The Panda Patent: Brand Mentions Are the Future of Link Building

The author’s posts are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.

There has long been speculation about how Google actually measures “brand authority.” Many times over the past couple of years have those who speak outside of those fortified Googleplex walls made it clear that brand building is the way to win the organic visibility war.

That statement however has always sounded wooly in the extreme. How is it possible to measure an almost intangible thing at scale and via a complex formula? If you are Google, it seems there is ALWAYS a way.

A fairly innocent-looking patent filed last month, which some say could be the Panda patent may have gone some way to answering that question.

Within this post we dive into that patent and other supporting evidence in an attempt to understand what the opportunity may be for digital marketers in the future. As part of that attempt, we offer our interpretation of various pieces of the patent itself, and also look at actual data to see if mentions are already playing a part in the ranking of sites.

The patent in question, which can be found here and has been expertly covered by Bill Slawski, may cover the Panda Algorithm’s key workings, but the piece we are really interested in right now is the information around measuring site authority and relevance using a ratio of links and mentions, or “implied links.” It’s this specific area that got both the team here at Zazzle Media and also at Moz excited. You can see Cyrus Shepard and Rand Fishkin’s reaction right here:

I knew it! RT @CyrusShepard: This Google patent defines non-linking citations as “implied links”

— Rand Fishkin (@randfish) March 26, 2014

So, what exactly does the patent imply? It is complex, wordy, and difficult to interpret, but it starts by talking about what Google calls “reference queries:”

“A reference query for a particular group of resources is a previously submitted search query that has been categorized as referring to a resource in the particular group of resources.”

To most of us, that statement appears as bad English at best, but there are a couple of ways this could be used. It first allows Google to look at what terms people have used previously through search to find and then click on a site, or group of sites. In doing so, it would then also allow them to “map” semantically relevant queries (and thus mentions of a brand) to a site in order to further extend an understanding of the “popularity” or “authority” of that entity.

The patent also covers a mechanism for allowing Google to discount some links and give others greater weighting based on a modification factor:

“The method of claim 1, wherein determining a respective group-specific modification factor for a particular group of resources comprises: determining an initial modification factor for the particular group of resources, wherein the initial modification factor is a ratio of a number of independent links counted for the particular group to the number of reference queries counted for the particular group.”

This could be especially important where lots of links from the same company (or “group”) point at a site, as the search engine could discount those from the true overall picture. It then also gives engineers the ability to look at “quality” as a measure of the overall relevance to the queried subject matter, which is called out in a separate bit of the patent:

“For example, the initial score can be, e.g., a measure of the relevance of the resource to the search query, a measure of the quality of the resource, or both.”

Then, the patent specifically mentions that links can either be “express” or “implied,” calling out non-linking mentions in a rather unmistakable way:

“The system determines a count of independent links for the group (step 302). A link for a group of resources is an incoming link to a resource in the group, i.e., a link having a resource in the group as its target. Links for the group can include express links, implied links, or both. […] An implied link is a reference to a target resource, e.g., a citation to the target resource, which is included in a source resource but is not an express link to the target resource. Thus, a resource in the group can be the target of an implied link without a user being able to navigate to the resource by following the implied link.

What does all this mean? It means that once a connection is made by someone typing in a brand name or other search query and then clicking on a site it creates a connection in Google’s eyes. The search engine can then store that info and use it in the context of unlinked mentions around the web in order to help weight rankings of particular sites.

If this is the Panda Patent, as it is part of a wider algorithm, it would also look at the quality of pages on a site and how “commercial” they are in their targeting – this was originally designed to negatively impact content farms that created content targeted aggressively at commercial terms – those that think “search engine-first” as opposed to “audience-first.”

The patent publication was closely followed by a related Webmaster video by Matt Cutts within which the head of Google’s webspam team talked about a “forthcoming update” that would look differently at how the search engine measures authority:

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By arguing that there is a difference between popularity and links, Cutts made clear that his engineers are looking very closely at how to continue to tweak the existing algo to make more popular sites rank higher.

That’s a big deal.

Those two pieces of new evidence suggest there is a seismic shift underway in how links are weighted and how relevance is measured – the two building blocks of search.

It’s something Rand here at Moz first touched on back in late 2012 and I covered in detail in this post a few weeks later.

In it I gave a little background into why Google is hell bent on getting away from the concept of a link-based economy:

“My view is that Google is really trying to clear up the link graph and with it valueless links so that it can clearly understand relevance and associations again.

It’s something that web ‘creator’ Tim Berners Lee first wrote about back in 2006 in this magazine article and Google has been talking about ever since, ploughing lots of cash into acquisitions to get it there.

So, why invest so much time, effort and resource into such a game-changing project? Quite simply because its existing keyword based info retrieval model is in danger of being bettered by semantic search engines.”

Let’s look into the how and why in a little more detail.


Everybody who reads this article will be more than aware of the importance of links in building authority.

A lot has changed in this space over recent years, however, as Google has developed systems to measure where the link is coming from and assign more (or less) value to it as a result.

The next logical step in that process could be the downgrading of the follow link within the overall picture of ranking factors. It is something that has been expected for some time and was reiterated by Moz’s own panel of experts in the annual Ranking Factor survey.

We know that follow links have been gamed “to death” in the past, so it would make sense to make that particular element a little less important in the overall mix. Nofollows can still tell Google a lot about a site, as can how much people are talking about it.


By definition a nofollow link does not pass equity, or PageRank, to a site. We know that for certain. What is less clear is what, if anything, it does pass.

Google certainly knows these links are there, and this latest patent could suggest they are taking a little more notice of them than they are letting on.

The patent highlights the importance of “reference queries” and “implied links,” and also that Google looks to discount links from the same “group” or brand and instead wants to concentrate on independent links from unassociated domains.

Critically, PageRank is not mentioned, which suggests that other factors are being measured in terms of how much equity is being passed by each independent link, or mention.


It is the “implied link” element that makes most interesting reading, as it is black-and-white evidence that Google is looking at mentions as a measure of authority.

It is logical, after all, that a popular brand would have more people talking about it online than one that is simply good at manipulating the algorithm and has invested heavily in link building to that end.

The results from our sample research also support this, with larger, better-known brands generally attracting greater numbers of mentions than others.


Of course, the question remains, is this already in use? To test this properly would require a monumental amount of measurement across a plethora of verticals over an extended period of time, and sadly, I did not have the time or resources to run that project for the sake of this post, but it is still worth sharing some of the data and an overview of what may be going on.

The caveat here is absolutely that this does NOT constitute any kind of fact-finding mission, simply an informed commentary on a few anomalies that cannot be explained simply by looking at follow links alone.

To discover if there are any initial signs that this kind of system may already be in effect, I spent some time analyzing three separate, random SERPs here in the UK.

They were:

  1. “Car Insurance”
  2. “Mortgage Calculator”
  3. “Mens Clothing”

All three are competitive terms and are “owned” in the main by what we might know as brands in the wider world.

Below you can see a simple chart for each of these, showing:

  1. Follow links
  2. Nofollow links
  3. Follow/nofollow ratio
  4. The number of brand mentions in the last four weeks
  5. Ratio between links and mentions

Clearly this isn’t a scientific study, but it does serve as a “finger in the air” analysis from which a few interesting observations can be made.

The first two tables contain data examining the whole domain’s link profile, while the third looks specifically at links to the URL indexed for the particular term we are analyzing.

The raw data is below and here is an explanation of where that data was drawn from:

  1. Position – Records what position we saw the domain in for the given search term in
  2. Follow link – for the first two (‘Car Insurance’ and ‘Mens Clothing’) this is the number of follow links across the whole domain. For ‘mortgage calculator’ it records just the follow links into the specific URL indexing for that term. The data is from AHREFS.
  3. As above but for no follow links.
  4. The number of referring domains into the domain (‘Car Insurance’ and ‘Mens Clothing’) and the URL (‘Mortgage Calculator’).
  5. Mentions – How many mentions of the brand there have been in the last four weeks (as taken from Moz Fresh Web Explorer and using exact match brand term only).
  6. Ratio of follow to no follow links – Designed to see if there is a correlation with this and position.
  7. Ratio of links to mentions – A look at the relationship between how many links a site has and how many mentions in the previous four weeks.

Let’s now look at each table in a little more detail but with the understanding that there are a myriad of other factors that affect the result. After each piece of analysis I have added general comments:

“Car insurance”

  • Despite having considerably fewer links overall across the domain, Go Compare is first. Does this suggest they have hit a sweet spot in terms of links versus mentions and brand metrics?
  • Money Supermarket proves that more links doesn’t win. The site has many, many more than anyone else in the top five and yet is not first. Link volume clearly matters, but it is absolutely not the only factor at play.
  • Do Compare the Market and Confused “win” and feature in the top five on the strength of their mention data? A higher ratio than the top three but MUCH lower link numbers suggests that might be the case.
  • is the anomaly as its mention to link ratio is low. This suggests that sheer numbers of links are potentially helping it rank well as well as on-page factors that make the brand super-relevant for car insurance.

