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Ask Yoast: Emojis and SEO

With so much of our day-to-day communication happening online these days, the use of emojis, to add some flavor to typed messages, has gone through the roof. They don’t just express emotions, but depict a range of animals, objects, places and so on, as well. The options to express yourself with them are endless! If you frequently use emojis in your daily communication, you may also feel like using them on your website. But what’s the deal with emojis and SEO? Do they have any impact on your rankings, positive or negative? In this Ask Yoast, I’ll get into that 🙂

Iris Schöberl emailed us her question:

“Do you as an SEO expert recommend to use emojis? Or is it spam to Google?”

Watch the video or read the transcript further down the page for my answer!

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Emojis and SEO

“I’m thinking that you probably mean in the meta-description and titles etc., where some emojis will actually show up in the search results. If they do show up in the search results, I would use them because they make you stand out. And standing out in the search results means the more people click on you; more clicks is what you want, so yes, I would use them.

Would I use every emoji? No, I probably would not use the poop emoji for pages that I want to sell something on, unless it’s poop.

So, see if it fits in with your brand. If it fits in with your brand, there’s nothing I have inherently against it or in favor of it. Just see what works for your brand and what works for your audience. And do that. Good luck!”

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast we answer SEO questions from our readers. Have an SEO-related question? Let us help you out! Send an email to ask@yoast.com.

(Note: please check our blog and knowledge base first, the answer to your question may already be out there! For urgent questions, for example about our plugin not working properly, we’d like to refer you to our support page.)

Read more: ‘5 tips on branding’ »

The post Ask Yoast: Emojis and SEO appeared first on Yoast.

How Prepared Are Marketers for the GDPR?

Disclaimer: This blog post is not legal advice for your company to use in complying with EU data privacy laws like the GDPR. Instead, it provides background information to help you better understand the GDPR. This legal information is not the same as legal advice, where an attorney applies the law to your specific circumstances, so we insist that you consult an attorney if you’d like advice on your interpretation of this information or its accuracy.

In a nutshell, you may not rely on this as legal advice, or as a recommendation of any particular legal understanding.

If your line of work involves, well, the internet — chances are, you’ve heard about the General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR).

You’ve most likely also heard about the ways it will impact your work — especially if you’re a marketer. After all, in marketing, our responsibilities largely boil down to outreach and building an audience, and sometimes, that involves obtaining, storing, and processing the personal data of users who come across our content.

But if you’re not based in the EU and think the GDPR won’t affect you — think again. If you market your products to people in the EU or monitor the behavior of people in the EU — even if you’re based outside of the EU — the GDPR will apply to you.

So, how prepared are marketers for the GDPR? (Spoiler alert: The answer is “not very.”) And for those who are, what are they doing to prepare for May 2018, when the GDPR comes into force?

To understand that, we’ll go over how consumers view the GDPR, which informs the way marketers should be thinking about it. Then, we’ll dive into the ways businesses are preparing.

Consumers Agree the GDPR Is a Good Thing

Among EU consumers, data privacy laws are well-received — especially the GDPR. It’s interesting to note that this feedback comes from an audience outside of the U.S., where data breaches have been making headlines for years — most recently, two of the more noteworthy incidents came from Equifax and Uber

That reinforces the idea that U.S.-based companies should still be highly concerned with this European Regulation. Data security is a global issue — and in this age, it’s easy to observe what’s happening in other countries.

Here’s where regulations like the GDPR become the marketer’s responsibility. In a recent webinar led by BetterCloud, digital security expert Jodi Daniels spoke to the importance of GDPR as a brand awareness issue. Calling it a “big competitive advantage,” she noted that complying with and prioritizing data security laws sends the message to users that you care about their safety.

That concern and transparency is something that a growing number of consumers will not only expect, but demand. In fact, we found that 91% of consumers expect companies they work with to be completely transparent about how, exactly, their data is being used — which can cause hesitation in submitting data.

But that’s just the beginning. Even if a company is completely transparent about the use of personal data, less than a quarter of consumers would still find them “very trustworthy” — and half would find them “somewhat trustworthy.”

In other words, when it comes to truly earning the trust of consumers, marketers and their businesses certainly have their work cut out for them — and we suspect that much of this sentiment is the result of the recent data breaches we mentioned earlier. GDPR compliance is a big, crucial step.

So, what are some of the ways in which businesses are preparing for this Regulation that will take effect in roughly six months?

