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The Secret Recipe for Viral Content Marketing Success

Posted by KelseyLibert

This post was originally in YouMoz, and was promoted to the main blog because it provides great value and interest to our community. The author’s views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of SEOmoz, Inc.

Let’s assume you know the basics: content marketing is one of the best ways to engage with audiences and potential customers online. It is useful for improving search rankings, increasing brand engagement and loyalty, increasing brand visibility, and encouraging social sharing and interaction. If you are a consumer-facing company in this day and age, you simply cannot keep up with the competition if you are not actively building your content marketing skill set. 

Easier said than done though, right? You’ve probably dabbled in content marketing before, or maybe even hired a “top agency.” Maybe you have even seen some results; a few links here, a few hundred shares there, but then what? Certainly no fireworks, no massive ranking improvements, and no lead or sale increases. Maybe it wasn’t the panacea you’d hoped it might be. Short on time and money, you probably gave up and reinvested your money into tried and true marketing practices that could at least drive a few conversions. You chalked content marketing up to something too expensive or too difficult to find any real success with.

If any of this resonates with you, you are most definitely not alone. Doing content marketing properly is no easy task, and to beginners it can seem to be next to impossible to create anything that will stand out and get noticed. Add to that the explosion of agencies who claim to be gurus and deliver tragically poor results, and the whole “content marketing” arena can start to feel like a convoluted mess that can’t deliver on its promises.

So, what do you do? Other tactics are losing efficacy, your site is losing rankings, you can’t get social engagement for the life of you, and your frustration level is at an all-time high.

You go back to the beginning, and you relearn the truth about what it takes to come up with content that works: content that shows what content marketing can really do for your business. Content marketing that can transform a company overnight.

When content goes viral: The example above shows a near 10 fold increase in our client’s organic search traffic (from Google alone) after a single successful viral campaign. The big spike in the beginning of December marks the launch of the campaign.

Step 1: Understanding the truth about your competition

You may assume when you first begin that your only competition are your business competitors, the companies online that fight for the same search phrases, or sell the same products or services. When it comes to content marketing, these businesses are only the beginning. What you must remember is that when creating content, you are fighting for attention against EVERYONE; all content creators, not just businesses. Your content must stand its ground against those who are creating content for entirely non-commercial reasons. This means that when coming up with your campaigns, you must not only do better than your competitors, but you must do better than almost everyone talking about your subject area.

Step 2: Engagement is good, but viral is better

In content marketing, going the incremental route can be an effective way to go. Loyal audiences can be built by creating a great deal of relevant, useful, but not particularly viral content. Through persistence and often grueling content creation schedule it is possible to find a positive ROI over the long term. If you have the capacity to pump out 5-7 thoughtful and moderately useful pieces of content weekly, eventually you will likely see good results. However, as Rand Fishkin said, you have to “be willing to fail for a long time.” 

In fact, for companies that can afford it, this can be an essential piece of the content marketing pie, and it is often something we recommend to our clients who have longer timelines. But this style of content marketing will not change your business in the short term. It can take years of consistent effort to see substantial improvements in rankings and in audience growth.

What if you don’t have years; don’t have the time, energy, or budgets to create compelling content on a regular basis; or simply need to build an audience fast? The answer is this: you must create something viral; content that can spread in a way that creates massive attention. Content that will boost you above the writhing masses, and make others take notice.

Below, you can see our viral content marketing campaign results, which impacted our client’s 271% organic traffic increase. It’s important to note that these results were generated by a single outreach placement on Buzzfeed.com, with a nofollow link.

Step 3: Understanding what it means to “go viral”

If you have done any reading on viral marketing, you have probably come across attempts at formulas for describing virality, but none that have made it very concrete beyond the understanding that to go viral means to have a high level of visibility. The truth is that virality and the act of going viral isn’t really all that complex. Having something “go viral” relies on having specific values for three important variables. These variables include:

Viral coefficient: the total number of new viewers generated by one existing viewer. As content creators this is the number you should be most concerned with, it is basically a “score” of how shareable your content truly is.
 
Viral cycle time: the amount of time it takes before all these new users have been generated by a single initial viewer. In content marketing, the viral cycle Time can be thought of as the amount of time it would take for a viewer who had a piece of content shared with them to view the content and then decide whether or not to share it themselves. The viral cycle time for sharing content is usually no longer than 1-2 days, though in some special circumstances, it can be longer. For the purposes of our discussion here, we will define the viral cycle time as one day. 
 
Total available market: the number of people online who might be interested in sharing your content. For broad-appeal type pieces, this number could be in the hundreds of millions. For niche content, this could be as low as several hundred or several thousand people. 
 

I’ve adapted a spreadsheet that looks at how these factors actually influence the anatomy and eventual success or failure of a piece of content. The bones of this spreadsheet were originally created by Mark Devisser. Feel free to make a copy of this document and play around with the three variables mentioned above. As a note, you will likely notice some key aspects of virality just from playing with this including:

  • True virality along with the telltale “hockey stick” graph can not be created without a viral coefficient of greater than “1.” The higher the coefficient, the faster the spread of the content and also the sooner and more abrupt the hockey stick you will see on the graph.
  • The size of the initial seed is important for the length of time from the initial publishing it takes for virality (hockey stick) to happen. The larger the initial seed, the sooner you will see a potential viral effect, assuming the coefficient is still greater than 1.
  • Extending the cycle time will extend the length of time it takes to see a viral effect (hockey stick) Fortunately, with web based content, the cycle time happens extremely quickly thanks to social channels and the nature of digital content. If you were measuring the virality of say a snail mail chain letter, the cycle time would be on the order of weeks, and creating virality would take much longer assuming a viral coefficient greater than 1.
  • The size of the Total Available Market has an enormous bearing on the total number of cumulative views. This makes it extremely important to think about your target audience during idea development. If you want a viral smash, you must have content that appeals to the masses (more on this later).

Step 4: Creating content with a viral coefficient above 1

So, understanding what virality is great, and understanding the levers for virality is even better, but how does this translate specifically to content? How do you take the ideas we just learned and make them work for you in your content marketing efforts?

To begin, the first, most important, and most difficult step is to create a piece of content that you think will likely have a viral coefficient greater than 1. When it ultimately comes down to it, there is no perfect way to gauge whether or not a particular piece of content will have a viral coefficient above 1. Ultimately, you won’t know until your content gets out onto the Internet. However, by exploring the top-level qualities that exist within most viral content with a coefficient above 1, it is possible to give yourself a much higher probability of viral success.

Strong emotional drivers

Put simply, emotions drive almost all behavior. When an emotion is triggered in your brain, your nervous system responds by creating a subjective experience (feelings). A great deal of your decisions are informed by your emotional responses because that is what emotions are designed to do: to appraise and summarize an experience and inform your actions. The stronger the feeling, the more likely to spur a responsive action.

When it comes to sharing online, the potential actions related to emotional activation are relatively simple. Essentially there are four options for your typical content consumer when approaching a new piece of content.

  • Engage or disengage
  • Share or don’t share

In order for a content consumer to share, they must engage first with the content, and then make the decision to share that content. These actions are mediated entirely by emotions. Many brain researchers and scientists agree that emotion of interest is continually present in the normal mind under normal conditions, and it is the central motivation for engagement in creative and constructive endeavors and for the sense of well-being. Interest and its interaction with other emotions account for selective attention, which in turn influences all other mental processes. Thus, in order to get someone to engage with your content, it must first and foremost pique interest. It is for this reason that titles are so massively important. Without a title that piques interest beyond an undefined threshold, there will be no engagement.

Assuming you’ve piqued your readers interest with an interesting title and have passed the first stage, your content must now convince the reader to share. The decision making process for this, as defined by prominent psychologist Richard Lazarus is as follows:

  • Cognitive appraisal: The individual assesses the event cognitively, which cues the emotion.
  • Physiological changes: The cognitive reaction starts biological changes such as increased heart rate or pituitary adrenal response.
  • Action: The individual feels the emotion and chooses how to react (or not).

If the cognitive appraisal spurs a strong enough emotion, and resultantly large physiological change, the probability of action is increased. In the case of sharing content, if the cognitive appraisal cues a strong enough emotion and resultant physiological response to overcome factors that antagonize sharing the reader will share the content.

So, how do we create strong emotional drivers in our content?

