How to Get Content into the Hands of Influencers Who Can Help Amplify It – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Step 1: Create 10x content. Step 2: ??? Step 3: Massive flood of traffic.

There’s a bigger gap in step 2 than many marketers anticipate, and one of the best ways to fill it is getting your content in front of influential people who can help spread the word. You’ll have to make it worth their while, though, and in today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand explains how to go about that.

How to Get Content into the Hands of Influencers Who Can Help Amplify it Whiteboard

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Video transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about a problem that many of you have mentioned in comments, in tweets, in questions, and emails to me and to other folks here at Moz when we talk about content marketing and specifically content amplification like, “Okay, I made some great content. But how do I actually get people to share it? In particular, how do I get content into the hands of the influencers who might amplify it?”

Look, this is very frustrating, right? If you’re a small brand, a small site, have a small social account, content amplification often feels like this.

You’re like, “I just made the most amazing thing ever.” It sucks, and I get that pain. I totally get that pain. We have all been there.

Moz has the wonderful privilege and opportunity of having this great content amplification channel. But when I started out, when I was making the blog in 2004/2005, nobody was listening. It was a very frustrating experience, and it took years before that content amplification lifecycle became to the point where I remember one year, I think it was 2008, and Greg Boser, who is legendary in the SEO world, was on a panel at a search engine conference. He’s there and he says, “Well, Rand just cheats. All he has to do is hit Publish.”

I was like, “Oh yeah, all I have to do now is hit Publish.” But it takes a long time to build that. Those folks who already have a following, a following on their blog, on their social account, on an email list, on a news site, whatever it is, have this outsized ability to spark virality, to help something that might be incredible, that you’ve made, become seen by a wide audience who will actually appreciate it.

But it can be a frustrating process. Here’s Ann Handley’s account.

Ann Handley, one of the best, most followed folks in the online marketing world, @MarketingProfs is her handle, and she tweets stuff all the time that gets a lot of retweets, a lot of engagement, and folks are thinking like, “How do I reach her? I have something amazing that I want the marketing world to see. How could I get Ann to share my content?”

I have a few tactics for you that I hope will work.

First off, this is going to sound tough, but… it is tough.

1) The simple nudge

This is the thing that I think you should probably be using 80% or more of your time.

The simple nudge is just like what it sounds like. “Hi, Ann. I’m a big fan. I’m a long-time follower. We made this thing we think you’re going to love. Let us know if you have any suggestions. We’re going to be updating it for the next few weeks. Thanks, Rand.”

That could be through email. It could be a LinkedIn message. It could even be a Facebook message. It could be a tweet. That’s a little bit long for a tweet, maybe a long series of VMs. But the thing that is going on here is the content and relevance have to be outstanding. It has to be something that is remarkable just as soon as you share it, as soon as you give the title of it, Ann’s like, “Oh wait, I have not seen one of those. I am super interested in that.”

How are you going to find something that you can nudge that influencer with, where they will think, “That’s so remarkable that even though I have never heard the name of this person before, I’m going to check it out and then I’m going to share it”? That’s hard to do. It’s a very, very high bar. But that’s the same high bar that you have for creating what I have been calling 10X content, the kind of content that people will actually amplify and share.

I talk about this a lot. But I always urge folks to ask the question, “Who will help amplify this and why?” If you have a great answer to that question, the nudge should be all you need 80% of the time.

Now, I do have two tools that I’m going to recommend. They are both used for email outreach, specifically finding folks’ emails or getting connected to folks through email.

Voila Norbert is a great tool for finding email that I have talked about on Whiteboard Friday before, and Conspire is a wonderful tool that will show you all of the people, who you have emailed, who have emailed that person. So if I hadn’t emailed Ann directly, I could look in Conspire and I could see, “Oh look, Cyrus Shepard has emailed Ann previously. Great, let me reach out to Cyrus, ask him for an introduction. He’ll connect me up.”

So some good tools that can be helpful there. I’m reticent to promote it, but Followerwonk is also very useful for this discovery process, figuring out who those influencers are in the first place.

2) The inclusion mention

This tactic can work, and it’s a nice, subtle way to get folks involved, especially if you’re not too frustrated when it doesn’t work out. For example, let’s say Ann had tweeted something around CRM software. Well, she did send a tweet around CRM software that I copied in there, but maybe she has expressed some frustration around CRM software. She is like, “I don’t know which vendors to choose. I wish there was a great resource.”

I can say, “@MarketingProfs, your tweet about CRM frustration inspired us to make this.” Cool. Now I’m sharing with her something that she has directly expressed an interest in, and I’m including her in there, again through Twitter. I could reach out through email. I could do it through LinkedIn. It could be through a lot of things.

I think any time you have content that’s inspired by or particularly inclusive of a person, brand, or a place, let them know. There’s no harm in letting them know. It could be that this is ignored 9 times out of 10, but 1 time out of 10 you’re going to get that extra amplification and that’s a wonderful thing.

I have found, by the way, that many times when it comes to a longer form content responding to a blog post, responding to a tweet, responding to something that’s been shared, that professional, respectful, well thought out pieces that advance the conversation can work well even if we disagree about things.

So if Ann’s expressed something and I go, “Hmm, I disagree with that. Let me explain why and the thinking behind it.” But I’m going to be very professional, very respectful. I’m going to advance the conversation, like bring things forward, include non-obvious stuff that is helpful that makes this a better dialogue.

I can write up that piece, and then I can share it with her. This can be especially effective if you share it with the person before you hit Publish. Again, a good reason for pre-content amplification outreach.

3) The review

Well, the review is a tough one. I don’t love it all the time. I especially don’t love it when it’s been done to death, which it has very often. But this is something like, “We reviewed the latest guide from @MarketingProfs here.” So we go check out MarketingProfs, and we download one of their guides. We really like it. We write up a review.

This works when it’s positive and when that positivity is clearly authentic and not just designed to get amplification. One of the things that happens that I see all the time, especially in the web marketing, but even in the technology world and a lot in the travel world is folks doing things like this with no intention other than hopefully getting a link or a retweet. They clearly have not put any authentic thought into it. It’s not a quality piece. It’s just designed to get that link. It’s very transparent to the vast majority of influencers who get targeted with this stuff all the time.

So if it’s been done to death, probably don’t bother. But the review system can work for other kinds of things, and if it’s positive and authentic, and that’s not why you did it, great.

4) The network effect

It’s frustrating because it’s not always as effective. However, it can still be a small win even when you don’t get the big win. So the idea would be I go and I check out, maybe potentially use Followerwonk. Or Little Bird is another one. It’s paid and expensive, but very, very good.

These four accounts tend to share things that major influencers later pick up. Hmm, interesting. So at such-and-such and at so-and-so, like these folks tend to be often much easier to target and to reach out to, much higher response rate, much more likely to reply to you and engage with you, and even if those major targets never come through, so even if these folks are targeted, they’re followed by these seven influencers that we really are going after. Well, you know what, even if they share and none of the seven influencers do, that’s okay. It’s still a win.

So I hope that with these in your pocket you can go and do a little more successful content outreach and content amplification. If you have some tactics that you would like to share that have worked well for you, I would love to hear about them in the comments. I’m sure everyone else would as well, and you’ll get lots of thumbs up.

So I look forward to that and to seeing you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

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Source: moz


Moz’s Acquisition of SERPscape, Russ Jones Joining Our Team, and a Sneak Peek at a New Tool

Posted by randfish

Today, it’s my pleasure to announce some exciting news. First, if you haven’t already seen it via his blog post, I’m thrilled to welcome Russ Jones, a longtime community member and great contributor to the SEO world, to Moz. He’ll be joining our team as a Principal Search Scientist, joining the likes of Dr. Pete, Jay Leary, and myself as a high-level individual contributor on research and development projects.

If you’re not familiar with Mr. Jones’ work, let me embarrass my new coworker for a minute. Russ:

  • Was Angular’s CTO after having held a number of roles with the company (previously known as Virante)
  • Is the creator of not just SERPscape, but the keyword data API, Grepwords, too (which Moz isn’t acquiring—Russ will continue operating that service independently)
  • Runs a great Twitter profile sharing observations & posts about some of the most interesting, hardcore-nerdy stuff in SEO
  • Operates The Google Cache, a superb blog about SEO that’s long been on my personal must-read list
  • Contributes regularly to the Moz blog through excellent posts and comments
  • Was, most recently, the author of this superb post on Moz comparing link indices (you can bet we’re going to ask for his help to improve Mozscape)
  • And, perhaps most impressively, replies to emails almost as fast as I do :-)

Russ joins the team in concert with Moz’s acquisition of a dataset and tool he built called SERPscape. SERPscape contains data on 40,000,000 US search results and includes an API capable of querying loads of interesting data about what appears in those results (e.g. the relative presence of a given domain, keywords that particular pages rank for, search rankings by industry, and more). For now, SERPscape is remaining separate from the Moz toolset, but over time, we’ll be integrating it with some cool new projects currently underway (more on that below).

I’m also excited to share a little bit of a sneak preview of a project that I’ve been working on at Moz that we’ve taken to calling “Keyword Explorer.” Russ, in his new role, will be helping out with that, and SERPscape’s data and APIs will be part of that work, too.

In Q1 of this year, I pitched our executive team and product strategy folks for permission to work on Keyword Explorer and, after some struggles (welcome to bigger company life and not being CEO, Rand!), got approval to tackle what I think remains one of the most frustrating parts of SEO: effective, scalable, strategically-informed keyword research. Some of the problems Russ, I, and the entire Keyword Explorer team hope to solve include:

  • Getting more accurate estimates around relative keyword volumes when doing research outside AdWords
  • Having critical metrics like Difficulty, Volume, Opportunity, and Business Value included alongside our keywords as we’re selecting and prioritizing them
  • A tool that lets us build lists of keywords, compare lists against one another, and upload sets of keywords for data and metrics collections
  • A single place to research keyword suggestions, uncover keyword metrics (like Difficulty, Opportunity, and Volume), and select keywords for lists that can be directly used for prioritization and tactical targeting

You can see some of this early work in Dr. Pete’s KW Opportunity model, which debuted at Mozcon, in our existing Keyword Difficulty & SERP Analysis tool (an early inspiration for this next step), and in a few visuals below:

BTW: Please don’t hold the final product to any of these; they’re not actual shots of the tool, but rather design comps. What’s eventually released almost certainly won’t match these exactly, and we’re still working on features, functionality, and data. We’re also not announcing a release date yet. That said, if you’re especially passionate about Keyword Explorer, want to see more, and don’t mind giving us some feedback, feel free to email me (rand at moz dot com), and I’ll have more to share privately in the near future.

But, new tools aren’t the only place Russ will be contributing. As he noted in his post, he’s especially passionate about research that helps the entire SEO field advance. His passion is contagious, and I hope it infects our entire team and community. After all, a huge part of Moz’s mission is to help make SEO more transparent and accessible to everyone. With Russ’ addition to the team, I’m confident we’ll be able to make even greater strides in that direction.

Please join me in welcoming him and SERPscape to Moz!

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Source: moz


The SEO Professional’s Guide to Waterfall Diagrams

Posted by Zoompf

As we know well by now, the speed of a web page is very important from an SEO and user experience perspective. Faster pages have higher search engine ranks, and users will visit more pages and convert higher on a fast performing website. In short, the smart SEO professional needs to also think about optimizing for performance as well as content.