“Mens clothing”

  • ASOS and House of Fraser walk away with it here, and interestingly both of these sites have very similar ratios for both follow and no-follow links AND for links and mentions.
  • Next is an anomaly but only because measuring true mentions is very hard due to the brand having a “generic” word as its “brand.” Could this cause issues for Google going forward in measuring similar brands?
  • Again, Burton (in particular) and Topman to a degree show that you can earn your place with high link-to-mention ratios.
  • Topman should rank higher. Is it because of link quality? Certainly the ratio of follow to nofollow is lower than those above them.

“Mortgage calculator”

  • This batch looks just at the URL ranking for the term, not the whole domain, to allow us to see both sides of the story.
  • The BBC clearly runs away with it in every sense and by these figures would be almost impossible to usurp.
  • The data is less correlated here; suggesting that domain-wide factors are definitely at play in factoring which URL should rank where.
  • NatWest is a really interesting result as it has very few links relative to those around it. The ratio of no-follow-to-follow is very high, and the brand gets a lot of mentions. The site is also very relevant for “mortgages” as a percentage of overall content.

As a further piece of analysis we have also included a “random” site from page two to support the concept that a combination/ratio of links to mentions affects rankings.

That site is, a small UK building society (bank). Its own mortgage calculator page was ranking 16th when we ran the analysis, and interestingly, we can see that its ratio of follow-to-nofollow is low, as is the number of mentions of the brand in the past four weeks. On pure followed link numbers the site should rank top five, but instead it languishes on page two.

Is there a perfect ratio?

It’s clear that the small sample above is no true reflection of how the ratio of links to mentions affects rankings, but it has certainly raised some interesting points for further discussion and testing.

What certainly can be said is that the measurement of brand mentions is certainly possible, and Google certainly now has the patent to cover it off as a potential ranking factor.

Mentions alone do not tell the whole story, of course, and links are still very important in the overall mix of factors that affect rankings, but it is now time to start thinking about how you can create brand buzz and grow those mentions.

The possible good news for the smaller guys, though, is that it does seem that Panda is beginning to look at how much of a site is relevant to any one specific term and giving over extra “authority” to that site in that niche.

A great example are the building societies in the UK that rely on mortgages to make up the majority of their business. As a result they do seem to rank better for mortgage-related terms.

This could really help specialist businesses compete again with the “big guys.”

What can you do?

The key point here is how you can utilize this data to improve your own strategy, and while there is no conclusive proof that mentions and nofollow links matter, the evidence is starting to pile up.

Given what Mr. Cutts said in the video we mention earlier in the post, the patent for Panda and increasing amounts of data highlighting similar findings, the argument is certainly there.

My advice would be to begin thinking outside of follow links. Be happy to earn (and build) nofollowed links and mentions. Think outside the link, because there IS value in driving mentions and building brand.

How do you do that? The simple answer is to get creative with your communications strategy and build content that will make people talk about you and share. At the heart of that is a great ideation process, and I have previously shared Zazzle Media’s own way of creating great ideas consistently here.

Think particularly around creating content that plays on core emotions and also give things away. In a detailed report first shared in 2010, titled ” Social Transmission, Emotion, and the Virality of Online Content,” the authors discovered there is a strong relationship between emotion and how likely it is your content will “go viral.”

Amongst the many eye-opening discoveries the publication discusses:

  • Negative content tends to be less viral than positive content
  • Awe-inspiring content and content that surprises or is humorous is more likely to be shared
  • Content that causes sadness can become viral but is generally less likely to
  • Content that evokes anger is more likely to be shared

And finally, make sure you start tracking and reporting mentions and nofollowed links. Knowing how you are performing can help you iterate your PR and content strategies to achieve greater traction.

In short, compelling content, created over the long term WILL now win, as it is being rewarded.

Free Local SEO Education for Businesses on a Shoestring Budget

The author’s posts are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.

I’ve written this post for two of my favorite groups of people: local SEOs and local business owners.

Local SEOs: We’ve had this conversation again and again in the community over the years. On a regular basis, you receive calls from extremely nice local business owners whom you’d love to help but who just haven’t set aside appropriate funding to obtain your services. You have to give them the bad news and turn them away. You feel sort of glum about this and may even be worried that the business owner will sign up for something enticingly cheap and potentially harmful elsewhere. The point of this post is to give you a single link you can share with such business owners, encouraging them to invest time in free education until they have saved up the budget to hire a pro. This article will let you end these tough conversations on a truly positive note!

Local Business Owners: If you don’t yet have the funding to engage a pro, making time to learn about basic local SEO practices is the smartest thing you can do. This article contains my top pick links to exceptional free educational resources. Make use of the fact that experts gladly share what they know in blog posts, guides and studies and you can begin your local search marketing on your own, firmly grounded in best practices. Here, you will find everything you need to know about the foundational major components of a local search campaign, all in one place. If you can’t yet invest the money, invest the time to learn how to get your local business off to a great start on the web! 

Launch your education by gaining a clear picture of what local SEO is, who the major players are and what typically happens in a local search marketing campaign. You’ll be taking many steps along the way; having a sense of what they all add up to should help keep you focused and inspired!

1. Start with this excellent little definition of local SEO from Local U so that you understand the basic concept.

2. Next, hop over to this great guide from Search Engine Journal. It tackles some important local SEO FAQs that will provide that ‘big picture’ view of the work ahead of you.

3. Your next stop is a big one! The Moz Local Learning Center comprises more information about local SEO all in one place than you’ll find in any other guide on the web. Prepare to spend at least a couple of days carefully reading through this incredibly comprehensive resource. You’ll know oodles about the subject when you’ve finished!

4. Once you’ve perused the Moz Local Learning Center, you’ll have attained a solid understanding of the various parts of a local search marketing campaign. You’re now ready to see how big a punch is packed by each component. Study Local Search Ranking Factors 2013 – the industry’s finest annual survey of local search experts who weigh in on which elements appear to exhibit the most powerful influence on Google’s local algorithm.

5. Having a bit of trouble envisioning some of the local search ranking factors? This Moz Blog post illustrates the top 20, making it easy to visualize and implement core best practices for your business. 

Like any good website, a strong local business website will feature sensible architecture, clear navigation and great content. Stretch your shoestring budget to cover the purchase of a domain name and basic annual hosting from a reliable provider. WordPress currently offers nearly 2500 free themes you can play around with to design the best site you are capable of building at your current budget. Your website is your most important Internet asset, so it deserves all the skill and time you can invest in it. And, you’ve got to know what kinds of pages to build and how to optimize them. Read on!

1. Start with this exceptional video and infographic from Small Business Online Coach. This resource explains exactly how to locally optimize your local business website. Pay careful attention to each element highlighted in the video and graphic and then bring that knowledge to each page you build on your site.

2. Gain an edge on less knowledgeable competitors in your geographic region by understanding these 8 Keys To a Successful Local Business Website, as published by Search Engine Land. 

3. User-friendy, search-engine-friendly site architecture and good local SEO are vital to the health of your site, but the main difference between a poor website and an excellent one is the quality of the content it offers users. Learn how to develop those all-important pages detailing your physical locale and other locations in which you serve by reading this Moz Blog post about local landing pages

4. Having trouble coming up with content that is unique, helpful and interesting on each of the pages you’re building? This super post from Local Visibility System will help you brainstorm creative, solid ideas that will turn your website into a comprehensive resource for your customers.

Every local business owner needs to be familiar with the creation and purpose of local business citations. These web-based references to your business NAP (name, address, phone number) will require some on-going effort on your part, and learning to build them correctly is essential to pursuing high local rankings.

1. Start with this basic definition of citations from Moz. 

2. Whitespark is a widely-recognized authority in the field of citation building, and they offer this terrific free advice on local citation building best practices. Remember, clean, consistent citations are an asset to your business, but inconsistencies confuse customers and imperil your chances of ranking well. Be sure you fully understand best practices before you start building citations.

3. Next, check out these helpful tips from Casey Meraz on finding and building citations like an agency. Learn how to tackle this necessary work like a pro!

4. Data about your business NAP is shared around the web between minor and major entities. Understand exactly how this works by visiting this page which includes a David Mihm video, article and links to infographics portraying the local search ecosystem in the US, Canada, Germany, Brazil and the UK. If you’re about to buckle down on your first citation building session, this would also be a good time to review the content you read earlier on the topic of citations in the Moz Local Learning Center. 

Did you know that as many as 79% of people trust online reviews as much as they do personal recommendations? This was the conclusion reached in a 2013 study by Bright Local. Over time, you will be working to achieve a mostly positive body of customer reviews on diverse online platforms. Many local business owners feel justly nervous about handling this important reputation and ranking factor correctly, but you’ll be more confident, thanks to these wonderful resources.

1. Begin with a basic definition of reviews as they relate to the local sphere, from Moz. 

2. Wondering which review sites you should focus on first? Local Visibility System delivers the goods in this peerless review site comparison graphic

3. Before you get started on a review acquisition campaign, you must understand that each platform has its own guidelines as to allowable practices. Access the guidelines of major review sites, all in one place, via this helpful page in the Moz Local Learning Center. By knowing the rules, you will lessen your chances of wasting your time, and your customers’ time, with reviews getting filtered out because they don’t adhere to the guidelines.

4. If the possibility of negative reviews strikes fear into your heart, take comfort in knowing that they happen to just about every business, sooner or later. Businesses have bad days and some customers are impossible to please. Reasonable people understand this. Be prepared to deal positively with a negative review, if you get one, with these right-on tips from Search Engine Land.

