Blog Post Ideas: Maximize Your Reach with the Right Topics – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

With the ubiquity of blogs, one of the questions we hear the most is how to come up with the right topics for new posts. In today's episode of Whiteboard Friday, Rand explores six different paths to great blog topic ideas, and tells you what you need to keep in mind before you start.

Blog post ideas

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Video transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week, we're going to chat about blog post ideas, how to have great ones, how to make sure that the topics that you're covering on your blog actually accomplish the goals that you want, and how to not run out of ideas as well.

The goals of your blog

So let's start with the goals of a blog and then what an individual post needs to do, and then I'll walk you through kind of six formats for coming up with great ideas for what to blog about. But generally speaking, you have created a blog, either on your company's website or your personal website or for the project that you're working on, because you want to:

  • Attract a certain audience, which is great.
  • Capture the attention and amplification, the sharing of certain types of influencers, so that you can grow that audience.
  • Rank highly in search engines. That's not just necessarily a goal for the blog's content itself. But one of the reasons that you started a blog is to grow the authority, the ranking signals, the ability to rank for the website as a whole, and the blog hopefully is helping with that.
  • Inspire some trust, some likeability, loyalty, and maybe even some evangelism from your readers.
  • Provide a reference point for their opinions. So if you are a writer, an author, a journalist, a contributor to all sorts of sources, a speaker, whatever it is, you're trying to provide a home for your ideas and your content, potentially your opinions too.
  • Covert our audience to take an action. Then, finally, many times a blog is crafted with the idea that it is a first step in capturing an audience that will then take an action. That could be buy something from you, sign up for an email list, potentially take a free trial of something, maybe take some action. A political blog might be about, "Call your Congress person." But those types of actions.

What should an individual post do?

From there, we get into an individual post. An individual post is supposed to help with these goals, but on its own doesn't do all of them. It certainly doesn't need to do more than one at a time. It can hopefully do some. But one of those is, generally speaking, a great blog post will do one of these four things and hopefully two or even three.

I. Help readers to accomplish a goal that they have.

So if I'm trying to figure out which hybrid electric vehicle should I buy and I read a great blog post from someone who's very, very knowledgeable in the field, and they have two or three recommendations to help me narrow down my search, that is wonderful. It helps me accomplish my goal of figuring out which hybrid car to buy. That accomplishment of goal, that helping of people hits a bunch of these very, very nicely.

II. Designed to inform people and/or entertain them.

So it doesn't have to be purely informational. It doesn't have to be purely entertainment, but some combination of those, or one of the two, about a particular topic. So you might be trying to make someone excited about something or give them knowledge around it. It may be knowledge that they didn't previously know that they wanted, and they may not actually be trying to accomplish a goal, but they are interested in the information or interested in finding the humor.

III. Inspiring some amplification and linking.

So you're trying to earn signals to your site that will help you rank in search engines, that will help you grow your audience, that will help you reach more influencers. Thus, inspiring that amplification behavior by creating content that is designed to be shared, designed to be referenced and linked to is another big goal.

IV. Creating a more positive association with the brand.

So you might have a post that doesn't really do any of these things. Maybe it touches a little on informational or entertaining. But it is really about crafting a personal story, or sharing an experience that then draws the reader closer to you and creates that association of what we talked about up here -- loyalty, trust, evangelism, likeability.

6 paths to great blog topic ideas

So knowing what our blog needs to do and what our individual posts are trying to do, what are some great ways that we can come up with the ideas, the actual topics that we should be covering? I have kind of six paths. These six paths actually cover almost everything you will read in every other article about how to come up with blog post ideas. But I think that's what's great. These frameworks will get you into the mindset that will lead you to the path that can give you an infinite number of blog post ideas.

1. Are there any unanswered or poorly answered questions that are in your field, that your audience already has/is asking, and do you have a way to provide great answers to those?

So that's basically this process of I'm going to research my audience through a bunch of methodologies, going to come up with topics that I know I could cover. I could deliver something that would answer their preexisting questions, and I could come up with those through...

  • Surveys of my readers.
  • In-person meetings or emails or interviews.
  • Informal conversations just in passing around events, or if I'm interacting with members of my audience in any way, social settings.
  • Keyword research, especially questions.

So if you're using a tool like Moz's Keyword Explorer, or I think some of the other ones out there, Ahrefs might have this as well, where you can filter by only questions. There are also free tools like Answer the Public, which many folks like, that show you what people are typing into Google, specifically in the form of questions, "Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? Do?" etc.

So I'm not just going to walk you through the ideas. I'm also going to challenge myself to give you some examples. So I've got two -- one less challenging, one much more challenging. Two websites, both have blogs, and coming up with topic ideas based on this.

So one is called Remoters. It's remoters.net. It's run by Aleyda Solis, who many of you in the SEO world might know. They talk about remote work, so people who are working remotely. It's a content platform for them and a service for them. Then, the second one is a company, I think, called Schweiss Doors. They run hydraulicdoors.com. Very B2B. Very, very niche. Pretty challenging to come up with good blog topics, but I think we've got some.

Remote Worker: I might say here, "You know what? One of the questions that's asked very often by remote workers, but is not well-answered on the internet yet is: 'How do I conduct myself in a remote interview and present myself as a remote worker in a way that I can be competitive with people who are actually, physically on premises and in the room? That is a big challenge. I feel like I'm always losing out to them. Remote workers, it seems, don't get the benefits of being there in person.'" So a piece of content on how to sell yourself on a remote interview or as a remote worker could work great here.

