How to Turn Your Workspace Into a Den of Productivity

How to Turn Your Workspace Into a Den of Productivity

When it comes to improving productivity in the workplace, much of the advice we hear centers around the mindset or motivation of the individual in question — advice like “You need to set goals for yourself,” or “You need to focus on your passion,” or “You need to meticulously plan every portion of your day down to the millisecond.”

And while such advice can potentially be helpful, there’s one aspect of improving productivity that we often overlook: our environments.

via HubSpot Marketing Blog

7 Reasons Your Outreach Emails Arent Getting Responses and How to Fix That

Almost any online marketing campaign these days includes email outreach. While social media has its place, email is universally the most personal form of contact you can make online. Well-written outreach emails can get links, joint venture opportunities, clients, and just about any other good result you can think of. The only problem is that  [click to continue…]

via Quick Sprout

This Week in Growth: 5 Marketing Bullets 4/22/2016

This post originally appeared on Growth Everywhere, a marketing and business growth blog. Happy Friday, everyone! I hope you are all prepared for an awesome weekend! But first, here are my top five favorite marketing pieces from this week: Battleground Mobile: Why (& How) to Prepare for the Future – Author Eric Enge states that the mobile […]

The post This Week in Growth: 5 Marketing Bullets 4/22/2016 appeared first on Single Grain.

via Single Grain

5 Steps to Performing a Competitive Analysis & Establishing Your Presence

via The IMPACT Blog

Social Media From Your Couch and Other Tips For Managing 100 Social Profiles

Some people go to great lengths to find the best ways to share to social media.

Social media management tools definitely help, and so too do the workflows and tactics that social media marketers discover to save time each and every day.

This is especially true for busy marketing agencies who run social media marketing in addition to a host of other duties. The folks at iM Image Marketing, a digital agency from Youngstown, Ohio, most definitely fit this description, juggling social media …

The post Social Media From Your Couch, and Other Tips For Managing 100+ Social Profiles appeared first on Social.

via Social

How to Get Extra Organic Search Traffic with Google’s “Related Questions”

Most SEOs go after the most competitive traffic from Google. Years ago, that’s all there was, but Google has created many new features—many of which can be used to get extra search traffic. The best part about these features is that most SEOs never even try to take advantage of them. If you’re smart, you’ll  [click to continue…]

via Quick Sprout

AdWords Extensions Are No Longer Decorations: The Definitive Guide To Outclick the Competition

AdWords Extensions Are No Longer Decorations: The Definitive Guide To Outclick the Competition

Google identifies them as the “I want ­to ­know,” “I want ­to ­go,” “I want­ to ­do,” and “I want­ to ­buy” moments. These describe the moments you search for something on Google – no matter what it is.During one of your recent searches, you may have noticed that the text ads, which used to appear to the right of the search results, are no longer there. Google has eliminated these ads, instead adding a fourth ad above the results for "highly commercial queries.

via SEMrush blog

Are You Making These 8 AdWords E-Commerce Mistakes?

AdWords is one of the most effective methods of driving traffic to your e-commerce website. However, if poorly managed, it can result in a huge waste of money. In this post, I’ll teach you 8 mistakes that could be frustrating your AdWords efforts. I’ll also show you, step by step, how to fix the mistakes […]

via The Kissmetrics Marketing Blog

9 Conversion Rate Optimization Principles to Get You Started (If You Can’t Test)

According to Google Trends, the term “conversion rate optimization” is an official “breakout”, meaning “searches for that phrase have jumped by +5,000 percent” over the last few years. While this proliferation of all things CRO is good news for the industry, it does have one painful drawback. For most websites, the biggest barrier to CRO […]

The post 9 Conversion Rate Optimization Principles to Get You Started (If You Can’t Test) appeared first on ConversionXL.

via ConversionXL

The Biggest Customer Acquisition Mistake That Your Company is Probably Making

Generating new sales leads and acquiring new customers are the biggest obsessions of every sales team and startup founder. Companies spend big money on lead generation, PPC ads, social media marketing, sponsored posts, content marketing, and other varieties of inbound lead generation techniques to get new customers. But what if I told you that the […]

via The Kissmetrics Marketing Blog

6 Best SEO Keyword Research Tools For Startups

Original source: 6 Best SEO Keyword Research Tools For Startups via DailySEOblog.

Let’s be honest about it. Keyword research is the basic foundation to any SEO strategy. With several type of keyword research tools available today, many SEOs end up using more than one tool for keyword research, often times leading to loss of data and difficult workflow processes. In this article, we’ll look at some of the best SEO keyword research tools available for all platforms that will help you manage a scalable and easy SEO keyword research process. No more switching between tools and managing multiple spreadsheets! Which is better? Online Keyword Research Tools or Local? Keyword research tools are all […]

via DailySEOblog

Linking Internally and Externally from Your Site – Dangers, Opportunities, Risk and Reward – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

[Estimated read time: 9 minutes]

Navigating linking practices can be a treacherous process. Sometimes it feels like a penalty is lurking around every corner. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand talks about the ins and outs of linking internally and externally, identifying pitfalls and opportunities both.

Linking Internally and Externally from Your Site: Dangers, Opportunities, Risk and Reward Whiteboard

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

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re chatting about linking externally and linking internally, and some of the risks and rewards that are involved.

So some of you probably have seen April 11th, Google made this big move. They sent out a bunch of penalties to, well, a noticeably large number of websites — it was covered on a bunch of the SEO forums and in the SEO news — basically saying, this is Google sending out these warnings saying, "You are linking to unnatural looking sites or in unnatural patterns, and we’ve noticed and we think that those links shouldn’t be there. We may be penalizing your site, or we may not be passing PageRank or other types of link mechanisms, link value through your website anymore."

This isn’t the first time Google has done this. They’ve done it many, many times over the last 10, 15 years. We’ve seen plenty of this. This was just another explosion in that.

It is also the case that we’ve seen some other cool things on the other side of the aisle, which is Google rewarding internal links in a way we had not seen previously. In fact, some cool experiments were done recently — hopefully they’ll be made public soon, and then we can link over to them — around internal links and the power that internal links still have.

So we know that it still matters and it’s still important to consider who we link to and what we link to from our sites and pages. So I thought maybe we’d talk through a few of those scenarios.

1) When you’re linking to external sites and pages.

Let’s say I’ve got my mobile phones compared website here. It is actually a very positive thing to link out to places like the official website of maybe Samsung’s S7, or to link out to the Engadget review if I’m collecting a bunch of reviews and aggregating that data there to give the reference point. This is positive.

However, if I’m linking, let’s say I’m getting some affiliate value or someone’s paid me to link, or I’m linking to the site because it turns out that I own it or someone connected to me owns it and I’m getting some benefit from it, this "mobile info 4 UR life," maybe that could be a little suspicious.

It is the case, it is true and we’ve seen plenty of evidence to support this. I think ever since Marshall Simmonds from Define came in here many years ago and did his Whiteboard Friday about how The New York Times saw so much benefit from linking out, lots of folks have been investigating that and seen that benefit repeated over and over. So good external pointing links can give a boost to your site’s relevance, to how search engines consider you, and even to your rankings. Linking out is a positive thing.

It’s also the case that sites and pages that link out tend to earn more links back in, which seems obvious. They’re more helpful and relevant to people, they can serve as better resources, and it’s also the case that often that’s a very direct correlation because linking out might drive traffic to other websites who then notice it and say, "Oh yeah, I’d like to check you out. I might link to you."

