to earn links at a decent scale. We proposed a scholarship contest. While scholarship links from .edus are cool, we like The Wall Street Journal and high authority news site links even more. After speaking with this client, who is a DUI attorney, we discussed how everybody talks about how destructive driving drunk is, but rarely do people admit to the habit.

From this idea, we came up with the concept of a Scholarship for Colorado students who admit to drinking and driving.

After the scholarship information was published on the site, we reached out to our local newspaper, The Denver Post, and informed them of the scholarship. From here, they went on to interview our client and write an article on the topic titled "Scholarship for Colorado students who admit to drinking and driving" that links to the scholarship page.

Once the Denver Post article was published, it was easy to get other major publications to cover the story, including The Wall Street Journal:

How you can do this

Step 1: Develop an idea that strikes a chord with people. Think about issues that are universally familiar and tend to be polarizing in some way.

Step 2: Develop the on-page asset needed to support it. In this case we opted for the scholarship.

Step 3: Once the asset is created, pitch it to a local newspaper.

Step 4: If the story is picked up by a newspaper you can then pitch it to other major publications like The Wall Street Journal. Many websites have contact forms and areas to submit a tip. Something simple like "Hey I thought you guys might find this funny" with a link to the news publication article will do the trick since it adds credibility.

Step 5: Share it on social media with groups that might be interested in the topic.

Step 6: Consider paying for some exposure on Outbrain to widen the audience.

PRO tip: Don't skimp on the content, graphics, or any step in this process. This will be fruitful if done right but will fall flat on your face if you try to take shortcuts.

#2 Easily get contest nomination links

Almost every city whether big or small has some type of local business awards. The awards might be run by a small local newspaper with a website, the chamber of commerce, or even another organization. In addition to these "Best Of" type awards, there are also awards based on age like Top 40 Under 40 or by type of business including Best Restaurant or Best Law Firm.

The trick is to find the opportunities that are a good fit for your business and get listed. Sometimes you have to win to get mentioned and other times you just need to get nominated.

Get links from places like:

Chamber of commerce, news publications, and major publications if you're good enough :)

Getting a link from the Chamber of Commerce like the example above is very relevant as it only serves businesses within that city. It's also a plus for informed local shoppers.

How you can do it

The best way to find these potentially lucrative links is to do a Google Search. You need to start by coming up with a list of potential sources. Since these are generally city or state specific, it's a good idea to use one of these search strings:

Here are some ideas to get the wheels turning in your brain:

  • "Nominate a business"+"STATE NAME" (Example: "Nominate a business"+"Colorado")
  • "City Name"+"Nominate a business" (Example: "Los Angeles"+"Nominate a business")
  • "best of STATE or CITY"+"nominate" (Example: "best of Colorado"+"nominate")
  • "best BUSINESS TYPE"+"nominate"+"city" (Example: "best restaurant"+"nominate"+"denver")
  • "AGE under AGE"+"GEO MODIFIER" (Example: "30 under 30"+"Denver")
  • "nominate"+"young entrepreneur" (Example: "nominate"+"young entrepreneur)

Once you have curated a list of awards you want to try to apply for you can then send your pitch to each of these websites directly. Typically they have nomination forms that you would fill out or a certain procedure. If you can't find out how, don't be afraid to ask!

#3 Get eco-friendly links

Is your business green? Does it operate according to low energy standards or are you at least on track to be green? Why not help out the environment and get a link out of it as well? Now while you probably won't show up on Newsweek's America's Greenest Companies 2014 for doing this, there are a lot of offline benefits to being green as well. I already mentioned saving the environment, but did you realize there are eco-friendly shoppers? Some shoppers do the majority of their business with companies that are eco-friendly and I suspect this will just continue to soar.

Get links from places like:

Mostly business directories and local news organizations who promote green businesses.

How you can do it

With this industry there are some low hanging fruits, but just like all link building, you should be smart about your approach. While it might be tempting to go out and get a link on a directory, I would personally spend time scrutinizing it to make sure it's a strong website that's human-edited and controlled. If you don't find it reputable, nobody else will (including Google). That's why it's best to focus on local opportunities such as your local newspaper or community directory.

Make sure to familiarize yourself with the Green Terminology here. Once you have a good idea of what you're looking for, you can conduct some easy searches such as the ones below to find directories. Again, please be sure to scrutinize them.

Search for directories by using search phrases like:

  • Eco-friendly business directory
  • Green business directories

#4 Sponsor a meetup group

An example of a meetup group sponsorship link

While of course we're talking about links here, I always like to see the other side of a link and the actual benefit it will give you. Did you know you can sponsor meetup groups and get a link as well as get in front of your potential customers? is a powerhouse website that connects like minded groups of people together through events they call meetups. If you have a good grasp of your target audience and you know where they hang out, you can get in front of them more easily.

For example, let's say that you're a bike store. Would it make sense to sponsor a local meetup biking club? Yes!

How you can do it

Sponsoring a meetup group does require the group owner to accept your sponsorship and terms. Your goal however is to get your business name, logo, discount, and link in the ad as shown in the example. If you're ambitious and a local store you could ask to have your NAP displayed as well for Local SEO purposes.

Step 1: Start by determining what type of groups might appeal to your audience. I have included some tricky examples below:

  • Attorneys - Maybe sponsoring a cycling- or driving-based meetup with the safety approach
  • Doctors - Sponsor a healthy living meetup
  • Airsoft or Paintball Store - Sponsor a singles group by offering an event
  • Construction - Sponsor a charity group or a new homeowners' group

That's enough to get the wheels turning. Write these ideas down and proceed to the next step.

Step 2: Turn to Google to make your search easier! Use the search strings below to only search the website with the keywords you're looking for: state+keyword or city+keyword

Step 3: Click through the results and find a meetup group that seems to fit the bill.

