Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Minolta XI Era

A new article has been posted on Maxxumeyes! The xi series was introduced in 1991* and included lenses and camera bodies. ‘xi’ included the traditional screw drive auto-focus interface (A-Mount) but added a motorized zoom function. Due to this, xi lenses are only compatible with post xi era Continue reading → See the original article at the site.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Dissecting and Surviving Google's Local Snack Pack Results

Posted by MiriamEllis

Google's Snack Packs (a.k.a Local Stacks) haven't gotten the best reception in the local business community. Many people feel these results serve Google itself more so than the local businesses they feature. For this reason, it may be more important than ever to make sure your local search marketing is both accurate and thorough. In this post, we'll dive into why.

Let's take one of these results apart and discover how best to respond to their limitations.

I was never a fan of Google's Carousel. The vivid, image-oriented, horizontal display moved me out of my comfort zone after a decade or so of easy familiarity with the minimalist blue/grey/green palette of more traditional packs. A few orange stars here, a red teardrop marker there—like most Google users, I had been conditioned to see and understand these elements of pack results at a glance. The carousel felt like a shocking departure from the simplicity I consider to be a chief hallmark of Google's historic style. I wasn't sorry to bid them farewell … until I got my first look at the Snack Packs that have now become the standard results for hospitality and entertainment searches.

Bearing in mind that "Google's goal is to provide users with the most relevant results and a great user experience," please join me in dissecting the parts of a single Snack Pack entry to see if you think it's living up to Google's stated purpose.

elements of google's snack pack

Key to the Snack Pack

Here we're going to see what each of the elements of this Snack Pack result for a search for "Tex Mex Restaurants" in Dallas signifies and directs us to. But before we do so, let's quickly note what isn't immediately accessible in this type of result:

  1. The phone number of the business
  2. The full address of the business
  3. A link to the website of the business

In other words, if we want to call the business right now, or understand exactly where it's located, or visit the website to see a menu or get the feel of the place, we're out of luck on our first try. Instead of instant gratification, we're going to have to start clicking around on the elements of the typical snack pack to see if Google will give us what we want. Here's what happens when we interact with these 10 elements:

Element 1

The business name is clear enough. We click on it, perhaps assuming that we'll be going to the website of the business, as we would in an organic result, or at least to a Google+ Local page which years of Google use will have acquainted us with. Instead we end up on a secondary interface that isn't a website and isn't a Google+ Local page. It's more like a large knowledge graph hanging in space above some organic results:

element 1 google snack pack

Personally, I find the hanging-in-space presentation of this secondary interface a bit odd, but at least we can now see the full address, phone number and a globe icon linking to the website. Likely, we've now found what we need, but I'm left asking why we had to click to get to this information. Traditional packs gave us instant, direct access to NAP+W—the core name, address phone number and website elements of any citation. By contrast, Snack Packs may make us feel that Google is holding out on us, making us click further into their own product before they'll deliver.

Elements 2 and 3

Clicking on the stars and reviews also takes us to the in-space interface. Fair enough. We probably didn't expect to see all of the Google reviews on our first try, but I do have to wonder why we don't reach them in one click on these elements. Instead, we have to go from the second interface to a third, by clicking on the "View All Google Reviews" link. It looks like this, and is again disconnected, sitting on a greyed-out background:

elements 2 and 3 google snack pack

I have to ask, why doesn't the reviews link in the Snack Pack take us directly to all of the reviews right away? Presumably, I want to see all of the reviews if I'm clicking that link—not just three of them.

Elements 4 and 5

The price gauge and the word "Mexican" take us to the in-space interface. Fine enough. I confess, I'm not sure where that word "Mexican" comes from, and as a student of regional American cuisines, I'll state for the record that Tex-Mex food is not Mexican food. I was curious enough about this to go hunt up the Google+ Local page for Mia's Tex-Mex Restaurant.

You can't get to it from the Snack Pack, as we've seen, and Google has been making direct links to Google+ Local pages harder and harder to find, so here's a shameless plug for the Moz Check Listing tool. Look up the name and zip in Check Listing to get right to the Google+ Local page. No fussing with Google Maps, branded searches, etc.

Then, once you're there, take a tip from Darren Shaw and click on the category on the Google+ Local page to see what appears to be a full list of the categories a business has selected:

elements 4 and 5 google snack pack

Okay, so now we've seen that the business did select "Mexican Restaurant" as a category, and perhaps if we visited, we'd find that they're serving traditional Chiles en Nogada alongside the Tex-Mex standard queso dip. If the word "Mexican" in the Snack Pack display is coming from the categories, it has been abbreviated and given precedence over the primary, exact match "Tex-Mex Restaurant" category. I know the word isn't coming from Zagat, where this restaurant is categorized as "Tex-Mex". I'm not 100% sure about the origin of this word being given such prominence in the Snack Pack, but I guess we can let it go at that.

