SEO for Copywriters: Tips on Measuring SEO Impact – Next Level

Posted by BrianChilds

Welcome to the newest installment of our educational Next Level series! In our last episode, Brian Childs shared a few handy shortcuts for targeting multiple keywords with one page. Today, he’s back to share how to use Google Analytics to measure the SEO impact of your content. Read on and level up!

Understanding how to write web content for SEO is important. But equally important is knowing how to measure the SEO impact of your content after it’s published. In this article I’ll describe how to use Google Analytics to create reports that evaluate the performance of articles or the writers creating those articles.

Let’s start with some definitions.

What is SEO content?

Search engine optimized content is the strategic process of researching and writing website copy with the goal of maximizing its impact in the SERPs. This requires having a keyword strategy, the ability to conduct competitive analyses, and knowledge of current ranking factors.

If you’re a copywriter, you’ve likely already been asked by your clients to create content “written for SEO.” Translating this into action often means the writer needs to have a greater role in both strategy and research. Words matter in SEO, and spending the time to get them right is a big part of creating content effectively. Adding SEO research and analysis to the process of researching content often fits nicely.

So the question is: How do I measure the effectiveness of my content team?

We go in greater depth on the research and reporting processes during the Moz seminar SEO for Content Writers, but I’ll explain a few useful concepts here.

What should I measure?

Well-defined goals are at the heart of any good digital marketing strategy, whether you’re doing SEO or PPC. Goals will differ by client and I’ve found that part of my role as a digital marketer is to help the client understand how to articulate the business goals into measurable actions taken by visitors on their site.

Ideally, goals have a few essential traits. They should:

  • Have measurable value (revenue, leads generated, event registrations)
  • Be identifiable on the site (PDF downloads, button clicks, confirmation page views)
  • Lead to business growth (part of an online campaign, useful to sales team, etc.)

Broad goals such as “increase organic sessions on site” are rarely specific enough for clients to want to invest in after the first 3–6 months of a relationship.

One tool you can use to measure goals is Google Analytics (GA). The nice part about GA is that almost everyone has an account (even if they don’t know how to use it) and it integrates nicely with almost all major SEO software platforms.

Lay the foundation for your SEO research by taking a free trial of Moz Pro. After you’ve researched your content strategy and competition with Keyword Explorer and Open Site Explorer, you can begin measuring the content you create in Google Analytics.

Let me show you how I set this up.

How to measure SEO content using Google Analytics

Step 1: Review conversion actions on site

As I mentioned before, your SEO goals should tie to a business outcome. We discuss setting up goals, including a worksheet that shows monthly performance, during the Reporting on SEO Bootcamp.

During the launch phase of a new project, locate the on-site actions that contribute to your client’s business and then consider how your content can drive traffic to those pages. Some articles have CTAs pointing to a whitepaper; others may suggest setting up a consultation.

When interviewing your client about these potential conversion locations (contact us page, whitepaper download, etc), ask them about the value of a new customer or lead. For nonprofits, maybe the objective is to increase awareness of events or increase donations. Regardless of the goal, it’s important that you define a value for each conversion before creating goals in Google Analytics.

Step 2: Navigate to the Admin panel in Google Analytics

Once you have goals identified and have settled on an acceptable value for that goal, open up Google Analytics and navigate to the admin panel. At the time of writing this, you can find the Admin panel by clicking on a little gear icon at the bottom-left corner of the screen.

Step 3: Create a goal (including dollar value)

There are three columns in the Admin view: Account, Property, and View. In the “View” column, you will see a section marked “Goals.”

Once you are in Goals, select “+New Goal.”

I usually select “Custom” rather than the pre-filled templates. It’s up to you. I’d give the Custom option a spin just to familiarize yourself with the selectors.

Now fill out the goal based on the analysis conducted in step #1. One goal should be filled out for each conversion action you’ve identified. The most important factor is filling out a value. This is the dollar amount for this goal.

The Google description of how to create goals is located here: Create or Edit Goals

Step 4: Create and apply a “Segment” for Organic Traffic

Once you have your goals set up, you’ll want to set up and automate reporting. Since we’re analyzing traffic from search engines, we want to isolate only traffic coming from the Organic Channel.

