Announcing the All-New Beginner’s Guide to Link Building

Posted by Trevor-Klein

It is my great pleasure to announce the release of Moz’s third guide for marketers, written by the inimitable 
Paddy Moogan of Distilled:

The Beginner's Guide to Link Building

We could tell you all about how high-quality, authoritative links pointing to your site benefit your standing in the SERPs, but instead we’ll just copy the words straight from the proverbial horse’s mouth:

“Backlinks, even though there’s some noise and certainly a lot of spam, for the most part are still a really, really big win in terms of quality for search results.”
— Matt Cutts, head of the webspam team at Google, 
2/19/14

Link building is one area of SEO that has changed significantly over the last several years; 
some tactics that were once effective are now easily identifiable and penalized by Google. At the same time, earning links remains vital to success in search marketing: Link authority features showed the strongest correlation with higher rankings in our 2013 ranking factors survey. For that reason, it has never been more important for marketers to truly earn their links, and this guide will have you building effective campaigns in no time.

Read the Beginner’s Guide to Link Building

What you’ll learn


1. What is Link Building, and Why Is It Important?


This is where it all begins. If you’re brand new to link building and aren’t sure whether or not it’s a good tactic to include in your marketing repertoire, give this chapter a look. Even the more seasoned link earners among us could use a refresher from time to time, and here we cover everything from what links mean to search engines to the various ways they can help your business’s bottom line.


2. Types of Links (Both Good and Bad)

Before you dive into building links of your own, it’s important to understand the three main types of links and why you should really only be thinking about two of them. That’s what this short and sweet chapter is all about.


3. How to Start a Link Building Campaign

Okay, enough with the theory; it’s time for the nitty-gritty. This chapter takes a deep dive into every step of a link building campaign, offering examples and templates you can use to build your own foundation. 


4. Link Building Tactics

Whether through ego bait or guest blogging (yes, that’s 
still a viable tactic!), there are several approaches you can take to building a strong link profile. This chapter takes a detailed run through the tactics you’re most likely to employ.


5. Link Building Metrics

Now that the links are rolling in, how do you prove to ourselves and our clients that our work is paying off? The metrics outlined in this chapter, along with the tools recommended to measure them, offer a number of options for your reports.


6. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Link Building

If we’re preaching to the choir with this chapter, then we’re thrilled, because spammy links can lead to severe penalties. Google has gotten incredibly good at picking out and penalizing spammy link building techniques, and if this chapter isn’t enough to make you put your white hat on, nothing is.


7. Advanced Link Building Tips and Tricks

Mastered the rest of what the guide has to offer? Earning links faster than 
John Paulson earns cash? Here are a few tips to take your link building to the next level. Caution: You may or may not find yourself throwing fireballs after mastering these techniques.


Enough talk, let’s get to the guide!

The PDF

When we released the Beginner’s Guide to Social Media, there was an instant demand for a downloadable PDF version. This time, it’s ready from the get-go (big thanks to David O’Hara!).

Click here to download the PDF.

Thanks

We simply can’t thank Paddy Moogan enough for writing this guide. His expertise and wisdom made the project possible. Thanks as well to Ashley Tate for wrangling the early stages of the project, Cyrus Shepard for his expert review and a few key additions, Derric Wise and David O’Hara for bringing it to life with their art, and Andrew Palmer for seamlessly translating everything onto the web.

Now, go forth and earn those links!

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

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

How to Build Your Own Free Amazon Organic Search Rank Tracker

Posted by n8ngrimm

Do you want a free tool that tracks your organic search rankings in Amazon? Yes? You’re in luck.

I am going to show you how to build your own organic search rank tracking tool using Kimono Labs and Excel.

This is a follow-up to 
my last post about how to rank well in Amazon, which covered the basic inputs to Amazon’s ranking algorithm. It received a lot of comments about my rank-tracking prototype in Google Docs; the Moz community is overflowing with smart people who immediately saw the need for a tool to track their progress. As luck would have it, something in Google Sheets broke the day after I published, so I had to replicate the rank tracking tool in Excel using the SEOTools for Excel plugin. The Excel tool is a low-setup way to record your progress, but if you want to track more than a few terms, it is very laborious. I’ve since built a more (but not completely) automated, scalable way to track rankings using Kimono Labs to scrape the data and Excel to run the reports.

(Shout out to Benjamin Spiegel for turning me on to Kimono Labs through an excellent Moz post.)

