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Don’t Be Fooled by Data: 4 Data Analysis Pitfalls & How to Avoid Them

Posted by Tom.Capper

Digital marketing is a proudly data-driven field. Yet, as SEOs especially, we often have such incomplete or questionable data to work with, that we end up jumping to the wrong conclusions in our attempts to substantiate our arguments or quantify our issues and opportunities.

In this post, I’m going to outline 4 data analysis pitfalls that are endemic in our industry, and how to avoid them.

1. Jumping to conclusions

Earlier this year, I conducted a ranking factor study around brand awareness, and I posted this caveat:

“…the fact that Domain Authority (or branded search volume, or anything else) is positively correlated with rankings could indicate that any or all of the following is likely:

  • Links cause sites to rank well
  • Ranking well causes sites to get links
  • Some third factor (e.g. reputation or age of site) causes sites to get both links and rankings”
    ~ Me

However, I want to go into this in a bit more depth and give you a framework for analyzing these yourself, because it still comes up a lot. Take, for example, this recent study by Stone Temple, which you may have seen in the Moz Top 10 or Rand’s tweets, or this excellent article discussing SEMRush’s recent direct traffic findings. To be absolutely clear, I’m not criticizing either of the studies, but I do want to draw attention to how we might interpret them.

Firstly, we do tend to suffer a little confirmation bias — we’re all too eager to call out the cliché “correlation vs. causation” distinction when we see successful sites that are keyword-stuffed, but all too approving when we see studies doing the same with something we think is or was effective, like links.

Secondly, we fail to critically analyze the potential mechanisms. The options aren’t just causation or coincidence.

Before you jump to a conclusion based on a correlation, you’re obliged to consider various possibilities:

  • Complete coincidence
  • Reverse causation
  • Joint causation
  • Linearity
  • Broad applicability

If those don’t make any sense, then that’s fair enough — they’re jargon. Let’s go through an example:

Before I warn you not to eat cheese because you may die in your bedsheets, I’m obliged to check that it isn’t any of the following:

  • Complete coincidence – Is it possible that so many datasets were compared, that some were bound to be similar? Why, that’s exactly what Tyler Vigen did! Yes, this is possible.
  • Reverse causation – Is it possible that we have this the wrong way around? For example, perhaps your relatives, in mourning for your bedsheet-related death, eat cheese in large quantities to comfort themselves? This seems pretty unlikely, so let’s give it a pass. No, this is very unlikely.
  • Joint causation – Is it possible that some third factor is behind both of these? Maybe increasing affluence makes you healthier (so you don’t die of things like malnutrition), and also causes you to eat more cheese? This seems very plausible. Yes, this is possible.
  • Linearity – Are we comparing two linear trends? A linear trend is a steady rate of growth or decline. Any two statistics which are both roughly linear over time will be very well correlated. In the graph above, both our statistics are trending linearly upwards. If the graph was drawn with different scales, they might look completely unrelated, like this, but because they both have a steady rate, they’d still be very well correlated. Yes, this looks likely.
  • Broad applicability – Is it possible that this relationship only exists in certain niche scenarios, or, at least, not in my niche scenario? Perhaps, for example, cheese does this to some people, and that’s been enough to create this correlation, because there are so few bedsheet-tangling fatalities otherwise? Yes, this seems possible.

So we have 4 “Yes” answers and one “No” answer from those 5 checks.

If your example doesn’t get 5 “No” answers from those 5 checks, it’s a fail, and you don’t get to say that the study has established either a ranking factor or a fatal side effect of cheese consumption.

A similar process should apply to case studies, which are another form of correlation — the correlation between you making a change, and something good (or bad!) happening. For example, ask:

  • Have I ruled out other factors (e.g. external demand, seasonality, competitors making mistakes)?
  • Did I increase traffic by doing the thing I tried to do, or did I accidentally improve some other factor at the same time?
  • Did this work because of the unique circumstance of the particular client/project?

This is particularly challenging for SEOs, because we rarely have data of this quality, but I’d suggest an additional pair of questions to help you navigate this minefield:

  • If I were Google, would I do this?
  • If I were Google, could I do this?

Direct traffic as a ranking factor passes the “could” test, but only barely — Google could use data from Chrome, Android, or ISPs, but it’d be sketchy. It doesn’t really pass the “would” test, though — it’d be far easier for Google to use branded search traffic, which would answer the same questions you might try to answer by comparing direct traffic levels (e.g. how popular is this website?).

2. Missing the context

If I told you that my traffic was up 20% week on week today, what would you say? Congratulations?

What if it was up 20% this time last year?

What if I told you it had been up 20% year on year, up until recently?

It’s funny how a little context can completely change this. This is another problem with case studies and their evil inverted twin, traffic drop analyses.

If we really want to understand whether to be surprised at something, positively or negatively, we need to compare it to our expectations, and then figure out what deviation from our expectations is “normal.” If this is starting to sound like statistics, that’s because it is statistics — indeed, I wrote about a statistical approach to measuring change way back in 2015.

If you want to be lazy, though, a good rule of thumb is to zoom out, and add in those previous years. And if someone shows you data that is suspiciously zoomed in, you might want to take it with a pinch of salt.

3. Trusting our tools

Would you make a multi-million dollar business decision based on a number that your competitor could manipulate at will? Well, chances are you do, and the number can be found in Google Analytics. I’ve covered this extensively in other places, but there are some major problems with most analytics platforms around:

  • How easy they are to manipulate externally
  • How arbitrarily they group hits into sessions
  • How vulnerable they are to ad blockers
  • How they perform under sampling, and how obvious they make this

For example, did you know that the Google Analytics API v3 can heavily sample data whilst telling you that the data is unsampled, above a certain amount of traffic (~500,000 within date range)? Neither did I, until we ran into it whilst building Distilled ODN.

Similar problems exist with many “Search Analytics” tools. My colleague Sam Nemzer has written a bunch about this — did you know that most rank tracking platforms report completely different rankings? Or how about the fact that the keywords grouped by Google (and thus tools like SEMRush and STAT, too) are not equivalent, and don’t necessarily have the volumes quoted?

It’s important to understand the strengths and weaknesses of tools that we use, so that we can at least know when they’re directionally accurate (as in, their insights guide you in the right direction), even if not perfectly accurate. All I can really recommend here is that skilling up in SEO (or any other digital channel) necessarily means understanding the mechanics behind your measurement platforms — which is why all new starts at Distilled end up learning how to do analytics audits.

One of the most common solutions to the root problem is combining multiple data sources, but…

4. Combining data sources

There are numerous platforms out there that will “defeat (not provided)” by bringing together data from two or more of:

  • Analytics
  • Search Console
  • AdWords
  • Rank tracking

The problems here are that, firstly, these platforms do not have equivalent definitions, and secondly, ironically, (not provided) tends to break them.

Let’s deal with definitions first, with an example — let’s look at a landing page with a channel:

  • In Search Console, these are reported as clicks, and can be vulnerable to heavy, invisible sampling when multiple dimensions (e.g. keyword and page) or filters are combined.
  • In Google Analytics, these are reported using last non-direct click, meaning that your organic traffic includes a bunch of direct sessions, time-outs that resumed mid-session, etc. That’s without getting into dark traffic, ad blockers, etc.
  • In AdWords, most reporting uses last AdWords click, and conversions may be defined differently. In addition, keyword volumes are bundled, as referenced above.
  • Rank tracking is location specific, and inconsistent, as referenced above.

Fine, though — it may not be precise, but you can at least get to some directionally useful data given these limitations. However, about that “(not provided)”…

Most of your landing pages get traffic from more than one keyword. It’s very likely that some of these keywords convert better than others, particularly if they are branded, meaning that even the most thorough click-through rate model isn’t going to help you. So how do you know which keywords are valuable?

The best answer is to generalize from AdWords data for those keywords, but it’s very unlikely that you have analytics data for all those combinations of keyword and landing page. Essentially, the tools that report on this make the very bold assumption that a given page converts identically for all keywords. Some are more transparent about this than others.

Again, this isn’t to say that those tools aren’t valuable — they just need to be understood carefully. The only way you could reliably fill in these blanks created by “not provided” would be to spend a ton on paid search to get decent volume, conversion rate, and bounce rate estimates for all your keywords, and even then, you’ve not fixed the inconsistent definitions issues.

Bonus peeve: Average rank

I still see this way too often. Three questions:

  1. Do you care more about losing rankings for ten very low volume queries (10 searches a month or less) than for one high volume query (millions plus)? If the answer isn’t “yes, I absolutely care more about the ten low-volume queries”, then this metric isn’t for you, and you should consider a visibility metric based on click through rate estimates.
  2. When you start ranking at 100 for a keyword you didn’t rank for before, does this make you unhappy? If the answer isn’t “yes, I hate ranking for new keywords,” then this metric isn’t for you — because that will lower your average rank. You could of course treat all non-ranking keywords as position 100, as some tools allow, but is a drop of 2 average rank positions really the best way to express that 1/50 of your landing pages have been de-indexed? Again, use a visibility metric, please.
  3. Do you like comparing your performance with your competitors? If the answer isn’t “no, of course not,” then this metric isn’t for you — your competitors may have more or fewer branded keywords or long-tail rankings, and these will skew the comparison. Again, use a visibility metric.

Conclusion

Hopefully, you’ve found this useful. To summarize the main takeaways:

  • Critically analyse correlations & case studies by seeing if you can explain them as coincidences, as reverse causation, as joint causation, through reference to a third mutually relevant factor, or through niche applicability.
  • Don’t look at changes in traffic without looking at the context — what would you have forecasted for this period, and with what margin of error?
  • Remember that the tools we use have limitations, and do your research on how that impacts the numbers they show. “How has this number been produced?” is an important component in “What does this number mean?”
  • If you end up combining data from multiple tools, remember to work out the relationship between them — treat this information as directional rather than precise.

Let me know what data analysis fallacies bug you, in the comments below.

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Every Important Google Algorithm Update Since 2003

To the everyday user, Google’s search engine might seem pretty unremarkable. Type in “corgi,” and you’re going to get a bunch of corgi-related results. You’ll see a page called, “10 Facts about Corgis You Paw-bibly Didn’t Know.” You’ll see a Knowledge Panel featuring the life span and temperament of the Pembroke Welsh Corgi. You’ll get a dropdown suggestion for the query, “corgi butt.” These aren’t tremendous cognitive leaps. The goal of Google Search is to provide you with results from which you’ll derive value. Most reasonable people value corgi butts.

Fact is, however, that Google’s search algorithm didn’t always have such a keen understanding of what most people find valuable. It’s evolved quite a bit over the years. Our goal today is to paint a more in depth picture of that evolution.

Below is a to-date list of the most impactful Google algorithm updates since 2003. We’ll keep adding to this list as time rolls along.

Let’s hop in!

Google Fred Update – March 2017

Google Algorithm Update Fred

Image via Search Engine Roundtable

Google’s “Fred” Update (unofficially named) occurs in March of 2017. Its purpose is to crack down on sites that prioritize monetization over user experience. The name “Fred” is arbitrary, and is jokingly assigned by Google analytics expert Gary Illyes. The results of the update are not arbitrary.

Google Algorithm Update Visibility

Image via GSQi

Sites with low quality user engagement—thin content, content heavily geared toward conversions, UX barriers (popups, navigational obstacles) and aggressive on-page advertising tactics—lose organic search traffic overnight. Some sites report up to 90% traffic loss.   

Google Intrusive Interstitial Penalty – January 2017

Google Algorithm Update Interstitial

Image via Google Webmaster Central Blog

Google announces the Intrusive Interstitial Penalty in August of 2016, writing, ”Pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as highly.” The update itself rolls out in January 2017, and cracks down on sites with intrusive mobile interstitials. Google gives the following examples of techniques that will negatively impact a page’s organic search ranking:

1. Showing a popup that covers the main content, either immediately after the user navigates to a page from the search results, or while they are looking through the page.

2. Displaying a standalone interstitial that the user must dismiss before accessing the main content.

3. Using a layout where the above-the-fold portion of the page appears similar to a standalone interstitial, but the original content has been inlined underneath the fold.

Glenn Gabe tracks the ramifications of the Intrusive Interstitial Penalty, and records some interesting insights in this blog post.

