Optimizing for RankBrain… Should We Do It? (Is It Even Possible?) – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

If you’ve been stressing over how to optimize your SEO for RankBrain, there’s good news: you can’t. Not in the traditional sense of the word, at least. Unlike the classic algorithms we’re used to, RankBrain is a query interpretation model. It’s a horse of a different color, and as such, it requires a different way of thinking than we’ve had to use in the past. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand tackles the question of what RankBrain actually is and whether SEOs should (or can) optimize for it.

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

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about RankBrain SEO and RankBrain in general. So Google released this algorithm or component of their algorithm a while ago, but there have been questions for a long time about: Can people actually do RankBrain SEO? Is that even a thing? Is it possible to optimize specifically for this RankBrain algorithm?

I’ll talk today a little bit about how RankBrain works just so we have a broad overview and we’re all on the same page about it. Google has continued to release more and more information through interviews and comments about what the system does. There are some things that potentially shift in our SEO strategies and tactics around it, but I’ll show why optimizing for RankBrain is probably the wrong way to frame it.

What does RankBrain actually do?

So what is it that RankBrain actually does? A query comes in to Google. Historically, classically Google would use an algorithm, probably the same algorithm, at least they’ve said sort of the same algorithm across the board historically to figure out which pages and sites to show. There are a bunch of different ranking inputs, which we’ve talked about many times here on Whiteboard Friday.

But if you search for this query today, what Google is saying is with RankBrain, they’re going to take any query that comes in and RankBrain is essentially going to be a query interpretation model. It’s going to look at the words in that query. It’s potentially going to look at things possibly like location or personalization or other things. We’re not entirely sure whether RankBrain uses those, but it certainly could. It interprets these queries, and then it’s going to try and determine the intent behind the query and make the ranking signals that are applied to the results appropriate to that actual query.

So here’s what that means. If you search today — I did this search on my mobile device, I did it on my desktop device — for “best Netflix shows” or “best shows on Netflix” or “What are good Netflix shows,” “good Netflix shows,” “what to watch on Netflix,” notice a pattern here? All five of these searches are essentially asking for the very same thing. We might quibble and say “what to watch on Netflix” could be more movie-centric than shows, which could be more TV or episodic series-centric. That’s okay. But these five are essentially, ” What should I watch on Netflix?”

Now, RankBrain is going to help Google understand that each of these queries, despite the fact that they use slightly different words and phrasing or completely different words, with the exception of Netflix, that they should all be answered by the same content or same kinds of content. That’s the part where Google, where RankBrain is determining the searcher intent. Then, Google is going to use RankBrain to basically say, “Now, what signals are right for me, Google, to enhance or to push down for these particular queries?”

Signals

So we’re going to be super simplistic, hyper-simplistic and imagine that Google has this realm of just a few signals, and for this particular query or set of queries, any of these, that…

  • Keyword matching is not that important. So minus that, not super important here.
  • Link diversity, neither here nor there.
  • Anchor text, it doesn’t matter too much, neither here nor there.
  • Freshness, very, very important.

Why is freshness so important? Well, because Google has seen patterns before, and if you show shows from Netflix that were on the service a year ago, two years ago, three years ago, you are no longer relevant. It doesn’t matter if you have lots of good links, lots of diversity, lots of anchor text, lots of great keyword matching. If you are not fresh, you are not showing searchers what they want, and therefore Google doesn’t want to display you. In fact, the number one result for all of these was published, I think, six or seven days ago, as of the filming of this Whiteboard Friday. Not particularly surprising, right? Freshness is super important for this query.

  • Domain authority, that is somewhat important. Google doesn’t want to get too spammed by low-quality domains even if they are publishing fresh content.
  • Engagement, very, very important signal here. That indicates to Google whether searchers are being satisfied by these particular results.

This is a high-engagement query too. So on low-engagement queries, where people are looking for a very simple, quick answer, you expect engagement not to be that big. But for something in-depth, like “What should I watch on Netflix,” you expect people are going to go, they’re going to engage with that content significantly. Maybe they’re going to watch a trailer or some videos. Maybe they’re going to browse through a list of 50 things. High engagement, hopefully.

  • Related topics, Google is definitely looking for the right words and phrases.

If you, for example, are talking about the best shows on Netflix and everyone is talking about how hot — I haven’t actually seen it — “Stranger Things” is, which is a TV program on Netflix that is very much in the public eye right now, well, if you don’t have that on your best show list, Google probably does not want to display you. So that’s an important related topic or a concept or a word vector, whatever it is.

  • Content depth, that’s also important here. Google expects a long list, a fairly substantive page of content, not just a short, “Here are 10 items,” and no details about them.