Step 4: Show up to the next scheduled local meetup group. Network. Meet the group owner and see if they're seeking sponsorship's.

Step 5: Negotiate and get your site up!

#5 Host a community event

If you want to do event link building check out my local event link building post here or Kane Jamison's event link post here. While those posts go more into how you can really promote an event and build some awesome local links, I want to talk specifically about how you can get listed on your city's website by hosting a community event. The thing I like most about events is that you get to give back to your community and help people. Not even a link feels as good as that.

The only real requirements for this one is that you host an event where the entire community is invited and get a blessing from the town. In the example below you can see how a church in my town of Parker, Colorado was able to get a link by hosting an Easter Egg Hunt.

So not only are they getting exposure from people in their town (their target audience), they're getting the link and mentions here too. If the event was hosted at your office or business location, then you can get the added superior benefit of your NAP listed on their website!

If it's a county-wide event, you can get listed on the county website and if the event is public safety you might be able to get the Fire Department and Police Departments on board as well. Plus this can come with the added benefit of news coverage.

Get links from places like:

Your city's website and major community news sources

How you can do it

The first thing you need to do is figure out what type of event you want to host. Depending on the size of your town and the size of the event, it can be a big deal. I'm a bit of a event fanatic so for me it comes easy. Don't be afraid to start small though as long as you're creating and providing a productive resource for your community.

Some potential ideas include:

  • Trash Pickup Day - Host a trash pickup day where the meeting place is your business or you sponsor the bags.
  • Toy Drop off for Needy Kids - Host a toy drive or drop off for kids in need.
  • Seminar - Host a seminar in your area of expertise that will be the most beneficial to residents. If you like this idea then also try starting a meetup group (see #4 above).

Step 1: Figure out the event type.

Step 2: Get the town on board with the idea and schedule a date at least 60 days out.

Step 3: Create the details page on your website with all pertinent event details.

Step 4: Make sure it goes up on the town's website with your company event page linked.

Step 5: Promote the heck out of it using the event promotion guide here.

Pro tip 1: Invite local press to your event to cover it. Be sure to meet and greet them and get to know them. More on this later.

Pro tip 2: Invite the local Boy Scouts or other community organizations as well. If their name is attached to the event, you might get more exposure and more link opportunities.

#6 Sponsor or donate to a local club or organization

Sponsorship links can be a slippery slope, but there's also a place for them. Over the years I have given back to a number of causes I support and have been an active member in charities and nonprofit organizations. Chances are you or someone you know is a part of one right now.

There are a lot of clubs in almost any community. Have you ever heard of the Rotary Club, Kiwanis, Lions Club, etc. These are commonly found in many communities and they typically have state, district, or chapter websites.

Below is a quick example I pulled from the Los Angeles Rotary Club sponsors webpage:

But don't stop there. While the major clubs are popular, there are also a lot of other potential sponsorship causes and organizations. This is commonly touched on so I'm not going to go into too much detail, but here are some easy search stings you can use to find some opportunities.

  • "city inurl:sponsors" (Example: Los Angeles inurl:sponsors)
  • "city inurl:sponsor" (Example: Los Angeles inurl:sponsor)
  • "city intitle:sponsors" (Example: Los Angeles intitle:sponsors)
  • keyword donations (Example: Safety donations)

After you have explored these opportunities simply reach out to the organizers and see what type of commitment they're looking for.

Pro tip: Don't be afraid to promote your sponsorship. If you're giving to a good cause, let the community know!

#7 Student, teacher, and alumni discounts

If you've done link building research you may have heard of the university discount link building where you can offer a discount to the students and faculty of a university. That has a place and it might be a good place for local links if you have a university nearby. But did you realize there are other student discount opportunities as well?

Typically when I look for opportunities locally I open my eyes a little wider and look for other opportunities like:

  1. K-12 Schools. These can be goldmines and aren't really talked about much.
  2. Organization discounts. Organizations have students too. Take the Colorado Symphony for example.
  3. Alumni discounts. Sometimes these organizations also offer alumni listings for free.

Get links from places like:

Organizations, schools, K-12 schools, educational websites

How you can do it

This is another scenario where we will turn to Google and seek opportunities:

  • "student discounts" - Looks for organizations that offer student discounts
  • "high school"+"student Discount" - Checks for offers available to high school students
  • "staff discounts" - Searches .edu domains for staff discounts (colleges and universities)
  • "student discounts" - Searches .edu domains for student discounts (colleges and universities)

Pro tip: Don't be afraid to add geo modifiers. Remember that anything in "" will search exactly so plurals should be searched separately.

#8 Create and promote a local resource

So you want to send good local link signals and showcase you're the expert of a local area? What better way than to create a community resource page on your website? Not only will it attract potential links with the proper marketing, it's also going to show that you're the expert in your area.

The good thing about creating a local resource is that you or the local operator running that location probably already has a good idea about the city in general. Even if they're not the most familiar with the area, some research can solve that.

Get links from places like:

Hotels, travel websites, news organizations

How you can do it

Start by coming up with a list of ideas. Locally-based ideas can vary greatly. Here are a few to helps the mice turn the wheel:

  • Best of Local Guides - Best restaurants in the city or county, top bars, top microbreweries (I like beer, OK), top city attractions, top things for singles, top things for families, a perfect day trip for families, etc.
  • Local Calendar Creation - Create a local calendar of popular events by topic. High school football calendars, movie premiere dates, HOA meetings, and more.

Once you have the idea, you can move onto the creation of the asset. Notice my use of the word asset. If I'm going to spend the time to create this piece, I want to make sure it's a linkable asset. That means that it should be substantial and also look great. If the content is weak, you're going to get a weak appeal.

