5 Ways to Prove to the Client that the Traffic Will Come

Posted by james.harrison

This post is dedicated to those hard-working white-hat SEOs helping websites obtain top search engine rankings the right way. Sometimes we have to remind the client that slow and steady wins the race. However, the majority of the time the client doesn’t want to hear that, especially if they are paying for SEO services month after month.

Yes, SEO is an investment; however, showing them that they are investing in your services and skills requires a little more than just performing SEO services. Due to the search share click distribution, the client can’t really expect major increases in traffic until they reach the first page of the SERPs. Sometimes they can see instant increases in traffic via long-tailed terms after completion of thorough on-page optimization. But, for the most part we have to educate them so that they will be patient. Remember, they hired you because they are not experts in SEO, it’s important to teach them the benefits as well as the slow process of organic SEO.

Below are five things you can do to help your client rest assured that you are doing an effective job, and with time, traffic will come.

#1 – Rankings reports and keyword improvements

This is kind of a given, because traditionally all we could do is show the client that we helped them go from the 100th position to 50th position. That almost never reflects more traffic, but it does show improvement. It also shows effort, and if you get two consistent upward movements, you can show that there’s a trend in their favor.

Another keyword improvement you can show them is total keywords bringing traffic to their website in Google Analytics. If you go to Sources > Search > Organic, then scroll down to bottom right, you can see how many total keywords have brought traffic to their site in the current date range. If you change the date range to a range pre-SEO work and that number is smaller than the most recent, you can say that you are increasing their overall visibility. So, if you can show improvement in rankings and that they are getting more organic traffic via more keywords on the SERPs; you are showing them that they are making progress. For most clients, this is enough.

#2 – Working logs

Every once in a while, a client may want some updates on how the SEO is going because they aren’t seeing an increase in traffic or conversions. In other words, they want to know what you have been doing.

I recommend recording all work you’ve done for the client regardless of the complexity and time it took. Create events in Google Analytics or your SEO tool software. These are easy ways to document your work while showing correlations with traffic. Another way I’ve satisfied my clients is having something like BaseCamp or a time tracker that they can sign in to and see what has been accomplished.

Behind the scenes, we know things are going good and we know that we are doing work to get those rankings up, however the client doesn’t. Anything you can do to allow the client to check on what you’ve done for them, whenever they want, can sometimes prevent emails or phones calls questioning your efforts.

#3 – Summary reports and updates

Sometimes, emailing the client or getting on the phone with them weekly or bimonthly is all they need. When you reach out to the client before they reach out to you, you are squashing embers before the fire starts. It shows them that you are proactive and more importantly that you haven’t forgot about them. Emailing or calling them just to let them know that you’ve accomplished something or that you were thinking about them while working on their account can go a long way.

I believe this is arguably the most important thing you can do to build long term relationships with your clients. It can be something as simple as “Hey, I just wanted to let you know that we wrote up some content, emailed a few webmasters and been working on your rankings. Just an FYI, give you more details in the monthly report.” This communication can make a client’s day and maintain their trust for you and your services.

#4 – Other metrics to report

Assuming that you are doing your job, you can report other metrics to the client if rankings and traffic have not kicked in yet. Metrics such as total links contacted out of total link goals, total tweets, fans, +1s, shares, pages per site visited, site bounce rate, conversion rate, total live links, subscribers, etc. Anything that will show them that the website is doing better than when you started. However, in order to provide these types of stats, you have to create a benchmark to show how where they are now is better than where they started.

#5 – Resources vouching that SEO takes time

In the case that the client is still skeptical and the results are not yet able to prove your work, the best thing you can do is show them that even the authorities such as Search Engine Watch, Moz, Search Engine Journal, Google, etc., all confirmed that rankings don’t happen overnight. Perhaps you can do a better job educating them about the fact that it’s a campaign to catch up with the competition; that the competitors who are ranking high have performed a long list of tasks over years to get to where they are, and you are emulating them in the most efficient way possible.

So…

…there you have it, five ways to let the clients know that you are doing what needs to be done in order to obtain top rankings. Just don’t forget that the client may still need to trust that the tasks you are accomplishing actually works. So you may have to prove to them that your strategies have helped other clients, or that you are doing what the algorithm, case studies and the competition proves needs to be done.

I hope this helps my fellow white-hat SEOs performing legit services keep good relationships with their clients.

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!

Having a CAPTCHA is Killing Your Conversion Rate

Posted by tallen1985

SEOs can occasionally find ourselves guilty of focusing on just the following few things:

  1. Links
  2. Rankings
  3. Fun cuddly animals that Google keeps releasing from its algorithmic zoo

Quite often we are heard muttering that user experience isn’t really our problem. We are all about the above three points. However, as the job of SEOs continues to become broader, requiring a greater number of skill sets, I think user experience is something we can all work on. Besides, surely if we focus some of our energy on this, we are going to end up with much happier users, which in turn will result in higher conversions.

There are various ways to work on improving user experience, and of course, conversion rate optimization also plays a part. Today, I want to focus on one specific part of user experience — CAPTCHAs (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart) — and why I think they suck.

CAPTCHAs ask frustrating questions

When you encounter a CAPTCHA, you are being asked the question,”Are you a robot?” It’s like asking a customer who is about to enter a physical store, “Are you a thief?” before you allow them to walk through the door. So we used to flood our users with these “questions:”

And from there we have now moved to this:

Literally every time I see one of the above it makes me wish that this was on a nearby wall:

CAPTCHAs act as a barrier between you and your customers

Back in 2009, Casey Henry wrote a great post on CAPTCHA’s effect on conversion rates. He highlighted the fact that with CAPTCHA turned off, a company’s conversion rate would increase by up to 3.2%. It’s worth noting that the CAPTCHA type used in this test was based on the more traditional word format. That 3.2% is a pretty big potential gain for a whole lot of companies.

Traditional Word Format CAPTCHA

CAPTCHAs are not a solution, they are a problem

At the beginning of 2013 it was announced that Ticketmaster was finally ditching its traditional CAPTCHAs. Ticketmaster proceeded with an alternative system by SolveMedia. The system presents users with an image or video, the user then has to type a phrase associated with that image. In the video version of the product, a descriptive phrase will appear which the user then has to copy into a box below. If they are not willing to do this, they need to watch the video for a certain amount of time (similar to YouTube advertising) before continuing.

Right now, companies are producing variations of novelty products aimed at helping us to stop spam from landing in our inboxes. Many products claim they are aimed at improving the user experience by making this easier for humans. They come in a variety of styles, ranging from completing a simple sum to those that are image-based or even gamifying CAPTCHAs (such as Are You Human).

Yet all of these “solutions” create the same problem. I, the user, am trying to complete a purchase, fill in a form, or even just submit a comment. And you, the website, keep putting this frustrating technological barrier between myself and my goal, just so you don’t have to sort through a few items of spam.

Another major concern is that these products aren’t particularly user-friendly for those who are blind or partially sighted. Some simply offer the same audio CAPTCHAs (and problems) that we have been experiencing for as long as we remember.

CAPTCHA is built for advertising, not users

The key difference for me with image-based products such as SolveMedia and Minteye is that they seem to act as another opportunity to push an advert in front of users. In some cases they force you to watch an advert just to progress to the next page.

Users don’t want to see adverts even when they are “subtly” placed around a beautifully designed page. Yet, more and more we are moving away from giving the user a choice about viewing an advert to the point where adverts are forced upon them (ahem…YouTube).

So people must be ditching CAPTCHA, right?

Despite statistics like those shared by Casey Henry, the fact is that the use of CAPTCHA is actually on the increase. Perhaps for many webmasters this is just becoming common practice, almost the norm. After all, it’s a quick fix that means we, as webmasters, no longer have to worry about dealing with spam.

Figures from Drupal’s usage statistics show that they alone have nearly 200,000 people using one of their variants of CAPTCHA. This is a barrier to a more fulfilled user experience that doesn’t seem to be going away.

https://drupal.org/project/usage/captcha

“CAPTCHAs are designed to be easy for humans but hard for machines”

…according to a study carried out by Stanford University into the use of CAPTCHA by humans. Yet, by testing more than 1,100 people, gathering 11,800 completed surveys, and studying 14,000,000 samples from a week’s worth of data from eBay, they revealed just how difficult CAPTCHA has become for humans.

The study showed that, on average:

  • Visual CAPTCHAs take 9.8 seconds to complete
  • Audio CAPTCHAs take much longer (28.4 seconds) to hear and solve
  • Audio CAPTCHA has a 50% give-up rate
  • Only 71% of the time will 3 users agree on the translation of a CAPTCHA
  • Only 31.2% of the time will 3 users agree on the translation of an audio CAPTCHA

With around 1% of the audience currently using audio CAPTCHA, this is potentially a huge market to lose.

So what is the solution?

There is a time and a place for CAPTCHA. For some sites, it may be unavoidable. However, any solution that is extremely effective rapidly becomes widely used, and as such, becomes a target for hackers.

There are some really simple solutions already out there that will help to reduce the amount of spam you receive but won’t interfere with your user experience.

Akismet

Akismet provides an effective defence that has no impact upon your users. It comes as a variety of plugins and is generally easy to implement on your site. Akismet monitors millions of sites, constantly learning new methods to beat comment spam.

The honeypot technique

Essentially, the honeypot technique is used to hide a field on a form from the user. If this field is then filled in, the chances are pretty high it was by a machine. The major downside to this method is that the form could be accidentally completed by a visually impaired user. Therefore, it might be useful to also label the field with something such as, “If you are human, don’t fill in this field”.

We still ultimately have the problem that whatever we do to ensure a user doesn’t fill in the form, a malicious script could perform its own interpretations by learning which labels mean that a field should be left alone.

However, the key benefit to this method is that the user isn’t getting punished by being asked to complete something that is irrelevant to their actions.

Is it time you ditched your CAPTCHA?

I think we need to focus on what creates a better experience for users by asking ourselves the following questions:

  • Is the amount of spam you are receiving really worth potentially losing conversions?
  • If the answer is yes, is your CAPTCHA friendly to all users, including those who are visually impaired?
  • CAPTCHAs are for robots, not for humans. Unfortunately, anything one person can code to try and prevent robots from entering a site is something another can find a way through. The real consideration is, are we just shoving our problem with spam onto our customers?

When it comes down to it, CAPTCHAs lead to a negative experience on our sites. They frustrate users, damage conversion rates, and they are not particularly friendly to visually impaired users. Most of all, it is shifting our problem onto our users. That’s definitely not right. Getting rid of CAPTCHAs will not only improve our users’ experiences, but it will also improve the web as a whole. This should be the beginning of the end of the CAPTCHA. If you have a CAPTCHA, I urge you to remove it now!

What do you think?

Image credits

http://gizmodo.com/5980361/ticketmaster-is-dumping-awful-captchas

http://www.richgossweiler.com/projects/rotcaptcha/rotcaptcha.pdf

http://www.maggiesnotebook.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/Bang_Head_Here_25.jpg

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!

Subject Matter Experts and Their Role in Digital Marketing Strategy – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by Eric Enge

Establishing expertise and thought leadership is key to the success of your digital marketing strategy. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, learn how your team can work with (or become!) subject matter experts in your niche, giving consumers of your content a chance to learn from the best.










For reference, here’s a still of this week’s whiteboard!

Video Transcription

Good morning everybody in Moz land. I’m Eric Enge, I’m the CEO of Stone Temple Consulting. I’m here to do a Whiteboard Friday here for you today. By the way, I’m also co-author of “The Art of SEO” together with the beloved Rand Fishkin.

