Wednesday, July 15th, 2020

Posted by randfish

There's a movement happening in our industry, and many folks are changing their practices and titles from "SEO" to "online marketing, inbound marketing, and/or earned media marketing." Where did this shift originate from, and where is it taking our industry as a whole? Is it enough to just be an SEO in today's game, or are we missing the bigger picture?

In today's Whiteboard Friday, Rand shares his take on the shift from "SEO" to "inbound marketing" and what the future holds for our industry at large. 

Have something to add? Leave your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!

Why We Can’t Just Be SEOs Anymore – 20130422 – Rand

For your viewing pleasure, here's a still image of the whiteboard used in this week's video:

Video Transcription

"Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to a special edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week I want to address an elephant in the room. It's a topic that I've talked about quite a bit on my personal blog, a bit on the primary blog, and I know it's a topic that gets discussed all over the marketing world, from to lots of blogs and news sites. It's:  Why is it that there's this movement from some folks in the field to change their titles, their names, their practices, from saying, "We do SEO," to saying, "We do inbound marketing," or, "We do online marketing, we do web marketing, we do earned media marketing"?

I want to try to try and take on that elephant right now. There are some really good reasons that I think we're seeing this shift happen, and I'm actually one of the proponents of this shift. I used to be very against it. I used to be very passionate about building only the brand of SEO. Now, I've revised my stance. I think that, as new data and as the world has changed and I've become less of an obstinate son of a gun, I'm seeing this bigger picture, and I want to try to share that picture that I'm seeing with you.

The first one is I can't argue that SEO is bigger than the way people define or have defined SEO for the last decade. That's not really true of the 2010 to 2013 period, but it is very true of the decade before that, from the late '90s into the late 2000, the "aughts." What I mean is there are these old-school tactics. "Oh, you're going to do SEO? Well, that means you do links, you make my content relevant, you put the good keywords in there, you do work on your markup, your snippets, and your site architecture, your structure. You are done. You have done SEO. That is SEO. Don't try to tell me that it's more than that."

This becomes very, very challenging when, as an SEO or as a marketer who's trying to achieve good results with SEO, you say, "But wait a minute. This only works when the ranking factors were things like link graph data, keyword data, domain data, and topic analysis." Now, we have a lot more ranking factors, right? Engines are looking at user and usage data. They're definitely looking at brand signals. They're looking at offline data potential. Potentially there are patent applications, thinking about offline data. They're looking at social graph signals.

What's an SEO to do? If I want to influence these, I've got to be able to work on everything that's marketing. That's everything from social media to community building, positioning, branding, emails, CRO, product, the unique value of the content. What am I going to do if I'm tasked with SEO, but I'm only given responsibility over these things? It's just not going to work. In order to influence just the very part of SEO that we touch on, which is moving up rankings in major search engines like Google and Bing, just to do that, we have to be able to control and influence a lot more than we ever had to in the past. It's an untenable kind of situation.

Thus, what we'd really like to do and what we've been working hard at as an industry is to try to change and broaden the definition of SEO. I can tell you one of the things that I feel very passionately about is changing that branding and working really hard to not have the word "SEO" be associated with scumminess and bad companies and irresponsible behavior. But that perception of SEO is so hard to change. It's been established for such a long time now, and the small efforts of quite a few of us in the field to try and change that perception have not been successful, at least not outside of the online marketing world. Inside that world and with a small portion of the developers and designers who get SEO and get marketing, it's true.

I love those of you who are watching Whiteboard Friday and who are in that world, who understand that SEO is this bigger thing. But I know that you've felt the same pain that I'm talking about. People say, "Oh, SEO. So you're a spammer. You manipulate things. You're unethical. You're breaking the search engine's rules. What does Google think of you?"

These are questions we have to answer every single time, and it's pretty clear to me why this happens. I think the reason is actually very obvious. The primary and first association that most people have with SEO is what? It's comment spam on their blogs. It's a spammy, scummy email that's trying to get them to sign up for something. It's someone wanting to trade a PageRank 6 link with them. It's a forum, or a bulletin board, or an online community saying, "Oh, are you wondering why this malware happened? That's the SEOs doing that." That's why all these bad things happen on the Internet. They blame SEOs.

To be fair, early on in the days of SEO, there were plenty of us, myself included, who would do some of these spammy and manipulative things. I'm not innocent, by any means. But that perception, that fight is one that I don't think we're winning. That's another reason why I think it's really hard to do SEO well and just call yourself an SEO. I think when you change the title, you change the perception. You change the frame of reference, and you say, "I do web marketing. I help people grow their companies. I help attract visitors, and that leads to more conversions on their site." They're like, "Oh, okay. I get it. Web marketing. Understood." SEO is one of the channels, one of the main channels, but one of the channels they focus on.

The third one, we are selling ourselves short. When you say, "I'm an SEO," your boss, your client, your management says, "Why are you meddling with our design, UX, social, and ad campaigns? Why are you trying to get into this?" You are supposed to focus on SEO. Yet, the answer is well, we can't do great even at just SEO without influencing all these other fields that we talked about above.

By the way, we're selling ourselves short even more than just this, because when we do work on all these channels, when we improve all of these channels, that obviously helps our search rankings too, we are also driving a lot of traffic from them. Social is sending us good traffic. The blogosphere and PR efforts are sending us good links that are driving visits, good customer service practices, community building practices, culture practices. All of these things that influence SEO that we're trying to move the needle on to get better results, they also drive traffic of their own. That traffic converts, and that traffic is valuable. That traffic is measurable, and we are often the ones who are measuring it and quantifying it and trying to gauge the impact it has on search. Yet, we're not getting rewarded for it or treated as though we were responsible for it. Again, we're selling ourselves short.

