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How Google AdWords (PPC) Does and Doesn’t Affect Organic Results – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

It’s common industry knowledge that PPC can have an effect on our organic results. But what effect is that, exactly, and how does it work? In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand covers the ways paid ads influence organic results — and one very important way it doesn’t.

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How Google AdWords does and doesn't affect Organic Results

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re chatting about AdWords and how PPC, paid search results can potentially impact organic results.
Now let’s be really clear. As a rule…

Paid DOES NOT DIRECTLY affect organic rankings

So many of you have probably seen the conspiracy theories out there of, “Oh, we started spending a lot on Goolge AdWords, and then our organic results went up.” Or, “Hey, we’re spending a lot with Google, but our competitor is spending even more. That must be why they’re ranking better in the organic results.” None of that is true. So there’s a bunch of protections in place. They have a real wall at Google between the paid side and the organic side. The organic folks, the engineers, the product managers, the program managers, all of the people who work on those organic ranking results on the Search Quality team, they absolutely will not let paid directly impact how they rank or whether they rank a site or page in the organic results.

However:

But there are a lot of indirect things that Google doesn’t control entirely that cause paid and organic to have an intersection, and that’s what I want to talk about today and make clear.

A. Searchers who see an ad may be more likely to click and organic listing.

Searchers who see an ad — and we’ve seen studies on this, including a notable one from Google years ago — may be more likely to click on an organic listing, or they may be more likely if they see a high ranking organic listing for the same ad to click that ad. For example, let’s say I’m running Seattle Whale Tours, and I search for whale watching while I’m in town. I see an ad for Seattle Whale Tours, and then I see an organic result. It could be the case, let’s say that my normal click-through rate, if there was only the ad, was one, and my normal click-through rate if I only saw the organic listing was one. Let’s imagine this equation: 1 plus 1 is actually going to equal something like 2.2. It’s going to be a little bit higher, because seeing these two together biases you, biases searchers to generally be more likely to click these than they otherwise would independent of one another. This is why many people will bid on their brand ads.

Now, you might say, “Gosh, that’s a really expensive way to go for 0.2 or even lower in some cases.” I agree with you. I don’t always endorse, and I know many SEOs and paid search folks who don’t always endorse bidding on branded terms, but it can work.

B. Searchers who’ve been previously exposed to a site/brand via ads may be more likely to click>engage>convert.

Searchers who have been previously exposed to a particular brand through paid search may be more likely in the future to click and engage on the organic content. Remember, a higher click-through rate, a higher engagement rate can lead to a higher ranking. So if you see that many people have searched in the past, they’ve clicked on a paid ad, and then later in the organic results they see that same brand ranking, they might be more likely and more inclined to click it, more inclined to engage with it, more inclined actually to convert on that page, to click that Buy button generally because the brand association is stronger. If it’s the first time you’ve ever heard of a new brand, a new company, a new website, you are less likely to click, less likely to engage, less likely to buy, which is why some paid exposure prior to organic exposure can be good, even for the organic exposure.

C. Paid results do strongly impact organic click-through rate, especially in certain queries.

Across the board, what we’ve seen is that paid searches on average, in all of Google, gets between 2% and 3% of all clicks, of all searches result in a paid click. Organic, it’s something between about 47% and 57% of all searches result in an organic click. But remember there are many searches where there are no paid clicks, and there are many searches where paid gets a ton of traffic. If you haven’t seen it yet, there was a blog post from Moz last week, from the folks at Wayfair, and they talked about how incredibly their SERP click-through rates have changed because of the appearance of ads.

So, for example, I search for dining room table lighting, and you can see on your mobile or on desktop how Google has these rich image ads, and you can sort of select different ones. I want to see all lighting. I want to see black lighting. I want to see chrome lighting. Then there are ads below that, the normal paid text ads, and then way, way down here, there are the organic results.

So this is probably taking up between 25% and 50% of all the clicks to this page are going to the paid search results, biasing the click-through rate massively, which means if you bid in certain cases, you may find that you will actually change the click-through rate curve for the entire SERP and change that click-through rate opportunity for the keyword.

D. Paid ad clicks may lead to increased links, mentions, coverage, sharing, etc. that can boost organic rankings.

So paid ad clicks may lead to other things. If someone clicks on a paid ad, they might get to that site, and then they might decide to link to it, to mention that brand somewhere else, to provide media coverage or social media coverage, to do sharing of some kind. All of those things can — some of them directly, some of them indirectly — boost rankings. So it is often the case that when you grow the engagement, the traffic of a website overall, especially if that website is providing a compelling experience that someone might want to write about, share, cover, or amplify in some way, that can boost the rankings, and we do see this sometimes, especially for queries that have a strong overlap in terms of their content, value, and usefulness, and they’re not just purely commercial in intent.

E. Bidding on search queries can affect the boarder market around those searches by shifting searcher demand, incentivizing (or de-incentivizing) content creation, etc.

Last one, and this is a little subtler and more difficult to understand, but basically by bidding on paid search results, you sort of change the market. You affect the market for how people think about content creation there, for how they think about monetization, for how they think about the value of those queries.

A few years ago, there was no one bidding on and no one interested in the market around insurance discounts as they relate to fitness levels. Then a bunch of companies, insurance companies and fitness tracking companies and all these other folks started getting into this world, and then they started bidding on it, and they created sort of a value chain and a monetization method. Then you saw more competition. You saw more brands entering this space. You saw more affiliates entering. So the organic SERPs themselves became more competitive with the entry of paid, and this happens very often in markets that were under or unmonetized and then become more monetized through paid advertising, through products, through offerings.

So be careful. Sometimes when you start bidding in a space that previously no one was bidding in, no was buying paid ads in, you can invite a lot of new and interesting competition into the search results that can change the whole dynamic of how the search query space works in your sector.

All right, everyone, hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of Whiteboard Friday. I look forward to your thoughts in the comments, and we’ll see you again next week for another edition. Take care.

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How to Make Your Website More Secure (So Google Doesn’t Punish You)

Posted by lkolowich

Thanks to the buzz around website hacking and personal data theft in recent years, most Internet users are aware that their sensitive information is at risk every time they surf the web.

And yet, although the personal data of their visitors and customers is at risk, many businesses still aren’t making website security a priority.

Enter Google.

The folks over at Google are known for paving the way for Internet behavior. Last month, they took a monumental step forward in helping protect people from getting their personal data hacked. The update they released to their popular Chrome browser now warns users if a website is not secure – right inside that user’s browser.

While this change is meant to help protect users’ personal data, it’s also a big kick in the pants for businesses to get moving on making their websites more secure.

Google’s Chrome update: What you need to know

On October 17, 2017, Google’s latest Chrome update (version 62) began flagging websites and webpages that contain a form but don’t have a basic security feature called SSL. SSL, which stands for “Secure Sockets Layer,” is the standard technology that ensures all the data that passes between a web server and a browser – passwords, credit card information, and other personal data – stays private and ensures protection against hackers.

