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10 Self-Editing Tips that Will Make You a Better Writer

self editing tips

I’ve been an editor for many years (don’t make me admit how many) and a writer for even longer. After even a few years in the game, every editor develops their own list of bugbears (translation: pet peeves) – the mistakes or missteps that really stick in one’s craw (translation: annoy the pants off one).

I work with many different writers, and since I share these tips privately all the time, I figured it was time to pull them from the shadows of Track Changes comments and make them a matter of public record.

Most of the people who read this blog are marketers and business owners, so I’ve written this post with you in mind. These self-editing tips will be particularly helpful for copywriters doing business writing (i.e. writing for corporate blogs and websites, lead generation magnets like white papers, etc.) – but truly, this advice can improve almost any type of writing.

So if you’re looking to up your writing game and get better at self-editing, read on. I’ll start with some common style problems I run into again and again.

7 Lazy Writing Crutches & Bad Habits to Avoid

Inexperienced writers often make the mistake of thinking that “good writing” is fancy writing. They mistake clarity for dullness. If this is your attitude, what you usually end up with is overwriting. It can come off as show-offy, and it’s uncomfortable to read.

These seven bad habits muck up your writing, slow your reader down, and obscure what you’re trying to communicate. Relentlessly search these out and destroy them.

The so-called elegant variation

“The elegant variation” is an old term (coined by usage expert Henry Watson Fowler) that refers to an overuse of rare or poetic synonyms for more common words. The term is meant to be ironic – the effect is not actually elegant. Instead, elegant variations usually feel overwrought (or as the kids say, “try-hard”).

elegance is refusal

Coco Chanel said that – but she didn’t refuse to hobnob with Nazis

Here’s Fowler, in his Dictionary of Modern English Usage (first published in 1926):

It is the second-rate writers, those intent rather on expressing themselves prettily than on conveying their meaning clearly, & still more those whose notions of style are based on a few misleading rules of thumb, that are chiefly open to the allurements of elegant variation…. There are few literary faults so widely prevalent, & this book will not have been written in vain if the present article should heal any sufferer of his infirmity.

Ouch, Fowler.

The elegant variation is common in journalistic writing, where writers often try to avoid repeating a noun – so you’ll see Google referred to as “the search giant” on second mention. But it crops up all over the place – when people say an author “penned a volume” versus writing a book, say. It’s cute to a point, but really easy to overdo.

A related bad habit is “said-bookism,” when writers feel the need to avoid the word “said,” so people are always “exclaiming” and “proclaiming” and “retorting” instead. There actually was a “said book” at one point, a kind of thesaurus of terms for speaking that writers could use to vary their dialogue tags. But as it turns out, most of the time, plain old “said” works better, and the repetition calls less attention to itself than the endless variations do.

$10 words

Ten-dollar words, AKA SAT words, tend to go hand in hand with elegant-variationism.

ten dollar bill

Any excuse to look at Hamilton’s noble brow

These are fancy-sounding words that crop up on vocabulary tests and in spelling bees and are rarely uttered in everyday speech. Two of my particular least favorites are “plethora” and “myriad” (protip: if you ever apply for a job at WordStream, don’t use these in your cover letter).

A lot of writers have a favorite go-to ten-dollar word. My husband loves “proleptic” for some reason. When self-editing, look for words that you tend to overuse, especially if they’re above a high-school reading level. (We found that top-performing ads, like most bestsellers, are written at a ninth-grade reading level!)

reading level

Latinate words

There’s nothing wrong with Latinate words and you can’t avoid them entirely – but there are a lot of cases where choosing Latinate words over Anglo-Saxon or Germanic words can make your writing sound academic or clinical and therefore less friendly.

Here are some examples of Latinate words vs. their Germanic counterparts:

latinate versus germanic

But truly, you don’t need to worry too much about the etymological roots or origins or your words; just try to write in everyday speech. For example, I rarely hear people say “utilize” but I see it in writing all the time. “Use” and “utilize” both ultimately come from French but “use” sounds much more natural and friendly.

Commonly misused words

Words that are misused all the time always sound kind of wrong – even when used correctly!

For example, people are constantly writing “hone in on,” as in “hone in on the problem.” The correct expression is “home in on” – like a homing pigeon or homing device. A lot of editors will correct this use of “hone” (which means to sharpen, as in honing your skills or honing a knife) to “home,” but I prefer to just rephrase. After all, both “home in on” and “hone your skills” are clichés.

Other frequently misused words and terms include comprise, nonplussed, bemused, and beg the question. If you use them incorrectly, you’re going to tick off persnickety types, and if you use them correctly, all the people who don’t know what the word means are going to think you’re in the wrong. Accordingly I think it’s best to avoid them entirely.

Needless exaggeration

This tic is especially common in business and marketing writing, where writers naturally want to sell the value of whatever product or service they’re talking about, but you run the risk of sounding like a phony or a snake oil salesman.

snake oil salesman

“The strongest and best linament known for pain and lameness”

An example would be saying something “couldn’t be easier” instead of just saying that it’s easy. Theoretically, it could always be marginally easier…

Baseless assumptions & received wisdom

There’s a weird rumor that floats around the WordStream office – it’s that seltzer is bad for you. Specifically people seem to think bubbly water somehow leeches calcium from your bones (??). I don’t know where the myth came from, but there’s no evidence that it does this.

An example from the world of marketing is the received idea that consumers hate remarketing ads, so you need to set strict frequency caps on your retargeted ads. But we’ve found that conversion rates on remarketing ads actually increase with more exposure, not the other way around. It’s always good to question a “rule” and make sure it’s not just an old wives’ tale.

When reading over your writing, be on the lookout for claims that you can’t prove or back up with evidence. Just because you’ve heard something over and over doesn’t make it true.

Belabored metaphors

I don’t know any other way to say this: metaphors only make your writing better if they’re good. Clichéd metaphors add nothing (how many 80s rock songs use the simile “cuts like a knife”?). But even worse is the forced, overly belabored metaphor that doesn’t even really make sense. Like this example from a Harvard Business Review article called “The Dark Side of Efficient Markets”:

Those are indeed positive features. But every good thing is like a face caressed by the sun. The rays that light and warm the face automatically cast a dark shadow behind it. 

Hmmm. Nope.

Related issue: the mixed metaphor, which is usually also a mixed cliché.

how to recognize mixed metaphors

You can dive into a project or get experience in the trenches, but try not to do both at once. (What is it about trenches that confuses bad writers? Dan Brown once described a character as “learning the ropes in the trenches.”)

3 Ways to Make a First Draft Stronger

OK, we’ve talked about things to avoid and cut out of your writing. Now let’s talk about what you can add to make it better. First draft a little lackluster? Try one of these tactics when revising.

Add data, stats, authority

Remember when I said not to make baseless assertions? Here’s how you fix that – go looking for research and data to back them up. Stats are also great in an introduction to remind people why they should care about whatever you’re writing about.

For example, this post about how to write a welcome email begins with some stats on welcome email performance: Since they have on average 4x the open rate and 5x the click-through rate of a standard email marketing campaign, of course you want to get them right.

what is confirmation bias

However, if you can’t find recent and authoritative research, skip it. And be wary of confirmation bias – the tendency to seek out sources that confirm what we already believe. It’s good to challenge your own assumptions, so if you find evidence that contradicts your argument, consider revising your argument.

Add INTERESTING details

Details add texture to your writing. But don’t let yourself off the hook too easy with boring, obvious details, or details that have no relevance to what’s happening.

The classic example of a lazy, pointless detail in fiction is “A dog barked in the distance.” A dog is always barking in the distance. Who cares? And sorry to drag Dan Brown again, but check out this passage from Angels and Demons:

Vittoria closed her eyes and breathed. Then she breathed again. And again. And again …

You don’t say.

Details matter in nonfiction too. For example, if you’re writing a profile of a woman, don’t describe what she’s wearing just because she’s a woman. We also don’t need to know what she ordered for lunch.

So how do you add interesting details? Work on your powers of observation. Look for what is unusual, then filter for what is relevant. That’s the Sherlock Holmes way: Notice first, then analyze. Holmes doesn’t tell people everything he notices, just the details that illuminate the case.

Teach people something

It seems so simple. The whole point of nonfiction is to teach people something, right? And yet – so much writing fails to do this, and therefore isn’t interesting.

If you want to be a great writer, make sure you are always learning yourself, so you have something to teach people. Read widely, try new things, and share what you learn. This can take the form of:

  • Including interesting facts – I have an insatiable appetite for lists of mind-blowing facts. Start collecting fascinating knowledge and then you can drop it in as it comes up.

self editing advice

  • Pointing people to more comprehensive resources – If you’re only able to touch on something that you have in-depth knowledge of, recommend your favorite articles, books, or films on the topic so people who are interested can learn more. (Want to get better at learning?! I love this book called How We Learn.)
  • Sharing life wisdom – Obviously, you need to have some life wisdom before you can share it – but this doesn’t always come from age. I love when people teach me something only they could know. What have you learned from your unusual or difficult experiences? What’s it like to found a successful startup – and then watch it fail? What’s it like to play competitive Scrabble?

If you’re teaching people stuff, your writing becomes 10 times more interesting. Great ideas trump big words every time.

from Internet Marketing Blog by WordStream http://ift.tt/2v5txRu

How to Perform a Basic Local Business Competitive Audit

Posted by MiriamEllis

“Why are those folks outranking me in Google’s local pack?”

If you or a client is asking this question, the answer lies in competitive analysis. You’ve got to stack Business A up against Business B to identify the strengths and weaknesses of both competitors, and then make an educated guess as to which factors Google is weighting most in the results for a specific search term.

Today, I’d like to share a real-world example of a random competitive audit, including a chart that depicts which factors I’ve investigated and explanatory tips and tools for how I came up with the numbers and facts. Also included: a downloadable version of the spreadsheet that you can use for your own company or clients. Your goal with this audit is to identify exactly how one player is winning the game so that you can create a to-do list for any company trying to move up in the rankings. Alternatively, some competitive audits can be defensive, identifying a dominant player’s weaknesses so that they can be corrected to ensure continued high rankings.

It’s my hope that seeing this audit in action will help you better answer the question of why “this person is outranking that person,” and that you may share with our community some analytical tips of your own!

The scenario:

localseoaudit.jpg

Search term: Chinese Restaurant San Rafael

Statistics about San Rafael: A large town of approximately 22 square miles in the San Francisco Bay Area with a population of 58,954 and 15+ Chinese restaurants.

Consistency of results: From 20 miles away to 2000+ miles away, Ping’s Chinese Cuisine outranks Yet Wah Restaurant in Google’s local pack for the search term. We don’t look closer than 20 miles, or proximity of the searcher creates too much diversity.

The challenge: Why is Ping’s Chinese Cuisine outranking Yet Wah Restaurant in Google’s Local Pack for the search term?

The comparison chart

*Where there’s a clear winner, it’s noted in bolded, italicized text.

Basic business information

NAP

Ping’s Chinese Cuisine

248 Northgate Dr.

San Rafael, CA 94903

(415) 492-8808

Yet Wah Restaurant

1238 4th St.

San Rafael, CA 94901

(415) 460-9883

GMB landing page URL

http://ift.tt/2vUoOkb

http://ift.tt/1dQH9Lw

Local Pack rank

1

2

Organic rank

17

5

Organic rank among business-owned sites


*Remove directories and review platforms from the equation, as they typically shouldn’t be viewed as direct competitors

8

1

Business model eligible for GMB listing at this address?


*Check Google’s Guidelines if unsure: http://ift.tt/1Ag5qvp…

Yes

Yes

Oddities

Note that Ping’s has redirected pingschinesecuisine.com to pingsnorthgate.com. Ping’s also has a www and non-www version of pingsnorthgate.com.

A 2nd website for same business at same location with same phone number: http://ift.tt/2vUi4D5. This website is ranking directly below the authoritative (GMB-linked) website for this business in organic SERP for the search in question.

Business listings

GMB review count

32

38

GMB review rating

4.1

3.8

Most recent GMB review


*Sort GMB reviews by “most recent” filter

1 week ago

1 month ago

Proper GMB categories?

Yes

Yes

Estimated age of GMB listing


*Estimated by date of oldest reviews and photos, but can only be seen as an estimate

At least 2 years old

At least 6 years old

Moz Local score (completeness + accuracy + lack of duplicates)


*Tool: http://ift.tt/1jVt1Fe

49%

75%

Moz Local duplicate findings


*Tool: http://ift.tt/1jVt1Fe

0

1 (Facebook)

Keywords in GMB name

chinese

restaurant

Keywords in GMB website landing page title tag

Nothing at all. Just “home page”

Yes

Spam in GMB title


*Look at GMB photos, Google Streetview, and the website to check for inconsistencies

No

Yes: “restaurant” not in website logo or street level signage

Hours and photos on GMB?

Yes

Yes

Proximity to city centroid


*Look up city by name in Google Maps and see where it places the name of the city on the map. That’s the city “centroid.” Get driving directions from the business to an address located in the centroid.