Organic traffic = people who arrive on your site after clicking on a link from a search engine results page.

An easy way to isolate traffic of a certain type or from a certain source is to create a segment.

Navigate to any Google Analytics page in the reports section. You will see some boxes near the top of the page, one of them labeled “All Users” (assuming segments haven’t been configured in the past).

Select the box that says “All Users” and it will open up a list with checkboxes.

Scroll down until you find the checkbox that says “Organic Traffic,” then select and apply that.

Now no matter what reports you look at In Google Analytics, you’ll only be viewing the traffic from search engines.

Step 5: Review the Google Analytics Landing Page Report

Now that we’ve isolated only traffic from search engines using a Google Analytics Segment, we can view our content performance and assess what is delivering the most favorable metrics. There are several reports you can use, but I prefer the “Landing Pages” report. It shows you the page where a visitor begins their session. If I want to measure blog writers, I want to know whose writing is generating the most traffic for me. The Landing Pages report will help do that.

To get to the Landing Pages report in Google Analytics, select this sequence of subheadings on the left sidebar:

Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages

This report will show you, for any period of time, which pages are delivering the most visits. I suggest going deeper and sorting the content by the columns “Pages per session” and “Session Duration.” Identify the articles that are generating the highest average page depth and longest average session duration. Google will see these behaviors and signal that you’re delivering value to your visitors. That is good for SEO.

Step 6: Review the conversion value of your writers

Remember those goals we created? In the far right columns of the Landing Pages report, you will find the value being delivered by each page on your site. This is where you can help answer the question, “Which article topics or writers are consistently delivering the most business value?”

If you want to share this report with your team to help increase transparency, I recommend navigating up to the top of the page and, just beneath the name of the report, you’ll see a link called “Email.”

Automate your reporting by setting up an email that delivers either a .csv file or PDF on a monthly basis. It’s super easy and will save you a ton of time.

Want to learn more SEO content tips?

If you find this kind of step-by-step process helpful, consider joining Moz for our online training course focused on SEO for copywriters. You can find the upcoming class schedule here:

See upcoming schedule

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!


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July 17, 2017  Tags: , , , , ,   Posted in: SEO / Traffic / Marketing  No Comments

How "Message Match" Can Lift Conversion Rates by 212.74% [Case Study]

Posted by bsmarketer

Google offered to build a free mobile website for our past client. But rather than take them up on that very generous offer, they hired us to rebuild it for them (at about ,000+ times Google’s initial estimate).

Smart or dumb?

The problem is that shoving an outdated legacy design onto a smaller screen won’t fix your problems. In fact, it’ll only amplify them. Instead, the trick is to zoom back out to the big picture. Then it’s a fairly straightforward process of:

  1. Figuring out who your customers are
  2. What they want
  3. And how they want it

That way, you can align all of the critical variables (thereby making your “messages match”) in order to improve their experience. Which, if done correctly, should also improve your bottom line; in the end, our client saw a 69.39% cost per conversion decrease with a 212.74% conversion rate lift.

Here’s how you can do the same.

How AdWords pricing works

AdWords is an auction. Kinda, sorta.

It’s an auction-based system where (typically) the highest bidder receives the best positions on the page. But that’s not always the case. It’s possible for someone to rank in the coveted 1–2 positions above you and actually pay less per click than you. (Not to mention convert those people at a higher percentage once they hit your site — but we’ll leave that until later.)

Any marketer worth their salt knows what’s coming up next.

The Quality Score begins to dictate effective pricing. It’s not the end-all be-all PPC metric. But it’s a helpful gauge that lets you know if you’re on the right path to prosperity and profits — or not. It’s a blend of several factors, including the expected click-through rate, ad relevance, and landing page experience. Ad Rank is used in conjunction to determine position based on an ad’s performance. (That’s the 30-second explanation, anyway.)