Once you have built your guide, the real key is promoting it and getting the exposure you need. Make sure to share it with relevant audiences such as Facebook and Google Plus groups. If there are town groups such as "You know you grew up in CITY, when..." those might be a good place to promote your resource.

Figure out where your community members hang out and post it there. Sometimes even city or town run pages will be willing to post or promote your piece. This is just another reason why you need to create a quality piece of content and not just do the bare minimum.

#9 Get manufacturer and wholesaler links

This is an easy one that is often overlooked by small businesses. If you operate a retail business or sell a product that somebody else manufactures, then you have a link opportunity. Many product manufacturers want to show their customers where to buy their products. This might be a store locator or it could just be an authorized reseller list. Either way you need to take advantage of it. This is an opportunity that even local businesses can take advantage of quickly.

One of the reasons we have extensive client intake forms is to address this issue. A lot of times clients will say that they're listed without actually knowing. It's best to find out for yourself by getting a complete list of all manufacturers they represent. If they have a website you can get a link.

Get links from places like:

Larger manufacturing companies

How you can do it

Even small stores might represent products from 100+ different manufacturers. Even if they don't buy manufacturer direct they can still get a link from the manufacturer just by asking.

Step 1: Create a list of all of the brands the client carries and whether they buy direct or from a wholesaler.

Step 2: Visit each manufacturer and distributor website. Find out if they have a store locator or somewhere where they list where you can buy their products.

Step 3: Reach out to those that do from a company email address including all pertinent information (include NAP!) and the link to your website or store location.

Step 4: For those who don't list this information, outreach to them and ask them if they are willing to set it up. After all it will only help you both sell more products.

Pro tip: Some websites will only display your Name, Address, Phone Number. But if they don't link to you don't be afraid to ask. A lot of times they can make the change and add your link.

#10 Build relationships with local influencers

If you want to earn links that will really set you apart from the rest of the herd, you need to start thinking about building actual relationships with influencers. Finding influencers and getting connected can be hard; you have to be real while doing it. These people can range from your local competition, to politicians, to journalists. Finding and connecting with them requires some work, but it's worth the payoff.

Get links from places like:

Niche publications, your competition's website, local news media, government websites

How you can do it

The reality is, while some of this research and networking can be done online, at some point, you're going to have to get out of your office and interact with real humans!

For our example, let's look at how we might go about forming a relationship with a member of the local media. First off you will want to find a list of press associations in your area. This might be city based or state based. The easiest way to look for these is just to search for them in Google by typing in your state name + press association or press organization.

Once you have the list of the organization(s) you want to work with, check out their membership fees but more importantly their events and conferences. These are the real goldmines. Many of these organizations have an annual conference or event that you can attend. This is where you can usually expect to meet the people with the most connections. It's important to speak with them in person, exchange contact information, and express your willingness to contribute. If you have an intriguing idea for a specific writer, for example, someone who always writes about tech news, you may be able to pitch a problem you see in your industry that exposes consumers. Your job is to figure out what interests them and offer to help in any way.

#11 Leverage business relationships

In many cases small businesses may already have complementary businesses that might be willing to give a link to your website. In fact, it might make sense from a referral standpoint too. If you use or refer your business to another type of business this is a great opportunity.

Get links from places like:

Other business websites

How you can do this

Getting these opportunities are as easy as curating the list and doing the outreach. Here are some examples for different business types:

  • Attorneys can get links from: Process servers, investigators, and other services they refer business to
  • Mortgage Brokers can link to recommended realtors and vice-versa
  • Doctors can get links from schools (emergency clinic references), insurance companies, and other doctors.

Another way to go about this is to approach like-minded companies that offer services you don't and you don't plan on offering. For example if you're a greeting card store you might be able to get links from gift stores.


Although good link building takes time, thought, and a good amount of effort, it's easy enough that anyone can do it. With so many different options and ways you can earn links, this is just a small sample that you can use to start gaining new ones today.

Please feel free to share your favorite link building tips. The more the better!

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!

Monday, March 23, 2015

3 "Easy" Questions SEOs Must Ask Themselves

These introductory questions that are rather "easy" can help pave the way to a well-thought-out organic search strategy.

Moving 5 Domains to 1: An SEO Case Study

Posted by Dr-Pete

People often ask me if they should change domain names, and I always shudder just a little. Changing domains is a huge, risky undertaking, and too many people rush into it seeing only the imaginary upside. The success of the change also depends wildly on the details, and it’s not the kind of question anyone should be asking casually on social media.

Recently, I decided that it was time to find a new permanent home for my personal and professional blogs, which had gradually spread out over 5 domains. I also felt my main domain was no longer relevant to my current situation, and it was time for a change. So, ultimately I ended up with a scenario that looked like this:

The top three sites were active, with being my former consulting site and blog (and relatively well-trafficked). The bottom two sites were both inactive and were both essentially gag sites. My one-pager,, did previously rank well for “are you a real doctor”, so I wanted to try to recapture that.

I started migrating the 5 sites in mid-January, and I’ve been tracking the results. I thought it would be useful to see how this kind of change plays out, in all of the gory details. As it turns out, nothing is ever quite “textbook” when it comes to technical SEO.

Why Change Domains at All?

The rationale for picking a new domain could fill a month’s worth of posts, but I want to make one critical point – changing domains should be about your business goals first, and SEO second. I did not change domains to try to rank better for “Dr. Pete” – that’s a crap shoot at best. I changed domains because my old consulting brand (“User Effect”) no longer represented the kind of work I do and I’m much more known by my personal brand.

That business case was strong enough that I was willing to accept some losses. We went through a similar transition here from to That was a difficult transition that cost us some SEO ground, especially short-term, but our core rationale was grounded in the business and where it’s headed. Don’t let an SEO pipe dream lead you into a risky decision.