Google Penguin 4.0 – September 2016

Google Algorithm Update Penguin

Penguin 4.0: the Penguin we deserve. Image via Pew Trusts.

Google announces Penguin 4.0 in September of 2016. The two main revisions to the original Penguin update are:

1. Penguin goes real time, and becomes a part of Google’s core algorithm.

2. Penguin now devalues “spammy” links at a granular level, reversing earlier-enforced site-wide penalties. 

Sites that see search visibility reductions after Penguin updates 1.0-3.0 now see improved rankings—so long as they’ve taken the necessary steps to clean up their spammy links.

Google “Possum” Update – September 2016

Google Algorithm Update Possum

Image via Tech Critic

Unannounced and unconfirmed by Google, Possum gets its name from the impact it has on Google My Business listings. Google’s newly refined location filter filters out businesses based on certain criteria. Thus, the listings themselves “play possum.” Possum impacts local search rankings in the following ways:

1. Businesses outside of a city’s limits experience higher rankings for local search keywords. Prior to Possum, businesses not technically within a city’s limits have a difficult time ranking well for those keywords.

2. A new location filter filters out locations that share the same address.

3. The physical location of the person typing the query has a larger impact on results.

Google RankBrain – October 2015

Google Algorithm Update Rankbrain

Image via The Next Web

Bloomberg breaks the news that RankBrain, a machine-learning artificial intelligence system, has been incorporated into Google’s core algorithm. Greg Corrado, a senior research scientist at Google, tells Bloomberg that RankBrain has been live for months, and has quickly become Google’s third most important ranking signal. The new system gives Google’s search algorithm the ability to understand relationships between words, and deduce results for never-before-seen queries.

“Mobilegeddon” – April 2015

Google Algorithm Update Mobilegeddon

In February of 2015, Google announces the expansion of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. Dubbed “Mobilegeddon,” the new algorithm goes live in April, and provides more mobile-friendly websites and relevant app content in search results. Sites given the tag “mobile-friendly” experience improved search visibility.

Google Pigeon Update – July 2014

Google Algorithm Update Pigeon

Image via Search Engine Land

In July of 2014, Google releases a significant local search algorithm update. Search Engine Land dubs it “Pigeon,” because “pigeons tend to fly back home.” The new local algorithm ties deeper into Google’s web search capabilities—including hundreds of core algorithm ranking signals, as well as features like the Knowledge Graph, spelling correction, synonyms, etc.

Google Hummingbird – August 2013

Google Algorithm Update Hummingbird

Google notices that queries are becoming more and more conversational. People have begun to treat their desktops and devices like humans. To keep up with the growing need to understand user intent, Google releases Hummingbird in the Summer of 2013.

Hummingbird is less a change to Google’s core algorithm than a total revamp—it has the ability to discern both context and intent when returning results for a query. Matt Cutts of Google estimates that 90% of all search results are affected.

Google Knowledge Graph – May 2012

Google Algorithm Update Fred KG

Google introduces the Knowledge Graph in May of 2012. The goal, according to Google, is to help users discover information more quickly and easily. The Knowledge Graph appears in the form of panels to the right of a user’s results. Google says the Knowledge Graph has the ability to understand real-world entities and their relationships to one another—to understand the world a bit more like people do. When it’s launched, the Knowledge Graph contains more than 500 million objects, as well as more than 3.5 billion facts about relationships between those objects.

Google Penguin – April 2012

Google Algorithm Update Penguin

Google announces Penguin in April of 2012 with a blog post entitled, “Another step to reward high-quality sites.” In fact, the primary goal of Penguin is to decrease rankings for sites that violate Google’s quality guidelines. Sites partaking in webspam techniques like keyword stuffing and link schemes see reduced organic search traffic. The update levies penalties at a site-wide level, rather than on specific pages. Google makes a point of distinguishing “white hat SEO” from “black hat webspam,” and encourages webmasters to continue creating high quality sites that create positive user experiences.

Google Panda – February 2011

 Google Algorithm Update Panda

Image via Search Engine Land

Initially dubbed “Farmer” for its crack down on content farms, Panda gets its name from one of engineers who helps develop the algorithm—an engineer named Panda. The Panda update is a response to the growing number of complaints in the search community that low-quality “content sites” rank higher than high-quality sites with positive user experiences. Panda goes primarily after sites with thin content, sites that have outsourced content to third-party “farms,” and sites with high ad-to-content ratios.

Google Caffeine – June 2010

Google Algorithm Update Caffeine

Image via Google’s Official Blog

Announced in 2009, Caffeine goes live in June of 2010. It provides 50 percent fresher search results, and is the largest collection of web content Google has ever offered. It’s less an algorithm update than an entirely new system of web indexing. Prior to Caffeine, Google’s index consists of layers, some of which are refreshed faster than others. Caffeine analyzes the web on a continuous, global basis, allowing users to find fresher information than ever before. “If this were a pile of paper,” Google’s Carrie Crimes writes, “it would grow three miles taller every second.”

Google Suggest – August 2008

Google Algorithm Update Suggest

After nearly four years of testing, Google Suggest drops in August of 2008. Suggest looks in aggregate at searches related to a given query, then lists popular searches containing that query in a dropdown panel. It’s a precursor to Google Instant (2010), which returns results as users type their queries. Google drops Google Instant in 2017 because of complications it poses mobile users. Suggest remains a mainstay.

Google Universal Search – May 2007

Google Algorithm Update US

Danny Sullivan writes a post for Search Engine Watch in 2003 describing what he calls “tab blindness”—the tendency on behalf of Google users to ignore tabs like News, Images, Video, etc. when making queries. With the release of Universal Search in May of 2007, Google provides a solution to tab blindness. Universal Search integrates results from all Google verticals to provide a more accurate and diverse SERP. The traditional 10-link results page becomes a thing of the past.

Google Personalized Search – June 2005

Google Algorithm Update Personalized Search

Introduced in 2005, Personalized Search draws on a user’s search history to deliver more personalized results to him or her. Previous attempts at personalization drew on customer settings and profiles; Personalized Search marks the first time Google has tapped directly into its users’ search histories.

Google Florida Update – November 2003

Google Algorithm Update Florida

Thanks to Roberto Sotelo for this gem of an image.

To get an idea of just how seminal the Florida update is, you need look no further than Danny Sullivan’s article, “What Happened to My Site on Google?”—a Q&A style blog that includes the question, “How can Google be allowed to hurt my business in this way?” The Florida algorithm update occurs before algorithm updates are really “a thing.” The notion that Google’s algorithm is a kind of “dance” that webmasters have to keep pace with in order to retain their organic rankings—and that that in itself could be a job (SEO)—is entirely new. Florida cracks down on late 90s tactics like keyword stuffing. Webmasters everywhere are befuddled. SEO becomes a necessity.

Google Boston Update – February 2003

Google Algorithm Update Boston

Google’s first official update, Boston is announced in 2013 at SES Boston, an engineering science conference put on by Northeastern. Google’s initial goal is to change its algorithm every month or so. It soon abandons that goal in favor of day-to-day changes. SEOs and webmasters everywhere begin an indefinite head-shake.

That’s all, folks.

For an in-depth look at the development of search engines in general, please don’t hesitate to check out our History of Search Engines! And if you’re interested in a list of every Google algorithm update since 2000, big or small, Moz has put together a useful list here.

Have an algorithm update you think should be added to the list? Let us know in comments below!

About the Author

Gordon Donnelly is a college hockey washout, failed poet, and all-around oxford comma enthusiast. He’s a sucker for: fly fishing, mudslides, and the dwindling half-light of Clery’s basement. Tweet him @gord_donnelly

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Our Readership: Results of the 2017 Moz Blog Reader Survey

Posted by Trevor-Klein

This blog is for all of you. In a notoriously opaque and confusing industry that’s prone to frequent changes, we see immense benefit in helping all of you stay on top of the game. To that end, every couple of years we ask for a report card of sorts, hoping not only to get a sense for how your jobs have changed, but also to get a sense for how we can improve.

About a month ago, we asked you all to take a reader survey, and nearly 600 of you generously gave your time. The results, summarized in this post, were immensely helpful, and were a reminder of how lucky we are to have such a thoughtful community of readers.

I’ve offered as much data as I can, and when possible, I’ve also trended responses against the same questions from our 2015 and 2013 surveys, so you can get a sense for how things have changed. There’s a lot here, so buckle up. =)


Who our readers are

To put all of this great feedback into context, it helps to know a bit about who the people in our audience actually are. Sure, we can glean a bit of information from our site analytics, and can make some educated guesses, but neither of those can answer the questions we’re most curious about. What’s your day-to-day work like, and how much SEO does it really involve? Would you consider yourself more of an SEO beginner, or more of an SEO wizard? And, most importantly, what challenges are you facing in your work these days? The answers give us a fuller understanding of where the rest of your feedback comes from.

What is your job title?

Readers of the Moz Blog have a multitude of backgrounds, from CEOs of agencies to in-the-weeds SEOs of all skill levels. One of the most common themes we see, though, is a skew toward the more general marketing industry. I know that word clouds have their faults, but it’s still a relatively interesting way to gauge how often things appear in a list like this, so here’s what we’ve got this year:

Of note, similar to our results in 2015, the word “marketing” is the most common result, followed by the word “SEO” and the word “manager.”

Here’s a look at the top 20 terms used in this year’s results, along with the percentage of responses containing each term. You’ll also see those same percentages from the 2015 and 2013 surveys to give you an idea of what’s changed — the darker the bar, the more recent the survey:

The thing that surprises me the most about this list is how little it’s changed in the four-plus years since we first asked the question (a theme you’ll see recur in the rest of these results). In fact, the top 20 terms this year are nearly identical to the top 20 terms four years ago, with only a few things sliding up or down a few spots.

What percentage of your day-to-day work involves SEO?

We hear a lot about people wearing multiple hats for their companies. One person who took this survey noted that even at a 9,000-person company, they were the only one who worked on SEO, and it was only about 80% of their job. That idea is backed up by this data, which shows an incredibly broad range of responses. More than 10% of respondents barely touch SEO, and not even 14% say they’re full-time:

One interesting thing to note is the sharp decline in the number of people who say that SEO isn’t a part of their day-to-day at all. That shift is likely a result of our shift back toward SEO, away from related areas like social media and content marketing. I think we had attracted a significant number of community managers and content specialists who didn’t work in SEO, and we’re now seeing the pendulum swing the other direction.

On a scale of 1-5, how advanced would you say your SEO knowledge is?

The similarity between this year’s graph for this question and those from 2015 and 2013 is simply astonishing:

There’s been a slight drop in folks who say they’re at an expert level, and a slight increase in folks who have some background, but are relative beginners. But only slight. The interesting thing is, our blog traffic has increased significantly over these four years, so the newer members of our audience bear a striking resemblance to those of you who’ve been around for quite some time. In a sense, that’s reassuring — it paints a clear picture for us as we continue refining our content.

Do you work in-house, or at an agency/consultancy?

Here’s another window into just how little our audience has changed in the last couple of years:

A slight majority of our readers still work in-house for their own companies, and about a third still work on SEO for their company’s clients.

Interestingly, though, respondents who work for clients deal with many of the same issues as those who work in-house — especially in trying to convey the value of their work in SEO. They’re just trying to send that message to external clients instead of internal stakeholders. More details on that come from our next question:

What are some of the biggest challenges you face in your work today?

I’m consistently amazed by the time and thought that so many of you put into answering this question, and rest assured, your feedback will be presented to several teams around Moz, both on the marketing and the product sides. For this question, I organized each and every response into recurring themes, tallying each time those themes were mentioned. Here are all the themes that were mentioned 10 or more times:

Challenge # of mentions
My clients / colleagues / bosses don’t understand the value of SEO 59
The industry and tactics are constantly changing; algo updates 45
Time constraints 44
Link building 35
My clients / colleagues / bosses don’t understand how SEO works 29
Content (strategy / creation / marketing) 25
Resource constraints 23
It’s difficult to prove ROI 18
Budget constraints 17
It’s a difficult industry in which to learn tools and techniques 16
I regularly need to educate my colleagues / employees 16
It’s difficult to prioritize my work 16
My clients either don’t have or won’t offer sufficient budget / effort 15
Effective reporting 15
Bureaucracy, red tape, other company problems 11
It’s difficult to compete with other companies 11
I’m required to wear multiple hats 11

More than anything else, it’s patently obvious that one of the greatest difficulties faced by any SEO is explaining it to other people in a way that demonstrates its value while setting appropriate expectations for results. Whether it’s your clients, your boss, or your peers that you’re trying to convince, it isn’t an easy case to make, especially when it’s so difficult to show what kind of return a company can see from an investment in SEO.

