Monday, September 30, 2019

6 Ways to Get More Organic Traffic, Without Ranking Your Website

Posted by ryanwashere

A few years ago, I wrote a post here that caught some attention in the community.

I argued Google appears to be ranking websites heavily based on searcher intent — this is more true now than ever.

In fact, it might be algorithmically impossible to get your website on top of the SERPs.

If you find your website in this position, don't give up on SEO!

The point of "Search Engine Optimization" is to get organic exposure through search engines — it doesn't necessarily have to be your website.

We can leverage the ranking authority of other websites pass organic referral traffic to our sites.

I'm going to give 6 times when you should NOT rank your website.

Prefer to watch / listen? I outlined all these points as a part of a recent keynote: https://youtu.be/mMvIty5W93Y

1. When the keywords are just TOO competitive

We've all been there: trying to rank a website with no authority for highly competitive keywords.

These keywords are competitive because they're valuable so we can't give up on them.

Here's a few workarounds I've used in the past.

Tactic 1: Offer to sponsor the content

Ardent sells a product that "decarboxylates" cannabis for medicinal users.

There's a ton of challenges selling this product, mostly because patients don't know what "decarboxylation" means.

So, naturally, ranking for the keyword "what is decarboxylation" is a critical step in their customer’s path to conversion. Problem is, that keyword is dominated by authoritative, niche relevant sites.

While Ardent should still build and optimize content around the subject, it might take years to rank.

When you’re trying to build a business, that’s not good enough.

We decided to reach out to those authoritative sites offering to "sponsor" one of their posts.

In this case, it worked exceptionally well — we negotiated a monthly rate ($250) to tag content with a CTA and link back to Ardent's site.

Granted, this doesn't work in every niche. If you operate in one of those spaces, there’s another option.

Tactic 2: Guest post on their site

Guest writing for Moz in 2015 put my agency on the map.

Publishing on powerful sites quickly expands your reach and lends credibility to your brand (good links, too).

More importantly, it gives you instant ranking power for competitive keywords.

As co-owner of an SEO agency, it would be amazing to rank in Google for "SEO services," right?

seo-servce-google-search

Even with an authoritative site, it's difficult to rank your site for the search "SEO service" nationally. You can leverage the authority of industry sites to rank for these competitive searches.

The post I wrote for Moz back in 2015 ranks for some very competitive keywords (admittedly, this was unintentional).

This post continues to drive free leads, in perpetuity.

moz-referral-traffic

When we know a client has to get visibility for a given keyword but the SERPs won’t budge, our agency builds guest posting into our client's content strategies.

It's an effective tactic that can deliver big results when executed properly.

2. When you can hijack "brand alternative" keywords

When you're competing for SERP visibility with a large brand, SEO is an uphill battle.

Let's look at a couple tactics if you find yourself in this situation.

Tactic #1: How to compete against HubSpot

HubSpot is a giant on the internet — they dominate the SERPs.

Being that large can have drawbacks, including people searching Googlef "HubSpot alternatives." If you're a competitor, you can't afford to miss out on these keywords.

"Listicle" style articles dominate for these keywords, as they provide the best "type" of result for a searcher with that intent.

It's ranking on top for a lot of valuable keywords to competitors.

As a competitor, you'll want to see if you can get included in this post (and others). By contacting the author with a pitch, we can create an organic opportunity for ourselves.

This pitch generally has a low success. The author needs to feel motivated to add you to the article. Your pitch needs to contain a value proposition that can move them to action.

A few tips:

  • Find the author's social profiles and add them. Then retweet, share, and like their content to give them a boost
  • Offer to share the article with your social profiles or email list if they include you in it
  • Offer to write the section for inclusion to save them time

While success rate isn't great, the payoff is worth the effort.

Tactic #2: Taking advantage of store closures

Teavana is an international tea retailer with millions of advocates (over 200k searches per month in Google).

Just a few months ago, Starbucks decided to close all Teavana stores. With news of Teavana shutting down, fans of the brand would inevitably search for "Teavana replacements" to find a new company to buy similar tea from.

