Why Every Website (Not Just Local Sites) Should Invest in Local Links and Citations – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

At first glance, local links and local citations might seem unnecessary for non-local websites. On a closer look, however, there are strong underlying benefits to gaining those local votes of confidence that could prove invaluable for everyone. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand explains why all sites should consider chasing local links and citations, suggesting a few different ways to discover opportunities in your areas of focus.



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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to talk about why websites — every website, not just local websites — should be thinking about tactics and a strategy to get local listings and local citations.

Now, this might sound counterintuitive. I’ve actually encountered a lot of folks — especially online-only businesses or even blended online and local businesses — who think, “Are local links really that important to me, or are they off-topic? Could they potentially cause problems and confusion? Should I be trying to get those?” I’m going to try and make the case to you today that you absolutely should.

Recently, I got to visit Scotland to talk to several folks. I visited Skyscanner. I spoke at the Digital Excellence event and spoke, of course, at the Turing Festival, which was a remarkable event in Edinburgh. We actually landed in Glasgow on a Saturday and drove up to a little town called Inveraray. So I’m going to use some examples from Inveraray, Scotland, and I apologize if my accent is miserable.

A few of the businesses we visited there: Loch Fyne Whiskies, they have their own living cask, where they essentially add in whiskies and blends to this cask that keeps evolving; Whisky Shop, which is an online-only shop; and then Inveraray Castle, which is a local business, entirely a local business centered around this lovely castle and estate that I think, if I understood correctly, is run by the Duke of Argyll, Argyll being the region around there. Apparently, Scotland still has dukes in business, which is fantastic.

Local & online business

So for a local and online business, like Lock Fyne Whiskies, they sell whiskies in their specific store. You can go in — and I did — and buy some stuff. They also sell on their website, I believe just in the United Kingdom, unfortunately, for those of you watching around the rest of the world. But there are certainly reasons why they would want to go and get local links from places that link to businesses in Inveraray or in Argyll or in Scotland as a whole. Those include:

  • Boosting their Maps visibility, so that when you’re searching in Google Maps for “whisky” or “whisky shops,” potentially, if you’re near Inveraray, Google Maps will make their business show up higher.
  • Boosting their local ranking so that if you’re searching for “whisky shop Argyll” or “whisky shop Scotland” or “whisky shop near me” and you happen to be there, Google will show this business higher for that ranking as well.
  • Boosting their domain authority, meaning that those local links are contributing to overall ranking ability. That means they can rank for longer-tail terms. That means they can rank more competitively for classic web search terms that are not just in local or Maps.
  • Sending valuable traffic. So if you think about a listing site, like thelist.co.uk has them on there, TripAdvisor has them on there, a bunch of local sort of chamber of commerce — it’s not actually the chamber of commerce there — but chamber of commerce-type sites list them on there, that sends valuable direct traffic to their business. That could be through foot traffic. It could be through referrals. It could be through people who are buying whisky online from them. So a bunch of real good reasons why a local and online business should do this.

Online-only business

But if you’re an online-only business, I think a lot of folks make the case of, “Wait a minute, Rand, isn’t it true that if I am getting local links and local citations, those may not be boosting my relevance, my ranking ability as much as they are boosting my local ranking ability, which I don’t actually care about because I’m not focused on that?”

So, for example, whiskyshop.com, I think they are also based in Scotland, but they don’t have physical locations. It’s an online-only shop. So getting a local link for them in whatever part of the region of Scotland they are actually in would…

  • Boost their domain authority, giving them more ranking ability for long-tail terms.
  • Make it harder for their competitors to compete for those links. This makes link acquisition for an online-only business, even from local sources, a beautiful thing because your competitors are not in that region and, therefore, they can’t go get those same links that you can get simply by virtue of being where you are as a business physically located. Even if you’re just in an office space or working from home, wherever your domain is registered you can potentially get those.
  • Yield solid anchor text. There are a bunch of local sources that will not just point out who you are, but also what you do. When they point out what you do, they can link to your product pages or your different site sections, individual URLs on your site, and provide anchor text that can be powerful. Depending on how those submissions are accepted and how they’re processed, some local listings, obviously, you’re not going to get them, others you are.

There’s one more that I should include here too, which is that…

  • Local information, even citations by themselves, can be a trust signal for Google, where they essentially say, “Hey, you know what, we trust that this is a real business that is really in this place. We see citations for it. That tells us we can trust this site. It’s not spammy. It doesn’t have these spam signals around it.” That’s a really big positive as well. So I’d add that — spam trust issues.

Local-only business

Lastly, a local-only business — I think this is the most obvious one — we know that it…

  • Boosts Maps visibility
  • Boosts local rankings
  • Boosts your long-tail ranking ability
  • Sends valuable direct traffic, just like they do to a local and online business.

Easy ways to find citation/link sources in your locale:

If you’re going to go out and look for some local links, a few quick recommendations that are real easy to do.

  1. Do a search for a business name, not necessarily your business name — in fact, not your business name – anybody, any of your competitors or anyone in the region. It doesn’t have to necessarily be your business. It could be someone in the county or the territory, the state, the city, the town, minus their site, because you don’t want results from their site. You’re actually looking for: What are all the places where their business is talked about? You can add in, if you’d like, the region or city name.
  2. Search for one local business and another one. So, for example, if I was Whisky Shop and I were in Inveraray or I were in Argyll, I could search for “Loch Fyne Whiskies” and “Inveraray Castle,” and I would come back with a list of places that have both of those on their website. That often turns out to be a great source of a bunch of listings, listing opportunities and link opportunities.
  3. Google just by itself the city plus the state, or region or country, and get lots and lots of places, first off that describe that place, but then also that note notable businesses or that have business listings. You can add the word “listings” to this query and get some more great results too.
  4. Try out some tools here — Link Intersect in Moz, or Majestic, or Ahrefs — and get lots of results by plugging in two of these and excluding the third one and seeing who links to these that doesn’t link to this third one.
  5. Use business names in the same fashion that you do in Google in tools like a Mention, a Talkwalker, Google Alerts, or Moz’s Fresh Web Explorer and see who is talking about these local businesses or regions from a news or blog or forum or recent perspective.