We also saw tons of frustrated responses about how the industry is constantly changing, and it takes too much of your already-constrained time just to stay on top of those changes.

In terms of tactics, link building easily tops the list of challenges. That makes sense, as it’s the piece of SEO that relies most heavily on the cooperation of other human beings (and humans are often tricky beings to figure out). =)

Content marketing — both the creation/copywriting side as well as the strategy side — is still a challenge for many folks in the industry, though fewer people mentioned it this year as mentioned it in 2015, so I think we’re all starting to get used to how those skills overlap with the more traditional aspects of SEO.


How our readers read

With all that context in mind, we started to dig into your preferences in terms of formats, frequency, and subject matter on the blog.

How often do you read posts on the Moz Blog?

This is the one set of responses that caused a bit of concern. We’ve seen a steady decrease in the number of people who say they read every day, a slight decrease in the number of people who say they read multiple times each week, and a dramatic increase in the number of people who say they read once a week.

The 2015 decrease came after an expansion in the scope of subjects we covered on the blog — as we branched away from just SEO, we published more posts about social media, email, and other aspects of digital marketing. We knew that not all of those subjects were relevant for everyone, so we expected a dip in frequency of readership.

This year, though, we’ve attempted to refocus on SEO, and might have expected a bit of a rebound. That didn’t happen:

There are two other factors at play, here. For one thing, we no longer publish a post every single weekday. After our publishing volume experiment in 2015, we realized it was safe (even beneficial) to emphasize quality over quantity, so if we don’t feel like a post turned out the way we hoped, we don’t publish it until we’ve had a chance to improve it. That means we’re down to about four posts per week. We’ve also made a concerted effort to publish more posts about local SEO, as that’s relevant to our software and an increasingly important part of the work of folks in our industry.

It could also be a question of time — we’ve already covered how little time everyone in our industry has, and with that problem continuing, there may just be less time to read blog posts.

If anyone has any additional insight into why they read less often than they once did, please let us know in the comments below!

On which types of devices do you prefer to read blog posts?

We were surprised by the responses to this answer in 2013, and they’ve only gotten more extreme:

Nearly everyone prefers to read blog posts on a full computer. Only about 15% of folks add their phones into the equation, and the number of people in all the other buckets is extremely small. In 2013, our blog didn’t have a responsive design, and was quite difficult to read on mobile devices. We thought that might have had something to do with people’s responses — maybe they were just used to reading our blog on larger screens. The trend in 2015 and this year, though, proves that’s not the case. People just prefer reading posts on their computers, plain and simple.

Which other site(s), if any, do you regularly visit for information or education on SEO?

This was a new question for this year. We have our own favorite sites, of course, but we had no idea how the majority of folks would respond to this question. As it turns out, there was quite a broad range of responses listing sites that take very different approaches:

Site # responses
Search Engine Land 184
Search Engine Journal 89
Search Engine Roundtable 74
SEMrush 51
Ahrefs 50
Search Engine Watch 41
Quick Sprout / Neil Patel 35
HubSpot 33
Backlinko 31
Google Blogs 29
The SEM Post 21
Kissmetrics 17
Yoast 16
Distilled 13
SEO by the Sea 13

I suppose it’s no surprise that the most prolific sites sit at the top. They’ve always got something new, even if the stories don’t often go into much depth. We’ve tended to steer our own posts toward longer-form, in-depth pieces, and I think it’s safe to say (based on these responses and some to questions below) that it’d be beneficial for us to include some shorter stories, too. In other words, depth shouldn’t necessarily be a requisite for a post to be published on the Moz Blog. We may start experimenting with a more “short and sweet” approach to some posts.


What our readers think of the blog

Here’s where we get into more specific feedback about the Moz Blog, including whether it’s relevant, how easy it is for you to consume, and more.

What percentage of the posts on the Moz Blog would you say are relevant to you and your work?

Overall, I’m pretty happy with the results here, as SEO is a broad enough industry (and we’ve got a broad enough audience) that there’s simply no way we’re going to hit the sweet spot for everyone with every post. But those numbers toward the bottom of the chart are low enough that I feel confident we’re doing pretty well in terms of topic relevance.

Do you feel the Moz Blog posts are generally too basic, too advanced, or about right?

Responses to this question have made me smile every time I see them. This is clearly one thing we’re getting about as right as we could expect to. We’re even seeing a slight balancing of the “too basic” and “too advanced” columns over time, which is great:

We also asked the people who told us that posts were “too basic” or “too advanced” to what extent they felt that way, using a scale from 1-5 (1 being “just a little bit too basic/advanced” and 5 being “way too basic/advanced.” The responses tell us that the people who feel posts are too advanced feel more strongly about that opinion than the people who feel posts are too basic:

This makes some sense, I think. If you’re just starting out in SEO, which many of our readers are, some of the posts on this blog are likely to go straight over your head. That could be frustrating. If you’re an SEO expert, though, you probably aren’t frustrated by posts you see as too basic for you — you just skip past them and move on with your day.

This does make me think, though, that we might benefit from offering a dedicated section of the site for folks who are just starting out — more than just the Beginner’s Guide. That’s actually something that was specifically requested by one respondent this year.

In general, what do you think about the length of Moz Blog posts?

While it definitely seems like we’re doing pretty well in this regard, I’d also say we’ve got some room to tighten things up a bit, especially in light of the lack of time so many of you mentioned:

There were quite a few comments specifically asking for “short and sweet” posts from time to time — offering up useful tips or news in a format that didn’t expound on details because it didn’t have to. I think sprinkling some of those types of posts in with the longer-form posts we have so often would be beneficial.

Do you ever comment on Moz Blog posts?

This was another new question this year. Despite so many sites are removing comment sections from their blogs, we’ve always believed in their value. Sometimes the discussions we see in comments end up being the most helpful part of the posts, and we value our community too much to keep that from happening. So, we were happy to see a full quarter of respondents have participated in comments:

We also asked for a bit of info about why you either do or don’t comment on posts. The top reasons why you do were pretty predictable — to ask a clarifying question related to the post, or to offer up your own perspective on the topic at hand. The #3 reason was interesting — 18 people mentioned that they like to comment in order to thank the author for their hard work. This is a great sentiment, and as someone who’s published several posts on this blog, I can say for a fact that it does feel pretty great. At the same time, those comments are really only written for one person — the author — and are a bit problematic from our perspective, because they add noise around the more substantial conversations, which are what we like to see most.

I think the solution is going to lie in a new UI element that allows readers to note their appreciation to the authors without leaving one of the oft-maligned “Great post!” comments. There’s got to be a happy medium there, and I think it’s worth our finding it.

The reasons people gave for not commenting were even more interesting. A bunch of people mentioned the need to log in (sorry, folks — if we didn’t require that, we’d spend half our day removing spam!). The most common response, though, involved a lack of confidence. Whether it was worded along the lines of “I’m an introvert” or along the lines of “I just don’t have a lot of expertise,” there were quite a few people who worried about how their comments would be received.

I want to take this chance to encourage those of you who feel that way to take the step, and ask questions about points you find confusing. At the very least, I can guarantee you aren’t the only ones, and others like you will appreciate your initiative. One of the best ways to develop your expertise is to get comfortable asking questions. We all work in a really confusing industry, and the Moz Blog is all about providing a place to help each other out.

What, if anything, would you like to see different about the Moz Blog?

As usual, the responses to this question were chock full of great suggestions, and again, we so appreciate the amount of time you all spent providing really thoughtful feedback.

One pattern I saw was requests for more empirical data — hard evidence that things should be done a certain way, whether through case studies or other formats. Another pattern was requests for step-by-step walkthroughs. That makes a lot of sense for an industry of folks who are strapped for time: Make things as clear-cut as possible, and where we can, offer a linear path you can walk down instead of asking you to holistically understand the subject matter, then figure that out on your own. (That’s actually something we’re hoping to do with our entire Learning Center: Make it easier to figure out where to start, and where to continue after that, instead of putting everything into buckets and asking you all to figure it out.)

Whiteboard Friday remains a perennial favorite, and we were surprised to see more requests for more posts about our own tools than we had requests for fewer posts about our own tools. (We’ve been wary of that in the past, as we wanted to make sure we never crossed from “helpful” into “salesy,” something we’ll still focus on even if we do add another tool-based post here and there.)

We expected a bit of feedback about the format of the emails — we’re absolutely working on that! — but didn’t expect to see so many folks requesting that we bring back YouMoz. That’s something that’s been on the backs of our minds, and while it may not take the same form it did before, we do plan on finding new ways to encourage the community to contribute content, and hope to have something up and running early in 2018.

Request #responses
More case studies 26
More Whiteboard Friday (or other videos) 25
More long-form step-by-step training/guides 18
Clearer steps to follow in posts; how-tos 11
Bring back UGC / YouMoz 9
More from Rand 9
Improve formatting of the emails 9
Higher-level, less-technical posts 8
More authors 7
More news (algorithm updates, e.g.) 7
Shorter posts, “quick wins” 7
Quizzes, polls, or other engagement opportunities 6
Broader range of topics (engagement, CRO, etc.) 6
More about Moz tools 5
More data-driven, less opinion-based 5

What our readers want to see

This section is a bit more future-facing, where some of what we asked before had to do with how things have been in the past.

Which of the following topics would you like to learn more about?

There were very, very few surprises in this list. Lots of interest in on-page SEO and link building, as well as other core tactical areas of SEO. Content, branding, and social media all took dips — that makes sense, given the fact that we don’t usually post about those things anymore, and we’ve no doubt lost some audience members who were more interested in them as a result. Interestingly, mobile took a sizable dip, too. I’d be really curious to know what people think about why that is. My best guess is that with the mobile-first indexing from Google and with responsive designs having become so commonplace, there isn’t as much of a need as there once was to think of mobile much differently than there was a couple of years ago. Also of note: When we did this survey in 2015, Google had recently rolled out its “Mobile-Friendly Update,” not-so-affectionately referred to by many in the industry as Mobilegeddon. So… it was on our minds. =)

Which of the following types of posts would you most like to see on the Moz Blog?

This is a great echo and validation of what we took away from the more general question about what you’d like to see different about the Blog: More tactical posts and step-by-step walkthroughs. Posts that cut to the chase and offer a clear direction forward, as opposed to some of the types at the bottom of this list, which offer more opinions and cerebral explorations:


What happens next?

Now we go to work. =)

We’ll spend some time fully digesting this info, and coming up with new goals for 2018 aimed at making improvements inspired by your feedback. We’ll keep you all apprised as we start moving forward.

If you have any additional insight that strikes you in taking a look at these results, please do share it in the comments below — we’d love to have those discussions.

For now, we’ve got some initial takeaways that we’re already planning to take action on.

Primary takeaways

There are some relatively obvious things we can take away from these results that we’re already working on:

  • People in all businesses are finding it quite difficult to communicate the value of SEO to their clients, bosses, and colleagues. That’s something we can help with, and we’ll be developing materials in the near future to try and alleviate some of that particular frustration.
  • There’s a real desire for more succinct, actionable, step-by-step walkthroughs on the Blog. We can pretty easily explore formats for posts that are off our “beaten path,” and will attempt to make things easier to consume through improvements to both the content itself and its delivery. I think there’s some room for more “short and sweet” mixed in with our longer norm.
  • The bulk of our audience does more than just SEO, despite a full 25% of them having it in their job titles, and the challenges you mentioned include a bunch of areas that are related to, but outside the traditional world of SEO. Since you all are clearly working on those sorts of things, we should work to highlight and facilitate the relationship between the SEO work and the non-SEO marketing work you do.
  • In looking through some of the other sites you all visit for information on SEO, and knowing the kinds of posts they typically publish, it’s clear we’ve got an opportunity to publish more news. We’ve always dreamed of being more of a one-stop shop for SEO content, and that’s good validation that we may want to head down that path.