But I want to end on a positive note. This stuff is okay. It is okay. This is something that we are used to. We are used to change. If there's anything that SEOs can be assured of, it's that things will change tomorrow, that things will change next week. No one is better prepared to handle change than we are. This kind of change is actually positive. Every field matures. My checkmark practices don't mature. I'm clearly getting worse at them. But every field matures. You can see the early seeds of programming, of video, of accounting, any type of field, right? Journalism, for sure. Any time there's massive shift or a new industry, we have these years of immaturity, and then we get to a better stage.

I think the stage for us is deciding:  Do we want to keep committing to a brand that frankly has been put through the wringer? One that I still use and will always use. As long as I am doing SEO work, I will use that brand. But do we want to also take hold of and recognize that, as marketers, we want to do good branding and good marketing? That means potentially calling ourselves something different, taking on these other titles, expressing ourselves in other ways in order to get more influence, and by the way, bigger paychecks too.

An SEO consultant, there are people who charge between $50 and a few hundred dollars an hour. Then you look at business strategy consultants from Accenture, or something like that, and you're talking about a thousand plus dollars an hour. The more influence you have, the greater your billing is and, by the way, the more you can effect change and have a positive influence.

I hope this Whiteboard Friday is valuable to you. I'm sure there will be good comments and good discussion about this naming convention. I look forward to reading them and participating too. Take care, everyone. We'll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday."

Video transcription by

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!

Posted by randfish

As SEO continues to evolve, the metrics that indicate success continue to change with it. However, many of our client's needs don't seem to be changing as rapidly. With clients focused on specifics like the number of links they're getting and weekly ranking reports, it's tough to move the needle in the right direction for true SEO success. 

How do we push other inbound channels (like search, content marketing, and social) forward to offer a more holistic and strategic approach to inbound marketing that our clients can get behind? In today's Whiteboard Friday, Rand talks about the current broken culture of SEO metrics, and offers advice on what we can do to fix it. 


For your viewing pleasure, here's a still image of the whiteboard used in this week's video.

Still image of Whiteboard Friday - Fixing the Broken Culture of SEO Metrics





Video Transcription

"Howdy SEOmoz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week, I want to share an experience I had with you and then get to our Whiteboard Friday topic, which is going to be all about metrics and how we change this broken culture that we have in the SEO world that's sort of carried over from the past.

I got to go to SMX Sydney, which was an incredible time and an amazing visit, and I spoke there with Dan Petrovic from Dejan SEO, who is a well-known SEO guy in Australia, very, very smart guy, leads an agency down there. He asked me some questions that I think are very important and resonated with me because they're things that I've heard from a lot of people and seen reflected in a lot of the questions that we get all the time.

That was:  "Rand, I want to do more of this broader inbound marketing. I want to get more strategic about the way I help people with SEO. I want to get less focused on things like the number of links I send you and your particular ranking report for a week. But these are things that our clients care about. When we talk specifically with clients and we pitch them on SEO, they tell us, 'Hey, look, you're not here for that. You're here to get me more links. I want this many links and I want these rankings. I want my page rank to go up. I want my DAPA to go up.'"

Those kinds of metrics have been ingrained as what SEO is all about, and tragically that's not the way to be successful at our jobs. The way that we really move the needle on search, on social, on content marketing, on any of these inbound channels is to have a holistic and strategic focus on them, not this little tactical, rinky-dink, "I'm going to get 50 links That's going to move this one ranking up." We know this. We've been talking about it for a long time here on Whiteboard Friday and across the SEO world. You can find it on nearly every reputable SEO blog out there.

So Dan and I were chatting and I said, "Well, I think what we have to do is take that conversation a level higher and say, 'What do you want those metrics to accomplish? Why do you want links? Why do you want your rankings higher?'" The answer is often, "Well, we're trying to attract more traffic and expose people to this new branding campaign," or, "We're trying to get more people signed up for this webinar. We're trying to get more people in our salespeople's funnel. We're trying to convert more leads to perform these types of comparison searches and then buy from one of our partners."

Okay, good. That is getting us all the way down from these what I call "leading indicator metrics" down to the business KPIs. Business KPIs, the things that indicate the performance of the business, are where we should take our strategic initiative, our strategic lead, for any sort of online marketing effort, whether that's SEO, whether it's PPC, advertising. I don't care what it is that you're spending money on, it should be focused on this, centered on this, trying to achieve these things, and then, yes, we can use metrics like links and rankings, even something like page rank or crawl depth, as leading indicators, performance indicators that things are maybe going the right way, that they're not going the right way. We can compare them against our competition, and they're fine metrics for that. We just can't focus on them as where we take our strategy.

If the strategy is "go get me more links," I'm probably going to do some gray or black hat SEO because very frankly, that's how you move the needle on that one indicator. If you don't care about potentially getting banned or hurting your brand impression or making a bad impression with the search engines and eventually getting into trouble that kind of way, then, yeah, you're going to do stuff that is non-ideal for your business metrics. So let's have this conversation first.

I'm going to start down here. Business KPIs, things that I think about as being business metrics, and these are just a sample. I don't want you to get the idea that these are the only metrics or that these have to fit in these buckets. But in this purple bucket down here, I have things like conversions. Conversions might even be a marketing KPI for you, depending on what your true business goals are. But transaction value, life time customer value, retention of those customers and recidivism of customers, those are the business KPIs, typically, in most organizations. They're trying to get people to the site, perform some type of action that will lead to revenue, lead to a goal being accomplished.