So with that, I hope you’ll do me a favor and go out, try and get some of those local links. I look forward to your comments, and we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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from Blogger http://jake-bennett-business-blog.blogspot.com/2016/08/why-every-website-not-just-local-sites.html

NEW: Rank Beyond 10 Blue Links with SERP Feature Tracking in Moz Pro

Posted by Dr-Pete

From Featured Snippets to In-depth Articles to Knowledge Panels, Google SERP features have remade the search marketing landscape. After three years of planning and many months of work, I’m thrilled to announce the launch of advanced SERP feature tracking in Moz Pro, available immediately to all customers! Using the most comprehensive data set on the market, Moz Pro now provides advanced analysis of the 16 features listed below:

Try it out now under the [Rankings] tab within any campaign, or read on for a walk-through of the new features. New to Moz Pro? Take a free 30-day trial!

Stage 1: Awareness

At MozCon 2013, I gave a talk called Beyond 10 Blue Links, documenting the diversity of Google features surrounding organic results. Many of us at Moz felt strongly that the world of SERP features could have a profound impact on search marketers, and so we started to catalog Google’s changes and collect the data to find out just how much SERPs were evolving.

In early 2014, we built a prototype to better understand how we could help customers track SERP features, but we discovered that most of our customers were unfamiliar with them. None of us knew, at the time, exactly what impact SERP features were having or how we should adjust our tactics. The idea of tracking possibly dozens of types of results was daunting, especially in an industry where most of us already wore too many hats.

So, we kept tracking the data, and we learned along with the industry. We also, I hope, contributed to that education. We built the infrastructure we knew we’d need down the road (much credit to our Silo team), even if we weren’t sure when the turn in that road would come. Eventually – and in large part due to the growth of Featured Snippets – we knew that our customers were ready.

Stage 2: Acceptance

As of August, 86% of the SERPs in our 10,000-keyword tracking set had some kind of non-organic feature (a Knowledge Panel, a Featured Snippet, Rich Snippets, a Local Pack, etc.). If you count ads and shopping results, that number goes up to 97% – the days of 10 blue links are long gone.

We recently did an analysis of over 400,000 search result interactions (thanks to Russ Jones) and found that SERPs with rich features send 28% fewer clicks to traditional organic results. At the same time, many of these features, including Featured Snippets, create new opportunities for non-traditional clicks. Either way, the impact on your SEO is very real, and it’s essential to understand what you’re up against.

The challenge in tracking SERP features, as an SEO, is that which features matter to you can vary wildly with your niche. I’ve seen a single feature radically impact traffic for some sites, while that same feature may have little or no impact on others. Once you’ve accepted the reality of SERP features, you have to understand how the landscape looks for your own industries and sites:

One of the first things you’ll see on the new SERP Features page is the overview. This graph shows the presence of features across your campaign, as well as the proportion of features that you’re listed in (where applicable). At launch, we support the 16 highest-impact desktop SERP features. Click on the pull-down above the graph, and you can pull up a Trended Analysis for any feature. Good news: we’ve already got a 60-day history available at launch.

It’s time to accept that SERP features really do exist, and dive into the details. Scrolling down, you’ll see a comprehensive list of your Campaign keywords along with your current ranking, plus the features those keywords displayed the last time we checked them:

The keyword list shows all of your campaign keywords, along with their rankings and a list of icons signaling which features appeared on those SERPs. Blue icons indicate that your site appears in the feature, red icons indicate your competitor is in it, and orange icons mean that you’re both listed (this might occur in multi-listing features, such as News Packs).

At the top of the page, you can narrow your list by keyword, label, location, or feature. Let’s say you just wanted to see keywords with Featured Snippets. Next to the funnel icon at the top, click [+], then select “SERP Feature” and choose one from the list:

The overview graph and keyword list are both filtered now, and you can explore whatever features are most applicable to your work.

Stage 3: Opportunity

So, what do you do with this knowledge? We’ve developed an insights system to help you answer that question. For example, if a keyword in your campaign currently displays a Featured Snippet, and you rank in the top 5 organic results, you’ve got a decent shot at being able to compete for that snippet. So, we call that out:

Click on any keyword with “Insights” to see possible opportunities. At launch, we highlight keywords with Featured Snippets, News Packs, Reviews, Videos, and Site Links (if you’re not currently listed in them). We hope to add more insights in the near future.

Bonus: Questions in KWE

Want to put this to the test today? Here’s a way to easily start tracking Featured Snippet opportunities. Go to Keyword Explorer, enter a term, view all results, and then, in the first pulldown select [are questions]. You’ll get a list of question suggestions related to your chosen search term:

Now, select the questions that interest you, and add them to your Campaign. We’ll start tracking Featured Snippets and other SERP features, and soon you’ll be discovering new opportunities to stand out from your competition.

Thanks to everyone involved on the Product and Design teams, and special thanks to our Silo team for putting the pieces in place over the past year to make tracking features possible. Please reach out to us with any comments or suggestions, and we hope you enjoy the new features!

Join our Launch Day Twitter Q&A Party!

Try it today and tweet questions (the occasional comment or rave also welcome!) to @Moz with #OwntheSERP. Questions will be answered in real-time throughout the day (ok, technically between 7:00 am and 4:00 pm US-PST) by one of our pros: @RandFish, @Dr_Pete, @BritneyMuller, @JontheExiled.