Elements 6 and 7

I really do have a bone to pick with element 6—the partial street address. What good does this do anyone? Not only are we lacking a street number to tell us exactly where the restaurant is, but the fact that there is no city shown erodes our confidence that we are, indeed, being shown a result in Dallas. We'll have to click through to the in-space interface if we want Google to deliver the goods for us on this one.

Element 7, the sentiment snippet "longtime spot with famous brisket tacos" also takes us to the second interface. It's not a direct quote of the business description which reads, "Bustling, casual, longtime eatery (since 1981) popular for its brisket tacos & other Tex-Mex fare." It also doesn't seem to originate directly from a user review, and I don't see it described this way on Zagat. So, it appears to be a custom hybrid of sentiments Google and Zagat have created. I'm fine with this, but should it be more important to see random sentiment than a phone number in the Snack Pack? Which element do you feel is more deserving of pack real estate?

Elements 8 and 9

This is where I feel the average Google user may become somewhat confused, if they don't understand that Google acquired Zagat in 2011. Clicking on the prominent Zagat logo or the wording "Zagat—Dallas' best Tex-Mex restaurants", one might expect to go to Zagat. But, you guessed, it—we're going ridin' on a freeway right back to the in-space interface, and we're not even taken to the portion of it that shows the Zagat data. We have to scroll down to get to this:

elements 8 and 9 google snack pack

So, now we're kind of intrigued. What does it mean that Zagat is voting this restaurant to be one of the best? We click that link, again likely assuming that we're going to Zagat. Instead, we get yet another interface. It looks like this, and Mia's Tex-Mex isn't even the first thing we see on it. It's down at numero cuatro in some sort of Google list that appears to be branded with Zagat's name:

google snack pack

Just for fun, let's click on Mia's and see where we go. Que cosa? We're back on the in-space interface yet again, and maybe feeling a bit like we're going in circles.

There are actually pages on Zagat for these things. Here's their page for the best Tex-Mex restaurants in Dallas, which I've noticed appears to have a completely different ordering of the results. It's interesting that, instead of Google's Snack Pack or the secondary interface taking us directly to this page, we remain firmly locked with Google's own interfaces.

Element 10

As with most of the other elements, clicking the image takes us to the secondary interface (which appears to be different than the Google+ Local image gallery interface) and that then clicks to a page like this one which also feels a bit disconnected to me.

Unfortunately for this business, their primary image isn't doing their listing any favors, but I don't really have a problem with having to click a couple of times to get to an image gallery.

In sum, the initial interface of the Snack Pack may feel to users a bit like stubbing one's toe on a blunt object of questionable usefulness. I know that's the approximate sensation I have when I encounter this display.

Google may have turned off the Carousel for restaurants, but human users are still getting quite a merry-go-round ride trying to use and interpret the Snack Pack that has replaced it. As they bounce from one Google-owned interface to another instead of being given immediate NAP+W or taken directly to owner-managed websites or Google+ Local pages, or even directly to platforms like Zagat, users are given few signals about what connects all of these disparate elements together. To me, the experience is piecemeal and lacking in cohesive glue and feels like a step backward from the clearer UX of the traditional local packs that Google has so long promoted. What do you think? In your opinion, does this search results display live up to Google's goals of usability and quality?

Snack Pack survival for local business owners and SEOs

However I may feel about Snack Packs, this I know: when I want to play with Google, it's always got to be by their rules. So how can businesses like hotels, restaurants, bakeries, venues, bars, clubs, amusement parks, caterers and their marketers survive Snack Pack treatment?

The answer is clear:

Given that your customers will be interacting within a series of Google interfaces, it is now more important than ever that your Google-related marketing be as flawless as possible.

Using that secondary in-space interface as our springboard, this means that you have to get all of the following correct:

In your Google My Business dashboard

  1. Business name
  2. Address
  3. Phone number
  4. Website
  5. Description
  6. Hours of operation
  7. Categories
  8. Images

Beyond your Google My Business dashboard

  1. You must be earning positive, Google-based reviews and keeping an eagle eye on any patterns of negative reviews that arise so that you can quickly remedy internal service problems and respond appropriately.
  2. If you're marketing a food service business, you should upload your menu to sites like UrbanSpoon and GrubHub. These are the sites from which I've seen Google pulling menus, but there could be other platforms I haven't noticed.
  3. Food-oriented businesses must also tackle the Zagat environment. Here are Google's detailed guidelines covering how to get Zagat rated, what's allowed and what isn't, editing listings, uploading menus, and lots more.
  4. Remember that Google draws data not just from places like Zagat but from all over the web. This means that your website, your structured citations, and unstructured mentions of your business must accurately, and hopefully positively, represent your business.
  5. There is no replacement for good service at your place of business, and excellent service may earn you additional perks like being added to "Best Of" lists by Google's Zagat, which then make it into the interfaces Google controls.
  6. Be prepared for change. If we've learned one thing in the local SEO industry, it's that Google makes both small and large changes on an on-going basis. We all went for a ride on the Carousel in 2013 and, with the exception of a few search categories, hopped off in 2014. Now we're gnawing on Snack Packs. Tomorrow, who knows? What has historically stood business owners in good stead amidst all of these search evolutions is adherence to guidelines and data accuracy on Google's products and around the web.