Engadget might see my link and say, "Oh, you guys do a great job of that comparison stuff. Maybe we’ll link to one of those in a future blog post that we do." Or Samsung might see our comparison and say, "Hey, that’s some pretty cool data you’ve got. Do you think we could partner with you on a future research project and maybe we’d link to you from that project?" Very cool things.

That said, manipulative linking is dangerous. This is sort of the inverse of what we classically think of as link penalties, where we’ve gotten links that have pushed us up in the rankings, and they are from bad places, linking out to bad places or to good places for bad reasons, bad reasons being manipulative reasons, someone’s paid you, you’re getting some benefit from it. Google recently, a few months ago, made this announcement around how if bloggers are receiving free items from companies, and then they’re linking back to those products, that could be penalized or could be perceived as violating FTC rules if there’s not an advertisement or advertorial sponsor message on there. So all kinds of things here.

2) Linking to internal pages or other sites you own or control.

All right. Let’s move over to internal links. On internal links, we’ve got a little bit of the same story but with some caveats. So again, my mobile phones compared page is here.

I could be linking off to my own review. I could be linking off to my video category, maybe if I’ve got a video at the bottom of this page. I’m providing navigation. I’m helping visitors go where they want to go. This is a very positive thing. It cannot only help to get those pages indexed and crawled, it may also help them rank higher with a few caveats. So the right internal links, good ones, can have a large positive impact across a big website.

Internal links that tend to perform the best, the ones that help the most tend to be the ones that drive real traffic, and they sort of continue a visitor’s journey. They help people find what they’re looking for, and it’s also the case that the ones that don’t drive traffic, that aren’t perceived as helpful seem to have less of an impact on the pages they link to.

Now, I will point this out. If you’re worried about like, "Oh, should I add one more link on here to another category page, or should I reference another page from here," you generally don’t need to worry about that. As long as you think that some small portion, even a small portion of your audience would be potentially interested in that and it makes sense from a usability perspective, you should go ahead and add the link. I don’t tend to worry at all about like, "Well, the difference between 52 links on a page and 53 links is those 52 links will get a little bit less PageRank or a little bit less link energy, whatever it is, voting power than the 53rd link." I would not sweat that at all. Those days are long since gone.

But it is true that internal links tend to have the largest impact on already authoritative sites. If you’ve already got a lot of authority on your site, you can help many of the pages deep in your site structure to get crawled and indexed and to rank better by linking to them. We’ve seen this pretty substantially with some very big websites lately where they’ve gone through these redesigns and had remarkable results.

That said, manipulative links, for example, let’s say I went through and I just wrote a little bot that crawled my entire website, found every instance of the word "LG," the manufacturer, the phone manufacturer and linked to my LG page. It gets a little manipulative. There’s probably some places where it makes great sense, but every single time the word is mentioned — you’ve probably seen some websites like these, although fewer of them in the last three or four years than in the five years before that when this tactic was really prevalent and Google wasn’t penalizing for it.

We’ve actually seen examples where people removed that, and they made it much more subtle. They only did it on the first instance of the word on a page, and they only did it on category-level pages or blog-level pages, not deeply index pages or paginated versions of things, that kind of stuff. In fact, they saw their rankings rise. I love this. They saw their rankings rise like almost immediately. There was a really a cool example a few years back. I think I might have done a Whiteboard Friday about that (correction: I didn’t do a WB Friday on this topic after all – apologies!).

So with manipulative internal links, especially ones that are stuffed into footers or jammed into every word instance or those kinds of things, Google tends to perceive that as manipulative, which in fact it really is. You’re not doing that for visitor’s benefit. You’re hoping that it helps you with your rankings, and in fact it’s probably doing the opposite.

General rule of thumb: If you can’t find any way to justify how something that you’re doing for SEO also benefits a visitor, maybe you should reconsider it, with a few exceptions. XML sitemaps might be a reasonable one.

It’s the case that oftentimes the ones that are in footers or in structured template areas of a website that tend not to get clicked by people, sometimes a sidebar can do it, sometimes top nav can do it, sometimes even in-content stuff that’s wrapped around can do it, that tends to be the most dangerous places, but it’s not the only kind that gets penalized. In fact, it’s not even always bad.

We’ve seen instances again on very big websites where they’ve done very significant footers and linked off to all their properties that the site or the company owns and controls. We’ve seen it where they use it to get greater indexation, and in fact it’s positive because the footer is well done, because it tends to link to good places, because it’s clearly a high-quality one, and it’s not anchor text stuff. Anchor text is again a big risk here with internal linking.

So this is a very fine line, and it’s a fine meandering line. I can’t give you a clear-cut "never do this, always do this." It’s a considered process. That’s true for internal linking, and it’s true, maybe a little less true for external linking.

If you’ve got great advice that you’d like to share, or some experiences, or you want us to take a look at some of your internal or external linking practices, feel free to leave a comment. We’ll check them out, and I’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by

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via Moz Blog

How to Write a Marketing Email: 10 Tips for Writing Compelling Email Copy

Email marketing has come a long way in just the past few years. But with all the fancy new functionality brands are utilizing, you know what’s kind of funny? A well-written, plain-text email can perform just as well (if not better) than a highly designed email with tons of bells and whistles.

In fact, no matter how fancy your marketing emails look, if they’re devoid of well-written content, your subscribers will stop opening — and start deleting — your messages. 

via HubSpot Marketing Blog

3 Resources to Help You Produce Stunning and Persuasive Content

Eenie meenie miney mo … You likely have used the “eenie-meenie-miney-mo method” when making an inconsequential decision. That’s the opposite of how you should make decisions regarding the look of your content and the message you want to communicate. Your content needs to be a carefully crafted presentation that is the result of intentional choices.
Read More…

The post 3 Resources to Help You Produce Stunning and Persuasive Content appeared first on Copyblogger.

via Copyblogger

SEO Vs. CRO: How to Drive Search Traffic That Converts into Customers

CRO is important in today’s SEO. And yet, eConsultancy estimated that for every $92 spent on acquiring customers in the US, only 1$ is spent on conversion. Oops! That’s a big loss for most marketers whose only focus is SEO and its by-products (clicks, traffic, rankings, etc.). Not all search traffic is created equal. Sometimes, […]

via English – Neil Patel

Who’s to Blame for Your Bad Website Performance?

Who’s to Blame for Your Bad Website Performance?

The last time you launched a website, the performance didn’t turn out quite like you expected, did it? You expected it to be an upgrade. Conversion rates would be higher. There would be an immediate lift in sales. It’s so disappointing because a lot of people put a lot of hard work into designing and developing it; including you. You fought through all the discussions (probably arguments!) about color schemes, layout, navigation, content, calls to action, and on and on.

via SEMrush blog

Where is Your Website Traffic Really Coming From? [Infographic]

via The IMPACT Blog

11 Alarming Online Marketing Stats That Should Influence Your Strategy in 2016

The first ever TV ad was for Bulova watches and was broadcasted in 1941 on American screens. But, do you know how digital marketing started? Commercially available desktop PCs started to enter homes in the 1980s. And, in the 1990s, web 1.0 platforms and the internet started to take shape. Soon enough, Google and Blogger […]

via English – Neil Patel

10 Stats on a 10-Year-Old Twitter

Today, Twitter turns ten. It’s accomplished a lot in its short life. Since the first tweet was posted by Jack Dorsey ten years ago, it’s become the champion of brevity, influenced the way we speak, been central to sharing news and opinion on politics and pop culture, and forced businesses to learn how to engage audiences and drive results with a …

The post 10 Stats on a 10-Year-Old Twitter appeared first on Kapost Content Marketing Blog.

via Kapost Content Marketing Blog

6 Signs Your Content Marketing is Successful

There’s that word again: Content. Every year, there are marketing conferences devoted to it, and content often dominates conversations across multiple departments of your business. Every brand knows they should be producing it, but no one wants to be simply creating content for its own sake — they want to know how it can add […]

The post 6 Signs Your Content Marketing is Successful appeared first on SEMrush Blog.

