Marketing Resolutions: Moving from Lag to Lead

Posted by Dr-Pete

It’s that time of year – time for all of us to promise to be better people starting January 1st: people who always drink eight 8-oz. glasses of water, floss every night, and never watch 12-hour marathons of Real Housewives when we should be working. Even at work, we’re busily crafting our Q1 and 2015 plans for world domination, or at least for not-getting-fired, and trying to ignore how painfully short we fell in Q4 and 2014. This time, it will be different.

The Problem with “Lag” Goals

This is a post about marketing goals, and the insanity of failing the same way over and over. I think it might help to start with a more personal example, though. Let’s say that you make a typical New Year’s resolution – you resolve to lose 10 lbs. in Q1 of 2015. What will happen when April 1, 2015 arrives? You’ll step on the scale and look back at your progress (or, just as likely, lack thereof):

At this point, you’ve either succeeded or failed, but when you step on the scale, your fate is no longer in your hands. You’re looking back at the past, measuring lag metrics – put simply, the event has already happened, and you’re just waiting for your grade.

There’s nothing wrong with accountability, and some of our lag metrics are necessary. If your company plans to spend M in 2015 and doesn’t want to borrow money, you’d better make more than M – that’s just math.

The problem is simple – when it comes time to step on the scale, our fates are already sealed. We’ve set an objective, but we’ve given ourselves no clear path to influencing that objective. We’re trapped always looking backward.

What if, instead, you resolved to exercise 20 minutes a day, 3 days a week?

Congratulations, you’ve just set a lead goal. While both goals are measurable, only one is really actionable. Resolving to exercise 3 times a week is forward-looking – you can measure as you go and check off the boxes every day (or nearly every day). If you get into trouble, you’ll know early.

The Myth of Marketing Goals

Of course, we set lag goals in business all of the time. We want our content to generate 5M pageviews in Q1, or Post X to deliver 3,000 re-tweets, or our ranking to go from #3 to #2, or conversion to go up to 3.5%.

It’s fine to have objectives, but I’m going to say something controversial – I believe we are suffering from a mass-delusion. We are confusing saying big numbers out loud with actually achieving something, as if simply giving the number a name has conjured a benign spirit of profitability.

Let me pick on myself for a minute. In late 2013, I set a goal of writing three blogs posts that collectively earned 100,000 views (any three, it didn’t matter). I failed to achieve that goal, which like all failure, didn’t feel very good. The truth is, I set myself up to fail – I had no plan of action, no definable progress, just a number painted on a bulls-eye.

It’s worse than that, though. Think about what I implied when I said out loud “I want 100,000 views!” (I beseech thee, oh ancient gods of analytics!). Can you spot the problem? I implied that, prior to making my wish, I
didn’t want 100,000 views. It’s as if I just woke up that morning and realized more was better.

Of course, I
always wanted more traffic – that’s painfully obvious. The problem is that the vast majority of marketing goals boil down to “Give me more!” It’s fine to be ambitious, and it’s necessary to refine your ambitions into achievable numbers. What’s not fine is to confuse that most basic step 1 with actually accomplishing something. We sit in boardrooms, shout big numbers to the wind, and pat each other on the backs, as if shouting was a virtue.

A Story of Lead Metrics

At the end of last year I tried an experiment – at the time, I didn’t know I was replacing lag goals with lead goals, but that ended up being exactly what I did. Long story short, I decided to try something new on Moz’s Google+ account. As part of my research, I have a lot of screenshots of features Google seems to be testing. They often aren’t enough to justify a blog post, but it occurred to me that they might be a good fit for Google+.

So, I set out in typical fashion – setting a lag goal to post these screenshots “regularly” (failing to define what that actually meant) and then achieve 1,000 total +1s and 500 total shares over a 6-month period (each post would only take me about 5 minutes, so it was a minimal investment).

Then I had that sinking feeling – how exactly was I going to achieve this, and how often should I post? I looked at my recent data and decided that 2 posts per week was realistic. So, I changed my goal to posting 2 interesting screenshots per week for 6 months (52 total). My goal had changed from lag to lead.