3.5 miles

410.1 feet

Proximity to nearest competitor


*Zoom in on Google map to surface as many adjacent competitors as possible. Can be a Possum factor in some cases.

1.1 mile

0.2 miles

Within Google Maps boundaries?


*Look up city by name in Google Maps and note the pink border via which Google designates that city’s boundaries

Yes

Yes

Website

Age of domain


*Tool: http://ift.tt/1eS2KGO

March 2013

August 2011

Domain Authority


*Tool: http://ift.tt/29qXBeL

16

8

GMB Landing Page Authority


*Tool: http://ift.tt/29qXBeL

30

21

Links to domain

*Tool: http://ift.tt/1rfsq4g

53

2

DA/PA of most authoritative link earned


*Tool: http://ift.tt/1rfsq4g

72/32

38/16

Evaluation of website content

*This is a first-pass, visual gut check, just reading through the top-level pages of the website to see how they strike you in terms of quality.

Extremely thin, just adequate to identify restaurant. At least has menu on own site. Of the 2 sites, this one has the most total text, by virtue of a sentence on the homepage and menus in real text.

Extremely thin, almost zero text on homepage, menu link goes to another website.

Evaluation of website design

Outdated

Outdated, mostly images

Evaluation of website UX

Can be navigated, but few directives or CTAs

Can be navigated, but few directives or CTAs

Mobile-friendly


*Tool: http://ift.tt/2s7oXje

Basic mobile design, but Google’s mobile-friendly test tool says both www and non-www cannot be reached because it’s unavailable or blocked by robots txt. They have disallowed scripts, photos, Flash, images, and plugins. This needs to be further investigated and resolved. Mobile site URL is http://ift.tt/2x8ijsP. Both this URL and the other domains are failing Google’s test.

Basic mobile design passes Google’s mobile-friendly test

Evaluation of overall onsite SEO


*A first-pass visual look at the page code of top level pages, checking for titles, descriptions, header tags, schema, + the presence of problems like Flash.

Pretty much no optimization

Minimal, indeed, but a little bit of effort made. Some title tags, some schema, some header tags.

HTML NAP on website?

Yes

Yes

Website NAP matches GMB NAP?

No (Northgate One instead of Northgate Drive)

Yes

Total number of wins: Ping’s 7, Yet Wah 9.

Download your own version of my competitive audit spreadsheet by making a copy of the file.

Takeaways from the comparison chart

Yet Wah significantly outranks Ping’s in the organic results, but is being beaten by them in the Local Pack. Looking at the organic factors, we see evidence that, despite the fact that Ping’s has greater DA, greater PA of the GMB landing page, more links, and stronger links, they are not outranking Yet Wah organically. This is something of a surprise that leads us to look at their content and on-page SEO.

While Ping’s has slightly better text content on their website, they have almost done almost zero optimization work, their URLs have canonical issues, and their robots.txt isn’t properly configured. Yet Wah has almost no on-site content, but they have modestly optimized their title tags, implemented H tags and some schema, and their site passes Google’s mobile-friendly test.

So, our theory regarding Yet Wah’s superior organic ranking is that, in this particular case, Yet Wah’s moderate efforts with on-page SEO have managed to beat out Ping’s superior DA/PA/link metrics. Yet Wah’s website is also a couple of years older than Ping’s.

All that being said, Yet Wah’s organic win is failing to translate into a local win for them. How can we explain Ping’s local win? Ping’s has a slightly higher overall review rating, higher DA and GMB landing page PA, more total links, and higher authority links. They also have slightly more text content on their website, even if it’s not optimized.

So, our theory regarding Ping’s superior local rank is that, in this particular case, website authority/links appear to be winning the day for Ping’s. And the basic website text they have could possibly be contributing, despite lack of optimization.

In sum, basic on-page SEO appears to be contributing to Yet Wah’s organic win, while DA/PA/links appear to be contributing to Ping’s local win.

Things that bother me

I chose this competitive scenario at random, because when I took an initial look at the local and organic rankings, they bothered me a little. I would have expected Yet Wah to be first in the local pack if they were first in organic. I see local and organic rankings correlate strongly so much of the time, that this case seemed odd to me.

By the end of the audit, I’ve come up with a working theory, but I’m not 100% satisfied with it. It makes me ask questions like:

  • Is Ping’s better local rank stemming from some hidden factor no one knows about?
  • In this particular case, why is Google appearing to value Ping’s links more that Yet Wah’s on-page SEO in determining local rank? Would I see this same trend across the board if I analyzed 1,000 restaurants? The industry says links are huge in local SEO right now. I guess we’re seeing proof of that here.
  • Why isn’t Google weighting Yet Wah’s superior citation set more than they apparently are? Ping’s citations are in bad shape. I’ve seen citation health play a much greater apparent role in other audits, but something feels weird here.
  • Why isn’t Google “punishing” Yet Wah in the organic results for that second website with duplicate NAP on it? That seems like it should matter.
  • Why isn’t age factoring in more here? My inspection shows that Yet Wah’s domain and GMB listing are significantly older. This could be moving the organic needle for them, but it’s not moving the local one.
  • Could user behavior be making Ping’s the local winner? This is a huge open question at the end of my basic audit.* See below.

*I don’t have access to either restaurant’s Google Analytics, GMB Insights, or Google Search Console accounts, so perhaps that would turn up penalties, traffic patterns, or things like superior clicks-to-call, clicks-for-directions, or clicks-to-website that would make Ping’s local win easier to explain. If one of these restaurants were your client, you’d want to add chart rows for these things based on full access to the brand’s accounts and tools, and whatever data your tools can access about the competitor. For example, using a tool like SimilarWeb, I see that between May and June of this year, YetWah’s traffic rose from an average 150 monthly visits up to a peak of 500, while Ping’s saw a drop from 700 to 350 visits in that same period. Also, in a scenario in which one or both parties have a large or complex link profile, you might want additional rows for link metrics, taken from tools like Moz Pro, Ahrefs, or Majestic.

In this case, Ping’s has 7 total wins in my chart and Yet Wah has 9. The best I can do is look at which factors each business is winning at to try to identify a pattern of what Google is weighting most, both organically and locally. With both restaurants being so basic in their marketing, and with neither one absolutely running away with the game, what we have here is a close race. While I’d love to be able to declare a totally obvious winner, the best I could do as a consultant, in this case, would be to draw up a plan of defense or offense.

If my client were Ping’s:

Ping’s needs to defend its #1 local ranking if it doesn’t want to lose it. Its greatest weaknesses which must be resolved are:

  • The absence of on-page SEO
  • Thin content
  • Robots.txt issues

To remain strong, Ping’s should also work on:

  • Improving citation health
  • Directing the non-www version of their site to the www one
  • A professional site redesign could possibly improve conversions

Ping’s should accomplish these things to defend its current local rank and to try to move up organically.

If my client were Yet Wah:

Yet Wah needs to try to achieve victory over Ping’s in the local packs, as it has done in the organic results. To do that, Yet Wah should:

  • Earn links to the GMB landing page URL and the domain
  • Create strong text content on its high-level pages, including putting a complete dining menu in real text on the website
  • Deal with the second website featuring duplicate NAP

Yet Wah should also:

  • Complete work on its citation health
  • Work hard to get some new 5-star reviews by delighting customers with something special
  • Consider adding the word “Restaurant” to their signage, so that they can’t be reported for spamming the GMB name field.
  • Consider a professional redesign of the website to improve conversions

Yet Wah should accomplish these things in an effort to surpass Ping’s.

And, with either client being mine, I’d then be taking a second pass to further investigate anything problematic that came up in the initial audit, so that I could make further technical or creative suggestions.

Big geo-industry picture analysis

Given that no competitor for this particular search term has been able to beat out Ping’s or Yet Wah in the local pack, and given the minimal efforts these two brands have thus far made, there’s a tremendous chance for any Chinese restaurant in San Rafael to become the dominant player. Any competitor that dedicates itself to running on all cylinders (professional, optimized website with great content, a healthy link profile, a competitive number of high-star reviews, healthy citations, etc.) could definitely surpass all other contestants. This is not a tough market and there are no players who can’t be bested.

My sample case has been, as I’ve said, a close race. You may be facing an audit where there are deeply entrenched dominant players whose statistics far surpass those of a business you’re hoping to assist. But the basic process is the same:

  1. Look at the top-ranking business.
  2. Fill out the chart (adding any other fields you feel are important).
  3. Then discover the strengths of the dominant company, as well as its potential weaknesses.
  4. Contrast these findings with those you’ve charted for the company you’re helping and you’ll be able to form a plan for improvement.

And don’t forget the user proximity factor. Any company’s most adjacent customers will see pack results that vary either slightly or significantly from what a user sees from 20, 50, or 1,000 miles away. In my specific study, it happened to be the third result in the pack that went haywire once a user got 50 miles away, while the top two remained dominant and statically ranked for searchers as far away as the East Coast.

Because of this phenomenon of distance, it’s vital for business owners to be educated about the fact that they are serving two user groups: one that is located in the neighborhood or city of the business, and another that could be anywhere in the country or the world. This doesn’t just matter for destinations like hotels or public amusements. In California (a big state), Internet users on a road trip from Palm Springs may be looking to end their 500-mile drive at a Chinese restaurant in San Rafael, so you can’t just think hyper-locally; you’ve got to see the bigger local picture. And you’ve got to do the analysis to find ways of winning as often as you can with both consumer groups.

You take it from here, auditor!

My local competitive audit chart is a basic one, looking at 30+ factors. What would you add? How would you improve it? Did I miss a GMB duplicate listing, or review spam? What’s working best for your agency in doing local audits these days? Do you use a chart, or just provide a high-level text summary of your internal findings? And, if you have any further theories as to how Ping’s is winning the local pack, I’d love for you to share them in the comments.

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

from Moz Blog http://ift.tt/2xn9dYi

How to Perform a Basic Local Business Competitive Audit

Posted by MiriamEllis

“Why are those folks outranking me in Google’s local pack?”

If you or a client is asking this question, the answer lies in competitive analysis. You’ve got to stack Business A up against Business B to identify the strengths and weaknesses of both competitors, and then make an educated guess as to which factors Google is weighting most in the results for a specific search term.

Today, I’d like to share a real-world example of a random competitive audit, including a chart that depicts which factors I’ve investigated and explanatory tips and tools for how I came up with the numbers and facts. Also included: a downloadable version of the spreadsheet that you can use for your own company or clients. Your goal with this audit is to identify exactly how one player is winning the game so that you can create a to-do list for any company trying to move up in the rankings. Alternatively, some competitive audits can be defensive, identifying a dominant player’s weaknesses so that they can be corrected to ensure continued high rankings.

It’s my hope that seeing this audit in action will help you better answer the question of why “this person is outranking that person,” and that you may share with our community some analytical tips of your own!

The scenario:

localseoaudit.jpg

Search term: Chinese Restaurant San Rafael

Statistics about San Rafael: A large town of approximately 22 square miles in the San Francisco Bay Area with a population of 58,954 and 15+ Chinese restaurants.

Consistency of results: From 20 miles away to 2000+ miles away, Ping’s Chinese Cuisine outranks Yet Wah Restaurant in Google’s local pack for the search term. We don’t look closer than 20 miles, or proximity of the searcher creates too much diversity.

The challenge: Why is Ping’s Chinese Cuisine outranking Yet Wah Restaurant in Google’s Local Pack for the search term?

The comparison chart

*Where there’s a clear winner, it’s noted in bolded, italicized text.

Basic business information

NAP

Ping’s Chinese Cuisine

248 Northgate Dr.

San Rafael, CA 94903

(415) 492-8808

Yet Wah Restaurant

1238 4th St.

San Rafael, CA 94901

(415) 460-9883

GMB landing page URL

http://ift.tt/2vUoOkb

http://ift.tt/1dQH9Lw

Local Pack rank

1

2

Organic rank

17

5

Organic rank among business-owned sites


*Remove directories and review platforms from the equation, as they typically shouldn’t be viewed as direct competitors

8

1

Business model eligible for GMB listing at this address?


*Check Google’s Guidelines if unsure: http://ift.tt/1Ag5qvp…

Yes

Yes

Oddities

Note that Ping’s has redirected pingschinesecuisine.com to pingsnorthgate.com. Ping’s also has a www and non-www version of pingsnorthgate.com.

A 2nd website for same business at same location with same phone number: http://ift.tt/2vUi4D5. This website is ranking directly below the authoritative (GMB-linked) website for this business in organic SERP for the search in question.

Business listings

GMB review count

32

38

GMB review rating

4.1

3.8

Most recent GMB review


*Sort GMB reviews by “most recent” filter

1 week ago

1 month ago

Proper GMB categories?

Yes

Yes

Estimated age of GMB listing


*Estimated by date of oldest reviews and photos, but can only be seen as an estimate

At least 2 years old

At least 6 years old

Moz Local score (completeness + accuracy + lack of duplicates)


*Tool: http://ift.tt/1jVt1Fe

49%

75%

Moz Local duplicate findings


*Tool: http://ift.tt/1jVt1Fe

0

1 (Facebook)

Keywords in GMB name

chinese

restaurant

Keywords in GMB website landing page title tag

Nothing at all. Just “home page”

Yes

Spam in GMB title


*Look at GMB photos, Google Streetview, and the website to check for inconsistencies

No

Yes: “restaurant” not in website logo or street level signage

Hours and photos on GMB?