So I want to talk to you a little bit about subject matter experts and their role in your digital marketing strategy. They play an incredibly important role. I see lots of businesses out there that publish sites and they put content out there and there’s really no identity behind them. It’s really important because, at the end of the day, your target audience wants to attach to a person more than they want to attach to a nameless entity. They want to feel like they’re interacting with real people.

By the way, your subject matter expert could be subject matter experts, plural, and that’s good, but incredibly important that you have something, somebody where people can attach to them in a material way. And at the end of the day, from my perspective, you have to have an expert or go home. You’re just not going to be able to succeed in a big way going forward if you don’t have some sort of established expertise for your business. That’s my view of it. You just have to have that expert, or you need to go home.

So with that in mind, you run into the next problem. Your experts are human beings. There are 24 hours in a day, right? They have limited time to do what they need to do, and that actually limits how much scale you can get out of their activity. Maybe they only have two hours a day. And if that’s the case, then that limits how much content and how much communication of that expertise can happen out in the wild.

So I want to talk now a little bit about how do we scale their efforts so you get more out of your expert, and that’s where we lead to a few ideas I have over here. All right.

Best thing to do is see if you can get some smart young people, don’t necessarily have to be young, but smart people to assist your subject matter expert in a number of different ways. Some great things you can do to help them out, one is you can research article topics. I know for myself, when I get up on Saturday morning, which is when I tend to write my columns, I sometimes spend two hours trying to come up with an idea for what the column is going to be about. It can be very painful, very frustrating. If you have somebody there helping you, coming up with ideas and really giving you a set of things that you can look at and think about for that next column or blog post or whatever it is, it can be a big, big help for you.

You can even potentially have them draft articles for you. You need to be careful about this. I’m actually not a big fan of ghost writing, because keeping in mind that people want to attach to an expert, if the thing is truly ghost-written, well, it’s not really the expert that’s writing it, and to me that relationship gets weakened. So I think it’s very important to have the subject matter expert really be involved in writing the article. But you can have someone draft an article as long as the subject matter expert sort of recuts it and tears it apart, not just simple editing, but actually turns it into their own voice. Can be very helpful though to have that drafted article.

Find influencers. Very, very important thing to do. Who do you want that subject matter expert to build relationships with? That can be a lot of work to figure out too. You can use a variety of tools to figure this out. You can do social media research, just bum around on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, whatever your social site of preference is, or all of them, and help identify people that you want have the subject matter expert interact with. Figure out how to contact them, do research on what they like, help get that relationship process going. Subject matter expert has to be the one to do the outreach, but you can make it easier for them by doing some research up front.

Next thing, just monitoring social media sites. I’m going to use Twitter as an example. Find tweets by key people, maybe by influencers, maybe just by good friends. Have your assistant, basically, help the subject matter expert by monitoring, in this case Twitter, more frequently and more thoroughly than they can on their own. So that’s a very valuable service. So you look at tweets by key people and tweets by others, direct questions that get asked of you, or breaking news, all these sorts of things to allow the subject matter expert to be responsive without having to live in the social media site.

Next up, you can draft actually social media posts, be it a tweet or Google+ or Facebook or whatever it is, and then send your subject matter expert proposed things that they can put out on social media. Again, a big time-saver.

You can curate content for them. The assistant can go ahead and research other articles and find things going on and actually suggest comments on those articles.

Creating graphics, I’m lucky enough that I have someone who is able to create graphics for me. So I can walk in, in the morning and say, “Hey I want to do this post today,” and I can sketch out a little design, here’s what I want to do, I want this, sort of build a little design for them, and then they go off and create it and then two hours later I have a beautiful graphic which I can go ahead and use for my post. I actually end up with a lot of custom graphics in my posts that way, which is really cool.

They can also just edit your articles. Hopefully, that’s not too painful for them, because hopefully your subject matter expert is a good writer. But this is another valuable service. It’s really great to have that person, that other set of eyes on the article to help you with that.

The big key in all these services that I’ve talked about, which will help us lead to our happy SME down here in the bottom, is all about the relationship between the assistant and the subject matter expert. The assistant has to be doing things the subject matter expert finds valuable. So, if I’m a subject matter expert and I don’t find your curating content for me valuable because I’m just too opinionated or I don’t want to put that stuff out there, then having you do that for me doesn’t help. So the subject matter expert and the assistant or assistants, as the case may be, have to build a special relationship so that they understand how to work together and really make it work.

So that’s some ideas for you on how you take your subject matter expert, you give them a little more time, and help them scale their efforts, leading to a happy subject matter expert and good results for your business.

Thanks for listening to me today, and have a good day.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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!

How Website Speed Actually Impacts Search Ranking

Posted by Zoompf

Google uses a multitude of factors to determine how to rank search engine results. Typically, these factors are either related to the content of a webpage itself (the text, its URL, the titles and headers, etc.) or were measurements of the authenticity of the website itself (age of the domain name, number and quality of inbound links, etc.). However, in 2010, Google did something very different. Google announced website speed would begin having an impact on search ranking. Now, the speed at which someone could view the content from a search result would be a factor.

Unfortunately, the exact definition of “site speed” remained open to speculation. The mystery widened further in June, when Google’s Matt Cutts announced that slow-performing mobile sites would soon be penalized in search rankings as well.

Clearly Google is increasingly acting upon what is intuitively obvious: A poor performing website results in a poor user experience, and sites with poor user experiences deserve less promotion in search results. But what is Google measuring? And how does that play into search engine rankings? Matt Peters, data scientist at Moz, asked Zoompf to help find the answers.

Disclaimer

While Google has been intentionally unclear in which particular aspect of page speed impacts search ranking, they have been quite clear in stating that content relevancy remains king. So, in other words, while we can demonstrate a correlation (or lack thereof) between particular speed metrics and search ranking, we can never outright prove a causality relationship, since other unmeasurable factors are still at play. Still, in large enough scale, we make the assumption that any discovered correlations are a “probable influence” on search ranking and thus worthy of consideration.

Methodology

To begin our research, we worked with Matt to create a list of of 200 random search queries from the 2013 Ranking Factors study. We selected a representative sample of queries, some with as few as one search term (”hdtv”), others as long as five (”oklahoma city outlet mall stores”) and everything in between. We then extracted the top 50 ranked search result URLs for each query, assembling a list of 100,000 total pages to evaluate.

Next, we launched 30 Amazon “small” EC2 instances running in the Northern Virginia cloud, each loaded with an identical private instance of the open source tool WebPageTest. This tool uses the same web browser versions used by consumers at large to collect over 40 different performance measurements about how a webpage loads. We selected Chrome for our test, and ran each tested page with an empty cache to guarantee consistent results.

While we’ll summarize the results below, if you want to check out the data for yourself you can download the entire result set here.

Results

While we captured over 40 different page metrics for each URL examined, most did not show any significant influence on search ranking. This was largely expected, as (for example) the number of connections a web browser uses to load a page should likely not impact search ranking position. For the purposes of brevity, in this section we will just highlight the particularly noteworthy results. Again, please consult the raw performance data if you wish to examine it for additional factors.

Page load time

When people say”page load time” for a website, they usually mean one of two measurements: “document complete” time or “fully rendered” time. Think of document complete time as the time it takes a page to load before you can start clicking or entering data. All the content might not be there yet, but you can interact with the page. Think of fully rendered time as the time it takes to download and display all images, advertisements, and analytic trackers. This is all the “background stuff” you see fill in as you’re scrolling through a page.

Since Google was not clear on what page load time means, we examined both the effects of both document complete and fully rendered on search rankings. However our biggest surprise came from the lack of correlation of two key metrics! We expected, if anything, these 2 metrics would clearly have an impact on search ranking. However, our data shows no clear correlation between document complete or fully rendered times with search engine rank, as you can see in the graph below:

The horizontal axis measures the position of a page in the search results, while the vertical axis is the median time captured across all 200 different search terms used in the study. So in other words, if you plugged all 200 search terms into Google one by one and then clicked the first result for each, we’d measure the page load time of each of those pages, then calculate the median and plot at position 1. Then repeat for the second result, and third, and on and on until you hit 50.

We would expect this graph to have a clear “up and to the right” trend, as highly ranked pages should have a lower document complete or fully rendered time. Indeed, page rendering has a proven link to user satisfaction and sales conversions (we’ll get into that later), but surprisingly we could not find a clear correlation to ranking in this case.

Time to first byte

With no correlation between search ranking and what is traditionally thought of a “page load time” we expanded our search to the Time to First Byte (TTFB). This metric captures how long it takes your browser to receive the first byte of a response from a web server when you request a particular URL. In other words, this metric encompasses the network latency of sending your request to the web server, the amount of time the web server spent processing and generating a response, and amount of time it took to send the first byte of that response back from the server to your browser. The graph of median TTFB for each search rank position is shown below:

The TTFB result was surprising in a clear correlation was identified between decreasing search rank and increasing time to first byte. Sites that have a lower TTFB respond faster and have higher search result rankings than slower sites with a higher TTFB. Of all the data we captured, the TTFB metric had the strongest correlation effect, implying a high likelihood of some level of influence on search ranking.

Page size

The surprising result here was with the the median size of each web page, in bytes, relative to the search ranking position. By “page size,” we mean all of the bytes that were downloaded to fully render the page, including all the images, ads, third party widgets, and fonts. When we graphed the median page size for each search rank position, we found a counterintuitive correlation of decreasing page size to decreasing page rank, with an anomalous dip in the top 3 ranks.

This result confounded us at first, as we didn’t anticipate any real relationship here. Upon further speculation, though, we had a theory: lower ranking sites often belong to smaller companies with fewer resources, and consequently may have less content and complexity in their sites. As rankings increase, so does the complexity, with the exception of the “big boys” at the top who have extra budget to highly optimize their offerings. Think Amazon.com vs. an SMB electronics retailer vs. a mom-and-pop shop. We really have no proof of this theory, but it fits both the data and our own intuition.

Total image content

Since our analysis of the total page size surprised us, we decided to examine the median size, in bytes, of all images loaded for each page, relative to the search rank position. Other then a sharp spike in the first two rankings, the results are flat and uninteresting across all remaining rankings.

While we didn’t expect a strong level of correlation here we did expected some level of correlation, as sites with more images do load more slowly. Since this metric is tied closely to the fully rendered time mentioned above, the fact that this is equally flat supports the findings that page load time is likely not currently impacting search ranking.

What does this mean?

Our data shows there is no correlation between “page load time” (either document complete or fully rendered) and ranking on Google’s search results page. This is true not only for generic searches (one or two keywords) but also for “long tail” searches (4 or 5 keywords) as well. We did not see websites with faster page load times ranking higher than websites with slower page load times in any consistent fashion. If Page Load Time is a factor in search engine rankings, it is being lost in the noise of other factors. We had hoped to see some correlation especially for generic one- or two-word queries. Our belief was that the high competition for generic searches would make smaller factors like page speed stand out more. This was not the case.

However, our data shows there is a correlation between lower time-to-first-byte (TTFB) metrics and higher search engine rankings. Websites with servers and back-end infrastructure that could quickly deliver web content had a higher search ranking than those that were slower. This means that, despite conventional wisdom, it is back-end website performance and not front-end website performance that directly impacts a website’s search engine ranking. The question is, why?