As a result of interpreting the query, using these signals in these proportions, these five were basically the top five or six for every single one of those queries. So Google is essentially saying, “Hey, it doesn’t matter if you have perfect keyword targeting and tons of link diversity and anchor text. The signals that are more important here are these ones, and we can interpret that all of these queries essentially have the same intent behind them. Therefore, this is who we’re going to rank.”

So, in essence, RankBrain is helping Google determine what signals to use in the algorithm or how to weight those signals, because there’s a ton of signals that they can choose from. RankBrain is helping them weight them, and they’re helping them interpret the query and the searcher intent.

How should SEOs respond?

Does that actually change how we do SEO? A little bit. A little bit. What it doesn’t do, though, is it does not say there is a specific way to do SEO for RankBrain itself. Because RankBrain is, yes, helping Google select signals and prioritize them, you can’t actually optimize for RankBrain itself. You can optimize for these signals, and you might say, “Hey, I know that, in my world, these signals are much more important than these signals,” or the reverse. For a lot of commercial, old-school queries, keyword matching and link diversity and anchor text are still very, very important. I’m not discounting those. What I’m saying is you can’t do SEO for RankBrain specifically or not in the classic way that we’ve been trained to do SEO for a particular algorithm. This is kind of different.

That said, there are some ways SEOs should respond.

  1. If you have not already killed the concept, the idea of one keyword, one page, you should kill it now. In fact, you should have killed it a long time ago, because Hummingbird really put this to bed way back in the day. But if you’re still doing that, RankBrain does that even more. It’s even more saying, “Hey, you know what? Condense all of these. For all of these queries you should not have one URL and another URL and another URL and another URL. You should have one page targeting all of them, targeting all the intents that are like this.” When you do your keyword research and your big matrix of keyword-to-content mapping, that’s how you should be optimizing there.
  2. It’s no longer the case, as it was probably five, six years ago, that one set of fixed inputs no longer governs every single query. Because of this weighting system, some queries are going to demand signals in different proportion to other ones. Sometimes you’re going to need fresh content. Sometimes you need very in-depth content. Sometimes you need high engagement. Sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you will need tons of links with anchor text. Sometimes you will not. Sometimes you need high authority to rank for something. Sometimes you don’t. So that’s a different model.
  3. The reputation that you get as a website, a domain earns a reputation around particular types of signals. That could be because you’re publishing lots of fresh content or because you get lots of diverse links or because you have very high engagement or you have very low engagement in terms of you answer things very quickly, but you have a lot of diverse information and topics on that, like a Dictionary.com or an Answers.com, somebody like that where it’s quick, drive-by visits, you answer the searcher’s query and then they’re gone. That’s a fine model. But you need to match your SEO focus, your brand of the type of SEO and the type of signals that you hit to the queries that you care about most. You should be establishing that over time and building that out.

So RankBrain, yes, it might shift a little bit of our strategic focus, but no, it’s not a classic algorithm that we do SEO against, like a Panda or a Penguin. How do I optimize to avoid Panda hitting me? How do I optimize to avoid Penguin hitting me? How do I optimize for Hummingbird so that my keywords match the query intent? Those are very different from RankBrain, which has this interpretation model.

So, with that, I look forward to hearing about your experiences with RankBrain. I look forward to hearing about what you might be changing since RankBrain came out a couple of years ago, and we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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!


Moz Blog

September 30, 2016  Tags: , , , , , ,   Posted in: SEO / Traffic / Marketing  No Comments

How to Build Backlinks Using Your Competitors’ Broken Pages

Posted by TomCaulton

We all know building backlinks is one of the most important aspects of any successful SEO and digital marketing campaign. However, I believe there is an untapped resource out there for link building: finding your competitors’ broken pages that have been linked to by external sources.

Allow me to elaborate.

Finding the perfect backlink often takes hours, and it can can take days, weeks, or even longer to acquire. That’s where the link building method I’ve outlined below comes in. I use it on a regular basis to build relevant backlinks from competitors’ 404 pages.

Please note: In this post, I will be using Search Engine Land as an example to make my points.

Ready to dive in? Great, because I’m going to walk you through the entire link building process now.

First, you need to find your competitor(s). This is as easy as searching for the keyword you’re targeting on Google and selecting websites that are above you in the SERPs. Once you have a list of competitors, create a spreadsheet to put all of your competitors on, including their position in the rankings and the date you listed them.

Next, download Screaming Frog SEO Spider [a freemium tool]. This software will allow you to crawl all of your competitors website, revealing all their 404 pages. To do this, simply enter your competitors’ URLs in the search bar one at a time, like this:OOskptt.png

Once the crawl is complete, click “Response Codes.”

e4LciHG.png

Then, click on the dropdown arrow next to “filter” and select “Client Error 4xx.”

HYi6TWa.png

Now you’ll be able to see the brand’s 404 pages.

Once you’ve completed the step above, simply press the “Export” button to export all of their 404 pages into a file. Next, import this file into to a spreadsheet in Excel or Google Docs. On this part of the spreadsheet, create tabs called “Trust Flow,” “Citation Flow,” “Referring Domains,” and “External Backlinks.”

Now that you’ve imported all of their 404 pages, you need to dissect the images and external links if there are any. A quick way to do this is to highlight the cell block by pressing on the specific cell at the top, then press “Filter” under the “Data” tab.H3YN9BG.pngLook for the drop-down arrow on the first cell of that block. Click the drop-down arrow, and underneath “Filter by values,” you will see two links: “Select all” and “Clear.”

Press “Clear,” like this:

ZERYiSm.pngThis will clear all preset options. Now, type in the URL of the competitor’s website in the search box and click “Select all.”SKqXxQ2.png

This will filter out all external links and just leave you with their 404 pages. Go through the whole list, highlighting the pages you think you can rewrite.

Now that you have all of your relevant 404 pages in place, run them through Majestic [a paid tool] or Moz’s Open Site Explorer (OSE) [a freemium tool] to see if their 404 pages actually have any external links (which is what we’re ultimately looking for). Add the details from Majestic or Moz to the spreadsheet. No matter which tool you use (I use OSE), hit “Request a CSV” for the backlink data. (Import the data into a new tab on your spreadsheet, or create a new spreadsheet altogether if you wish.)

Find relevant backlinks linking to (X’s) website. Once you’ve found all of the relevant websites, you can either highlight them or remove the ones that aren’t from your spreadsheet.

Please note: It’s worth running each of the websites you’re potentially going to be reaching out to through Majestic and Moz to find out their citation flow, trust flow, and domain authority (DA). You may only want to go for the highest DA; however, in my opinion, if it’s relevant to your niche and will provide useful information, it’s worth targeting.

With the 404s and link opportunities in hand, focus on creating content that’s relevant for the brands you hope to earn a link from. Find the contact information for someone at the brand you want the link from. This will usually be clear on their website; but if not, you can use tools such as VoilaNorbert and Email Hunter to get the information you need. Once you have this information, you need to send them an email similar to this one:


Hi [THEIR NAME],

My name is [YOUR NAME], and I carry out the [INSERT JOB ROLE – i.e., MARKETING] at [YOUR COMPANY'S NAME or WEBSITE].

I have just come across your blog post regarding [INSERT THEIR POST TITLE] and when I clicked on one of the links on that post, it happened to go to a 404 page. As you’re probably aware, this is bad for user experience, which is the reason I’m emailing you today.

We recently published an in-depth article regarding the same subject of the broken link you have on your website: [INSERT YOUR POST TITLE].

Here’s the link to our article: [URL].

I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind linking to our article instead of the 404 page you’re currently linking to, as our article will provide your readers with a better user experience.

We will be updating this article so we can keep people provided with the very latest information as the industry evolves.

Thank you for reading this email and I look forward to hearing from you.

[YOUR NAME]


Disclaimer: The email example above is just an example and should be tailored to your own style of writing.

In closing, remember to keep detailed notes of the conversations you have with people during outreach, and always follow up with people you connect with.

I hope this tactic helps your SEO efforts in the future. It’s certainly helped me find new places to earn links. Not only that, but it gives me new content ideas on a regular basis.

Do you use a similar process to build links? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

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!


Moz Blog

September 29, 2016  Tags: , , , , ,   Posted in: SEO / Traffic / Marketing  No Comments

How a Single Piece of Content Increased Our DA by +7 Points [Case Study]

Posted by sergeystefoglo

Content marketing has been discussed and researched more in the last 5 years than ever before.

Source: Google Trends

There are various kinds of content marketing strategies out there. Blog promotion, infographics, video strategies, and creative content are some. Depending on your goals, some are more effective than others.

At Distilled, we’ve been fortunate enough to work on many creative content pieces with some incredible clients. This article is going to focus on a piece of content that my team and I created for a client. We’ll take a look at both the creation process and the tangible results of the piece we made.

Note: In general, you don’t want to rely on one piece of content for link acquisition. It’s recommended to focus on multiple pieces throughout the year to add link diversity and give your content pieces a good chance to succeed. The following is simply a case study of one piece of content that worked well for my client.


Client backstory: We need links!

Our client is Ginny’s (shoutout to Matt and Cailey). Ginny’s is an ecommerce business based in the beautiful state of Wisconsin.

We knew that regardless of how much optimization was done on the site, their lack of incoming links would be a huge barrier to success. This quickly became a topic of discussion for us.

The general rule of thumb: the more linking root domains (LRDs) your site has, the stronger the domain authority should be. And the stronger the linking root domains are, the better it is for your DA. In other words, it’s better to get 1 strong link (DA 80+) than 10 weak links (DA 20-). Kudos if the links are topically relevant to your website/brand.

So, my team and I sat down and started thinking of different ways we could accomplish the task of increasing LRDs and (hopefully) DA for my client.


The process of creating a link-worthy story

Here are the steps my team and I went through for this particular client.

Note: For an extensive look at creating creative content, please see the following articles:

Ideation

The first step in the creative process is ideation, because without great ideas you can’t a have a great piece of content. It’s important to give yourself enough time for ideation. Don’t rush it, and be sure to include various team members with different backgrounds to get as many ideas as possible. Note: stock up on coffee/Red Bull and snacks for this.

Validation

Typically after an ideation session you’ll have many potential ideas. It’s important to go through and validate them. When I say “validate,” I mean making sure others haven’t already done something similar, or that creating the piece is actually possible (you have access to the right data, etc.)

Note: For more information on researching and validating your creative ideas, read this post titled “Researching Creative Ideas: 10 Dos and Don’ts.”

Pitching

At this point you’ll have a handful of ideas that are not only on-brand and interesting, but have great potential in being picked up by various sources. Put together a nice deck and pitch your ideas to the client. The goal is to get your client to pick one (or a few, depending on the budget).

Note: Here’s an awesome write-up on a framework for pitching creative ideas to your clients.

Gathering the data

Once your client signs off on a piece, it’s time to dive into the data! Depending on the piece you’re creating, this might look like scraping websites and doing a ton of research to get the right data you need. Take your time on this, as you want to make sure your data is accurate and relevant.

Design

During this part of the process, it’s a great idea to start mocking up some potential designs. If your piece is smaller, this might be a quick and simple task. If you have a data visualization, this will be longer. Typically, it’s a good idea to create 2–3 mockups and give your client some options.

Development

Once your client signs off on a particular design, it’s time to dive into development.

Copy

The actual copy for the piece doesn’t have to happen after the development, but it’s usually a good idea to allow the copywriter to see how much space they have to work with. What you don’t want is for your copywriter to write 500 words when the designer has made space for 100. Communication is key in this process.

Testing

Once the piece is built, it’s important to test it out on various browsers and devices. Ask people to give it a run and try to fix as many errors/bugs as possible.

Promotion

Depending on your timeline, you might want to start promotion sooner than this. The important thing to note is to consider pre-pitching and reaching out to contacts to gauge their interest in the piece as soon as possible. Keep your contacts updated and be sure to give them everything they need for their stories.

Note: For further reference on pitching journalists, please see this post titled, “Beyond the Media List: Pro-Active Prospecting for Pitching Creative Content.”

Launch

It’s time to launch!

Push

On the day the piece launches, be sure that you are reminding journalists, reaching out to contacts, sharing the piece on social media, and making your social campaigns live.

Celebrate

There are a lot of steps to building a creative piece, so don’t underestimate the work that goes into it! After you launch the piece be sure to have a beer, give yourself a pat on the back, or do whatever it is you need to do to celebrate.


Post-ideation: What we came up with

After the process outlined above, our team came up with 50 States of Bacon.

The idea was simple: Everyone likes bacon, but who likes it the most? Ginny’s caters to a lot of people who love deep frying, so this was on-brand. We decided to use Instagram’s (now difficult to access) API to extract 33,742 photos that were tagged with #bacon and located within the USA. To normalize for population distribution and Instagram usage, we also collected 64,640 photos with the tags #food, #breakfast, #lunch, and #dinner.

To make this data more visual, we made it interactive and included some fun facts for each state.


What happened after we launched the piece?

So, what happened after we launched the piece? Let’s dive in.

Here are some of the larger websites 50 States of Bacon got picked up on.

Website

Domain Authority

Other

US News

94

Tweeted from account (115K+)

Mashable

96

Tweeted from account (6.95M+)

AOL Lifestyle

98

Referred 1,200+ visitors

Eater

85

N/A

Daily Dot

85

Tweeted from account (274K+)

Here is what the LRDs and DA looked like before we launched the piece, and then after 4 months of it being live:

Before Launch

4 Months Later

Linking Root Domains

450

600

Domain Authority

29

36

Let’s break this down by metric. Here’s a graph of the LRDs over time (we launched the piece at about the start of the uplift).

The domain authority didn’t budge until about 4 months after we launched the piece. We weren’t actively pursuing any other link-based campaigns during this time, so it’s safe to say the creative piece had a lot to do with this boost in DA.

Note: Since DA is refreshed with new pools of data, this observation wouldn’t have been as valid if the DA only moved one or two positions. But, since it moved 7 positions so close to the launch of this piece, I feel like it’s safe to assume the piece contributed greatly.

Does this mean if you do a similar piece that your DA will also increase? No. Does it give us a good example on what can happen? Absolutely.


A note on LRDs, DA, and setting expectations

Setting expectations with clients is hard. That’s even more true when you both know that links may be even more important than user engagement with your campaign. To make sure expectations are reasonable, you may want to encourage them to see this campaign as one of many over a long period of time. Then there’s less pressure on any individual piece.

So, it’s important to set expectations upfront. I would never tell a client that we can guarantee a certain number of links, or that we guarantee an increase in domain authority.

Instead, we can guarantee a piece of content that is well-built, well-researched, and interesting to their target audience. You can go one step further and guarantee reaching out to X amount of contacts, and you can estimate how many of those contacts will respond with a “yes” or “no.”

In fact, you should set goals. How much traffic would you like the piece to bring? What about social shares? What seems like a reasonable amount of LRD’s you could gain from a piece like this? Benchmark where you currently are, and make some reasonable goals.

The point I’m trying to make is that you shouldn’t promise your client a certain amount of links because, frankly, you’d be lying to them. Be upfront about what this looks like and show examples of work you’ve done before, but make sure to set their expectations correctly up front to avoid any conflicts down the road.


Conclusion

There’s a lot to be learned from the results of creative campaigns. The goal of this article is to share one piece that I’ve worked on with a client while highlighting some things that I learned/observed along the way. If you’d like to see more campaigns we’ve worked on at Distilled, take a look at our creative roundup for last year.

To wrap things up, here are the key takeaways:

  • Creative pieces take a lot of thought, work, and time. Don’t underestimate the task at hand.
  • Don’t frame the project as only focused on gaining links. Instead, aim for creating a compelling piece of content that is on-brand and has the potential to gain traction.
  • Oftentimes it’s best not to put all your eggs in one basket. Plan multiple pieces throughout the year.
  • If your research is right and you pitch the piece to the correct people, this is a strategy that can gain your domain some very strong LRDs. In this particular case, 110 linking root domains (and counting).
  • …But those links won’t come easy. You need to pre-pitch, remind, and re-pitch your contacts. There are many great pieces of content being published daily; you need to be proactive about ensuring your spots online.
  • There are other benefits to doing pieces like this aside from links. Social shares, brand awareness, and referral traffic are some other metrics to look at.
  • It is possible to increase your DA by doing a piece like this, but it takes time. Be patient, and continue doing great work in the meantime.

Other thoughts

  • There are some arguments to be made that a piece of content like this only has spikes and doesn’t do any good for a brand. I don’t believe this to be true. The way I see it, if a piece is too evergreen, it might not gain as many strong links. At the same time, if a piece is completely left-field and doesn’t fit with the brand, the links might not be as impactful. I think there’s a fine line here; it should be up to your best judgment on the pieces you should create.
  • This piece could potentially be updated every year to gain more links or traction (although it would be a lot more difficult with Instagram drastically limiting their API).
  • It’s possible that this piece didn’t have a direct impact on DA, but because there were no other link acquisition strategies during the 4 months, we can safely assume the two are correlated.
  • There’s an argument to be made that jumping from the 20s to the 30s is much easier than from 40s to 50s when you’re speaking of DA. We know that it gets more difficult to increase DA as it gets higher, so do keep that in mind.

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!


Moz Blog

September 28, 2016  Tags: , , , , , ,   Posted in: SEO / Traffic / Marketing  No Comments

3 Surprising Lessons From Building 26,000 Links

Posted by KelseyLibert

The Fractl team has worked on hundreds of content marketing projects. Along the way, we’ve kept track of a lot of data, including everywhere our client campaigns have been featured, what types of links each campaign attracted, and how many times each placement was shared.

While we regularly look back on our data to evaluate performance per campaign and client, until now we’d never analyzed all of these data in aggregate. After combing through 31,000 media mentions and 26,000 links, here’s what we found.

What-Building-26000-Links-Taught-Us-About-Content-Marketing.jpg

Most high-authority links don’t receive a lot of social shares.

Most marketers assume that if they build links on high-authority sites, the shares will come. In a Whiteboard Friday from last year, Rand talks about this trend. BuzzSumo and Moz analyzed 1 million articles and found that over 75 percent received no social shares at all. When they looked at all links – not just articles – this number rose to around 90 percent.