Your key takeaway: Be alert to developments but don't be dismayed—if you're getting your marketing right, chances are good that you'll survive any foreseeable local display change. That's good news for local business owners and their marketers alike!

Header images by Scott Bauer (United States Department of Agriculture) [Public domain] and Ricraider (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], both via Wikimedia Commons.

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Can You Rank in Google Without Links? New Data Says Slim Chance

Posted by Cyrus-Shepard

"Just write quality content–Google will figure it out."
"Link building is dead."

For years now, we've heard the drumbeat from Google that marketers should stop focusing on building links. While it's accepted wisdom that you should avoid manipulative link building to rank higher in search results, the popular narrative would have us believe that external links aren't important in Google's ranking algorithms at all, and that link building can be safely ignored.

Is there any truth to this?

To find out, we mined new information from our upcoming biannual ranking correlation study, conducted by Moz's scientist, Dr. Matthew Peters.

External Link Definition

Moz's study examined the top 50 Google search results for approximately 15,000 keywords. This allowed us to examine not only what factors correlate with higher search rankings, but also how frequently those characteristics are seen.

At this point I must insert the usual caveat that correlation is not causation. Simply because a feature is strongly related to high rankings, this doesn't prove or disprove that Google actually uses it in its algorithm. That said, it sure is a hint!

The relationship between external links and rankings

When we look at what the study found about links, we find a strong relationship.

The correlation between higher rankings and the number of linking websites (root domains) sits at .30. This number seems small, but it's actually one of the highest correlations the study found. (Smaller correlations are also not surprising—with over 200 ranking signals, Google specifically designed their algorithm so that one factor doesn't dominate the others.)

Even more telling is the number of websites we found in the top results that had external backlinks, or rather, the lack thereof.

Out of the top results, a full 99.2% of all websites had at least one external link. (The remaining .8% is well within the margin of error expected between Mozscape and Google's own link index.) The study found almost no websites ranking for competitive search phrases that didn't have at least a single external link pointing at them, and most had significantly more links.

The Relationship Between Google Rankings And Links

In other words, if you're looking for a site that ranks well with no external links, be prepared to look for a very long time.

That said, the study did find numerous examples where individual pages ranked just fine without specific external links, as long as the website itself had external links pointing at it. For example, consider when The New York Times publishes a new page. Because it's new, it has no external links yet. But because The New York Times' website itself has tons of external links, it's possible for the new page to rank.

In all, 77.8% of individual pages in the top results had at least one external link from another site, which means 22.2% of individual pages ranked with no external links.

What the data says about links and Google rankings

There are a number of conclusions you can reasonably draw from these numbers.

1. External links are almost always present for competitive searches

If you want to rank for anything that's even remotely competitive, the chances of finding a website ranking without external links is very rare indeed.

2. It's possible to rank individual pages without links

As long as your website itself is linked externally, it appears more than possible to rank individual pages on your site, even if those pages themselves don't have external links. That said, there's a strong relationship between links to a page, and that pages performance in search—so it's much better if the page actually does have external links.

To put this in layman's terms, if a lot of people link to your website homepage, it's possible for other pages to rank as well, but it's even better if those pages also have external links pointing at them.

Although not examined in this study, it's likely most of the pages without external links at least had internal links pointing at them. While not as strong as an external link, internal links remain a decent way to pass authority, relevancy and popularity signals to pages on the same site.

3. More links correlate with higher rankings

It seems obvious, but the study confirmed the long-standing correlation between higher rankings and the number of external links found from unique websites.

Indeed, out of all the data points the ranking correlation study looked at, the number of unique websites linking to a page was one of the highest correlated relationships we found.

4. When can you rank without links?

Despite the fact that we found almost no websites ranking without external links, it is still possible?

Absolutely, but there's a catch.

The 15,000 keyword phrases used in this study were, for the most part, competitive. This means that lots of other people and websites are trying to rank for the same term. Think of phrases like "Galaxy s6" and "New York car insurance."