Ultimately, because my path was clear and I could hold myself accountable every week, I published 59 updates to Google+ based on this project. What’s interesting is what happened when I stepped on the scale:

Those 59 updates ended up getting 1,711 +1s and 799 shares. By creating an actionable lead goal, I actually eclipsed my original lag goals (beating them by +71% and +60%, respectively). Even better, I had a repeatable process that I could continue to use to achieve future success.

The Agony of Success

That last point is important, and I don’t want it to be lost at the end of one sentence you probably skimmed. We’re all aware of the feeling when we step on the metaphorical scale and realize we failed to achieve our goals. I could never describe it to you as vividly as you can probably picture it yourself.

Ultimately, though, it wasn’t failure that convinced me of the need for lead goals in my own marketing plans – it was success. Over the past couple of years, I’ve been fortunate enough to have a couple of major content marketing successes. Chief among them is the 
Google Algorithm History, which has topped 1.5M views in its lifetime and is actually getting more traffic as time goes by (it’s already topped 600K views and half a million uniques in 2014).

You’re probably thinking that this is a real tragedy for me. Here’s the problem – when we succeed, it obviously feels good, we celebrate, and we have our moment. When that moment passes, though, we’re left with what can be a terrible, sinking feeling, that I can only summarize as: “Now what?”

Success raises expectations, but so often we don’t understand why we succeeded. Even when we do understand why, the people around us often just think we can “do more of that!”, even if “that” (whatever that is) can’t really be repeated. I can’t just build another Google Algorithm History.

The Content Team at Moz has faced a similar struggle with the 
Beginner’s Guide to SEO. The Beginner’s Guide has topped 2.3M unique visitors in 2014, by far the most successful piece of content we’ve ever created. Naturally, we want to repeat that success, but what does that mean? We can’t just take something completely unique and do it again. Maybe our success wasn’t an accident, but it wasn’t exactly a formula, either, and success can leave us feeling just as helpless as failure.

So, why are lead goals different? They’re different because they outline specific, measurable actions. If those actions succeed, you’ll automatically have a path forward. That’s not to say that every successful action will continue to work forever or that you’ll be exponentially successful, but when the moment comes that you think “Now what?”, you’ll at least have a piece of the answer.

The Evolution of Objectives

I’m not pretending that these ideas are completely original. Over the past few years, we’ve all seen an evolution in goal setting. Here at Moz, like a growing number of companies, we use the OKR process. Even
Google has championed OKRs recently.

If you’re not familiar with it, OKR stands for “Objectives and Key Results”. The idea is fairly simple – instead of just creating a broad, ill-defined goal, you have to break that goal down into specific, measurable results. As this process has evolved, many people have added a critical action layer, breaking down the steps necessary to achieve those key results (which, in turn, will signal that the objective has been achieved).

Sound familiar? Key results are essentially lag goals, and actions are lead goals, working together in what theoretically is perfect harmony. Here’s the problem – most of us continue to carry all of our bad habits into this process. So, ultimately it looks something like this:

We focus a ton of time creating an important-sounding objective, agonize over turning that into a few key results (to make the boss happy), and then slap together a list of actions 5 minutes before our review. Most of our time is spent at the top of the process, which is completely backward. This is what the process should look like.

Yes, well-thought-out objectives are important, but actions don’t just magically trickle down from them. Ultimately, those objectives have to be built on a foundation of concrete actions and well-defined key results. We’re outcome focused, because outcomes sound impressive, but we’re so obsessed with perfecting the outcome statement that we put little or no thought into how to make it happen.

Your Challenge for 2015

I’m not suggesting any of you abandon lag goals and metrics. We have to evaluate outcomes. If nothing else, other people are going to judge us based on traditional outcomes, like traffic and rankings and social mentions. The trick is to take those outcomes and chart a path to them, using goals we can measure along that journey (and not just looking back when it’s over).

