A link-building case study: Using brand mentions and competitive linking tactics

Columnist Andrew Dennis walks through link-building tactics implemented on a new website, resulting in an increase in links and traffic. The post A link-building case study: Using brand mentions and competitive linking tactics appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.


Search Engine Land: News & Info About SEO, PPC, SEM, Search Engines & Search Marketing

New Research: 35% of Competitive Local Keywords Have Local Pack Ads

Posted by Dr-Pete

Over the past year, you may have spotted a new kind of Google ad on a local search. It looks something like this one (on a search for “oil change” from my Pixel phone in the Chicago suburbs):

These ads seem to appear primarily on mobile results, with some limited testing on desktop results. We’ve heard rumors about local pack ads as far back as 2016, but very few details. How prevalent are these ads, and how seriously should you be taking them?

11,000 SERPs: Quick summary

For this study, we decided to look at 110 keywords (in 11 categories) across 100 major US cities. We purposely focused on competitive keywords in large cities, assuming, based on our observations as searchers, that the prevalence rate for these ads was still pretty low. The 11 categories were as follows:

  • Apparel
  • Automotive
  • Consumer Goods
  • Finance
  • Fitness
  • Hospitality
  • Insurance
  • Legal
  • Medical
  • Services (Home)
  • Services (Other)

We purposely selected terms that were likely to have local pack results and looked for the presence of local packs and local pack ads. We collected these searches as a mobile user with a Samsung Galaxy 7 (a middle-ground choice between iOS and a “pure” Google phone).

Why 11 categories? Confession time – it was originally 10, and then I had the good sense to ask Darren Shaw about the list and realized I had completely left out insurance keywords. Thanks, Darren.

Finding #1: I was very wrong

I’ll be honest – I expected, from casual observations and the lack of chatter in the search community, that we’d see fewer than 5% of local packs with ads, and maybe even numbers in the 1% range.

Across our data set, roughly 35% of SERPs with local packs had ads.

Across industry categories, the prevalence of pack ads ranged wildly, from 10% to 64%:

For the 110 individual keyword phrases in our study, the presence of local ads ranged from 0% to 96%. Here are the keywords with >=90% local pack ad prevalence:

  • “car insurance” (90%)
  • “auto glass shop” (91%)
  • “bankruptcy lawyer” (91%)
  • “storage” (92%)
  • “oil change” (95%)
  • “mattress sale” (95%)
  • “personal injury attorney” (96%)

There was no discernible correlation between the presence of pack ads and city size. Since our study was limited to the top 100 US cities by population, though, this may simply be due to a restricted data range.

Finding #2: One is the magic number

Every local pack with ads in our study had one and only one ad. This ad appeared in addition to regular pack listings. In our data set, 99.7% of local packs had three regular/organic listings, and the rest had two listings (which can happen with or without ads).

Finding #3: Pack ads land on Google

Despite their appearance, local packs ads are more like regular local pack results than AdWords ads, in that they’re linked directly to a local panel (a rich Google result). On my Pixel phone, the Jiffy Lube ad at the beginning of this post links to this result:

This is not an anomaly: 100% of the 3,768 local pack ads in our study linked back to Google. This follows a long trend of local pack results linking back to Google entities, including the gradual disappearance of the “Website” link in the local pack.

Conclusion: It’s time to get serious

If you’re in a competitive local vertical, it’s time to take local pack ads seriously. Your visitors are probably seeing them more often than you realize. Currently, local pack ads are an extension of AdWords, and require you to set up location extensions.

It’s also more important than ever to get your Google My Business listing in order and make sure that all of your information is up to date. It may be frustrating to lose the direct click to your website, but a strong local business panel can drive phone calls, foot traffic, and provide valuable information to potential customers.

Like every Google change, we ultimately have to put aside whether we like or dislike it and make the tough choices. With more than one-third of local packs across the competitive keywords in our data set showing ads, it’s time to get your head out of the sand and get serious.

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!


Moz Blog

How to Use Keyword Explorer to Identify Competitive Keyword Opportunities

Posted by hayleysherman

You may have heard by now that Moz launched a new feature within Keyword Explorer last week. We heard your requests, and we’re super-excited for you to check out the new addition. The tool has been expanded to allow you to search by URL: an easy way to understand what keywords an exact URL, subdomain, or entire domain is ranking for.

As Rand pointed out, this feature of Keyword Explorer is multifunctional and can solve a lot of different problems. For this blog post, I’ll cover a workflow for identifying low-hanging fruit when it comes to your competitors’ keywords.

The question of “How do I utilize competitive data to my advantage?” is one we hear a lot as SEOs. How do we know what a competitor is ranking for, and how can we use that to help direct our own strategy? Many great SEO tools out there tap into what can be described as a keyword universe — a database of keywords the tool maintains that a given site can rank for. In this universe of keywords, you can search to see how your site performs. You can also search any other site to see how it performs, which is where the competitive data comes into play. Our new feature does just that.