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

from Blogger http://jake-bennett-business-blog.blogspot.com/2016/08/new-rank-beyond-10-blue-links-with-serp.html

Reaching Your Golden Influencers with Content Through LinkedIn Ads

Posted by WilcoxAJ

We’re all well aware that the tides have shifted in SEO. Building links for the sake of building links is no longer the best strategy.

We’ve all heard the gospel of great content being preached: “Just create great content, and the links will naturally come.” While this may be true for brands with existing followings, it’s often a very different story for most SMBs.

The fact of the matter is that if a brand lacks social presence and followers, it may get more eyeballs on its great content by printing a copy, and stapling it to a tree.

For that reason, you need to pay to get that great content in front of the eyes that are most likely to share/blog/mention it. I’m going to show you how to do this using LinkedIn Ads.

LinkedIn, the resume site?

“LinkedIn?”, you say? “Why would I share content on LinkedIn?”, you ask? Very good question!

Everyone’s favorite professional social network is very well known for its ability to host your resume, as well as its usefulness in finding your next job. What you may not have noticed is that LinkedIn has been making great strides towards becoming a content hub, and it began back in 2012.

In 2012, LinkedIn released their Influencer program. It allowed business celebrities like Bill Gates and Richard Branson to publish long-form articles, and it allowed the likes of us peasants to follow that content without requiring said celebrities to accept our connections.

In 2013, the network announced its acquisition of Pulse, a news and content engine, which can push you content based on your industry, seniority, etc. It then released a new ad unit called “Sponsored Updates,” which allows advertisers to put content in front of the right eyes.

In 2014, long-form posting (such as the likes of Arianna Huffington and Barack Obama enjoyed) was then released to all LinkedIn members.

You can see how, gradually, the professional network positioned itself to become the place you go for your business news.

Getting started

By now you may realize how helpful LinkedIn advertising can be for your content marketing efforts, but you don’t know how to get started. No problem! Here’s what you need:

1. Company page admin access

Sponsored Updates (the native ad unit that was built for sharing content effectively) require a connection to the company page. First and foremost, you’ll need to have an existing administrator of your LinkedIn company page add you to that as well.

Here’s that process:

Have your existing admin go to www.linkedin.com and search for your company name
Click on the result that is labeled “Company Page”
Click the button at the top that says “Edit”
Scroll down to the section called “Company Page Administrators”
Type in the name of the person to be granted access (you, presumably). In order to add someone, you must be connected already on LinkedIn.
Click “Publish” at the top of the page

If your company has not yet created a company page, that’s no problem either — they’re quick and easy. You can create your company page for free.

2. LinkedIn Ads account access

If you have an existing LinkedIn Ads account, here’s how to get access:

Have an account manager navigate to LinkedIn.com/ads
Log into LinkedIn with personal credentials
Select the company’s account
Click the cog wheel at the top-center of the page and click “User Access”
Click “Add User”
Type in the name of the person to be granted access (presumably you) and grant “Account Manager” (administrator) permissions

If you don’t already have an existing account, here’s how you do it:

Navigate to LinkedIn.com/ads
Click “Get Started”
Sign in with your LinkedIn credentials
Click “Add Account”
Begin typing the name of your company name in the “Company Name” field
Create an account name (simply the name of your company is best, but anything to help you recognize which account you’re accessing if you manage several

Why use LinkedIn Ads?

Although the ads platform may not be pretty, or have the feature set we in PPC have come to expect, its granular control over B2B targeting can’t be beat. I’m certain you can see the value in being able to reach someone by:

  • Job title
  • Seniority level
  • Department
  • Industry
  • Company
  • Etc.

Who should I target?

That depends. Who would you get the most value out of seeing your content? Here are a couple angles that I’ve used:

1. Venture capital hack

Is your company getting ready to raise a round of funding? You could target those within the “Venture Capital & Private Equity” industry. The fact that potential investors have heard of you could mean precious increase to your valuation.

Here are the targeting settings where I did just that for a client:

vc pe canva.png

2. Publisher hack

Do you want to get your content linked to? How about targeting those that buy ink by the barrel? Here’s what I’ve used for just such an occasion:

publishing media targeting canva.png

By reaching those with seniorities of manager and above in the publishing industries, you’re able to get your content in front of those who could cite, publish about, or otherwise authoritatively share your content.

Attitudes toward native ads

How do we feel about advertising? Savvy consumers are suspicious and skeptical of advertisers. The fantastic part about sponsoring content is the vast majority of consumers don’t view it as an ad. When you ask customers how they found you after arriving through sponsored content, you’ll get answers like “A friend shared…” or “I came across…”

Of course, if your sponsored update feels like an ad, you’ve shot all of your blissful goodwill in the foot.

What does it cost?

Depending on the audience, I’ve found LinkedIn clicks to cost between about $4–8. That being said, sharing content carries with it a huge advantage.

For those familiar with the AdWords auction system, it will come as no surprise that you can get significant discounts on your cost-per-click (CPC) if your click-through rate (CTR) is high.

For the uninitiated, each time a LinkedIn user loads a page on the site, there is an opportunity cost associated with showing an ad. Advertiser A may be willing to bid $20 per click, but if their CTR is .1% the platform would make, at most, $20 from showing the ad to 1k visitors. Contrast that with Advertiser B who is only bidding $3, but has a CTR of 1%, which results in a maximum of $30 to the platform for showing ads to those same 1k visitors.

This means that LinkedIn maximizes its revenue when advertisers have great CTRs, so it lowers costs of high CTR performers in order to reward them for their profitability.

The advantage, then, of sharing content that’s low in friction and high in interest is that it garners high CTRs, and therefore lower CPCs than content that presents more friction.

Remember that you’re targeting your ideal audience here, and getting as many of them as possible to your content/offers will likely pay significant dividends in the future.

Added bonus!

Remember in the section above when I mentioned getting your ideal audience in front of your content pays significant dividends? This is where I get more specific.