If it helps, think of lead goals as hypothesis testing. For example, I’ve been studying Moz content this year and have determined that my engagement on Twitter and Facebook is falling while our engagement on Google+ is increasing. In other words, Google+ success seems more highly correlated to broader success metrics than other social networks. Unfortunately, Google+ is also where I spend the least amount of my time. So, I’ve set myself a challenge in Q1 to spend a specific amount of time each day on Google+ and actively share other people’s content.

I can’t guarantee that will work, no more than I can guarantee Moz will meet its financial goals. However, I can measure my progress along the way, course-correct as needed, and, if that experiment works, I can continue my actions into Q2 to generate more successful outcomes.

So, I’d challenge you to experiment for yourself. You don’t need to sell your entire organization on lead goals. You don’t have to dump your lag goals (in fact, please don’t). Just take 50% of the time you’d normally put into crafting that perfect objective statement and use it to map out a path of specific, measurable actions you can take every day. If they work, keep doing them. By the end of the year, you may be amazed by the results.

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December 20, 2014  Tags: , , , ,   Posted in: SEO / Traffic / Marketing  No Comments

Information Architecture for SEO – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

It wasn’t too long ago that there was significant tension between information architects and SEOs; one group wanted to make things easier for humans, the other for search engines. That line is largely disappearing, and there are several best practices in IA that can lead to great benefits in search. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand explains what they are and how we can benefit from them.

For reference, here’s a still of this week’s whiteboard!

Information Architecture for SEO Whiteboard

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat a little bit about information architecture, and specifically how you can organize the content of your website in such a fashion to make information architecture help your SEO and your rankings and how search engines interpret your pages and the links between those.

I want to start by talking broadly about IA and the interaction with SEO. IA is designed to say, “Hey, we want to help web users accomplish their goals on the website quickly and easily.” There are many more broad things around that, but basically that’s the concept.

This actually is not in conflict at all, should almost never be in conflict, even a little bit, with the goals that we have around SEO. In the past, this was not always true, and unfortunately in the past some mythology got created around the things that we have to worry about that could conflict between SEO and information architecture.

Here we’ve got a page that’s optimal for IA, and it’s got this top navigation and left side navigation, some footers, maybe a big image at the front and some text. Great, fine. Then, we have this other version that I’m not going to call it optimal for SEO, because it’s actually not optimal for SEO. It is instead SEO to the max! “At the Tacoma Dome this Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!”

The problem is this is kind of taking SEO much too far. It’s no longer SEO, it’s SE . . . I don’t know, ridiculousness.

The idea would be things like we know that keyword rich anchors are important, and linking internally we want to be descriptive. We know that as people use those terms and links other places on the web, that might help our rankings. So instead of making the navigation obvious for users, we’re going to make it keyword stuffed for SEO. This makes no sense anymore, as I’m sure, hopefully, all of you know.

Text high up on the page, this actually does mean something. It used to mean a little more than it does. So maybe we’re going to take oh, yeah, we want to have that leader image right up at the top because that grabs people’s attention, and the headline flows nicely into that image. But for SEO purposes, we want the text to be even higher. That doesn’t make any sense either.

Even if there is some part of Google’s algorithm, Bing’s algorithm, or Baidu’s algorithm, that says, “Oh, text higher up on the page is a teensy little spattering more meaningful,” this is totally overwhelmed and dwarfed by the fact that SEO today cares a ton about engagement. If people come to this page and are less engaged, are more likely to click the Back button, are less likely to stay here and consume the content and link to it and share it and all these kinds of things, it’s going to lose out even to the slightly less optimized version of the page over here, which really does grab people’s attention.

If your IA folks and your usability folks and your testing is showing you that that leader image up top there is grabbing people’s attention and is working, don’t break it by saying, “Oh, but SEO demands content higher on the page.”

Likewise, if you have something where you say, “Hey, in order to flow or sculpt the link equity around these things, we don’t want to link to this page and this page. We do want to link to these things. We want make sure that we’ve got a very keyword heavy and link heavy footer so that we can point to all the places we need to point to, even though they’re not really for users. It’s mostly for engines. Also, BS. One of the things that modern engines are doing is they’re kind of looking and saying, “Hey, if no one uses these links to navigate internally on a site, we’re not going to take them into consideration from a ranking perspective either.”