In Chrome, sites lacking SSL are now marked with the warning “Not Secure” in eye-catching red, right inside the URL bar:

imdb-not-secure.gif

Google started doing this back in January 2017 for pages that asked for sensitive information, like credit cards. The update released in October expands the warning to all websites that have a form, even if it’s just one field that asks for something like an email address.

What’s the impact on businesses?

Because Chrome has 47% of market share, this change is likely noticed by millions of people using Chrome. And get this: 82% of respondents to a recent consumer survey said they would leave a site that is not secure, according to HubSpot Research.

In other words, if your business’ website isn’t secured with SSL, then more than 8 out of 10 Chrome users said they would leave your website.

Ouch.

What’s more, Google has publically stated that SSL is now a ranking signal in Google’s search algorithm. This means that a website with SSL enabled may outrank another site without SSL.

That’s exactly why anyone who owns or operates a website should start taking the steps to secure their website with an SSL certificate, in addition to a few other security measures. Businesses that don’t take care to protect visitors’ information might see significant issues, garner unwanted attention, and dilute customer trust.

“In my opinion, I think security is undervalued by a lot of marketers,” says Jeffrey Vocell, my colleague at HubSpot and go-to website guru. “Almost daily, we hear news about a new hacking incident or about personal data that has been compromised. The saying ‘there’s no such thing as bad press’ clearly isn’t true here; or, at the very least, the marketer that believes it has never had to live with the fallout of a data breach.”

With Google’s Chrome update, those visitors will see a warning right inside their browsers – even before they’ve entered any information. This means businesses face the potential of losing website visitors’ trust, regardless of whether a cybersecurity incident has actually occurred.

If you’re ready to join the movement toward a more secure web, the first step is to see whether your website currently has an SSL certificate.

Do you know whether your site has SSL?

There are a few ways to tell whether your website (or any website) has SSL.

If you don’t use Google Chrome:

All you have to do is look at a website’s URL once you’ve entered it into the URL bar. Does it contain “https://” with that added “s,” or does it contain “http://” without an “s”? Websites that have SSL contain that extra “s.” You can also enter any URL into this SSL Checker from HubSpot and it’ll tell you whether it’s secure without having to actually visit that site.

If you do have Chrome:

It’s easy to see whether a website is secured with an SSL certificate, thanks to the recent update. After entering a URL into the URL bar, you’ll see the red “Not Secure” warning next to websites that aren’t certified with SSL:

star-wars-not-secure.png

For websites that are certified with SSL, you’ll see “Secure” in green, alongside a padlock icon:

facebook-secure.png

You can click on the padlock to read more about the website and the company that provided the SSL certificate.

Using one of the methods above, go ahead and check to see if your business’ website is secure.

Yes, it does have SSL! Woohoo!

Your site visitors already feel better about browsing and entering sensitive information into your website. You’re not quite done, though – there’s still more you can do to make your website even more secure. We’ll get to that in a second.

Shoot, it doesn’t have SSL yet.

You’re not alone – even a few well-known sites, like IMDB and StarWars.com, weren’t ready for Google’s update. But it’s time to knock on your webmasters’ doors and have them follow the steps outlined below.

How to make your website more secure

Ready to protect your visitors from data theft and get rid of that big, red warning signal staring every Chrome user in the face in the process? Below, you’ll find instructions and resources to help you secure your website and reduce the chances of getting hacked.

Securing your site with SSL

The first step is to determine which type of certificate you need – and how many. You might need different SSL certificates if you host content on multiple platforms, such as separate domains or subdomains.

As for cost, an SSL certificate will cost you anywhere from nothing (Let’s Encrypt offers free SSL certificates) to a few hundred dollars per month. It usually averages around $50 per month per domain. Some CMS providers (like HubSpot) have SSL included, so check with them before making any moves.

(Read this post for more detailed instructions and considerations for SSL.)

Securing your site with additional measures

Even if you already have SSL, there are four other things you can do to make your website significantly more secure, according to Vocell.

1) Update any plugins or extensions/apps you use on your site.

Hackers look for security vulnerabilities in old versions of plugins, so it’s better to take on the challenges of keeping your plugins updated than make yourself an easy target.

2) Use a CDN (Content Delivery Network).

One trick hackers use to take down websites is through a DDoS attack. A DDoS attack is when a hacker floods your server with traffic until it stops responding altogether, at which point the hacker can gain access to sensitive data stored in your CMS. A CDN will detect traffic increases and scale up to handle it, preventing a DDoS attack from debilitating your site.

3) Make sure your CDN has data centers in multiple locations.

That way, if something goes awry with one server, your website won’t stop working all of a sudden, leaving it vulnerable to attack.

4) Use a password manager.

One simple way of protecting against cyberattacks is by using a password manager – or, at the very least, using a secure password. A secure password contains upper and lowercase letters, special characters, and numbers.

Suffering a hack is a frustrating experience for users and businesses alike. I hope this article inspires you to double down on your website security. With SSL and the other security measures outlined in this post, you’ll help protect your visitors and your business, and make visitors feel safe browsing and entering information on your site.

Does your website have SSL enabled? What tips do you have for making your website more secure? Tell us about your experiences and ideas in the comments.

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How to Build the Right Content Marketing Strategy for SEO Growth

Posted by AlliBerry3

Delivering content that best serves the needs of users is certainly top-of-mind for many SEOs since the Hummingbird algorithm update and subsequent buzz around RankBrain. It sounds easy enough in theory, but what does that actually mean in practice? Many SEOs believe that they’re already doing this by driving their content strategy by virtue of keyword research alone.

The problem with solely using keywords to drive your content strategy is that not all of your audience’s content needs are captured in search. Ask your nearest customer service representative what questions they answer every day; I can guarantee that you won’t find all of those questions with search volume in a keyword research tool.

Keyword research can also tempt you to develop content that your brand really shouldn’t be creating because you don’t have anything unique to say about it. Sure, you could end up increasing organic traffic, but are those going to be converting customers?

Moving away from a keyword-first-driven content strategy and into an audience-centric one will put you in a better place for creating SEO content that converts. Don’t get me wrong — there’s still an important place for keyword research. But it belongs later in the process, after you’ve performed a deep dive into your audience and your own brand expertise.

This is an approach that the best content marketers excel at. And it’s something that SEOs can utilize, too, as they strive to provide more relevant and higher-quality content for your target audiences.


How is an audience-focused content strategy different from a keyword-focused content strategy?

A content marketing strategy starts with the target audience and dives deeper into understanding your brand’s expertise and unique value proposition. Keyword research is great at uncovering how people talk about topics relevant to your brand, but it is limiting when it comes to audience understanding.

Think about one of your prospective customer’s journey to conversion. Is search the only channel they utilize to get information? If you are collecting lead information or serving up remarketing ads, hopefully not. So, why should your audience understanding be limited to keyword research?

A content strategy is a holistic plan that tackles questions like:

  • Who is my audience?
  • What are their pain points and needs?
  • What types of content do these people want to consume?
  • Where are they currently having conversations (online or offline)
  • What unique expertise does our brand offer?
  • How can we match our expertise to our audience’s needs?

