Ask Yoast: Finding the best keyword strategy

Doing keyword research is a vital part of your content SEO strategy, but can be a long and difficult process. It’s just not easy to get into the heads of your audience: what words and phrases could they be using? What is their intention when searching? Another important aspect to check is whether it’s realistic to try to rank for a certain keyword or keyphrase, especially if there’s heavy competition.

In this Ask Yoast, I’ll get into a specific case of a business aimed at reaching people who want to start a company in Vietnam. What are the most important things to keep in mind?

Learn how to write awesome and SEO friendly articles in our SEO Copywriting training »

SEO copywriting training

Info

Brian Ho emailed us his question on keywords:

I’m trying to reach out to people around the world who want to open a company in Vietnam. Does that mean that I need to add the word ‘Vietnam’ to all my focus keywords?

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

Finding the best keyword strategy

“Well, you don’t have to add it to all of them, but ‘Vietnam’ is probably one of your important keywords at that point. So if you think about ‘start business’, then yes, ‘start business in Vietnam’ is probably the focus keyword that you want to optimize for, not ‘start business’, because then your competition will be way, way, way bigger.

At the same time, there are reasons why people would want to move to Vietnam and they don’t know that when they’re searching. So you probably also have keywords that relate to starting a business and that might actually make you want to convince them that they should do that in Vietnam, but they wouldn’t use the word ‘Vietnam’ when searching.

So think about your keyword research. We have a course about that if you into that: our SEO copywriting course has a whole module about all of this. This is not something that you should just add, because just adding ‘Vietnam’ to your focus keyword is not going to change anything. You really should think about your strategy, like: “Okay, which keywords do I want to be found for, which topic should I write about?”. And then, based on that, decide your focus keywords. 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: ‘Ultimate guide to content SEO’ »

The post Ask Yoast: Finding the best keyword strategy appeared first on Yoast.

Advertisements

How to Handle Negative Emotions at Work [Infographic]

There’s a popular phrase that I’ve heard quite a bit throughout life: “Don’t get mad. Get even.”

Sure, that makes sense — if you’re a character on a major soap opera or teen drama. But at the workplace, this kind of sentiment can be harmful.

Anger, however — now that, surprisingly, can actually benefit you and your colleagues in the workplace. But only when it’s handled correctly.

No matter how much you love your job, chances are, you experience some semblance of negative thoughts and emotions. That’s part of the challenge, right? And without a challenge, well, what a bore that would be.Download our leadership guide for actionable advice & guidelines from  HubSpot's Dharmesh Shah. 

But what’s the right way to handle these less-than-positive sentiments?

QuickQuid put together the helpful infographic below to answer just that question. Have a look, and bookmark this post for the next time you find yourself experiencing these thoughts and emotions at work.


Design_How-to-Handle-Negative-Thoughts-and-Emotions-at-Work

New Call-to-action

 
New Call-to-action


Should SEOs & Content Marketers Play to the Social Networks’ “Stay-On-Our-Site” Algorithms? – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Increasingly, social networks are tweaking their algorithms to favor content that remains on their site, rather than send users to an outside source. This spells trouble for those trying to drive traffic and visitors to external pages, but what’s an SEO or content marketer to do? Do you swim with the current, putting all your efforts toward placating the social network algos, or do you go against it and continue to promote your own content? This edition of Whiteboard Friday goes into detail on the pros and cons of each approach, then gives Rand’s recommendations on how to balance your efforts going forward.

https://fast.wistia.net/embed/iframe/1tgzuflr38?videoFoam=true

https://fast.wistia.net/assets/external/E-v1.js

Should SEOs and content marketers play to the social networks "stay-on-our-site" algorithms?

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 chatting about whether SEOs and content marketers, for that matter, should play to what the social networks are developing in their visibility and engagement algorithms, or whether we should say, “No. You know what? Forget about what you guys are doing. We’re going to try and do things on social networks that benefit us.” I’ll show you what I’m talking about.

Facebook

If you’re using Facebook and you’re posting content to it, Facebook generally tends to frown upon and lower the average visibility and ability of content to reach its audience on Facebook if it includes an external link. So, on average, posts that include an external link will fare more poorly in Facebooks’ news feed algorithm than on-site content, exclusively content that lives on Facebook.

For example, if you see this video promoted on Facebook.com/Moz or Facebook.com/RandFishkin, it will do more poorly than if Moz and I had promoted a Facebook native video of Whiteboard Friday. But we don’t want that. We want people to come visit our site and subscribe to Whiteboard Friday here and not stay on Facebook where we only reach 1 out of every 50 or 100 people who might subscribe to our page.