They have lots of modeling and machine learning and algorithmic ways to do that, but basic story is make links for users that search engines will also care about, because that’s the only thing that search engines really do want to care about. So IA and SEO, shouldn’t be in conflict.

Important information architecture best practices

Now that we know this, we can move on to some important IA best practices, generally speaking IA best practices that are also SEO best practices and that most of the time, 99.99% of the time work really well together.

1. Broad-to-narrow organization

The first one, in general, it’s the case that you want to do broad to narrow organization of your content. I’ll show you what I mean.

Let’s say that I’ve got a website about adorable animals, a particularly fun one this week, and on my adorable animals page I’ve got some subsections, sub-pages, one on the slow loris, which of course is super adorable, and hedgehogs, also super adorable. Then getting even more detailed from there, I have particular pages on hedgehogs in military uniforms — that page is probably going to bring down the Internet because it will be so popular — and hedgehogs wearing ridiculous hats. These are two sub-pages of my hedgehog page. My hedgehog page, subset of my adorable animals page.

This is generally speaking how I want to do things. I probably would not want to organize, at least from the top level down in my actual architecture for my site, I probably wouldn’t want to say adorable animals and here’s a list of hedgehogs in military uniforms, a list of hedgehogs wearing ridiculous hats, a list of slow loris licking itself. No. I want to have that organization of broad to more narrow to more narrow.

This makes general sense. By the way, for SEO purposes it does help if I link back and forth one level in each case. So for my hedgehog page, I do want to link down to my hedgehogs in military uniforms page, and I also want to link up to my adorable animals page.

You don’t have to do it with exactly these keyword anchor text phrases, that kind of stuff. Just make sure that you are linking. If you want, you can use breadcrumbs. Breadcrumbs are very kind of old-fashioned, been around since the late ’90s, sort of style system for showing off links, and that can work really well for some websites. It doesn’t have to be the only way things can work though.

2. Link to evergreen pages from fresh content

When you’re publishing fresh content is when I think many SEOs get into a lot of trouble. They’re like, “Well, I have a blog that does all this, but then I have the regular parts of my site that have all of my content or my product pages or my detailed descriptions. How do I make these two things work together?”

This has actually become much easier but different in the last five or six years. It used to be the case that we would talk, in the SEO world, about not having keyword cannibalization, meaning if I’ve got an adorable animals page in my main section of my website, I don’t actually want to publish a blog post called “New Adorable Animals to Add to My Collection,” because now I’m competing with myself and I’m diluting my link juice.

Actually, this has gotten way easier. Google, and Bing as well, have become much more intelligent about identifying what’s new content, what’s old, sort of evergreen content, and they’ll promote one. You even sometimes have an opportunity to get both in there. Certainly if you’re posting fresh content that gets into Google news, the blog or the news section can be an opportunity to get in Google news. The old one can be an opportunity to just stay in the search results for a long time period. Get ting links to one doesn’t actually dilute your ranking ability for the other because of how Google is doing much more topic focused associations around entire websites.

So this can be actually a really good thing. However, that being said, you do still want to try and link back to the most relevant, evergreen kind of original page. If I publish a new blog post that has some aggregation of hedgehogs in military uniforms from the Swiss Naval Academy — I don’t know why Switzerland would have a navy since they’re landlocked — I would probably want to take that hedgehogs in Swiss military uniforms and link back to my original one here.

I wouldn’t necessarily want to do the same thing and link over here, unless I decide, hey, a lot of people who are interested in this are going to want to check out this article too, in which case it’s fine to do that.

I would worry a little bit that sometimes people bias to quantity over quality of links internally when they’re publishing their blog content or publishing these detail pages and they think, “Oh, I need to link to everything that’s possibly relevant.” I wouldn’t do that. I would actually link to the things that you are most certain that a high number, a high percent of the users who are enjoying or visiting or consuming one page, one piece of information are really going to want in their journey. If you don’t have that confidence, I wouldn’t necessarily put them in there. I wouldn’t try and stack those up with tons of extra links.