Marketers Are Not Well-Prepared for the GDPR

Yes, you read the above information correctly: Less than half of the business leaders and marketers we surveyed are even aware of the GDPR. And as for how much preparatory knowledge they have about the Regulation in general — well, that’s not looking too encouraging, either.

But not all hope is lost. There is some preparation underway, and for the most part, companies (about half of those represented by those we surveyed) are addressing the GDPR by updating their contracts and data protection policies, many of whom are working with their vendors to do the same.

However, what’s less encouraging is that 22% of our survey participants admitted that, at the time of taking the survey, they hadn’t started doing anything yet to prepare for the GDPR.

That lack of preparation could be the indirect result of the fear that some marketers seem to have of the GDPR’s impact on their businesses. Over half of them, for example, expect to see their email marketing lists shrink.

That expectation could stem from the GDPR’s inclusion of “right to erasure,” which is essentially the right of an individual to request that all personal data about him or herself is erased by the “controller” of that data (i.e., the organization that collected the data) with undue delay in certain circumstances. And given that option, 59% of European consumers say — they would take it. 

Finally, it seems that marketers and business leaders are largely preparing to change the ways they collect consumer data. Email opt-ins and sales-related calling practices will largely be impacted, many expect, and marketing teams will continue to grow their focus on such outreach tools as social media and traffic-building content and SEO strategies.

Simply put, consumers in Europe view the GDPR with a highly positive sentiment, and marketers need to respond in kind. As transparency becomes even more valued, companies can view it, in part, as a vehicle of brand awareness — one that will now be dictated by strict rules.

If you still have questions, we’ll continue to follow the GDPR closely in the months leading up to May 2018, when it comes into force. In the meantime, visit our checklist to help businesses work on their GDPR compliance.

Image Link Building – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by BritneyMuller

Image link building is a delicate art. There are some distinct considerations from traditional link building, and doing it successfully requires a balance of creativity, curiosity, and having the right tools on hand. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Moz’s own SEO and link building aficionado Britney Muller offers up concrete advice for successfully building links via images.

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Image Link Building

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

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Video Transcription

Hey, Moz fans, welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Today we’re going to go over all things image link building, which is sort of an art. I’m so excited to dig into this with you.

Know your link targets

So first and foremost, you need to know your link targets:

I. Popular industry platforms – top pages

What are those top platforms or websites that you would really like to acquire a link from? Then, from there, you can start to understand who might be influencers on those platforms, who’s writing the content, who might you contact, and also what are the top pages currently for those sites. There are a number of tools that give you a glimpse into that information. Moz’s OSE, Open Site Explorer, will show you top pages. SEMrush has a top page report. SimilarWeb has a popular page report. You can dig into all that information there, really interesting stuff.

II. Old popular images – update!

You can also start to dig into old, popular images and then update them. So what are old popular images within your space that you could have an opportunity to revamp and update? A really neat way to sort of dig into some of that is BuzzSumo’s infographics filter, and then you would insert the topic. You enter the industry or the topic you’re trying to address and then search by the infographics to see if you can come across anything.

III. Transform popular content into images

You can also just transform popular content into images, and I think there is so much opportunity in doing that for new statistics reports, new data that comes out. There are tons of great opportunities to transform those into multiple images and leverage that across different platforms for link building.

IV. Influencers

Again, just understanding who those influencers are.

Do your keyword research

So, from here, we’re going to dive into the keyword research part of this whole puzzle, and this is really understanding the intent behind people searching about the topic or the product or whatever it might be. Something you can do is evaluate keywords with link intent. This is a brilliant concept I heard about a couple weeks back from Dan Shure’s podcast. Thank you, Dan. Essentially it’s the idea that keywords with statistics or facts after the keyword have link intent baked into the search query. It’s brilliant. Those individuals are searching for something to reference, to maybe link to, to include in a presentation or an article or whatever that might be. It has this basic link intent.

Another thing you want to evaluate is just anything around images. Do any of your keywords and pictures or photos, etc. have good search volume with some opportunities? What does that search result currently look like? You have to evaluate what’s currently ranking to understand what’s working and what’s not. I used to say at my old agency I didn’t want anyone writing any piece of content until they had read all of the 10 search results for that keyword or that phrase we were targeting. Why would you do that until you have a full understanding of how that looks currently and how we can make something way better?