Marketing KPIs, these are one step up, but not yet at that level of sort of the SEO leading indicators. These are things like visits and traffic, tweets, shares, +1's. Those are signals of engagement and success over social media, so is followers and fans, and these might be in leading indicators, tweets, shares, +1's could easily be in leading indicators rather than marketing KPIs, brand mentions, pre-conversion action. So people, for example, visiting pages that lead to a conversion on your site and following through that funnel that you've got set up on your site, those are the types of marketing KPIs that the marketing team might be reporting and that you particularly, if you're doing any type of consulting working or if you're working in-house and trying to help move the needle, you do want to have a dashboard that's showing you these.

Then those leading indicators, those are much more of a, "Hey, I think this is a signal that we might be on the right path," or, "This is a test. Let's see if moving the needle on links actually moves the needle on these other things that we care about and these business metrics that we care about," or, "Boy, you know, sometimes it seems like it doesn't." Sometimes it seems like other things that we might focus on, perhaps social is really moving the needle, because you're finding that you're having a huge brand impact that's biasing clicks in the search results, that's moving you up in positions through usage and user data types of algorithms, and that's really doing a much better job for you than raw links and raw rankings.

Maybe you're expanding your portfolio of content, and that's what's moving the needle for you. You could easily put things like content production in here. You could put that in a leading indicator, or you could put it in a marketing KPI. You could put content engagement, things like comments or registrations. Those could fit into marketing KPIs. It's okay to have different things in these different buckets. Just know what they are and make sure if you're working with someone, that you're getting the right answers here so that you can make the right decisions here.

Don't focus on these. If you focus on these from a strategic point of view, your tactics are probably going to lead you in the wrong direction, and, by the way, those of you who might be buying consulting services or hiring an in-house SEO or an in-house marketing team and having them focus on this stuff, you're really going to be misleading your marketers, and they're going to be focused on the wrong kinds of things that aren't going to move the needle for the business. They need to be up here.

Let me show you in a more precise fashion how I love to see this visualized and illustrated, how I love to see this done. We actually do this right now at Moz. We've got an internal tool that does some of this stuff, and then we have a big Google docs spreadsheet that I would love to make more sophisticated, and we probably will after we release some of the big, new things we're working on here. But basically, there are three categories up in this leading indicators column that I pay attention to, and those are things like I want to look at the leading indicators, whatever they are, and compare them versus my budget and my goals.

So I might have, okay, this was our goal, and we are +x over that goal. This is our goal and we're -y over this goal, and this is our other goal, we've got +c over here, compared to last year this time, Q1 2012. Q1, January 1st to April 1st of 2013, here's what we've done so far, and here's how far ahead we are of where we were this time last year, what we performed in Q1 of last year. I like doing this because seasonality plays a big role in many, many businesses, not every one but many, many businesses. So comparing year over year is really healthy for this.

Then compare versus the competition. The wonderful thing about leading indicators, and often one of the big reasons why a lot of folks use them is because we can compare. We can see where our competitors are ranking. We can see what sort of links they're getting. We can see their DA and PA. Maybe we can't see their crawl rate and depth, but those other sorts of leading indicators, even things like tweets and shares and +1's, followers and fans, those indicators we can put in here, and we can compare against our competition.

Once we get down a layer, and I would encourage you to have the top layer, which we care about and it's interesting, but it's not the focus. It's just a leading indicator. When we get to the marketing KPIs, we've got, again, budget year over year and competition. Then when we go to the business KPIs, we almost never can get competition, the data on what the competition's doing. So we just have budgeting year over year. But being able to see this, being able to visualize this, it doesn't necessarily have to be in this funnel view, but being able to see this and compare and then to show your clients, your managers, your team members what you're doing and how that stacks up against what the business is trying to accomplish, this is incredibly powerful. It's so much more powerful than saying, "I want links and rankings."

If you're hearing from folks, "I want links and rankings," please have them watch this whiteboard video, have them leave comments, have them e-mail me. My goodness, I don't think that this is going to be how successful SEO gets done in the future. This is how tactical SEO was done in the past, and, unfortunately, it's how a lot of black and gray hat SEO became the norm – well, I don't want to say "the norm" – but became very popular in our world. By focusing on bigger things, we can be smarter. We can accomplish a lot more.

All right everyone, look forward to your comments, and we will see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday."

Video transcription by

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!

Posted by randfish

When creating a product, website, or communication, including a simple user experience is key to success. The easier you make the A to Z process for a user, the more likely they'll be to accomplish the plan you spent time and resources putting together piece by piece. 

In this week's Whiteboard Friday, Rand walks us through user experience and the actions that we can remove from our processes in order to drive more conversions, earn more links, get more social shares. Simplicity, FTW!

This week, we've added a still image of the whiteboard for easier viewing. Do you find this addition helpful? Let us know in the comments! 

Video Transcription

"Howdy, SEOmoz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week I want to talk a little bit about user experience and the actions that we can remove from our processes in order to drive more conversions, earn more links, get more social shares. Let me show you what I'm talking about.

In this first example, embed codes, a lot of websites use embed codes all over the place. SlideShare is a good example. When you get to SlideShare, you find a particular presentation, and then you can copy and embed that onto your page.

Bitly is another good example. When you go to Bitly, they've got a little copy and paste sector. You paste in a link. It turns into the short Bitly link. You grab that out.

All sorts of things do this. YouTube does it. Vimeo does it. Any type of infographic that's embeddable, they all have these embed codes.

