Tag Archives: localseo

Divi WordPress Theme Vulnerability via @martinibuster

Critical vulnerability discovered in Elegant Themes Divi and Extra Themes as well as in the Divi Builder WordPress plugin.

The post Divi WordPress Theme Vulnerability via @martinibuster appeared first on Search Engine Journal.

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Proximity Third: A Deeper Dive into a Local Ranking Factors Surprise Posted by MiriamEllis

Posted by MiriamEllis
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Image credit: J.B. Hill

What’s the good of a survey if it doesn’t result in at least a few surprises?

I know my own eyebrows leapt skyward when the data first came in from the Moz State of the Local SEO Industry 2020 Survey and I saw that, in a break with tradition, participants had placed user-to-business proximity at a lowly third place in terms of influencing Google local pack rankings. Just a year ago, our respondents had voted it #1.

If you’re feeling startled, too, here’s our chance to take a more granular look at the data and see if we can offer some useful theories for proximity’s drop in perceived dominance.

First, a quick definition of user-to-business proximity

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What do local SEOs mean when they speak of user-to-business proximity? Imagine an Internet searcher is standing in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, looking on their phone, laptop or other device for “pizza”. Local SEOs observe that it’s more typical for Google to show that person Pasquale’s Pizzeria, right next to the park, than to show them Yummy Pizza across town in the Glen Park neighborhood.

Make an identical query as you move around your city and you’re likely to see the local pack and mapped results change a little or a lot, depending on the competitiveness, density and diversity of local commerce in your town, relative to where you are standing when you search.

In 2014, the annual survey of world class local SEO experts known as the Local Search Ranking Factors survey rated proximity as having the 8th greatest influence on local pack rankings. By 2017 and in subsequent editions, proximity had hit #1. As mentioned, the 2019 Moz State of the Local SEO Industry report placed it first. But this year, something changed…

Proximity third: the data

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Our large survey group of over 1,000 respondents ranked Google My Business elements (keywords in name, categories, etc.) and Google review elements (count, sentiment, owner responses, etc.) as having a greater influence on local pack rankings than does user-to-business proximity.

Now, let’s take a closer look at which participants ordered ranking influence in this way.

GMB elements ranked #1

It’s fascinating to see that, on average, agency workers rated Google My Business elements as having the most influence on local pack rankings. These would be practitioners who are presumably working directly with local clients on a day-to-day basis and continuously studying local packs.
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Google review elements ranked #2

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Overall, Google review elements rank second, and within this statistic, it’s survey takers who market one small local business who rate the influence of reviews most highly, on average. These would presumably be independent business owners or their in-house marketing staff who are regularly eyeing the local packs to see what seems to move the needle.

Proximity ranked #3

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Overall, the proximity of the searcher to the place of business ranks third, and within this group, it’s agency workers who, on average, rate the influence of proximity most highly. So, again, it’s this group of marketing professionals who are contributing to the depiction of proximity being of less influence than GMB factors.

Three theories for making sense of the proximity shift

I was startled enough by the data to begin considering how to account for it. I came up with three different theories that helped make more sense of this to me, personally.

1. Could respondents just be wrong?

Certainly, it’s fair to ask this. I’ll be honest — my first reaction to the data when it crossed my desk was, “Wait…this can’t be right. How can proximity be in third place?”

I thought about how the long-running Local Search Ranking Factors project, which is confined to local SEO experts, has been placing proximity first for several years, and how our survey group is inclusive of every type of job title involved in marketing local businesses. Owners, creative directors, writers, in-house and agency SEOs, and many other types of practitioners contribute to marketing local businesses and participate in our initiative. Could it be that respondents who don’t do day-to-day SEO work swayed this result?

But I stopped asking that question when I saw that it was, in fact, agency workers who had contributed most to this view of GMB factors outweighing proximity. Digital marketing brands offering local SEO as a service can’t be summarily written off as mistaken. So, next, I asked myself what these agency workers could be seeing that would make them rank proximity lower than two other factors.

2. Could “it depends” be making absolutes impossible?

Here’s the thing: sophisticated local SEO practitioners know that there actually is no absolute #1 local ranking factor. What shows up in a local pack depends hugely on Google’s understanding of intent and its varied treatment of different industries and keywords.

For example, Google can decide that for a query like “coffee near me”, the user wants the closest option, and will cluster results in a tight proximity to the searcher. Meanwhile, a customer in any location looking for “used car dealership” may see results skewed to a certain part of town where there’s an auto row filled with such businesses — a phenomenon long ago dubbed the “industry centroid” effect. But, for the user seeking something like “sports arena”, Google can believe there’s a willingness to drive further away and can make up a local pack of businesses all over a city, or even all over a state.

So, the truth is, dubbing any factor #1 is an oversimplification we put up with for the sake of giving some order to the chaos of Google results. Proximity may be the dominant influence for some queries, but definitely not for all of them.

Taking this into consideration, it could well be that our survey’s respondents who work at agencies are observing such a diversity of behavior from Google that they are losing confidence in pinning it all down to proximity as the leading factor. And this leads me to my third theory.

3. Could a desire for control be at play here?

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Proximity can be problematic. In a separate question in our survey in which we asked whether Google’s emphasis on proximity was always generating high quality results, only 38.6% of respondents felt satisfied. Most of us are frequently encountering local pack results that may be closest, but not best. This can leave agencies and business owners feeling a bit dubious about Google and even a bit helpless about acting in an environment that often ranks mere nearness over quality.

Unless a business is willing to move to a different location which Google appears to be favoring for core search phrase targets, proximity isn’t really something you can optimize for. In this scenario, what is left to local business marketers that they can control?

Of course — it’s GMB factors and reviews. You can control what you name your business, what categories you choose, your use of Google posts and Q&A, your photos, videos, and description. You can control your review acquisition campaigns and your rate and quality of owner responses.