If you want to follow along, hop into Keyword Explorer! The search bar will allow you to:

  • Search by keyword (as you always have!)
  • Search by root domain
  • Search by subdomain
  • Search by exact page

Follow along in Keyword Explorer

Screen Shot 2017-10-09 at 2.21.54 PM.png

Find keyword opportunities at the intersection point

For this example, I’ll use local Seattle doughnut shop Top Pot Doughnuts. Since we know the doughnut game can be a competitive one, Top Pot might want to get an idea of the keywords that a few other Seattle shops are ranking for. The competitors I’ve used are in a similar geographical area and sell similarly delicious products.

Start by entering the URL into Keyword Explorer. To keep it broad, I’d recommend beginning with the “root domain” function. You’ll be pulled into a Site Overview for your domain — including the number of ranking keywords each site has, the top positions the keywords sit in, as well as the Page Authority and Domain Authority of the site you searched for. You’ll see a sneak peek of the top ranking keywords beneath that.

Screen Shot 2017-10-30 at 10.07.45 AM.png

Drop two competitors into the two boxes up at the top, and click “Compare sites.” The tables will populate with data on the two competitors’ sites, and the top ranking keywords for all three.

Screen Shot 2017-10-30 at 10.09.57 AM.png

Click through to the full report of Top Ranking Keywords. You’ll see a Venn diagram and two columns added in with competitors’ data. Click on any of the overlapping areas in the Venn Diagram to see the keywords that you and one or both competitors have in common.

Screen Shot 2017-10-30 at 10.22.56 AM.png

We’ve now entered into an ideal spot in that keyword universe we talked about earlier — a list of keywords that your site is ranking for that your competitors are also ranking for. This is the intersection point where you can find perfect keyword opportunities. Where is the competitor doing well that you are not?

(Side note: You’re not starting from scratch here, because you’re already ranking for these keywords. This means there’s a great opportunity for improvement in an area where you likely have some content or some authority.)

A great next step is to click on the header to sort by one of your competitor’s highest rankings. Identify the keywords that each competitor is ranking best for — those might be an area for you to focus on. Are these keywords applicable to what you do? If the answer is yes, there are a couple good courses of action: Add them straight into a Moz Pro campaign to start tracking your ranking progress, or add them into a Keyword Explorer list for further investigation.

Add To A Kw List.gif

If you do add these into a Keyword List, you might want to pop into the list and sort by metrics like Difficulty or Organic CTR. This will help you determine how to prioritize the new keywords.

Tracking and taking action in Moz Pro

Once you’ve discovered these competitive keywords, push them into a Moz Pro campaign! That way, you can measure a baseline for keyword performance and get ready to track your improvements against it over time. You can either add them to a campaign manually in the Add & Manage Keywords section, or add them to a campaign directly from Keyword Explorer.

Stay organized by labeling your keywords. You may want to label them by product, service, or even by the name of the competitor that was ranking for them back in Keyword Explorer. Once a label (or multiple labels) are in place, you can filter by those labels within the campaign to see which keywords are seeing movement, and which ones you may still need to spend more time on.

Jump into the SERP features section of your campaign, and filter by label to view the new keywords you’ve added in. Do any of the new keywords have a featured snippet opportunity? Use that knowledge to dictate how you structure the content for those topics. (Don’t know what I’m talking about? Not to worry. Here’s a great glossary of SERP features, what they mean, and how to become featured.)

And there you have it! We hope Keyword Explorer’s new addition will help you through the journey of keyword research, from start to finish. Let us know how this flow is working for you.

Start exploring Keywords by Site

Can’t get enough keyword research in your life? Check out our workshops through Moz Training for a deeper dive into best practices and strategies.

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!


Moz Blog

2017 growth hacks: Increase CTR by monitoring competitive offers

Are you showcasing your offers in your paid search and shopping ads? Columnist Lori Weiman explains why she believes this is a huge area of opportunity for paid search marketers. The post 2017 growth hacks: Increase CTR by monitoring competitive offers appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.


Search Engine Land: News & Info About SEO, PPC, SEM, Search Engines & Search Marketing

The SEO Competitive Analysis Checklist

Posted by zeehj

The SEO case for competitive analyses

“We need more links!” “I read that user experience (UX) matters more than everything else in SEO, so we should focus solely on UX split tests.” “We just need more keywords on these pages.”

If you dropped a quarter on the sidewalk, but had no light to look for it, would you walk to the next block with a street light to retrieve it? The obvious answer is no, yet many marketers get tunnel vision when it comes to where their efforts should be focused.

1942 June 3, Florence Morning News, Mutt and Jeff Comic Strip, Page 7, Florence, South Carolina. (NewspaperArchive)

Which is why I’m sharing a checklist with you today that will allow you to compare your website to your search competitors, and identify your site’s strengths, weaknesses, and potential opportunities based on ranking factors we know are important.

If you’re unconvinced that good SEO is really just digital marketing, I’ll let AJ Kohn persuade you otherwise. As any good SEO (or even keyword research newbie) knows, it’s crucial to understand the effort involved in ranking for a specific term before you begin optimizing for it.