Non-competitive phrases, by their nature, are much easier to rank for. So if you want your website to rank without obtaining any backlinks, you might succeed by targeting more obscure phrases like "Oregon beekeeper ballet emporium" or "Batman flux platypus." These phrases have much lower competition, and by default, much lower traffic (and in many cases, none.)

There are other edge cases where it's possible to rank without links, such as when the user is searching for your website specifically, or when you offer something very unique that can't be found anywhere else. Even in these cases, it helps tremendously to actually have links pointing at you.

Proceed with caution

There's good reason people believe link building is dead, as readers of this blog know well. For readers less familiar with this concept, or those newer to SEO...

A link isn't always a link.

Google Penalty

In the past 10 years, after people spammed the heck out of link building to gain higher rankings, Google began cracking down in a serious way starting in 2012. First with its Penguin algorithm, then by de-indexing several link networks, and then by cracking down on guest blogging.

Today, even slight deviations from Google's guidelines on manipulative links can land webmasters in penalty jail.

The web is filled with links. Billions of them. Many are built by robots, some are paid for by advertisers, some are good old fashioned editorial links. The challenge for Google is to separate the good from the bad in its ranking algorithm.

When Google finds a link pointing at your website, it can choose to do one of 3 things:

  1. Count it in its ranking algorithm
  2. Ignore it - or not give it any weight in boosting your rankings
  3. Penalize you - if it thinks the link is manipulative

In fact, most people would be surprised to learn how many links don't actually help you to rank, or can actually hurt. To play within Google's good graces, it's best to understand Google's guidelines on manipulative link building, and knowing what types of links to avoid.

The safest link building is simply link earning, and to get your content in front of the right people.

But trying to rank in Google without any links at all?


Photo Credit: Geographically Accurate Paris Metro Map by Nojhan under Creative Common License

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Monday, June 15, 2015

Study: 300 Google Sitelinks Search Boxes - Triggers and Trip-Ups Analyzed

Posted by Royh

The sitelinks search box ( is one of the most popular markups out there. According to SimilarTech, there are now more than 650,000 sites that have implemented this markup, making it one of the most popular of all schema markup types.

That said, we don't really know the reason why Google sometimes shows the search box for branded queries for sites that have implemented the markup, and sometimes doesn't. While we don't know what Google's criteria are behind the search box algorithm, we have the data to definitely see that there's a correlation between the traffic of the websites and the appearance of the markup.


source: "Sitelinks Search Box" on Google's developers site

What determines if Google displays your search box?

Using a SimilarTech "Websites using SearchAction Schema Entity" report, we compiled a list of websites implementing the above schema. We chose over 300 websites to sample, with varying traffic volumes. Then we researched each site and checked if Google was displaying a sitelinks search box when searching for the URL.

If we found a search box wasn't displayed, we looked at the website in question to see if there were technical issues (based on Google's setup instructions). Finally, we analyzed the results and produced the most common scenarios that would prevent Google from showing the sitelinks search box for a website.

Reasons why the sitelinks search box may not show (and what to do about it)

This list is ordered by frequency, from the most common to least common reasons that the Google sitelinks searchbox isn't being displayed:

Reason No. 1: Traffic to the website is too low


As you can see in the chart, amongst the sites with SearchAction schema markup, there's a definite correlation between website traffic and the likelihood that the searchbox will appear in Google search results. There were just a few sites (2.5%) with 100K monthly desktop visits where the searchbox was displayed. By contrast, nearly three-quarters of the sites with 50M monthly desktop visits had the sitelinks searchbox.

All the websites we tested implemented the schema SearchAction markup.

Here's what it means:

  • Monthly desktop visits – the number of average monthly desktop visits to the website according to SimilarWeb's analytics.
  • With "site:" search box – the number of websites that have the "site:" search box for their website:

C:\Users\user\Google Drive\Roy\New posts\unnamed.png

  • With the custom search box – the number of websites that have the custom search box for their website:

C:\Users\user\Google Drive\Roy\New posts\custom.png

The biggest difference between the custom search box and the "site:" search box: Searches inside the custom search box will redirect you to the website results page in the website itself, while the searches in the site:searchbox will lead you to a second search within Google.

Reason No. 2: Markup is not implemented in the site

This is fairly obvious, but it needs to be reiterated: The searchbox can only appear if the markup is implemented. There are two available schema formats you can use to implement the markup.

1. Using JSON-LD:

  <script type="application/ld+json">  {    "@context": "",    "@type": "WebSite",    "url": "",    "potentialAction": {      "@type": "SearchAction",      "target": "{search_term_string}",      "query-input": "required name=search_term_string"    }  }  </script>  

2. Using Microdata:

  <div itemscope itemtype="">    <meta itemprop="url" content=""/>    <form itemprop="potentialAction" itemscope itemtype="">      <meta itemprop="target" content="{search_term_string}"/>      <input itemprop="query-input" type="text" name="search_term_string" required/>      <input type="submit"/>    </form>  </div>  

The Google recommendation is to implement the JSON-LD format, so if you prefer to do that, you can find the instructions here.

