Google Announces the End of Author Photos in Search: What You Should Know

Google gives, and Google takes away.Even so, it came as a surprise when John Mueller announced Google will soon drop authorship photos from most search results.
This one hits particularly hard, as I’m known as the guy who
optimized his Google author photo. Along with many other SEOs, I constantly advise webmasters to connect their content writers with Google authorship. Up until now, would-be authors clamored to verify authorship, both for the potential of increased click-through rates, and also for greater brand visibility by introducing real people into search results.How are author photos changing?
The announcement means author photos in most Google search results are going away. John Mueller indicated the change will roll out globally over the next few days.
Up until now, if you
verified your authorship through Google+, and Google choose to display it, you might have seen your author photo displayed in Google search results. This included both your author photo and your Google circle count.
Going forward, Google plans to only display the author’s name in the search snippet, dropping the photo and the circle count.

Google News adds a different twist. 
In this case, Google’s plans show them adding a small author photo next to Google News snippets, in addition to a larger news photo snippet. 
At this time, we’re not sure how authorship in Google News will display in mobile results.Why did Google drop author photos?
In his announcement, John Mueller said they were working to clean up the visual design of search results, and also to create a “better mobile experience and a more consistent design across devices.”
This makes sense in the way Google has
embraced mobile-first design. Those photos take up a lot of real estate on small screens. 
On the other hand, it also leaves many webmasters scratching their heads as most seemed to enjoy the author photos and most of the web is moving towards a more visual experience.
John Mueller indicated that testing shows that “click-through behavior” with the new results
is about the same, but we don’t know exactly what that means. One of the reasons authors like the photos in search results was the belief that a good photo could result in more clicks (although this was never a certainty). 
Will the new SERPs result in the same amount of clicks for authorship results? For now, it’s hard to say.
Critics argue that the one thing that will actually become more visible as a result of this change will be Google’s ads at the top and sides of the page.What isn’t changing?
Despite this very drastic visual change in Google search results, several things
are not changing:
1. Authorship is still here
As Mark Traphagen eloquently
pointed out on Google+, the loss of photos does not mean Google authorship itself is going anywhere. 

“Google Authorship continues. Qualifying authors will still get a byline on search results, so Google hasn’t abandoned it.”
2. Authors’ names still appear in search results
In the new system, authors still get their name displayed in search results, which presumably clicks through to their Google+ profile. Will this be enough to sway searchers into clicking a link? Time will tell.3. Your rankings don’t changeAuthorship does not influence rankings for most search results. (exceptions for certain results like In-depth articles) Sometimes the photo led to more clicks for some people, but the new change should not alter the order of results.
4. You must still verify authorship for enhanced snippets
Google isn’t changing the guidelines for establishing authorship. This can be accomplished either through email verification or linking your content to your Google+ profile, and adding a link back to your website from your Google+ contributor section.Tracking your authorship CTRIf you have authorship set up, you can easily track changes to your click-through rate using Google Webmaster Tools. Navigate to Labs > Author Stats to see how many time your author information has appeared in search results, along with total number of clicks and average position.In the example above, search results associated with my authorship receive around 50,000 impressions a day, with an average of 1831 clicks, for an overall CTR of 3.6%. If you track your CTR immediately before and after the Google authorship change (by adjusting the dates in Webmaster Tools) you might notice any changes caused by the shakeup.Keep in mind that CTR is highly determined by rank, or average position. Small fluctuations in rank can mean a large difference in the number of clicks each URL receives. Is Google Authorship still worth it?
For many, scoring photos in search results was the only incentive people had to verify authorship. Whether or not it increased click-through rates, it was an ego boost, and it was great to show clients. With the photos gone, it’s likely fewer people will work to get verified.
Even with the photos gone, there is still ample reason to verify authorship, and I highly recommend you continue to do so. Even though a byline is much less visible than a photo, across the hundreds or thousands of search impressions you receive each day, those bylines can make a measurable difference in your traffic, and may improve your online visibility.
Google continues to work on promoting authoritative authors in search results, and authorship is one of the better ways for Google to establish “identity” on the web. Google continues to make statements explaining how important identity in content is, as explained by Matt Cutts both publicly and in this rarely seen interview. Facing the futureIf Google begins to incorporate more “Author Rank” signals into its search algorithm, establishing yourself as a trusted authority now could pay off big down the road. Disappearing author photos today may someday be replaced by actual higher rankings for credible authors, but there are no guarantees. At this point, it’s hard to say exactly where the future of authorship lies, especially given the unknown future of Google+ itself. Personally, I will be sad to see author photos disappear. Let’s hope for something better down the road.

Screen Size Matters: Adapting Content Strategy for Multiple Devices

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.

The way we consume content is changing at a faster pace than at any time in history.
While the shift from print to digital was seismic from a structural perspective, things have not stopped moving ever since.
The growth of mobile, and now tablet use, is
altering the landscape once again and adding a layer of complexity that businesses have never had to deal with before.
Marketers have been talking about a “mobile-first” future for some time now and while I believe that is the wrong way to look at it, there is little arguing against the stats.
Earlier this year, Facebook unveiled blockbuster ad figures that left even the most ardent fans surprised. Revenues of $2.5 billion for the Jan-March quarter were made up, for the first time, by majority mobile-based advertising money in a clear sign of our changing media consumption habits.
It has also made the job of creating a great content strategy that much more complex, and “cracking it” requires a structured approach that begins with an understanding of the way in which we interact with our everyday devices.Multi-screen usage
Getting to grips with what content to place where and when is the key aspect of the strategy construction process.
One of the best sources of data to inform that is a Google study from 2012, which you can
view in full here. In it we learn that there is a clear user journey across devices and at different times of the day.
To create a truly data-informed picture, however, we need information on variables such as:What device is used, and when, in the day The order of devices in the classic purchase funnel Which devices we use to access key content platforms How long we spend on each device and what we look at on them.
With this knowledge it then makes it much easier to map out the right content.Creating the Variation
Understanding what people are looking for when using these various devices will help you write, package, and distribute your content across different channels.
Critically, it will also ensure you have the key ingredient in any content strategy:
A varied approach to content creation will not only ensure you entertain and inform your audience in the right way across multiple devices, but you also improve the level at which you retain existing audience and get them coming back for more.Device use: Timing
The way we interact with the content we consume changes throughout the day.

The chart below, from Google’s study, breaks this down simply, explaining that our morning habits push us towards mobile content first thing in the morning, at lunchtimes, and on the way home from work.
We will then spend evenings browsing tablets and working “Simultaneously” (more on this later) with a second screen as we research purchases and spend from the comfort of our living rooms.

The study also makes clear that if you’re an ecommerce brand, the tablet is increasingly becoming your number one device in conversion terms, which highlights the need for great responsive site design and content that is easily consumed on such screens.
Great examples of businesses doing this well include, a cool snowboard retailer, and United Pixelworkers, which manage to combine great animation with multi-device friendly UX.The person, NOT the device
While it is clearly critical to get the experience right for each device, the most important element is actually removing the constraints created by this kind of strategy and centering it on the customer once again.
The mobile internet has given the control back to the reader, or customer, and the way they consume content is on their terms.
And with that power back in the hands of those who are buying, as opposed to selling, your content has to
be available when and where necessary to be effective. 
If your customer cannot access it wherever they are, they will simply find somewhere else to go, and that is highly likely to be a competitor.
Start with the user: personas
To ensure you focus your strategy correctly then you need to start with your client or customer and his means starting with clearly defining a set of content personas.
This is good practice for the wider marketing plan and begins with analysis and segmentation of existing customer data. Outside of that you can begin looking at social data (and a step-by-step guide to doing that can be
found in this ebook).
I also spoke recently on the importance of personas in content creation and you can get more background on that process
in this post, while Mike King also wrote this indispensible guide to understanding and segmenting your audience here on Moz a few months ago, and that should not be missed as part of this process.
In it there are examples of what you are trying to achieve through this process; a data-informed view on the 1-4 different groups of customers you have.
By being clear on the key details about those you wish to target with content, you can ensure the
ideas you create match the needs of the target audience, therefore putting them at the very centre of the process. An example of what this may look like is found below:
Plan for behaviour, not technology
Once you have a clear view of who it is you are targeting, the next piece of the jigsaw is to understand when and where they interact with which particular devices in their daily lives. This data can, and should, be included in the picture you paint for each persona.
General market data can certainly help with this, and what we do know, from key research on the subject, is that we generally use mobile devices at the beginning and end of the day:

When looking at what we then do during those times we can see here, courtesy of a
recent study on mobile usage by Salesforce, that a lot of that time is consumed by social media use:

Let’s look in a little more detail now at the types of content that work, by device breakdown.Device use: Content
The type of content we consume on each device varies widely and requires a systematic approach to content production to service well. For instance, you’ll
want to take into account how much time you actually have to grab and hold a readers’ attention.
Let’s take a look at how that breaks down below.Desktop: Keep us productive and informed
Desktop consumption is one of the easiest to cater for, as it is the device we are most used to using and the one that has had the most time for brands to gain experience on.
All content forms work here, but longer form articles really come into their own, as do more interactive experiences.
This is also where you may wish to present richer, interactive content that makes the best use of browser capabilities and larger screen experiences. For example, a particularly rich and interactive product demonstration could be made available for desktop users or an extremely streamlined product catalog could be provided for mobile users who need to make quick comparisons while on the go.Mobile: Keep us connected
Mobile use peaks at key commuting times and traffic is more focused on small chunk browsing. We utilize our time here looking to catch up on news and social. That said, increasingly we are also using the device to make critical purchases. Only this month figures revealed that a third of all global travel transactions are made on mobile.
And while travel is clearly a sector that will always have high penetration, here it’s a telling statistic and a sign of what is to come.
This is where, however, mobile traffic will come in via social posts and so having a responsive site is still critically important. Making it easy for users to float between blog posts and the rest of the site will improve dwell time and content consumption.
The best content for this is bite-sized, easily digestible list based features, image-led posts or news.
It is critical, of course, to ensure the responsive experience is good here and navigation supports touch screen protocols, such as swiping for the next article and includes easy-to-use social sharing functionality.
Instructional content works well here and recipe sites are one of the best examples of how to do this well. A current favourite of mine is the
Jamie Oliver site. The use of tabs makes it very easy to switch between ingredients and step-by-steps while thought has also been given to how easy that process is with fingers coated in flour!Tablet: Keep us entertained
While this segment didn’t even exist a couple of years ago it is now a critical part of our everyday lives.
We rely on them for evening and weekend entertainment and because of that we also find ourselves, increasingly, doing lots of research on the device.
It therefore forms a key part of the buying process and is a focus device for those looking to sell something.
We also tend to leave more reviews via tablets than we do other devices, and so ensuring your review platform or experience is responsive is very important.Device use: Conversion
When planning your content, think about when your consumers might be most ‘open’ to the various types of content you’re delivering and, critically, to the call to action it leads to.
We move between those devices in two main ways:
> Sequentially (moving from one device to another in sequence)
> Simultaneously (using multiple devices at the same time)
With many people starting a search in one place and finishing the activity on another device, it means that your message, design, and overall content experience should be as seamless and consistent as possible.
And given that we do jump around, having the ability to save something for later is also key. In other words, make it easy for people to get back to the same URL, irrespective of which device they are on and that means making sure menu structure is responsive and easy to use.Structured variation
We know that different devices elicit different behaviours and that our content should still focus on the user but how do you go about planning that in the real world? The answer lies in adding a level of structure to your content plan that allows you to see if you are ticking all the boxes, or not.
That process starts, as most strategic plans should, with questions and when designing the content plan you should always answer the following:Do I have content to suit each of the personas that make up our customer base? Have we thought of ideas for every content type relevant to our audience and brand (e.g. ebooks, infographics, articles)? Do we have ideas that will suit mobile, tablet, and desktop needs? Have we got a plan for the long tail based on what people are searching for? Do we know what evergreen content we need and how often we will revisit and improve it? Is our educational content designed for all Learning Types (e.g. kinetic, auditory, etc.)? Does your content and story translate to other platforms? For example, games, with good content or stories, can deliver more engagement.
The answers to all of the above should be yes BEFORE you attempt to pull the plan together. If it isn’t, loop back around and ensure you brainstorm ideas to fill that gap.
The key, therefore, to ensuring you have the right mix of content is to take a structured approach to idea creation (a subject I have
written about in the past for Moz).
If you have such a system in place that covers devices, along with an understanding of what kind of content works best on those devices, then you are in a great place.
The next step is to organize a calendar that is both realistic and structured to produce the
right content flow. Getting it right will keep your audience both entertained and absorbed to improve engagement and return visits.Testing the strategy
The process for creating content strategy is actually quite straightforward. As with anything, however, to do something well requires experience and skill.
To ensure you have the right balance of content for multi-device consumption you must first audit your existing site.
To do this you need to be able to extract a list of relevant content from the site to an Excel document and categorize by the device that content would be primarily consumed on. You can do this easily by classifying each piece based on the basic rules we explained earlier in the post around what we most use mobile, tablet and desktop for.
In reality there is little point in gathering every single piece of content you have. The only content that really matters are those pieces being viewed on a monthly, or at least quarterly, basis. And where do you find those? Within Analytics.
The best way of doing this is as follows:Go to your Google Analytics account. Set the date range. This should be at least six months but preferably longer. Go from Dashboard > Behaviour > Site Content > Landing Pages
The next stage is to add a Secondary Dimension. You do this by selecting the dimension dropdown, shown below, and finding Device Category within the Users segment.The next stage is selecting the number of landing pages you want to extract. The ‘right’ number here depends on the size of your site, but a good guide is to find the point at which there have been at least 10 visits to the page within the last six months. Use this as a cut-off point.Download that data in CSV or Excel by using the Export feature below.