Pros and cons of rank tracking

The death of
Google rank tracking has been widely reported, so I feel compelled to review why Amazon rank tracking is both useful and a terrible KPI.

Amazon rank tracking is great because…

  • You get feedback on your content optimization. How else are you going to determine if your content changes actually produce a positive effect?
  • It can provide a possible explanation for increases in listing traffic and sales. Amazon doesn’t provide traffic source data so you’re often left guessing about the source of changes.

Amazon rank tracking is a terrible KPI because…

  • You have no way of assigning a monetary value to a rank. Amazon does not report on search query volume, you don’t know how well your users convert for each keyword, you don’t know the click-through-rate at each position, and you don’t know what percentage of users use organic search vs. other methods of finding your product.
  • Many factors besides rankings will drive your success on Amazon. Inventory outages, winning the Buy Box, and a good seller rating will impact sales drastically and directly. You can even assign revenue and profit numbers to some of those attributes.

So use rankings as a leading indicator of traffic and sales improvements and to see if your changes are making a difference.

Overview

To build our rank tracking tool, we’re going to

Build the scraper

Extract structured data from an Amazon search

Kimono Labs has some great documentation on using their tools. If, at any point, you get lost or want to do something slightly different from my scraper, you can find
their documentation here. I’m going to show you the fastest way to copy my existing scraper so you can get up and running as quickly as possible.

After you
create an account with Kimono Labs and install their bookmarklet or Chrome extension, the first thing you need to build a scraper is a URL to start scraping. I’m using this search in Amazon as my start URL: http://www.amazon.com/s?field-keywords=juicer. It’s a basic keyword search for the word “juicer.”

Click on the Kimonify bookmarklet, then click on the data model view.

Then click on Advanced

We’re going to make two properties.

To make things faster, you can copy the Xpath I use to identify the listing title and the ASIN (Amazon’s unique product identifier) from here:

Listing: div > div > div > h3 > a
ASIN: div > div.prod.celwidget

Next we’ll select which attributes to scrape from the elements we identified with the XPath. For the Listing property’s attributes, we’ll select the Text Content and href then click Apply.

For the ASIN attribute, we’ll select id and name. Deselect the other attributes that are selected by default, then click Apply.

So long as Amazon hasn’t changed the number of results they display by the time you are reading this, the two yellow circles at the top of the toolbar will say 15. That means that for each property defined, Kimono Labs has identified 15 different instances on the page. Does your screen look like this? If so, click Save.

Give your scraper a fancy name, tag it if you want, and decide how often you want it to run. I set mine to run daily. Kimono Labs will store a new version of the data every time it runs so if you don’t record it one day, the older data will still be there. I could have it scrape hourly but then it’s more laborious to go back through the data and find the version I want to save.

Click on the link to view your scraper. To verify that the data is gathering correctly, click on the Preview Results tab and select the CSV endpoint. You should see the title in the Listing.text field, a link to the listing in Listing.href, the ASIN in ASIN.name, and the rank in ASIN.id.

Finally, to make sure that Kimono Labs is gathering and saving data correctly, go to the API Detail tab and switch Always Save to On.

Then go to Pagination/Crawling and make sure crawling is turned on.

Congratulations! You just made a scraper that will record the ranking of every product for the keyword “juicer” every single day!

Which types of searches do you want to monitor?

There are many types of searches in Amazon. You can search for a keyword, brand, category, and any combinations of those. I’ll explain the URL parameters used to generate the searches so users can track whichever ranking is most important to your business. You will use these parameters to construct your list of URLs to crawl in Kimono Labs.

To start with, this URL can be used as a base for all Amazon searches: 
http://www.amazon.com/s. We will add the parameter name-value pairs to the end to construct our search.

Name Example Value Description
field-keywords Juicer Add any keyword that you want to track
field-brandtextbin Breville Add any brand name. It must exactly match the brand name listed for the product in Amazon.
node 284507 Amazon’s ID number for a category. You can look through this list of
Amazon’s top-level category nodes, download the most relevant Browse Tree Guide for every node, or simply navigate to the category and find it in the URL.
page 2 If you want to scrape beyond the first page, you’ll need to list a new URL for every page you want to scrape.

As an example, here’s the search for the keyword Juicer, with a brand name of Breville, in the Food & Kitchen category, page 2.

http://www.amazon.com/s?field-keywords=juicer&field-brandtextbin=breville&node=284507&page=2.

Here are a few notes that will be helpful (even critical) as you construct your searches.