Seeing respondents weigh GMB elements above proximity made me wonder if the strong desire for being able to have some control over local pack outcomes might subconsciously cause subjects to give a slight bump to factors they can observably influence. I’m not a psychologist, but I know I’m always writing here at Moz about focusing on what you can control. It could be that this internal emphasis might cause me to give more importance to factors other than proximity. Just a theory, but one to consider, and I’d love to hear in the comments if you have different hypotheses!

Can we know the truth?

I was so intrigued by our survey’s results that I ran a very quick Twitter poll to take another snapshot of current sentiment about proximity. Most of my followers are interested in or involved with local SEO, so I was eager to see the outcome of this:
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While a robust 66% placed proximity first, an interesting 34% didn’t. In other words, there just isn’t total agreement about this topic. Most revealingly, more than one respected SEO tweeted back at me, “It depends.”

This is why I believe that my second theory above is likely as close to the truth as we’re going to get. All surveys which aggregate anecdotal opinion must take into account the variety of respondents’ experiences. Consider:

  • If my agency specializes in working with convenience stores or coffee shops, proximity may well be ruling my workday because Google draws such a tight net around users for my target keywords.
  • If most of my clients operate tourist attractions or B2B brands, it could be that reviews or the names on Google Business profiles appear to shape my world much more than proximity does.
  • Or, I may have such a wide array of clients, each experiencing different Google behavior, that my overall confidence in putting proximity first has simply eroded the more I observe the variations in the results.

What we can say with certainty is that there has been a year-over-year shift in how participants in the Moz State of the Local SEO Industry 2020 survey rate the influence of proximity. They believe it’s less dominant than it was just a year ago. Knowing this may not change your local pack strategy, because as we’ve noted, you could never do much to influence proximity in the first place.

What takeaway can we glean, then, if there is no absolute #1 local ranking factor upon which all parties agree? I’d boil it down to this: our survey shows that participants are heavily focused on GMB factors and reviews. In your competitive landscape, awareness of these elements is lively, and your ability to compete means taking an active approach to managing what you can control.

Moz Local software offers one smart solution for taking maximum charge of your Google Business Profiles, and I’ll close here with my short list of links to assist you in marketing local businesses in Google’s competitive environment:

Curious about what other insights you’ll find in our survey? Download the full, free Moz State of the Local SEO Industry 2020 report.

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The Real Short-Term and Long-Term Results of Content Marketing and Digital PR Posted by amandamilligan

Posted by amandamilligan

One of the best ways (and in my opinion, the best way) to earn top-quality links is to create your own studies, surveys, reports, etc., and pitch them to online publishers. This is what we do at Fractl, because it’s a tried-and-true way to elevate organic growth:
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Over the years, we’ve received a lot of questions about what results to expect. Sure, everyone wants links now, but where does the real growth come in, and how long does it take? And in either case, people want to know what wins they can report on to their superiors, even in the short-term.

There are so many benefits to this combination of content marketing and digital PR, and I’ll walk through what you can realistically expect, and feature examples and data from our experience working with Porch.com.

Short-term benefits

It’s true that content marketing is an investment, which I’ll explain properly in the next section. But there are certainly short-term wins you can celebrate and report on, and that can have an impact on your business.

We started working with Porch.com in early 2018. We created 4-5 content projects per month for them back then, and I’m going to show you two of our early wins — a small win and a big win — so you can get a sense of what’s possible as well as what’s probable.

The small win: “Fixer Upper” by the numbers

This project was my idea, so naturally I think it deserved way more coverage. It was during the heyday of “Fixer Upper” featuring Chip and Joanna Gaines.
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We secured top-tier coverage for it on Apartment Therapy, and while I would’ve liked to have seen more media coverage, there are still plenty of wins to identify here (and elements for you to keep an eye out for in your own content):

  • Brand mentions: Porch is mentioned four times in the article (six if you count image credits). Every time your brand is mentioned, you’re upping your brand awareness.
  • Link quality: The article linked to our project three separate times! (Bonus: More links means higher likelihood of referral traffic.) The site has a domain authority of 90, making it a very high-value earned link.
  • Audience relevance: Porch is about connecting people to home renovation contractors. Their audience probably has a ton of overlap with the Apartment Therapy audience, and are presumably interested in improving the look of their homes.
  • Publication readership: Then there’s the matter of the publication’s statistics, which can help you get a sense of potential reach. SimilarWeb is used by tools like Cision and Meltwater to highlight publications’ readership. In this case, Apartment Therapy is ranked #17 in the “Home Garden” category of sites, and has an estimated 9.16 million visitors per month.

So, even in one average-performing project, you can get some great links and brand exposure.

The big win: “Cooking Nightmares”

Okay, “big” win is kind of an understatement. This campaign was a huge win and remained one of our top-performing projects for Porch.
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We surveyed people of all ages to determine their cooking skills and confidence, and then broke the results down by generation. People found the results fascinating, and all-in-all, the project garnered about 50 dofollow links.

In measuring this project’s success, you can look at the same qualities I mentioned for smaller wins: brand mentions, link quality, and audience relevance.

But here are some other considerations for bigger wins:

  • Amount of coverage: The project went wild, earning media coverage on Washington Post, USA Today, Bustle, Thrillist, MSN, Real Simple, Southern Living, Better Homes & Gardens, and more. This coverage meant more high-quality links and significantly more brand exposure, including to a more general audience.
  • Nature of brand mention: Exactly where and how is your brand mentioned? For example, in the Washington Post coverage and Thrillist coverage, they mentioned Porch.com in the second sentence. Bustle included a description of what Porch.com is: “an online resource for connecting homeowners and contractors,” which not only gets the Porch name out there, but also explains what they do.
  • Writer connections: The more writers who are happy with what you’re pitching, the higher the chance they’ll open your next email. All secured media coverage is a win in this way, but it’s a significant element that’s often overlooked.

There are plenty of short-term wins to this kind of work, but odds are you’re looking for sustained growth. That’s where the long-term benefits come in.

