What SEOs Need to Know About Topic Modeling & Semantic Connectivity – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Search engines, especially Google, have gotten remarkably good at understanding searchers’ intent—what we
mean to search for, even if that’s not exactly what we search for. How in the world do they do this? It’s incredibly complex, but in today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand covers the basics—what we all need to know about how entities are connected in search.

For reference, here’s a still of this week’s whiteboard!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re talking topic modeling and semantic connectivity. Those words might sound big and confusing, but, in fact, they are important to understanding the operations of search engines, and they have some direct influence on things that we might do as SEOs, hence our need to understand them.

Now, I’m going to make a caveat here. I am not an expert in this topic. I have not taken the required math classes, stats classes, programming classes to truly understand this topic in a way that I would feel extremely comfortable explaining. However, even at the surface level of understanding, I feel like I can give some compelling information that hopefully you all and myself included can go research some more about. We’re certainly investigating a lot of topic modeling opportunities and possibilities here at Moz. We’ve done so in the past, and we’re revisiting that again for some future tools, so the topic is fresh on my mind.

So here’s the basic concept. The idea is that search engines are smarter than just knowing that a word, a phrase that someone searches for, like “Super Mario Brothers,” is only supposed to bring back results that have exactly the words “Super Mario Brothers,” that perfect phrase in the title and in the headline and in the document itself. That’s still an SEO best practice because you’re trying to serve visitors who have that search query. But search engines are actually a lot smarter than this.

One of my favorite examples is how intelligent Google has gotten around movie topics. So try, for example, searching for “That movie where the guy is called The Dude,” and you will see that Google properly returns “The Big Lebowski” in the first ranking position. How do they know that? Well, they’ve essentially connected up “movie,” “The Dude,” and said, “Aha, those things are most closely related to ‘The Big Lebowski. That’s what the intent of the searcher is. That’s the document that we’re going to return, not a document that happens to have ‘That movie about the guy named ‘The Dude’ in the title, exactly those words.’”

Here’s another example. So this is Super Mario Brothers, and Super Mario Brothers might be connected to a lot of other terms and phrases. So a search engine might understand that Super Mario Brothers is a little bit more semantically connected to Mario than it is to Luigi, then to Nintendo and then Bowser, the jumping dragon guy, turtle with spikes on his back — I’m not sure exactly what he is — and Princess Peach.

As you go down here, the search engine might actually have a topic modeling algorithm, something like latent semantic indexing, which was an early model, or a later model like latent Dirichlet allocation, which is a somewhat later model, or even predictive latent Dirichlet allocation, which is an even later model. Model’s not particularly important, especially for our purposes.

What is important is to know that there’s probably some scoring going on. A search engine — Google, Bing — can understand that some of these words are more connected to Super Mario Brothers than others, and it can do the reverse. They can say Super Mario Brothers is somewhat connected to video games and very not connected to cat food. So if we find a page that happens to have the title element of Super Mario Brothers, but most of the on-page content seems to be about cat food, well, maybe we shouldn’t rank that even if it has lots of incoming links with anchor text saying “Super Mario Brothers” or a very high page rank or domain authority or those kinds of things.

So search engines, Google, in particular, has gotten very, very smart about this connectivity stuff and this topic modeling post-Hummingbird. Hummingbird, of course, being the algorithm update from last fall that changed a lot of how they can interpret words and phrases.

So knowing that Google and Bing can calculate this relative connectivity, connectivity between the words and phrases and topics, we want to know how are they doing this. That answer is actually extremely broad. So that could come from co-occurrence in web documents. Sorry for turning my back on the camera. I know I’m supposed to move like this, but I just had to do a little twirl for you.

Distance between the keywords. I mean distance on the actual page itself. Does Google find “Super Mario Brothers” near the word “Mario” on a lot of the documents where the two occur, or are they relatively far away? Maybe Super Mario Brothers does appear with cat food a lot, but they’re quite far away. They might look at citations and links between documents in terms of, boy, there’s a lot pages on the web, when they talk about Super Mario Brothers, they also link to pages about Mario, Luigi, Nintendo, etc.