As we discussed in our last article, WebPageTest is a great free tool you can use to optimize your website performance. One of the most useful outputs of the WebPageTest tool is a graphic known as the waterfall diagram. A waterfall diagram is a graphical view of all the resources loaded by a web browser to present your page to your users, showing both the order in which those resources were loaded and how long it took to load each resource. Analyzing how those resources are loaded can give you insight into what’s slowing down your webpage, and what you can fix to make it faster.

Waterfall diagrams are a lot like Microsoft Excel: they are simple in concept and can be very powerful, yet most people aren’t using them to their fullest potential. In this article, we will show how an SEO professional can use waterfall diagrams created by tools like WebPageTest to identify and improve their site’s performance and user experience.

How to read a waterfall diagram

If you haven’t done so already, go to WebPageTest and run a test of your site. When the results are finished, click into the first test result to see the waterfall. Below is a sample waterfall chart (click for a larger version).


As mentioned above, waterfall diagrams are cascading charts that show how a web browser loads and renders a web page. Every row of the diagram is a separate request made by the browser. The taller the diagram, the more requests that are made to load the web page. The width of each row represents how long it takes for the browser to request a resource and download the response.

For each row, the waterfall chart uses a multi-colored bar to show where the browser spent its time loading that resource, for example:


It’s important to understand each phase of a request since you can improve the speed of your site by reducing the amount of time spent in each of these phases. Here is a brief overview:

  • DNS Lookup [Dark Green] – Before the browser can talk to a server it must do a DNS lookup to convert the hostname to an IP Address. There isn’t much you can do about this, and luckily it doesn’t happen for all requests.
  • Initial Connection [Orange] – Before the browser can send a request, it must create a TCP connection. This should only happen on the first few rows of the chart, otherwise there’s a performance problem (more on this later).
  • SSL/TLS Negotiation [Purple] – If your page is loading resources securely over SSL/TLS, this is the time the browser spends setting up that connection. With Google now using HTTPS as a search ranking factor, SSL/TLS negotiation is more and more common.
  • Time To First Byte (TTFB) [Green] – The TTFB is the time it takes for the request to travel to the server, for the server to process it, and for the first byte of the response to make it make to the browser. We will use the measurement to determine if your web server is underpowered or you need to use a CDN.
  • Downloading (Blue) – This is the time the browser spends downloading the response. The longer this phase is, the larger the resource is. Ideally you can control the length of this phase by optimizing the size of your content.

You will also notice a few other lines on the waterfall diagram. There is a green vertical line which shows when “Start Render” happens. As we discussed in our last article, until Start Render happens, the user is looking at a blank white screen. A large Start Render time will make the user feel like your site is slow and unresponsive. There are some additional data points in the waterfall, such as “Content Download”, but these are more advanced topics beyond the scope of this article.

Optimizing performance with a waterfall diagram

So how do we make a webpage load more quickly and create a better user experience? A waterfall chart provides us with 3 great visual aids to assist with this goal:

  1. First, we can optimize our site to reduce the amount of time it takes to download all the resources. This reduces the width of our waterfall. The skinnier the waterfall, the faster your site.
  2. Second, we can reduce the number of requests the browser needs to make to load a page. This reduces the height of our waterfall. The shorter your waterfall, the better.
  3. Finally, we can optimize the ordering of resource requests to improve rendering time. This moves the green Start Render line to the left. The further left this line, the better.

Let’s now dive into each of these in more detail.

Reducing the width of the waterfall

We can reduce the width of the waterfall by reducing how long it takes to download each resource. We know that each row of the waterfall uses color to denote the different phases of fetching a resource. How often you see different colors reveals different optimizations you can make to improve the overall speed.

  • Is there a lot of orange? Orange is for the initial TCP connection made to your site. Only the first 2-6 requests to a specific hostname should need to create a TCP connection, after that the existing connections get reused. If you see a lot of orange on the chart, it means your site isn’t using persistent connections. Below you can see a waterfall diagram for a site that isn’t using persistent connections and note the orange section at the start of every request row.
    Once persistent connections is enabled, the width of every request row will be cut in half because the browser won’t have to make new connections with every request.
  • Are there long, purple sections? Purple is the time spent performing an SSL/TLS negotiation. If you are seeing a lot of purple over and over again for the same site, it means you haven’t optimized for TLS. In the snippet of diagram below, we see 2 HTTPS requests. One server has been properly optimized, whereas the other has a bad TLS configuration:
    To optimize TLS performance, see our previous Moz article .
  • Are there any long blue sections? Blue is the time spent downloading the response. If a row has a big blue section, it most likely means the response (the resource) is very large. A great way to speed up a site is to simply reduce the amount of data that has to be sent to the client. If you see a lot of blue, ask yourself “Why is that resource so large?” Chances are you can reduce the size of it through HTTP compression, minification, or image optimization. As an example, in the diagram below, we see a PNG image that is taking a long time to download. We can tell because the of the long blue section.
    Further research revealed that this image is nearly 1.1 MB in size! Turns out the designer forgot to export it properly from Photoshop. Using image optimization techniques reduced this row and made the overall page load faster.
  • Is there a lot of green? Chances are there is a lot of green. Green is the browser just waiting to get content. Many times you’ll see a row where the browser is waiting 80 or 90 ms, only to spend 1 ms downloading the resource! The best way to reduce the green section is to move your static content, like images, to a content delivery network (CDN) closer to your users. More on this later.

Reducing the height of the waterfall

If the waterfall diagram is tall, the browser is having to make a large number of requests to load the page. The best way to reduce the number of requests is to review all the content your page is including and determine if you really need all of it. For example:

  • Do you see a lot of CSS or JavaScript files? Below is a snippet of a waterfall diagram from an AOL site which, I kid you not, requests 48 separate CSS files!
    If you site is loading a large number of individual CSS or JavaScript files, you should try combining them as with a CMS plugin or as part of your build process. Combining files reduces the number of requests made, improving your overall page speed.
  • Do you see a lot of “small” (less than 2kb) JavaScript files or CSS files? Consider including the contents of those files directly in your HTML via inline <script>, <code>, or <style> tags.
  • Do you see a lot of 302 redirects? Redirects appear as yellow highlighted rows and represent links on your page that are usually outdated or mistakenly made. This creates an unnecessary redirect which is just needlessly increasing the height of your waterfall. Replace those links with direct links to the new URLs.

Improving rendering time

Recall that the Start Render time represents when the user first sees something on the page other than a blank white page.

What is your Start Render time? If its longer than 1.5 seconds, you should try and improve it. To do so, first take a look at all the resources “above and to the left” of the Start Render line. This represents everything that should be considered for optimization to improve your render time.

Here are some tips:

  • Do you see any calls to load JavaScript libraries? JavaScript includes can block page rendering, move these lower in your page if possible.
  • Do you see a lot of requests for separate CSS items? Browsers wait until all the CSS is downloaded before they start rendering the page. Can you combine or inline any of those CSS files?
  • Do you see external fonts? When using an external font, the browser won’t draw anything until it downloads that font. If possible, try to avoid using externally loaded fonts. If that is not possible, make sure you are eliminating any unnecessary 302 redirects to load that font, or (even better) consider hosting a copy of that font locally on your own webserver.

As an example, here is the top of a waterfall diagram:


The green start render line is just over 1 second which is pretty good. However, if you look to the left of the line, you can see some optimizations. First, there are multiple JS files. With the exception of jQuery, these can probably be deferred until later. There are also multiple CSS files. These could be combined. These optimizations would improve the start render time.

You may need to coordinate with your designers and your developers to implement these optimizations. However the results are well worth it. No one likes looking at an empty white screen!

Other factors

Is my server fast enough?

We know that the time-to-first-byte from your server is a factor in search engine rankings. Luckily a waterfall tells you this metric. Simply look at the first row of the diagram. This should show you timing information for how the browser downloads the base HTML page. Look at the TTFB measurement. If it is longer than about 500 ms, your server may be underpowered or unoptimized. Talk with your hosting provider to improve your server capabilities. Below is an example of a waterfall diagram where the server was taking nearly 10 seconds to respond! That’s a slow server!


Do I need a CDN?

Latency can be a big source of delay for a website, and it has to do with the geographic distance between your server and your website visitors. As we have discussed, latency is driven by distance and the speed of light; a high speed internet connection alone doesn’t fix the problem. Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) speed up your website by storing copies of your static assets (images, CSS, JavaScript files, etc) all over the world, reducing the latency for your visitors.

Waterfalls reveal how latency is affecting the speed of your site, and whether you should use a CDN. We can do this by looking at the TTFB measurements for requests the browser makes to your server for static assets. The TTFB is composed of the time it takes for your request to travel to the server, for the server to process it, and for the first byte of the response to come back. For static assets, the server doesn’t have to do any real processing of the request, so the TTFB measurement really just tells us how long a round-trip takes from a visitor to a user. If you are getting high round-trip numbers it means your content is too far away from your visitors.

To determine if you need a CDN, you first need to know the location of your server. Next, use WebPageTest and run a test from a location that is far away from your server. If your site is hosted in the US, run a test from Asia or Europe. Now, find the rows for requests for several images or CSS files on your server and look at the TTFB measurement. If you are getting a TTFB for static content that is more than 150 ms, you should consider a CDN. For commercial sites, you might want to look at the enterprise grade capabilities of Akamai. For a cheaper option, check out CloudFlare which offers free CDN services.


Believe it or not, we have only scratched the surface of the performance insights you can learn from a waterfall chart. However this should be more than enough to begin to understand how to read a chart and use it to detect the most basic and impactful performance issues that are slowing down your site.

You can reduce the width of the chart by optimizing your content and ensuring that each resource is received as quickly as possible. You can reduce the height of the waterfall by removing unneeded requests. Finally, you can speed up how quickly your users first see your page by optimizing all the content before the Start Render line.

If you’re still not sure where to start, check out Zoompf’s Free Performance Report to analyze your site and prioritize those fixes that will make the biggest impact on improving your page speed and waterfall chart metrics.

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Source: moz


The True Cost of Local Business Directories

Posted by kristihines

If you’re a local business owner, you’ve likely heard that you should submit your business to local business directories like Yelp, Merchant Circle, Yellow Pages, and similar networks in order to help boost your local search visibility on Google. It sounds easy at first: you think you’ll just go to a few websites, enter your contact information, and you’ll be set. Because all you really want to do is get some links to your website from these profiles.

But the truth is, there are a lot of local business listings to obtain if you go the DIY route. There are local business directories that offer free listings, paid listings, and package listings on multiple networks. There are also local data providers that aren’t necessarily directories themselves, but they push your information out to other directories.

In this post, we’re going to look at the real cost of getting local business listings for your local business.

Finding the right directories

Since one of a business owner’s most important commodities is time, it’s important to note the time investment that you must make to individually create and manage local business listings. Here’s what you’ll need to do to find the right directories for your business.

Directories ranking for your business

You can start by looking your business up on Google by name to see where you already have listings that need to be claimed.