It’s easy to get frustrated when stakeholders ask how to rank for a specific term, and solely focus on content to create, or on-page optimizations they can make. Why? Because we’ve known for a while that there are myriad factors that play into search engine rank. Depending on the competitive search landscape, there may not be any amount of “optimizing” that you can do in order to rank for a specific term.

The story that I’ve been able to tell my clients is one of hidden opportunity, but the only way to expose these undiscovered gems is to broaden your SEO perspective beyond search engine results page (SERP) position and best practices. And the place to begin is with a competitive analysis.

Competitive analyses help you evaluate your competition’s strategies to determine their strengths and weakness relative to your brand. When it comes to digital marketing and SEO, however, there are so many ranking factors and best practices to consider that can be hard to know where to begin. Which is why my colleague, Ben Estes, created a competitive analysis checklist (not dissimilar to his wildly popular technical audit checklist) that I’ve souped up for the Moz community.

This checklist is broken out into sections that reflect key elements from our Balanced Digital Scorecard. As previously mentioned, this checklist is to help you identify opportunities (and possibly areas not worth your time and budget). But this competitive analysis is not prescriptive in and of itself. It should be used as its name suggests: to analyze what your competition’s “edge” is.

Methodology

Choosing competitors

Before you begin, you’ll need to identify six brands to compare your website against. These should be your search competitors (who else is ranking for terms that you’re ranking for, or would like to rank for?) in addition to a business competitor (or two). Don’t know who your search competition is? You can use SEMRush and Searchmetrics to identify them, and if you want to be extra thorough you can use this Moz post as a guide.

Sample sets of pages

For each site, you’ll need to select five URLs to serve as your sample set. These are the pages you will review and evaluate against the competitive analysis items. When selecting a sample set, I always include:

  • The brand’s homepage,
  • Two “product” pages (or an equivalent),
  • One to two “browse” pages, and
  • A page that serves as a hub for news/informative content.

Make sure each site has equivalent pages to each other, for a fair comparison.

Scoring

The scoring options for each checklist item range from zero to four, and are determined relative to each competitor’s performance. This means that a score of two serves as the average performance in that category.

For example, if each sample set has one unique H1 tag per page, then each competitor would get a score of two for H1s appear technically optimized. However if a site breaks one (or more) of the below requirements, then it should receive a score of zero or one:

  1. One or more pages within sample set contains more than one H1 tag on it, and/or
  2. H1 tags are duplicated across a brand’s sample set of pages.

Checklist

Platform (technical optimization)

Title tags appear technically optimized. This measurement should be as quantitative as possible, and refer only to technical SEO rather than its written quality. Evaluate the sampled pages based on:

  • Only one title tag per page,
  • The title tag being correctly placed within the head tags of the page, and
  • Few to no extraneous tags within the title (e.g. ideally no inline CSS, and few to no span tags).

H1s appear technically optimized. Like with the title tags, this is another quantitative measure: make sure the H1 tags on your sample pages are sound by technical SEO standards (and not based on writing quality). You should look for:

  • Only one H1 tag per page, and
  • Few to no extraneous tags within the tag (e.g. ideally no inline CSS, and few to no span tags).

Internal linking allows indexation of content. Observe the internal outlinks on your sample pages, apart from the sites’ navigation and footer links. This line item serves to check that the domains are consolidating their crawl budgets by linking to discoverable, indexable content on their websites. Here is an easy-to-use Chrome plugin from fellow Distiller Dom Woodman to see whether the pages are indexable.

To get a score of “2” or more, your sample pages should link to pages that:

  • Produce 200 status codes (for all, or nearly all), and
  • Have no more than ~300 outlinks per page (including the navigation and footer links).

Schema markup present. This is an easy check. Using Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool, look to see whether these pages have any schema markup implemented, and if so, whether it is correct. In order to receive a score of “2” here, your sampled pages need:

  • To have schema markup present, and
  • Be error-free.

Quality of schema is definitely important, and can make the difference of a brand receiving a score of “3” or “4.” Elements to keep in mind are: Organization or Website markup on every sample page, customized markup like BlogPosting or Article on editorial content, and Product markup on product pages.

There is a “home” for newly published content. A hub for new content can be the site’s blog, or a news section. For instance, Distilled’s “home for newly published content” is the Resources section. While this line item may seem like a binary (score of “0” if you don’t have a dedicated section for new content, or score of “2” if you do), there are nuances that can bring each brand’s score up or down. For example:

  • Is the home for new content unclear, or difficult to find? Approach this exercise as though you are a new visitor to the site.
  • Does there appear to be more than one “home” of new content?
  • If there is a content hub, is it apparent that this is for newly published pieces?

We’re not obviously messing up technical SEO. This is partly comprised of each brand’s performance leading up to this line item (mainly Title tags appear technically optimized through Schema markup present).

It would be unreasonable to run a full technical audit of each competitor, but take into account your own site’s technical SEO performance if you know there are outstanding technical issues to be addressed. In addition to the previous checklist items, I also like to use these Chrome extensions from Ayima: Page Insights and Redirect Path. These can provide quick checks for common technical SEO errors.

