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Published: Mar 25, 2019 7:44:20 AM
Moz provides inbound marketing analytics software. They also foster the most vibrant online marketing community and create free resources for learning inbound marketing.
  • Mar 23, 2019 2:33:29 PM

    Posted by randfish

    Ever get that spooky feeling that Google somehow knows exactly what you mean, even when you put a barely-coherent set of words in the search box? You're not alone. The search giant has an uncanny ability to un-focus on the keywords in the search query and apply behavioral, content, context, and temporal/historical signals to give you exactly the answer you want.

    For marketers and SEOs, this poses a frustrating challenge. Do we still optimize for keywords? The answer is "sort of." But I think I can show you how to best think about this in a few quick visuals, using a single search query.

    First... A short story.

    I sent a tweet over the weekend about an old Whiteboard Friday video. Emily Grossman, longtime friend, all-around marketing genius, and official-introducer-of-millenial-speak-to-GenXers-like-me replied.

    Emily makes fun of Rand's mustache on Twitter

    Ha ha Emily. I already made fun of my own mustache so...

    Anywho, I searched Google for "soz." Not because I didn't know what it means. I can read between lines. I'm hip. But, you know, sometimes a Gen-Xer wants to make sure.

    The results confirm my guess, but they also helped illustrate a point of frequent frustration I have when trying to explain modern vs. classic SEO. I threw together these seven visuals to illustrate.

    There you have it friends. Classic SEO ranking inputs still matter. They can still help. They're often the difference between making it to the top 10 vs. having no shot. But too many SEOs get locked into the idea that rankings are made up of a combination of the "Old School Five":

    1. Keyword use
    2. Links to the page
    3. Domain authority
    4. Anchor text
    5. Freshness

    Don't get me wrong -- sometimes, these signals in a powerful enough combination can overwhelm Google's other inputs. But those examples are getting harder to find.

    The three big takeaways for every marketer should be:

    1. Google is working hard to keep searchers on Google. If you help them do that, they'll often help you rank (whether this is a worthwhile endeavor or a Prisoner's Dilemma is another matter)
    2. When trying to reverse why something ranks in Google, add the element of "how well does this solve the searcher's query"
    3. If you're trying to outrank a competitor, how you align your title, meta description, first few sentences of text, and content around what the searcher truly wants can make the difference... even if you don't win on links ;-)

    Related: if you want to see how hard Google's working to keep searchers on their site vs. clicking results, I've got some research on SparkToro showing precisely that.

    P.S. I don't actually believe in arbitrary birth year ranges for segmenting cohorts of people. The differences between two individuals born in 1981 can be vastly wider than for two people born in 1979 and 1985. Boomer vs. Gen X vs. Millenial vs. Gen Z is crappy pseudoscience rooted in our unhealthy desire to categorize and pigeonhole others. Reject that ish.


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  • Mar 22, 2019 12:09:00 AM

    Posted by randfish

    Before doing any SEO work, it's important to get a handle on your keyword research. Aside from helping to inform your strategy and structure your content, you'll get to know the needs of your searchers, the search demand landscape of the SERPs, and what kind of competition you're up against.

    In the second part of the One-Hour Guide to SEO, the inimitable Rand Fishkin covers what you need to know about the keyword research process, from understanding its goals to building your own keyword universe map. Enjoy!

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

    Video Transcription

    Howdy, Moz fans. Welcome to another portion of our special edition of Whiteboard Friday, the One-Hour Guide to SEO. This is Part II - Keyword Research. Hopefully you've already seen our SEO strategy session from last week. What we want to do in keyword research is talk about why keyword research is required. Why do I have to do this task prior to doing any SEO work?

    The answer is fairly simple. If you don't know which words and phrases people type into Google or YouTube or Amazon or Bing, whatever search engine you're optimizing for, you're not going to be able to know how to structure your content. You won't be able to get into the searcher's brain, into their head to imagine and empathize with them what they actually want from your content. You probably won't do correct targeting, which will mean your competitors, who are doing keyword research, are choosing wise search phrases, wise words and terms and phrases that searchers are actually looking for, and you might be unfortunately optimizing for words and phrases that no one is actually looking for or not as many people are looking for or that are much more difficult than what you can actually rank for.

    The goals of keyword research

    So let's talk about some of the big-picture goals of keyword research. 

    Understand the search demand landscape so you can craft more optimal SEO strategies

    First off, we are trying to understand the search demand landscape so we can craft better SEO strategies. Let me just paint a picture for you.

    I was helping a startup here in Seattle, Washington, a number of years ago — this was probably a couple of years ago — called Crowd Cow. Crowd Cow is an awesome company. They basically will deliver beef from small ranchers and small farms straight to your doorstep. I personally am a big fan of steak, and I don't really love the quality of the stuff that I can get from the store. I don't love the mass-produced sort of industry around beef. I think there are a lot of Americans who feel that way. So working with small ranchers directly, where they're sending it straight from their farms, is kind of an awesome thing.

    But when we looked at the SEO picture for Crowd Cow, for this company, what we saw was that there was more search demand for competitors of theirs, people like Omaha Steaks, which you might have heard of. There was more search demand for them than there was for "buy steak online," "buy beef online," and "buy rib eye online." Even things like just "shop for steak" or "steak online," these broad keyword phrases, the branded terms of their competition had more search demand than all of the specific keywords, the unbranded generic keywords put together.

    That is a very different picture from a world like "soccer jerseys," where I spent a little bit of keyword research time today looking, and basically the brand names in that field do not have nearly as much search volume as the generic terms for soccer jerseys and custom soccer jerseys and football clubs' particular jerseys. Those generic terms have much more volume, which is a totally different kind of SEO that you're doing. One is very, "Oh, we need to build our brand. We need to go out into this marketplace and create demand." The other one is, "Hey, we need to serve existing demand already."

    So you've got to understand your search demand landscape so that you can present to your executive team and your marketing team or your client or whoever it is, hey, this is what the search demand landscape looks like, and here's what we can actually do for you. Here's how much demand there is. Here's what we can serve today versus we need to grow our brand.

    Create a list of terms and phrases that match your marketing goals and are achievable in rankings

    The next goal of keyword research, we want to create a list of terms and phrases that we can then use to match our marketing goals and achieve rankings. We want to make sure that the rankings that we promise, the keywords that we say we're going to try and rank for actually have real demand and we can actually optimize for them and potentially rank for them. Or in the case where that's not true, they're too difficult or they're too hard to rank for. Or organic results don't really show up in those types of searches, and we should go after paid or maps or images or videos or some other type of search result.

    Prioritize keyword investments so you do the most important, high-ROI work first

    We also want to prioritize those keyword investments so we're doing the most important work, the highest ROI work in our SEO universe first. There's no point spending hours and months going after a bunch of keywords that if we had just chosen these other ones, we could have achieved much better results in a shorter period of time.

    Match keywords to pages on your site to find the gaps

    Finally, we want to take all the keywords that matter to us and match them to the pages on our site. If we don't have matches, we need to create that content. If we do have matches but they are suboptimal, not doing a great job of answering that searcher's query, well, we need to do that work as well. If we have a page that matches but we haven't done our keyword optimization, which we'll talk a little bit more about in a future video, we've got to do that too.

    Understand the different varieties of search results

    So an important part of understanding how search engines work — we're going to start down here and then we'll come back up — is to have this understanding that when you perform a query on a mobile device or a desktop device, Google shows you a vast variety of results. Ten or fifteen years ago this was not the case. We searched 15 years ago for "soccer jerseys," what did we get? Ten blue links. I think, unfortunately, in the minds of many search marketers and many people who are unfamiliar with SEO, they still think of it that way. How do I rank number one? The answer is, well, there are a lot of things "number one" can mean today, and we need to be careful about what we're optimizing for.