Why did I pick a .co domain? I did it for the usual reason – the .com was taken. For a project of this type, where revenue wasn’t on the line, I didn’t have any particular concerns about .co. The evidence on how top-level domains (TLDs) impact ranking is tough to tease apart (so many other factors correlate with .com’s), and Google’s attitude tends to change over time, especially if new TLDs are abused. Anecdotally, though, I’ve seen plenty of .co’s rank, and I wasn’t concerned.

Step 1 - The Boring Stuff

It is absolutely shocking how many people build a new site, slap up some 301s, pull the switch, and hope for the best. It’s less shocking how many of those people end up in Q&A a week later, desperate and bleeding money.

Planning is hard work, and it’s boring – get over it.

You need to be intimately familiar with every page on your existing site(s), and, ideally, you should make a list. Not only do you have to plan for what will happen to each of these pages, but you’ll need that list to make sure everything works smoothly later.

In my case, I decided it might be time to do some housekeeping – the User Effect blog had hundreds of posts, many outdated and quite a few just not very good. So, I started with the easy data – recent traffic. I’m sure you’ve seen this Google Analytics report (Behavior > Site Content > All Pages):

Since I wanted to focus on recent activity, and none of the sites had much new content, I restricted myself to a 3-month window (Q4 of 2014). Of course, I looked much deeper than the top 10, but the principle was simple – I wanted to make sure the data matched my intuition and that I wasn’t cutting off anything important. This helped me prioritize the list.

Of course, from an SEO standpoint, I also didn’t want to lose content that had limited traffic but solid inbound links. So, I checked my “Top Pages” report in Open Site Explorer:

Since the bulk of my main site was a blog, the top trafficked and top linked-to pages fortunately correlated pretty well. Again, this is only a way to prioritize. If you’re dealing with sites with thousands of pages, you need to work methodically through the site architecture.

I’m going to say something that makes some SEOs itchy – it’s ok not to move some pages to the new site. It’s even ok to let some pages 404. In Q4, had traffic to 237 URLs. The top 10 pages accounted for 91.9% of that traffic. I strongly believe that moving domains is a good time to refocus a site and concentrate your visitors and link equity on your best content. More is not better in 2015.

Letting go of some pages also means that you’re not 301-redirecting a massive number of old URLs to a new home-page. This can look like a low-quality attempt to consolidate link-equity, and at large scale it can raise red flags with Google. Content worth keeping should exist on the new site, and your 301s should have well-matched targets.

In one case, I had a blog post that had a decent trickle of traffic due to ranking for “50,000 push-ups,” but the post itself was weak and the bounce rate was very high:

The post was basically just a placeholder announcing that I’d be attempting this challenge, but I never recapped anything after finishing it. So, in this case, I rewrote the post.

Of course, this process was repeated across the 3 active sites. The 2 inactive sites only constituted a handful of total pages. In the case of, I decided to turn the previous one-pager into a new page on the new site. That way, I had a very well-matched target for the 301-redirect, instead of simply mapping the old site to my new home-page.

I’m trying to prove a point – this is the amount of work I did for a handful of sites that were mostly inactive and producing no current business value. I don’t need consulting gigs and these sites produce no direct revenue, and yet I still considered this process worth the effort.

Step 2 - The Big Day

Eventually, you’re going to have to make the move, and in most cases, I prefer ripping off the bandage. Of course, doing something all at once doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be careful.

The biggest problem I see with domain switches (even if they’re 1-to-1) is that people rely on data that can take weeks to evaluate, like rankings and traffic, or directly checking Google’s index. By then, a lot of damage is already done. Here are some ways to find out quickly if you’ve got problems…

(1) Manually Check Pages

Remember that list you were supposed to make? It’s time to check it, or at least spot-check it. Someone needs to physically go to a browser and make sure that each major section of the site and each important individual page is resolving properly. It doesn’t matter how confident your IT department/guy/gal is – things go wrong.

(2) Manually Check Headers

Just because a page resolves, it doesn’t mean that your 301-redirects are working properly, or that you’re not firing some kind of 17-step redirect chain. Check your headers. There are tons of free tools, but lately I’m fond of URI Valet. Guess what – I screwed up my primary 301-redirects. One of my registrar transfers wasn’t working, so I had to have a setting changed by customer service, and I inadvertently ended up with 302s (Pro tip: Don’t change registrars and domains in one step):

Don’t think that because you’re an “expert”, your plan is foolproof. Mistakes happen, and because I caught this one I was able to correct it fairly quickly.

(3) Submit Your New Site

You don’t need to submit your site to Google in 2015, but now that Google Webmaster Tools allows it, why not do it? The primary argument I hear is “well, it’s not necessary.” True, but direct submission has one advantage – it’s fast.

To be precise, Google Webmaster Tools separates the process into “Fetch” and “Submit to index” (you'll find this under "Crawl" > "Fetch as Google"). Fetching will quickly tell you if Google can resolve a URL and retrieve the page contents, which alone is pretty useful. Once a page is fetched, you can submit it, and you should see something like this:

This isn’t really about getting indexed – it’s about getting nearly instantaneous feedback. If Google has any major problems with crawling your site, you’ll know quickly, at least at the macro level.

(4) Submit New XML Sitemaps

Finally, submit a new set of XML sitemaps in Google Webmaster Tools, and preferably tiered sitemaps. While it’s a few years old now, Rob Ousbey has a great post on the subject of XML sitemap structure. The basic idea is that, if you divide your sitemap into logical sections, it’s going to be much easier to diagnosis what kinds of pages Google is indexing and where you’re running into trouble.