Google is top dog in local search, hands down. While you’ll need to develop a presence in numerous places, getting it right in your Google-specific activities is second only to getting it right on your company’s website. As you undertake your own local SEO work, you will almost certainly be spending more time thinking about Google than any other entity. Begin your education with the following resources.

1. Commit the Google Places Quality Guidelines to memory and check back on them from time to time for updates. This is the best advice you will ever receive from Google about what they allow and what they forbid in regards to Google+ Local pages. Guideline violations can destroy your chances of a gaining a place in those all-important local search results, so heed Google’s dictates well!

2. Every qualifying local business is eligible for a Google+ Local page, but Google offers other types of pages, too. This great guide from Local U will help you to identify and understand the various types of pages so that you can determine what’s best for your business. 

3. Lack of consistency in terminology has been the hobgoblin of Google’s local products since day one. Over the past decade we’ve seen terms like Google Places, the Local Business Center and Google+ Local pages come and go. At the time of writing this guide, the most current product terminology consists of having a Google+ Local Page which you create via the Google Places For Business Dashboard. The rollout of the newest dashboard has happened slowly in some countries, so if you’re just now starting to see it, check out  Mike Blumenthal’s fine visual guide so that you understand what to expect.  

4. As you’re gaining your local SEO education, you will see frequent mention of the social possibilities of Google’s products. Read Brady Callahan’s super post on how local businesses can use Google+ as a way to connect with customers and build a strong social presence. 

5. Even with the best grounding in local SEO best practices, you are likely to run into a problem with Google’s local products sooner or later. Guidelines updates, new system filters, new penalties and bugs happen with predictable frequency. If you encounter a problem that is affecting how Google is displaying information about your business, your best bet for free advice is the Google And Your Business Forum. The forum is monitored by volunteer Top Contributors (TCs) and some questions asked will even receive direct responses from Google staffers. You may also want to check out this Moz Blog post on troubleshooting local ranking failures if you’ve experienced a ranking drop.  

What’s missing from this post?

If you’ve reached these concluding paragraphs, having first studied each of the above resources with due diligence, you’ve just obtained an excellent introduction to the basics of local SEO. You can now begin putting all of this education to work for your business. What I haven’t included here is information about additional topics like earning links, developing a broad social presence, video marketing, or entering the exciting world of mobile search.

Why haven’t I included such information in this post? It’s my hope that if you implement all of the above disciplines, your company will begin to see profits once your hard work has time to go into effect. With these profits in hand, you will either have the leisure to continue your local SEO education or the funds to hire professional assistance to help you explore new opportunities for further promotion of your brand on the web.

It’s no shame to start small. Whole Foods was founded by a college kid who dropped out and borrowed money from his folks. Owner John Mackey reputedly had to take his showers using the hose of the store’s dishwasher because he had no place else to live but the store’s premises. The largest scented candle maker in the US, Yankee Candle Company, was founded by a boy who made his first candle out of melted crayons for his mom. Even Google started out in a garage. With dedication and the right education, there is nothing your local business can’t do! 

Bing Translator Plugin for WordPress Enables Webmasters and Developers to Localize Site Content

Bing Translator Plugin for WordPress Enables Webmasters and Developers to Localize Site Content

Microsoft Open Technologies, Inc. has released a new Bing Translator plugin that lets you apply the power of Bing Translator to any WordPress site running version 3.8 or later.

Using the plugin, visitors can translate a site into any of the 40+ supported languages in one click without leaving the page once this light-weight, cross-browser plugin is installed. This plugin also provides options for a setting a color scheme, as well as an option to allow visitors to suggest translations.

The Bing Translator plugin should be installed from within the WordPress Dashboard by clicking on Plugins > Add New and search for “Bing Translator” and works on any WordPress site. A site developer can also manually install the plugin by downloading it from, then adding the “bing-translator” folder in the “/wp-content/plugins/” directory.

Here is the video for How to Use Bing Translator Plugin for WordPress.

More Links to Get Started

Congratulations to Microsoft Open Technologies, Inc team for their great work on the Bing Translator Plugin for WordPress! 

Bing Translator Team

The Advertiser’s Guide To Surviving Reddit

The author’s posts are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.

If you’ve so far neglected the advertising and marketing opportunities on Reddit, you’re not alone. Historically, the relationship between Redditors and those who market to them has been contentious—Reddit is a cohesive community in a way that social platforms like Facebook or Twitter are not, and Redditors will fight to protect its integrity from spammers and lazy attempts at commercial gain. Done well, however, advertising on Reddit represents a tremendous opportunity. The site is one of the fundamental drivers of internet culture, and boasts roughly 115 million monthly unique visitors, low ad costs, and high potential for engagement and virality. Even better, Reddit is finally getting serious about monetizing the business and attaining profitability, rolling out new features for advertisers and even offering free campaigns for international advertisers to get started. Reddit can be a tough nut to crack, but handled correctly it can become your secret weapon—and I’m here to show you how.

There are three main things you need to know to successfully brave the brash, quick-witted, and anonymous crowds of Reddit as a paid advertiser.

  • The raw materials: What kind of inventory is there to work with?
  • The culture: What makes Reddit tick?
  • How to execute: Bringing it all together without ticking Reddit off.

Alright, pencils ready? Let’s get rolling!

First things first: Advertising options on Reddit

Before I delve into working with and advertising to the Reddit community, let’s get familiar with the tools at your disposal. Reddit offers a number of options you can mix and match as appropriate in the lifecycle of a campaign or larger marketing strategy – here’s a quick rundown of what they are and where they fit into the Reddit ecosystem.

Self-serve advertising: sponsored links

Reddit’s self-serve advertising is the best place to start for the novice Reddit advertiser. Cheap, easy, and surprisingly flexible, they are the “promoted post” of the Reddit world. 

A sponsored link, as seen live on Reddit

As you would in typical Reddit use, you have the option of submitting either an external link or an internal link to a text post, which users may then upvote/downvote or comment on. Your money buys you the top-of-page spot for your link in the feed of either Reddit’s front page or a topic-specific subreddit of your choice.


Reddit is currently offering a flat $0.75 CPM for self-serve advertising—you’ll get the same price regardless of the choices you make in targeting or content. There is a minimum buy of $5 for any individual sponsored link (which you’ll also have to pay for individually). This isn’t a big hurdle budget-wise, but can be problematic when there isn’t $5 worth of impressions left to buy in your chosen timeframe. Smaller, niche subreddits are particularly vulnerable to this issue, and it’s not yet possible to make multiple-subreddit buys through the interface. Plan early and don’t wait until the last minute to make your buys, or you might get shut out entirely!

Inventory is limited; act fast!


You’ll be given space for a title and either an external URL or a text post. There are no hard limits here in character length like you’ll find on AdWords, Bing, or Twitter, but don’t get caught up writing a novel. Your title should be punchy and engaging to draw interest, and if you use a text post be clear and concise in communicating your message and actions for the reader. You’ll also note that you have an option to allow or disallow user comments. I strongly recommend you allow them to get the most bang for your buck—I’ll circle back to that here in a minute.

Performance data

Reddit’s traffic data isn’t the prettiest, but you’ll get a solid picture of spend, impressions, and clicks down to the hour. In general, you can expect clickthrough rates similar to most display advertising (0.10-0.20%), but exceptionally well done campaigns can reach far higher. Remember, you’ll need to manually tag your links before you submit your ad so you can track your campaign performance properly in analytics!


One more caveat—you can’t launch your ads near-instantaneously as you might on a platform like Facebook or Twitter. It can take up to 2 days for your ads to be reviewed and set live, and the interface will typically not allow you to choose same or even next day start dates.

Display ads

Display advertising on Reddit runs on the AdZerk engine, and is much closer to what you might find on a standard network, with a couple of twists. Users can upvote and downvote banner ads (the latter will block the ad for that user in the future), and while banner ads don’t quite fit into the normal discussion thread flow, each is linked to a unique comment thread on a subreddit designated for discussion of banner ads on the site.

Reddit sidebar banner, with downvoting options selected

To buy these ads you’ll need to get in touch with Reddit’s ads team directly—you can choose from homepage or subreddit roadblocks, individual banners, or the design and creation of cobranded ad units with the Reddit team.

Sponsored Q&As

Sponsored Q&A’s are similar to Reddit’s popular “Ask Me Anything” threads, but are set up directly with Reddit and targeted for promotion across select subreddits. These can run over the course of a few hours or a few days, with specified times set for your Q&A experts to interact with the Reddit community. You can check out an example here, a Q&A with the physicists behind the Higgs Boson discover for Particle Fever.

Right then! Now that we know what we have to work with, let’s learn how to be good citizens of Reddit.

Reddiquette for advertisers

I am writing this article both as a Redditor and a professional in advertising – I believe good advertising should bring value to the audience as well as the advertiser, and nowhere is that principle better enforced than on Reddit. Reddiquette is Reddit’s informal code of conduct—a codification of the values that have grown organically within the community. Taken as a whole, it creates an environment that demands five key things of marketers who want to participate in this community. Defy these at your own peril!