TTFB is likely the quickest and easiest metric for Google to capture. Google’s various crawlers will all be able to take this measurement. Collecting document complete or fully rendered times requires a full browser. Additionally, document complete and fully rendered times depend almost as much on the capabilities of the browser loading the page as they do on the design, structure, and content of the website. Using TTFB to determine the “performance” or “speed” could perhaps be explainable by the increased time and effort required to capture such data from the Google crawler. We suspect over time, though, that page rendering time will also factor into rankings due to the high indication of the importance of user experience.

Not only is TTFB easy to calculate, but it is also a reasonable metric to gauge the performance of an entire site. TTFB is affected by 3 factors:

  1. The network latency between a visitor and the server.
  2. How heavily loaded the web server is.
  3. How quickly the website’s back end can generate the content.

Websites can lower network latency by utilizing Content Distribution Networks (CDNs). CDNs can quickly deliver content to all visitors, often regardless of geographic location, in a greatly accelerated manner. Of course, the very reason these websites are ranked so highly could be the reason they need to have high capacity servers, or utilize CDNs, or optimize their application or database layers.

Tail wagging the dog?

Do these websites rank highly because they have better back-end infrastructure than other sites? Or do they need better back-end infrastructure to handle the load of ALREADY being ranked higher? While both are possible, our conclusion is that sites with faster back ends receive a higher rank, and not the other way around.

We based this conclusion on the fact that highly specific queries with four or five search terms are not returning results for highly trafficked websites. This long tail of searches is typically smaller sites run by much smaller companies about very specific topics that don’t receive the large volumes of traffic that necessitate complex environments of dozens of servers. However, even for these smaller sites, fast websites with lower TTFB are consistently ranked higher than slower websites with higher TTFB.

Takeaways

The back-end performance of a website directly impacts search engine ranking. The back end includes the web servers, their network connections, the use of CDNs, and the back-end application and database servers. Website owners should explore ways to improve their TTFB. This includes using CDNs, optimizing your application code, optimizing database queries, and ensuring you have fast and responsive web servers. Start by measuring your TTFB with a tool like WebPageTest, as well as the TTFB of your competitors, to see how you need to improve.

While we have found that front-end web performance factors (”document complete” and “fully rendered” times) do not directly factor into search engine rankings, it would be a mistake to assume they are not important or that they don’t effect search engine rankings in another way. At its core, front-end performance is focused on creating a fast, responsive, enjoyable user experience. There is literally a decade of research from usability experts and analysts on how web performance affects user experience. Fast websites have more visitors, who visit more pages, for longer period of times, who come back more often, and are more likely to purchase products or click ads. In short, faster websites make users happy, and happy users promote your website through linking and sharing. All of these things contribute to improving search engine rankings. If you’d like to see what specific front-end web performance problems you have, Zoompf’s free web performance report is a great place to start.

As we have seen, back-end performance and TTFB directly correlate to search engine ranking. Front-end performance and metrics like “document loaded” and “fully rendered” show no correlation with search engine rank. It is possible that the effects are too small to detect relative to all the other ranking factors. However, as we have explained, front-end performance directly impacts the user experience, and a good user experience facilitates the type of linking and sharing behavior which does improve search engine rankings. If you care about your search engine rankings, and the experience of your users, you should be improving both the front-end and back-end performance of your website. In our next blog post, we will discuss simple ways to optimize the performance of both the front and back ends of a website.

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!

The 100 Best Free SEO Tools & Resources for Every Challenge

Posted by Cyrus-Shepard


At Moz, we love using premium SEO Tools (especially our own). Paid tools are essential when you need advanced features, increased limits, historical features, or online support.

For other tasks, a free tool does the trick.

Below you’ll find an interactive list of 100 best completely free tools, tools with both free and paid options, and free trials. Simply select the area you’re working in, and view all the tools listed in that category.

Free Tools


Anchor Text Over Optimization Tool

http://www.removeem.com/ratios.php

Link Research, Technical SEO

Worried about Google’s Penguin algorithm hitting you for over-optimized anchor text? Simply type in your URL for a full report of which links might raise flags.

Bing Webmaster Tools

http://www.bing.com/toolbox/webmaster

Tools Suite, Diagnostic

Similar in function to Google Webmaster Tools, Bing offers a suite of interesting research tools and resources for webmasters.

Bitly

https://bitly.com/

Social, Analytics

Most people use Bitly for URL shortening, but the real power of this platform comes from its analytics.

Boomerang

http://www.boomeranggmail.com/

Email, Productivity

Boomerang lets you follow up on emails, even when you forget. Great for link building or any time you send a lot of emails.

Buffer

https://bufferapp.com/

Social

Optimize your online social media sharing. Buffer allows you to share with your audience at the optimal times for greater visibility.

BuiltWith

http://builtwith.com/

Competitive Intelligence

Use BuiltWith to discover what technology nearly any website was, well, built with. Great for competitive intelligence as well.

Buzzstream Tools Suite

http://tools.buzzstream.com/link-building

Link Building, Tools Suite, Email

Most people know Buzzstream as an outreach platform, but they also offer a number of free link-building tools. This company gets it.

Caption Tube

http://captiontube.appspot.com/

Video

Free and easy resource used to create captions for YouTube. Helps with usability and offers viewers a readable transcript.

CircleCount

http://www.circlecount.com/

Social, Analytics

Google+ analytics ramped up. Free resource to track your followers and analyze your shares. See how many followers you’ve gained over time.

Content Strategy Generator Tool

http://seogadget.com/content-strategy-generator-tool-v2-update/

Content

This tool from SEOgadget helps you plan your content strategy intelligently, using keyword research and estimating your audience size.

Convert Word Documents to Clean HTML

http://word2cleanhtml.com/

Content, Productivity

Despite the rise of Google Docs, Word still dominates much of the world. Copying and pasting has always been a hurdle, but this tool makes it easy.

Copyscape

http://www.copyscape.com/

Content

Copyscape serves both as a plagiarism checker and a duplicate-content checker. Great to use if your content has been distributed across the web.

Domain Hunter Plus

http://domainhunterplus.com/

Link Building

This magic extension for Chrome not only helps you find important broken links, but also tells you if the links point to an available domain.

Easel.ly

http://www.easel.ly/

Infographics

Free tools for creating and sharing inforgraphics. The templates allow anyone to create a professional-looking graphic.

Email Format

http://email-format.com/

Email, Productivity

Email Format helps you find the proper structure for thousands of companies and organizations across the web.

FindPeopleonPlus

http://www.findpeopleonplus.com/

Social

The ultimate Google+ directory that’s great for research, outreach, and link building. Sort by keywords, profession, country, and more.

Frobee Robots.txt Checker

http://www.frobee.com/robots-txt-check

Robots.txt, Technical SEO

Many robots.txt files contain hidden errors not easily visible to humans. Run your file through this tool and you never know what you’ll discover.

GetListed

https://getlisted.org/

Local, Moz

This awesome local SEO tool scores your local SEO visibility and gives you actionable next steps to raise your score.

Google Keyword Planner

http://adwords.google.com/keywordplanner

Keyword Research

The tool to replace Google’s popular keyword tool has been derided by some, but still offers data not available anywhere else.

Google Analytics

http://www.google.com/analytics/

Analytics

The most popular of all the analytics tools available, Google Analytics continually innovates and sets the standard.

Google Analytics API

https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/1008004?hl=en&ref_topic=1008008

API, Analytics

The Google Analytics API is great for building custom reports and tools, and also for pulling data straight into Excel or Google Docs.

Google Map Maker

http://www.google.com/mapmaker

Local

Among other things, Google Map Maker allows you to contribute to public map information, which may be shared and incorporated into Google Maps.

Google PageSpeed Insights

https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights

Speed

Tools, data, and insights to improve your page speed. Page speed is correlated with better rankings and user engagement, so this matters.

Google Public Data

http://www.google.com/publicdata/directory

Content

Drawing on vast public databases, Google public data offers a great starting point for content research, infographics, and more.

Google SERP Snippet Optimization Tool

http://www.seomofo.com/snippet-optimizer.html

Technical SEO, CRO

That SEO Mofo! Use this tool to see how your snippet may appear in Google’s search results. Add structured data, review stars, and more.

Google Structured Data Testing Tool

http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/richsnippets

Structured Data, Technical SEO

If you use Schema.org microformats or any other type of structured data, this tool will verify your markup.

Google Trends

http://www.google.com/trends/

Keyword Research

See what’s trending in Google search results and view keyword search popularity over time. A must for trends.

Google Webmaster

http://www.google.com/webmasters/

Tools Suite, Diagnostic

The interface recently received an overhaul, and Google Webmaster remains a must-have resource of diagnostic and health tools for site owners.

IFTTT

https://ifttt.com/

Productivity

IFTTT stands for IF This, Then That. The tool allows you to create automatic triggers between various apps, like Gmail and Twitter.

Infogr.am

http://infogr.am/

Infographics

A great free Infographics resource that allows you to easily create graphics and data visualizations.

Internet Marketing Ninjas SEO Tools

http://www.internetmarketingninjas.com/tools/

Tools Suite

The Ninjas are some of the best SEOs and online marketers out there, and they’ve put some of their best tools online for free.

Linkstant

http://www.linkstant.com/

Link Building

This nifty analytics tool alerts you anytime someone links to your website. Great for outreach and intelligence gathering.

Linksy.me Email Guesser

http://linksy.me/find-email

Email, Link Building

Need to send an email, but you don’t have the recipient’s address? Type in what you know and this nifty tool will help you figure it out.

MailTester.com

http://mailtester.com/

Email

Need to send an email to an untested address, but you don’t want to spam them? Check it first with this mail tester to verify.

MozCast

http://mozcast.com/

SERP Tracking, Moz

Want to know if Google is testing its algorithm this week? MozCast gives you a daily weather report to track changes in the SERPs.

MyBlogGuest

http://myblogguest.com/

Link Building, Content

Guest blogging is still alive and thriving. MyBlogGuest helps you find the good opportunities out there.

Panguin Tool

http://www.barracuda-digital.co.uk/panguin-tool/

Analytics

This awesome tool connects with your Google Analytics account to help you see if and when you’ve been hit by Google Algorithm updates.

Pingdom

http://tools.pingdom.com/fpt/

Speed

Pingdom offers an entire suite of speed tools to help analyze page load, DNS issues, and connectivity.

Piwik

http://piwik.org/

Analytics

Piwik is a lightweight web analytics solution, and a great alternative to Google Analytics.

Rank Checker for Firefox

http://tools.seobook.com/firefox/rank-checker/

Rank Tracking

This light and easy desktop tool checks rankings with the click of a button. Quick, easy and free.

Rapportive

http://rapportive.com/

Email, Link Building, Productivity

Rapportive works with your Gmail inbox to give you near-instant rich contact information for almost everyone you want to reach. A must-have for marketers.

Remove Duplicate Items

http://ontolo.com/tools-remove-duplicates

Productivity

Ontolo offers a suite of link building software and a few helpful productivity tools for link builders. The remove duplicates tool solves a common problem.

Robots.txt Checker

http://tool.motoricerca.info/robots-checker.phtml

Robots.txt, Technical SEO

Use robots best practices and discover hidden errors in your robots.txt files that may cause search engine crawling problems.

Schema Creator

http://schema-creator.org/

Structured Data, Technical SEO

Everyone loves using Schema.org, but the microformats are difficult to write by hand. This generator from the folks at Raven simplifies the task.

Scraper for Chrome

https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/scraper/

Productivity

If you’ve never scraped a webpage, you’re missing out. Scraper for Chrome puts the power of simple web scraping in your hands without the need for code.

Seer Toolbox

http://www.seerinteractive.com/seo-toolbox/

Tools Suite, Analytics, Link Research

SEER opened up its internal toolbox for everyone in the world to use. These are the same tools used in-house at SEER, and they rock.