They can look at the anchor text connections of those links. They could look at co-occurrence of those words biased by a given corpi, a set of corpuses, or from certain domains. So they might say, “Hey, we only want to pay attention to what’s on the fresh web right now or in the blogosphere or on news sites or on trusted domains, these kinds of things as opposed to looking at all of the documents on the web.” They might choose to do this in multiple different sets of corpi.

They can look at queries from searchers, which is a really powerful thing that we unfortunately don’t have access to. So they might see searcher behavior saying that a lot of people who search for Mario, Luigi, Nintendo are also searching for Super Mario Brothers.

They might look at searcher clicks, visits, history, all of that browser data that they’ve got from Chrome and from Android and, of course, from Google itself, and they might say those are corpi that they use to connect up words and phrases.

Probably there’s a whole list of other places that they’re getting this from. So they can build a very robust data set to connect words and phrases. For us, as SEOs, this means a few things.

If you’re targeting a keyword for rankings, say “Super Mario Brothers,” those semantically connected and related terms and phrases can help with a number of things. So if you could know that these were the right words and phrases that search engines connected to Super Mario Brothers, you can do all sorts of stuff. Things like inclusion on the page itself, helping to tell the search engine my page is more relevant for Super Mario Brothers because I include words like Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Bowser, Nintendo, etc. as opposed to things like cat food, dog food, T-shirts, glasses, what have you.

You can think about it in the links that you earn, the documents that are linking to you and whether they contain those words and phrases and are on those topics, the anchor text that points to you potentially. You can certainly be thinking about this from a naming convention and branding standpoint. So if you’re going to call a product something or call a page something or your unique version of it, you might think about including more of these words or biasing to have those words in the description of the product itself, the formal product description.

For an About page, you might think about the formal bio for a person or a company, including those kinds of words, so that as you’re getting cited around the web or on your book cover jacket or in the presentation that you give at a conference, those words are included. They don’t necessarily have to be links. This is a potentially powerful thing to say a lot of people who mention Super Mario Brothers tend to point to this page Nintendo8.com, which I think actually you can play the original “Super Mario Brothers” live on the web. It’s kind of fun. Sorry to waste your afternoon with that.

Of course, these can also be additional keywords that you might consider targeting. This can be part of your keyword research in addition to your on-page and link building optimization.

What’s unfortunate is right now there are not a lot of tools out there to help you with this process. There is a tool from Virante. Russ Jones, I think did some funding internally to put this together, and it’s quite cool. It’s 
nTopic.org. Hopefully, this Whiteboard Friday won’t bring that tool to its knees by sending tons of traffic over there. But if it does, maybe give it a few days and come back. It gives you a broad score with a little more data if you register and log in. It’s got a plugin for Chrome and for WordPress. It’s fairly simplistic right now, but it might help you say, “Is this page on the topic of the term or phrase that I’m targeting?”

There are many, many downloadable tools and libraries. In fact, Code.google.com has an LDA topic modeling tool specifically, and that might have been something that Google used back in the day. We don’t know.

If you do a search for topic modeling tools, you can find these. Unfortunately, almost all of them are going to require some web development background at the very least. Many of them rely on a Python library or an API. Almost all of them also require a training corpus in order to model things on. So you can think about, “Well, maybe I can download Wikipedia’s content and use that as a training model or use the top 10 search results from Google as some sort of training model.”

This is tough stuff. This is one of the reasons why at Moz I’m particularly passionate about trying to make this something that we can help with in our on-page optimization and keyword difficulty tools, because I think this can be very powerful stuff.

What is true is that you can spot check this yourself right now. It is very possible to go look at things like related searches, look at the keyword terms and phrases that also appear on the pages that are ranking in the top 10 and extract these things out and use your own mental intelligence to say, “Are these terms and phrases relevant? Should they be included? Are these things that people would be looking for? Are they topically relevant?” Consider including them and using them for all of these things. Hopefully, over time, we’ll get more sophisticated in the SEO world with tools that can help with this.