Reason No. 3: The URL attribute is wrong

This occurs when the "URL" attribute's value doesn't match the canonical URL of the domain's homepage, or there are problems with the canonical tags of the main domain.

The most common problems are differences between the URL value in the markup to the domain himself.

Here are some examples:

  • http:// instead of https:// or the opposite
  • With WWW or without

This can be tested by using Google's structured data testing tool and checking for problems with the URL value.

Reason No. 4: Issues with the search results page

The "target" attribute in the markup should point to the search results page URL on the website, including a placeholder for the query input parameter name, wrapped by curly braces.
  "target": "{search_term_string}"  
  • "target" attribute is not defined in the markup or defined incorrectly.
  • No search results page exists (404) or it's returning a server error (500)
  • The results page never yields results or the content is irrelevant to the search query input (this can be due to a technical problem in the engine of the search results page)
  • The field of the target in the markup isn't defined well.

Reason No. 5: The query input doesn't match

The value of the "query-input" name attribute doesn't match the string that's inside the curly braces in the "target" property. You need to make sure that the value of the "name" will match, otherwise it won't work.

  "query-input": "required name=search_term_string"  

Reason No. 6: Using nositelinkssearchbox to disable the markup

  <meta name="google" content="nositelinkssearchbox" />  

Use this tag and, you guessed it, Google won't show the searchbox. But unless you're actively trying to disable the searchbox markup, this is likely one of the least common scenarios.

Now that we've covered all the reasons the sitelinks searchbox may not appear, here's what it means in a nutshell:

Beyond markup: Best practices for winning the box

First, there's a very strong correlation to site traffic. This is perhaps the main factor that determines whether or not Google will show the search box, even if all technical issues are addressed and schema is implemented correctly. Again, out of the websites we sampled that have more than 50M monthly desktop visits, 74% of them have sitelinks searchbox for their websites. When we checked the websites that have just 25-100K monthly visits, however, only 1.4% had the searchbox working for their site.

Secondly, as you can see from the various reasons listed above, there are a slew of technical kinks that may result in Google not displaying the searchbox. Some of these have to do with improperly implemented schema. If you suspect a technical issue is to blame, be sure to go through all of the tech-related scenarios listed above to ensure the bug is found. Then you can use our troubleshooting tips to fix the problem.

As you can see, there are several factors that affect the searchbox appearance in Google's search results. But if you play your cards right and do your due diligence, getting those valuable searchboxes to appear is easier than you think.

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Sunday, June 14, 2015

How to Choose a PPC Agency

Posted by anthonycoraggio

Paid search management is a great component of your marketing to outsource or delegate to a specialist. The field moves fast, so even without other responsibilities, keeping up with campaigns on a daily basis and all the developments in the technology and market environment is very demanding. When your time is already at a premium, finding a qualified agency can make a world of difference. Here are some questions to help you choose how to resource your online advertising needs.

Where is your business going?
Is this the right way to get there?

The reason you’re looking to run PPC campaigns in the first place is because you need to achieve certain business results—but is it actually the best way to get where you need to go right now? Particularly if you’re driving a new initiative or running ads for the first time, it’s important to take a step back and make sure you’re not trying to buy a horse to win an air race, because someone will likely try to sell it to you anyway!

Some red flags to watch out for:

  • Your target search niche is very small, or so new that no one’s searching for your product.
  • You haven’t evaluated the competitive landscape
  • Your website isn’t prepared to make effective use of the traffic you’ll be sending

It’s important to set expectations realistically. For example, if you’re trying to make a big break into the auto insurance market with a couple grand per month, you’re going to need some combination of very deep pockets and an outstanding value differentiator. On the other side of the coin, you can’t usually lean a major growth initiative on a target segment drawing only a handful of searches every month.

This can actually be a great task for an agency or experienced freelance consultant to address, but if you’re still at this stage make sure you’re being honest with yourself and them. Be ready to pivot to another channel, and make sure there’s a well reasoned backing for any promises of results you receive.

What kind of working relationship do you want?

In my experience, finding the right cultural fit is one of the most important things to consider when hiring out. Even if a deal looks good on paper, if you’re not on the same page and excited to work together, a cheaper fee or glossy list of credentials is going to lose its shine very quickly.

How do you actually plan to work?

Both sides of the table tend to start rolling out the idealism and HBR buzzwords during a request for proposals, but it ultimately works out a lot better for everyone if you keep it strictly realistic. Is your company large and methodical, or a scrappy team testing new ideas and patching holes every other hour? These situations demand very different skills and approaches from an agency to be successful, and if expectations are skewed to start, someone will wind up unhappy.