Once you have a sense for what you do have it becomes very obvious where the focus should be in terms of devices. You can then simply front-load any ongoing creation strategy with those ideas to balance out the overall offering.
What is critical, however, is the ability to be able to then measure ongoing creation to ensure you get that balance right in the future, and to do that requires a little more work in Excel.
As you want to be creating content equally for all devices, you are looking for a constant flow of ideas, designed for each one. Testing this can be done in two ways; you can either create an editorial planner template that includes space specifically where you can record “by device” (and here’s one we made earlier for you!) or you can assign a number to each device and chart the ‘flow’ of content over time, a little like this:

To create this is a very simple process. I’m no Excel wizard and always prefer to make things as simple as possible as opposed to complicating without reason, and so here’s one way of doing it quickly:Assign a number to each device. For this example Mobile is “1,” Tablet is “2,” and Desktop “3.” Create a chart in Excel where the X-axis is “Time” (by week is best) and the Y-axis is numbered 1-3.Take your existing content strategy and replace titles or ideas with those numbers, so you end up with a list of dates and numbers, as you see from the screenshot above. Now simply turn this into a chart by highlighting the two columns of data and using the “Chart” option in Excel. Within this, select “line graph” and the program will then create the chart for you.
What you are looking for here is something that closely resembles a heart monitor with “peaks” and “troughs.” This is clearly a generalist view as your business may be much more focused on mobile, for instance, in which case you should have fewer spikes in a chart that may look like this:

By moving content around you will be able to create the perfect strategy for your brand and also ensure that you are not missing a key opportunity in the process.

Analyzing 11,555 Questions Asked by SEOs: The Moz Q&A Meta Study

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.

Sometimes we don’t need to travel to exotic linked data sources to discover treasure troves of precious information about our audience’s desires, aspirations, fears, and complaints.

Sometimes that treasure is just far as a phone call to the customer care department.

Sometimes it is just a click away in the Q&A and/or Forum section of our site.

And sometimes it’s just there, freely offered by our own competitors to everybody able to retrieve the correct information from them.Understanding what our audience is really talking about, what the specific language is that they use, and what their topics and themes are can be easier than we may first think.

Be aware that I don’t mean that extracting useful information about our audience is easy – that would be trivializing the audience targeting work – but I mean that nowadays, thanks to the social nature of the web, it is much easier finding valuable sources from where retrieving information than just ten years ago.

For this reason, as I already said in 
my previous post, I asked the editorial team at Moz to let me analyze one year of Moz Q&As, with the purpose of identifying what the community was most frequently talking and asking about, and what they discussed most often, and so trying to paint a better portrait of the community itself. Finally, I wanted to offer the Moz team insight that can help them offer a better experience to the users.

I don’t know if was able to understand the “100 most asked questions,” as Rand asked, but the method I used, and that any of you can refine, is the correct one for offering that kind of list.

The Method

The first thing I did was
extract from the Moz database the following information related to questions published in the Moz Q&A between May 1, 2013, and April 28, 2014:The ID number of the questions (this is extremely important, because the same question may be published to a maximum of five categories and because, yes!, there are questions that are 100% identical in their phrasing); The date each question was asked; The URL for each question; The question itself (labeled “Title”); The number of answers to each question; The number of thumbs up obtained by each question; The categories to which the questions were assigned
From the database extract, it was not possible to retrieve other very important information, such as:The number of views (I had to manually scrape this information, as I don’t have direct access to Moz’s Google Analytics); The Real category (I had to look those up manually and add them to my speadsheet)
You are probably asking, “What is the real category?”
In the case of the Moz Q&A, the “real categories” are those that include the actual categories. They are a upper taxonomy level, which is shown to the users when they are asking a question, but not when filtering the questions:

The “real categories” are necessary information, because they help organize the questions into very recognizable macro-topics.
In order to quickly and easily understand topics,
I decided to use Wordle to create word clouds. Wordle has the great option of letting you hide words that complicate your analysis, letting you focus on the relevant words.
Finally, to understand what the questions were that really mattered to the Moz community in the analyzed time-frame,
I followed these simple consecutive rules:Questions with more views matter more than questions with less views; Given the previous value, questions with more answers matter more than questions with less answers.
I didn’t take into account the number of thumbs up of the question as metric for the simple reason that very rarely is a question thumbed up. My decision would have been different if I was also taking into consideration the answers.
For a more refined analysis, then, I’d recommend also considering the number of “Good Answers” and the presence or absence of a “Staff Endorsement.”
What other tools did I use for conducting my analysis? None but Excel.Moz Q&A bird’s eye view
Between May 2013 and April 2014, 26,775 questions were published in Moz Q&A, but if we eliminate the duplicates from those that were published in more than one category, there were
11,555 unique questions published.
First problem: Which number should I consider in my analysis? The raw number of questions or the one including the duplicates? The answer was easy: the raw number.
The reason is that it is impossible to understand what a user was considering to be the “main category” when publishing their question in more than one category; therefore any choice I would have taken would be totally subjective and so void the analysis;
In certain cases, though, I preferred checking the de-duplicated list as well, in order to confirm my first impressions.What are the Q&A users talking about?

The word cloud is quite clear. The Moz community is:Obsessed with Google; Composed mainly of SEOs (SEOs, Site, Ranking, Link…); Asking primarily on-site questions; and Interested in content, but not as interested as it is in relation to SEO (as we will see later).
This is even clearer if we see how many questions have been asked during the 12 months I analyzed:

We can easily see how “The SEO Process,” which includes all the categories directly related to SEO in the Moz Q&A, stands far above all the others. 
If we hide the “The SEO Process” questions, we can better understand what the other macro-topics Moz users are interested in are:

Q&A is also the space where Moz users can publicly ask questions to the Help Team about the Moz Tools, and that specific nature of this category explains why “Moz Products” is the second most-popular topic in the Q&A.
Then, two different but equally important points emerge from this graphic:Despite the tireless efforts in evangelizing inbound marketing, the “Online Marketing” category, which includes all the inbound disciplines but SEO, is not really performing well in Q&A, as if the users (mostly SEOs) were still too worried about classic SEO issues; “Local Marketing,” a category that was only created in January 2014, has quickly reached an interesting volume of questions. This could be telling us that Moz did well creating Moz Local, because local search marketers are an important percentage of the Moz users.
Be aware, then, that the decrease in the number of questions we see in the charts is not due to a diminished interest about SEO by the users, but—as described in my previous post—to the design of the site in comparison to the old one.Digging into the dataThe SEO Process

The SEO Process category comprises seven subcategories.
On-Page / Site Optimization (3,967 questions) and Technical SEO Issues (4,118 questions) are almost tied in the first position, which is clearly indicating to us how
classic SEO still is the most important source of doubts for the Moz community.
A reason for the success of these categories, confirmed by the third position of Intermediate & Advanced SEO, could also be the increased difficulty of technical SEO, which has a steep learning curve—especially for the new generation of SEOs coming from the marketing/communication fields and not engineering/computer science.
Content & Blogging, which could be considered the “content marketing” side of the SEO Process, is only fifth, after the supposedly dead Link Building.
The Vertical SEO and Keyword Research categories are the last ones, and while we can consider Keyword Research somehow as a smaller topical niche by comparison to much wider ones like Technical SEO, it’s quite surprising to see how questions about vertical searches (news, videos, images) are not so common. Sure, Local Search, which was the most important vertical, now has its own macro-category (Local Marketing), but nevertheless I was quite surprised.

In this Wordle related to The SEO Process category, I omitted the word Google, because it was dwarfing all the others in the word cloud, making the analysis difficult.
Looking at the word cloud, it is almost obvious that Moz users are especially concerned with these topics:Duplicate Content Duplicate Pages Duplicate Site/Website Links/Backlinks
If we associate the topics, we can understand that
two big fears are constant:
Panda (which, curiously, is not called out explicitly in the questions); Penguin.
User are coming to the Moz Q&A in order to find help for their penalized sites
(drop, dropped, penalty, disavow, problem, manual…) or because they have understood their site is at high risk of penalization, or because they really have to make explicit its indignation.Link Building
I want to start with the Link Building subcategory because it is a very good example of what I’ve just said above.

I removed the words “Link” and “Links” for better visibility of all the other words.
It’s interesting seeing how the questions tend to be about 
penalty issues (Penguin, Penalty, Ranking, Disavow, Unnatural, Spam, Anchor…), about outdated tactics (Press Releases, Directories…) or risky ones (i.e. buying old domains with strong link profiles) and substantially blaming Google for letting other sites (especially competitors’ sites) rank well even if they have a supposedly spammy link profile (or because it is “killing” every link building option).
What doesn’t emerge from the word cloud is the frequently viewed and commented 
questions about tools, usually link analysis tools for Penguin recovery (i.e. Link Detox, Cognitive SEO).
In general, the sensation is that the users asking questions are usually 
new to the link building practice. A constant trend, though, is evident: people ask for creative help because they are working on so-called boring niches, or because they are dealing with niches usually dominated by spammy link building practices. This trend should make all us reflect when writing about link building, because we tend to write as if everybody was dealing with big brands and big budgets, when clearly it is not so. 

Another useful exercise is seeing how very specific topics return over and over in the Q&A. Obviously, for this very granular kind of analysis, it would be better to also have the question in the dataset, and not only its title.
Let’s take “Penguin” as an example:

The spike we see in October coincides with the rollout of Penguin 2.1, and confirms
the importance of Q&A for feeling the pulse of our audience almost in real time. For this reason, using tools like Fresh Web Explorer for monitoring our keywords’ mentions in our own Q&A is essential in order to spot hot trends and eventually creating very timely content.
there’s a word that I totally missed and that, IMHO, should be one of the most relevant ones in the words cloud: outreach. And there are very few questions and discussions about strategy, too, which is making me very sad.Technical SEO Issues
This is the king of all the categories of the Moz Q&A. And it is quite ironic, because if in the SEO-blog world technical SEO is losing visibility for other topics, at the end of the day the most common questions asked by SEOs are about the most classic of the SEO subjects.
But what are the topics that worry the Q&A users the most?

Duplication issues, and the related canonicalization issues, seem to represent a big portion of the SEOs’ worries when it comes to Technical SEO. Another classic cause for concern is a site’s migration.
And, clearly, SEOs are worried about optimizing their site for Google (I feel sorry for Bing, but this is the real world).
The presence of “Links” and link-related words is partly caused by the liberty given to users to publish questions up to five categories, therefore many questions that should fit almost exclusively in the Link Building subcategory are present also in the Technical SEO Issues one.
That said, there are also a good bunch of questions related to
internal linking, especially in relation to information architecture, budget crawl management and no-indexation of duplicated pages.
We can also find quite a few questions about
“Why is my site not indexed by Google?”
A smaller but relevant amount of questions surround 
Technical SEO issues generated by the most common CMS platforms (WordPress, Magento, Drupal, and Joomla), and, apart from Wordpress, this is the kind of topic that is not taken into much consideration in the Moz and YouMoz blogs.
Finally, classic evergreen topics are 
htaccess and regular expressions: Maybe Moz could think about a specific cheat-sheet or even creating an htaccess generator better than the ones already available online.
The quality of the questions and answers, then, is higher than the Link Building one, even if it is still big the number of “newbie” kind of questions.
The engagement level of the community is greater, too, and good examples of this engagement can be found in this 
question about a migration gone wrong or this less-silly-than-it-seems question about the use of the meta keyword tag. Both are confirming how the biggest part of the Moz Community is still composed by SEOs.On-Page / Site Optimization
The On-Page / Site Optimization is the second most-used category in all Moz Q&A, but this data is strongly influenced by the fact that users tend to categorize their questions in both Technical issues and SEO On-Page / Site Optimization.
For this reason, in order to better understand what exclusively can be attributed to this category we must de-dupe the questions. The result is something like this:

The topical landscape we see is showing us how
users still tend to think of on-page / site optimization in terms of keywords and related keyword-centric topics (i.e. Title tag).
Quite surprising is seeing how a hot topic like
semantic search is barely present; we almost don’t see words like schema, semantics, structured data et al.

One of these two things is likely correct:
Users do not have any problem with Semantic SEO (and I do not think so); or Semantic SEO is still in an “early-adopters” phase (and this is what I believe).
If we analyze our Q&A sections to finding new ideas, then this “absence” should aim us toward creating better and more understandable content about semantic search, so as to educate our audience and be consistent with our mission.Intermediate & Advanced SEO

This category suffers from the same problem as the previous one; users tend to categorize things as Intermediate & Advanced SEO questions that really should be attributed to other categories.