Rand had also mentioned this really cool tip on if you find some keywords, it’s good to evaluate whether or not the image carousel shows up for those searches, because if it does, that’s a little glimpse into the searcher intent that leads to images. That’s a good sign that you’re on the right track to really optimize for a certain image. It’s something to keep in mind.

Provide value

So, from here, we’re going to move up to providing value. Now we’re in the brainstorming stage. Hopefully, you’ve gotten some ideas, you know where you want to link from, and you need to provide value in some way. It could be a…

I. Reference/bookmark Maybe something that people would bookmark, that always works.

II. Perspective is a really interesting one. So some of the most beautiful data visualizations do this extremely well, where they can simplify a confusing concept or a lot of data. It’s a great way to leverage images and graphics.

III. Printouts still work really well. Moz has the SEO Dev Cheat Sheet that I have seen printed all over at different agencies, and that’s really neat to see it adding value directly.

IV. Curate images. We see this a lot with different articles. Maybe the top 25 to 50 images from this tradeshow or this event or whatever it might be, that’s a great way to leverage link building and kind of getting people fired up about a curated piece of content.

Gregory Ciotti — I don’t know if I’m saying that right — has an incredible article I suggest you all read called “Why a Visual Really Is Worth a Thousand Words,” and he mentions don’t be afraid to get obvious. I love that, because I think all too often we tend to overthink images and executing things in general. Why not just state the obvious and see how it goes? He’s got great examples.

Optimize

So, from here, we are going to move into optimization. If any of you need a brush-up on image optimization, I highly suggest you check out Rand’s Whiteboard Friday on image SEO. It covers everything. But some of the basics are your…

Title

You want to make sure that the title of the image has your keyword and explains what it is that you’re trying to convey.

Alt text

This was first and foremost designed for the visually impaired, so you need to be mindful of visually impaired screen readers that will read this to people to explain what the image actually is. So first and foremost, you just need to be helpful and provide information in a descriptive way to describe that image.

Compression

Compression is huge. Page speed is so big right now. I hear about it all the time. I know you guys do too. But one of the easiest ways to help page speed is to compress those huge images. There’s a ton of great free tools out there, like Optimizilla, where you can bulk upload a bunch of large images and then bulk download. It makes it super easy. There are also some desktop programs, if you’re doing this kind of stuff all the time, that will automatically compress images you download or save. That might be worth looking into if you do this a lot.
You want to host the image. You want it to live on your domain. You want to house that. You can leverage it on other platforms, but you want sort of that original to be on your site.

SRCSET

Source set attribute is getting a little technical. It’s super interesting, and it’s basically this really incredible image attribute that allows you to set the minimum browser size and the image you would prefer to show up for different sizes. So you can not only have different images show up for different devices in different sizes, but you can also revamp them. You can revamp the same image and serve it better for a mobile user versus a tablet, etc. John Henshaw has some of the greatest stuff on source set. Highly suggest you look at some of his articles. He’s doing really cool things with it. Check that out.

Promotion

So, from here, you want to promote your images. You obviously want to share it on popular platforms. You want to reach back out to some of these things that you might have into earlier. If you updated a piece of content, make them aware of that. Or if you transformed a really popular piece of content into some visuals, you might want to share that with the person who is sharing that piece of content. You want to start to tap into that previous research with your promotion.

Inform the influencers

Ask people to share it. There is nothing wrong with just asking your network of people to share something you’ve worked really hard on, and hopefully, vice versa, that can work in return and you’re not afraid to share something a connection of yours has that they worked really hard on.

Monitor the image SERPs

From here, you need to monitor. One of the best ways to do this is Google reverse image search. So if you go to Google and you click the images tab, there’s that little camera icon that you can click on and upload images to see where else they live on the web. This is a great way to figure out who is using your image, where it’s being held, are you getting a backlink or are you not. You want to keep an eye on all of that stuff.

Two other tools to do this, that I’ve heard about, are Image Raider and TinEye. But I have not had great experience with either of these. I would love to hear your comments below if maybe you have.

Reverse image search with Google works the best for me. This is also an awesome opportunity for someone to get on the market and create a Google alert for images. I don’t think anyone is actually doing that right now. If you know someone that is, please let me know down below in the comments. But it could be a cool business opportunity, right? I don’t know.

So for monitoring, let’s say you find your image is being used on different websites. Now you need to do some basic outreach to get that link. You want to request that link for using your image.