What do they need to be ready for?

Likewise, make sure to get a proper answer to this question from the agencies you’re considering. Just like in any hiring process, behavioral interviewing is going to be your friend. Need rapid responses and creative energy? Have a blunt or demanding teammate they’ll need to work with? Ask for examples of how they’ve succeeded in these kinds of situations in the past.

Are you looking for a bold experimenter or an obedient Igor?

Look for the full scope of success

Success in paid search is about much more than tweaking spreadsheets—you'll need to create a cohesive and functional user experience from end to end, and that means some serious work on landing pages, ads, conversion rate optimization, data analysis, and selling the ideas to make it all happen. Before starting a new project, ask these questions:

  • What will it take to turn around new ad copy?
  • What kind of input will you be getting from your agency on new or improved landing pages? Whose job will it be to get them created?
  • What relationships might need to be cultivated between in-house stakeholders and external partners for the most effective communication and results when marketing messages or site changes are involved?

Don't forget to factor in your plans for SEO, either—paid search is playing on the same field, and you'll want to make sure the two are working together smoothly. If you're also looking for an SEO partner, consolidating the two to a single agency often leads to more and better collaboration.

Think long term

Last, but certainly not least, don't forget to ask where you see yourself in a year or two, and make that a part of the conversation. Are you aiming to bring the work in-house eventually, or will this stay outsourced for the foreseeable future? A good agency will be ready with a plan to help on-board or even help train a future replacement, and definitely won't hold your account or data hostage.

Scale is an important part of the long term picture too. If you're growing quickly into a rich market and could reasonably expect to double, triple, or 10x the scale of your campaigns in the near future, make sure you share your intent and find a partner who will be prepared when the time comes.

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Friday, June 12, 2015

Why We Can't Do Keyword Research Like It's 2010 - Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Keyword Research is a very different field than it was just five years ago, and if we don't keep up with the times we might end up doing more harm than good. From the research itself to the selection and targeting process, in today's Whiteboard Friday Rand explains what has changed and what we all need to do to conduct effective keyword research today.

Why We Can't Do Keyword Research Like It's 2010 Whiteboard

For reference, here's a still of this week's whiteboard. Click on it to open a high resolution image in a new tab!

What do we need to change to keep up with the changing world of keyword research?

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we're going to chat a little bit about keyword research, why it's changed from the last five, six years and what we need to do differently now that things have changed. So I want to talk about changing up not just the research but also the selection and targeting process.

There are three big areas that I'll cover here. There's lots more in-depth stuff, but I think we should start with these three.

1) The Adwords keyword tool hides data!

This is where almost all of us in the SEO world start and oftentimes end with our keyword research. We go to AdWords Keyword Tool, what used to be the external keyword tool and now is inside AdWords Ad Planner. We go inside that tool, and we look at the volume that's reported and we sort of record that as, well, it's not good, but it's the best we're going to do.

However, I think there are a few things to consider here. First off, that tool is hiding data. What I mean by that is not that they're not telling the truth, but they're not telling the whole truth. They're not telling nothing but the truth, because those rounded off numbers that you always see, you know that those are inaccurate. Anytime you've bought keywords, you've seen that the impression count never matches the count that you see in the AdWords tool. It's not usually massively off, but it's often off by a good degree, and the only thing it's great for is telling relative volume from one from another.

But because AdWords hides data essentially by saying like, "Hey, you're going to type in . . ." Let's say I'm going to type in "college tuition," and Google knows that a lot of people search for how to reduce college tuition, but that doesn't come up in the suggestions because it's not a commercial term, or they don't think that an advertiser who bids on that is going to do particularly well and so they don't show it in there. I'm giving an example. They might indeed show that one.

But because that data is hidden, we need to go deeper. We need to go beyond and look at things like Google Suggest and related searches, which are down at the bottom. We need to start conducting customer interviews and staff interviews, which hopefully has always been part of your brainstorming process but really needs to be now. Then you can apply that to AdWords. You can apply that to suggest and related.

The beautiful thing is once you get these tools from places like visiting forums or communities, discussion boards and seeing what terms and phrases people are using, you can collect all this stuff up, plug it back into AdWords, and now they will tell you how much volume they've got. So you take that how to lower college tuition term, you plug it into AdWords, they will show you a number, a non-zero number. They were just hiding it in the suggestions because they thought, "Hey, you probably don't want to bid on that. That won't bring you a good ROI." So you've got to be careful with that, especially when it comes to SEO kinds of keyword research.