So it’s clearly in our interest to do this, but Facebook wants to keep you on Facebook’s website, because then they can do the most advertising and targeting to you and get the most time on site from you. That’s their business, right?

Twitter

The same thing is true of Twitter. So it tends to be the case that links off Twitter fare more poorly. Now, I am not 100% sure in Twitter’s case whether this is algorithmic or user-driven. I suspect it’s a little of both, that Twitter will promote or make most visible to you when you log in to Twitter the posts that have been made or the tweets that have been made that are self-contained. They live entirely on Twitter. They might contain a bunch of different stuff, a poll or images or be a thread. But links off Twitter will be dampened.

Instagram

The same thing is true on Instagram. Well, on Instagram, they’re kind of the worst. They don’t allow links at all. The only thing you can do is a link in profile. More engaging content on Instagram, as of just a couple weeks ago, more engaging content equals higher placement in the feed. In fact, Instagram has now just come out and said that they will show you content posts from people you’re not following but that they think will be engaging to you, which gives influential Instagram accounts that get lots of engagement an additional benefit, but kind of hurts everyone else that you’re normally following on the network.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn, LinkedIn’s algorithm includes extra visibility in the feed for self-contained post content, which is why you see a lot of these posts of, “Oh, here’s all the crazy amounts of work I did and what my experience was like building this or doing that.” If it’s a self-contained, sort of blog post-style content in LinkedIn that does not link out, it will do much better than posts that contain an external link, which LinkedIn sort of dampens in their visibility algorithm for their feed.

Play to the algos?

So all of these sites have these components of their algorithm that basically reward you if you are willing to play to their algos, meaning you keep all of the content on their sites and platform, their stuff, not yours. You essentially play to what they’re trying to achieve, which is more time on site for them, more engagement for them, less people going away to other places. You refuse or you don’t link out, so no external linking to other places. You maintain sort of what I call a high signal to noise ratio, so that rather than sharing all the things you might want to share, you only share posts that you can count on having relatively high engagement.

That track record is something that sticks with you on most of these networks. Facebook, for example, if I have posts that do well, many in a row, I will get more visibility for my next one. If my last couple of posts have performed poorly on Facebook, my next one will be dampened. You sort of get a string or get on a roll with these networks. Same thing is true on Twitter, by the way.

$#@! the algos, serve your own site?

Or you say, “Forget you” to the algorithms and serve your own site instead, which means you use the networks to tease content, like, “Here’s this exciting, interesting thing. If you want the whole story or you want to watch full video or see all the graphs and charts or whatever it is, you need to come to our website where we host the full content.” You link externally so that you’re driving traffic back to the properties that you own and control, and you have to be willing to promote some potentially promotional content, in order to earn value from these social networks, even if that means slightly lower engagement or less of that get-on-a-roll reputation.

My recommendation

The recommendation that I have for SEOs and content marketers is I think we need to balance this. But if I had to, I would tilt it in favor of your site. Social networks, I know it doesn’t seem this way, but social networks come and go in popularity, and they change the way that they work. So investing very heavily in Facebook six or seven years ago might have made a ton of sense for a business. Today, a lot of those investments have been shown to have very little impact, because instead of reaching 20 or 30 out of 100 of your followers, you’re reaching 1 or 2. So you’ve lost an order of magnitude of reach on there. The same thing has been true generally on Twitter, on LinkedIn, and on Instagram. So I really urge you to tilt slightly to your own site.

Owned channels are your website, your email, where you have the email addresses of the people there. I would rather have an email or a loyal visitor or an RSS subscriber than I would 100 times as many Twitter followers, because the engagement you can get and the value that you can get as a business or as an organization is just much higher.

Just don’t ignore how these algorithms work. If you can, I would urge you to sometimes get on those rolls so that you can grow your awareness and reach by playing to these algorithms.

So, essentially, while I’m urging you to tilt slightly this way, I’m also suggesting that occasionally you should use what you know about how these algorithms work in order to grow and accelerate your growth of followers and reach on these networks so that you can then get more benefit of driving those people back to your site. You’ve got to play both sides, I think, today in order to have success with the social networks’ current reach and visibility algorithms.

All right, everyone, look forward to your comments. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

SEO basics: What is UX (and why bother)?

You might have heard us say it before: the UX of your site is essential for SEO. But what is UX? And why is it important for SEO? In this article, we’ll explain what it is and why you shouldn’t forget working on it if you want to rank high in Google. On top of that, we’ll shortly give you some pointers what to do to keep the users of your website satisfied.

Optimize your site for search & social media and keep it optimized with Yoast SEO Premium »

Yoast SEO: the #1 WordPress SEO plugin

Info

What is UX?