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7 Free Tools That Will Take Your Business Development Game to the Next Level

You’ve probably seen it on a salesperson’s business card. Or used in the context of creating partnerships. Sometimes it even falls in the realm of PR.

But don’t let its ambiguity undermine its importance—"business development", as the name suggests, is about creating and maintaining long-term relationships that help you grow your business.

From research to outreach to following up, here are 7 free tools that’ll help you take your biz dev efforts up a notch.


via Shopify Blog – Company

Managing Multi-Channel Marketing (Without Losing Your Mind!)

Remember back in simpler times when online advertising was just web and email? While the marketing was much simpler, the opportunities were also very limiting. You essentially could only reach the user while they were on their computer – and even then, countless other emails and ads were competing for their attention. Fast-forward to today […]

via The Kissmetrics Marketing Blog

The 6 Laws Of Landing Page Optimization: Do You Know The Basics?

No matter what stage you’re at as an optimizer, it always pays to go back to the basics. Landing page optimization is a really important skill to have. There’s a lot at stake. That’s why I’ve chosen to treat the topic again, this time from the perspective of the basics. Want to know why I’m going back to the basics? Because these are things that we all need to be reminded of. Because I realize that a lot of marketers who read Crazy Egg might not be familiar with all the principles of landing page optimization. Because there has been…

The post The 6 Laws Of Landing Page Optimization: Do You Know The Basics? appeared first on The Daily Egg.

via The Daily Egg

Why You Need to Create Case Studies (a Data Driven Answer)

Imagine this scenario: You want to buy a new pair of running shoes online. So where do you start your search? Probably Amazon. After trying a few search queries, you narrow down to three to four choices. Besides having a penchant for a certain brand and your budget, what is the number one factor that […]

via English – Neil Patel

4 Ways to Perfect Your Search Strategies Without Keyword Stuffing

We’re in the age of uncertainty when it comes to keywords. Utilizing them in content is still crucial for search engines to interpret subject matter and relevance, but relying too heavily on sprinkling these buzzwords into your content can land you in serious trouble. The Google Hummingbird update in 2015 signaled a deepening shift toward […]

The post 4 Ways to Perfect Your Search Strategies Without Keyword Stuffing appeared first on SEMrush Blog.

via SEMrush Blog

What 6+ Years of Landing Page Optimization Taught Oli Gardner [VIDEO]

When you’ve seen more landing pages than anyone on the planet, the things you learn start to color your experience of the entire world — from hardware store visits to interactions with your boo. In this special video edition of the Call to Action podcast, Oli Gardner of Unbounce tells all about what 6+ years of landing page optimization has taught him about marketing (and life).

via Unbounce

5 Google Algorithm Changes I’ve Learned to Love

Google’s algorithm has gone through many changes over the years. Many of the updates were quite disruptive in the SEO community when they first rolled out, especially because Google tends to announce changes retroactively, if they announce them at all. But as time goes by, we’ve become accustomed to the changes and even grown to […]

The post 5 Google Algorithm Changes I’ve Learned to Love appeared first on SEMrush Blog.

via SEMrush Blog

RankBrain Judgment Day: 4 SEO Strategies You’ll Need to Survive

via Internet Marketing Blog by WordStream

A 5-Step Plan for Finding & Engaging With Influential People Online

These days, collecting email addresses from people isn’t easy. After enduring their fair share of spammy messages, people have become hesitant about handing their information over to just anyone.

For marketers, this presents a unique challenge. When people aren’t willing to open up a line of communication with you, it becomes difficult to stay in touch with them.

via HubSpot Marketing Blog

Which Email Clients Are People Using Most? An Analysis of 13 Billion Email Opens [Infographic]

As more and more people use their mobile phones to surf the internet, marketers have had to rethink how and where we create, share, and optimize content on the web — including email.

In the past year or two, we’ve seen a number of notable changes in the way people check and read their email.

via HubSpot Marketing Blog

4 Badass Customer Delight Examples Every B2B Marketer Can Learn From

via The IMPACT Blog

How to Cross-Channel Market with the Customer Experience in Mind

The B2B customer experience used to be simple: the customer would go into a store or attend a networking event and interact with the business in person. Or, lines of communication would be built through the mail or telephone. Over time, the customer experience has become increasingly fragmented because of the plethora of marketing opportunities presented on the Internet. It …

The post How to Cross-Channel Market with the Customer Experience in Mind appeared first on Kapost Content Marketing Blog.

via Kapost Content Marketing Blog

How the HubSpot Marketing Blog Actually Generates Leads (Hint: It’s Not How You Think)

Business blogging "best practices" instruct bloggers to include a relevant call-to-action at the bottom of every blog post. This is nothing groundbreaking — it’s how you convert visitors to your blog into valuable inbound leads for your business.

But are those end-of-post calls-to-action (CTAs) really the best option? After all, any conversion rate optimization expert worth their salt knows to take industry "best practices" with, well, a grain of salt.

via HubSpot Marketing Blog

7 Powerful Social Media Experiments That Grew Our Traffic by 241% in 8 Months

If you’ve asked this before…

“How can we get more visitors to our website?”

… You’re certainly not alone, as increasing traffic is often the number one problem faced by marketers today.

The bad news? Saying “get more traffic” is easier said than done. You could write guest posts (Leo wrote 150 articles in 9 months when Buffer first launched), optimize for SEO traffic, or drive visitors through social media. The options are endless. This article focuses on the latter, though.

In this post, …

The post 7 Powerful Social Media Experiments That Grew Our Traffic by 241% in 8 Months appeared first on Social.

via Social

Osborne prepares to deliver Budget

George Osborne will set out £4bn in extra spending cuts and announce investment in the UK’s infrastructure when he presents his Budget to MPs later.

via BBC News – Home

Sorry, Growth Hacking Alone Won’t Let Your Business Prosper. Here are the Other Spices You Need.

For technology businesses, traditional advertising outlets now sound boring, intrusive and expensive. So what do startups like? 10x growth hacks used by companies to acquire millions of users within a couple of months. Major billion dollar brands like Facebook, AirBnb and Dropbox have used such unconventional growth strategies to gain huge exposure. They’re a source […]

via English – Neil Patel

Modern Link Building Includes Only 3 Viable Tactics: Here They Are

Few online marketing strategies have gone through as radical an evolution as link building. What originally started as a cut-and-dry, quantity-based strategy almost guaranteed to increase your rankings has turned into a much more complex system thanks to Google’s sophisticated, ever-advancing Penguin update. But here’s a secret about modern link building you may not be […]

The post Modern Link Building Includes Only 3 Viable Tactics: Here They Are appeared first on AWR.

via AWR

Modern Link Building Includes Only 3 Viable Tactics: Here They Are

Few online marketing strategies have gone through as radical an evolution as link building. What originally started as a cut-and-dry, quantity-based strategy almost guaranteed to increase your rankings has turned into a much more complex system thanks to Google’s sophisticated, ever-advancing Penguin update. But here’s a secret about modern link building you may not be […]

The post Modern Link Building Includes Only 3 Viable Tactics: Here They Are appeared first on AWR.

via AWR

How To Block Google Analytics Spam Traffic With These Tools

Analytics spam was one of the hot analytics topics in 2015 (peaking during the summer of 2015). It seems the topic regained some popularity during November and it appears that the traffic spam problem is not over just yet. Google Trend for Analytics Spam Google created a traffic spam support page, so this means they […]