Teami is a small tea brand that sells a number of SKUs very similar to what Teavana. Getting in front of those searches would provide tremendous value to their business.

At that moment, we could do two things:

  1. Try to rank a page on Teami’s for “Teavana replacement”
  2. Get it listed on an authority website in a roundup with other alternatives

If you ask many SEO experts what to do, they'd probably go for the first option. But we went with the second option - getting it listed in a roundup post.

If we ranked Teami as a Teavana replacement — which we could do — people will check the site and know that we sell tea, but they won't take it seriously because they don't trust us yet that we are a good Teavana replacement.

How to pull it off for your business

Find a writer who writes about these topics on authoritative sites. You may need to search for broader keywords and see articles from authority magazine-like websites.

Check the author of the article, find their contact info, and send them a pitch.

We were able to get our client (Teami Blends) listed as the number-two spot in the article, providing a ton of referral traffic to the website.

3. When you want to rank for "best" keywords

When someone is using “best” keywords (i.e. best gyms in NYC), the SERPs are telling us the searcher doesn’t want to visit a gym’s website.

The SERPs are dominated by “roundup” articles from media sources — these are a far better result to satisfy the searcher’s intent.

That doesn't mean we can't benefit from “best keywords.” Let’s look at a few tactics.

Tactic #1: Capture searchers looking for “best” keywords

Let’s say you come to Miami for a long weekend.

You’ll likely search for "best coffee shops in Miami" to get a feel for where to dine while here.

If you own a coffee shop in Miami, that’s a difficult keyword to rank for - the SERPs are stacked against you.

A few years back we worked with a Miami-based coffee shop chain, Dr Smood, who faced this exact challenge.

Trying to jam their website in the SERPs would be a waste of resources. Instead, we focused on getting featured in press outlets for “best of Miami” articles.

local PR for links

How can you do it?

Find existing articles (ranking for your target “best of” keywords) and pitch for inclusion. You can offer incentives like free meals, discounts, etc. in exchange for inclusion.

You’ll also want to pitch journalists for future inclusion in articles. Scan your target publication for relevant journalists and send an opening pitch:

Hey [NAME],

My name is [YOUR NAME]. Our agency manages the marketing for [CLIENT].

We’ve got a new menu that we think would be a great fit for your column. We’d love to host you in our Wynwood location to sample the tasting menu.

If interested, please let me know a date / time that works for you!

We pitched dozens of journalists on local publications for Dr Smood.

author info

It resulted in a handful of high-impact features.

local PR for links

Work with food service businesses? I have more creative marketing tips for restaurants here.

Tactic #2: If you have a SaaS / training company

Let’s say you work for an online training company that helps agencies improve their processes and service output.

There’s hundreds of articles reviewing "best SEO training" that would be a killer feature for your business.

Getting featured here isn’t as hard as you might think — you just have to understand how to write value propositions into your pitch.

Part of that is taking the time to review your prospect and determine what might interest them:

  • Helping get traffic to their site?
  • Discounts / free access to your product?
  • Paying them…?

Here’s a few I came up with when pitching on behalf of The Blueprint Training.

Hey [NAME],

My name is [YOUR NAME]...nice to meet you.

I’ll get to the point - I just read your article on “Best SEO Trainings” on the [BLOG NAME] blog. I recently launched a deep SEO training and I’d love consideration to be included.

I recently launched a platform called The Blueprint Training - I think its a perfect fit for your article.

Now, I realize how much work it is to go back in and edit an article, so I’m willing to do all of the following:

- Write the section for you, in the same format as on the site
- Promote the article via my Twitter account (I get GREAT engagement)
- Give you complimentary access to the platform to see the quality for yourself

Let me know what you think and if there’s anything else I can do for you.

Enjoy your weekend!

If you can understand value propositioning, you’ll have a lot of success with this tactic.

4. When you need to spread your local footprint

Piggybacking off the previous example, when performing keyword research we found Google displayed completely different SERPs for keywords that all classified what Dr Smood offered.

  • Miami organic cafe
  • Miami coffee shop
  • Miami juice bar

The algorithm is telling us each of these keywords is different — it would be extremely difficult to rank the client’s website for all three.