Long-term benefits

On our site, we have a full content marketing case study that details the impact of the work we did for Porch.com in the span of a year.

That includes building links from 931 unique linking domains and adding 23,000 monthly organic visitors to the site.
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This is the kind of long-term growth most people are looking for, and the key is that all of this work compounds.

Building authoritative links is critical to off-site SEO, as Google views your site as more of an authority, which subsequently means your on-site content is more likely to rank higher. And when people see your brand mentioned in the media because you’ve completed these interesting studies, they’re more likely to click on your content when they see it later because they’re familiar with you, again signaling that you have quality content.

This is our philosophy on things:
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And this doesn’t even include the brand awareness aspect that I mentioned before. Which is why, to really assess the long-term impact of a content marketing and digital PR investment, you can look at the following:

  • Backlink portfolio health: High-quality, relevant links will always be valued, even if they’re older. But newer links can signal to Google that you remain relevant and continue to actively provide value to audiences.
  • Organic brand mentions: When your brand name is consistently in the media, it increases the chances people know who you are. Are your branded searches increasing? What are people searching for related to your brand? Are you appearing more often organically in content?
  • Organic traffic: This is the primary metric many look at, because as I mentioned, earning brand coverage and links from top publishers means you’re building your authority, which improves your chances of ranking in Google and for being trusted by audiences, all of which impact your organic search numbers.

We ended up working with Porch.com for longer than a year, from about January 2018 to March 2020. In total, we earned them 1,894 dofollow links and the brand mentions and awareness that accompanied all of that media coverage.

But I want to show you what it looks like to get to this place of growth, and how it’s not by going viral on a monthly basis. It’s about sustained, ongoing work.

This is what it looked like for our work with Porch:
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As you can see, we had some projects that earned a very high number of dofollow links. This often occurs when you’re producing a high volume of content over the course of many months.

However, the bulk of your content will fall in the average. Most of our work earned somewhere between 1 and 50 dofollow links, with top performers in the 50 to 100 range.

To see this spread, you have to keep doing the work. You won’t get all of those projects that earn 50-100 dofollow links right off the bat and in a row, and even if you did, while you’d get a big boost, it wouldn’t last you forever. You have to demonstrate your ongoing effort to provide value.

Conclusion

It’s true that content marketing is a long game, at least in order to see significant growth for your company. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t wins in the short-term. You can absolutely see a lift from a high-performing project and at the very least start setting up a stronger foundation for brand awareness and backlink building.

 

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Google SERP Shows Amazon Ranked 9 out of 10 Spots. Danny Sullivan Says Google Not Broken via @martinibuster

Google’s Danny Sullivan shown a SERP with Amazon ranking 9 out of 10 positions. Why does this happen?

The post Google SERP Shows Amazon Ranked 9 out of 10 Spots. Danny Sullivan Says Google Not Broken via @martinibuster appeared first on Search Engine Journal.

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Why Google Ranks Singular and Plural Keywords Differently via @martinibuster

Google explains why the algorithm may rank singular and plural keywords differently.

The post Why Google Ranks Singular and Plural Keywords Differently via @martinibuster appeared first on Search Engine Journal.

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How to Choose the Most Link-Worthy Data Source for Your Content Posted by Domenica

Posted by Domenica

Fractl has produced thousands of content marketing campaigns across every topic, and for the past seven years, we’ve been keeping track of each and every campaign in order to refine and improve the content we produce on behalf of our clients.

In my last post for Moz, I explained how to set realistic digital PR expectations for your content based on your niche. In this topic, I want to dive a little bit deeper into the data and share insights about how the source of your content can be just as important in determining how your content will perform.

In this analysis, I looked at 1,474 client content campaigns across six different data source categories:

  • Client data
  • Social media
  • Participatory methods
  • Publicly available data
  • Survey
  • Germ swab

It’s important to note that there are countless other data sources that we use for content campaigns every day at Fractl that are not mentioned in this article. In this analysis, each category has at least 20 campaigns, while some categories have several hundred campaigns.

It’s also important to note that averages were collected by excluding upper outliers. For campaigns that went “viral” and performed well above the norm, we excluded them in the calculation so as not to skew the averages higher.

In addition to sharing link and press averages, I will also be walking through how to produce pressworthy, sharable content from each data source and providing examples.

Managing expectations across content types

Across the entire sample of 1,474 campaigns, a project on average received 24 dofollow links and 89 press mentions in total.

A press mention is defined as any time the content campaign was mentioned on a publisher’s website.
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There were some individual data source category averages that were on par with the sample average, while other categories deviated greatly from the sample average.

Publicly available data

For almost any niche out there, you can bet there is a publicly available data set available for use. Some examples include data from the CDC, the U.S. Census, colleges and universities, the WHO, and the TSA. The opportunities really are endless when it comes to using publicly available data as a methodology for your content.

While free data sets can be a treasure trove of information for your content, keep in mind that they’re not always the simplest to work with. They do require a lot of analysis to make sense of the massive amount of information in them, and to make the insights digestible for your audience.

Take for example a campaign we produced for a client called Neighborhood Names. The data was free from the US Census, but in order to make any sense of it, our researchers had to use QGIS, Python, text-mining, and phrasemachine (a text analysis API) just to narrow it down to what we were looking for.

And what were we looking for? Looking at neighborhood names across America seems boring at first, until you realize that certain words correspond to wealth.
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I was the outreach specialist for this project, and by using the wealth angle, I was able to secure two notable placements on CNBC as well as a press mention on MSN. The project quickly made its way around the internet after that, earning 76 dofollow links and 202 total press mentions by the end of our reporting period.

Survey

Unlike scouring the internet for free data, using a survey as a methodology can be more costly. That being said, there is one major advantage to using a survey to shape your content: you can find out anything you want.

While publicly available data will tell a story, it’s not always the story you want to tell, and that’s where surveys come in.