Hydraulic doors: One of the big things that I see many people asking about online, both in forums which actually rank well for it, the questions that are asked in forums around this do rank around costs and prices for hydraulic doors. Therefore, I think this is something that many companies are uncomfortable answering right online. But if you can be transparent where no one else can, I think these Schweiss Doors guys have a shot at doing really well with that. So how much do hydraulic doors cost versus alternatives? There you go.

2. Do you have access to unique types of assets that other people don't?

That could be research. It could be data. It could be insights. It might be stories or narratives, experiences that can help you stand out in a topic area. This is a great way to come up with blog post content. So basically, the idea is you could say, "Gosh, for our quarterly internal report, we had to prepare some data on the state of the market. Actually, some of that data, if we got permission to share it, would be fascinating."

We can see through keyword research that people are talking about this or querying Google for it already. So we're going to transform it into a piece of blog content, and we're going to delight many, many people, except for maybe this guy. He seems unhappy about it. I don't know what his problem is. We won't worry about him. Wait. I can fix it. Look at that. So happy. Ignore that he kind of looks like the Joker now.

We can get these through a bunch of methodologies:

  • Research, so statistical research, quantitative research.
  • Crowdsourcing. That could be through audiences that you've already got through email or Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn.
  • Insider interviews, interviews with people on your sales team or your product team or your marketing team, people in your industry, buyers of yours.
  • Proprietary data, like what you've collected for your internal annual reports.
  • Curation of public data. So if there's stuff out there on the web and it just needs to be publicly curated, you can figure out what that is. You can visit all those websites. You could use an extraction tool, or you could manually extract that data, or you could pay an intern to go extract that data for you, and then synthesize that in a useful way.
  • Multimedia talent. Maybe you have someone, like we happen to here at Moz, who has great talent with video production, or with audio production, or with design of visuals or photography, or whatever that might be in the multimedia realm that you could do.
  • Special access to people or information, or experiences that no one else does and you can present that.

Those assets can become the topic of great content that can turn into really great blog posts and great post ideas.

Remote Workers: They might say, "Well, gosh, we have access to data on the destinations people go and the budgets that they have around those destinations when they're staying and working remotely, because of how our service interacts with them. Therefore, we can craft things like the most and least expensive places to work remotely on the planet," which is very cool. That's content that a lot of people are very interested in.

Hydraulic doors: We can look at, "Hey, you know what? We actually have a visual overlay tool that helps an architect or a building owner visualize what it will look like if a hydraulic door were put into place. We can go use that in our downtime to come up with we can see how notable locations in the city might look with hydraulic doors or notable locations around the world. We could potentially even create a tool, where you could upload your own visual, photograph, and then see how the hydraulic door looked on there." So now we can create images that will help you share.

3. Relating a personal experience or passion to your topic in a resonant way.

I like this and I think that many personal bloggers use it well. I think far too few business bloggers do, but it can be quite powerful, and we've used it here at Moz, which is relating a personal experience you have or a passion to your topic in some way that resonates. So, for example, you have an interaction that is very complex, very nuanced, very passionate, perhaps even very angry. From that experience, you can craft a compelling story and a headline that draws people in, that creates intrigue and that describes something with an amount of emotion that is resonant, that makes them want to connect with it. Because of that, you can inspire people to further connect with the brand and potentially to inform and entertain.

There's a lot of value from that. Usually, it comes from your own personal creativity around experiences that you've had. I say "you," you, the writer or the author, but it could be anyone in your organization too. Some resources I really like for that are:

  • Photos. Especially, if you are someone who photographs a reasonable portion of your life on your mobile device, that can help inspire you to remember things.
  • A journal can also do the same thing.
  • Conversations that you have can do that, conversations in person, over email, on social media.
  • Travel. I think any time you are outside your comfort zone, that tends to be those unique things.

Remote workers: I visited an artist collective in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and I realized that, "My gosh, one of the most frustrating parts of remote work is that if you're not just about remote working with a laptop and your brain, you're almost removed from the experience. How can you do remote work if you require specialized equipment?" But in fact, there are ways. There are maker labs and artist labs in cities all over the planet at this point. So I think this is a topic that potentially hasn't been well-covered, has a lot of interest, and that personal experience that I, the writer, had could dig into that.

Hydraulic doors: So I've had some conversations with do-it-yourselfers, people who are very, very passionate about DIY stuff. It turns out, hydraulic doors, this is not a thing that most DIYers can do. In fact, this is a very, very dramatic investment. That is an intense type of project. Ninety-nine percent of DIYers will not do it, but it turns out there's actually search volume for this.

People do want to, or at least want to learn how to, DIY their own hydraulic doors. One of my favorite things, after realizing this, I searched, and then I found that Schweiss Doors actually created a product where they will ship you a DIY kit to build your own hydraulic door. So they did recognize this need. I thought that was very, very impressive. They didn't just create a blog post for it. They even served it with a product. Super-impressive.

4. Covering a topic that is "hot" in your field or trending in your field or in the news or on other blogs.

The great part about this is it builds in the amplification piece. Because you're talking about something that other people are already talking about and potentially you're writing about what they've written about, you are including an element of pre-built-in amplification. Because if I write about what Darren Rowse at ProBlogger has written about last week, or what Danny Sullivan wrote about on Search Engine Land two weeks ago, now it's not just my audience that I can reach, but it's theirs as well. Potentially, they have some incentive to check out what I've written about them and share that.