The post How To Block Google Analytics Spam Traffic With These Tools appeared first on The Daily Egg.

via Analytics – The Daily Egg

Grow Your List with Facebook Lead Ads and Zapier

For growing companies, reaching potential customers can be tough. Blog and social media posts often aren’t enough, and there isn’t always room in the budget to launch an ad campaign. That’s where Facebook’s ad features come in. For years, Facebook has helped empower businesses of all shapes and sizes by providing an affordable means of …

via MailChimp Email Marketing BlogMailChimp Email Marketing Blog

7 Ways to Measure Your Website’s UX

Website UX, or user experience, covers a wide range of factors. But at its core, UX is essentially about the human experience on a website. So how do we know that a website offers a good user experience? We may think we’ve done everything right, but how can we really know without some measurement? Eyeball […]

via The Kissmetrics Marketing Blog

Beyond the False Bottom: How to Avoid This Costly UX Mistake

UX mistakes often go undetected because they are quiet. They aren’t a broken image or a misspelled word or a form that isn’t sending. No, UX mistakes are foundational. To visitors, UX mistakes are loud, whether they consciously detect them or not. In fact, IBM is credited for the saying, “Ease of use may be invisible, […]

The post Beyond the False Bottom: How to Avoid This Costly UX Mistake appeared first on ConversionXL.

via ConversionXL

11 Types of Marketing Emails That Actually Generate a Response

Are you the type of person who is willing to make 50+ phone calls per day in an attempt to add qualified prospects to your sales pipeline? Cold calling will always have a place in the business world, but it’s not the only strategy worth considering. With a growing number of buyers interested in a […]

via English – Neil Patel

How to Feed a Hummingbird: Improve Your On-Page SEO with Related Topics in Moz Pro

Posted by jon.white

SEO is changing. We can no longer rely on keyword targeting alone to optimize our content. Whether we should focus on topics or keywords is a debate in progress. But figuring out which topics can influence the SERP is, at best, a manual process; at worst, it’s a timesuck that can take hours out of your day.


Today we’ve launched Related Topics, a new feature in Moz Pro that can help you make sense of how search engines understand topics and phrases.

You can use data like this to build deeper content, improve your topical authority, find keyword ideas, and generally better understand the SERP. It uses machine learning and topic modeling to mine related topics from the SERPs.

We see this as another step on the journey to help marketers better understand the complex world of SEO in 2016. As of this moment, Moz Pro is one of the only places you can get this kind of data.

Want the quick run-down? Tori explains it all in this brief 1:39 minute video, complete with snazzy music.

Can’t wait to dive in? Already an avid Moz Pro user? Head to the Keyword Rankings section of any campaign and get started. And if you’re not a Moz Pro subscriber, you can satisfy your curiosity with a free trial, too:

Try it for 30 days!

Pandas, Hummingbirds, and the relationship between keywords and pages

We’ve all noticed that SEO has become a lot more complex in the last few years. When Google started to figure out the meaning of words and phrases, simple keyword usage alone no longer guaranteed us results. Then Hummingbird spread its wings, and now in some cases, pages in the SERP don’t contain the keyword at all. Utter chaos, right?

Panda made sure we put effort and research into our content. And while it’s still a good idea to ensure your target keywords appear in key parts of your page, the simple on-page optimization of the past can no longer move the rankings needle on its own.

Related Topics is a new feature in Moz Pro that helps you understand how phrases and topics influence the SERP, allowing you to broaden your content and build out pages instead of devoting yourself to time-consuming (and let’s be real, sort of boring) research.

That all sounds well and good. But how do we get insight into how Google understands the relationship between topics? Well, it turns out they give us a handy clue: the SERP itself.

Related Topics examines all of the pages that rank in the top 20 for a given keyword. Using machine learning and topic modeling, it figures out which unique sets of terms and phrases those pages include. It then removes the topics that your page already talks about and presents the resulting list, along with the ranking URLs. Armed with this mighty list, you can now understand which topics have influence in the SERP and decide whether to integrate these into your own pages and content. It lives within the Page Optimization feature in Moz Pro, which you can now get to by clicking the "Optimize" next to any keyword in the ranking table.

While it’s impossible to say for sure that including topics in your page will result in a higher ranking (that ol’ correlation versus causation thing), we do know that pages that rank well are already including these topics in their content. If you’re looking to diversify and broaden your page’s subject coverage to try and win more authority, Related Topics is the place to start. Bonus points: it’s also quite likely that including coverage of these topics will improve the user’s experience of your content.

How can I use this data to get ahead?

1. Experiment with including different topics and content to build authority

Adding topically similar content to your page can help Google understand what that page is about, establishing yourself as an authority on those topics.

I’m a fan of Tim Ferris and his productivity hack blog, Let’s take this article on speed reading. Looks like the page is optimized pretty well for the target keyword and has a decent link profile and PA. Now, let’s look at some other topics that have influence on the SERP.

Here I can see a couple of variations I might want to play around with, but a couple in particular catch my eye. I notice the topic “reading comprehension” seems influential (it’s included in 3 of the top 5 ranking pages), and it’s not syntactically related — this is a topic I might not have discovered manually by looking at variations of the target keyword. I also see “subvocalization” being influential. This is a term I might not be familiar with, but using Related Topics, I can drill into the actual URLs mentioning that topic, learn about it, and get some inspiration for how I could build out my content to include it.

This is a particularly interesting case, as “speed reading” has a somewhat reasonable search volume of 9,900 (from Keyword Planner). In contrast, “reading comprehension” has a search volume of 18,100. If I can integrate it well, I have an opportunity to broaden my audience.

2) Avoid thin content and go deeper

You’ve got to pacify the Panda. If you’re looking for ways to expand on thin content, go deeper or broader on an existing page, or convert shorter content to long-form, using Related Topics suggestions can give you inspiration for subject-matter expansion. Multiple studies have shown that deeper and more topically relevant content correlates with better ranking performance.

In the example below, I have a page about Product Management Events, if I wanted to make it broader I might do a deep dive on the subject of Product Design, or even talk about some of the branded topics that were discovered.

3) Save time on topical, competitive, and SERP research

This can be especially helpful when you’re wearing many hats, and tackling a new domain you’re not as familiar with. Using Related Topics — and especially researching the ranking pages they appear on — can give you a head start for topic-appropriate language to use, or inspiration for areas to research.

At Moz, we all think we’re experts on the housing market since we watched "The Big Short." But challenge us to write about the more technical terms and we might struggle! Here’s another example using a US real estate blog recommended by our own in-house real estate guru Tim Ellis.

Let’s say we want to understand a bit more about the SERP for the keyword "real estate forecast," and perform some industry research on terminology. Here are some topics that have influence:

I notice there are a few technical terms in here that I’m not familiar with, and if I want to learn more I can jump right into the ranking URLs that contain the topic and research them instead of trying to manually pull them out of the SERP.

4) Keyword Ideas

The list of topical suggestions also double as suggestions for other keywords to target, or as seed keywords for keyword research (we have some new keyword research tools coming very soon).

How does it actually work? (Tech jargon alert!)