Of course, when it comes to surveys, anyone can create one without paying attention to research method best practices. That’s one of the problems we need to address. With “fake news” in the forefront of everyone’s minds in 2020, building trust with journalists and editors is of the utmost importance.

As content creators, we have a responsibility to ensure that content is not only attention-grabbing and entertaining, but also accurate and informative.

Survey campaigns, in particular, require you to analyze responses through a rigorous methodological lens. When collecting data for surveys, be sure to pay close attention to ethical upholdance, data validity, and fair visual representations.

Germ swab

From my own personal experience, germ swab content campaigns are the most fun, and often, the most disturbing. Fractl did some research a while back about the emotions that make content go viral, and oftentimes, germ swab campaigns hit all of the right emotions in the viral equation.

Negative emotions like disgust are often evoked when reviewing the results of germ swab campaigns. Our study found that when negative emotions are paired with emotions like anticipation or surprise, they can still achieve viral success (internet viral, not germ viral). What is more surprising than finding out the airplane tray table is dirtier than a toilet seat?
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Publishers around the world seemed to think the content was surprising, too. This campaign performed above the norm for a typical content campaign earning 38 dofollows and 195 total press mentions — and this was before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Participatory methods

Participatory methods are campaigns that require active participation for the methodology. These are unique ideas — no two are alike. Some examples of campaigns that fall under the participatory methods category are when we had team members do a 30-day squat challenge, asked respondents to draw brand logos from memory, or when we literally drove from D.C. to NYC with a dash cam to record traffic violations.

These campaigns have a certain level of risk associated with them. They require a lot of upfront effort and planning without the promise of any return — and that’s scary for clients and for our team who put in tremendous effort to pull them off.

As you can see from the chart above, however, these ideas collectively performed right on par with other campaign types, and even better than survey methodologies for both the number of dofollow links and press mentions. In order to reap big benefits, it seems you need to be willing to take a big risk.

Social media

Social medIa as a data source is almost a no-brainer, right up there with survey methodologies and publicly available data sets. Unlike participatory methods campaigns, you don’t have to leave your computer in order to produce a campaign based on social media data.

Through our seven years of content creation, Fractl has produced campaigns based on data scrapes from Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Reddit, and more. From this experience, we know firsthand what kinds of social campaigns work and which ones fall flat.

The best thing about using social media as a source for content is that it can be applied to all verticals.

The biggest lesson we’ve learned from producing content based on social media data is that the methodology is typically subjective, so you need to keep the project lighthearted in nature in order to earn major coverage.

For example, we produced a campaign for a client in which we looked at Instagram posts with the hashtag #sexy and a geolocation. From this, we were able to glean the “sexiest” countries in the world as well as U.S. states.
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While it would be impossible to learn what the actual sexiest places in the world were, (what does that even mean?) we were able to produce a fun campaign that used geo-bait to appeal to lighthearted publishers, like Glamour, E! Online, Women’s Health, and Elite Daily.

Make sure that no matter the topic, whatever you produce contributes to an ongoing conversation. Statistics that don’t point to anything meaningful won’t be relevant for writers actually trying to add to the conversation.

Client data

Client data is often the most underappreciated data source for content marketers. You may be sitting on a wealth of actionable industry insights and not even know it.

You might think of internal data as only being useful for improving your internal processes at work, but it can also be valuable outside of your organization.

Unlike publicly available data, internal data is never-before-seen and 100% unique. Journalists eat this up because it means that you’re providing completely exclusive resources.

Think of this article, for example. This article is filled with data and insights that Fractl has gleaned after producing thousands of content marketing campaigns.

An added bonus of using internal data to craft your content is that, according to our analysis, it performs on par with surveys. Unlike surveys, though, it’s completely free.

Conclusion

No matter what methodology you’re using or vertical you’re creating content for, it’s important to realize that as content creators, we have an ethical and moral responsibility to create with an audience in mind.

With “fake news” on the forefront of everyone’s minds, building and maintaining trust with writers and editors is of the utmost importance.

All of the content you produce and promote must be assessed through a rigorous methodological lens to ensure that content is accurate and informative as well as eye-grabbing and entertaining.

Regardless of your methodology, if you don’t take the proper steps to make sure your data sources are accurate, you are contributing to the fake news epidemic.

 

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Download the SEO’s Local Search Cheat Sheet! Posted by MiriamEllis

Posted by MiriamEllis

What a juggling feat your SEO agency pulls off every day! On your best days, you’re keeping:

  • Team members and clients
  • All the moving marketing parts

…in constant, useful motion. On your worst days, though, mistakes happen when:

  • Communication breaks down
  • Standard procedures aren’t understood company-wide
  • People feel rushed

No local SEO agency or in-house SEO wants to waste time and resources on a scenario like building a GMB listing for a business model that’s ineligible, pushing out incorrect NAP because it wasn’t vetted by the right department, or having to contact a client multiple times because the onboarding process wasn’t thorough enough to get all the information needed in a single step.

Maybe worse yet, giving the wrong advice to a client is embarrassing and undermines retention. Nobody’s perfect, and the best SEOs will drop a few balls here and there, but it helps build confidence to know you have the answers to marketing FAQs at your fingertips.

Share a sheet — save time and hassle!

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Whether you’ve just made a new hire at your agency, or your team simply wants to save time by having the most common local SEO resources, FAQs, and solutions all in one spot, the SEO’s Local Search Cheat Sheet is free to download and easy to print and share. Maybe your agency is just starting to move into the local search marketing space, and this resource can be a supportive guide for the path ahead.

Tack it up in your workspace, put it on the company fridge, or include it in your training process for incoming employees. It’s amazing how a visible reminder can jog your memory and prevent avoidable mistakes, plus make work faster and easier.