Content

Title tags appear optimized (editorially). Here is where we can add more context to the overall quality of the sample pages’ titles. Even if they are technically optimized, the titles may not be optimized for distinctiveness or written quality. Note that we are not evaluating keyword targeting, but rather a holistic (and broad) evaluation of how each competitor’s site approaches SEO factors. You should evaluate each page’s titles based on the following:

  • The site’s (sampled) titles are not duplicative of one another,
  • Their titles are shorter than 80 characters,
  • They appear to accurately reflect the content presented on their pages, and
  • The page titles include the domain name in a consistent fashion.

H1s appear optimized (editorially). The same rules that apply to titles for editorial quality also apply to H1 tags. Review each sampled page’s H1 for:

  • A unique H1 tag per page (language in H1 tags does not repeat),
  • H1 tags that are discrete from their page’s title, and
  • H1s represent the content on the page.

Internal linking supports organic content. Here you must look for internal outlinks outside of each site’s header and footer links. This evaluation is not based on the number of unique internal links on each sampled page, but rather on the quality of the pages to which our brands are linking.

While “organic content” is a broad term (and invariably differs by business vertical), here are some guidelines:

  • Look for links to informative pages like tutorials, guides, research, or even think pieces.
    • The blog posts on Moz (including this very one) are good examples of organic content.
  • Internal links should naturally continue the user’s journey, so look for topical progression in each site’s internal links.
  • Links to service pages, products, RSVP, or email subscription forms are not examples of organic content.
  • Make sure the internal links vary. If sampled pages are repeatedly linking to the same resources, this will only benefit those few pages.
    • This doesn’t mean that you should penalize a brand for linking to the same resource two, three, or even four times over. Use your best judgment when observing the sampled pages’ linking strategies.

Appropriate informational content. You can use the found “organic content” from your sample sets (and the samples themselves) to review whether the site is producing appropriate informational content.

What does that mean, exactly?

  • The content produced obviously fits within the site’s business vertical, area of expertise, or cause.
    • Example: Moz’s SEO and Inbound Marketing Blog is an appropriate fit for an SEO company.
  • The content on the site isn’t overly self-promotional, resulting in an average user not trusting this domain to produce unbiased information.
    • Example: If Distilled produced a list of “Best Digital Marketing Agencies,” it’s highly unlikely that users would find it trustworthy given our inherent bias!

Quality of content. Highly subjective, yes, but remember: you’re comparing brands against each other. Here’s what you need to evaluate here:

  • Are “informative” pages discussing complex topics under 400 words?
    • Note: thin content isn’t always a bad thing. Keep page intent in mind as you evaluate.
  • Do you want to read the content?
  • Largely, do the pages seem well-written and full of valuable information?
    • Conversely, are the sites littered with “listicles,” or full of generic info you can find in millions of other places online?

Quality of images/video. Also highly subjective (but again, compare your site to your competitors, and be brutally honest). Judge each site’s media items based on:

  • Resolution (do the images or videos appear to be high quality? Grainy?),
  • Whether they are unique (do the images or videos appear to be from stock resources?),
  • Whether the photos or videos are repeated on multiple sample pages.

Audience (engagement and sharing of content)

Number of linking root domains. This factor is exclusively based on the total number of dofollow linking root domains (LRDs) to each domain (not total backlinks).

You can pull this number from Moz’s Open Site Explorer (OSE) or from Ahrefs. Since this measurement is only for the total number of LRDs to competitor, you don’t need to graph them. However, you will have an opportunity to display the sheer quantity of links by their domain authority in the next checklist item.

Quality of linking root domains. Here is where we get to the quality of each site’s LRDs. Using the same LRD data you exported from either Moz’s OSE or Ahrefs, you can bucket each brand’s LRDs by domain authority and count the total LRDs by DA. Log these into this third sheet, and you’ll have a graph that illustrates their overall LRD quality (and will help you grade each domain).

Other people talk about our content. I like to use BuzzSumo for this checklist item. BuzzSumo allows you to see what sites have written about a particular topic or company. You can even refine your search to include or exclude certain terms as necessary.

You’ll need to set a timeframe to collect this information. Set this to the past year to account for seasonality.

Actively promoting content. Using BuzzSumo again, you can alter your search to find how many of each domain’s URLs have been shared on social networks. While this isn’t an explicit ranking factor, strong social media marketing is correlated with good SEO. Keep the timeframe to one year, same as above.

Creating content explicitly for organic acquisition. This line item may seem similar to Appropriate informational content, but its purpose is to examine whether the competitors create pages to target keywords users are searching for.

Plug your the same URLs from your found “organic content” into SEMRush, and note whether they are ranking for non-branded keywords. You can grade the competitors on whether (and how many of) the sampled pages are ranking for any non-branded terms, and weight them based on their relative rank positions.