Embed codes are a phenomenal way to drive links, especially to content that people are likely to put on their own sites. The problem becomes when you make that a multi-step process. In fact, we've seen research and data from several sources now, saying that if you can make this a single click on here, and it says "copy to clipboard"' automatically, as opposed to popping something up like Bitly has started to do, or having to grab the entire embed code, Ctrl A, Ctrl C. I have to copy it myself, that actually will drive more embeds, meaning more links to the places you want with the anchor text that you want.

We remove an unnecessary step, that secondary piece, and make it so one click right in here with you cursor gets you copied to clipboard, a transitional message or a temporal message that pops up that says, "Copy to clipboard," or says below here, "Copy to clipboard." Now, all I have to do is paste, and I'm done. Very, very simple. Very easy.

Number two:  Shorter, more action-oriented emails. We send a lot of emails. We send emails for outreach. We send emails that are in newsletter format that are trying to drive actions back to our websites. We send emails to try and get shares from our friends or our network, those kinds of things. All of these can be made more concise and more actionable. I see a lot of challenges when we sort of go, "Oh, I'm going to start with some nice fluffy introduction. Here's who I am. Here's more about my company. Oh, and now here, here is the final action. This is what I was actually trying to get you to do. I felt like for some reason I had to do all of this."

Email is a medium where heavy communication is great between people you already know, where there are lots of things to say, and you need to have that more complex dialogue. When it's between new people, between strangers, between someone you're reaching out to, I find that the most effective emails I ever get from an outreach perspective are, "Hey, Rand. Love what you're doing over there at Moz. Would you send this over to someone on your product team or someone on your marketing team?" Or, "Hey, we have this app that we think would be great for your events folks. Could you make an intro?" That is something I'm likely to do very, very quickly. Or, "Just check out this new app. It does this." Great. Really quick.

All the press release ones I get are like, "Such and such is a this type of company, and here's all of this. Here's their latest press release. They raised this round of funding. Would you be interested in writing about them or talking to their CEO on the phone?" Dude, all you have to do is have that CEO email me and be like, "Hey, man. I want to connect." I'll be like, "Hey, let's chat. Sounds good. Sounds interesting,"' if it actually does sound interesting. Shorter, more action-oriented emails.

Number three:  Simpler sign-up forms. Oh, my goodness. You do not need to collect all of this data all at once. I need name. I need first name and last name. I've got to get this person's address, or at least the city and state they're in, because of this. You can collect so much of this data in the application later, as they're using it, if they're actually using it. You can collect some of that from IP address, location sensitive IPs, those type of things. You can tell the type of device they're on.

The thing is, as people browse the web more and more with mobile devices, this guy right here, when I'm on here, I absolutely hate filling out forms. The most I can ever do is an email and password field. A confirm password field really gets me going. It's just infuriating because it's a pain to type those extra letters, especially on something that doesn't have a full keyboard. If you can remove those and ask for that later, remember even if they get their password wrong and they forget it, you have still emailed them. You've got their email address, and you've sent them an email. It says, "Hey, click here to confirm." If they log back in, oh now the password is wrong or they forgot, great, you can fix that later, but you've gotten that initial essential sign-up. That's what you're looking for.

Number four:  I know HTTP is a common protocol. So is GTTP, or at least I'd like to make it one. Get to the point with your content. Get to the point. A lot of the time, I see this stuff tweeted and shared on social networks, put on or Hacker News, where it says, "Hey, conversion rate testing shows that this performs better than that." Cool. Then, I have to scroll and scroll. Where is that? Oh, there's the test. There's that test they were talking about. It's way down deep in the content. I'm not exactly sure why, but a lot of times with blog content, with even infographics, with videos, with stuff that we should be sharing on the web and is good content, we're trying to say, "Here's what I want to tell you, and I'm prioritizing that for some reason above what you actually care about."

What you actually care about should be the primary and potentially only thing on that page. If you really have stuff that you want to tell me, I will go investigate. I'll check out your About page. I'll check out your product pages. I want to see what your company does because it sounds interesting. You've got a cool brand, and you've got a great blog post and that kind of thing. If you really must, you can put it down here below the stuff that I actually care about. I came to your site to watch a video I was told was awesome, to check out an infographic, to see, to learn something about a test, to figure out something, solve some problem. Deliver that to me upfront, please. That will not only make me more likely to come back to your site in the future. I'll have a positive brand association. I'll be more likely to share that content. Just a beautiful thing.

Number five:  You actually see this a lot, and I see tremendous effectiveness when this is done, which is socially sharing links directly to what matters on the page or on an individual site. A lot of times, there will be a product tour section. Then, there's a video, a really interesting video or a demo. I'll see the social shares that are most effective are the ones that point directly. Sometimes, they have a JavaScript field in the URL that has a hash in it or a hash bang system or whatever it is. Those people who share direct do better than the ones who share the broad page. They've gotten into the process and dug around enough to share directly that piece that I care about. You can do this too.

In fact, I have recently seen a test where I essentially had been tweeting a link to something like where we were competing against another company for which company is better at this particular thing. I had been tweeting links to the page. Then you had to scroll down the page quite a ways, and then there was a little voting widget. Then I saw from the voting widget itself, there was actually some hash URL that would link directly to the voting widget on that page. When I tweeted that, it drove way more actions. In fact, like four or five times as many actions. I think something over 100 votes, whereas previously I had shared it a couple times and gotten like 15 or 20 votes from it. That is definitely a way to show that tweeting directly to the thing you want people to do, great way to socially share and to make those shares go further.