Finding your unique content angle

The key to connecting with your audience is to develop your unique content angle that finds intersections between what your brand’s expertise is in and your audience’s pain points. The Content Marketing Institute refers to this as a “content tilt” because it involves taking a larger topic and tilting it in your own way. Defining your brand’s expertise can be more difficult than it appears on the surface.

It isn’t uncommon for brands to say their product is what makes them unique, but if there is a competitor out there with the same general product, it’s not unique. What makes your organization different from competitors?

Here’s an example

When I worked for Kaplan Financial Education, a professional licensing and exam prep provider brand under Kaplan Professional, finding our tilt was a real challenge. Kaplan Financial Education has a lot of product lines all within financial services, but the audience for each is different. We needed a tilt that worked for the entire Career Corner content hub we were creating. What we realized is that our core audience all has a big pain point in common: entering the financial services industry either through insurance or securities (selling stocks and bonds) has low barriers to entry and high turnover. Everyone entering that job market needs to know how to not only pass their licensing exam(s), but also be successful as professionals too, both in the early years and also in the years to come.

Kaplan Financial Education’s biggest content competitors create very factual content — they’re websites like Investopedia, Wikipedia, and governing bodies like FINRA and state government departments. But Kaplan Financial Education has something going for it that its competitors do not: a huge network of students. There are other licensing exam prep providers that compete with Kaplan Financial Education, but none that cover the same breadth of exams and continuing education. It’s the only brand in that industry that provides licensing education as individuals progress through their financial careers. “From hire to retire,” as the marketers say.

We made our content tone more conversational and solicited input from our huge student and instructor network to help new professionals be more successful. We also used their quotes and insights to drive content creation and make it more relatable and personalized. All of our content tied back to helping financial professionals be successful — either as they’re getting licensed or beyond — and rather than simply telling people what to do, we leveraged content to allow our current students and instructors to teach our prospective students.

You may be thinking… so I can only write content that fits in this tilt? Isn’t that limiting?

As SEOs, it can be really hard to let go of some keyword opportunities that exist if they don’t fit the content strategy. And it’s true that there are probably some keywords out there you could create content for and increase your organic traffic. But if they don’t fit with your target audience’s needs and your brand’s expertise, will it be the kind of traffic that’s going to convert? Likely not. Certainly not enough to spend resources on content creation and to distract yourself from your larger strategy objective.


How to build your content strategy

1. Set your goals.

Start at the end. What is you are ultimately trying to accomplish? Do you want to increase leads by a certain percentage? Do you want to drive a certain number increase in sales? Are you trying to drive subscribers to a newsletter? Document these goals first. This will help you figure out what type of content you want to create and what the calls-to-action should be.

If you’re a business like Kaplan and leads are your ultimate goal, a proven strategy is to create ungated content that provides good insights, but leaves room for a deeper dive. Have your calls-to-action point to a gated piece of content requiring some form of contact information that goes into more depth.

A business like a car dealership is going to have a primary goal of getting people into their dealership to buy a car. Their content doesn’t necessarily need to be gated, but it should have a local spin and speak to common questions people have about the car buying process, as well as show the human elements that make the dealership unique to establish trust and show how customers will be treated. Trust is especially important in that industry because they have to combat the used car salesman stereotype.

2. Identify your primary audience and their pain points.

The next step is to identify who you’re targeting with your content. There are a lot of people at your disposal to help you with this part of the process. Within your organization, consider talking to these teams:

  • Customer Service
  • Sales
  • Technical Support
  • Product Management
  • Product Marketing
  • Social Media Marketing

These are often the people who interact the most with customers. Find out what your audience is struggling with and what content could be created to help answer their questions. You can also do some of this research on your own by searching forums and social media. Subreddits within Reddit related to your topic can be a goldmine. Other times there are active, related groups on social media platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook. If you’ve ever been to the MozCon Facebook group, you know how much content could be created answering common questions people have related to SEO.

3. Determine your brand’s unique expertise.

Again, dig deeper and figure out what makes your brand truly unique. It likely isn’t the product itself. Think about who your subject matter experts are and how they contribute to the organization. Think about how your products are developed.

Even expertise that may seem boring on the surface can be extremely valuable. I’ve seen Marcus Sheridan speak a couple of times and he has one of the most compelling success stories I’ve ever heard about not being afraid to get too niche with expertise. He had a struggling swimming pool installation business until he started blogging. He knew his expertise was in pools — buying fiberglass pools, specifically. He answered every question he could think of related to that buying process and became the world thought leader on fiberglass pools. Is it a glamorous topic? No. But, it’s helpful to the exact audience he wanted to reach. There aren’t hundreds of thousands of people searching for fiberglass pool information online, but the ones that are searching are the ones he wanted to capture. And he did.

4. Figure out your content tilt.

Now put your answers for #2 and #3 together and figure out what your unique content angle will look like.

5. Develop a list of potential content topics based on your content tilt.

It’s time to brainstorm topics. Now that you know your content tilt, it’s a lot easier to come up with topics your brand should be creating content about. Plus, they’re topics you know your audience cares about! This is a good step to get other people involved from around your organization, from departments like sales, product management, and customer service. Just make sure your content tilt is clear to them prior to the brainstorm to ensure you don’t get off-course.

6. Conduct keyword research.

Now that you’ve got a list of good content topics, it’s time to really dive into long-tail keyword research and figure out the best keyword targets around the topics.

There are plenty of good tools out there to help you with this. Here are a few of my go-tos:

  • Moz Keyword Explorer (freemium): If you have it, it’s a great tool for uncovering keywords as questions, looking at the keyword competitive landscape, and finding other related keywords to your topic.
  • Keywordtool.io (free): One of the only keyword discovery tools out there that will give you keyword research by search engine. If you are looking for YouTube or App Store keywords, for instance, this is a great idea generation tool.
  • Ubersuggest.io (free): Type in one keyword and Ubersuggest will give you a plethora of other ideas organized in a list alphabetically or in a word cloud.

7. Create an editorial calendar.

Based on your keyword research findings, develop an editorial calendar for your content. Make sure to include what your keyword target(s) are so if you have someone else developing the content, they know what is important to include in it.

Here are a couple resources to check out for getting started:

8. Determine how to measure success.

Once you know what content you’re going to create, you’ll need to figure out how you’ll measure success. Continuing on with the Kaplan example, lead generation was our focus. So, we focused our efforts on measuring leads to our gated content and conversions of those leads to sales over a certain time period. We also measured organic entrances to our ungated content. If our organic entrances were growing (or not growing) disproportionate to our leads, then we’d take deeper dives into what individual pieces of content were converting well and what pieces were not, then make tweaks accordingly.

9. Create content!

Now that all the pieces are there, it’s time to do the creation work. This is the fun part! With your content tilt in mind and your keyword research completed, gather the information or research you need and outline what you want the content to look like.