  • Place a question mark (?) before your first parameter
  • Separate subsequent parameters with an ampersand (&)
  • You cannot search for a brand by itself; it can only be used in conjunction with a keyword or a node. I don’t know why.

Once you create every search URL, add them to the “List URLs to Crawl” field in Kimono Labs on the Pagination/Crawling tab.

Transform and store the data in Excel

Now that we’re scraping and storing rankings data for your searches every day, we want to display the data in a useful format. You could talk to a developer to hook into your Kimono Labs API, or you can download the data as a CSV and store it in Excel.

I’ll use this Excel template to transform my data into a more readable format, store the data, and create reports.

Transform

First, download the data from your Kimono Labs endpoint or results preview.

Paste the data into cell A2 of the Excel file. If the data ends up filling only the first column, go to Data >> Text to Columns. Select Delimited, click Next, select Comma, and click Finish. Your data should end up looking like this.

I use the table on the right to transform the data in a few key ways. I’ll explain each.

ASIN: I don’t transform this data; I just copy it as is. If it shows a number instead of an alphanumeric string, that’s an ISBN. It’s probably a book, movie, or cd that’s ranking

Title: Again, I’m not transforming the title, just copying it over.

Keyword: The keyword is included in the Listing.href on the left as part of the URL. I made a really long formula to extract just the keyword and replace plus symbols with spaces.

Date: This uses Excel’s TODAY() function which simply returns the current days date. If you’re adding data that is from a previous day, replace this date with whichever date is correct.

Rank: I remove the “result_” from the beginning of the ASIN.id field on the left and add one since the rankings start at zero.

Store historical data

If you continue adding data day after day, you can begin to see a change in rankings; copy the data from the table on the right (not the headers).

Then go to the Historical sheet and paste values at the bottom of the table. You just want to paste values, not formulas:

The table should automatically expand to include the new data. If not, click on the corner of the table and drag it down to include the new data. Next, click on the Data tab in the ribbon, then click Refresh All; the pivot tables in the Table and Graph sheets will now include the new data.

Build some useful reports with pivot tables and charts

In the Excel Template, I added a Pivot Table and Pivot Chart that you can use to report on the Data. The Historical data sheet has six days of rankings data. You may want to skip this section and just watch Annie Cushing’s videos on creating
pivot charts and pivot tables. Once you are comfortable with pivot charts and tables, you can look at the data however you want.

Here are a few useful rankings charts and tables I use to look at rankings data. I’ve included the visualization as well as my settings in the screenshot.

All ranked keywords for a product over time

This chart displays all the keyword rankings for one product over time. I use the ASIN to filter the chart instead of the title, because the title for a listing can change over time but the ASIN won’t. This product ranks for both of our keywords and has moved around slightly throughout the six days we’ve tracked (there are no rankings on 7/31 and 8/1 for “masticating juicer” because I was not scraping data for this keyword on those days).

Two competing products for one keyword

This chart compares two products for one keyword. If you are monitoring a key competitor or have multiple products for your brand, this is a useful view. I used the filters to select the keyword “juicer” and the two products.

Rank by day

To quickly pick out which products improved or lost ranking over a time period, I use a table. In the row labels I group each rank by keyword then ASIN. I add Title below ASIN so I can recognize which product is moving up or down.

To the right of the table, I added a formula to subtract the rank on 8/2 from the rank on 8/5 (=G7-D7). To make it more obvious which products improved and which did worse, I added conditional formatting to highlight negative numbers with red and positive numbers with green.

Is there another view you’d like me to demonstrate? Ask me in the comments.

Limitations

This system for tracking and reporting rankings is not perfect.

You must manually download the data from Kimono Labs to Excel to run a report. That’s a bit clunky. This process could be automated with some code.

Kimono Labs is still in free Beta so stability is an issue. Scraping, as a general rule, fails fairly often and I’ve experienced spotty page loading. They allow you to scrape and store an impressive amount of data for free though. If you know of a better, free tool be sure to let everyone know in the comments.

Excel itself is a limitation. If you get beyond 500,000 rows of data it will start to crawl. That may sound like a lot, but if you want to track 5 pages of results for 100 keywords every day, you will generate 8,000 rows of data per day. Excel is not a long-term solution.

My company is working on a rankings tool that will address all of these limitations, but it is a couple months away. If you want an email when it’s ready, fill out the form
here. For now, I’m living with the limitations of this system and getting some great insight.

Questions?