Years ago, Larry Kim analyzed Quality Score in-depth to determine just what kind of impact it had on what you pay. You should read the full thing. But one of the key takeaways was this:

Note that if your Quality Score is below average, you’ll basically pay a penalty — up to 64% more per conversion than your average advertiser. In a nutshell, for every Quality Score point above the average 5/10 score, your CPA will drop by 16%, on average. Conversely, for every Quality Score point below the average of 5/10, your CPA will rise by 16%.

gSbiVlC.png

(Image source)

Fast forward to just a few months ago, and Disruptive Advertising’s Jacob Baadsgaard analyzed their 2,000+ AdWords accounts (with millions in ad spend) to filter out a similar analysis. They ended up with strikingly similar results:

In fact, our results are strikingly similar to those reported by Larry Kim. If your quality score increases by 1 point, your cost-per-conversion decreases by 13% (Larry puts it at 16%). If your quality score decreases by 1 point, your cost-per-conversion increases by 13%.”

45KHbG9.png

(Image source)

Coincidence? Unlikely.

But wait, there’s more!

Jumping platforms for a second, Facebook introduced a “Relevance Score” recently. AdEspresso analyzed 104,256 ads over a 45-day period and saw a similar correlation between a higher Relevance Score and lower CPC rates. The inverse is also true.

szonvTY.png

(Image source)

Okay. Three different analyses, by three different people, across two channels, with three similar results. What can we learn from this?

That the alignment of your ads, your keyword or audience targeting, and your landing pages significantly influence costs (not to mention, eventual results). And what’s the one underlying concept that affects these?

Your “message match.”

How to get message match right

Oli from Unbounce is a masochist. You’d have to be anyway, in order to spend a day clicking on 300 different paid ads, noting message match along the way.

The final tally?

98% of the 300 ads Oli clicked on did NOT successfully match. That’s incredibly bad, as this doesn’t take any PPC ninja skills. All it takes is a little attention to detail. Because what is message match?

You use the same headline, description or value proposition, and image from your ad:

great message match ad

(Image source)

And include those same elements on the landing page people visit:

great message match landing page

(Image source)

Sure, you probably don’t want to use clip art in your ads and on your landing pages in 2017, but at least they’ve got the basics down.

When you think about this concept holistically, it makes perfect sense. In real life, the majority of communication is nonverbal. Fifty-five percent, in fact, comes down to your expressions, gestures, and posture.

Online you lack that nuance and context. It’s difficult (if not impossible) to strike the same emotional chord with a text-only headline limited to 25 characters as you can through audio and video. It (literally) pays to be as specific and explicit as possible. And while it could take hours to distill all of this down, here’s the CliffsNotes version.

Step #1: Your audience/keywords

AdWords generated about 68% of Google’s revenue in 2014. Last year they made billion. So we’re talking billions with a B here.

A lot of that comes down to a searcher’s (1) intent and (2) urgency, where you bid on classically bottom-of-the-funnel keyphrases and convert ~2–10% of those clicks.

iIxPzsq.png

(Image source)

(Facebook’s kind of a different beast, where you instead build a funnel for each step.)

Even though it sounds trite, the best ways to come up with keyphrases is a deeper understanding of what makes your potential customers tick (besides doing the obvious and dropping your competitor’s domain name into SEMrush or SpyFu to see what they’re all bidding on).

A nice, actionable example of this is The Ad Grid from Digital Marketer, which helps you figure out which potential “hooks” should/would work for each customer type. build-traffic-campaigns-img5.jpg

(Image source)

From there, you would obviously hit the keyword research market with your Keyword Explorers and SEMrushes and then distill all of your information down into one nice, neat little package.

Again borrowing from the excellence of others, my favorite approach would be single-keyword ad group (SKAG) from Johnathan Dane at KlientBoost.

For example, one Ad Group would have a single keyphrase with each match type, like the following:

  • Broad: +marriage +proposal +planners
  • Phrase: “marriage proposal planners”
  • Exact: [marriage proposal planners]

This, unsurprisingly, seems time-consuming. That’s because it is.

Don’t worry, because it’s about to get even worse.

Step #2: Your ads

The best way to scale your PPC ad writing is to create a formula. You have different variables that you mix-and-match, watching CTRs and other metrics to determine which combination works best.