However, we can use other owned properties to go after the additional keywords in conjunction with our website.

Properties like Yelp allow you to edit titles and optimize your listing just like you would your website.

We can essentially perform “on page” SEO for these properties and get them to rank for valuable keyword searches.

The structure we took with Dr Smood was as follows:

When doing this for your business, be sure to identify all the keyword opportunities available and pay attention to how the SERPs react for each.

Understand which citation pages (Yelp, MenuPages, etc) you have available to rank instead your website for local searches and optimize them as you would your website.

5. When you need to boost e-commerce sales

The SERPs for e-commerce stores are brutally competitive. Not only do you have to compete with massive brands / retailers, but also sites like Amazon and Etsy.

Look, I get it — selling on Amazon isn’t that simple. There’s a ton of regulations and fees that come with the platform.

But these regulations are what’s keeping a lot of larger brands from selling there, aka, there's an opportunity there.

Amazon accounts for 40% of online retail in the US (and growing rapidly). Not only can you get your Amazon to rank in Google searches, but 90% of sales on the platform come from internal Amazon searches.

In other words, Amazon is its own marketing engine.

While you might take a haircut on your initial sales, you can use Amazon as a customer acquisition channel and optimize the lifetime value to recoup your lost upfront sales.

Here’s how we did it for a small e-commerce client.

Tactic: Radha Beauty Oil

Radha Beauty sells a range of natural oils for skin, hair and general health. Our keyword research found that Amazon listings dominated most of their target keywords.

With clients like this we make sure to track SERP result type, to properly understand what Google wants to rank for target keywords.

Specifically, Amazon listings had the following SERP share:

  • First result = 27.3%
  • Second result = 40.9%
  • Third result = 35.9%

Fortunately, this client was already selling on Amazon. Unfortunately, they had a limited budget. We didn’t have the hours in our retainer to optimize both their e-commerce store and their Amazon store.

This data gave us the firepower to have a conversation with the client that our time would drive more revenue optimizing their Amazon store over their e-commerce platform.

We focused our efforts optimizing their Amazon listings just like we would an e-commerce store:

  • Amazon product titles
  • Amazon descriptions
  • Generating reviews from past customers
  • Building links to Amazon store pages

The results were overwhelmingly positive.

If you’re a newer e-commerce brand, an Amazon store gives you the opportunity to outrank giants like Ulta in Google.

6. When the SERPs call for video

Predator Nutrition is an e-commerce site that sells health and fitness supplements. They have their own private label products, but they’re mainly a retailer (meaning they sell other brands as well).

While performing keyword research for them, we found a ton of search volume around people looking for reviews of products they sold.

youtube-review-keywords

The SERPs clearly show that searchers prefer to watch videos for “review” searches.

There are a couple ways you can capture these searches:

  1. Create videos for your YouTube channel reviewing products
  2. Find and pay an influencer to review products for you

I prefer method #2, as reviews on third-party channels rank better — especially if you’re targeting YouTubers with a large following.

Not only are you adding more branded content in the SERPs, but you’re getting your products reviewed for targeted audiences.

Final thoughts...

This industry tends to romanticize SEO as a traffic source.

Don’t get me wrong, I love how passionate our community is, but... we have to stop.

We’re trying to build businesses. We can’t fall in love with a single source of traffic (and turn our backs to others).

The internet is constantly changing. We need to adapt along with it.

What do you think?


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Friday, September 27, 2019

How to Write Content for Answers Using the Inverted Pyramid - Best of Whiteboard Friday

Posted by Dr-Pete

If you've been searching for a quick hack to write content for featured snippets, this isn't the article for you. But if you're looking for lasting results and a smart tactic to increase your chances of winning a snippet, you're definitely in the right place.

Borrowed from journalism, the inverted pyramid method of writing can help you craft intentional, compelling, rich content that will help you rank for multiple queries and win more than one snippet at a time. Learn how in this fan-favorite Whiteboard Friday starring the one and only Dr. Pete!