This is just a super basic template that I came up with. You can use it. You can change it, do whatever you want. But it’s just:

Hi, [first name].
Thank you so much for including our image in your article. Great piece. Just wondering if you could link to us.com as the source.
Thanks,
Britney

Something like that. Something short, to the point. If you can make it more personalized, please do so. I can’t stress that enough. People will take you way more seriously if you have some nugget of personal information or connection that you can make.

From there, you just sort of stay in this loop. After you go through this process, you need to continue to promote your content and continue to monitor and do outreach and push that to maximize your link building efforts.
So I hope you enjoyed this. I look forward to hearing all of your comments and thoughts down below in the comments. I look forward to seeing you all later. Thanks for joining us on this edition of Whiteboard Friday. Thanks.

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9 Proven Tactics of a Successful Local Facebook Marketing Strategy

With 2.2 billion active users, it might seem like turning followers into paying customers on Facebook would be easy. At least a few of those users will want what you’re selling … right? Unfortunately, targeting a local market on Facebook is a little more challenging than that.

Building a local Facebook marketing strategy is challenging, but extremely rewarding when executed correctly. Here are nine proven Facebook marketing tactics you can use to drive foot traffic, build brand awareness, and increase revenue potential.

9 Tactics for Your Local Facebook Marketing Strategy

1. Share Reviews

Standing out can be difficult when you’re surrounded by hundreds of other businesses all vying for attention. The key often lies in using social proof. People trust businesses that can prove what they say is true — especially if that proof comes from a customer.

Here are two review tactics we use:

  • Share screenshots of positive reviews from other social sites.
  • Ask customers to share the experience they’ve had with your business.

Screenshot positive reviews on sites like Yelp and Google+, and then share them on your Facebook page. Tag the reviewer’s business in your post with a sincere “Thank you,”, or just happily boast that you have the best customers. Sharing screenshots of emails from happy customers works too, just be sure you ask permission first.

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If you’re just starting out and your business doesn’t have any reviews yet, give your audience an incentive to leave positive feedback. Ask your followers how their last experience was at your business. Offer a product giveaway to the first five people that leave a comment describing why they love your company. Even if you don’t get an official Facebook review, someone will probably comment on their experience. That’s social proof.

2. Create an Event

Having a live band perform at your restaurant this weekend or throwing a big sale at your retail store? Facebook events are a great way to notify your followers and generate some buzz for your business. Even if people can’t attend in person, it shows that your business is actively engaged with the community.

Creating an event on your Facebook page is easy. First, navigate to the “Events” tab.

Select the blue “Create Event” button.

Fill in the details:

  • Date and time
  • Event category
  • Event keywords
  • A link to the ticketing website

Finally, add a compelling photo, and you’re good to go.

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A few tips to improve the reach of your Facebook event:

  • Add directions or a map to make it easy for people to find your event.
  • Invite up to 500 people.
  • Share your event and/or promote it as an ad.

3. Use Groups

Groups offer a wide variety of local Facebook marketing advantages. Some of the best include:

  • Listing and selling products
  • Building a community
  • Establishing expertise
  • Networking
  • Offering great customer service

The possibilities for creating and managing a group on Facebook are only limited by your imagination. Groups are the perfect place to create a controlled community within your target audience. As the admin of the group, you can approve or reject all posts, accept or block members, and direct the commentary.

Groups allow you to build a micro-community that is hyper-focused on the subject of your choosing. For example, a business that sells laptop cases could create an entire Facebook group centered around laptop cases and their various uses, the best kinds, how to determine product quality, and humorous customer stories.

4. Share Local Content

One thing that’s consistent across Facebook is that people love to celebrate local pride. Align your business with famous events, history, people, landmarks, sayings, and other nuances that are part of your city’s identity. Share content from local organizations that captures the essence of your locale and will interest to your audience.

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These are examples of good local content topics:

  • 13 Things Keeping Austin Weird
  • How Boston’s “R”-less Accent Became So Famous
  • The Best Festivals to Attend this Summer in San Diego

Make your Facebook page an extension of the culture and traditions surrounding your location.

5. Mention Local Businesses, Events, and Groups

If you’re looking for ways to build engagement and gain traction, tag accounts that share content which aligns with your audience’s interests. As with all things on social media, tagging can be overdone, so don’t start tagging pages in every post. Rather, choose the ones that will have the greatest impact and provide value to your audience.

