Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Google’s Matt Cutts: Why Google Will Ignore Your Page Title Tag & Write Its Own

Google’s Matt Cutts posted a video answer on the question about why and when Google will ignore your title tag and use something else for the snippet title in the search results.
Matt explains in the video that Google really wants the title of the snippets to match on some level the query of the searcher. This logic often results in a higher click through rate on the URL and thus should be better for both the searcher and the web site owner.
The criteria Google uses when coming up with a new title tag are:
(1) Something that is “relatively” short
(2) Have a good description of the page and “ideally” the site that the page is on.
(3) And that it is relevant to the query.
If your existing title tag fits the criteria, then Google will most likely use your title tag. If not, then Google may use (1) content on your page, (2) anchor text links pointing to the page and/or (3) may also use the Open Directory Project.

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Greatest Misconception in Content Marketing

It's probably pretty clear to everyone that content marketing takes time, but there's a common misconception in just how much time. In today's Whiteboard Friday, Rand warns us of an overly optimistic mindset, and shows us how things really (usually) end up happening.


Video transcription

Howdy Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Today we're going to talk a little bit about content marketing and specifically this giant myth, this misconception that exists in the content marketing field about how the practice really works.
This hurts a lot of people. This hurts people on the SEO side. It hurts people who do social media. It hurts people who invest in actually building the content, and it hurts teams and executives and people who plan and strategize around what content marketing can and can't achieve and how it should work.
You know, I really came to this because I think it's been something that's been bubbling up in the world of content and inbound marketing for a long time. But I was speaking to a number of startups yesterday afternoon here in Seattle. I was talking to them about how we at Moz produce blog posts, video content, like Whiteboard Friday, presentations, and webinars in all of these different mediums.
I got this question, like, "Okay, it must be the case . . . how do you put out a blog post, Rand, that once you launch it, once people read it, they're actually going to go and buy from you?"
I had this moment of, "Oh my God, this happens all the time." People think that the reason you're putting out content is so that someone will consume that content and be inspired from it to go and make a purchase.
This is how the myth works. Step one, oh yeah, you know, ta-dak I created this amazing piece of content. Look, it's got lovely parallax scrolling, and responsive design, and beautiful graphics, and a lovely layout. Fantastic content. Wow. All right. People are going to download that. They're going to share it. They're going to love it.
Step two, thankfully, people are thinking about this at least. All right, I'm going to go tweet and Facebook share and put it on Google+. I'm going to point a bunch of links to it. I'm going to put it on my LinkedIn account. I'll promote that content through all of these platforms.
Then, look at these hordes of people right there. Not the most attractive horde. A little gangly. But, wow, that's really good. We should sign up for whatever these people are selling. They must be amazing, right? The visitors who experience the content, and then some percent of them, like oh maybe 2% are going to go and convert.
This doesn't happen, does it? This is not actually how content marketing works. But it's how a lot of people invest in and think about content marketing. But it almost never happens. With a few rare exceptions, this is not how content marketing really works.
How it actually works is you repeat step one and two many, many times, again and again and again and again until you start to get good at the process, until you start finding the XYZ, the piece of amazing content that really is going to resonate with your audience. That takes a lot of trial and failure. It really does.
Step three is entirely a myth. It is almost never the case, practically never the case that someone goes, experiences a piece of content from a brand they don't know about or haven't heard of, or experiences that content for the first time and then immediately goes, "I wonder what they sell. I should buy whatever that is." Or even sees kind of a plug or a pseudo-plug for their product inside that content and goes, "Yes, you know what, I'm just going to buy that right now." That almost never happens.
What really does happen is that people come many, many times. They essentially grow this memory about your brand, about what you do, and they build up kind of what I'd call a positive bank account with you. But that bank account, there are not coins and money in there. There are experiences and touches with your brand. Those content touches, and those social media touches, and those touches that come through performing a search and seeing you listed there, those build up the capital in the account.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Google Introduces Google Trends Email Alerts, Trending Topics and Hot Searches Delivered To Your Inbox

Google announced today they will be rolling out the ability for users to have popular topics from Google Trends and Hot Searches delivered via email.

This new feature will work in a very similar way to how Google Alerts currently works. You will be able to subscribe to a particular topic and receive a notification if there is an increase in search volume around that topic.

Currently, Google allows you to subscribe to any search topic, Hot Searches for any country, or any U.S. monthly Top Chart.