For this reason, if we do not make a conscious de-duplication effort, the topics seem to be essentially identical to other categories.

problem, then, is not being able to provide a clear definition of what is meant for Intermediate & Advanced SEO. Without defining this clearly, the concept of “advanced” totally depends on the SEO education grade of the users who are asking questions, and what emerges quite clearly is that the Moz Q&A public generally is not really advanced.

But if we decide that advanced stands for questions that experienced SEOs may also find difficult to answer, than we can see
interesting topics:

Ecommerce sites tend to be the most difficult ones to handle with from an SEO perspective; Duplicated content and canonicalization questions, even if the most basic questions are omitted, are still the most asked, especially in relation to product pages and blog posts/categories/tags; Robots.txt, noindex and the nuanced uses of rel=”canonical” can result in a sort of puzzle that is difficult to be solved; Information architecture, site structure, and crawlability tend to be asked almost exclusively in this category.
special mention must be made for infinite scrolling, parallax design, and SEO for Ajax in general, which are topics that can be discovered as relevant to the community only if we consider metrics like page views and number of comments.Their popularity and level of of engagement, then, is confirming to us that there’s a space in the Moz Q&A for really advanced SEO questions; the problem is keeping them from sinking into a sea of basic SEO questions.Content & Blogging
The questions present in this category represent how
SEOs look at content:
as a method of ranking better.

This could lead to a discussion about how much SEOs have really understood the importance of Content Marketing (and blogging) as an inbound tactic for making your site/brand relevant for the users, and hence able to earn popularity, shares, and links, and not just another SEO task for ranking better on Google.
That’s not to say that the Moz users aren’t aware of the real meaning of Content Marketing, but they still  struggle to understand its effects on SEO. Good examples of this attitude are found in these two questions:
All this also explains why the most popular questions are related to the SEO
technical side of content optimization:Rich Snippets Indexation of non-HTML content (i.e. PDF files) Authorship Indexation and Duplicated Content
Or, to content creation for link building (i.e. guest blogging, good or bad?)Keyword Research and Vertical SEO
These are the Cinderellas of The SEO Process category.
This is due to their very specific nature. A nature which is very clear to all users, and that means that we don’t find replicated topics like duplication or canonicalization, even if they still are present.

In the case of keyword research, questions tend to be very specific, the most popular usually being about tools (
like this question) or keyword mapping (like in this other example).
Vertical SEO, instead, is particularly interesting because it effectively maps what the most common vertical the Moz users are dealing with is:

The dominance of
Local Search is evident, and it justifies:That Moz created a specific Q&A category for Local Marketing; and That the number of questions posted in the Vertical subcategory has plummeted since the Local Marketing category was created.

Video Search, with questions mostly about video hosting and YouTube optimization, is the second vertical for importance and frequency, followed by Images Search. News search, instead, is almost absent, with just one question that explicitly asks about that topic!Online Marketing

As I have told before, the Online Marketing category included all the Inbound Marketing disciplines except for SEO.

What emerges from the word cloud, though, is how
the unofficial title for this category should be “How to use other Online Marketing disciplines for SEO.” The outstanding presence of Google and, secondly, of SEO, is telling us just that.

Nine subcategories are present in the Online Marketing category:

As we can see, the interest SEOs have for any single discipline determines the ranking of these subcategories. This explains why Social Media ranks first, immediately followed by Web Design, while a discipline like Email Marketing is ranking in the last position (tied with Affiliate Marketing).

The poor performance of Affiliate Marketing is telling us that the SEOs working in that niche are not substantially part of the Moz community, or that they don’t consider Moz as their site of reference.

What we can conclude is that
Moz is mainly used by SEOs who use other online marketing disciplines in a wider Inbound Marketing strategy, but their main focus is the relation between those disciplines and the SEO process, more than specifically about their intricacies.

A last observation we can do is that the Moz community is very practical and looks for tools that can make their professional life easier or for tips about how to better use the tools.
Social Media

Let’s give a look to the Social Media words cloud:

Google+, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are the social media platforms people are asking about most. Social networks like LinkedIn or Instagram are present, too, but their presence is almost symbolic.

Google+ is the most cited social network by far, and this should not surprise us if we remember how SEOs compose the vast majority of the Moz users and the importance Google+ has for SEO.

The analysis of the questions about Twitter shows almost the same trend, but there are some that really could be taken as example of my theory that SEOs ask questions, such as 
this question that asks if the same content tweeted by two different accounts could be considered duplicated content: No social media marketer could have even imagined asking this.
Web Design
It should not surprise us that Web Design is the second most asked-about online marketing discipline. Aside from the timeless love/hate relationship that SEOs have with web designers, the evolution of Google and the increasing importance of correct web development for SEO performance explains it.

In this word cloud I purposely deleted words like
Google, Design, and SEO in order to better see the real topics users discuss in this subcategory.
We see two trends:Asking questions related to CMS, especially WordPress (but also Magento is quite present); Asking questions about Mobile Web and Responsive Design.

Site speed and performance optimization emerges as a third topic if we examine the questions more deeply.
Generally, though, again we see SEOs asking questions and many times they categorize as Web Design questions that they also asked in some of the subcategories of The SEO Process, which may indicate to us that many users are convinced that, for instance, the duplicated content issues are somehow related to a poor design of the site (when, maybe, they should look more at information architecture).Online Marketing Tools
I think the correct name for this category should be “SEO tools:”

If we look at the questions, and take into consideration also views and answers, what we see is that
the vast majority of questions are directly related to the SEO process. 
We have questions about 
Google Webmaster Tools, keyword tracking, Google Analytics (and others analytics needs, such as tracking phone calls, or alternative tools), the Google Places dashboard, and so on.
The only Online Marketing discipline that emerges with some force in this SEOed landscape is 
Adwords. Instead, we have a very small and dispersed presence of questions about tools for Social Media (which comes third as topic) and other Online Marketing areas. 
Is this a sign that SEOs:Know about the importance of the others Inbound Marketing disciplines, but don’t deal directly with them? Or that they deal sporadically with those disciplines, therefore don’t feel the urgency of using specific tools for them?Other Online Marketing categories questions analysis
The remaining six online marketing subcategories generated fewer questions than the three previously described (1,019 vs. 1,291 questions). Moreover, many of their questions could be considered duplicates from other categories.
Some of these Online Marketing subcategories, then, generated less than 100 questions:Affiliate Marketing > 54 questions; Email Marketing > 56 questions.
A special mention, though, must be given to Paid Search Marketing and Internet Advertising:

We easily see how AdWords is dominating the attention of the users, but we should not forget the emerging importance of Native Advertising or Social Advertising for Link Building purposes.

It would be interesting matching this interest in AdWords with the data collected by the Industry Survey Moz did few months ago. In fact, we could probably notice how many SEOs also offer PPC services or (in the case of in-house SEOs) have AdWords as one of their tasks.
Again, the predominant SEO nature of the Moz users emerges.Measuring & Testing
Aren’t we saying all the time that SEO and Inbound Marketing are data-driven Internet Marketing disciplines? Yes, and search marketers are aware of the importance of measuring and testing, but nevertheless this category has only 1/7 of the questions that “The SEO Process” has (2,127 questions vs. 16,015).
Five subcategories are present:

evident decline of Reporting over time made me wonder, could the reason behind its decline in interest be due to the fact that Moz users were asking questions in this category about the Moz Pro / Moz Analytics reporting functions? Once Moz created a better Moz Product category in Q&A, almost all those questions disappeared from Reporting.
The chart seems to confirm and reassure us that the users of the Q&A are data-driven folks.
But is it telling us the real story?

The answer is:
not really.
This word cloud is clearly telling us that
“analytics” is a synonym of Google Analytics for the Moz users.
Moreover, the great relevance of the word
Traffic should alert us. In fact, if we examining the Analytics questions one by one, we will discover how very frequently users refer to Google Analytics just because it was the tool that showed them a loss in organic traffic. Users, then, tend to publish these questions also in some of the most popular subcategories of The SEO Process category.
Again, the freedom given to the Moz users is making difficult to retrieve unique information on a subcategory level.
Difficult, but not impossible.
If we want to find questions that are completely devoted to Analytics, then we must focus on the word Tracking. Doing so, we find the most interesting questions, mostly about Google Analytics implementation issues (how to set up goal with event tracking, Ecommerce GA implementation issues, custom URL tracking, etc.).
All these questions hardly find an answer in other sections of the Moz site, but clearly
they manifest a need. Maybe is it time for creating a very practical Google Analytics Implementation Guide or Cheat Sheet?Research & Trends
Personally, this is my favorite Q&A category. Why? Because in it we can find questions about international search, alternative search sources, and a space for discussing the most advanced trends in search and everything related to audience targeting.

We could define it as a category devoted to strategy, but that doesn’t forget to translate it into concrete tactics.
Unfortunately not so many Moz users feel the same enthusiasm: In these 365 days, they asked only 1,319 questions in this category, half of them limited to the “Search Engine Trends” subcategory:
Search Engine Trends
What are the Search Engine Trends Moz users discuss?
Personally I already imagine the answer, but let’s check to see what the word cloud tells us:

Looking at the word cloud, something doesn’t add up here.
Where are Hummingbird, Knowledge Graph, MyAnswers, semantics, and patents? Instead of those terms, we see: ranking(s), drop(ped), bad, traffic, update, penguin, duplicate and semantically related words.
If we look directly at the questions, what we observe is how
Search Engine Trends is practically a synonym for penalties, and—let me tell you openly dear Moz community members—penalties are not a Search Engine Trend.
Only three questions about Knowledge Graph have been asked in 12 months. Four about Hummingbird (two of which by people convinced Hummingbird penalized their sites!). A topic like Personalized Search—which should be talked and asked about here—is completely absent.

Something is wrong here. Probably the Search Engine Trends subcategory is just another category users classify their questions for because they have this option. Or, maybe, Moz (and I count myself in) still has not being able to create the right awareness about the importance of being constantly updated about how search engines are evolving.
Or Moz users simply are more interested in finding immediate answers for very practical needs; and if it is under the aspect of tips and tricks better.International Issues
This subcategory is substantially different. In this case, almost all the questions are really on topic and very specific, as is made clear by viewing the word cloud:

Topics like
localization vs. simple translation, the correct implementation of the hreflang annotations, keyword research for multi-country sites, and how to deal with social media for multinational businesses, all are present with a many grades of difficulty.
I am surely biased, but the International Issues subcategory is the best example of what a Q&A category should be: clear in its nature.
The other Research & Trends questions
I must admit that when I saw the word cloud of
Alternative Search Sources I laughed a lot:

GOOGLE?! Alternative search source?!
In seriousness, apart from this obsession with the Big G, it’s interesting to notice the presence of Bing, Yahoo, and the very few questions about Baidu, Yandex, and Naver (only two!). It’s clear that Moz users are spending 99% of their time on Google and only allocate a very tiny amount of time to other search engines. It is also clear that SEO outside of the classic American-focused search engines is not something they are concerned about (probably because they are not dealing with it).
Finally, if you return to the chart with questions asked in the Research & Trends category, it is interesting to see the
strong decrease in questions about Behavior and Demographics. Why? Because people aren’t really asking questions about those topics, and the biggest percentage of the questions classified as Behavior and Demographics are what I’ve defined as “duplicates” of other categories.Community

Community is a Q&A category mostly meant as a space for discussing topics about the inbound marketing industry, not one where people ask for help.
Seeing that the only topic within Community that really matters to the Moz users is White Hat / Black Hat SEO is quite depressing, but it reflects the worries SEOs have for practices like Negative SEO or penalizations for spammy link building tactics that have been used in the past.
And those same topics dominate the other subcategories, which are not formally about spam, link penalizations, and negative SEO:

It’s certain: we can find words like
Mozcon and Articles, but they are just few words between many not relevant ones.
If I was Moz, I would seriously reconsider this category.Business Development
The Business Development has a very multi-faceted nature where the common denominator is the practical life of a search marketer. This being the nature, a subcategory I wish were here is one about how to deal with clients:

The questions present in this category, then, seems to suggest that it’s a
category mostly used by independent SEO consultants or owners of small SEO companies.
This may explain why only 504 questions have been asked in Business Development.
But, despite the small number of questions, this is the category with the
highest ratio of answers per question: 4.47Local Marketing
Local Marketing is a relatively new macro-category; it was created on January 2014.
Despite being new, it has been able to attract the attention of the many SEOs specialized in Local Search:

Local Strategy, Local Listings, and Website Optimization for Local Search are the most-used categories, and this interest is also reflected in the word cloud:

What surprised me was (finally!) seeing “schema” present in the word cloud.
It turns out that how to use Schema for local search is quite a hot topic that is able to create great engagement, 
like in this question.The Moz Support Q&As
Q&A section, at least in Moz’s case, is also a place a company can use for offering customer service.
Aside from the obvious benefits, a great
advantage of using Q&A for this purpose is that the company itself can collect useful data about their own products perception, weakest points and needs the users are expressing.
Initially, the support side of the Moz Q&A was limited to two categories (Moz Products and Pro Application), but during this last twelve months Moz rationalized the questions creating a taxonomy based on the different areas of Moz Analytics (Search, Social, Links, and Brand Mentions) and stages of learning the tool. Finally, specific Q&A categories were created for all the other tools owned by Moz (Moz Local, OSE, Followerwonk, APIs).