Tagging is another great way to support local marketing efforts. Build hype for an event your company is hosting using a Facebook live video, or showcase company culture with a group photo at the next conference you attend. One word of caution: if you decide to try Facebook live, write a script. The last thing you want to do is live-stream without a plan.

In addition to page tags, groups can also be tagged. This is especially effective when you’re attending industry events or working on collaborations. Athletic wear brands, such as Puma, do an exceptional job promoting their collaborations on Facebook.

6. Tag Locations & Events

I’m not talking about tagging your latest check-in at Olive Garden, I’m talking about event marketing, company outings, and business development trips. Manning a booth at Comic-Con? Post a group picture that tags the event and location. Taking the team out for someone’s Birthday lunch? Tag the location and upload a boomerang. Checking out your latest digital billboard downtown? Tag the location and upload a picture.

Add some variety to your Facebook page by tagging locations and show off your company’s personality at the same time.

7. Run a Contest

Everybody likes to win things. There are many different ways to run a Facebook contest. The two most popular include hosting a promotion on a Facebook app or on your Page’s Timeline.

Pay close attention to Facebook’s content rules because disregarding them could get your contest shutdown. Here are just a few things you can’t do:

  • You can’t require participants to share a page or post on your Timeline to enter
  • You can’t require participants to like a page to enter
  • You can’t require participants to tag themselves in pictures to enter

The list goes on. Review a thorough breakdown of what you can and can’t do when running a Facebook contest here. Helpful hint: even though you can’t require page likes, photo tagging, and timeline posting, you can still encourage the audience to complete those actions.

8. Encourage Foot Traffic

Retail companies often struggle to make Facebook work in their favor. The biggest problem is getting people online to come into the store. Here are a few tips to start turning Facebook followers into foot traffic that have revenue potential:

  • Create polls and contests centered on popular products and their uses
  • Run regular in-store events your customers are interested in
  • Promote in-store coupons, giveaways, and sweepstakes
  • Build a shop directly on Facebook where your customers can purchase your products
  • Align your page with causes your audience cares about

Think of Facebook as your marketing email and your store as the landing page. In order to get people from the digital universe to visit your physical business, you need to have a compelling message and offer they can’t refuse. For example, if there’s a large sales conference in town you could create a set of Facebook ads that are focused on the area surrounding the conference center and targets sales professionals over the age of 21. Offer a lunch discount and provide all the details they need to make a quick meal grab before heading to their next session.

9. On-Site Promotion of Your Facebook Page

Try to convert the foot traffic your business attracts into online brand advocates. Use signage, receipts, business cards, flyers, coupons and more to ask for page likes, check-ins, reviews, and posts on your Facebook Timeline.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Give away a $200 gift card that requires participants to post a picture taken in front of a branded mural, sign, or display that tags your Facebook page.
  • Offer a 20% off discount for everyone who checks-in at your store on a Wednesday.

Executing successful Facebook local marketing tactics requires consistent testing and experimentation. What works for a retail business might not work for a restaurant, and vice versa.

Take the time to figure out what your audience responds to the best and what generates the most business for your company through Facebook. Successful Facebook local marketing can take time. Be patient, detail oriented and persistent.

 

 

Yoast SEO: How to make your site stand out in search results

In this article, I’d like to highlight the snippet preview in our Yoast SEO plugin. What is it, how does it work and what should you pay attention to? First of all, I have to point out that Google makes the final selection of content for your mention in the search result pages. No matter how much effort you put in optimizing your meta description, if Google feels that another snippet of your pages answers their visitor’s search query better, it will use that snippet instead of your meta description. Is that a problem, you think? I think it isn’t. It’s Google helping people understand your page better.

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Let’s look at that snippet preview

You can find the snippet preview in the so-called meta box, right below the edit field in WordPress:

Yoast SEO's snippet preview - How to make your site stand out in search results

As you can see, the meta description needs optimizing and the title is perhaps a bit long. Now, where do we change all these things?

Your site’s title

If you want to make your site stand out in search results, this will always have to be optimized one page at a time. Branding should be consistent on all pages, by the way. Looking at a single search result, the page title is the thing that gets the most attention in the search result pages. It’s in the largest font, the blue color pops. It’s usually also the most consistent thing in there. Your titles look like this by default (due to settings in our plugin): ‘page title’ – ‘site name’. Now if that is something you’d like to change for this specific post, simply click ‘Edit snippet’ and you’ll get this screen:

Edit Yoast SEO snippet preview

As you can see, the template of the title is displayed here. %%page%% will give you the number of the page is you have spread the article over multiple pages, %%sep%% is the separator or divider you can pick in our plugin as well. If you want to adjust the title, you can do that here. For tips on how to set that title up, please read Crafting good titles for SEO.