Last one, maintaining logged in state. Zappos, Amazon, all do this brilliantly well. Google actually does a pretty solid job of it as well. They maintain a logged in experience for as long as possible. Do you remember back in the day with Twitter? You used to get logged out all the time. They just weren't maintaining cookies and session variables and all that kind of stuff. You were losing your log in. You'd have to log into Twitter, even though you clicked that Remember Me button, you'd have to log in many, many times, every time you came back.

If you have this "Please log in" system here, and it does it even though you clicked "Yes. Please, remember me" down here, remember, please remember. Check. You're killing your conversions. I don't just mean conversions in terms of someone who makes a purchase. I mean someone who might have left a comment, someone who might have participated in your community, someone who might have shared something, someone who might have reached content they otherwise wouldn't have, someone who might have been a lead for you.

Moz actually did this. We have this as a conversion killer, and we can show the data. It was about 18 months ago, I think, that Casey and the inbound engineering team did a bunch of work to make sure, that most of the time, you're logged into your account. You wouldn't be logged out as quickly. I still find some challenges with it, but it's way better than it used to be. The data shows. You can see more comments per post view. You can see more people checking out and filling out their accounts. All that type of activity, that UGC that's driving long tail traffic, just a beautiful thing by maintaining this logged in state.

All of these are specific examples. The big takeaway message here is you don't need unnecessary steps. You don't need to be taking actions and requiring things of your visitors that they don't need to do, especially with the rise in mobile browsing and with the advantages that we've seen from web page speed increasing. We know, as web users and as people who build for the web, that visitors care tremendously about accomplishing tasks quickly. They're getting more and more used to it on their phones, on their desktops, on their laptops, on their tablets. We need to deliver that in order to be successful at marketing as well.

All right, everyone. Hope you've enjoyed this edition of Whiteboard Friday. We'll see you again next week. Take care."

Video transcription by

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!

Posted by randfish

Personalization usage data and user data give marketers deep insights into their users' interests and actions. But how can you make the most out of these complex data sets to better serve your SEO campaigns?

In this week's Whiteboard Friday, Rand takes us through the intricate world of personalization and how it affects SEO. We'd love to hear your thoughts and tips in the comments below! 

Video Transcription

"Howdy, SEOmoz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week I'm wearing a hoodie and a T-shirt, so it must be informal. I want to take you in a casual fashion into the topic of personalization user data and usage data, and these are complex topics. This Whiteboard Friday will not be able to cover all of the different areas that user and usage data and personalization touch on. But what I do hope to do is expose you to some of these ideas, give you some actionable insights, and then allow you guys to take some of those things away, and we can point to some other references. There are lots of folks who have done a good job in the search world of digging in deep on some of these other topics.

Let's start by talking about some of the direct impacts that personalization usage data have. Of course, by personalization usage data I mean the areas where Google is showing you or other users specific things based on your usage activities, where they are leveraging usage data, broad usage data, for many users to come up with different changes to these types of search results, and where they're leveraging user personalization on a macro level, taking the aggregate of those things and creating new types of results, re-ranking things and adding snippets. I'll talk about each of those.

In these direct impacts, one of the most important ones to think about is location awareness. This is particularly important obviously if you're serving a local area, but you should be aware that location biases a lot of searches that may not have intended to be local simply by virtue of their geography. If you're at a point, if I'm here in downtown Seattle, there is location awareness that affects the results ordering. I can perform searches, for example for Coffee Works, and I will get these Seattle Coffee Works results.

Perhaps if I was in Portland, Oregon and they had a Coffee Works in Portland, I would be getting those Coffee Works results. Usage history also gives Google hints about your location, meaning that even if you're searching on your smartphone or searching on your laptop, and you said, "Don't share my location," Google and Bing will still try to figure this out, and they'll try to figure it out by looking at your search history. They'll say to themselves, "Hey, it looks like this user has previously done searches for Madison Markets, Seattle Trader Joe's, used our maps to get directions from Capitol Hill to Queen Anne. I can guess, based on that usage data, that you are in Seattle, and I will try and give you personalized results that essentially are tied to the location where I think you're at."

A fascinating example of this is I was searching on my desktop computer last night, which I have not made it location aware specifically, but I did a search for a particular arena in Dublin, which is where the DMX Conference, that I'm going to in a couple days and speaking at, is going to be held. Then I started typing in the name of the hotel I was at, and it's a brand name hotel. What do you know? That location came up, the Dublin location of the brand hotel, even though that hotel has locations all over the world. How do they know? They know because I just performed a search that was related to Dublin, Ireland, and therefore they're thinking, oh yeah, that's probably where he's looking for this hotel information as well. Very, very smart usage history based personalization.

Do be aware search suggest is also affected directly by personalization types of results. If you are doing a search that is going to be biased by some element of personalization, either your search history or your location, those kinds of things, auto-suggest will come up with those same biases as the rankings might.

Next, I want to talk about the semantics of how you perform queries and what you're seeking can affect your search as well. Search history is an important bias here, right? Basically, if I've been doing searches for jewelry, gemstones, wedding rings, those kinds of things, and I do a search for ruby, Google and Bing are pretty smart. They can realize, based on that history, that I probably mean ruby the stone, not Ruby the programming language. Likewise, if I've just done searches for Python, Pearl and Java, they might interpret that to mean, "Aha, this person is most likely, when they're searching for Ruby, looking for the programming language." This makes it very hard if you're a software engineer who's trying to look for gemstones, by the way. As you know, the ruby gem is not just a gem. It's also part of the programming protocol.