Conversion

You should treat this section as a UX exercise. Visit each competitor’s sampled URLs as though they are your landing page from search. Is it clear what the calls to action are? What is the next logical step in your user journey? Does it feel like you’re getting the right information, in the right order as you click through?

Clear CTAs on site. Of your sample pages, examine what the calls to action (CTAs) are. This is largely UX-based, so use your best judgment when evaluating whether they seem easy to understand. For inspiration, take a look at these examples of CTAs.

Conversions appropriate to several funnel steps. This checklist item asks you to determine whether the funnel steps towards conversion feel like the correct “next step” from the user’s standpoint.

Even if you are not a UX specialist, you can assess each site as though you are a first time user. Document areas on the pages where you feel frustrated, confused, or not. User behavior is a ranking signal, so while this is a qualitative measurement, it can help you understand the UX for each site.

CTAs match user intent inferred from content. Here is where you’ll evaluate whether the CTAs match the user intent from the content as well as the CTA language. For instance, if a CTA prompts a user to click “for more information,” and takes them to a subscription page, the visitor will most likely be confused or irritated (and, in reality, will probably leave the site).


This analysis should help you holistically identify areas of opportunity available in your search landscape, without having to guess which “best practice” you should test next. Once you’ve started this competitive analysis, trends among the competition will emerge, and expose niches where your site can improve and potentially outpace your competition.

Kick off your own SEO competitive analysis and comment below on how it goes! If this process is your jam, or you’d like to argue with it, come see me speak about these competitive analyses and the campaigns they’ve inspired at SearchLove London. Bonus? If you use that link, you’ll get £50 off your tickets.

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!


Moz Blog

Create Ranking Content by Conquering Competitive Keywords

Content marketing and SEO have become more challenging over the last couple years. But why? SEO has become more data driven to help search marketers prioritize what keywords they should be targeting and how to setup a proper strategy. Additionally, the increase in digital competition and investment from companies has had a significant impact.

To conquer any keyword you want to rank for, there are multiple steps that you should take as a marketer to see the best return on your investment. SEO still works and is not “dead.” Instead, SEO takes patience and dedication to see the results that you are expecting. There are no silver bullets for search engine optimization. With that being said, let’s go through the steps to rank for competitive keywords.

Keyword Competition Analysis

When selecting keywords, it’s important to look at both keyword search volume and competition. Keyword search volume is a metric to help marketers understand the demand. Finding keywords with a high amount of search volume is great, but more search volume generally brings more competition. It’s essential understand how competitive the keyword is before trying to target it on your page. Knowing the level of competition helps set expectations on how long and the effort it might take to rank for the keyword. Most keyword research tools have a keyword competition or difficulty metric to help search marketers find viable keywords. The goal is to find a keyword that has a decent amount of search volume and a lower competition level.

Competitive Landscape Analysis

After choosing the keywords that you want to target, you should do a more thorough competitive analysis to see what the currently ranking sites are doing. By analyzing what each competitor and ranking domain is doing already, you can find commonalities to use for your piece of content. Common elements to analyze when doing a competitor analysis are title tags, meta descriptions, H1 heading tags, common keywords used, page authority/external links pointing to the page, content length, pagespeed, and internal links pointing to the target page.

Running a competitive analysis on the search engine results pages (SERPs) for a keyword will allow you to understand what elements are important to rank your piece of content. The analysis also helps when you are setting expectations with key stakeholders about the timing on when the piece of content might start ranking/performing to expectations.

Create 10x Content

Content marketers know that creating 10x content is much more difficult than you might initially thing. I want to avoid saying go create great content, because most people don’t fully understand what great content is. Instead, focus on creating content that you are proud of and what you think your audience will enjoy. Each piece of content should serve a purpose to solve problems that your audience is experiencing.

10x content doesn’t only have to be blog or page content. Start thinking outside the box with videos, infographics, interactive eBooks, or podcasts that can also be optimized. By focusing on other types of content you can create more engaging content for your audience.

Once you publish your 10x content, make sure you slot time to come back and review how it is performing in search. Use a tool like Google Search Console to see what search queries the page is getting impressions for to either reoptimize or rewrite the content to get even more visibility.

Publishing Supporting Content

After creating your piece of 10x content, you will need to add relevant internal links to the page from historic content and new content that you publish. When creating supporting content, make sure you avoid cannibalizing your keyword targets to avoid a reduction in organic performance.

To build evergreen content, focus on creating a hub of content. To create a hub you should identify a pillar page that is the key focal point for the topic. Your pillar page should be the authoritative piece of content that consistently ranks for multiple keywords. The page is supported with other pieces of content that internally links back to the pillar page to get more internal authority.

Promotion and External Backlinks

SEO is not a promotion tactic. Publishing content and hoping that it ranks is not a viable strategy for marketing anymore. Instead, the content needs to have some level of promotion, which could include paid/social ads, social promotion, and getting external backlinks to the page. Each channel is an important part of gaining exposure for your piece of content. Generally, a small paid campaign can help you analyze how the content is performing with your selected audience sample. From the paid campaign, you can gain valuable insights into whether the piece of content is engaging to users.