So I could see that someone potentially maybe posted something very interesting or inflammatory, or wrong, or really right on Twitter, and then I could say, "Oh, I agree with that," or, "disagree," or, "I have nuance," or, "I have some exceptions to that." Or, "Actually, I think that's an interesting conversation to which I can add even more value," and then I create content from that. Certainly, social networks like:

  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • Forums
  • Subreddits. I really like Pocket for this, where I'll save a bunch of articles, and then I'll see which one might be very interesting to cover or write about in the future. News aggregators are great for this too. So that could be a Techmeme in the technology space, or a Memeorandum in the political space, or many others.

Remote workers: You might note, well, health care, last week in the United States and for many months now, has been very hot in the political arena. So for remoters, that is a big problem and a big question, because if your health insurance is tied to your employer again, as it was before the American Care Act, then you could be in real trouble. Then you might have a lot of problems and challenges. So what does the politics of health care mean for remote workers? Great. Now, you've created a real connection, and that could be something that other outlets would cover and that people who've written about health care might be willing to link to your piece.

Hydraulic doors: One of the things that you might note is that Eater, which is a big blog in the restaurant space, has written about indoor and outdoor space trends in the restaurant industry. So you could, with the data that you've got and the hydraulic doors that you provide, which are very, very common, well moderately common, at least in the restaurant indoor/outdoor seating space, potentially cover that. That's a great way to tie in your audience and Eater's audience into something that's interesting. Eater might be willing to cover that and link to you and talk about it, etc.

The last two, I'm not going to go too into depth, because they're a little more basic.

5. Pure keyword research-driven.

So this is using Google AdWords or keywordtool.io, or Moz's Keyword Explorer, or any of the other keyword research tools that you like to figure out: What are people searching for around my topic? Can I cover it? Can I make great content there?

6. Readers who care about my topics also care about ______________?

Essentially taking any of these topics, but applying one level of abstraction. What I mean by that is there are people who care about your topic, but also there's an overlap of people who care about this other topic and who also care about yours.

hydraulic doors: People who care about restaurant building trends and hydraulic doors has a considerable overlap, and that is quite interesting.

Remote workers: It could be something like, "I care about remote work. I also care about the gear that I use, my laptop and my bag, and those kinds of things." So gear trends could be a very interesting intersect. Then, you can apply any of these other four processes, five processes onto that intersection or one level of an abstraction.

All right, everyone. We have done a tremendous amount here to cover a lot about blog topics. But I think you will have some great ideas from this, and I look forward to hearing about other processes that you've got in the comments. Hopefully, we'll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com


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Tasty SEO Report Recipes to Save Time & Add Value for Clients [Next Level]

Posted by jocameron

Reporting can be the height of tedium. You spend your time making those reports, your client may (or may not) spend their time trying to understand them. And then, in the end, we’re all left with some unanswered questions and a rumble in the tum of dissatisfaction.

I’m going to take some basic metrics, throw in some culinary metaphors, and take your client reporting to the next level.

By the end of this article you’ll know how to whip up intelligent SEO reports for your clients (or potential clients) that will deliver actionable insights any search chef worth their salt would be proud of.

[Part one] Freshly foraged keywords on sourdough to power your campaign

I’ve got intel on some really tasty keywords; did you know you can scoop these up like wild porcini mushrooms using your website categories? The trick is to find the keywords that you can use to make a lovely risotto, and discard the ones that taste nasty.

The overabundance of keywords has become a bit of a challenge for SEOs. Google is better at gauging user intent — it’s kind of their thing, right? This results in the types of keywords that send traffic to your clients expanding, and it’s becoming trickier to track every. single. keyword. Of course, with a budget big enough almost anything is possible, but why hemorrhage cash on tracking the keyword minutiae when you can wrangle intelligent data by tracking a sample of keywords from a few pots?

With Keyword Explorer, you can save your foraged terms to lists. By bundling together similar "species," you'll get a top-level view of the breadth and depth of search behavior within the categories of your niche. Easily compare volume, difficulty, opportunity, and potential to instigate a data-driven approach to website architecture. You’ll also know, at a glance, where to expand on certain topics and apply more resources to content creation.

With these metrics in hand and your client’s industry knowledge, you can cherry-pick keywords to track ranking positions week over week and add them to your Moz Pro campaign with the click of a button.

What’s the recipe?

Step 1: Pluck keywords from the category pages of your client’s site.

Step 2: Find keyword suggestions in Keyword Explorer.

Step 3: Group by low lexicon to bundle together similar keywords to gather up that long tail.

Step 4: Analyze and save relevant results to a list

Step 5: Head to the Keyword Lists and compare the metrics: where is the opportunity? Can you compete with the level of difficulty? Is there a high-volume long tail that you can dig in to?

Step 6: Add sample keywords from your pots directly to your campaign.

Bonus step: Repeat for products or other topic segments of the niche.

Don’t forget to drill into the keywords that are turning up here to see if there are categories and subcategories you hadn’t thought of. These can be targeted in existing content to further extend the relevancy and reach of your client’s content. Or it may inspire new content which can help to grow the authority of the site.

Why your client will be impressed

Through solid, informed research, you’ll be able to demonstrate why their site should be structured with certain categories on the top-level navigation right down to product pages. You’ll also be able to prioritize work on building, improving, or refining content on certain sections of the site by understanding the breakdown of search behavior and demand. Are you seeing lots of keywords with a good level of volume and lower difficulty? Or more in-depth long tail with low search volume? Or fewer different keywords with high search volume but stronger competition?