Take this straightforward article called How to Get Your Series 7 License as an example. To become a registered representative (stockbroker), you have to pass this exam. The primary keyword target here is: Series 7 license. It’s an incredibly competitive keyword with between 2.9K–4.3K monthly searches, according to the Keyword Explorer tool. Other important semantically related keywords include: how to get the Series 7 license, Series 7 license requirements, Series 7 Exam, General Securities Registered Representative license, and Series 7 license pass rate.

Based on our content tilt and competitive landscape for the primary keyword, it made the most sense to make this into a how-to article explaining the process in non-jargon terms to someone just starting in the industry. We perfectly exact-match each keyword target, but the topics are covered well enough for us to rank on the front page for all but one of them. Plus, we won the Google Answer Box for “how to get your Series 7 license.” We also positioned ourselves well for anticipated future searches around a new licensing component called the SIE exam and how it’ll change the licensing process.


Once you’ve created your content and launched it, like with any SEO work, you will have a lag before you see any results. Be sure to build a report or dashboard based on your content goals so you can keep track of the performance of your content on a regular basis. If you find that the growth isn’t there after several months, it is a good idea to go back through the content strategy and assess whether you’ve got your tilt right. Borrowing from Joe Pulizzi, ask yourself: “What if our content disappeared? Would it leave a gap in the marketplace?” If the answer is no, then it’s definitely time to revisit your tilt. It’s the toughest piece to get right, but once you do, the results will follow.

If you’re interested in more discussion on content marketing and SEO, check out the newest MozPod podcast. Episode 8, SEO & Content Strategy:

Listen to the podcast

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Rewriting the Beginner’s Guide to SEO

Posted by BritneyMuller

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Many of you reading likely cut your teeth on Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO. Since it was launched, it’s easily been our top-performing piece of content:

Most months see 100k+ views (the reverse plateau in 2013 is when we changed domains).

While Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO still gets well over 100k views a month, the current guide itself is fairly outdated. This big update has been on my personal to-do list since I started at Moz, and we need to get it right because — let’s get real — you all deserve a bad-ass SEO 101 resource!

However, updating the guide is no easy feat. Thankfully, I have the help of my fellow Mozzers. Our content team has been a collective voice of reason, wisdom, and organization throughout this process and has kept this train on its tracks.

Despite the effort we’ve put into this already, it felt like something was missing: your input! We’re writing this guide to be a go-to resource for all of you (and everyone who follows in your footsteps), and want to make sure that we’re including everything that today’s SEOs need to know. You all have a better sense of that than anyone else.

So, in order to deliver the best possible update, I’m seeking your help.

This is similar to the way Rand did it back in 2007. And upon re-reading your many “more examples” requests, we’ve continued to integrate more examples throughout.

The plan:

  • Over the next 6–8 weeks, I’ll be updating sections of the Beginner’s Guide and posting them, one by one, on the blog.
  • I’ll solicit feedback from you incredible people and implement top suggestions.
  • The guide will be reformatted/redesigned, and I’ll 301 all of the blog entries that will be created over the next few weeks to the final version.
  • It’s going to remain 100% free to everyone — no registration required, no premium membership necessary.

To kick things off, here’s the revised outline for the Beginner’s Guide to SEO:

Click each chapter’s description to expand the section for more detail.

Chapter 1: SEO 101

What is it, and why is it important? ↓


Chapter 2: Crawlers & Indexing

First, you need to show up. ↓


Chapter 3: Keyword Research

Next, know what to say and how to say it. ↓


Chapter 4: On-Page SEO

Next, structure your message to resonate and get it published. ↓


Chapter 5: Technical SEO

Next, translate your site into Google’s language. ↓


Chapter 6: Establishing Authority

Finally, turn up the volume. ↓


Chapter 7: Measuring and Tracking SEO

Pivot based on what’s working. ↓


Appendix A: Glossary of Terms

Appendix B: List of Additional Resources

Appendix C: Contributors & Credits


What did you struggle with most when you were first learning about SEO? What would you have benefited from understanding from the get-go?

Are we missing anything? Any section you wish wouldn’t be included in the updated Beginner’s Guide? Leave your suggestions in the comments!

Thanks in advance for contributing.

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How Google Gives Us insight into Searcher Intent Through the Results – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

When Google isn’t quite sure what a searcher means just by their search query, the results (appropriately) cater to multiple possible meanings. Those SERPs, if we examine them carefully, are full of useful information. In this episode of Whiteboard Friday, Rand offers some real-world examples of what we can glean just by skimming the kinds of things Google decides are relevant.

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about how Google is giving us insight through their search results, their suggested searches, and their related searches into the intent that searchers have when they perform their query and how if we’re smart enough and we look closely and study well, we can actually get SEO and content opportunities out of this analysis.

So the way I thought I’d run this Whiteboard Friday is a little bit different than usual. Rather than being purely prescriptive, I thought I’d try and illustrate some actual results. I’ve pared them down a bit and removed the descriptions and taken some out, but to try and show the process of that.

Query 1: Damaged furniture

So here’s a query for damaged furniture. If I am trying to reach searchers for this query — let’s assume that I’m in the furniture business — I might see here that there are some ads up at the top, like this one from Wayfair, inexpensive furniture up to 70% off. I scroll through the organic results — Everyday Clearance Furniture Outlet, MyBobs.com, okay, that’s a local place here in Seattle, Seattle Furniture Repairs and Touchups. Okay, this is interesting. This is a different type of result, or it’s serving a different searcher intent. This is, “We will repair your furniture,” not, “We will sell you cheap, damaged furniture,” which these two are. Then How Stuff Works, which is saying, “We will show you how to repair wooden furniture.”

Now I scroll down even further and I get to the related searches — scratch and dent furniture near me, which suggests one of the intents absolutely behind this query is what Wayfair and My Bob’s are serving, which is cheap furniture, inexpensive furniture that’s been previously damaged in some way. Clearance Furniture Outlet, similar intent, Bob’s Discount Furniture Pit, I’m not totally sure about the pit naming convention, and then there are some queries that are similar to these other ones.

So here’s what’s happening. When you see search results like this, what you should pay close attention to is the intent to position ratio. Let’s say…

Intent A: I want to buy furniture

Intent B: I am looking to touch up or repair my furniture

Intent C: Show me how to do it myself

If you see more A’s ranking near the top, not in the advertising results, because those don’t need a very high click-through rate in order to exist. They can be at 1% or 2% and still do fine here. But if you see these higher up here, that is an indication that a higher percent of Google searchers are preferring or looking for this A intent stuff. You can apply this to any search that you look at.

Thus, if you are doing SEO or creating content to try and target a query, but the content you’re creating or the purpose you’re trying to serve is in the lower ranked stuff, you might be trapped in a world where you can’t rise any higher. Position four, maybe position three is the best you’re going to do because Google is always going to be serving the different intent, the intent that more of the searchers for this query are seeking out.

What’s also nice about this is if you perform this and you see a single intent being served throughout and a single intent in the related searches, you can guess that it’s probably going to be very difficult to change the searcher intent or to serve an entirely different searcher intent with that same query. You might need to look at different ones.