Download the SEO’s Local Search Cheat Sheet

How your team will get value from this sheet

I’ve been working in the local SEO space for more than fifteen years. My head sometimes feels like an overstuffed filing cabinet of marketing protocols. I can’t remember absolutely everything, and the amount of information you have to keep track of to market your local clients is pretty staggering. From Google’s guidelines and their continuous release of new features, to general best practices for listings, websites, and reviews, to managing client to-dos, SEOs have to bring great presence of mind to every team meeting and every client consultation.

What I’ve done in this cheat sheet is create a basic aid that covers the practices and questions that land on my desk with the greatest frequency. Pin this up by your own desk as a handy reference covering:

  • Client onboarding checklist
  • Google My Business eligibility/ineligibility at a glance
  • Top Google support and reporting links
  • Website checklist
  • Reputation and review tips
  • Ranking failure troubleshooting steps
  • Key local SEO concepts, explained
  • And more!

By consolidating all of this information into a single resource, I hope you can reduce vital tasks being overlooked, mishandled, or even just taking longer than they should. Moz knows that organization is key to every agency’s success, and we hope you’ll distribute this cheat sheet widely to make local SEO work simpler and better for everyone on your team.

Download the SEO’s Local Search Cheat Sheet

Love cheat sheets? Check out our updated Web Developer’s SEO Cheat Sheet as well!

 

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Preparing E-Commerce for the Post-COVID Bounce Back Posted by MrLukeCarthy

Posted by MrLukeCarthy

COVID-19 has switched up life as we know it, and it’s unlikely to stop doing so for some time.

E-commerce shopping is a perfect example of how things have changed, and in a number of ways.

If you feel like Shopify has been dropping huge, disruptive news bombs practically each week now, you’re right!

And who’d have guessed that in the UK, the exclusively online supermarket, Ocado, is now worth more than brick-and-mortar grocers Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, and Marks and Spencer combined.

The speed of transformation in e-commerce since the COVID-19 outbreak (an already fast-paced industry) has been savage.

Supply chains are under strain for many brands selling online (especially where demand is high and supplies are low). How do you best manage expectations and maximize every opportunity to sell to your target audience?

With your consumers now relying on the world of online shopping more than ever, how can you be sure you’re getting your fair share of that online retail pie?

Well, this post is designed to help you answer precisely these questions. Whether your sales have taken a hit or you have “off the wall” levels of demand, here are some ideas to help you navigate that bounce back and to help customers stay in love with your brand.

Pay close attention to changing on site search behavior

Your site search is a goldmine of insight, especially right now. Seriously.

Frequently checking in to understand how and what your customers are looking for once they get to your store can reveal a bunch of opportunities.

It’s possible that before COVID-19 took a stronghold on everyday life, customers had different contexts in mind when searching for your products.

For example, searches for “gloves” today vs. in January are likely to be visitors searching for two separate products entirely. It’s important to ensure that you’re serving today’s customer sufficiently and addressing their context correctly to remain relevant and to improve conversion.

Here’s an extreme example, but it’s a poignant one nonetheless. For context, Holland and Barrett are a popular, high street healthcare retailer with a strong web presence here in the UK.
preparing-e-commerce-for-the-post-covid-bounce-back.png
When searches for “coronavirus” had skyrocketed and demand for hand sanitizer and Paracetamol (another brand of acetaminophen, like Tylenol) were painfully high, what I found incredible was that searching for “coronavirus” on their website yielded no results.

This seemed particularly jarring for a retailer that, first, sells items that have been scientifically proven to kill and help prevent the spread of the virus and, second, is a dedicated healthcare business.

Not only does this throw a huge wrench in the works when it comes to CX and customer perception, this tiny yet costly oversight is likely to have cost them sales and customers too.

Customers are also searching for products that aren’t typically associated with a certain brand or online store due to exhausted stocks elsewhere.

For example, the top three search terms for one of my e-commerce clients are now “Mask”, “mask”, and “PPE”. The search terms “mask”, “PPE”, and close variants were practically non-existent prior to mid-May.
preparing-e-commerce-for-the-post-covid-bounce-back-1.pngKit and Ace, a clothing retailer, has responded to precisely this changing behavior. After seeing a huge spike in the number of site searches for masks, they’re now introducing a new, premium, scientifically-derived mask that also fits their brand. They’re donating 100% of profits from the masks, but this tactic will likely to drive more sales in their other categories too.

This is a great move, especially since apparel sales have shrunk during this time. It’s important to find emerging opportunities when typical product lines are no longer in demand.

The point I’m trying to make here is that, in order to succeed coming out of the other side of this pandemic, you need to ensure you’re fully in tune with the wants and needs of today’s customer — whatever that looks like for you. Using site search can absolutely give you a huge window into their demands and interests.

If products are out of stock, offer excellent alternatives (where possible)

As touched on earlier, supply chain management is going to be increasingly challenging — especially in areas where demand is outstripping supply — yet so many retailers miss out here.

For some products, it doesn’t matter how hard you try, every retailer has them listed as “out of stock.”

For branded items that have stock issues globally, being the retailer that offers a perfectly good alternative could be enough to win over that visitor and win the sale that other retailers have lost.

To use a specific example, FTX is a manufacturer of radio-controlled cars, and is a brand sold on Europe e-commerce site Wheelspin. There’s an FTX item that you cannot get before the end of June (for love nor money) on any website due to COVID-19. The pandemic has forced factories to close and that disrupts production for many goods.
preparing-e-commerce-for-the-post-covid-bounce-back-2.png
Specifically, in this example, it’s the FTX brushed motor that’s become victim to supply chain issues. However, there’s a brand that has a perfectly suitable alternative item that’s identical in specification, and it’s in stock:
preparing-e-commerce-for-the-post-covid-bounce-back-3.png
Proactively offering solid alternatives with as few compromises as possible can be a great way of winning sales and delighting customers in a way that your competitors likely won’t be.

Add an “in stock only” filter

Continuing on the topic of store stock and managing a turbulent supply chain, a simple but welcome feature is to add an “items in stock” filter.