UX stands for User eXperience. As you might have figured, it’s all about how users experience a product. This can be a website, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be an app, a mobile phone or any other physical product that you can use, even a milk carton. It’s all about how someone feels when using a particular product. Does the product make you feel excited or happy, is it a joy to use it, does it help you effortlessly achieve what you’ve been aiming for? Or does it make you feel angry and frustrated because it doesn’t work or look the way you expected it to?

UX or usability?

UX and usability are sometimes used interchangeably. They’re both used to describe the ease with which a visitor uses your site. However, UX is often considered to be broader than usability. If a website is very usable – or user-friendly – visitors will be able to find or do what they want to do easily. A great user experience involves more, for example, esthetics. A website can be straightforward to use, but boring at the same time. This means the usability is excellent, but the user experience could be improved.

For instance, the illustrations of our blog posts are not necessary to improve usability. However, they do contribute to the experience users have on our site. I’m quite a fan of the drawings our illustrators Erwin and Tim make, and I hope they make you think or smile too. These images contribute to the UX of our site. Without them, you would experience our site differently. This way, UX can be part of a branding strategy, even more than usability.

Why is it important for SEO to improve UX?

So why should improving the usability and UX of your site be part of your SEO strategy? Google, or other search engines, want to provide people with the best result for their query. The best result does not only mean the best answer, but it also means the best experience. For instance, if you’re looking for the answer to “What is keyword research?” Google wants to give you the best answer in a swift, pleasant and secure way. So even if you’ve written an excellent answer in a post, but your site is slow, a mess or unsafe, Google won’t consider your post the best answer.

How does Google know?

Google uses different methods to make an educated guess about how users experience your site. They look at elements like site speed – there’s almost nothing more annoying than a page that takes ages to load -, mobile friendliness, the way you’ve structured your content and the internal and external linking of your pages. Lots of high-quality links to your web page probably indicate people had a pleasant experience with it, right?

In addition to that, Google uses user signals to find out how visitors experience your website. User signals are behavioral patterns that Google sees on your site. If a lot of people leave your website very quickly, they might not have found what they’re looking for. Of course, there are some exceptions to this, read Annelieke’s post on bounce rate to find out which. Some other user signals are the time spent on a page and how often people return to your website. If these are high, visitors most likely enjoy your site or find it useful. You can check these kinds of statistics for your site with Google Analytics and other website analysis tools.

It’s no coincidence that the factors mentioned above are important both for UX and SEO. Google tries to grasp how humans experience a website. That’s why a positive experience on your site can contribute to your rankings. If you want to learn more about this, you should read Michiel’s post on the relation between SEO and UX.

Holistic SEO

So should you work on usability and UX just for search engines? I think you can guess our answer to that… At Yoast, we advocate holistically looking at your website. This means you’re striving to make your website excellent in many ways: great content, easy to use – also on mobile – and secure. You’re making these changes for your visitors. In the end, it’s the user who’s going to buy your products, come to your event or subscribe to your newsletter.

Where to start?

As always, start by thinking about the goal of your website and specific pages. What do you want visitors to do on your site? Buy stuff? Read your articles? Donate money to your charity? The purpose of your website or a specific page on your site should be on the top of your mind when you’re making improvements. Your design and content should support this goal. Having a clear goal in mind will also help you prioritize the improvements for your site.

Learn how to structure your site well with our Site structure training! »

Site structure training

Info

If you want to improve the UX on your site also try to look at it from a user’s perspective. Ask yourself some questions – and be honest:

Most people develop blind spots if they work a lot on their site. You should, therefore, take the opportunity to ask people to evaluate your site, whenever you can! Try to get people from your target group to test your site and ask them if it worked as they expected it to. You can also use questionnaires on your site, or, if you don’t want to bother them too much, use an exit intent question and ask them why they’re leaving your site. Another option is to do some A/B testing to find out which design of your page gives the best results.

So, no excuses anymore. Start working on the UX of your site, and you might boost your rankings too!

Read more: ‘How to perform an SEO audit. Part 1: Content SEO & UX’ »

The post SEO basics: What is UX (and why bother)? appeared first on Yoast.

Use Design Thinking to Solve Your Toughest Marketing Challenges

Modern day marketing is a realm overflowing with data and tests aimed at shedding light on your customers’ true desires. Yet marketing teams still tend to prioritize gut instincts over insights. When faced with a big challenge or new initiative, we often rely on past experiences and existing knowledge to determine future actions.

In other words, we do what we think we should do.

I’ve seen groups of intelligent people play a guessing game, shooting from the hip while trying to figure out what will move the dial. They devote their department’s time and resources to a hunch, following it through for months on end — only to realize they were spinning their wheels the whole time.