Start with something simple, like Johnathan + Klientboost’s example that incorporates the appropriate balance of keyphrase + benefits + action:

New-Ad

(Image source)

For bottom-of-the-funnel, no-frills keyphrases, sometimes simple and direct works best. You don’t have to get overly clever with reinventing the wheel. You just slap in your keyphrase in that little headline space and try to emphasize your primary value prop, USP, or benefit that might get people to click on your ad instead of all the others that look just like it.

Ad writing can get difficult and messy if you get lost in the intangible fluffiness of jargon.

Don’t.

Instead, focus on emphasizing concrete examples, benefits, and outcomes of whatever it is you’re advertising. Here are some of Digital Marketer’s hooks to borrow from:

  1. How does it compare the before and after effect?
  2. How does it make them feel emotionally/?
  3. How (specifically) does it improve their average day?
  4. How does it affect their status or vanity?
  5. Is there quantifiable proof of results?
  6. What’s the expected time to results (i.e. speed)?

You can then again strip away the minutia by boiling everything down to variables.

B4jsCwp.png

For more reading on this topic, here’s a deeper dive into scaling PPC ad writing on WordStream.

Step #3: Landing page

Okay — here comes the fun part.

Marketing efforts in general fail when we can only (or are only allowed) to make surface-level changes. Marketing doesn’t equal just advertising, after all.

Made a ton of updates to an AdWords account? Great. You’ll still struggle until you can take full control over the destinations those ads are sending to, and create new dedicated pages for each campaign.

In an ideal world, each of your SKAGs created above would have their own specific landing page too. If you’re good at math, that landing page total in your head just jumped another 5X most likely. But as we’ve alluded, it’s worth it.

You start with a single new landing page template. Then think of each element as its own interchangeable variable you can mix and match (get it?). For example, the headline, hero image, bullet points and CTAs can evolve or update for one type of customer:

Attorney insurance quotes

And be quickly duplicated/cloned, then switched out for another to increase message match as much as possible:

Dentist insurance quotes

Perfect. Another incredibly time-consuming task to add to your list to get done this week.

Fortunately, there are a few tricks to scale this approach too.

Possibility #1: Dynamic Text Replacement

Unbounce’s ready-made solution will allow you to create a standard landing page, and then automatically (or dynamically) switch out that content based on what someone just searched for.

You can enter these dynamic text fields using their visual builder, then hook it up to your AdWords account so you literally don’t have to lift a finger.

1QB4ZJG.png

(Image source)

Each section allows you to specify default text to use (similar to how you’d specify a fallback font for all browsers for example).

Possibility #2: Advanced Custom Fields

This one requires a little bit of extra leg work, but it makes technical people smile.

My company used Advanced Custom Fields + Flexible Content to create these variable options on the backend of WordPress pages, so we (and clients) can simply mass-produce unique content at scale.

For the example used earlier, here’s what switching out the Hero section on the earlier landing page example would look like:

Click and upload an image to a pre-formatted space. Select a few radio options for page placement. Easy-peasy.

Here’s what the headline and subhead space looks like:

Now making changes or updates to landing pages (to get message match right) takes just a few seconds per page.

We even build out these options for secondary calls-to-action on a page as well, like footer CTAs:

This way, with the click of a button, we can set up and test how different CTA options might work.

For example, how does simple and direct…

GuZqW8P.png

…compare with one of the hooks that we came up with in a previous step?

1fSB5Rt.png

For extra credit, you can combine these customizable features based on your inbound traffic segmentation with your exit intent (or overlay) messaging.

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How increasing PPC message match drives results

So back to the results.

After updating the ad account and making major modifications to our client’s landing page infrastructure, here’s what improved message match can deliver (in a competitive industry with mid-five figure monthly spend).

In 2015, before all of this work, the cost per converted click was 2.41 and conversion rate across all accounts was only 4.08%.

IfClUhB.png

During the same 30-day period in 2016 (after all of this work), the cost per converted click fell to only 7.65 and the conversion rate jumped to 12.76%.