It goes without saying that allowing customers to browse items they’re able to get their hands on quickly will go down well and could help improve conversion on your website.

Another benefit of adding such a filter is the ability to bring light to other lines that are typically overshadowed by more popular (but now out of stock) items.

Taking this a step further, you could also help your customers experience by adding a filter for products expected to arrive within a certain timeframe, or filter out those that can be backordered.

Add an “email me when back in stock” CTA

If you’re a retailer struggling to get stock of popular lines, there’s a good chance you’re not the only retailer with that problem. Although it may not be possible to get stock any quicker than your competitors, you can absolutely ensure that you’re the first to let potential customers know that it’s back in stock.

Sweeten the deal by personalizing the back-in-stock email

Letting a potential customer know that the item’s back in stock is great, but why not suprise and delight your customers by taking the opportunity to personalize this email too?

Offering personalized cross-sells of the item that’s now back in stock can be a great way to not only give them the good news, but give them additional reasons to visit your shop and potentially increase basket value simultaneously. It’s certainly a win, win here.

Remarket to people when items are back in stock

People are spending more time online — fact. So it makes sense to reach your audience where they’re most likely to be spending time for the foreseeable future.

Depending on the popularity of an item (and how much traffic is going to it whilst it’s remained unavailable), you could create a retargeting list based on visitors that expressed an interest in it now that it’s back in stock.

This can prove to be a great way to reach people, say on social media, that aren’t particularly responsive to email but are spending increased amounts of time on their favorite social platforms.

Although this may not be scalable, or at least I haven’t found a way to make it so, doing this across your top-selling lines or lines with greater margins could prove to be a successful way of pulling engaged and semi-invested visitors back to your site.

Don’t be afraid to increase prices where necessary

Let’s not forget the basic principles of commerce, right? High demand (coupled with low supply) increases prices.

Businesses shouldn’t feel guilty for increasing prices, but of course, there’s a difference between a justifiable increase and straight ripping people off (as demonstrated below):
preparing-e-commerce-for-the-post-covid-bounce-back-4.png
For context, four tins of 400g Heinz Spaghetti Plus Sausage would retail at around £4 in UK supermarkets (that’s about $5 at current exchange rates).

Think about this scenario for a second: You and your staff are potentially working in environments that could pose serious health risks. Plus there’s additional costs to consider in order to keep people safe. PPE, cleaning products, masks, sick pay for unwell staff, etc., all these factors will push up the cost per sale and erode your margins.

Equally, there are no guarantees right now. Those all-time high levels of sales could come slamming to a fierce halt at any time. Whether that’s caused by a change in demand, decrease in stock, or your business is no longer able to fulfil orders due to an internal COVID-19 outbreak.

Increasing prices fairly to better protect your business against these mostly uncontrollable factors is not a bad thing. In my opinion, it’s just good business sense.

You’ve got to ensure your business is as robust as it can be when faced with these potential eventualities. Increasing your prices fairly can help to better protect it.

Discover creative ways to connect with your audience

As the saying goes, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade”. It’s a huge cliché, but it absolutely rings true and remains a powerful statement today.

Finding ways to be creative, cut through the noise, and engage with your audience is essential to staying relevant. Especially if your customer’s cash is heading elsewhere right now.

Here’s an example of a potentially powerful idea that I’ve been working on for a client in the world of apparel — one of the more fiercely affected industries during the pandemic.

People are spending less on fashion, and even less at the luxury end of the scale. So, why not let your audience build themselves a virtual dream wardrobe? Something they’d consider buying for a night out, things they’d have in their suitcase for a summer vacation, etc. It’s a fairly simple idea, but let’s think about the impact this could have for both customer and business:

You’re throwing down a few slices of “feel good”So many people miss going out, right? Heading to bars, clubs, celebrating a milestone, going on a vacation, or even just getting back to the office, so many of us associate buying new outfits as part of those moments.

Allowing your loyal fans and customers to pick out their money’s-no-object dream outfits based on some predetermined wardrobes (office attire, night out, summer holiday) is naturally going to invoke some positive emotions and memories — especially if you inject a social element into it by allowing people to share their collections.

But other wins can be extracted from such an idea too:

You’re collecting valuable user data: You’re getting some valuable insight into the sort of clothing people may buy when lockdown policies begin to wind back. This could help to get a better understanding of demand so you can work on reinvigorating your supply chain successfully.

Plus, you’re getting an idea of what items visitors would put together to help educate new fashion trends and inform “recommended for you” personalization.

You’re helping to alleviate boredom: In some ways, this kind of activity is adding an element of gamification to apparel. With so many people stuck indoors experiencing high levels of procrastination and boredom, it can help to cut through and detach from the realities of lockdown.

You’re creating an opportunity to welcome sales when things pick back up:

Offering an incentive (say 15% off your dream collections) once we’re on the cusp of restoring “normality” could be a really powerful way of encouraging and helping to re-energize apparel and fashion spend online. It’s also a great way to celebrate the comeback.

Last but not least, you’re building brand affinity: I’ve said it before, but it’s extremely important, so I’ll say it again: remaining relevant and keeping marketing efforts up is essential to ensure you remain in good shape when society heads towards the new normal.

Having your audience resonate with your brand and remember your positive actions whilst they’re away will be a major influence on your ability to maintain and deepen those customer relationships post-pandemic.

Final thoughts: the rise of big brands diving into D2C eCommerce

What’s amazing to see is a huge move by big household names and brands. They’re now setting up their own direct-to-consumer (D2C) e-commerce outfits, and on the surface, appear to be going head-to-head with supermarkets.

To highlight a few of my favorite examples, there’s snacks.com — created by Frito-Lay — shipping their brand’s snacking staples across North America.
preparing-e-commerce-for-the-post-covid-bounce-back-5.png
Then there’s Heinz to Home, delivering popular Heinz products to households in the UK.
preparing-e-commerce-for-the-post-covid-bounce-back-6.png
How these new D2C e-commerce brands fare in the long term will be interesting to see, but what’s certain is the pandemic is accelerating and evolving e-commerce in a way that’s not been seen before.