This post has a really long list of steps so if you have an issue, let me know via email (my first name @dnaresponse.com) or 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

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

How to Use Facebook for Targeted Content Promotion

Posted by Paddy_Moogan

As much as content and advertising agencies would like you to believe it, content produced by a business doesn’t just go viral on it’s own. There is often something that pushes it really, really hard when it first goes live which gains momentum, and eventually the content is spread far and wide enough that it doesn’t need you to push it anymore. Those of you who have read Good to Great may be making associations with the flywheel principle, but that’s a post for another day!

In this post I want to talk about one of the ways you can give your content a nudge in the right direction and get more people looking at it: Facebook advertising.

I won’t go into too much detail on the basics of Facebook advertising; there are lots of resources and posts out there which do this. Instead, I want to dive straight into the methods you can use to promote your content to an audience on Facebook.

One of the advantages of using Facebook is the fine level of detail you can go to in terms of targeting an audience. In my opinion, this is one of the areas where Facebook is actually better than Google when it comes to advertising. They have so many options when it comes to targeting your audience:

moz-2.png

You can go much deeper

What isn’t as well known, however, is that you can define your own audiences on Facebook and advertise to them directly. There are two core ways that you can do this which I’ll explain in this post:

  • Custom audiences
  • Lookalike audiences

These methods allow you to push your content to a wider audience, but in a very targeted way. Yes, you are paying to advertise your content, which may feel a bit strange. However, it can be a great way of supporting your outreach and PR efforts.

Let’s explore each one.

Custom audiences

You can use a feature called custom audiences to define exactly who it is that you’d like to advertising your content to.

Why this is useful for content promotion

When it comes to promoting your content, getting a lot of traffic to the content is good, but ideally you don’t just want random visitors, you want targeted visitors. Whilst it is unlikely that you’ll generate loads of direct conversions from a piece of content, you still want to attract visitors who you stand a chance of converting to customers at some point in the future.

As you can see above, you can get very granular with standard Facebook targeting. Custom audiences allow you to do even more and mix in data from your existing, non-Facebook customer lists too. This means that you can promote your content to an audience that is already somewhat engaged with your brand and is a little bit more likely to be interested in it. This is far better than a scatter-gun approach where you just try and get as many eyes on a piece of content as possible – regardless of how targeted they are.

Facebook gives you a number of ways to define your custom audience:

Let’s go through each of these in turn and look at what they can do.

Data file custom audience

This option allows you to upload a CSV file which Facebook will then process to try and find matches with people who are already on Facebook. There are a few options in terms of what data you can upload and use to match people against:

  • Email address
  • Facebook User ID
  • Phone number
  • Mobile advertiser ID (such as Android or Apple user ID)

Once you’ve uploaded the file, it shouldn’t take Facebook more than an hour or so to process the file and find matches from its users. Note that you need to upload a decent number of records in order to target them, Facebook recommends at least 100 people. Otherwise, the audience is likely to be too small to have any kind of impact or reach.

After processing, you’ll see that the audience you’ve just created will be available to advertise to when you create a new ad:

From here, you can just create an ad as normal but it will be targeted just at this list of people.

MailChimp custom audience

I love MailChimp, we use it all the time at Distilled. Facebook makes it super easy to connect to your MailChimp account and target your email list.

If you have a list of customers or newsletter subscribers, then they are already familiar with your brand. So targeting them and showing off your awesome content could help bring them back to your website in a way that isn’t directly sales / conversion focused. This can also work well to try and drive more traffic to your Facebook page or to generate likes, etc.

Custom audience from your mobile app

I haven’t had the opportunity to try this one yet, but it’s clear that it could be pretty powerful if you have a mobile app and are able to integrate the Facebook SDK for iOS or Android.

Basically, you can record user interactions with your app and choose to bucket people who take certain actions into a custom audience.

Custom audience from your website

This feature allows you to track visitors to your website using a Facebook remarketing pixel. Once you’ve installed the pixel, Facebook will begin building a list of visitors to your page who are also logged into Facebook and push these people into a custom audience. There are loads of ways to use this, but I’ll come onto a very specific way you can use this shortly.

Lookalike audiences

There is a lot of power in the lookalike audiences feature on Facebook, I’ll talk through a few examples, but first, let me briefly explain what lookalike audiences are in case you’re not familiar.

Facebook allows you to say, “hey, here is a list of my existing customers, go find me people on Facebook who are similar to them and put those people into a new list.”