A couple of pro tips on sitemaps – first, keep your old sitemaps active temporarily. This is counterintuitive to some people, but unless Google can crawl your old URLs, they won’t see and process the 301-redirects and other signals. Let the old accounts stay open for a couple of months, and don’t cut off access to the domains you’re moving.

Second (I learned this one the hard way), make sure that your Google Webmaster Tools site verification still works. If you use file uploads or meta tags and don’t move those files/tags to the new site, GWT verification will fail and you won’t have access to your old accounts. I’d recommend using a more domain-independent solution, like verifying with Google Analytics. If you lose verification, don’t panic – your data won’t be instantly lost.

Step 3 – The Waiting Game

Once you’ve made the switch, the waiting begins, and this is where many people start to panic. Even executed perfectly, it can take Google weeks or even months to process all of your 301-redirects and reevaluate a new domain’s capacity to rank. You have to expect short term fluctuations in ranking and traffic.

During this period, you’ll want to watch a few things – your traffic, your rankings, your indexed pages (via GWT and the site: operator), and your errors (such as unexpected 404s). Traffic will recover the fastest, since direct traffic is immediately carried through redirects, but ranking and indexation will lag, and errors may take time to appear.

(1) Monitor Traffic

I’m hoping you know how to check your traffic, but actually trying to determine what your new levels should be and comparing any two days can be easier said than done. If you launch on a Friday, and then Saturday your traffic goes down on the new site, that’s hardly cause for panic – your traffic probably always goes down on Saturday.

In this case, I redirected the individual sites over about a week, but I’m going to focus on, as that was the major traffic generator. That site was redirected, in full on January 21st, and the Google Analytics data for January for the old site looked like this:

So far, so good – traffic bottomed out almost immediately. Of course, losing traffic is easy – the real question is what’s going on with the new domain. Here’s the graph for January for

This one’s a bit trickier – the first spike, on January 16th, is when I redirected the first domain. The second spike, on January 22nd, is when I redirected Both spikes are meaningless – I announced these re-launches on social media and got a short-term traffic burst. What we really want to know is where traffic is leveling out.

Of course, there isn’t a lot of history here, but a typical day for in January was about 1,000 pageviews. The traffic to after it leveled out was about half that (500 pageviews). It’s not a complete crisis, but we’re definitely looking at a short-term loss.

Obviously, I’m simplifying the process here – for a large, ecommerce site you’d want to track a wide range of metrics, including conversion metrics. Hopefully, though, this illustrates the core approach. So, what am I missing out on? In this day of [not provided], tracking down a loss can be tricky. Let’s look for clues in our other three areas…

(2) Monitor Indexation

You can get a broad sense of your indexed pages from Google Webmaster Tools, but this data often lags real-time and isn’t very granular. Despite its shortcomings, I still prefer the site: operator. Generally, I monitor a domain daily – any one measurement has a lot of noise, but what you’re looking for is the trend over time. Here’s the indexed page count for

The first set of pages was indexed fairly quickly, and then the second set started being indexed soon after was redirected. All in all, we’re seeing a fairly steady upward trend, and that’s what we’re hoping to see. The number is also in the ballpark of sanity (compared to the actual page count) and roughly matched GWT data once it started being reported.

So, what happened to’s index after the switch?

The timeframe here is shorter, since was redirected last, but we see a gradual decline in indexation, as expected. Note that the index size plateaus around 60 pages – about 1/4 of the original size. This isn’t abnormal – low-traffic and unlinked pages (or those with deep links) are going to take a while to clear out. This is a long-term process. Don’t panic over the absolute numbers – what you want here is a downward trend on the old domain accompanied by a roughly equal upward trend on the new domain.

The fact that didn’t bottom out is definitely worth monitoring, but this timespan is too short for the plateau to be a major concern. The next step would be to dig into these specific pages and look for a pattern.

(3) Monitor Rankings

The old domain is dropping out of the index, and the new domain is taking its place, but we still don’t know why the new site is taking a traffic hit. It’s time to dig into our core keyword rankings.

Historically, had ranked well for keywords related to “split test calculator” (near #1) and “usability checklist” (in the top 3). While [not provided] makes keyword-level traffic analysis tricky, we also know that the split-test calculator is one of the top trafficked pages on the site, so let’s dig into that one. Here’s the ranking data from Moz Analytics for “split test calculator”:

The new site took over the #1 position from the old site at first, but then quickly dropped down to the #3/#4 ranking. That may not sound like a lot, but given this general keyword category was one of the site’s top traffic drivers, the CTR drop from #1 to #3/#4 could definitely be causing problems.

When you have a specific keyword you can diagnose, it’s worth taking a look at the live SERP, just to get some context. The day after relaunch, I captured this result for “dr. pete”:

Here, the new domain is ranking, but it’s showing the old title tag. This may not be cause for alarm – weird things often happen in the very short term – but in this case we know that I accidentally set up a 302-redirect. There’s some reason to believe that Google didn’t pass full link equity during that period when 301s weren’t implemented.

Let’s look at a domain where the 301s behaved properly. Before the site was inactive, ranked #1 for “are you a real doctor”. Since there was an inactive period, and I dropped the exact-match domain, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a corresponding ranking drop.

In reality, the new site was ranking #1 for “are you a real doctor” within 2 weeks of 301-redirecting the old domain. The graph is just a horizontal line at #1, so I’m not going to bother you with it, but here’s a current screenshot (incognito):

Early on, I also spot-checked this result, and it wasn’t showing the strange title tag crossover that pages exhibited. So, it’s very likely that the 302-redirects caused some problems.

Of course, these are just a couple of keywords, but I hope it provides a starting point for you to understand how to methodically approach this problem. There’s no use crying over spilled milk, and I’m not going to fire myself, so let’s move on to checking any other errors that I might have missed.

(4) Check Errors (404s, etc.)