These are the first directories you’ll want to tackle, as they’re the ones that people are viewing when they search for your business by name. This is especially important for local businesses that don’t have their own website or social media presence. Updating these directories will help customers get to know your business, your hours, and what you have to offer.

These are going to be the easiest, in many cases, because the listing is already there. Most local business directories offer a link to help you start the process.

Depending on the directory, you’ll need to look in several places to find the link to claim your business. Sometimes it can be found near the top of your listing. Other times, it may be hidden in the directory’s header or footer.

It’s important to claim your listings so you can add your website link, business hours, and photos to help your listing stand out from others. Claiming your listing will also help make sure you’re notified about any reviews or public updates your business receives.

Directories ranking for your competitors

Once you’ve claimed the listings you already have, you’ll want to start finding new ones. Creating listings on local business directories where your competitors have listings will help you get in front of your target audience. If you notice your competitors have detailed profiles on some networks, but not others, that should clue you in to which ones are going to be most effective.

To find these directories, search for your competitors by name on Google. You should be able to spot which ones you haven’t claimed for yourself already and go from there.

Directories ranking for your keywords

What keywords and phrases does your business target in search? Do a quick search for them to see which local directories rank in the top ten search results. Most keyword searches related to local businesses will lead you to your website, your competitors’ websites, specific business listings in local business directories, and categories on local business directories.

You should make sure you have a listing on the local business directories that rank for your competitors, as well as the ones whose categories rank. For the latter, you may even want to consider doing paid advertising or sponsorship to make sure your business is first for the category, since that page is likely receiving traffic from your target customers.

Directories ranking in mobile search

After you’ve looked for the directories that rank for your business name, your competitors, and your target keywords, you’ll want to do the same research on mobile search. This will help you find additional directories that are favorites for mobile users. Considering the studies showing that 50% of mobile searchers end up visiting a local store to make a purchase, getting your business in local business directories that rank well in mobile is key to business success.

Claiming and creating local business directory listings

If you think finding the right local business directories is time-consuming, wait until you start to claim and create them. Some directories make it simple and straightforward. Others have a much more complicated process.

Getting your business listing verified is usually the toughest part. Some networks will not require any verification past confirming your email address. Some will have an automated call or texting system for you to use to confirm your phone number. Some will have you speak to a live representative in order to confirm your listing and try to sell you paid upgrades and advertising.

The lengthiest ones from start to finish are those that require you to verify your business by postal mail. It means that you will have to wait a couple of days (or weeks, depending on the directory) to complete your listing.

In the event that you’re trying to claim a listing for your business that needs the address or phone number updated, you’ll need to invest additional time to contact the directory’s support team directly to get your information updated. Otherwise, you won’t be able to claim your business by phone or mail.

The cost of local business listings

Now that you know the time investment of finding, claiming, and creating local business directories, it’s time to look at the actual cost. While some of the top local business directories are free, others require payment if you want beyond the basic listings, such as the addition of your website link, a listing in more than one category, removal of ads from your listing, and the ability to add media.

Pricing for local directory listings can range from $29 to $499 per year. You will find some directories that sell listings for their site alone, while others are grouped under plans like this one where you can choose to pay for one directory or a group of directories annually.

With the above service, you’re looking at a minimum of $199 per year for one network, or $999 per year for dozens of networks. While it might look like a good deal, in reality, you are paying for listings that you could have gotten for free (Yahoo, Facebook, Google+, etc.) in addition to ones that have a paid entry.

So how can you decide what listings are worth paying for? If they are not listings that appear on the first page of search results for your business name, your competitors, or your keywords, you can do some additional research in the following ways:

Check the directory’s search traffic

You can use SEMrush for free (10 queries prior to registering + 10 after entering your email address) to see the estimated search traffic for any given local business directory. For example, you can check Yelp’s traffic by searching for their domain name:

Then, compare it with other local business directories you might not be familiar with, like this one:

This can help you decide whether or not it’s worth upgrading to an account at $108 per month to get a website link and featured placement.

Alternatively, you can use sites like Alexa to estimate traffic through seeing which site has a lower Alexa ranking. For example, you can check Yelp’s Alexa ranking:

Then compare it with other local business directories, like this one:

Instantly, you can see that between the two sites, Yelp is more popular in the US, while the other directory is more popular in India. You can scroll down further through the profile to see what countries a local business directory gets the majority of their traffic from to determine if they are getting traffic from your target customer base.

If you have a business in the US, and the directory you’re researching doesn’t get a lot of US traffic, it won’t be worth getting a listing there, and certainly not worth paying for one.

Determine the directory’s reputation

The most revealing search you can do for any local business directory that you are considering paying is the directory’s name, plus the word “scam.” If the directory is a scam, you’ll find out pretty quickly. Even if it’s not a scam, you will find out what businesses and customers alike find unappealing about the directory’s service.

The traffic a directory receives may trump a bad reputation, however. If you look at Yelp’s Better Business Bureau page, you will find over 1,700 complaints. It goes to show that while some businesses have a great experience on Yelp, others do not.

If you find a directory with little traffic and bad reviews or complaints, it’s best to steer clear, regardless of whether they want payment for your listing.

Look for activity in your category

Are other businesses in your category getting reviews, tips, or other engagement? If so, that means there are people actually using the website. If not, it may not be worth the additional cost.

The “in your category” part is particularly important. Photography businesses may be getting a ton of traffic, but if you have an air conditioning repair service, and none of the businesses in that category have reviews or engagement, then your business likely won’t, either.

This also goes for local business directories that allow you to create a listing for free, but make you pay for any leads that you get. If businesses in your category are not receiving reviews or engagement, then the leads you receive may not pan out into actual paying customers.

See where your listing would be placed

Does paying for a listing on a specific local business directory guarantee you first-page placement? In some cases, that will make the listing worth it—if the site is getting enough traffic from your target customers.

This is especially important for local business directories whose category pages rank on the first page for your target keyword. For these directories, it’s essential that your business gets placed in the right category and at the top of the first page, if possible.

Think of that category page as search results—the further down the page you are, the less likely people are to click through to your business. If you’re on the second or third page, those chances go down even further.

In conclusion

Local business directories can be valuable assets for your local business marketing. Be sure to do your due diligence in researching the right directories for your business. You can also simplify the process and see what Moz Local has to offer. Once your listings are live, be sure to monitor them for new reviews, tips, and other engagement. Also be sure to monitor your analytics to determine which local business directory is giving you the most benefit!

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How Much Keyword Repetition is Optimal – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

With all the advancements search engines have made, a lot of folks in the SEO world are circling back to a fundamental question: If I’m targeting a particular keyword, where and how often should I use that in the front and back ends of my page? In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand puts his recommendations into the context of today’s SERPs.

How Much Keyword Use & Repetition is Optimal Whiteboard

For reference, here’s a still of this week’s whiteboard. Click on it to open a high resolution image 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 keyword use, keyword repetition and overuse.

I know this might seem like a basic topic, but actually it’s advanced a little bit in the last few years, and I still get a surprising amount of email and see a surprising number of questions around things like, “How many times should I use my keyword that I’m targeting to rank for in my URL string or my H1 tag or my title? Or how many different pages should I have that target this keyword?” So let’s try and clear a little bit of this up.

Let’s say I’ve done a search here, “Are skeleton keys real?” I see results ranking. This is actually kind of a nice result, because what you see are not a lot of pages that say, “Are skeleton keys real?” I just did this search, and the top 20 results, there’s actually not even one where the title of the piece or the headline of the document is, “Are skeleton keys real?”

You see lots of documents ranking in Google that don’t perfectly match this keyword set. I think that’s a good example of how far Google has come in trying to understand the intent behind queries, how far they’ve come in terms of connecting topics and keywords, how far they’ve come on topic modeling algorithms.

Keyword repetition considerations

So really there are three primary considerations that we do still need to worry about as SEOs.

1) Search result snippet

The first one is the search result snippet itself. I’ve taken Etsy’s snippet here, which is not fantastic. Then when you get to the page, that product is actually gone, and Etsy is suggesting some other ones, which aren’t skeleton keys. Kind of frustrating because they do have skeleton keys if you search on the site. In any case, I’m sure Stephanie and the SEO team over at Etsy will take care of that ASAP.

The primary considerations in your search result snippet are: Is the result informative and useful? I want to be able to look at this and think to myself, “Aha! That tells me something that I didn’t already know, or it starts to tell me something about whether or not skeleton keys are real or not and where they come from and history and what they are.” Is it useful? Can I apply that information? Is that going to help me accomplish whatever I’m trying to accomplish? In this case, a very information-based query, so the only accomplishment is the knowledge itself.

Is it going to draw the eye and the click? This is a great reason why rich snippets are so valuable and why anything you can do to bulk up or add to your snippet, get more vertical space, make your listing stand out can be helpful.

Then is it perceived as relevant and trustworthy by searchers? So a lot of times, that’s going to be a brand consideration set. They’re going to be looking at the domain name. They might be looking in the title for a brand there, if it is there, if it’s not there, those kinds of things.

2) Keyword analysis algorithms

This is kind of the classic thing where I think a lot of early SEOs get lost and maybe even some folks who have been around for a long time remember back in the day when Google and Yahoo and old MSN search, before Bing, would actually look at the count and the repetition numbers, probably never actually used density, but they probably did use simplistic algorithms like TFIDF, term frequency times inverse document frequency, looking for those less frequently used terms across the Web and seeing if you have a higher concentration of those in your document than other people do.

Keyword Matching

Well, now there are probably still some elements of keyword matching. Google is likely to give you a little bit of a boost if you say, “Are skeleton keys real?” and everybody else says, “Real vintage antique skeleton keys,” or something like that.

I’m not suggesting against using this actual keyword phrase precisely. If you know that’s what your article is about, that’s the piece of content that you have and those are the searchers you want to target, yeah, go ahead. Make the title of the piece, “Are Skeleton Keys Real? We Dig Into History to Find Out.” That’s a compelling title. I would click on that if that were my search query. So there are some keyword matching elements.

Topic Modeling

There’s probably some topic modeling, well, almost certainly some topic modeling stuff where they’re looking at, “What are other terms and phrases that are frequently used when we see skeleton keys used?” If we do see those terms and phrases on other people’s pages, but we don’t see them on yours, we might not consider your document to be relevant to the keyword. Maybe you’re talking about skeleton keys as a new programming language. Maybe you’re talking about the skeleton key mobile app. I don’t know if that’s a real thing, but it could be. Maybe Skeleton Keys is the name of your dog.

They don’t know. So they look at these topic modeling sorts of algorithms to try and figure out, “Oh, okay, look, they’re talking about locks. They’re talking about antiques. They’re talking about history. I think we can be relatively assured that, yes, this document is on the topic of skeleton keys.” If you don’t use those words and phrases, the topic modeling algorithm is going to miss you.

Intent analysis

Google is looking very hard for user intent. What do people want from this query? They have a huge store of knowledge around past queries that people have performed, trillions and trillions of queries over the decade and a half that Google has been around that they can look at and say, “Aha, when was the intent of a keyword informational, transactional, navigational, and can we try and figure out what the intent of this particular keyword search is and then serve up results that hit that intent right on the nose?”