2) Building separate pages for each term or phrase doesn't make sense

It used to be the case that we built separate pages for every single term and phrase that was in there, because we wanted to have the maximum keyword targeting that we could. So it didn't matter to us that college scholarship and university scholarships were essentially people looking for exactly the same thing, just using different terminology. We would make one page for one and one page for the other. That's not the case anymore.

Today, we need to group by the same searcher intent. If two searchers are searching for two different terms or phrases but both of them have exactly the same intent, they want the same information, they're looking for the same answers, their query is going to be resolved by the same content, we want one page to serve those, and that's changed up a little bit of how we've done keyword research and how we do selection and targeting as well.

3) Build your keyword consideration and prioritization spreadsheet with the right metrics

Everybody's got an Excel version of this, because I think there's just no awesome tool out there that everyone loves yet that kind of solves this problem for us, and Excel is very, very flexible. So we go into Excel, we put in our keyword, the volume, and then a lot of times we almost stop there. We did keyword volume and then like value to the business and then we prioritize.

What are all these new columns you're showing me, Rand? Well, here I think is how sophisticated, modern SEOs that I'm seeing in the more advanced agencies, the more advanced in-house practitioners, this is what I'm seeing them add to the keyword process.


A lot of folks have done this, but difficulty helps us say, "Hey, this has a lot of volume, but it's going to be tremendously hard to rank."

The difficulty score that Moz uses and attempts to calculate is a weighted average of the top 10 domain authorities. It also uses page authority, so it's kind of a weighted stack out of the two. If you're seeing very, very challenging pages, very challenging domains to get in there, it's going to be super hard to rank against them. The difficulty is high. For all of these ones it's going to be high because college and university terms are just incredibly lucrative.

That difficulty can help bias you against chasing after terms and phrases for which you are very unlikely to rank for at least early on. If you feel like, "Hey, I already have a powerful domain. I can rank for everything I want. I am the thousand pound gorilla in my space," great. Go after the difficulty of your choice, but this helps prioritize.


This is actually very rarely used, but I think sophisticated marketers are using it extremely intelligently. Essentially what they're saying is, "Hey, if you look at a set of search results, sometimes there are two or three ads at the top instead of just the ones on the sidebar, and that's biasing some of the click-through rate curve." Sometimes there's an instant answer or a Knowledge Graph or a news box or images or video, or all these kinds of things that search results can be marked up with, that are not just the classic 10 web results. Unfortunately, if you're building a spreadsheet like this and treating every single search result like it's just 10 blue links, well you're going to lose out. You're missing the potential opportunity and the opportunity cost that comes with ads at the top or all of these kinds of features that will bias the click-through rate curve.

So what I've seen some really smart marketers do is essentially build some kind of a framework to say, "Hey, you know what? When we see that there's a top ad and an instant answer, we're saying the opportunity if I was ranking number 1 is not 10 out of 10. I don't expect to get whatever the average traffic for the number 1 position is. I expect to get something considerably less than that. Maybe something around 60% of that, because of this instant answer and these top ads." So I'm going to mark this opportunity as a 6 out of 10.

There are 2 top ads here, so I'm giving this a 7 out of 10. This has two top ads and then it has a news block below the first position. So again, I'm going to reduce that click-through rate. I think that's going down to a 6 out of 10.

You can get more and less scientific and specific with this. Click-through rate curves are imperfect by nature because we truly can't measure exactly how those things change. However, I think smart marketers can make some good assumptions from general click-through rate data, which there are several resources out there on that to build a model like this and then include it in their keyword research.

This does mean that you have to run a query for every keyword you're thinking about, but you should be doing that anyway. You want to get a good look at who's ranking in those search results and what kind of content they're building . If you're running a keyword difficulty tool, you are already getting something like that.

Business value

This is a classic one. Business value is essentially saying, "What's it worth to us if visitors come through with this search term?" You can get that from bidding through AdWords. That's the most sort of scientific, mathematically sound way to get it. Then, of course, you can also get it through your own intuition. It's better to start with your intuition than nothing if you don't already have AdWords data or you haven't started bidding, and then you can refine your sort of estimate over time as you see search visitors visit the pages that are ranking, as you potentially buy those ads, and those kinds of things.

You can get more sophisticated around this. I think a 10 point scale is just fine. You could also use a one, two, or three there, that's also fine.

Requirements or Options

Then I don't exactly know what to call this column. I can't remember the person who've showed me theirs that had it in there. I think they called it Optional Data or Additional SERPs Data, but I'm going to call it Requirements or Options. Requirements because this is essentially saying, "Hey, if I want to rank in these search results, am I seeing that the top two or three are all video? Oh, they're all video. They're all coming from YouTube. If I want to be in there, I've got to be video."