The chart above speaks for itself:
the tools users are most concerned with are the ones more strictly related to classic SEO functions:Search Links Other Tools (which includes tools like the Keyword Difficulty Tool, the Rank Tracker and the Crawler test)
What a clear confirmation of what has been repeatedly said in this analysis:
Moz users are SEOs, maybe adopting inbound marketing as a way of thinking, but ultimately SEOs.
For this reason, we can say that the partial return Moz is doing onto focusing again more on SEO practitioners, even if under the inbound marketing philosophy, is very well justified by the composition of its audience.
And what its audience is telling about its products to Moz? This:

Moz subscribers’ concerns, doubts, and desires are mainly directed toward pure SEO tools:Keyword tools; More extended crawling functionalities (and some better clarity, as in the case of the duplicated content algorithm Moz applies to its crawler); Links-related tools; Better reporting functionalities.
Not that other inbound marketing facets of Moz Analytics are not considered useful, but they are not considered as essential as the SEO ones. 
One thing, though, clearly emerges from analyzing the Support Q&As: the strength and participation of the Moz community itself. In fact, the biggest percentage of the answers given to these questions are from Moz users.Conclusions
The analysis of the Moz Q&A tells us many interesting things about the
Moz community:It is composed in its majority by SEOs; A big part of the community is represented by SEOs who are beginners or have an intermediate knowledge of SEO itself; Advanced SEOs tend to ask fewer questions, and when they do, it’s usually in very defined niche subcategories (i.e. international issues); The Moz community is generally proactive: only 2,120 over 11,555 questions (de-duped count) didn’t received fewer than two responses. Notwithstanding point 4, fewer than 500 were able to generate an ongoing discussion (10+ answers) Users tend to turn to Q&A in cases of extreme necessity: penalties and (apparently) unsolvable technical issues; Moz users look for and appreciate more concrete actionable tips than discussions about the whys of search strategy; SEO dominates and influences every Q&A category, and this means that: Inbound Marketing seems considered as a new framework where SEO is included, but SEO substantially seems considered as having the same functions it had before.
The analysis—to conclude this gigantic post—is telling us something we all need to reflect on: inbound marketing still hasn’t put solid roots in the minds of search marketers, and despite what the biggest majority of the Moz community says publicly, it seems it’s still thinking in terms of the old classic SEO.Image credit: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Terry Gilliam – Universal Pictures

Is Your Content Credible Enough to Share?

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.

Insufficient credibility undermines digital marketing, particularly among SEOs who now produce or promote content as part of their job. People won’t share content that isn’t credible; they know the things they share reflect on them and impacts their own credibility. While the importance of credibility gets mentioned in passing, little has been said about
how to actually build it, until now.Your Guide to Establishing Credibility
You build credibility by signaling to the reader that you can be trusted. The signals of trust can come from the author, the site, and from within the content itself. Each signal will appeal to different types of readers in different contexts, but they come together to make content that is credible enough to share.
Rand mentioned credibility in his
Content Marketing Manifesto as one of the things we need to build familiarity, linkability, and trust. Several studies have also shown credibility’s critical role in promoting and sharing. So, let’s build some credibility.1. Establish expert credibility
Expert credibility comes from having knowledge others do not. People want experts they can understand and trust, especially when trying to understand complex or ambiguous topics like new technology, engineering, advanced science, or law.Be an expert or hire an expert with insight
A Syracuse University
study found “insightful” content was most correlated with users’ estimation of a blog’s credibility. You can’t offer interesting insight on a subject you know very little about, so obviously you need to be an expert or hire one.
Unless your expert has breaking news, he or she needs to provide quality analysis and opinion to add any value. Most successful non-news content is opinion and/or analysis, whether verbal, graphical, or textual.
If you’re creating video or text content for your site, the expert should also be able to clearly express complex subjects in a way readers can understand and follow. If he can’t then get a content writer to interview the expert and relay the information.Source experts
Do not try to give your opinion as an expert in a field where you’re not one. It won’t work.
We’ve all read non-expert content on subjects where we’re knowledgeable. We know what expertly-written content looks like and can easy detect pretenders. If you pretend to be an expert and get one little detail wrong, you’ll blow all your credibility with the people who actually understand and influence the discussion. They won’t link to or share that piece of content and they may never share any of your content again. Don’t take that risk.
Rather than trying to fake expertise, try finding experts and incorporating their expertise into your post. Journalists have long understood this tactic. Even journalists who
are experts use quotations from other experts in both news and analysis pieces. The front page of the Washington Post’s technology print section is usually littered with quotation marks and according-tos.
People running blogs can easily get a quote from someone knowledgeable enough to have an opinion that matters. Experts with strong opinions usually want to share them.Be passionate to build trust
Syracuse University study and this University of Pennsylvania study show that passion is key to judgments on credibility and sharing. Readers don’t just want an expert who can explain things; they want an expert who cares.
Experts who know what they’re talking about tend to have nuanced and sophisticated opinions about subjects they understand. Don’t undercut that understanding with a shallow piece of content. Expert pieces should be deep and thoughtful.
Legal experts who really care about
Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission simply wouldn’t take the time to write a bland essay on what the ruling said and how it might impact the future of politics. SEO experts don’t want to report on the fact that Google penalized guest post networks. They care, and want to explain why it’s good or bad.
Expert opinion shouldn’t be confused with argument, and it doesn’t require you to start a firefight with anyone who’s taken the other stance.Cite sources
Cite the sources for all you expert insight. Citing expert sources is the most obvious way to back up your claims and gain trust. Often citing a source is as simple as linking to the webpage from which you got your information.
Don’t use
weasel words like, “it has been said,” or, “many people believe,” to skirt the citation responsibility. Experienced writers and editors instinctively close the tab on any content attempting to unnecessarily blur their sources.Show data
Sometimes, instead of breaking news, you can add to it with data. Data lends credibility to your post in a unique way because with numbers, your sources and methodology are more important than the author’s history and popularity. The data, if it’s compiled and analyzed correctly, speaks for itself.
For example, when the CableTV team heard about the potential Comcast/Time Warner merger, we knew simply sharing the news would be a waste of time. Every major news outlet would easily drown out our site, and opinion pieces where popping up everywhere. Instead, we crunched some numbers, comparing U.S. Census data with coverage data, producing a
coverage and population analysis people could see and understand. A few large news organizations used the data in ongoing analysis, Reddit’s founder (Alexis Ohanian) shared the post, and roughly 60,000 people ended up seeing it.

JavaScript libraries and HTML 5 tools are springing up everywhere to help non-technical users visualize data in interesting ways. Mapping examples include
SimpleMaps (used in our post), MapBox, Google Fusion Tables, etc. Graphing and other data options are all over, but this site is a good place to start. Compile data in-between writing stories related to your niche with Census data or any of these data sources so you’re ready to go when news hits. For more tips, Kane Jamison always has tips on data-driven content marketing, including the presentation below:

2. Harness hierarchical credibility
Hierarchical or rank-based credibility comes from a person’s position or title. High-ranking members of an organization have a better chance of being taken seriously simply by nature of their perceived authority, especially when the organization is well-known.Have important people write important things
People lend more credibility to an article written by an unknown CEO than a writer they don’t know—even if the writer knows more about the topic than the CEO. For better or worse, people are simply influenced by official job titles and standing within hierarchy.
Your definition of what’s important may vary. Almost everything on the popular
42floors blog is written by a founder, while CEOs of larger companies will probably have less time and less interest in regular blogging.Use executives for guest posts
I know – I’m the guy who wrote
guest posting had gone too far. Google thought so too based on its latest round of penalties. I believe, however, the lack of credibility and expertise in many guest articles was a major cause for Google’s (perhaps disproportionate) response to guest blogging networks.
Don’t waste an executive’s time on small unknown sites no one would ever read. Instead, consider pitching an article written by an executive or other well-known figure to well-known sites. Trulia is a good example with high-ranking members adding guest posts for
Google, The Wall Street Journal, and interviewing with sites like Business Insider. Moz, of course, is another place to see founders adding posts and video frequently.Better job titles
If you want your content to be shared, make your authors experts in both title and in truth. Changing titles for title’s sake may sound stupid, but titles like managing editor, [subject] correspondent, [subject expert], or even [subject] writer have more gravitas than a plain “author” or “contributor.” Think about what the title says to a person reading your content (or email). The flip side: writers should actually be subject-matter experts.
You should also re-think giving quirky titles to everyone, as they can hurt credibility. I can’t imagine the Wall Street Journal quoting a “digital ninja” or “marketing cowboy” in their story – unless that story is about job titles.Leadership quotes
You can also make use of another person’s position to lend credibility to your content. This works especially well if you’re looking for insight into a recent news event. Quotes from company executives, government officials, and other high-title positions give you something unique and show you’re not just another blogger summarizing the news built on someone else’s journalism.3. Seek referent credibility
When someone trustworthy shares something with positive sentiment, we immediately trust the shared item. The referrer lends his or her credibility to the referee. The Moz audience will have no problem understanding referent credibility, as it’s the primary method Google uses to prioritize content that seems equally relevant to a user query. People also rely on referent credibility to decide whether a post is worth sharing. Those referrals build more credibility, and viral content is born. How do you get some referent credibility to radiate onto your content?Publish on credible sites
This post will receive some measure of credibility simply by being published on the main Moz blog. Anything on or linked to from well-known sites and authors receives referent credibility.Share referrals and testimonials
You’ll commonly see “as featured on” lists or testimonials from recognizable personalities. Testimonials from anyone at Google or Microsoft with an impressive-sounding position could go a long way for a B2B product. Referent credibility is the reason celebrity endorsements work.
Leveraging referent credibility in a press push generally works well if your company is involved in something newsworthy. Consider requesting and using quotes from relevant and well-known people in press releases or even outreach emails if you’ve done something worth announcing.
Analysis pieces are a little trickier: pointing out past coverage can lend some credibility to a blog post or press release, but it can also look a little desperate if done incorrectly. High relevance and low frequency are key. A good offline analogy is that person who mentions that time they met a celebrity every chance they get, whether it’s relevant or not. Name-droppers are trying (too hard) to build credibility, but it’s actually just sad and annoying. The same celebrity encounter might actually generate interest and credibility if it’s relevant to the conversation and you haven’t told the story to death. Feel free to talk about times well-known people shared or endorsed you, but make sure it’s relevant and don’t overdo it.Appeal to credible people
When a well-known person shares your content, more links and shares often follow. Find credible people, see what they talk about and share, and then try make something great that appeals to them. This idea has already been covered extensively
here on Moz.4. Take advantage of associative credibility
People make associations between one trait and another, creating a
Halo effect. For example, several studies (1, 2, 3) have found that attractive people often receive higher pay and are seen as more intelligent, when in reality there is no correlation. Users do the same thing with websites, so making your website look and feel like other credible sites is important.Use trusted design as a guide
Don’t run in and steal the Times’ CSS file. I’m pretty sure that’s illegal. It’s also probably not going to work unless you’re running a national multi-channel newspaper. But you should be aware that people associate design elements on a site with the credibility of the site. You can help or hinder your credibility through web design in hundreds of ways. Start by looking at legitimate sites and incorporating some of their design elements into your own. Then check out some untrustworthy and unknown sites to see the difference and determine what to avoid.
Obviously you want your site to be unique, but be carefully unique. If you stray from trusted convention, know why you’re doing it. Maybe you want to
kill hamburger icons on mobile – just make sure you have a well-considered alternative.When in doubt, test
Split tests tend to focus on conversion and sales, and too often the blog/news design gets dragged along for the ride. Given the importance of content and sharing on visibility, testing the impact of site elements on sharing should be as important as the tests we do on sales funnels.
You can test different design elements as they relate to sharing by creating posts and pages with a page-level variable and a canonical tag back to the original post. Always test URLs with variables against other URLs with variables to account for site owners manually removing them. This setup may also be useful for testing different content promotion channels and methods.

Tracking results externally requires a different URL. You may use a modified URL rather than a variable, but only for single-page tests. Note that results will be a little erratic with variables people might remove, but trends will still emerge.Consider your domain name
You have probably read a news article and wanted to share it, but
then looked for a more reputable source to post to Reddit or Twitter.
Sometimes I’ll share content from a site I’ve never heard of, but usually I want the content I’m sharing to come from a site with a name that evokes trust. Everything in this article goes into a decision on whether to share, but domain name is a surprisingly large factor. When I post an article, I don’t want the first response or comment to be something snarky like, “Oh, according to – sounds legit.”
Domain will also impact click-through on social networks and social sharing sites. A couple years ago I wrote about
choosing the right domain for your branding strategy, and I think its message still holds true.
Domain name will also influence what content seems appropriate. You don’t want people asking, “Why is writing about cooking recipes?” Make sure content strategy aligns with your domain and branding strategy.Write like a writer; build profiles
You must have credibility in your writing if you want your content to be shared. Follow these simple tips:Write clearly, hire writers, or don’t waste your time on text content. Even a credible expert will have a hard time being trusted enough to share unless they write clearly with native-level grammar. Build author profiles, use full names, and use author images. Nothing says, “I’m not proud of this” like a partial name without an image. Build a full section about your company. Be as specific as possible, and avoid vague statements on the value your site adds. Craft headlines that are easy to follow, avoid trick/cute headlines unless you have a great reason for tricking or confusing users about what the content will deliver. Be consistent with surrounding articles. Jumbled topics and unrelated surrounding articles make sites look inconsistent.Avoid clip art and stock images
Just ask Ian Lurie
what he thinks about stock images. When I wrote “How Google’s Algorithm Silences Minority Opinions” I had the image in my head of Googlebot placing a gag on a user. Thankfully one of CLEARLINK’s talented designers had a better (and less aggressive) idea:

A Google logo would have been easy, but boring. The custom image added a strong visual to the argument, emphasizing key points: a computer algorithm silencing a person, the person not caring too much. It also sent the associative message to users that the site is legitimate enough to use unique images.
Most of us can’t get custom illustrations or photographs for each post, but you should consider it for high-investment pieces or pieces you think have a good shot at success.Final thoughts
Unless you have inside information on a rumor or are willing to burn your credibility going forward, your content must project credibility. Smaller sites and lesser-known brands have the most to gain by understanding how users and journalists make judgments on credibility and working to improve those factors. You don’t necessarily need to employ every strategy and tactic, but the best coverage and links will always require a high level of credibility. 