Like I said, you don’t need to worry about keyword cannibalization. If you want to publish a new article every week about hedgehogs in military uniforms, you go for it. That’s a great blog.

3. Make sub-pages if intent is unique, combine if not

Number three, and the last one here, make these sub-pages when there’s unique intent. Information architecture is actually really good about this in practice. They basically say, “Hey, why would we create a new page if we already have a page that serves the same goals and same intent?” One of the reasons that people used to say, “Well, I know that we have that, but it doesn’t do a great job of targeting phrase A and phrase B, which both have the same intent but aren’t going to rank for those two separate phrases A and B.”

That’s also not the case anymore in the SEO world. Google and Bing have both become incredibly good at sorting out searcher intent and matching those to the pages and the keywords that fit those intents, even if the keyword match isn’t perfect one-to-one exact.

So if I’ve got a page that’s on slow lorises yawning and another one on slow lorises that are sleepy, are those really all that different? Is the intent of the searcher very different? When someone is searching for a sleepy loris, are they looking for one that’s probably yawning? Yeah. You know what? I would say these are the same intent. I would make a single page for them.

However, over here I’ve got a slow loris in a sombrero and a slow loris wearing a top hat. Now, these are two very different kinds of head wear, and people who are searching for sombreros are not going to want to find a slow loris wearing a top hat. They might want to see a cross link over between them. They might say, “Oh, top hat wearing slow lorises are also interesting to me.” But this is very specific intent, different from this one. Two different intents means two different pages.

That’s how I do all of my information architecture when it comes to a keyword and SEO perspective. You want to go broad to narrow. You want to not worry too much about publishing fresh content, but you do want to link back to the original evergreen. You want to make sure that if there are pages or intents that are exactly the same, you make a single page. If they’re intents that are different, you have different pages targeting those different intents.

All right everyone, look forward to the comments, and we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

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December 19, 2014  Tags: , , ,   Posted in: SEO / Traffic / Marketing  No Comments

How to Leverage the Best Content Formats of 2014

Posted by Amanda_Gallucci

The past year, major publishers have run the full gamut from listicles with clickbait headlines to well-researched, in-depth storytelling. Each format worked for different audiences and contexts, and as publishers repeatedly tested new types of content, they found several winning combinations.

By taking a look at the strategy behind why some of the most popular content styles of 2014 performed so well, brands can learn to leverage and utilize these formats for their own content. 

The local snapshot

Whether taking the form of a list, interactive map, or article, content that focused in on a certain segment of the population, or compares and contrasts diverse segments, made up some of the most widely shared and discussed content.


The New York Times created a map that represented America’s palate by showing the most searched for Thanksgiving recipe in every state: Thanksgiving Recipes Googled in Every State.

Why it works

The more closely content is personally tied to the reader, the more they are invested in it, so content that is focused on a particular area or demographic has a high appeal to the people in that group. People feel one of two ways about this type of content: either they find it to be a spot-on representation of their community, or they starkly disagree with how they were perceived. In both cases, the opinion is strong and people want to share with others about either the content’s accuracy or their reasons why the author didn’t get it right. Moreover, content that pits different places or groups against each other further increases a person’s desire to defend their loyalty to their group, as well as strikes up curiosity and conversations when people are genuinely surprised to find out how different they are from others.

How to spin it

Dig into your sales data and see if you can find any interesting trends as far as different groups of people favoring different products or services. You can also use social engagement tools and social listening to find interesting patterns in online behavior. Depending on the type of insights you discover, you can decide if a map or another type of graphic makes the most sense to present your findings.


Investing a great deal of resources into producing a piece of content aimed at only one group can seem to be less of an opportunity than something all encompassing, however sometimes when you try to cover your whole audience at once, you end up reaching no one on a deep enough level. Try out both hyperlocal content and content that compares different local segments to see which performs best.