This gets very interesting. Even seemingly unrelated searches and behavior can modify the results, and I think this is Google showing their strength in pattern matching and machine learning. They essentially have interpreted, for example, as disparate things as me performing searches around the SEO world and them interpreting that to mean that I'm a technical person, and therefore as I do searches related to Ruby or Python, they don't think the snake or the gemstone. They think the programming language Python or the programming language Ruby, which is pretty interesting, connecting up what is essentially a marketing discipline, SEO a technical marketing discipline, and connecting up those programming languages. Very, very interesting. That can modify your results as well.

Your social connections. So social connections was a page that existed on Google until last year. In my opinion, it was a very important page and a frustrating page that they've now removed. The social connections page would show, based on the account you were inside of, all your contacts and how Google connected you to them and how they might influence your search results.

For example, it would say,which is my Gmail account that I don't actually use, is connected to Danny Sullivan because Rand has emailed Danny Sullivan on that account, and therefore we have these accounts that Danny Sullivan has connected to Google in one way or another. In fact, his Facebook account and several other accounts were connected through his Quora account because Quora OAuths into those, and Google has an agreement or whatever, an auth system with Quora. You could see, wow, Google is exposing things that Danny Sullivan has shared on Facebook to me, not directly through Facebook, but through this protocol that they've got with Quora. That's fascinating. Those social connections can influence the content you're seeing, can influence the rankings where you see those things. So you may have never seen them before, they may have changed the rankings themselves, and they can also influence the snippets that you're seeing.

For example, when I see something that Danny Sullivan has Plus One'd or shared on Google+, or I see something that Darmesh Shah, for example, has shared on twitter, it will actually say, "Your friend, Darmesh, shared this," or "Your friend, Danny Sullivan, shared this," or "Danny Sullivan shared this." Then you can hover on that person and see some contact information about them. So fascinating ways that social connections are being used.

Big take-aways here, if you are a business and you're thinking about doing marketing and SEO, you have to be aware that these changes are taking place. It's not productive or valuable to get frustrated that not everyone is seeing the same auto-suggest results, the same results in the same order. You just have to be aware that, hey, if we're going to be in a location, that location could be biasing for us or against us, especially if you're not there or if something else is taking your place.

If people are performing searches that are related to topics that might have more than one meaning, you have to make sure that you feel like your audience is well tapped into and that they're performing searches that they are aware of your products getting more content out there that they might be searching for and building a bigger brand. Those things will certainly help. A lot of the offline branding kinds of things actually help considerably with this type of stuff.

Of course, social connections and making sure that your audience is sharing so that the audience connected to them, even if they're not your direct customers, this is why social media strategy is so much about not just reaching people who might buy from you, but all the people who might influence them. Remember that social connections will be influenced in this way. Right now, Google+ is the most powerful way and most direct way to do this, but certainly there are others as well as the now removed social connections page, helped show us.

What about some indirect impacts? There are actually a few of these that are worth mentioning as well. One of those indirect impacts that I think is very important is that you can see re-ranking of results, not just based on your usage, but this can happen or may happen, not for certain, but may happen based on patterns that the engines detect. If they're seeing that a large number of people are suddenly switching away from searching ruby the gemstone to Ruby the language, they might bias this by saying, "You know what, by default, we're going to show more results or more results higher up about Ruby the programming language."

If they're seeing, boy a lot of people in a lot of geographies, not just Seattle, when they perform a Coffee Works search, are actually looking for Seattle Coffee Works, because that brand has built itself up so strongly, you know what, we're going to start showing the Seattle Coffee Works location over the other ones because of the pattern matching that we're seeing. That pattern matching can be a very powerful thing, which is another great reason to build a great brand, have a lot of users, and get a lot of people around your product, your services, and your company.

Social shares, particularly what we've heard from the search engines, Bing's been a little more transparent about this than Google has, but what Bing has basically said is that with social shares, the trustworthiness, the quality, and the quantity of those shares may impact the rankings, too. This is not just on an individual basis. So they're not just saying, "Oh well, Danny Sullivan shared this thing with Rand, and so now we're going to show it to Rand." They're saying, "Boy, lots of people shared this particular result around this topic. Maybe we should be ranking that higher even though it doesn't have the classic signals." Those might be things like keywords, links, and all the other things, anchor text and other things that they're using the ranking algorithm. They might say, "Hey the social shares are such a powerful element here, and we're seeing so much of a pattern around this, that we're going to start re-ranking results based on that." Another great reason to get involved in social, even if you're just doing SEO.

Auto-suggest can be your friend. It can also be your enemy. But when you do a search today, Elijah and I just tried this, and do a search for Whiteboard space, they will fill in some links for you – paint, online, information. Then I did the same search on my phone, and what do you think? Whiteboard Friday was the second or third result there, meaning, they've seen that I've done searches around SEOmoz before and around SEO in general. So they're thinking, "Aha. You, Rand, you're a person who probably is interested in Whiteboard Friday, even though you haven't done that search before on this particular phone." I got a new phone recently.

That usage data and personalization is affecting how auto-suggest is suggesting or search suggest is working. Auto-suggest, by the way, is also location aware and location biased. For example, if you were to perform this search, whiteboard space, in Seattle, you probably would have a higher likelihood of getting Friday than in, let's say, Hong Kong, where Whiteboard Friday is not as popular generally. I know we have Hong Kong fans, and I appreciate you guys, of course. But those types of search suggests are based on the searches that are performed in a local region, and to the degree that Google or Bing can do it, they will bias those based on that, so you should be aware.

For example, if lots and lots of people in a particular location, and I have done this at conferences, it's actually really fun to ask the audience, "Hey, would everyone please perform this particular search," and then you look the next day, and that's the suggested search even though it hadn't been performed previously. They're looking at, "Oh, this is trending in this particular region." This was a conference in Portland, Oregon, where I tried this, a blogging conference, and it was really fun to see the next day that those results were popping up in that fashion.