1. Bring something of value to the table

This is possibly the most important and fundamental law of advertising on Reddit. If you’re not contributing, you’re wasting your time. The essence of being successful in Reddit advertising is the same principle common to social media and content marketing in general: Contribute value to the community. As an advertiser you’ve already been marked “sponsored”—a potential invader to be scrutinized—and have to meet a high bar to prove you’re not a faceless corporate con man come to poison the well or game the system. This doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t sell a product; you just have to deliver it the right way, to the people who are going to smile when they see what it can do. For example:

The above image is an ad run on /r/showerthoughts, “a subreddit for you to share all those thoughts, ideas, or philosophical questions that race through your head when in the shower.” Note the 323 upvotes, and the subsequent comments:

2. Be transparent

Don’t try to game the system or trick users into clicking to your over-optimized conversion page. Redditors live the internet, are thus experts at spotting cheap online marketing tactic, and you will get mauled if you contaminate their precious community with scams or clickbait. Instead, be honest, straightforward, and prepared to communicate. Who are you? Why are you here? If you are questioned in the comments, respond as a real person. This alone won’t guarantee you success, but it will earn you sorely needed respect.

3. Have a sense of humor

Redditors are for the most part here for entertainment, socializing, discovering new things, and generally just to waste time. If you get in the way of that or take yourself too seriously, they will take corrective action and you’ll likely wind up skewered in the comments. Take Woody Harrelson’s calamitous attempt to hawk the movie Rampart in an “Ask Me Anything” (AMA, in Reddit lingo) thread as a cautionary tale.

4. Speak the language

Know your subreddit’s culture—any specific rules, language used, common posts, themes, or memes. If you haven’t spent at least a half hour on that subreddit reading comments and following links, you’re not ready to run an ad there.

5. Roll with the punches

Get comfortable with anonymity and brutal honesty. If you screw up, Redditors will let you know about it. Sure, you could disable comments, but this is merely avoidance, and tosses out the baby with the bathwater. Think of this as the most honest focus group in the world—if Redditors think it, they’ll probably post it. Respond (again, with good humor), validate any concerns, and use the feedback to juice up your next run.

These rules can be a little tough to process if you’re not a Redditor yourself, so before we move on I’m about to give you the best assignment of your working life. Just use reddit. Find fun topics. Comment, post, and find part of the community that speaks to you. Native advertising works a lot better if you’re a native yourself!

Bringing it all together

Pick your audience and stay with them

Of course, to run an engaging promotion on Reddit, you need to start by talking to the right people and hold up your end of the conversation. You might be surprised at the breadth and depth of audience you can find on Reddit—yes, you will find a lot of geeky males aged 18-29, but the user base and the interests represented on the site go far beyond that stereotype. You can find subreddits dedicated to everything from ethnomusicology to baking. Take the time to do your research and find the parts of the community that will really care about what you have to say.

Once you find the right spot for your promotion, don’t simply fire and forget or use the same subreddits every time. Check back every time you launch a new campaign and stay up to date on the doings of your target subreddits—moderation controversies can lead to the breakout, similar subreddits with different standards of conduct that may be better or worse for your purposes as a marketer. 

For example, a banner ad for the film Under The Skin featuring an underwear clad Scarlett Johansson was recently placed on the /r/gentlemanboners subreddit, which I expect the advertiser (not unreasonably) assumed would appreciate the ad. No dice—the subreddit is strictly PG-13 and doesn’t permit images without full clothing. The community and moderators responded harshly, and the ad was actually taken down.

Use Reddit as Reddit, not just another line of ad inventory

You can run basic, conversion focused ads pushed to a PPC style landing page, like the Audible and Aquanotes examples above. But don’t think of Reddit as just a set of ad inventory. Rather, consider it as a social ecosystem, enhanced with the power of paid promotions tools. You can still ultimately point users to a conversion, but don’t waste the opportunity to do more. Ask questions, share opinions, and start a conversation. You can also offer incentives unique to Redditors to make your message that much more special—this recent ad by Vodo created in partnership with Reddit is an excellent example:

There’s also a lot of value to be had in launching your content marketing into the Reddit universe to be shared, talked about, and built upon. It can be challenging to get off the ground at times, but that’s where the paid advertising comes in—point a few thousand users at your piece, hit critical mass, and the ball rolls from there.

You can also find success by intertwining organic and paid activity, for example, using a sponsored Q&A or paid promotions to redirect people to visit an AMA so others can tweet it, share it on social media, and multiply your impact. Degree antiperspirant’s clever use of an AMA with Bear Grylls is a classic example, sending Twitter traffic to the thread and creating storm of reciprocal visits and coverage across various channels. 

In a more recent example, Ethan Hawke’s AMA gathered 9.6 million unique viewers in 24 hours and generated press coverage that brought in 15 million more. Not a bad bit of marketing!

Parting words

Social media outlets like Reddit have done nothing more than they have scaled word of mouth marketing – to succeed in Reddit advertising, you need to understand the community and participate in it honestly. Don’t abuse the privilege of running ads here by spamming users with a hard or gimmicky sell—you’ll burn away any trust and goodwill might have quickly.To paraphrase Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, honest conversations from honest people about quality, relevant products and services are what shape opinions and produce results on Reddit. Go forth and be good!

Have a question or experience advertising on Reddit? Share it in the comments!

About anthonycoraggio — Anthony is a digital advertising specialist at Distilled. At work he pursues questions of strategic ad planning and new ways of promoting content online. He lives in Seattle with his partner Nicole and is perpetually delighted by guitars, cats, the ancient world, and questions of philosophy.

The Greatest Misconception in Content Marketing – Whiteboard Friday

It’s probably pretty clear to everyone that content marketing takes time, but there’s a common misconception in just how much time. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand warns us of an overly optimistic mindset, and shows us how things really (usually) end up happening.

Howdy Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Today we’re going to talk a little bit about content marketing and specifically this giant myth, this misconception that exists in the content marketing field about how the practice really works.

This hurts a lot of people. This hurts people on the SEO side. It hurts people who do social media. It hurts people who invest in actually building the content, and it hurts teams and executives and people who plan and strategize around what content marketing can and can’t achieve and how it should work.

You know, I really came to this because I think it’s been something that’s been bubbling up in the world of content and inbound marketing for a long time. But I was speaking to a number of startups yesterday afternoon here in Seattle. I was talking to them about how we at Moz produce blog posts, video content, like Whiteboard Friday, presentations, and webinars in all of these different mediums.

I got this question, like, “Okay, it must be the case . . . how do you put out a blog post, Rand, that once you launch it, once people read it, they’re actually going to go and buy from you?”

I had this moment of, “Oh my God, this happens all the time.” People think that the reason you’re putting out content is so that someone will consume that content and be inspired from it to go and make a purchase.

This is how the myth works. Step one, oh yeah, you know, ta-dak I created this amazing piece of content. Look, it’s got lovely parallax scrolling, and responsive design, and beautiful graphics, and a lovely layout. Fantastic content. Wow. All right. People are going to download that. They’re going to share it. They’re going to love it.

Step two, thankfully, people are thinking about this at least. All right, I’m going to go tweet and Facebook share and put it on Google+. I’m going to point a bunch of links to it. I’m going to put it on my LinkedIn account. I’ll promote that content through all of these platforms.

Then, look at these hordes of people right there. Not the most attractive horde. A little gangly. But, wow, that’s really good. We should sign up for whatever these people are selling. They must be amazing, right? The visitors who experience the content, and then some percent of them, like oh maybe 2% are going to go and convert.

This doesn’t happen, does it? This is not actually how content marketing works. But it’s how a lot of people invest in and think about content marketing. But it almost never happens. With a few rare exceptions, this is not how content marketing really works.

How it actually works is you repeat step one and two many, many times, again and again and again and again until you start to get good at the process, until you start finding the XYZ, the piece of amazing content that really is going to resonate with your audience. That takes a lot of trial and failure. It really does.

Step three is entirely a myth. It is almost never the case, practically never the case that someone goes, experiences a piece of content from a brand they don’t know about or haven’t heard of, or experiences that content for the first time and then immediately goes, “I wonder what they sell. I should buy whatever that is.” Or even sees kind of a plug or a pseudo-plug for their product inside that content and goes, “Yes, you know what, I’m just going to buy that right now.” That almost never happens.

What really does happen is that people come many, many times. They essentially grow this memory about your brand, about what you do, and they build up kind of what I’d call a positive bank account with you. But that bank account, there are not coins and money in there. There are experiences and touches with your brand. Those content touches, and those social media touches, and those touches that come through performing a search and seeing you listed there, those build up the capital in the account.

Once you reach a certain level of memory and positive association about the brand that you’ve experienced all these things through, when you have the need for the product or the service or whatever it is they’re offering, then you might remember to sign up with them.

Or you might perform a search query, and because they’ve done all of these things, they’re more likely to have grown their rankings and their authority and possibly to be personalized in your personal search results. That brand might show up higher because you’ve experienced lots of interactions with them. Because of that, then you make that purchase with them.

As a result of this mythology, a ton of people and teams who invest in content marketing fail to properly plan for the required time and effort needed. That’s hugely costly, because it means that a ton of pressure sits on the content marketer, and the social media marketer, and the SEO, oftentimes one person or a very small team of people who all do inbound marketing together. You don’t have the budget or the bandwidth or the belief from your executives or your client, if you’re being hired as an agency, to get to where you need to get to.

They fail to invest in the practice long enough, and they just give up too early. This doesn’t work once, and a lot of the people who would have invested in content marketing, for the long term, are out of the game. This doesn’t work three, four, five times and a lot more.