All right, everyone, hope you’ve enjoyed this addition of Whiteboard Friday. Look forward to some great comments, and we’ll see you again next week. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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How to Include Influencers in Your Content Strategy

Posted by Amanda_Gallucci

This post was originally in YouMoz, and was promoted to the main blog because it provides great value and interest to our community. The author’s views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of Moz, Inc.

The first thing most people think when they hear “influencers” is promotion. Important people with an engaged following can amplify the reach of whatever idea, content or brand they choose to share. If you only weave influencers into your content strategy when your finished product is ready to be promoted, however, you’re missing out on the full potential of having respected experts on your team.

Knowing when and how they can best be engaged at different stages is critical to moving these leaders from outside influencers to brand partners.

Measure an influencer’s true value

In order to find the right influencers to give your content strategy a boost, you first should understand what makes a person an influencer and how influence will play a role within the larger content landscape.

Whether you’re looking to build brand awareness or drive traffic, what matters is not sheer numbers of followers, but the amount of engaged followers.

Twitalyzer’s analytics provide a good start to assessing who is influential on Twitter. The tool measures not only the potential impact users have based on their number of followers, but also the likelihood that other Twitter users will retweet or mention a particular user. 

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Beyond finding an influencer who’s engaged enough to spread your message, also consider how this person became influential in the first place. Whether he or she has years of experience, brilliant ideas, cohesive arguments or all of the above, consider how you can harness these strengths to maximize your potential for creating a successful relationship. Asking influencers to tweet out a link might give you a bump in traffic, but asking for their opinions, advice and time in different ways will be infinitely more valuable.

Lead with strategy

How influencers fit into your campaign should be determined according to audience research and campaign goals. Know what platforms your target audience interacts with, what interests are strong enough to drive them to take action and who they trust. The more naturally these insights are woven into your content, the easier it will be to find influencers in this segment who will appreciate what you have to share.

Campaign goals are equally crucial because depending on what you want to achieve, you might change the angle of your messaging or favor different platforms. Not every influencer has the same level of activity and reach on every social channel, so identify influencers who are stars on the right platforms. Similarly, tailor your message for each influencer so that anything they share on your behalf looks organic alongside their other content.

Once you have a solid foundation for your strategy, start looking for influencers and begin your outreach process. With enough lead time to send along a beta version or rough draft, you can tweak content based on their feedback. You’ll also need allow time for them to collaborate with you on original content, create any sponsored or guest content or write a review or give a quote that you can use on your content’s release.

Don’t ask for too much of an influencer’s time, however, especially if you are asking for offhand feedback and not entering into a paid engagement. Build a relationship before you ask for favors, and even still, make the ask as easy as possible by providing the right amount of background and simplifying what you want the person to do. Rand’s
Whiteboard Friday on earning the amplification of influencer walks through the importance of the relationship-building aspect and enticing influencers with what’s in it for them.

Find influencers

With a clear understanding of the role influencers play within your overall strategy, you’re ready to identify the right candidates.

Countless tools are available to help you find influencers in different verticals, so choose based on the action you want the influencer to take. If you are searching for a thought leader who can write engaging content, a tool like
ClearVoice will help you find credible authors who focus on a particular topic. For each writer, you can view a list of articles he or she has written on that subject.

image host

When you need social influencers who can help you amplify content,
Buzzsumo is a great tool. Through their Influencer search, you can find people who frequently share content on a given topic and can click through to see what these links are.

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Another approach to finding social influencers is to search Twitter bios using
Followerwonk and sorting by Social Authority

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Engage influencers at different stages

Outreach

Outreach ideally starts with organically following influencers and engaging with them over time. Then reaching out to them via email or social media is less about introductions and more about the specific project you want to pitch to the influencer.

There will also be times when you find an influencer who aligns with your strategy but you don’t have the relationship-building lead time. For this cold outreach, write a succinct introduction that includes goals your goals for the content and the benefits the influencer will receive by working with you. Then make your ask. Personalization and quality are key. If you find outreach challenging, this
guide from Portent is a great place to start.

Make outreach easier for yourself by using a tool like
BuzzStream that automates and tracks the process. It will help you find contacts at certain publishers—giving you the twofold opportunity to pitch your own content as well as get in touch with influential authors. It also generates templated, customizable outreach emails.