SEO Toolbar

http://tools.seobook.com/seo-toolbar/

Tools Suite, Toolbar, Technical SEO

On of the most popular tools available, The SEO Toolbar puts a ton of information at your fingertips including backlinks and competitive research.

SEO Tools for Excel

http://nielsbosma.se/projects/seotools/

Tools Suite, Analytics, Social

You don’t need to be an Excel ninja to use Niels Bosma’s SEO Tools for Excel. This plugin does so many things many SEOs won’t work without it.

SEOgadget Links API

http://seogadget.com/api/

API, Link Research

The SEOgadget Links API lets you easily gather not only backlink data but contact information as well. A huge time saver.

SEOgadget Tools

http://seogadget.com/tools/

Tools Suite

This suite of tools from the Gadget lab includes several Excel plugins, a content strategy generator, and more.

SEOQuake

http://www.seoquake.com/

Toolbar, Tools Suite, Technical SEO

More raw data than any other SEO toolbar out there.

SharedCount

http://www.sharedcount.com/

Social, Analytics

Want to know how any piece of content was shared socially across the major services? This is the tool to use.

SharedCount API

http://www.sharedcount.com/documentation.php

API, Social

Harnessing the combined statistics of Google+, Twitter, Facebook, and more, the SharedCount API puts a ton of social data at your fingertips.

Similar Page Checker

http://www.webconfs.com/similar-page-checker.php

Content, Technical SEO

Use this tool to check for duplicate content issues. The Similar Page Checker will give you a score of how closely the HTML of two pages resemble each other.

Sitemap Generators

http://code.google.com/p/sitemap-generators/wiki/SitemapGenerators

Sitemaps

Google offers a slew of free, top-notch sitemap generators. Most of these live on your server and generate new sitemaps automatically.

Social Authority API

https://followerwonk.com/social-authority

API, Social

How much reach and social authority do your followers have? How about the people you’re trying to connect with? The free Social Authority API will tell you.

Social Crawlytics

https://socialcrawlytics.com/

Social, Analytics

Social Crawlytics allows you to conduct competitive research by showing you your competitors’ most-shared content. Lots of other features as well.

Social Mention

http://www.socialmention.com/

Social

Social mention offers real-time social media search and analysis. Enter a search term and see who’s sharing what, right now.

Text Cleaner

http://www.textcleanr.com/

Content

Some of the best tools solve the simplest problems. Text cleaner cleans up all kinds of text formatting when copying and pasting between aplications.

Ubersuggest

http://ubersuggest.org/

Keyword Research

Every SEO loves Ubersuggest for its ease of use and wealth of keyword research ideas. Utilizing the power of Google Suggest, it returns hundreds of potential results.

URI Valet

http://urivalet.com/

Technical SEO

A great tool for digging into server headers, canonical information, analyzing redirect problems and more.

Virante SEO Tools

http://www.virante.org/seo-tools

Tools Suite

Virant offers a number of high quality SEO tools to the public. These are often the same tools developed for the Virant team, opened up for public use.

Wayback Machine

http://archive.org/web/web.php

Competitive Intelligence

Want to see the history of your website or your competitor’s site? The Wayback Machine allows you to step back in time and track important changes.

WebPagetest

http://www.webpagetest.org/

Speed

Quick and easy website speed tool. Offers suggestions for improving performance.

Wordle

http://www.wordle.net/

Content

Create beautiful word clouds. Great for visualizations, graphics, and research.

Wordstream Free Keyword Tools

http://www.wordstream.com/free-keyword-tools

Keyword Research, Tools Suite

In addition to its paid offerings, Wordstream offers a suite of free keyword tools offering access to thousands of keyword suggestions.

Xenu’s Link Sleuth

http://home.snafu.de/tilman/xenulink.html

Diagnostic, Technical SEO

Winner of the ugliest-SEO-tool-on-the-planet award, Xenu is also one of the most useful. Crawl entire sites, find broken links, create sitemaps, and more.

XML-Sitemaps.com

http://www.xml-sitemaps.com/

Sitemaps

XML-Sitemaps offers probably the easiest sitemap creation solution anywhere. Great for smaller sites when you need a sitemap in minutes.

Yahoo Pipes

http://pipes.yahoo.com/pipes/

Content, Productivity

A great mashup tool that combines different feeds into content and other magical creations. Used for link building and whatever you can dream of.

Yoast WordPress SEO Plugin

http://yoast.com/wordpress/seo/

Technical SEO

If you could only choose one WordPress plugin for you site, the first would be from Yoast, and so would the second. This one sets the standard.

YouTube Analytics

https://www.youtube.com/analytics

Video, Analytics

Offers video-specific analytics for YouTube videos. A must-have for YouTube video publishers.

Free and Paid


Ahrefs

https://ahrefs.com/

Link Research, Link Building

One of the more popular link research tools, Ahrefs offers a large index and nice anchor text distribution charts. Mostly a paid tool, but they offer some free data.

Banana Tag

http://bananatag.com/

Email

Banana Tag allows you to track your emails after you send them. For example, check your email open rates from Gmail.

CloudFlare

https://www.cloudflare.com/

Speed

How do they make CloudFlare free? It works both as a CDN and a security service to provide your website with speed and safety.

Followerwonk

https://followerwonk.com/

Social, Analytics, Moz

Perhaps the coolest thing about Followerwonk is the ability to track your followers. Smart SEOs also use it for outreach and research.

Keyword Eye

http://www.keywordeye.com/

Keyword Research

Keyword eye adds a twist to keyword research by adding rich visualizations — essential when you want to move beyond keywords to valuable concepts.

KnowEm

http://knowem.com/

Social

KnowEm allows you to check 100’s of social profiles at once to check availability. Looking for the perfect brand name? Check KnowEm first.

Majestic SEO

http://www.majesticseo.com/

Link Research, Competitive Intelligence, Link Building

You’ve probably seen Majestic SEO link charts all over the Internet. Great crawling technology combined with several free options make for great link research.

Majestic SEO API

http://blog.majesticseo.com/general/majestic-seo-api-now-explained/

API, Link Research

Majestic makes much of its backlink data available for free via its API.

MozBar

http://moz.com/tools/seo-toolbar

Tools Suite, Toolbar, Moz

The standard SEO toolbar for legions of marketers, the MozBar allows you to perform over 50 key tasks right from your browser. Highly recommended.

Mozscape API

http://moz.com/products/api

API, Link Research, Moz

Companies everywhere incorporate the Mozscape API into their own products, but it’s also available to individuals, and much of the data is free.

nTopic

http://www.ntopic.org/

Content

nTopic is one of the few proven methods for giving your content a relevancy score and offering keyword suggestions to improve it.

Open Site Explorer

http://www.opensiteexplorer.org/

Link Research, Moz, Competitive Intelligence, Link Building

When Google and Yahoo started removing backlink data from the public, Moz built Open Site Explorer to fill a huge need. See backlinks, anchor text, popularity metrics and more.

Piktochart

http://piktochart.com/

Infographics

A cute and easy infographic generator. No experience required.

RowFeeder

https://rowfeeder.com/

Social, Analytics

RowFeeder allows you to track social usernames, hashtags and keywords and load that information into Excel for easy social media monitoring.

Screaming Frog

http://www.screamingfrog.co.uk/

Diagnostic, Technical SEO

A powerful website crawling tool with a ton of features and customizations. A must-have for most serious SEOs.

Searchmetrics Visibility Charts

http://suite.searchmetrics.com/en/research

SERP Tracking, Competitive Intelligence

Track the search visibility of any website, in addition to tracking winners and losers in Google’s search results.

SEMrush

http://www.semrush.com/

Tools Suite, Keyword Research, Competitive Intelligence

The paid and organic keyword data offered by SEMrush is often scary good and comprehensive. Also great for researching competitors’ ads.

SERPmetrics

http://serpmetrics.com/flux/

SERP Tracking, Competitive Intelligence

SERPmetrics flux charts track the flux for US search results across Yahoo, Bing and Google over a 30-day period. A paid API is also available.

SimilarWeb

http://www.similarweb.com/

Competitive Intelligence

Impressive competitive intelligence across a number of online industries. Competitor website stats are hard to come by, but Similar Web does a good job.

StatCounter

http://statcounter.com/

Analytics

Free, quick, and lightweight analytics solution. Often used by those who want to avoid using Google Analytics for privacy reasons.

Trello

https://trello.com/

Productivity

Project management and tracking made simple. Used and endorsed by Moz.

Whitespark Local Citation Finder

https://www.whitespark.ca/local-citation-finder/

Local

Finding local citations is key to local SEO. Whitespark offers a number of free and paid solutions to find the local citations to rise above the competition.

Whois Lookup

http://whois.domaintools.com/

Competitive Intelligence

Find registration, contact, and administrative information for any domain.

Wistia

http://wistia.com/

Video

The king of online video, Wistia offers SEO-friendly solutions for video hosting. Both free and low-cost options available.

Free Trials


Moz Analytics

http://moz.com/products

Tools Suite, Diagnostic, Moz, Rank Tracking, Social

The flagship of the Moz software suite, Moz Analytics offers a dashboard of all your important marketing data in one place with actionable analytics for better marketing.

Optimizely

https://www.optimizely.com/

A/B Testing, CRO

Easy A/B testing and analytics to help you move toward success in your CRO efforts.

Raven

http://raventools.com/

Tools Suite, Diagnostic, Content, Social

Raven offers a classic suite of SEO, content, and research tools popular with many marketers.

Visual Website Optimizer

https://visualwebsiteoptimizer.com/

A/B Testing, CRO

Visual Website Optimizer allows you to run A/B tests with a simple online editor that lets you test content without knowing code.

Wordtracker

http://www.wordtracker.com/

Keyword Research

A powerful keyword research suite used by many top marketers, Wordtracker offers a generous free trial option.


What’s your favorite free tool?

Narrowing a list down to the 100 best SEO tools and resources is not an easy challenge. Although I visited hundreds of webpages to compile this list, these four resources offered particular value:

The format for this ultimate interactive post was inspired by Jon Cooper’s complete list of link building strategies. You should check it out — it’s a great post.

Despite researching hundreds of tools, a few great ones didn’t make the list. What’s your favorite free SEO tool? Let us know in the comments below.

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!

The 100 Best Free SEO Tools & Resources for Every Challenge – Interactive

Posted by Cyrus-Shepard


At Moz, we love using premium SEO Tools (especially our own). Paid tools are essential when you need advanced features, increased limits, historical features, or online support.

For other tasks, a free tool does the trick.

Below you’ll find an interactive list of 100 best completely free tools, tools with both free and paid options, and free trials. Simply select the checkbox for the area you’re working in, and view the tools forr that category.

Free Tools


Anchor Text Over Optimization Tool

http://www.removeem.com/ratios.php

Link Research, Technical SEO

Worried about Google’s Penguin algorithm hitting you for over-optimized anchor text? Simply type in your URL for a full report of which links might raise flags.

Bing Webmaster Tools

http://www.bing.com/toolbox/webmaster

Tools Suite, Diagnostic

Similar in function to Google Webmaster Tools, Bing offers a suite of interesting research tools and resources for webmasters.

Bitly

https://bitly.com/

Social, Analytics

Most people use Bitly for URL shortening, but the real power of this platform comes from its analytics.

Boomerang

http://www.boomeranggmail.com/

Email, Productivity

Boomerang lets you follow up on emails, even when you forget. Great for link building or any time you send a lot of emails.