The success formula

Whether giving tips from specific celebrities or business leaders, or rounding up the commonalities between “every great leader” or “all accomplished entrepreneurs,” content that claimed to give the secret steps to success was quite popular. Just a step up from a listicle, these articles paired first-person accounts and statistics with helpful tips.


Forbes turned research about how people deal with stress into tips on how to avoid it: How Successful People Squash Stress.

Why it works

People want to be successful and turn to informational and self-help content in order to better themselves. Pairing tips with people’s real stories or data largely increases the credibility of the advice, giving the readers more reason to believe that the content can help them achieve their own success.

How to spin it

Make the success formula specific to your niche. Go beyond interviewing thought leaders about their backgrounds and general advice. Q&As with bright individuals don’t always produce high traffic and social shares because while the person answering questions is successful, the questions and answers don’t produce any concrete takeaways from which others can learn. Compile actual schedules and to-do lists that show how effective workers spend their time, describe what tools a professional in your space uses to accomplish certain tasks, or explain the story behind the numbers that show a group or company’s growth. Peel away any generic and clichéd recommendations to reveal the details that make up a repeatable method other people in the field can use.


Sometimes the “steps” in posts like these are overly simplistic and not completely fleshed out. For instance, “start by setting goals,” on its own has very little value and it’s something that people have heard before. Giving more specific examples about the types of goals to set, tips and tricks of how to set obtainable goals or keep track of goals, or a behind-the-scenes look at a successful individual or brand’s goals with the details of how they were achieved can turn advice into useful content.

The nonfiction story

While micro content may have excelled in 2014, there were also many notable long-form pieces of strong journalism. Publishers sought to put names and faces to cold facts about poverty, crime, and other important issues that are sometimes glazed over as mere statistics. The combination of detailed accounts and telling photography or data visualizations alongside careful research brought previously hidden subjects to light.


Newsweek told the story of what really happens in one of the most dangerous cities of America in Murder Town USA (aka Wilmington, Delaware).

Why it works

Powerful storytelling will always be compelling. Humanizing facts makes people take interest because it allows them to relate and moves them to feel a certain way.

How to spin it

Start by asking questions about data patterns and doing research to see if you can determine the source of unique trends. This doesn’t have to involve extensive reporting; one interview with a person who has a unique point of view can be all you need to tell a remarkable story.


In-depth stories are only worth the reader’s time investment if the author has something interesting to share, so this format is not easy to produce consistently in every subject. It can be a risk to take the time needed to produce something on such a grand scale only for it to not to gain traction. A big piece of content like this should not be attempted unless the idea is vetted among people in your circle of influence and there is a large enough promotional strategy around it to help it take off.

The crowdsourced list

The latest trend with publishers like BuzzFeed and Huffington Post is listicle posts that round up the funniest/saddest/most absurd stories from different threads on Reddit or other forums. Editors read through a thread and select what they deem to be the 10+ best posts under that topic, and publish the list either as is or including new images and light commentary. BuzzFeed has also taken this a step further and created posts that are simply open-ended questions people can answer for the chance to be featured in a follow-up post that includes the top answers.


BuzzFeed turned the Ask Reddit question “What is the most George Constanza-esque reason you broke up with someone?” into this post: The 32 Most Ridiculous Reasons Real Couples Have Broken Up.

Why it works

Like any listicle, this content is bite-sized, organized, and easy to digest. It also saves people time from reading through mediocre stories if they were to read through the entire forum thread themselves, or helps them discover this type of content in the first place if they aren’t a regular Redditor or forum user. If the editor accurately picks the most interesting posts to include, the content is quite informative and/or entertaining, making it highly shareable.

How to spin it

Create your own version of the crowdsourced listicle by collecting user generated questions, testimonials, or relevant experiential stories. These tidbits can be used for a blog post or combined with visuals to make an interesting SlideShare. Whether openly asking questions on social media to increase engagement and start conversations, or sending out a survey, there are plenty of ways to get shareable information from your audience.