Read more: ‘Titles and meta variables in Yoast SEO’ »

Meta descriptions

We have written quite a lot about that meta description. It’s the only ‘tool’, besides the title, that Google gives us to optimize our invitation to our website. In the meta description, you highlight what your page is about and why the user should visit it.

Note that the meta description is a suggestion for Google, as I mentioned earlier. If Google doesn’t use the meta description you enter or edit here; some reasons could apply:

  • Your meta description doesn’t match the search query of the user. If you optimize your meta description for a certain keyword, which differs from the query, Google might decide to pick some sentences that fit the query better instead. Again, that might be a good thing.
  • Your meta description is over-optimized for a certain keyword, or considered to be too focused on sales/spam. Sometimes you may manage to squeeze in an emoji or icon of some kind, most of the times Google prefers text. I think most users do, by the way. It allows for more characters if you leave the fluff out, so your sentences are easier to read.

The length of that meta description

Now let’s discuss the length of that meta description. At the moment, we stick to approximately 160 characters, but times they are a-changing. Just recently, Google mentioned longer meta descriptions. This means we can squeeze in a few extra lines of text. However, Google will display this in some cases, not all. It might be just the meta descriptions that Google creates for us.

Longer meta descriptions also means that the first result will get some more attention, which fits Google’s aim of showing you the best result right away. And, think along the lines of voice search as well. MOZ’s example of our meta description post aligns nicely with the voice search example Joost used here. It’s consistent this way. Not sure if that’s the thought behind it, but it came to mind.

At Yoast, we keep a keen eye on what’s going on here and if we find the logic behind this new length, or Google tells us, we will find a way to incorporate this in our plugin. For the time being: results are still perfectly fine in the current length!

Get the most out of Yoast SEO, learn every feature and best practice in our Yoast SEO for WordPress training! »

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Optimizing your slug

Last but not least, you can also alter your slug. That’s the post-related part of the URL for that post. In our snippet preview editor, you can change that slug. Remove some clutter, make sure there’s focus. If possible, add the preferred focus keyword in there. Google could change that slug into ‘breadcrumbs’ a lot of the times, by the way. But if your URL is in the results, it’s nice to have the focus keyword in bold there as well.

One more thing: site links

Last but not least: site links. Site links are the links that you sometimes find below your main mention:

Site links for Yoast

As you can see, it’s one mention, with multiple extra site links below it. Now, this isn’t in our plugin or snippet preview, since we as site owners can’t control or suggest these. Google even removed the option to demote any links here last year. So it’s out of our reach, to be honest. Just wanted to clarify that 🙂

In conclusion

That’s it. You can easily optimize your mention in the search result pages if you use the snippet preview, and editor, in our free and premium Yoast SEO plugin. It’s an easy, convenient way to present Google with a ready-to-use, optimized snippet for their search result pages. Now go and optimize 🙂

Keep reading: ‘The beginner’s guide to Yoast SEO’ »

The post Yoast SEO: How to make your site stand out in search results appeared first on Yoast.

Moz the Monster: Anatomy of an (Averted) Brand Crisis

Posted by Dr-Pete

On the morning of Friday, November 10, we woke up to the news that John Lewis had launched an ad campaign called “Moz the Monster“. If you’re from the UK, John Lewis needs no introduction, but for our American audience, they’re a high-end retail chain that’s gained a reputation for a decade of amazing Christmas ads.

It’s estimated that John Lewis spent upwards of ÂŁ7m on this campaign (roughly $9.4M). It quickly became clear that they had organized a multi-channel effort, including a #mozthemonster Twitter campaign.

From a consumer perspective, Moz was just a lovable blue monster. From the perspective of a company that has spent years building a brand, John Lewis was potentially going to rewrite what “Moz” meant to the broader world. From a search perspective, we were facing a rare possibility of competing for our own brand on Google results if this campaign went viral (and John Lewis has a solid history of viral campaigns).

Step #1: Don’t panic

At the speed of social media, it can be hard to stop and take a breath, but you have to remember that that speed cuts both ways. If you’re too quick to respond and make a mistake, that mistake travels at the same speed and can turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy, creating exactly the disaster you feared.