I don’t know the secret sauce or methodology that Facebook uses here, but I’d imagine it’s a case of mashing together things like:

  • Demographic data
  • Interests
  • What someone has liked
  • Location

Once they’ve discovered the trends in this data, they find other people on Facebook who share these trends and put them into a new list. You can then push adverts for your content towards this list of people. 

Why this is useful for content promotion

The beauty of this method is that you’re reaching a brand new audience in a very, very targeted way. Again, it’s not a scatter-gun approach of just trying to target as many people as possible. Instead, you’re targeting people who look very similar to your existing audience.

How to create a lookalike audience

Facebook makes it really easy, you go to Facebook Ads and click on the following:

Then click on:

You will then see something like this:

You can choose the source of your lookalike audience which, as you can see, can be either:

  • An existing custom audience
  • A conversion tracking pixel
  • A Facebook page

I’ll go into detail on these shortly and give some examples of what you can do here.

Next, you need to choose a country for your audience. Currently, Facebook only allows you to select one country at a time. So if you wanted to create lookalike audiences across lots of countries, you’ll need to create a lookalike list for each country.

The final option is to tell Facebook what balance you want between a new audience that is similar to your existing audience vs. the reach of the new audience. If you’re starting off with a pretty small audience, then you may have to move the needle more towards reach, but I’d generally try and keep things as closely related to your existing audience as possible. Otherwise you’re losing the benefits that a lookalike audience gives you.

Once you’ve created your audience, it will be available to you in the dropdown menu when you create a new ad:

Next, let’s get into some examples of how you can use lookalike audiences to get more relevant eyes on your content.

Create a lookalike audience based on your email list

Above, we talked about how you can create a custom audience by uploading a list of customer email addresses or syncing Facebook with your MailChimp account. This alone is pretty powerful, but you can also use your email list as a source of a lookalike audience. You’ll need to create a custom audience first, but once you do, you can use this as a source and tell Facebook to find you a whole new audience who look like your existing email list.

This is really useful if you have:

  • A list of customer email addresses
  • A list of subscribers to your blog content
  • A list of newsletter subscribers

Create a lookalike audience based on visitors to your content

You can’t really do this one in advance of launching your content, but I think it can be a very powerful method of extending the reach of your content in a very targeted way. What we’re going to do is track all the people who view our content, then ask Facebook to find us a new audience who look like those people. Let me illustrate with an example using this piece of content we created at Distilled:

It stands to reason that people who click through to this piece of content are probably going to share a few things:

  • An interest in music
  • An interest in one or more of the singers mentioned in the list
  • Probably someone who attends live music from time to time

If we placed a Facebook conversion pixel on this page, Facebook will detect those people who view the content and are logged into Facebook at the same time. This means that when grouping all those people together, Facebook will probably find shared interests, demographics and likes which they can use to define a new lookalike audience. In this example, the new audience is likely to be interested in music and gigs. 

If we then advertise this content to this new audience, it’s likely to get their attention because they will be similar to the existing audience who are already viewing the content. This is super, super targeted.

So how do you do this?

The first step is to place a Facebook conversion pixel on your piece of content. You can do this by following these steps.

Click on conversion tracking:

Click on create pixel:

Now you have some options to select:

Next, Facebook will give you some tracking code which you need to paste it into the <head> section of your page.

Once you’ve done this, Facebook will start tracking the pixel and you’ll see a new row in your conversion tracking report:

It will take a bit of time for data to start coming in, but when it does and you’ve reach a good amount of views, you can create a lookalike audience by clicking on:

That’s it! You can then select this new lookalike audience when you create an ad and push adverts for your content towards people who share the same attributes of people already viewing your content.

To wrap things up

Hopefully you can see the power of Facebook ads, in particular the custom and lookalike audience features to help you promote your content in a very, very targeted way. It may feel a bit unnatural to pay to promote content (and not your product) but this is a very cost-effective way of reaching a big audience and it can really help support your regular outreach efforts.

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

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

Link Echoes (a.k.a. Link Ghosts): Why Rankings Remain Even After Links Disappear – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

One of the more interesting phenomena illustrated by Rand’s IMEC Lab project is that of “link echoes,” sometimes referred to as “link ghosts.” The idea is that if we move a page up in rankings by pointing links to it, and then remove those links, the bump in rankings often remains.

In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand explains what’s going on.