2EZ7BjO.png

That means way more leads, for far less. And this just scratches the surface, because in many cases, AdWords conversions are still just leads. Not true sales.

We haven’t even discussed post-lead conversion tactics to combine all of this with, like marketing automation, where you would combine the same message match approach by sending targeted content that builds on the same topics or hooks that people originally searched for and converted on.

Or layering in newer (read: less competitive or expensive) options like Facebook, automatically syncing these leads to your aforementioned marketing automation workflows that are pre-configured with the same message match in mind.

The possibilities are endless, and the same laser-focus on aligning message match with each channel has the potential to increase results throughout the entire funnel.

Conclusion

When a sale is moved from offline to on, we lose a lot of the context for communication that we commonly rely upon.

As a result, the focus tends to shift more towards clarity and specificity.

There’s no greater example than looking at how today’s most popular online ad platforms work, where the costs people pay are directly tied to their performance and ability to “match” or align their ads and content to what people are looking for.

Clever vs. clear?

Who cares — as long as your messages match.

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July 15, 2017  Tags: , , , , , , ,   Posted in: SEO / Traffic / Marketing  No Comments

SEO Best Practices for Canonical URLs + the Rel=Canonical Tag – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

If you’ve ever had any questions about the canonical tag, well, have we got the Whiteboard Friday for you. In today’s episode, Rand defines what rel=canonical means and its intended purpose, when it’s recommended you use it, how to use it, and sticky situations to avoid.

SEO best practices for canonical URLs

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 some SEO best practices for canonicalization and use of the rel=canonical tag.

Before we do that, I think it pays to talk about what a canonical URL is, because a canonical URL doesn’t just refer to a page upon which we are targeting or using the rel=canonical tag. Canonicalization has been around, in fact, much longer than the rel=canonical tag itself, which came out in 2009, and there are a bunch of different things that a canonical URL means.

What is a “canonical” URL?

So first off, what we’re trying to say is this URL is the one that we want Google and the other search engines to index and to rank. These other URLs that potentially have similar content or that are serving a similar purpose or perhaps are exact duplicates, but, for some reason, we have additional URLs of them, those ones should all tell the search engines, “No, no, this guy over here is the one you want.”

So, for example, I’ve got a canonical URL, ABC.com/a.

Then I have a duplicate of that for some reason. Maybe it’s a historical artifact or a problem in my site architecture. Maybe I intentionally did it. Maybe I’m doing it for some sort of tracking or testing purposes. But that URL is at ABC.com/b.

Then I have this other version, ABC.com/a?ref=twitter. What’s going on there? Well, that’s a URL parameter. The URL parameter doesn’t change the content. The content is exactly the same as A, but I really don’t want Google to get confused and rank this version, which can happen by the way. You’ll see URLs that are not the original version, that have some weird URL parameter ranking in Google sometimes. Sometimes this version gets more links than this version because they’re shared on Twitter, and so that’s the one everybody picked up and copied and pasted and linked to. That’s all fine and well, so long as we canonicalize it.

Or this one, it’s a print version. It’s ABC.com/aprint.html. So, in all of these cases, what I want to do is I want to tell Google, “Don’t index this one. Index this one. Don’t index this one. Index this one. Don’t index this one. Index this one.”

I can do that using this, the link rel=canonical, the href telling Google, “This is the page.” You put this in the header tag of any document and Google will know, “Aha, this is a copy or a clone or a duplicate of this other one. I should canonicalize all of my ranking signals, and I should make sure that this other version ranks.”

By the way, you can be self-referential. So it is perfectly fine for ABC.com/a to go ahead and use this as well, pointing to itself. That way, in the event that someone you’ve never even met decides to plug in question mark, some weird parameter and point that to you, you’re still telling Google, “Hey, guess what? This is the original version.”

Great. So since I don’t want Google to be confused, I can use this canonicalization process to do it. The rel=canonical tag is a great way to go. By the way, FYI, it can be used cross-domain. So, for example, if I republish the content on A at something like a Medium.com/@RandFish, which is, I think, my Medium account, /a, guess what? I can put in a cross-domain rel=canonical telling them, “This one over here.” Now, even if Google crawls this other website, they are going to know that this is the original version. Pretty darn cool.