Another important SEO aspect to focus on is receiving external backlinks to your content. External backlinks are still an important ranking factor for SEO and needs to be thought about when creating your strategy. A couple ways to get external backlinks is to leverage the Skyscraper Technique (coined by Brian Dean) and signing up HARO.  The Skyscraper Technique is when you create better content than your competitors and reach out to the sites linking to your competitor’s content to get backlinks to your piece of content. You can also sign up for HARO to help reporters answer questions related to your industry or piece of content.

Go Conquer Your Keywords

Even though content marketing and SEO have become more challenging, there is still a lot that can be done to garner great results. Instead of creating more content, focus on creating better content that you are proud of. Take the time to analyze the keyword competition and competitive landscape before drafting your content to set yourself up for success. Then create your 10x content and promote it to see the best organic results.

The good news is that TopRank Marketing is ready to help you if you are struggling with your SEO strategy and content planning.


Email Newsletter Gain a competitive advantage by subscribing to the
TopRank® Online Marketing Newsletter.

© Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®, 2017. | Create Ranking Content by Conquering Competitive Keywords | http://www.toprankblog.com

The post Create Ranking Content by Conquering Competitive Keywords appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.


Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®

How to Perform a Basic Local Business Competitive Audit

Posted by MiriamEllis

“Why are those folks outranking me in Google’s local pack?”

If you or a client is asking this question, the answer lies in competitive analysis. You’ve got to stack Business A up against Business B to identify the strengths and weaknesses of both competitors, and then make an educated guess as to which factors Google is weighting most in the results for a specific search term.

Today, I’d like to share a real-world example of a random competitive audit, including a chart that depicts which factors I’ve investigated and explanatory tips and tools for how I came up with the numbers and facts. Also included: a downloadable version of the spreadsheet that you can use for your own company or clients. Your goal with this audit is to identify exactly how one player is winning the game so that you can create a to-do list for any company trying to move up in the rankings. Alternatively, some competitive audits can be defensive, identifying a dominant player’s weaknesses so that they can be corrected to ensure continued high rankings.

It’s my hope that seeing this audit in action will help you better answer the question of why “this person is outranking that person,” and that you may share with our community some analytical tips of your own!

The scenario:

localseoaudit.jpg

Search term: Chinese Restaurant San Rafael

Statistics about San Rafael: A large town of approximately 22 square miles in the San Francisco Bay Area with a population of 58,954 and 15+ Chinese restaurants.

Consistency of results: From 20 miles away to 2000+ miles away, Ping’s Chinese Cuisine outranks Yet Wah Restaurant in Google’s local pack for the search term. We don’t look closer than 20 miles, or proximity of the searcher creates too much diversity.

The challenge: Why is Ping’s Chinese Cuisine outranking Yet Wah Restaurant in Google’s Local Pack for the search term?

The comparison chart

*Where there’s a clear winner, it’s noted in bolded, italicized text.

Basic business information

NAP

Ping’s Chinese Cuisine
248 Northgate Dr.
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 492-8808

Yet Wah Restaurant
1238 4th St.
San Rafael, CA 94901
(415) 460-9883

GMB landing page URL

http://pingsnorthgate.com/

http://www.yetwahchinese.com/

Local Pack rank

1

2

Organic rank

17

5

Organic rank among business-owned sites
*Remove directories and review platforms from the equation, as they typically shouldn’t be viewed as direct competitors

8

1

Business model eligible for GMB listing at this address?
*Check Google’s Guidelines if unsure: https://support.google.com/business/answer/3038177…

Yes

Yes

Oddities

Note that Ping’s has redirected pingschinesecuisine.com to pingsnorthgate.com. Ping’s also has a www and non-www version of pingsnorthgate.com.

A 2nd website for same business at same location with same phone number: http://yetwahsanrafael.com/. This website is ranking directly below the authoritative (GMB-linked) website for this business in organic SERP for the search in question.

Business listings

GMB review count

32

38

GMB review rating

4.1

3.8

Most recent GMB review
*Sort GMB reviews by “most recent” filter

1 week ago

1 month ago

Proper GMB categories?

Yes

Yes

Estimated age of GMB listing
*Estimated by date of oldest reviews and photos, but can only be seen as an estimate

At least 2 years old

At least 6 years old

Moz Local score (completeness + accuracy + lack of duplicates)
*Tool: https://moz.com/local/search

49%

75%

Moz Local duplicate findings
*Tool: https://moz.com/local/search

0

1 (Facebook)

Keywords in GMB name

chinese

restaurant

Keywords in GMB website landing page title tag

Nothing at all. Just “home page”

Yes

Spam in GMB title
*Look at GMB photos, Google Streetview, and the website to check for inconsistencies

No

Yes: “restaurant” not in website logo or street level signage

Hours and photos on GMB?

Yes

Yes

Proximity to city centroid
*Look up city by name in Google Maps and see where it places the name of the city on the map. That’s the city “centroid.” Get driving directions from the business to an address located in the centroid.