One quick note: Rand mentions a bit.ly link in this video that isn’t quite accurate; here’s the correct one. =)

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

Video Transcription

Howdy Moz fans and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week I’m going to talk a little bit about link echoes. This is the reverberation of the effect of a link across Google’s link graph and across the rankings, that has an impact even after a link has been removed. In the past, we have also referred to these as link ghosts, but I think link echoes is actually a much better name. I appreciate some folks pointing that out for me.

Let me show you exactly what I’m talking about. So, as you might know, I’ve been running a number of tests, and those tests have been happening through a project I call IMEC Lab. If you go to http://bit.ly/imeclab, you will find this project ongoing.

We’ve been performing a number of tests over the last six months. I started with a smaller group. The group has gotten bigger. So we’ve been able to test some really fascinating things. A number of those have been around tests related to links. I’m going to share one of those tests, because it helps really highlight what’s going on with link echoes.

So we had a page point ranking number 31 for a key phrase, a not very competitive keyword search phrase, and the only reason I’m not transparently sharing these, at least not yet, is because we prefer that Google didn’t know all of the websites and pages that we’re pointing links from. Otherwise, they could potentially mess with the test. We like to keep the test results as clean as possible, and so we’re not disclosing these for right now.

Another page, page B ranking number 11 for the same query. So page ranking for query A, that’s page A ranking number 31, page B ranking number 11. Of course, our first step . . . well, this was one of the steps in our test was we pointed 22 links from 22 different websites, all the same pages of those sites to both A and B. We were actually trying to test anchor text. So we pointed anchor text exact match links at A, non-match at B. We wanted to see which one would boost it up. Some of the links we put first, some of the links we put second. We tried to control a bunch of variables.

We ran tests like these many times. I think this particular one we repeated four or five different times. In this case, we saw A, the one that was ranking number 31, it moved up to position one. Just 22 links were able to move it, bam. Anchor text links able to move it up to position one. Anchor text links obviously still pretty darn powerful. We could see that in each of our tests.

B we pointed those same 22 links at, that moved up 6 positions. Remember it didn’t have the exact match anchor text, so it moved up to position five, still quite impressive.

Then we did something else. We took those links away. We removed all the links, and this is pretty natural. We want to run more tests. We’re going to use some of these same sites and pages, so we removed all the links, no longer exist. The next week, they’d all been indexed. What happened?

Well, gosh, page A, that was ranking number 31 and moved up to 1, even after all those pages that were linking to it had been indexed with no link there anymore by Google, didn’t move. It stayed in position number one. That’s pretty weird. Almost the same thing happened with result B. It moved down one position. It’s ranking number six.

Even weirder, this happened over four and a half months ago. We’re now in the middle end of July. This was in mid-April, early April. That’s a very long time, right? Google’s indexed these pages that we’re linking many times, never seen the links to them. As far as we can tell, there are no new links pointing to either of those pages. At least we haven’t seen them, and none of the link tools out there have seen them. So it’s possible, maybe some new links.

Here’s where it gets weird. This effect of these link tests, remaining in place long after the link had been removed, happened in every single link test we ran, of which I counted eight where I feel highly confident that there were no confounding variables, feeling really good that we followed a process kind of just like this. The links pointed, the ranking rose. The links disappeared, the ranking stayed high. Eight different consecutive tests every single time. In fact, there wasn’t one test where, when we removed the links, the rankings fell back to their original position. Some of them like this one fell a position or two. Almost everything that we moved from page two or three stayed on page one after we linked to it, even after removing the links.

This argues strongly in favor of a phenomenon that some SEOs have speculated about for a good amount of time. I believe one of them is Martin Panayotov — I might not be pronouncing his name correctly — and, of course, Moz contributor Michael King, iPullRank. Both of them had commented on a post years ago saying link ghosts, aka link echoes, are real. You guys should look into them. Sorry it took us so long to look into this, but this is fascinating.

Now, there could be a number of explanations behind this link echo phenomenon, the continuing reverberation of a link’s effect on a ranking. It could be that maybe that page ends up performing well in Google’s analysis of its user and usage data. It ranks well for this relatively unpopular query. It’s ranking number one. And you know what? Google’s finding that the click-throughs are still pretty high. There’s not a lot of pogo sticking back to the results. Maybe they’re going, “Hey, this page looks legit. Let’s leave it here,” even after the links disappear.

It could be that the site or page was bolstered by other factors, other ranking factors that we may not know about. It could be that every one of these eight times when we moved it up, maybe by moving it up through links we inadvertently did something else to it. Maybe that helped it rank higher for other pages, and those other pages generated links each of these times. That’s fairly unlikely when you repeat the test this many times, but not impossible.