Quintessential Seattle Places to Visit During #MozCon 2014

We’re gearing up for all of you to land in Seattle for 
MozCon! It’s just around the corner, July 14-16th, and as we do every year, we want to make sure you have a great time and get a chance to explore our city. (Or to just find a tasty place for dinner after a long day of learning.)

If you haven’t bought your ticket for MozCon, 
do it now! We’re quickly selling the last few tickets, and are over 93+% sold out. Buy your ticket today, and sign up for a 30-day free trial to get your Moz Subscriber best deal. (If you cancel because Moz Pro isn’t for you, we’ll see you at MozCon regardless.) 

What is your quintessential Seattle place?

This year, we asked Mozzers to name their quintessential Seattle place. They came up with a bunch of favorites, from breakfast spots to parks and more. Here’s what they had to say:

Dick’s Drive-In Resturants

“Delicious hamburgers and fries. It’s cash only, and there’s almost always a line. How Seattle.”

Joel Day

Quinn’s Pub

“The best burger north of 
Father’s Office in Santa Monica and always a solid taplist.”
– David Mihm

Editor’s note: Quinn’s Pub is also on our MozCrawl agenda.

The Market Theater Gum Wall

“I’m based in Mozlandia, and I love coming to Seattle and experiencing this great city. Gum wall is a truly gross tourist trap—actually, careful, you could indeed get trapped—and in the heart of tourism central, Pike Place Market. Still there’s a charm to such an offbeat (though heavily touristed) spot.”

Peter Bray

Pie Bar

“Pie Bar = pie + booze. An array of whiskies. Local and craft beers on tap. Fresh pies, both savory and sweet, made daily. If they would let me move in, I’d just live there.”

Jess Stipe

Black Bottle

“Ah-mazing food! Not bad for happy hour. Broccoli blasted – need I say more?”

Stefanie Riehle

Petit Toulouse

“Petit Toulouse in Queen Anne is the quintessential Seattle favorite when it comes to Cajun/Creole food. Petit Toulouse does not fail to impress every time I have been there. The atmosphere is superb and the food is out of this world. Additionally, I would recommend the buttermilk beignets after a good meal.”

– Marcin Narozny

La Bete

“I feel like it is the secret Cap Hill restaurant that only the neighborhood tends to frequent. The service is always great; the ambiance is always perfect for whatever occasion you are celebrating (romance, friendship, new boots, hunger); and it’s a great place to sit at the bar, order a great glass of wine, and read by yourself. It’s just good.”

Leah C. Tyler

Serious Pie

“This is the best pizza in the whole city. The community-style tables make for great conversation with strangers next to you. Great food, good beers. So fun.”

Nicelle Herron

Belltown Pizza

“If you’re looking for pizza and are not into the odd California-style pizzas, this place has the best New York-style pizza in Seattle. Right off downtown, it’s the first pizza joint I found in Seattle and is still the best IMHO.”

Phil Hildebrand

Kayaking on Lake Union

“You really get a feel for the Seattle landscape. Seeing the Space Needle, Gas Works Park, floating homes, wooden boats…all from a kayak on the water. Nothing better.”
Jackie Immel


“Some of the best food and drinks you’ll find in the city (and that’s saying a lot), and their patio in the summer is amazing.”
Rand Fishkin

Ballard Locks

“It’s great to hang out in the sun and watch the boats go through the locks, plus the fish ladder is fun and free! The added bonus is that you’re in Ballard so there are about fifty awesome breweries and bars at your fingertips.”
Jamie Seefurth

World Spice Market

“The proprietor here makes her own blends of spices, and everything is freshly ground or grind-at-home. Best spices. Try the Advieh – yum!”
Lisa Wildwood


“Matt Lewis of the Where Ya At Matt? food truck started a brick and mortar restaurant, and it is good. Very good. With a updated French Creole menu, he has taken it to the next level, and we locals love it. Keep in mind, it’s a bit of a trek from downtown, but there is plenty to explore throughout the rest of Fremont making it well worth the trip.”
Ben Simpson

Pier 66

“You can see the Space Needle, Puget Sound, Mt. Rainier (on a clear day), and the Great Wheel. Such an amazing view!”
Chiaryn Miranda

Staple & Fancy

“Fresh ingredients, dishes perfectly made, and an amazing chef’s choice option.”

Megan Singley

Biscuit Bitch at Caffe Lieto

“Whether you need a pick-me-up in the morning or after some late night fun, Biscuit Bitch serves delicious Southern-style, with unique Seattle flare, biscuits and all the toppings you could want. I love their Bitchwitch sandwich. Just be prepared to eat it with a fork. They also have gluten-free options. Also make sure to use your favorite location check-in service and get a free sticker.”

Erica McGillivray

Looking for more options? Don’t miss
our mega post from last year, Rand’s personal recommendations, and Jon Colman’s Seattle coffee guide.

What’s new in Seattle?

Seattle’s Waterfront, photo by Rachel Sarai, creative commons licensed

We’re always discovering new places to eat and enjoy in Seattle, and here are few that have opened up since last year’s MozCon:


Hanging out in Seattle longer than just for MozCon?

There are tons of great Seattle events happening around MozCon. Here are a few, plus some special deals just for MozCon attendees.

Want to see the MozPlex for yourself? We have office tours!
Come visit the MozPlex and see where all the Moz magic happens. Plus, you’ll get some fun swag.

Soccer fan? See the Sounders FC vs. Portland TimbersThe Pacific Northwest’s biggest rivalry is on Sunday, July 13th at 7:00 p.m. Get Low-Upper Deck seats (normally $25) for $18. Make sure to join our MozCon Facebook Group and make plans to see the game with other MozCon attendees.

More of a baseball fan? See the A’s vs. Mariners on Sunday, July 13th at 1:10 p.m.
With the link above, get a special discount on Main Level tickets: normally $43-48 and now $25, just for you!

Need a ride around town? Uber has some Seattle deals.All UberX rides are 25% off for the summer, and if you’re a first time Uber customer, use the code SEAMOZ14 and get up to $30 off your first ride. Code expires 7/30/14.

Want to see some local music? Don’t miss GeekGirlCon’s annual concert, featuring local nerdcore acts, Sunday, July 13th at 6:30pm.
Come out an support a Settle nonprofit and enjoy the nerdcore rap of Shubzilla, DJ K91, NY artist Sammus, local trio Death*Star, and Jonny Nero Action Hero, who mixes beats with his Nintendo gaming systems.

Love to run? Run or Dye 5k is Saturday, July 12th in nearby Lake Stevens.You can even run with fellow attendees as Dana Tan’s organizing a group to run and have some fun.

Interested in exploring some of Seattle’s neighborhoods and cultural celebrations?

Seattle’s Chinatown-ID Dragon Fest 2014, Saturday and Sunday, July 12th and 13th
40th Annual Ballard SeafoodFest, Saturday and Sunday, July 12th and 13th
Wedgwood Art Festival, Saturday and Sunday, July 12th and 13th
West Seattle Summer Fest, Friday through Sunday, July 11-13th
Polish Festival Seattle, Saturday, July 12th
Bastille Bash, Saturday, July 12th
Georgetown Garden Walk, Sunday, July 13th
White Center Jubilee Days Street Fair, Saturday and Sunday, July 19-20th

Can’t get enough beer? Head over to the peninsula for Bremerton Summer BrewFest, Saturday, July 12th.No one loves beer more than the Pacific Northwest (okay, maybe Bavaria…), and if you’re looking for local brews, this is your best bet.

Wish to experience Etsy offline? Go to Urban Craft Uprising, Seattle’s largest indie craft show, for their summer edition, Saturday and Sunday, July 12th and 13th.
Shop local and find the perfect Seattle gift to bring home for your loved ones or yourself.

A foodie and staying after MozCon? The Bite of Seattle, the Northwest’s premier food festival, is Friday through Sunday, July 18-20th.
It’s a great way to try out a ton of different restaurants from around the area. I’m sure a few are on our must-eat lists.

Who doesn’t love local 4-H fairs? The King County Fair is Thursday through Sunday, July 17-20th in nearby Enumclaw.Check out the mutton busting, 4-H exhibits, fried food, and the rides.

Hope you can find some fun and time to explore Seattle. Don’t forget to 
buy your MozCon ticket before we sell out!

What Can Mid-Century Design Teach You About User Experience?

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.

Verner Panton, a design revolutionary, once said, “You sit more comfortably on colours you like.” A statement that seems to disregard logic, and focus strictly on the intangible relationships which dictate preferences.
So what does this statement say about design, and more importantly, how can YOU apply this to your online marketing strategies?
The answer is an investment in
user experience: understanding how design can impact cognitive science and drive decisions. Here are a few stories around Panton’s designs and the insights they lend in creating successful online user experiences today. 
Why invest in UX?

Panton worked during a wonderfully whimsy time for furniture design, helping to shaping the late 1950’s Pop movement by making waves with his neon swimming pool design. Panton’s focus on design that provides function and evokes emotion can be seen across his eccentric pieces and even in current day design practices.
User experience is largely a subjective field, making it difficult to directly correlate qualitative metrics to various UX efforts and initiatives. For online efforts, attribution may prove difficult as it deals with users’ emotions, an increase in conversions and drop in bounce rates are signs in line with the intentions of enhanced user experience.
Analysis by the Design Management Institute shows how
design-driven companies outperformed others by 228% through efforts like creating streamlined user experiences. Design-driven companies have effectively sold more product and made more profit, by providing unique experiences, at each touch point of their relationship with customers. Facilitating a stakeholder workshop can effectively gather requirements while increasing alignment among stakeholders. How do you validate UX design?

Panton’s Cone chair was a piece he created for his parents’ restaurant. The Cone chair was so admired by a restaurant customer they offered to put it into production. Post-production the Cone chair was briefly on display in a Fifth Avenue shop in New York, where it was removed due to the large crowds it attracted.
User experience is centered on perception. With the proliferation of user interfaces it is of the utmost importance to focus on the individual user’s experience, while considering the collective experiences of the target audience. 
In order to validate your user’s/users’ experience concepts, it is important to take a systematic approach. The following Validation stack, by Cennyd Bowles, shows the close relationship between design theory, user research, and evidence; together, these effectively validate UX concepts.

The validation stack requires you to provide recommendations that build off of one another and are driven by data. Backing up your argument with early buy-in from stakeholders and iterative user testing can both improve your argument for UX and strengthen your concepts.
Ways to improve UX

Panton’s S chair, a single legless piece of cantilevered plastic, graced VOGUE in 1995 with Kate Moss sitting naked atop it. The chair remains an icon of pop movement design, and is rumored to have been inspired by a pile of plastic buckets.
The design was made to maintain
consistency, with the choice of one seamless material, and functionality, with its smooth stacking ability.UX design calls for both consistency and functionality in order to limit distractions and guide users’ decisions.Usability: Increase ease of use Examine the full user path by watching them go through the site and conversion funnel. Asking the user how they think about or through the site and its use to them.(Tool to use: Informational design: Create visual hierarchy Use data to drive design decisions. Track common on-site behaviors to adjust site layout or page layout. (Tool to use: Simple Mouse tracking)  Content strategy: Incorporate personalityTrack your brand’s tone of voice across all platforms.(Tools to use are discussed in
Distilled’s Content Guide)
An array of potential users should be observed over time, as users’ experiences and influences continually affect their decision-making process.How does brand communication improve UX?

Panton’s Living Tower is an impressive 2-meter high structure with unique cut-outs, designed to encourage communication. The oddly amoeba-esque cut outs in the furniture encouraged people to sit in seemingly un-conventional positions, while prompting conversation.
User experience efforts can be amplified by creating a space and prompt for conversation. Brands engaging with users on social and feedback channels should have the goal to meet their target market where they are or host a conversation their user/audience would like to have. Before building or creating a social strategy for a brand it is important to ask the following questions…How is the social platform aligned to the brand?  Why would users choose to engage in a dialogue with a brand on this platform?  What value-add could the social platform provide for users? When would it be most helpful for a user to communicate with the brand? 
Researching the types of discussions users are already prompting, about your competitors or industry, can help to uncover potential opportunities for social media strategy and content creation. Then measure social channels’ impact through network referrals, conversions, and landing page visit analytics. 
Why user-centered design for user experience? 