Buffer

https://bufferapp.com/

Social

Optimize your online social media sharing. Buffer allows you to share with your audience at the optimal times for greater visibility.

BuiltWith

http://builtwith.com/

Competitive Intelligence

Use BuiltWith to discover what technology nearly any website was, well, built with. Great for competitive intelligence as well.

Buzzstream Tools Suite

http://tools.buzzstream.com/link-building

Link Building, Tools Suite, Email

Most people know Buzzstream as an outreach platform, but they also offer a number of free link-building tools. This company gets it.

Caption Tube

http://captiontube.appspot.com/

Video

Free and easy resource used to create captions for YouTube. Helps with usability and offers viewers a readable transcript.

CircleCount

http://www.circlecount.com/

Social, Analytics

Google+ analytics ramped up. Free resource to track your followers and analyze your shares. See how many followers you’ve gained over time.

Content Strategy Generator Tool

http://seogadget.com/content-strategy-generator-tool-v2-update/

Content

This tool from SEOgadget helps you plan your content strategy intelligently, using keyword research and estimating your audience size.

Convert Word Documents to Clean HTML

http://word2cleanhtml.com/

Content, Productivity

Despite the rise of Google Docs, Word still dominates much of the world. Copying and pasting has always been a hurdle, but this tool makes it easy.

Copyscape

http://www.copyscape.com/

Content

Copyscape serves both as a plagiarism checker and a duplicate-content checker. Great to use if your content has been distributed across the web.

Domain Hunter Plus

http://domainhunterplus.com/

Link Building

This magic extension for Chrome not only helps you find important broken links, but also tells you if the links point to an available domain.

Easel.ly

http://www.easel.ly/

Infographics

Free tools for creating and sharing inforgraphics. The templates allow anyone to create a professional-looking graphic.

Email Format

http://email-format.com/

Email, Productivity

Email Format helps you find the proper structure for thousands of companies and organizations across the web.

FindPeopleonPlus

http://www.findpeopleonplus.com/

Social

The ultimate Google+ directory that’s great for research, outreach, and link building. Sort by keywords, profession, country, and more.

Frobee Robots.txt Checker

http://www.frobee.com/robots-txt-check

Robots.txt, Technical SEO

Many robots.txt files contain hidden errors not easily visible to humans. Run your file through this tool and you never know what you’ll discover.

GetListed

https://getlisted.org/

Local, Moz

This awesome local SEO tool scores your local SEO visibility and gives you actionable next steps to raise your score.

Google Keyword Planner

http://adwords.google.com/keywordplanner

Keyword Research

The tool to replace Google’s popular keyword tool has been derided by some, but still offers data not available anywhere else.

Google Analytics

http://www.google.com/analytics/

Analytics

The most popular of all the analytics tools available, Google Analytics continually innovates and sets the standard.

Google Analytics API

https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/1008004?hl=en&ref_topic=1008008

API, Analytics

The Google Analytics API is great for building custom reports and tools, and also for pulling data straight into Excel or Google Docs.

Google Map Maker

http://www.google.com/mapmaker

Local

Among other things, Google Map Maker allows you to contribute to public map information, which may be shared and incorporated into Google Maps.

Google PageSpeed Insights

https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights

Speed

Tools, data, and insights to improve your page speed. Page speed is correlated with better rankings and user engagement, so this matters.

Google Public Data

http://www.google.com/publicdata/directory

Content

Drawing on vast public databases, Google public data offers a great starting point for content research, infographics, and more.

Google SERP Snippet Optimization Tool

http://www.seomofo.com/snippet-optimizer.html

Technical SEO, CRO

That SEO Mofo! Use this tool to see how your snippet may appear in Google’s search results. Add structured data, review stars, and more.

Google Structured Data Testing Tool

http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/richsnippets

Structured Data, Technical SEO

If you use Schema.org microformats or any other type of structured data, this tool will verify your markup.

Google Trends

http://www.google.com/trends/

Keyword Research

See what’s trending in Google search results and view keyword search popularity over time. A must for trends.

Google Webmaster

http://www.google.com/webmasters/

Tools Suite, Diagnostic

The interface recently received an overhaul, and Google Webmaster remains a must-have resource of diagnostic and health tools for site owners.

IFTTT

https://ifttt.com/

Productivity

IFTTT stands for IF This, Then That. The tool allows you to create automatic triggers between various apps, like Gmail and Twitter.

Infogr.am

http://infogr.am/

Infographics

A great free Infographics resource that allows you to easily create graphics and data visualizations.

Internet Marketing Ninjas SEO Tools

http://www.internetmarketingninjas.com/tools/

Tools Suite

The Ninjas are some of the best SEOs and online marketers out there, and they’ve put some of their best tools online for free.

Linkstant

http://www.linkstant.com/

Link Building

This nifty analytics tool alerts you anytime someone links to your website. Great for outreach and intelligence gathering.

Linksy.me Email Guesser

http://linksy.me/find-email

Email, Link Building

Need to send an email, but you don’t have the recipient’s address? Type in what you know and this nifty tool will help you figure it out.

MailTester.com

http://mailtester.com/

Email

Need to send an email to an untested address, but you don’t want to spam them? Check it first with this mail tester to verify.

MozCast

http://mozcast.com/

SERP Tracking, Moz

Want to know if Google is testing its algorithm this week? MozCast gives you a daily weather report to track changes in the SERPs.

MyBlogGuest

http://myblogguest.com/

Link Building, Content

Guest blogging is still alive and thriving. MyBlogGuest helps you find the good opportunities out there.

Panguin Tool

http://www.barracuda-digital.co.uk/panguin-tool/

Analytics

This awesome tool connects with your Google Analytics account to help you see if and when you’ve been hit by Google Algorithm updates.

Pingdom

http://tools.pingdom.com/fpt/

Speed

Pingdom offers an entire suite of speed tools to help analyze page load, DNS issues, and connectivity.

Piwik

http://piwik.org/

Analytics

Piwik is a lightweight web analytics solution, and a great alternative to Google Analytics.

Rank Checker for Firefox

http://tools.seobook.com/firefox/rank-checker/

Rank Tracking

This light and easy desktop tool checks rankings with the click of a button. Quick, easy and free.

Rapportive

http://rapportive.com/

Email, Link Building, Productivity

Rapportive works with your Gmail inbox to give you near-instant rich contact information for almost everyone you want to reach. A must-have for marketers.

Remove Duplicate Items

http://ontolo.com/tools-remove-duplicates

Productivity

Ontolo offers a suite of link building software and a few helpful productivity tools for link builders. The remove duplicates tool solves a common problem.

Robots.txt Checker

http://tool.motoricerca.info/robots-checker.phtml

Robots.txt, Technical SEO

Use robots best practices and discover hidden errors in your robots.txt files that may cause search engine crawling problems.

Schema Creator

http://schema-creator.org/

Structured Data, Technical SEO

Everyone loves using Schema.org, but the microformats are difficult to write by hand. This generator from the folks at Raven simplifies the task.

Scraper for Chrome

https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/scraper/

Productivity

If you’ve never scraped a webpage, you’re missing out. Scraper for Chrome puts the power of simple web scraping in your hands without the need for code.

Seer Toolbox

http://www.seerinteractive.com/seo-toolbox/

Tools Suite, Analytics, Link Research

SEER opened up its internal toolbox for everyone in the world to use. These are the same tools used in-house at SEER, and they rock.

SEO Toolbar

http://tools.seobook.com/seo-toolbar/

Tools Suite, Toolbar, Technical SEO

On of the most popular tools available, The SEO Toolbar puts a ton of information at your fingertips including backlinks and competitive research.

SEO Tools for Excel

http://nielsbosma.se/projects/seotools/

Tools Suite, Analytics, Social

You don’t need to be an Excel ninja to use Niels Bosma’s SEO Tools for Excel. This plugin does so many things many SEOs won’t work without it.

SEOgadget Links API

http://seogadget.com/api/

API, Link Research

The SEOgadget Links API lets you easily gather not only backlink data but contact information as well. A huge time saver.

SEOgadget Tools

http://seogadget.com/tools/

Tools Suite

This suite of tools from the Gadget lab includes several Excel plugins, a content strategy generator, and more.

SEOQuake

http://www.seoquake.com/

Toolbar, Tools Suite, Technical SEO

More raw data than any other SEO toolbar out there.

SharedCount

http://www.sharedcount.com/

Social, Analytics

Want to know how any piece of content was shared socially across the major services? This is the tool to use.

SharedCount API

http://www.sharedcount.com/documentation.php

API, Social

Harnessing the combined statistics of Google+, Twitter, Facebook, and more, the SharedCount API puts a ton of social data at your fingertips.

Similar Page Checker

http://www.webconfs.com/similar-page-checker.php

Content, Technical SEO

Use this tool to check for duplicate content issues. The Similar Page Checker will give you a score of how closely the HTML of two pages resemble each other.

Sitemap Generators

http://code.google.com/p/sitemap-generators/wiki/SitemapGenerators

Sitemaps

Google offers a slew of free, top-notch sitemap generators. Most of these live on your server and generate new sitemaps automatically.

Social Authority API

https://followerwonk.com/social-authority

API, Social

How much reach and social authority do your followers have? How about the people you’re trying to connect with? The free Social Authority API will tell you.

Social Crawlytics

https://socialcrawlytics.com/

Social, Analytics

Social Crawlytics allows you to conduct competitive research by showing you your competitors’ most-shared content. Lots of other features as well.

Social Mention

http://www.socialmention.com/

Social

Social mention offers real-time social media search and analysis. Enter a search term and see who’s sharing what, right now.

Text Cleaner

http://www.textcleanr.com/

Content

Some of the best tools solve the simplest problems. Text cleaner cleans up all kinds of text formatting when copying and pasting between aplications.

Ubersuggest

http://ubersuggest.org/

Keyword Research

Every SEO loves Ubersuggest for its ease of use and wealth of keyword research ideas. Utilizing the power of Google Suggest, it returns hundreds of potential results.

URI Valet

http://urivalet.com/

Technical SEO

A great tool for digging into server headers, canonical information, analyzing redirect problems and more.

Virante SEO Tools

http://www.virante.org/seo-tools

Tools Suite

Virant offers a number of high quality SEO tools to the public. These are often the same tools developed for the Virant team, opened up for public use.

Wayback Machine

http://archive.org/web/web.php

Competitive Intelligence

Want to see the history of your website or your competitor’s site? The Wayback Machine allows you to step back in time and track important changes.

WebPagetest

http://www.webpagetest.org/

Speed

Quick and easy website speed tool. Offers suggestions for improving performance.

Wordle

http://www.wordle.net/

Content

Create beautiful word clouds. Great for visualizations, graphics, and research.

Wordstream Free Keyword Tools

http://www.wordstream.com/free-keyword-tools

Keyword Research, Tools Suite

In addition to its paid offerings, Wordstream offers a suite of free keyword tools offering access to thousands of keyword suggestions.

Xenu’s Link Sleuth

http://home.snafu.de/tilman/xenulink.html

Diagnostic, Technical SEO

Winner of the ugliest-SEO-tool-on-the-planet award, Xenu is also one of the most useful. Crawl entire sites, find broken links, create sitemaps, and more.

XML-Sitemaps.com

http://www.xml-sitemaps.com/

Sitemaps

XML-Sitemaps offers probably the easiest sitemap creation solution anywhere. Great for smaller sites when you need a sitemap in minutes.

Yahoo Pipes

http://pipes.yahoo.com/pipes/

Content, Productivity

A great mashup tool that combines different feeds into content and other magical creations. Used for link building and whatever you can dream of.