Look, sometimes when you get analyzed for this, if you are not serving the same intent, so if you’re selling skeleton keys, it could be that you actually won’t rank as well for “Are skeleton keys real?” as someone who’s providing purely an informational document. If someone searches for antique skeleton keys, your document about “Are Antique Skeleton Keys Real?” might not rank as well as someone who actually sells them, because Google is trying to serve that intent, and they do a pretty good job with that.


Then there might be some other algorithm elements in there like QDD, query deserves diversity. So maybe Google sees different intents for a search, and so they try and provide different results and you might rank because of that, or you might not rank because of that, or things like QDF where they say, “We need a fresh result here.” People are looking for recent documents around skeleton keys because there was a big item in the news about a break-in using skeleton keys. So we know we should put the news box in there and maybe we should have a document that’s much fresher, those kinds of things.

3) Searcher opinions and Engagement

This matters a ton because if searchers don’t engage with your piece, if they stand around and they go, “I don’t think I should click on that.” It doesn’t even take as long as I just took to say those words. You just make that split-second judgment as you’re scanning down a page of search results about whether something is relevant to your needs or not.

Searchers are constantly asking themselves when they look at a set of results, “Should I click back? Should I reengage? Should I share and amplify the content once I reach it? Should I remember this brand or this page or bookmark it?” All of those kinds of things go into the search engine’s consideration set as well. They make their way in there through user and usage data. We know that Google can monitor and measure, certainly when you click back to the search results. We know that through Chrome and through Android and all these other things, Toolbar, that they can look at activity that’s happening on a website or through a search journey.

We know they can see sharing and amplification data absolutely if it’s links. They can probably look at other kinds of amplification too. They definitely can look at people who remember a brand and search for a brand. So if someone searches for “Etsy skeleton keys,” that might be a strong signal to Google that they should rank Etsy’s page when people search for just skeleton keys. All of those kinds of things are making it in here.

So we have to ask ourselves, “Does this match the need that I have? Are we creating pages that searchers feel matches their need?” They’re asking, “Do I recognize or trust this brand?” Or at least, “If I don’t know this brand at all, when I look at the URL and the domain name” — Bing did a big study on this a couple of years ago — they ask themselves, “Does that sound like a sketchy domain name?” For example, I did see ranking for this query. They’re still on page one. It’s not actually that terrible a page, although it has some kind of spammy AdSense all mixed in there. But it has some information.

That kind of stuff, when searchers see that, they are less likely to click it because they’ve had bad experiences with multiple-hyphenated, keyword matchy domains., no offense, but you all aren’t doing that world an entirely big favor right now.

Then they’re going to ask, “Does the snippet stand out and grab my attention?” If it does, more likely to get a higher click-through rate, more likely to get that engagement.

So… how many times should I repeat my keywords?

So these three big considerations lead us to some quick rules of thumb. I’m going to say that for 95% of pages out there — not every single one, there are always going to be a few exceptions –but for 95% of the pages out there, you should do at least these things. I’ll put nice little boxes here to help out.

Yes, I should have my keyword that I’m targeting, if I know that I’m going after this keyword, this search intent, that’s what the page is about, that’s the primary keyword target, I should target it at least once in the title element of the page.

Likewise, you should do the same thing in the headline. This is not because the H1 tag is all that important. It doesn’t even matter all that much whether it’s H1 or H2 or H3, or if your CSS is a little messy, that’s okay. As long as the big letters at the top of the page that make up the headline, so that when a searcher lands after clicking, “Are skeleton keys real?” and seeing your, “Are Skeleton Keys Real?” article, they again see right at the top of the page, “Are Skeleton Keys Real?”

So they know they clicked on the right result and they have that consistency. People really like that. That’s very important from a psychological perspective, and you need that so that people don’t click back and choose a different result because they’re like, “Wait a minute, this article is not the one that I thought I clicked on. This is something else.”

I’m going to say two to three times in content. That is a very rough rule. Generally speaking, if you don’t have the keyword at least a couple of times in the content of the page, unless you have an extremely visual page or an interactive page with almost no content, which maybe that would fall in the 5%, you should definitely be hitting that.

Then one time in the meta description. Meta description is important because of the snippet aspect of it. Not that critical from like, “Oh, that will boost my ranking.” No, but it might boost your click-through rate. It might make you appear more relevant to the searcher as they’re searching through, and it will help target that.

Again, sometimes in that 5% there, there might be times when a snippet is actually better without the keyword. Again, especially if it’s a long keyword phrase and you only have a little bit of room to explain things, okay.

So 95% of pages should do at least this.

Secondary considerations

Then many pages should also consider doing a little bit of image optimization with things like a keyword in the image alt attribute, assuming you have an image on the page. For a keyword like this, you would definitely want to have some pictures of what skeleton keys have looked like, do look like today, that kind of thing.

The image file name itself too, which is important for image SEO. Images still get a good amount of search traffic. Even if you don’t get a ton of click-through rate, you might get people using your image and then citing it, and that could lead to link behavior. So we’re talking about a long tail here, but a valuable long tail.

Once in the URL, generally this is important, but not critical, certainly not critical. There could be plenty of reasons why you have a perfectly reasonable URL that does not include the keywords many, many times. A homepage is a great example. Homepage, you don’t need to change your default homepage to include your keyword string so that when you request whatever,, it redirects to vintage antique skeleton keys. No, don’t do that.

One or more times in the subheaders of the page. If you have multiple blocks of subheaders that are describing different attributes of a particular piece of content, well, go ahead, use your keywords in there as they might apply.

Don’t go overboard. Another big rule of thumb. You can see my friend here. He’s being weighed down by his keywords. His ship has almost turned over. Search engines are going to use stemming. So stemming is basically saying, “I’m going to look at skeleton and I’m going to cut that down to ‘skelet’ so that if the word ‘skeletal’ or the words ‘skeletons’ or ‘skeletals’ or ‘Skeletor’ . . .” well, maybe Skeletor means a little something different. You guys remember He-Man, right? I know some of my viewers do.

But that stemming is going to mean that lots and lots of repetitions of minor variance of a keyword are totally unnecessary. In fact, they can annoy searchers and people who are consuming that content, and they might even trigger the engine systems that say, “This is keyword stuffing. This is bad. Don’t do it.” Keyword stuffing, by the way, super easy to pattern match for engines. It’s going to make searchers click the Back button. So use a lot of caution if you’re thinking about that.

What about on-page keyword use?

Remember that on-page keyword use is only a small piece of the algorithm. We’re talking about a relatively small piece. You could get all of this absolutely perfect, or you could get only, say, 80%, just this stuff right, and the difference is pretty minute in terms of your ranking ability. So I would urge you not to spend too much time trying to go from, “Well, I hit these basic things that Rand talked about, but now I’m going to try and take my keyword targeting and on-page optimization to the absolute max.” You can get a very, very tiny extra amount of value.

Do consider searchers’ intent and target topics and questions that they have. Engines are smart about this too. So engines have these topic analysis and intent analysis models. So a page that talks about skeleton keys, that fails to mention words like locks or wards or master keys, the engines might go, “That doesn’t seem particularly relevant or not as relevant as the pages that do. So even though it has more links pointing at it, we’re going to rank it lower.”

Likewise, plenty of searchers are searching for those topics as well. So if you don’t answer those queries and someone else does, well, they might click on you, but then they’ll click back. Or they might click on you, but they won’t share you or amplify you or link to you or bookmark you or remember your brand. You need all those signals in the modern on-page world.

All right, everyone. Look forward to some great keyword targeting, some good questions in the Q&A and the comments below. I’ll see you next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

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Is Online Marketing Gender-Diverse?

Posted by JackieRae

What is your gender?

It’s a standard demographic question that many of us answered on the Online Marketing Industry Survey. It’s a compelling indicator of how our industry is evolving in an area that truly helps us become better marketers: gender equality. Why does gender equality matter to marketing, and why do we need to understand this trend? There are hundred of reasons why gender diversity is good, and we can name at least a few. Diversity in the workplace fosters better working performance by forcing us to think more deeply about decisions and with new perspectives. Studies have also shown that creating a more gender-diverse organization will boost a company’s profits. As we discuss the following data, I encourage you to consider how you and your organization can foster more gender diversity in your workplace.

When collecting the data, our goal was to reach the general online marketing population through a diverse range of channels. However, our results skew towards the Moz Community, as most participants discovered the survey through Moz’s blog and Twitter feed.

Of the 3,618 respondents, 1,089 respondents marked “female,” 2,516 marked “male,” and 13 marked “I’d rather not say.” Compared to December 2013, females have only gained about 2% representation in the Online Marketing Industry Survey, with a 7.3% increase in women since 2012. Every year, more women are joining the online marketing workforce. However, there’s still a long way to go before women represent anywhere close to 50% of that population.

Here are the percentages of each gender in overall participation for the last 4 years:

Of the 1,089 women who took the survey, 63.32% are from the United States. Overall, there are more U.S. women represented, but when we filter down to individual countries, we see a more erratic breakdown of men versus women:

Many countries are missing from the diagram, as we only included countries that were represented by greater than 100 participants in the study. According to the survey, the smallest gender difference goes to Canada. (Go Canada!) The highest gender difference is India.

Breaking down job titles

Like many fields, online marketers have job title inequalities in the most poignant ways. Job titles are a good indicator of which levels and functions are geared towards men or women throughout different types of organizations.

Based on these responses, the most equal fields are web analytics and public relations. Women were more likely to have words like “social media” and “content” in their job titles, while men dominate the fields of engineering, web development, paid advertising, SEO, and e-commerce (all fields that are considered more technical).

The next chart looks at job level, where we see that males dominate higher-level jobs. The largest gaps between men and women are in the titles of president, business owner, chief, consultant, director, analyst, vice president, and strategist. The lowest disparities in job level: intern, project manager, and specialist. Women are more likely to have “editor,” “assistant,” “writer,” and “coordinator” within their titles.

How do these inequalities compare to other industries? According to HBR, on average, women make up 40% of managers, 35% of directors, 27% of vice presidents, 24% of senior vice presidents, and 19% of executive and chiefs. If we compare that data to our own, it would appear the online marketers are making strides in higher-level jobs—we’re above average for vice presidents and chiefs—but falling short for managers, directors, and presidents.

Why are those titles stacked the way they are? I don’t have a specific answer, but I do know what it’s not based on, according to a few other questions in the survey:

  • Education? Nope. 80.80% of female respondents have 4-year and/or Master’s-level degrees, while only 64.50% of men reported having 4-year or Master’s-level degrees. Women who took this survey have a higher level of education than their male counterparts.
  • Years of experience? Maybe. There are higher percentages of males with more than 3 years’ experience in online marketing. Yet that’s only correlation; it could be that women aren’t sticking to online marketing as long as men.

The money question: How do salaries stack up?

Based on the survey responses, there is a suggested pattern that men make more than women, and are paid differently depending on their job level.

A few notes about our methodology: We’re reporting salary in U.S. dollars, because we asked survey participants to report their salaries in that form. In order to analyze the salaries, which were collected by ranges, we took the midpoint of the range. This isn’t the best model, but allows us to test the significance of the differences between genders and job titles. For you data junkies out there, we used the 2-sample Z-test. If the group had less than 30 respondents, then that group was excluded from testing. Thanks to our resident statistician, Mitch, for helping with the analysis.