In the fast paced online environment, you will only ever have a short amount of time to get the attention of a viewer. Your goal should be to capture the attention of a viewer, and then engage them emotionally as quickly as possible. The faster and more deeply you are able to engage their emotions, the more likely the viewer is to invest themselves enough in the content to share it. Let’s by addressing speed:

The speed of emotional activation
If you are not able to convey the emotionally impactful aspects of your content quickly, you are probably dead in the water. Highly viral content will communicate its strong emotional impact within the first few seconds of viewing. It is for this reason that visual, easy-to-understand, and easy-to-consume content is generally the most viral. Take one look at viral kingmakers like Reddit.com and you will notice that 90% of the frontpage content are static images. This is also the reason behind the success of infographics (as well as image macros/memes, animated gifs and several other mediums). Visual, simplistic, easy-to-consume, infographics can make excellent viral content, but only if they can extend the benefit of their medium and illicit a strong emotional reaction as well. 
 
Which emotions should we engage?
Conceivably, almost any emotion, given that it is strong enough is possible as behaving as the primary driver of sharing. In practice, though, not all emotions are as effective in driving sharing behavior as others. Unfortunately, there have been very few studies on the types of emotions lead to sharing. Jonah Berger, a professor at Wharton, has done some preliminary research in this area by looking at the email sharing rates of New York Times articles. His findings are summarized as follows:
 
“The results indicate that positive content is more viral than negative content, but the relationship between emotion and social transmission is more complex than valence alone. Virality is partially driven by physiological arousal. Content that evokes high-arousal positive ( such as awe) or negative (anger or anxiety) emotions is more viral. Content that evokes low-arousal, or deactivating, emotions (e.g., sadness) is less viral. these results hold even when the authors control for how surprising, interesting, or practically useful content is (all of which are positively linked to virality), as well as external drivers of attention (e.g., how prominently content was featured). Experimental results further demonstrate the causal impact of specific emotion on transmission and illustrate that it is driven by the level of activation induced. taken together, these findings shed light on why people share content and how to design more effective viral marketing campaigns.”
 

While this is a great start in understanding the emotional drivers of sharing, it is a very incomplete understanding. In an effort to further detail the real emotional drivers, I sought to understand the emotional impact of content that better fit the criteria of most viral content (i.e. visual, easy-to-understand, and easy-to-consume content).

Exclusive Fractl research project: viral emotions 

*It is important to begin by noting here that the following experiment is not scientific or widely comprehensive. Despite this, there is a good deal of preliminary information that speaks to some of the most apparent aspects of the emotional drivers of viral content, and the takeaways found are likely quite valuable. Research of greater depth will likely bear out additional information and more granular insights.* (Raw Data)

I began by selecting a group of content that fit what I believed would be representative of the “best of the best” in viral content. To make sure I was comparing apples to apples, I decided only to use static images instead of written or multimedia content. Memes and inside jokes were also excluded as the factors that lead to them becoming viral can be non-emotional and more difficult to analyze or ascertain.

The source of the content I used came from the top 50 image posts of all time on reddit.com/r/pics, a community of 3.4 million plus content voters. I selected 25 images that I felt could stand alone, ones that required no previous knowledge to understand (Reddit tends to boost inside joke type content on occasion, so post that fit that profile were excluded).

I then had each image coded by 50 volunteers for the emotions that were elicited by each image as well as the strength of each emotion. The possible choices for the emotions included: 

Possible emotion choices

 

 

What we learned

The results from this informal survey on some of the web’s most viral visual content was actually quite amazing. Much of what we found mirrored the results found by Jonah Berger, but we also found some interesting additional takeaways. What we found was as follows:

  1. Positive emotions were much more common than negative emotions (14 negative and 184 positive).
  2. Certain specific emotions were extremely common, while others were extremely uncommon.
  3. The strength of the emotional impact was a great indicator for the popularity of the content on Reddit. The top four most popular posts on Reddit also had the top four highest aggregate emotionality scores (sum of emotional strength score totals).

  4. Interest, surprise, and amusement seemed to behave as emotional multipliers for positive emotions, and empathy seemed to act as an emotional multiplier for negative emotions. 12 of the 25 images had Amusement, Interest, and Surprise as 3 of their top emotions and all images had at least 1 of the 3 emotions (either Amusement, Interest, or Surprise).
  5. Contrasting emotions seemed to be helpful in increasing emotional impact. In the cases where negative emotions were present, they seemed to directly contrast positive emotions, likely enhancing the emotionality of the image through this contrast. Additionally, empathy seems to be a common emotion found alongside popular content that evokes strong negative emotions.

Enhancing emotionality for higher virality

It’s clear that emotionally evocative content is essential in creating wide-reaching viral content, and that there are even some emotions that seem to work better than others toward this goal, but are there other ways to expand on emotionality for virality? In other words, how can emotionality be enhanced? 

Increasing emotional identification with the content

Make your content visual

On a whole, visual content is better at conveying emotionality and being understood quickly and easily. Therefore, images and video have a leg up against written form content. It is for this reason that image and video sharing dominates online. It is the reason the images and video dominate Reddit’s front page each day and the reason 40 of the top 50 posts of all time on Reddit are either images or videos. It is the reason we have all seen infographics, animated gifs, and image macros have become ubiquitous. As a general rule, visual content is simply more engaging.

 

Make your content interactive

Interactive content engages the viewer’s senses and attention in a more active way than simple static content. By creating an experience that your viewers must participate in, you necessarily enhance the impact. If there is an emotional angle to your interactive campaign, it can increase the emotional impact substantially. One excellent way we are seeing this happen recently is through the use of parallax treatments like these.

Make your content personalized

Customized or personalized content is, by its very nature, better at engaging viewers emotionally than non-personalized content. Emotions are more easily evoked when the user can actually SEE themselves in the content, instead of relying on empathy to put themselves in someone else’s shoes. Some standout emotionally compelling, personalized, content like this, illustrates just how incredibly viral emotionally driven, personalized, visual content can be. Have you ever created something with 12 million + Facebook likes? Try emotionally-driven, visual, personalized, interactive content, and you might just be able to.

Emotional stacking with lists

If you haven’t been paying attention to Buzzfeed.com lately, you should probably start. They have mastered the art of what I like to call “Emotional Stacking.” 

Definition: Lists of disparate visual content, linked thematically, into a list that is purposefully structured to build up a specific emotional response. 
 
 
This example, for instance illustrates the technique perfectly. A list based image post of the 45 “Most Powerful Images” of 2011. With each image adding to the emotional reaction of the user, by the time you get to the end, you have been worked up into such an emotional state that the desire to share feels almost visceral. 
 

Growing the viral coefficient – Beyond the emotions

While emotions generally play the largest role in determining the viral coefficient of a piece of content, there are other aspects that can contribute significantly to whether or not a that content is ultimately shared. Additional motivating factors can play a key role, specifically factors that convey some kind of social benefit or ego benefit.

The social benefits of sharing:

Social incentive/reward to share 
  • “Ingroup vs. Outgroup”
Content that makes the viewer feel exclusive, or in-the-know, or otherwise included can often work very well as a motivator for sharing. This ingroup vs. outgroup effect is one of the driving forces for the popularity of memes, by sharing the “inside joke” the sharer demonstrates that they are part of the ingroup.
 
  • “Altruistic”
Content that allows the sharer to feel that they are doing tangible good can often incentivize sharing and substantially increase the viral coefficient. This is especially true for content that has a strong emotional hook that creates strong feelings of empathy. This is just one excellent example of an altruism enhanced, emotionally-driven viral effect. 
 
 
  • “Self-identity/image bolstering”
When users share content on peer-facing communities like Facebook, they often make sharing decisions based on how the content will represent them to their peers. What is it that sharing that specific piece of content will convey about the sharer to their peers? Content that, when shared, would affirm the identity of the sharer will be more likely to be shared than content that won’t. This is one of the reasons why emotionally driven content that relates to hot-button social issues can often be extremely viral. 
 
 
We saw this exploited (in the best sense of the word) extensively by companies like OREO, with their pro LGBT rights campaigns over the last year. Sharing was incentivized because so many people felt compelled to position themselves on one side of the issue or the other, bolstering their own identity to themselves and their peers using the emotionally evocative image as a vehicle. 
 