The first step is to get multiple perspectives quickly. I took to Slack in the morning (I’m two hours ahead of the Seattle team) to find out who was awake. Two of our UK team (Jo and Eli) were quick to respond, which had the added benefit of getting us the local perspective.

Collectively, we decided that, in the spirit of our TAGFEE philosophy, a friendly monster deserved a friendly response. Even if we chose to look at it purely from a pragmatic, tactical standpoint, John Lewis wasn’t a competitor, and going in metaphorical guns-blazing against a furry blue monster and the little boy he befriended could’ve been step one toward a reputation nightmare.

Step #2: Respond (carefully)

In some cases, you may choose not to respond, but in this case we felt that friendly engagement was our best approach. Since the Seattle team was finishing their first cup of coffee, I decided to test the waters with a tweet from my personal account:

I’ve got a smaller audience than the main Moz account, and a personal tweet as the west coast was getting in gear was less exposure. The initial response was positive, and we even got a little bit of feedback, such as suggestions to monitor UK Google SERPs (see “Step #3”).

Our community team (thanks, Tyler!) quickly followed up with an official tweet:

While we didn’t get direct engagement from John Lewis, the general community response was positive. Roger Mozbot and Moz the Monster could live in peace, at least for now.

Step #3: Measure

There was a longer-term fear – would engagement with the Moz the Monster campaign alter Google SERPs for Moz-related keywords? Google has become an incredibly dynamic engine, and the meaning of any given phrase can rewrite itself based on how searchers engage with that phrase. I decided to track “moz” itself across both the US and UK.

In that first day of the official campaign launch, searches for “moz” were already showing news (“Top Stories”) results in the US and UK, with the text-only version in the US:

…and the richer Top Stories carousel in the UK:

The Guardian article that announced the campaign launch was also ranking organically, near the bottom of page one. So, even on day one, we were seeing some brand encroachment and knew we had to keep track of the situation on a daily basis.

Just two days later (November 12), Moz the Monster had captured four page-one organic results for “moz” in the UK (at the bottom of the page):

While it still wasn’t time to panic, John Lewis’ campaign was clearly having an impact on Google SERPs.

Step #4: Surprises

On November 13, it looked like the SERPs might be returning to normal. The Moz Blog had regained the Top Stories block in both US and UK results:

We weren’t in the clear yet, though. A couple of days later, a plagiarism scandal broke, and it was dominating the UK news for “moz” by November 18:

This story also migrated into organic SERPs after The Guardian published an op-ed piece. Fortunately for John Lewis, the follow-up story didn’t last very long. It’s an important reminder, though, that you can’t take your eyes off of the ball just because it seems to be rolling in the right direction.

Step #5: Results

It’s one thing to see changes in the SERPs, but how was all of this impacting search trends and our actual traffic? Here’s the data from Google Trends for a 4-week period around the Moz the Monster launch (2 weeks on either side):

The top graph is US trends data, and the bottom graph is UK. The large spike in the middle of the UK graph is November 10, where you can see that interest in the search “moz” increased dramatically. However, this spike fell off fairly quickly and US interest was relatively unaffected.

Let’s look at the same time period for Google Search Console impression and click data. First, the US data (isolated to just the keyword “moz”):

There was almost no change in impressions or clicks in the US market. Now, the UK data:

Here, the launch spike in impressions is very clear, and closely mirrors the Google Trends data. However, clicks to Moz.com were, like the US market, unaffected. Hindsight is 20/20, and we were trying to make decisions on the fly, but the short-term shift in Google SERPs had very little impact on clicks to our site. People looking for Moz the Monster and people looking for Moz the search marketing tool are, not shockingly, two very different groups.

Ultimately, the impact of this campaign was short-lived, but it is interesting to see how quickly a SERP can rewrite itself based on the changing world, especially with an injection of ad dollars. At one point (in UK results), Moz the Monster had replaced Moz.com in over half (5 of 8) page-one organic spots and Top Stories – an impressive and somewhat alarming feat.

By December 2, Moz the Monster had completely disappeared from US and UK SERPs for the phrase “moz”. New, short-term signals can rewrite search results, but when those signals fade, results often return to normal. So, remember not to panic and track real, bottom-line results.