We show that men earn more than women in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Australian responses showed a slight difference between salaries, but it wasn’t significant enough to say with confidence that salaries were unequal.

*No inequality proven: P-Values are too great to suggest inequality between men and women in Australia. However, the averages show, directionally, that men may make more than women.

Personally, I was shocked at the disparity in salary. However, as we saw in the previous section, males are more likely to have higher-power jobs; could this be a reflection of that? Let’s look at the average salaries of men and women by job title in all responses (globally):

*No inequality proven: P-Values are too great to lend statistical significance to inequality between men and women. However, the averages show, directionally, where salaries swing.

Comparing salaries for job titles, we can see that the differences in salary permeate through nearly all levels and functions. We show that men make more than women as business owners, consultants, and specialists. While we can’t prove disparity in all job functions, it’s worth noting that women may make more than men in some functions. Interestingly, when we filtered our results for only U.S. responses, the most unequal job levels are business owner, manager, and strategist.

Improving gender diversity

We know, based on the data presented, that there is a gender gap in online marketing. The question that remains is: What is your company or organization doing to support a gender-diverse workplace? As I circulated this data around the office, it spurred a really cool discussion: What is being done within online marketing organizations to tackle gender inequalities? I thought I’d share some examples here:

  • Tech companies are discussing salaries more openly, like SumAll and Buffer. This will shed light on any disparities occurring within these tech organizations and support equal pay.
  • Companies partner with nonprofits, such as Ada Developers Academy, that aim at getting women into the technical space.
  • Seer Interactive made a point to focus on helping women find mentorship from other women leaders.
  • Marketing conferences are making strides to include more female speakers and track attendee participation. (SMX just blogged about this recently, and MozCon had 12 women representing out of 26 total speakers in 2015.)

If you’re feeling stuck or wondering how you can help, here are some great resources and tools for implementing and enacting change in your organization:

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The New Snack Pack: Where Users are Clicking &amp; How You Can Win

Posted by Casey_Meraz

Last week I wrote a post about the new Snack Pack, where three local results have become the new standard, and explored where users were clicking based on some preliminary data from UsabilityHub tests we ran. In our test, we measured 200 clicks on a heat map to see where users were clicking most.

In that example, organic results won, getting almost 40% of clicks. However, this test was based on a search result where there was one organic listing above the local results, as seen in the screenshot below:

Since the release of this study, we’ve been conducting many more tests that take into consideration other variables, such as the different types of results that display and the impact of reviews.

In this article, we’re going to analyze some new click-through studies, conduct live interviews with potential searchers, and talk about the new best practices you should focus on to win the local search game. If you’re not familiar with the major impact of this update, you can read this great post by Jennifer Slegg.

The biggest change to occur was the removal of the 7-pack and the addition of the new 3-pack. In the image below you can compare the changes:


Although this study will showcase some interesting results, take it as anecdotal evidence. Since there are so many search variables—ranging from the keywords used to personalized results, from the device used to display results to the text on the listings—we couldn’t be as scientific as we would have preferred. I am also not a data scientist. :) However, keep in mind that these are real users performing real tests, which makes for some interesting takeaways.

In essence, this research is meant to be insightful, but not definitive. Our sample sizes may be small but the users are real, so I hope this inspires you to see which areas you can improve upon for your clients.

Which Variants Did We Want to Analyze?

The new update, which included some sweeping changes to local SEO, really shook up how results were displayed. We wanted to analyze how the 3-pack affected user behavior. Since this was our main concern, we looked at a small variety of results to help us unpack the potential behavioral change:

  1. One Organic Result, Then the Local Pack
    In this example, you’ll see one organic listing underneath the pay-per-click ads, followed by the Local Snack Pack of three listings.
  2. The Snack Pack with Organic Results Underneath
    This seems to be the most common variant: seeing the Snack Pack appear right under the paid ads. In our searches, very few results returned the listing with the single organic result on top. An example of the Snack Pack on top is below:

Let’s Look at Some Heat Maps

These heat maps were generated from a few custom tests we set up, using screen recording and heat map tracking via HotJar. We fed the traffic through Mechanical Turk and asked users where they would click if they had just conducted a certain search.

Test #1: The Snack Pack with Organic Results Underneath

In this test, we displayed the results for a lawyer search phrase: “Personal Injury Lawyer.” They were then shown the (pre-heat map) screenshot below. We asked potential searchers the question: “Where would you click on this page if you were looking to find a personal injury attorney?” This is a screenshot of their heat-mapped results. The darker the color, the more clicks an area received:


With our first test, we wanted to show a listing that included reviews as a part of the search results. This was purposeful, because we aimed to see if user behavior was impacted by reviews. While we cannot separate all of the variables, it’s clear that the majority of the clicks landed on the #1 local listing, on the business name itself (as opposed to the website or directions). The breakdown of clicks is below:

Key Takeaways:

Local results seem to be getting more clicks than expected on this round. Notice that there was a very clear distribution of clicks between the two listings that had review stars when compared with the listing that didn’t have any review stars.

In a close second follows the organic listing. This means that many users skipped over the local listings entirely and opted for the traditional organic result. We can’t say exactly why this is, but it could be that users are not yet used to this format. We may see a shift in this behavior over time, as users become more accustomed to the change.

Test #2: One Organic Result, Then the Local Pack

This is the same test we conducted in our post last week, now using a different data collection method, as mentioned above. Although we haven’t seen these listings as much in the SERPs, it’s interesting to see the impact the single organic listing has on clicks. In this test, we asked the user where they would click if they were researching an employment lawyer. The heat map is shown below. The line in the heat map represents the average fold.

Key Takeaways:

Since we were able to run this same test with a different user base last week, we can compare and contrast some of the data. In the previous test, about 40% of clicks went to the organic listing, compared with 62% for the current test. It seems pretty clear that the organic listing above the local results is the place to aim for, if available.

Notice how the local pack got very few clicks overall, resulting in just 8% of clicks (or 22%, if you include the “more local results” option). Does this seem weird? It does to me, but there is a key difference between the screenshot we used for this test and that which we used for the last one. There are no review stars present in the screenshot for our current test. It appears that the results with reviews were clicked more often than those without.

Test #3: The Snack Pack with Organic Results Underneath

For a third test, I wanted to see where users might click if some listings had reviews and another did not. I also wanted to include an additional organic result to see how that impacted user behavior. As with the previous tests, we asked our participants where they would click if they were looking to hire a personal injury attorney. The results are below:

Key Takeaways:

Once again, there was a wide variance of where users clicked in this study. This time, the organic listings represented 40% of the clicks, taking home the gold. Local was in second place, with 33% of clicks.

However, another item of interest is that the listings with reviews got the clicks. The third listing, with no review stars, received zero clicks in the local 3-pack. Additionally, it’s worth nothing that most of the local-centric clicks land on the business name itself. These clicks no longer lead straight to your website or even your old Google+ page, where you still controlled the information to some extent. These now take you to a map page, where other businesses are displayed and where users can read your reviews.

Essentially, just because you got a click to your listing in the local 3-pack doesn’t mean you’ve earned a visit to your site or a phone call.

In-Person Click-Through Tests

Heat map data is super cool and fun to look at visually, but I wanted to dive a bit deeper and see if I could collect more accurate search data. Since we don’t have access to Google’s actual data, we have to simulate click-through studies based on a certain amount of variables and find the means to test our hypothesis. In the past, we’ve used Mechanical Turk and UsabilityHub for the majority of these tests. The potential problem therein is that we don’t get as much information on the users, and it doesn’t involve the emotions present with someone who is more invested in the search.

To simulate this and explore whether the data correlated with real user behavior, my friends at Fox Airsoft allowed me to stop in for the day and interview their actual customers. To do this, I created a very specific scenario for each of the candidates and screen-captured their behavior with a short interview. Keep in mind that for this test we specifically explored desktop user behavior, as that format was affected by the new Snack Pack update.

The Scenario

The scenario I used to try to invoke an emotional response read like this:

“You are sitting in front of your computer and you get a frantic call from a loved one. They tell you that your father has been locked up in [city changed per user] and that he needs to be bailed out immediately.”

From here, I informed them that they needed to find someone ASAP. I then turned the computer over to them and had them conduct their searches and make their clicks, interviewing them after the fact. Overall, we interviewed ten people, which is a small sample size but offers intriguing results. A few of the most insightful interviews are below:

Interview One: Leah

Meet Leah, a 27-year-old female who lives in New York. Leah is employed and has a four-year college degree. Watch how she responds to the scenario below:

In this scenario, she used a laptop computer and performed the search from Google’s home page.

She opted to use a geo modifier for the result, since we clarified that her loved one was locked up in Denver. The keyword she typed in was “Denver bail bonds.”

What’s interesting about her behavior is that she scrolled past both the paid ads and the local Snack Pack to view the top three organic results before clicking on the business in the first local results position. At first glance, I would have done the same thing. However, the reason she provides for her selection is loud and clear. “I skimmed past the ads at the top, and then I noticed that there were a few listed, and one of them said ‘five-star rating’…”

Key Takeaways:

1) Local results ultimately earned the click.

2) Reviews were the reason the first local click won the battle.

Some Things To Consider

Would Leah’s behavior change if the organic results featured rich snippets with reviews and a five-star rating?

Interview Two: Todd

This is Todd. Todd is a 53-year-old man who lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Todd has a high school education and is employed full-time. Watch how he responds to the scenario below:

In this test, Todd took his time and was thoughtful about his search. Like Leah, Todd used a geo modifier for his keyword, but added it following the keyword and including the state abbreviation. The keyword he chose was “Bails Bondsman Colorado Springs CO.”

When the search results page loaded, he recognized some offline branding from the show “Dog the Bounty Hunter” and mentioned he knew of Bobby Brown Bail Bonds because of this. However, even though he knew the brand, he put more weight into the reviews before deciding to click through to the first local result’s website.

As you can hear in the interview, the reviews also played a big part in his decision here.

Key Takeaways:

1) Todd was most interested in the top two local results, both of which include review stars.

2) The first-position listing won the click in the end, though.

Interview Three: Kaitlin

Kaitlin is a 25-year-old female who works in the airline industry full-time. Kaitlin was given the same scenario as the others.

Kaitlin started at Google and used a geo modifier in front of the keyword she chose: “Denver Bail Bondsman,” selected by autocomplete. She looked at the results and scrolled past the top two local listings—likely because they did not have any review stars associated with them, unlike the third result in the Snack Pack.

Kaitlin clicked on the listing’s business name, which brought up the new map-type view. Here she could read the reviews. Her behavior was different than our other samples because she said she would do multiple searches before making her final decision.

Kaitlin seemed to have more interest in looking at the best and worst reviews before making a decision. She also used Yelp to explore reviews.

Key Takeaways:

1) Local results earned the first click on the business listing that brought her to the map view. Keep in mind that other local businesses are also listed here.

2) Reviews were the reason the first local click won the battle. Positive and negative reviews made the difference.

3) A result with zero reviews in a pack where others include them seems to be a negative factor for click-throughs.

Interview Four: Clayton

Clayton is a 29-year-old male who lives in New York City. He has a full-time job and previously dabbled in blogging. He was given the same bail bonds scenario:

Clayton started his search in Google with a geo modifier of “Denver CO” at the end of his search. The overall keyword phrase he chose was “best bail bondsman denver co.” He scrolled down long enough to look at the local results and the top two organic results.