Different ways to canonicalize multiple URLs

There are different ways to canonicalize multiple URLs.

1. Rel=canonical.

I mention that rel=canonical isn’t the only one. It’s one of the most strongly recommended, and that’s why I’m putting it at number one. But there are other ways to do it, and sometimes we want to apply some of these other ones. There are also not-recommended ways to do it, and I’m going to discuss those as well.

2. 301 redirect.

The 301 redirect, this is basically a status code telling Google, “Hey, you know what? I’m going to take /b, I’m going to point it to /a. It was a mistake to ever have /b. I don’t want anyone visiting it. I don’t want it clogging up my web analytics with visit data. You know what? Let’s just 301 redirect that old URL over to this new one, over to the right one.”

3. Passive parameters in Google search console.

Some parts of me like this, some parts of me don’t. I think for very complex websites with tons of URL parameters and a ton of URLs, it can be just an incredible pain sometimes to go to your web dev team and say like, “Hey, we got to clean up all these URL parameters. I need you to add the rel=canonical tag to all these different kinds of pages, and here’s what they should point to. Here’s the logic to do it.” They’re like, “Yeah, guess what? SEO is not a priority for us for the next six months, so you’re going to have to deal with it.”

Probably lots of SEOs out there have heard that from their web dev teams. Well, guess what? You can end around it, and this is a fine way to do that in the short term. Log in to your Google search console account that’s connected to your website. Make sure you’re verified. Then you can basically tell Google, through the Search Parameters section, to make certain kinds of parameters passive.

So, for example, you have sessionid=blah, blah, blah. You can set that to be passive. You can set it to be passive on certain kinds of URLs. You can set it to be passive on all types of URLs. That helps tell Google, “Hey, guess what? Whenever you see this URL parameter, just treat it like it doesn’t exist at all.” That can be a helpful way to canonicalize.

4. Use location hashes.

So let’s say that my goal with /b was basically to have exactly the same content as /a but with one slight difference, which was I was going to take a block of content about a subsection of the topic and place that at the top. So A has the section about whiteboard pens at the top, but B puts the section about whiteboard pens toward the bottom, and they put the section about whiteboards themselves up at the top. Well, it’s the same content, same search intent behind it. I’m doing the same thing.

Well, guess what? You can use the hash in the URL. So it’s a#b and that will jump someone — it’s also called a fragment URL — jump someone to that specific section on the page. You can see this, for example, Moz.com/about/jobs. I think if you plug in #listings, it will take you right to the job listings. Instead of reading about what it’s like to work here, you can just get directly to the list of jobs themselves. Now, Google considers that all one URL. So they’re not going to rank them differently. They don’t get indexed differently. They’re essentially canonicalized to the same URL.

NOT RECOMMENDED

I do not recommend…

5. Blocking Google from crawling one URL but not the other version.

Because guess what? Even if you use robots.txt and you block Googlebot’s spider and you send them away and they can’t reach it because you said robots.txt disallow /b, Google will not know that /b and /a have the same content on them. How could they?

They can’t crawl it. So they can’t see anything that’s here. It’s invisible to them. Therefore, they’ll have no idea that any ranking signals, any links that happen to point there, any engagement signals, any content signals, whatever ranking signals that might have helped A rank better, they can’t see them. If you canonicalize in one of these ways, now you’re telling Google, yes, B is the same as A, combine their forces, give me all the rankings ability.

6. I would also not recommend blocking indexation.

So you might say, “Ah, well Rand, I’ll use the meta robots no index tag, so that way Google can crawl it, they can see that the content is the same, but I won’t allow them to index it.” Guess what? Same problem. They can see that the content is the same, but unless Google is smart enough to automatically canonicalize, which I would not trust them on, I would always trust yourself first, you are essentially, again, preventing them from combining the ranking signals of B into A, and that’s something you really want.