Panton studied under Arne Jacobsen, who worked with him to create the Ant chair. The chair was commissioned specifically for a large Danish pharmaceutical company‘s cafeteria. The chair base was designed to be comfortable, lightweight and stackable. The choice to use only three legs was in an attempt to minimize hitting furniture against people’s legs or other furniture, during their lunch hour.
User experience efforts should be grounded in similar methodologies,
giving users additional functionality without compromising on a seamless experience. Striking a balance of trust, motivation and functionality can ultimately drive a greater user experience. Working with and learning from users’ patterns, through both qualitative and quantitative testing and tracking.
How have you incorporated UX elements, principles, and methodologies into your online marketing strategies? Looking forward to hearing from the Moz community!Here’s a resource for those of you who’d like to read more about Panton’s views on individual colors and
color psychology.

Feed the Hummingbird: Structured Markup Isn’t the Only Way to Talk to Google

I used to laugh at the idea of Hummingbird optimization.
In a recent poll, Moz asked nearly
300 marketers which Google updated affected their traffic the most. Penguin and Panda were first and second, followed by Hummingbird in a distant third.

Unsurprising, because unlike Panda and Penguin,
Hummingbird doesn’t specifically combat webspam. 
Ever wonder why Google named certain algorithms after black and white animals (i.e. black hat vs. white hat?) Hummingbird is a broader algorithm altogether, and Hummingbirds can be any color of the rainbow.
One aspect of Hummingbird is about
better understanding of your content, not just specific SEO tactics.
Hummingbird also represents an
evolutionary step in entity-based search that Google has worked on for years, and it will continue to evolve. In a way, optimizing for entity search is optimizing for search itself.
Many SEOs limit their understanding of entity search to vague concepts of
structured data,, and Freebase. They fall into the trap of thinking that the only way to participate in the entity SEO revolution is to mark up your HTML with complex microdata.
Not true.
Don’t misunderstand; and structured data are awesome. If you can implement structured data on your website, you should. Structured data is precise, can lead to enhanced search snippets, and helps search engines to understand your content. But and classic structured data vocabularies also have key shortcomings:Schema types are limited. Structured data is great for people, products, places, and events, but these cover only a fraction of the entire content of the web. Many of us markup our content using Article schema, but this falls well short of describing the hundreds of possible entity associations within the text itself. 
Markup is difficult. Realistically, in a world where it’s sometimes difficult to get authors to write a title tag or get engineers to attach an alt attribute to an image, implementing proper structured data to source HTML can be a daunting task.
Adoption is low. A study last year of 2.4 billion web pages showed less than 25% contained structured data markup. A recent SearchMetrics study showed even less adoption, with only 0.3% of websites out of over 50 million domains using
This presents a challenge for search engines, which want to understand entity relationships across the
entire web – not simply the parts we choose to mark up. 
In reality, search engines have worked over 10 years –
since the early days of Google – at extracting entities from our content without the use of complex markup.How search engines understand relationships without markup

Here’s a simple explanation of a complex subject. 
Search engines can structure your content using the concept of
triples. This means organizing keywords into a framework of subject → predicate → object.
Structured data frameworks like work great because they automatically classify information into a triple format. Take this
example from
<div itemscope itemtype =””>
<h1 itemprop=”name”>Avatar</h1>
<span>Director: <span itemprop=”director”>James Cameron</span> (born August 16, 1954)</span>
<span itemprop=”genre”>Science fiction</span>
<a href=”../movies/avatar-theatrical-trailer.html” itemprop=”trailer”>Trailer</a>

Extracting the triples from this code sample would yield:
Avatar (Movie) → Has Director → James Cameron
Subject → Predicate → Object
The challenge is: Can search engines extract this information for the 90%+ of your content that isn’t marked up with structured data? 
Yes, they can.Triples, triples everywhere
Ask Google a question like
who is the president of Harvard or how many astronauts walked on the moon, and Google will often answer from a page with no structured data present.
Consider this query for the ideal length of a title tag.

Google is able to extract the semantic meaning from this page even though the properties of “length” and its value of 50-60 characters
are not structured using classic markup.
Matt Cutts recently revealed that Google uses over 500 algorithms. That means 500 algorithms that layer, filter and interact in different ways. The evidence indicates that Google has many techniques of extracting entity and relationship data that may work independent of each other.
Regardless, whether you are a master of or not, here are tips for communicating entity and relationship signals within your content.
1. Keywords
Yes, good old fashioned keywords.
Even without structured markup, search engines have the ability to parse keywords into their respective structure. 
But keywords by themselves only go so far. In order for this method to work, your keywords must be accompanied by appropriate predicates and objects. In other words, you sentences provide fuel to search engines when they contain detailed information with clear subjects and organization.
Consider this example of the relationships extracted from our
title tag page by AlchemyAPI:

There’s evidence Google has worked on this technology for over 10 years, ever since it acquired the company Applied Semantics in 2003.
For deeper understanding, Bill Slawski wrote an excellent piece on Google’s ability to extract relationship meaning from text, as well as AJ Kohn’s excellent advice on Google’s Knowledge Graph optimization.2. Tables and HTML elements
This is old school SEO that folks today often forget.
HTML (and HTML5), by default, provide structure to webpages that search engines can extract. By using lists, tables, and proper headings, you organize your content in a way that makes sense to robots. 
In the example below, the technology exists for search engines to easily extract structured relationship about US president John Adams in this Wikipedia table.

The goal isn’t to get in Google’s Knowledge Graph, (which is exclusive to Wikipedia and Freebase). Instead, the objective is to structure your content in a way that makes the most sense and relationships between words and concepts clear. 
For a deeper exploration, Bill Slawski has another excellent write up exploring many different techniques search engines can use to extract structured data from HTML-based content.3. Entities and synonyms
What do you call the President of the United States? How about:Barack Obama
POTUS (President Of The United States)
Commander in Chief
Michelle Obama’s Husband
First African American President
In truth, all of these apply to the same entity, even though searchers will look for them in different ways. If you wanted to make clear what exactly your content was about (which president?) two common techniques would be to include:Synonyms of the subject: We mean the President of the United States → Barack Obama → Commander in Chief and → Michelle Obama’s Husband
Co-occuring phrases: If we’re talking about Barack Obama, we’re more likely to include phrases like Honolulu (his place of birth), Harvard (his college), 44th (he is the 44th president), and even Bo (his dog). This helps specify exactly which president we mean, and goes way beyond the individual keyword itself.

Using synonyms and entity association also has the benefit of appealing to broader searcher intent. A recent case study by Cognitive SEO demonstrated this by showing significant gains after adding semantically related synonyms to their content.4. Anchor text and links
Links are the original relationship connector of the web.
Bill Slawski (again, because he is an SEO god) writes about one method Google might use to identity synonyms for entities using anchor text. It appears Google also uses anchor text in far more sophisticated ways. 
When looking at Google answer box results, you almost always find related keyword-rich anchor text pointing to the referenced URL. Ask Google “How many people walked on the moon?” and you’ll see these words in the anchor text that points to the URL Google displays as the answer.

Other queries:In these examples and more that I researched, matching anchor text was present every time in addition to the relevant information and keywords on the page itself.Additionally, there seems to be an inidication that internal anchor text might also influence these results.This is another argument to avoid generic anchor text like “click here” and “website.” Descriptive and clear anchor text, without overdoing it, provides a wealth of information for search engines to extract meaning from.5. Leverage Google LocalFor local business owners, the easiest and perhaps most effective way to establish structured relationships is through Google Local. The entire interface is like a structured data dashboard without you consider all the data you can upload both in Google+ and even Moz Local, the possibilities to map your business data is fairly complete in the local search sense. In case you missed it, last week Google introduced My Business which makes maintaining your listings even easier.6. Google Structured Data Highlighter
Sometimes, structured data is still the way to go.
In times when you have trouble adding markup to your HTML, Google offers its Structured Data Highlighter tool. This allows you to tell Google how your data should be structured, without actually adding any code.
The tool uses a type of machine learning to understand what type of schema applies to your pages, up to thousands at a time. No special skills or coding required.

Although the Structured Data Highlighter is both easy and fun, the downsides are: The data is only available to Google. Other search engines can’t see it.
Markup types are limited to a few major top categories (Articles, Events, etc)
If your HTML changes even a little, the tool can break.
Even though it’s simple, the Structured Data Highlighter should only be used when it’s impossible to add actual markup to your site. It’s not a substitution for the real thing.
7. PluginsFor pure markup, depending on the CMS you use, there’s often a multitude of plugins to make the job easier.If you’re a WordPress user, your options are many:Looking forwardIf you have a chance to add (or any other structured data to your site), this will help you earn those coveted SERP enhancements that may help with click-through rate, and may help search engines better understand your content.That said, semantic understanding of the web goes far beyond rich snippets. Helping search engines to better understand all of your content is the job of the SEO. Even without Hummingbird, these are exactly the types of things we want to be doing.It’s not “create content and let the search engines figure it out.” It’s “create great content with clues and proper signals to help the search engines figure it out.” If you do the latter, you’re far ahead in the game.

Tips and Tactics for Amplifying Your Content – Whiteboard Friday

To make the most of your content, you need to make sure you’re integrating correctly with social media, using the most effective tools at your disposal, and most importantly, continuing to pay attention to it long after you launch it. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Ben Lloyd and Brian Rauschenbach tell you about the various tools and tactics that can maximize the reach of your hard work. 

Ben: Hey Mozzers. My name is 
Ben Lloyd. I’m a principal at Add3, which is a search marketing agency with offices in Seattle and Portland.

Brian: And I’m 
Brian Rauschenbach, President of Add3, and I work day-to-day directly with Ben on both paid and organic channels. What we’re hoping to achieve with our session today is to help you basically take the content that you’ve invested time and money into to help you amplify it and make some more noise with it. What we want to do is basically revisit some of the fundamentals and the foundation of what we’re probably all doing today and how we can make that a little better. So let’s get right into it.

The usual

Ben: Sure. So here’s kind of a typical scenario that I see when people are spending time building and launching content, is they kind of go through the same process all of the time. They’ll launch it. Great. Post is done. Ideally, they’ve done their content strategy, and they know who they’re talking to. They’ve optimized the post, done a little bit of SEO, got an original image in there or two or three or whatever. They’ll put it up. They’ll promote it, which typically means, “Hey guys, a new post is up.” Hopefully, they are even doing this. The corporate account will tweet it, and then you’ll ask team or whoever at the company to tweet it, like it on the Facebook, and whatever else, and then kind of nothing.

People sort of hope, well, maybe it will gain a life of its own. They’ll pray about it. I don’t know. Most likely they just tend to forget about it and move on to the next thing.

The results always kind of work like this. You see the life of a post kind of goes, “Hey, it’s up. It’s live.” We do a little bit of a social bump to it, and this number could be anywhere from 50 to 5,000 or whatever. But you get some visits for it, and then the tweets and whatever else die off. It kind of just dies down, and that’s really all you get out of it. So it will sort of peter out. If you do a good job with organic and some on-site optimization, maybe you’ll do okay, and then this little smiley face Rand [pointing to the whiteboard] doesn’t really smile. He just doesn’t really think it’s that great.

Brian: Yeah. We’re putting all of this time into this content, and the life cycle feels like it’s just not . . . the reward for it, it doesn’t real. I think that that’s probably the biggest challenge now in getting people to really grasp content and why we should be developing great content is you put all of this time into it, you get these results back, and this is our cycle that we’re in right now.

Ben: It bums you out. Right?

Brian: Yeah.

Social life of content

Ben: When you think about it, if this is all of the promotion that you’re doing for your content, and you see study after study talk about the life cycle or the average life span or the shelf life of a tweet or a social post, there’s a Bitly study recently that said the average shelf life of a link in three hours. Peter, here at Moz Followerwonk, he has his own, about just Twitter alone. Basically, 18 minutes is all you get out of that thing, and then you get the bulk of your results out of it.

So from a social standpoint, when you really start to think about it, if that’s all you do to promote your piece of content, this is really all that you can expect out of it, that short-term visibility. Then, again, maybe you do okay with organic or whatever, but that’s all you get.

Brian: Yeah. So if we’re getting back to basics, we’re doing all of this today it feels like, right, and we feel good. But what are some things that you’ve sort of seen in audit phases, when you’re looking at other people’s social?

Ben: Well, these results are kind of depressing, right?

Brian: Yeah.

Ben: It doesn’t impress anybody at the company when you’re like, “Hey, we got a couple of hundred visits, and that was about it.” That mileage varies depending on your following.

So there are a couple of areas that I would really like to look at that are super obvious from a blocking and tackling, real basic standpoint. Then we’ll get into some other stuff.

Social integration

But the very first thing that I like to get into, when I look at sites and content and their social strategy, I don’t even go to their social account. I don’t even look at what they’ve been doing. I just go to their page where they’re trying to share stuff. (A) Do they have buttons at all for sharing, and (B) what happens when you click on them?