Let the demand drive the machine forward and make sure you’re giving the hordes what they want.

All this helps to further develop your understanding of the ways people search so you can make informed decisions about which keywords to track.

[Part two] Palate-cleansing lemon keyword label sorbet

Before diving into the next course you need to cleanse your palate with a lemon "label" sorbet.

In Part One, we talked about the struggle of maintaining gigantic lists of keywords. We’ve sampled keywords from our foraged pots, keeping these arranged and segmented in our Moz Pro campaign.

Now you want to give those tracked keywords a more defined purpose in life. This will help to reinforce to your client why you’re tracking these keywords, what the goal is for tracking them, and in what sort of timeframe you’re anticipating results.

Types of labels may include:

  • Local keywords: Is your business serving local people, like a mushroom walking tour? You can add geo modifiers to your keywords and label them as such.
  • Long-tail keywords: Might have lower search volume, but focused intent can convert well for your client.
  • High-priority keywords: Where you’re shoveling more resources, these keywords are more likely impacting the other keyword segments.
  • Brand keywords: Mirror, mirror on the wall... yeah, we all want those vanity keywords, don’t lie. You can manage brand keywords automatically through "Manage Brand Rules" in Moz Pro:

A generous scoop of tasty lemon "label" sorbet will make all the work you do and progress you achieve infinitely easier to report on with clear, actionable focus.

What’s the recipe?

Step 1: Label your keywords like a pro.

Step 2: Filter by labels in the Ranking tab to analyze Search Visibility for your keyword segments.

In this example, I’m comparing our visibility for "learn" keywords against "guide" keywords:

Step 3: Create a custom report for your keyword segments.

Step 4: Add a drizzle of balsamic vinegar by triggering the Optimize button — now you can send the latest on-page reporting with your super-focused ranking report.

Why your client will be impressed

Your ranking reports will be like nothing your client has ever tasted. They will be tightly focused on the segments of keywords you’re working on, so they aren’t bamboozled by a new slew of keywords or a sudden downward trend. By clearly segmenting your piles of lovely keywords, you’ll be proactively answering those inevitable queries about why, when, and in what form your client will begin to see results.

With the on-page scores updating automatically and shipping out to your client’s inbox every month via a custom report, you’ll be effortlessly highlighting what your team has achieved.

[Part three] Steak sandwich links with crispy competitor bacon

You’re working with your client to publish content, amplifying it through social channels and driving brand awareness through PR campaigns.

Now you want to keep them informed of the big wins you’ve had as a result of that grind. Link data in Moz Pro focuses on the highest-quality links with our Mozscape index, coming from the most prominent pages of authoritative sites. So, while you may not see every link for a site within our index, we're reporting the most valuable ones.

Alongside our top-quality steak sarnie, we’re add some crispy competitor bacon so you can identify what content is working for the other sites in your industry.

What’s the recipe?

Step 1: Check that you have direct competitors set up on your campaign.

Step 2: Compare link metrics for your site and your competitors.

Step 4: Head to Top Pages to see what those competitors are doing to get ahead.

Step 5: Compile a delicious report sandwich!

Step 6: Make another report for Top Pages for the bacon-filled sandwich experience.

Why your client will be impressed

Each quality established link gives your client a clear idea of the value of their content and the blood, sweat, and tears of your team.

These little gems are established and more likely to have an impact on their ranking potential. Don’t forget to have a chat with your client where you explain that a link's impact on rankings takes time.

By comparing this directly with the other sites battling it out for top SERP property, it’s easier to identify progress and achievements.

By highlighting those pesky competitors and their top pages by authority, you’re also getting ahead of that burning question of: How can we improve?

[Part four] Cinnamon-dusted ranking reports with cherry-glazed traffic

Rankings are a staple ingredient in the SEO diet. Much like the ever-expanding keyword list, reporting on rankings has become something we do without thinking enough about that what clients can do with that information.

Dish up an all-singing, all-dancing cinnamon-dusted rankings report with cherry-glazed traffic by illustrating the direct impact these rankings have on organic traffic. Real people, coasting on through the search results to your client’s site.

Landing Pages in Moz Pro compares rankings with organic landing pages, imparting not just the ranking score but the value of those pages. Compliments to the chef, because that good work is down to you.

What’s the recipe?

Step 1: Track your target keywords in Moz Pro.

Step 2: Check you’ve hooked up Google Analytics for that tasty traffic data.

Step 3: Discover landing pages and estimated traffic share.

As your SEO work drives more traffic to those pages and your keyword rankings steadily increase, you’ll see your estimated traffic share go up.

If your organic traffic from search is increasing but your ranking is dropping off, it’s an indication that this keyword isn’t the driving force.

Now you can have a dig around and find out why that keyword isn’t performing, starting with your on-page optimization and following up with keyword research.

Why your client will be impressed

We all send ranking reports, and I’m sure clients just love it. But now you can dazzle them with an insight into what those rankings mean for the lifeblood of their site.

You can also take action by directing more energy towards those well-performing keywords, or investigate what worked well for those pages and replicate it across other keywords and pages on your site.

Wrapping up

It’s time to say "enough is enough" and inject some flavor into those bland old SEO reports. Your team will save time and your clients will thank you for the tasty buffet of reporting delight.