Ultimately, he clicked on the business name for the first result in the Snack Pack, which took him to the map-like results page. He made his final decision because of the five-star results. As he stated, “If you’re number one, but your reviews suck, I don’t want to go there.”

Key Takeaways:

1) Local results earned the first click on the business listing that brought him to the map view.

2) Not to beat a dead horse, but the decision was made because there were review stars present.

Overall Takeaways & What You Can Do

With all of these tests, there was a ton of information to soak in. While it’s clear that each user’s behavior is unique, whether on a click-test study or an in-person interview, there are some very clear patterns that you can focus on. Even though we don’t have data from thousands or millions of users, these real-life examples shed light on what you should focus on with the new local 3-Pack.

  1. Reviews are Magical
    In every test we ran, reviews seemed to attract the most clicks. Not only did they attract a lot of clicks, it also seems clear that being listed in a pack where your competitors have review stars and you don’t is detrimental to your click-through rate.
    The importance of reviews seems to be as high as ever, and I would go so far as to say that if you don’t have review stars—and don’t plan on putting in processes to get legitimate reviews—you’re making a bad business decision.
  2. Organic Search is Alive & Well
    With organic and local tied together ever since the Pigeon update over a year ago, I’m hoping your SEOs have adopted an organic and local search strategy. If you still don’t have an organic search strategy, make sure to create one. Ranking higher in organic results will only help your local results, and you even have the potential to take up two listings in the search results for your business.
    DO NOT IGNORE ORGANIC. Bring your website up to snuff using SEO best practices and continue to earn high-quality links from reputable sources.
    Consider adding rich snippets of reviews to your organic pages if they meet Google’s guidelines.
  3. If You’re Not in the Top Three, You Still Have a Chance
    Even if you’re not listed in the top three results, some clicks are going to the maps results and the “more results” options. Being listed in the top 6 or 7 positions will still have you listed above the fold on the left side of the map view. Don’t ignore it. Take advantage of it. What if your competition doesn’t have any reviews? Maybe being #6 on that list can make a huge impact on your business simply by being the only one with active review stars.
  4. People Use Geo Modifiers
    Do your keyword research for your niche and don’t ignore geo modifiers. I’ve written about this in the past, but individual search behavior varies greatly. In a few of the videos above, we saw variants on these modifiers, such as “Denver Bailbondsman” to “Bail Bondsman in Colorado Springs, CO.” Make sure you’re looking at proper keyword volumes for your variants and optimize if necessary.
  5. Do Your Own Testing
    One process that I have come to adopt and love is doing our own testing. Your results may produce different information, based on your niche or search behavior. Conduct your own tests, see what works, and report it to the world. We all benefit from this, and can make some great Internet marketing decisions as a result.

With so many different variables out there to test and ways to launch bigger studies, we’re interested to hear what you think. What type of tests would you like to see?

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!

Source: moz


New Moz Local Distribution Partners and Mobile-Friendly Interface

Posted by David-Mihm

Those of you who have logged into your Moz Local dashboard recently may have noticed a few updates this week! I thought I’d post a quick announcement to highlight them.

New distribution partners: Bing, Citysearch, and Insider Pages

Long-time users of Moz Local know that we’ve been helping you examine listing accuracy on two of these sites (Bing Local and Citysearch) since the earliest days of the former GetListed product.

Today we’re excited to announce that, in addition to monitoring, we’re now also distributing data on your behalf to these important partners as part of your US Moz Local subscription.

With the second-largest market share among the search engines—including some estimates north of 20%—Bing is obviously a key place to make sure that your data is accurate, consistent, and complete. The company has been innovating its local display in near-lockstep with Google, and with local results becoming ever more prevalent as part of universal search, your Moz Local listings will be seen by more potential customers than ever (the number in the graphic above comes from applying a rough 25% multiplier to the volume numbers reported by Comscore).

Citysearch is obviously one of the premier brands in local search. In joint research that Darren Shaw and I conducted, Citysearch appeared as one of the top 10 citation sources in 86 out of 93 US local search markets we studied. It’s also ranked in the top 10 in this study from BrightLocal and this one by Nyagoslav Zhekov, also of Whitespark. Needless to say, it’s a pretty important citation source that we’re proud to have onboard.

And, as part of the CityGrid platform, Insider Pages is another key consumer destination and citation source on which Moz Local now helps you manage your listings as well. (We’ll be adding it to the listing details page shortly.)

New mobile-friendly interface

So far, only about 7% of you have been using mobile devices or tablets to analyze your listings on Moz Local—a number that hasn’t changed much in the last 18 months. I’ve been a bit surprised at this relative usage, but I’m guessing it’s partly a self-fulfilling prophecy given the (previous) suboptimal experience of trying to interact with the product on these devices.

Well, suboptimal mobile experience no longer! We’re finally walking the walk of responsive design thanks to some terrific work over the last several weeks from Jeff Crump, Noam Chitayat, Zach Sitler, Wes Carr, and the entire Moz Local engineering team. We’ve prioritized visuals we think are most compelling on mobile, and the experience will soon have full parity with desktop.

We hope this helps those of you who demonstrate Moz Local to clients and prospects out in the field on your tablets and smartphones — in addition to the small business owners who happen to find their way to our product directly.

Yahoo Local removed from listing monitoring

Other than the relatively silent announcement last spring that Yelp listings with reviews would override native Yahoo Local listings, Yahoo Local hasn’t gotten much love from Marissa Mayer or her predecessors. It has not had a significant user experience overhaul since at least March 2010.

Since the Yelp announcement last spring, I’ve advised consulting clients, Local U forum members, and conference attendees not to focus energy on Yahoo Local, but instead put an additional effort into getting Yelp reviews. Aside from what appears to be a recent temporary glitch, that strategy has served them quite well.

And now that there’s a white-hat way to prompt customers (TLDR: post check-in offers and let Yelp ask the customer for a review), it’s a much better use of time and mental energy to focus on Yelp reviews, which are also syndicated to Apple Maps, Bing, and many other sources.

If, as I suspect is the case for most of you, your primary interest in Yahoo Local is to remove bad listings, there’s some evidence that tweeting @YahooCare may resolve your headache.

Given the time and expense involved with native Yahoo Local listings, for the vast majority of you, I encourage you to focus instead on getting at least one review on your Yelp listing. We’ve adjusted our listing score algorithm to prioritize Yelp accordingly, and we’ve removed Yahoo to align with this recommendation.

What’s next?

We’ve got a number of major updates still in the pipeline, including additional network destinations that we’re already working on integrating, and our biggest feature release since launch in March 2014. We’re excited to roll all of these out as soon as we can.

What features would you like to see us add to Moz Local? Let us know 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!

Source: moz


Google’s Local Snack Pack Shake-Up: What You Need to Know

Posted by jenstar

Local SEO has seen the biggest shake-up since Google launched their first local algorithm, Pigeon, just over a year ago. On Thursday, August 6th, people began to notice that the usual 7-packs that frequently showed up in the search results for local businesses were suddenly replaced with 3-packs in the desktop search results. It initially wasn’t too alarming, but as the hours passed it was obvious Google had changed the face of local search in their search results.

By the end of that day, 3-packs had completely replaced all the 7-packs across all verticals and across all countries. This was an unusual move for Google, since they commonly tested out local changes that only rolled out to specific countries. But this change was for everyone everywhere.

By the next morning, less than 24 hours after the first changes were noticed, Mozcast confirmed what everyone suspected: 7-packs were history and 3-packs were all the rage.


As mobile usage continues to grow higher and higher, Google has changed their desktop search results to appear more similar to the mobile-specific search results; the 3-packs fit perfectly on the screen for mobile users.

Regardless of what you search is for, it is those top three spaces that make up the screen real estate for a mobile user, along with the Google map that appears for some local queries. Google’s removal of all 7-packs brings desktop the same user experience as mobile users have been getting for some time.

Here is how the local pack appears on mobile.

And the same search on desktop now.

The look and feel is pretty close now for both desktop and mobile searches.

Google has always been very focused on user experience regardless of the product or platform, so it isn’t at all surprising to see local as yet another area where Google is changing desktop to match the mobile user experience.

How much traffic was in the bottom of the 7-Pack?

Google doesn’t make changes to the way they present search results without a lot of testing—tests that are often noticed by SEOs. Ever since we first saw the 3-packs make their first appearance, many SEO experts were concerned that Google could make a change to show more 3-packs than 7-packs. This is now a reality, and it has huge implications for any local business with more than two other competitors.

Just how much traffic were those sites listed in positions 4-7 getting? For Google to make this change, it is very likely those results weren’t clicked on nearly as much the top three. But again, this likely comes down to positioning and screen real estate. In mobile, even if they were showing 7-packs, it is the top three that fill the mobile screen, making those 4-7 spots invisible until someone scrolls down.

This is something that Andrew Shotland from Local SEO Guide agrees with. “I would imagine that Google was seeing far fewer clicks and calls from the listings after the first three,” says Shotland. “So they probably figured , ‘what’s the point of presenting them?’ ”

But even if businesses weren’t getting much traffic from the 4th to 7th spots, it was still a branding opportunity. These websites were getting exposure, particularly on desktop, and they are now missing out on that important branding.

Other changes

Along with the new 3-packs everywhere, Google also made some changes to the 3-packs, and not everyone is happy about these changes.


Google removing specific addresses and only showing the street names in a 3-pack does promote people actually clicking through, which can be a good thing for those who aren’t in the top three.

Here is how it appears in the pack for both desktop and mobile. Note the street address but no street number.

Even initially clicking through to the additional results or on a listing still shows no address on the left side. It is only once you bring up the panel result on the right that you finally see a full address.

However for those who are looking on mobile, even when they do click through to the “more” option, you still don’t see full addresses, and it is still those top three results from the 3-pack that will be displayed at the top of the screen. If a mobile user clicks on an individual listing in a pack, they go to the store’s card listing page which looks almost identical to the card on the right of the desktop search.

So yes, there’s the potential to get traffic even if you aren’t in the top three from those clicking through to get an address, but it will likely be more for desktop searches as opposed to mobile.


If you are in a restaurant-related business, your ratings are going to become even more crucial. Google has added an option for searchers to select only businesses that are above a certain rating, currently choosing from two stars and higher, three stars and higher, or four stars and higher.

With searchers faced with the option, it doesn’t take much to realize that of course users are going to be selecting the ones with four stars or higher. So while having good ratings has always played an important part in local SEO, for restaurants this should be at the top of the marketing priority list.

Some smaller towns may not see the ratings selector if there are not enough restaurants with ratings available. In an area with plenty of restaurants, though, the ratings drop down (and likely the additional drop downs for cuisine, price, hours and Zagat) will appear.

We also know that Google likes to test small before unleashing it everywhere. So businesses should anticipate that this star rating selection drop-down is going to appear for other local related searches in the 3-pack, even if just on a testing basis.

If your business is in a highly populated area or there are many competing businesses in the market, you should start thinking about those stars now so you’re prepared if and when Google expands this rating selection. It would be very unlikely Google would give any advance warning about this kind of change, in order to prevent the possibility of businesses spamming reviews, so working on getting reviews will become a necessity unless you are already fortunate enough to have plenty of 4-star or higher reviews.