So this is one area that I think is overlooked a lot, because when people at the company or whatever, the social guy goes to share content, he uses Hootsuite or something like that, or she, and they’ll post it using that tool and they never actually interact with the buttons. But your visitor doesn’t do it that way. So one thing that happens is if you aren’t tightened up there, you’ll click that “tweet this” button, and you’ll see some things like…

Brian: Random image.

Ben: Yeah, or like if they haven’t done title tags, God forbid, it’s just some generic title tag. In Facebook, maybe it’s a random image from the page. The description isn’t good, that kind of thing.

Brian: Or it’s just pulling in something generic.

Ben: Yeah, absolutely.

Brian: Which is why sort of the Open Graph thing is so big for us to be investing time in developing what the description is, making sure your images are friendly with the content you’re pushing out.

Ben: Precisely. Yeah. So when you do your Open Graph tags, make sure that description is tight. Make sure you’re pulling in a featured image, etc. Sometimes you have to get a dev involved, because you’re just taking what the plug-in gives you, depending on your site. But just take a look at what’s happening there when you do that.

Then the other thing that I think that fits in with this button idea and Open graph is just aligning your sharing to your audience. I think a lot of people…

Brian: We’re all guilty of this, right? We put up everything.

Ben: Absolutely. You go to a site and like, “Man, I can’t choose between which buttons to share.” I don’t want people to not share something on — I don’t even know — some random social network. But if you’ve done the work that you should be doing with your content strategy, you should know who you’re trying to reach, who your personas are, who is this person you want to have reading your content, and what action do you want them to take.

Brian: So this would be business content, maybe marketing-related?

Ben: So business, B2B, etc. This guy, with his little tie, he’d be somebody you’d want to see more on sharing your content on LinkedIn or Twitter. Since we’re in search and marketing or whatever, Google+ we like to see. But in a different context, maybe targeting female shoppers, you don’t really care about LinkedIn. So why do you have that button on the page? So Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, those are the places maybe that audience lives at a little bit more. So know who you are trying to reach and align that sharing to that audience.

Brian: Yeah, I like it. Then if we get into some sort of deeper, social promotional pieces here, or with Twitter cards, yeah.

Ben: Yeah, let’s jump in on Twitter cards real quick. But it totally aligns with this better social promotion. Twitter cards are like really easy to implement, and it’s been around for a while. I don’t really think a lot of people do it, except marketing guys.

Brian: Well, we all ignored it for a while, right?

Ben: Yeah, everybody ignored it.

Brian: But this is a great tool, because it feels like if you get in, even though now is not early, but if you’re adopting it now, the results that we’re seeing from our Twitter cards and our posts, this is sort of a screenshot of what we pulled out of our analytics, and what we’ve been seeing is that we’re using a summary card for most of our blog posts, and we’re getting 2.5X, may 3X in retweets just because we have the Twitter card enabled. Like Ben was saying, it’s pretty easy to implement. It feels like it’s just like setting up a Webmaster Tools account and doing some meta tag authentication and almost the same type of work you’d be doing with your OG tags.

Ben: Pretty much. The process is spelled out here, It’s really straightforward, a little bit of tag implementation, verification. It’s kind of like doing structured markup a little bit, but then you have to get it approved. But I’ve done a couple of them lately, and it comes back almost instantaneously now.

Better social promotion

Brian: That’s great. Yeah, jumping into some other social promotional things, I think Rand had a Whiteboard Friday session recently where he was talking about frequency and timing, and I think this is a piece that we’re all sort of guilty of, right? We put the blog post up, and like you said, we’re on to the next one. What’s some good advice you have on revisiting and doing this piece here?

Ben: Yeah. When you kind of consider the cycle here and the way that these normally go, and again you really take a step back and you’re like, “Three hours?” Are you really going to reach the people you’re trying to reach? Are they on Twitter for that three hours? Is that even something that they’re interested in at that point in time, etc.? So I this frequency and timing is a big deal, and there are obviously tools like Followerwonk, that is in the Moz toolset, that you can analyze your own followers, see when they’re online, or when they’re on Twitter and that kind of thing. But you can kind of do the same thing with Facebook and some of the other channels.

A lot of people put it up once and that’s it. One and done is not the way to do this. I’m not suggesting that you go and hammer away all day for 24 hours on a specific post. But if you’re a little bit judicious about it and you think about how to space that out, and is this post still relevant next week and next month, and two months from now, then why do you stop promoting it after that first day or week?

Brian: Yeah. Another thing I think we’re all guilty of is we basically pulled the post back up out of our inbox and repost it, just how it was the original time, and this is an area I think that not a lot of people are taking full advantage of, is basically testing your messaging. You have a couple of examples here that you can walk through.

Ben: Absolutely. So a couple of ways to kind of vary, and I actually struggle with this a lot, because we worked so hard on the title tag, I just want to use that as the tweet or the post or whatever. That always happens. So your title always gets out there as kind of a tweet behind that post. But some other things you should try pulling a quote out of your content, using some sort of key takeaway that’s in there. Maybe it’s a bullet that’s already in there or a headline or something. But using those takeaways, maybe including a stat, which I guess is technically a takeaway, or adding some commentary. So for example, your post might be how to do X in three steps. But then your commentary, like Miles on our team, he always does this like, “Revolutionize the way you do X. Here’s three steps how,” or whatever. Like he’ll kind of retweet stuff, and sometimes those tend to work a lot better than your static title. So I’d say trying those out and seeing what works.

Brian: Yeah, and then you could take sort of the results that you’re getting from that message testing and apply it to the next post.

Ben: Exactly. I think the last there here, and this is simple stuff, real basic, but at least in an agency setting, the pace is constant, and you don’t always have time for thinking about it, but my friend, Sarah, likes to say, “Don’t cross the streams,” when it comes to her social channels, from “Ghostbusters” there. But when you put something on Twitter, and you’ve got this great tool that like I can also post the exact same thing to Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, or whatever at the same time, don’t just copy/paste, because it doesn’t translate.

Brian: It doesn’t translate.

Ben: So you should have @ symbols and hashtags in Twitter. But on LinkedIn, you don’t want to do that kind of thing. Really optimizing for the channel, it’s kind of like a key takeaway there.

Paid social amplification

Brian: Yeah, cool. So sort of jumping into the other piece, which is basically pay to play, we’re testing in there, and we’re getting great results from it. We’ve been talking to a lot of other peers, and everyone seems to be dipping their toes in here. But it feels like this is the area where we can really do the amplification piece with our content. I think some of the stuff that we’ve been looking at recently and I think in Facebook ads, you see that boost button underneath your post, and it’s so tempting to just say boost my post. It just basically pushes it out to all of your friends, and it’s almost the same bad effect I think when I put like a post on Facebook. It’s like my family and my friends that aren’t in the industry, and they’re like, “Yeah, I’ll support Brian. Let me give him a like too.”

But that’s not who I was trying to reach with this post. So spend some time in Facebook ads and define that segment of the person that you’re trying to go after. It’s really easy in there, and once you build those segments, you can reuse them for a future post.

Promote a tweet. We’re doing a lot of good stuff here, and that I think to your frequency and timing thing, it’s where you can really go after the person that you want to see that post that you’ve spent all of this time and resources into. So you could just use their handles and target them directly or also just target by topic and category.

The StumbleUpon has been a really interesting test. It’s paid discovery, and so it’s really sort of top of funnel stuff. We see a lot of interaction in there, especially if the content that you’ve produced matches up with the topic or the categories that they have.

Ben: Yeah, one of the categories that they have available. Absolutely.

Brian: Then Outbrain, if you want to go down, I call this shock content — the 13 best cities for hippies to live in, which is actually a real article somewhere that I came across. But this is a content that lives on CNET on the bottom of the page. It’s like more from the Web, and it’s just another area where you could probably earn some links and also social shares.

Ben: Sure. I think the big thing here is, being an SEO guy and being that this is Moz and that’s this community that we’re in, to me, again, I think you’ve stated it already, but like to spend time and energy in developing your content and then to not sort of just give it that kick that it needs to kind of get it kind of spinning, Moz spends a lot of great time and energy on giving you great tips about how to participate with the community and your kind of like organic outreach that you can do behind content. But a lot of people are really just trying to get up and get going, generate that visibility for their content. I really think it’s worthwhile to consider paid social amplification.

I really don’t consider this the new “link building.” But I think if you do a lot of these things and you get your content out in front of the right people, and you spend some money putting it in front of the right eyeballs, good things happen with your organic if you’ve spent time and energy on creating good content.

Brian: Yeah. It’s also really important that we’ve been sort of advocates for content for it feels like the last 2.5 years, and it feels like a lot of our clients are embracing it and their management is embracing it. It’s like we don’t want this to happen. It’s like we finally got everyone onboard to say, “Yeah, let’s build content, great content, and push this out there.” If this is what the results that we’re reporting back to our clients and their bosses . . .

Ben: Nobody’s going to be excited about it.

Brian: . . . no one is going to keep on investing in it. So I think that if we’re having a full team of copywriters and marketers behind this, and we’re pushing this content out, we should also budget for pay channels as well.

Ben: Sure. So I think that’s really pretty much it. So thanks for having us.

Brian: Yeah, thanks for having us. We’ll be around watching the comments and for any questions that we might be able to answer. So thanks Mozzers.

What Content Marketers and Journalists Need to Learn from Each Other

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 got baggage. I call it J-School baggage, and I’m not the only one schlepping it around. Thousands of people have graduated from journalism school in the years since the financial crisis and the collapse of the “old media” model. Many of us have found our way to the content marketing world, and some of us have struggled with trading the noble ideals of informing the public and holding power to account for “key performance indicators” like building brand awareness and driving new trial starts. But while I still consider myself a (lapsed) member of the ink-stained tribe, plying my trade in the content marketing space has been both fulfilling and humbling. That’s because journalists aren’t just bringing tons of value to the businesses now cutting our checks – we have a lot to learn from them as well.

Plenty of so-called journalistic principles and methods have already infiltrated marketing departments and agencies in recent years (whether this is always a good thing is up for debate). Smart content marketers are maintaining editorial calendars, adhering to style guides (Moz’s is a great example) and building out their teams into bonafide brand newsrooms. The problem is that while this enables brands to pump out content more efficiently, it doesn’t necessarily help them do it more effectively.
This post isn’t ultimately for you. It’s for your audience. Every piece of content you create as a marketer exists to serve a business goal, but it’s guaranteed to fail if it doesn’t ultimately serve your audience in the process.1. Don’t just link, attribute
I know you know how to link. Command-K is one of my favorite Mac shortcuts, and linking is a huge part of what makes online publishing more efficient than the days where every backwater town had multiple papers chasing the same scoop. As media critic Jeff Jarvis says, “Do what you do best and link to the rest.”

Thing is, linking isn’t enough. As an editor I love to receive drafts filled with pithy quotes, punchy stats and thoughtful insights. I’d like to assume that unless I’m told otherwise these quotes, stats and insights originated with the author herself. But journalism school taught me me to take a step back before hitting “publish.” Because every idea or fact that has been gleaned from another source has to be properly attributed. Ever notice how every other sentence in a newspaper article includes the phrase “according to so and so” or “so and so said”? That’s attribution. And it’s non-negotiable.
Yet I can’t tell you how often content marketers fail to do this or simply embed a link somewhere in the paragraph without giving any context.
Don’t force readers to click away from the page to get a critical piece of information. If you’re citing a study, say who conducted it. If you’re linking to a New York Times article, include that somewhere in the sentence. I appreciate you trying to stick to the word limit but this is the internet. Real estate isn’t that precious. I’d rather you be generous with your words than stingy with the facts.
Speaking of the facts, please try to get them right. I know it’s hard. Journalists get it wrong all the time. But that doesn’t mean content marketers shouldn’t try to do better. Fact-checking can be especially challenging when you’re covering complex stuff like conversion rate optimization, A/B testing and PPC marketing, which is the space I currently work in. Most of us didn’t become content marketers – or journalists for that matter – because we kicked ass in math class.
I once had a blog post queued up and ready to go live first thing the next morning until our eagle-eyed social strategist recognized one of the case studies cited in the post and noticed that the author had completely misinterpreted the results. This is one of the reasons attributions is so important. In a small industry, examples and starts often get recycled from one blog to the next. The result is a case of broken telephone where the facts get muddled in transit.
Proper attribution makes it easier to track where the breakdown occurred and to set the record straight. You can quote me on that.2. Reporting is not just an analytics thing
Content marketers go by many names, including brand journalists, content crafters and content strategists (guilty). But I’ve never heard anyone refer to content marketers as reporting. That’s probably because far too few of us do any actual reporting. Not reporting on KPIs, but good old-fashioned shoe leather reporting.
Because you know what’s even better than pulling a pithy quote from another blog and attributing it to the proper expert? Talking to them yourself. Social networks like Twitter and LinkedIn and online resources like HARO and ProfNet and have made thought leaders and subject matter experts more accessible and approachable than ever. But for some reason many content marketers are allergic to doing any original reporting. This leads to an ouroborian scenario where the same bits of knowledge are circulated over and over under different urls and bylines without any added value. No wonder audiences are experiencing content fatigue. I need a nap just thinking about it.
Quick sidebar: Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of “expert roundup” posts, whereby bloggers collect quotes from industry experts and string them into a post. Often this is more about getting these experts to share the post (you may know this as “ego baiting”) than providing your audience with useful content. If you’re going to do an expert roundup post, a) actually interview the experts (don’t just send them the link to share after the fact), and b) Challenge them with thoughtful questions that will spark genuine insights. Here are a couple examples from the Unbounce blog where we reached out to thought leaders in the pay-per-click and Google+ marketing communities and started some great conversations in the process.3. Pitching (beyond baseball)
Excuse the rant, but this is a huge pet peeve of mine. Way too many of the guest bloggers I’ve worked with expect to be spoon-fed ideas for what to write about. Journalists would never, ever make this mistake. They know that editors are extremely busy and that it’s their job to make our lives easier (#allaboutme). Seriously though, great journalists aren’t just excellent writers and reporters, they’re masters of the pitch. They know that they have to earn an editor’s trust and attention by consistently delivering amazing content on deadline. Only then might they find plum assignments falling into their laps.
Like my former colleagues in the magazine industry, my team has regular editorial meetings where we brainstorm ideas for the blog and assign them to our stable of writers (though if they’re really good, we keep them for ourselves). However, this only accounts for a fraction of the content we produce. We also rely on both new and established writers to come to us with amazing ideas tailored to our platform and our audience. Unfortunately, many marketers who do pitch us bring ideas to the table that make sense for their business and their audience.
Great journalists know how to calibrate their pitch to suit the editorial voice and mission of the publication they’re pitching. You wouldn’t pitch the same article for BuzzFeed (“13 Most Epic Ways to Up Your Grilled Cheese Game) as you would for The New Yorker (“Annals of Gastronomy: Grilled Cheese, Goethe and the Making of Modern Europe”).
A great pitch demonstrates that you understand what our blog is about and what our audience is looking for. Here’s a real example of a pitch that went into the instant reject pile:

Hi Dan, how are you doing?