Yes

Yes

Proximity to city centroid


*Look up city by name in Google Maps and see where it places the name of the city on the map. That’s the city “centroid.” Get driving directions from the business to an address located in the centroid.

3.5 miles

410.1 feet

Proximity to nearest competitor


*Zoom in on Google map to surface as many adjacent competitors as possible. Can be a Possum factor in some cases.

1.1 mile

0.2 miles

Within Google Maps boundaries?


*Look up city by name in Google Maps and note the pink border via which Google designates that city’s boundaries

Yes

Yes

Website

Age of domain


*Tool: http://ift.tt/1eS2KGO

March 2013

August 2011

Domain Authority


*Tool: http://ift.tt/29qXBeL

16

8

GMB Landing Page Authority


*Tool: http://ift.tt/29qXBeL

30

21

Links to domain

*Tool: http://ift.tt/1rfsq4g

53

2

DA/PA of most authoritative link earned


*Tool: http://ift.tt/1rfsq4g

72/32

38/16

Evaluation of website content

*This is a first-pass, visual gut check, just reading through the top-level pages of the website to see how they strike you in terms of quality.

Extremely thin, just adequate to identify restaurant. At least has menu on own site. Of the 2 sites, this one has the most total text, by virtue of a sentence on the homepage and menus in real text.

Extremely thin, almost zero text on homepage, menu link goes to another website.

Evaluation of website design

Outdated

Outdated, mostly images

Evaluation of website UX

Can be navigated, but few directives or CTAs

Can be navigated, but few directives or CTAs

Mobile-friendly


*Tool: http://ift.tt/2s7oXje

Basic mobile design, but Google’s mobile-friendly test tool says both www and non-www cannot be reached because it’s unavailable or blocked by robots txt. They have disallowed scripts, photos, Flash, images, and plugins. This needs to be further investigated and resolved. Mobile site URL is http://ift.tt/2x8ijsP. Both this URL and the other domains are failing Google’s test.

Basic mobile design passes Google’s mobile-friendly test

Evaluation of overall onsite SEO


*A first-pass visual look at the page code of top level pages, checking for titles, descriptions, header tags, schema, + the presence of problems like Flash.

Pretty much no optimization

Minimal, indeed, but a little bit of effort made. Some title tags, some schema, some header tags.

HTML NAP on website?

Yes

Yes

Website NAP matches GMB NAP?

No (Northgate One instead of Northgate Drive)

Yes

Total number of wins: Ping’s 7, Yet Wah 9.

Download your own version of my competitive audit spreadsheet by making a copy of the file.

Takeaways from the comparison chart

Yet Wah significantly outranks Ping’s in the organic results, but is being beaten by them in the Local Pack. Looking at the organic factors, we see evidence that, despite the fact that Ping’s has greater DA, greater PA of the GMB landing page, more links, and stronger links, they are not outranking Yet Wah organically. This is something of a surprise that leads us to look at their content and on-page SEO.

While Ping’s has slightly better text content on their website, they have almost done almost zero optimization work, their URLs have canonical issues, and their robots.txt isn’t properly configured. Yet Wah has almost no on-site content, but they have modestly optimized their title tags, implemented H tags and some schema, and their site passes Google’s mobile-friendly test.

So, our theory regarding Yet Wah’s superior organic ranking is that, in this particular case, Yet Wah’s moderate efforts with on-page SEO have managed to beat out Ping’s superior DA/PA/link metrics. Yet Wah’s website is also a couple of years older than Ping’s.

All that being said, Yet Wah’s organic win is failing to translate into a local win for them. How can we explain Ping’s local win? Ping’s has a slightly higher overall review rating, higher DA and GMB landing page PA, more total links, and higher authority links. They also have slightly more text content on their website, even if it’s not optimized.

So, our theory regarding Ping’s superior local rank is that, in this particular case, website authority/links appear to be winning the day for Ping’s. And the basic website text they have could possibly be contributing, despite lack of optimization.

In sum, basic on-page SEO appears to be contributing to Yet Wah’s organic win, while DA/PA/links appear to be contributing to Ping’s local win.

Things that bother me

I chose this competitive scenario at random, because when I took an initial look at the local and organic rankings, they bothered me a little. I would have expected Yet Wah to be first in the local pack if they were first in organic. I see local and organic rankings correlate strongly so much of the time, that this case seemed odd to me.

By the end of the audit, I’ve come up with a working theory, but I’m not 100% satisfied with it. It makes me ask questions like:

  • Is Ping’s better local rank stemming from some hidden factor no one knows about?
  • In this particular case, why is Google appearing to value Ping’s links more that Yet Wah’s on-page SEO in determining local rank? Would I see this same trend across the board if I analyzed 1,000 restaurants? The industry says links are huge in local SEO right now. I guess we’re seeing proof of that here.
  • Why isn’t Google weighting Yet Wah’s superior citation set more than they apparently are? Ping’s citations are in bad shape. I’ve seen citation health play a much greater apparent role in other audits, but something feels weird here.
  • Why isn’t Google “punishing” Yet Wah in the organic results for that second website with duplicate NAP on it? That seems like it should matter.
  • Why isn’t age factoring in more here? My inspection shows that Yet Wah’s domain and GMB listing are significantly older. This could be moving the organic needle for them, but it’s not moving the local one.
  • Could user behavior be making Ping’s the local winner? This is a huge open question at the end of my basic audit.* See below.

*I don’t have access to either restaurant’s Google Analytics, GMB Insights, or Google Search Console accounts, so perhaps that would turn up penalties, traffic patterns, or things like superior clicks-to-call, clicks-for-directions, or clicks-to-website that would make Ping’s local win easier to explain. If one of these restaurants were your client, you’d want to add chart rows for these things based on full access to the brand’s accounts and tools, and whatever data your tools can access about the competitor. For example, using a tool like SimilarWeb, I see that between May and June of this year, YetWah’s traffic rose from an average 150 monthly visits up to a peak of 500, while Ping’s saw a drop from 700 to 350 visits in that same period. Also, in a scenario in which one or both parties have a large or complex link profile, you might want additional rows for link metrics, taken from tools like Moz Pro, Ahrefs, or Majestic.

In this case, Ping’s has 7 total wins in my chart and Yet Wah has 9. The best I can do is look at which factors each business is winning at to try to identify a pattern of what Google is weighting most, both organically and locally. With both restaurants being so basic in their marketing, and with neither one absolutely running away with the game, what we have here is a close race. While I’d love to be able to declare a totally obvious winner, the best I could do as a consultant, in this case, would be to draw up a plan of defense or offense.

If my client were Ping’s:

Ping’s needs to defend its #1 local ranking if it doesn’t want to lose it. Its greatest weaknesses which must be resolved are:

  • The absence of on-page SEO
  • Thin content
  • Robots.txt issues

To remain strong, Ping’s should also work on:

  • Improving citation health
  • Directing the non-www version of their site to the www one
  • A professional site redesign could possibly improve conversions

Ping’s should accomplish these things to defend its current local rank and to try to move up organically.

If my client were Yet Wah:

Yet Wah needs to try to achieve victory over Ping’s in the local packs, as it has done in the organic results. To do that, Yet Wah should:

  • Earn links to the GMB landing page URL and the domain
  • Create strong text content on its high-level pages, including putting a complete dining menu in real text on the website
  • Deal with the second website featuring duplicate NAP

Yet Wah should also:

  • Complete work on its citation health
  • Work hard to get some new 5-star reviews by delighting customers with something special
  • Consider adding the word “Restaurant” to their signage, so that they can’t be reported for spamming the GMB name field.
  • Consider a professional redesign of the website to improve conversions

Yet Wah should accomplish these things in an effort to surpass Ping’s.

And, with either client being mine, I’d then be taking a second pass to further investigate anything problematic that came up in the initial audit, so that I could make further technical or creative suggestions.

Big geo-industry picture analysis

Given that no competitor for this particular search term has been able to beat out Ping’s or Yet Wah in the local pack, and given the minimal efforts these two brands have thus far made, there’s a tremendous chance for any Chinese restaurant in San Rafael to become the dominant player. Any competitor that dedicates itself to running on all cylinders (professional, optimized website with great content, a healthy link profile, a competitive number of high-star reviews, healthy citations, etc.) could definitely surpass all other contestants. This is not a tough market and there are no players who can’t be bested.

My sample case has been, as I’ve said, a close race. You may be facing an audit where there are deeply entrenched dominant players whose statistics far surpass those of a business you’re hoping to assist. But the basic process is the same:

  1. Look at the top-ranking business.
  2. Fill out the chart (adding any other fields you feel are important).
  3. Then discover the strengths of the dominant company, as well as its potential weaknesses.
  4. Contrast these findings with those you’ve charted for the company you’re helping and you’ll be able to form a plan for improvement.

And don’t forget the user proximity factor. Any company’s most adjacent customers will see pack results that vary either slightly or significantly from what a user sees from 20, 50, or 1,000 miles away. In my specific study, it happened to be the third result in the pack that went haywire once a user got 50 miles away, while the top two remained dominant and statically ranked for searchers as far away as the East Coast.

Because of this phenomenon of distance, it’s vital for business owners to be educated about the fact that they are serving two user groups: one that is located in the neighborhood or city of the business, and another that could be anywhere in the country or the world. This doesn’t just matter for destinations like hotels or public amusements. In California (a big state), Internet users on a road trip from Palm Springs may be looking to end their 500-mile drive at a Chinese restaurant in San Rafael, so you can’t just think hyper-locally; you’ve got to see the bigger local picture. And you’ve got to do the analysis to find ways of winning as often as you can with both consumer groups.

You take it from here, auditor!

My local competitive audit chart is a basic one, looking at 30+ factors. What would you add? How would you improve it? Did I miss a GMB duplicate listing, or review spam? What’s working best for your agency in doing local audits these days? Do you use a chart, or just provide a high-level text summary of your internal findings? And, if you have any further theories as to how Ping’s is winning the local pack, I’d love for you to share them in the comments.

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

from Moz Blog http://ift.tt/2xn9dYi

How to Perform a Basic Local Business Competitive Audit

Posted by MiriamEllis

“Why are those folks outranking me in Google’s local pack?”

If you or a client is asking this question, the answer lies in competitive analysis. You’ve got to stack Business A up against Business B to identify the strengths and weaknesses of both competitors, and then make an educated guess as to which factors Google is weighting most in the results for a specific search term.

Today, I’d like to share a real-world example of a random competitive audit, including a chart that depicts which factors I’ve investigated and explanatory tips and tools for how I came up with the numbers and facts. Also included: a downloadable version of the spreadsheet that you can use for your own company or clients. Your goal with this audit is to identify exactly how one player is winning the game so that you can create a to-do list for any company trying to move up in the rankings. Alternatively, some competitive audits can be defensive, identifying a dominant player’s weaknesses so that they can be corrected to ensure continued high rankings.

It’s my hope that seeing this audit in action will help you better answer the question of why “this person is outranking that person,” and that you may share with our community some analytical tips of your own!

The scenario:

localseoaudit.jpg

Search term: Chinese Restaurant San Rafael

Statistics about San Rafael: A large town of approximately 22 square miles in the San Francisco Bay Area with a population of 58,954 and 15+ Chinese restaurants.

Consistency of results: From 20 miles away to 2000+ miles away, Ping’s Chinese Cuisine outranks Yet Wah Restaurant in Google’s local pack for the search term. We don’t look closer than 20 miles, or proximity of the searcher creates too much diversity.

The challenge: Why is Ping’s Chinese Cuisine outranking Yet Wah Restaurant in Google’s Local Pack for the search term?

The comparison chart

*Where there’s a clear winner, it’s noted in bolded, italicized text.

Basic business information

NAP

Ping’s Chinese Cuisine

248 Northgate Dr.

San Rafael, CA 94903

(415) 492-8808

Yet Wah Restaurant

1238 4th St.

San Rafael, CA 94901

(415) 460-9883

GMB landing page URL

http://ift.tt/2vUoOkb

http://ift.tt/1dQH9Lw

Local Pack rank

1

2

Organic rank

17

5

Organic rank among business-owned sites


*Remove directories and review platforms from the equation, as they typically shouldn’t be viewed as direct competitors

8

1

Business model eligible for GMB listing at this address?


*Check Google’s Guidelines if unsure: http://ift.tt/1Ag5qvp…

Yes

Yes

Oddities

Note that Ping’s has redirected pingschinesecuisine.com to pingsnorthgate.com. Ping’s also has a www and non-www version of pingsnorthgate.com.

A 2nd website for same business at same location with same phone number: http://ift.tt/2vUi4D5. This website is ranking directly below the authoritative (GMB-linked) website for this business in organic SERP for the search in question.