Wondering how Related Topics knows just which content is on the page? Well, we use Moz’s proprietary Context API, which also powers other tools around here (such as Moz Content). Here are a few words from Dr. Matt Peters (Moz’s Chief Data Scientist) on how it works:

Moz’s topic modeling algorithm extracts relevant keyword phrases from English language web pages. We use natural language processing algorithms to analyze the page content and create a list of candidate topics. Then, a machine learning model assigns each candidate phrase a relevance score and ranks them from most-to-least relevant. The relevance score is a combination of traditional information retrieval techniques like term frequency–inverse document frequency (TF-IDF) and language modeling, syntactic and semantic signals such as part of speech tags, and graph-based features. The resulting lists of highly relevant topics and relevance scores are used in both Moz Pro and Moz Content.

As mentioned above, Related Topics takes the top 20 ranking pages on the SERP, extracts topics from them using the Context API, and then applies a series of filters and rules to show topics that we think are relevant. We exclude topics we find on any URLs that you rank with for the keyword. During feature development, we were faced with a choice: show topics that occur more frequently, but show less of them; or show more topics with varying ranges of frequency. We decided that our customers prefer having more data, and often we find gems near the bottom of the list. For this reason we went with the “more data” option. You might find the odd strange suggestion in there, but we think that’s outweighed by having more data to choose from.

See it in action!

Want to take it for a spin? If you’re already a Moz Pro subscriber (hey, pal!), head to your Keyword Rankings section in any Moz Pro campaign and hit the "Optimize Keyword" button.

Curious but not ready to commit? Check it out with a 30-day free trial:

Try it for 30 days!

As always, we want your feedback / comments / experiences in the comments below!

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Overcoming Your Fear of Local Landing Pages

Posted by MiriamEllis

[Estimated read time: 12 minutes]

When tasked with developing a set of city landing pages for your local business clients, do you experience any of the following: brain fog, dry mouth, sweaty palms, procrastination, woolgathering, or ennui? Then chances are, the diagnosis is a fear of local landing pages. But don’t worry! Confusion and concern over this common challenge have made it an FAQ in the local column of the Moz Q&A forum, and my goal here is to give you a prescription for meeting these projects with confidence, creativity, and even genuine enjoyment!

Up ahead: a definition, a "don’t" list, a plan of action, and a landing page mockup.

Quick definition: What’s a local landing page?

Local landing pages (aka city landing pages) are pages you create on a website to highlight a geographic aspect of a business for its customers. Local landing pages are most appropriate for:

  • Service area businesses (SABs) that need to publicize the fact that they serve a variety of cities surrounding the city in which they are physically located. In this scenario, the goal of most local landing pages is to gain organic rankings for these service cities, as they’re unlikely to earn local pack rankings unless there is minimal geographic competition for the services offered.
  • Multi-location brick-and-mortar businesses that need to publicize the fact that they have more than one forward-facing office. In this scenario, the goal will often be to get multiple offices ranking in the local packs by linking from the Google My Business listing for each office to its respective local landing page on the company’s website. You may also achieve organic visibility, as well, depending on the competition.

Diminish your fear by knowing what to avoid

Knowledge is power. By avoiding these common pitfalls, you’ll feel confident knowing that you’re developing a new set of pages that will help your client’s website, rather than harming it.

1. Do not publish fake addresses on local landing pages.

Tell clients that PO Boxes and virtual offices are considered ineligible in Google’s guidelines, so it’s not a good idea to use them on the website in an attempt to appear more local.

Be especially cautious here if your client is an SAB and gives you a string of addresses. Of course, an SAB can have multiple legitimate locations (like a pizza delivery chain) but if it’s a small business, your due diligence is required to make absolutely sure the addresses are legitimate and do not represent your client’s brother’s house, aunt’s house, friend’s house, etc.

Look the addresses up via Google Streetview. Do you see residences, or even empty lots? Red flag! Let such clients know that Google can read street-level signage and doesn’t take kindly to falsified address information. Google understands that SABs may operate out of a single home, but operating out a string of homes may look (and be!) spammy.

2. Do not engage in creating local landing pages for clients who lack a reasonable amount of time to discuss their business with you.

A minimum requirement is that they can have a phone session with you for each city you’re going to cover, but a much better hope lies with clients who are willing to make an active contribution to the project. *More on this later.

3. Do not engage in creating local landing pages if you don’t have enough information about the business to avoid creating thin or duplicate content.

This is related to point 2. Writing a paragraph and swapping out the city names on a set of pages is not a good plan, and you’ll encounter this lazy scenario on countless local business websites. Don’t be tempted to go this route just because your client’s competitors are getting away with it. Properly view them as weak competitors whom you can surpass with a superior effort.

4. Do not create city landing pages if no one involved in the project (including yourself) can discover a genuine reason (apart from a desire to rank) to differentiate cities and services from one another.

Don’t create these pages unless you can honestly say that you believe they will be useful and interesting to the company’s customers. *Suggestions for inspiration to follow.

5. Do not stuff local landing pages with blocks of city names, zip codes, or keywords.

Google’s Webmaster guidelines specifically state that they do not like this.

6. Beware call tracking numbers.

If your client wants to use call tracking numbers, be sure you fully understand the risks and options.

7. Do not bury your local landings pages somewhere deep within the architecture of the website.

Link to them from a high-level menu.

8. Finally, do not build an unreasonable number of landing pages.

At some point in your work as a local SEO, you will be contacted by a company that serves most or all of a state, or multiple states. They will say, “Our goal is to rank for every single town and city in our service area.” If your client serves California, there are some 500 incorporated cities in the state, not to mention thousands of tiny towns.

Can you honestly build thousands of unique, high-quality pages?

With enough funding and a large staff of copywriters, this might be possible, but it’s going to be the exception rather than the rule for small-to-medium local businesses. It’s generally more reasonable to have the client designate their most important cities and target these first. Then, if need be, move on from there, provided that you can avoid all 7 of the above pitfalls in creating further landing pages. Recommending PPC for more minute coverage may be a wiser alternative to prevent website quality from suffering.

Sigh of relief! Now that you know the major errors to avoid, you can move forward with the landing page development project feeling confident that your work is going to help your client, rather than harming them. Gather that tension up into a ball and cast it away!

Jump-start landing page inspiration with tools, talk and action

Here’s a ready-made process for generating ideas for the content you’re going to be developing. I’m going to make the assumption that you’ve already had your client fill out some sort of questionnaire prior to taking them on. This questionnaire may have been really detailed, or kind of generic. If it missed geo-specific questions, the following process will help you glean the initial information you need from the business owner.

1. Ask your client (more) questions

By now, you’ve assessed that your client is willing to be engaged in the landing page process. Now, either create a second questionnaire, or, if preferable for both of you, get on the phone and cover all of the following:

    • Every service offered
    • Every major city/town served
    • Most typical type of client
    • Most typical client requests/needs/questions
    • Services, tips, or advice that are unique to each city (such as different requirements based on laws, weather, terrain, style, precautions, codes, etc)
    • Types of satisfaction guarantees offered
    • Specials offered
    • Why the business is better than its competitors
    • Who those competitors are
    • Participation in or support of local events, teams and organizations

*As you take notes, be sure you’re jotting down not just what your client says, but how they say it. Language matters, not only as a means of learning the lingo of your client’s industry, but in discovering whether corporate lingo actually matches customer speech.

2. Assess their local landing pages

From your notes from conversation #1, you’re ready to first pay a virtual call to the websites of every major local competitor your client mentioned. Assess their local landing pages, if they have them, for content quality, usability, and usefulness. There’s a good chance that you’ll see lazy efforts that you can surpass with your own work. Take notes about what you like and don’t like in the competitors’ landing pages. Note, too, what keywords they’re targeting.