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Just remember, even if you already have a solid relationship with an influencer, show that you value his or her time. Do as much of the groundwork as you can in advance. For instance, if you want people to share something on social, draft one to three example social posts specifically crafted for each influencer and platform.

Start of relationship

Once an influencer agrees to work with you, provide just the right amount of background information and instruction. This will vary by project and influencer.

For an influencer creating content, define the basics (e.g., article, ebook, video, etc.), in addition to length and editorial theme. Find a good balance between leaving room for the influencer to share his or her expertise, while setting up key points and takeaways you want the content to achieve. You should also create and send an abbreviated style guide. There’s no need to disclose every internal note you have, but if you can provide the basic stylistic do’s and don’ts, product or company background, audience information, and voice and tone guidelines, you will spend less time on edits and back-and-forths with the influencer. Set clear expectations and schedule benchmark dates where you can check in on progress and make revisions where necessary.

In the case of engaging influencers to amplify content, you won’t need to give quite as much guidance on how to craft the social message, but you can still offer suggestions on angles that would work well or any topics or phrases your brand wouldn’t want to be associated with. It’s also important to provide summaries of any piece of content you are asking influencers to share so that a) if they don’t have time to read every word, they still feel comfortable with the concept and b) there won’t have to be any guesswork in deciding what part of the content is most important to share.

Relationship maintenance

If your experience with an influencer is mutually beneficial and you know you’ll want to partner again, make sure to check in periodically. Don’t ask for something new every time you reach out. Keep in touch by sending along interesting content or company updates the influencer might find useful. Better yet, always extend a congratulations on a promotion or a new position.

To ensure you remember to engage with the right people, use tools like
Commun.it, which identify the influential people you interact with on Twitter, and prompt you to re-engage with people you haven’t @ mentioned recently. 

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LinkedIn Contacts is also a handy way to keep track of conversations and check on any updates on the influencer’s end to look out for opportunities to get in touch.

As you continue to grow existing influencer relationships, adjust your overarching strategy to incorporate more key industry leaders. Create new roles for influencers to play in shaping your content and its promotion.

Always be strategizing

The best way to include influencers in your content strategy is to involve them at every stage of the process, including:

  1. Creation: Plan out what types of influencers will be helpful and the role they should play based on the target audience and campaign goals.
  2. Implementation: Share a strategic brief with onboarded influencers and leave flexibility for changes based on the influencer’s feedback.
  3. Measurement: Factor in the reach of influencers as part of the success of your campaign.

Over time, integrating and managing influencer relationships will become second nature, and they will seem more like team members and partners.

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It’s Time to Treat Content as Part of the User Experience

Posted by wrttnwrd
Forget content marketing, SEO content, and whatever else as you know them. We need to fundamentally change our approach to content.
It’s not an add-on or a separate thing. It’s an inseparable part of the user experience. Let’s act…

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Semantic Analytics: How to Track Performance and ROI of Structured Data

Posted by Mike_Arnesen
If you’re interested in tracking the ROI of adding semantic markup to your website, while simultaneously improving your web analytics, this post is for you! Join me, friend.Semantic markup and structured data: Can I get a h…

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Semantic Analytics: How to Track Performance and ROI of Structured Data

Posted by Mike_Arnesen
If you’re interested in tracking the ROI of adding semantic markup to your website, while simultaneously improving your web analytics, this post is for you! Join me, friend.Semantic markup and structured data: Can I get a h…

Continue Reading →

Semantic Analytics: How to Track Performance and ROI of Structured Data

Posted by Mike_Arnesen
If you’re interested in tracking the ROI of adding semantic markup to your website, while simultaneously improving your web analytics, this post is for you! Join me, friend.Semantic markup and structured data: Can I get a h…

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Introducing Followerwonk Profile Pages

Posted by petebray

Followerwonk has always been primarily about social graph analysis and exploration: from tracking follower growth, comparing relationships, and so on.

Followerwonk now adds content analysis and user profiling, too

In the Analyze tab, you’ll find a new option to examine any Twitter user’s tweets. (Note that this is a Pro-only feature, so you’ll need to be a subscriber to use it.)