    So if I search for "soccer jersey," I get these shopping results from Macy's and soccer.com and all these other places. Google sort has this sliding box of sponsored shopping results. Then they've got advertisements below that, notated with this tiny green ad box. Then below that, there are couple of organic results, what we would call classic SEO, 10 blue links-style organic results. There are two of those. Then there's a box of maps results that show me local soccer stores in my region, which is a totally different kind of optimization, local SEO. So you need to make sure that you understand and that you can convey that understanding to everyone on your team that these different kinds of results mean different types of SEO.

    Now I've done some work recently over the last few years with a company called Jumpshot. They collect clickstream data from millions of browsers around the world and millions of browsers here in the United States. So they are able to provide some broad overview numbers collectively across the billions of searches that are performed on Google every day in the United States.

    Click-through rates differ between mobile and desktop

    The click-through rates look something like this. For mobile devices, on average, paid results get 8.7% of all clicks, organic results get about 40%, a little under 40% of all clicks, and zero-click searches, where a searcher performs a query but doesn't click anything, Google essentially either answers the results in there or the searcher is so unhappy with the potential results that they don't bother taking anything, that is 62%. So the vast majority of searches on mobile are no-click searches.

    On desktop, it's a very different story. It's sort of inverted. So paid is 5.6%. I think people are a little savvier about which result they should be clicking on desktop. Organic is 65%, so much, much higher than mobile. Zero-click searches is 34%, so considerably lower.

    There are a lot more clicks happening on a desktop device. That being said, right now we think it's around 60–40, meaning 60% of queries on Google, at least, happen on mobile and 40% happen on desktop, somewhere in those ranges. It might be a little higher or a little lower.

    The search demand curve

    Another important and critical thing to understand about the keyword research universe and how we do keyword research is that there's a sort of search demand curve. So for any given universe of keywords, there is essentially a small number, maybe a few to a few dozen keywords that have millions or hundreds of thousands of searches every month. Something like "soccer" or "Seattle Sounders," those have tens or hundreds of thousands, even millions of searches every month in the United States.

    But people searching for "Sounders FC away jersey customizable," there are very, very few searches per month, but there are millions, even billions of keywords like this. 

    The long-tail: millions of keyword terms and phrases, low number of monthly searches

    When Sundar Pichai, Google's current CEO, was testifying before Congress just a few months ago, he told Congress that around 20% of all searches that Google receives each day they have never seen before. No one has ever performed them in the history of the search engines. I think maybe that number is closer to 18%. But that is just a remarkable sum, and it tells you about what we call the long tail of search demand, essentially tons and tons of keywords, millions or billions of keywords that are only searched for 1 time per month, 5 times per month, 10 times per month.

    The chunky middle: thousands or tens of thousands of keywords with ~50–100 searches per month

    If you want to get into this next layer, what we call the chunky middle in the SEO world, this is where there are thousands or tens of thousands of keywords potentially in your universe, but they only have between say 50 and a few hundred searches per month.

    The fat head: a very few keywords with hundreds of thousands or millions of searches

    Then this fat head has only a few keywords. There's only one keyword like "soccer" or "soccer jersey," which is actually probably more like the chunky middle, but it has hundreds of thousands or millions of searches. The fat head is higher competition and broader intent.

    Searcher intent and keyword competition

    What do I mean by broader intent? That means when someone performs a search for "soccer," you don't know what they're looking for. The likelihood that they want a customizable soccer jersey right that moment is very, very small. They're probably looking for something much broader, and it's hard to know exactly their intent.

    However, as you drift down into the chunky middle and into the long tail, where there are more keywords but fewer searches for each keyword, your competition gets much lower. There are fewer people trying to compete and rank for those, because they don't know to optimize for them, and there's more specific intent. "Customizable Sounders FC away jersey" is very clear. I know exactly what I want. I want to order a customizable jersey from the Seattle Sounders away, the particular colors that the away jersey has, and I want to be able to put my logo on there or my name on the back of it, what have you. So super specific intent.

    Build a map of your own keyword universe

    As a result, you need to figure out what the map of your universe looks like so that you can present that, and you need to be able to build a list that looks something like this. You should at the end of the keyword research process — we featured a screenshot from Moz's Keyword Explorer, which is a tool that I really like to use and I find super helpful whenever I'm helping companies, even now that I have left Moz and been gone for a year, I still sort of use Keyword Explorer because the volume data is so good and it puts all the stuff together. However, there are two or three other tools that a lot of people like, one from Ahrefs, which I think also has the name Keyword Explorer, and one from SEMrush, which I like although some of the volume numbers, at least in the United States, are not as good as what I might hope for. There are a number of other tools that you could check out as well. A lot of people like Google Trends, which is totally free and interesting for some of that broad volume data.

    

    So I might have terms like "soccer jersey," "Sounders FC jersey", and "custom soccer jersey Seattle Sounders." Then I'll have these columns: 

    • Volume, because I want to know how many people search for it; 
    • Difficulty, how hard will it be to rank. If it's super difficult to rank and I have a brand-new website and I don't have a lot of authority, well, maybe I should target some of these other ones first that are lower difficulty. 
    • Organic Click-through Rate, just like we talked about back here, there are different levels of click-through rate, and the tools, at least Moz's Keyword Explorer tool uses Jumpshot data on a per keyword basis to estimate what percent of people are going to click the organic results. Should you optimize for it? Well, if the click-through rate is only 60%, pretend that instead of 100 searches, this only has 60 or 60 available searches for your organic clicks. Ninety-five percent, though, great, awesome. All four of those monthly searches are available to you.
    • Business Value, how useful is this to your business? 
    • Then set some type of priority to determine. So I might look at this list and say, "Hey, for my new soccer jersey website, this is the most important keyword. I want to go after "custom soccer jersey" for each team in the U.S., and then I'll go after team jersey, and then I'll go after "customizable away jerseys." Then maybe I'll go after "soccer jerseys," because it's just so competitive and so difficult to rank for. There's a lot of volume, but the search intent is not as great. The business value to me is not as good, all those kinds of things.
    • Last, but not least, I want to know the types of searches that appear — organic, paid. Do images show up? Does shopping show up? Does video show up? Do maps results show up? If those other types of search results, like we talked about here, show up in there, I can do SEO to appear in those places too. That could yield, in certain keyword universes, a strategy that is very image centric or very video centric, which means I've got to do a lot of work on YouTube, or very map centric, which means I've got to do a lot of local SEO, or other kinds like this.

    Once you build a keyword research list like this, you can begin the prioritization process and the true work of creating pages, mapping the pages you already have to the keywords that you've got, and optimizing in order to rank. We'll talk about that in Part III next week. Take care.

    Video transcription by Speechpad.com


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  • Mar 21, 2019 12:04:00 AM

    Posted by KameronJenkins

    “Prove it” is pretty much the name of the game at this point.

    As SEOs, we invest so much effort into finding opportunities for our clients, executing strategies, and on the best days, getting the results we set out to achieve.

    That’s why it feels so deflating (not to mention mind-boggling) when, after all those increases in rankings, traffic, and conversions our work produced, our clients still aren’t satisfied.

    Where’s the disconnect?

    The value of SEO in today’s search landscape

    You don’t have to convince SEOs that their work is valuable. We know full well how our work benefits our clients’ websites.