Business listings

GMB review count

32

38

GMB review rating

4.1

3.8

Most recent GMB review


*Sort GMB reviews by “most recent” filter

1 week ago

1 month ago

Proper GMB categories?

Yes

Yes

Estimated age of GMB listing


*Estimated by date of oldest reviews and photos, but can only be seen as an estimate

At least 2 years old

At least 6 years old

Moz Local score (completeness + accuracy + lack of duplicates)


*Tool: http://ift.tt/1jVt1Fe

49%

75%

Moz Local duplicate findings


*Tool: http://ift.tt/1jVt1Fe

0

1 (Facebook)

Keywords in GMB name

chinese

restaurant

Keywords in GMB website landing page title tag

Nothing at all. Just “home page”

Yes

Spam in GMB title


*Look at GMB photos, Google Streetview, and the website to check for inconsistencies

No

Yes: “restaurant” not in website logo or street level signage

Hours and photos on GMB?

Yes

Yes

Proximity to city centroid


*Look up city by name in Google Maps and see where it places the name of the city on the map. That’s the city “centroid.” Get driving directions from the business to an address located in the centroid.

3.5 miles

410.1 feet

Proximity to nearest competitor


*Zoom in on Google map to surface as many adjacent competitors as possible. Can be a Possum factor in some cases.

1.1 mile

0.2 miles

Within Google Maps boundaries?


*Look up city by name in Google Maps and note the pink border via which Google designates that city’s boundaries

Yes

Yes

Website

Age of domain


*Tool: http://ift.tt/1eS2KGO

March 2013

August 2011

Domain Authority


*Tool: http://ift.tt/29qXBeL

16

8

GMB Landing Page Authority


*Tool: http://ift.tt/29qXBeL

30

21

Links to domain

*Tool: http://ift.tt/1rfsq4g

53

2

DA/PA of most authoritative link earned


*Tool: http://ift.tt/1rfsq4g

72/32

38/16

Evaluation of website content

*This is a first-pass, visual gut check, just reading through the top-level pages of the website to see how they strike you in terms of quality.

Extremely thin, just adequate to identify restaurant. At least has menu on own site. Of the 2 sites, this one has the most total text, by virtue of a sentence on the homepage and menus in real text.

Extremely thin, almost zero text on homepage, menu link goes to another website.

Evaluation of website design

Outdated

Outdated, mostly images

Evaluation of website UX

Can be navigated, but few directives or CTAs

Can be navigated, but few directives or CTAs

Mobile-friendly


*Tool: http://ift.tt/2s7oXje

Basic mobile design, but Google’s mobile-friendly test tool says both www and non-www cannot be reached because it’s unavailable or blocked by robots txt. They have disallowed scripts, photos, Flash, images, and plugins. This needs to be further investigated and resolved. Mobile site URL is http://ift.tt/2x8ijsP. Both this URL and the other domains are failing Google’s test.

Basic mobile design passes Google’s mobile-friendly test

Evaluation of overall onsite SEO


*A first-pass visual look at the page code of top level pages, checking for titles, descriptions, header tags, schema, + the presence of problems like Flash.

Pretty much no optimization

Minimal, indeed, but a little bit of effort made. Some title tags, some schema, some header tags.

HTML NAP on website?

Yes

Yes

Website NAP matches GMB NAP?

No (Northgate One instead of Northgate Drive)

Yes

Total number of wins: Ping’s 7, Yet Wah 9.

Download your own version of my competitive audit spreadsheet by making a copy of the file.

Takeaways from the comparison chart

Yet Wah significantly outranks Ping’s in the organic results, but is being beaten by them in the Local Pack. Looking at the organic factors, we see evidence that, despite the fact that Ping’s has greater DA, greater PA of the GMB landing page, more links, and stronger links, they are not outranking Yet Wah organically. This is something of a surprise that leads us to look at their content and on-page SEO.

While Ping’s has slightly better text content on their website, they have almost done almost zero optimization work, their URLs have canonical issues, and their robots.txt isn’t properly configured. Yet Wah has almost no on-site content, but they have modestly optimized their title tags, implemented H tags and some schema, and their site passes Google’s mobile-friendly test.

So, our theory regarding Yet Wah’s superior organic ranking is that, in this particular case, Yet Wah’s moderate efforts with on-page SEO have managed to beat out Ping’s superior DA/PA/link metrics. Yet Wah’s website is also a couple of years older than Ping’s.

All that being said, Yet Wah’s organic win is failing to translate into a local win for them. How can we explain Ping’s local win? Ping’s has a slightly higher overall review rating, higher DA and GMB landing page PA, more total links, and higher authority links. They also have slightly more text content on their website, even if it’s not optimized.

So, our theory regarding Ping’s superior local rank is that, in this particular case, website authority/links appear to be winning the day for Ping’s. And the basic website text they have could possibly be contributing, despite lack of optimization.

In sum, basic on-page SEO appears to be contributing to Yet Wah’s organic win, while DA/PA/links appear to be contributing to Ping’s local win.

Things that bother me

I chose this competitive scenario at random, because when I took an initial look at the local and organic rankings, they bothered me a little. I would have expected Yet Wah to be first in the local pack if they were first in organic. I see local and organic rankings correlate strongly so much of the time, that this case seemed odd to me.

By the end of the audit, I’ve come up with a working theory, but I’m not 100% satisfied with it. It makes me ask questions like:

  • Is Ping’s better local rank stemming from some hidden factor no one knows about?
  • In this particular case, why is Google appearing to value Ping’s links more that Yet Wah’s on-page SEO in determining local rank? Would I see this same trend across the board if I analyzed 1,000 restaurants? The industry says links are huge in local SEO right now. I guess we’re seeing proof of that here.
  • Why isn’t Google weighting Yet Wah’s superior citation set more than they apparently are? Ping’s citations are in bad shape. I’ve seen citation health play a much greater apparent role in other audits, but something feels weird here.
  • Why isn’t Google “punishing” Yet Wah in the organic results for that second website with duplicate NAP on it? That seems like it should matter.
  • Why isn’t age factoring in more here? My inspection shows that Yet Wah’s domain and GMB listing are significantly older. This could be moving the organic needle for them, but it’s not moving the local one.
  • Could user behavior be making Ping’s the local winner? This is a huge open question at the end of my basic audit.* See below.

*I don’t have access to either restaurant’s Google Analytics, GMB Insights, or Google Search Console accounts, so perhaps that would turn up penalties, traffic patterns, or things like superior clicks-to-call, clicks-for-directions, or clicks-to-website that would make Ping’s local win easier to explain. If one of these restaurants were your client, you’d want to add chart rows for these things based on full access to the brand’s accounts and tools, and whatever data your tools can access about the competitor. For example, using a tool like SimilarWeb, I see that between May and June of this year, YetWah’s traffic rose from an average 150 monthly visits up to a peak of 500, while Ping’s saw a drop from 700 to 350 visits in that same period. Also, in a scenario in which one or both parties have a large or complex link profile, you might want additional rows for link metrics, taken from tools like Moz Pro, Ahrefs, or Majestic.

In this case, Ping’s has 7 total wins in my chart and Yet Wah has 9. The best I can do is look at which factors each business is winning at to try to identify a pattern of what Google is weighting most, both organically and locally. With both restaurants being so basic in their marketing, and with neither one absolutely running away with the game, what we have here is a close race. While I’d love to be able to declare a totally obvious winner, the best I could do as a consultant, in this case, would be to draw up a plan of defense or offense.

If my client were Ping’s:

Ping’s needs to defend its #1 local ranking if it doesn’t want to lose it. Its greatest weaknesses which must be resolved are:

  • The absence of on-page SEO
  • Thin content
  • Robots.txt issues

To remain strong, Ping’s should also work on:

  • Improving citation health
  • Directing the non-www version of their site to the www one
  • A professional site redesign could possibly improve conversions

Ping’s should accomplish these things to defend its current local rank and to try to move up organically.

If my client were Yet Wah:

Yet Wah needs to try to achieve victory over Ping’s in the local packs, as it has done in the organic results. To do that, Yet Wah should:

  • Earn links to the GMB landing page URL and the domain
  • Create strong text content on its high-level pages, including putting a complete dining menu in real text on the website
  • Deal with the second website featuring duplicate NAP

Yet Wah should also:

  • Complete work on its citation health
  • Work hard to get some new 5-star reviews by delighting customers with something special
  • Consider adding the word “Restaurant” to their signage, so that they can’t be reported for spamming the GMB name field.
  • Consider a professional redesign of the website to improve conversions

Yet Wah should accomplish these things in an effort to surpass Ping’s.

And, with either client being mine, I’d then be taking a second pass to further investigate anything problematic that came up in the initial audit, so that I could make further technical or creative suggestions.

Big geo-industry picture analysis

Given that no competitor for this particular search term has been able to beat out Ping’s or Yet Wah in the local pack, and given the minimal efforts these two brands have thus far made, there’s a tremendous chance for any Chinese restaurant in San Rafael to become the dominant player. Any competitor that dedicates itself to running on all cylinders (professional, optimized website with great content, a healthy link profile, a competitive number of high-star reviews, healthy citations, etc.) could definitely surpass all other contestants. This is not a tough market and there are no players who can’t be bested.

My sample case has been, as I’ve said, a close race. You may be facing an audit where there are deeply entrenched dominant players whose statistics far surpass those of a business you’re hoping to assist. But the basic process is the same:

  1. Look at the top-ranking business.
  2. Fill out the chart (adding any other fields you feel are important).
  3. Then discover the strengths of the dominant company, as well as its potential weaknesses.
  4. Contrast these findings with those you’ve charted for the company you’re helping and you’ll be able to form a plan for improvement.

And don’t forget the user proximity factor. Any company’s most adjacent customers will see pack results that vary either slightly or significantly from what a user sees from 20, 50, or 1,000 miles away. In my specific study, it happened to be the third result in the pack that went haywire once a user got 50 miles away, while the top two remained dominant and statically ranked for searchers as far away as the East Coast.

Because of this phenomenon of distance, it’s vital for business owners to be educated about the fact that they are serving two user groups: one that is located in the neighborhood or city of the business, and another that could be anywhere in the country or the world. This doesn’t just matter for destinations like hotels or public amusements. In California (a big state), Internet users on a road trip from Palm Springs may be looking to end their 500-mile drive at a Chinese restaurant in San Rafael, so you can’t just think hyper-locally; you’ve got to see the bigger local picture. And you’ve got to do the analysis to find ways of winning as often as you can with both consumer groups.

You take it from here, auditor!

My local competitive audit chart is a basic one, looking at 30+ factors. What would you add? How would you improve it? Did I miss a GMB duplicate listing, or review spam? What’s working best for your agency in doing local audits these days? Do you use a chart, or just provide a high-level text summary of your internal findings? And, if you have any further theories as to how Ping’s is winning the local pack, I’d love for you to share them in the comments.

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

from Moz Blog http://ift.tt/2xn9dYi

How to Perform a Basic Local Business Competitive Audit

Posted by MiriamEllis

“Why are those folks outranking me in Google’s local pack?”

If you or a client is asking this question, the answer lies in competitive analysis. You’ve got to stack Business A up against Business B to identify the strengths and weaknesses of both competitors, and then make an educated guess as to which factors Google is weighting most in the results for a specific search term.

Today, I’d like to share a real-world example of a random competitive audit, including a chart that depicts which factors I’ve investigated and explanatory tips and tools for how I came up with the numbers and facts. Also included: a downloadable version of the spreadsheet that you can use for your own company or clients. Your goal with this audit is to identify exactly how one player is winning the game so that you can create a to-do list for any company trying to move up in the rankings. Alternatively, some competitive audits can be defensive, identifying a dominant player’s weaknesses so that they can be corrected to ensure continued high rankings.

It’s my hope that seeing this audit in action will help you better answer the question of why “this person is outranking that person,” and that you may share with our community some analytical tips of your own!

The scenario:

localseoaudit.jpg

Search term: Chinese Restaurant San Rafael

Statistics about San Rafael: A large town of approximately 22 square miles in the San Francisco Bay Area with a population of 58,954 and 15+ Chinese restaurants.

Consistency of results: From 20 miles away to 2000+ miles away, Ping’s Chinese Cuisine outranks Yet Wah Restaurant in Google’s local pack for the search term. We don’t look closer than 20 miles, or proximity of the searcher creates too much diversity.

The challenge: Why is Ping’s Chinese Cuisine outranking Yet Wah Restaurant in Google’s Local Pack for the search term?

The comparison chart

*Where there’s a clear winner, it’s noted in bolded, italicized text.

Basic business information

NAP

Ping’s Chinese Cuisine

248 Northgate Dr.

San Rafael, CA 94903

(415) 492-8808

Yet Wah Restaurant

1238 4th St.

San Rafael, CA 94901

(415) 460-9883

GMB landing page URL

http://ift.tt/2vUoOkb

http://ift.tt/1dQH9Lw

Local Pack rank

1

2

Organic rank

17

5

Organic rank among business-owned sites


*Remove directories and review platforms from the equation, as they typically shouldn’t be viewed as direct competitors

8

1

Business model eligible for GMB listing at this address?