You will also be able to subscribe to notifications about trending topics by location. For example, if you want to stay up to date about trends and popular searches in your local area, you can set up an email notification to tell you about the “hottest” Hot Searches in the location of your choice and get occasional emails about major local trends.

To set up an email subscription, simply visit the Subscriptions section within Google Trends and click on Add subscription.

                         Screen Shot 2014 04 18 at 12.53.31 PM 380x119 Google Introduces Google Trends Email Alerts, Trending Topics and Hot Searches Delivered To Your Inbox
From there, select the topic and country of your choice and indicate how often you would like to receive notifications. Then click the Subscribe button.

                           Screen Shot 2014 04 18 at 12.56.40 PM 380x190 Google Introduces Google Trends Email Alerts, Trending Topics and Hot Searches Delivered To Your Inbox

That’s all it takes to keep your finger on the pulse of trending topics and popular search terms. This is an incredibly useful feature for all the busy professionals out there who don’t have time to manually sift through blogs and websites every day to stay current. Now the information can be sent directly to you.


Friday, April 18, 2014

6 Changes We Always Thought Google Would Make to SEO that They Haven't Yet

From Google's interpretation of rel="canonical" to the specificity of anchor text within a link, there are several areas where we thought Google would make a move and are still waiting for it to happen. In today's Whiteboard Friday, Rand details six of those areas. Let us know where you think things are going in the comments!


Number one, a lot of people in the SEO field, and even outside the field, think that it must be the case that if links really matter for SEO, then on-topic links matter more than off-topic links. So, for example, if I'm linking to two websites here about gardening resources, A and B, both about gardening resources, and one of those comes from a botany site and the other one comes from a site about mobile gaming, well, all other things being true, it must be that the one about botany is going to provide a stronger link. That's just got to be the case.
And yet, we cannot seem to prove this. There doesn't seem to be data behind it or to support it. Anyone who's analyzed this problem in-depth, which a number of SEOs have over the years -- a lot of people, who are very advanced, have gone through the process of classifying links and all this kind of stuff -- seem to come to the same conclusion, which is Google seems to really think about links in a more subject/context agnostic perspective.
Number two, I'm actually in this camp. I still think that someday it's coming, that anchor text influence will eventually decline. Yet it seems to be that, yes, while other signals have certainly risen in importance, and there have been lots of other things, it seems that anchor text inside a link is still far more important and better than generic anchor text.
Getting specific, targeting something like "gardening supplies" when I link to A, as opposed to on the same page saying something like, "Oh, this is also a good resource for gardening supplies," but all I linked with was the text "a good resource" over to B, that A is going to get a lot more ranking power. Again, all other things being equal, A will rank much higher than B, because this anchor text is still pretty influential. It has a fairly substantive effect.
I think this is one of those cases where a lot of SEOs said, "Hey, anchor text is where a lot of manipulation and abuse is happening. It's where a lot of Web spam happens. Clearly Google's going to take some action against this."
Number three, 302s. So 302s have been one of these sort of long-standing kind of messes of the Web, where a 302 was originally intended as a temporary redirect, but many, many websites and types of servers default to 302s for all kinds of pages that are moving.
So A301 redirects to B, versus C302 redirecting to D. Is it really the case that the people who run C plan to change where the redirect points in the future, and is it really the case that they do so more than A does with B?
Well, a lot of the time, probably not. But it still is the case, and you can see plenty of examples of this happening out in the search results and out on the Web, that Google interprets this 301 as being a permanent redirect. All the link juice from A is going to pass right over to B.
With C and D, it appears, with big brands, when the redirect's been in place for a long time and they have some trust in it, maybe they see some other signals, some other links pointing over here, that yes, some of this does pass over, but it is not nearly what's happening with a 301. This is like a directive, and this is sort of a nudge or a hint. It just seems to be important to still get those 301s, those right kinds of redirects right.
Number four Speaking of nudges and hints versus directives, rel="canonical" has been an interesting one. So when rel="canonical" first launched, what Google said about rel="canonical" is rel="canonical" is a hint to us, but we won't necessarily take it as gospel.
Yet, every test we saw, even from those early launch days, was, man, they are taking it as gospel. You throw a rel="canonical" on a trusted site accidentally on every page and point it back to the homepage, Google suddenly doesn't index anything but the homepage. It's crazy.
Number five, I think, for a long time, a lot of us have thought, hey, the social web is rising. Social is where a lot of the great content is being shared, a lot of where people are pointing to important things, and where endorsements are happening, more so, potentially, than the link graph. It's sort of the common man's link graph has become the social web and the social graph.
And yet, with the exception of the two years where Google had a very direct partnership with Twitter and those tweets and indexation, all that kind of stuff was heavily influential for Google search results, since that partnership broke up, we haven't seen that again from Google. They've actually sort of backtracked on social, and they've kind of said, "Hey, you know, tweets, Facebook shares, likes, that kind of stuff, it doesn't directly impact rankings for everyone."
Number six, last one. I think a lot of us felt like, as Google was cleaning up web spam, for a long time they talked about cleaning up web spam, from '06, '07 to about 2011, 2012, it was pretty sketchy. It was tough.
When they did start cleaning up web spam, I think a lot of us thought, "Well, eventually they're going to get to PPC too." I don't mean pay-per-click. I mean porn, pills, and casino.
But it turns out, as Matt Brown, from Moz, wisely and recently pointed out in his Search Love presentation in Boston, that, yes, if you look at the search results around these categories, whatever it is -- Buy Cialis online, Texas hold-'em no limit poker, removed for content, because Whiteboard Friday is family-friendly, folks -- whatever the search is that you're performing in these spheres, this is actually kind of the early warning SERPS of the SEO world. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Google is Rewarding Marketing Strategists