Or something like, "Hey, I'm seeing that most of the top results have been produced or updated in the last six months. Google appears to be biasing to very fresh information here." So, for example, if I were searching for "university scholarships Cambridge 2015," well, guess what? Google probably wants to bias to show results that have been either from the official page on Cambridge's website or articles from this year about getting into that university and the scholarships that are available or offered. I saw those in two of these search results, both the college and university scholarships had a significant number of the SERPs where a fresh bump appeared to be required. You can see that a lot because the date will be shown ahead of the description, and the date will be very fresh, sometime in the last six months or a year.


Then finally I can build my prioritization. So based on all the data I had here, I essentially said, "Hey, you know what? These are not 1 and 2. This is actually 1A and 1B, because these are the same concepts. I'm going to build a single page to target both of those keyword phrases." I think that makes good sense. Someone who is looking for college scholarships, university scholarships, same intent.

I am giving it a slight prioritization, 1A versus 1B, and the reason I do this is because I always have one keyword phrase that I'm leaning on a little more heavily. Because Google isn't perfect around this, the search results will be a little different. I want to bias to one versus the other. In this case, my title tag, since I more targeting university over college, I might say something like college and university scholarships so that university and scholarships are nicely together, near the front of the title, that kind of thing. Then 1B, 2, 3.

This is kind of the way that modern SEOs are building a more sophisticated process with better data, more inclusive data that helps them select the right kinds of keywords and prioritize to the right ones. I'm sure you guys have built some awesome stuff. The Moz community is filled with very advanced marketers, probably plenty of you who've done even more than this.

I look forward to hearing from you in the comments. I would love to chat more about this topic, and we'll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

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Thursday, June 11, 2015

Your Daily SEO Fix: Week 4

Posted by Trevor-Klein

This week, we've got the fourth (and second-to-last) installment of our short (< 2-minute) video tutorials that help you all get the most out of Moz's tools. They're each designed to solve a use case that we regularly hear about from Moz community members.

Here's a quick recap of the previous round-ups in case you missed them:

  • Week 1: Reclaim links using Open Site Explorer, build links using Fresh Web Explorer, and find the best time to tweet using Followerwonk.
  • Week 2: Analyze SERPs using new MozBar features, boost your rankings through on-page optimization, check your anchor text using Open Site Explorer, do keyword research with OSE and the keyword difficulty tool, and discover keyword opportunities in Moz Analytics.
  • Week 3: Compare link metrics in Open Site Explorer, find tweet topics with Followerwonk, create custom reports in Moz Analytics, use Spam Score to identify high-risk links, and get link building opportunities delivered to your inbox.

In this installment, we've got five brand new tutorials:

  • How to Use Fresh Web Explorer to Build Links
  • How to Analyze Rank Progress for a Given Keyword
  • How to Use the MozBar to Analyze Your Competitors' Site Markup
  • How to Use the Top Pages Report to Find Content Ideas
  • How to Find On-Site Errors with Crawl Test

Hope you enjoy them!

Fix 1: How to Use Fresh Web Explorer to Build Links

If you have unique data or a particularly excellent resource on your site, that content can be a great link magnet. In this Daily SEO Fix, Felicia shows you how to set up alerts in Fresh Web Explorer to track mentions of relevant keyword phrases, find link opportunities, and build links to your content.

Fix 2: How to Analyze Rank Progress for a Given Keyword

Moz's Rank Tracker tool retrieves search engine rankings for pages and keywords, storing them for easy comparison later. In this fix, James shows you how to use this helpful tool to track keywords, save time, and improve your rankings.

Fix 3: How to Use the MozBar to Analyze Your Competitors' Site Markup

Schema markup helps search engines better identify what your (and your competitors') website pages are all about and as a result can lead to a boost to rankings. In this Daily SEO Fix, Jordan shows you how to use the MozBar to analyze the schema markup of the competition and optimize your own site and pages for rich snippets.

Fix 4: How to Use the Top Pages Report to Find Content Ideas

With Moz's Top Pages report in Open Site Explorer, you can see the pages on your site (and the competitions' sites!) that are top performers. In this fix, Nick shows you how to use the report to analyze your competitors' content marketing efforts and to inform your own.

Fix 5: How to Find On-Site Errors with Crawl Test

Identifying and understanding any potential errors on your site is crucial to the life of any SEO. In this Daily SEO Fix Sean shows you how to use the Crawl Test tool in Moz Analytics to pull reports and identify any errors on your site.

Looking for more?

We've got more videos in the previous three weeks' round-ups!

Your Daily SEO Fix: Week 1

Your Daily SEO Fix: Week 2

Your Daily SEO Fix: Week 3

Don't have a Pro subscription? No problem. Everything we cover in these Daily SEO Fix videos is available with a free 30-day trial.

Sounds good. Sign me up!

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!