You can also access these profile pages by simply clicking on a Twitter username anywhere else in Followerwonk.

For us, this feature is really exciting, because we let you analyze not just yourself, but other people too. In fact, Pro users can analyze as many other Twitter accounts as they want!

Now, you’ll doubtlessly learn lots by analyzing your own tweets. But you already probably have a pretty good sense of what content works well for you (and who you engage with frequently).

We feel that Profile Pages really move the needle by letting you surface the relationships and content strategies of competitors, customers, and prospects.

Let’s take a closer look.

Find the people any Twitter user engages with most frequently

Yep, just plug in a Twitter name and we’ll analyze their most recent 2000 tweets. We’ll extract out all of the mentions and determine which folks they talk to the most.

Here, we see that 
@dr_pete talks most frequently with (or about) Moz, Rand, Elisa, and Melissa. In fact, close to 10% of his tweets are talking to these four! (Note the percentage above each listed name.)

This analysis is helpful as it lets you quickly get a sense for the relationships that are important for this person. That provides possible inroads to that person in terms of engagement strategies.

Chart when and what conversations happen with an analyzed user’s most important relationships

We don’t just stop there. By clicking on the little “see engagement” link below each listed user, you can see the history of the relationship.

Here, we can see when the engagements happened in the little chart. And we actually show you the underlying tweets, too.

This is a great way to quickly understand the context of that relationship: is it a friendly back and forth, a heated exchange, or the last gasp of a bad customer experience? Perhaps the tweets from a competitor to one his top customers occurred weeks back? Maybe there’s a chance for you to make inroads to that customer?

There’s all sorts of productive tea-reading that can happen with this feature. And, by the way, don’t forget that you already have the ability to track all the relationships a competitor forms (or breaks), too.

Rank any Twitter user’s tweets by importance to surface their best content

This is my favorite feature—by far—in Followerwonk.

Sure, there are other tools that tell you your most popular tweets, but there are few that let you turn that feature around and examine other Twitter users. This is important because (let’s face it) few of us have the volume of RTs and favorites to make self-analysis that useful. But when we examine top Twitter accounts, we come away with hints about what content strategies they’re using that work well.

Here we see that Obama’s top tweets include a tribute, an irreverent bit of humor, and an image that creatively criticizes a recent Supreme Court ruling. What lessons might you draw from the content that works best for Obama? What content works best for other people? Their image tweets? Tweets with humor? Shorter tweets? Tweets with links? Go do some analyzing!

Uncover top source domains of any Twitter users

Yep, we dissect all the URLs for any analyzed user to assemble a list of their top domains.

This feature offers a great way to quickly snapshot the types of content and sources that users draw material from. Moreover, we can click on “see mentions” to see a timeline of when those mentions occurred for each domain, as well as what particular tweets accounted for them.

In sum…

These features offer exciting ways to quickly profile users. Such analysis should be at the heart of any engagement strategy: understand who your target most frequently engages with, what content makes them successful, and what domains they pull from.

At the same time, this approach reveals content strategies—what, precisely, works well for you, but also for other thought leaders in your category. Not only can you draw inspiration from this approach, but you can find content that might deserve a retweet (or reformulation in your own words).

I don’t want to go too Freudian on you, but consider this: What’s the value of self-analysis? I mean that to say that unless you have a lot of data, any analytics product isn’t going to be totally useful. That’s why this addition in Followerwonk is so powerful. Now you can analyze others, including thought leaders in your particular industry, to find the secrets of their social success.

Start analyzing!

Finally, this is a bittersweet blog post for me. It’s my last one as a Mozzer. I’m off to try my hand at another bootstrapping startup: this time, software that lets you build feature tours and elicit visitor insights. I’m leaving Followerwonk in great hands, and I look forward to seeing awesome new features down the line. Of course, you can always stay in touch with me on Twitter. Keep on wonkin’!