While some marketing best practices prove to work time and again, we must also meet the unique needs of specific customers in order to drive significant business value. Professing to intuitively know those specifics is shortsighted; only once we go out and try to understand the challenges of our target audience can we truly accommodate their needs. This is what the designers at your company do every day.

They’re in the business of designing relevant experiences for consumers, and they don’t just use their gut to achieve this goal. Instead, they understand the challenge from all angles. They gather a breadth of insights from customers and stakeholders across the company, test their ideas on a small scale, and make sure they’re heading down the right path before making a full investment. The design team lives by a philosophy that can help any marketing or product team achieve desired outcomes: design thinking.

Use Design Thinking to Solve Marketing Problems

Design thinking is a methodology to drive innovation. It brings together what’s alluring to future customers with what’s technically feasible and economically viable for a business. This method inspires new thinking and develops breakthrough ideas, all while remaining realistic.

My background is in user experience design and marketing. For most of my career, I’ve led teams in design thinking to drive business results. Along the way, I’ve seen some incredible outcomes.

Recently, I noticed that the SEO division of a company was struggling to hit its numbers for two quarters in a row. To improve this, the team needed viewers to engage with the content, find value from pages, and ultimately enter the sales funnel.

The team relied on gut instincts from years of past experience and deployed every SEO best practice in its arsenal. Still, nothing stuck. So I suggested that our design team partner closely with the SEO division to lead a concentrated session to solve the problem.

During our focused five-day session, we collaborated with our SEO cohorts to make several strategic adjustments based on design thinking exercises. Ultimately, this resulted in double-digit growth exceeding our quarterly goal.

Here’s how we did it:

Day 1: Rally the Troops

First, we assembled the ideal cross-functional team for the project, which included a UX designer, a UX writer, a product manager, a marketing manager, and an engineer.

With this assorted collection of minds, the team spent the first day focusing on the alignment of ideas and the direction of the project. The team members reviewed the business opportunity, vision, relevant user research, and technical capacities with the executive team. The group then expressed any questions, risks, assumptions, and barriers to the long-term goals. We made a map of how everything fit together and kept all of this information up on the walls of our dedicated space for easy reference over the next four days.

Once all team players were briefed, we began brainstorming solutions. To avoid groupthink and to ensure no voice was left unheard, we distributed pads of sticky notes and asked everyone in the room to write down their initial thoughts on how we might solve our SEO problem. We then put the sticky notes up on the wall and grouped similar ideas into themes.

The two most important themes focused on the concepts of relevance and trust. We agreed that we needed to figure out how to make the site appear immediately credible and relevant to visitors’ interests.

This was a quick, collaborative way to align a diverse set of minds on a common goal and set our strategic direction for the project.

Day 2: Sketch It Out

The next morning, we asked everyone to come armed with examples of relevant, trustworthy sites. Some members offered up competitors’ sites, while others brought examples that had no similarities to our initiative yet offered innovative solutions. The goal was to evaluate how brands across all industries build trust with and offer relevance to consumers.

While keeping the company’s goals and technology constraints in mind, we asked every member of the group to draw a potential experience with all of the key elements. These sketches represented the core functionality and offered innovative approaches toward our goals of building trust and relevance.

By the end of the day, we identified a variety of key elements to integrate into our site. Among other insights, we knew we must spotlight the author’s credentials and ratings, include an introductory top-line summary, show high-quality imagery to increase the speed of comprehension, and employ an effortless user experience across devices.

Day 3: Make a Decision

From there, we posted the sketches on the wall and invited the executives back into the room before voting on what sketch had the potential to drive the biggest success. We also crafted a final storyboard of the user journey.

Afterward, we knew exactly what we needed to explore — and we had a strategic backlog of ideas for our future road map.

Day 4: Prototype and Review

After we agreed on the ideal strategy, our lead designer rapidly created a prototype of the experience. We shared feedback and revised areas to prepare for the next day’s testing. Knowing that our self-validated strategies were in a vacuum for the past three days, it was critical to get insight from real users.

Day 5: Test With Users

As soon as the prototype was ready, we posted it on UserTesting. This allowed us to reach our target audience within a few hours and identify whether we solved the core needs of trust and relevance with users. We gained hard data on what people loved about our solution and the remaining barriers in their experiences.

After addressing the issues found in user testing, it was time to launch our solution on a larger scale. The engineering team incorporated these new elements into the page template, and after the data matured, we saw a motivating lift in engagement.

There was double-digit growth in the number of users who clicked into the conversion path thanks to our new strategy — a result the team was extremely proud to present at the next company-wide meeting. In just five days, design thinking helped a division pull itself out of the red, which I found extremely exciting and rewarding.