Step 5: Decreasing viral cycle time

As I mentioned earlier, viral cycle time can be thought of as the period of time it takes for a viewer to share from the time they view the content. While a viral coefficient above 1 is needed for exponential viral growth, the timeline of this growth can be fast or it can be exceedingly slow. It is the viral cycle time that determines how quickly exponential growth will occur in content that has a viral coefficient above 1. It is in the best interest of the content creator to do everything they can to decrease the viral cycle time, to help achieve exponential viral growth in the shortest amount of time possible. So, what can be done to manipulate viral cycle time? To be precise, pretty much anything that can spur the sharer to consume the content faster and share the content faster. This includes, but is not limited to the following:

1. Decreasing consumption time
Conciseness of content is extremely important. The faster content can make its impact, the faster the potential cycle time. This is another reason why images tend to be so viral. They can be understood and shared at lightning speed. For instance a viral image may take only seconds to consume, whereas a long-form article, or long video may take many minutes or more to consume. The slower the consumption of the content, the slower the viral cycle time, and potentially the longer it would take for the content to go viral (assuming it has a viral coefficient above 1). The takeaway here is to do everything you can to make your content as concise as possible, so long as you are not sacrificing the impact of the content. Don’t make the mistake of sacrificing a 1+ viral coefficient for a faster cycle time, because without it, you won’t have any virality at all. 
 
2. Increasing ease and speed of sharing
Making your content simple and fast to share is absolutely essential for helping to increase viral cycle time. You should do everything you can to include sharing tools for the most popular social sharing sites (Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, Email, and Reddit) at the very least. You should also make sure that sharing is set up properly to share a compelling default title and text. 
 

Step 6: The limitations of virality and the importance of audience. 

I’ve discussed generalities about the importance of emotional activation in viral content, but creating successful viral content can often be a bit more nuanced than simply creating something that will strongly engage viewers’ emotions. It is also incredibly important to do your best to make sure that your content is well suited for the audience you hope to target.

Now, if you are simply trying to create something massively viral, and you don’t really care about any connection or tie-in to your company or brand, your opportunities for topic ideas are nearly limitless. In practice, though, this isn’t often the case. The goal is usually to create viral content that in some way ties in with the offering of the company creating the content. In this case, it is essential to carefully define a target audience for your prospective content, even before coming up with ideas. The reception of the content you create within this segmented target audience is what will determine whether or not your content will become viral.

The considerations that you may want to make are multiple, and a future blog post will cover this topic in more depth, but in general, it is important to consider the following aspects of your audience in order to determine the potential reception of any viral concept you are considering creating.

  1. What types of content does your target audience like to consume?
  2. What specific topics tend to be discussed within this community, and specifically, what topics are held as important by this community?
  3. What topics are controversial? What gets this community riled up?
  4. What is the general Zeitgeist of the community you are targeting? What are their commonly held opinions on social and political topics?
  5. Who are their heroes and villains?
  6. Who are their niche celebrities?
  7. What is their unique history? Their legends and fables?
  8. What sorts of emotions typically are expressed by your target audience?

Failing to understand your audience can spell failure. If you are unable to understand them enough to know how to push their emotional buttons, and which ones to push, you will have a high likelihood of turning them off from sharing.

Step 7: Considerations for fractal virality

A fractal is the mathematical term use for a system of self-similar repeating patterns at different scales. In the context of viral marketing, it can be thought of as an apt descriptor for so called “viral expansion loops” which are created when content has functionality built into it that provides for users or viewers to extend or create new viral content based on or as a part of the original content. Generally, fractal content is user generated, either actively (the user actually does something) or passively (the user’s data is used, but they do nothing). Some examples of fractal content include:

  1. Elfyourself.com
  2. Fatbooth, Oldbooth, and other mobile apps
  3. UGC photo or video contests like: crashthesuperbowl.com
  4. Altruistic DIY concepts like Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” campaign

By giving users an opportunity to utilize their own creativity through personalization and user generated content, it is possible to create fractal sharing and massive exposure. Keep in mind that all of the emotional drivers discussed with viral content apply here as well, we’ve simply added an additional layer or step to expand virality. Some important aspects to consider when attempting to create fractal content include considering:

  • How can this idea be adapted, personalized, or altered while retaining the primary message?
  • How have you enabled creativity? Is the functionality conducive to ease of creation and creativity? 
  • How have you encouraged users to create compelling emotional content?
  • How do you plan on curating or controlling the content? Is there a potential for a negative reaction?

Conclusions

Viral and fractal content has the potential to reach and influence massive audiences, but in practice can be exceedingly difficult to create. By understanding your audience and the emotional drivers that motivate them, it is possible to increase your odds of success substantially. Through careful investigation of the elements of virality, in the future it will be possible to continue to improve the odds of success substantially. Here at Fractl, we aim to do just that. Keep an eye out for several new case studies that will help illustrate the points made here through real-life examples of emotionally driven viral and fractal content.

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We Want You to Speak at #MozCon 2013

Posted by Erica McGillivray

Last year at MozCon, we tried something new: community speakers. The feedback we receieved from those of you who attended was phenomal, and our four speakers were spectacular.

So this year, we’re opening up four community speaking slots again, and we can’t wait to hear from you. I know some of you have been preparing your ideas since last MozCon. Which means this year, I expect even more amazing submissions, harder choices, and to get over 150 submissions (which is what we got in 2012).

We’re looking for four people to deliver incredibly actionable tips in SEO, social media, content, marketing analytics, conversion rate optimization, and any other great inbound subject. You’ll join an already killer line-up of speakers and lots of fun.

Fabio, a commuity speaker, at MozCon 2012
Fabio was one of our amazing community speakers last year.

MozCon 2013 takes place July 8th-10th at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle. If this past weekend was any indication of how our summer’s going to be, bring your sunglasses and flip-flops for the sunshine. We’re expecting around ~1200 people, and tickets are already 50% sold out. We’ll have all the usual goodies like Roger photos and incredible speakers and a few surprises up our sleeves.

The details about the community speaker submission process:

  • Your pitch must be submitted by Tuesday, May 14th at 5pm PDT.
  • Please submit only one pitch. We’re looking for the best of the best.
  • Topics can range the inbound marketing spectrum, so submit something you’re passionate about.
  • If you’ve never spoke before or have spoken hundreds of times, we want to hear from you.
  • Presentations will be 15 minutes long with an added ~5 minutes for questions.
  • These sessions will be from 2:00-3:20pm on Wednesday, July 10th.
  • Widescreen-format slide decks will be due one week before MozCon.
  • If you already have a MozCon ticket, we will refund your ticket; and if you don’t have one, we’ll comp you one! Unfortunately, you will have to book your own hotel, flight, and transportation.
  • You will be invited to attend our speakers’ dinner on Sunday, July 7th. And pre-dinner, there will be time to walk on our stage.
  • You must be at MozCon in person. Sorry, no Skype, Google Hangout, or other video conferencing.
  • Our community speaker selections are final. Everyone who tossed their hat in the ring will be notified via email if they were selected or not.

Thank you to everyone who submitted their community speaker ideas for MozCon 2013. We’ll be in touch very soon!

I can’t wait to see all the awesome submissions for all potential community speakers.

Roger wants you at MozCon 2013!

If you haven’t snagged your MozCon ticket yet, do it! Also check out the full line-up, minus community speakers, of MozCon speakers. It’s going to be out-of-this-world.

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

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May 2013 Mozscape Index Is Live!

Posted by bradfriedman

Hey Mozheads, Brad here! It’s a beautiful Friday here in Seattle, and I hope the day finds you well wherever you are.

We’ve got a May Mozscape index for you to check out! As always, the new data can be seen on Open Site Explorer, the Mozbar, your PRO campaigns, and the Mozscape API.

This is a very special release, you guys. This is the first Mozscape index that was processed by our virtual private cloud in Virginia! This is a big part of our long-term strategy to streamline our processing for maximum freshness and value. For now, some of our indexes will be from our Elastic Compute Cloud clusters and some will be from our VPC in Virginia while we figure out how best to use our resources.

Our histogram shows that the index was crawled from the second half of March through the first half of April.