3. Transform your notes into content

Now, it’s time to take your notes and turn them into:

    • Unique, introductory text regarding the client’s services in each city
    • At least one unique customer question and owner answer per page
    • Specific advice/tips for that city that are unique to that city

4. Discover common questions and find their answers

Next, let’s fire up a really awesome tool to start generating additional topics. Hat tip to Linda Buquet who first alerted me to, a free tool that enables you to type in a keyword and generate the best list of related questions I’ve ever seen. It’s available in 5 countries, and even a simple search like "house painting" turns up 24 questions you can sort through to discover what types of queries people are commonly making about your client’s business model.

Return to the business owner for expert answers. Bingo! By now, you’ve got some very useful content already taking shape to help differentiate one landing page from another. I also like combing through Google’s "related searches" at the bottom of SERPs for further ideas.

5. Incorporate appropriate visuals

Now we turn to the visual documentation of your client’s business. Have them equip a designated staff member with a camera, either to take before-and-after photos of projects or to do a full video documentary of a minimum of 1–3 projects per city.

If your client’s industry isn’t of exceptional visual interest (plumbing, HVAC, accounting) a modest visual documentation, accompanied by a text transcript, should be sufficient to give customers a good idea of what it would be like to work with the business. If your client’s industry is highly visual (landscaping, architecture, home staging), the more you can show off their best work, the better. For the sake of authenticity, be sure that photo labeling and tagging are specific to the target city and that video narratives mention the target city.

    • While you’re shooting footage, consider getting 1–3 video testimonials in each city from very happy clients and write transcripts. If competition isn’t stiff, even a single video testimonial can set the business apart. In tougher markets, go to extra effort with this step.
    • An alternative (or addition) to video testimonials is use of an on-page traditional review app. And don’t forget that brick-and-mortar businesses can link to their various profiles on third-party review sites (Yelp, Google, etc).
    • Have widely recognized customers? Get their permission to brag about it! For example: “We clean the carpets at every branch of Bank of America in San Diego,” “We designed the Transamerica building in San Francisco,” or “We groomed the Pomeranian who won Best in Class at the Boston Dog Show.” Be city-specific with this content.
    • Consider the usefulness of interviewing staff who either operate each brick-and-mortar office or who travel to serve the SAB’s customers. A short, welcoming video that displays professionalism, approachability, and company ideals can help customers feel comfortable even before a transaction occurs.
    • If there is an element of the business that changes from location to location (brick-and-mortar) or from city to city (SAB), be sure you are aware of this and describing this on the page. Some examples would be a class schedule for a yoga studio that’s unique to each location, or a landscaping company’s recommended schedule of yard cleaning at high elevations versus valley floor locations. This content should be highly visible on the page, as it’s highly relevant to city-specific user groups.
    • Finally, think back to your assessment of your client’s competitors. Is there something they weren’t doing and that isn’t mentioned above that your client’s business inspires you to showcase? Maybe it’s something funny, extra persuasive, or extra local in flavor that would help your client stand out as particularly individualistic. Don’t hesitate to go beyond my basic suggestions to provide a creative edge for your client.

Pulling it all together

Fear is now a thing of the past. While you may be a bit buried under a heap of notebooks, spreadsheets, and docs, you’ve gathered both confidence and a wealth of resources for getting these local landing pages built. Whether you’re working with the owner’s webmaster or are implementing the development yourself, I hope the following basic mockup will help you get organized.

*I’m using an SAB for my example — a fictitious house painter who is targeting the town of Mendocino, California as part of his service area. If your landing pages are for a multi-location brick-and-mortar business, be certain that the very first thing on the page is the complete name, address and phone number of the respective location, preferably in Schema.

Click the image for a larger version in a new tab.

Key to the mockup

  1. This section covers your introductory text — including a basic description of what the company does — plus geographic-specific advice, satisfaction guarantee information, and a mention of well-known clients served.
  2. Here is a vertical section featuring 3 project showcase videos + text project summaries.
  3. The reviews section features an on-page review widget, a request for customers to leave a review, and an invitation to see further reviews on third-party platforms.
  4. Here’s where we put our question research to work, with the owner answering questions he says customers frequently ask, plus questions generated by a tool and other research.
  5. Here’s an area for extra creativity. We’re featuring a "Meet the Owner" video, some relevant local news, and mentioning company support for local entities, including a special deal.
  6. While we’ve sprinkled calls-to-action throughout the page, never forget that final CTA in closing up!

Speaking of closing up…

Your landing pages won’t look exactly like my sample mockup (hopefully they’ll be a lot nicer!) but I do hope this exercise has helped you gain confidence in moving fearlessly forward with these projects. I want to stress again the importance of owner involvement in this scenario. Your questionnaires and phone conversations are invaluable, and even if you have to use a crowbar with some clients, the effort truly shows in the authenticity, usefulness, and persuasiveness of the finished product.

I did want to take a minute to talk about scale, because this also comes up pretty frequently in our forum. Depending on available funding and creativity, the approach I’ve described is likely scalable for a medium-to-large business with anywhere from two to a few dozen target cities. Once you get beyond that, the project might get out of hand in terms of ROI, but I want to provide a couple of real-world examples.

  1. I’ve cited REI before, but I’ll do it again. They operate 143 stores across 36 states, and I continue to be impressed by the effort they’ve made to differentiate their landing pages for each location. An interactive map drills down to pages like this: They’re not quite as text-intensive as my mockup, but the inclusion of a schedule of interesting local events makes these pages feel cared-for and worth visiting.
  2. If you’re operating at a similar scale, like Orchard Supply Hardware with 91 stores, and don’t feel you can or should make the investment in landing pages, you’ll likely end up going with something like a city/zip code search that shows store NAP in a given radius. Granted, this approach is going to be lacking in SEO opportunities, but if your brand is big enough and your competition isn’t too tough, it’s an option.

Do you have any other good ideas for making your local landing pages valuable? Please share them with the community!

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How to Optimize for Competitors’ Branded Keywords

Posted by randfish

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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 optimizing for your competitors’ branded terms and phrases, the keywords that are your competitors’ product names or service names. This gets into a little bit of a dicey area. I think it’s challenging for a lot of SEO folks to do this and do it well, and so I’m going to take you through an approach that I’ve seen a lot of folks use with some success.

A strategic approach

So to start off with, let’s go to the strategy level. Is it actually the case — and sometimes it’s not, sometimes it is not the case — that branded keywords are driving high enough volume to actually be worth targeting? This is tough and frustrating, but basically one of the best thing that I can recommend in this case is to say, "Hey, if we are…"

I’m going to pretend for the purposes of this Whiteboard Friday that we’re all working together on the SEO campaigns for Wunderlist, which is a to-do app in the Google Play and iPhone app stores, bought by Microsoft I think a little while ago. Beautiful app, it looks really nice. One of their big competitors obviously is Evernote, certainly an indirect competitor but still.

Are branded keywords driving high enough volumes to be worthwhile?

Essentially what you might want to do here is actually go ahead and use AdWords to bid on some of these keywords and get a sense for how much traffic is really being driven. Can you draw any of that traffic away? Are people willing to consider alternatives? If there’s almost no willingness to consider alternatives — you can’t draw clicks here, you’re not getting any conversions, and it is the case that the volume is relatively low, not a lot of people are actually searching for Evernote, which is not the case, there are tons of people searching for Evernote and I’d probably tell Wunderlist they should go ahead. Evernote is actually bidding on Wunderlist’s terms, so turnabout is fair play. Bidding on AdWords can answer both of these questions. That can help them get us to:

What do you need to solve?

All right, now what is it that we need to solve? What are potential customers doing to compare our products or our services against these folks, and what are they interested in when they’re searching for these branded names? What makes them choose one versus another product?