3.5 miles

410.1 feet

Proximity to nearest competitor
*Zoom in on Google map to surface as many adjacent competitors as possible. Can be a Possum factor in some cases.

1.1 mile

0.2 miles

Within Google Maps boundaries?
*Look up city by name in Google Maps and note the pink border via which Google designates that city’s boundaries

Yes

Yes

Website

Age of domain
*Tool: http://smallseotools.com/domain-age-checker/

March 2013

August 2011

Domain Authority
*Tool: https://moz.com/products/pro/seo-toolbar

16

8

GMB Landing Page Authority
*Tool: https://moz.com/products/pro/seo-toolbar

30

21

Links to domain
*Tool: https://moz.com/researchtools/ose/

53

2

DA/PA of most authoritative link earned
*Tool: https://moz.com/researchtools/ose/

72/32

38/16

Evaluation of website content

*This is a first-pass, visual gut check, just reading through the top-level pages of the website to see how they strike you in terms of quality.

Extremely thin, just adequate to identify restaurant. At least has menu on own site. Of the 2 sites, this one has the most total text, by virtue of a sentence on the homepage and menus in real text.

Extremely thin, almost zero text on homepage, menu link goes to another website.

Evaluation of website design

Outdated

Outdated, mostly images

Evaluation of website UX

Can be navigated, but few directives or CTAs

Can be navigated, but few directives or CTAs

Mobile-friendly
*Tool: https://search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly

Basic mobile design, but Google’s mobile-friendly test tool says both www and non-www cannot be reached because it’s unavailable or blocked by robots txt. They have disallowed scripts, photos, Flash, images, and plugins. This needs to be further investigated and resolved. Mobile site URL is http://pingsnorthgate.com/#2962. Both this URL and the other domains are failing Google’s test.

Basic mobile design passes Google’s mobile-friendly test

Evaluation of overall onsite SEO
*A first-pass visual look at the page code of top level pages, checking for titles, descriptions, header tags, schema, + the presence of problems like Flash.

Pretty much no optimization

Minimal, indeed, but a little bit of effort made. Some title tags, some schema, some header tags.

HTML NAP on website?

Yes

Yes

Website NAP matches GMB NAP?

No (Northgate One instead of Northgate Drive)

Yes

Total number of wins: Ping’s 7, Yet Wah 9.

Download your own version of my competitive audit spreadsheet by making a copy of the file.

Takeaways from the comparison chart

Yet Wah significantly outranks Ping’s in the organic results, but is being beaten by them in the Local Pack. Looking at the organic factors, we see evidence that, despite the fact that Ping’s has greater DA, greater PA of the GMB landing page, more links, and stronger links, they are not outranking Yet Wah organically. This is something of a surprise that leads us to look at their content and on-page SEO.

While Ping’s has slightly better text content on their website, they have almost done almost zero optimization work, their URLs have canonical issues, and their robots.txt isn’t properly configured. Yet Wah has almost no on-site content, but they have modestly optimized their title tags, implemented H tags and some schema, and their site passes Google’s mobile-friendly test.

So, our theory regarding Yet Wah’s superior organic ranking is that, in this particular case, Yet Wah’s moderate efforts with on-page SEO have managed to beat out Ping’s superior DA/PA/link metrics. Yet Wah’s website is also a couple of years older than Ping’s.

All that being said, Yet Wah’s organic win is failing to translate into a local win for them. How can we explain Ping’s local win? Ping’s has a slightly higher overall review rating, higher DA and GMB landing page PA, more total links, and higher authority links. They also have slightly more text content on their website, even if it’s not optimized.

So, our theory regarding Ping’s superior local rank is that, in this particular case, website authority/links appear to be winning the day for Ping’s. And the basic website text they have could possibly be contributing, despite lack of optimization.

In sum, basic on-page SEO appears to be contributing to Yet Wah’s organic win, while DA/PA/links appear to be contributing to Ping’s local win.

Things that bother me

I chose this competitive scenario at random, because when I took an initial look at the local and organic rankings, they bothered me a little. I would have expected Yet Wah to be first in the local pack if they were first in organic. I see local and organic rankings correlate strongly so much of the time, that this case seemed odd to me.

By the end of the audit, I’ve come up with a working theory, but I’m not 100% satisfied with it. It makes me ask questions like:

  • Is Ping’s better local rank stemming from some hidden factor no one knows about?
  • In this particular case, why is Google appearing to value Ping’s links more that Yet Wah’s on-page SEO in determining local rank? Would I see this same trend across the board if I analyzed 1,000 restaurants? The industry says links are huge in local SEO right now. I guess we’re seeing proof of that here.
  • Why isn’t Google weighting Yet Wah’s superior citation set more than they apparently are? Ping’s citations are in bad shape. I’ve seen citation health play a much greater apparent role in other audits, but something feels weird here.
  • Why isn’t Google “punishing” Yet Wah in the organic results for that second website with duplicate NAP on it? That seems like it should matter.
  • Why isn’t age factoring in more here? My inspection shows that Yet Wah’s domain and GMB listing are significantly older. This could be moving the organic needle for them, but it’s not moving the local one.
  • Could user behavior be making Ping’s the local winner? This is a huge open question at the end of my basic audit.* See below.