A good first stop for unexpected errors is the “Crawl Errors” report in Google Webmaster Tools (Crawl > Crawl Errors). This is going to take some digging, especially if you’ve deliberately 404’ed some content. Over the couple of weeks after re-launch, I spotted the following problems:

The old site had a “/blog” directory, but the new site put the blog right on the home-page and had no corresponding directory. Doh. Hey, do as I say, not as I do, ok? Obviously, this was a big blunder, as the old blog home-page was well-trafficked.

The other two errors here are smaller but easy to correct. had a “/free” directory that housed downloads (mostly PDFs). I missed it, since my other sites used a different format. Luckily, this was easy to remap.

The last error is a weird looking URL, and there are other similar URLs in the 404 list. This is where site knowledge is critical. I custom-designed a URL shortener for and, in some cases, people linked to those URLs. Since those URLs didn’t exist in the site architecture, I missed them. This is where digging deep into historical traffic reports and your top-linked pages is critical. In this case, the fix isn’t easy, and I have to decide whether the loss is worth the time.

What About the New EMD?

My goal here wasn’t to rank better for “Dr. Pete,” and finally unseat Dr. Pete’s Marinades, Dr. Pete the Sodastream flavor (yes, it’s hilarious – you can stop sending me your grocery store photos), and 172 dentists. Ok, it mostly wasn’t my goal. Of course, you might be wondering how switching to an EMD worked out.

In the short term, I’m afraid the answer is “not very well.” I didn’t track ranking for “Dr. Pete” and related phrases very often before the switch, but it appears that ranking actually fell in the short-term. Current estimates have me sitting around page 4, even though my combined link profile suggests a much stronger position. Here's a look at the ranking history for "dr pete" since relaunch (from Moz Analytics):

There was an initial drop, after which the site evened out a bit. This less-than-impressive plateau could be due to the bad 302s during transition. It could be Google evaluating a new EMD and multiple redirects to that EMD. It could be that the prevalence of natural anchor text with “Dr. Pete” pointing to my site suddenly looked unnatural when my domain name switched to It could just be that this is going to take time to shake out.

If there’s a lesson here (and, admittedly, it’s too soon to tell), it’s that you shouldn’t rush to buy an EMD in 2015 in the wild hope of instantly ranking for that target phrase. There are so many factors involved in ranking for even a moderately competitive term, and your domain is just one small part of the mix.

So, What Did We Learn?

I hope you learned that I should’ve taken my own advice and planned a bit more carefully. I admit that this was a side project and it didn’t get the attention it deserved. The problem is that, even when real money is at stake, people rush these things and hope for the best. There’s a real cheerleading mentality when it comes to change – people want to take action and only see the upside.

Ultimately, in a corporate or agency environment, you can’t be the one sour note among the cheering. You’ll be ignored, and possibly even fired. That’s not fair, but it’s reality. What you need to do is make sure the work gets done right and people go into the process with eyes wide open. There’s no room for shortcuts when you’re moving to a new domain.

That said, a domain change isn’t a death sentence, either. Done right, and with sensible goals in mind – balancing not just SEO but broader marketing and business objectives – a domain migration can be successful, even across multiple sites.

To sum up: Plan, plan, plan, monitor, monitor, monitor, and try not to panic.

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!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Google Analytics for SEO – Basic Cohort Analysis

The Google Analytics Cohort Analysis can be extremely useful in helping SEOs prove the value of new customer acquisition via organic search, show how they engaged with the site, and surface when they ended up converting over time.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Yahoo's Search Share on the Decline

After partnering with Mozilla in December, Yahoo saw its best share of the search market in years. But by February, that number was starting to fall, according to comScore research.

Incorporating Hispanic Marketing to Your Search Marketing Strategy

The U.S. Hispanic population represents a huge untapped market for search marketers. How can you incorporate this demographic into your strategy?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Tracking the Evolution of Google Panda Updates – From Monthly to Tremors to Missing in Action

Is Google Panda real-time, or has it been missing in action since October 2014? Glenn Gabe looks to clear up Panda confusion by explaining the evolution of Panda updates, what we can expect in 2015, and how it can impact business owners, webmasters, and SEOs.

Tracking the Evolution of Google Panda Updates– From Monthly to Tremors to Missing in Action

Is Google Panda real-time, or has it been missing in action since October 2014? Glenn Gabe looks to clear up Panda confusion by explaining the evolution of Panda updates, what we can expect in 2015, and how it can impact business owners, webmasters, and SEOs.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Landing Page Conversion: Organic & Content Optimization

Here's a look at some of the ways search marketers can move to the next step of converting traffic by understanding options, page-level metrics, and the importance of testing.

Monday, March 16, 2015

9 Simple Tips For Making An About Us Page That Works For Your Brand

Posted by Ben.Austin

For too many online companies the About Us page is the elephant in the room, and often the most awkward thing to write. It's a shame because analytics often shows the page as one of the most frequented on any website. Imagine a ceremonial elephant adorned in his embellished head plate, raising you above your competitors. This could be your About Us page if you show it the care and attention it deserves.

The good news is your about page doesn't require several hundred pounds of vegetation on a daily basis, nor is there any real need for expensive antique rhinestones.

The bad news is crafting the perfect about page is easier said than done. Many find it difficult to strike the right balance between selling themselves to their customers and driving them away with a self-focused approach, which helps explain why the pages are so often neglected.

At Absolute, we're looking to revamp our entire website over the coming months, and in particular we'll be focusing our attention on our about page. We recognize that our page is currently a little on the dull side and while we are researching the topic, I thought it would be great to share nine great, easily applicable techniques we picked up from some of our favorite About Us pages from around the web.

Start by talking about your audience, not yourself

Human nature dictates that we are, first and foremost, concerned with our own problems. While some of us may give to charity or volunteer in our spare time, when it comes to searching for products or services online, we're all about ourselves and what a brand can do for us.