Looking back, the key to this success was everyone’s part in our strategic journey. Our team certainly led the effort, yet the implemented ideas originated from our distinct disciplines, so each party played an important role.

When will you use design thinking to drive your next innovation?

I strongly encourage you to try this at your company. If you approach a problem backed with broad perspectives and a deep understanding of what your unique audience needs in specific situations, then you will delight customers and achieve the greatest possible results

Free Local SEO Tools That Belong in Your Kit

Posted by MiriamEllis

What a lot can change in just a few years! When I wrote the original version of this post in January 2014, the local SEO industry didn’t have quite the wealth of paid tools that now exists, and many of the freebies on my previous list have been sunsetted. Definitely time for a complete refresh of the most useful free tools, widgets, and resources I know of to make marketing local businesses easier and better.

While all of the tools below are free, note that some will require you to sign up for access. Others are limited, no-cost, or trial versions that let you get a good sense of what they provide, enabling you to consider whether it might be worth it to buy into paid access. One thing you may notice: my new list of local SEO tools offers increased support for organic SEO tasks, reflective of our industry’s growing understanding of how closely linked organic and local SEO have become.

Now, let’s open this toolkit and get 2018 off to a great start!


For Research

US Census Bureau Tool Set

Looking to better understand a target community for marketing purposes? You’ll find 20+ useful resources from the US Census Bureau, including population statistics, economic data, mapping and geocoding widgets, income and language information, and much more.

Client Onboarding Questionnaire & Phone Script

Onboarding a new client? Reduce repetitious follow-ups by asking all of the right questions the first time around with this thorough questionnaire and easy-to-follow phone call script from Moz. Includes helpful tips for why you are asking each question. As local SEO veterans will tell you, a missed question can lead to unhappy (and costly) surprises down the marketing road. Be sure you have the total picture of an incoming client in clear view before you begin strategizing.

Location Information Spreadsheet

Vital when marketing multi-location businesses, this free Moz spreadsheet will ensure that you’ve got all the info at your fingertips about each locale of a company.

*Pro tip: When working with large enterprises, be certain that the data you’re inputting in this spreadsheet has been approved by all relevant departments. It’s really no fun to find out six months into a marketing campaign that there’s internal disagreement about company NAP or other features.

Local Competitive Audit Spreadsheet

Now we’re really getting down to brass tacks. When you need to look for answers to the perennial client question, “Why is that guy outranking me?”, this free Moz spreadsheet will help you document key competitive data. The end result of filling out the sheet will be two columns of stats you can compare and contrast in your quest to discover competitors’ ranking strengths and weaknesses. Need more guidance? Read my blog post in which I put this audit spreadsheet into action for two San Francisco Bay Area Chinese restaurants.

Manual GeoLocation Chrome Extension

Watch Darren Shaw demo using this tool to show how a local pack changes when a user virtually crosses a street and you’ll quickly understand how useful this Chrome extension will be in approximating the impacts of user-to-business proximity. Works well on desktop devices.

Our industry still hasn’t fully recovered from Google removing the Local Search filter from its engine in 2015, and I still live in hope that they will bring it back one day, but in the meantime, this extension gives us a good sense of how searcher location affects search results. In fact, it may even be a superior solution.

The MozBar SEO Toolbar

Local businesses in competitive markets must master traditional SEO, and the free MozBar provides a wonderful introduction to the metrics you need to look at in analyzing the organic strengths and weaknesses of clients and competitors. On-page elements, link metrics, markup, HTTP status, optimization opportunities — get the data you need at a glance with the MozBar.

Google Advanced Search Operators

Not a tool, per se, but the best tutorial I have ever seen on using Google advanced search operators to deepen your research. Dr. Pete breaks this down into 67 steps that will enable you to use these search refinements for content and title research, checking for plagiarism, technical SEO audits, and competitive intelligence. Be totally wizardly and impress your clients and teammates, simply by knowing how to format searches in smart ways.

Google Search Console

Apologies if it already seems like a no-brainer to you that you should be signed up for Google’s console that gives you analytics, alerts you to serious errors, and so much more, but local SEO is just now crossing the threshold of understanding how deeply connected it is to organic search. When playing in Google’s backyard, GSC is a must-have for businesses of every type.

BrightLocal’s Search Results Checker

This popular tool does an excellent job of replicating local search results at a city or zip code level. In some cases, it’s best to search by city (for example, when there are multiple towns covered by a single zip code), but other times, it’s better search by zip code (as in the case of a large city with multiple zip codes). The tool doesn’t have the capability to recreate user-level results, so always remember that the proximity of a given user to a business may create quite different results than what you’ll see searching at a city or zip code level. I consider this a great tool to suss out the lay of the land in a community, identifying top competitors.