As a final note, to those of you hit hard by COVID-19, may I wish you a speedy recovery — personally and professionally.

 

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The State of Local SEO Industry Report 2020, Announced Posted by MiriamEllis

Posted by MiriamEllis

Moz’s very warmest thanks to the 1,453 respondents who volunteered time to contribute to this second installation of our industry survey. It’s rewarding to have such a large survey group; as this report details in high relief, the work of marketing a single business location can pass through a dozen hands.

Owners, staff, in-house SEOs, agencies, creative directors, webmasters, project managers, and consultants may all be contributing to promoting just one local company. By capturing their hands-on experience, we get the big picture of local SEO as an effort not confined to experts, but rather, requiring all hands on deck.

In this report, you’ll find insights to share with coworkers and clients on:

  • Company infrastructure
  • Local ranking factors
  • Tool & software usage
  • Gaps in the marketplace
  • High ROI strategies and tactics

Get the full report!

A window in time on local business marketing

The data in our survey depicts the local SEO industry both before and during the public health emergency. As such, it’s an eagle’s eye view of both the status of marketing priorities up to the present and a gauge of preparedness for change. Change has always been the only constant in local SEO — our industry is accustomed to an environment that can turn on a dime, literally overnight. This challenging setting toughens businesses for tough times.

No one knows yet how COVID-19 may ultimately alter consumer behavior, but in the short term, one good sign which has emerged from the State of the Local SEO industry report is that local businesses were strongly embracing organic assets prior to the pandemic. Not long ago, you might have encountered narratives about websites being “dead” due to the dominance of local packs, zero click SERPs, and other Google features. Fortunately, our report indicates that many marketers have wisely ignored such schools of thought and have continued to promote the vital role local business websites play in connecting with communities.

For now, if connection is curbside or delivery instead of foot traffic, local businesses which have been thoughtfully maintaining their websites own a strong platform for next moves — perhaps implementing local e-commerce, or taking orders via form submissions, or hosting gated video consultations.

Access to the State of the Local SEO Industry’s data will enable you to do your own analysis of the sum total of marketing knowledge up to the present with an eye to future strategy. Here’s a preview of 3 emergent narratives that particularly caught my eye.

Proximity falls to third as a local ranking factor

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Our 2019 report cited user-to-business proximity as the dominant influence on Google’s local pack rankings. So has every Local Search Ranking Factors survey since 2017. This is a surprising departure. Download the report for further analysis and view the numbers in the light of how Google might adjust proximity based on new factors like curbside pickup and local delivery.

YOY, 19% more respondents are involved with offline marketing

94% (up from 75%) of our survey group are consulting with clients at least some of the time on topics like real-world customer service and consumer policies.This statistic professionally delights me, because of my years of advocacy here on the Moz blog for local search marketers to care deeply about what happens in real time between consumers and brands. Some enterprising agency should consider doing a webinar or eBook on the history of brick-and-mortar marketing so our industry can engage in deeper levels of learning and make informed decisions about future offline marketing strategy.

COVID-era customer fulfillment strategies are here to stay

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51% of respondents intend to permanently offer amenities like home delivery, curbside pickup, and video conferencing. Now is the time for innovative marketing agencies to put in the work researching the best possible solutions for clients for the long haul. Will it be in-house delivery fleets, or outsourcing to third parties like Instacart and Doordash? Which e-commerce platform is the best, not just for UX but for SEO? Many brands swiftly cobbled together new services to meet the state of emergency, but as time goes by, consumer feedback and marketing analysis will point the way to thoughtfully choosing the best transactional methodologies and platforms. All of these technologies predate the pandemic, but the year ahead is going to see them much more fully tested.

Please accept our invitation to download the free State of the Local SEO Industry Report 2020, with 30+ timely questions on topics that impact how you work, what to offer, and how to improve your strategy for the year ahead whether you own a local business or are in the business of marketing local brands!

Get the full report!

 

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How to Network Online Like a Champ Posted by cheryldraper

Posted by cheryldraper

This conference season feels a bit different, doesn’t it? Where we’re usually globetrotting from event to event, this year most conferences have either postponed their dates or switched to online, remote-friendly formats, offering video sessions by top-notch speakers or live streams with open chats. But what about everyone’s favorite bonus during conference season — networking?

Thankfully, all is not lost! With a little ingenuity and virtual elbow grease, you can still forge new professional relationships over an internet connection rather than a cocktail. (And hey, nothing’s stopping you from enjoying a nice, frosty Mozcow Mule or tasty mocktail in your home office space, right?) In our current reality of social distancing, marketing conference networking will look different, but it’s not going anywhere. Read on for tips on how to effectively network while remote!

Step 1: Look for networking opportunities

Depending on which virtual event you attend, the networking opportunities will look different. Keeping a creative eye out for opportunity is key to your success!

Live chats

Much like during regular conferences, there are bound to be live chats happening. They may happen on the actual event platform, or they may take place on social media. Some events will use a platform like Zoom that allows viewers to chat with each other within the platform, while others may have more of a broadcast format where chats happen on Twitter with a hashtag.

Joining Q&As

A super valuable aspect of conferences is being able to speak to presenters after they give their talk. Sometimes this happens during a predetermined time slot, such as right after the presentation, or it may happen when you catch them in the lobby or at an event later on. Either way, this time to ask questions about their expertise is a huge value-add to the experience.

With conferences going virtual and live chats happening publicly during the presentations, this Q&A time has shifted a bit. Instead of having to wait for the presentation to be over, in some cases, presenters will reply to questions from the live chat as they’re speaking. Some panels are pre-recorded, giving speakers a chance to interact on various platforms during the event itself. Some events will even have specific “presentations” that are more like facilitated Ask Me Anything-style interviews or panels where questions are taken from the audience and posed to the speaker(s).