Related searches can help us here, so too can normal forms of keyword research. So related searches is one form, but certainly I’d urge you to use search suggest, I’d urge you to check out Google’s AdWords Keyword Tool, if you like or if you like Huballin or whatever it is that you think is a great keyword tool, check those out, go through those sources for your competitor’s keywords, see what’s coming up there, see what actually has some real volume. Obviously, your AdWords campaign where you bid on their branded terms can help tell you that too.

Then from there I’d go through the search results, and I’d see: What are people saying? What are the editorial reviews? For example, CNET did this Wunderlist review. What does their breakdown look like? What are people saying in forums? What are they saying on social media? What are they saying when they talk about this?

Ask the same questions of your competition

So if I’m seeing here’s what Wunderlist versus Evernote looks like, great. Now let me plug in Evernote and see what everyone’s saying about them. By the way, you don’t just have to use online research. You can go primary source on this stuff, too. Ask your customers or your audience directly through surveys. We’ve used here at Moz Google Custom Audience Surveys, and we’ve used SurveyMonkey Audience’s product. We like both of those.

Once you’ve got this down and you say, "Hey, you know what? We’ve got a strategic approach. We know what we need to talk about in terms of content. We know the keywords we’re targeting." Great. Now you get to choose between two big options here — self-hosting some content that’s targeting these terms, or using third-party hosting.

Self-hosted content

With self-hosted content we’re going to try and go after those right terms and phrases. This is where I’ve seen some people get lost. They essentially go too high or too low in the funnel, not targeting that sweet spot right in the middle.

1. Target the right terms & phrases

So essentially, if someone’s searching for "Evernote review," the intent there is that they’re trying to evaluate whether Evernote is good. Yeah, you know what? That’s right in the middle. That’s right in the sweet spot, I would say that is a good choice for you targeting your competitors’ keywords, anything around reviews.

"Evernote download," however, that’s really at the bottom of the funnel. They’re trying to install at that point. I don’t think I’d tell you to go after those keywords. I don’t think I’d bid on them, and I don’t think I’d create content based on that. An Evernote download, that’s a very transactional, direct kind of search. I’d cross that one off my list. "How to use Evernote," well, okay that’s post-installation probably, or maybe it’s pre-installation. But it’s really about learning. It’s about retaining and keeping people. I’d probably put that in the no bucket as well most of the time. "Evernote alternative," obviously I’m targeting "Evernote alternative." That is a great search phrase. That’s essentially asking me for my product. "What is Evernote," well okay, that’s very top-of-funnel. Maybe I’d think about targeting some content like, "What do apps like Evernote, Todoist and Wunderlist do?" Okay. Yeah, maybe I’m capturing all three of those in there. So I’d put this as a maybe. Maybe I’d go after that.

Just be careful because if you go after the wrong keywords here, a lot of your efforts can fail just because you’re doing poor keyword targeting.

2. Craft content that delivers a superior user experience

Second is you need to craft that content that’s going to deliver a superior user experience. You’re essentially trying to pull someone away from the other search results and say, "Yeah, it was worth it to scroll down.

It was worth it to click and to do the research and to check out the review or check out the alternative." Therefore, you need something that has a lot of editorial integrity. You need that editorial integrity. You can’t just be a, "Everything about them is bad. Everything about us is great. Check out why we kick their butt six ways from Sunday." It’s just not going to be well-perceived.

You need to be credible to that audience. To do that, I think what’s smart is to make your approach the way you would approach it as if you were a third-party reviewer. In fact, it can even pay in some cases to get an external party to do the comparison review and write the content for you. Then you’re just doing the formatting. That way it becomes very fair. Like, "Hey, we at Wunderlist thought our product compared very well to Evernote’s. So we hired an outside expert in this space, who’s worked with a bunch of these programs, to review it and here’s his review. Here are his thoughts on the subject."

Awesome. Now you’ve created some additional credibility in there. You’re hosting it on your site. It’s clearly promoting you, but it has some of that integrity.

I would do things like I’d think about key differentiators. I’d think about user and editorial review comparisons. So if you can go to the app stores and then collect all the user reviews or collect a bunch of user reviews and synchronize those for folks to compare, check out the editorial reviews — CNET has reviewed both of these. The Verge has reviewed both of these. A bunch of other sites have reviewed both of them. Awesome. Let’s do a comparison of the editorial reviews and the ratings that these products got.

"Choose X if you need…" This is where you essentially say, "If you’re doing this, well guess what? We don’t do it very well. We’d suggest you use Evernote instead. But if you’re doing this, you know what? Wunderlist is generally perceived to be better and here’s why." That’s a great way to do it. Then you might want to have that full-feature comparison breakdown. Remember that with Google’s keyword targeting and with their algorithms today they’re looking for a lot of that deep content, and you can often rank better if you include a lot more of those terms and phrases about what’s inside the products.

3. Choose a hosted location that doesn’t compromise your existing funnel

This is rarely done, but sometimes folks will put it on their main homepage of their website or in their navigation. That’s probably not ideal. You probably want to keep it one step away from the primary navigation flow around your site.

You could conceivably host it in your blog. You could make it something where you say, "Hey, do you want to see comparisons? Or do you want to see product reviews?" Then we’re going to link to it from that page. But I wouldn’t put it in the primary funnel.

3rd-party hosted content

Third-party hosted content is another option, and I’ve seen some folks do this particularly well recently. Guest content is one way to do that. You could do that. You could pay someone else, that professional reviewer and say, "Hey, we want to pitch this professional reviewer comparing our product against someone else’s to these other outlets."

Sometimes there are external reviewers who if you just ask them, if you just say, "Hey we have a new product or we have a competing product. We think it compares favorably. Would you do a review?" A lot of the time if you’re in the right kind of space, people will just say, "Yeah, you know what? I’ll put that on my schedule because I think that can send me some good traffic, and then we’ll let you know." You kind of knock on wood and hope you get a favorable review there. You could contribute it to a discussion forum. Just be open and honest and transparent about who you are and what you’re doing there.

Native ads

Today you can do sponsored content or what’s called native ad content, where essentially you’re paying another site to host it. Usually, there’s a bunch of disclosure requirements around that, but it can work and sometimes that content can even rank well and earn links and all that kind of stuff.

Promotion & amplification

For promotion and amplification of this content, it’s a little trickier than it is with your average content because it’s so adversarial in nature. The first people I would always talk to are your rabid loyal fans. So if you know you’ve got a community of people who are absolutely super-passionate about this, you can say, "Hey, guess what? We released our comparison, or we released this extra review comparison of our product versus our competitor’s today. You can check it out here."

You can pitch that to influencers and pundits in your space, definitely letting them know, "Hey, here’s this comparison. Tell us if you think we were honest. Tell us if you think this is accurate. Tell us if this reflects your experience." Do the same thing with industry press. Your social audiences are certainly folks that you could talk to.

Give them a reason to come back

One of the key ones that I think gets too often ignored is if you have users who you know have gone through your signup flow or have used your product but then left, this is a great chance to try and earn their business back, to say, "Hey, we know that in the past you gave Wunderlist a try. You left for one reason or another. We want you to see how favorably we compare to our next biggest competitor in the space." That can be a great way to bring those people back to the site.

Consult your legal team

Last thing, very important. Make sure, when you’re creating this type of content, that you talk to your legal professional. It is the case that sometimes using terms and phrases, trademarked words, branded words, has some legal implications. I am not a legal professional. You can’t ask me that question, but you can definitely ask your lawyer or your legal team, and they can advise you what you can and cannot do.

All right, everyone. Hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of Whiteboard Friday, and we will see you again next week. Take care.