Query 2: E-commerce site design

All right. Next up, e-commerce site design. So an ad up here, again, from Shopify. This one is “Our e-commerce solution just works.” They’re trying to sell something. I’m going to go with they’re trying to sell you e-commerce site design.

Intent A: They are trying to sell you ecommerce design

Intent B: I am looking for successful e-commerce design inspiration/ideas

30 Beautiful and Creative E-commerce Website Designs, this is also from Shopify, because they just took my advice, well, okay, obviously they took my advice long before this Whiteboard Friday. But they’re ranking with exactly what we talked about in intent B, which was essentially, “Hey, I am looking for inspiration. I’m looking for ideas. I’m trying to figure out what my e-commerce website should look like or what designs are successful.” You can see that again — intent B. So what’s ranking higher here? It’s not the serve the purchase intent. It’s serve the examples intent.

When we get to related searches, you see that again, e-commerce website examples, top e-commerce websites, best e-commerce sites 2016, these are all intent B. If you’re trying to serve intent A, you better advertise, because ranking in the top results here is just not going to happen. That’s not what searchers are seeking. It’s going to be very, very tough.

Slight side note:

Whenever you see this, this late in the year, we’re in October right now as we’re filming this Whiteboard Friday. I did this search today, and I saw Best E-commerce Sites 2016 still in here. That suggests to me that there were a lot more people searching for it last year than there are this year. You will see there’s like the same thing for 2017 down below, but it’s lower in the related searches. It doesn’t have as much volume. Again, that suggests to me it’s on a downward trend. You can double-check that in Google trends, but good to pay attention to. Okay, side note over.

Query 3: Halloween laboratory props

Let’s move on to our last example here, Halloween laboratory props. So Halloween is coming up. Lots and lots of people looking for laboratory props and props and costumes and decorations of all kinds. There’s a huge business around this, especially in the United States and emerging in the United Kingdom and Australia and other places.

So, up at the top, Google is showing us ads. They are showing us the shopping ads, shop for Halloween laboratory props, and they’ve got some chemistry sets and a Frankenstein-style light switch that you can buy and some radioactive props and that kind of thing from Target, Etsy, and Oriental Trading Company.

Then they show images, which is not surprising. But hot tip, if you see images ranking in the top of the organic results, you should absolutely be doing image SEO. This is a clear indication that a lot of the searchers want images. That means Google Images is probably getting a significant portion of the search volume. When I see this up here, my guess is always it’s going to be 20% plus of searchers are going to the image results rather than the organic search results, and ranking here is often way easier than ranking here.

More interesting things happening next. This result is from Pinterest, “Best 25 Mad Scientist Lab Ideas on Pinterest,” “913 Best Laboratory, Frankenstein, Haunt Ideas Images on Pinterest,” “DIY Mad Scientist Lab Prop on Pinterest.” By the way, there’s a video segment in here, which is all YouTube. This happens quite a bit when there is heavy, heavy visual content. You essentially see the domain crowding single-domain domination of search results. What does that mean? Don’t do SEO on your site, or fine, do it on your site, but also do it on Pinterest and also do it on YouTube.

If you’re creating content like these guys are over here, BigCommerce and Shopify created these great pieces for beautiful ecommerce designs, they’ve put together a ton of images, wonderful. You can apply that same strategy for this. But then what should you do? Go to Pinterest, upload all those images, create a board, try and get your images shared, do some Pinterest SEO essentially. Do the same thing on YouTube. Have a bunch of examples in a short video that shows all the stuff that you’re creating and then upload that to YouTube. Preferably have a channel. Preferably have a few videos so that you can potentially rank multiple times in here, because you know that many people are going here. This is pretty far down. So this is probably less than 10% of searchers make it here, but still a ton of opportunity. Very different type of search intent than what we saw in these previous two.

Look at the related searches — homemade mad scientist lab props, mad scientist props DIY, do it yourself, how to make mad scientist props. These intents are, generally speaking, not being served by any of these results yet. If you scroll far enough in the YouTube videos here, there’s actually one video that is a how-to, but most of these are just showing stuff off. That to me is a content opportunity. You could make your Pinterest board potentially using some of these, DIY homemade, how to make, make that your Pinterest board, and probably, I’m going to guess that you will have a very good chance of pushing these other Pinterest results out of here and dominating those.

So a few takeaways, just some short ones before we end here.

  1. In the SEO world, don’t target content without first understanding the searcher. We can be very misled by just looking at keywords. If we look at the search results first, we can get inside the searcher’s head a little bit. Hopefully, we can have some real conversations with those folks too.
  2. Second, Google SERPs, search suggest, related searches, they can all help with problem number one.
  3. Three, gaps in serving intent can yield ranking opportunity, like we showed in a few of these examples.
  4. Finally, don’t be afraid to disrupt your own business or your own content or your own selfish interest in order to serve searchers. In the long term, it will be better for you.

You can see that exemplified here by Shopify saying, “We’re going to show off a bunch of beautiful ecommerce designs even though some of them are not from Shopify.” BigCommerce did the same thing. Even though some of them are not using BigCommerce’s platform, they basically are willing to sacrifice some of that in order to serve searchers and build their brand, because they know if they don’t, somebody else clearly will.

All right, everyone. Hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of Whiteboard Friday. I would love to hear your examples in the comments about how you’ve done search intent interpretation through looking at search results. We’ll see you again next week. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Countdown to Launch: How to Come Up with Great Testing Ideas

Posted by ChrisDayley

Whether you are working on a landing page or the homepage of your website, you may be asking yourself, “Why aren’t people converting? What elements are helping or hurting my my user experience?”

Those are good questions.

When it comes to website or landing page design, there are dozens — if not hundreds — of potential elements to test. And that’s before you start testing how different combinations of elements affect performance.

Launching a test

The good news is, after running thousands of tests for websites in almost every industry you can imagine, we’ve created a simple way to quickly identify the most important areas of opportunity on your site or landing page.

We call this approach the “launch analysis”.

Why? Well, getting someone to convert is a lot like trying to launch a rocket into outer space. To succeed in either situation, you need to generate enough momentum to overcome any resistance.

To get a rocket into orbit, the propulsion and guidance systems have to overcome gravity and air friction. To get a potential customer to convert, your CTA, content and value proposition have to overcome any diversions, anxiety or responsiveness issues on your site.

So, if you really want your conversion rate to “take off” (see what I did there?), you need to take a hard look at each of these six factors.

Prepping for launch

Before we dive into the launch analysis and start testing, it’s important to take a moment to review 3 important testing factors. After all, no matter how good your analysis is, if your test is fundamentally broken, you’ll never make any progress.

With that in mind, here are three questions to ask yourself before you dive into the launch analysis:

What is my business question?

Every good website or landing page test should answer some sort of important business question. These are usually open-ended questions like “how much content should be on the page to maximize conversions?” or “what does the best-converting above-the-fold experience look like?”