We (wrongfully) assumed this wouldn’t be the case with high-quality links we’ve earned. It turns out, even the majority of our links on sites with a high Domain Authority (DA) didn’t get any social shares:

  • 52 percent of links with a DA over 89 received zero shares.
  • 50 percent of links with a DA over 79 received zero shares.
  • 54 percent of links with a DA over 59 received zero shares.

On average, our campaigns get 110 placements and 11,000 social shares, yet a single link accounts for about 63 percent of total shares. This means that if you exclude the top-performing link from every campaign, our average project would only get 4,100 social shares.

Since most links don’t yield social shares, marketers with goals of both link building and social engagement should consider a strategy for gaining social traction in addition to a strategy for building a diverse link portfolio.

The social strategy can be as simple as targeting a few key websites that routinely yield high social shares. It’s also helpful to look at target sites’ social media accounts. When they post their own articles, what kind of engagement do they get?

Of all the sites that covered our campaigns, the following five sites had the highest average social shares for our content. We know we could depend on these sites in the future for high social engagement.

sites-with-social-shares.jpg

Exceptions to the rule

Some content can definitely accomplish both high engagement and social shares. The BuzzSumo and Moz study found that the best types of content for attracting links and social shares are research-backed content or opinion pieces. Long-form content (more than 1,000 words) also tends to attract more links and shares than shorter content. At Fractl, we’ve found the same factors – an emotional hook, a ranking or comparison, and a pop culture reference – tend to encourage both social sharing and linking.

Few sites will always link to you the same way.

To ensure you’re building a natural link portfolio, it’s important to keep track of how sites link to your content. You’ll learn if you’re earning a mix of dofollow links, nofollow links, cocitation links, and brand mentions for each campaign. We pay close attention to which types of links our campaigns earn. Looking back at these data, we noticed that publishers don’t consistently link the same way.

The chart below shows a sample of how 15 high-authority news sites have linked to our campaigns. As you can see, few sites have given dofollow links 100 percent of the time. Based on this, we can assume that a lot of top sites don’t have a set editorial standard for link types (although plenty of sites will only give nofollow links).

link type.png

While getting a site to cover your content is something to be celebrated, not every placement will result in a dofollow link. And just because you get a dofollow link from a site once doesn’t mean you should always expect that type of link from that publisher.

Creating a lot of visual assets is a waste of time in certain verticals.

There’s an ongoing debate within Fractl’s walls over whether or not creating a lot of visual assets positively impacts a campaign’s reach enough to justify the additional production time. To settle this debate, we looked at our 1,300 top placements to better understand how publishers covered our campaigns’ visual assets (including both static image and video). This sample was limited to articles on websites with a DA of 70 or higher that covered our work at least four times.

We found that publishers in different verticals had divergent tendencies regarding visual asset coverage. The most image-heavy vertical was entertainment, and the least was education.

assets-per-vertical.jpg

Some of the variation in asset counts is based on how many assets were included in the campaign. Although this does skew our data, we do receive useful information from this analysis. The fact that top entertainment publishers used an average of nine assets when they cover our campaigns indicates a high tolerance for visual content from outside sources. Verticals with lower asset averages may be wary of external content or simply prefer to use a few key visuals to flesh out an article.

Keeping these publisher vertical preferences in mind when developing content can help your team better allocate resources. Rather than spending a lot of effort designing a large set of visual assets for a campaign you want to be placed on a finance site, your time may be better spent creating one or two awesome visualizations. Similarly, it’s worthwhile to invest in creating a variety of visual assets if you’re pitching entertainment and health sites.

Analyzing our entire link portfolio taught us a few new things that challenged our previous assumptions:

  • High DA sites don’t necessarily attract a lot of social engagement. Just because a site that linked to you has a huge audience doesn’t mean that audience will share your content.
  • Most sites don’t consistently use the same types of links. Got a dofollow link from a site one time? Don’t expect it to be the norm.
  • Certain publisher verticals are more likely to feature a lot of visual assets. Depending on which verticals you’re targeting, you might be wasting time on designing lots of visuals.

While I hope you’ve learned something from Fractl’s internal study, I want you to see the broader lesson: the value of measuring and analyzing your own content campaign data as a means to improve your process. If you’ve done a similar analysis of links earned from content marketing, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

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!


Moz Blog

September 27, 2016  Tags: , , , , ,   Posted in: SEO / Traffic / Marketing  No Comments

How to Appear in Google’s Answer Boxes – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Featured snippets are the name of the rankings game. Often eclipsing organic results at the top of the SERPs, “ranking zero” or capturing an answer box in Google can mean increased clicks and traffic to your site. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand explains the three types of featured snippets and how you can best position yourself to grab those coveted spots in the SERPs.

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

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week, we’re going to chat about answer boxes, those featured snippets that Google puts in ranking position zero, oftentimes above the rest of the organic results, usually below some of the top ads, and sometimes they can draw a ton of the clicks away from the rest of the 10 results that would normally appear in Google’s organic ranking.

Now, thanks to our friends up at STAT in Vancouver — Rob Bucci specifically, who did a great presentation at MozCon, he delivered some really interesting research — and so we know a little bit more about the world of featured snippets. Specifically, that there are three kinds of featured snippets or answer boxes, if you prefer, that appear in Google’s results on both mobile and desktop. Now, Rob used desktop-based, but in my research I checked through all the examples that I could find, and the same featured snippets that we saw in desktop were replicated on mobile. So I think this is a pretty one-to-one ratio that’s going on here.

The three were paragraphs, lists, and tables. I’ll show you examples of all of those. But globally, we’re talking about 15% of all queries in STAT’s database that came up with one of these answer boxes.

Paragraphs

So I did a search here for “Istanbul history.” You can see that Wikipedia is not just ranking number one, they’re also ranking number zero. So they have this nice featured snippet. It’s got a photo or an image that’ll appear on the right-hand side on desktop or on top of the text in mobile, and then the snippet, which essentially tries to give you a brief answer, a quick answer to the question. Now, of course, this query is pretty broad, I probably want to know a lot more about Istanbul’s history than the fact that it was a human settlement for 3,000 years. But if you want just that quick answer, you can get those.

There are paragraph answers for all sorts of things. These are about 63% of all the answer boxes are in paragraph format.

Lists

Lists look like this. So I search for “strengthen lower back,” I get, again, that image and then I get — this is from wikiHow, so quality, questionable — but back strengthening exercises. They say, number one, do pelvic tilting. Number two, do hip bridges. Number three, do floor swimming. Number four, do the bird dog exercise. That sounds exciting and painful. This is from an article called “How to Strengthen Lower Back,” and it’s on wikiHow’s URL there. These lists, that are usually in numeric or they can be in bullet point format, so either one can appear, they’re about 19% of answers.

Tables

And then finally, we have ones like this. I searched for “WordPress hosting comparison.” These tables show up in a lot of places where you see a comparison or a chart-type of view. In this case, there actually was a visual of an actual graph, and then performance of the best WordPress hosting companies, the name, the account type, the cost per month. This is from wpsitecare.com. Again, this was ranking, I believe, number two or number three and also ranking number zero. So this is sort of great. I can’t remember who was ranking number one, but they’re ranking ahead of the number one spot, as well, by being in this position zero.

Via WPSiteCare in Google’s results

These are about 16% of answers, so really close on tables and lists. This is via STAT’s featured snippet research, which I will link to. It’s a great PDF document that you can check out from Rob that I’ll point to in the Whiteboard Friday. Also worth checking out is Bill Slawski’s post on how Google pulls structured data from websites’ tables.

In addition to knowing this about featured snippets, that, hey, it’s a fairly substantive quantity of things, it can also jump you above the rest of the results, and there are these three different formats, we had a bunch of questions and we keep getting them on, “How do I get in there?” I actually have some great answers for you. So not only has Rob and his team been doing some research, but we’ve done some research and some testing work here at Moz, and Dr. Pete has done a bunch. So I do have some suggestions, some recommendations for you if you’re going to try and get into these featured snippets.

Best practices to appear in the answer box/featured snippet

1. Identify queries in KW research that, implicitly or explicitly, ask a question.

You actually need to do your keyword research and identify those queries that implicitly or explicitly are asking a question. The question needs to be slightly broader than what Google can deliver directly out of Knowledge Graph.

So for example, if you were to ask, “How old is Istanbul,” they might say “3,000 years old.” They might not even give any citation at all to Wikipedia or any other website. If I were to ask, “How old is Rand Fishkin,” they might put in 37, and they might give absolutely no citation, no link at all, no credit to any page of mine on the web. Again, very frustrating.

So these are essentially queries that we’re looking for in our keyword research that are slightly broader than a single line or single piece of knowledge, but they do demand a question that it’s being answered. You can find those in your keyword research pretty easily. If you go into Keyword Explorer, for example, and you use the suggestions filter for our questions, virtually all of those are. But many things, like Istanbul history, it’s an implicit question, not an explicit one. So you can get featured snippets for those as well.

2. Seek out queries that already use the answer box. If the competition’s doing a poor job, these are often easy to grab.

You want to seek out queries that already use the answer box. So again, if you’re using a tool like Keyword Explorer or something — I believe STAT does this as well — where they will identify the types of results that are in the query. You’re looking for these answer box- or featured snippets-types of results. If they are in there and someone else already owns it, that means you can usually leapfrog them by providing a better-formatted, more accurate, more complete, or higher-ranking answer.

So if you’re ranking number three or number four and the number two or number one result is producing that answer box and you reformat your content (and I’ll talk about how we can do that in a sec), you reformat your content to meet one of these items, the correct one, whichever one is being triggered, you can leapfrog them. You can take that position zero away from your competition and earn it for yourself. It’s especially easy when they’re doing a poor job. If they’ve got a weak result in there, and there are a lot of these that are very weak today, you can often take them away.

3. Ranking #1 can help, but isn’t required! Google will pull from any first page result.

Ranking number one is helpful, but it is not required. Google will pull from any first-page result. In fact, you can test this for yourself. Very frequently, if you do a query that pulls up an answer box and then you take the query string and you add “&num=100″, or you change your settings in Google Search such that Google shows 50 or 100 results, they are often going to pull from a lower-down result, sometimes in the bottom 30 or 40 results rather than the top 10. So Google is essentially triggering this answer result from anything that appears on page one of the query, which is awesome for all of us because it means that we could be ranking number 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, and still get the answer box if we do other things correctly, like…

4. Format and language are essential! Match the paragraph, or table, and use the logical answer to the query terms in your title/caption/label/section header.

Format and language. These are essential. The language means the language used. We need to use the terms and phrases a little more literally than we would with a lot of other types of keyword targeting, because Google really, really seems to like, if I search for “strengthen lower back,” they are showing me an article called “strengthen lower back,” not “back strengthening for newbies” or that kind of thing. They are much more literal in most of these than we’ve seen them be, thanks to technologies like RankBrain and Hummingbird, with other kinds of queries.

We also need to make sure that we’re matching the paragraph, the list, or the table format and that we’re using a logical answer to those query terms. That answer can be in the title of your web page, but it can also be in the caption of an image, the label of a section, or a section header. In this case, for example, part three of this article was back strengthening exercises. That’s where they’re pulling from. In this case, they have “City of Istanbul” and then they have history and that’s the section. In this case, it’s the performance chart that’s shown right at the top of the web page. But they will pull from inside a document. So as long as you’re structured in one section or in the document as a whole correctly, you can get in there.

5. Be accurate. Google tend to favor stronger, more correct responses.

You want to be accurate. Google actually does tend to favor more accurate results.I know you might say, “How do I know I’m being accurate? Some of this information is very subjective.” It is true. Google tends to look at sources that they trust to look for words and phrases and structured information that matches up many, many times over across many trusted sites, and then they will show results that match what are in those trusted sites more often.
So for example, many folks point out, “What about in political spheres where there might be arguments about which one is correct?” Google will tend to prefer the more accurate one from a scientific consensus-type of basis or from trusted resources, like an NPR or a Wikipedia or a census.gov or those kinds of things. Not necessarily from those domains, but information that matches what is on those domains. If your census numbers don’t match what’s on the actual census.gov, Google might start to trust you a little less.

6. Entice the clicks by using Google’s maximum snippet length to your advantage.

This is less about how to rank there, but more about how to earn traffic from it. If you’re ranking in position zero, you might be frustrated that Google is going to take those clicks away from you because the searcher is going to get the answer before they ever need to click on your site, thus you don’t earn the traffic.

We’ve seen this a little bit, but, in fact, most of the time when we rank number zero, we see that we get more traffic than just ranking number one by itself. You’re essentially getting two, because you rank number zero plus whatever normal or organic position you’re in. You can entice the click by using Google’s maximum snippet length to your advantage. Meaning, they are not going to put all the different numbered answers in the lists here from wikiHow, they’re only going to put the first four or five. Therefore, if you have a list that is six or seven or eight items long, someone has to click to see them all. Same thing with the paragraph. They’re only going to use a certain number of characters, and so if you have a paragraph that leads into the next paragraph or that goes long with the character count or the word count, you can again draw that click rather than having Google take that traffic away.

With this information at your disposal, you should be armed and ready to take over some of those result number zeros, get some answer boxes, some featured snippets on your side. I look forward to hearing your questions. I would love to hear if you’ve got some examples of featured snippets, where you’re ranking, and we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

Use Moz Pro to track which SERP features drive traffic to your site.

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!


Moz Blog

September 24, 2016  Tags: , , , , ,   Posted in: SEO / Traffic / Marketing  No Comments



TechNetSource on Facebook




TechNetSource. WebSite Development, Hosting, and Technology Resources and Information.