*Check Google’s Guidelines if unsure: http://ift.tt/1Ag5qvp…

Yes

Yes

Oddities

Note that Ping’s has redirected pingschinesecuisine.com to pingsnorthgate.com. Ping’s also has a www and non-www version of pingsnorthgate.com.

A 2nd website for same business at same location with same phone number: http://ift.tt/2vUi4D5. This website is ranking directly below the authoritative (GMB-linked) website for this business in organic SERP for the search in question.

Business listings

GMB review count

32

38

GMB review rating

4.1

3.8

Most recent GMB review


*Sort GMB reviews by “most recent” filter

1 week ago

1 month ago

Proper GMB categories?

Yes

Yes

Estimated age of GMB listing


*Estimated by date of oldest reviews and photos, but can only be seen as an estimate

At least 2 years old

At least 6 years old

Moz Local score (completeness + accuracy + lack of duplicates)


*Tool: http://ift.tt/1jVt1Fe

49%

75%

Moz Local duplicate findings


*Tool: http://ift.tt/1jVt1Fe

0

1 (Facebook)

Keywords in GMB name

chinese

restaurant

Keywords in GMB website landing page title tag

Nothing at all. Just “home page”

Yes

Spam in GMB title


*Look at GMB photos, Google Streetview, and the website to check for inconsistencies

No

Yes: “restaurant” not in website logo or street level signage

Hours and photos on GMB?

Yes

Yes

Proximity to city centroid


*Look up city by name in Google Maps and see where it places the name of the city on the map. That’s the city “centroid.” Get driving directions from the business to an address located in the centroid.

3.5 miles

410.1 feet

Proximity to nearest competitor


*Zoom in on Google map to surface as many adjacent competitors as possible. Can be a Possum factor in some cases.

1.1 mile

0.2 miles

Within Google Maps boundaries?


*Look up city by name in Google Maps and note the pink border via which Google designates that city’s boundaries

Yes

Yes

Website

Age of domain


*Tool: http://ift.tt/1eS2KGO

March 2013

August 2011

Domain Authority


*Tool: http://ift.tt/29qXBeL

16

8

GMB Landing Page Authority


*Tool: http://ift.tt/29qXBeL

30

21

Links to domain

*Tool: http://ift.tt/1rfsq4g

53

2

DA/PA of most authoritative link earned


*Tool: http://ift.tt/1rfsq4g

72/32

38/16

Evaluation of website content

*This is a first-pass, visual gut check, just reading through the top-level pages of the website to see how they strike you in terms of quality.

Extremely thin, just adequate to identify restaurant. At least has menu on own site. Of the 2 sites, this one has the most total text, by virtue of a sentence on the homepage and menus in real text.

Extremely thin, almost zero text on homepage, menu link goes to another website.

Evaluation of website design

Outdated

Outdated, mostly images

Evaluation of website UX

Can be navigated, but few directives or CTAs

Can be navigated, but few directives or CTAs

Mobile-friendly


*Tool: http://ift.tt/2s7oXje

Basic mobile design, but Google’s mobile-friendly test tool says both www and non-www cannot be reached because it’s unavailable or blocked by robots txt. They have disallowed scripts, photos, Flash, images, and plugins. This needs to be further investigated and resolved. Mobile site URL is http://ift.tt/2x8ijsP. Both this URL and the other domains are failing Google’s test.

Basic mobile design passes Google’s mobile-friendly test

Evaluation of overall onsite SEO


*A first-pass visual look at the page code of top level pages, checking for titles, descriptions, header tags, schema, + the presence of problems like Flash.

Pretty much no optimization

Minimal, indeed, but a little bit of effort made. Some title tags, some schema, some header tags.

HTML NAP on website?

Yes

Yes

Website NAP matches GMB NAP?

No (Northgate One instead of Northgate Drive)

Yes

Total number of wins: Ping’s 7, Yet Wah 9.

Download your own version of my competitive audit spreadsheet by making a copy of the file.

Takeaways from the comparison chart

Yet Wah significantly outranks Ping’s in the organic results, but is being beaten by them in the Local Pack. Looking at the organic factors, we see evidence that, despite the fact that Ping’s has greater DA, greater PA of the GMB landing page, more links, and stronger links, they are not outranking Yet Wah organically. This is something of a surprise that leads us to look at their content and on-page SEO.

While Ping’s has slightly better text content on their website, they have almost done almost zero optimization work, their URLs have canonical issues, and their robots.txt isn’t properly configured. Yet Wah has almost no on-site content, but they have modestly optimized their title tags, implemented H tags and some schema, and their site passes Google’s mobile-friendly test.

So, our theory regarding Yet Wah’s superior organic ranking is that, in this particular case, Yet Wah’s moderate efforts with on-page SEO have managed to beat out Ping’s superior DA/PA/link metrics. Yet Wah’s website is also a couple of years older than Ping’s.

All that being said, Yet Wah’s organic win is failing to translate into a local win for them. How can we explain Ping’s local win? Ping’s has a slightly higher overall review rating, higher DA and GMB landing page PA, more total links, and higher authority links. They also have slightly more text content on their website, even if it’s not optimized.

So, our theory regarding Ping’s superior local rank is that, in this particular case, website authority/links appear to be winning the day for Ping’s. And the basic website text they have could possibly be contributing, despite lack of optimization.

In sum, basic on-page SEO appears to be contributing to Yet Wah’s organic win, while DA/PA/links appear to be contributing to Ping’s local win.

Things that bother me

I chose this competitive scenario at random, because when I took an initial look at the local and organic rankings, they bothered me a little. I would have expected Yet Wah to be first in the local pack if they were first in organic. I see local and organic rankings correlate strongly so much of the time, that this case seemed odd to me.

By the end of the audit, I’ve come up with a working theory, but I’m not 100% satisfied with it. It makes me ask questions like:

  • Is Ping’s better local rank stemming from some hidden factor no one knows about?
  • In this particular case, why is Google appearing to value Ping’s links more that Yet Wah’s on-page SEO in determining local rank? Would I see this same trend across the board if I analyzed 1,000 restaurants? The industry says links are huge in local SEO right now. I guess we’re seeing proof of that here.
  • Why isn’t Google weighting Yet Wah’s superior citation set more than they apparently are? Ping’s citations are in bad shape. I’ve seen citation health play a much greater apparent role in other audits, but something feels weird here.
  • Why isn’t Google “punishing” Yet Wah in the organic results for that second website with duplicate NAP on it? That seems like it should matter.
  • Why isn’t age factoring in more here? My inspection shows that Yet Wah’s domain and GMB listing are significantly older. This could be moving the organic needle for them, but it’s not moving the local one.
  • Could user behavior be making Ping’s the local winner? This is a huge open question at the end of my basic audit.* See below.

*I don’t have access to either restaurant’s Google Analytics, GMB Insights, or Google Search Console accounts, so perhaps that would turn up penalties, traffic patterns, or things like superior clicks-to-call, clicks-for-directions, or clicks-to-website that would make Ping’s local win easier to explain. If one of these restaurants were your client, you’d want to add chart rows for these things based on full access to the brand’s accounts and tools, and whatever data your tools can access about the competitor. For example, using a tool like SimilarWeb, I see that between May and June of this year, YetWah’s traffic rose from an average 150 monthly visits up to a peak of 500, while Ping’s saw a drop from 700 to 350 visits in that same period. Also, in a scenario in which one or both parties have a large or complex link profile, you might want additional rows for link metrics, taken from tools like Moz Pro, Ahrefs, or Majestic.

In this case, Ping’s has 7 total wins in my chart and Yet Wah has 9. The best I can do is look at which factors each business is winning at to try to identify a pattern of what Google is weighting most, both organically and locally. With both restaurants being so basic in their marketing, and with neither one absolutely running away with the game, what we have here is a close race. While I’d love to be able to declare a totally obvious winner, the best I could do as a consultant, in this case, would be to draw up a plan of defense or offense.

If my client were Ping’s:

Ping’s needs to defend its #1 local ranking if it doesn’t want to lose it. Its greatest weaknesses which must be resolved are:

  • The absence of on-page SEO
  • Thin content
  • Robots.txt issues

To remain strong, Ping’s should also work on:

  • Improving citation health
  • Directing the non-www version of their site to the www one
  • A professional site redesign could possibly improve conversions

Ping’s should accomplish these things to defend its current local rank and to try to move up organically.

If my client were Yet Wah:

Yet Wah needs to try to achieve victory over Ping’s in the local packs, as it has done in the organic results. To do that, Yet Wah should:

  • Earn links to the GMB landing page URL and the domain
  • Create strong text content on its high-level pages, including putting a complete dining menu in real text on the website
  • Deal with the second website featuring duplicate NAP

Yet Wah should also:

  • Complete work on its citation health
  • Work hard to get some new 5-star reviews by delighting customers with something special
  • Consider adding the word “Restaurant” to their signage, so that they can’t be reported for spamming the GMB name field.
  • Consider a professional redesign of the website to improve conversions

Yet Wah should accomplish these things in an effort to surpass Ping’s.

And, with either client being mine, I’d then be taking a second pass to further investigate anything problematic that came up in the initial audit, so that I could make further technical or creative suggestions.

Big geo-industry picture analysis

Given that no competitor for this particular search term has been able to beat out Ping’s or Yet Wah in the local pack, and given the minimal efforts these two brands have thus far made, there’s a tremendous chance for any Chinese restaurant in San Rafael to become the dominant player. Any competitor that dedicates itself to running on all cylinders (professional, optimized website with great content, a healthy link profile, a competitive number of high-star reviews, healthy citations, etc.) could definitely surpass all other contestants. This is not a tough market and there are no players who can’t be bested.

My sample case has been, as I’ve said, a close race. You may be facing an audit where there are deeply entrenched dominant players whose statistics far surpass those of a business you’re hoping to assist. But the basic process is the same:

  1. Look at the top-ranking business.
  2. Fill out the chart (adding any other fields you feel are important).
  3. Then discover the strengths of the dominant company, as well as its potential weaknesses.
  4. Contrast these findings with those you’ve charted for the company you’re helping and you’ll be able to form a plan for improvement.

And don’t forget the user proximity factor. Any company’s most adjacent customers will see pack results that vary either slightly or significantly from what a user sees from 20, 50, or 1,000 miles away. In my specific study, it happened to be the third result in the pack that went haywire once a user got 50 miles away, while the top two remained dominant and statically ranked for searchers as far away as the East Coast.

Because of this phenomenon of distance, it’s vital for business owners to be educated about the fact that they are serving two user groups: one that is located in the neighborhood or city of the business, and another that could be anywhere in the country or the world. This doesn’t just matter for destinations like hotels or public amusements. In California (a big state), Internet users on a road trip from Palm Springs may be looking to end their 500-mile drive at a Chinese restaurant in San Rafael, so you can’t just think hyper-locally; you’ve got to see the bigger local picture. And you’ve got to do the analysis to find ways of winning as often as you can with both consumer groups.

You take it from here, auditor!

My local competitive audit chart is a basic one, looking at 30+ factors. What would you add? How would you improve it? Did I miss a GMB duplicate listing, or review spam? What’s working best for your agency in doing local audits these days? Do you use a chart, or just provide a high-level text summary of your internal findings? And, if you have any further theories as to how Ping’s is winning the local pack, I’d love for you to share them in the comments.

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

from Moz Blog http://ift.tt/2xn9dYi

How to Perform a Basic Local Business Competitive Audit

Posted by MiriamEllis

“Why are those folks outranking me in Google’s local pack?”

If you or a client is asking this question, the answer lies in competitive analysis. You’ve got to stack Business A up against Business B to identify the strengths and weaknesses of both competitors, and then make an educated guess as to which factors Google is weighting most in the results for a specific search term.

Today, I’d like to share a real-world example of a random competitive audit, including a chart that depicts which factors I’ve investigated and explanatory tips and tools for how I came up with the numbers and facts. Also included: a downloadable version of the spreadsheet that you can use for your own company or clients. Your goal with this audit is to identify exactly how one player is winning the game so that you can create a to-do list for any company trying to move up in the rankings. Alternatively, some competitive audits can be defensive, identifying a dominant player’s weaknesses so that they can be corrected to ensure continued high rankings.

It’s my hope that seeing this audit in action will help you better answer the question of why “this person is outranking that person,” and that you may share with our community some analytical tips of your own!

The scenario:

localseoaudit.jpg

Search term: Chinese Restaurant San Rafael

Statistics about San Rafael: A large town of approximately 22 square miles in the San Francisco Bay Area with a population of 58,954 and 15+ Chinese restaurants.

Consistency of results: From 20 miles away to 2000+ miles away, Ping’s Chinese Cuisine outranks Yet Wah Restaurant in Google’s local pack for the search term. We don’t look closer than 20 miles, or proximity of the searcher creates too much diversity.

The challenge: Why is Ping’s Chinese Cuisine outranking Yet Wah Restaurant in Google’s Local Pack for the search term?

The comparison chart

*Where there’s a clear winner, it’s noted in bolded, italicized text.