Now, this is, in some ways, actually a good thing for people like you and I, because it means that we don’t have nearly the competition that we would otherwise have, which is kind of a beautiful thing. If this stuff were easy, everyone would be doing it. The field would be saturated. It would be very, very hard to compete, even harder than it already is, and it is plenty hard.

A lot of these folks fail to consider SEO properly, because what happens is they think of content marketing almost like it’s a viral effort. It’s just going to spread. We’re not worried about where we might rank in search engines with this stuff or whether this helps our search rankings for other things.

So they do a few things that are really dumb. They don’t take this piece of content and put links to potentially relevant stuff on their site inside there, and they don’t internally link to it well either. So they’ve almost orphaned off a lot of these content pieces.

You can see many people who’ve orphaned their blog from their main site, which of course is terrible. They’ll put them on subdomains or separate root domains so that none of the link authority is shared between those.

They don’t think about sharing through Google+ or building an audience with Google+, which can really help with the personalization. Nor do they think about using keywords wisely. When you don’t use keywords wisely on content pieces, remember, content pieces can, because of their potential to earn links, and social signals, and user and usage data signals, and all of these things that have primary and secondary impacts on your rankings, because they don’t consider those, they don’t have the opportunity to then bias the search results in the personalized results or to rank in the non-personalized results that they could’ve otherwise had.

A lot of them fail to do the right math on content versus other forms of marketing, either overly optimistically, or if they’ve had bad experiences investing, overly pessimistically. Therefore, you’re not comparing things truly and honestly when you consider where to put budget, where to put people.

Last, but not least, is many, many folks fail to correctly attribute conversions and assisted conversions. What we know about people is that the path looks like this. For this person here, the path might look like visit one, visit two, visit three, visit four, and then a conversion.

Actually, at Moz, did you know that it’s I think on average seven and a half visits before someone takes a free trial? So you might be watching this Whiteboard Friday, and this is one of your first brand experiences with Moz. On average, you’re going to have six or seven more visits before you might take a free trial of our software. Those might be spaced out over months. We might lose the cookie through Google Analytics that actually even tracks your visit. So there’s no real way to tie it back.

A lot of the investment has to be either serendipitous, or we’re going to need some very fancy tracking. Moz has used, I think, KISSmetrics and Mixpanel, those kinds of things. Many other folks do as well to try and tie together those many visits and see when does a conversion actually happen.

If you can build this, if you can build a system that says gosh people who visit one of our blog posts at least, or two of our blog posts at least, or watch a video from us, or take this other action, or consume this viral piece of content that we’ve created are more likely to in four or five visits from now make a conversion with us, then you can truly track the impact of this.

To me, it’s a little bit like looking at a soccer team, for those of you outside the U.S. a football team, or a basketball team and saying only the person scoring the goal matters. There’s no one who gave a great pass. There’s no one who assisted them in getting that basket. It’s just about the person scoring the goal. That really minimizes the impact of the rest of the team, or in this case the rest of the process.

So this mythology, this misconception can be really dangerous. Hopefully, you’re going to fix that with your teams and your clients. We will see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Is SEO The Future? No, And Here’s Why

SEO is a combination of technical work at the site code level, content management at the editorial level and usability work, often spanning both of the first two areas. It’s the basic work that needs to be done today. Table stakes, if you will. You cannot sit at the poker table without putting money on that same table.

So, SEO is foundational work sites need to engage in – that’s been clear for a while.

But as the engines get smarter with and about signals, and as new, trustworthy signals are grown and adopted, the SEO of yore becomes a bit less relevant. No one really cried when we all walked away from <meta keyword> tags after they were inundated with spam. No one cried when keyword density became a passé topic, largely covered up in the then somewhat novel approach of “making quality content”.

And so it goes with what most people think of as SEO. As the Internet matures, as semantic language markup adoption increases, as new partnerships around data are formed, things change. While many fear change, a savvy SEO knows change is always just a day away, and they’re ready to learn the new, arcane and relevant tactics that work moving forward. Even if those tactics aren’t strictly SEO anymore.

So, while SEO isn’t likely the “future” as it was, say a decade ago, it’s still relevant.

In the history of marketing, every new tactic was met with cries of “The Future is Here” and “This Will Doom Us All”. SEO had that period of time as well. I like to think that it weathered the naysayers quite well, proving to be a viable long-term tactic. As with all those things that came before it, however, it is but a single tactic.

An SEO may have work and responsibilities beyond SEO, often edging into social, usability, content, code, design, etc. But, SEO as a tactic will remain seen as a largely singular focus area. A solid tactic, to be employed if you even hope to be on equal footing with your competition, but still a single tactic. One arrow in the quiver to be chosen as needed, for a specific goal.

What does this mean?

Largely it means that folks covering more than just SEO will be in greater demand, and those focused solely on SEO may want to consider doing more in a broader range of areas. Yes, this may be limited by your company’s goals, budgets and planning, but nothing stops you from building your position of thought leadership within your company, across more areas than just SEO.

Mostly what it means is that if a business is singularly focused (we’ll focus mainly on SEO this year, and focus on social later), you could be falling behind and not realize it. Success today, as in the past, is measured by the results of a combined effort. SEO, paid search, social media, usability investments, customer service, print media, PR, partnerships, sponsorships, etc. All, when well executed in a thoughtful fashion, can push you higher than any one area ever possibly could. Most businesses will say they perform across all those fields, but it’s actually rarer than you think. Doing something isn’t the same as doing something well.

In the future SEO will be seen in the same basket of marketing tactics as TV, print, radio, social media, billboards and so on – just another tool to use (we’re pretty much already at this stage in many large companies). It won’t even seem that novel anymore, but it will remain a skill that’s in demand to varying degrees.

What will be important, today and moving forward, is embracing the mix, getting the mix right and repeating that success using these newer tactics. For a business to really achieve success, they have to look beyond the search engine and set their sights firmly on impressing the customer. If you attract their attention, we’ll follow. If we’re not showing you the love you think you deserve, maybe it’s time to do some real-world testing to see if you’re impressing customers as much as you think you are. And if you are, then you should ask why your customers aren’t compelled to share that love.

When that customer gets up in the morning and goes online, it’s with a goal. If your goal is to build the best optimized site then you’re misaligned. If your goal is to provide that customer with exactly what they seek, and maybe a bit more they hadn’t expected, but find very useful, then you’ll be successful. Those are the stand outs. Those are the sites that customers can’t wait to tell friends about. Those are the ones they share, link to and talk about.

Where is the future?

Mobile, wearables, in-home devices, automobiles. Anywhere a sensor can exist to collect data about you, an individual, that can be shared back to glean some tidbit of information about you that can help a marketer more effectively target you.  That’s the future. The difference today is that all of this technology exists, or is on the threshold of being released in improved ways. Almost none of what’s happening in these areas is actually SEO work. But, an SEO may be ideally suited to take on work in these new areas to influence the success of a business.  Want to show up on the nav unit in my car’s dashboard? Better get your local listing data optimized and submitted to the right databases. And while “local” isn’t “SEO”, so many SEOs manage that work, too.

SEO might not be the future, but your past in SEO has prepared you for the coming changes. Set your sights a bit higher than optimizing H1 tags. Your business will thank you for it.

Duane Forrester
Sr. Product Manager

The #MozCon 2014 Agenda is Here!

*drumroll* … That’s right, friends, the MozCon 2014 Agenda is here! You can now show this to your boss to get that final approval and start making plans for how many notebooks you’ll be filling with ideas and tips.

But first, I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind you to buy your ticket today, as MozCon has sold out the last several years.

Sign up for MozCon Today!

For the best current deal on MozCon, make sure you’re a Moz Pro subscriber. If you’re not, you can sign up for a 30-day free trial and get the Pro subscriber MozCon price immediately. Cancel your subscription at any time if it’s not for you, and we’ll see you at MozCon 2014 either way!

Okay, let’s talk about just how great this MozCon’s going to be. We have topics ranging from technical mobile SEO and A/B testing to “big content” idea generation and getting maximum value from your PR efforts. There is truly something for every type of online marketer. We have returning MozCon favorites such as Wil Reynolds, Dr. Pete Meyers, and Nathalie Nahai, as well as new speakers like Kerry Bodine, Cindy Krum, and Jeremy Bloom. Plus, we’re trying a new format—a fireside chat—with our CEO Sarah Bird, so we can really dig into what life at Moz has been like since she and Rand switched places.

Not to mention all the photos with Roger, the wonderful swag, yummy food, and all the other MozCon trimmings you expect. And yes, we’re letting Cyrus Shepard emcee again. (I’m pretty sure it’s in his Moz employment contract.)

Wil Reynolds at MozCon 2013

The MozCon Agenda


8:00-9:00am Breakfast

Rand Fishkin

9:00-9:20am Welcome to MozCon 2014! with Rand Fishkin
As our ever-changing industry keeps us on our toes, Rand gives a look at recent changes and where he sees the future of search and online marketing going.

Rand Fishkin is the founder of Moz, and he currently serves as an individual contributor, blogging, speaking, designing tools, and helping marketers worldwide level-up their game.

Kerry Bodine

9:20-10:20am Broken Brand Promises: The Disconnect Between Marketing and Customer Experience with Kerry Bodine
Companies chase the business benefits of customer experience, but advertising and marketing communications that aren’t aligned with the true capabilities of the organization foil these efforts.