While creating a list of other people’s responses might appear lazy, having an eye for what people will enjoy reading and taking the time to sift through endless threads and posts is still work. No, not every brand should be emulating the BuzzFeed and Huffington Post “quick content” listicle style, however disregarding it as low quality can also be a mistake. A look at any of BuzzFeed‘s sponsored content case studies shows that the publisher can create tremendous brand lift, especially in the millennial segment. Quality should be viewed in the eyes of the reader, and so when listicles like these are getting many thousands of views and social shares, they should be seen as inherently valuable to at least a certain group of people.

Content before format

While format is important in each of the above cases, none of these pieces would have succeeded had they not been backed with substance. Each example includes elements that make up strong content:

  1. Use existing resources. While each of these pieces of content was unique, they all pulled from existing content or data sources. Being creative with what’s already available is a huge resource saver as well as a great way to include content and data to which people already have a connection.
  2. Get specific. All content is better when it’s backed up with examples and stories from real people and places. Details are what bring stories to life and make them memorable.
  3. Appeal to emotions. Whether you want to make someone laugh, stroke their ego, or raise concern, every piece of content should be tied to a goal of making the reader feel something. People have little motivation to engage with content that hasn’t altered their mood or opinion.

As you begin to slate content for 2015, keep an open mind for trying out new formats and experimenting with these styles that have proved effective. With the right combination of short and long-form content, you can reach all parts of your audience while balancing your resources. 

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December 18, 2014  Tags: , , , ,   Posted in: SEO / Traffic / Marketing  No Comments

Location is Everything: Local Rankings in Moz Analytics

Posted by MatthewBrown

Today we are thrilled to launch 
local rankings as a feature in Moz Analytics, which gives our customers the ability to assign geo-locations to their tracked keywords. If you’re a Moz Analytics customer and are ready to jump right in, here’s where you an find the new feature within the application:

local keywords moz analytics

Not a Moz Analytics customer? You can take the new features for a free spin…

Take a free 30-day trial

One of the biggest SEO developments of the last several years is how frequently Google is returning localized organics across a rapidly increasing number of search queries. It’s not just happening for “best pizza in Portland” (the answer to that is
Apizza Scholls, by the way). Searches like “financial planning” and “election guide” now trigger Google’s localization algorithm:

local search results election guide

This type of query underscores the need to track rankings on a local level. I’m searching for a non-localized keyword (“election guide”), but Google recognizes I’m searching from Portland, Oregon so they add the localization layer to the result.

Local tends to get lost in the shuffle of zoo animal updates we’ve seen from Google in the last couple of years, but search marketers are coming around to realize the 2012 Venice update was one of the most important changes Google made to the search landscape. It certainly didn’t seem like a huge deal when it launched; here’s how Google described Venice as part of the late lamented
monthly search product updates they used to provide:

  • Improvements to ranking for local search results. [launch codename "Venice"] This improvement improves the triggering of Local Universal results by relying more on the ranking of our main search results as a signal.

Seems innocent enough, right? What the Venice update actually kicked off was a long-term relationship between local search results (what we see in Google local packs and map results) and the organic search results that, once upon a time, existed on their own. “Localized organics,” as they are known, have been increasingly altering the organic search landscape for keywords that normally triggered “generic” or national rankings. If you haven’t already read it, Mike Ramsey’s article on
how to adjust for the Venice update remains one of the best strategic looks at the algorithm update.

This jump in localized organic results has prompted both marketers and business owners to track rankings at the local level. An increasing number of Moz customers have been requesting the ability to add locations to their keywords since the 2012 Venice update, and this is likely due to Google expanding the queries which trigger a localized result. You asked for it, and today we’re delivering. Our new local rankings feature allows our customers to track keywords for any city, state, or ZIP/postal code.

Geo-located searches

We can now return rankings based on a location you specify, just like I set my search to Portland in the example above. This is critical for monitoring the health of your local search campaigns, as Google continues to fold the location layer into the organic results. Here’s how it looks in Moz Analytics:

tracking local keyword ranking

A keyword with a location specified counts against your keyword limit in Moz Analytics just like any other keyword.