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How to Recover Lost Pageviews in pushState Experiences

Posted by GeoffKenyon

PushState and AJAX can be used in tandem to deliver content without requiring the entire page to refresh, providing a better user experience. The other week, Richard Baxter dove into the implications of pushState for SEO on Builtvisible. If you’re not familiar with pushState, you should spend some time to read through his post.

If you’re not familiar with delivering content this way, you can check out these sites using pushState and AJAX to deliver content:

Time: When you scroll to the bottom of the article, a new article loads and the URL changes
Halcyon: When you click on a navigation link, the left hand panel doesn’t refresh

While pushState is really cool and great for UX, there are analytics issues presented by this technology.

When the content on a page and URL are updated using AJAX and pushState, in most cases, the 
_trackPageView beacon is not fired and the pageview is not tracked. This artificially increases your bounce rate while reducing your pages per visit, time on site, and total pageviews along with other metrics associated with pageviews. 

How to tell if you’re having tracking problems

If you have a very high bounce rate or are generally curious to check if this is a problem for you, start by installing the GA Debugger extension for Chrome. Then go to the URL you want to investigate and open up the console (windows: control + shift + j, mac: command + option + j). Now, clear the console using the button at the left, and refresh the URL.

Once you refresh the page, you should see GA debugging show up in the console. To check that the initial page view is being tracked, you should see a “sent beacon” for a pageview.

Once you’ve established the initial pageview is tracked, click a link to load another page. If GA is properly tracking pageviews, you should see another pageview beacon being sent. If you don’t see this, then you have a problem.

Capturing these pageviews with GTM

The good news is that even though this is a huge problem, it can easily be fixed with Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager.

Start by creating a new “History Listener” tag. Now set your fire rules to all pages and hit save. This will simply look for changes to the URL.

Now we’ll need to create a separate event to fire a pageview when the URL History Listener fires. To do this, create a new GA tag. 

If you already run Google Analytics from GTM, you’ll simply need to modify your existing tag. This tag should, by default, be set to track pageviews. 

At this point we’ll need to set the firing rules. First, we should make sure the tag is firing on all of our pages for our basic GA installation.

The firing rule for all pages should be a default option.

If you are already running GA via GTM, you’ll already have this set up. You’ll need to create a subsequent firing rule to fire a pageview for this URL History Listener.

To do this, click to add a new firing rule and then select “create new rule.” Name the rule, and then move on to conditions. The default rule should be [url] [contains]; we need to change this to [event] [equals]. Then we’ll set the condition to gtm.historyChange. Now click save.

Now you should be all set to hit publish on your updated tag container. Overnight, you should see a change in your pageviews and related metrics.

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!

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Is It Possible to Have Good SEO Simply by Having Great Content – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

This question, posed by Alex Moravek in our Q&A section, has a somewhat complicated answer. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand discusses how organizations might perform well in search rankings without doing any link building at all, relying instead on the strength of their content to be deemed relevant and important by Google.

For reference, here’s a still of this week’s whiteboard!

Video transcription

Howdy Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re chatting about is it possible to have good SEO simply by focusing on great content to the exclusion of link building.

This question was posed in the Moz Q&A Forum, which I deeply love, by Alex Moravek — I might not be saying your name right, Alex, and for that I apologize — from SEO Agencias in Madrid. My Spanish is poor, but my love for churros is so strong.

Alex, I think this is a great question. In fact, we get asked this all the time by all sorts of folks, particularly people in the blogging world and people with small and medium businesses who hear about SEO and go, “Okay, I think can make my website accessible, and yes, I can produce great content, but I just either don’t feel comfortable, don’t have time and energy, don’t understand, or just don’t feel okay with doing link building.” Link acquisition through an outreach and a manual process is beyond the scope of what they can fit into their marketing activities.

In fact, it is possible kind of, sort of. It is possible, but what you desperately need in order for this strategy to be possible are really two things. One is content exposure, and two you need time. I’ll explain why you need both of these things.

I’m going to dramatically simplify Google’s ranking algorithm. In fact, I’m going to simplify it so much that those of you who are SEO professionals are going to be like, “Oh God, Rand, you’re killing me.” I apologize in advance. Just bear with me a second.