You’ve got your ideal audience to your site now, and you paid between $3–7 per click to do it, which is costly in many verticals. Do you keep relying on $3–7 clicks to continue to bring them back until they’re raving fans and ready to talk to your sales team? You could, but then your cost per engagement will look sky-high.

Contrast this with the possibility of placing your LinkedIn traffic into AdWords, Twitter, and Facebook retargeting audiences (tutorial here). You can even name those audiences after the persona you drove there (i.e. Media, or Venture Capital) to make interpretation of the accounts easy.

For instance, if your LinkedIn campaign is targeting media, then call your retargeting audience “Online Media Professionals” or something to that effect.

How much do you normally pay for retargeting traffic? $.60? $1? Less? Whatever it is, it’s bound to be a huge discount compared to your original source of the traffic, and the big advantage to you is that everyone in that audience, you got to qualify through the most effective B2B targeting.

Staying on top of your ideal audiences’ minds with banner ads is great and all, but what gets even more exciting is then using those retargeting audiences as persona development.

Persona development

From following the retargeting strategy above, you know that you’ll end up with a retargeting audience that contains your ideal audience. This allows you to serve a lot of impressions very inexpensively. Use this to your advantage to test content titles, etc.

Are you interested in finding out whether the phrase “data-driven” is more engaging than “big data?” How about testing colloquial messages as opposed to more formal? Try running different versions of the content in image A/B tests to test what resonates most with your persona!

As you test against this audience, you’ll start to find out how best to talk to them, and what types garner the greatest results. After all, you’re paying for the traffic, so you might as well get all the use out of it you can.


To sum it all up, start by gathering a significant announcement, and decide the influencer who would have the greatest sway over publishing/funding it. Target those folks using LinkedIn’s powerful ad targeting. Then retarget those visitors using your favorite retargeting channels to further invest in the influencers. Then watch business results happen, in a truly scalable fashion!

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

from Blogger http://jake-bennett-business-blog.blogspot.com/2016/08/reaching-your-golden-influencers-with.html

Google’s Future is in the Cards

Posted by Dr-Pete

Google is constantly testing new design elements, but over the past few months they’ve been testing a change that, while it might seem small on the surface, represents a major philosophical shift. The screenshots in this post were all captured on live SERPs but appear to be tests and have not rolled out permanently. Here’s an example of the basic change:

Notice how each result (ads and organic) is wrapped in a container and visually separated on a gray background. These containers are called “cards” in Google’s vernacular, and they’re important, but we’ll get to that. Why should we care about a few borders and a background?

Shift #1: Mobile-first design

We’ve known for over two years that Google was shifting to a mobile-first design philosophy. Earlier this year, Google removed ads from the right-hand column. While this change was partially due to performance, I believe that a big part of it was standardizing the ad environment across platforms (mobile, tablet, desktop, etc.). What’s not obvious from the test above is that this card-based design is more than just boxes and backgrounds. Google is testing a serious move toward single-column SERPs. The removal of ads from the right-hand column was only the beginning.

Here’s a SERP screenshot for “polar bear” in Google’s current desktop design:

Below is the test design, captured back in May. The Knowledge Panel has been moved to the top-left, and the right-hand column is gone. This is not a Knowledge Card of the sort we typically see on the top-left. It is the traditionally right-hand desktop entity, moved and collapsed (with a “More about Polar bear” arrow):

Here’s the same search on an Android phone. Notice the card-based format and Knowledge Panel at the top. Obviously, nothing is in the right-hand column, because mobile only has one column:

There are still display differences between mobile and the desktop test, of course, but you can clearly start to see the convergence between the test and the current mobile design.

How will it all fit on the left?

Getting everything on current desktop SERPs into one column poses significant challenges, and Google is experimenting with a few variations. Here’s a SERP that has both a Knowledge Panel and a Knowledge Card, for example:

In this case, the Knowledge Card showing the support phone number appears above the Knowledge Panel, and both are above the first organic result. You’ll notice some design differences on this example, which was captured in July. Here’s another example, with a different, more interesting layout:

This SERP has a local 3-pack, which is at the top (like on current designs), followed by an organic result, and then followed by the Knowledge Panel. This pushes the Knowledge Panel down the page quite a bit, and the #2 organic result down well below the fold. In another example, we saw a Knowledge Panel below four ads and four organic results. So, the traditional top placement may become more flexible.

Here’s an example with a Featured Video, followed by a Knowledge Panel, and then the first organic:

The bottom of this same SERP has another interesting feature: a set of three different related searches, each with their own card. On the current design, these live at the bottom of the Knowledge Panel, but here they’ve been split off from the panel and expanded:

Keep in mind that these are only variations in testing, and that this testing has been ongoing over a period of months. We can piece together Google’s intent from looking at multiple tests, but we can’t pin down what the final design will look like or when (or even if) it will launch.

Shift #2: Google Now

There’s another reason I think the card-based design is potentially interesting. Google Now, Google’s predictive search product, was built on the “card” concept. Here’s an Android screenshot:

Google Now mixes and matches results of personal interest. On this screen, I’ve got a Knowledge Graph-style card with an upcoming game time, another KG-style card with a recent box score, and a carousel of news results, all under a topical “Chicago Cubs” section header. Here’s another Google Now screen:

Here, I’ve got another news carousel (note its similarity to mobile search news carousels), and then an individual news story with its own card. Google Now shows that you can create a result using virtually no traditional organic results and mix multiple Knowledge Graphs, news, and other entities in a single, fluid experience.

What does it all mean?

Cards are much more than just a design philosophy. We’re used to seeing SERPs in clusters: a column of organic results, a Knowledge Panel, a box of news results, a box of local results, etc. Prior to individually-labelled ads, even AdWords ads came in visually-delineated chunks. With cards, we have to start thinking of each individual information unit as a stand-alone result, and every SERP is a mix of the most relevant results across a wide variety of sources and types.