Basic business information

NAP

Ping’s Chinese Cuisine

248 Northgate Dr.

San Rafael, CA 94903

(415) 492-8808

Yet Wah Restaurant

1238 4th St.

San Rafael, CA 94901

(415) 460-9883

GMB landing page URL

http://ift.tt/2vUoOkb

http://ift.tt/1dQH9Lw

Local Pack rank

1

2

Organic rank

17

5

Organic rank among business-owned sites


*Remove directories and review platforms from the equation, as they typically shouldn’t be viewed as direct competitors

8

1

Business model eligible for GMB listing at this address?


*Check Google’s Guidelines if unsure: http://ift.tt/1Ag5qvp…

Yes

Yes

Oddities

Note that Ping’s has redirected pingschinesecuisine.com to pingsnorthgate.com. Ping’s also has a www and non-www version of pingsnorthgate.com.

A 2nd website for same business at same location with same phone number: http://ift.tt/2vUi4D5. This website is ranking directly below the authoritative (GMB-linked) website for this business in organic SERP for the search in question.

Business listings

GMB review count

32

38

GMB review rating

4.1

3.8

Most recent GMB review


*Sort GMB reviews by “most recent” filter

1 week ago

1 month ago

Proper GMB categories?

Yes

Yes

Estimated age of GMB listing


*Estimated by date of oldest reviews and photos, but can only be seen as an estimate

At least 2 years old

At least 6 years old

Moz Local score (completeness + accuracy + lack of duplicates)


*Tool: http://ift.tt/1jVt1Fe

49%

75%

Moz Local duplicate findings


*Tool: http://ift.tt/1jVt1Fe

0

1 (Facebook)

Keywords in GMB name

chinese

restaurant

Keywords in GMB website landing page title tag

Nothing at all. Just “home page”

Yes

Spam in GMB title


*Look at GMB photos, Google Streetview, and the website to check for inconsistencies

No

Yes: “restaurant” not in website logo or street level signage

Hours and photos on GMB?

Yes

Yes

Proximity to city centroid


*Look up city by name in Google Maps and see where it places the name of the city on the map. That’s the city “centroid.” Get driving directions from the business to an address located in the centroid.

3.5 miles

410.1 feet

Proximity to nearest competitor


*Zoom in on Google map to surface as many adjacent competitors as possible. Can be a Possum factor in some cases.

1.1 mile

0.2 miles

Within Google Maps boundaries?


*Look up city by name in Google Maps and note the pink border via which Google designates that city’s boundaries

Yes

Yes

Website

Age of domain


*Tool: http://ift.tt/1eS2KGO

March 2013

August 2011

Domain Authority


*Tool: http://ift.tt/29qXBeL

16

8

GMB Landing Page Authority


*Tool: http://ift.tt/29qXBeL

30

21

Links to domain

*Tool: http://ift.tt/1rfsq4g

53

2

DA/PA of most authoritative link earned


*Tool: http://ift.tt/1rfsq4g

72/32

38/16

Evaluation of website content

*This is a first-pass, visual gut check, just reading through the top-level pages of the website to see how they strike you in terms of quality.

Extremely thin, just adequate to identify restaurant. At least has menu on own site. Of the 2 sites, this one has the most total text, by virtue of a sentence on the homepage and menus in real text.

Extremely thin, almost zero text on homepage, menu link goes to another website.

Evaluation of website design

Outdated

Outdated, mostly images

Evaluation of website UX

Can be navigated, but few directives or CTAs

Can be navigated, but few directives or CTAs

Mobile-friendly


*Tool: http://ift.tt/2s7oXje

Basic mobile design, but Google’s mobile-friendly test tool says both www and non-www cannot be reached because it’s unavailable or blocked by robots txt. They have disallowed scripts, photos, Flash, images, and plugins. This needs to be further investigated and resolved. Mobile site URL is http://ift.tt/2x8ijsP. Both this URL and the other domains are failing Google’s test.

Basic mobile design passes Google’s mobile-friendly test

Evaluation of overall onsite SEO


*A first-pass visual look at the page code of top level pages, checking for titles, descriptions, header tags, schema, + the presence of problems like Flash.

Pretty much no optimization

Minimal, indeed, but a little bit of effort made. Some title tags, some schema, some header tags.

HTML NAP on website?

Yes

Yes

Website NAP matches GMB NAP?

No (Northgate One instead of Northgate Drive)

Yes

Total number of wins: Ping’s 7, Yet Wah 9.

Download your own version of my competitive audit spreadsheet by making a copy of the file.

Takeaways from the comparison chart

Yet Wah significantly outranks Ping’s in the organic results, but is being beaten by them in the Local Pack. Looking at the organic factors, we see evidence that, despite the fact that Ping’s has greater DA, greater PA of the GMB landing page, more links, and stronger links, they are not outranking Yet Wah organically. This is something of a surprise that leads us to look at their content and on-page SEO.

While Ping’s has slightly better text content on their website, they have almost done almost zero optimization work, their URLs have canonical issues, and their robots.txt isn’t properly configured. Yet Wah has almost no on-site content, but they have modestly optimized their title tags, implemented H tags and some schema, and their site passes Google’s mobile-friendly test.

So, our theory regarding Yet Wah’s superior organic ranking is that, in this particular case, Yet Wah’s moderate efforts with on-page SEO have managed to beat out Ping’s superior DA/PA/link metrics. Yet Wah’s website is also a couple of years older than Ping’s.

All that being said, Yet Wah’s organic win is failing to translate into a local win for them. How can we explain Ping’s local win? Ping’s has a slightly higher overall review rating, higher DA and GMB landing page PA, more total links, and higher authority links. They also have slightly more text content on their website, even if it’s not optimized.

So, our theory regarding Ping’s superior local rank is that, in this particular case, website authority/links appear to be winning the day for Ping’s. And the basic website text they have could possibly be contributing, despite lack of optimization.

In sum, basic on-page SEO appears to be contributing to Yet Wah’s organic win, while DA/PA/links appear to be contributing to Ping’s local win.

Things that bother me

I chose this competitive scenario at random, because when I took an initial look at the local and organic rankings, they bothered me a little. I would have expected Yet Wah to be first in the local pack if they were first in organic. I see local and organic rankings correlate strongly so much of the time, that this case seemed odd to me.

By the end of the audit, I’ve come up with a working theory, but I’m not 100% satisfied with it. It makes me ask questions like:

  • Is Ping’s better local rank stemming from some hidden factor no one knows about?
  • In this particular case, why is Google appearing to value Ping’s links more that Yet Wah’s on-page SEO in determining local rank? Would I see this same trend across the board if I analyzed 1,000 restaurants? The industry says links are huge in local SEO right now. I guess we’re seeing proof of that here.
  • Why isn’t Google weighting Yet Wah’s superior citation set more than they apparently are? Ping’s citations are in bad shape. I’ve seen citation health play a much greater apparent role in other audits, but something feels weird here.
  • Why isn’t Google “punishing” Yet Wah in the organic results for that second website with duplicate NAP on it? That seems like it should matter.
  • Why isn’t age factoring in more here? My inspection shows that Yet Wah’s domain and GMB listing are significantly older. This could be moving the organic needle for them, but it’s not moving the local one.
  • Could user behavior be making Ping’s the local winner? This is a huge open question at the end of my basic audit.* See below.

*I don’t have access to either restaurant’s Google Analytics, GMB Insights, or Google Search Console accounts, so perhaps that would turn up penalties, traffic patterns, or things like superior clicks-to-call, clicks-for-directions, or clicks-to-website that would make Ping’s local win easier to explain. If one of these restaurants were your client, you’d want to add chart rows for these things based on full access to the brand’s accounts and tools, and whatever data your tools can access about the competitor. For example, using a tool like SimilarWeb, I see that between May and June of this year, YetWah’s traffic rose from an average 150 monthly visits up to a peak of 500, while Ping’s saw a drop from 700 to 350 visits in that same period. Also, in a scenario in which one or both parties have a large or complex link profile, you might want additional rows for link metrics, taken from tools like Moz Pro, Ahrefs, or Majestic.

In this case, Ping’s has 7 total wins in my chart and Yet Wah has 9. The best I can do is look at which factors each business is winning at to try to identify a pattern of what Google is weighting most, both organically and locally. With both restaurants being so basic in their marketing, and with neither one absolutely running away with the game, what we have here is a close race. While I’d love to be able to declare a totally obvious winner, the best I could do as a consultant, in this case, would be to draw up a plan of defense or offense.

If my client were Ping’s:

Ping’s needs to defend its #1 local ranking if it doesn’t want to lose it. Its greatest weaknesses which must be resolved are:

  • The absence of on-page SEO
  • Thin content
  • Robots.txt issues

To remain strong, Ping’s should also work on:

  • Improving citation health
  • Directing the non-www version of their site to the www one
  • A professional site redesign could possibly improve conversions

Ping’s should accomplish these things to defend its current local rank and to try to move up organically.

If my client were Yet Wah:

Yet Wah needs to try to achieve victory over Ping’s in the local packs, as it has done in the organic results. To do that, Yet Wah should:

  • Earn links to the GMB landing page URL and the domain
  • Create strong text content on its high-level pages, including putting a complete dining menu in real text on the website
  • Deal with the second website featuring duplicate NAP

Yet Wah should also:

  • Complete work on its citation health
  • Work hard to get some new 5-star reviews by delighting customers with something special
  • Consider adding the word “Restaurant” to their signage, so that they can’t be reported for spamming the GMB name field.
  • Consider a professional redesign of the website to improve conversions

Yet Wah should accomplish these things in an effort to surpass Ping’s.

And, with either client being mine, I’d then be taking a second pass to further investigate anything problematic that came up in the initial audit, so that I could make further technical or creative suggestions.

Big geo-industry picture analysis

Given that no competitor for this particular search term has been able to beat out Ping’s or Yet Wah in the local pack, and given the minimal efforts these two brands have thus far made, there’s a tremendous chance for any Chinese restaurant in San Rafael to become the dominant player. Any competitor that dedicates itself to running on all cylinders (professional, optimized website with great content, a healthy link profile, a competitive number of high-star reviews, healthy citations, etc.) could definitely surpass all other contestants. This is not a tough market and there are no players who can’t be bested.

My sample case has been, as I’ve said, a close race. You may be facing an audit where there are deeply entrenched dominant players whose statistics far surpass those of a business you’re hoping to assist. But the basic process is the same:

  1. Look at the top-ranking business.
  2. Fill out the chart (adding any other fields you feel are important).
  3. Then discover the strengths of the dominant company, as well as its potential weaknesses.
  4. Contrast these findings with those you’ve charted for the company you’re helping and you’ll be able to form a plan for improvement.

And don’t forget the user proximity factor. Any company’s most adjacent customers will see pack results that vary either slightly or significantly from what a user sees from 20, 50, or 1,000 miles away. In my specific study, it happened to be the third result in the pack that went haywire once a user got 50 miles away, while the top two remained dominant and statically ranked for searchers as far away as the East Coast.

Because of this phenomenon of distance, it’s vital for business owners to be educated about the fact that they are serving two user groups: one that is located in the neighborhood or city of the business, and another that could be anywhere in the country or the world. This doesn’t just matter for destinations like hotels or public amusements. In California (a big state), Internet users on a road trip from Palm Springs may be looking to end their 500-mile drive at a Chinese restaurant in San Rafael, so you can’t just think hyper-locally; you’ve got to see the bigger local picture. And you’ve got to do the analysis to find ways of winning as often as you can with both consumer groups.

You take it from here, auditor!

My local competitive audit chart is a basic one, looking at 30+ factors. What would you add? How would you improve it? Did I miss a GMB duplicate listing, or review spam? What’s working best for your agency in doing local audits these days? Do you use a chart, or just provide a high-level text summary of your internal findings? And, if you have any further theories as to how Ping’s is winning the local pack, I’d love for you to share them in the comments.

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

from Moz Blog http://ift.tt/2xn9dYi

Facebook Ads Manager vs Power Editor: Which Is Better?

Going from the world of boosted posts to bona fide Facebook Ads is like moving from a dank studio apartment in the basement of an alright Italian joint into a charming brownstone abutting well-manicured greenspace.  

Just like upgrading your digs, this leap comes with a slew of important, outcome-impacting questions.

“Duvet or comforter?”

“Do I need gargoyles?”

“Ads Manager or Power Editor?”

That last one’s a doozy.

 facebook ads manager vs power editor which is better

Facebook presents you with two different interfaces through which you can create and optimize your ads. Neophytes will naturally gravitate to Ads Manager, the de facto UI; know-it-alls like me see a name like “Power Editor” and think “that’s the place for me.”

Often, once a decision’s been made, we tend to stick with what we know, willfully ignoring the other option. Why learn two interfaces when you can master one, right?

Wrong.

To maximize the impact Facebook Ads can have on your business, you need to leverage the best parts of Ads Manager and Power Editor.

Today, I’m going to review exactly when you should use Facebook Ads Manager, when it’s better to switch over to Power Editor, and what to do if vacillating between two interfaces starts melting your brain.

First, though, a primer.