If your test is designed to answer a fundamental business question, every test is a success. Even if your new design doesn’t outperform the original, your test still helps get you get some data around what really matters to your audience.

What is my hypothesis?

Where your business question may be relatively broad, your testing hypothesis should be very specific. A good hypothesis should be an if/then statement that answers the business question (if we do X, Y will happen).

So, if your business question is “how much content should be on the page?”, your hypothesis might be: “if we reduce the amount of content on our page, mobile conversions will increase.” (If you’re interested, this is actually something we studied at Disruptive Advertising.)

What am I measuring?

We hinted at this in the last section, but every good test needs a defined, measurable success metric. For example, “if we reduce the amount of content on our page, people will like our content more” is a perfectly valid hypothesis, but it would be incredibly difficult to define or measure, which would make our test useless.

When it comes to online advertising, there are tons of well-defined, actually measurable metrics you can use (link clicks, time on page, bounce rate, conversion rate, cart abandonment rate, etc.) to determine success or failure. Pick one that makes sense and use it to measure the results of your test.

The launch analysis and countdown

Now that we have the testing basics out of the way, we can dive into the launch analysis. When performing a launch analysis on a page of your site, it is critical that you try to look at your page objectively, and identify potential opportunities instead of immediately jumping into things you need to change. Testing is about discovering what your audience wants, not about making assumptions.

With that being said, let’s countdown to launch!

6. Value proposition

To put it simply, your value proposition is what motivates potential customers to buy.

Have you ever wanted something really badly? Badly enough that you spent days, weeks, or even months figuring out how to get it for an affordable price? If you want something badly enough (or, in other words, if the value proposition is good enough), you’ll conquer any obstacle to get it.

This same principle applies to your website. If you can really sell people on your value proposition, they’ll be motivated enough to overcome a lot of potential obstacles (giving their personal information, dealing with poor navigation, etc.).

For example, a while back, we were helping a college optimize the following page on their site:

It wasn’t a bad page to begin with, but we believed there was opportunity to test some stronger value propositions. “Get Started on the Right Path: Prepare yourself for a better future by earning your degree from Pioneer Pacific College” doesn’t sound all that exciting, does it?

There’s a reason for that.

In business terms, your value proposition can be described as “motivation = perceived benefits – perceived costs.” Pioneer Pacific’s value proposition made it sound like going to all the work to get a degree from their college was just the beginning of a long, hard process. Not only that, but it wasn’t really hitting on any of the potential pain points an aspiring student might have.

In this particular case, the value proposition minimized the perceived benefits while maximizing the perceived costs. That’s not a great way to get someone to sign up.

With that in mind, we decided to try something different. We hypothesized that focusing on the monetary benefits of earning a degree (increased income) would increase the perceived benefits and talking about paying for a degree as an investment would decrease the perceived cost.

So, we rewrote the copy in the box to reflect our revised value proposition and tested it:

As you can see above, simply tweaking the value proposition increased form fills by 49.5%! The form didn’t change, but because our users were more motivated by the value proposition, they were more willing to give out their information.

Unfortunately, many businesses struggle with this essential step.

Some websites lack a clear value proposition. Others have a value proposition, but it makes potential customers think more about the costs than the benefits. Some have a good cost-benefit ratio, but the proposition is poorly communicated, and users struggle to connect with it.

So, if you’re running the launch analysis on your own site or landing page, start by taking a look at your value proposition. Is it easy to find and understand? Does it address the benefits and costs that your audience actually cares about? Could you potentially focus on different aspects of your value propositions to discover what your audience really cares about?

If you think there’s room for improvement, you’ve just identified a great testing opportunity!

5. Call to action

If you’ve been in marketing for a while, you’ve probably heard all about the importance of a good call to action (CTA), so it should come as no surprise that the CTA is a key part of the launch analysis.

In terms of our rocket analogy, your CTA is a lot like a navigation system for your potential customers. All the rocket fuel in the world won’t get you to your destination if you don’t know where you’re going.

In that regard, it’s important to remember that your CTA typically needs to be very explicit (tell them what to do and/or what to expect). After all, your potential customers are depending on your CTA to navigate them to their destination.

For example, another one of our clients was trying to increase eBook downloads. Their original CTA read “Download Now”, but we hypothesized that changing the CTA to emphasize speed might improve their conversion rate.

So, we rephrased the CTA to read “Instant Download” instead. As it turned out, this simple change to the CTA increased downloads by 12.6%!

The download was just as instantaneous in both cases; but, simply by making it clear that users would get immediate access to this content, we were able to drive a lot more conversions.

Of course, there is such a thing as being too explicit. While people want to know what to do next, they also like to feel like they are in the driver’s seat, so sometimes soft CTAs like “Get More Information” can deliver better results than a more direct CTA like “Request a Free Demo Today!”

As you start to play around with CTA testing ideas, it’s important to remember the 2-second rule: If a user can’t figure out what they are supposed to do within two seconds, something needs to change.

To see if your CTA follows this rule, ask a friend or a coworker who has never seen your page or site before to look at it for two seconds and then ask them what they think they are supposed to do next. If they don’t have a ready answer, you just discovered another testing opportunity.

Case in point: On the page below, a client of ours was trying to drive phone calls with the CTA on the right. From a design perspective, the CTA fit the color scheme of the page nicely, but it didn’t really draw much attention.

Since driving calls was a big deal for the client, we decided to revamp the CTA. We made the CTA a contrasting red color and expanded on the value proposition.

The result? Our new, eye-catching CTA increased calls by a whopping 83.8%.

So, if your CTA is hard to find, consider changing the size, location and/or color. If your CTA is vague, try being more explicit (or vice versa). If your CTA doesn’t have a clear value proposition, find a way to make the benefits of converting more obvious. The possibilities are endless.

4. Content

Like your value proposition, your content is a big motivating factor for your users. In fact, great content is how you sell people on your value proposition, so content can make or break your site.

The only problem is, as marketers and business owners, we have a tendency towards egocentrism. There are so many things that we love about our business and that make it special that we often overwhelm users with content that they frankly don’t care about.

Or, alternatively, we fail to include content that will help potential customers along in the conversion process because it isn’t a high priority to us.

To really get the most out of your content, you have to lay your ego and personal preference aside and ask yourself questions like:

  • How much content do my users want?
  • What format do they want the content in?
  • Do mobile and desktop users want different amounts of content?

As a quick example of this, we were working with a healthcare client (an industry that is notoriously long-winded) to maximize eBook downloads on the following page:

As you can see above, the original page included a table of contents-style description of what readers would get when they downloaded the guide.

We hypothesized that this sort of approach, with its wordy chapter titles and and formal feel, did not make the eBook seem like a user-friendly guide. There was so much content that it was hard to get a quick feel for what the eBook was actually about.

To address this, we tried boiling the copy down to a quick, easy-to-read summary of the eBook content:

Incredibly, paring the content down to a very simplified summary increased eBook downloads by 57.82%!

However, when it comes to content, less is not always more.