Viewing SERPs as collection of search information units (SIUs?) also allows Google to easily adapt across a wide range of displays, from desktop all the way down to wearables, which might only have screen space for a single card. Even voice search can be adapted to cards. Currently, if you run a voice search on Android that returns a Featured Snippet, for example, your mobile device will read that snippet back to you. Voice search is returning one card, a single unit of search information.

Cards give Google a great deal of flexibility, and will begin to break traditional design barriers and result groupings. We may see ads leaving top and bottom blocks and being dispersed between other results. We may see a mix of shopping results, say a single product card and a multi-product carousel on the same page. Similarly, we may see multiple news results or carousels across a single page. We may see multiple Knowledge Cards or personalized results, if a search merits that kind of personalization.

The era of cards is the final nail in the coffin of ten blue links. Ultimately, our definition of search engine optimization is going to have to expand beyond traditional results and into any information unit that can drive traffic.

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

from Blogger http://jake-bennett-business-blog.blogspot.com/2016/08/googles-future-is-in-cards.html

Making Sense of Google’s Updates in Local Search

Posted by George-Freitag

Last week, Casey Meraz did a great breakdown on the state of local, showing where you should be heading with your strategy and answering some tough questions about the future of local search. Today, let’s look at all the recent changes that Google itself has been making to its own local product and examine how that will help you understand where they’re heading.

This has been a big year for local search, with Google launching a ton of changes related to local, including several changes directly to their local platform, Google My Business. Marketers and brands are naturally scrambling to respond to each of these changes individually, as they should, but what about the larger implications of changes like these?

The running theme with all these changes seems to be the following three things: Google is taking local seriously, Google is wants to get more local data through its crawler, and Google really, really wants more reviews. But let’s not jump ahead of ourselves. First, let’s review some of the major changes that have occurred over the last few months.

What’s changed?

1. No more descriptions for Google My Business

The most recent change to Google My Business occurred on August 3rd when Google My Business stopped accepting edits to the description. The description will still be editable through Google+, but with the way the rest of the company has been distancing itself from its social platform, that’s likely not to stick around for long.

2. Additional categories no longer supported

Additionally, though it got lost in the shuffle a bit, when they removed the descriptions they also removed the following sections from their bulk upload form:

  • Ad Icon URL
  • Ad Landing Page URL
  • Alt Phone. Alt phone is now “Additional phones.”
  • Categories. This field has been replaced by “Primary category” and “Additional categories.”
  • City. City is now “Locality.”
  • Description
  • Email
  • Fax
  • Payment Types
  • State. State is now “Administrative area.”

3. Google+ metrics removed, additional Google My Business Insights

In a separate announcement, Google also removed Google+ metrics from their dashboard, instead providing more detailed metrics around the source of views to your GMB profile. Google My Business now shows whether customers found a business via search or Google Maps and breaks down actions customers are taking by website visits, driving direction requests, phone calls, or photos.

4. Greater support of reviews for local businesses

And in yet another announcement this month, Google released the ability for all websites to have “Critic Reviews” published directly in Google search results, next to the local businesses results. Days later, Google backed up this announcement by promoting the detailed Schema Markup needed to apply for critic reviews.

For reviews on Google My Business itself, they added the ability to respond to reviews on Google directly through the latest version of its API.

Overview of changes

And this is just within the last couple of months! So, what do all of these changes imply? Well, first off, it means that Google is making some serious changes towards local. And it should. Based on data released in May of 2016, over 50% of its traffic is now mobile and within that, nearly 30% of those searches are local!

Secondly, it means that Google is getting more confident in its own crawl data. Google wouldn’t take away a chance to get information from you if it didn’t have a good way of getting that same information by itself. We already saw this when Google removed support of Authorship and, years earlier, removed support of the Meta Keywords tag. By further distancing its local product from its social product, Google+, it implies that the data gathered from those sources wasn’t valuable. It also means that Google likely hasn’t been paying attention to any of this stuff for some time now.

This is pretty in line with everything Google has worked towards with local information. User-generated information, while invaluable, is easily manipulated. Because of this, Google often prefers to use its own data, when available. This is why that irritatingly complicated Local Search Ecosystem is so irritatingly complicated. Google needs to be able to verify its data, verify it again somewhere else, and repeat however many times it needs to to be sure.

How does this affect me?

So what does this mean for marketers and brands? There are a couple of key takeaways. First, it means that Google is becoming increasingly confident in the data that it’s getting on its own. On top of that, Google is surfacing more information about an individual business than it ever has before. Information like business hours, reviews, driving directions, social links, and more are all available directly in the search results.

While providing all of this information is potentially great from a user perspective, this is also makes Google tremendously vulnerable from a trust perspective. Every new piece of information that Google surfaces in its search results is a new opportunity for them to get that information wrong, so they’re putting themselves at a tremendous risk. They aren’t going to do this unless they can be absolutely sure and, as we know, the way they verify information is through their own crawls.

The second big takeaway is that Google is trying harder than ever to get more reviews into its platform. By distancing itself from Google+ they removed one of the biggest barriers for leaving reviews. By promoting Schema and opening up the ability for more people to have their reviews included in search results, Google is making sure that it has as much review data as possible. As demonstrated last year in another study by Casey Meraz, we know that reviews are a huge element in the click-through rate of local results.

What should I do?

Let’s talk tactics. Knowing that Google is putting more emphasis on crawl data and that it’s looking for more ways to get reviews, your job as a marketer gets pretty clear. You need to get your local information and reviews in all the places Google might look and make it easy for Google to understand.