For many years now, search marketing has been a wide open market, with more business to go around than we have known what to do with. Brand after brand has recognized their need for help with search visibility, but they have not necessarily been clear on what that would entail. This led to the gold rush of search.


While many larger agencies were focused on media buying, creative, and television campaigns, the digital landscape was taking form with SEO, PPC, social, display, conversion rate optimization, email marketing, outreach (PR for the web), and much more. We as search marketers know there is a massive opportunity to be had as the digital landscape continues to mature, but whether it is ours for the taking remains to be seen. In order for us to survive, search marketers need to become more well-versed into all digital marketing channels and gain a concrete understanding of when it is appropriate to invest into some of them.

The combination of secure search (not provided), Google's continual innovation upon their ability to crawl and understand both the web and search behavior (with Hummingbird being the most recent example), their successful moves against scalable link building tactics (Penguin and manual penalties), and an overall increase in competition will push search marketers down either of these two paths:
  1. Become less and less white-hat over time, constantly looking for ways to justify the means for scalable tactics
  2. Jump ship to broader digital marketing roles and bury the SEO hats (example: Director of Marketing, Marketing Strategists, Brand Strategist, Content Strategist, Product Manager etc.) to grow revenue/traffic over time on different marketing channels.

Given the picture I have described above, I want to provide you with a framework with supporting examples for how you, the search marketer, can better get more of the resources you will need in order to pursue path 2.

Google is a business

SEOs are dependent on a third-party platform that provides them with no proprietary information and gives them no advantage. The reality is that as Google's ranking algorithm becomes increasingly complex, what exactly the right recommendation is for any given site becomes more ambiguous. Google simply isn't in the business to support SEOs; they're in the business to build the best technology in the world, so that they continue to attract the greatest number of users and generate the greatest amount of revenue. If SEOs continue to chase the algorithm, they'll simply continue down a rabbit hole of becoming dependent on short-term tactics that at best, have no longevity, and at worst, damage the core of a business.

Not provided

Not provided impacted how SEOs were able to directly attribute their work to organic growth. It has brought challenges not only to reporting, but also to how the previous work SEOs did was valued within an organization. With the advent of not provided, different marketing departments within an organization such as content, SEO, PR, and creatives can all justify that their work is what led to organic traffic growth. This makes it difficult for any organization to invest significant budget into SEO.


Penguin sent a very clear signal to SEOs that many of the link building tactics they were reliant on in the past were not only no longer effective but could even provide long-term damage to the bottom line of a business. Recovering from Penguin and any algorithmic update is uncertain, difficult, and extremely expensive. It also forced SEOs to step back and assess whether a tactic that might work today may also be detrimental to the site in the future.


Although Hummingbird may not appear to have significantly impacted search results at an initial glance, the reality is that the underlying algorithm has changed to become much more adept at understanding semantics. Hummingbird, in combination with not provided, indicates that a continued emphasis on keyword-focused strings is not sustainable. Future SEO initiatives cannot be siloed into keyword research, keyword-focused landing pages, and building links to those keyword-focused pages; wider context-based approaches are required.