7. I would not recommend using the 302, the 307, or any other 30x other than the 301.

This is the guy that you want. It is a permanent redirect. It is the most likely to be most successful in canonicalization, even though Google has said, “We often treat 301s and 302s similarly.” The exception to that rule is but a 301 is probably better for canonicalization. Guess what we’re trying to do? Canonicalize!

8. Don’t 40x the non-canonical version.

So don’t take /b and be like, “Oh, okay, that’s not the version we want anymore. We’ll 404 it.” Don’t 404 it when you could 301. If you send it over here with a 301 or you use the rel=canonical in your header, you take all the signals and you point them to A. You lose them if you 404 that in B. Now, all the signals from B are gone. That’s a sad and terrible thing. You don’t want to do that either.

The only time I might do this is if the page is very new or it was just an error. You don’t think it has any ranking signals, and you’ve got a bunch of other problems. You don’t want to deal with having to maintain the URL and the redirect long term. Fine. But if this was a real URL and real people visited it and real people linked to it, guess what? You need to redirect it because you want to save those signals.

When to canonicalize URLs

Last but not least, when should we canonicalize URLs versus not?

I. If the content is extremely similar or exactly duplicate.

Well, if it is the case that the content is either extremely similar or exactly duplicate on two different URLs, two or more URLs, you should always collapse and canonicalize those to a single one.

II. If the content is serving the same (or nearly the same) searcher intent (even if the KW targets vary somewhat).

If the content is not duplicate, maybe you have two pages that are completely unique about whiteboard pens and whiteboards, but even though the content is unique, meaning the phrasing and the sentence structures are the same, that does not mean that you shouldn’t canonicalize.

For example, this Whiteboard Friday about using the rel=canonical, about canonicalization is going to replace an old version from 2009. We are going to take that old version and we are going to use the rel=canonical. Why are we going to use the rel=canonical? So that you can still access the old one if for some reason you want to see the version that we originally came out with in 2009. But we definitely don’t want people visiting that one, and we want to tell Google, “Hey, the most up-to-date one, the new one, the best one is this new version that you’re watching right now.” I know this is slightly meta, but that is a perfectly reasonable use.

What I’m trying to aim at is searcher intent. So if the content is serving the same or nearly the same searcher intent, even if the keyword targeting is slightly different, you want to canonicalize those multiple versions. Google is going to do a much better job of ranking a single piece of content that has lots of good ranking signals for many, many keywords that are related to it, rather than splitting up your link equity and your other ranking signal equity across many, many pages that all target slightly different variations. Plus, it’s a pain in the butt to come up with all that different content. You would be best served by the very best content in one place.

III. If you’re republishing or refreshing or updating old content.

Like the Whiteboard Friday example I just used, you should use the rel=canonical in most cases. There are some exceptions. If you want to maintain that old version, but you’d like the old version’s ranking signals to come to the new version, you can take the content from the old version, republish that at /a-old. Then take /a and redirect that or publish the new version on there and have that version be the one that is canonical and the old version exist at some URL you’ve just created but that’s /old. So republishing, refreshing, updating old content, generally canonicalization is the way to go, and you can preserve the old version if you want.

IV. If content, a product, an event, etc. is no longer available and there’s a near best match on another URL.

If you have content that is expiring, a piece of content, a product, an event, something like that that’s going away, it’s no longer available and there’s a next best version, the version that you think is most likely to solve the searcher’s problems and that they’re probably looking for anyway, you can canonicalize in that case, usually with a 301 rather than with a rel=canonical, because you don’t want someone visiting the old page where nothing is available. You want both searchers and engines to get redirected to the new version, so good idea to essentially 301 at that point.

Okay, folks. Look forward to your questions about rel=canonicals, canonical URLs, and canonicalization in general in SEO. And we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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July 14, 2017  Tags: , , , , , ,   Posted in: SEO / Traffic / Marketing  No Comments

Moz Transitions: Rand to Step Away from Operations and into Advisory Role in Early 2018

Posted by SarahBird

I have some big news to share with you.