Or it could be that Google actually has something in their algorithm around link echoes, where they say, “Hey, you know what? After a link has disappeared, that doesn’t necessarily mean we should take away the value of that link as a vote forever and ever.” In fact, maybe we should, for a long time, perhaps depending on how many links the page has or how uncompetitive the search results are, or something that they say, “You know what? Let’s leave some remnant, some echo, a ghost of that link’s value in the ranking equation for the site or page.” These things are all possible.

What’s fascinating about practice to me is that it means that, for a lot of us who worry tremendously about link reclamation, about losing links on sites or pages that may produce things freshly, but then remove them on blogs that don’t always stay consistent across time, that we may be getting more value than we think from a link that disappears in the future. Of course, learning more about how Google works, about their operations is just fascinating to me. Google says their mission is to organize the world’s information and to make it universally accessible and useful. Well, I think part of Moz’s mission and my mission is to organize information about how Google works and make it universally accessible and useful. That’s what I hope we’re doing with some of these tests, particularly around link ghosts.

So I’m looking forward to some great comments. I’m sure many of you are going to have things that you’ve observed as well. If you’d like to follow along with this and other tests, I’d suggest checking out . . . you can go to bit.ly/mozmadscience and see the full presentation from my MozCon talk, in which I talk about link ghosts and a number of other tests we’ve been performing. I’ll be sharing a few of those individually here on Whiteboard Friday as well. But link echoes is such a fascinating one, I thought we should bring that out right away.

Thanks everyone. Take care. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday.

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

August 15, 2014  Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,   Posted in: SEO / Traffic / Marketing  No Comments

Is that Mind-Blowing Title Blowing Your Credibility? You Decide

Posted by Isla_McKetta

tantalus


Image of Tantalus courtesy of Clayton Cusak

What if I told you I could teach you to write the perfect headline? One that is so irresistible every person who sees it will click on it. You’d sign up immediately and maybe even promise me your firstborn.

But what if I then told you not one single person out of all the millions who will click on that headline will convert? And that you might lose all your credibility in the process. Would all the traffic generated by that “perfect” headline be worth it?

Help us solve a dispute

It isn’t really that bad, but with all the emphasis lately on
headline science and the curiosity gap, Trevor (your faithful editor) and I (a recovering copywriter) started talking about the importance of headlines and what their role should be in regards to content. I’m for clickability (as long as there is strong content to back the headline) and, if he has to choose, Trevor is for credibility (with an equal emphasis on quality of the eventual content).

credible vs clickable headlines

What’s the purpose of a headline?

Back in the good ol’ days, headlines were created to sell newspapers. Newsboys stood on street corners shouting the headlines in an attempt to hawk those newspapers. Headlines had to be enough of a tease to get readers interested but they had to be trustworthy enough to get a reader to buy again tomorrow. Competition for eyeballs was less fierce because a town only had so many newspapers, but paper cost money and editors were always happy to get a repeat customer.

Nowadays the competition for eyeballs feels even stiffer because it’s hard to get noticed in the vast sea of the internet. It’s easy to feel a little desperate. And it seems like the opportunity cost of turning away a customer is much lower than it was before. But aren’t we doing content as a product? Does the quality of that product matter?

The forbidden secrets of clickable headlines

There’s no arguing that headlines are important. In fact, at MozCon this year,
Nathalie Nahai reminded us that many copywriters recommend an 80:20 ratio of energy spent on headline to copy. That might be taking things a bit far, but a bad (or even just boring) headline will tank your traffic. Here is some expert advice on writing headlines that convert: 

  • Nahai advises that you take advantage of psychological trigger words like, “weird,” “free,” “incredible,” and “secret” to create a sense of urgency in the reader. Can you possibly wait to read “Secret Ways Butter can Save Your Life”?
  • Use question headlines like “Can You Increase Your Sales by 45% in Only 5 Minutes a Day?” that get a reader asking themselves, “I dunno, can I?” and clicking to read more.
  • Key into the curiosity gap with a headline like “What Mother Should Have Told You about Banking. (And How Not Knowing is Costing You Friends.)” Ridiculous claim? Maybe, but this kind of headline gets a reader hooked on narrative and they have to click through to see how the story comes together.
  • And if you’re looking for a formula for the best headlines ever, Nahai proposes the following:
    Number/Trigger word + Adjective + Keyword + Promise = Killer Headline.