Crawl histogram for May 3, 2013 Mozscape index

And now, the juicy details — metrics for this latest index:

  • 90,875,257,743 (91 billion) URLs
  • 8,514,925,232 (8.5 billion) Subdomains
  • 163,482,796 (163 million) Root Domains
  • 917,461,264,950 (917 billion) Links
  • Followed vs. Nofollowed

    • 2.15% of all links found were nofollowed
    • 56.4% of nofollowed links are internal
    • 43.6% are external
  • Rel Canonical – 14.83% of all pages use a rel=canonical tag
  • The average page has 76 links on it

    • 65.49 internal links on average
    • 10.95 external links on average

And here are the correlations with Google’s US search results:

  • Page Authority – 0.36
  • Domain Authority – 0.19
  • MozRank – 0.24
  • Linking Root Domains – 0.30
  • Total Links – 0.25
  • External Links – 0.29

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and comments! And check out a list of our previous index updates with metrics here.

Have a great weekend, everybody, and May the 4th be with you!

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

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Why We Can’t Just Be SEOs Anymore – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

There’s a movement happening in our industry, and many folks are changing their practices and titles from “SEO” to “online marketing, inbound marketing, and/or earned media marketing.” Where did this shift originate from, and where is it taking our industry as a whole? Is it enough to just be an SEO in today’s game, or are we missing the bigger picture?

In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand shares his take on the shift from “SEO” to “inbound marketing” and what the future holds for our industry at large. 

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

Why We Can’t Just Be SEOs Anymore – 20130422 – Rand

For your viewing pleasure, here’s a still image of the whiteboard used in this week’s video:

Video Transcription

“Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to a special edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week I want to address an elephant in the room. It’s a topic that I’ve talked about quite a bit on my personal blog, a bit on the primary blog, and I know it’s a topic that gets discussed all over the marketing world, from Inbound.org to lots of blogs and news sites. It’s:  Why is it that there’s this movement from some folks in the field to change their titles, their names, their practices, from saying, “We do SEO,” to saying, “We do inbound marketing,” or, “We do online marketing, we do web marketing, we do earned media marketing”?

I want to try to try and take on that elephant right now. There are some really good reasons that I think we’re seeing this shift happen, and I’m actually one of the proponents of this shift. I used to be very against it. I used to be very passionate about building only the brand of SEO. Now, I’ve revised my stance. I think that, as new data and as the world has changed and I’ve become less of an obstinate son of a gun, I’m seeing this bigger picture, and I want to try to share that picture that I’m seeing with you.

The first one is I can’t argue that SEO is bigger than the way people define or have defined SEO for the last decade. That’s not really true of the 2010 to 2013 period, but it is very true of the decade before that, from the late ’90s into the late 2000, the “aughts.” What I mean is there are these old-school tactics. “Oh, you’re going to do SEO? Well, that means you do links, you make my content relevant, you put the good keywords in there, you do work on your markup, your snippets, and your site architecture, your structure. You are done. You have done SEO. That is SEO. Don’t try to tell me that it’s more than that.”

This becomes very, very challenging when, as an SEO or as a marketer who’s trying to achieve good results with SEO, you say, “But wait a minute. This only works when the ranking factors were things like link graph data, keyword data, domain data, and topic analysis.” Now, we have a lot more ranking factors, right? Engines are looking at user and usage data. They’re definitely looking at brand signals. They’re looking at offline data potential. Potentially there are patent applications, thinking about offline data. They’re looking at social graph signals.

What’s an SEO to do? If I want to influence these, I’ve got to be able to work on everything that’s marketing. That’s everything from social media to community building, positioning, branding, emails, CRO, product, the unique value of the content. What am I going to do if I’m tasked with SEO, but I’m only given responsibility over these things? It’s just not going to work. In order to influence just the very part of SEO that we touch on, which is moving up rankings in major search engines like Google and Bing, just to do that, we have to be able to control and influence a lot more than we ever had to in the past. It’s an untenable kind of situation.

Thus, what we’d really like to do and what we’ve been working hard at as an industry is to try to change and broaden the definition of SEO. I can tell you one of the things that I feel very passionately about is changing that branding and working really hard to not have the word “SEO” be associated with scumminess and bad companies and irresponsible behavior. But that perception of SEO is so hard to change. It’s been established for such a long time now, and the small efforts of quite a few of us in the field to try and change that perception have not been successful, at least not outside of the online marketing world. Inside that world and with a small portion of the developers and designers who get SEO and get marketing, it’s true.

I love those of you who are watching Whiteboard Friday and who are in that world, who understand that SEO is this bigger thing. But I know that you’ve felt the same pain that I’m talking about. People say, “Oh, SEO. So you’re a spammer. You manipulate things. You’re unethical. You’re breaking the search engine’s rules. What does Google think of you?”

These are questions we have to answer every single time, and it’s pretty clear to me why this happens. I think the reason is actually very obvious. The primary and first association that most people have with SEO is what? It’s comment spam on their blogs. It’s a spammy, scummy email that’s trying to get them to sign up for something. It’s someone wanting to trade a PageRank 6 link with them. It’s a forum, or a bulletin board, or an online community saying, “Oh, are you wondering why this malware happened? That’s the SEOs doing that.” That’s why all these bad things happen on the Internet. They blame SEOs.

To be fair, early on in the days of SEO, there were plenty of us, myself included, who would do some of these spammy and manipulative things. I’m not innocent, by any means. But that perception, that fight is one that I don’t think we’re winning. That’s another reason why I think it’s really hard to do SEO well and just call yourself an SEO. I think when you change the title, you change the perception. You change the frame of reference, and you say, “I do web marketing. I help people grow their companies. I help attract visitors, and that leads to more conversions on their site.” They’re like, “Oh, okay. I get it. Web marketing. Understood.” SEO is one of the channels, one of the main channels, but one of the channels they focus on.

The third one, we are selling ourselves short. When you say, “I’m an SEO,” your boss, your client, your management says, “Why are you meddling with our design, UX, social, and ad campaigns? Why are you trying to get into this?” You are supposed to focus on SEO. Yet, the answer is well, we can’t do great even at just SEO without influencing all these other fields that we talked about above.

By the way, we’re selling ourselves short even more than just this, because when we do work on all these channels, when we improve all of these channels, that obviously helps our search rankings too, we are also driving a lot of traffic from them. Social is sending us good traffic. The blogosphere and PR efforts are sending us good links that are driving visits, good customer service practices, community building practices, culture practices. All of these things that influence SEO that we’re trying to move the needle on to get better results, they also drive traffic of their own. That traffic converts, and that traffic is valuable. That traffic is measurable, and we are often the ones who are measuring it and quantifying it and trying to gauge the impact it has on search. Yet, we’re not getting rewarded for it or treated as though we were responsible for it. Again, we’re selling ourselves short.

But I want to end on a positive note. This stuff is okay. It is okay. This is something that we are used to. We are used to change. If there’s anything that SEOs can be assured of, it’s that things will change tomorrow, that things will change next week. No one is better prepared to handle change than we are. This kind of change is actually positive. Every field matures. My checkmark practices don’t mature. I’m clearly getting worse at them. But every field matures. You can see the early seeds of programming, of video, of accounting, any type of field, right? Journalism, for sure. Any time there’s massive shift or a new industry, we have these years of immaturity, and then we get to a better stage.

I think the stage for us is deciding:  Do we want to keep committing to a brand that frankly has been put through the wringer? One that I still use and will always use. As long as I am doing SEO work, I will use that brand. But do we want to also take hold of and recognize that, as marketers, we want to do good branding and good marketing? That means potentially calling ourselves something different, taking on these other titles, expressing ourselves in other ways in order to get more influence, and by the way, bigger paychecks too.

An SEO consultant, there are people who charge between $50 and a few hundred dollars an hour. Then you look at business strategy consultants from Accenture, or something like that, and you’re talking about a thousand plus dollars an hour. The more influence you have, the greater your billing is and, by the way, the more you can effect change and have a positive influence.

I hope this Whiteboard Friday is valuable to you. I’m sure there will be good comments and good discussion about this naming convention. I look forward to reading them and participating too. Take care, everyone. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday.”

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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A New Version of GetListed.org

Posted by David Mihm

Today, I am excited to announce the release of a new version of GetListed.org. While no new functionality is included in this update, the team and I hope it provides a dramatically improved user experience on several fronts.

The best way to get a sense of what’s changed is to run a business search for yourself, but I’ll run through a few brief highlights here.