Next Level is our educational series combining actionable SEO tips with tools you can use to achieve them. Check out any of our past editions below:


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What You Need to Know About Duplicate GMB Listings [Excerpt from the Expert’s Guide to Local SEO]

Posted by JoyHawkins

Recently, I’ve had a lot of people ask me how to deal with duplicate listings in Google My Business now that MapMaker is dead. Having written detailed instructions outlining different scenarios for the advanced local SEO training manual I started selling over at LocalU, I thought it'd be great to give Moz readers a sample of 5 pages from the manual outlining some best practices.


What you need to know about duplicate GMB listings

Before you start, you need to find out if the listing is verified. If the listing has an “own this business” or “claim this business” option, it is not currently verified. If missing that label, it means it is verified — there is nothing you can do until you get ownership or have it unverified (if you're the one who owns it in GMB). This should be your first step before you proceed with anything below.

Storefronts

  • Do the addresses on the two listings match? If the unverified duplicate has the same address as the verified listing, you should contact Google My Business support and ask them to merge the two listings.
  • If the addresses do not match, find out if the business used to be at that address at some point in time.
    • If the business has never existed there:
      • Pull up the listing on Maps
      • Press “Suggest an edit”
      • Switch the toggle beside “Place is permanently closed” to Yes
      • Select “Never existed” as the reason and press submit. *Note: If there are reviews on the listing, you should get them transferred before doing this.

  • If the duplicate lists an address that is an old address (they were there at some point but have moved), you will want to have the duplicate marked as moved.

Service area businesses

  • Is the duplicate listing verified? If it is, you will first have to get it unverified or gain access to it. Once you’ve done that, contact Google My Business and ask them to merge the two listings.
  • If the duplicate is not verified, you can have it removed from Maps since service area businesses are not permitted on Google Maps. Google My Business allows them, but any unverified listing would follow Google Maps rules, not Google My Business. To remove it:
    • Pull up the listing on Maps
    • Press “Suggest an edit”
    • Switch the toggle beside “Place is permanently closed” to Yes
    • Select “Private” as the reason and press submit. *Note: If there are reviews on the listing, you should get them transferred before doing this.

Practitioner listings

Public-facing professionals (doctors, lawyers, dentists, realtors, etc.) are allowed their own listings separate from the office they work for, unless they're the only public-facing professional at that office. In that case, they are considered a solo practitioner and there should only be one listing, formatted as “Business Name: Professional Name.”

Solo practitioner with two listings

This is probably one of the easiest scenarios to fix because solo practitioners are only supposed to have one listing. If you have a scenario where there's a listing for both the practice and the practitioner, you can ask Google My Business to merge the two and it will combine the ranking strength of both. It will also give you one listing with more reviews (if each individual listing had reviews on it). The only scenario where I don’t advise combining the two is if your two listings both rank together and are monopolizing two of the three spots in the 3-pack. This is extremely rare.

Multi-practitioner listings

If the business has multiple practitioners, you are not able to get these listings removed or merged provided the practitioner still works there. While I don’t generally suggest creating listings for practitioners, they often exist already, leaving people to wonder what to do with them to keep them from competing with the listing for the practice.

A good strategy is to work on having multiple listings rank if you have practitioners that specialize in different things. Let’s say you have a chiropractor who also has a massage therapist at his office. The massage therapist’s listing could link to a page on the site that ranks highly for "massage therapy" and the chiropractor could link to the page that ranks highest organically for chiropractic terms. This is a great way to make the pages more visible instead of competing.

Another example would be a law firm. You could have the main listing for the law firm optimized for things like “law firm,” then have one lawyer who specializes in personal injury law and another lawyer who specializes in criminal law. This would allow you to take advantage of the organic ranking for several different keywords.

Keep in mind that if your goal is to have three of your listings all rank for the exact same keyword on Google, thus monopolizing the entire 3-pack, this is an unrealistic strategy. Google has filters that keep the same website from appearing too many times in the results and unless you’re in a really niche industry or market, it’s almost impossible to accomplish this.

Practitioners who no longer work there

It’s common to find listings for practitioners who no longer work for your business but did at some point. If you run across a listing for a former practitioner, you'll want to contact Google My Business and ask them to mark the listing as moved to your practice listing. It’s extremely important that you get them to move it to your office listing, not the business the practitioner now works for (if they have been employed elsewhere). Here is a good case study that shows you why.

If the practitioner listing is verified, things can get tricky since Google My Business won’t be able to move it until it’s unverified. If the listing is verified by the practitioner and they refuse to give you access or remove it, the second-best thing would be to get them to update the listing to have their current employer’s information on it. This isn’t ideal and should be a last resort.

Listings for employees (not public-facing)

If you find a listing for a non-public-facing employee, it shouldn’t exist on Maps. For example: an office manager of a law firm, a paralegal, a hygienist, or a nurse. You can get the listing removed:

  • Pull up the listing on Maps
  • Press “Suggest an edit”
  • Switch the toggle beside “Place is permanently closed..” to Yes
  • Select “Never existed” as the reason and press submit.

Listings for deceased practitioners

This is always a terrible scenario to have to deal with, but I've run into lots of cases where people don’t know how to get rid of listings for deceased practitioners. The solution is similar to what you would do for someone who has left the practice, except you want to add an additional step. Since the listings are often verified and people usually don’t have access to the deceased person’s Google account, you want to make sure you tell Google My Business support that the person is deceased and include a link to their obituary online so the support worker can confirm you're telling the truth. I strongly recommend using either Facebook or Twitter to do this, since you can easily include the link (it’s much harder to do on a phone call).