Again, thank you all so much for the time and effort you spent filling out this survey. Hopefully you’ll notice some changes in the near (and not-so-near) future that make it clear we’re really listening.

If you’ve got anything to add to these results — insights, further explanations, questions for clarification, rebuttals of points, etc. — please leave them in the comments below. We’re looking forward to continuing the conversation. =)

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/2AAKHWq

Social Media for Nonprofits: 6 Ways to Make a Difference

These days, social media feels less like an idle distraction and more like an endurance blood sport. Between the constant barrage of outrage and headlines that would put The Onion to shame, engaging with other users on social media has never felt this difficult or punishing.

Social media for nonprofits charitable giving concept illustration

There is, however, some good news. Not every social media account is a Russian botnet or sock puppet (only about 100 million of them), and some of the world’s leading nonprofits use social media to great effect in their mission to make the world a better place.

In this post, we’ll be taking a look at several nonprofits that are making the most of social media in their work, as well as some tips and best practices for your own nonprofit social media campaigns.

8 Examples of Nonprofits Using Social Media for a Good Cause

#1: Amnesty International

Since its inception in London in 1961, Amnesty International has tackled some of the world’s most urgent social problems and fought to protect the world’s most vulnerable people. Amnesty International works across a range of areas, including the fight to end the use of child soldiers, sex trafficking and human slavery, protecting human rights in war-torn nations, the movement to abolish capital punishment, and many others.

Social media for nonprofits Amnesty International homepage

Although much of Amnesty International’s work is bleak and deals with the very worst crimes against humanity, the organization uses social media masterfully. The organization maintains highly active profiles across all major social media networks (including Tumblr and Medium), and despite the shocking nature of Amnesty International’s work, it doesn’t rely on shock-and-awe tactics to motivate people to act.

Social media for nonprofits Amnesty International Twitter

Amnesty International’s Twitter profile is particularly powerful. With almost 4 million followers, Amnesty International uses Twitter to raise awareness of ongoing campaigns and urgent social issues. The organization’s social media content in general emphasizes education over all else, and uses statistics and research data to highlight how severe many of the problems the organization deals with really are.

Social media for nonprofits Amnesty International example tweet

Amnesty’s use of infographics and bite-sized charts are perfect for social media, and also encourage sharing due to their often highly emotional nature.

#2: National Audubon Society

Named in honor of renowned ornithologist John James Audubon, the National Audubon Society works tirelessly to protect the world’s birds. Incorporated in 1905, the National Audubon Society is comprised of almost 500 local chapters across the United States, and each individual chapter is an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Although any of the local chapters could serve as an example of how to use social media for good, we’ll be focusing on the National Audubon Society’s social media presence.

Social media for nonprofits Audubon Society Instagram

The National Audubon Society’s social media profiles are all deserving of recognition, but its Instagram profile is particularly noteworthy. With almost 215,000 followers, the National Audubon Society’s Instagram feed is a visual feast for amateur birdwatchers and professional ornithologists alike. The photography featured throughout the Society’s Instagram feed is superb, rivaling the kinds of images you’d expect to see in renowned periodicals such as National Geographic.

The Audubon Society’s Twitter profile may only have roughly half the followers its Instagram profile has, but it knows how to leverage the strengths of each platform to great effect.

Social media for nonprofits Audubon Society example tweet

Although many of the Society’s tweets are accompanied by beautiful images of America’s birds, the Society takes a more hands-on approach on Twitter, offering a wide variety of tips for birdwatchers, fun activities like how to build seasonal birdhouses for migratory species, and ways to get involved with bird conservation and habitat protection at the local level.

#3: The Fight for 15

According to data from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, there are precisely zero places in the entirety of the United States in which a single person living alone can afford a two-bedroom apartment on a minimum-wage income, and roughly 12 counties in which minimum-wage earners can afford a one-bedroom apartment. This is among the many reasons that minimum-wage workers across the country have joined forces to fight for a fair wage as part of the Fight for 15 campaign, which advocates for a nationwide minimum wage of $15 per hour.

Social media for nonprofits United States rental affordability map by wage

Graphic via National Low Income Housing Coalition

Although Fight for 15 is a movement rather than a “true” nonprofit organization, its social media presence is more than worthy of inclusion in this round-up given how effectively the movement has leveraged social media to advance its cause and raise awareness of and support for this crucial issue.

Much of Fight for 15’s work has been the result of grassroots labor organizing, and social media has been instrumental in these efforts. The movement’s Facebook page regularly serves as a rallying call for people who want to lend their voices to this increasingly visible and rapidly growing movement. Aside from its obvious uses as a communication platform and organizing tool, Facebook has also provided Fight for 15 with ample opportunities to inform and educate a wider audience about crucial social issues such as job insecurity.

Interestingly, Fight for 15’s Twitter profile has leveraged positive sentiment very successfully. We know that negative emotional triggers are often highly effective at driving engagement with social media content and ads alike, but it’s not often that positive emotional triggers are used in the same way – or with the same results.

Social media for nonprofits Fight for 15 campaign tweet Target minimum wage 2020

Fight for 15 regularly spreads labor rights news from across the country, and shares success stories and legislative victories as it did when Target announced it would increase its minimum wage for all its 323,000 employees to $15 per hour by 2020. The movement has also leveraged its 41,000 Twitter following by sharing content from and working with other organizations such as the AFL-CIO.

#4: Beyond Coal

Despite low (and falling) costs, overwhelming public support, and the potential to create millions of jobs worldwide, renewable energy is still taking a backseat to coal – but not if Beyond Coal can help it.

Beyond Coal is a project of the Sierra Club, one of America and the world’s oldest environmental organizations, and aims to encourage the use of renewable energy with a view to eliminating our reliance on coal altogether. The organization operates in partnership with a sister campaign in Europe to spread its message on both sides of the Atlantic.

Social media for nonprofits Beyond Coal Sierra Club homepage

Like many of the nonprofits mentioned here, Beyond Coal makes excellent use of primarily visual assets in its social media campaigns, such as infographics and charts. This kind of content is perfect for platforms like Twitter, as it allows users to quickly and easily understand often-complex legislative issues surrounding fossil fuel use, as well as visualize just how serious our reliance on fossil fuels really is.

Beyond Coal’s mission is predominantly one of education; unless you have a coal fire in your home, there aren’t many opportunities to personally reduce your coal consumption (aside from being mindful of your personal carbon footprint in general). That said, it’s amazing how many people have no idea how much of our electrical power comes from coal-fired power plants, and the immense environmental impact coal burning has.

Social media for nonprofits Beyond Coal Twitter

For these reasons, much of the community engagement with Beyond Coal consists of sharing petitions, highlighting the policies of major political parties and individual politicians that have an impact on the use of coal, and other sustainability-focused content.

#5: CARE International

Poverty is a complex social problem with dozens of potential underlying causes. This is what makes fighting poverty so difficult; with so many other interrelated factors to consider, it can be tough to know what to focus on and when. Fortunately, CARE International is a nonprofit that is tackling poverty – and its underlying causes – head on.

Social media for nonprofits Care International homepage

CARE International is, as its name implies, a global organization that works in some of the world’s poorest countries. This allows CARE to offer its social media followers a wide range of content from a diverse array of places.

One element of CARE’s social media presence that really stands out is the organization’s commitment to helping girls and women around the world. Women are often impacted much more significantly by poverty due to institutional prejudice in many countries, which is why CARE highlights this vital work across its various social channels.

CARE is still building its social audience on some platforms, having only joined Twitter in 2013. CARE’s Instagram profile, however, is a lot livelier. With significantly more followers, CARE’s Instagram feed (cleverly) focuses on the real people it works to protect and help, making it easier for CARE’s social audience to connect with the human side of the organization’s work.

Social media for nonprofits Care International Instagram

It also reveals a lot about the lives of people around the world who are struggling with poverty and shines a light on issues that are all too easy to overlook in our media-saturated environment.

#6: Human Rights Watch

All over the world, particularly in developing nations, the human rights of the poorest and most vulnerable are routinely violated. From the illegal detention and torture of prisoners to young women and girls sold into sexual slavery, human rights violations are rampant, and getting worse in many parts of the world. That’s what makes the work of nonprofit Human Rights Watch so vital.

Social media for nonprofits Human Rights Watch Twitter

HRW is another global organization with a wide range of focus areas. Most recently, HRW has been actively involved in raising awareness of and support for some of the world’s most vulnerable populations, including Rohingya Muslims fleeing genocide in Burma, the innocent victims of the Philippines’ “war on drugs,” and the millions of people who have been made refugees by the intensifying effects of climate change.

HRW uses social media to great effect in its numerous campaigns. With almost 4 million Twitter followers, HRW offers fascinating and urgent insights into the world’s worst human rights violations, including domestic issues in the United States that typically receive little or no mainstream media coverage, such as the shocking prevalence of child marriage across the U.S.

HRW’s YouTube channel is also an excellent example of how video can simplify complex policy issues for a wider audience, and HRW often incorporates animation and other techniques to diversify its social content.

#7: To Write Love on Her Arms

Despite its urgency as a public health issue, few people are willing to openly discuss mental health problems due to social taboos and the pervasive stigma associated with mental illness. Even fewer people are willing to talk about or even acknowledge self-harm. To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA), a nonprofit based in Florida that aims to serve as a bridge between people struggling with self-harm and mental health professionals who can provide vital help.

Social media for nonprofits To Write Love On Her Arms

TWLOHA is extremely active on a variety of social media platforms. The organization has a modest following on Twitter, but has a significantly larger audience on Instagram and Pinterest.

Much of the social content published by TWLOHA focuses on the stories of real people who have personally struggled with and overcome self-harm, as well as inspirational messages for the millions of people still suffering from mental health problems.

Social media for nonprofits To Write Love On Her Arms Instagram

Sharing these stories is more than just a strategy to raise awareness of a vitally urgent social and public health problem – it’s a way to remind people struggling with mental illness and self-harm that they are not alone, that there is hope, and that they can reach out to people who understand. For some, this could quite literally make the difference between life and death, a powerful demonstration of how social media can be used for good.

#8: The Trevor Project

Suicide is the leading cause of death among young people aged 10-24, and LGBTQ youth are almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide than their heterosexual counterparts. These shocking statistics are among the many sobering figures available at the website of The Trevor Project, a nonprofit focused on providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to at-risk LGBTQ youths between the ages of 13-24.

The Trevor Project was established in 1998 by the creators of the Academy Award-winning short film Trevor. Since then, the organization has grown significantly and remains one of the most active LGBTQ advocacy nonprofits in the U.S.

Social media for nonprofits The Trevor Project Tumblr

Although The Trevor Project has a strong presence on both Facebook and Twitter, the organization’s Tumblr account is particularly interesting. Featuring predominantly user-generated content, The Trevor Project’s Tumblr page has dozens of stories from LGBTQ youth who have struggled with mental health problems and suicidal thoughts, as well as words of encouragement and inspirational stories of overcoming adversity in their communities.

Social Media for Nonprofits: 6 Tips and Best Practices

So, now that we’ve seen a few nonprofits in action on social media, it’s time to look at some broader tips and best practices that can help your nonprofit reach a wider audience on social media.

#1: Tread Carefully with Controversial Messaging

For people working to solve some of society’s most urgent problems and injustices, it can be frustrating to encounter so much apathy or indifference from the general public. This can lead to posting content that’s overly aggressive, forceful, or intimidating. While negative emotional triggers can be a powerfully persuasive tool to get people to take action, it can also deter potential supporters from joining your cause.

Social media for nonprofits provocative controversial Salvation Army domestic abuse ad example 

Ensure your social content balances shock tactics with care and discretion.
Image via Salvation Army/CareHaven SA.

When devising your social media content strategy, it’s important to balance negative information with educational content. Too much negativity can harm perceptions of your nonprofit or the cause you’re working to advance, so take care to ensure there’s a balance of content intended to spur people into action and more informational, educational content to raise support for your cause.

#2: Foster a Strong Sense of Community

Nonprofits rely on crucial support from their followers, donors, and supporters. However, the need to create a strong sense of community online isn’t just a necessity from a fundraising perspective – it’s also vital to growing your audience and maximizing visibility of your cause.

As we saw in several of the nonprofits profiled above, social media is arguably the most effective way for nonprofits to build their base and reach new potential supporters. And one of the best ways to foster a strong sense of community is to actively solicit and publish stories from your nonprofit’s supporters, followers, and fans.