*I don’t have access to either restaurant’s Google Analytics, GMB Insights, or Google Search Console accounts, so perhaps that would turn up penalties, traffic patterns, or things like superior clicks-to-call, clicks-for-directions, or clicks-to-website that would make Ping’s local win easier to explain. If one of these restaurants were your client, you’d want to add chart rows for these things based on full access to the brand’s accounts and tools, and whatever data your tools can access about the competitor. For example, using a tool like SimilarWeb, I see that between May and June of this year, YetWah’s traffic rose from an average 150 monthly visits up to a peak of 500, while Ping’s saw a drop from 700 to 350 visits in that same period. Also, in a scenario in which one or both parties have a large or complex link profile, you might want additional rows for link metrics, taken from tools like Moz Pro, Ahrefs, or Majestic.

In this case, Ping’s has 7 total wins in my chart and Yet Wah has 9. The best I can do is look at which factors each business is winning at to try to identify a pattern of what Google is weighting most, both organically and locally. With both restaurants being so basic in their marketing, and with neither one absolutely running away with the game, what we have here is a close race. While I’d love to be able to declare a totally obvious winner, the best I could do as a consultant, in this case, would be to draw up a plan of defense or offense.

If my client were Ping’s:

Ping’s needs to defend its #1 local ranking if it doesn’t want to lose it. Its greatest weaknesses which must be resolved are:

  • The absence of on-page SEO
  • Thin content
  • Robots.txt issues

To remain strong, Ping’s should also work on:

  • Improving citation health
  • Directing the non-www version of their site to the www one
  • A professional site redesign could possibly improve conversions

Ping’s should accomplish these things to defend its current local rank and to try to move up organically.

If my client were Yet Wah:

Yet Wah needs to try to achieve victory over Ping’s in the local packs, as it has done in the organic results. To do that, Yet Wah should:

  • Earn links to the GMB landing page URL and the domain
  • Create strong text content on its high-level pages, including putting a complete dining menu in real text on the website
  • Deal with the second website featuring duplicate NAP

Yet Wah should also:

  • Complete work on its citation health
  • Work hard to get some new 5-star reviews by delighting customers with something special
  • Consider adding the word “Restaurant” to their signage, so that they can’t be reported for spamming the GMB name field.
  • Consider a professional redesign of the website to improve conversions

Yet Wah should accomplish these things in an effort to surpass Ping’s.

And, with either client being mine, I’d then be taking a second pass to further investigate anything problematic that came up in the initial audit, so that I could make further technical or creative suggestions.

Big geo-industry picture analysis

Given that no competitor for this particular search term has been able to beat out Ping’s or Yet Wah in the local pack, and given the minimal efforts these two brands have thus far made, there’s a tremendous chance for any Chinese restaurant in San Rafael to become the dominant player. Any competitor that dedicates itself to running on all cylinders (professional, optimized website with great content, a healthy link profile, a competitive number of high-star reviews, healthy citations, etc.) could definitely surpass all other contestants. This is not a tough market and there are no players who can’t be bested.

My sample case has been, as I’ve said, a close race. You may be facing an audit where there are deeply entrenched dominant players whose statistics far surpass those of a business you’re hoping to assist. But the basic process is the same:

  1. Look at the top-ranking business.
  2. Fill out the chart (adding any other fields you feel are important).
  3. Then discover the strengths of the dominant company, as well as its potential weaknesses.
  4. Contrast these findings with those you’ve charted for the company you’re helping and you’ll be able to form a plan for improvement.

And don’t forget the user proximity factor. Any company’s most adjacent customers will see pack results that vary either slightly or significantly from what a user sees from 20, 50, or 1,000 miles away. In my specific study, it happened to be the third result in the pack that went haywire once a user got 50 miles away, while the top two remained dominant and statically ranked for searchers as far away as the East Coast.

Because of this phenomenon of distance, it’s vital for business owners to be educated about the fact that they are serving two user groups: one that is located in the neighborhood or city of the business, and another that could be anywhere in the country or the world. This doesn’t just matter for destinations like hotels or public amusements. In California (a big state), Internet users on a road trip from Palm Springs may be looking to end their 500-mile drive at a Chinese restaurant in San Rafael, so you can’t just think hyper-locally; you’ve got to see the bigger local picture. And you’ve got to do the analysis to find ways of winning as often as you can with both consumer groups.

You take it from here, auditor!

My local competitive audit chart is a basic one, looking at 30+ factors. What would you add? How would you improve it? Did I miss a GMB duplicate listing, or review spam? What’s working best for your agency in doing local audits these days? Do you use a chart, or just provide a high-level text summary of your internal findings? And, if you have any further theories as to how Ping’s is winning the local pack, I’d love for you to share them in the comments.

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!


Moz Blog