Diminishing role of Google+

For now, it will still be important for local businesses to claim their profile pages. We are still seeing links to the Google+ profile page when those businesses come up in the regular organic search results, even if they have been removed from the local 3-pack.

Even in the local 3-pack we are now seeing photos for local businesses shown through the Google Maps display, and not through Google+ as they were in the past. This is a very significant change for Google; while we knew they were moving the photos product from Google+, some thought business photos would migrate to the new Google Photos product rather than Maps.

Here is an example of a local business’s photos on Google Maps:

Of course, we also know the Google is changing how baked-in Google+ is with the rest of their services. But for now, businesses should consider it business as usual in terms of claiming their Google+ page and directing reviews to it, as for now, this is where Google is still getting their reviews. “Continue focusing on Google+ reviews as well since those are the only reviews Google is showing in the Local Pack,” says Brian Barwig with Integrated Digital Marketing.

New businesses & reviews

Unfortunately, with this new change it has become very difficult for someone to leave a review for a business that currently does not have any reviews listed. In fact, it is next to impossible.

Right now, if someone wants to leave a review, they can just find the local listing, click the reviews link and then choose to leave their own. But for a business that has no reviews, you can’t actually get to the page that has the option to leave a review:

There is a workaround if you can manage to find the Google+ page for the business, but in a world where businesses need to make it as easy as possible to leave a review, many won’t jump through the hoops required to leave a Google review and will head to leave one on Yelp instead, if they leave one at all.

In fact, for this location of the Walking Company, we couldn’t find a Google+ page to leave a review but we did discover the Yelp page for this location on the first page of the search results.

With ratings and reviews playing a role in local SEO, Google’s oversight in this area is surprising and it is hopefully being corrected. Any new businesses and those businesses who do not have any current Google reviews will be at a severe disadvantage if this isn’t fixed in the very near future.

Coupled this with the fact we see ratings being given a greater emphasis in the local results with the ratings selector, it definitely puts new businesses or those without any reviews at a disadvantage.

New sponsored marketing model

Implications of home service ads

Google is testing the new home service ads, which look very similar to the local packs, but are sponsored results. It is currently testing only in San Francisco and only in two professions: for those looking for plumbers or locksmiths.

Here is the sponsored 3-pack as it appears in the search results:

And you click through to see this page:

However, many local SEOs are worried this program will expand to other cities and professions, making the local pack turn into a “pay for play” situation.

“This is my fear as well,” says Barwig. “This new Local Pack looks similar to those ads and it could be Google’s intention to simply replace the Local Pack with ads or integrate ads directly into the Pack.”

It would be very easy change for Google to make, and for many searchers, a very seamless experience where they likely wouldn’t even realize it was a sponsored result, since they do look so familiar to the 3-packs many expect to see for local searches.

“If there are only 3 precious spots,” says Linda Buquet, from the Local Search Forum. “It’s easier to command a premium.”

Google’s lead generation

With these home service ads currently handled as per lead basis, it also opens up a new revenue model for Google. But on the opposite side of that, it is yet another way businesses would have to spend in order to get the traffic and business from Google.

I can see a scenario where these ads are the 3-pack,” says Shotland. “If that’s the case, then Google will have successfully transitioned to the old yellow pages pay-to-play business model, and we Local SEO types will need to spend a bit more time of lead optimization.”

What about those penalized by Panda and Penguin?

The sites that will be hit particularly hard with this new change are those that were previously penalized by Google, either with Panda or Penguin. Right now, penalized local sites still show up in the local pack, even if they are impossible to find in the regular organic search. This is because Google will still show local listings for any website in the local pack, even those that are penalized with Panda or Penguin.

But now these sites are looking at a situation where only the top three sites are going to be on the first page of results. Sites that are looking to replace that pack listing with a regular organic listing will not be able to do so if they are penalized. Previously, even if they didn’t make the top three, but were somewhere in that top seven, they were assured that their business was still visible on that all-important first page of Google search results. But this new 3-pack change can really hurt a penalized local business if they aren’t appearing in that pack.

Google began a Panda refresh in July, and it is expected to last several months. This is good news for local businesses caught up in that filter, if they have made the changes necessary to be clear of Panda. If they start making changes now, they need to wait until the next Panda update to begin ranking again.

But for those who have been impacted by Penguin, it is been almost a year since we’ve seen the last update to that algorithm, and we still don’t have timeline for when the next one will be. Penguin-impacted local sites should make it a priority to get those bad back links removed from their sites before we do see the next update or refresh to Penguin.

What about the new user experience?

Everyone has an opinion now that all the 7-packs have been removed. While some think it is great for user experience, many marketers have huge concerns about how users will interact with them, especially since most things would require a click through to the secondary listing page.

“It’s possible users think this new design is such a poor user experience they click on the Map in order to get the full 20 Pack of listings,” says Barwig. “Factors such as Click Through Rate, Bounce Rate, Time on Site and Content may be even more important now. If a website is poorly designed and doesn’t have much information, a user has 19 other businesses they can compare against. Again, time and analysis will show if those 3 spots are as coveted as we think.”

And since these 3-packs were driven by user experience, we will see if this change does indeed become permanent, although many agree it is here to stay unless Google changes up something dramatically for local on mobile first.

Top 3: When you’re in & when you’re not

Sitting pretty in the top 3?

There are those who have retained a spot in the new 3-pack. But even those who have a coveted spot in the 3-pack still have reason to be concerned. Local SEO is just to get more aggressive now that people are fighting for the top three links instead of just the top seven. Over half of those appearing in the 7-packs are suddenly gone, and everyone will want a shot in the new 3-pack.

There is real danger in being too complacent when it comes to rankings in Google. Just because you have a spot there now does not mean you can stop optimization efforts for local SEO, especially since your competitors will be ramping it up.

Many businesses that were previously happy just to appear somewhere in the top seven and have never done any local SEO up to this point will certainly begin marketing themselves better online. Sometimes those are the ones who suddenly sneak up out of nowhere, once they actually start their local SEO efforts, since they usually have nowhere to go but up.

Linda Buquet also made a great point for those local SEOs who are able to consistently get their clients into those top three spots: “If you are really good and usually get your clients in the top 3, then this update just knocked out 42% of your competition!”

Consolation for those outside the 3

Not all local SEOs are convinced that being outside of the top 3 is as bad as it initially sounds. First of all, we are still gauging the changes in traffic with the new 3-packs, especially for those who were accustomed used to seeing their businesses in the 7-packs.

“Google pushed out a major update and we are evaluating the new landscape to determine next steps,” says Barwig. “It’s too early to begin losing our minds. Analyze the pack, test ideas and track the results.”

We have also seen Google roll back changes before, so while this change seems very permanent, it might not be. But SEOs have also learned never to underestimate how Google might change things suddenly – Google could decide next month that 2-packs or 4-packs are the new normal.

“Google has a history of pushing out updates and either slowly rolling them back or continuing to tweak the update until results finally settle,” says Barwig. “There is a good possibility Google will make some additional changes/updates to this Stack Pack and things will shake out again.”

Optimizing in a 3-Pack world

Getting into the top 3: Focus on organic

While local SEO has plenty of nuances that are very specific to local, there are also a lot of aspects of regular organic SEO that play a role in local rankings in Google. And it is going to be even more important for local businesses to work on regular SEO too.

With the old blended 7-pack algo, organic ranking pretty much controlled the ranking order,” says Buquet. “But now using all the right ‘Local Hooks’ is even more important than ever.”

“Focus more on good solid organic SEO, both onsite and offsite. That will help boost your rank plus even if you can’t make the top three, it will help your organic ranking. Many consultants I work with say top organic beats top local ranking anyway.”

Of course, SEO should all be “white hat” Google-approved SEO techniques. While you may see some businesses dominating in your space using “black hat” or spam techniques, for the most part they tend to see short-lived success, and you can always file a spam report for websites spamming Google. But do make sure your own SEO is squeaky clean, since Google could take a look at other competitive sites in the same market or even specific keyword results.

Getting into the top 3: Focus on links

While links have been a significant part of local SEO, some businesses didn’t even have to bother much with getting them, simply because their market wasn’t competitive enough.But this is certainly changing.

“Good solid backlinks are probably more important as well,” says Buquet. “In the past I didn’t even need backlinks to rank clients and could do it just based on Places optimization and onsite. But now I’d say certainly in competitive markets backlinks are pretty key.”

Don’t forget that even nofollowed links serve a purpose, so don’t automatically skip a link opportunity simply because it is a nofollow link.They can still send referral traffic, they can serve as a brand reminder and you never know if the linking site will decide to switch to dofollow links in the future.

Getting into the top 3: Focus on citations

Some market areas were just not competitive enough that citations and directories made a significant difference, while for others it was crucial. Be sure all your citations and directories are accurate and complete.

“My initial analysis started to paint a picture that citations were still important,” says Barwig. “Make sure your clients are listed on the big directories, are feeding into the data aggregators and that the listings are 100% filled out and correct.”

Buquet agrees. “I would also be sure citations are in order.”

For those not familiar with the citations they should be considering for their city or state, Moz lists the best local citations for cities in the US as well as by industry.

Citations are particularly important for those local businesses that do not have their own website.When Google can’t pull data from an official site, they tend to pull information from other third party sources, which might not always be accurate.

Getting into the top 3: Marketing priorities

Local SEO is more than just link building, reviews, and directories. But many businesses were able to skate by with minimal SEO if they weren’t in super-competitive local business areas such as law offices or restaurants. But with those 4-7 spots now gone in desktop, skating by isn’t good enough anymore.

Shotland feels that marketing and PR will play a much bigger role for many businesses wanting to complete.

“One piece of advice: I just spoke to an attorney who is spending six figures on PR and they rank #1 in their market for some pretty high-value legal terms,” says Shotland. “They have an SEO company to get the basic SEO pieces right and advise the PR program, but they are really invested in marketing. So my one piece of advice is get used to the idea of investing in marketing, not just hiring link builders.”

We aren’t just talking about the standard press releases, of course. Think beyond that, whether it is outreach to industry experts, local promotions or teaming up with complimentary – but not competitive – businesses in the same neighborhood as your local business. There are always great opportunities to get your name out there, and some will come with a bonus link.

Competitive analysis

For those who are currently residing in the top three positions for the new 3-packs, that doesn’t mean it is time for you to sit back and reap the rewards. Those top three spots have become much more competitive than it ever was when there was a 7-pack.

If you are in the top three, you are going to want to be even more aware of every move your competitor makes, especially those you know will make a push for the top three. Monitoring back links will be crucial. Yes, even for those businesses you think are not doing any optimization at all, because sometimes their marketing and links are unsolicited. You can’t foresee such things as a new link from the local Chamber of Commerce, a link because they sponsored a charity or even a popular blogger who does a review, complete with a nice juicy back link.

Set up alerts for each of your competitor’s business names so that you get notification if they have a news story written up about them, you are aware of it. The same with any press releases, reviews, or anything specific to your particular industry that could be seen as a new promotion opportunity.

But rest assured, if you sit back and do nothing to improve your local SEO someone will be able to knock you out of that top three.