Offline Conversion Tracker Form

Give this handy Whitespark form to anyone who answers your phone so that they can document the answer to the important question, “How did you hear about us?” Submitted information is saved to Whitespark’s database and tracked in Google Analytics for your future reference and analysis. For local businesses, knowledge of offline factors can be priceless. This form provides a simple point of entry into amassing real-world data.


For Content

Answer the Public

One of the best-loved keyword research tools in the digital marketing world, Answer the Public lets you enter a keyword phrase and generate a large number of questions/topics related to your search. One of the most awesome facets of this tool is that it has a .CSV download feature — perfect for instantly generating large lists of keywords that you can input into something like Moz Keyword Explorer to begin the sorting process that turns up the most powerful keywords for your content dev and on-page optimization.

Buzzsumo

Another great content inspiration tool, Buzzsumo shows you lets you enter a keyword, topic or domain name, and then shows you which pieces are getting the most social shares. For example, a search for wholefoodsmarket.com shows that a highly shared piece of content at the time of my search is about an asparagus and broccoli soup. You can also sort by content type (articles, videos, infographics, etc.). Use of Buzzsumo can help you generate topics that might be popular if covered on your website.

OSHA Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) System Search

Another interesting resource for brainstorming a wide pool of potential keywords for content dev consideration, OSHA’s SIC search returns big, comprehensive lists. Just look up your industry’s SIC code, and then enter it along with a keyword/category to get your list.

USPS Look Up a ZIP Code Widget

Working with service area businesses (SABs)? Note the second tab in the menu of this widget: Cities by zip code. When you know the zip code of a business you’re marketing you can enter it into this simple tool to get a list of every city in that zip. Now, let’s not take a wrong step here: don’t publish large blocks of zips or city names on any website, but do use this widget to be sure you know of all the communities for which an SAB might strategize content, link building, brand building, real-world relationship building, social media marketing, and PPC.


Schema/JSON-LD Generators

Rather than list a single tool here, I’m going to take the advice of my friend, schema expert David Deering, who has taught me that no one tool is perfect. In David’s opinion, there isn’t currently a schema/JSON-LD generator that does it all, which is why he continues to build this type of markup manually. That being said, if you’re new to Schema, these generators will get you started:


For Citations

Moz Check Listing

I can say without bias that I know of no free tool that does a better job of giving you a lightning-fast overview of the health of a local business’ listings. On the phone with a new prospect? Just plug in the name and zip and see how complete and accurate the company’s citations are on the sources that matter most, including the major local business data aggregators (Acxiom, Factual, Infogroup, Localeze) plus key platforms like Google My Business, Facebook, Yelp, YP, and more.

Literally at a glance, you can tell if inconsistencies and duplicate listings are holding a business back. It can also be used for competitive analysis, defining whether a clean or messy citation set is impacting competitors. The value of the free Check Listing tool becomes most fully realized by signing up for the paid Moz Local product, which automates aggregator-level listing management even at an enterprise level with hundreds or thousands of listings, and offers options for review monitoring, ranking analysis, and more.

Whitespark’s Local Citation Finder (free version)

The free version of this cool tool from our friends at Whitespark will give you a sense of how the paid version can help you discover additional places, beyond the basics, where you might want to get listed. It also analyzes your competitors’ citations.


For Reviews

The Hoth’s Online Business Review Checker Tool

You’ll have to sign up, but this free tool gives you an overview report of a local business’ reviews on a variety of platforms. This is a smart thing to do for every incoming client, to gauge reputation strengths and weaknesses. The state of a company’s reviews indicates whether it has an offline problem that needs to be corrected at a real-world structural level, or if its core challenge is a lack of strategy for simply earning a competitive number of positive reviews.

Free Review Monitoring

Need to know when a new review comes in on a major or industry-specific review site? Signing up for this free tool will send you email alerts so that you can respond quickly. Watch the little video and pay attention to its statement that the majority of unhappy customers will consider visiting a business again if it quickly resolves a complaint. Good to know!

Review Handout Generator

Another freebie from Whitespark in partnership with Phil Rozek, this very simple resource lets you enter some business info and generate a printable handout your public-facing staff can give to customers. Active review management has become a must in even moderately competitive geo-industries. How nice to have a physical asset to offer your customers to get more of those reviews rolling in!

Google Review Link Generator

Google’s local product has gone through so many iterations that finding a link to point consumers to when requesting a GMB review has been foolishly difficult at times. Whitespark helps out again, at least for brick-and-mortar businesses, with this easy widget that lets you enter your business info and generate a shareable link. Unfortunately, SABs or home-based businesses with hidden addresses can’t use this tool, but for other business models, this widget works really well.