Content for Answers

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

Video Transcription

Hey, Moz fans, Dr. Pete here. I'm the Marketing Scientist at Moz and visiting you from not-so-sunny Chicago in the Seattle office. We've talked a lot in the last couple years in my blog posts and such about featured snippets.

So these are answers that kind of cross with organic. So it's an answer box, but you get the attribution and the link. Britney has done some great Whiteboard Fridays, the last couple, about how you do research for featured snippets and how you look for good questions to answer. But I want to talk about something that we don't cover very much, which is how to write content for answers.

The inverted pyramid style of content writing

It's tough, because I'm a content marketer and I don't like to think that there's a trick to content. I'm afraid to give people the kind of tricks that would have them run off and write lousy, thin content. But there is a technique that works that I think has been very effective for featured snippets for writing for questions and answers. It comes from the world of journalism, which gives me a little more faith in its credibility. So I want to talk to you about that today. That's called the inverted pyramid.

Content for Answers

1. Start with the lead

It looks something like this. When you write a story as a journalist, you start with the lead. You lead with the lead. So if we have a story like "Penguins Rob a Bank," which would be a strange story, we want to put that right out front. That's interesting. Penguins rob a bank, that's all you need to know. The thing about it is, and this is true back to print, especially when we had to buy each newspaper. We weren't subscribers. But definitely on the web, you have to get people's attention quickly. You have to draw them in. You have to have that headline.

2. Go into the details

So leading with the lead is all about pulling them in to see if they're interested and grabbing their attention. The inverted pyramid, then you get into the smaller pieces. Then you get to the details. You might talk about how many penguins were there and what bank did they rob and how much money did they take.

3. Move to the context

Then you're going to move to the context. That might be the history of penguin crime in America and penguin ties to the mafia and what does this say about penguin culture and what are we going to do about this. So then it gets into kind of the speculation and the value add that you as an expert might have.

How does this apply to answering questions for SEO?

So how does this apply to answering questions in an SEO context?

Content for Answers

Lead with the answer, get into the details and data, then address the sub-questions.

Well, what you can do is lead with the answer. If somebody's asked you a question, you have that snippet, go straight to the summary of the answer. Tell them what they want to know and then get into the details and get into the data. Add those things that give you credibility and that show your expertise. Then you can talk about context.

But I think what's interesting with answers — and I'll talk about this in a minute — is getting into these sub-questions, talking about if you have a very big, broad question, that's going to dive up into a lot of follow-ups. People who are interested are going to want to know about those follow-ups. So go ahead and answer those.

If I win a featured snippet, will people click on my answer? Should I give everything away?

Content for Answers

So I think there's a fear we have. What if we answer the question and Google puts it in that box? Here's the question and that's the query. It shows the answer. Are people going to click? What's going to happen? Should we be giving everything away? Yes, I think, and there are a couple reasons.

Questions that can be very easily answered should be avoided

First, I want you to be careful. Britney has gotten into some of this. This is a separate topic on its own. You don't always want to answer questions that can be very easily answered. We've already seen that with the Knowledge Graph. Google says something like time and date or a fact about a person, anything that can come from that Knowledge Graph. "How tall was Abraham Lincoln?" That's answered and done, and they're already replacing those answers.

Answer how-to questions and questions with rich context instead

So you want to answer the kinds of things, the how-to questions and the why questions that have a rich enough context to get people interested. In those cases, I don't think you have to be afraid to give that away, and I'm going to tell you why. This is more of a UX perspective. If somebody asks this question and they see that little teaser of your answer and it's credible, they're going to click through.

"Giving away" the answer builds your credibility and earns more qualified visitors

Content for Answers

So here you've got the penguin. He's flushed with cash. He's looking for money to spend. We're not going to worry about the ethics of how he got his money. You don't know. It's okay. Then he's going to click through to your link. You know you have your branding and hopefully it looks professional, Pyramid Inc., and he sees that question again and he sees that answer again.

Giving the searcher a "scent trail" builds trust

If you're afraid that that's repetitive, I think the good thing about that is this gives him what we call a scent trail. He can see that, "You know what? Yes, this is the page I meant to click on. This is relevant. I'm in the right place." Then you get to the details, and then you get to the data and you give this trail of credibility that gives them more to go after and shows your expertise.