I am sending a new Article viz title “Implementing the Right Mix of Customary and Unconventional Content Marketing Ways.” Please review it and let me know when you will publish it.

First off, our blog is all about conversion marketing. What does this have anything to do with that? Second, our editorial guidelines make it clear that top-notch writing chops are a must. What is an article viz? What are Content Marketing Ways? I’ll let you know when I’ll publish it: Never.
On the other hand, here’s a pitch that caught my attention (and led to a successful post) because it instantly communicated to me that the author understood what we’re looking for and could deliver on it:

Hey Dan,

I have a topic that I think may stir some discussion/debate that I haven’t seen anyone actually address, unless I’m just so off-my-rocker that I need to be put away.

Sound interesting?

Here we go.

Now that’s the kind of opening that makes the journalist and the content marketer in me jump with joy. He hasn’t even gotten to the actual pitch but he’s already embraced the sort of cheeky, comedic writing style that’s a hallmark of our blog.
Here’s how he pitched the topic we settled on:

5 Embarrassing Habits That Keep Your Emails From Being Clicked

We celebrate open rates, because that’s our first touch with a reader, but opens aren’t everything. Previews in email program can make open rates artificially high. Plain-text emails aren’t tracked. Several other issues that makes open rates a less-than-stellar metric. Just because your email is opened doesn’t mean your message has been heard.

A much more solid metric to track is click rate.

So, if you’re getting emails opened, but your click through rates are lower than your current savings account interest rate, your email may be guilty of one of these bad habits.

Check out the article that came out of that sweet, sweet pitch.

Okay, content marketers. I’m done lecturing. The truth is, although my J-school baggage still weighs heavy on my shoulders, I’ve spent the last five years working in the agency and startup worlds. And what I’ve discovered is that marketers have plenty to teach even the most experienced journalists about creating content that truly connects.1. Transparency is the new something
Journalists are notoriously thin-skinned. We thrive on holding power to account but are often reluctant or unwilling to admit our own screw-ups. This is something my friend and fellow journalist cum content marketer 
Craig Silverman has written about. When the digital recorder is pointed at us, we often resort to the same tactics of obfuscation and deflection that drive us bonkers.
Journalists are also prone to leaning too heavily on anonymous sources (notwithstanding instances where protecting them is critical – and indeed, an obligation and right) and to withholding information to thwart competition, even when collaboration and disclosure would be in the public interest.
Content marketing, on the other hand, is transparent by its very nature. Our cards are all on the table. Putting aside shady forms of “native advertising” where an article’s branded provenance is intentionally buried, our audience is fully aware that our content exists to drive brand exposure and, ultimately, revenue. Making our content relevant and delightful enough that they consume it anyway is our great challenge and opportunity. Journalists have to make sure to separate church and state. Content marketers are tasked with making theocracy awesome.
In the startup world, transparency has become a badge of honour. SaaS companies like Buffer, Groove, Moz and Unbounce have made a habit of sharing – and creating actionable content out of – their metrics, strategies and even their salaries with the world.
With so many newspapers, magazines and formerly independent blogs being acquired by corporations rife with potential conflicts of interest – and native advertising all the rage in traditional publishing circles – journalists can learn a thing or two about how to transform transparency and disclosure from a buren into an asset.2. Getting up to code
Journalists have drunk the big data cool-aid, with web native “data journalism” sites like Nate Silver’s 
FiveThirtyEight (now part of ESPN) and The Upshot (from The New York Times) leading the way, but many journalists I know remain squeamish about getting their hands dirty with basic HTML or inputting content into a simple CMS like WordPress. I knew a “web editor” for a print magazine who would email the dev team whenever she wanted to change a sentence or fix a link in “the back end” (even her chosen euphemism shows how mysterious and icky it seemed to her). The lines are much greyer between editors, designers, writers and project managers in the marketing world. When you’re a small team it’s “all hands on deck” for every campaign; roles are more fluid and people are less precious about what’s “their department.”
A related problem is that many online editors have never logged in to their website or blog’s Google Analytics account, delegating that responsibility to the folks on “the business side.” That means they often have little idea of who their audience actually is. Sometimes this ignorance is willful and convenient since publications (lifestyle magazines in particular) often create content not for any real audience but an aspirational one that they can sell to the most lucrative advertisers. Which leads me to my final point…3. Know your audience, or the people formerly known as that
I said up top that this piece is about your audience, not you. But even though journalism is ostensibly a public service, many journalists remain wary of their publics. For decades journalism was a broadcast medium, a one-way conversation. Many journos held out on social media for as long as they could and maintained love-hate relationships with comment threads, partly because they weren’t used to having the people formerly known as the audience (as J-school prof Jay Rosen famously put it) talk back to them.
Content marketers – at least the smart ones – know that it’s all about their audience, that every blog post, ebook, webinar and tweet needs to be aimed a particular segment, persona or phase of the customer lifecycle. Even SEO-driven practices like keyword density – when not abused – stem from an audience-first mentality. Headline writers often make the mistake of sacrificing clarity for cleverness; I used to joke with my fellow magazine editors that we essentially made up puns for a living.
In marketing, clear and concise always trumps cute. We’ve actually proven this at Unbounce! For an email blast promoting a webinar with our cheeky Scottish co-founder Oli Gardner we A/B tested the following two subject lines:
Variation A: [Webinar] Some Call Him the Scottish Chuck Norris of LPO…

Variation B: [Webinar] The 3 Landing Page Mistakes 98% of Marketers Are Making
Guess which won? Variation B, the clear and descriptive headline, kicked ass with a 3% higher open rate and a 34% higher click-through rate.
Sorry, but your audience probably doesn’t find you as cute as your mother does.Caveats, conclusions and a personal anecdote
Don’t get me wrong. I still believe the line between editorial and advertorial is sacrosanct. Journalism is journalism, and content marketing is, in the end, just a form of marketing. But I also believe that part of the reason the media industry (like the music, entertainment and book publishing industries before and after it) failed to see the digital disruption coming and adapt accordingly is that they lost sight of whether their content was providing actual value – and not just powering their bottom line. As data-driven marketers, we’re all too aware of our content’s performance. But we do a grave disservice to our audiences when we discard tried-and-true journalistic principles like fairness, accuracy and attribution.
I continue to carry my J-school baggage with pride. But lately my shoulders have been less weighted with guilt about “going to the dark side.” Before leaving my last job, I told my boss about the new opportunity that was beckoning me and admitted that I was conflicted. Was delving deeper into the marketing world and further away from traditional journalism the “right move for my career”? His response, even though it was in his interest to persuade me to stay, was “Screw your career, do what’s best for your craft.” It’s the best advice I’ve ever received, because working in content marketing has made me a better editor, strategist, storyteller and – yes – journalist.

Three Lead Generation Card Tips from the @TwitterSmallBiz Playbook

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.

Last August, we launched the
Lead Generation Card to all advertisers on Twitter. Since then, we’ve been impressed with the many small and medium businesses who have integrated the Lead Generation card into their marketing strategy, and seen powerful results.
We thought it would be valuable to share a page from our own playbook and offer a behind-the-scenes look at how the @TwitterSmallBiz team has been using Lead Generation Cards to accomplish our goals. Below, we’ll discuss what a Lead Generation Card is, and the three keys to success that we’ve uncovered through our experience using the product.
What is a Lead Generation Card?
A Lead Generation Card is simply a link that allows you to gather new customer email addresses directly within a Tweet. When you tweet out this link, it pre-populates a user’s full name, @username and email address (previously entered in their Twitter account settings) into the expanded area of your Tweet, replacing the need for a traditional, more cumbersome form.
In addition to a person’s contact information, the expanded Tweet includes other elements as well:Short description: A statement that provides context and explains the value people will get from sharing their information with you.
Image: A visual cue that represents your business and generates interest in your offer.
Call to action: The action you want people to take, along with the benefits of doing so.
Here is what a Lead Generation Card looks like when included in a Tweet:

For step by step instructions on how to set up a Lead Generation Card, you can visit our dedicated
support page. 
Our three keys to success with Lead Generation Cards
Our @TwitterSmallBiz team did a lot of testing and learning before we landed on our current strategy for Lead Generation Cards. Here are three tips for your own Lead Generation Card campaigns:
1. Streamline your campaigns
Twitter Ads enables you to set up multiple campaigns within your account and provides a view into performance at both the aggregate and individual campaign level. 

If you plan to include Lead Generation Cards in your Promoted Tweets, we recommend setting up a separate campaign that includes all of your Tweets aimed at Lead Generation. This allows you to adjust your bid independently from Promoted Tweets that have other goals, such as generating engagement, driving website traffic, etc.
Within each campaign, you can also view performance at the individual Tweet level, which allows you to understand which Tweets are the biggest contributors towards your goals. When you include multiple Promoted Tweets with Lead Generation Cards in the same campaign, you can more easily compare performance across various combinations of Tweet copy and Lead Generation Card creatives.
Once you determine which Lead Generation Cards and types of Tweet copy are driving the best results, you can allocate more of your budget towards those combinations and away from the ones that aren’t performing as well.
2. Less isn’t always more
The goal behind testing and learning is to then optimize your campaigns to be as effective as possible. The more you test, the more quickly you can learn which features and combinations are most effective at helping you reach your goals. The sooner you start the testing process, the better.
When you first start using Lead Generation Cards, try anywhere from five to seven different Cards across 20-30 variations of Tweet copy. A few days into your campaign, your Twitter Ads analytics will provide you with a clear view into which combinations are performing better than others so you can focus your efforts moving forward.
Here’s an example of how we used a similar testing framework for a recent campaign to collect email addresses around a new content offer:
Lead Generation Cards:

Copy for Promoted Tweets:

Option #1:
Lead Generation Cards make it easier than ever to generate leads on Twitter – find out how they can help your biz in this guide:

Option #2:
Did you know you can capture a lead in a Tweet? Download our free guide to find out how:

Option #3:
Have you seen a Lead Generation Card before? Now you have. We’ll teach you how to use them for your business in our new guide:

Option #4:
Would 1700 leads in a week look good to your boss? Download our guide to find out how
@rockcreek accomplished this w/ Lead Generation Cards

3. Follow up
When someone submits their email address through a Lead Generation Card, that person is expressing interest in your business. This creates an opportunity for you to follow up when potential customers are more likely to be receptive to your message. If you don’t follow up with people after they submit an email address, they may not remain as interested or be as receptive to hearing from you.
For this reason, it’s important to develop a plan for how you will follow up with new leads after they submit their email address. That follow-up plan will often vary depending on the offer used for your Lead Generation Card.
For example, if your offer included a new piece of content, you may want to include the email addresses you collect in an existing newsletter or email campaign list that shares similar types of content. Alternatively, if you offered event registration through your Lead Generation Card, you might want to add those email addresses to an event mailing list so that you can send additional event information or materials that were presented at the event. No matter what type of follow-up plan you choose, it should create opportunities for you to continue communicating with new leads and, ultimately, convert them into paying customers.
About akmercog —
Anne Mercogliano heads up the small and medium business marketing for Twitter. Her mission is educating and empowering all businesses to find success on Twitter. Prior to this role she was a business and brand strategy consultant at both Arnold Worldwide and L.E.K. Consulting where she worked on new market and product entry and advertising strategy for businesses topping the Fortune 500 list to small start-ups. She also served as Senior Marketing Manager of Demand and Customer Acquisition for Trulia on their real estate agent marketing team. Anne has an MBA with a concentration in strategy and decision sciences from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and her BA from Mount Holyoke College.