Yoast WordPress SEO Plugin

http://yoast.com/wordpress/seo/

Technical SEO

If you could only choose one WordPress plugin for you site, the first would be from Yoast, and so would the second. This one sets the standard.

YouTube Analytics

https://www.youtube.com/analytics

Video, Analytics

Offers video-specific analytics for YouTube videos. A must-have for YouTube video publishers.

Free and Paid


Ahrefs

https://ahrefs.com/

Link Research, Link Building

One of the more popular link research tools, Ahrefs offers a large index and nice anchor text distribution charts. Mostly a paid tool, but they offer some free data.

Banana Tag

http://bananatag.com/

Email

Banana Tag allows you to track your emails after you send them. For example, check your email open rates from Gmail.

CloudFlare

https://www.cloudflare.com/

Speed

How do they make CloudFlare free? It works both as a CDN and a security service to provide your website with speed and safety.

Followerwonk

https://followerwonk.com/

Social, Analytics, Moz

Perhaps the coolest thing about Followerwonk is the ability to track your followers. Smart SEOs also use it for outreach and research.

Keyword Eye

http://www.keywordeye.com/

Keyword Research

Keyword eye adds a twist to keyword research by adding rich visualizations — essential when you want to move beyond keywords to valuable concepts.

KnowEm

http://knowem.com/

Social

KnowEm allows you to check 100’s of social profiles at once to check availability. Looking for the perfect brand name? Check KnowEm first.

Majestic SEO

http://www.majesticseo.com/

Link Research, Competitive Intelligence, Link Building

You’ve probably seen Majestic SEO link charts all over the Internet. Great crawling technology combined with several free options make for great link research.

Majestic SEO API

http://blog.majesticseo.com/general/majestic-seo-api-now-explained/

API, Link Research

Majestic makes much of its backlink data available for free via its API.

MozBar

http://moz.com/tools/seo-toolbar

Tools Suite, Toolbar, Moz

The standard SEO toolbar for legions of marketers, the MozBar allows you to perform over 50 key tasks right from your browser. Highly recommended.

Mozscape API

http://moz.com/products/api

API, Link Research, Moz

Companies everywhere incorporate the Mozscape API into their own products, but it’s also available to individuals, and much of the data is free.

nTopic

http://www.ntopic.org/

Content

nTopic is one of the few proven methods for giving your content a relevancy score and offering keyword suggestions to improve it.

Open Site Explorer

http://www.opensiteexplorer.org/

Link Research, Moz, Competitive Intelligence, Link Building

When Google and Yahoo started removing backlink data from the public, Moz built Open Site Explorer to fill a huge need. See backlinks, anchor text, popularity metrics and more.

Piktochart

http://piktochart.com/

Infographics

A cute and easy infographic generator. No experience required.

RowFeeder

https://rowfeeder.com/

Social, Analytics

RowFeeder allows you to track social usernames, hashtags and keywords and load that information into Excel for easy social media monitoring.

Screaming Frog

http://www.screamingfrog.co.uk/

Diagnostic, Technical SEO

A powerful website crawling tool with a ton of features and customizations. A must-have for most serious SEOs.

Searchmetrics Visibility Charts

http://suite.searchmetrics.com/en/research

SERP Tracking, Competitive Intelligence

Track the search visibility of any website, in addition to tracking winners and losers in Google’s search results.

SEMrush

http://www.semrush.com/

Tools Suite, Keyword Research, Competitive Intelligence

The paid and organic keyword data offered by SEMrush is often scary good and comprehensive. Also great for researching competitors’ ads.

SERPmetrics

http://serpmetrics.com/flux/

SERP Tracking, Competitive Intelligence

SERPmetrics flux charts track the flux for US search results across Yahoo, Bing and Google over a 30-day period. A paid API is also available.

SimilarWeb

http://www.similarweb.com/

Competitive Intelligence

Impressive competitive intelligence across a number of online industries. Competitor website stats are hard to come by, but Similar Web does a good job.

StatCounter

http://statcounter.com/

Analytics

Free, quick, and lightweight analytics solution. Often used by those who want to avoid using Google Analytics for privacy reasons.

Trello

https://trello.com/

Productivity

Project management and tracking made simple. Used and endorsed by Moz.

Whitespark Local Citation Finder

https://www.whitespark.ca/local-citation-finder/

Local

Finding local citations is key to local SEO. Whitespark offers a number of free and paid solutions to find the local citations to rise above the competition.

Whois Lookup

http://whois.domaintools.com/

Competitive Intelligence

Find registration, contact, and administrative information for any domain.

Wistia

http://wistia.com/

Video

The king of online video, Wistia offers SEO-friendly solutions for video hosting. Both free and low-cost options available.

Free Trials


Moz Analytics

http://moz.com/products

Tools Suite, Diagnostic, Moz, Rank Tracking, Social

The flagship of the Moz software suite, Moz Analytics offers a dashboard of all your important marketing data in one place with actionable analytics for better marketing.

Optimizely

https://www.optimizely.com/

A/B Testing, CRO

Easy A/B testing and analytics to help you move toward success in your CRO efforts.

Raven

http://raventools.com/

Tools Suite, Diagnostic, Content, Social

Raven offers a classic suite of SEO, content, and research tools popular with many marketers.

Visual Website Optimizer

https://visualwebsiteoptimizer.com/

A/B Testing, CRO

Visual Website Optimizer allows you to run A/B tests with a simple online editor that lets you test content without knowing code.

Wordtracker

http://www.wordtracker.com/

Keyword Research

A powerful keyword research suite used by many top marketers, Wordtracker offers a generous free trial option.


What’s your favorite free tool?

Narrowing a list down to the 100 best SEO tools and resources is not an easy challenge. Although I visited hundreds of webpages to compile this list, these four resources offered particular value:

The format for this ultimate interactive post was inspired by Jon Cooper’s complete list of link building strategies. You should check it out — it’s a great post.

Despite researching hundreds of tools, a few great ones didn’t make the list. What’s your favorite free SEO tool? Let us know in the comments below.

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!

Announcing Moz Academy!

Posted by Nick_Sayers

We’re stoked to announce Moz Academy!

Have you ever wanted a resource to learn inbound marketing or a place your team can reference marketing best practices? Well, we hope you do a backflip over Moz Academy. If you have a Moz Subscription, check it out now!

Moz Academy

Subscription-based content

At Moz we produce a wealth of free content in the blog, our guides, Q&A, and pretty much everywhere on the site. We want to do something special for Moz subscribers by transforming our free content and reinventing it for Moz Academy. You could probably scour the Moz Blog and other websites to obtain the information in Moz Academy, but we think having it easily digestible and all in one place is a huge win for Moz subscribers. Moz is excited to add the simplicity and power of Moz Academy to the list of Moz subscription benefits.

Why create an inbound marketing school?

Moz is extremely passionate about educating our community. In fact, our entire business started as a blog where people could learn about SEO. Moz Academy gives subscribers the power to be better marketers, which will enable them to use our products in more depth and with greater confidence. We want to provide a hub of marketing knowledge that will create a stronger community where people can teach each other while using the Academy as a frame of reference. One could say that Moz Academy is the Mr. Miyagi of inbound marketing. The key to this project is empowering you to kick even more butt than you already do!

We hope Moz Academy turns into the one-stop-shop for inbound knowledge for Moz subscribers. Everyone on the team is committed to continually refreshing content and adding new lessons. Again, we really want this to be the easiest and most comprehensive place to learn internet marketing on the web.

Furthermore, we’ve designed each lesson with empathy in mind; they will be easily digestible and considerate of your time. That means you can drop in whenever you like and have comfortable breakpoints if you’re brain is exploding with inbound marketing knowledge.

Wait, how do I use Moz Academy?

Moz Academy is easy to use! Check out these six simple steps:

Step 1: Log into your Moz account.

Step 2: Go to moz.com/academy.

Step 3: Look through the lessons.

Step 4: Click a lesson you find interesting.

Step 5: Enjoy a video and/or read the lesson below it!

Step 6: Crane kick.

What lessons do you have right now?

We’re starting with the following lessons:

  • Inbound Marketing
  • SEO
  • Link Building
  • Social Media
  • Content Marketing

We plan to add a lot more! Look for lessons on local SEO, community management, video marketing, email marketing and web analytics. Yup, it’s going to be pretty sweet!

Well, Moz, what’s next for Moz Academy?

The future of Moz Academy really depends on how everyone uses it. In the next few months, we want to create a good foundation for beginners and subsequently build up to intermediate-level content. Eventually, we’d like to have sections for beginners lessons, intermediate lessons, and advanced lessons. Keep your eyes peeled, because we’ll be releasing a lot of new stuff! Some of our longer-term goals for Moz Academy are to have interactive quizzes and some sort of gamification. Yes, we know you’d like to track your progress and unlock achievements. That way you can show off how awesome you are at Moz Academy!

Eventually, we want Moz Academy to look more like Treehouse and Code School’s online learning platforms. We have a long way to go, but are excited about the journey to get there. With your help and feedback, we can make Moz Academy something awesome. Thanks in advance, and enjoy!

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!

SEO Finds in Your Server Logs, Part 2: Optimizing for Googlebot

Posted by timresnik

This is a follow-up to a post I wrote a few months ago that goes over some of the basics of why server log files are a critical part of your technical SEO toolkit. In this post, I provide more detail around formatting the data in Excel in order to find and analyze Googlebot crawl optimization opportunities.

Before digging into the logs, it’s important to understand the basics of how Googlebot crawls your site. There are three basic factors that Googlebot considers. First is which pages should be crawled. This is determined by factors such as the number of backlinks that point to a page, the internal link structure of the site, the number and strength of the internal links that point to that page, and other internal signals like sitemaps.

Next, Googlebot determines how many pages to crawl. This is commonly referred to as the “crawl budget.” Factors that are most likely considered when allocating crawl budget are domain authority and trust, performance, load time, and clean crawl paths (Googlebot getting stuck in your endless faceted search loop costs them money). For much more detail on crawl budget, check out Ian Lurie’s post on the subject.

Finally, the rate of the crawl — how frequently Googlebot comes back — is determined by how often the site is updated, the domain authority, and the freshness of citations, social mentions, and links.

Now, let’s take a look at how Googlebot is crawling Moz.com (NOTE: the data I am analyzing is from SEOmoz.org prior to our site migration to Moz.com. Several of the potential issues that I point out below are now solved. Wahoo!). The first step is getting the log data into a workable format. I explained in detail how to do this in my last server log post. However, this time make sure to include the parameters with the URLs so we can analyze funky crawl paths. Just make sure the box below is unchecked when importing your log file.

The first thing that we want to look at is where on the site Googlebot is spending its time and dedicating the most resources. Now that you have exported your log file to a .csv file, you’ll need to do a bit of formatting and cleaning of the data.

1. Save the file with an Excel extension, for example .xlsx

2. Remove all the columns except for Page/File, Response Code and User Agent, it should look something like this (formatted as a table which can be done by selecting your data and ^L):

3. Isolate Googlebot from other spiders by creating a new column and writing a formula that searches for “Googlebot” in the cells in the 3rd column.

4. Scrub the Page/File column for the top-level directory so we can later run a pivot table and see which sections Google is crawling the most

5. Since we left the parameter on the URL in order to check crawl paths, we’ll want to remove it here so that data is included in the top level directory analysis that we do in the pivot table. The URL parameter always starts with “?,” so that is what we want to search for in Excel. This is a little tricky because Excel uses the question mark character as a wildcard. In order to indicate to Excel that the question mark is literal, use a preceding tilde, like this: “~?”