Kerry Bodine is the co-author of Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business. Her ideas, analysis, and opinions appear frequently on sites like Harvard Business Review, The Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, Forbes, USA Today, and Advertising Age. She holds a master’s degree in human-computer interaction and has designed interfaces for websites, mobile apps, wearable devices, and robots.

10:20-10:40am AM Break

Lindsay Wassell

10:40-11:20am Improve Your SEO by Mastering These Core Principles with Lindsay Wassell
Discover how SEO tactics that win in the long run complement web-friendly business practices and core principles, and how to incorporate this approach into optimization strategies for changes in search results.

Lindsay Wassell is the CEO at  Keyphraseology, an Inbound & Search Marketing agency. Prior to Keyphraseology, she led the Moz SEO Consulting Team.

Richard Millington

11:20am-12:00pm How to Use Social Science to Build Addictive Communities with Richard Millington
Richard will explain how you can use proven principles from community science to build highly addictive online communities for your organization.

Richard Millington is the founder of  FeverBee, an organization which has figured out how to apply proven science to build powerful communities from any group of people.

12:00-1:30pm Lunch

Kyle Rush

1:30-2:30pm Architecting Great Experiments with Kyle Rush
A/B testing will no longer be a mystery after Kyle does a deep-dive on every part of the experimentation process.

Kyle Rush is the Head of Optimization at  Optimizely. He uses a data-driven engineering approach to execute hundreds of A/B tests.

Cindy Krum

2:30-3:10pm Mobile SEO Geekout: Key Strategies and Concepts with Cindy Krum
Learn all the technical nuances necessary to make your websites rank and perform well in mobile and tablet search!

Cindy Krum is CEO and Founder of  MobileMoxie, a mobile SEO consulting and tools provider based in Denver, CO. She is also author of Mobile Marketing: Finding Your Customers No Matter Where They Are, which is the first book to explain mobile SEO and gets 4.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon.

3:10-3:30pm PM Break

Mike Ramsey

3:30-4:00pm Local Lessons from Small Town USA with Mike Ramsey
Whether your audience is in one region or thousands of major metros across the world, these small town lessons will guide you through the complex world of local search. 

Mike Ramsey is the president of  Nifty Marketing with offices in Burley and Boise, Idaho. He is also a Partner at LocalU and has an awesome wife and 3 kids who put up with all his talk about search.

Lexi Mills

4:00-4:30pm Top 10 PR Tactics and Strategies of Successful Content and Link Building with Lexi Mills
Everyone’s had an outreach pitch rejected, but Lexi will show you that by slicing and dicing your content, you can turn those no’s into yes’s. 

Lexi Mills is a PR SEO specialist, with over eight years experience working with both small firms and big brands. She has designed and implemented integrated PR, SEO, content, and social campaigns in the UK, Europe, and USA for B2B and B2C clients.

Mike King

4:30-5:10pm Digital Body Language with Mike King
No matter your business goals, Mike will teach you how to harness the power of lead qualification and nurturing through both implicit and explicit user information. 

Currently a consultant,  Mike King has led teams covering consumer insights, content, social strategy, and SEO for Enterprise brands. With working for brands like HSBC, SanDisk, Ralph Lauren, Johnson & Johnson, and Citibank, his breadth and depth of experience continues to fuel game-changing insights. Mike is a frequent speaker, blogger, and a published author that loves to share his insights on how to do better marketing.

7:00-9:00pm #MozCrawl
More details coming soon!


8:00-9:00am Breakfast

Pete Meyers

9:00-10:00am How to Never Run Out of Great Ideas with Pete Meyers
Learn how to stay afloat in the coming flood of content, as Dr. Pete provides concrete tactics for sustainably creating high-value content.

Dr. Pete Meyers is a marketing scientist for Moz, where he works with the marketing and data science teams on product research and data-driven content. He has spent the past year building research tools to monitor Google, including the  MozCast Project, and he curates the Google Algorithm History, a chronicle of Google updates back to 2003.

Stacey Cavanagh

10:00-10:30am Scaling Creativity: Making Content Marketing More Efficient with Stacey Cavanagh
Stacey will talk you through tactics and tricks to help you scale your content marketing efforts without cutting corners on quality.

Stacey Cavanagh lives in Manchester, UK, and works as head of search for  Tecmark. Stacey also blogs regularly on digital marketing, social media, and her favorite TV ads.

10:30-10:50am AM Break

10:50-12:10pm Community Speakers!
While not finalized, community speakers are one of our most popular sessions. Four speakers from our community will give 15 minute presentations on what they’re passionate about. This year, Moz’s Director of Community, Jen Lopez, will be introducing them. 

12:10pm-1:40pm Lunch

Marshall Simmonds

1:40-2:20pm Keep the Focus on the Doughnuts with Marshall Simmonds
If you’re in a time and resource crunch, Marshall will share which tactics you should implement and prioritize, from the basic to the highly technical, based on measured and quantified data from billions of page views.

Marshall Simmonds has been involved in the search industry since it began. Over the past 17 years, he’s solidified himself as one of the top consultants in publishing and enterprise audience development. Many of the tactics you continue to employ today as best practices were either developed or refined by this guy; he’s “Internet Old.”

Jeremy Bloom

2:20pm-2:50pm Dare to Fail: How the Best Lessons Come in the Form of Defeat with Jeremy Bloom
Everyone experiences failure, but Jeremy will share the lessons he’s learned from an athlete to start-up CEO in how to leverage adversity and turn it into a road-map for success.

Jeremy Bloom is a world-champion skier, a two-time Olympian, a World Cup gold medalist, and a member of the United States Skiing Hall of Fame. He played professional football in the NFL for the Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers. In 2008, Bloom founded Wish of a Lifetime, which grants lifelong wishes to 80-, 90-, and 100+-year-old people, and in 2010, Bloom co-founded the marketing software company  Integrate. Integrate has raised over $20M of venture capital from Comcast, Foundry Group, and Liberty Global. It was named “Best New Company” at the 2011 American Business Awards in New York.

Justin Cutroni

2:50-3:30pm Supercharging Your Digital Analytics! with Justin Cutroni
Despite having lots of analytics tools, we too often settle for the default data and reports so let’s look at a few ways that you can get more insightful, actionable data to make better decisions!

Justin Cutroni is an author, blogger, father, skier, and the Analytics Evangelist at  Google. He is a long-time fixture in the digital analytics community and has been nominated as the most influential industry contributor for the past four years.

3:30-3:50pm PM Break

Amber Naslund

3:50-4:20pm Developing a Formidable Social Platform with Amber Naslund
Learn what makes for a compelling online presence, balance your personal and professional self, and build a system to keep yourself sane. 

Amber Naslund is a business strategist and the president of  SideraWorks, a social business advisory firm that helps companies adapt their culture and operations to the demands of the social web. She’s the co-author of The Now Revolution, and you can find her on Twitter at @ambercadabra.

Elizabeth Marsten

4:20-4:50pm Shop ’til You Drop: Google Shopping PPC with Elizabeth Marsten
If you’re wondering what happened to Google Shopping, Elizabeth will explain all, including how to set up PPC the right way and why it matters for your overall marketing.

Elizabeth Marsten is the Vice President of Search Marketing at  Portent, Inc. here in Seattle. She is a PPC person at heart, but also oversees the SEO, Social, Content, and Project Management teams.

Phil Nottingham

4:50-5:30pm YouTube: The Most Important Search Engine You Haven’t Optimized For with Phil Nottingham
Phil will take a deep-dive into YouTube, the world’s second biggest and most forgotten search engine, looking at the best ways to use the channel on both a strategic and tactical marketing level, no matter your budget.

Phil Nottingham is the video strategist at  Distilled, where he works with businesses of all shapes and sizes to define their approach to video on both a creative and technical level. He joined Distilled in April 2011, after impressing the company founders with his ability to look like a serviceable pirate, following minimal costume changes, and has since spent loads of their money on cameras and lights.

7:00pm-12:00am MozCon Party at Garage Billiards (MozCon badge required!)


8:20-9:20am Breakfast

Wil Reynolds

9:20-10:20am You Are so Much More than an SEO with Wil Reynolds
The label’s irrelevant as you have skills, tools, and knowledge to help get rankings and so much more, and Wil will show you the marketing goldmine you’ve been sitting on.

Wil Reynolds founded  SEER Interactive in 2002, which now employs over 70 people and is among the 100 fastest growing companies in Philadelphia. In addition to digital marketing, Wil is also passionate about giving back to the community and sits on the advisory board of Covenant House.

Paddy Moogan

10:20-10:50am Beyond SEO – Tactics for Delivering an Integrated Marketing Campaign with Paddy Moogan
Everyone talks about the need for SEOs to diversify, but Paddy will give you actionable tips to go away and do it, no matter what your current role is.

Paddy Moogan is Head of Growth Markets at  Distilled, working in their London office. He is a comic book geek and loves Aston Martins. His heart lives with the Hobbits in New Zealand.

10:50-11:10am AM Break

Sarah Bird and John Cook

11:10-11:40am A Mozzy View with Sarah Bird and John Cook
Moz CEO Sarah Bird sits down with GeekWire’s John Cook for a candid discussion about risk-taking, thriving with constant change, and the future of Moz.