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Posted by mattround

Before joining Distilled I worked for UsVsTh3m, an experimental Trinity Mirror project, where we created hundreds of games, quizzes and daft "toys." We had unprecedented freedom to try out new interactive formats, learning a great deal about what works… and what doesn’t.

The key to success was "viral" traffic. You’ve probably heard the term bandied about in reference to something popular, and might even have rolled your eyes; it’s a much-abused buzzword.

The idea is that online word-of-mouth can drive exponential traffic growth and broad media coverage with little or no traditional promotional support, but achieving this requires a certain way of thinking. This article focuses on interactive content, but many of the same principles will apply to other formats.

The viral life cycle

It’s useful to aim for interactive content to be…

  1. Clickable — When someone sees a link and description (on social media or a site), it seems compelling enough to take a look.
  2. Playable — The visitor sticks with it and finds it enjoyable or interesting.
  3. Shareable — There’s a strong urge to tell others, often involving the visitor sharing their individual result/score.

You usually need all three aspects to be strong to get a viral hit. It’s easy to focus on one, an experienced team can usually achieve two, but it’s difficult to consistently get the full set.

Crudely, you can think of it in terms of losing potential sharers, ultimately needing to end up with more than one to start the next cycle(s). This image explains it nicely:

Congratulations, it’s going viral! That’s a massive simplification, but a helpful one.

11 ways to make it shareable

1. Attributes

Develop a concept that ties in with the player’s personal attributes: age, location, abilities, personality, etc. For example, measuring reaction time in milliseconds is fine… but if you can correlate it with age, then you’ve immediately got something far more compelling.

2. Tribes

Reinforce a sense of belonging; tribes can be regional, generational, interest-based, political, etc. Perhaps play different tribes off against each other so that your interactive content can address niche groups while having broad appeal overall.

3. Insights

It tells you something about yourself or, more likely, confirms a flattering/intriguing attribute, leading into…

4. Humblebrags

Sharing to make yourself look good… but without it seeming too blatant.

5. “One more go…”

Ensure the player is hooked and will want others to share in that. Although bear in mind that the best games often aren’t the most viral — adding multiple levels and features to a game tends to put off non-gamers and can actually reduce sharing (enthusiasm has a chance to ebb away, and the game will tend to end on a low note when the player finally fails or quits).

6. Topical

People are impressed by fast-turnaround topical content, and sharing it can show you’re up-to-date (perhaps even the first in your social circle to discover something). We regularly developed and launched games in half a day at UsVsTh3m, and more than once within an hour. This obviously isn’t feasible for most commercial projects, but with more agile development and approval processes you can reduce lead times.

7. Delight

Overwhelm the senses: strong use of music, dance, animation, spectacular explosions, anything that’s a straightforward pleasure.

8. Competition

“Can you beat this score?”

9. Comparison

“I got this result, how about you?” This is much "softer" than direct competition and typically more welcoming for a broad audience.

10. Collaborating

Things like global counters, polls, or territorial maps can create the sense of playing your part in a bigger cause. Even just clicking something to increment a number can be made hard to resist with the right "cause."

11. Quality

It’s still possible for something to succeed simply by being good, but in the absence of any other aspects it’d better be really good. Knock-your-socks-off good.

Of course, all of the above overlap and interrelate, and it’s by no means an exhaustive list.

Telling the world

Something that’s strongly viral can actually just be exposed to a few hundred people via Twitter or Facebook. It won’t need a big push; the viral mechanism will ensure it spreads and attracts media attention.

It’s often useful to accompany a launch with relevant press material, perhaps teasing out key angles or supplementary content/data to suit each type of media outlet. Don’t force a story if there isn’t one, though; you don’t want to jeopardize later coverage based around “this cool thing is going viral.”

If the stats are showing it’s strongly going viral (this should be obvious within minutes), you’re then in the fortunate position of planning for success. Keep an eye out for initial coverage that may benefit from additional material, and look to do a follow-up press campaign at a suitable milestone (e.g. at X million visitors, or when you have interesting data to share), broadening the coverage.

If it’s not going viral, stop and consider whether minor changes to wording might make it more clickable. Look at whether it needs to break into a niche audience or broaden its appeal, and retarget accordingly. Although Twitter drives far less traffic than Facebook, it offers more freedom to experiment, target influential individuals, and re-promote over time. If a topical angle may arise, perhaps wait and be ready to repackage and relaunch at a moment’s notice.

Case studies: Two simple games that went viral

The North-o-Meter

UsVsTh3m’s North-o-Meter (sadly, this is currently broken due to hosting issues) used multiple-choice questions to guesstimate how Northern/Southern you are. Despite being entirely UK-focused, within just 4 days of launch it had 3.6 million visitors, 1 million Likes, 1.1 million comments on Facebook, and 41,000 tweets. It went on to get millions more visits, virtually saturating the potential audience. Countless similar quizzes had used this topic before, so why did this one make such a big impact?

  • It was clickable because the wording of tweets and Facebook posts worked well, teasing the Northern/Southern cultural identity element in a way that seemed intriguing and non-threatening.
  • It was playable thanks to working well on mobile (people were playing and comparing scores late into Friday nights down the pub), being easy to play and giving constant visual feedback, unlike many similar things that simply ape static magazine personality quizzes.
  • It was shareable by tapping into attributes (location/origin), tribes (north vs. south), insights (using mundane questions to infer something greater), competition, comparison, and quality (the visual feedback and often surprisingly accurate conclusions).
  • Northern/Southern cultural identity is immensely strong in the UK. It’s a key part of how many people define themselves.
  • The whole quiz was grounded in honest personal experience. One of our young journalists had written about moving to London, and the way it resonated with people led us to think about how to apply that to an interactive format.
  • Naming a specific place to go with the percentage meant it sometimes got the player’s location/origin spot-on, so they were then likely to share it in a very enthusiastic way.

How Old Are Your Reactions?

How Old Are Your Reactions?, produced by Distilled for JustPark, is a simple web game where you stop a car with a tap/click. Your reaction time is then used to look up the corresponding age for that score, based on a survey of 2,000 players.

Our thinking beforehand was that it would work well due to the following aspects:

  • It would be clickable by setting an intriguing personal challenge.
  • It would be playable thanks to clear, quick gameplay and good presentation, including full mobile compatibility.
  • It would be shareable due to attributes (age and reactions), insights (inferring age from reactions), humblebrags (impressively young age result), "one more go…" (few will play it just once), competition, comparison, and quality.
  • Age is a key personal attribute, and age estimation prompts a great deal of conversation and comparison, whether the result is accurate or lower/higher than the player’s actual age. Lively conversations on Facebook help ensure visibility.
  • Driving is a relevant, relatable way to dress the game up, particularly for this brand. A straightforward, bare-bones reactions test would have been "colder" and less engaging.
  • The combination of elements would allow for multiple storytelling angles in coverage, to do with good-natured rivalry between generations, road safety, etc.

This all seems to have been borne out by the stats since launch: Over 3 million unique page views, nearly 300,000 social shares, and links from over 400 domains.

In summary…

Always ask yourself:

  • How can we make it clickable, playable, and shareable? Judge your ideas harshly — you need all three.
  • Which sharing impulses can it tap into? It should be possible to readily pick out a few motivations, or refine the concept to strengthen this aspect.
  • What will be the best way to capitalize on success? Be ready to build a story around it, using popularity as the foundation for broad and varied coverage.

The way people share and interact is constantly changing, and reaching large audiences is always challenging, but the approaches I’ve outlined can help you to devise interactive content that’ll have a great shot at going viral.

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