6. The data can now be analyzed in a pivot table (data > pivot table). The number associated with the directory is the total number of times Googlebot requested a file in the timeframe of the log, in this case a day.

Is Google allocating crawl budget properly? We can dive deeper into several different pieces of data here:

  • Over 70% of Google’s crawl budget focuses on three sections, while over 50% goes towards /qa/ and /users/. Moz should look at search referral data from Google Analytics to see how much organic search value these sections provide. If it is disproportionately low, crawl management tactics or on-page optimization improvements should be considered.
  • Another potential insight from this data is that /page-strength/, a URL used for posting data for a Moz tool, is being crawled nearly 1,000 times. These crawls are most likely triggered from external links pointing to the results of the Moz tool. The recommendation would be to exclude this directory using robots.txt.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, it is important to understand the directories that are rarely being crawled. Are there sections being under-crawled? Let’s look at a few of Moz’s:

In this example, the directory /webinars pops out as not getting enough Google attention. In fact, only the top directory is being crawled, while the actual Webinar content pages are being skipped.

These are just a few examples of crawl resource issues that can be found in server logs. A few additional issues to look for include:

  • Are spiders crawling pages that are excluded by robots.txt?
  • Are spider crawling pages that should be excluded by robots.txt?
  • Are certain sections consuming too much bandwidth? What is the ratio of the number of pages crawled in a section to the amount of bandwidth required?

As a bonus, I have done a screencast of the above process for formatting and analyzing the Googlebot crawl.

In my next post on analyzing log files, I will explain in more detail how to identify duplicate content and look for trends over time. Feel free to share your thoughts and questions in the comments below!

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!

An Introduction to Integrated Marketing and SEO: How It Works and Why It Matters

Posted by Stephanie_Chang

To say that the SEO industry has changed would be considered a massive understatement. In previous years, for a site to excel in the SERPs (search engine results page), it needed a few key important ingredients:

  • A strong technical foundation, with a crawlable and clean information architecture (that also contained a clear internal linking structure)
  • The strategic use of target keywords on the page and in the URLs
  • Key links with targeted anchor text

Now, the rules have simply changed. Not only are the SERPs displayed differently depending on the user’s specific search query (Dr. Pete’s Mozcon presentation pointed out 85 different, distinct features in the SERPs from knowledge graph to the related search carousel), but our day-to-day roles have changed. We’re now supposed to be knowledgeable about UI/UX, branding, PR, responsive design, international considerations, content strategy/design/implementation, social media, structured data, local SEO, authorship markup, CRO, analytics… the list goes on and on. The reality is that it will always be important as marketers to have a high-level understanding about each of these different disciplines and how they should work together. However, it is impossible to be specialized in all of them. Many of the specialties above have been established industries for quite some time, and like SEO, they have improved and matured. In essence, we need to learn how SEO can integrate itself in a meaningful way with other marketing divisions, or in simpler terms, leverage integrated marketing.

Image courtesy of Mozcon

Why Integrated Marketing?

Integrated marketing is the strategy and implementation of leveraging and unifying different marketing activities. The overall purpose is to complement and reinforce the overall impact of each of these marketing methodologies, so that the marketing process is not only more consistent across different mediums, but also more effective in meeting marketing objectives and increasing a business’s bottom line.

In terms of the industry, here are some statistics on overall digital marketing spend as compiled by Gartner in 2012.

  • Companies in different industries spend an average 2.5% of their annual revenue on digital marketing.

  • Companies spend an average 25% of their total marketing budget on digital marketing and specifically, on these type of marketing activities:

As the image above demonstrates, companies spend, on average, 10.7% of their total digital marketing budget on search marketing (though I’d venture and guess that the vast majority of this percentage goes to paid search). However, when it comes to the activities that marketers view as most attributable to their marketing success, only 8-9% of all companies surveyed rated search marketing (including paid) in their top 3.

Images courtesy of Gartner

This perception of search marketing (much less SEO) directly impacts the amount of budget and, subsequently, head space we receive from companies for our work. Although SEOs are involved in many of the activities companies attributable to their marketing success (like content development, UX/UI of the site, and commerce experience), it can be challenging as a consultant or working in-house to be involved in these types of conversations.

As an industry, we need to broaden our scope and find ways to immerse ourselves into these conversations. Like Wil Reynolds mentioned during his presentation at Mozcon, it’s about knowing what to pitch and how to pitch.

  • How can we demonstrate and provide value to a company’s marketing activities and integrate SEO meaningfully into the process?
    • The goal doesn’t necessarily have to be for SEOs to become specialized experts in PR, branding, content, etc., but more focused on how we all can leverage our knowledge and provide value to these existing activities, while also integrating ourselves into discussions on overall marketing vision, strategy, and implementation.
  • How can we stop viewing marketing as distinct channels and, instead, work with other marketing specializations to reinforce and complement all marketing activities/goals/KPIs?

As the online marketing industry continues to change, it becomes more vital for a company to have a consistent mission and vision across all marketing channels.The purpose of this post is not only to inspire us to think bigger about the direction of our industry, but also in our day-to-day work. I also want to showcase examples of other companies I’ve researched that have successfully leveraged multiple marketing channels to meet common goals.

Integrated Marketing Examples

PR, Social, and SEO

Being at Distilled has provided me with the great fortune of being exposed to individuals with specializations beyond SEO, such as PR. Distilled’s previous PR/SEO specialist (now at Dynamo PR), Lexi Mills, and our current specialist, Jess Champion, have really inspired me to think about how to make a content piece more compelling to its target audience and the media. For instance, Lexi once shared how critical it is to ensure that you have enough valuable resources on-hand to enhance a piece of content or a story. For instance, when making a pitch, it’s important to ensure that you’ve created enough material for people to credit and that enhances the value of a story. Once you’ve built that relationship with the media and they’ve credited appropriate and legit sources, you’ve essentially accomplished link building without realizing it (receiving links didn’t become a primary focus; it became a consequence of achieving bigger goals). Lexi said that, “As a result, the links you may have attained don’t just look natural; they truly are natural.”

For example, Australia.com’s “Best Job in the World” campaign was effective for multiple reasons. It took a different spin on a concept that could traditionally be seen as “boring” (jobs) and created a hook to receive significant media attention. From a SEO standpoint, the team did a great job of attempting to put some of the campaign on the actual Australia.com domain (even though the actual competition is on a subdomain) because so many PR campaigns are placed on a separate domain and are never mentioned on the actual company website. Not to mention dominating rankings for the keyword phrase “best job in the world” and “best jobs in the world” (an effective branding play).

From a social media perspective, the only way to apply for the position was via Facebook. As a result of the campaign, several media outlets provided links to both Australia.com, as well as the “Best Job in the World” landing page. From the campaign, the site received 1,462 links from 442 linking root domains (including sites like ABC news, the Daily Mail, the Daily Mirror, etc..) From a social standpoint, the campaign has 483,534 likes and approximately 1,000 user interactions on every post.

Images courtesy of Australia.com

PR alongside SEO doesn’t just apply to bigger organizations, but also to start-ups or any organization participating in crowd funding. Also according to Lexi, when doing PR for a start-up or an organization participating in crowd funding, it’s important to make sure that the actual site is receiving link equity (and not just the crowd funding site). This is important when maintaining the sanctity of the brand because you still want to sell the product on a website once the crowd funding round is complete. You always want to rank first in search engines for your product name. Hence, leveraging the PR surrounding your crowd funding round will help get your potentially new site off to a great foundation.

Or, you can ultimately decide to crowd fund on the product’s actual website and reap all the benefits from PR and media coverage directly for your site, such as the case with the Tile App.

Finally, like many other online marketing channels, it’s important to make decisions off the back of data. SEO and PR can support one another because SEOs and PRs can work together to determine the specific keywords they want to target for a campaign (both from a branding and from a search engine/user intent perspective) using tools like Google Trends and Google Adwords Keyword Tool. We can also work together to help establish the sites we want to target both from a publicity and a link equity standpoint using metrics, such as DA and PA, as well as what types of credit we want to receive (dofollow link vs image, etc…).

Overall, as SEOs, we also want to help ensure that once a PR campaign is complete, the company can still reap long-term benefits from it whether it be from a technical standpoint (during the course of researching this post, I observed countless PR campaign sites containing 3-5 duplicate home pages and non-indexable content in iframes, sites built in flash, broken links, etc.). In addition, doing so will help ensure that the company will continue ranking for that campaign name in the future, instead of only the PR agency ranking for it (when they publish client case studies).

Offline (Events/Print Advertising/Billboards), Mobile, and SEO

Offline campaigns (like events/print advertising/billboards) have historically been a powerful marketing medium. At the same time, it can be challenging figuring out how offline channels can work seamlessly with online ones. I found inspiration through this image of a recent American Express campaign seen in London (unfortunately it’s a little blurry).

There’s so much potential from a campaign like this. Having users search for an easy-to-remember keyword phrase on their mobile devices (in this case, having them search “AMEX Gold Tube” is another opportunity to gather data for a traditionally difficult-to-measure channel). Depending on the brand, it’s an opportunity to measure traffic (and some of the keyword data that brought users to the site, with the notable exception of “not provided” and others), as well as some compelling mobile usage data (do your research beforehand, especially as it pertains to iOS6 and Android 4 search traffic). It’s also an opportunity to create a seamless offline to online interaction that could result in SERP dominance for specific, brand-based terms. Also, depending on the search term that was chosen, it could also be an effective medium to immediately convert users from both a PPC and a SEO perspective. The biggest challenge and goal for a SEO is to ensure that the correct landing page for the specific keyword lands on the number one spot in the SERPs while also creating an ideal SERP landscape (alongside improving conversions for that specific landing page).

Another interesting offline campaign that has become more and more popular is the emergence of pop-up stores. I found the use of Debenhams virtual pop-up stores particularly fascinating. Debenhams created a tour of London’s most famous sites and once shoppers were in the correct location on an app, users could “try on” different outfits using augmented reality technology with a backdrop of famous London landscapes. Shoppers could then upload their favorite outfits and receive opinions via social media. If they choose to purchase any of the outfits, they’d automatically receive a 20% discount. Debenhams also implemented SEO best practices in a compelling way by leveraging the press to garner links to key category pages, such as in press releases and asking for any articles or media coverage mentioning the Debenham’s virtual pop-up store to give the company proper credit.

PPC, Branding, Content, and SEO

Snickers’ ad agency put together am amazingly creative PPC campaign. They compiled a list of the top 500 most commonly misspelled words in search with the help of Google (as usually Google Adwords automatically corrects misspellings and it is against the terms of service to deliberately target misspelled words) and used an algorithm to generate 25,381 different misspelled words. They used these terms to create a “You Are Not You When You’re Hungry” campaign. Within two days – yes, two days – Snickers received 558,589 impressions with a stunningly high CTR of 1.05%. The three-day campaign resulted in 5,874 visitors to the site. The endearing video below explains the campaign in more detail.

Initially, the campaign was intended as solely a branding exercise and not necessarily designed to generate CTRs. However, according to this, the brand exposure alone resulted in 705,000 additional Snicker’s bars sold that year compared to the previous year, as well as double digit growth in sales. Although this specific campaign did not involve SEO, it’s a reminder on how we can all leverage PPC to test our SEO ideas. It’s also a reminder that taking calculated risks and being innovative can pay off.