Search queries. The search queries that you perform, but not just the ones the you perform, but the search queries as a whole, kind of in an indirect, amalgamated, pattern matching way, may also be used to form those topic models and co-occurrences or brand associations that we've discussed before, which can have an impact on how search results work and how SEO works. Meaning that, if lots of people start connecting up the phrase SEOmoz with SEO or SEOmoz with inbound marketing, or those kinds of things, it's very likely or you might well see that Google is actually ranking pages on that domain, on SEOmoz's domain, higher for those keywords because they've built an association.

Search queries, along with content, are one of the big ways that they put those topics together and try to figure out, "Oh yeah, look, it seems like people have a strong association with GE and washer/dryers, or with Leica and cameras or with the Gap and clothing." Therefore, when people perform those types of searches, we might want to surface those brands more frequently. You can see this in particular when you perform a lot of ecommerce-related searches and particular brands come up. If you do a search for outdoor clothing and things like Columbia Sportswear and REI and those types of brands are popping up as a suggestion, you get a strong sense of the types of connections that Google might build based on these things.

All right, everyone. I hope you've enjoyed this edition of Whiteboard Friday. I hope you have lots of great comments, and I would love to jump in there with you and suggestions on how you people can dig deeper. We will see you again next week."

Video transcription by

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!

Posted by randfish

This week, we announced the release of our newest tool, Fresh Web Explorer. We're so excited to give marketers incredibly recent data in a tool to keep track of their mentions and links in a scalable way.

In today's Whiteboard Friday, Rand walks us through improving our marketing through fresh links and mentions, and he explains how you can use Fresh Web Explorer to achieve the best results. 

Excited about Fresh Web Explorer? Have questions you'd like answered? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Video Transcription

"Howdy SEOmoz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week, as you may know, we've been very excited to release Fresh Web Explorer. It's one of our latest tools. We've been working on it for a long time. A lot of work and effort goes into that project. Huge congrats and thank you to Dan Lecocq and Tamara Hubble and to the entire team who has been working on that project. Kelsey and Carin and everyone.

So I wanted to take some time and talk through the value that marketers can get from Fresh Web Explorer and not just from Fresh Web Explorer, because I realize it's one in a set of tools, but also from things like doing regular Google 24 hour searches to look for brand mentions and links, using other tools like Radian6 or an uberVU, which is inside empowering, Raven Tools fresh links and fresh mentions section. You can do a lot of these things with any of those tools.

I'm going to focus on Fresh Web Explorer for this part, but you can extrapolate out some ways to use this stuff in other tools too.

So number one, one of the most obvious ones is trying to find opportunities for your brand, for your site to get coverage and press, and that often will lead to links that can help with SEO, lead to co-occurrence citations of your brand name next to industry terms, which can help with SEO, could help with local for those of you who are doing local and have local businesses mentioned. It certainly can help with branding and brand growth, and a lot of times helps with direct traffic too.

So, when I perform a search inside Fresh Web Explorer, I'm getting a list of the URLs and the domains that they're on, along with a feed authority score, and I can see then that I can get all sorts of information. I can plug in my competitors and see links, who's pointing to my competitor's sites. Perhaps those are opportunities for me to get a press mention or a link. I can see links to industry sites. So, for example, it may not be a competitor, but anyone who's doing coverage in my space is probably interesting for me to potentially reach out to build a relationship with.

Mentions of industry terms. If I find, you know whatever it is, print magazines that are on the web, or blogs, or forums, or news sites, feeds that are coming from places that are indicative of, wow, they're talking about a lot of things that are relevant to my industry, relevant to my brand and to what our company's doing, that's probably an opportunity for a potential press mention.

Mentions of competitors brands. If a press outlet is covering, or a blog or whoever, is covering one of your competitors, chances are good that you have an opportunity to get coverage from that source as well, particularly if they try to be editorially balanced.

Mentions of industry brands. It could be that you're in an industry that, and you're not necessarily competitive with someone, but you want to find those people who are relevant to your brand. So for example, for us this could include things like a brand like Gnip or a brand like HubSpot. We're not competitive with these brands, SEOmoz is not. But they are industry brands and places who cover Gnip and HubSpot may indeed cover Moz as well.

Number two, I can find some content opportunities, opportunities to create content based on what I'm discovering from Fresh Web Explorer. So I plugged in "HTC One," the new phone from HTC, and I'm looking at maybe I can curate and aggregate some of the best of the content that's been produced around the HTC One. I can aggregate reviews, get really interesting information about what's coming out about the phone. I might even be able to discover information to share with my audience.

So, for example, we focus on SEO topics and on local topics. If we expect the HTC One to be big and we want to cover several different phones and how that's affecting the mobile search space, we can look at their default search providers, what sorts of things they do in terms of voice search versus web search, whether they have special contracts and deals with any providers to be tracking that data and who that might be going to, all those kinds of things, and we can relate it back to what we're doing in our industry.

You can also Fresh Web Explorer to find the best time to share this type of information. So, for example, the HTC One comes out and maybe you're working for a mobile review site and you're like, "Oh, you know what? This has already been covered to death. Let's do something else this week, or let's cover some other stuff. Maybe we'll hit up the HTC One." Or, "Boy, you know what? This is just starting to get hot. Now is a great time to share. We can get on Techmeme and get the link from there. We can be mentioned in some of the other press coverages. We still have a chance, a shot to cover this new technology, new trend early on in its life cycle."