Social media for nonprofits Movimiento Consecha protest

Image via Movimiento Consecha

Think of it in terms of the ways in which commercial brands engage their followers on social media. Rather than highlighting brand evangelists’ love for your products, you’ll be sharing the stories of people whose lives have been affected by the issues your nonprofit is working to improve. If you opt to go the user-generated content route in your community building efforts, be sure to get permission before sharing the accounts and experiences of your followers before posting anything.

For more tips on building strong, inclusive communities, check out Elisa’s interview with Erica McGillivray from Moz.

#3: Use High-Quality Imagery in Your Posts

Numerous data tells us that the inclusion of images in your content can boost engagement significantly, which is why this should be a cornerstone of your social media strategy.

Social media for nonprofits visual content boosts engagement on social media 

Image/data via CoSchedule

However, using high-quality imagery in your social content isn’t just about improving engagement – it’s about providing a crucial glimpse into the very real lives of the people you’re trying to help. Several of the nonprofits featured above focus primarily on visual content, and while text-based content definitely shouldn’t be overlooked, opting for a more visual approach can boost engagement and put real faces to real problems.

#4: Focus on Platforms That Deliver Results

A common mistake that many organizations make – and not just nonprofits – is spreading themselves too thin or trying to cover too much ground. Even with a dedicated full-time social media team, it’s not always easy or even advisable to try and maintain active social media profiles on all social media sites.

Social media for nonprofits Facebook Analytics screenshot 

Evaluate your social performance regularly to ensure you’re working
toward tangible gains. Image via
Buffer.

Take some of the nonprofits above, for example. Although many of these organizations do have profiles on all the major social platforms, it’s obvious that some are significantly more effective than others. For this reason, it’s important to focus on the platforms that offer the greatest return, whether that’s in terms of engagement, conversions, or both.

For example, it might not make much sense to maintain a YouTube channel if your nonprofit only produces video content periodically, or to spend too much time on Twitter if your Facebook presence delivers stronger engagement.

Use your resources wisely and be sure to take a data-driven approach to determining how and where to focus your social media strategy.

#5: Leverage Paid Promotional Tools

Social media is an amazingly powerful way to reach new audiences and rally support for your cause. Unfortunately, as many marketers have noticed in recent years, the landscape of social media content has shifted from primarily organic to a “pay to play” model in which paid promotion has become increasingly necessary.

Social media for nonprofits declining organic reach on Facebook social@Ogilvy chart 

The most infamous chart in social media. Image/data via social@Ogilvy.

It’s no secret that organic reach on Facebook has plummeted in recent years, forcing many marketers to evaluate their content strategies. Although regularly publishing high-quality organic content across your social channels is incredibly important, it’s worth considering how paid promotion can help you achieve your goals.

Before committing to spending money on content promotion or social advertising, you should carefully evaluate the strengths and relative return of each platform. It’s also important to choose a platform that aligns closely with the business objectives of your campaign. If you want to drive conversions, Facebook’s myriad targeting options and relatively low costs may make it a strong, reliable contender for your next paid campaign, whereas if you’re looking for relatively cheap impressions to drive greater awareness, Twitter Ads may be worth exploring.

#6: Test – Then Test Again

I know, I know – it seems as though we’re always telling you to A/B test everything, but with so much competition vying for attention on social, it’s that important.

A/B testing your social content isn’t just vital if you want to increase your conversion rate; it’s also crucial for determining the best angle to take if your nonprofit works in a controversial vertical, such as animal rights.

Social media for nonprofits controversial PETA ad example 

A sledgehammer isn’t always the right tool for the job. Image via PETA/Mediaite.

Take PETA, for example. PETA is arguably better known for its vociferous, often tone-deaf activism as it is for championing the cause of animal rights. Whether intentional or otherwise, this polarizing aspect of PETA as an organization serves as a valuable lesson in testing your social content to ensure the messaging is really resonating with your audience – in the right ways.

Of course, A/B testing your social creative is also important from a conversions standpoint. Many nonprofits have little choice but to work with modest promotional budgets, and some organizations literally cannot afford to waste ad spend, impressions, or clicks on ads that don’t advance their mission. It might take more time to thoroughly test your social content, but it could make a world of difference further down the line.

Good Campaigns, Good Causes

Nonprofits face unique challenges, especially when it comes to social media. Hopefully the examples and tips above have given you some ideas on how to spread the word about the work your organization is doing and how to get even more people excited about making a difference.

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How to Make (Real, Mobile) Call-Only Ads on Bing

For many local businesses (particularly those using PPC to drive leads instead of online sales) a phone call can be more valuable than an on-site conversion. While having a prospect complete a form fill on a landing page certainly doesn’t hurt, it simply cannot compare to the immediacy of them picking up a phone and speaking to a potential problem solver instantly.

But while we’ve covered Google AdWords call-only ads ad nauseum, we’ve barely touched on their Bing ads counterparts.

“Why?” you might ask.

Because you can’t make call-only ads on Bing.

Now, technically, you can add call extensions to your text ads, serve them on mobile devices, and give prospects a direct line to your direct line. But you can’t create one of these suckers:

example of adwords call only ad 

And that, compadre, is a problem. Well, it was a problem.

This morning, my dear friend/WordStream Paid Search Strategist Casey Palm told me about the technique he uses to create true “call-only” ads in Bing. I dug it so much that, with his blessing, I decided to share Casey’s dope hack with you all.

Per our own Mark Irvine, this was a popular hack advertisers implemented on AdWords pre-2015, before call-only campaigns were launched. And while it won’t guarentee your clandestine call-only ads will show 100% of the time, I’ll show you how to do your damnedest to make ’em appear.

But first…

The Problem with Bing Call Extensions

They’re awesome (Bing says they help advertisers generate 3-6% more clicks). Yes, they let prospects call you with a single click from the SERP. Yes, you can choose to use call forwarding or your own phone number. But that’s not enough.

bing ads call extensions with and without website link 

While Bing affords you the ability to add call extensions to your ads on desktops, tablets, and smartphones (your prospects can even call you via Skype using the former), the number itself is ancillary to the rest of your ad copy. Whereas on AdWords, your phone number replaces an entire headline…

adwords call only ad mobile mockup examples 

Bing pushes your phone number (and, therefore, the option to call) beneath your copy—even if you check the “show just the phone number” radio button in the call extension creation menu:

bing ads call extension mockup 

You’re also at Bing’s mercy when it comes to your ad extensions surfacing alongside your ad. If you’re running a campaign in which you’ve also got image, callout, review, and sitelink extensions, the ability to give your business a call is a roll of the dice.

You don’t just have to take my word for it. Many advertisers have noted this frustration. Search “Bing call only ads”:

 bing call only ads serp 

Click into that first link on the SERP and you’ll find a whole slew of comments that parallel this general sentiment:

wishful bing ads feature commentor 

While Mr. TJN may be using a dash of hyperbole, he’s not wrong: some advertisers derive a ton of value from phone calls, and they’d spend more money on Bing if creating ads that connect business with prospects and only show up on mobile devices was more intuitive.

With that said, let’s dive into how you can create call-only ads in your Bing account.

Creating Bing Call-Only Ads

We’re going to begin by creating a brand-new campaign. Why? Because this will allow you to place a premium on both locality and which extensions appear. If you load up your Bing ads call-only campaign with snippets and images and whirligigs, your call extension-turned star of the show isn’t going to show up.

From the campaign creation screen, when prompted to select a goal, choose “Phone calls to my business.”

bing ads campaign goal drive phone calls for my business 

Per the neat little bubble that pops up when you click the accompanying question mark, you should select this campaign goal if “you want to drive new phone calls to one or more of your business numbers.” Sold.

Next up, it’s time to name your campaign, assign a budget, and, most importantly, define your new call-only campaign’s geographic parameters. While the naming convention should align with the rest of your account (save the ever-important “call-only” distinction”), you should note that skimping on the budget here isn’t going to do you any good. To ensure that your ads are served in the prime positions at the top of mobile SERPs, which offer limited real estate, you’ll need to ensure that you’re:

  • Bidding on keywords that represent actual business value
  • Maximizing your Quality Scores
  • Budgeting accordingly

This will allow you to mitigate some of the costs associated with appearing in position one and receiving enough impressions to optimize your campaign through testing while you’re keeping the lights on with valuable phone calls. Now, back to location…

If you’re a small, local business in search of leads (the sorts of folks call-only ads really do wonders for), you want to make sure that your campaign’s location parameters align with the areas you service. Let’s say you’re a plumber who services the greater Boston area; you’d want to target a radius around the city…

 bing ads campaign level location targeting

Instead of the entire state of Massachusetts. Makes sense, right?

Below the Locations box and corresponding map, you’ll notice another section labeled “Who?” Here, you’re going to want to select the first box instead of the second. Someone in Saskatchewan searching for “plumbers in Boston” is inherently less valuable to you than someone in Quincy doing the same thing; let our Canadian brethren click on your regular search ads and save your call-only ads for locals in need of immediate assistance.

Up next, you’ve got ad group creation. Since you’re looking for advanced workarounds baked into Bing, I’m assuming this ain’t your first rodeo. Any and all best practices that you adhere to in the rest of your account— single keyword ad groups (SKAGs), tiered bidding, pairing very similar keywords—apply here, too.

Now, I’m not trying to tell you how to live your life, but, for the sake of effectively utilizing your ad spend, don’t go dumping bunch of garbage keywords into your call-only campaign. While you might see conversions (form fills) pull through your standards search campaigns on keywords like “snake my pipes,” you need to really consider both immediacy and search intent here.

bing call only ads require high intent keywords 

Since you’re going to be bidding a little more to ensure your call-only ads serve on the mobile devices of local searchers, be sure to build tightly-knit ad groups of high-intent keywords (like you see above). Once you’ve got a handful (3-4 keywords with multiple match types should do the trick), create as many extra ad groups for your campaign as you need by clicking on the “+Add new ad group” button.

Now for the fun part.

On the next screen, you’ll be prompted to create ads and, more importantly for our purposes, ad extensions. Your ad copy should follow best practices (shocker). By leveraging an ad group’s associated keywords in your ad copy when possible and including an irresistible CTA, you’ll bolster your Quality Scores, which will help mitigate those high(er) bids.

While there’ll be a whole mess of ad extensions listed at the bottom of this interface, the call extensions box will be primed and ready to go because you selected that “Phone calls for my business” campaign goal.

bing ads create new call extension 

At the bottom of call extension creation box, click the blue text that says “+ Add new Call Extension.” This’ll open a shiny new interface:

turning a bing call extension into a bing call only ad 

Pay close attention to all that red in the image above: it’s your roadmap to success.

Enter your phone number into the box at the top. Under the “Call Tracking” section, it’s totally up to you whether you choose to use a Bing Ads forwarding number or have your own (smartphone) number displayed alongside your ad. Directly below “Call Tracking” you’ll see a radio button under the “Mobile Format” section that says, “Show just the phone number.” SELECT THIS OPTION!

Since we’re going to eliminate desktop and tablet placements in just a moment, making “Mobile Format” the only format, choosing “Show just the phone number” will ensure that your prospects speak to you instead of completing a form fill on your website. Before you click “Save,” don’t forget to adjust your ad schedule. If you’re only open from 9am-5pm Monday thru Friday, there’s no sense running call-only ads in the dead of night or while you’re trying to watch the Pats on Sunday afternoon.

Once you’ve saved your call extension, open the “Advanced campaign settings” menu at the bottom of the Bing Ads interface.

decreasing bing ads desktop bids by 100 percent 

Within the “Device” submenu, decrease bids on desktop and tablet by 100%. This will ensure that your ads don’t show up, funneling all available impressions to mobile devices (where prospects can ring you up).

How to Create Call-Only Ads in Bing (TL;DR)

  1. Create a new Bing Ads campaign using “Phone calls to my business” as your campaign goal.
  2. Narrow your targeting to include only prospects in your area.
  3. Create tightly-knit ad groups of high-intent keywords.
  4. Write great ads.
  5. When creating your call extension, select the “Show just the phone number” option and establish an ad schedule.
  6. Decrease desktop and tablet bids by 100%.

Final Thoughts

At some point, Bing will probably add call-only ads to their ever-growing suite of tools to help advertisers reach prospects. Until then, the workaround outlined above is a relatively easy way to incite more (and more affordable, at least compared to AdWords) phone calls from prospects desperately looking to scratch an itch.

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.

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How Local SEO Fits In With What You’re Already Doing

Posted by MiriamEllis

islandfinal.jpg

You own, work for, or market a business, but you don’t think of yourself as a Local SEO.

That’s okay. The forces of history have, in fact, conspired in some weird ways to make local search seem like an island unto itself. Out there, beyond the horizon, there may be technicians puzzling out NAP, citations, owner responses, duplicate listings, store locator widgets and the like, but it doesn’t seem like they’re talking about your job at all.

And that’s the problem.

If I could offer you a seat in my kayak, I’d paddle us over to that misty isle, and we’d go ashore. After we’d walked around a bit, talking to the locals, it would hit you that the language barrier you’d once perceived is a mere illusion, as is the distance between you.

By sunset — whoa! Look around again. This is no island. You and the Local SEOs are all mainlanders, reaching towards identical goals of customer acquisition, service, and retention via an exceedingly enriched and enriching skill set. You can use it all.

Before I paddle off into the darkness, under the rising stars, I’d like to leave you a chart that plots out how Local SEO fits in with everything you’ve been doing all along.

The roots of the divide

Why is Local SEO often treated as separate from the rest of marketing? We can narrow this down to three contributing factors:

1) Early separation of the local and organic algos

Google’s early-days local product was governed by an algorithm that was much more distinct from their organic algorithm than it is today. It was once extremely common, for example, for businesses without websites to rank well locally. This didn’t do much to form clear bridges between the offline, organic, and local marketing worlds. But, then came Google’s Pigeon Update in 2013, which signaled Google’s stated intention of deeply tying the two algorithms together.

This should ultimately impact the way industry publications, SaaS companies, and agencies present local as an extension of organic SEO, but we’re not quite there yet. I continue to encounter examples of large companies which are doing an amazing job with their website strategies, their e-commerce solutions and their paid outreach, but which are only now taking their first steps into local listings management for their hundreds of physical locations. It’s not that they’re late to the party — it’s just that they’ve only recently begun to realize what a large party their customers are having with their brands’ location data layers on the web.

2) Inheriting the paid vs. organic dichotomy

Local SEO has experienced the same lack-of-adoption/awareness as organic SEO. Agencies have long fought the uphill battle against a lopsided dependence on paid advertising. This phenomenon is highlighted by historic stats like these showing brands investing some $10 million in PPC vs. $1 million in SEO, despite studies like this one which show PPC earning less than 10% of clicks in search.

My take on this is that the transition from traditional offline paid advertising to its online analog was initially easier for many brands to get their heads around. And there have been ongoing challenges in proving direct ROI from SEO in the simple terms a PPC campaign can provide. To this day, we’re still all seeing statistics like only 17% of small businesses investing in SEO. In many ways, the SEO conundrum has simply been inherited by every Local SEO.

3) A lot to take in and on

Look at the service menu of any full-service digital marketing agency and you’ll see just how far it’s had to stretch over the past couple of decades to encompass an ever-expanding range of publicity opportunities:

  • Technical website audits
  • On-site optimization
  • Linkbuilding
  • Keyword research
  • Content dev and promotion
  • Brand building
  • Social media marketing
  • PPC management
  • UX audits
  • Conversion optimization
  • Etc.

Is it any wonder that agencies feel spread a bit too thin when considering how to support yet further needs and disciplines? How do you find the bandwidth, and the experts, to be able to offer:

  • Ongoing citation management
  • Local on-site SEO
  • Local landing page dev
  • Store locator SEO
  • Review management
  • Local brand building
  • Local link building
  • And abstruse forms of local Schema implementation…

And while many agencies have met the challenge by forming smart, strategic partnerships with providers specializing in Local SEO solutions, the agency is still then tasked with understanding how Local fits in with everything else they’re doing, and then explaining this to clients. At the multi-location and enterprise level, even amongst the best-known brands, high-level staffers may have no idea what it is the folks in the in-house Local SEO department are actually doing, or why their work matters.

To tie it all together … that’s what we need to do here. With a shared vision of how all practitioners are working on consumer-centric outreach, we can really get somewhere. Let’s plot this out, together:

Sharing is caring

“We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.”
– Jeff Bezos, Amazon

Let’s imagine a sporting goods brand, established in 1979, that’s grown to 400 locations across the US while also becoming well-known for its e-commerce presence. Whether aspects of marketing are being outsourced or it’s all in-house, here is how 3 shared consumer-centric goals unify all parties.

sharedgoalsfinal.jpg

As we can see from the above chart, there is definitely an overlap of techniques, particularly between SEOs and Local SEOs. Yet overall, it’s not the language or tactics, but the end game and end goals that unify all parties. Viewed properly, consumers are what make all marketing a true team effort.

Before I buy that kayak…

On my commute, I hear a radio ad promoting a holiday sale at some sporting goods store, but which brand was it?

Then I turn to the Internet to research kayak brands, and I find your website’s nicely researched, written, and optimized article comparing the best models in 2017. It’s ranking #2 organically. Those Sun Dolphins look pretty good, according to your massive comparison chart.

I think about it for a couple of days and go looking again, and I see your Adwords spot advertising your 30% off sale. This is the third time I’ve encountered your brand.

On my day off, I’m doing a local search for your brand, which has impressed me so far. I’m ready to look at these kayaks in person. Thanks to the fact that you properly managed your recent move across town by updating all of your major citations, I’m finding an accurate address on your Google My Business listing. Your reviews are mighty favorable, too. They keep mentioning how knowledgeable the staff is at your location nearest me.

And that turns out to be true. At first, I’m disappointed that I don’t see any Sun Dolphins on your shelves — your website comparison chart spoke well of them. As a sales associate approaches me, I notice in-store signage above his head, featuring a text/phone hotline for complaints. I don’t really have a complaint… not yet… but it’s good to know you care.

“I’m so sorry. We just sold out of Sun Dolphins this morning. But we can have one delivered to you within 3 days. We have in-store pickup, too,” the salesperson says. “Or, maybe you’d be interested in another model with comparable features. Let me show you.”

Turns out, your staffer isn’t just helpful — his training has made him so well-versed in your product line that he’s able to match my needs to a perfect kayak for me. I end up buying an Intex on the spot.

The cashier double-checks with me that I’ve found everything satisfactory and lets me know your brand takes feedback very seriously. She says my review would be valued, and my receipt invites me to read your reviews on Google, Yelp, and Facebook… and offers a special deal for signing up for your email newsletter.

My subsequent 5-star review signals to all departments of your company that a company-wide goal was met. Over the next year, my glowing review also influences 20 of my local neighbors to choose you over a competitor.

After my first wet, cold, and exciting kayaking trip, I realize I need to invest in a better waterproof jacket for next time. Your email newsletter hits my inbox at just the right time, announcing your Fourth of July sale. I’m about to become a repeat customer… worth up to 10x the value of my first purchase.

“No matter how brilliant your mind or strategy, if you’re playing a solo game, you’ll always lose out to a team.”
– Reid Hoffman, Co-Founder of LinkedIn

There’s a kind of magic in this adventurous mix of marketing wins. Subtract anything from the picture, and you may miss out on the customer. It’s been said that great teams beat with a single heart. The secret lies in seeing every marketing discipline and practitioner as part of your team, doing what your brand has been doing all along: working with dedication to acquire, serve and retain consumers. Whether achievement comes via citation management, conversion optimization, or a write-up in the New York Times, the end goal is identical.

It’s also long been said that the race is to the swift. Media mogul Rupert Murdoch appears to agree, stating that, in today’s world, it’s not big that beats small — it’s fast that beats slow. How quickly your brand is able to integrate all forms of on-and-offline marketing into its core strategy, leaving no team as an island, may well be what writes your future.

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9 Quality Sources for Beautiful Landing Page Templates

Do you wake up from nightmares about ugly landing pages tied to your brand? Or perhaps, even worse: no landing pages at all! How in the world will you manage to grow your business without a place to generate new leads or convert existing ones?

Landing pages can be a marketer’s worst nightmare, especially if you are strapped on design resources and budget. Even if you do have a solid budget, finding the right designer, and working with them to get everything looking the way you want it, can easily eat away at your bandwidth. Modern day marketers are busy people, after all! And with the holidays in full swing you are likely looking to get some landing pages created quickly.

Luckily, you don’t necessarily need to turn to outside resources to get beautiful landing pages up and running quickly. There are plenty of landing page templates (paid and FREE!) online at your disposal to customize and set free to the world in no time. Check out the nine resources below to find the right landing page design for your lead gen efforts.

#1. Free Landing Page Templates from Leadpages

Leadpages is a company that specializes in tools to help you sell (like landing pages!) so if anyone knows about how to create a page that converts, it is them. They were generous enough to share some of their beautiful designs with us, and you don’t even have to be a Leadpages customer to use these templates.

Whether you’re looking for an SEO landing page template to help you rank higher on the SERP’s, a page focused around converting blog subscribers, or even a more compelling 404 page that also happens to capture leads, this list of landing page templates comes with plenty to choose from. And the better news it that these resources are free!

Free landing page templates LeadPages

One thing to note is that some coding skills are likely needed to customize these pages, so if you have those skills, great! If not, you may need to loop in your web developer to make some minor tweaks.

#2. 125+ Landing Page and Overlay Templates from Unbounce

Here we have another company the specializes in landing pages, Unbounce! Unbounce has a team of extremely talented employees working on their products, and they definitely stand out as a top leader in the landing page space. They know what people want, and how to design a page that is compelling and conversion-worthy.

With over 125+ landing page templates to choose from, you’re likely to find a winner among these compelling designs.

Landing page templates free Unbounce

This resource of landing page templates also allows you to sort by tool, campaign type, etc., so you can find the exact flavor you’re looking for. For instance, if you are in the health vertical looking to sell an e-course, you can find templates for that precise purpose.

Landing page templates free Unbounce

You do need to sign up for Unbounce in order to access and utilize their template builder. Luckily, they offer a free 30-day trial so you have time to play around and decide.

#3. Sunny Landing Page Templates

Next up we have Sunny Landing Pages. This is one company that I was not initially familiar with, but after browsing through some of the templates in the link above I was impressed by the variety, look, and feel of these modern templates. Sunny Landing Pages also allow you to sort by campaign or industry to find a template in-line with your goal and business model. Many of these templates are mobile-responsive and completely FREE to download.

Free landing page templates Sunny Landing Pages

While there are some limitations to the free account (like 300 page visits/month!) it is worth checking out their plans. Also if you need a landing page for a short period of time (let’s say an event or seasonal promotion) this could be a great place to go!

#4. WIX Landing Page Templates

If you are into the sleek, simplistic, modern look, WIX is the place for you. In fact, these may just be some of my favorite landing page designs to choose from. Many of them incorporate autoplay videos on loop, which yes, can involve some technical resources to configure (and may slow down your page), but what could be more engaging?

Landing page templates free Wix

Check out the many categories and sub-categories you can sort through to find the right template for you.

Free landing page templates Wix

These landing pages take beautiful design to a whole new level. Not to mention that all of their landing page templates are mobile-responsive and FREE! WIX is a website builder so you will need a WIX account, and there will be certain limitations in place if you are not paying to play.

#5. Free Bootstrap Landing Page Templates

I know you all love the word “FREE” so why not keep the party going? Bootstrap provides some nice landing page templates that are completely free and easily downloadable. These landing page templates are designed for use with the Bootstrap front-end component library, an increasingly popular open-source toolkit that allows people to rapidly iterate on prototype web apps. A little more niche than some of the more typical resources, but Bootstrap is remarkably flexible and lightweight.

Free landing page templates Bootstrap landing pages

Their designs also tend to be minimal and modern. You will also notice that once you start to dig deeper there are several helpful comments around each page, and even tips provided directly from Bootstrap to get you off on the right foot.

Landing page templates free Bootstrap customer support comments

#6. 20+ Free HTML Landing Page Templates from Themewagon

These templates are similar to the Bootstrap templates above, except some of them do not rely on the Bootstrap framework to run. In fact, many of these are just combinations of HTML5 and CSS3 code, which makes them universal regardless of platform. Each template has a neat visual checklist of what that template offers, such as image grids with mouse-over actions etc. Not to mention, they’re free!

Free landing page templates Themewagon

#7. 25+ Best Marketing Unbounce Landing Page Templates

I couldn’t mention Unbounce just once in this post, that would be rude! Designsmaz.com put together this lovely resource of 25+ of the very best marketing Unbounce landing page templates. If hunting through Unbounce’s army of templates is stressing you out, check out this thorough list. This list was also made with converting in mind, so if that is your goal (and why wouldn’t it be?), these templates are a great place to start.

;Landing page templates free Unbounce Reisen bundle

#8. Styleshout Free Landing Page Website Templates

This is another really great little source for templates; the main differentiator being that these are all available under the Creative Commons license. Not only are these landing page templates free, but they are unique in that they require no legal attribution, use royalty-free imagery, and are not subject to the same copyright restrictions that some templates may be.

Landing page templates free Styleshout

Did I mention that they look really great, too?

#9. Over 200 Conversion Tested Templates from Instapage

And last, but not least, we have some more mobile-responsive, conversion-tested templates from Instapage – over 200 of them to be exact! If you know exactly where and how you want to display your video, form, and any additional information, you’ll likely be able to find a compelling design on this long list of templates.

Free landing page templates Instapage

Again there are categories to help you sort and find templates in line with your goals (ranging from lead gen pages to e-book or event pages). These Instapage templates are definitely worth exploring.

Do not let landing page creation stress you out! With this sea of options, you are destined to find a template that matches up with your goals, vertical, and budget. Have fun exploring, and share your creations with us; we’d love to see them!

About the Author

Margot is a Content Marketing Specialist at WordStream and nutrition graduate student at Framingham State. She loves all things digital, learning about nutrition, running, traveling, and cooking. Follow her on:

Twitter: @margotshealthub

Instagram: @margotshealthhub

Blog: http://ift.tt/2o7a6TV

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Designing a Page’s Content Flow to Maximize SEO Opportunity – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Controlling and improving the flow of your on-site content can actually help your SEO. What’s the best way to capitalize on the opportunity present in your page design? Rand covers the questions you need to ask (and answer) and the goals you should strive for in today’s Whiteboard Friday.

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Designing a page's content flow to maximize SEO opportunity

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about a designing a page’s content flow to help with your SEO.

Now, unfortunately, somehow in the world of SEO tactics, this one has gotten left by the wayside. I think a lot of people in the SEO world are investing in things like content and solving searchers’ problems and getting to the bottom of searcher intent. But unfortunately, the page design and the flow of the elements, the UI elements, the content elements that sit in a page is discarded or left aside. That’s unfortunate because it can actually make a huge difference to your SEO.

Q: What needs to go on this page, in what order, with what placement?

So if we’re asking ourselves like, “Well, what’s the question here?” Well, it’s what needs to go on this page. I’m trying to rank for “faster home Wi-Fi.” Right now, Lifehacker and a bunch of other people are ranking in these results. It gets a ton of searches. I can drive a lot of revenue for my business if I can rank there. But what needs to go on this page in what order with what placement in order for me to perform the best that I possibly can? It turns out that sometimes great content gets buried in a poor page design and poor page flow. But if we want to answer this question, we actually have to ask some other ones. We need answers to at least these three:

A. What is the searcher in this case trying to accomplish?

When they enter “faster home Wi-Fi,” what’s the task that they want to get done?

B. Are there multiple intents behind this query, and which ones are most popular?

What’s the popularity of those intents in what order? We need to know that so that we can design our flow around the most common ones first and the secondary and tertiary ones next.

C. What’s the business goal of ranking? What are we trying to accomplish?

That’s always going to have to be balanced out with what is the searcher trying to accomplish. Otherwise, in a lot of cases, there’s no point in ranking at all. If we can’t get our goals met, we should just rank for something else where we can.

Let’s assume we’ve got some answers:

Let’s assume that, in this case, we have some good answers to these questions so we can proceed. So pretty simple. If I search for “faster home Wi-Fi,” what I want is usually it’s going to be…

A. Faster download speed at home.

That’s what the searcher is trying to accomplish. But there are multiple intents behind this. Sometimes the searcher is looking to do that..

B1. With their current ISP and their current equipment.

They want to know things they can optimize that don’t cause them to spend money. Can they place their router in different places? Can they change out a cable? Do they need to put it in a different room? Do they need to move their computer? Is the problem something else that’s interfering with their Wi-Fi in their home that they need to turn off? Those kinds of issues.

B2. With a new ISP.

Or can they get a new ISP? They might be looking for an ISP that can provide them with faster home internet in their area, and they want to know what’s available, which is a very different intent than the first one.

B3. With current ISP but new equipment.

maybe they want to keep their ISP, but they are willing to upgrade to new equipment. So they’re looking for what’s the equipment that I could buy that would make the current ISP I have, which in many cases in the United States, sadly, there’s only one ISP that can provide you with service in a lot of areas. So they can’t change ISP, but they can change out their equipment.

C. Affiliate revenue with product referrals.

Let’s assume that (C) is we know that what we’re trying to accomplish is affiliate revenue from product referrals. So our business is basically we’re going to send people to new routers or the Google Mesh Network home device, and we get affiliate revenue by passing folks off to those products and recommending them.

Now we can design a content flow.

Okay, fair enough. We now have enough to be able to take care of this design flow. The design flow can involve lots of things. There are a lot of things that could live on a page, everything from navigation to headline to the lead-in copy or the header image or body content, graphics, reference links, the footer, a sidebar potentially.

The elements that go in here are not actually what we’re talking about today. We can have that conversation too. I want a headline that’s going to tell people that I serve all of these different intents. I want to have a lead-in that has a potential to be the featured snippet in there. I want a header image that can rank in image results and be in the featured snippet panel. I’m going to want body content that serves all of these in the order that’s most popular. I want graphics and visuals that suggest to people that I’ve done my research and I can provably show that the results that you get with this different equipment or this different ISP will be relevant to them.

But really, what we’re talking about here is the flow that matters. The content itself, the problem is that it gets buried. What I see many times is folks will take a powerful visual or a powerful piece of content that’s solving the searcher’s query and they’ll put it in a place on the page where it’s hard to access or hard to find. So even though they’ve actually got great content, it is buried by the page’s design.

5 big goals that matter.

The goals that matter here and the ones that you should be optimizing for when you’re thinking about the design of this flow are:

1. How do I solve the searcher’s task quickly and enjoyably?

So that’s about user experience as well as the UI. I know that, for many people, they are going to want to see and, in fact, the result that’s ranking up here on the top is Lifehacker’s top 10 list for how to get your home Wi-Fi faster. They include things like upgrading your ISP, and here’s a tool to see what’s available in your area. They include maybe you need a better router, and here are the best ones. Maybe you need a different network or something that expands your network in your home, and here’s a link out to those. So they’re serving that purpose up front, up top.

2. Serve these multiple intents in the order of demand.

So if we can intuit that most people want to stick with their ISP, but are willing to change equipment, we can serve this one first (B3). We can serve this one second (B1), and we can serve the change out my ISP third (B2), which is actually the ideal fit in this scenario for us. That helps us

3. Optimize for the business goal without sacrificing one and two.

I would urge you to design generally with the searcher in mind and if you can fit in the business goal, that is ideal. Otherwise, what tends to happen is the business goal comes first, the searcher comes second, and you come tenth in the results.

4. If possible, try to claim the featured snippet and the visual image that go up there.

That means using the lead-in up at the top. It’s usually the first paragraph or the first few lines of text in an ordered or unordered list, along with a header image or visual in order to capture that featured snippet. That’s very powerful for search results that are still showing it.

5. Limit our bounce back to the SERP as much as possible.

In many cases, this means limiting some of the UI or design flow elements that hamper people from solving their problems or that annoy or dissuade them. So, for example, advertising that pops up or overlays that come up before I’ve gotten two-thirds of the way down the page really tend to hamper efforts, really tend to increase this bounce back to the SERP, the search engine call pogo-sticking and can harm your rankings dramatically. Design elements, design flows where the content that actually solves the problem is below an advertising block or below a promotional block, that also is very limiting.

So to the degree that we can control the design of our pages and optimize for that, we can actually take existing content that you might already have and improve its rankings without having to remake it, without needing new links, simply by improving the flow.

I hope we’ll see lots of examples of those in the comments, and we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

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Facebook Stats, New AdWords Features & More Top Stories from November

As millions of businesses try to capitalize on the Black Friday sales and prepare for the looming year-end madness of the holidays, November is always a busy month – and the WordStream blog was no exception this year.

Best of the WordStream blog November 2017

This month, plenty of stories struck a chord with our readers. From competitive keyword research and imaginative ways to make the most of ad extensions, there was a lot going on at the WordStream blog last month.

If you were among the business owners frantically trying to get everything together for your holiday campaigns, fear not – here, for your reading pleasure, are the most popular posts from the WordStream blog in November.

1. The 8 Best Tools for Finding Competitor Keywords

With more businesses than ever competing for their slice of the pie, competitive intelligence research is more important than ever. But how do you go about finding your competitors’ keywords?

 Competitive keyword research analysis tools

In our most popular post of the month, yours truly explores eight tools that will help you find out which keywords your competitors are ranking for and how you leverage this vital information in your own campaigns.

2. Ultimate Guide to Dominating Black Friday PPC in 2017

November may be a time to look forward to (or dread) spending time with family, at least in the U.S., but for many people, there’s only one show in town – Black Friday. The day after Thanksgiving is one of the biggest shopping days of the year, and with so much at stake, it’s vital that businesses make the most of this unique opportunity. In our second-most popular post of November, Andrew Lolk explains how to crush the competition on Black Friday.

3. 3 Creative Ways to Use Ad Extensions (that Google Won’t Tell You About!)

Ad extensions are among the most versatile tools at digital marketers’ disposal, but there’s more to ad extensions than meets the eye. In this post, Allen shows you three imaginative ways to get even more mileage out of your ad extensions. How many of these techniques have you used?

4. The Inverted Unicorn Ad Targeting Strategy that Doubles Facebook Relevance Score

It’s no secret that WordStream founder Larry Kim has kind of a thing for a certain mythological creature. However, Larry’s affinity for magical horse-like beasts isn’t just an idiosyncratic preoccupation – it actually informs many of Larry’s unique approaches to digital marketing. Case in point, the “Inverted Unicorn Ad Targeting Strategy.”

 Components of Facebook Relevance Score WordStream diagram

In this post, Larry shows you how this technique can double – yes, double – the Relevance Score of your Facebook ads. Mythological creatures and improved Relevance Scores? What are you waiting for?

5. 4 New AdWords Features You Need to Try

AdWords is always changing. In any given year, Google makes hundreds of little tweaks to its AdWords platform, many of which go unnoticed. Sometimes, however, we’re treated to extra-special new features that make advertisers’ lives easier. In this post, Allen explains how to take advantage of three brand-new AdWords features you might not have had a chance to play around with yet. Essential reading for advertisers seeking to gain an edge over the competition!

6. 75 Super-Useful Facebook Statistics for 2018

Did you know that almost 80% of Americans use Facebook, and that more than half use the site several times per day? Or that roughly 400 new users sign up for Facebook every minute? Facebook is truly a juggernaut in the social media space, and no other platform even comes close to rivaling its dominance. Check out these 75(!) amazing facts about Facebook to see how influential Facebook has become.

7. 9 Ways to Lower Your Facebook Ad Costs

As powerful and cost-effective as Facebook Ads can be, there are always ways to stretch your ad budget even further. In this guest post, Lisa Lacy outlines nine different ways you can bring your Facebook advertising costs down without hamstringing your campaigns or sacrificing your targeting parameters.

 9 ways to lower your Facebook ad costs social media habits of Facebook users

Even if your Facebook campaigns are tightly optimized, you may be able to save even more money on your Facebook ads.

8. The Complete Guide to Advertising on Instagram

Facebook may be the biggest player in social, but Instagram is a powerhouse in its own right. However, as popular as Instagram may be (especially among those cool-kid Millennial types), advertising on Instagram can still be a little intimidating to newcomers, particularly smaller businesses with more modest advertising budgets. In this post, Margot runs through everything you need to know about advertising on Instagram, from initial setup to ongoing campaign monitoring. A must-read if you’re thinking of diversifying your social presence into Instagram.