Faster business lookups

GetListed is now waaayyyy faster (that’s the technical term used by our engineers) than it used to be. Previously, lookups averaged around 20 seconds. We’ve cut the average response time in half to about 10 seconds, and we’ll be working to make it even faster as we analyze usage of the app and further optimize our response times. We hope this increased speed provides a big value-add for those of you who use GetListed in your on-the-spot client meetings.

More consistent results

Previously, GetListed’s Listing Snapshot displayed a composite listing based on the data points returned by several search engines in our list. This led to unnecessary confusion among business owners, and made it difficult for some of our agency users to identify which search engines were returning incorrect information about clients’ listings. It also made tracking Listing Score progress over time more difficult, since this score was dependent on the order of results returned by our search engine partners, and this order sometimes varied week-to-week and month-to-month.

The new version of the site asks users to establish their canonical NAP (Name, Address, Phone number) information prior to running a full query for a given business, so that the new Snapshot page and Listing Score are no longer based on “best guess” composite listings.

Please note: this update means you may see changes in your listing scores, including for those businesses saved to your Dashboard. We suggest re-establishing these scores by running your listings through the new site. When you do, you’ll have a fixed data point against which you can measure your progress over time.

Cleaner Listing Snapshot interface 

When we started GetListed back in January 2009, only four search engines were displayed on the snapshot page. As our app grew in popularity and we established new relationships with data providers and other search engines, that list grew ever-longer and the formerly-simple interface grew clunky and overwhelming. The goal of the site (to get business owners to update erroneous information and add missing information) became muddied.

We hope the new interface makes these calls-to-action much clearer–to create listings on search engines where they don’t exist, and to update information that doesn’t match reality. The new app consolidates the old Snapshot, Accuracy, and Details pages, bringing accuracy front-and-center, and makes it easy to see listing details inline without jumping from page-to-page.

Cleaner Dashboard interface

The new Dashboard removes the clutter of favicon-style search engine logos (another problem created by our gradual expansion to include more listing providers over the last four years). The new Dashboard provides a quick way to assess listing scores at a glance, and easy access to the details page for your listings from clickable business titles.

U.S. version only

Over the past couple of months, we’ve noticed GetListed UK and GetListed CA returning an unacceptably high number of errors on business queries. As part of this release, we’ve decided to temporarily suspend these versions in order to focus on the backend and interface for our U.S. audience, which accounted for 98% of all queries run in April. After we’ve had a chance to analyze our domestic audience usage on this new system, we plan to re-release UK- and CA-specific versions (along with more international sites) later in the year.


Looking ahead

Well, that takes care of most of the major changes for this release.  Feedback, as always, is welcome.  We’ve even added a handy-dandy tab where you can submit feedback directly within the app; you can also feel free to email me at davidm@seomoz.org.

I hope I’ve laid out a compelling case above for the rationale behind this release from a user’s perspective. From a development perspective, the goal of this iteration of GetListed was to create a foundation for more frequent feature releases and better integration with SEOmoz tools moving forward. It paves the way for a number of new features we will be rolling out over the course of the summer and fall, which all of us on the GetListed team are even more excited about. Looking forward to sharing those with you soon!

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How Not to Visualize Your Data

Posted by Dr. Pete

Lately, I’ve been seeing data visualizations everywhere, including the products in my own kitchen. This week, I had sightings on my tea and my tortilla chips. This is a story about the box my tea came in (for the sake of my marriage, I can’t disassemble the tortilla chip bag until it’s empty), and how sometimes we take marketing too far. Over the weekend, I discovered this “Taste Profile” (the top version is a recreation, since the real graph was only about 1” tall, but all details are accurate to the original):

Radar Chart of Tea Taste Profile

I’m not attacking the company that made this, and I’m not going to “out” them here – their product is actually pretty great. I just want to use this visualization to illustrate some of the wrong ways to do things, in hopes that we can all raise our game a bit.

But It’s So Pretty!

I admit – the earth tones are nice, and it’s not entirely unappealing. I guess, for a moment, it made me feel better about shelling out $11 for an ounce-and-a-half of leaves. Maybe that’s even good marketing, although I really doubt this 1” tall graphic on the back of the box has ever swayed anyone’s decision. I’m not trying to say that it’s an ugly picture. The problem is that it’s a pleasant distraction disguised as meaningful data.

The job of a data-visualization is to communicate an idea better than the raw data itself could. Of course, that also implies that there’s actual data behind the visualization. So, how do we get it wrong?

(1) Pick the Shiniest Style

We all know that the best chart style can be summed up with two words: “big and shiny!” The radar chart above is pretty shiny – it’s like I’ve discovered some lost continent of tea with my smooth jazz submarine. The problem is that, ultimately, I don’t know what that shape means, and I don’t have anything to compare it to. A radar chart is at its best when comparing two or more profiles. Pick the right tool for the job, not the one that looks the most impressive on your utility belt. Batman is a friend of mine, and you, sir, are no Batman (disclaimer: I don’t know Batman).

(2) Use a Lot of Fancy Words

Umami is the exotic fifth taste (beyond the classic four of sweet, sour, bitter, and salty) – it’s a Japanese word meaning “Haha, I can’t believe I got you to eat sea urchin!” To be fair, at least it has something to do with taste. I honestly have no idea how “Brightness” or “Briskness” apply to tea, and if they do, what the difference is between the two.

I do know that Lipton has spent a lot of money making us think their tea is brisk, which raises another point – why do you want to compare your $110/lb. gourmet tea to Lipton? Even “Aroma” is a bit ambiguous – do I want a lot of aroma? What if it’s the aroma of some bad umami that I forgot to put in the fridge last night?

The goal of a visualization is to simplify information that’s too complex. If you have to make up big words to do that, then you’re missing the point.

(3) More Words? Yes, Please!

What really brings a visualization together is to explain each of your terms with even more words, preferably ones that make even less sense. Now, please understand – I have no issue with the French. I think Paris is lovely, it’s cool that you helped us win the American Revolution, and I’ve never eaten “freedom fries”. This product wasn’t made in France, though, and I didn’t buy it in Quebec. The company is based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Translating every label on the graph into French isn’t just meaningless – it’s pretentious. These secondary labels only serve to add visual noise and make it harder to pair the main labels to their data points.

(4) Keep the Mystery Alive

Everyone loves a mystery – you don’t hate Scooby Doo, do you? If you can make your product mysterious enough, everyone will think they need it. Sadly, sometimes smoke and mirrors is all a product has to offer, but in this case the product is really quite good. Adding pseudoscience to the label doesn’t create intrigue – it just makes me wonder if the marketing team is drinking their product or smoking it.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

To be fair, this 1” graph was little more than a decoration on a box, and it does that job perfectly well. Unfortunately, I’ve seen similar graphs (and worse) in blog posts, research papers, and even reputable newspapers.  Every day, it gets easier to make sexy charts, illustrations, and infographics. It’s ok to create something beautiful, but we have to remember that our first job is to communicate. A data visualization should convey useful ideas quickly, because ultimately that’s our job as online marketers. So, think before you open Photoshop.

Addendum: So, I’ve learned that “cupping scores” are not uncommon in the gourmet coffee industry. Here’s a 10-factor radar graph (hat tip to @jimbeetle). I just have a hard time seeing this as anything but a way to justify premium prices with pseudoscience.

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The Complete Guide to Reconversion

Posted by TomRoberts

This post was originally in YouMoz, and was promoted to the main blog because it provides great value and interest to our community. The author’s views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of SEOmoz, Inc.

A great deal of emphasis is placed on inbound marketing and attracting new customers. However, we should be careful not to neglect the existing clients that we may have. These people are just as important as new customers and more often than not can provide you with a great return of investment. We should give our existing clients the marketing focus they deserve.

In this guide, I will look at why remarketing and reconverting your clients can be a valuable tactic for your business, while also providing examples on how we can do just that.

I hope you find this guide to be something a little bit different than what we normally see on Moz and, most of all, I hope you find it useful. I’d love it if you could read through the whole post, but for those revisiting or those strapped for time, here are a few links to jump you to each chapter:


Prelude: What Prompted the Post Chapter 1: I Demand Satisfaction
Chapter 2: Don’t Count Out a Discount Chapter 3: The Best Things in Life are Free
Chapter 4: The Lost Art of Email Marketing Chapter 5: Community is Key
Conclusion: Let’s Get Out There

Prelude: What Prompted the Post

I am just a poor boy, though my story’s seldom told. We don’t see an awful lot of in-house SEO perspectives here on SEOmoz and even less so from the financial services sector, of which my current role is in. This does give me the opportunity, however, to provide a real case study of how a company has identified the need to get more value from the client base and how they have done so.