Number three, we can track fresh brand and link growth versus our competitors. So a lot of the time one of the things that marketers are asking themselves, especially in the inbound field is, "How am I doing against my competition?" So I might be Fitbit, which is a Foundry cousin of ours. They're also funded by Foundry Group. They compete with the Nike FuelBand, and they might be curious about who's getting more press this week. We released a new version of the Fitbit, or we're about to, or whatever it is, and let's see how we're doing against the Nike FuelBand. Then when we have our press release, our launch, let's see how that compares to the coverage we're getting. Where are they getting covered that we are not getting covered? Where are we getting coverage where they are not?

We can then use things like the CSV Export feature, which is in the top right-hand corner of the Fresh Web Explorer, and we can look at CSV Export to do things like, "Oh, I want to filter out these types of sites. Or I only want a report on the high feed authority sites versus the low feed authority one. So I want to see only the places where my coverage is high."

A note on feed authority though. Be very careful here because remember that a great page on a great site might be discovered through a low quality feed. It could be that a relatively junky feed is linking to some high quality stuff. We'll discover it and report on the feed authority of the source where we discovered it. So you may want to try using metrics like page authority and domain authority to figure out where are you being mentioned and is that a high quality site, not just feed authority.

All right. Number four. Find fresh sources that link to or mention two or more of your competitors, but don't mention you. Now, this has been a classic tool. We've had a tool in our library at Moz, which is similar to SEO Book's HubFinder. Ours is called the Link Intersect tool, and what you can do here is you can plug in something like some ice cream brands and see how it writes. So "Full Tilt" and "Molly Moons" ice cream, and I actually want to put quotes around those brand names so that I can get mentions every time someone mentions the Moon and the name Molly that would pop in there, that wouldn't be ideal, minus D'Ambrosio, which is the best Seattle ice cream shop obviously. It's a gelateria. It's fantastic. Side note, it's possible that maybe owned by my cousin-in-law, but shh, let's not tell anybody.

Okay, and then if I'm Marco over at D'Ambrosio Gelato, I can see where are Full Tilt and Molly Moons getting mentioned that aren't mentioning me. If it's, "Hey, there was an article in The Stranger about ice cream and they didn't cover us." And, "Hey the Capitol Hill blog didn't cover us." Maybe they don't know that we also have a Capitol Hill location. We should get in there and talk to those folks. We should mention, maybe leave a comment, maybe just tweet at the author of the post, whatever it is and tell them, "Hey, next time you cover ice cream, you should also write about us."

Number five. Compare sources coverage. So this is actually a bit of a teaser, and I apologize for that. So the operator site colon will not be available at lunch. So when you're watching this video, you probably can't use the site colon operator to see different sources and to run a search like the CRO site colon SEOmoz. However, it will be coming soon.

When it is, you'll be able to compare, hey is SEOmoz or is HubSpot more active in covering the CRO topic? Are there different sources out there that maybe don't have coverage of a topic and I could go and pitch them for a guest post? I could find those content opportunities. I could know if a topic is saturated or if it hasn't been covered enough. Maybe I find sites or blogs that might be interested in covering a topic that I would like them to write about. I can see who's covered and who hasn't using this site colon operator to figure out the source and the level of coverage that they might have or not.

The last one, number six, is really about reporting. Fresh Web Explorer is going to show you these great sort of trends about how is a particular term or phrase or link doing, links to a site, mentions of a brand name, mentions of a phrase or an industry term, whatever it is. So I can plug in things like my brand, SD, which is our link operator for just seeing links to anything on the sub-domain. I can plug in my sub-domain, and then I can see, here's how that's gone over the past 7 days or 30 days. I can screen shot that and put it in a report. I can download using the export functionality. I can download the CSV and then filter or scrub.

A lot of times, for example, PR companies, companies that help you with your press will do this type of work. They'll assemble this kind of reporting. In fact, at Moz we use a firm called Barokas here in Seattle. Every week they send us a report of here are all the places that you were mentioned, and here are places that mentioned industry terms and that kind of stuff, which is really nice, but you're oftentimes paying a lot of money to get that reporting. You can actually do that yourself if you don't have a PR company that you're already using for this type of work. Of course, if you are a PR company, this might be an option for you to do that type of reporting.

These six, they are only scratching the surface of what you can do with Fresh Web Explorer, and I don't doubt that I haven't thought of hundreds of uses yet for the data that's inside Fresh Web Explorer. I really look forward to seeing some cool creative uses from you guys out there, and I hope that you are enjoying the product. If you would like, please give us feedback. I know the team would love to hear from you on this, and they're constantly working and iterating and updating and adding in things like the site colon operator. So very cool.

Thank you very much, and we will join you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care."


Video transcription by

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!

Posted by randfish
User experience and SEO: friends or enemies? They've had a rocky past, but it's time we all realized that they live better in harmony. Dispelling the negative myths about how UX and SEO interact is the first step in improvin…

Posted by randfish
Finding a decent SEO is hard work, and the recommendations you get for selecting your perfect fit will vary as much as the people providing them.

Whether you're looking for a consultant or an agency, you don't need to feel…

Posted by randfish
Ever feel like you're neck and neck with your competitors in the mad dash to produce exciting, unique content? The push for content generation has taken off across all industries lately, and it's not surprising that content …

Posted by randfish
We all know that content needs to be unique to rank highly in the SERPs, but how "unique" are we talking? From a content creation perspective, it's imperative to know what duplicate content really means and to understa…

Posted by randfish
2012 was an amazing year at SEOmoz. We grew tremendously in members, revenue, and employees; finally raised a second round of funding; added some cool features to PRO; and acquired three companies (though, until today, we've onl…