For instance, we can leverage PPC to test out relevant keywords and ad copy before we decide to invest significant resources into targeting them. In addition, at Distilled we strongly believe in the concept of testing. For many of our clients, developing creative content is often times one of the most resource and budget-intensive aspects of SEO. As a result, we want to be sensitive to the costs they are incurring. Thus, we’ve used PPC to test out different titles for our creative content pieces to determine which ones generated the highest CTR or the greatest number of conversions. Supplying clients with this data helps develop trust, and consequently builds more buy in for our on-going strategy.

Content, Branding, and SEO

Content is one of my greatest passions because I find telling compelling stories and helping my clients build a brand so personally fulfilling. In many ways, content and SEO work seamlessly together, especially in an era where so many individuals have developed the habit of researching information on their own using the Internet. For example, Adria Saracino and I have repeatedly found (whenever we conduct customer surveys), that so many individuals decide to purchase a product based on what they read over the Internet. This means that in order to become successful at SEO (not just in the form of rankings, but in conversions), we need to ensure that we’re consistently developing content that relays trustworthiness/authority/loyalty to our customers, while also remaining vigilant about our online reputation.

There have been so many amazing companies that create content for the benefit of their intended audience and subsequently reap the benefits of it like the often mentioned Survey Monkey Survey Templates and MailChimp Resource Guides. However, not all amazing content is in written form. Sometimes content in image form is as, if not more effective (especially if it’s pertinent to your brand).

Take, for instance, Polyvore’s vision “to capture the breadth of soft goods and people’s tastes better than any other platform thanks to a unique, vibrant community of contributors and cutting edge technology.” (more detail about the vision can be found here.) Polyvore encapsulates its vision by providing its users with a platform to essentially create their own content using their editor (it’s so simple, yet fits so seamlessly with their target audience and vision). Its editor has generated 18,664 links from 237 linking root domains. However, Polyvore also created a tool that doesn’t limit its users to build collages out of products that can be found on their site. You can drag, edit, and link any clip onto your collage using their clipper (and for SEOs, the clipper landing page has generated 18,646 links from 70 domains. Plus, from an SEO standpoint, all the tools are a part of the domain, which is an added bonus. Oh, and if you really fall in love with your collage, you can purchase it immediately on their site (content merging with commerce…so many opportunities!).

In the competitive non-profit world, countless numbers of organizations clamor for the mind share and resources of the general public, all while facing limited budgets of their own. It’s often times difficult to know what type of content to put on the website that would be effective in immediately developing an organization’s credibility. Having previously been a part of the non-profit world, I was really impressed by the Robin Hood Foundation’s website. All the content on their site speaks back to their mission of fighting poverty in New York City and they’ve carefully invested their resources on organizing and presenting the most relevant data on their site in a clean, visually stimulating format that is incredibly easy for anyone to digest. It has also been effective – their Hurricane Sandy page has garnered links from MTV, Forbes, and Foursquare.

Finally, I was really inspired by Brittan Bright of iAcquire’s Moz meetup presentation last year when she talked about her experience working on AXE’s Susan Glenn campaign. Brit worked closely with a few other large agencies like Edelman and BBH on a meme marketing campaign that integrated branding, online reputation management, social media, and SEO on how to ensure that the term “Susan Glenn” would come to mean the girl that got away but who remains untouchable for the guy that covets her. There were television commercials (see below), a separate website, domination in the SERPs in universal search results (with image snippets and video results).


In Conclusion

Going through this process is hard work, requires a collaborative effort between multiple marketing channels, and can often feel as if it takes a long time to accomplish anything. However, relaying a consistent message across all marketing channels and unifying the marketing vision for the company is incredibly powerful. That consistency reinforces the brand’s trust and authority to potential consumers. Truly, our end goal as marketers, regardless of channel, remains the same: we’re all here to support the organization’s vision/mission/values, and to work hard to fulfill and grow the company’s bottom line.

I’m extremely hopeful that this industry will continue to propel itself forward, continuously ask itself the right questions (the why’s and what’s the big picture), and really push ourselves to think outside the box. Only then are we in a position to effect change.

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!

The Key to Empowering your Marketing Team – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

What holds marketing teams back from accomplishing great things? In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand tackles the big challenges many internal marketing teams face, and outlines a way to bring structure and empowerment back to your marketers.

Have something to add? Leave your thoughts and questions in the comments below!









For reference, here’s a still of this week’s whiteboard.

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Today I’m going to be talking to you a little bit about what holds marketing teams back from being able to accomplish great things inside of companies, and for external marketing teams that are on an agency or consulting basis, but really oftentimes internally.

So this, I’ve got here my six little friends. This one, this guy is kind of awkward. His back is a little out of whack. But that’s okay. He’s just a stick figure. He’s probably feeling just fine.

The challenge for these guys is that they constantly need their work reviewed. They’re kind of in the weeds, in the trenches doing marketing activities, building content, trying to get that content shared and linked to, trying to earn rankings and traffic, trying to buy advertising, trying to influence the website and the marketing materials, make the conversion rate higher, do all these things to promote the marketing funnel improving. Yet they’re constantly changing course, sometimes daily, sometimes even hourly. Boss comes in, it’s sort of like, “No, no, no, don’t do that anymore. Focus on this thing. No, wait, I know I told you to do that, but we don’t need that anymore. We need this other thing.”

They’re not empowered to make decisions, not even about their own work. They really have to get constantly reviewed. Someone comes and gives them feedback on everything they do. I’ve been this marketer myself before. Especially as a consultant, you’re oftentimes in this position. You don’t have that empowerment to make great decisions.

But there’s a way to fix this, and it’s an architecture I want to share with you that’s been really powerful for me and for a number of other companies that have adopted this and that have shared it too. So the idea is basically that what we want to do is we want to take all the things that the company wants to accomplish today, in the future, in the far, far flung future, and we want to connect that all the way down to what the marketing team is actually working on today, right now. But it takes a little bit of work, and it takes a lot of transparency, and it takes some thinking. If you don’t have this architecture yet, you should give it a try. Let me show you what I’m talking about.

A big company vision is a great starting point. I know many small and medium businesses don’t even really have a great big company vision. But if you can imagine one, if you can put one on there, “We want to be Cleveland, Ohio’s best marketing agency, and we define best as our clients are the happiest, we have the most clients, and we have the highest revenues in the city.” Okay, great, now you’ve got a company vision. Moz’s vision, for example, is to help people do better marketing. Tesla’s vision is to transform how the world is transported. NASA has an organizational vision to explore space. So you can get a company vision.

So let’s say it is, “Help people do better marketing.” From that flows things that you’re going to do over the next few years. It could be five years, it could be just two or three years, but the mission that you have. I’m going to go back to Tesla again because I love Tesla’s five-year mission. Tesla’s five-year mission is to “Power the transformation from gas to electric vehicles and to become the world’s leading car company by doing that.” So become the world’s leading company by powering the transformation from gas to electric.

Okay. Then, based on that mission, that thing that you want to accomplish over the next few years, you have a BHAG. A BHAG is Big Hairy Audacious Goal. I know it sounds a little funny, but this acronym is actually quite important, and so are all the letters in there. Big because you want it to be hard to achieve. My favorite thing that people say about a BHAG is,
“It’s out of reach, but not out of sight.” A goal that is out of reach, I can’t see us accomplishing it today. My God, it’s almost hard to imagine that we accomplished it, but not completely out of sight.

So perhaps Tesla would say that their BHAG is to be the world’s number one auto manufacturer in ten years or in five years. That means that they have to build so many cars and sell so many cars that they are the world’s leading car company through number of cars on the road. For Moz, our BHAG is one million people subscribing to our platform. For your Cleveland, Ohio consulting agency, it might be successfully keeping and maintaining 100 paying customers at $5,000 a month or more for a full year, nonstop. Whatever it is, it has to be definable, easily definable, easily measurable, and powerful, something that people can get behind.

I’ll go back to NASA again. That moon mission that they had, in the 1960s NASA had the moon mission and the BHAG for the moon mission was, “Put a man on the surface of the moon and return him safely to the earth.” Super measurable, super definable, incredibly powerful to get behind. If you’re doing marketing for that, you can see that big vision and that big goal very clearly. Then from there, from these two, I’m going to take our mission and our BHAG, and I’m going to define a list of strategic goals, things we need to accomplish in order to get these things done. But they’re going to be things that we do over the next 6 to 12 months, just 6 to 12 months, just the next little while. This is really powerful because those strategic goals should flow down to everything else that the company does.

So if, for example, I say, “Hey, in order to sell more cars, Tesla needs to open Tesla dealerships in 500 cities over the next 12 months, and here’s the list of cities.” Okay, that’s a strategic goal. Now we’ve got to go get that done. We need to figure out people who know how to open stores and people who know about real estate, and we need to have a bunch of investment dollars that we can put it in these things. We need to figure out how long it is before we open a dealership before that actually turns into sales for us. We need to hire all the salespeople. We need to build a process for that. Huge list of things that come from those, but the strategic goal is very simple. “Open stores in 500 cities.”

At Moz, one of our strategic goals is to increase the retention of our Pro subscribers. Build stuff. Make stuff in the product that makes people want to stick around and use Moz longer. Okay, these are strategic goals.

Then, from there, now we really start to get into the nitty-gritty with the marketing goals being tied to these company goals, and this is such a powerful architecture. It just removes all kinds of barriers, because now I can go and I can build a process like this, right here. So I take a goal that the team is trying to accomplish, and I translate that into what my actual marketing task is around it. Then I have the process and the people that I need for that goal. So actually, I’m going to use my checkboxes that I actually made.

I define my goal, I get the process and people I need, I figure out how we define success, what the measurable elements are. Maybe it’s, “Hey, we need to broaden our brand’s reach.” We want to have more people exposed to the Moz brand, and so therefore, we are going to define a goal as half a million people following our Twitter account and 100,000 people following our Google + account, and maybe a million people following us on Facebook and whatever those things are.

Then you have those metrics-based targets. So those could be website visitor statistics. They could be conversions. It could be an ROI number. It could be a cost number. Many times a strategic goal will be to reduce cost to a certain amount, and then you have these goals. “Hey, we need to reduce customer acquisition costs. We need to find channels that don’t cost as much.” Oftentimes, inbound channels don’t cost as much, things like SEO and email marketing, opt-in email marketing, community building, and content and those kinds of things, that’s a great way to reduce customer acquisition costs. It could be a marketing goal, and you figure out who the process and people are behind that. We may need a writer. We’re going to need someone who is a marketing analyst to do all the statistics work. We’re going to figure out how we measure success. That’s going to be measured through number of people acquired through these lower-cost channels. We’re going to have metrics-based targets. We’re going to say we want to acquire 20% of our customers through non-paid channels by the end of 2013.

Great. Now you have something so amazing. You have marketers that can see the big picture. They can see all the way. They know everything that’s connected here, and that means that they know how their work matters. I can’t tell you what a change in attitude you get when you understand how your work matters versus wondering why you’re pushing buttons. It’s just a remarkable change. Now, those same people can navigate project complexity without needing someone over their shoulder, looking all the time at their work, making sure that they’re doing the right thing, reviewing, because they can see that full connection.

You might have someone who reviews the work at the end of the cycle or is in a project planning meeting with them, maybe a manager or a senior leader or something like that, and that’s fine and that’s a good thing. But you don’t need to be in the weeds with your team anymore, and because they’re empowered, they can choose how they work best, figure out what makes them most effective, and then they can execute on projects.

I urge you to give this a try. It won’t take that long, especially if you’ve got some of these bigger things already defined, and it can really move the needle on how your marketing team works.

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

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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!