Birds of a Feather discussions

Many conferences will offer some sort of industry or concept specific conversation facilitation. For instance, at MozCon, we host Birds of a Feather discussions. These discussions are headed up by an industry professional and have predetermined topics such as EAT, AI, Gutenberg, etc. Other times, these conversations may be organized and headed up by attendees.

In a virtual setting, these will likely be smaller breakout groups using some sort of video chat software. Zoom, specifically, has created a way for conferences to organize these “breakout sessions” in advance.

Birds of a Feather conversations are one of the best ways to connect as there is a common ground established from the get-go. These. Are. Your. People. Connections here will likely be the most valuable.

Step 2: Get active

No matter where the chats are happening, be sure you’re a part of them! The more you interact, the more likely people are to recognize your name when you reach out after the event. The only caution here is that you have to be sure your interactions are meaningful — don’t just comment clapping hands. Add something to the conversation.

Add insight

The best thing about people is that we’re all different and have fresh perspectives to bring to the table. Don’t be afraid to add on to someone’s thoughts.

Let’s use a fun example. If someone says that the best mascot hug ever was from Mickey Mouse at Disneyland, you may jump in and ask if they’ve ever met Roger MozBot, famed hugger and robot dancer extraordinaire. Or you could build on the thought by saying something like, “Mickey is a great hugger, I think it’s because he goes over instead of under!”

In both of these instances, you’ve joined the conversation and added value.

Add clarification

Speakers often try to fit a lot of information into a relatively short timeframe. That said, questions will likely arise in the live chats. This could very easily be your time to shine! If you’ve got knowledge to share, feel free to answer the question to the best of your ability and try to add clarification.

This is absolutely one of the best ways to position yourself as an expert and form a relationship with someone you’ve never met. It allows you to prove you’re knowledgable and give the person something they value for free.

Add sources

Whether you are asking a question, answering a question, or just chiming in with added insight, adding resources in conversation is extremely beneficial. This could mean that you recommend a tool, a person, or an article link. These resources for the other viewers can be extremely beneficial and help you establish your credibility.

Now, we don’t suggest trying to come up with a source for everything, but if you have one right off of the top of your head, dropping a link in the chat may really help someone.

BONUS: Add people on social

While this one’s not necessarily about adding value per se, it is about adding. Adding influencers, presenters, or other attendees after interacting with them (even if briefly) may increase your chances of getting a follow-back or accepted request as you’ll still be top of mind. Try to add people no later than 24 hours after your last interaction, and consider sending a friendly “hey!” with a note about what you spoke about to keep the connection fresh.

Step 3: Perfect your follow-up

After connecting with people during the online conference, you’ll want to follow up with them and stay in touch.

The most important part of following up is the first impression. You don’t want to come right out of the gate with a request of any sort. Instead, look to build a relationship first. This could mean shooting a quick follow-up message recapping your conversation with the person, telling them that you appreciated their time and that you look forward to more conversations.

After sending your initial follow-up, be sure to interact with the person at least once a week to stay top-of-mind. This is easiest on social media as you can like, comment, share their content, and ensure that your name is showing up in their notifications. However, direct messages, emails, and even phone calls are sure to be more impactful.

The best thing you can do when following up is to stick to what you’re most comfortable with and be consistent while continuing to add value.

Have fun and be yourself!

The number-one thing you have to offer is yourself. Your experiences make you unique and others can learn from that! So when you are connecting with others, just remember to be yourself. And lastly, have fun! Networking is meant to be fun as it gives you the opportunity to connect with others and build a community. Embrace that connection and enjoy it.

Networking at MozCon Virtual

Every year, we hear from attendees about how networking is one of their favorite parts of the conference. We made sure to keep it an integral part of this year’s virtual event, too — check out all the ways you can connect with speakers, industry experts, attendees, and thought leaders at MozCon Virtual 2020!

In-session Q&A chat

Mid-presentation, pop into the Q&A chat with your real-time questions and get them answered by speakers. You’ll also be able to chat with other attendees about the content, provide your own insights, and participate in real-time virtual convos about the session and topic. Speakers will be available to answer questions during their scheduled session times, so it’s a perfect opportunity to get clarification, further insight, or forge those all-important connections!

Customizable profiles: Interests, personal bio, tags, and more

Attendees can search for like-minded folks with similar interests based on what you add to your profile when signing in. You can choose to upload your photo, create your biography, add specific interests and tags, and reach out to those you’d like to follow up with.

Create your own “Want-to-Meet” list

Browse attendee profiles and click “want to meet” when you find someone you’d like to reach out to later. With your personal contact info safely hidden, this is a great way to find and get found by those looking for new talent, professional partnerships, debate buddies, and more. Build your list ahead of time, then review in-platform and reach out when you’re ready!

Schedule 1:1 meetings

After connecting with someone, you can easily send a meeting request to the folks you’ve connected with to chat live outside of the bigger group discussions. Your invited guest can choose to accept or decline the invite, and all 1:1 meetings occur directly within the conference platform’s meeting rooms, making for easy facilitation!

Birds of a Feather “table” discussions

Birds of a Feather lunch tables are one of the biggest MozCon hits year after year, and we didn’t want anyone to miss out! We’ll facilitate 30-minute-long group discussions each day of the conference for you to connect with those interested in specific topics via video and audio chat. Each discussion will be led by an industry leader, giving you all the opportunity to say “hey” to the folks whose work you admire and collaborate with them on ideas, theories, obstacles you’ve faced, and more.

We’re super excited about all the networking opportunities at MozCon Virtual — at $129 per ticket, it’s an incredible value for growing your digital marketing skillset and your career:

Get my ticket to MozCon Virtual!

Let us know your own best virtual networking tips in the comments. We hope to see you at MozCon this July 14 & 15!

 

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

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