Sarah Bird serves as CEO and as a member of Moz’s board. She loves and welcomes conversations on inbound marketing, business models, entrepreneurship, productivity tips, women in tech, and fostering inspiring company culture. Sarah’s sharp business acumen is always paired with her passionate belief in TAGFEE, Moz’s core values.

John Cook is the co-founder of  GeekWire, a leading technology news site and community based in Seattle. A long-time tech journalist, John has covered hundreds of startup companies over the years, everything from aQuantive to Zillow.

Richard Baxter

11:40am-12:20pm Developing Your Own Great Interactive Content – What You’ll Need to Know with Richard Baxter
Even if you’re not a technical genius when it comes to interactive front-end web development projects, Richard will show you how to make something the Internet loves from ideation and conceptualization to rapid prototyping, launch, and huge coverage.

Richard Baxter is founder and CEO of  SEOgadget, a digital marketing agency specializing in conversion rate optimization, large scale SEO, keyword research, technical strategy, and link building in high competition industries, with offices in London and San Francisco. He is a regular SEO industry commentator and proud Moz Associate.

12:20-1:50pm Lunch

Annie Cushing

1:50-2:30pm Demystifying Data Visualization for Marketers with Annie Cushing
We’ve all been frustrated with not knowing how to corral data into cool, sexy visualizations, but Annie Cushing will pull back the curtain and provide tips, tricks, and hacks to transform raw marketing data into works of art in plain English.

Annie blogs at, teaching marketers how to scavenge for marketing data and then make it sexy.

Dana DiTomaso

2:30-3:10pm Prove Your Value with Dana DiTomaso
Dana will show you how to report so there’s no doubt in your client’s mind that they’d be lost without you.

Whether at a conference, on the radio, or in a meeting, Dana DiTomaso likes to impart wisdom to help you turn a lot of marketing BS into real strategies to grow your business. After 10+ years, she’s seen (almost) everything. It’s true, Dana will meet with you and teach you the ways of the digital world, but she is also a fan of the random fact.  Kick Point often celebrates “Watershed Wednesday” because of Dana’s diverse work and education background. In her spare time, Dana drinks tea and yells at the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

3:10-3:30pm PM Break

Nathalie Nahai

3:30-4:10pm The Psychology of Persuasive Content for “Boring” Industries with Nathalie Nahai
If your content needs a jolt of life, Nathalie will show you how to apply targeted persuasion through psychology.

Nathalie Nahai, also known as  The Web Psychologist, is a best-selling author, consultant, and international speaker who specializes on the psychology of online persuasion. With a background in psychology, web design, and digital strategy, Nathalie coined the term “web psychology” in 2011, defining it as “the empirical study of how our online environments influence our attitudes and behaviours.”

Rand Fishkin

4:10-5:10pm Mad Science Experiments in SEO & Social Media with Rand Fishkin
Whether it’s anchor text or sharing on Google+ instead of Facebook, Rand’s spent the last few months formulating hypotheses and running tests, and now he’ll share these fascinating results to help you.

Rand Fishkin is the founder of Moz, and he currently serves as an individual contributor, blogging, speaking, designing tools, and generally trying to be helpful to marketers worldwide.

Now, are you ready to buy your ticket? :) We’ll see you there!

Get Your MozCon Tickets

Dr. Pete, Aleyda, and Gianluca

Penguin Penalties: Do Webmasters Respond the Way They Should?

The author’s posts are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.

Penalization has become a regular part of the search engine optimization experience. Hell, it has changed the entire business model of Virante to building tools and services around penalty recovery and not just optimization. While penalties used to be a crude badge of honor worn by those leaning towards the black-hat side of the SEO arts, it is now a regular occurrence that seems to impact those with the best intentions. At Virante, we have learned a lot about penalties over the last few years—discerning between manual and algorithmic, Panda and Penguin, recovery methodologies and risk mitigation—but not much study has been done on the general response of websites to penalizations. We have focused more on what webmasters ought to do without studying what webmasters actually do in response to various penalties.

How webmasters respond matters

As much as we often feel a communion among other SEOs in our resistance to Google, the reality is that we are engaged in a competitive industry where we fight for customers in a very direct manner. This duality of competition—with Google and with each other—plays out in a very unique way when Google penalizes a competitor. We learn a great deal in the following months about the competition, such as the sophistication of their team (how quickly they respond, how many links they remove, how quickly they recover), their financial strength (do they increase ad spend, how much and on what terms), and whether they eventually recover.

It is also important from a wider perspective of understanding Google’s justifications for particular types of penalties that seem sweeping and inconsistent. Conspiracy theories abound regarding Penguin updates; I can’t count how many times I have heard someone say that penalties are placed to encourage webmasters to switch to AdWords.

So, I decided to investigate the behavior of webmasters post-Penguin from a macro perspective to determine what kinds of responses we are likely to see, and perhaps even answer some questions about Google’s motivations in the process.

The methodology

  1. Collect examples: I collected a list of 100 domains that were penalized by Penguin 2.0 last year and confirmed their penalization through SEMRush.
  2. Establish controls: For each penalized site, I identified one website that ranked in the top 10 for their primary keyword that was not penalized.
  3. Get rankings and AdWords data: For each site (both penalized and control), we grabbed their historical rankings and AdWords spend from SEMRush for the months leading up to and following Penguin 2.0
  4. Get historical link data: For each site (both penalized and control), we grabbed their historical link data from Majsetic SEO for the months leading up to and following Penguin 2.0.
  5. Analyze results: Using simple regression models, we identified patterns among penalized sites that differed significantly from the control sites.

Do webmasters remove bad links?

After a Penguin 2.0 update, it is imperative to identify and remove bad links or, at minimum, disavow them. While we can’t measure disavow data, we can measure link acquisition data quite easily. So, do webmasters in general follow the expectations of link removal following a penalty?

Aggressive link removal: It appears that aggressive link removal is a common response to Penguin, as expected. However, we have to be careful with the statistics to make sure we correctly examine the degree and frequency with which link removal is employed. The control group on average increased their root linking domains by 41 following Penguin 2.0, but that could best be explained by a few larger sites increasing their links. When looking at an average of link proportions, only about 22% of the control sites actually saw an increase in links in the three months post-Penguin. The sites that were penalized saw a drop of 578 root linking domains. However, once again, this statistic is impacted by the link graph size of the individual penalized sites. 15% of those penalized still saw an increase in links in the three months following Penguin.

So, approximately 22% of domains not impacted by Penguin 2.0 had more root linking domains three months after the penalty, while only 15% of those penalized had more root linking domains post-Penguin. Notice how small the discrepancy is here. Webmasters responded differently only by 7% depending on whether or not they were penalized. While certainly those penalized removed more links, the practice of link building in general was very similarly affected. In the three months following Penguin, 78% of the control websites either dropped links or at least stopped link building and lost them through attribution. This is remarkable. There appears to be a deadening effect related to Penguin that impacts all sites—not just those that are penalized. While many of us expected Penguin to have a profound impact on link growth as webmasters respond to fears of future penalties, it is still amazing to see it borne out in the numbers.

Deadening Link Growth

What I find more interesting is the variation in webmaster responses to Penguin 2.0. Some penalized webmasters actually doubled down on link building, likely attributing their rankings loss to having too few links, rather than being penalized. We can tease this type of behavior out of the numbers by looking at the variances in percentage link change over time.

The variance among link fluctuations for sites that were not penalized was .08, but the variance among sites that were penalized was .38. This means that the behavior of websites after being penalized was far more erratic than those that were not. Some penalized sites made the poor decisions to greatly increase their links, although more sites made the decision to greatly decrease their links. If all webmasters responded uniformly to penalties, one would not expect to see such an increase in variance.

As SEOs, we clearly have our work cut out for ourselves in teaching webmasters that the appropriate response to a penalty is very much NOT adding more and more links to your profile, because this behavior is actually more common than link removal post-penalty. It is worth pointing out that it is possible that the webmasters disavowed links rather than removing them. We do not have access to that data, so we cannot be certain regarding that procedure. It is possible that some webmasters chose to disavow while others removed, and that the net impact on link value was identical, thus making the variance calculation false.

Do webmasters increase their ad spend?

I’ll admit, I had my fingers crossed on this one. Honestly, who doesn’t want to show that Google is just penalizing webmasters because it helps their bottom line? Wouldn’t it be great to catch the search quality team not being honest with us about their fiduciary independence?

Well, unfortunately it just doesn’t bear out. The evidence is fairly clear that there is no reason to believe that webmasters increase ad-spend following a Penguin 2.0 penalty. Let’s look at the numbers.

Ad Traffic Increase

First, across our data set, no one who was an advertiser prior to Penguin 2.0 stopped advertising in AdWords in the three months after. Of the sites that were not advertisers prior to Penguin 2.0, 10% of those not penalized ended up becoming advertisers in AdWords, while only 4% of those penalized became advertisers. Sites that weren’t penalized were far more likely to join the AdWords program than those that were.

It wasn’t only true that those unaffected by Penguin 2.0 were more likely to sign up for AdWords; they increased their average Ad-spend, too. There was a 78% greater increase in ad-spend by those unaffected by Penguin 2.0 than those who were. Moreover, bidding shifts for those not impacted by Penguin remained similar in two month intervals across multiple randomly selected three-month differences, meaning that there appeared to be no related impact whatsoever.