    1. Our attention on crawling and indexing ensures that search engine bots crawl all our clients’ important pages, that they’re not wasting time on any unimportant pages, and that only the important, valuable pages are in the index.
    2. Because we understand how Googlebot and other crawlers work, we’re cognizant of how to ensure that search engines understand our pages as they’re intended to be understood, as well as able to eliminate any barriers to that understanding (ex: adding appropriate structured data, diagnosing JavaScript issues, etc.)
    3. We spend our time improving speed, ensuring appropriate language targeting, looking into UX issues, ensuring accessibility, and more because we know the high price that Google places on the searcher experience.
    4. We research the words and phrases that our clients’ ideal customers use to search for solutions to their problems and help create content that satisfies those needs. In turn, Google rewards our clients with high rankings that capture clicks. Over time, this can lower our clients’ customer acquisition costs.
    5. Time spent on earning links for our clients earns them the authority needed to earn trust and perform well in search results.

    There are so many other SEO activities that drive real, measurable impact for our clients, even in a search landscape that is more crowded and getting less clicks than ever before. Despite those results, we’ll still fall short if we fail to connect the dots for our clients.

    Rankings, traffic, conversions… what’s missing?

    What’s a keyword ranking worth without clicks?

    What’s organic traffic worth without conversions?

    What are conversions worth without booking/signing the lead?

    Rankings, traffic, and conversions are all critical SEO metrics to track if you want to prove the success of your efforts, but they are all means to an end.

    At the end of the day, what your client truly cares about is their return on investment (ROI). In other words, if they can’t mentally make the connection between your SEO results and their revenue, then the client might not keep you around for long.

    From searcher to customer: I made this diagram for a past client to help demonstrate how they get revenue from SEO.


    But how can you do that?

    10 tips for attaching value to organic success

    If you want to help your clients get a clearer picture of the real value of your efforts, try some of the following methods.

    1. Know what constitutes a conversion

    What’s the main action your client wants people to take on their website? This is usually something like a form fill, a phone call, or an on-site purchase (e-commerce). Knowing how your client uses their website to make money is key.

    2. Ask your clients what their highest value jobs are

    Know what types of jobs/purchases your client is prioritizing so you can prioritize them too. It’s common for clients to want to balance their “cash flow” jobs (usually lower value but higher volume) with their “big time” jobs (higher value but lower volume). You can pay special attention to performance and conversions on these pages.

    3. Know your client’s close rate

    How many of the leads your campaigns generate end up becoming customers? This will help you assign values to goals (tip #6).

    4. Know your client’s average customer value

    This can get tricky if your client offers different services that all have different values, but you can combine average customer value with close rate to come up with a monetary value to attach to goals (tip #6).

    5. Set up goals in Google Analytics

    Once you know what constitutes a conversion on your client’s website (tip #1), you can set up a goal in Google Analytics. If you’re not sure how to do this, read up on Google’s documentation.

    6. Assign goal values

    Knowing that the organic channel led to a conversion is great, but knowing the estimated value of that conversion is even better! For example, if you know that your client closes 10% of the leads that come through contact forms, and the average value of their customers is $500, you could assign a value of $50 per goal completion.

    7. Consider having an Organic-only view in Google Analytics

    For the purpose of clarity, it could be valuable to set up an additional Google Analytics view just for your client’s organic traffic. That way, when you’re looking at your goal report, you know you’re checking organic conversions and value only.

    8. Calculate how much you would have had to pay for that traffic in Google Ads

    I like to use the Keywords Everywhere plugin when viewing Google Search Console performance reports because it adds a cost per click (CPC) column next to your clicks column. This screenshot is from a personal blog website that I admittedly don’t do much with, hence the scant metrics, but you can see how easy this makes it to calculate how much you would have had to pay for the clicks you got your client for “free” (organically).

    9. Use Multi-Channel Funnels

    Organic has value beyond last-click! Even when it’s not the channel your client’s customer came through, organic may have assisted in that conversion. Go to Google Analytics > Conversions > Multi-Channel Funnels.

    10. Bring all your data together

    How you communicate all this data is just as important as the data itself. Use smart visualizations and helpful explanations to drive home the impact your work had on your client’s bottom line.


    As many possibilities as we have for proving our value, doing so can be difficult and time-consuming. Additional factors can even complicate this further, such as:

    • Client is using multiple methods for customer acquisition, each with its own platform, metrics, and reporting
    • Client has low SEO maturity
    • Client is somewhat disorganized and doesn’t have a good grasp of things like average customer value or close rate

    Learn more strategies at my upcoming webinar

    The challenges can seem endless, but there are ways to make this easier. I’ll be co-hosting a webinar on March 28th that focuses on this very topic. If you’re looking for ways to not only add value as an SEO but also prove it, check it out:

    Save my spot!

    And let’s not forget, we’re in this together! If you have any tips for showing your value to your SEO clients, share them in the comments below.


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  • Mar 20, 2019 12:03:00 AM

    Posted by TheMozTeam

    If you’re a digital agency, chances are you have your sights set on a huge variety of clients — from entertainment and automotive, to travel and finance — all with their own unique SEO needs.

    So how do you attract these companies and provide them with next-level SEO? By using a flexible tracking solution that delivers a veritable smorgasbord of SERP data every single day. Here are just four ways you can leverage STAT to lock down new business. 

    1. Arm yourself with intel before you pitch 

    The best way to win over a potential client is to walk into a pitch already aware of the challenges and opportunities in their online space. In other words: come armed with intel.

    To get a lay of their search landscape, research which keywords are applicable to your prospect, load those puppies into STAT, and let them run for a few days (you can turn tracking on and off for however many keywords you like, whenever you like).

    This way, when it comes time to make your case, you can hit them with hard data on their search visibility and tailored strategies to help them improve.

    Walking into a pitch with deep insights in just a few days will make you look like an SEO wizard — and soon-to-be-new clients will know that you can handle any dark magic unleashed on the SERPs by a Google update or new competitors jumping into the mix. 

    2. Look at your data from every possible angle

    As an SEO for an agency, you’re vying to manage the visibility of several clients at any given time, and all of them have multiple websites, operate in different industries and verticals worldwide, and target an ever-growing list of topics and products.

    So, when prospective clients expect individualized SEO recommendations, how can you possibly deliver without developing a permanent eye twitch? The answer lies in the ability to track and segment tons of keywords.

    Get your mittens on more SERPs

    To start, you’ll need to research and compile a complete list of keywords for every prospective client. When one keyword only returns one SERP, and people’s searches are as unique as they are, the longer the list, the greater the scope of insight. It’s the difference between a peek and peruse — getting a snapshot or the whole picture.

    For example, let's say your would-be client is a clothing chain with an online store and a brick-and-mortar in every major Canadian city. You’ll want to know how each of their products appears to the majority of searchers — does [men’s jeans] (and every iteration thereof) return a different SERP than [jeans for men]?

    Next, it’s time to play international SEO spy and factor in the languages, locations, and devices of target audiences. By tracking pin-point locations in influential global markets, you can keep apprised of how businesses in your industry are performing in different cities all over the world.

    For our example client, this is where the two keywords above are joined by [jeans pour hommes], [jeans for men in Montreal], and [jeans pour hommes dans Montreal], and are tracked in the Montreal postal code where their bricks-and-mortar sit, on desktop and mobile devices — giving you with 10 SERPs-worth of insight. Swap in “in Quebec City,” track in a postal code there, and gain another 10 SERPs lickety-split.

    Unlock multiple layers of insights

    While a passel of keywords is essential, it’s impossible to make sense of what they’re telling you when they’re all lumped together. This is why segmentation is a must. By slicing and dicing your keywords into different segments, called “tags” in STAT, you produce manageable data views with deep, targeted insight.

    You can divvy up and tag your keywords however you like: by device, search intent, location, and more. Still running with our earlier example, by comparing a tag that tracks jeans keywords in Montreal against jeans keywords in Vancouver, you can inform your prospect of which city is bringing up the rear on the SERPs, and how they can better target that location.

    STAT also lets you to segment any SERP feature you’re interested in — like snippets, videos, and knowledge graphs — allowing you to identify exactly where opportunities (and threats) lie on the SERP.

    So, if your tag is tracking the all-important local places pack and your prospect’s brick-and-mortar store isn’t appearing in them, you can avoid the general “we’ll improve your rankings” approach, and focus your pitch around ways to get them listed. And once you’ve been hired to do the job, you’ll be able to prove your local pack success.

    For more tag ideas, we created a post with some of the keyword segments that we recommend our clients set up in STAT.

    3. Put a tail on the competition

    Monitoring a client’s site is one thing, but keeping an eagle-eye on their competition at the same time will give you a serious leg up on other agencies.

    With an automated site syncing option, STAT lets you track every known competitor site your prospect has, without any additional keyword management on your part.

    All you need to do is plunk in competitor URLs and watch them track against your prospect’s keywords. And because you’ve already segmented the bejesus out of those keywords, you can tell exactly how they stack up in each segment.

    To make sure that you’re tracking true search competitors, as well as emerging and dwindling threats, you should be all over STAT’s organic share of voice. By taking the rank and search volume of a given keyword, STAT calculates the percentage of eyeballs that players on the SERPs actually earn.

    When you know the ins and outs of everyone in the industry — like who consistently ranks in the top 10 of your SERPs — you can give clients a more comprehensive understanding of where they fit into the big picture and uncover new market opportunities for them to break into. They’ll be thanking their lucky stars they chose you over the other guys.

    4. Think big while respecting client budgets

    As an enterprise SEO, having economies of scale is a critical factor in beating out other agencies for new business. In order to achieve this, you’ll want to collect and crunch data at an affordable rate.

    STAT’s highly competitive per-keyword pricing is designed for scale, which is precisely why STAT and agencies are a match made in heaven. Thinking big won’t break anyone’s bank.

    Plus, STAT’s billing is as flexible as the tracking. So, if you only need a few days’ worth of data, whether for a pitch or a project, you can jump into STAT and toggle tracking on or off for any number of keywords, and your billing will follow suit. In simpler terms: you’re only billed for the days you track.

    And with no limits on users and no per-seat charges, you’re welcome to invite anyone on your team — even clients or vendors — to see your projects, allowing you to deliver transparency in conjunction with your SEO awesomeness.

    If you’d like to do any or all of these things and are looking for the perfect SERP data tool to get the job done, say hello and request a demo!


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  • Mar 19, 2019 12:03:00 AM

    Posted by MiriamEllis

    Your agency recommends all kinds of useful tactics to help improve the local SEO for your local business clients, but how many of those techniques are leveraging Google Business Profile (GBP) to attract as many walk-ins as possible?

    Today, I’m sharing five GBP tweaks worthy of implementation to help turn digital traffic into foot traffic. I've ordered them from easiest to hardest, but as you'll see, even the more difficult ones aren’t actually very daunting — all the more reason to try them out!

    1) Answer Google Q&A quickly (they might be leads)

    Difficulty level: Easy

    If you have automotive industry clients, chances you’re familiar with Greg Gifford from DealerOn. At a recent local search conference, Greg shared that 40 percent of the Google Q&A questions his clients receive are actually leads

    40 percent!

    Here's what that looks like in Google's Q&A:

    It looks like Coast Nissan has a customer who is ready to walk through the door if they receive an answer. But as you can see, the question has gone unanswered. Note, too, that four people have thumbed the question up, which signifies a shared interest in a potential answer, but it’s still not making it onto the radar of this particular dealership.

    Nearly all verticals could have overlooked leads sitting in their GBPs — from questions about dietary options at a restaurant, to whether a retailer stocks a product, to queries about ADA compliance or available parking. Every ask represents a possible lead, and in a competitive retail landscape, who can afford to ignore such an opportunity?

    The easiest way for Google My Business (GMB) listing owners and managers to get notified of new questions is via the Google Maps App, as notifications are not yet part of the main GMB dashboard. This will help you catch questions as they arise. The faster your client responds to incoming queries, the better their chances of winning the foot traffic.

    2) Post about your proximity to nearby major attractions

    Difficulty level: Easy

    Imagine someone has just spent the morning at a museum, a landmark, park, or theatre. After exploring, perhaps they want to go to lunch, go apparel shopping, find a gas station, or a bookstore near them. A well-positioned Google Post, like the one below, can guide them right to your client’s door:

    This could become an especially strong draw for foot traffic if Google expands its experiment of showing Posts’ snippets not just in the Business Profile and Local Finder, but within local packs:

    Posting is so easy — there’s no reason not to give it a try. Need help getting your client started? Here’s Google’s intro and here’s an interview I did last year with Joel Headley on using Google Posts to boost bookings and conversions.

    3) Turn GBPs into storefronts

    Difficulty level: Easy for retailers

    With a little help from SWIS and Pointy, your retail clients’ GBPs can become the storefront window that beckons in highly-converting foot traffic. Your client’s "See What’s In Store inventory" appears within the Business Profile, letting customers know the business has the exact merchandise they’re looking for:

    Pointy is Google’s launch partner for this game-changing GBP feature. I recently interviewed CEO Mark Cummins regarding the ultra-simple Pointy device which makes it a snap for nearly all retailers to instantly bring their inventory online — without the fuss of traditional e-commerce systems and at a truly nominal cost.

    I’ll reiterate my prediction that SWIS is the “next big thing” in local, and when last I spoke with Mark, one percent of all US retailers had already adopted his product. Encourage your retail clients to sign up and give them an amazing competitive edge on driving foot traffic!

    4) Make your profile pic a selfie hotspot

    Difficulty level: Medium (feasible for many storefronts)

    When a client has a physical premise (and community ordinances permit it), an exterior mural can turn through traffic into foot traffic — it also helps to convert Instagram selfie-takers into customers. As I mentioned in a recent blog post, a modest investment in this strategy could appeal to the 43–58 percent of survey respondents who are swayed to shop in locations that are visually appealing.

    If a large outdoor mural isn’t possible, there’s plenty of inspiration for smaller indoor murals, here

    Once the client has made the investment in providing a cultural experience for the community, they can try experimenting with getting the artwork placed as the cover photo on their GBP — anyone looking at a set of competitors in a given area will see this appealing, extra reason to choose their business over others.

    Mark my words, local search marketers: We are on the verge of seeing Americans reject the constricted label of “consumer” in a quest for a more holistic view of themselves as whole persons. Local businesses that integrate art, culture, and community life into their business models will be well-placed to answer what, in my view, is a growing desire for authentic human experiences. As a local search marketer, myself, this is a topic I plan to explore further this year.

    5) Putting time on your side

    Difficulty level: Medium (feasible for willing clients)

    Here’s a pet peeve of mine: businesses that serve working people but are only open 9–5. How can your client’s foot traffic achieve optimum levels if their doors are only open when everybody is at work?

    So, here’s the task: Do a quick audit of the hours posted on the GBPs of your client’s direct competitors. For example, I found three craft shops in one small city with these hours:

    Guess which competitor is getting all of the business after 6 PM every day of the week, when most people are off work and able to shop?

    Now, it may well be that some of your smaller clients are already working as many hours as they can, but have they explored whether their hours are actually ideal for their customers’ needs and whether any time slots aren’t being filled in the community by their competitors? What if, instead of operating under the traditional 9–5, your client switched to 11–7, since no other competitor in town is open after 5 PM? It’s the same number of hours and your client would benefit from getting all the foot traffic of the 9–5-ers.

    Alternatively, instead of closing on Saturdays, the business closed on Mondays — perhaps this is the slowest of their weekdays? Being open on the weekend could mean that the average worker can now access said business and become a customer.

    It will take some openness to change, but if a business agrees to implementation, don’t forget to update the GMB hours and push out the new hours to the major citation platforms via a service like Moz Local

    Your turn to add your best GMB moves

    I hope you’ll take some of these simple GBP tips to an upcoming client meeting. And if they decide to forge ahead with your tips, be sure to monitor the outcomes! How great if a simple audit of hours turned into a foot traffic win for your client? 

     In the meantime, if you have any favorite techniques, hacks, or easy GMB wins to share with our community, I’d love to read your comments!


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  • Mar 15, 2019 12:02:00 AM

    Posted by randfish

    Can you learn SEO in an hour? Surprisingly, the answer is yes, at least when it comes to the fundamentals! 

    With this edition of Whiteboard Friday, we're kicking off something special: a six-part series of roughly ten-minute-long videos designed to deliver core SEO concepts efficiently and effectively. It's our hope that this will serve as a helpful resource for a wide range of people:

    • Beginner SEOs looking to get acquainted with the field concisely & comprehensively
    • Clients, bosses, and stakeholders who would benefit from an enhanced understanding of your work
    • New team members who need quick and easy onboarding
    • Colleagues with SEO-adjacent roles, such as web developers and software engineers

    Today we'll be covering Part 1: SEO Strategy with the man who wrote the original guide on SEO, our friend Rand. Settle in, and stay tuned next Friday for our second video covering keyword research!


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

    Video Transcription

    Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to a special edition of the Whiteboard Friday series. I'm Rand Fishkin, the founder and former CEO of Moz, and I'm here with you today because I'm going to deliver a one-hour guide to SEO, front and back, so that you can learn in just an hour the fundamentals of the practice and be smarter at choosing a great SEO firm to work with, hiring SEO people. 

    A handy SEO resource for your clients, team, and colleagues

    If you are already in SEO, you might pick up some tips and tactics that you didn't otherwise know or hadn't previously considered. I want to ask those of you who are sort of intermediate level and advanced level SEOs — and I know there are many of you who have historically watched me on Whiteboard Friday and I really appreciate that — to give this video a chance even though it is at the beginner level, because my hope is that it will be valuable to you to send to your clients, your potential customers, people who join your team and work with you, developers or software engineers or web devs who you are working with and whose help you need but you want them to understand the fundamentals of SEO.

    If those are the people that you're talking to, excellent. This series is for you. We're going to begin with SEO strategy. That is our first part. Then we'll get into things like keyword research and technical SEO and link building and all of that good stuff as well. 

    The essentials: What is SEO, and what does it do?

    So first off, SEO is search engine optimization. It is essentially the practice of influencing or being able to control some of the results that Google shows when someone types in or speaks a query to their system.

    I say Google. You can influence other search engines, like Bing and DuckDuckGo and Yahoo and Seznam if you're in the Czech Republic or Baidu. But we are primarily focused on Google because Google has more than a 90% market share in the United States and, in fact, in North America and South America, in most of Europe, Asia, and the Middle East with a few exceptions.

    Start with business goals

    So SEO is a tactic. It's a way to control things. It is not a business goal. No one forms a new company or sits down with their division and says, "Okay, we need to rank for all of these keywords." Instead what you should be saying, what hopefully is happening in your teams is, "We have these business goals."

    Example: "Grow our online soccer jersey sales to a web-savvy, custom heavy audience."

    Let's say we're an online e-commerce shop and we sell customized soccer jerseys, well, football for those of you outside of the United States. So we want to grow our online soccer jersey sales. Great, that is a true business goal. We're trying to build a bigger audience. We want to sell more of these jerseys. In order to do that, we have marketing goals that we want to achieve, things like we want to build brand awareness.

    Next, marketing goals

    Build brand awareness

    We want more people to know who we are, to have heard of our particular brand, because people who have heard of us are going to be more likely to buy from us. The first time you hear about someone, very unlikely to buy. The seventh time you've heard about someone, much more likely to buy from them. So that is a good marketing goal, and SEO can help with that. We'll talk about that in a sec.

    Grow top-of-funnel traffic

    You might want to grow top-of-funnel traffic. We want more people coming to the site overall so that we can do a better job of figuring out who is the right audience for us and converting some of those people, retargeting some of those people, capturing emails from some of those people, all those good things. 

    Attract ready-to-buy fans

    We want to attract ready-to-buy fans, people who are chomping at the bit to buy our soccer jerseys, customize them and get them shipped.

    SEO, as a strategy, is essentially a set of tactics, things that you will do in the SEO world to rank for different keywords in the search engines or control and influence what already ranks in there so that you can achieve your marketing goals so that you can achieve your business goals.

    Don't get this backwards. Don't start from a place of SEO. Especially if you are an SEO specialist or a practitioner or you're joining a consulting firm, you should always have an excellent idea of what these are and why the SEO tactics that you are undertaking fit into them. If you don't, you should be asking those questions before you begin any SEO work.

    Otherwise you're going to accomplish things and do things that don't have the impact or don't tie directly to the impact that the business owners care about, and that's going to mean probably you won't get picked up for another contract or you won't accomplish the goals that mean you're valuable to the team or you do things that people don't necessarily need and want in the business and therefore you are seen as a less valuable part of it.

    Finally, move into SEO strategy

    But if you're accomplishing things that can clearly tie to these, the opposite. People will really value what you do. 

    Rank for low-demand, high-conversion keywords

    So SEO can do things like rank for low demand, things that don't have a lot of searches per month but they are high conversion likely keywords, keywords like "I am looking for a customized Seattle Sounders soccer jersey that's in the away colors." Well, there's not a lot of search demand for that exact phrase. But if you're searching for it, you're very likely to convert. 

    Earn traffic from high-demand, low-competition, less commerce-focused keywords

    You could try and earn traffic from high-demand, low competition keywords that are less focused directly on e-commerce. So it could be things like "Seattle Sounders news" or "Seattle Sounders stats" or a comparison of "Portland Timbers versus Seattle Sounders." These are two soccer or football clubs in the Pacific Northwest. 

    Build content that attracts links and influencer engagement

    Or you might be trying to do things like building content that attracts links and influencer engagement so that in the future you can rank for more competitive keywords. We'll talk about that in a sec. SEO can do some amazing things, but there are also things that it cannot do.

    What SEO can do:

    If you put things in here, if you as an SEO pitch to your marketing team or your business owners that SEO can do things that it can't, you're going to be in trouble. So when we compose an SEO strategy, a set of tactics that tries to accomplish marketing goals that tie to business goals, SEO can do things like:

    • Attract searchers that are seeking your content.
    • Control how your brand is seen in search results when someone searches for your particular name. 
    • Nudge searchers toward queries by influencing what gets suggested in the auto suggest or by suggesting related searches or people also ask boxes. 

    Anything that shows up in the search results, nearly anything can be influenced by what we as SEOs can do.

    What SEO cannot do:

    Grow or create search demand on its own

    But SEO cannot grow or create search demand by itself. So if someone says, "Hey, I want us to get more traffic for this specific keyword," if you're already ranking number one and you have some videos showing in the results and you're also in the image results and you've got maybe a secondary page that links off to you from the results, you might say, "Hey, there's just not more demand," and SEO by itself can't create that additional demand.

    Build brand (by itself)

    SEO also can't build brand, at least not by itself. It can certainly be a helpful part of that structure. But if someone says, "Hey, I want us to be better known among this audience,"you can say, "Well, SEO can help a little, but it can't build a brand on its own, and it certainly can't build brand perception on its own." People are going to go and visit your website. They're going to go and experience, have an interaction with what you've created on the web. That is going to be far more of a brand builder, a brand indicator than just what appears in the search results. So SEO can't do that alone. 

    Directly convert customers

    It also can't directly convert customers. A lot of the time what we find is that someone will do a great job of ranking, but when you actually reach the website, when visitors reach the website, they are unsatisfied by the search, which by the way is one of the reasons why this one-hour guide is going to include a section on searcher satisfaction.

    When Google sees over time that searchers are unsatisfied by a result, they will push that result down in the rankings and find someone who does a great job of satisfying searchers, and they will rank them instead. So the website has to do this. It is part of SEO. It's certainly part of the equation, but SEO can't influence it or control it on its own.

    WORK OVERNIGHT!

    Finally, last but not least, SEO cannot work overnight. It just won't happen. SEO is a long-term investment. It is very different from paid search ads, PPC, also called SEM sometimes, buying from Google ads or from Bing ads and appearing in the sponsored results. That is a tactic where you can pour money in and optimize and get results out in 24 hours. SEO is more like a 24-month long process. 

    The SEO Growth Path

    I've tried to show that here. The fundamental concept is when you have a new website, you need to earn these things — links and engagement and historical performance in the rankings.

    As you earn those things, other people are linking to you from around the web, people are talking about you, people are engaging with your pages and your brand, people start searching for your brand specifically, people are clicking you more in the search results and then having good experiences on your website, as all those great things happen, you will grow your historical engagement and links and ranking factors, all these things that we sort of put into the bucket of the authority and influence of a website.

    3–6 months: Begin to rank for things in the long tail of search demand

    As that grows, you will be able to first, over time, this might be three to six months down here, you might be able to rank for a few keywords in the long tail of search demand. 

    6–9 months: Begin to rank for more and more competitive keywords

    After six to nine months, if you're very good at this, you may be able to rank for more and more competitive keywords.

    12–18 months: Compete for tougher keywords

    As you truly grow a brand that is well-known and well thought of on the internet and by search engines, 12 to 18 months in, maybe longer, you may be able to compete for tougher and tougher keywords. When I started the Moz website, back in the early days of Google, it took me years, literally two or three years before I was ranking for anything in Google, anything in the search engines, and that is because I had to first earn that brand equity, that trust, that relationship with the search engines, those links and that engagement.

    Today this is more true than ever because Google is so good at estimating these things. All right. I look forward to hearing all about the amazing strategies and structures that you've got probably in the comments down below. I'm sure it will be a great thread. We'll move on to the second part of our one-hour guide next time — keyword research. Take care.

    Video transcription by Speechpad.com


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  • Mar 14, 2019 5:56:16 PM

    Posted by TheMozTeam

    Mozzers believe in doing good, whether we’re helping new SEOs learn the ropes, encouraging young girls to consider a career in STEM, or just maintaining a dog-friendly (and thus smile-friendly) office. It’s why so much of our content and tools are available for free. It’s why Moz has a generous employee donation-match program that matched over $500,000 between 2013 and 2017, supporting organizations making the world a more just and charitable place. It’s why we partner with programs like Year Up, Ignite, and Techbridge to inspire the next generation of technology leaders.

    And of course, TAGFEE is the beating heart of everything we do. It’s part of our DNA. That’s why we’re incredibly proud (and humbled!) to announce that our very own CEO and Disney-karaoke-extraordinaire, Sarah Bird, has been accepted into The Aspen Institute’s 23rd class of Henry Crown Fellows, a program whose values resonate deeply with our own.

    The Henry Crown Fellowship is an influential program that enables leaders to embrace their inner do-gooder. Every year, around twenty leaders from around the world are accepted into the fellowship. Having proven their success in the private sector, each new Fellow uses this opportunity to play a similar role in their communities, their country, or the world.

    Pretty exciting, right? The best part of all, though: it’s not just about reflection. It’s about action. Fellows in the program have launched over 2,500 leadership ventures, using the opportunity to tackle everything from improving healthcare access, to battling domestic violence, to enhancing sustainable living, and beyond. It’s important, highly impactful stuff.

    “Executives are often criticized for building successful businesses without giving back to the communities that helped them along the way,” says Sarah, “but we must lead as much in our communities as we do in our businesses.”

    Tech companies and executives often face deserved scrutiny for the second- and third-order impacts of their successes. It’s a hard truth that the benefits and costs of technology advances aren’t shared equally between all people, and the cost to our environment is often not fully accounted for. The consequence is an understandable backlash against technologists.

    “In order to change this,” adds Sarah, “we need to earnestly and with rigor dive into the sociological and ecological consequences of our work. Those of us with great power and privilege need to recognize and embrace our role in creating a more just and healthy future. I feel called to make a difference, and I’m glad there is a program out there to provide a framework and accountability for action.”

    Here at Moz, we’ve been lucky enough to benefit from Sarah’s influence for years — we know she’s good people, inside and out. And now, we can’t wait to see her make waves in the world at large with the support of the Henry Crown Fellowship.

    We’d love for you to join us in congratulating her in the comments below, and bonus points if you share the cause that’s closest to your heart!


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  • Mar 13, 2019 12:02:00 AM

    Posted by Tom.Capper

    Given the increasing importance of brand in SEO, it seems a cruel irony that many household name-brands seem to struggle with managing the channel. Yet, in my time at Distilled, I've seen just that: numerous name-brand sites in various states of stagnation and even more frustrated SEO managers attempting to prevent said stagnation. 

    Despite global brand recognition and other established advantages that ought to drive growth, the reality is that having a household name doesn't ensure SEO success. In this post, I’m going to explore why large, well-known brands can run into difficulties with organic performance, the patterns I’ve noticed, and some of the recommended tactics to address those challenges.

    What we talk about when we talk about a legacy brand

    For the purposes of this post, the term “legacy brand” applies to companies that have a very strong association with the product they sell, and may well have, in the past, been the ubiquitous provider for that product. This could mean that they were household names in the 20th century, or it could be that they pioneered and dominated their field in the early days of mass consumer web usage. A few varied examples (that Distilled has never worked with or been contacted by) include:

    • Wells Fargo (US)
    • Craigslist (US)
    • Tesco (UK)

    These are cherry-picked, potentially extreme examples of legacy brands, but all three of the above, and most that fit this description have shown a marked decline in the last five years, in terms of organic visibility (confirmed by Sistrix, my tool of choice — your tool-of-choice may vary). It’s a common issue for large, well-established sites — peaking in 2013 and 2014 and never again reaching those highs.

    It's worth noting that stagnation is not the only possible state — sometimes brands can even be growing, but simply at a level far beneath the potential, you would expect from their offline ubiquity.

    The question is: why does it keep happening?

    Reason 1: Brand

    Quite possibly the biggest hurdle standing in the way of a brand’s performance is the brand itself. This may seem like a bit of an odd one — we’d already established that the companies we’re talking about are big, recognized, household names. That in and of itself should help them in SEO, right?

    The thing is, though, a lot of these big household names are recognized, but they’re not the one-stop shops that they used to be.

    Here's how the above name-brand examples are performing on search:

    Other dominant, clearly vertical-leading brands in the UK, in general, are also not doing so well in branded search:

    There’s a lot of potential reasons for why this may be — and we’ll even address some of them later — but a few notable ones include:

    • Complacency — particularly for brands that were early juggernauts of the web, they may have forgotten the need to reinforce their brand image and recognition.
    • More and more credible competitors. When you’re the only competent operator, as many of these brands once were, you had the whole pie. Now, you have to share it.
    • People trust search engines. In a lot of cases, ubiquitous brands decline, while the generic term is on the rise.

    Check out this for the real estate example in the UK:

    Rightmove and Zoopla are the two biggest brands in this space and have been for some time. There’s only one line there that’s trending upwards, though, and it’s the generic term, “houses for sale."

    What can I do about this?

    Basically, get a move on! A lot of incumbents have been very slow to take action on things like top-of-funnel content, or only produce low-effort, exceptionally dry social media posts (I’ve posted before about some of these tactics here.) In fairness, it’s easy to see why — these channels and approaches likely have the least measurable returns. However, leaving a vacuum higher in your funnel is playing with fire, especially when you’re a recognized name. It opens an opportunity for smaller players to close the gap in recognition — at almost no cost.

    Reason 2: Tech debt

    I’m sure many people reading this will have experienced how hard it can be to get technical changes — particularly higher effort ones — implemented by larger, older organizations. This can stem from complex bureaucracy, aging and highly bespoke platforms, risk aversion, and, particularly for SEO, an inability to get senior buy-in for what can often be fairly abstract changes with little guaranteed reward.

    What can I do about this?

    At Distilled, we run into these challenges fairly often. I’ve seen dev queues that span, literally, for years. I’ve also seen organizations that are completely unable to change the most basic information on their sites, such as opening times or title tags. In fact, it was this exact issue that prompted the development of our ODN platform a few years ago as a way to circumvent technical limitations and prove the benefits when we did so.

    There are less heavy-duty options available — GTM can be used for a range of changes as the last resort, albeit without the measurement component. CDN-level solutions like Cloudflare’s edge workers are also starting to gain traction within the SEO community.

    Eventually, though, it’s necessary to tackle the problem at the source — by making headway within the politics of the organization. There’s a whole other post to be had there, if not several, but basically, it comes down to making yourself heard without undermining anyone. I’ve found that focusing on the downside is actually the most effective angle within big, risk-averse bureaucracies — essentially preying on the risk-aversion itself — as well as shouting loudly about any successes, however small.

    Reason 3: Not updating tactics due to long-standing, ingrained practices

    In a way, this comes back to risk aversion and politics — after all, legacy brands have a lot to lose. One particular manifestation I’ve often noticed in larger organizations is ongoing campaigns and tactics that haven’t been linked to improved rankings or revenue in years.

    One conversation with a senior SEO at a major brand left me quite confused. I recall he said to me something along the lines of “we know this campaign isn’t right for us strategically, but we can’t get buy-in for anything else, so it’s this or lose the budget”. Fantastic.

    This type of scenario can become commonplace when senior decision-makers don’t trust their staff — often, it's a CMO, or similar executive leader, that hasn't dipped their toe in SEO for a decade or more. When they do, they are unpleasantly surprised to discover that their SEO team isn’t buying any links this week and, actually, hasn’t for quite some time. Their reaction, then, is predictable: “No wonder the results are so poor!”

    What can I do about this?

    Unfortunately, you may have to humor this behavior in the short term. That doesn’t mean you should start (or continue) buying links, but it might be a good idea to ensure there’s similar-sounding activity in your strategy while you work on proving the ROI of your projects.

    Medium-term, if you can get senior stakeholders out to conferences (I highly recommend SearchLove, though I may be biased), softly share articles and content “they may find interesting”, and drown them in news of the success of whatever other programs you’ve managed to get headway with, you can start to move them in the right direction.

    Reason 4: Race to the bottom

    It’s fair to say that, over time, it’s only become easier to launch an online business with a reasonably well-sorted site. I’ve observed in the past that new entrants don’t necessarily have to match tenured juggernauts like-for-like on factors like Domain Authority to hit the top spots.

    As a result, it’s become common-place to see plucky, younger businesses rising quickly, and, at the very least, increasing the apparent level of choice where historically a legacy business might have had a monopoly on basic competence.

    This is even more complicated when price is involved. Most SEOs agree that SERP behavior factors into rankings, so it’s easy to imagine legacy businesses, which disproportionately have a premium angle, struggling for clicks vs. attractively priced competitors. Google does not understand or care that you have a premium proposition — they’ll throw you in with the businesses competing purely on price all the same.

    What can I do about this?

    As I see it, there are two main approaches. One is abusing your size to crowd out smaller players (for instance, disproportionately targeting the keywords where they’ve managed to find a gap in your armor), and the second is, essentially, Conversion Rate Optimization.

    Simple tactics like sorting a landing page by default by price (ascending), having clicky titles with a value-focused USP (e.g. free delivery), or well targeted (and not overdone) post-sales retention emails — all go a long way to mitigating the temptation of a cheaper or hackier competitor.

    Reason 5: Super-aggregators (Amazon, Google)

    In a lot of verticals, the pie is getting smaller, so it stands to reason the dominant players will be facing a diminishing slice.

    A few obvious examples:

    • Local packs eroding local landing pages
    • Google Flights, Google Jobs, etc. eroding specialist sites
    • Amazon taking a huge chunk of e-commerce search

    What can I do about this?

    Again, there are two separate angles here, and one is a lot harder than the other. The first is similar to some of what I’ve mentioned above — move further up the funnel and lock in business before this ever comes to your prospective client Googling your head term and seeing Amazon and/or Google above you. This is only a mitigating tactic, however.

    The second, which will be impossible for many or most businesses, is to jump into bed with the devil. If you ever do have the opportunity to be a data partner behind a Google or Amazon product, you may do well to swallow your pride and take it. You may be the only one of your competitors left in a few years, and if you don’t, it’ll be someone else.

    Wrapping up

    While a lot of the issues relate to complacency, and a lot of my suggested solutions relate to reinvesting as if you weren’t a dominant brand that might win by accident, I do think it’s worth exploring the mechanisms by which this translates into poorer performance.

    This topic is unavoidably very tinted by my own experiences and opinions, so I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Similarly, I’m conscious that any one of my five reasons could have been a post in its own right — which ones would you like to see more fleshed out?


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  • Mar 12, 2019 10:05:24 AM

    Posted by TheMozTeam

    This post was originally published on the STAT blog.


    In the STAT whitepaper, Using search intent to connect with consumers, we looked at how SERP features change with a searcher’s intent — informational, commercial, transactional, or local. It was so chock-full of research that it sparked oodles of other content inspiration — from the basics of building an intent-based keyword list to setting up your own search intent project, to Scott Taft's guide to building your own search intent dashboard.

    But while doing the research for the whitepaper, we found ourselves pondering another question: is there a similar relationship between search intent and the kind of page content that Google sources results from?

    We know from our study that as searchers head down the intent funnel, the SERP feature landscape shifts accordingly. For example, Google serves up progressively more shopping boxes, which help close the deal, as a searcher moves from awareness to purchase.