As many of you know, three and a half years ago, Rand began to shift his role at Moz. He transitioned from CEO into a product architect role where he could focus his passion and have hands-on impact in evolving our tools. Now, over the next 6 to 9 months he will transition into a supporting role as a Moz Associate. He will continue to be a passionate speaker and evangelist, and you’ll still see his enthusiastic face in Whiteboard Fridays, on the Moz Blog, and on various conference stages. And of course, he is one of our largest shareholders and will remain Chairman of the Board.

This is hard. Rand started Moz (formerly seomoz.org) over 16 years ago as a blog to record what he was learning about this new field. He and his co-founder Gillian Muessig created a marketing agency that focused on helping websites get found in search. They launched their first SAAS software product in February 2007, and I joined the company nine months later as the 8th employee. We’ve come a long way. Today, we have over 36,000 customers, 160 team members, a strong values-based culture, great investors, over million in annual revenue last year, and a large and growing community of marketers. So many people have helped us reach this point.

What else is next for Rand? We’re excited to find out. His book about the last 16 years at Moz comes out next year.

When you see Rand, please show him gratitude and support. He is an incredibly talented, passionate, and productive individual with a commitment to helping others. I know he’s going to continue to make marketing better and spread TAGFEE in all his future roles.

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July 13, 2017  Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,   Posted in: SEO / Traffic / Marketing  No Comments

The Unspoken Reality of Net Neutrality

Posted by rjonesx.

It’s not very often that Moz as a company openly advocates for a particular political position. While we’ve always supported our employees’ choices to be vocal about the issues for which they’re passionate and have done our best to live by the TAGFEE values (as imperfect as that attempt may be), we have rarely directed the attention of our customers or our readers toward a particular end. Today, we break with that tradition to join hands with countless organizations across the web in a Day of Action in support of net neutrality.

Net neutrality is a fairly simple principle: that Internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites.

At face value, net neutrality seems to affirm the basic principles of free speech which most of us hold dear. If the FCC moves forward in retracting policies that protect the Internet in the interest of the public good, it is reasonable to suspect that these freedoms will be curtailed.

This curtailed freedom is often described in terms of small or independent content producers who will be cut out of this new caste-like system of Internet access. However, I would like to take a moment to shed light on different vital services which are likely to suffer without the protections provided by net neutrality.

1. 911 call centers

Over 65 million Americans rely on Voice-Over-IP (VOIP) for their home phone service, and in 2009, the Congressional Research Service called for 911 call centers to migrate to IP technology in modernizing their infrastructure. Both families and the call centers themselves depend on unfettered bandwidth. When you call 911, seconds matter, and the quality of that bandwidth determines that speed. Without net neutrality, that bandwidth and those seconds are put to the highest bidder.

2. Clinical Video Telehealth for our veterans

In 2016, the Department of Veterans Affairs served over 677,000 veterans in rural and under-served areas via telehealth. The VA’s Clinical Video Telehealth (CVT) is a true innovation, connecting their best doctors with their neediest patients. Unfortunately, this critical health technology relies on the same network backbone as any Internet service. Who will pay the increased tolls to ensure that serving our veterans remains a priority on these networks?

3. Online education for K–12 students and their teachers

Finally, by 2014, 75% of all US districts offered some form of online education for K–12 students. More than 2.7 million students took advantage of this blended ed-tech, while 315,000 students were enrolled in full-time online education. The same technology you might use in your workplace to hold sales calls is used by teachers to meet with parents and students across the country, delivering education to those who are difficult to serve otherwise. It’s annoying when Netflix buffers, but it is tragic when a child can’t communicate effectively with his or her teachers.

These are just three of countless examples of how the Internet has come to provide vital services to our veterans, our children, and our communities. Without the basic protections net neutrality affords, these vital services, and so much more, are at risk. Net neutrality advocates are correct to be concerned about the free and unfettered speech of sites across the web if the Internet is left unprotected, but we should not pretend that only our words are at stake. Our safety, our veterans, and our children are on the line, too.

If you’re interested in learning more and taking action, take a look at Battle for the Net.

Thank you for your consideration.

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July 12, 2017  Tags: , ,   Posted in: SEO / Traffic / Marketing  No Comments



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