Basically, our company provides a way for people to trade the financial markets, things like equities, currency pairs and so on. We provide this service in a number of countries across Europe, with the UK being our primary market.

The curious thing about this industry, over the last 6-12 months is that, while we as a company have acquired new clients somewhat exponentially, the trading volumes of those clients, effectively the amount that they have been trading, has not seen the same amount of growth. This is something that is reported to be affecting the industry as a whole.

There are likely a number of factors that are contributing to this. Market volatility as a whole is at a record low, while we are also reviewing our marketing channels to see which ones are providing the most worth to us. However, the thing that we felt we had most control over was ensuring that our clients were as happy as they could possibly be with us, which in turn would extend the time period they want to trade with us and would do so with more frequency.

This guide will aim to show what we have done as a company to help ensure our clients are satisfied with us and want to reconvert and how these methods can apply to a wide range of industries.

Chapter 1: I Demand Satisfaction

Shut up and take my money!

If you’re trying to get people to come back to your business and reconvert, they better have had a bloomin’ good experience the first time round. It goes without saying that people will need to have a positive experience with your company to even consider returning, regardless of whatever marketing campaign you are using to entice them back.

Therefore, the first part of any reconversion strategy is ensuring that the conversion the first time round is as smooth as possible. If you’re working on an ecommerce site, cart abandonment is always a hot topic and I really like Russ Henneberry’s guide on decreasing abandonment over on CrazyEgg.

The best way to know whether or not you are being well received is to have an open dialogue with your clients. SEOmoz is a great example of this, while at ETX Capital we always display a free contact number on our website, so that people only have to pick up the phone to talk with us. Being readily available on social media, particularly Twitter, is another great way to garner client feedback. Over 30% of top brands have launched a dedicated customer service handle and I’d advise you to check out the Simply Measured case study on brands’ Twitter activity.

You may also want to consider asking your clients to leave you their feedback on external review sites, such as Review Centre. Not only do you often get detailed feedback from people leaving reviews, your ranking here can help you obtain rich snippets in your PPC ads. If you receive over 30 reviews for your business and keep an average rating of 4 or more, you can have fancy, shmancy stars appear next to your ads like these:

Car Insurance Rich Snippets
Oh my God – it’s full of stars!

Finally, you definitely need to check out Joshua Unseth’s SEOmoz post on using Google Analytics for a Q&A strategy. Not only is it a brilliant resource, it can also help you discover what people are asking about your brand in Google search. You may find some trends on your service that you can address prior to people converting.

Chapter 2: Don’t Count Out a Discount

Discount Tent - Get It?
Source: NoSweatShakespeare.com

It might seem simple, but it is often effective. Offering discounts to returning customers is a great way to have them return and to build up a bit of brand loyalty. I can remember in November last year that I had a mullet to rival Billy Ray Cyrus and I decided that it was time for a smart cut. I went to Rush salon with no intention of returning for regular cuts, as I thought it was a bit pricey. One loyalty card stamp and two 25% off cuts later and I’m already looking forward to my next princess day!

Repeat customers very often cost less than acquiring new customers, so when you’re working out your margins and what discount you can afford to give, cost is definitely something you will want to consider.

Implementing the discount system is something that should not be underestimated either. For the ecommerce SEOs out there, you can find some very useful extensions for your CMS. OpenCart is arguably one of the best CMS systems out there right now and these three extensions may be of interest for you.

Providing physical discounts is still a very popular method as well. Providing branded cards with a discount code is a popular trick used by Amazon, when sending out its products (I must have had £600 worth of wine vouchers sent to me in three months, what are they trying to say?). I have to say I am a fan of the loyalty stamp card and I’ve often wondered why more businesses do not employ an online solution to this. For all intents and purposes, the Tesco Clubcard is a loyalty card that stores your data online, allowing you to redeem points for discounts – perhaps this could be applicable to your business?

It looks as though that more companies are heading towards loyalty stamp apps, if sites such as Stampfeet and Stampme are anything to go by. This could also be a useful discount solution for you.

Gamification is not something to be underestimated either. We see a lot of gamification in the health industry – I’d love to see a gym take it one step further and have a workout leader board. When you join the gym, you would be given a chip that logs all of your exercise on the machines. The people who run the most miles, burn the most calories, generate the most watts and so on would be given discounted membership for 1/3/6 months. It would offer an incentive for people to exercise harder, which can only be a good thing, while giving the gym some really positive PR.

Chapter 3: The Best Things in Life are Free

Oprah Giveaway
The Fandom of the Oprah is plain to see

Everyone loves free stuff, am I right? But how does giving stuff away for free translate into returning customers?

Remember, this is all about building brand loyalty and a satisfied consumer base. If you can achieve that, not only might customers be more inclined to use your services again, but happy customers may refer their friends to your business as well. Repeat customers can be walking billboards for business.

Having said that, it would be wise to plan your giveaway so that you can gain something else as well, in case the reconversions don’t come. Let me use an example of a recent contest we held on our Facebook page.

We recently offered some trading credit to our clients if they could correctly guess the US employment report, also known as the non-farm payrolls, at the start of the month. The ultimate aim was to reignite interest in trading and to see an increase in trading volumes, but we knew that we could also see the following benefits, if planned correctly:

  • An increase in ‘likes’ on our page.
  • An increase in engagement on other posts.
  • An increase in traffic and conversions, assisted or otherwise.

Because of the potential multi-benefits, we were happy to go ahead with the giveaway and I’d recommend that people look for similar multi-level benefits before parting with their product or service for nothing.

After contacting our existing clients by email on the day that the contest went live, as well as previewing the contest earlier in the week via our social media channels, we ended up seeing some great results. The ‘likes’ on our page increased substantially, analytics is reporting an increase in assisted Facebook conversions that week and we’ve also been seeing some increased engagement on our regular market updates, which is great to see. Having this open communication with our clients allows us to keep in touch with their wants and needs.

Bender loves SEO dontchaknow

The icing on the cake is that we have also seen increased trading volumes in the days and weeks since the competition was launched. Without giving away too much sensitive information, I think it would be safe to say our initial outlay in terms of cost has been recuperated and then some.

Chapter 4: The Lost Art of Email Marketing

Love Letters
Source: poofytoo.tumblr.com

According to the DMA 2012 conference, for every $1 spent on email marketing $40.56 is returned (The Email Marketing Trend Slideshare from Silverpop is a great read, if you’ve not seen it already). It surprises me that we don’t see it mentioned more often here, as it can be a great way of getting your clients to reconvert.

Many of the previous tips I have mentioned in this post have been used emails in order to generate interest, such as contacting our client base to alert them about the Facebook contest we were running. That’s not really marketing, but it is an indication that email is still one of the best ways to communicate with your customers.

Email marketing is a great way of interacting with your inactive user base and get them reconverting. There is a great CNET case study on Marketing Sherpa that looks at how offering incentives can get people to reconvert. The key takeaways are making sure that you:

  • Accurately segment your lists – ie knowing what group has been inactive for 60-120 days, which clients have been inactive for 120+ and so on.
  • Come up with a number of engagement tactics to test.
  • Identify with your team what constitutes as reactivation or reconversion.

If you’re using a decent CRM system, you will be able to track user activity, or lack thereof, in a lot of detail, such as date of last login, recent transactions etc. Using this data, you can segment your users how you want and can judge for yourself what classifies as an inactive user, for example. We use SalesForce for this purpose, but different size businesses may find better solutions elsewhere, so it is worth researching. PC World has featured five useful CRMs for small businesses in the past.

The above CNET case study makes for a great read and I think an email marketing campaign can be taken one step further by running a Facebook custom audience campaign. There is an excellent SEOmoz blog post on this topic that you should definitely check out, with one of the key highlights of custom audiences being that you can import and target people from your email list only. This obviously relies on a person using the same email for Facebook as they did with your website, but there’s a fairly decent chance that they would have. With this level of targeting, you can serve them relevant ads to supplement your email campaign, without breaking the budget.

If you’re looking to learn more about email marketing, the Aweber and Deliverability blogs are great places to start, while the email marketing whitepaper from MailChimp is a great free resource as well.