Facebook Ads Manager: Guided Creation

Per Facebook, Ads Manager is a tool that allows you to:

  • Create and run your ads
  • Target your ads to the people you care about
  • Set your budget
  • See how your ads are performing
  • See your billing summary

What a magical place!

Ads Manager is Facebook’s standard platform for all things creation, management, and optimization. It offers a more guided advertiser experience than Power Editor, which can be fantastic for those who are just dipping their toes into the world of digital marketing.

That being said: if you’ve cut your teeth in AdWords and you’re looking to skip straight to the good stuff, you’ll probably find Ads Manager a bit cumbersome. Once you wrap your head around Facebook’s nuances and your ad account becomes more robust, you’ll start to feel as though the training wheels have been on too long.

Enter Power Editor.

Facebook Power Editor: Paid Social, Expedited

Power Editor is a lot like—brace yourself—AdWords Editor.

It’s a browser-based tool (no download necessary!) that enables bulk action and, thus scalability, by streamlining processes like creation and duplication. There’s also the added benefit of a review process; since nothing you do in Power Editor can be pushed live without you explicitly approving it, the chances of you paying for a half-baked ad set are reduced significantly (this can be super helpful for novices). It aint pretty, but it sure is… powerful.

Power Editor has a steeper learning curve than Ads Manager, and the lack of guidance can make you feel lost until you have your footing. It’s also worth noting that Power Editor can be finicky (and by that, I mean buggy) due to the fact that it functions as a sandbox for new Facebook advertising features.

It’s framed as a tool for experts, a fact that’s corroborated by, well, experts. According to Facebook marketing savant Brett McHale, “Power editor has all of the capabilities of the ads manager but doesn’t treat you like a kid. It allows you to clone anything, to adjust multiple assets very easily without a clunky tutorial-like interface.”

Now that you’ve got an idea as to how Ads Manager and Power Editor differ, let’s look at where each tool shines.

Ads Manager Shines When it Comes to Account Overview

In Ads Manager, the Account Overview is a haven for all things data. It gives you the ability to generate simple visualizations for Facebook’s key performance metrics across any date range; better yet, you can bounce between four separate metrics without ever having to refresh the page (if you’re new, the little “I” icons next to the metrics you’re reviewing offer explanations and links to resources that can help you get up to speed).

facebook ads manager account overview tab 

This makes it easy to observe the impact of your optimization efforts at a higher level. I’d also like to point out the “Objective” box below the line graphs; this breaks your campaigns into groups based on the objective you chose at their inception; from here, drilling down into a specific campaign to make changes is a cinch.

But wait, there’s more!

Ads Manager’s Account Overview tab also allows you to look at those exact same metrics based on age, gender (or both simultaneously), and by either hour of day or region.

facebook ads manager overview tab gender age region data 

Power Editor, on the other hand, offers a rather sparse overview tab.

Account Overview in PE will only provide you with the first section available in Ads Manager:

 facebook power editor account overview tab

This makes sense given that PE is a tool built for creation, not analysis; if you’re using Power Editor for account building, you shouldn’t be leaning on it for high-level data analysis and reporting; instead, jump to Ads Manager to kick off any Facebook optimization efforts.

(Until it’s time to execute, that is.)

Power Editor: The Key to Efficient Campaign, Ad Set, and Ad Creation

The Account Overview tab should be the first place you land when after selecting a Facebook ad account in which to work. It isn’t (Zuck, if you’re reading this, take the free advice). Instead, when you decide to leave the familiar pasture of your business’ Facebook page in search of affordable leads, you’re dropped into Ads Manager’s “Campaign” tab.

facebook power editor campaign tab 

The Campaign tabs in both Ads Manager and Power Editor are ostensibly the same thing; both list your campaigns, active or otherwise, and provide the ability to customize columns. The only real differences between the two are that PE affords you the ability to view campaigns that are “in draft” (meaning unpublished) and export data to a spreadsheet.

In the Ad Set tab, Ads Manager offers you an array of interchangeable columns (like the campaign tab pictured above) but not much else…

facebook ads manager customization columns 

Whereas Power Editor provides a more robust set of actions here, including:

  • Quick duplicate and split audience
  • Quick edit (turn on, turn off, edit budget, edit name, find and replace)
  • Save audience
  • Export

And the all-powerful revert function:

facebook power editor custom columns 

Where Power Editor really takes the cake, though, is in the creation of new Campaigns and Ad Sets.

In Ads Manger, campaign creation is a guided process. You begin by choosing a campaign objective…

facebook ads manager select campaign objective 

From there, Facebook will guide you through the entire process of campaign creation; your progress can be tracked on this handy visual that lives on the left-hand side of the Ads Manager UI:

facebook ads manager creation hub 

This workflow takes a long while to get through, but after you’ve whittled your targeting down (easily the most time-consuming part of the whole ordeal, and for a good reason!), established a budget, and created an ad, you’ll wind up with a Facebook ad that looks like this:

 best facebook ads combine power editor and ads manager

With Power Editor, while the finished product will be the exact same, the process is virtually devoid of the helpful frills that make Ads Manager tick. Unless you want them to be there! See that bar on the right-hand side of the “Create Campaign” menu below? When you’re building a Campaign or Ad Set in Power Editor, you’re always given the opportunity to use guided creation (the term Facebook gives to the “Ads Manager way”).

facebook power editor guided creation ads 

Ad creation—from scratch—is identical in both Ads Manager and Power Editor (check out the Facebook Creative Hub for inspiration), but what happens when you’re trying to generate variants quickly?

You use Power Editor, duh.

When you duplicate an existing ad in Ads Manager, Facebook populates a nifty little order screen. While it’s certainly fantastic to know that you’re about to spend money, having to do this click through the purchase options every time you want to conduct an A/B test is a massive pain in the ass.

facebook ads manager place an order 

In Power Editor, though, this isn’t the case.

All you need to do is select the ad(s) you want to duplicate and designate which Campaign and Ad Set you want he duplicate creatives to live in (or you can create new ones):

 facebook power editor duplicate ads

Once your new ad variants are tweaked to your liking, all you need to do is press the “Review Draft Items” button at the top of your Power Editor UI (note: if your new ads suck, there’s also a “Discard Changes” option; this doesn’t exist in Ads Manager) to review your changes in aggregate:

facebook power editor review draft before publishing 

If you feel like you’ve got a handle on Facebook Advertising and you value speed and precision, Power Editor is the place for you; if you’re learning the ropes, consider playing around with Ads Manager until you get comfortable. Either way, if you’re planning to launch any sort of split-testing, you’re better off getting down with Power Editor.

Ads Manager: Effective Account Optimization Lives Here

Outside of ad testing, optimization in Facebook is focalized around audience, bid, and budget management. Where do you think the best place to do those things is?

“Ads Manager. All. Day.” – Brett, the aforementioned Facebook Ads aficionado, on whether to optimize performance in Ads Manager or Power Editor.

You see, while Power Editor is the perfect tool for crafting an account and generating ad creative efficiently, Ads Manager is equally great for admiring your handiwork and making high-level adjustments.

facebook ads review budget screencap 

As I mentioned earlier, the Account Overview tab in Ads Manager affords you a more insightful, uh, overview of your account. From there, you can quickly drill into groups of campaigns based on their common objective and shift budgets/adjust bids based on performance over a given period. If something isn’t working as planned, Ads Manager is going to tell you about it.

The Best of Both Worlds

As I’ve shown you today, the best way to manage your Facebook Ads account is to blend Ads Manager (overview and optimization) and Power Editor (creation) in your workflow.

If, in addition to your current PPC workload, switching between two interfaces for Facebook alone sounds daunting, I might have a little something to help you improve your results without increasing your effort.

wordstream advisor combines facebook ads google adwords and bing into one platform 

WordStream Advisor allows you to roll Facebook, AdWords, and Bing into a single interface, pulling cross-platform performance metrics into one easy-to-use dashboard.

About the Author

Allen Finn is a content marketing specialist and the reigning fantasy football champion at WordStream. He enjoys couth menswear, dank eats, and the dulcet tones of the Wu-Tang Clan. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll follow him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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24 Instagram Marketing Tools for More Followers, Likes & Sales

As Instagram marketing becomes less of a choice and more of a necessity for your business, it can be frustrating to have yet another social media account to post content to and promote – especially because Instagram is in a league of its own with its focus on image-based content, less room for text, and a limited ability to link to your website. What’s an Instagrammer to do?

best instagram marketing tools

Luckily, we have you covered! Although this list of Instagram marketing tools is simply a drop in the ocean of what’s out there at your disposal, we tried to pick the very best to drive your Instagram success.

Instagram Tools for Filtering Your Images

These tools go above and beyond Instagram’s native filters to get your photos looking their best before you post them to your feed.

VSCO

This is the app that your most hipster of friends probably uses – with a link to it in their Instagram profile.

vsco for instagram

A “community and tool for creators,” VSCO gives you the power to edit your photos and get them double-exposure: on Instagram and the VSCO app.

Cost: Free

Wordswag & Typorama & Over

You know that friend in your Instagram feed that is constantly posting inspirational quotes, but you can’t tell if they’re graffiti or not? They could be using any of these three tools.

instagram editing tools

I like to think of them as the Canva of Instagram – they will add a text overlay to any picture, which is helpful for those accounts that might not have particularly great photography skills.

Cost: Free

Enlight

This crazy-cool app lets you “unleash your creativity” and edit your photos to look other-worldly (if that’s what you’re aiming for). Personally, if I were cool enough, I would use this all the time—it’s perfect for a small business that doesn’t have the best photography skills and needs some special help before posting. 

instagram tools for marketers

Cost: $3.99

Afterlight

Afterlight is an Instagram tool that is like Enlight – but not quite. If you find yourself wanting more filters than Instagram offers, this is the right tool for you.

instagram filter tools

Afterlight boasts 128 frames, 78 natural textures, and 74 unique filters. Find your favorite and brand your Instagram!

Cost: $0.99

Facetune

There was a bit of a craze over Facetune a few years ago, but it hasn’t gone out of style just yet. This app will let you “photoshop” faces before posting the photo on Instagram. I imagine this comes in handy if you’re posting interviews or close-ups of employees, or if you’re in a service business like a salon.

instagram tools facetune

Cost: $3.99

Scheduling Tools for Instagram Marketing

When you’re running an Instagram account for a business versus your personal use, it can be a huge help to plan out a calendar of posts

Hootsuite

If you’ve ever read our posts about social media, you have heard me sing Hootsuite’s praises before. It not only syncs up to your other social media accounts, but it has now incorporated Instagram as well. Though you cannot directly schedule posts, they allow you to respond to comments on your Instagram posts, repost, view likes, etc. from the Hootsuite interface.

Cost: Starts at $19/month for one user or $99/month for 3 users

Buffer

Buffer also integrates with Instagram, and you can set it up to send a notification to your phone with your edited photo and prewritten caption saved to a clipboard, so it’s all ready to be posted in your feed.

buffer instagram tools

Cost: Freemium model with more options starting at $10/month

ScheduGram

For me, ScheduGram is the most interesting tool on this list. They’re fascinatingly old-school—the website references carrying multiple phones to access different accounts—and they use a physical pool of phones to post for you. Curious allure aside, it does work!

Cost: $20/month for one Instagram account

Later

This Instagram marketing tool claims to be the #1 Marketing Platform for Instagram and I have yet to find evidence to dispute that. What makes Later so simple and awesome is the ability to visually plan a calendar of posts—how appropriate for a visual social media platform—and they are one of the few platforms that has managed to break into Instagram to post in real-time for you. You can also use Later with Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!

later for instagram marketing

Cost: Free

Hopper

Hopper advertises itself as “The Ultimate Instagram Scheduler,” which manages everything from posting to multiple accounts, editing photos, reposting, commenting, and more. Best part? It can all be managed from your desktop; because let’s be real, being bent over a mobile screen at work isn’t a good look.

Cost: Starts at $19/month for one account

Promotional Tools for Instagram Marketing

These tools are what you need if you’re promoting an e-commerce business on Instagram. You want people to be able to buy what you’re selling, right? Right!

Foursixty & Soldsie & Like2Buy

You know how annoying it is when you see something you desperately want to buy on Instagram – but it’s not an ad, so you can’t click on it? Then the post says “link in bio” but it’s from 2 weeks ago, so the link isn’t there anymore? The struggle is real.

These Instagram marketing tools are the most fun! They allow you to turn your Instagram content into shoppable galleries—something that you normally have to pay for through Facebook advertising! Bonus: all of these brands are backed up by a bunch of big names who use them; it’s perfect for clothing boutiques, online jewelers, and the like.

instagram e-commerce marketing tools

Cost: These start at about $50/month

Facebook Power Editor

Since Facebook pulled the trigger and bought Instagram, we have been able to specifically build out ads for Instagram. Make sure you’re not overlooking this powerful tool! It’s seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people forget to link up their Instagram account to their Facebook Business Manager. Turning Facebook ads into Instagram ads is as easy as flipping a switch.

Cost: Free

Instagram Analytics Tools

Here’s where you get to see how your posts are doing and watch your Instagram following grow!