People who want an easy answer aren't the kind of visitors that convert

I think the good thing about that is we're so afraid to give something away because then somebody might not click. But the kind of people who just wanted that answer and clicked, they're not the kind of people that are going to convert. They're not qualified leads. So these people that see this and see it as credible and want to go read more, they're the qualified leads. They're the kind of people that are going to give you that money.

So I don't think we should be afraid of this. Don't give away the easy answers. I think if you're in the easy answer business, you're in trouble right now anyway, to be honest. That's a tough topic. But give them something that guides them to the path of your answer and gives them more information.

How does this tactic work in the real world?

Thin content isn't credible.

Content for Answers

So I'm going to talk about how that looks in a more real context. My fear is this. Don't take this and run off and say write a bunch of pages that are just a question and a paragraph and a ton of thin content and answering hundreds and hundreds of questions. I think that can really look thin to Google. So you don't want pages that are like question, answer, buy my stuff. It doesn't look credible. You're not going to convert. I think those pages are going to look thin to Google, and you're going to end up spinning out many, many hundreds of them. I've seen people do that.

Use the inverted pyramid to build richer content and lead to your CTA

Content for Answers

What I'd like to see you do is craft this kind of question page. This is something that takes a fair amount of time and effort. You have that question. You lead with that answer. You're at the top of the pyramid. Get into the details. Get into the things that people who are really interested in this would want to know and let them build up to that. Then get into data. If you have original data, if you have something you can contribute that no one else can, that's great.

Then go ahead and answer those sub-questions, because the people who are really interested in that question will have follow-ups. If you're the person who can answer that follow-up, that makes for a very, very credible piece of content, and not just something that can rank for this snippet, but something that really is useful for anybody who finds it in any way.

So I think this is great content to have. Then if you want some kind of call to action, like a "Learn More," that's contextual, I think this is a page that will attract qualified leads and convert.

Moz's example: What is a Title Tag?

So I want to give you an example. This is something we've used a lot on Moz in the Learning Center. So, obviously, we have the Moz blog, but we also have these permanent pages that answer kind of the big questions that people always have. So we have one on the title tag, obviously a big topic in SEO.

Content for Answers

Here's what this page looks like. So we go right to the question: What is a title tag? We give the answer: A title tag is an HTML element that does this and this and is useful for SEO, etc. Right there in the paragraph. That's in the featured snippet. That's okay. If that's all someone wants to know and they see that Moz answered that, great, no problem.

But naturally, the people who ask that question, they really want to know: What does this do? What's it good for? How does it help my SEO? How do I write one? So we dug in and we ended up combining three or four pieces of content into one large piece of content, and we get into some pretty rich things. So we have a preview tool that's been popular. We give a code sample. We show how it might look in HTML. It gives it kind of a visual richness. Then we start to get into these sub-questions. Why are title tags important? How do I write a good title tag?

One page can gain the ability to rank for hundreds of questions and phrases

What's interesting, because I think sometimes people want to split up all the questions because they're afraid that they have to have one question per page, what's interesting is that I think looked the other day, this was ranking in our 40 million keyword set for over 200 phrases, over 200 questions. So it's ranking for things like "what is a title tag," but it's also ranking for things like "how do I write a good title tag." So you don't have to be afraid of that. If this is a rich, solid piece of content that people are going to, you're going to rank for these sub-questions, in many cases, and you're going to get featured snippets for those as well.

Then, when people have gotten through all of this, we can give them something like, "Hey, Moz has some of these tools. You can help write richer title tags. We can check your title tags. Why don't you try a free 30-day trial?" Obviously, we're experimenting with that, and you don't want to push too hard, but this becomes a very rich piece of content. We can answer multiple questions, and you actually have multiple opportunities to get featured snippets.

So I think this inverted pyramid technique is legitimate. I think it can help you write good content that's a win-win. It's good for SEO. It's good for your visitors, and it will hopefully help you land some featured snippets.