Chapter 5: Community is Key

SEO and Community
Erm…probably not this Community

Community managers: rejoice! This chapter celebrates you and all the things that you do.

This is arguably the most important section of the guide. Nurturing your community is essential for reconversion, which is something that I have alluded to throughout this guide. The better the experience a customer has with your site, the more likely there are to return, reconvert and refer.

Remember, your community is most likely an open forum and not just the people who have used, worked with or are associated with your online business. This means that you need to create a positive community for people pre-conversion as much as you need to create a positive one for post-conversion folks.

Having high quality engagements with your community is one of the most direct ways of catering to their needs. Social media is an obvious outlet for this, but sometimes it can be hard to work out which social media channel would be best, both for levels of engagement and also for usability reasons. We have already talked about how customer service handles on Twitter can offer a direct response channel, but LinkedIn is often overlooked.

Linkedin discussion groups can be a great place to engage with your community, whether it’s in your own group or joining in the discussion elsewhere. More often than not, when you’re providing and contributing to useful discussions on LinkedIn, you are not just helping your community, but also your unaided brand awareness. One of the most famous examples of a big brand using LinkedIn is Hewlett Packard.

That is a summary of the HP case study provided by LinkedIn, which you can read in full here: http://marketing.linkedin.com/sites/default/files/pdfs/LinkedIn_HPUKCaseStudy2011.pdf. HP identified that their community and the demographic that they wanted to target were present on LinkedIn and so created a non-branded, general small business discussion group that allowed users to help one another out. Despite it being non-promotional, HP saw great results as a result of unaided brand awareness and the work that they had put into the community.

Hosting discussions such as these on LinkedIn brings with it an element of trust, as it is being hosted on a website people can trust and they would probably be more inclined to engage on than perhaps your own hosted forum. Furthermore, the benefit of being able to connect with users very quickly is a very valuable one, particularly when you bear in mind that HubSpot has reported that LinkedIn is up to 277% more effective at lead generation than other social networks.

It is worth noting that setting up a LinkedIn discussion group will be a time-consuming task. Moderation and encouraging engagement can take its time, so be sure that you can commit the human resource to the project in order to help it be as good as you want it to be. There’s a great resource on social media examiner on how to build a thriving LinkedIn group, while HubSpot also provides some useful tips on how to manage groups.

Alternatively, Google+ is well on its way to matching and possibly succeeding LinkedIn as the discussion group king. Google+ communities work very much in the same manner as LinkedIn discussion groups, with the added benefit that they are arguably more visible to people surfing the net. For some industries, there is already a thriving presence on the network, with SEO being chief among them. The Google Authorship community is probably the stand out example (and you should definitely check it out if you have not done so already). It would be tough work to host discussion groups on both networks with limited resources, so it is worthwhile dipping your feet in some already existing groups in your industry to see whether or not there is an appetite for what you want to discuss.

It is a good idea to find communities in your industry that are not based on one of the big social media websites. There is a forum called Trade2Win that is extremely targeted to our audience and it serves as a great resource to them. We try to engage with our audience there as well, in order to let them know about any of our new developments and for them to also offer feedback and ask questions about our service. It can be a very open and frank discussion at times, but you have to respect with communities like these that you, as a brand rather than a consumer, are on ‘their turf’ as it were, and so you should treat it with the utmost respect. The one thing about engaging on a forum that you do not control of is that you are potentially open to attack, with no way of removing slander unless the forum master deems to do so. With that in mind, it is important that you establish a clear social media policy within your organisation before you engage, with clear rules of engagement for how to handle certain kinds of negative engagement.

Of course, nurturing your community is not exclusively an online pursuit.

There are many great things that a business can do to connect with their community offline. In London, where I am based, there is a relatively new artisan bakery called Gail’s. Their mission statement is to not only provide the best quality bakery products out there, but to also become integrated within their local communities. They do this by customising what products they stock in each store, for example in the region of Hampstead, where there is a large Jewish community; the store stocks more rye bread goods, among others.

Gail’s goes one step further than this and also holds community events in each store. Some events include book-reading clubs for their store based adjacent to a primary school, so that families can come after school and enjoy themselves. The Hampstead store also organises a garden party each year, where they invite businesses that offer local produce to set up market stalls across the high street and invite people to come and sample some tasty food. Both of these events are not designed to generate profit, but to increase the brand awareness of Gail’s and to also give back to the community that they are integrated in.

Incidentally, I don’t have much need for Gail’s anymore, as I’ve taken to making my own bread!

SEO Baking Yo
Note: Pacman Onesie not obligatory

There’s method in my madness: can you imagine if Gail’s asked people to post pictures of their loaves and funny bakes on their Facebook page, with the entrants getting discounts or even free items? That would be a prime example of a company engaging with its community online and to help them reconvert.

If you’re looking for more community ideas, you should look no further than the folks here at SEOmoz. They do a great job at engaging with their community. Just this week I was sent this swag from the team:

SEOMoz Swag
The slap-wrist has brought me much joy and my office much annoyance.

Conclusion: Let’s Get Out There

I hope this guide has inspired you to look at fun and engaging ways to spark reconversion. Let your customers know you love them and they’ll surely love you back!

I’d love to get some feedback from you in the comments below, as well as some cool stories about how you have worked on reconversions and building up your lovely communities.

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Why SEO Is Like An RTS Game (and why you should care)

Posted by Jayson DeMersThis post was originally in YouMoz, and was promoted to the main blog because it provides great value and interest to our community. The author’s views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of SEOmoz, Inc.
As…

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Competitor Research In An Inbound Marketing World

Posted by dohertyjf

We all know that online marketing is changing. When I started in online marketing a few years ago, all the talk was still about links and directories and ways to get more exact match anchor text. Some SEOs were doing some pretty nefarious things and profiting from it, but most of that came crashing down starting in February 2011 (with the first Panda algorithm) and then over the past couple of years with Panda, Penguin, and the EMD update all rolling out and affecting websites the world over.

Rand talked last week about the changing SEO metrics, and today I want to talk about the changing landscape of competitor analysis as more and more people make the shift from just SEO to inbound marketing. Since inbound marketing includes a lot more than SEO, if we want to be effective inbound/online marketing consultants, we need to not only have proficiency or knowledge of the different roles of an inbound marketer, but when we get into actionable recommendations for our clients or our company we need to know how to analyze what our competitors are doing across the whole marketing space, both to identify deficiencies in their strategy that you can exploit as well as to see what they are doing that you should also adopt for your company.

So today I am going to talk about a few of the key areas of inbound marketing where you should investigate because they are likely to bring the largest returns (I’m talking about the Pareto Principle, which I was reintroduced to by Dan Shure in this post on his site about applying it to SEO).

By the way, if you’re interested in more on this topic, I’m going to focus on it pretty heavily in my upcoming Searchlove presentation in Boston. I’d love to see you there! Ok, let’s dive in.

Email marketing

If you’ve been in marketing for a while, you should know that email can have an incredible return on investment for the small amount of setup that it takes. In fact it’s the 2nd best ROI for many businesses, according to eConsultancy:

What if I told you that 39.16% of our conversions on the Distilled website (micro and macro conversions, including DistilledU, conferences, and lead gen forms) were touched by an email during the conversion process? What if I told you that this is more than either organic or social? Here’s the proof:

If you’re not doing email marketing, you probably should be. But what works best in your industry? Often we’re paralyzed by the multiplicity of options presented to us by any choice, and research has recently shown that limiting the number of choices can lead to better and less risky decisions than when we’re faced with a seemingly infinite number. By being smart about our analysis, we can reduce the number of choices that we have to make around email, like:

  • What time do I send my emails?
  • How often should I send them?
  • Should I invest in good design?
  • What kind of call to action should I include to start with?

Stalk your competitor’s emails

If you’re interested in investing in email marketing, I’d first suggest that you subscribe to your competitors’ email lists so that you receive emails whenever they send them to their entire list. You won’t be able to learn how they’re segmenting their lists, but you’ll find their frequency, their subject lines that get you to click, and how they are calling you to action. Stephen Pavlovich talked about this at Searchlove New York in 2011, where he suggested that you save your competitor’s emails to your Evernote, with a specific tag, so that you can go back and get ideas for your own emails. While this is an amazing tip that we should all do, it’s step 1 and we should all go further. I like to take the emails sent by my competitors and analyze them in an Excel spreadsheet, taking into account:

  • Name
  • Email date
  • Time arrived
  • Custom design?
  • Call to action
  • Subject line
  • Did I click?
  • Was the email triggered (i.e. was it influenced by something I did recently on their site)?