We basically have keywords and on-page stuff, topical relevance, etc. All your topic modeling stuff might go in there. There’s content quality, all the factors that Google and Bing might measure around a content’s quality. There’s domain authority. There’s link-based authority based on the links that point to all the pages on a given domain that tell Google or Bing how important pages on this particular domain are.

There are probably some topical relevance elements in there, too. There’s page level authority. These could be all the algorithms you’ve heard of like PageRank and TrustRank, etc., and all the much more modern ones of those.

I’m not specifically talking about Moz scores here, the Moz scores DA and PA. Those are rough interpretations of these much more sophisticated formulas that the engines have.

There’s user and usage data, which we know the engines are using. They’ve talked about using that. There’s spam analysis.

Super simplistic. There are these six things, six broad categories of ranking elements. If you have just these four — keywords, on-page content quality, user and usage data, spam analysis, you’re not spammy — without these, without any domain authority or any page authority, it’s next to impossible to rank for competitive terms and very challenging and very unlikely to rank even for stuff in the chunky middle and long tail. Long tail you might rank for a few things if it’s very, very long tail. But these things taken together give you a sense of ranking ability.

Here’s what some marketers, some bloggers, some folks who invest in content nearly to the exclusion of links have found. They have had success with this strategy. They’ve basically elected to entirely ignore link building and let links come to them.

Instead of focusing on link building, they’re going to focus on product quality, press and public relations, social media, offline marketing, word of mouth, content strategy, email marketing, these other channels that can potentially earn them things. Advertising as well potentially could be in here.

What they rely on is that people find them through these other channels. They find them through social, through ads, through offline, through blogs, through very long tail search, through their content, maybe their email marketing list, word of mouth, press. All of these things are discovery mechanisms that are not search.

Once people get to the site, then these websites rely on the fact that, because of the experience people have, the quality of their products, of their content, because all of that stuff is so good, they’re going to earn links naturally.

This is a leap. In fact, for many SEOs, this is kind of a crazy leap to make, because there are so many things that you can do that will nudge people in this link earning direction. We’ve talked about a number of those at Moz. Of course, if you visit the link building section of our blog, there are hundreds if not thousands of great strategies around this.

These folks have elected to ignore all that link building stuff, let the links come to them, and these signals, these people who visit via other channels eventually lead to links which lead to DA, PA ranking ability. I don’t think this strategy is for everyone, but it is possible.

I think in the utopia that Larry Page and Sergey Brin from Google imagined when they were building their first search engine this is, in fact, how they hoped that the web would work. They hoped that people wouldn’t be out actively gaming and manipulating the web’s link graph, but rather that all the links would be earned naturally and editorially.

I think that’s a very, very optimistic and almost naive way of thinking about it. Remember, they were college students at the time. Maybe they were eating their granola, and dancing around, and hoping that everyone on the web would link only for editorial reasons. Not to make fun of granola. I love granola, especially, oh man, with those acai berries. Bowls of those things are great.

This is a potential strategy if you are very uncomfortable with link building and you feel like you can optimize this process. You have all of these channels going on.

For SEOs who are thinking, “Rand, I’m never going to ignore link building,” you can still get a tremendous amount out of thinking about how you optimize the return on investment and especially the exposure that you receive from these and how that might translate naturally into links.

I find looking at websites that accomplish SEO without active link building fascinating, because they have editorially earned those links through very little intentional effort on their own. I think there’s a tremendous amount that we can take away from that process and optimize around this.

Alex, yes, this is possible. Would I recommend it? Only in a very few instances. I think that there’s a ton that SEOs can do to optimize and nudge and create intelligent, non-manipulative ways of earning links that are a little more powerful than just sitting back and waiting, but it is possible.

All right, everyone. Thanks for joining us, and we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Announcing LocalUp Advanced: Our New Local SEO Conference (and Early Bird Tickets!)

Posted by EricaMcGillivray

That’s right, Moz fans, we’re diving into the the Local SEO conference space. Join us Saturday, February 7th in Seattle as we team up with Local U to present LocalUp Advanced, an all-day intensive local SEO conference. You’ll learn next-level tactics for everything from getting reviews and content creation to mobile optimization and local ranking factors. You’ll also have opportunities to attend workshops and meet other people who love local SEO just as much as you.