    So, as consumers hunt for that perfect product, does the content that Google serves up shift from, say, category pages to product pages? To get to the bottom of this mystery, we mounted a three-pronged attack.

    Prong 1: Uncover the top SERP players

    Since Google delivers the content they deem most helpful, figuring out who their SERP favs are ensured that we were analyzing the best performing content.

    To do this, we used the same 6,422 retail keywords from our original research, segmented them by search intent, and then gathered the top 12 results (give or take a few) that appeared on each SERP.

    This gave us:

    • 6,338 informational intent results,
    • 35,210 commercial intent results,
    • 24,633 transactional intent results,
    • and 10,573 local intent results

    …to analyze the stink out of. (That’s 76,754 results all told.)

    From there, we dug into root domains (e.g. eBay.com and Amazon.com) to uncover the four most frequently occurring businesses for each search intent category.

    We made an executive decision to exclude Google, who claimed top billing across the board, from our analysis for two reasons. One, because we attribute shopping boxes and images to them, which show up a lot for retail keywords, and two, because they aren’t exactly a competitor you can learn from.

    Prong 2: Identify content page managers

    After compiling the winningest sites to snoop on, it was time to see what kind of content they were offering up to the Google gods — which should’ve been easy, right? Wrong. Unfortunately, examining URL structures for frequently occurring page markers is a somewhat painful process.

    Some sites, like Homedepot.com (who we wish had made the list for this very reason), have clean, easy to decipher URL structures: all product and category pages are identified with a “/p/” and “/b/” that always show up in the same spot in the URL.

    And then you have the Amazon.coms of the world that use a mix of seemingly random markers, like “/s?rh=” and “/dp” that appear all over the place.

    In the end — thanks to Stack Overflow, SequelPro, and a lot of patience — we were able to classify our URLs, bringing us to our third and final prong.

    Prong 3: Mash everything together and analyze

    Once we got all of our ducks in a row, it was time to get our super-sleuth on.

    Informational intent (6,338 results)

    This is the very top of the intent funnel. The searcher has identified a need and is looking for information on the best solution — is a [laptop] or [desktop computer] the right choice for their home office; what’s the difference between a [blender] and a [food processor] when making smoothies?

    Thanks to the retail nature of our keywords, three product powerhouses — Amazon, Walmart, and Best Buy — rose to the top, along with Wikipedia, whose sole purpose in life is to provide the kind of information that searchers usually want to see at this stage of intent.

    Although Wikipedia doesn’t have page markers, we chose to categorize their search results as product pages. This is because each Wikipedia entry typically focuses on a single person, place, or thing. Also, because they weren’t important to our analysis: while Wikipedia is a search competitor, they’re not a product competitor. (We still love you though, Wikipedia!)

    Diving into the type of content that Amazon, Walmart, and Best Buy served up (the stuff we were really after), category pages surfaced as the preferred choice.

    Given the wide net that a searcher is casting with their informational query, it made sense to see more category pages at this stage — they help searchers narrow down their hunt by providing a wide range of options to choose from.

    What did have us raising our eyebrows a little was the number of product pages that appeared. Product pages showcase one specific item and are typically optimized for conversion, so we expected to see these in large quantities further down the funnel — when a searcher has a better idea of what they want.

    Commercial intent (35,210 results)

    When it comes to a commercial intent query, the searcher is starting to dig deeper into the product they’re after — they’re doing comparative research, reading reviews, and looking into specific functionality.

    Here, Amazon continued to rule the URL roost, Wikipedia dropped off, eBay judo-chopped Walmart out of second place, and Best Buy stayed put at the bottom.

    In terms of the content that these sites offered up, we saw the addition of review pages from Amazon, and buyer guides from Amazon, eBay, and Best Buy. We figured this would be the case, seeing as how we used modifiers like “best,” “compare,” and “reviews” to apply commercial intent to our keywords.

    But while these two types of content fit perfectly with the intent behind a commercial query, especially reviews, oddly enough they still paled in comparison to the number of category and product pages. Weird, right?

    Transactional intent (24,633 results)

    At the transactional intent stage of the game, the searcher has narrowed their hunt down to a few best options and is ready to throw their hard-earned shekels at the winner.

    As far as the most frequently appearing sites go, there was a little do-si-do between eBay and Walmart, but overall, these top four sites did an excellent job following searchers down the intent funnel.

    In terms of the kind of pages appearing, once again, we saw a huge number of category pages. Product pages made a respectable showing, but given the readiness to buy at the bottom of the funnel, we expected to see the scales tip in their favor.

    Alack and alas, no dice.

    Local intent (10,573 results)

    Technically, we categorize local intent as a subsection of transactional intent. It’s likely that the only reason a searcher would be considering an in-store visit is if the product is something they want to take home with them. But because local searches typically surface different results from our other transactional queries, we look at them separately.

    Here, Amazon’s reign was finally usurped by its biggest competitor, Walmart, and Yelp made a stunning first appearance to knock Best Buy down and eBay off the list.

    Given that local intent searchers are on the hunt for a brick-and-mortar store, it made sense that Walmart would win out over Amazon. That said, it’s an incredible feat that Amazon doesn’t let a lack of physical location derail its retail dominance, especially when local is the name of the game (a location is literally part of these queries).

    As for Yelp, they’re a trusted source for people trying to find a business IRL — so it wasn’t surprising to see them jump on our local intent SERPs. Like Wikipedia, Yelp doesn’t have product or category pages per se, but they do have markers that indicate pages with multiple business listings (we classified these as category pages), as well as markers that indicate single business listings (our product pages). We also found markers for reviews, which were a perfect fit for our analysis.

    Finally, when it came to content, category and product pages (again!) showed up the most on these SERPs. So what’s going on here?

    The (unexpected) takeaway

    When we set out to examine the type of content that appears for the different search intents, we expected to see far more variation from one level to the next. We thought we’d find lots of category pages for informational intent, more reviews and buyer guides for commercial intent, and mostly product pages for transactional intent.

    Instead, we found that category pages are Google’s top choice for retail keywords throughout all levels of search intent. Regardless of how specific a query is, category pages seem to be the first point of access when hunting for retail items. So why might this be?

    Looking to our winning sites for answers, it appears that intent-blended pages are the bomb dot com for Amazon, Walmart, eBay, and Best Buy.

    Their category pages contain: an image of each type of product and short, descriptive copy to help searchers narrow down their options (informational intent); a review or rating system for quick comparisons (commercial intent); and pricing information and a clear way to make a purchase (transactional intent).

    Following any of the items to their designated product page — the second most returned type of content — you’ll find a similar intent-blended approach. In fact, by having alternative suggestions, like “people also bought” and “similar products,” appear on them, they almost resemble category pages.

    This product page approach is different from what we often see with smaller boutique-style shops. Take Stutterheim for example (they sell raincoats perfect for our Vancouver weather). Their product pages have a single focus: buy this one thing.

    Since smaller shops don’t have a never-ending supply of goods, their product pages have to push harder for the transaction — no distractions allowed. Large retailers like Amazon? They have enough stuff to keep searchers around until they stumble across something they like.

    To find out what type of content you should serve at each step of the intent funnel, segment your keywords by search intent and track which of your pages rank, as well as how well they convert. This will help reveal what your searchers find most useful.

    Ready to get your mitts on even more intent-based insights? Grab the full whitepaper: Using search intent to connect with consumers.

    What search-intent insights have you dug up? Let us know in the comments!


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