Creating practitioner listings

If you’re creating a practitioner listing from scratch, you might run into issues if you’re trying to do it from the Google My Business dashboard and you already have a verified listing for the practice. The error you would get is shown below.

There are two ways around this:

  1. Create the listing via Google Maps. Do this by searching the address and then clicking “Add a missing place.” Do not include the firm/practice name in the title of the listing or your edit most likely won’t go through, since it will be too similar to the listing that already exists for the practice. Once you get an email from Google Maps stating the listing has been successfully added, you will be able to claim it via GMB.
  2. Contact GMB support and ask them for help.

We hope you enjoyed this excerpt from the Expert's Guide to Local SEO! The full 160+-page guide is available for purchase and download via LocalU below.

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Faster Sites: Beyond PageSpeed Insights

Posted by BenjaminEstes

Google’s PageSpeed Insights is an easy-to-use tool that tests whether a web page might be slower than it needs to be. It gives a score to quantify page performance. Because this score is concrete, the PageSpeed Insights score is often used as a measure of site performance. Similarly to PageRank years back, folks want to optimize this number just because it exists. In fact, Moz has a popular article on this subject: How to Achieve 100/100 with the Google Page Speed Test Tool.

For small sites on common CMSes (think Wordpress), this can be accomplished. If that’s you, PageSpeed Insights is a great place to start. For most sites, a perfect score isn’t realistic. So where do we start?

That’s what this post is about. I want to make three points:

  • Latency can hurt load times more than bandwidth
  • PageSpeed Insights scores shouldn’t be taken at face value
  • Improvement starts with measurement, goal setting, and prioritization

I’m writing with SEO practitioners in mind. I’ll skip over some of the more technical bits. You should walk away with enough perspective to start asking the right questions. And you may make better recommendations as a result.

Disclaimer: HTTP2 improves some of the issues discussed in this post. Specifically, multiple requests to the same server are less problematic. It is not a panacea.

Latency can hurt load times more than bandwidth

A first look at PageSpeed Insights’ rules could make you think it’s all about serving fewer bytes to the user. Minify, optimize, compress. Size is only half the story. It also takes take time for your request simply to reach a server. And then it takes time for the server to respond to you!

What happens when you make a request?

If a user types a URL into a browser address bar and hits enter, a request is made. Lots of things happen when that request is made. The very last part of that is transferring the requested content. It’s only this last bit that is affected by bandwidth and the size of the content.

Fulfilling a request requires (more or less) these steps:

  1. Find the server
  2. Connect to the server
  3. Wait for a response
  4. Receive response

Each of these steps takes time, not just the last. The first three are independent of file size; they are effectively constant costs. These costs are incurred with each request regardless of whether the payload is a tiny, minified CSS file or a huge uncompressed image.

Why does it take time to get a response?

The factor we can’t avoid is that network signals can’t travel faster than the speed of light. That’s a theoretical maximum; in reality, it will take longer than that for data to transfer. For instance, it takes light about 40ms for a round trip between Paris and New York. If it takes twice that time for data to actually cross the Atlantic, then the minimum time it will take to get a response from a server is 80ms.

This is why CDNs are commonly used. CDNs put servers physically closer to users, which is the only way to reduce the time it takes to reach the server.

How much does this matter?

Check out this chart (from Chrome’s DevTools):

The life of a request, measured by Chrome Dev Tools.

All of the values in the red box are what I’m considering “latency.” They total about 220ms. The actual transfer of content took 0.7ms. No compression or reduction of filesize could help this; the only way to reduce the time taken by the request is to reduce latency.

Don’t we need to make a lot of requests to load a page?

It’ll take more than one request to load all of the content necessary to render a page. If that URL corresponded to a webpage, the browser will usually discover that it needs to load more resources to render the page. These could be CSS, JavaScript, or font files. It must recursively go through the same steps listed above to load each of these files.

Fortunately, once a server has been found (“DNS Lookup” in the image above), the browser won’t need to look it up again. It will still have to connect, and we’ll have to wait for a response.

A skeptical read of PageSpeed Insights tests

All of the PageSpeed Insights evaluations cover things that can impact site speed. For large sites, some of them aren’t so easy to implement. And depending on how your site is designed, some may be more impactful than others. That’s not to say you have an excuse not to do these things — they’re all best-practice, and they all help. But they don’t represent the whole site speed picture.

With that in mind, here’s a “skeptical reading” of each of the PageSpeed Insights rules.

Tests focusing on reducing bandwidth use

Rule

Skeptical reading

Optimize images

Unless you have huge images, this might not be a big deal. This is only measuring whether images could be further compressed — not whether you’re loading too many.

Enable compression

Compression is easy. You should use it. It also may not make much of a difference unless you have (for instance) huge JavaScript files loading.

Minify HTML

Will likely reduce overhead only by tens of KB. Latency will have a bigger impact than response size.

Minify CSS

Will likely reduce overhead only by tens of KB. Latency will have a bigger impact than response size.

Minify JS

Probably not as important as consolidating JS into a single file to reduce the number of requests that have to be made.

Tests focusing on reducing latency

Rule

Skeptical reading

Leverage browser caching

Definitely let’s cache our own files. Lots of the files that could benefit from caching are probably hosted on 3rd-party servers. You’d have to host them yourself to change cache times.

Reduce server response time

Threshold on PSI is too high. It also tries to exclude the physical latency of the server—instead looking only at how long it takes the server to respond once it receives a request.