The location being tracked will also be displayed in your rankings reports as well as on the keyword analysis page:

local keyword difficulty

The local rankings feature allows you to enter your desired tracking location by city, state, neighborhood, and zip or postal code. We provide neighborhood-level granularity via dropdown for the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. The dropdown will also provide city-level listings for other countries. It’s also possible to enter a location of your choice not on the list in the text box. Fair warning: We cannot guarantee the accuracy of rankings in mythical locations like Westeros or Twin Peaks, or mythical spellings like Pordland or Los Andules.

An easy way to get started with the new feature is to look at keywords you are already tracking, and find the ones that have an obvious local intent for searchers. Then add the neighborhood or city you are targeting for the most qualified searchers.

What’s next?

We will be launching local rankings functionality within the Moz Local application in the first part of 2015, which will provide needed visibility to folks who are mainly concerned with Local SEO. We’re also working on functionality to allow users to easily add geo-modifiers to their tracked keywords, so we can provide rankings for “health club Des Moines” alongside tracking rankings for “health clubs” in the 50301 zip code.

Right now this feature works with all Google engines (we’ll be adding Bing and Yahoo! later). We’ll also be keeping tabs on Google’s advancements on the local front so we can provide our customers with the best data on their local visibility.

Please let us know what you think in the comments below! Customer feedback, suggestions, and comments were instrumental into both the design and prioritization of this feature.

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December 17, 2014  Tags: , , , ,   Posted in: SEO / Traffic / Marketing  No Comments

Google Algorithm Update Promotes Mobile-Friendly Searching

Google Algorithm Update Promotes Mobile-Friendly Searching is a post by SEO expert Melissa McGibbon. For information about our SEO services or more great SEO tips and tricks, visit the blog.

Google Algorithm Update SEO

Does your site pass the mobile-friendly test?

While you were busy shopping for your Thanksgiving turkey Google quietly implemented another algorithm that affects websites that haven’t converted to a responsive (mobile-friendly) platform. If your website is not optimized for mobile traffic, you need to make it a priority. Google anticipates that 2015 will be the biggest year yet in mobile device searching while desktop searching will continue to decline.

Google hinted of this coming algorithm update, and will be rolling it out globally over the next few weeks.  In their ever-increasing efforts to provide users with a better search experience Google created criteria for what defines a site as mobile-friendly and provides a testing tool to determine if sites pass the mobile-friendly test.

Googlebots will use the factors listed below to determine a site’s mobile friendliness.

  • The content must not be wider than the screen.
  • Links must not be too close together to make it easy for users to select the right link.
  • Text must be large enough to read without zooming.
  • The site must avoid using software for mobile devices, such as Flash, because Googlebots cannot read its content.
  • Sites must fit content to the screen device, whether smartphone or tablet, so users do not have to scroll horizontally or zoom.

To see if your site passes the mobile friendly test click here.

Websites that do not embrace mobile-friendly practices will suffer the dreaded demotion of their sites in Google’s index. Sites that score high in the mobile-friendly category will be rewarded with increased rank results while sites that score poorly for will be penalized. Sites that pass the mobile-friendly test will receive a special label next to their web pages in search results that indicate its mobile-friendly optimization compliance.

Of course this is advantageous for site developers and search engine optimizers who will likely experience a surge in business from site owners needing updates. 25 percent of all websites—roughly 74.6 million—are now built on WordPress. To meet the demand of Google’s mobile-friendly compliance developers have created several plugins that enable sites to exhibit a mobile-friendly version, however this option is more of a quick fix. Sites that fully convert to a responsive design will have the advantage over sites that are using plugins.

In addition to creating a Mobile-Friendly Test Tool, Google has also added a new section in the search traffic menu of Webmaster Tools that indicates a site’s Mobile Usability. It surveys usability errors that include touch element closeness, content size, font size, viewport configuration, and flash usage.

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Google Algorithm Update Promotes Mobile-Friendly Searching is a post by SEO expert Melissa McGibbon. For information about our SEO services or more great SEO tips and tricks, visit the blog. » Blog

December 17, 2014  Tags: , , , , ,   Posted in: SEO / Traffic / Marketing  No Comments

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