For social

Notify

Whenever your business gets mentioned on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Linkedin, Reddit, and a variety of other platforms, Notify uses Slack or HipChat to send you an alert. By being aware of important conversations taking place about your brand, and participating in them, your business can achieve an excellent status of responsiveness. Social media has become part of the customer service environment, so a tool like this comes in very handy.

Followerwonk

A free trial is available for this app which acts as serious analytics for Twitter. If Twitter is a favorite platform in your industry, definitely give this resource a spin. Understand the characteristics of your followers, find and connect with influencers, and use data to improve your outreach.

Character Count Online

I use this ultra-basic tool all of the time for three specific tasks. Some social platforms either have character limits and don’t always have counters, or (like Google Posts) truncate your social messaging so that only a limited snippet appear at the highest interface. Just plug in your text and see the character count.

And, of course, you’ll want a character counter to be sure your on-page title tags and meta descriptions read right in the SERPs.

My third use for this counter relates to content marketing. Most publications have character count parameters for the pieces they will accept. Here on the Moz Blog, we’re not into length limits, because we believe thorough coverage is the right coverage of important topics. But, when I’m invited to blog elsewhere, I have to rein myself in and be sure I haven’t galloped past that 800-character limit. If you’ve found that to be a problem, too, a character counter can keep you on-track as you write. Whoa, horsie!


So, what did I miss?

If you’re saying to yourself right now, “I can’t believe this totally awesome free local SEO tool I use every week isn’t included,” please share it with our community in the comments. One thing I know I’d love to find a free solution for would be a tool that does review sentiment analysis. Paid solutions exist for this, but I’ve yet to encounter a freebie.

My criteria for a great tool is that it makes work better, stronger, faster… or is that the intro to The Six Million Dollar Man? Well, Steve Austin had some amazing capabilities (and a cool 70s jogging suit, to boot!), and I’m hoping you’ll feel kitted up for success, too, with this list of free tools in the year ahead.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

Calling to the next action

Every website needs a proper call-to-action. Since I wrote the first version of that post way back when we have often been referring to that same post. It seems very hard to add focus to a homepage, somehow. I might be going out on a limb here, but I also think theme developers should design with this in mind. A lot of themes are designed to clutter a page with widgets and buttons that totally reduce focus on the main items on a page. Don’t even get me started on image sliders and video backgrounds

We’re building sites not just to entertain people, but also to let them buy or do something. A site needs a great user experience to get people to use it. Increasingly, we see that UX is an integral part of the SEO process, not to mention conversion. So in this regard, we can all agree that a homepage needs a great call to action (CTA). Now that you have a visitor clicking that main button or link on your homepage, you should think of what happens next. The visitor lands on a second page. One of your goals is met; you prevented a bounce. Now you need to convert that visitor into a customer or subscriber.

Optimize your site for search & social media and keep it optimized with Yoast SEO Premium »

Yoast SEO: the #1 WordPress SEO plugin

Info

Every page has a call-to-action

Although a call-to-action is very important on a homepage, of course there could, or perhaps should, be a CTA on every page of your website. The contact form has a call-to-action, of course. A quote form in the sidebar has a CTA. Buttons for your own products, like in our sidebar, have or even are call-to-actions.

For every page on your website, you should decide if there is a CTA related to the content of that page, or that the content is solely for informational purposes and that call-to-action should be to achieve something else.

Let’s go over some call-to-actions you might encounter while going over your website:

Product page

Product page call-to-actionThis should be the obvious one. Every product page needs an ‘Add to Cart’ or ‘Buy Now’ call-to-action. That button, as in most cases this is a button, needs to stand out, is usually accompanied by an ‘amount’ select box and is present in all shops. Otherwise, the shop is merely a catalog.

In my experience, eCommerce shops tend to cram all kind of things around that button:

  • Social share buttons;
  • way too large size options (people will find these anyway);
  • related products;
  • color options.

I am sure you can come up with more clutter like this. Don’t get me wrong: these items should be available, I just highly doubt they need to take the focus away from the ‘Add to Cart’ button. Just make them a lot smaller than the call to action and locate them a bit further away from that button.

The image above is an extreme example of a designer trying a minimal approach. One of the main reasons I dislike it is because I had to scroll to see the ‘Add to shopping bag’ button. I would create a block with all the options, but choose the right form elements to reduce clutter, keep the form options short and compact and focus on the important stuff. A select list for color, a select list for size, some code logic to make sure only available stock is shown.

I think that would be my main show stopper, by the way. Seeing the product I want, clicking to a product page and landing on a page that says ‘Out of stock’ instead of ‘Order now’. At least give me some alternatives, but rather tell me when it will be available again (approximately) and maybe even give me an option to reserve the item. Read more about eCommerce usability and UX in our ultimate guide.

Quick Quote or Contact form

Quick Quote FormThere are quite some sites out there that have a form in a sidebar to ‘Request a quick quote’, or ‘Quick contact’, like the one on the right. Now slap me silly and call me Susan, but if I have to fill in all these fields, that is not a quick contact to me. Let’s be honest, what do you need to know? Email and name, perhaps? Just ask that.

Now, I recently had a discussion with someone who shed a different light on this. The guy in question pointed out that the form was intentionally a bit longer to filter the entries. In his opinion, people that were willing to fill in the extra fields were more likely to become serious customers. If there are just a few fields, it’s too easy to fill in the form and hit ‘Send’.

This is, of course, a matter of quality over quantity. And it is related to the product or service at hand as well, but he certainly had a good point here.

It does not imply the form on the right is the form I would prefer. Why split up first and last name? Why ask email address and telephone number? Even a form that asks for more details can be more focussed than this.

Besides that, the Send button is also a not really appealing. ‘Send’ feels just a lot less right than ‘Please contact me!’. That will also enlarge the button to make it stand out more.

Text on your call-to-action

When thinking about text for your CTA button, there are a few things that are important:

  1. First of all, you need to be sure you’re using an active voice. An active voice is action-oriented, and so literally calls people to action. And that’s exactly what you want. Make people want to click your button!
  2. Make sure your button text is specific to what people are doing. ‘Send’ is just too generic. Use something like “Sign up!” for a newsletter, or “Contact us” for a contact form. The text has to explain what the button will do.
  3. Use small and simple words. You need to keep your button text as simple as possible. People have to understand what it means immediately.
  4. Lastly, creating urgency can convince people to click your call-to-action. You can do this by, for instance, having limited time offers or by telling people how your product can help them or solve their problems now. This can even be a text next to your call-to-action.

But just like Frank Luntz put on the cover of his book Words That Work: “It’s not what you say, it’s what people hear.” So you definitely need to test whether all these tips will actually work for you. There’s no guarantee that what has worked for us, or any other company, will work for you.

Contact details

If the main goal of your website is getting in touch with potential buyers, the main concern on the website is to make it absolutely clear how you can be reached. List your phone number and please don’t be afraid to be a bit bold:

 

This works in more than one way:

  • In a responsive design, the telephone number can be inserted right below the logo so that the mobile visitor can get in touch right away;
  • even if people do not click it, the very presence of it makes that a visitor is confident you can be reached in case of any problems, lowering barriers to buy at your online shop;
  • of course, people will be able to call you without the hassle of turning your website inside out to find your phone number;
  • a local number might stimulate local buyers to buy at your place.

Regarding that last one, Peninsula Air Conditioning told us that the general 1300 number did not emphasize enough that it is a local business and customers had told him that. Changing to the local number, created recognition and increased trust in the website.

Of course, they created a secondary, textual call-to-action right below the local number, to assure visitors from other cities than Sydney, that the company could still help with their air conditioning needs.

It’s a nice example that the CTA on your contact page does not always need to be something you can click.

Learn how to write engaging copy and how to organize it well on your site: Combine our SEO copywriting and Site structure training. »

Content SEO training bundle

Info

Subscribe to newsletter

The last example I would like to mention in this post is the Subscribe to Newsletter option. Again, you only need an email address for that. Even if you would want more details, you can always ask for these later.

The subscribe to newsletter call-to-action can be on every page, below every post or after every check out page. The main difference between the contact or quote form mentioned above is that it is a lot less clear what the consequences are. It’s quite clear that filling out a contact form leads to the company contacting you.

The newsletter subscription might result in an email a day or once per fortnight. It might be an email listing just excerpts of posts on a website, or it might be something ‘extra’ for subscribers. Being clear on what’s going to happen after subscribing, reduces the barriers to trust you with my email address. Making clear that you will not send any spammy emails also helps a great deal, for obvious reasons.

In conclusion

All in all, there are many call-to-actions to be defined after that one on the homepage. And these are equally important. I am sure you have forgotten these on projects. I am also sure your customers cannot always be convinced of the need for that second call to action. They might be too modest, or they focus on a matching design way too much. Blending in a call to action is never the right choice. (Ghost buttons, anyone?)

Enlighten me with your thoughts on this in the comments below. I’d love to see some examples of great call-to-actions as well, but please please me with designs gone wrong. There are plenty of those out there!

Read more: ‘eCommerce SEO checklist’ »

The post Calling to the next action appeared first on Yoast.