So I'd love to hear about what kind of questions you're writing content for, how you can break that up, how you can answer that, and I'd love to discuss that with you. So we'll see you in the comments. Thank you.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com


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Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Google Review Stars Drop by 14%

Posted by Dr-Pete

On Monday, September 16, Google announced that they would be restricting review stars in SERPs to specific schemas and would stop displaying reviews that they deemed to be "self-serving." It wasn't clear at the time when this change would be happening, or if it had already happened.

Across our daily MozCast tracking set, we measured a drop the morning of September 16 (in sync with the announcement) followed by a continued drop the next day ...

The purple bar shows the new "normal" in our data set (so far). This represents a two-day relative drop of nearly 14% (13.8%). It definitely appears that Google dropped review snippets from page-1 SERPs across the roughly 48-hour period around their announcement (note that measurements are only taken once per day, so we can't pinpoint changes beyond 24-hour periods).

Review drops by category

When we broke this two-day drop out into 20 industry categories (roughly corresponding to Google Ads), the results were dramatic. Note that every industry experienced some loss of review snippets. This is not a situation with "winners" and "losers" like an algorithm update. Google's changes only reduced review snippets. Here's the breakdown ...

Percent drops in blue are <10%, purple are 10%-25%, and red represents 25%+ drops. Finance and Real Estate were hit the hardest, both losing almost half of their SERPs with review snippets (-46%). Note that our 10K daily data set broken down 20 ways only has 500 SERPs per category, so the sample size is low, but even at the scale of 500 SERPs, some of these changes are clearly substantial.

Average reviews per SERP

If we look only at the page-1 SERPs that have review snippets, were there any changes in the average number of snippets per SERP? The short answer is "no" ...

On September 18, when the dust settled on the drop, SERPs with review snippets had an average of 2.26 snippets, roughly the same as prior to the drop. Many queries seem to have been unaffected.

Review counts per SERP

How did this break down by count? Let's look at just the three days covering the review snippet drop. Page-1 SERPs in MozCast with review snippets had between one and nine results with snippets. Here's the breakdown ...



Consistent with the stable average, there was very little shift across groups. Nearly half of all SERPs with review snippets had just one result with review snippets, with a steady drop as count increases.

Next steps and Q&A

What does this mean for you if your site has been affected? I asked my colleague and local SEO expert, Miriam Ellis, for a bit of additional advice ...

(Q) Will I be penalized if I leave my review schema active on my website?

(A) No. Continuing to use review schema should have no negative impact. There will be no penalty.

(Q) Are first-party reviews “dead”?

(A) Of course not. Displaying reviews on your website can still be quite beneficial in terms of:

  • Instilling trust in visitors at multiple phases of the consumer journey
  • Creating unique content for store location landing pages
  • Helping you monitor your reputation, learn from and resolve customers’ cited complaints

(Q) Could first-party review stars return to the SERPs in future?

(A) Anything is possible with Google. Review stars were often here-today-gone-tomorrow even while Google supported them. But, Google seems to have made a fairly firm decision this time that they feel first-party reviews are “self serving”.

(Q) Is Google right to consider first-party reviews “self-serving”?

(A) Review spam and review gating are serious problems. Google is absolutely correct that efforts must be made to curb abusive consumer sentiment tactics. At the same time, Google’s increasing control of business reputation is a cause for concern, particularly when their own review corpus is inundated with spam, even for YMYL local business categories. In judging which practices are self-serving, Google may want to look closer to home to see whether their growing middle-man role between consumers and businesses is entirely altruistic. Any CTR loss attendant on Google’s new policy could rightly be seen as less traffic for brand-controlled websites and more for Google.

For more tactical advice on thriving in this new environment, there's a good write-up on GatherUp.

Thanks, Miriam! A couple of additional comments. As someone who tracks the SERPs, I can tell you that the presence of review stars has definitely fluctuated over time, but in the past this has been more of a "volume" knob, for lack of a better word. In other words, Google is always trying to find an overall balance of usefulness for the feature. You can expect this number to vary in the future, as well, but, as Miriam said, you have to look at the philosophy underlying this change. It's unlikely Google will reverse course on that philosophy itself.


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