My analysis looks like this. Feel free to use something similar:

I recently found a chart on MarketingCharts.com (one of my favorite sites) that talked about fallacies surrounding email marketing according to Experian. Their way of setting up their analysis may help you as well:

Throw Into Wordle

Now we need to find what common themes our competitors are using when they send out their emails. The best way to visualize this (I’m a visual person) is by using one of my favorite tools, Wordle. When I put in the words that my competitors have been using for their subject lines, I get this:

Protip 1: To get the best results, use the biggest dataset you can find.

Protip 2: Use this knowledge to inform the content you should be doing outside of blogging :-)

Content production

Content is a huge part of inbound marketing. You know this, I know this, everyone who reads Moz knows this. So why do I say it? Because once you go beyond “content is king” knowledge, you can actually take this belief that use it to create content that your readers want. When it comes to competitor analysis, you can either choose to do this manually or in a more automated (but possibly less accurate) fashion.

Manually

Using the information gleaned from the Wordle above, I can then go run advanced queries in Google to find how much my competitors are talking about the different content types listed. For example, if I run a [site:seogadget.com “webinar”] search, I get 14 results:

That’s not very many (and no, I’m not calling out SEOgadget here. They do absolutely phenomenal work!), so if I’m starting a marketing agency, or have one that I want to build, this may be an area that I should investigate. At Distilled we run conferences because a) we had someone internally that wanted to do them, b) we thought we could run a darn good conference, and c) because we saw a need for the type of conference we could put on.

More automated

If you want to automate this a bit, you can at least find the number of times that a competitor has mentioned the type of content on their site in the URL. I chose to use the URL instead of just on the site because people will usually put the important words in the URL. We’re not looking for all mentions of a content type like “webinar” – instead we want webinars that only they have put on and published on their site.

So what I have done is built out a spreadsheet for you, a rough tool, using IMPORTXML to scrape the number of results that a site has for the content type. If you’re at all good with scraping in Gdocs, you can make this sheet customized to fit your needs and content types I’m sure!

Go here to open and make a copy of the spreadsheet.

Social amplification

You do follow your competitors on Twitter, or at least have them in a list, right? Oh you don’t. Go do that. I’ll wait.

*Whistles tune*

Following your competitors on social media will allow you to see their strategies for social promotion (if any). While this is nothing groundbreaking, it’s also not something that many people are doing already. You can see how often they are tweeting their own content, if they are tweeting the content of others, and it can also inform you about the kind of content that they are creating.

Since you now know what kind of content they are creating, you can figure out their social promotion strategy outside of their own accounts. Who are their tweeterati (aka, who shares their posts)? Better than that, who are the influential people that share their content? Once you find this, you can then decide whether you will be able to get those same people to promote your content, and how to do that, or if you need to find new people to connect with solely (using a tool like FollowerWonk).

Lucky for you, Topsy allows you to find who the influential people are that share a specific URL. After you enter a URL with “Tweets” selected on Topsy, you can then select “Show Influential Only”, like below:

This is all well and good, but want to do it faster? I built a spreadsheet for you where you can take a URL and it builds the Topsy URL for you, then scrapes the Influential people. Once again, throw this into a Wordle (or Tagxedo, which is more stable) and see who the influencers are!

Go here to make a copy of the spreadsheet.


I hope this post gives you ideas for what is possible for the new competitor analysis within inbound marketing. I’d love to hear in the comments what other ways you are using to do competitor analysis these days.

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

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Social Authority Now Has A Free (and generous) API

Posted by @petebray

You read that right. Social Authority now has an API. And it’s free. And you can grab a ton of data (i.e. you can query for data on up to 500,000 Twitter users per day). That’s a whole lot to be excited about!

What is Social Authority?

Social Authority is our transparent, business-focused metric that measures influential activity on Twitter. We introduced it a few weeks ago, and we love how it’s adding real value for our Followerwonk customers.

One of the biggest benefits of Social Authority is that it helps drive engagement tactics; namely, who is best going to ricochet your message around their network when you @mention them. Our score helps find those standout prospects to engage by analyzing your social graph, comparing your relationships with others, and tracking your new (and lost) followers.

Social Authority also augments content strategy. We’re upfront that our metric is based on retweets. At core, we’re measuring a person’s activity on Twitter (that is, the content they produce), rather than the person herself. This means that those with high Social Authority are producing content that gets noticed and retweeted. As such, finding those with high Social Authority in your industry (and looking carefully at their tweets) offers insight into what content works well for your audience.

Mashing it up

At Moz, we’re all about giving our customers data that they can use in creative ways for their specific purposes. And with Social Authority, it’s no different. We think that our score can be useful in all sorts of unique ways, and as a foundation for new metrics, too.

As I’ve mentioned before, the key in social often comes down to this little puzzle. Here’s a quick little example.

Namely, we need to find influential people who are likely to listen!

Finding these people is often tough. Folks who are influential, pretty obviously, have a lot of folks trying to get their attention. This means that it’s hard for you to break through with your message to them.

We’ve helped this situation in Followerwonk by computing an overall “engagement rate” for a lot of the top Twitter influencers. Quite simply, on mouse over of many users, we’ll tell you that user’s @mention rate (what percent of his timeline consists of leading @mentions of others), RT rate, and URLs in tweets rate. Those folks with 0% @mention rate… well, you’re not likely to get through to them.

How do you get around this issue? Well, here’s what I do.

I create a useful comparison between competitors. I bring up the list of followers shared by all three (because these folks are likely to be super attuned to my message). I download the data into Excel.

This download will include the Social Authority for all users, as well as the other engagement metrics for many users. What I like to do is the following:

Namely, I create a new column that is simply the sum of Social Authority and percentage @contact rate. This produces a score between 1 and 200. I like to do this because it’s a simple way to find users who have both high engagement and influence.

Of course, this is a simple example of how we use Social Authority. We’re eager to see what you come up!

But that means you need access to the data beyond just Followerwonk. Here’s where the API comes in.

Cue the API…

One of the early struggles we had at Followerwonk was the need for a large amount of influence data. We needed influence metrics on pretty much every user on Twitter! That data wasn’t easily available, and it’s one of the reasons why we developed our own metric.

With that in mind, we want to make this data available to all. For free. And generously.

Here’s how to get started with our API:

  1. Get your access credentials by clicking on the link in the top section of our Social Authority page.
  2. Read the docs on how to use the API.
  3. Do a simple test to get someone’s Social Authority. You can learn how here.

After that, you’re all set! You can do 20,000 calls per day day, requesting up to 25 users per call. That works out to a daily limit of 500,000 users. Hopefully that’s enough for all your needs (and if not, contact us and we can see what we can do). 

Here are some areas you might consider as you start thinking how you’d use Social Authority:

  • As a low-cost alternative (or complement) for any current use of other 1 to 100 scores like Klout or PeerIndex.
  • As the foundation for other metrics that might use Social Authority as an input.
  • As a supplement to any software that you develop that surfaces Twitter users in any capacity.
  • As an Excel add-on with the ability to quickly grab scores for your own spreadsheets.

A quick example

I’ve written a little Chrome extension to give an example of how to use the API. You can download it and play around with our API. (As I said, it’s really rough!)

Once installed, you can mouse-over any Twitter name on any other Web page. Once you do, you’ll see a small hovercard that reveals their Social Authority. In the example below, I’m browsing the SEOmoz team page for our Help Team Leader, Aaron Wheeler:

Notice the little blue hovercard? It reveals Aaron’s Social Authority by making an API call behind-the-scenes.

This has immediate value. As you start to browse the Web, you can quickly get the Social Authority of any Twitter user mentioned on blogs, news articles, and so on. It’s a great way to opportunistically judge the value of any referenced Twitter user.

Of course, this is a very basic example. (And we invite you to fork that quick code to come up with something even better.)


We’re eager to see how you’ll use Social Authority, and we’d love to help you develop even more robust applications that make use of it. To share your feedback, please feel free to comment or to contact me directly (tweeting me @petebray is a good way) if you’d like any help or advice.

Please let us know where you integrate, and any other changes you’d like to see in the comments below. Cheers!

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

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Gaming