Saturday, April 12, 2014

4 Reasons Why Social Network Marketing is a Bad Content Strategy

Social network marketing is a poor strategy if your aim is new business, solid leads, and good traffic that converts.Playing around in the social networks *might* be good for branding, interacting with current and potential customers, but even that is questionable.

What is Social Network Marketing?

Social network marketing is diving (creating content that benefits your reader and you) into your social networks – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ with the sole aim of generating leads that convert into real business. Social network marketing is generally what people are thinking/hoping for when they ask me, “Bill, can you help drive people to my web site?” Most social network marketing is all about getting people to click-through to another site/landing page where they can ‘convert’.               

Social network marketing doesn’t work for several reasons

1.  Driving is a poor, make that a lousy, strategy. Pushing people to go places they weren’t planning to go online, or in the real world for that matter, just doesn’t work. The ROI on time invested is terrible. Pulling people is the best strategy. This means that giving people something worth finding is at the heart of a solid content marketing strategy.  I demonstrated how a very aggressive social network marketing strategy can indeed increase traffic to your home site, but the cost in time with return on money made isn’t worth it.
2. Your social networks will tire of you and your marketing. Even you really think you are doing a favor to your 1000s of, ahem, ‘intimate’ friends and 10s of thousands of deeply loyal followers, and 100s of people in your circles and the circles you are in, plus your 100s of business connections, truth is, they are not in your social network so you can ‘do them a favor’. If it smells like marketing, they know it’s a duck.  You can see in the graph below how one of my students got her friends and family to come to her site by marketing to her Facebook network. Notice how the numbers dropped off by the week until she finally gave up and let organic growth do it’s thing.
3. Referrals from social networks aren’t good shoppers. Historically, visitors that come to my website from a social network referral perform very poorly. That is they don’t turn pages. They don’t look at ads. They don’t buy. More often than not they will look at whatever they were sent to see, then smile, laugh or swear, then back out = bounce. And we know that a bounce is the worst thing that can happen to your site. Search engines understand that a bounce = the visitor came but didn’t like what they saw and left = poor quality that results in a worse ranking going forward.
4. The numbers don’t add up. Best estimates are that it costs $1 – 1.50 to acquire a Facebook fan. And it costs more to keep the fan. Harley Davidson and Victoria Secret estimate that about half of one percent of anything posted on Facebook is only seen by the person who put it there. What that means is that I, or somebody I pay, must update my Facebook page 200 times before somebody MIGHT see what I did. I need 100 ‘people saw this’ to maybe get one click-through to a site where I want them to take action. And I need 100 click thrus to get a 1% action rate. That’s 200 updates times 100 times 100. I either need to be a mad dog on my Facebook or have a lot more friends. But remember, friends cost money. Visit any of the Facebook pages of your favorite star, company, hero. Find out how many fans they have. Look at how often they update. Check the number of comments and divide by the number of commenters/likes by the total of number fans. What’s the percentage?


Monday, April 7, 2014

Use Paid Promotion to Refine Your SEO and Make Your Visitors More Valuable

I recently found myself trying to give a client a rough estimate of the value organic traffic brought them. In the process of doing so, I stumbled upon the world of paid promotion. Considering Rand's Whiteboard Friday about surviving the SEO slog, paid promotion is important to tactics that we know do provide immediate tangible value, and I wondered if there was potential for it to be a part of a wider online marketing strategy that could also enhance the work of SEO. I want to open up that world a bit and discuss what I discovered: how paid promotion can complement organic search.

First, let me define what I mean by "paid promotion." This might include typical paid search, but also display ads, remarketing, and paid ads on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Paid promotion comes in many forms, including sponsored images, sponsored stories, and everything else in the following image .


Recently, there's been lots of discussion of the decreasing organic reach on Facebook. It seems that there's been a shift in the Facebook algorithm—certain posts have seen a decrease, others an increase in organic reach. Pages with over 500,000 likes are seeing a particularly massive decrease in organic reach, perhaps in an effort to encourage them to pay for ads. Additionally, MarketingLand recently reported that Pinterest will be adding promoted pins.

The reality is, paid promotion has a lot to offer online marketing, and can really complement some of what you might be doing with search marketing and optimization. Paid promotion offers a way to test things out to make sure they're worth putting the effort and resources into, as well as add more punch to the impact that search is already making for a site. Paid promotion offers quick results you can control, making it a great complement to your overall marketing strategy.

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