Avoid landing page redirects

Yes.

Eliminate render-blocking JavaScript and CSS in above-the-fold content

A valid concern, but can be frustratingly difficult. Having zero requests on top of the initial page load to render above-the-fold content isn’t necessary to meet most performance goals.

Prioritize visible content

Actually kind of important.

Don’t treat these as the final word on site performance! Independent of these tests, here are some things to think about. Some aren’t covered at all by PageSpeed Insights, and some are only covered halfway:

  • Caching content you control.
  • Reducing the amount of content you’re loading from 3rd-party domains.
  • Reducing server response time beyond the minimum required to pass PageSpeed Insights’ test.
  • Moving the server closer to the end user. Basically, use a CDN.
  • Reducing blocking requests. Ensuring you’re using HTTP2 will help here.

How to start improving

Measurement

The screenshots in this post are created with Chrome DevTools. It’s built into the browser and allows you to inspect exactly what happens when a page loads.

Instead of trusting the Pagespeed Insights tool, go ahead and load your page in Chrome. Check out how it performs. Look at what requests actually seem to take more time. Often the answer will be obvious: too much time will be spent loading ads, for instance.

Goal setting

If a perfect PageSpeed Insights score isn’t your goal, you need to know what your goal will be. This is important, because it allows you to compare current performance to that goal. You can see whether reducing bandwidth requirements will actually meet your goal, or whether you also need to do something to reduce latency (use a CDN, handle fewer requests, load high-priority content first).

Prioritizing

Prioritizing page speed “fixes” is important — that’s not the only type of prioritization. There’s also the question of what actually needs to be loaded. PageSpeed Insights does try to figure out whether you’re prioritizing above-the-fold content. This is a great target. It’s also not a perfect assessment; it might be easier to split content into “critical” and “non-critical” paths, regardless of what is ostensibly above the fold.

For instance: If your site relies on ad revenue, you might load all content on the page and only then begin to load ads. Figuring out how to serve less is a challenge best tackled by you and your team. After all, PageSpeed Insights is a one-size-fits-all solution.

Conclusion

The story so far has been that PageSpeed Insights can be useful, but there are smarter ways to assess and improve site speed. A perfect score doesn’t guarantee a fast site.

If you’re interested in learning more, I highly recommend checking out Ilya Grigorik’s site and specifically this old-but-good introduction deck. Grigorik is a web performance engineer at Google and a very good communicator about site speed issues.


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SEO for Photos, Visuals, and Graphics + How to Rank in Google Image Search – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

When a third of all searches performed in Google are for images and 12.5% of SERPs show Image Pack results, you know it's not a facet of SEO to be trifled with. Today's episode of Whiteboard Friday is densely packed with all the image SEO tips you could ever want, from the bare basics to ranking factors to important next-steps.

SEO for photos, visuals, and graphics

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week, we're going to chat all things image SEO, so SEO for photos, for visuals, for graphics, and talk a little bit about how you rank, not just in Google Image Search, but also in Google in the Image Pack.

Image SEO basics:

Look, there are a couple of things that we should discuss before we even get into that. First off, many folks are asking...

1. "Is it still even worthwhile to do Image Search SEO?"

You might recall that in years past, when you clicked on an image in Google Image Search, you would go to the website or the webpage that had that image on it. Now, if you click it, Google opens up a full-sized version of that, tells you the website it's on. But for many people, that's enough. They do a bunch of searches and never actually visit your website. Google is just serving up your image unbeknownst to you, and you don't even get any data on that. So you don't know how many impressions it gets, all that kind of stuff. So here's the case for Image Search SEO.

  • Visually sold products and services - We've talked to many people who are contractors or decorators, remodelers, hotel owners or hoteliers, craft sellers, and they find that image search is something that people do as research before they choose them. In fact, you might see actual searches for "kitchen remodel Seattle," and then people will base their decision of who to go with based on the images that pop up there, they'll visit that website.
  • Anything that's designed to earn links and citations - So if you're producing graphs or data, or you're taking photos of events or of people, and you're hoping that those people or other folks will go and use your images and then link back to you, you definitely want to do Image Search SEO. That can get you in front of that right audience. When they use your image in their presentation or their publication or their website, you get the link.
  • Visual content licensers - Very obviously, they make their living selling images. Google Image Search is a great way to get in there. So if you're a photographer or an illustrator or a stock gallery, you certainly would want to be doing that as well.

*A couple of data points:

One comes from Jumpshot, whose U.S. dataset is fairly sizeable, in the millions of searchers. They see that about a third of all the searches performed on Google are performed in Google Image Search, which is just mind-bogglingly crazy, like huge. I never realized how big Google Image Search was until I saw that Jumpshot data. It's just massive. MozCast shows us that about 12.5% of all Google searches in the web results do show an Image Pack somewhere in there.

2. Do you have to use original visuals?

Or can you, for example, license visual content from other folks? Can you buy a stock image and put that on your site and potentially still rank for it in Google Images? The answer is, actually, yes.

  • So unlike web results, duplicates are not viewed as a problem. Google Image Search will generally take one version of an image, and that'll rank higher than the others. But it's not always the original. In fact, many times it's not the original source. It's a page that does a really good job of Image Search SEO. So this is a great opportunity for SEOs to get some extra traffic.
  • Just make sure that you have the right permissions.