9. 3 Underrated Metrics That Will Improve Your PPC Performance

With so much data at their disposal, some advertisers can fall into the trap of focusing on the wrong metrics when evaluating the success (or failure) of their campaigns. As many advertisers can attest, not all metrics are created equal, and in this guest post, Funnel.io’s Juuso Lyytikkä explores three commonly underrated PPC metrics than can significantly boost the performance of your campaigns. How many of these metrics do you look at on the regular?

10. Bing Ads Benchmarks for YOUR Industry

Advertisers often want as much data as they can get their hands on, but oftentimes, the most actionable and insightful data – such as clearly defined advertising benchmarks for specific industries – remain the most elusive.

 Bing Ads average click-through rate industry benchmark data

That’s why we produced this original research data on Bing Ads performance benchmarks for YOUR industry. Feast your eyes on the average CPCs, CPAs, and CTRs for Bing Ads in your vertical and see how your campaigns measure up.

from Internet Marketing Blog by WordStream http://ift.tt/2BqTSb6

The Complete Guide to Direct Traffic in Google Analytics

Posted by tombennet

When it comes to direct traffic in Analytics, there are two deeply entrenched misconceptions.

The first is that it’s caused almost exclusively by users typing an address into their browser (or clicking on a bookmark). The second is that it’s a Bad Thing, not because it has any overt negative impact on your site’s performance, but rather because it’s somehow immune to further analysis. The prevailing attitude amongst digital marketers is that direct traffic is an unavoidable inconvenience; as a result, discussion of direct is typically limited to ways of attributing it to other channels, or side-stepping the issues associated with it.

In this article, we’ll be taking a fresh look at direct traffic in modern Google Analytics. As well as exploring the myriad ways in which referrer data can be lost, we’ll look at some tools and tactics you can start using immediately to reduce levels of direct traffic in your reports. Finally, we’ll discover how advanced analysis and segmentation can unlock the mysteries of direct traffic and shed light on what might actually be your most valuable users.

What is direct traffic?

In short, Google Analytics will report a traffic source of “direct” when it has no data on how the session arrived at your website, or when the referring source has been configured to be ignored. You can think of direct as GA’s fall-back option for when its processing logic has failed to attribute a session to a particular source.

To properly understand the causes and fixes for direct traffic, it’s important to understand exactly how GA processes traffic sources. The following flow-chart illustrates how sessions are bucketed — note that direct sits right at the end as a final “catch-all” group.

Broadly speaking, and disregarding user-configured overrides, GA’s processing follows this sequence of checks:

AdWords parameters > Campaign overrides > UTM campaign parameters > Referred by a search engine > Referred by another website > Previous campaign within timeout period > Direct

Note the penultimate processing step (previous campaign within timeout), which has a significant impact on the direct channel. Consider a user who discovers your site via organic search, then returns via direct a week later. Both sessions would be attributed to organic search. In fact, campaign data persists for up to six months by default. The key point here is that Google Analytics is already trying to minimize the impact of direct traffic for you.

What causes direct traffic?

Contrary to popular belief, there are actually many reasons why a session might be missing campaign and traffic source data. Here we will run through some of the most common.

1. Manual address entry and bookmarks

The classic direct-traffic scenario, this one is largely unavoidable. If a user types a URL into their browser’s address bar or clicks on a browser bookmark, that session will appear as direct traffic.

Simple as that.

2. HTTPS > HTTP

When a user follows a link on a secure (HTTPS) page to a non-secure (HTTP) page, no referrer data is passed, meaning the session appears as direct traffic instead of as a referral. Note that this is intended behavior. It’s part of how the secure protocol was designed, and it does not affect other scenarios: HTTP to HTTP, HTTPS to HTTPS, and even HTTP to HTTPS all pass referrer data.

So, if your referral traffic has tanked but direct has spiked, it could be that one of your major referrers has migrated to HTTPS. The inverse is also true: If you’ve migrated to HTTPS and are linking to HTTP websites, the traffic you’re driving to them will appear in their Analytics as direct.

If your referrers have moved to HTTPS and you’re stuck on HTTP, you really ought to consider migrating to HTTPS. Doing so (and updating your backlinks to point to HTTPS URLs) will bring back any referrer data which is being stripped from cross-protocol traffic. SSL certificates can now be obtained for free thanks to automated authorities like LetsEncrypt, but that’s not to say you should neglect to explore the potentially-significant SEO implications of site migrations. Remember, HTTPS and HTTP/2 are the future of the web.

If, on the other hand, you’ve already migrated to HTTPS and are concerned about your users appearing to partner websites as direct traffic, you can implement the meta referrer tag. Cyrus Shepard has written about this on Moz before, so I won’t delve into it now. Suffice to say, it’s a way of telling browsers to pass some referrer data to non-secure sites, and can be implemented as a <meta> element or HTTP header.

3. Missing or broken tracking code

Let’s say you’ve launched a new landing page template and forgotten to include the GA tracking code. Or, to use a scenario I’m encountering more and more frequently, imagine your GTM container is a horrible mess of poorly configured triggers, and your tracking code is simply failing to fire.

Users land on this page without tracking code. They click on a link to a deeper page which does have tracking code. From GA’s perspective, the first hit of the session is the second page visited, meaning that the referrer appears as your own website (i.e. a self-referral). If your domain is on the referral exclusion list (as per default configuration), the session is bucketed as direct. This will happen even if the first URL is tagged with UTM campaign parameters.

As a short-term fix, you can try to repair the damage by simply adding the missing tracking code. To prevent it happening again, carry out a thorough Analytics audit, move to a GTM-based tracking implementation, and promote a culture of data-driven marketing.

4. Improper redirection

This is an easy one. Don’t use meta refreshes or JavaScript-based redirects — these can wipe or replace referrer data, leading to direct traffic in Analytics. You should also be meticulous with your server-side redirects, and — as is often recommended by SEOs — audit your redirect file frequently. Complex chains are more likely to result in a loss of referrer data, and you run the risk of UTM parameters getting stripped out.

Once again, control what you can: use carefully mapped (i.e. non-chained) code 301 server-side redirects to preserve referrer data wherever possible.

5. Non-web documents

Links in Microsoft Word documents, slide decks, or PDFs do not pass referrer information. By default, users who click these links will appear in your reports as direct traffic. Clicks from native mobile apps (particularly those with embedded “in-app” browsers) are similarly prone to stripping out referrer data.

To a degree, this is unavoidable. Much like so-called “dark social” visits (discussed in detail below), non-web links will inevitably result in some quantity of direct traffic. However, you also have an opportunity here to control the controllables.

If you publish whitepapers or offer downloadable PDF guides, for example, you should be tagging the embedded hyperlinks with UTM campaign parameters. You’d never even contemplate launching an email marketing campaign without campaign tracking (I hope), so why would you distribute any other kind of freebie without similarly tracking its success? In some ways this is even more important, since these kinds of downloadables often have a longevity not seen in a single email campaign. Here’s an example of a properly tagged URL which we would embed as a link:

http://ift.tt/2ifQkVi?…_medium=offline_document&utm_campaign=201711_utm_whitepaper

The same goes for URLs in your offline marketing materials. For major campaigns it’s common practice to select a short, memorable URL (e.g. moz.com/tv/) and design an entirely new landing page. It’s possible to bypass page creation altogether: simply redirect the vanity URL to an existing page URL which is properly tagged with UTM parameters.

So, whether you tag your URLs directly, use redirected vanity URLs, or — if you think UTM parameters are ugly — opt for some crazy-ass hash-fragment solution with GTM (read more here), the takeaway is the same: use campaign parameters wherever it’s appropriate to do so.

6. “Dark social”

This is a big one, and probably the least well understood by marketers.

The term “dark social” was first coined back in 2012 by Alexis Madrigal in an article for The Atlantic. Essentially it refers to methods of social sharing which cannot easily be attributed to a particular source, like email, instant messaging, Skype, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger.

Recent studies have found that upwards of 80% of consumers’ outbound sharing from publishers’ and marketers’ websites now occurs via these private channels. In terms of numbers of active users, messaging apps are outpacing social networking apps. All the activity driven by these thriving platforms is typically bucketed as direct traffic by web analytics software.

People who use the ambiguous phrase “social media marketing” are typically referring to advertising: you broadcast your message and hope people will listen. Even if you overcome consumer indifference with a well-targeted campaign, any subsequent interactions are affected by their very public nature. The privacy of dark social, by contrast, represents a potential goldmine of intimate, targeted, and relevant interactions with high conversion potential. Nebulous and difficult-to-track though it may be, dark social has the potential to let marketers tap into elusive power of word of mouth.

So, how can we minimize the amount of dark social traffic which is bucketed under direct? The unfortunate truth is that there is no magic bullet: proper attribution of dark social requires rigorous campaign tracking. The optimal approach will vary greatly based on your industry, audience, proposition, and so on. For many websites, however, a good first step is to provide convenient and properly configured sharing buttons for private platforms like email, WhatsApp, and Slack, thereby ensuring that users share URLs appended with UTM parameters (or vanity/shortened URLs which redirect to the same). This will go some way towards shining a light on part of your dark social traffic.

Checklist: Minimizing direct traffic

To summarize what we’ve already discussed, here are the steps you can take to minimize the level of unnecessary direct traffic in your reports:

  1. Migrate to HTTPS: Not only is the secure protocol your gateway to HTTP/2 and the future of the web, it will also have an enormously positive effect on your ability to track referral traffic.
  2. Manage your use of redirects: Avoid chains and eliminate client-side redirection in favour of carefully-mapped, single-hop, server-side 301s. If you use vanity URLs to redirect to pages with UTM parameters, be meticulous.
  3. Get really good at campaign tagging: Even amongst data-driven marketers I encounter the belief that UTM begins and ends with switching on automatic tagging in your email marketing software. Others go to the other extreme, doing silly things like tagging internal links. Control what you can, and your ability to carry out meaningful attribution will markedly improve.
  4. Conduct an Analytics audit: Data integrity is vital, so consider this essential when assessing the success of your marketing. It’s not simply a case of checking for missing track code: good audits involve a review of your measurement plan and rigorous testing at page and property-level.

Adhere to these principles, and it’s often possible to achieve a dramatic reduction in the level of direct traffic reported in Analytics. The following example involved an HTTPS migration, GTM migration (as part of an Analytics review), and an overhaul of internal campaign tracking processes over the course of about 6 months:

But the saga of direct traffic doesn’t end there! Once this channel is “clean” — that is, once you’ve minimized the number of avoidable pollutants — what remains might actually be one of your most valuable traffic segments.

Analyze! Or: why direct traffic can actually be pretty cool

For reasons we’ve already discussed, traffic from bookmarks and dark social is an enormously valuable segment to analyze. These are likely to be some of your most loyal and engaged users, and it’s not uncommon to see a notably higher conversion rate for a clean direct channel compared to the site average. You should make the effort to get to know them.

The number of potential avenues to explore is infinite, but here are some good starting points:

  • Build meaningful custom segments, defining a subset of your direct traffic based on their landing page, location, device, repeat visit or purchase behavior, or even enhanced e-commerce interactions.
  • Track meaningful engagement metrics using modern GTM triggers such as element visibility and native scroll tracking. Measure how your direct users are using and viewing your content.
  • Watch for correlations with your other marketing activities, and use it as an opportunity to refine your tagging practices and segment definitions. Create a custom alert which watches for spikes in direct traffic.
  • Familiarize yourself with flow reports to get an understanding of how your direct traffic is converting. By using Goal Flow and Behavior Flow reports with segmentation, it’s often possible to glean actionable insights which can be applied to the site as a whole.
  • Ask your users for help! If you’ve isolated a valuable segment of traffic which eludes deeper analysis, add a button to the page offering visitors a free downloadable ebook if they tell you how they discovered your page.
  • Start thinking about lifetime value, if you haven’t already — overhauling your attribution model or implementing User ID are good steps towards overcoming the indifference or frustration felt by marketers towards direct traffic.

I hope this guide has been useful. With any luck, you arrived looking for ways to reduce the level of direct traffic in your reports, and left with some new ideas for how to better analyze this valuable segment of users.

Thanks for reading!

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