While working on a pop-up for Social Media Examiner, we tested a couple different variants of the following copy in an effort to increase eBook downloads and subscriptions:

Just like the preceding example, this copy was a bit wordy and hard to read. So, we tried turning the copy into bullet points…

…and even tried boiling it down to the bare essentials:

However, when the test results came in, both of these variants had a lower conversion rate than the original, word-dense content!

These results fly in the face of the whole “less is more” dogma marketers love to preach, which just goes to show how important it is to test your content.

So, when it comes to content, don’t be afraid to try cutting things down. But, you might also try bulking things up in some places — provided that your content is focused on what your potential customers want and need, not just your favorite talking points. Our suggestion: challenge whatever you have on your site. Try less, more, and different variations of the same. It should ultimately be up to your audience!

3. Diversions

Unfortunately, having a great value proposition, CTA and content doesn’t guarantee you a great conversion rate. To get a rocket to its destination, the launch team has to overcome a variety of obstacles.

Same goes for the launch analysis.

Now that we’ve talked about how to maximize motivation, it’s time to talk about ways to reduce obstacles and friction points on your site or page that may be keeping people from converting, starting with diversions.

When it comes to site testing, diversions could be anything that has the potential to distract your user from reaching their destination. Contrasting buttons, images, other offers, menus, links, content, pop ups…like cloud cover on launch day, if it leads people off course, it’s a diversion.

For example, take a look at the page below. There are 5 major elements on the page competing for your attention – none of which are a CTA to view the product – and that’s just above the fold!

What did this client really want people to do? Watch a video? Read a review? Look at the picture? Read the Q&A? Visit their cart?

As it turns out, the answer is “none of the above”.

What the client really wanted was for people to come to their site, look at their products and make a purchase. But, with all the diversions on their site, people were getting lost before they even had a chance to see the client’s products.

To put the focus where it belonged—on the products—we tried eliminating all of the diversions by redesigning the site experience to focus on product call to actions. That way, when people came to the page, they immediately saw Cobra’s products and a simple CTA that said “Shop Our Products”.

The new page design increased revenue (not just conversions) by 69.2%!

We’ve seen similar results with many of our eCommerce clients. For example, we often test to see how removing different elements and offers from a client’s homepage affects their conversion rates (this is called “existence testing”).

Existence testing is one of the easiest, fastest ways to discover what is distracting from conversions and what is helping conversions. If you remove something from your page and conversion rates go down, that item is helpful to the conversion process. If you remove something and conversion rates go up – Bingo! You found a distraction.

The GIF below shows you how this works. Essentially, you just remove a page element and then see which version of the page performs better. Easy enough, right?

For this particular client, we tested to see how removing 8 different elements from their home page would affect their revenue. As it turned out, 6 of the 8 elements were actually decreasing their revenue!

By eliminating those elements during our test, their revenue-per-visit (RPV) increased by 59%.

Why? Well, once again, we discovered things that were diversions to the user experience (as it turns out, the diversions were other products!).

If you’re curious to see how different page or site elements affect your conversion rate, existence testing can be a great way to go. Simply create a page variant without the element in question and see what happens!

2. Anxiety

Ever have that moment when you’re driving a car and you suddenly get hit by a huge gust of wind? What happens to your heart rate?

Now imagine you’re piloting a multi-billion dollar rocket…

Whether you’re in the driver’s seat or an office chair, anxiety is never a good thing. Unfortunately, when it comes to your site, people are already in a state of high alert. Anything that adds to their stress level (clicking on something that isn’t clickable, feeling confused or swindled) may lead to you losing a customer.

Of course, anxiety-inducing elements on a website are typically more subtle than hurricane-force winds on launch day. It might be as simple as an unintuitive user interface, an overly long form or a page element that doesn’t do what the user expects.

As a quick example, one of our eCommerce clients had a mobile page that forced users to scroll all the the way back up to the top of the page to make a purchase.

So, we decided to try a floating “Buy Now” button that people could use to quickly buy the item once they’d read all about it:

Yes, scrolling to the top of the page seems like a relatively small inconvenience, but eliminating this source of anxiety improved the conversion rate by 6.7%.

Even more importantly, it increased the RPV by $1.54.

Given the client’s traffic volume, this was a huge win!

As you can probably imagine, the less confusion, alarm, frustration and work your site creates for users, the more likely they are to convert.

When you get right down to it, conversion should be a seamless, almost brainless process. If a potential customer ever stops to think, “Wait, what?” on their journey to conversion, you’ve got a real problem.

To identify potential anxiety-inducing elements on your site or page, try going through the whole conversion process on your site (better yet, have someone else do it and describe their experience to you). Watch for situations or content that force you to think. Odds are, you’ve just discovered a testing opportunity.

1. Responsiveness

Finally, the last element of the launch analysis is responsiveness—specifically mobile responsiveness.

To be honest, mobile responsiveness is not the same thing as having a mobile responsive site, just like launching a rocket on a rainy day is not the same thing as launching a rocket on a clear day.

The days of making your site “mobile responsive” and calling it good are over. With well over half of internet searches taking place on mobile devices, the question you need to ask yourself isn’t “Is my site mobile responsive?” What you should be asking yourself is, “Is my site customized for mobile?”

For example, here is what one of our clients’ “mobile responsive” pages looks like:

While this page passed Google’s “mobile friendly” test, it wasn’t exactly a “user friendly” experience.

To fix that problem, we decided to test a couple of custom mobile pages:

The results were truly impressive. Both variants clearly outperformed the original “mobile responsive” design and the winning variant increased calls by 84% and booked appointments by 41%!

So, if you haven’t taken the time yet to create a custom mobile experience, you’re probably missing out on a huge opportunity. It might take a few tests to nail down the right design for your mobile users, but most sites can expect big results from a little mobile experience testing.

As you brainstorm ways to test your mobile experience, remember, your mobile users aren’t usually looking for the same things as your desktop users. Most mobile users have very specific goals in mind and they want it to be as easy as possible to achieve those goals.

Launch!

Well, that’s it! You’re ready for launch!

Go through your site or page and take a look at how what you can do to strengthen your value proposition, CTA and content. Then, identify things that may potentially be diversions, anxiety-inducing elements or responsiveness issues that are preventing people from converting.

By the time you finish your launch analysis, you should have tons of testing ideas to try. Put together a plan that focuses on your biggest opportunities or problems first and then refine from there. Happy testing!

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How to Do a Keyword-Driven Content Audit (with Keyword Explorer)

Posted by Dr-Pete

As content marketers, we frequently suffer from What Have You Done For Me Lately Syndrome (WHYDFMLS). As soon as we’re done with one piece of content, we’re on to the next one, barely stopping to check analytics for a couple of days. Analytics themselves are to blame, in part. Our default window into traffic-based analytics is somewhere in the realm of 30 days, leading us to neglect older content that’s still performing well but may not be competing day-to-day with the latest and greatest.

I’m a big believer in digging back into your hidden gems and looking for content that’s still performing but may be due for an update, rewrite, or even just testing a better title/headline. How do we find this content, which is often buried in our this-week-focused analytics?