Don’t miss the early bird deal! The first 25 tickets receive $200 off registration.

Moz or Local U Subscribers:
$699 ($499 early-bird)
General Admission:
$999 ($799 early-bird)

Get your LocalUp Advanced early bird ticket today

Also, to get the best pricing, take a 30-day free trial of Moz Pro or sign up for Local U’s forum.


Who’s speaking at LocalUp Advanced?

Dana DiTomaso

Dana DiTomaso

Kick Point

Whether at a conference, on the radio, or in a meeting, Dana DiTomaso likes to impart wisdom to help you turn a lot of marketing BS into real strategies to grow your business. After 10+ years and with a focus on local SMBs, she’s seen (almost) everything. In her spare time, Dana drinks tea and yells at the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.


Darren Shaw

Darren Shaw

Whitespark

Darren Shaw is the President and Founder of Whitespark, a company that builds software and provides services to help businesses with local search. He’s widely regarded in the local SEO community as an innovator, one whose years of experience working with massive local data sets have given him uncommon insights into the inner workings of the world of citation-building and local search marketing. Darren has been working on the web for over 16 years and loves everything about local SEO.


David Mihm

David Mihm 

Moz

David Mihm is one of the world’s leading practitioners of local search engine marketing. He has created and promoted search-friendly websites for clients of all sizes since the early 2000s. David co-founded GetListed.org, which he sold to Moz in November 2012. Since then, he’s served as our Director of Local Search Marketing, imparting his wisdom everywhere!


Jade Wang

Jade Wang

Google

If you’ve gone to the Google and Your Business Forum for help (and, of course, you have!), then you know how quickly an answer from Google staffer Jade Wang can clear up even the toughest problems. She has been helping business owners get their information listed on Google since joining the team in 2012. 


Mary Bowling

Mary Bowling

Local U

Mary Bowling’s been specializing in SEO and local search since 2003. She works as a consultant at Optimized!, is a partner at a small agency called Ignitor Digital, is a partner in Local U, and is also a trainer and writer for Search Engine News. Mary spends her days interacting directly with local business owners and understands holistic local needs.


Mike Blumenthal

Mike Blumenthal

Local U

If you’re in Local, then you know Mike Blumenthal, and here is your chance to learn from this pioneer in local SEO, whose years of industry research and documentation have earned him the fond and respectful nickname ‘Professor Maps.’ Mike’s blog has been the go-to spot for local SEOs since the early days of Google Maps. It’s safe to say that there are few people on the planet who know more about this area of marketing than Mike. He’s also the co-founder of GetFiveStars, an innovative review and testimonial software. Additionally, Mike loves biking, x-country skiing, and home cooking.


Dr. Pete Meyers

Dr. Pete Meyers

Moz

Dr. Pete Meyers is the Marketing Scientist for Moz, where he works with the marketing and data science teams on product research and data-driven content. He’s spent the past two years building research tools to monitor Google, including the MozCast project, and he curates the Google Algorithm History.


Rand Fishkin

Rand Fishkin

Moz

Rand Fishkin is the founder of Moz. Traveler, blogger, social media addict, feminist, and husband.


Why should I attend LocalUp Advanced?

Do you have an interest in or do you delve into local SEO in your work? If so, then yes, you should definitely join us on February 7th. We believe LocalUp Advanced will be extremely valuable for marketers who are:

  • In-house and spending 25% or more of their time on local SEO
  • Agencies or consultants serving brick-and-mortar businesses
  • Yellow Pages publishers

In addition to keynote-style talks, we’ll have intensive Q&A sessions with our speakers and workshops for you to get direct, one-to-one advice for your business. And as with all Moz events, there will be breakfast, lunch, two snacks, and an after party (details coming soon!) included in your ticket cost. Plus, LocalUp Advanced will take place at the MozPlex in the heart of downtown Seattle; you’ll get to check out Roger’s home!

Get your LocalUp Advanced early bird ticket today

See you in February!

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!

Continue Reading →

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