Your crisis plan

So, how can we generalize this to other brand crises? What happens when someone else’s campaign treads on your brand’s hard-fought territory? Let’s restate our 5-step process:

(1) Remember not to panic

The very word “crisis” almost demands panic, but remember that you can make any problem worse. I realize that’s not very comforting, but unless your office is actually on fire, there’s time to stop and assess the situation. Get multiple perspectives and make sure you’re not overreacting.

(2) Be cautiously proactive

Unless there’s a very good reason not to (such as a legal reason), it’s almost always best to be proactive and respond to the situation on your own terms. At least acknowledge the situation, preferably with a touch of humor. These brand intrusions are, by their nature, high profile, and if you pretend it’s not happening, you’ll just look clueless.

(3) Track the impact

As soon as possible, start collecting data. These situations move quickly, and search rankings can change overnight in 2017. Find out what impact the event is really having as quickly as possible, even if you have to track some of it by hand. Don’t wait for the perfect metrics or tracking tools.

(4) Don’t get complacent

Search results are volatile and social media is fickle – don’t assume that a lull or short-term change means you can stop and rest. Keep tracking, at least for a few days and preferably for a couple of weeks (depending on the severity of the crisis).

(5) Measure bottom-line results

As the days go by, you’ll be able to more clearly see the impact. Track as deeply as you can – long-term rankings, traffic, even sales/conversions where necessary. This is the data that tells you if the short-term impact in (3) is really doing damage or is just superficial.

The real John Lewis

Finally, I’d like to give a shout-out to someone who has felt a much longer-term impact of John Lewis’ succesful holiday campaigns. Twitter user and computer science teacher @johnlewis has weathered his own brand crisis year after year with grace and humor:

So, a hat-tip to John Lewis, and, on behalf of Moz, a very happy holidays to Moz the Monster!

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Why you should use a focus keyword only once

Your focus keyword is the keyword you want your post or page to rank for. Some people like to use the same focus keyword over and over again. But, that’s not what a focus keyword is for! You should use a focus keyword only once. But why? And what should you do if you desperately want to rank for that one specific keyword? Don’t despair: I’ll tell you all about it in this post.

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Not competing with your own articles

The main reason why you should not use your focus keyword more than once is that you do not want to compete with your own content for a position in Google. If you optimize two different articles for the same focus keyword, you would like to have both posts to turn up in Google. You’ll be telling Google: these two are both suitable for people searching for my keyword. You would like both of them to turn up. That’s hard to do, not impossible though, but very hard.

You need to have a site with quite a bit of authority to rank with two articles in the top ten search results. If you’re already ranking with one of your articles in the search results, you’ll probably have enough authority to try and rank with a second one. If you’re not yet ranking on a focus keyword, never use it twice! Update and improve your original article and write another post surrounding a slightly different keyword.

Ranking for your most desired keyword

What should you do if you want to rank for that specific keyword you’ve set your mind to? Imagine yourself starting a webshop selling clothes for dogs. You probably want to rank for ‘dog clothes,’ but as you are a starter, that’ll be rather hard. Optimizing all of your posts for ‘dog clothes’ is not the right strategy. So what should you do? Your keyword research has given you some ideas what other terms to target.

Your most precious keyword ‘dog clothes’ is a so-called ‘head’ keyword. It’ll be competitive and rather hard to rank for. You should write an awesome, lengthy cornerstone article about dog clothes and optimize it for the term ‘dog clothes’ using our Yoast SEO plugin. Make sure to indicate in our plugin that this specific article is a cornerstone article.

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Improve your site structure

The next step you’ll need to take to rank for your most desired keyword is to make sure your site structure is flawless. You’ll need to write a lot of posts each surrounding a specific aspect of your ‘head’ keyword. You could write an article and optimize it for focus keywords like ‘clothes for small dogs,’ ‘clothes for big dogs,’ ‘dog clothes for rainy days’ and so on. These focus keywords are called long tail keywords. If you link from these long tail articles to your ‘head term’ article, you’ll be telling Google which one of your articles is the most important one. That’ll help with the ranking of your most precious article. At the same time, you’ll be attracting traffic for those long tail articles as well.

Should I use a keyword more than once?

Unless you’re a high authority site and you’re already ranking for a specific keyword, you should NOT use a focus keyword more than once. Ranking for that one specific focus keyword is possible if you write an awesome cornerstone article about that focus keyword. On top of that, you’ll need a kickass site structure to make sure that article will start ranking!

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