Let’s think like SEOs. One approach is to find older content that’s still ranking for a solid number of keywords, but may be out of date or under-performing. This is content that’s still driving traffic, but we may be overlooking. We don’t have to fight an uphill battle to get it ranking – we just have to better tap the potential this content is already demonstrating.

Step 0 – The “Exact Page” filter

Before we begin, I’m going to jump to the end. You may know that we recently launched Keywords By Site in Keyword Explorer, which allows you to peer into a keyword “universe” of millions of searches to see how a given domain is ranking. What you may not know is that you can also look up a specific page with the “Exact Page” filter. Go to the Keyword Explorer home page, and it’s the last entry in the pull-down:

Here’s a zoom-in. I’ve entered a popular post from my personal website:

Click the search (magnifying glass) button and you’ll get back something like this:

Even for my small blog, I’ve got a healthy list of keywords here, and some ranking in the top 50 that have solid volume. I also know that this post still gets decent traffic, even though it was written in 2009. If I were still active in the usability space, this would be a prime candidate for a rewrite, and I’d know exactly what keywords to target.

This is all well and good when you have an exact page in mind, but how do you audit an entire site or blog when you don’t know what’s performing for you? I’m going to outline a 6-step process below.

Step 1 – Get all rankings

Let’s say I want to find some buried content treasure right here on the Moz Blog. In the Keyword Explorer menu, I’ll select “root domain” and enter our root domain, “moz.com”:

I’ll get a similar report as in Step 0. Under “Top Ranking Keywords”, I’m going to select “See all ranking keywords”. In this case, I get back a table of more than 53,000 keywords that moz.com currently ranks

for. Not too shabby. These are not just keywords I actively track, but all of the keywords moz.com ranks for in Keyword Explorer’s “universe” of roughly 40 million keywords.

Step 2 – Export keywords

So, how does a keyword list help us to better understand our content? Above the keyword table, you’ll see two options, “Export CSV” and “Add to…”:

I’m going to choose the export – we’re going to want the whole, beautiful mess for this job. What I’ll get back is a file with every keyword and the following columns:

  • Keyword
  • Minimum Volume
  • Maximum Volume
  • Keyword Difficulty
  • Top Rank
  • Top Ranking URL

That last column is the important one. The export contains the top ranking URL for moz.com for each of the keywords (note: your maximum export size does vary with your Moz Pro membership level). This is where we can start forging the content connection.

Step 3 – Filter pages

I ended up with 30K keyword/URL pairings in the CSV. So that the viewers at home can follow along, I’m going to do the next few steps in Google Sheets. The first thing I want to do is filter out just what I’m interested in. In the “Data” menu, select “Filter”. You’ll see green arrows appear next to each column header. Click on the one next to “Top Ranking URL” (the last column). I’m going to use “Filter by condition” with “Text contains” and isolate all ranking URLs with “/blog/” in them:

This leaves me with 13,266 keyword/URL pairings. Personally, I like to copy and paste the filtered data to a new worksheet, just because working with filtered data tends to be a bit unpredictable. So, now I’ve got a separate worksheet (named “Filtered”) with just the keywords where the Moz blog ranks.

Step 4 – Pivot pages

If you haven’t used pivot tables, I’d strongly encourage you to check them out. Annie Cushing has a great Excel tutorial on pivot tables, and I’ll walk you through a couple of basics in Google Sheets. Generally, you use pivot tables when you want to group data and calculate statistics on those groups very quickly. In this case, what I want to do is group all of the matching URLs in my data set and get the counts. In other words, how many keywords is each unique blog post ranking on?

After selecting all of the data on that new “Filtered” tab, click the “Data” menu again, and then “Pivot tables…” at the bottom. This opens up a new sheet with a blank table. On the right are some slightly cryptic options. Under “Rows”, I’m going to add “Top Ranking URL”. This tells Google Sheets that each row in the pivot table should be a unique (grouped) URL from the top ranking URLs. Next, I’ll select the “Values”::

The COUNTA() function just tells Google Sheets to return the total count for each URL (for some reason, COUNT() only works on numeric values). As a bonus, I’ve also selected the SUM() of Max Volume. This will total up the volume for all of the ranking keywords in our data set for each URL.

Pivot table results can be a bit hard to work with (in both Excel and Google Sheets), so I’m going to copy and paste the data (as values only) into a new sheet called “Audit”.

Step 5 – Find candidates

Let’s get to the good stuff. When I group the URLs, I’m left with 1,604 unique blog posts in this particular data set. I can easily sort by posts ranking for the most keywords or posts with the most potential search volume (under “Data” / “Sort range”). I’m going to stick to raw keyword count. Here’s just a sample:

Obviously, there’s a ton here to dig into, but right away I noticed that two of the posts in the top 10 seemed to have some connection to graphics and/or image search. This stood out, because it’s not a topic we write about a lot. Turns out the first one is a video from May 2017, so not a great candidate for an update. The second, however (highlighted), is a tools post from early 2013. This post was surprisingly popular, and given how many new tools have come out in the past 4-1/2 years, is a perfect candidate to rewrite.

Here’s a link to the full Google Sheet. Feel free to make a copy and play around.

Step 6 – Back to Step 0

Remember that “Exact URL” option I talked about at the beginning of this post? Well, now I’ve got a URL to plug back into that feature and learn more about. Our data dump showed 170 ranking keywords, but when I target that exact URL, I’m likely to get even more data. Here’s just a sample:

Sure enough, I get almost double that count (348) with an exact URL search, and now I have an entire treasure trove to sort through. I sorted by volume (descending) here, just to get a sense of some of the more interesting keywords. I can, of course, repeat Step 6 with any of the URLs from Step 5 until I narrow down my best prospects.

Next steps (for the adventurous)

If I were going to rewrite the post I found, I’d want to make sure that I’m targeting two sets of keywords: (1) the important keywords I currently rank highly on (don’t want to lose that traffic) and (2) higher volume keywords I have the potential to rank on if I target them better. I might target, for example, a few choice keywords where I currently rank in the top 20 results and have a Page Authority that’s better than (or, at least, not too far from) the listed Keyword Difficulty.

Of course, you can also feed any of these keywords back into Keyword Explorer for more suggestions. Ideally, you’re looking for a handful of solid keyword concepts to target. The goal isn’t to stuff every variation into your rewritten post. The goal is to create a better, newer, more useful post that also happens to intelligently incorporate highly relevant keywords.

Bonus: Walk-through video

If you’d like to learn more about the Keyword Explorer features discussed in this post, I’ve created a short (roughly 2 minute) walk-through video:

Give it a try and let me know what you find. While I’ve chosen to focus on Keyword Explorer in this post (hey, we have to pay the bills), this same process should work with a handful of other popular keyword research tools, as well.

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from Moz Blog https://moz.com/blog/how-to-do-a-keyword-driven-content-audit
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from Blogger http://imlocalseo.blogspot.com/2017/11/how-to-do-keyword-driven-content-audit.html
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