SocialRank

This Instagram marketing tool helps you control your followers – you’ll know who is following you and who you’re following back, plus see how your account stacks up to others in terms of influence. If you’re trying to grow your Instagram followers, this is a tool that you need.

Cost: Free

SocialInsight.io & Ink361

While these tools could fall into the scheduling section, they also can provide some pretty powerful analytics insights and help organize your followers. All the KPIs you should be tracking, you can find here. Ink361 also has a pretty cool feature that helps you monitor your competition!

best instagram analytics tools

Cost: Ink361 is FREE, SocialInsight starts at $29/month

Iconosquare

While Iconosquare can do most of the above scheduling and organizing tasks, the real draw here is the Instagram influencer identification. It’ll help you identify which influencers would be best for your business – something that could be powerful at helping grow your brand on Instagram.

Cost: Starts at $81/year

SproutSocial

SproutSocial is a tool that is a bit ahead of the curve—and for mature audiences only. Kidding, but it is definitely for Instagram marketers who are already deep in the weeds. It’s a social CRM tool (whoa) that helps you engage on social, schedule posts, and analyze your performance but also has a ton of extras like customer support, a “smart inbox,” and team collaboration.

Cost: Starts at $99/month

Extra: 3 More Instagram Marketing Tools to Know

Instagram Feed WD

You know those cool, modern-looking websites that feature their Instagram feeds at the bottom? Looks so seamless and classy.

instagram feed website plugin

You’re in luck, if your website is built on WordPress, because there is a plug-in for that! This gallery for WordPress takes a bit of installation but is guaranteed to drive people to your Instagram (if it looks pretty enough from all those filter tools I suggested…).

Cost: Free

Crowdfire

Crowdfire is the Instagram marketing tool that does the thinking for you. Awesome, right? It will send you suggested posts and what time to post them; you can just watch the profits roll in.

Cost: Free

Repost

An essential tool for any Instagrammer, repost is the source of that tiny square recycle-looking symbol on celebrity posts and the origin of the hashtag #repost. This handy-dandy tool will allow you to repost other people’s Instagrams to your own account, without having to annoyingly screenshot, re-crop, re-filter, and re-caption them.

Cost: Free

About the Author:

Mary manages Content Marketing & Demand Gen at Fluent, LLC. When she’s not selling intangible things on the internet, she’s most likely to be found eating extra-cheesy pizza while planning her next trip. Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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The Perfect Blog Post Length and Publishing Frequency is B?!!$#÷x – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

The perfect blog post length or publishing frequency doesn’t actually exist. “Perfect” isn’t universal — your content’s success depends on tons of personalized factors. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand explains why the idea of “perfect” is baloney when it comes to your blog, and lists what you should actually be looking for in a successful publishing strategy.

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the perfect blog post length and frequency

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

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about blog posts and, more broadly, content length and publishing frequency.

So these are things where a lot of the posts that you might read, for example, if you were to Google “ideal blog post length” or “ideal publishing frequency” will give you data and information that come from these sources of here’s the average length of content of the top 10 results in Google across a 5,000-keyword set, and you can see that somewhere between 2,350 and 2,425 words is the ideal length, so that’s what you should aim for.

I am going to call a big fat helping if baloney on that. It’s not only dead wrong, it’s really misleading. In fact, I get frustrated when I see these types of charts used to justify this information, because that’s not right at all.

When you see charts/data like this used to provide prescriptive, specific targets for content length, ask:

Any time you see this, if you see a chart or data like this to suggest, hey, this is how long you should make a post because here’s the length of the average thing in the top 10, you should ask very careful questions like:

1. What set of keywords does this apply to? Is this a big, broad set of 5,000 keywords, and some of them are navigational and some of them are informational and some of them are transactional and maybe a few of them are ecommerce keywords and a few of them are travel related and a few of them are in some other sector?

Because honestly, what does that mean? That’s sort of meaningless, right? Especially if the standard deviation is quite high. If we’re talking about like, oh, well many things that actually did rank number one were somewhere between 500 words and 15,000 words. Well, so what does the average tell me? How is that helpful? That’s not actually useful or prescriptive information. In fact, it’s almost misleading to make that prescriptive.

2. Do the keywords that I care about, the ones that I’m targeting, do they have similar results? Does the chart look the same? If you were to take a sample of let’s say 50 keywords that you cared about and you were to get the average content length of the top 10 results, would it resemble that? Would it not? Does it have a high standard deviation? Is there a big delta because some keywords require a lot of content to answer them fully and some keywords require very, very small amounts of content and Google has prioritized accordingly? Is it wise, then, to aim for the average when a much larger article would be much more appreciated and be much more likely to succeed, or a much shorter one would do far better? Why are you aiming for this average if that’s the case?

3. Is correlation the same as causation? The answer is hell no. Never has been. Big fat no. Correlation doesn’t even necessarily imply causation. In fact, I would say that any time you’re looking at an average, especially on this type of stuff, correlation and causation are totally separate. It is not because the number one result is 2,450 words that it happens to rank number one. Google does not work that way. Never has, never will.

INSTEAD of trusting these big, unknown keyword set averages, you should:

A. look at your keywords and your search results and what’s working versus not in those specific ones.

B. Be willing to innovate, be willing to say, “Hey, you know what? I see this content today, the number one, number two, number three rankings are in these sorts of averages. But I actually think you can answer this with much shorter content and many searchers would appreciate it.” I think these folks, who are currently ranking, are over-content creating, and they don’t need to be.

C. You should match your goals and your content goals with searcher goals. That’s how you should determine the length that you should put in there. If you are trying to help someone solve a very specific problem and it is an easily answerable question and you’re trying to get the featured snippet, you probably don’t need thousands of words of content. Likewise, if you are trying to solve a very complex query and you have a ton of resources and information that no one else has access to, you’ve done some really unique work, this may be way too short for what you’re aiming for.

All right. Let’s switch over to publishing frequency, where you can probably guess I’m going to give you similar information. A lot of times you’ll see, “How often should I publish? Oh, look, people who publish 11 times or more per month, they get way more traffic than people who publish only once a month. Therefore, clearly, I should publish 11 or more times a month.”

Why is the cutoff at 11? Does that make any sense to you? Are these visits all valuable to all the companies that were part of whatever survey was in here? Did one blog post account for most of the traffic in the 11 plus, and it’s just that the other 10 happened to be posts where they were practicing or trying to get good, and it was just one that kind of shot out of the park there?

See a chart like this? Ask:

1. Who’s in the set of sites analyzed? Are they similar to me? Do they target a similar audience? Are they in my actual sector? What’s the relative quality of the content? How savvy and targeted are the efforts at earning traffic? Is this guy over here, are we sure that all 11 posts were just as good as the one post this person created? Because if not, I’m comparing apples and oranges.

2. What’s the quality of the traffic? What’s the value of the traffic? Maybe this person is getting a ton of really valuable traffic, and this person over here is getting very little. You can’t tell from a chart like this, especially when it’s averaged in this way.

3. What things might matter more than raw frequency?

  • Well, matching your goals to your content schedule. If one of your goals is to build up subscribers, like Whiteboard Friday where people know it and they’ve heard of it, they have a brand association with it, it’s called Whiteboard Friday, it should probably come out once a week on Friday. There’s a frequency implied in the content, and that makes sense. But you might have goals that only demand publishing once a quarter or once a month or once a week or once every day. That’s okay. But you should tie those together.
  • Consistency, we have found, is almost always more important than raw frequency, especially if you’re trying to build up that consistent audience and a subscriber base. So I would focus on that, not how I should publish more often, but I should publish more consistently so that people will get used to my publishing schedule and will look forward to what I have to say, and also so that you can build up a cadence for yourself and your organization.
  • Crafting posts that actually earn attention and amplification and help your conversion funnel goals, whatever those might be, over raw traffic. It’s far better if this person got 50 new visits who turned into 5 new paying customers, than this person who published 11 posts and got 1 new paying customer out of all 11. That’s a lot more work and expense for a lot less ROI. I’d be careful about that.

*ASIDE:

One aside I would say about publishing frequency. If you’re early stage, or if you were trying to build a career in blogging or in publishing, it’s great to publish a lot of content. Great writers become great because they write a lot of terrible crap, and then they improve. The same is true with web publishers.

If you look at Whiteboard Friday number one, or a blog post number one from me, you’re going to see pretty miserable stuff. But over time, by publishing quite a bit, I got better at it. So if that is your goal, yes, publishing a lot of content, more than you probably need, more than your customers or audience probably needs, is good practice for you, and it will help you get better.

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

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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The Indispensable Welcome Email and How to Get It Right

I recently came across a retail brand and fell in love with the quirky products they were offering. Being a savvy shopper (and email marketer), I signed up for their mailing list…and there it came—a welcome email telling me about the brand, what I can expect in their future emails, and, of course, a welcome discount! Perfect!

The welcome email is the first email from a business to the newly added subscriber in their family. It is not only an instant notification of successful subscription but a great chance to connect with the potential customer and understand what they like or dislike. In fact, we’ve found that welcome emails have on average 4x the open rate and 5x the click-through rate of a standard email marketing campaign. That’s powerful stuff.

welcome email stats

An email this critical needs to be done right. Here are four ways you can build and improve your welcome email.

1. Be Quick About It

Immediacy is key in good welcome emails. In fact, 74% of consumers expect a welcome email as soon as they subscribe. With this expectation, wouldn’t you want to make the most of this engagement? Send a prompt welcome email that assures subscribers of a successful sign-up while also starting a great conversation.

Need more reason to be quick? Consider this: 45% of first-time purchases by new subscribers happen within 24 hours of sign-up.

2. Personalize It

We’re in an era of personalization and you need to go beyond just “Hey [First Name].”

welcome email optimization

At sign-up, ask for more information than just an email address or a first name. For example, ask for a zip code. This can be used in the welcome email through information about local stores (populated through dynamic content).

If you don’t want to collect information on the front end, make use of the unparalleled attention welcome emails receive to ask for more information in the email itself. Every additional data point you can gather can be useful in terms of list segmentation and relevant content delivery further down the line.

3. Keep Your Promise

Keep every promise you make and only make those you can keep. If you promise a sign-up incentive, information, or deal, deliver it. And keep any promises you make in the welcome email later as well. Any good relationship is built on trust—don’t abuse yours.

4. Keep It Simple

Well over half of all emails are now opened on mobile devices. With smaller screens and even smaller attention spans to deal with, you need to ensure that your welcome email is focused on greeting the new subscriber, telling them (briefly) about your brand, and pointing to your desired call to action.

Simply put, though, you likely can’t tell them everything about you in one email. If you want to tell your subscribers more, a welcome email series is a great option.

What Goes Into a Great Welcome Email Series

A welcome email series can work wonders for your email marketing program. Listrak tracked the email campaigns of 1000 top retail companies and found that a welcome email series generated more revenue on average than that of a single (or no) welcome email.

The FIRST email

Tip: Your first welcome email should go out immediately after a new subscriber signs up.

This first correspondence should include a simple thank you or welcome note. If you promised a discount code or incentive, deliver it now.

Give subscribers an idea about the frequency at which you’ll be sending your emails. If you’re set up with one, provide a link to a preference center so subscribers can set their own frequency preferences.

Most of all, this first email (and really, all of your welcome emails) should be an extension of your brand and a solid introduction into becoming a part of it.

Uncommon Goods does this introduction nicely in a series of emails to new subscribers.

This first email welcomes the subscriber and gives them a peek into the brand’s story, artisans, and their ethics and values.

welcome email examples

The SECOND email

Tip: Send this email 1-2 days after the first email.

This is a great time to get to know a little more about your subscriber by asking them for additional information like birthday, preferences, location, etc. As previously said, the more information you have, the better you can segment your list and send them more targeted, relevant content.

Alternatively, this email can also introduce your product categories or services offered, just like in this second email I received from Uncommon Goods.

welcome email series example

The THIRD email

Tip: Send this email roughly 2-3 days after you send your second email.

An excellent use of this message can be to connect your new subscribers to other platforms, like Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest—really anywhere you have an established, active presence. Getting your email subscribers to follow you on other platforms will help turn them into loyal brand advocates.

A wonderful example of this principle in action is this third email I received from Uncommon Goods.

how to send a welcome email

NOTE: Depending on your send frequency for your normal marketing emails, you may want to exclude new subscribers from your regular mailing schedule until they have completed your welcome series. This will help ensure you don’t overmail folks right away.

Welcome Emails: The Bottom Line

If you currently have no immediate welcome email going out to new subscribers, get one in place as soon as possible. You are missing out on a chance to deliver a great first impression, not to mention lots of revenue.

If you have a welcome email but want to deliver more content early on, a welcome series is a great solution. Use this opportunity to craft compelling content that will cement a strong foundation for a long-lasting subscriber relationship.

About the Author

Scott Cohen is the VP of Marketing at InboxArmy, full-service email marketing agency. He has been living and breathing email marketing since 2007. With both agency and client-side end-user experience, Scott brings a unique perspective to email marketing that combines best practices with real-world-tested strategy and tactics.

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