3. How do you figure out if image SEO is actually something you should be doing?

Well, for any given keyword, for example, I searched for "Santa Fe architecture" here, and there's a result, I think at the top. Maybe it's an ad result. Then there's the image block with a few photos in there. Google is only going to show that image block if and when the searchers are actually clicking over to images very frequently, or there are lots of searches directly on Google Images for that term. So Google itself can sort of be that indicator for you of whether there's demand.

What are the rankings elements for Google images + image packs?

Now, if you are curious about doing this image SEO and you've decided, "Okay, this probably makes sense. I should try it out. I should do some. I've got some uses cases," my strong suggestion would be that you look at all the ranking factors. They're actually quite broad, but they're not nearly as complicated. Or they're a little more basic than we're used to with web results. I think that is because, when it comes to images, Google is mostly hyper-concerned with relevance and serving the user's interest, rather than link popularity. They don't worry as much nearly about spamming and manipulation in those results. So you can see them using a sort of more old-school style algorithm.

So here's a page with some pictures of Santa Fe on it, and things that Google might use are:

A. The image file name

B. The alt attribute on the image. Another very important reason to add alt attributes, in addition to accessibility reasons, is for Image Search SEO. It does seem to help a little bit, maybe, with web results SEO too.

C. The image caption. So this is something where we've actually seen the caption be more important than the alt attribute when it comes to Image Search. So if you put that little caption down below, underneath your image, that can actually help with the Image Search rankings.

D. Surrounding text content. So Google is going to look at this text above and below and around the images to see if it has relevance.

E. The page title, of course.

F. The page URL that it's hosted on. This is one of the reasons, by the way, that galleries of images, especially inside stock photo galleries, don't tend to do very well, because there's very little sort of relevant content surrounding them. They tend to be in these big, gallery-style layouts. So there are tons of images all in one page, when what Google is looking for is just one or two that are hyper-relevant to the particular topic, which is why most of the images you see doing really well in Google Image Search are the ones that live, not by themselves necessarily, but are the premier image on that particular page.

G. Image engagement and popularity. This is a big one. We have seen results where folks have done tests. They've shown that if you do a search on Google Images and you click the 12th image down and a lot of people start doing that, Google will move it up, just like in the web results, but sometimes even more so with images. We think engagement and popularity, what people scroll to, what they click on, what they click through to, matters quite a bit. That's why you should have a very high-quality, highly interesting, highly relevant image, as well as you also want to serve visitor demand.

H. The image dimensions matter. So if you do a Google Image Search, you will notice that they don't show, or they rarely show, unusual image dimensions. So an image like this, which is very, very horizontal and not very vertical, probably wouldn't do well. Just as a very vertical, not very horizontal one. They tend to look for sort of 16 by 9, 4 by 3, square images, and sometimes turned on their side so vertically it can work, as well. But anything much more than that and you get into problems.

I. Image size. So Google is generally not looking for very small images. They also tend not to show gigantic ones, although they sometimes will scale it down. If you do searches for anything plus "wallpaper," Google knows that the intent is for very large sizes, and so they will show that.

J. Embeds of the image. So if your visual appears on many different websites and pages, and it's been embedded multiple times, that seems to have a positive impact.

K. Traditional web ranking factors on the existing URL. So if this page, architecture.com/santafe, happened to rank well, in the top five or six or seven for "Santa Fe architecture," chances are good that images from that page would also rank in the first few images results. The reverse isn't always true. But if you can get the ranking in web results, you can generally do well in the image results as well. Why wouldn't you want to? Because you can get traffic from both.

L. Google seems to finally have gotten to the point where they have some sophistication, and they're doing a little bit of image relevance and visual match in here too. So if you have a picture of a koala, as adorable as that might be, even if you have every other factor in here, they probably won't show you for "Santa Fe architecture," at least not for long.

What steps should I take with image SEO?

Well, just a few. I want you to...

1. Determine your SEO goals, and then I want you to compare those SEO goals against your keyword research list.

2. Audit of your keyword research list for image visibility. Keyword Explorer is actually really awesome for this. I think there are probably some other tools that do it, but right now Keyword Explorer is one of the best. You can also do it in Moz Pro. You basically plug in all your keywords, you go to your list page, and you see what number of results actually have image blocks like this in them. That will tell you what kind of opportunity you've got.

If you decide that you're going to do any image SEO at all and it matches with your goals, you're then going to...

3. Create a set of guidelines for content creators/publishers on your site. I want these guidelines basically to be for anyone who's creating content on the site, if you are putting an image in, just do these three or four things.

Make sure you've got the caption right. Make sure you do the image alt attribute. Make sure that the size and dimensions are right, and you do some image optimization so it loads quickly on mobile, those kinds of things.

4. Create a target list of image SEO opportunities to pursue. So these would be like the 5 or 10, or if you're bigger, maybe 50 keywords that you know have image blocks in them, or that you know get lots of image searches, and therefore you're trying to target them. You can then go actually create the priority of, "Hey, we need a visual for this. Hey, we need to put it on a page, and we need to nail these things."

5. Audit your existing images on your site for SEO and UX optimization (size, speed compression, etc.)

Probably, there's a bunch of low-hanging fruit that you're missing out on. My recommendation, check out Ryan Ayres' "How to Perform an Image Optimization Audit" from last year on Moz's website. Really good post, walks you through how to use Screaming Frog to do this and how to optimize all those visuals.

Thanks for sticking with me through all this dense information on image SEO. I hope you rock the image rankings, and we'll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com


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