Blog Tyrant is a great example of a blog that is focused on its visitors. The first thing you see when you land on their about page is a video titled "About Me and You." The text that follows is then split into two sections, "About Me" and "About You (The Tyrant Troops)."


Image Source:

If this frank, upfront style doesn't suit your company there are more subtle ways to become more customer-orientated.

  • Dedicate your opening sentence(s) to your audience's challenges and objectives. Starting with the very reason they come to your site in the first place is a good way to demonstrate that you have their needs in mind. In our case, for example, it might be a good idea to acknowledge the difficulties marketing managers have in finding an agency that combines creativity with the essential technical skills, which can sometimes be overlooked.
  • State the facts: If you're still finding it hard to strike a happy medium between highlighting your selling points and plain boasting, then simply present your readers with the facts. This could be anything from your client retention rate to the amount of new products you offer each month to the number of awards you've collected. No one can argue with raw figures.

Let your customers do the talking

When you are thinking of trying out a new hairdresser, dentist or even a fish and chip shop, you don't base your decision on what they say about themselves. You turn to those around you. By including a few glowing (and up-to-date) customer testimonials on your about page, you can create a hub of information.

  • Be sure to include the customer or client's full name and any relevant details that could add credibility to your testimonials. Better still, include photos of your customers, if possible. It all helps to build trust in your brand.
  • Include customer-focused awards and accreditations. Perhaps you were voted your area's favorite provider of security products in 2013, or maybe you are part of some authoritative bodies or organisations within your industry. Exploit the instinctive human need to seek reassurance from our peers.

Include different forms of media

Make your about page a feast for the eyes by considering the use of photos, timelines, videos or infographics. If people are going to seek and find your about page, it makes sense to capture their attention for as long as possible, and this is precisely what Moz does. Their timeline incorporates strong image and design while still providing visitors with the key information they need.


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  • Photos don't necessarily need to be of each individual team member. Although individual head shots do help prospective customers visualize your company, head shots of management, photos of you in action at a fundraising event or even images from a work night out (preferably ones that aren't likely to spark legal action), can all add character to your brand.
  • Videos are a great way of entertaining those with particularly short attention spans and can sum up the feeling of your company in a matter of seconds or minutes. If you don't have extensive time or resources in this area, Vine videos are a great way to add something different to your about page.

Tell your story

Even if your brand doesn't have an interesting story, you can still tell a story. Focus on the things that make you human.

That's precisely what a client of ours, ITS, has done with their About Us page. Unfortunately it's not something we can take credit for personally, but it still embodies everything a great story should have. It starts at the beginning, documenting their modest founding, in 1981 as a 150 square foot shop, all the way to modern day, with plenty of photos along the way. It's great to see the quality of the photos changing through time, almost like a family scrapbook. Customer ratings and social icons make this page even stronger.


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  • Don't be afraid of where you have come from. If, eight years ago, your headquarters happened to be your CEO's conservatory, celebrate it. The more that people can identify with you the more trust they'll place in your brand. We have become so desensitized to marketing that a company needs a personal touch to set it apart.
  • You don't have to tell people everything. If you have been established for 80 years, people don't want to read a year-by-year account of everything that has happened in that time. Therefore, filter information accordingly, mentioning those key elements of human interest, but keep tales of new windows or a change of paper suppliers to yourself.

Include your address and contact details

Many people are still hesitant when it comes to parting with their money over the Internet and are thus keen to know you aren't simply looking to fleece them to make a bit of extra cash.

  • If you don't want to disclose your full address, at least state your city or town. Potential customers are not so likely to get in touch if you're less than forthcoming about your location. After all, what else might you be holding back?
  • Make certain your contact details are up to date. It sounds obvious, but having an out-of-date telephone number or email address could not only lose you a sale but might also send alarm bells ringing.
  • Your contact details should also include social handles and skype details if applicable.

Cut out the jargon

Writing in acronym-infested jargon might make you feel clever at the time, but it's boring and it's cold. People won't remember you. What they really want when they land on your about page is to learn, in simple unambiguous terms, precisely what you do.

  • Write conversationally. There is no best way to write. The style you adopt will depend on your company, but make an effort to write in a way that makes your content, and your site, feel accessible and friendly. The Adventurists site offers a great example of this. Their about page serve its intended purpose and is quite enjoyable to read. More to the point when they talk about "mobile phones tagged with twattery about which restaurant serves the best mocha-latte-frappeshite", you find yourself agreeing with them, even if their greater aim of getting youto cross the sub-continent in a three wheeled lawnmower powered tin isn't likely to happen anytime soon.
  • Don't name your about page some obscure name like, Our Ethos, or The Journey. People are looking for an About Us page, so give them one. Come up with a name that is too vague and people may miss you completely.

Ask for other peoples' opinions

Don't be afraid to ask employees, friends, peers, even clients, what makes you stand out as a business. When you have worked somewhere for a long time, it is tough to see your brand the way customers might see it. An objective opinion can help.

  • When you have decided on what makes you stand out, be sure to make this a focus.
  • If your peer search becomes more like soul-searching because you find there is actually nothing different about your company, despair not. Don't try and force something that isn't there. Instead, turn it around and focus on what makes your audience unique.

Make sure it reflects your company

In our quest for the perfect about page, we came across some really extravagant examples. Some had really impressive videos, special features or high tech designs. All of those examples were extremely applaudable, but will only really work if this fits in with the rest of your website, your industry and your company as a whole. It's easy to lose sight of who you are in your mission to create the best page possible.

  • Even if your website isn't overly visual, you can still include photos, just make sure they follow the same format as the rest of your website. If your site focuses on boxy shapes and bold colors, then keep this theme running throughout your images. Just as with your marketing, the key is to be succinct. Maintaining a consistent look and feel automatically gives your brand more authority.
  • The same goes applies for tone. Remember, in today's multi-platform society, your website may not be someone's first interaction with you, with visitors often reading an article or coming across a tweet beforehand. In that sense, an about page is almost like a meeting point, an amalgamation of everything that makes your brand who you are.

Test it!

There is no magic formula for about pages. If there were, you probably wouldn't be 2,000 words into this blog. A good way to treat the process of creating such a page, then, is as a work in progress.

  • Don't be afraid to make amendments. Spend a fair amount of time checking your analytics for traffic volumes, bounce rate and visit duration on the page. Tweak the odd sentence, add images, chop them out, introduce a video, etc, based on what the data tells you.
  • Make sure the page is accessible across all devices. It makes no sense to spend all this time creating an amazing page that is only visible to a small percentage of your audience, which is roughly what will happen if you ignore mobile and tablet users. Whether you have responsive design or a dedicated mobile site, test the performance of the page continually.

Of all the pages we looked at, our favorite is the one below, from Macmillan. Their About Us section is actually split into different pages, but the initial page makes use of video, explains briefly and simply what they do, includes contact details, testimonials and, most important, thanks people for their continued support.

Those readers who then want to learn more, as undoubtedly many will, can do so via links directing them to images of the team, as well as facts, figures and corporate partnership details. It might not be as flashy or as up to date as some, but it's what best represents them and that's the point.


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Friday, March 13, 2015

Microsoft to Bring Advanced Version of Cortana to iOS and Android

The tech giant believes its work on search, speech recognition, and machine learning will make Cortana the first intelligent digital assistant that can provide predictive information about users.

SEO and Content: Best Practices From the Adobe Summit

At the Adobe Summit this week, Dave Lloyd of Adobe gave a great presentation on optimizing content for search throughout the customer journey.

How to Be Your SEO's Favorite Developer

Whether you’re a programmer looking to get on your SEO’s good side or an SEO looking to drop a few hints to the programmer in your life, put these practices into action and everyone will be happier and more productive.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Translating Your Articles for Link-Building

Some smart sites have discovered that their foreign peers love to reuse their content, especially when they make it easy by translating their articles for those sites.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Updates to Google Webmaster Tools Make Sites More Crawlable

Google has updated its suite of Webmaster Tools to increase reportage of which site resources are blocked from crawling. This new transparency could mean a boost in rankings.

Monday, March 9, 2015

How to Optimize for Keywords in 2015

The rules have changed for keyword optimization in 2015. What are the best practices now?

Friday, March 6, 2015

What’s Newsworthy About Your Client?

It's no secret that great content can generate links, which in turn can boost SEO. But how can you determine what's newsworthy about your client in order to produce that good content?

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Bing Enhances Microsoft Office's Search Function

In addition to powering the help search feature in Office, Bing now allows users to see a news feed along the bottom of their homepage and share their feedback with the search engine.

Converged Media Requires Converged Metrics

A local digital marketing program that combines paid, earned, and owned will not only attract customers but also deliver a breakthrough benefit in the form of a blended cost per lead.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Announcing the 2015 Online Marketing Industry Survey

Posted by Cyrus-Shepard

We're very excited to announce the 2015 Online Marketing Industry Survey is ready. This is the fifth edition of the survey, which started in 2008 as the SEO Industry Survey, and has also been known as the Moz Industry Survey. Some of what we hope to learn and share:

  • Demographics: Who is practicing inbound marketing and SEO today? Where do we work and live?
  • Agencies vs. in-house vs. other: How are agencies growing? What's the average size? Who is doing inbound marketing on their own?
  • Tactics and strategies: What's working for people today? How have strategies and tactics evolved?
  • Tools and technology: What are marketers using to discover opportunities, promote themselves, and measure the results?
  • Budget and spending: What tools and platforms are marketers investing in?

This year's survey was redesigned to be easier and only take less than 10 minutes. When the results are in we'll share the data freely with you and the rest of the world, along with the insights we've gleaned from it.

Survey importance

By comparing answers and predictions from one year to the next, we can spot trends and gain insight not easily reported through any other source. This is our best chance to understand exactly where the future of our industry is headed.

Every year the Industry Survey delivers new insights and surprises. For example, the chart below (from the 2014 survey) lists average reported salary by role.

One of the data points we hope to discover is if these numbers go up or down for 2015.

Prizes. Oh, fabulous prizes.

It wouldn't be the Industry Survey without a few excellent prizes thrown in as an added incentive.

This year we've upped the game with prizes we feel are both exciting and perfect for the busy inbound marketer. To see the full sweepstakes terms and rules, go to our sweepstakes rules page. The winners will be announced by June 15th. Follow us on Twitter to stay up to date.

Grand Prize: Attend MozCon 2015 in Seattle

Once again, the Grand Prize includes one ticket to MozCon 2015 plus airfare and accommodations. This is your chance to see greats like Wil Reynolds, Cindy Krum, Rand Fishkin and more over 3 days in Seattle. Plus experience lots of networking and social events. Moz is also covering the cost of the flight plus hotel room.

2 First Prizes: Apple Watch

Shhhhhh! Because we're giving away two Apple Watches. These aren't available to the general public yet, which make them mysteriously awesome.

10 Second Prizes: $50 gift cards

Yep, 10 lucky people will win $50 gift cards. Why not buy yourself a nice book? Maybe this one?

Help with sharing!

The number of people who take the survey is very important! The more people who take the survey, the better and more accurate the data will be, and the more insight we can share with the industry.

So please share with your co-workers. Share on social media. Share with your email lists. You can use the buttons below this post to get you started, but remember to take the survey first!

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!