Many readers still (consciously or not) consider headlines a promise. So remember, as you fill the headline with hyperbole and only write eleven of the twelve tips you set out to write, there is a reader on the other end hoping butter really is good for them.

The headline danger zone

This is where headline science can get ugly. Because a lot of “perfect” titles simply do not have the quality or depth of content to back them.

Those types of headlines remind me of the Greek myth of Tantalus. For sharing the secrets of the gods with the common folk, Tantalus was condemned to spend eternity surrounded by food and drink that were forever out of his reach. Now, content is hardly the secrets of the gods, but are we tantalizing our customers with teasing headlines that will never satisfy?

buzzfeed headlines

For me, reading headlines on
BuzzFeed and Upworthy and their ilk is like talking to the guy at the party with all those super wild anecdotes. He’s entertaining, but I don’t believe a word he says, soon wish he would shut up, and can’t remember his name five seconds later. Maybe I don’t believe in clickability as much as I thought…

So I turn to credible news sources for credible headlines.

washington post headlines

I’m having trouble deciding at this point if I’m more bothered by the headline at
The Washington Post, the fact that they’re covering that topic at all, or that they didn’t really go for true clickbait with something like “You Won’t Believe the Bizarre Reasons Girls Scream at Boy Band Concerts.” But one (or all) of those things makes me very sad. 

Are we developing an immunity to clickbait headlines?

Even
Upworthy is shifting their headline creation tactics a little. But that doesn’t mean they are switching from clickbait, it just means they’ve seen their audience get tired of the same old tactics. So they’re looking for new and better tactics to keep you engaged and clicking.

The importance of traffic

I think many of us would sell a little of our soul if it would increase our traffic, and of course those clickbaity curiosity gap headlines are designed to do that (and are mostly working, for now).

But we also want good traffic. The kind of people who are going to engage with our brand and build relationships with us over the long haul, right? Back to what we were discussing in the intro, we want the kind of traffic that’s likely to convert. Don’t we?

As much as I advocate for clickable headlines, the riskier the headline I write, the more closely I compare overall traffic (especially returning visitors) to click-throughs, time on page, and bounce rate to see if I’ve pushed it too far and am alienating our most loyal fans. Because new visitors are awesome, but loyal customers are priceless.

Headline science at Moz

At Moz, we’re trying to find the delicate balance between attracting all the customers and attracting the right customers. In my first week here when Trevor and Cyrus were polling readers on what headline they’d prefer to read, I advocated for a more clickable version. See if you can pick out which is mine…

headline poll

Yep, you guessed it. I suggested “Your Google Algorithm Cheat Sheet: Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird” because it contained a trigger word and a keyword, plus it was punchy. I actually liked “A Layman’s Explanation of the Panda Algorithm, the Penguin Algorithm, and Hummingbird,” but I was pretty sure no one would click on it.

Last time I checked, that has more traffic than any other post for the month of June. I won’t say that’s all because of the headline—it’s a really strong and useful post—but I think the headline helped a lot.

But that’s just one data point. I’ve also been spicing up the subject lines on the Moz Top 10 newsletter to see what gets the most traffic.

most-read subject lines

And the results here are more mixed. Titles I felt like were much more clickbaity like “Did Google Kill Spam?…” and “Are You Using Robots.txt the Right Way?…” underperformed compared to the straight up “Moz Top 10.”

While the most clickbaity “Groupon Did What?…” and the two about Google selling domains (which was accurate but suggested that Google was selling it’s own domains, which worried me a bit) have the most opens overall.

Help us resolve the dispute

As you can tell, I have some unresolved feelings about this whole clickbait versus credibility thing. While Trevor and I have strong opinions, we also have a lot of questions that we hope you can help us with. Blow my mind with your headline logic in the comments by sharing your opinion on any of the following:

  • Do clickbait titles erode trust? If yes, do you ever worry about that affecting your bottom line?
  • Would you sacrifice credibility for clickability? Does it have to be a choice?
  • Is there such thing as a formula for a perfect headline? What standards do you use when writing headlines?
  • Does a clickbait title affect how likely you are to read an article? What about sharing one? Do you ever feel duped by the content? Does that affect your behavior the next time?  
  • How much of your soul would you sell for more 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!


Moz Blog

August 14, 2014  Tags: , , , ,   Posted in: SEO / Traffic / Marketing  No Comments



TechNetSource on Facebook




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