Learn to love Schema markup

One of the most telling things about Google’s updates, in general, is that they’ve been consistently and reliably promoting Schema usage every chance they get. This means they probably like it. And the great thing about Schema is that it’s easier than ever to implement! To facilitate their love affair with Schema, Google created an easy-to-use tool, the Structured Data Markup Helper, that lets you highlight contact information, reviews, and more, then generate the JSON-LD code you can paste right in the <head> of your page. Pair that with their other free tool for testing markup, the Structured Data Testing Tool, and you have everything you need to start using Schema right away.

Make your business listing information accurate

This may seem repetitive in the local space, but that’s just because it’s true. Even if you enter all the information exactly right in Google My Business, Google still doesn’t trust it unless it can verify it against other sources. Use the free Check Listing Tool or any of the other online tools to make sure you’re not only listed on all of the most important online sources, but that your information is accurate. And not just mostly accurate — so accurate that Google doesn’t have any choice other than to completely trust your data. The one thing that will prevent Google from ever showing your business in their giant local search result is conflicting information about your business on various online sources.

Get your review strategy together

You can’t just sit around and hope for reviews anymore. According to a study by BrightLocal, 92% of people look to online reviews when deciding to use a business. We also know that people click on them in Google. And we know that Google is trying to get as many of them as possible in their own search results.

  1. Use Schema markup on your site for all the reviews you have on your own site. Even if Google isn’t using those now, they’re certainly acting as though they want to start.
  2. Monitor your reviews online and have a response strategy. With Google surfacing reviews even more in their results, you need to be sure you properly address negative reviews and take every opportunity to address the concern.
  3. Give great customer service. The most frustrating part of an online review strategy is that the majority of it occurs offline. Be nice to your customers and thank them for their time.

Earn good links

There are tons of great resources for linkbuilding on the Moz Blog alone, so I won’t muddy the waters with more advice. I will say that, while the Google penalties of the previous few years have been rough on linkbuilding, there’s still no question it’s still one of the most influential ranking factors in SEO as a whole, let alone in local. The only difference is that it has to be good. The one thing the Google penalties proved that Google definitely knows the difference between a good links and a bad link. Good links are good because they mean people are actually interested in your content and are legitimately trying to share it. Of course Google would want to use that as a metric. That’s the content you need to make.

Is this all you can do? Of course not. But focusing on the things Google is paying attention to is one of the best ways to make sure you’re staying ahead of the curve to make your local strategy as future-proof as possible.

Any other big changes in local that I missed? Have your own tips to stay on Google’s good side in local? Share your own thoughts in the comments below!

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

from Blogger http://jake-bennett-business-blog.blogspot.com/2016/08/making-sense-of-googles-updates-in.html

When and How to Listen to Google’s Public Statements About SEO – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

When Google says jump, it’s hard not to jump. Often we take the words of Google representatives as edict and law, but it’s important to understand subtleties and to allow for clarification with time. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand discusses some angles to consider that will help you stay grounded when the “Big G” makes a statement about SEO.



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

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about the public statements that Googlers make and how we, as marketers, as SEOs, should be interpreting and understanding those statements.

So I actually wrote down a few things that Googlers have said. These are quotes taken from websites that have quoted them. So they may not be perfect. For example, if you are someone from Google who actually made these statements, you might say, “That’s not exactly how I phrased that.” Well, it’s how the websites quoted you. So Search Engine Roundtable and SEM Post and Search Engine Land, places like that, is where I got these quotes.

When something is missing

So for example, someone from Google says, “301, 302, 307, don’t worry about it. Use whatever makes sense for you. They all pass PageRank.” So you might have seen over the last few weeks there’s been a lot of tweets and stories, blog posts written about how we no longer as SEOs have to worry about the type of 30x redirect that we put in place. If there are 302s, that’s fine. Google seems to be passing PageRank through them.

Well, there’s actually been a bunch of discussion about this, because the evidence is on the totally other side, that if you have a website with a bunch of redirects that are not 301s, 302s, 307s, and you change them to 301s, which is the permanent redirect status code, it sure looks like Google organic search traffic sends more visits to those redirected pages or to the target of the redirected pages. Why would that be if it didn’t matter in the first place? Is it just a bunch of correlation but not causation results because it looks way too consistent? Or is there something else going on here?

Many folks, for example, pointed to the fact that the word “PageRank” might be the operative thing here. In fact, this is one of the things that I would say personally. When Google says they all pass PageRank or they all pass the same amount of PageRank, remember PageRank is Google’s original ranking formula from 1997 that Larry and Sergey developed in college. It is not a comprehensive, holistic representation of every possible signal that is in Google’s ranking algorithm, 200 or 500+ of them. It’s not everything that a machine learning system could possibly interpret. Maybe the machine learning systems that are in place at Google for spam or for relevancy or for importance, for trust, whatever they are have determined that 301s are in fact the better one to use or should be interpreted as a stronger signal. So you’ve got to be careful when reading a statement like this. It does generate a lot of discussion in our field, but it’s not the only case. This has happened for a decade and a half now in the SEO world, where people from Google say things publicly.

When they don’t get it right

For example, you might remember a couple years ago, “The mobile-friendly update will be bigger than Panda and Penguin combined.” Then, of course, the mobile update rolled out — what was that, June of 2014 — and we all scratched out heads and went, “Gosh, that was not much of an update at all. It seems like things didn’t shake up very much.” Then Google sort of explained, “Well, a lot of websites did end up updating. Oh, I guess we had a more staggered update rollout of it than we were expecting, and so maybe you didn’t see a lot of change.” Well, certainly that seems awkward in comparison to that statement.

When we get clear-cut(ts) answers

Another statement, this statement I actually love. I love statements like this from Google. So this is when Eric Enge, from Stone Temple, was interviewing Matt Cutts and he asked Matt about whether a 301 redirect would lose some amount of relevancy or ranking ability when it was being moved over, whether there was any risk to moving a page. Matt replied, “I am not 100% sure whether the crawling and indexing team has implemented that sort of natural PageRank decay, so I’ll have to go and check.” Then there was a note in the text that said, “Note in a follow-up email Matt confirmed there is some loss of PageRank through a 301.” Well, PageRank or link ranking factors, whatever you want to call it.

That’s great. This is, “I don’t know, but I’ll go check with the team that does know.” Then a response of, “Yes, the thing that you assumed is in fact the case and I can confirm it.” That’s awesome. I love, love, love statements like this. I sort of wish we could nudge Google into doing more of that, of the hey, we ask a question and you go, “Well, I think it’s this, but I’m going to go check with exactly that team that’s responsible for writing the code that implements that piece, so that we can tell you an honest and complete answer.” That’s terrific.

When they’re saying there’s a chance

But then you might get statements like this one, which are real tough. “External links to other sites isn’t specifically a ranking factor, but it can bring value to your content, and that in turn can be relevant for us in search. Whether or not they are followed doesn’t really matter.” That is a hard, hard statement to interpret. The first sentence says, “External links. We don’t use them. They’re not a ranking factor.” The second sentence says, “But those links might bring value to your content, and that in turn can be relevant for us in search,” which almost seems to contradict the first sentence. Those two things don’t go together.

I think this statement was not from Garry. This is John Mueller I think said this one. “Whether or not they are followed doesn’t really matter.” Okay, so if you are using them, followed or not followed doesn’t matter. Tough statement to interpret. I’m not sure what to take away from that. The only thing I think I might be able to do is to say, “I should probably test it. I should figure it out for myself.”

Recommendations for analyzing and interpreting Google’s words

In fact, I’ve got some recommendations for you when you are analyzing these words from Google, because it can be really tough to say, “How do I know which statements I can trust? Which one is the external links statement? Which one is the, ‘I’ll go check and I’ll tell you which one is the flat-out wrong statement?’ Which one is the, ‘Well maybe this is right, but maybe it’s just not telling me the whole story.'”

(A) Consider all the ways that the statement could be true while the surface-level info is technically wrong. So, for example, on the external links one, maybe the statement is true that it’s not specifically used as a ranking factor or not separately used, but maybe it’s used in concert with other signals. That’s what was trying to be said there by John, and it just came out in a funny way that the language would be parsed on the surface as very misinterpreted. So if someone from Google says, “A does not equal C,” you might say, “Aha, so that means B or D could equal C.” There you go.

(B) Give statements some time to be amended or modified, at least a few weeks. For example, you’ll remember that the statement about 301s, 302s, and 307s, there was a statement made by Gary from Google and Gary said this. Then just a couple weeks later, he amended the statement to say, “Oh, right, there are also canonicalization issues, which is separate maybe from ranking issues, but probably you don’t care, because canonicalization will affect your rankings. 301s do help with canonicalization in Google, whereas 302s and 307s might not help as much,” which is sort of saying, “Wait, so they are interpreted differently and there could be some reasons why when I change 302s to 301s rankings and traffic go up. Aha.” That statement took a little while to come out, but it did kind of correct the record.

(C) I like data and I like experiments over opinions and public statements. So for example, a few months ago now, the folks at Reboot Online did a great study about external links. They created some fake words and built up a bunch of web pages. Some of the web pages did have external links on them. Some of them didn’t. They saw that Google was extremely consistent in always ranking the ones that had external-pointing links that were followed versus external but not followed or no external links or internal links only, that kind of stuff. I think their results were pretty conclusive.

There are all sorts of reasons why this statement might have been wrong. Maybe when John said it, it was correct. Or maybe his second sentence is really the truth here and the first sentence is more, “Well, it’s not its own separate, specific thing,” and so the interpretation is what matters. In either case, that data, that experimentation, hugely valuable and important for us as an industry and I really like paying attention to those things and then trying to verify and replicate and apply on our own sites.

(D) The last thing I’ll say is, look, we need to be empathetic and forgiving. A lot of Googlers are working in a giant, giant corporation, tens of thousands of employees at Google, hundreds of different teams that potentially contribute. Just the ones that we know of, there’s Core Ranking folks, there’s Web Spam folks, there’s Crawling and Indexing folks, and Search Quality folks, and Webmaster Tools folks, and Webmaster Trends Analysts, and all these many different departments. It’s not always the case that a Gary or a John or any of the representatives and Andre can go and talk to the engineers who wrote the code and have them pull that right up and say, “Aha, yes, this exactly is what’s going on here and here’s why and here’s how we wrote it.” You just don’t get that level of clarity and sophistication.

So they have to operate with the knowledge that they have and with the information that they are being told. We, likewise, need to give them some room to amend their statements. We need to follow up ourselves with our own data, and we need to be careful about how we interpret and parse the sentences and phrasing that they give us.

All right, everyone, look forward to your comments and your thoughts about things Google has said over the years, how they’ve been helpful to you, potentially harmful to you, and hopefully we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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from Blogger http://jake-bennett-business-blog.blogspot.com/2016/08/when-and-how-to-listen-to-googles.html

Responsive Design is Killing Two-Thirds of Your Conversions. Here’s How to Fix It.

Posted by TaliaGw

Allow me to start with a quick summary of this article:

There’s a 270% gap in conversions between desktop and mobile, because mobile websites suck and we’re all doing it wrong. (Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I’ll explain why and what needs to be done to fix this.)

At its essence, responsive design is supposed to make a cross-device world a more seamless experience by adapting your desktop design to a smaller mobile screen. Unfortunately, condensing all that desktop content into such a small screen has the exact opposite effect — it’s actually causing huge loss in conversion rates. But how?

Responsive design clutters mobile sites with irrelevant content for on-the-go visitors. Built with a desktop user in mind, a mobile visitor who has different intentions and a different state of mind may not find what they’re looking for, and leave your site feeling frustrated and confused. This is the source of your huge loss in conversions.

This isn’t to say you should abandon responsive design altogether. Rather, you must think more specifically about the mobile web experience and the mobile visitor’s state of mind instead of simply transferring the desktop design to a mobile one.

To develop a useful responsive mobile experience we must do two things:

  1. Most importantly, consider why a mobile customer has come to your site;
  2. And understand their intent.

(Here are 5 metrics you should follow to understand your mobile visitors better.)

These two parameters will help determine what you need to highlight, remove, or optimize on your mobile site and give greater clarity to what your responsive design should include. Below are the 5 basic elements you should consider when designing your mobile experience:

5 Steps for Optimizing Your Responsive Site

1. Optimize image scaling and consider value

Most images scale down with responsive design. However, an image that looks nice on a desktop can suddenly become a dominant and distracting part of a mobile site. Although images are scalable, depending on their value, they might not be necessary to mobile design. Consider the way an image appears within your responsive design. Is it an effective use of visuals? If the image is taking up the entire screen on a phone, or simply serves as nice centerpiece to the site, it’s time to rethink how that image is used device-to-device. For example, Simpsons Solutions’ desktop image doesn’t scale well and overtakes the mobile screen, cluttering the design and making it hard to comprehend what’s going on on that page.

Images (both logo and main image) that work well on desktop completely overtake the mobile screen, have almost no value on a phone, and make it difficult to understand the product.

Outdoor retailer REI’s website, on the other hand, uses the same photo as a focal point on both mobile and desktop, but it scales to the appropriate needs of the visitor.

2. Simplify navigation

Perhaps one of the most important features a mobile site can include is a clear and functional navigation bar. Having a visible, easily accessible menu or search bar helps mobile visitors get where they’re going quickly. Most mobile visitors are coming to a mobile site with a single objective in mind; they’ll waste no time in finding the menu bar, searching for a keyword, and clicking to the page they need.

Analyzing what your mobile customers are doing on your site and searching for is integral for understanding how to tailor your mobile site to those needs. You may discover most mobile visitors use the search bar rather than click on your main call-to-action button; as a result, you might redesign your mobile site to feature the search bar more prominently, helping mobile visitors achieve their goals more quickly. In addition, understanding what people are actually searching for on the site will give you an indication to what’s missing, what isn’t clear, and what needs optimizing.

Because they’re on the go, mobile visitors are often in need of a contact page, usually looking for an address or a phone number to easily reach your company. Brick-and-mortar businesses should be especially cognizant of this, ensuring they have an easy-to-find contact page directly via the site navigation or on the homepage itself. Customers are much more likely to complete an order, visit your physical shop, and leave satisfied with the experience if finding you is simple and straightforward.

3. Kill responsive pop ups, use mobile overlays

Overlays and pop ups built for desktop experiences on mobile tend to distract from a mobile visitor’s primary purpose for landing on your site. Instead, guide them and focus them on a singular goal — their goal. Using a desktop solution for a mobile experience kills conversions. Since desktop overlays/pop-ups aren’t designed to fit the 19,000 combinations of screen size and resolutions found on mobile devices today, it’s wise not to use them on mobile. You don’t want an overlay fit to the resolution and specs of a desktop — these won’t scale down, making mobile navigation unbearable.

A bad overlay, like the examples below, completely take over the mobile screen, prevent you from seeing any other content, are hard to click out of, and do not fit the mobile screen (see how the email field is cut on the LastKings example).

Instead, studying how a mobile visitor behaves on your site can help you determine what your overlay should ask for, lead to, or even just what information should be included. Take into consideration both the mobile technical necessities and the customer’s mobile behavior to design an overlay to the exact needs of your mobile visitors.

4. Less is more: simplify, shorten and optimize your text

While it might seem obvious, text is often one feature that very few brands take the time to develop for effective desktop (let alone mobile) sites. To avoid overcrowding and confusion, it’s always better to keep text brief and to the point in terms of how many words appear on a site. This is where information hierarchy comes heavily into play. Your company can rearrange, rewrite, and reformat any headlines and taglines to feature only the most important information for a mobile visitor. This practice also ensures that the text isn’t taking over a page with long and wordy visuals.

While all this text seems to work well on desktop, mobile is a completely different story. The text completely hides the page, is impossible to read, and all conversion elements (such as trust symbols and call-to-action buttons) have been pushed below the fold. This is yet another case of failed responsive design:

Another factor to consider is the automatic nature of scrolling on a mobile device. A desktop can capture a full message, words, and pictures in a single glance. While less people scroll when on a desktop, on mobile, visitors instantly begin scrolling hoping for something to catch their eye. This should influence how you write a headline based on where and how it scrolls. Text should be short and concise so it catches the eye and is valuable to the reader.

5. Reconsider and clarify your calls-to-action

A mobile site should have one clear goal that the call-to-action button should support. The call-to-action button should be the first element a mobile visitor pays attention to and it should instantly tell the visitor what to do. For example, Udemy, an online learning platform, puts a very clear call-to-action at the top of their mobile landing page that aligns with the company’s overall goal. They know their customers have come to their site to learn, so to help them accomplish this goal instantly, they provided a button for finding courses and a search bar for enhanced navigation.

Create seamless design today

While the goal is to create a seamless experience across all channels for your customers, in order to increase conversions and create a better experience on mobile or any other device, companies must get to know their customers better, understanding their behavior and state of mind before choosing to implement the simple, common solution that may kill their conversions and experience. Remember to always have your mobile customers’ specific behavior and needs in mind before designing your next landing page or site.

What mobile design tactics have worked for you? Let us know in the comments below.

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

from Blogger http://jake-bennett-business-blog.blogspot.com/2016/08/responsive-design-is-killing-two-thirds.html