Local SEO in Google is an evolving process and we have seen two major shifts in how Google handles local searches over the past year.Local businesses have to learn how to adapt with the changing times or risk being left behind, and this means catering to local SEO in a 3-pack search result world.

Whether hoping for more Google+ reviews or deciding how to handle traffic when Google has brought their new lead ads to your vertical, local SEO has become much more complicated than it was just over a year ago. But it is those local businesses who are not only capable of evolving on the fly, but are also able to see the larger picture in the entire search results that will dominate the new SERPs. At least until Google decides to turn the industry upside down once again with brand new local SEO changes.

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!

Source: moz


Why No One Pays Attention to Your Marketing – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Ever mass-deleted a bunch of impersonal emails from your inbox? Brand fatigue is a real threat to your marketing strategy. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand discusses why brands become “background noise” and how you can avoid it.

Why No One Pays Attention to Your Marketing - The Painful Pitfall of Brand Fatigue Whiteboard Friday

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat a little bit about why no one is paying attention to your brand, to your marketing. It’s the perilous pitfall of brand fatigue.

Brand fatigue sucks

So you have all had this happen to you. I promise you have. It’s happened in your email. It’s happened in your social streams. It’s happened through advertising in the real world, online and offline.

I’ll give you an illustration. So I sign up for this newsletter. I decide, “Hey, I want to get some houseplants. My house has no greenery in it.” So I sign up for Green Dude Houseplants’ newsletter. What do I get? Well, I get a, “Welcome to Our Newsletter.” Oh, okay.

And then maybe the next day I get, “Meet Our New Hires.” Meet our new hires? I’m sure that your new hires are very important to you and your team, but I just got introduced to your brand. I’m not sure I care that much. To me, you’re all new hires. You might as well be, right? I don’t know you or the team yet.

“Best Summer Ever Event,” okay, maybe, maybe an event. “Edible Backyard Gardens, you know, I don’t have a backyard. I was signing up for a houseplant newsletter because it was in my house. “See Us at the Garden Show,” I don’t want to go to the garden show. I was going to buy from you. That’s why I’m online.

Okay, thanks.

How to cause brand fatigue

It’s not just the value of the messaging. It’s the frequency that it happens at. You’ve seen this. I’m on an email list that I signed up for, I think it’s called FounderDating. It’s here in Seattle. I think it’s in San Francisco. I thought it was a really cool idea when I signed up for it. Then I have just been inundated with messages from them. I think some of them are actually worthy of my participation, like I should have gone to the forum. I should have replied. I should have checked out what this particular person wanted. But I get so much email from them that I’ve just begun to hit Delete as soon as I get it.

We’ve actually had this problem at Moz too. If you’re a Moz subscriber, you probably get a new email every time a new crawl is completed, and a campaign is set up, and you have new rankings data. Some of that’s really important, right? Like if you’re paying attention to this particular site’s rankings and you want to see every time you get an update, well yeah, you need that email. But it’s actually kind of tough to opt in to which ones you want and with what frequency and control it all from one place.

We have found that our email open rates, engagement rates have actually drifted way, way down over time because, probably, we’ve inundated you with so much email. This is a big mistake that Moz has made in our email marketing, but a lot of brands make it in tons of places. So I want to help you avoid that.

1) Too many messages on a medium

Brand fatigue happens when there are too many messages, just too many raw messages on a medium. You start to see the same brand, the same name, the same person again and again. Their logo, their colors, the association you have, it just becomes background noise. Your brain goes into this mode where it just filters it out because it can’t handle the volume of stuff that’s coming through. It needs a filtration mechanism. So it starts to identify and associate your brand or your logo or your name or a person’s name with “filter.” Filter that out. That goes in the background.

2) Value provided is too low or infrequent to deserve attention

It also happens when the value provided is too low or too infrequent to deserve attention. So this might be what I’m talking about with FounderDating. One out of every maybe five or six messages, I’m like, “Oh yeah, that was interesting. I should pay attention to that.” But when it becomes too infrequent, that same filtration happens.

Too few of the high value messages means you’re not going to pay attention, you’re not going to engage with that brand, with that company anymore. All of us marketers will see that in the engagement rates. No matter the medium, we can look at our numbers and see that those are going down on a percentile basis, and that gets really frustrating.

3) The messaging can’t be effectively tuned or controlled by the user

So this is the problem that Moz is having where we don’t have that one email control center where you say how often you want exactly which messages updating you of which notifications about which campaigns, and newsletter and da, da, da. So your message frequency is either all the time high or very high and so you’re, “I don’t like any of those options.”

Very frustrating.

How NOT to cause brand fatigue

Now, I do have some solutions and suggestions. But it’s platform by platform.


Start very conservative with your email marketing and highly personal. In fact, I would actually recommend personally sending all the messages out to your first few hundred users if you possibly can, because you will get a great rapport that you develop individually with person by person. That will give you a sense for what your audiences like and what kind of messaging they prefer, and they’ll know they can reply directly to you.

You’ll create that highly-engaged experience through email that will mean that, as you scale, you have the experience from the past to tell you how often you can and can’t email people, what they care about and don’t, what they filter and don’t, what they’re looking for from you, etc. You can then watch your open, unsubscribe and engagement rates through your email program. No matter what program you might be using, you can almost always see these.

Then you can watch for, “Oh, we had a spike.” That spike is a good thing. That means that people were highly engaged on this email. Let’s figure out what resonated there. Let’s go talk to folks. Let’s reach out to the people who engaged with it and just say, “Hey, why did you love this? What did you love about it? What can we do to give you more value like this?”

Or you watch for dips. Then you can say, “Oh man, the last three email newsletters that we’ve sent out, we’ve seen successive declines in engagement and open rates, and we’ve seen a rise in unsubscribe rates. We’re doing something wrong. What’s going on? What’s the root cause? Is it who we’re acquiring? Is it new people that signed up, or is it old-timers who are getting frustrated with the new stuff we’re sending out? Does this fit with our strategy? What can we fix?”

Be careful. The thing that sucks about brand fatigue is a lot of platforms, email included, have systems, algorithmic systems set up to penalize you for this. With email, if you get high unsubscribes and low engagement, that will actually kill your long-term chances for email marketing success, because Gmail and Yahoo Mail and Microsoft’s various mail programs and whatever installed mail your targets might have, whatever they’re using, you will no longer be able to break through those email filters.

The email filter that Gmail has says, “Hey, a lot of people click Unsubscribe and Report Spam. Let’s put this in the Promotions tab.” Or, “Hey, a lot of people are clicking Report Spam. You know what? Let’s just block this sender entirely.” Or, “Gosh, this person has in the past not engaged very much with these messages. We’re going to not make them high priority anymore.” Gmail has that automatic high priority system. So you’re getting algorithmically turned into noise even if you might have had something that your customers really cared about.

Blog or other content platform

This is a really interesting one. I would strongly urge you to read Trevor Klein from Moz’s blog post about the experiment that we and HubSpot did around how much content to produce and whether lowering content or increasing content had positive effects. There are some fascinating results from that study.

But the valuable thing to me in that is if you don’t test, you’ll never know. You’ll never know the limits of what your audience wants, what will frustrate them, what will delight them. I recommend you don’t create content unless you can have a great answer for the question, “Who will help amplify this and why?” I don’t mean, like, “Oh, well I think people who really like houseplants will help amplify this.” That’s not a great answer.

A great answer is, “Oh, you know, I know this guy named Jerry. Jerry runs a Twitter account that’s all about gardening. Jerry loves our houseplants. He’s a big fan of this. He’s particularly interested in flowering cacti. I know if we publish this post, Jerry will help amplify it.” That’s a great answer. You have 10 Jerrys, great. Hit Publish. Go for it. You don’t? Why are you making it?

Watch your browse rate, your conversion rate, and conversion rate…. I don’t mean necessarily all the way to whatever you’re selling, your ecommerce store products or your subscription or whatever that is. Conversion rate could be conversion rate to an email newsletter or to following you on a social platform or whatever.

You can watch time on site and amplification per post to essentially get a sense for like, “Hey, as we’re producing content, are we seeing the metrics that would indicate that our content marketing is being successful?” If the answer to that is no, well we need to retool it. It turns out there’s actually no prize for hitting Publish.

You might think that your job as a content producer or a content marketer is to make content every day or content every week. That’s not your job. Your job is to have success with the metrics that are going to predict and correlate to the strategies you need as a business to acquire customers, to grow your marketing channels, to grow your brand’s impact, to help people, whatever it is that your mission is.

I highly recommend finding your audiences’ sweet spot for both focus and frequency. If you do those things, you’re going to do a great job with avoiding brand fatigue around your content.

Twitter, Facebook, and other social media

Last one is social. I’ll talk specifically about Twitter and Facebook, because most things can be classified in there, even things like Instagram and LinkedIn and the fading, sadly, Google+ and those sorts of things.

Twitter, generally speaking, more forgiving as a platform. Facebook has more of those algorithmic elements to punish you for low engagement.

So, for example, I’ve had this happen on my personal Facebook page where I’ve published a few things that people just didn’t really find interesting. This is on my Rand Fishkin Facebook page, different from the Moz one. It turns out that that meant that it was much harder for me next time, even with content that people were very engaged around, to reach them.

Facebook essentially had pushed in. They were like, “You know what? That’s three or four posts in a row from Rand Fishkin that people did not like, didn’t engage with. The next one we’re going to set the bar much higher for him to have to climb back up before we decide, ‘Hey, we’ll show that to more and more people.'”

Lately I’ve been having more success getting a higher percentage of my audience into the impression count of people who are actually seeing my posts on Facebook by getting better engagement there. But that’s a very challenging platform.

Users of both, however, are pretty sensitive, nearly equally sensitive. It’s not like Facebook users are more sensitive. It’s just that Facebook’s platform is more sensitive because Facebook doesn’t show you all the content you could possibly see.

Twitter is just a super simplistic newsfeed algorithm. It’s just, who posted last. So Twitter has that real time kind of thing. So I would still say for both of these, aim to only share stuff that gets high engagement, especially as your brand.

Personal account, do whatever you want, test whatever you want. But as your brand’s account, you want that high engagement over and over again because that will predict more people paying attention to you when you do post, going back and looking through your old social posts, subscribing to you, following you, all that sort of thing, considering you a leader.

You can watch both Twitter Analytics and your Facebook page’s stats to see if you’re having a dip or a spike, where you’re having success, where you’re not.

I actually love using Twitter and a little bit LinkedIn or Google+ to see what gets very high engagement and then I know, “Okay, I should re-share that on Twitter because my audience on Twitter is very temporal.” Two hours from now it’s going to be less than 1% overlap between who sees a Twitter post now and who sees a Twitter post 2 hours from now, and that’s a great test bed for Facebook as well.

So if I see something doing extremely well on Twitter or on Google+ or on LinkedIn, I go, “Aha, that’s the kind of thing I should post on Facebook. That will increase my engagement there. Now I can go post and get more engagement next time and build up my authority in Facebook’s newsfeed algorithm.

So with all of this stuff, hopefully, as you’re producing content, sharing content, building an email subscription, building a blog platform, you’re going to have a little less brand fatigue and a little more engagement from your users.

I look forward to chatting with you all in the comments. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

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Source: moz