We can safely conclude from this that there does not appear to be a direct, causal relationship between Penguin penalties and increased AdWords spending. Now, one could of course make the argument that better search results might increase ad revenue in the future as Google attracts more users to a better search engine, but accusations of a fiduciary motivation for releasing updates like Penguin 2.0 cannot be substantiated with this data.

Do they recover?

By the 5th month, approximately 24% of sites that were penalized were at or above their pre-Penguin 2.0 traffic. This is an exciting outcome because it does show recovery from Penguin is possible. Perhaps most important, sites that were penalized and removed links on average recovered 28% more traffic in the five months after Penguin than those that did not remove links. We have good evidence to suggest at least a correlation between post-penalty link removal and traffic recovery. Of course, we do have to take this with a grain of salt for a number of reasons:

  • Sites that removed links may have been more likely to use the disavow tool as well.
  • Sites that removed links may have been more SEO-savvy in general and fixed on-site issues.
  • Sites that did not remove links may have had more intractable penalties, thus their lack of removal was a conscious decision related to the futility of a removal campaign.

These types of alternate explanations should always be entertained when using correlative statistics. What we do have good evidence of is that traffic recovery is possible for sites hit by Penguin, although it is by no means guaranteed or universal. Penguin 2.0 needn’t be a death sentence.


So, in a few weeks, we are likely to see another Penguin update, assuming Google follows its late-spring release date. When Penguin hits, be ready—even if you aren’t going to be penalized. Here are some things you should be doing…

  1. Know your bad links already. There is no reason to wait to be prepared for removal or disavowal. While I personally think that preemptive disavowal is likely the best practice, there is no excuse to just wait.
  2. Don’t worry about AdWords. There is no statistical evidence that your competition will surge post-Penguin in any meaningful fashion. The competitors who might come to depend move on AdWords also have less organic revenue to invest in the first place. At best, these even out.
  3. Don’t double down. While we can’t be certain that link removal gets you out of penalties (it is merely correlated), we can be certain that even a correlation doesn’t exist for increasing links and earning recovery post-Penguin penalties.
  4. Never assume. The behavior of your competitors and of Google itself is far more complex than off-the-cuff assumptions like “Google just penalizes sites to force people into AdWords” or that your business will know intuitively to remove or disavow links post-Penguin.

Hopefully, this time around we will all be more prepared for the appropriate response to Google’s next big update—whether we are hit or not.

About russvirante — I am the CTO of Virante, Inc. I am married to Morgan, who is frickin awesome, and I have two daughters Claren and Aven who are also frickin awesome. We live happily in Durham, NC. Virante, Inc. is a full service Search, Social and Analytics Consulting Company.

Starting Over, Part 2: Launch

This post is a part of the “Starting Over” series, the story of starting a blog ( from scratch. See the end of the post for links to the rest of the series.

Launching a new site is exciting, and it should be, but we sometimes let excitement get the best of us. After months of building and planning, it’s understandable to want to finally pull the trigger, but launch is important and rushing it can delay real success. This is the story of how I got Minimal Talent off the ground.

Goods news and bad news

Online marketing has evolved a lot in the past decade, and changes to search and social have brought good news and bad news for webmasters. First, the good news – it’s relatively easy to get a new site indexed in 2014, and even ranking for long-tail terms. You don’t have to wait for Google to discover you or pay a search submission service (remember those?). Unfortunately, the bad news is that ranking on real, competitive terms has gotten harder, and it takes longer. Why am I telling you this up front? You need to have realistic expectations, or launch will be an unpleasant and ultimately unproductive experience.

Alerting the bots

You can’t win if you don’t play – if you want to eventually rank in search, you need to get indexed. In part 1, we set up Google Webmaster Tools and created an XML sitemap, which can be great for discovery. Next up is to submit your site.

Yes, submissions services may be [mostly] [hopefully] dead, but Google does allow direct submission of new pages. Go to Webmaster Tools, select the “Crawl” menu and click on “Fetch as Google” – you’ll see something like this:

To submit your home-page, just leave the field blank and click [FETCH]. Your URL should show up at the bottom, and your “Fetch Status” should soon return “Success”. Once it does, just click [Submit to index]. There is a limit to how many pages you can fetch, but typically I only use this to launch a site or refresh a page that is outdated or isn’t getting re-cached.

Within minutes, I was showing up for a “site:” search (, with seven pages indexed (which was about right):

I promised this series would be transparent, so I have to admit that I messed up a little here. Apparently, Google had managed to crawl the site prior to my official launch, and had actually cached it a few days earlier (checked with

For me, this was no big deal, but it bears warning that, if you don’t want your site to be out in the world prematurely, you may have to take steps to keep Google from crawling. Google has a way of finding new sites, which can be good and bad, depending on your plans.

Later on launch day, I was also ranking for my tagline (“Misadventures in Minimalism”), on page 1 in the #2 position:

I’d highly encourage you to track a few non-competitive, long-tail phrases (and, if you’re a Moz customer, set them up in Moz Analytics). They may not seem sexy, but you’ll see progress much sooner than with competitive phrases. It’s important to know that your site at least has the ability to rank, in order to detect any issues early.

Link chickens & Search eggs

Which came first, the link chicken or the search egg? Ok, let me try again. If you want to rank, you’re going to need links, but you can’t get natural links if no one can find you to begin with. This is the fundamental problem of modern search marketing.

Yes, you can manually build links (and there’s a place for that, done well and in moderation). Sometimes, though, we get so hung up on the mechanics of SEO that we forget that there are plenty of other channels to get the word out.

Alerting the humans

In other words, it’s time to tell people you launched. I’m not one to broadcast every post I write to my friends, family, and tax guy, but launch is different – if you’ve created something you’re excited about, then tell people. Who did I email?

  • Friends (IRL)
  • Industry peers
  • Co-workers
  • Private mailing lists

In most cases, the email was customized to the list and even the individual. These things are worth the effort. As a marketer, emailing my peers isn’t just about a few pageviews – it’s a way to seed social sharing and potentially even drive links.

The other way around the chicken-and-egg problem is taking full advantage of social. We tend to obsess about whether or not social signals (Tweets, Likes, +1s) have a direct impact on ranking, and when we do that we miss two important points. First, sharing equals visibility, regardless of what happens on Google. Second, sharing can drive links, and better yet, those links are editorial, or as we call them, “natural”.

I shared the initial site and blog post on my main Twitter, Google+, and Facebook accounts. Since this project naturally has a visual aspect (the parody logos), it was well suited to Google+ and Facebook sharing, which tend to benefit from strong visuals.

I’ve wanted to put some time into Pinterest, so I set up a new folder just for the blog in my existing account, re-organized that account a bit, and then pinned some of the logos from the first post. Again, this project is visual, so Pinterest was a good fit.

My social screw-up

Ironically, I did on Pinterest what I tell everyone not to do on social media. I went to an account I rarely use and just started posting my own content. Since I’m not active, and I’m not sharing anyone else’s content most days, guess what happened? That’s right – absolutely nothing. A social media account is not a dumping ground for your crap. I failed to participate, and it’s going to take time to make up that lost ground. Luckily, I’m more active on other networks, but give-and-take matters quite a bit.

You may be thinking that, because I have a strong existing network, success with a new project on social is guaranteed. I wish it were that easy. A year or so ago, I launched a personal project that soundly flopped. Part of that was in my execution and commitment, but part of it was that the topic was a bit far afield for my existing audience. One of my goals with Minimal Talent was to find a topic that could tie minimalist design into something my existing audience was already interested in – in this case, branding. Be aware how your audiences overlap (or don’t).

Monitoring results

It can be hard to wait for results to come in, and patience is not one of my virtues. Luckily, Google gave us real-time analytics. While watching your numbers in real-time is an exercise in vanity most days, it can be very useful on launch day and during other big events. Are your social shares resonating? Which networks (if you stagger them in time) were most effective? Is it worth re-sharing on any particular network? Your real-time numbers can help make these calls.

I’m happy to say that I could actually see the needle move on launch day:

Fourteen active visitors isn’t going to make me rich, but it was definitely a start. At least I could tell that my social shares were leading to actual visits.

As the days went by, traffic from my launch and first post showed a pretty normal pattern:

Opening day was solid, with 383 visits, there was a tiny bump a couple of days later, and then little or nothing (the bigger bump on the right is the second post and sharing). This is the reality of most launches – sustainable traffic comes later. For now, you’re fighting for traffic post by post. If you expect launch day to be a benchmark of your day-to-day activity, you’ll be in for a very rude awakening.

I especially liked Moz Analytics overview of my first week’s traffic:


Finally, I set up Fresh Web Explorer (available to Moz Pro subscribers) – FWE lets you track fresh mentions of your site and keywords. Unfortunately, my brand “Minimal Talent” contains common words, and can trigger false alarms, but FWE also lets you track things like root domains. Here’s how I set that up:

You can use the “rd:” operator to find new links to a root domain. On the main FWE screen, just click “Show search operators” to see a full list of options.

It felt good to be finally off the ground, and now I had the tools to start measuring my progress. Next time – how I handled initial SEO problems I discovered and finally started ranking for more interesting terms.

Read the full series

Use the links below to explore the entire “Starting Over” series: