How to Make Your Website More Secure (So Google Doesn’t Punish You)

Posted by lkolowich

Thanks to the buzz around website hacking and personal data theft in recent years, most Internet users are aware that their sensitive information is at risk every time they surf the web.

And yet, although the personal data of their visitors and customers is at risk, many businesses still aren’t making website security a priority.

Enter Google.

The folks over at Google are known for paving the way for Internet behavior. Last month, they took a monumental step forward in helping protect people from getting their personal data hacked. The update they released to their popular Chrome browser now warns users if a website is not secure – right inside that user’s browser.

While this change is meant to help protect users’ personal data, it’s also a big kick in the pants for businesses to get moving on making their websites more secure.

Google’s Chrome update: What you need to know

On October 17, 2017, Google’s latest Chrome update (version 62) began flagging websites and webpages that contain a form but don’t have a basic security feature called SSL. SSL, which stands for “Secure Sockets Layer,” is the standard technology that ensures all the data that passes between a web server and a browser – passwords, credit card information, and other personal data – stays private and ensures protection against hackers.

In Chrome, sites lacking SSL are now marked with the warning “Not Secure” in eye-catching red, right inside the URL bar:

imdb-not-secure.gif

Google started doing this back in January 2017 for pages that asked for sensitive information, like credit cards. The update released in October expands the warning to all websites that have a form, even if it’s just one field that asks for something like an email address.

What’s the impact on businesses?

Because Chrome has 47% of market share, this change is likely noticed by millions of people using Chrome. And get this: 82% of respondents to a recent consumer survey said they would leave a site that is not secure, according to HubSpot Research.

In other words, if your business’ website isn’t secured with SSL, then more than 8 out of 10 Chrome users said they would leave your website.

Ouch.

What’s more, Google has publically stated that SSL is now a ranking signal in Google’s search algorithm. This means that a website with SSL enabled may outrank another site without SSL.

That’s exactly why anyone who owns or operates a website should start taking the steps to secure their website with an SSL certificate, in addition to a few other security measures. Businesses that don’t take care to protect visitors’ information might see significant issues, garner unwanted attention, and dilute customer trust.

“In my opinion, I think security is undervalued by a lot of marketers,” says Jeffrey Vocell, my colleague at HubSpot and go-to website guru. “Almost daily, we hear news about a new hacking incident or about personal data that has been compromised. The saying ‘there’s no such thing as bad press’ clearly isn’t true here; or, at the very least, the marketer that believes it has never had to live with the fallout of a data breach.”

With Google’s Chrome update, those visitors will see a warning right inside their browsers – even before they’ve entered any information. This means businesses face the potential of losing website visitors’ trust, regardless of whether a cybersecurity incident has actually occurred.

If you’re ready to join the movement toward a more secure web, the first step is to see whether your website currently has an SSL certificate.

Do you know whether your site has SSL?

There are a few ways to tell whether your website (or any website) has SSL.

If you don’t use Google Chrome:

All you have to do is look at a website’s URL once you’ve entered it into the URL bar. Does it contain “https://” with that added “s,” or does it contain “http://” without an “s”? Websites that have SSL contain that extra “s.” You can also enter any URL into this SSL Checker from HubSpot and it’ll tell you whether it’s secure without having to actually visit that site.

If you do have Chrome:

It’s easy to see whether a website is secured with an SSL certificate, thanks to the recent update. After entering a URL into the URL bar, you’ll see the red “Not Secure” warning next to websites that aren’t certified with SSL:

star-wars-not-secure.png

For websites that are certified with SSL, you’ll see “Secure” in green, alongside a padlock icon:

facebook-secure.png

You can click on the padlock to read more about the website and the company that provided the SSL certificate.

Using one of the methods above, go ahead and check to see if your business’ website is secure.

Yes, it does have SSL! Woohoo!

Your site visitors already feel better about browsing and entering sensitive information into your website. You’re not quite done, though – there’s still more you can do to make your website even more secure. We’ll get to that in a second.

Shoot, it doesn’t have SSL yet.

You’re not alone – even a few well-known sites, like IMDB and StarWars.com, weren’t ready for Google’s update. But it’s time to knock on your webmasters’ doors and have them follow the steps outlined below.

How to make your website more secure

Ready to protect your visitors from data theft and get rid of that big, red warning signal staring every Chrome user in the face in the process? Below, you’ll find instructions and resources to help you secure your website and reduce the chances of getting hacked.

Securing your site with SSL

The first step is to determine which type of certificate you need – and how many. You might need different SSL certificates if you host content on multiple platforms, such as separate domains or subdomains.

As for cost, an SSL certificate will cost you anywhere from nothing (Let’s Encrypt offers free SSL certificates) to a few hundred dollars per month. It usually averages around $ 50 per month per domain. Some CMS providers (like HubSpot) have SSL included, so check with them before making any moves.

(Read this post for more detailed instructions and considerations for SSL.)

Securing your site with additional measures

Even if you already have SSL, there are four other things you can do to make your website significantly more secure, according to Vocell.

1) Update any plugins or extensions/apps you use on your site.

Hackers look for security vulnerabilities in old versions of plugins, so it’s better to take on the challenges of keeping your plugins updated than make yourself an easy target.

2) Use a CDN (Content Delivery Network).

One trick hackers use to take down websites is through a DDoS attack. A DDoS attack is when a hacker floods your server with traffic until it stops responding altogether, at which point the hacker can gain access to sensitive data stored in your CMS. A CDN will detect traffic increases and scale up to handle it, preventing a DDoS attack from debilitating your site.

3) Make sure your CDN has data centers in multiple locations.

That way, if something goes awry with one server, your website won’t stop working all of a sudden, leaving it vulnerable to attack.

4) Use a password manager.

One simple way of protecting against cyberattacks is by using a password manager – or, at the very least, using a secure password. A secure password contains upper and lowercase letters, special characters, and numbers.

Suffering a hack is a frustrating experience for users and businesses alike. I hope this article inspires you to double down on your website security. With SSL and the other security measures outlined in this post, you’ll help protect your visitors and your business, and make visitors feel safe browsing and entering information on your site.

Does your website have SSL enabled? What tips do you have for making your website more secure? Tell us about your experiences and ideas in the comments.

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Writing Headlines that Serve SEO, Social Media, and Website Visitors All Together – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Have your headlines been doing some heavy lifting? If you’ve been using one headline to serve multiple audiences, you’re missing out on some key optimization opportunities. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand gives you a process for writing headlines for SEO, for social media, and for your website visitors — each custom-tailored to its audience and optimized to meet different goals.

Writing headlines that serve SEO, Social Media, and Website Visitors

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

<span id=”selection-marker-1″ class=”redactor-selection-marker”></span>

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about writing headlines. One of the big problems that headlines have is that they need to serve multiple audiences. So it’s not just ranking and search engines. Even if it was, the issue is that we need to do well on social media. We need to serve our website visitors well in order to rank in the search engines. So this gets very challenging.

I’ve tried to illustrate this with a Venn diagram here. So you can see, basically…

SEO

In the SEO world of headline writing, what I’m trying to do is rank well, earn high click-through rate, because I want a lot of those visitors to the search results to choose my result, not somebody else’s. I want low pogo-sticking. I don’t want anyone clicking the back button and choosing someone else’s result because I didn’t fulfill their needs. I need to earn links, and I’ve got to have engagement.

Social media

On the social media side, it’s pretty different actually. I’m trying to earn amplification, which can often mean the headline tells as much of the story as possible. Even if you don’t read the piece, you amplify it, you retweet it, and you re-share it. I’m looking for clicks, and I’m looking for comments and engagement on the post. I’m not necessarily too worried about that back button and the selection of another item. In fact, time on site might not even be a concern at all.

Website visitors

For website visitors, both of these are channels that drive traffic. But for the site itself, I’m trying to drive right visitors, the ones who are going to be loyal, who are going to come back, hopefully who are going to convert. I want to not confuse anyone. I want to deliver on my promise so that I don’t create a bad brand reputation and detract from people wanting to click on me in the future. For those of you have visited a site like Forbes or maybe even a BuzzFeed and you have an association of, “Oh, man, this is going to be that clickbait stuff. I don’t want to click on their stuff. I’m going to choose somebody else in the results instead of this brand that I remember having a bad experience with.”

Notable conflicts

There are some notable direct conflicts in here.

  1. Keywords for SEO can be really boring on social media sites. When you try and keyword stuff especially or be keyword-heavy, your social performance tends to go terribly.
  2. Creating mystery on social, so essentially not saying what the piece is truly about, but just creating an inkling of what it might be about harms the clarity that you need for search in order to rank well and in order to drive those clicks from a search engine. It also hurts your ability generally to do keyword targeting.
  3. The need for engagement and brand reputation that you’ve got for your website visitors is really going to hurt you if you’re trying to develop those clickbait-style pieces that do so well on social.
  4. In search, ranking for low-relevance keywords is going to drive very unhappy visitors, people who don’t care that just because you happen to rank for this doesn’t necessarily mean that you should, because you didn’t serve the visitor intent with the actual content.

Getting to resolution

So how do we resolve this? Well, it’s not actually a terribly hard process. In 2017 and beyond, what’s nice is that search engines and social and visitors all have enough shared stuff that, most of the time, we can get to a good, happy resolution.

Step one: Determine who your primary audience is, your primary goals, and some prioritization of those channels.

You might say, “Hey, this piece is really targeted at search. If it does well on social, that’s fine, but this is going to be our primary traffic driver.” Or you might say, “This is really for internal website visitors who are browsing around our site. If it happens to drive some traffic from search or social, well that’s fine, but that’s not our intent.”

Step two: For non-conflict elements, optimize for the most demanding channel.

For those non-conflicting elements, so this could be the page title that you use for SEO, it doesn’t always have to perfectly match the headline. If it’s a not-even-close match, that’s a real problem, but an imperfect match can still be okay.

So what’s nice in social is you have things like Twitter cards and the Facebook markup, graph markup. That Open Graph markup means that you can have slightly different content there than what you might be using for your snippet, your meta description in search engines. So you can separate those out or choose to keep those distinct, and that can help you as well.

Step three: Author the straightforward headline first.

I’m going to ask you author the most straightforward version of the headline first.

Step four: Now write the social-friendly/click-likely version without other considerations.

Is to write the opposite of that, the most social-friendly or click-likely/click-worthy version. It doesn’t necessarily have to worry about keywords. It doesn’t have to worry about accuracy or telling the whole story without any of these other considerations.

Step five: Merge 3 & 4, and add in critical keywords.

We’re going to take three and four and just merge them into something that will work for both, that compromises in the right way, compromises based on your primary audience, your primary goals, and then add in the critical keywords that you’re going to need.

Examples:

I’ve tried to illustrate this a bit with an example. Nest, which Google bought them years ago and then they became part of the Alphabet Corporation that Google evolved into. So Nest is separately owned by Alphabet, Google’s parent company. Nest came out with this new alarm system. In fact, the day we’re filming this Whiteboard Friday, they came out with a new alarm system. So they’re no longer just a provider of thermostats inside of houses. They now have something else.

Step one: So if I’m a tech news site and I’m writing about this, I know that I’m trying to target gadget and news readers. My primary channel is going to be social first, but secondarily search engines. The goal that I’m trying to reach, that’s engagement followed by visits and then hopefully some newsletter sign-ups to my tech site.

Step two: My title and headline in this case probably need to match very closely. So the social callouts, the social cards and the Open Graph, that can be unique from the meta description if need be or from the search snippet if need be.

Step three: I’m going to do step three, author the straightforward headline. That for me is going to be “Nest Has a New Alarm System, Video Doorbell, and Outdoor Camera.” A little boring, probably not going to tremendously well on social, but it probably would do decently well in search.

Step four: My social click-likely version is going to be something more like “Nest is No Longer Just a Thermostat. Their New Security System Will Blow You Away.” That’s not the best headline in the universe, but I’m not a great headline writer. However, you get the idea. This is the click-likely social version, the one that you see the headline and you go, “Ooh, they have a new security system. I wonder what’s involved in that.” You create some mystery. You don’t know that it includes a video doorbell, an outdoor camera, and an alarm. You just hear, “They’ve got a new security system. Well, I better look at it.”

Step five: Then I can try and compromise and say, “Hey, I know that I need to have video doorbell, camera, alarm, and Nest.” Those are my keywords. Those are the important ones. That’s what people are going to be searching for around this announcement, so I’ve got to have them in there. I want to have them close to the front. So “Nest’s New Alarm, Video Doorbell and Camera Are About to Be on Every Home’s Must-Have List.” All right, resolved in there.

So this process of writing headlines to serve these multiple different, sometimes competing priorities is totally possible with nearly everything you’re going to do in SEO and social and for your website visitors. This resolution process is something hopefully you can leverage to get better results.

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

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Google local finder rolls out website mentions matching your query

After a few weeks of testing, Google is now rolling out a feature that shows local listings can surface content available on local business websites. The post Google local finder rolls out website mentions matching your query appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.


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The 3 Easiest Link Building Tactics Any Website Can Use to Acquire Their First 50 Links – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Without a solid base of links, your site won’t be competitive in the SERPs — even if you do everything else right. But building your first few links can be difficult and discouraging, especially for new websites. Never fear — Rand is here to share three relatively quick, easy, and tool-free (read: actually free) methods to build that solid base and earn yourself links.

Link Building Tactics to Acquire Your 50 First Links

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

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about how to get those first few links that every website needs to be able to compete. Many folks I know when you get started with link building, it can seem daunting and overwhelming.

So let me walk you through what is essentially a half a day of work, maybe three or four hours of work to try these three tactics that will almost certainly get your business or your organization the first handful, let’s say 50 links that you need to start being able to compete. Content can you take you a long way. Keywords can take you a long way. Engagement and interaction can take you a long way. But you’ve got to have a base of links. So let’s get started here.

#1. Your brand name, domain name, and founder’s/execs names

The first one is basically looking for links that come from your own name, your brand name, your domain name potentially, and the names of the founders or people who run your company.

Step One: Search Google for the names in quotes.

So if it was me and Moz, you’d be searching for “Rand Fishkin” or “Moz.com” in quotes, not the domain name in the URL field. But in the Google search bar, I’d be searching for “Moz.com” in quotes or “Moz + SEO.” Moz also has other meanings, including the singer Morrissey, which makes for confusing types of things. If you have that, you’ll need to use your brand name plus some sort of signifier or identifier. It’s very rare that Morrissey gets mentioned along with search engine optimization. It’s very often that Moz gets mentioned along with SEO, and so I can combine those to search for it. So any of these searches will result in a big list of tons of Google results.

Step Two: Manually check the top let’s say 50 to 100 results to confirm that…

  1. They link to the right place, and if they don’t, if there are mentions of Rand Fishkin that don’t link to Moz, we should fix that. We’re going to contact those people.
  2. If you can control the anchor text and where the link location points, you can update it. For example, I can go to my LinkedIn. My LinkedIn has a link to Moz. I could update that if I were at a different company or if Moz’s domain name changed, for example when it did change from SEOmoz to just Moz.
  3. If it’s missing or wrong, I find the right people, I email them, and I fix it. As a result, I should have something like this. Every single mention in Google has a link on the page to my website. I can get that from brand name, from domain name, and from founders and executives. That’s a lot of great links.

#2. Sites that list your competition

So this is essentially saying we’re going to…

Step One: Identify your top 5 or 10 most visible on the web competitors.

This is a process that you can go through on your own to identify, well, these are the 5 or 10 that we see on the web very frequently for searches that we wish we competed for, or we see them mentioned in the press a ton, whatever it is.

Step Two: Search Google not for each one individually, but rather for combinations, usually two, three, or four of them all together.

For example, if I were making a new whiteboard pen company, I would look for the existing ones, like Pilot and Expo and Quartet and PandaBoard. I might search for Pilot and PandaBoard first. Then I might search for Pilot and Expo. Then I might search for PandaBoard and Quartet and all these various combinations of these different ones.

Step Three: Visit any sites in the SERPs that list multiple competitors in any sort of format (a directory structure, comparisons, a list, etc.)

Then in each of those cases, I would submit or I would try and contact or get in touch with whoever runs that list and say, “Hey, my company, my organization also belongs on here because, like these other ones you’ve listed, we do the same thing.” So if it’s here’s whiteboard pen brands, Expo, PandaBoard, Quartet, and your site, which should now link to YourSite.com.

This is a little more challenging. You won’t have as high a hit rate as you will with your own brand names. But again, great way to expand your link portfolio. You can usually almost always get 20 or 30 different sites that are listing people in your field and get on those lists.

#3. Sites that list people/orgs in your field, your geography, with your attributes.

This is sites that list people or organizations in a particular field, a particular region, with particular attributes, or some combination of those three. So they’re saying here are European-based whiteboard pen manufacturers or European-based manufacturers who were founded by women.

So you can say, “Aha, that’s a unique attribute, that’s a geography, and that’s my field. I’m in manufacturing. I make whiteboard pens. Our cofounder was a woman, and we are in Europe. So therefore we count in all three of those. We should be on that list.” You’re looking for lists like these, which might not list your competitors, but are high-quality opportunities to get good links.

Step One:

  1. List your organization’s areas of operation. So that would be like we are in technology, or we’re in manufacturing or software or services, or we’re a utility, or we’re finance tech, or whatever we are. You can start from macro and go down to micro at each of those levels.
  2. List your geography in the same format from macro to micro. You want to go as broad as continent, for example Europe, down to country, region, county, city, even neighborhood. There are websites that list, “Oh, well, these are startups that are based in Ballard, Seattle, Washington in the United States in North America.” So you go, “Okay, I can fit in there.”
  3. List your unique attributes. Were you founded by someone whose attributes are different than normal? Moz, obviously my cofounder was my mom, Gillian. So Moz is a cofounded-by-a-woman company. Are you eco-friendly? Maybe you buy carbon credits to offset, or maybe you have a very eco-friendly energy policy. Or you have committed to donating to charity, like Salesforce has. Or you have an all-remote team. Or maybe you’re very GLBTQIA-friendly. Or you have a very generous family leave policy. Whatever interesting attributes there are about you, you can list those and then you can combine them.

Step Two: Search Google for lists of businesses or websites or organizations that have some of these attributes in your region or with your focus.

For example, Washington state venture-backed companies. Moz is a venture-backed company, so I could potentially get on that list. Or the EU-based manufacturing companies started by women, and I could get on that list with my whiteboard pen company based there. You can find lots and lots of these if you sort of take from your list, start searching Google and discover those results. You’ll use the same process you did here.

You know what the great thing about all three of these is? No tools required. You don’t have to pay for a single tool. You don’t have to worry about Domain Authority. You don’t have to worry about any sort of link qualification process or paying for something expensive. You can do this manually by yourself with Google as your only tool, and that will get you some of those first early links.

If you’ve got additional suggestions, please leave them down in the comments. I look forward to chatting with you there. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Why HTTPS Matters for Content Marketers: Website Security, SEO, and Customer Trust

Full disclosure: As a content marketer, I’m still trying to round out my technological knowledge. The complex inner workings of the internet might as well be some combination of elves, gnomes, and unicorns. As long as it delivers my content (and a steady stream of memes and status updates), it doesn’t matter how the internet works, right?

But it’s time for all content marketers to get at least a little technical. There are new marching orders from our overlords at tech giants like Google, Facebook, and Apple, and they’re going to directly affect your content marketing strategy.

The issue is a web security protocol called HTTPS (Hyper-Text Transfer Protocol Secure). Other terms you might encounter are SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) or TLS (Transport Layer Security).  Or you may just know it as the little green padlock in the top corner of your web browser:

image showing green padlock on Chrome web browser

No matter what you call it, HTTPS provides a secure, encrypted channel for a website to transfer data to a browser, and vice versa. It uses digital certificates to verify that each party is who they say they are—and that no third-party is intercepting the data.

It’s easy to see why HTTPS is a good idea—you don’t want some shady character snooping on your passwords and credit card information when you’re online banking at Starbucks. And you wouldn’t want to think you’ve connected with your bank, when you’re actually on www.stealyourmoney.biz.

Beyond the safety considerations, however, the push for websites to adopt HTTPS matters for content marketers. Not having HTTPS on your site can now hurt your marketing efforts in two big ways: search engine visibility and customer trust. Here’s what you need to know.

HTTPS Is an SEO Ranking Factor

Google is one of the major supporters of HTTPS, using its considerable leverage to increase adoption of the protocol. To that end, they have added HTTPS status as a ranking factor in searches. Since Google owns well over half of the search market—and over 90% of mobile search—your site’s ranking on Google has a massive impact on your organic traffic.

If your content is just as good as a competitor’s, but they have HTTPS and you don’t, they’re likely to rank higher on the results page. Over time, the coveted top spots will all go to HTTPS-enabled sites, with unsecure sites fighting for the scraps. This graph from Smart Insights shows just how much traffic you lose by dropping even a single slot on the SERP:

Chart showing a dropoff in click through rate versus position on a search engine ranking page

The top result has a 30% click-through rate, while the second gets 12%, and the CTR declines steadily from there.

It’s easy to see why HTTPS matters for content marketers who care about organic traffic (which, let’s hope, is all of us). If you’re trying to create SEO-optimized content that gets viewed and gets results, not having HTTPS on your site can hamstring your efforts from the start.

HTTPS Is a Trust Signal

Let’s say, though, that your content is so useful and so compelling that it still gets a decent ranking, and someone actually clicks through. In the address bar right now, Google Chrome (the most popular browser, with over 60% of all browser traffic) will show a “not secure” warning before your URL:

Gray 'not secure' warning on Google Chrome

In future builds of Chrome, that warning will get more dire, with red text and a caution sign:

Red triangle showing a website is not secure

These warnings may eventually escape the address bar, becoming a popup window that warns people away from your site.

It’s easy to imagine the impact these warnings will have on people’s confidence in your site. When there are plenty of secure websites in the SERP, that warning is enough for your average consumer to hit the back button and find a site with the soothing green padlock.

How to Get HTTPS

In the past, managing even a simple site’s security certificates could be a hassle. But in addition to pushing HTTPS adoption through penalties, Google and many others are also investing in making the technology easier to get. Even if you don’t have a web development team, you can likely get HTTPS up and running with minimal hiccups.

First, check with your internet provider to see if they offer automated HTTPS—many will help you get set up and manage your certificates. For example, our client Pantheon offers free, automated HTTPS to all of its clients. [Ashley: This is true, and useful, but may be overly promotional. Your call.]

If your provider doesn’t offer HTTPS management, I recommend Let’s Encrypt. They’re an open-source, free and automated HTTPS provider (or Certificate Authority), funded by contributions from the major players in the tech industry. If you have a little tech savvy, it’s pretty simple to get set up.

Is It Secret? Is It Safe?

Adopting HTTPS is the right choice for you and everyone who visits your site. But it’s more than just the right thing to do. The decision to adopt HTTPS will make it easier for consumers to find your content, and will give people more confidence in your site’s bona fides. On the other hand, not having HTTPS will hurt both your ranking and your reputation.

Looking for more ways to boost your search engine ranking? Check out these quick SEO research tips.


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Mission SEO Impossible: Rank a Single Brand Website for a Broad, Plural Search Query with Comparative Intent – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Competing with comparison sites in the SERPs can feel like a losing game, but it doesn’t have to. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand explains the challenges and outlines five solutions that can help you begin ranking for those high-value comparative terms.

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

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to this impossible edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re chatting about one of the toughest things that a lot of SEOs face, which is trying to rank for these specific types of queries that have a plural comparative intent behind them.

Some examples:

So I’ll give you a bunch of examples just to set the stage for this.

Let’s say I’m a hotel operator in Edinburgh, and I run one individual hotel, maybe a boutique hotel, and I want to rank for “best hotels in Edinburgh.” But that is nearly impossible, because if you look at the front page of results, all the folks there are comparative types of sites. They’re media properties. They’re hotel comparison shopping sites. So it’s TripAdvisor and Telegraph and US News & World Report, and This is Edinburgh, which is a media magazine there.

If I want to rank for “compare headphones” and I am the maker of one particular type of headphones, it’s incredibly difficult to outrank a PC Magazine, Forbes, HeadphonesCompare.com, CNET, Reevoo. This is an incredible challenge, right?

“Best Broadway shows,” if I’m operating a new Broadway show and I want to come up for this, which would be really meaningful for my Broadway show, which, by the way, most of them lose money. It’s an incredibly tough business. NYC Theatre, Time Out, Broadway.com, how do I get in there?

Or let’s say I’m in the software field. I’m FullContact, and I want to rank for “FullContact versus Clearbit.” There are lots of comparative types of searches like this. If you search for your brand name or your product’s brand name and “versus,” you’ll almost certainly come up with a bunch of suggestions. Well, it turns out neither FullContact nor Clearbit rank for this type of query. It’s Inbound.org and StackShare and Quora and Analyzo.

For “Android word games,” if I’ve come out with a new word game, it could be huge for me to rank for this term. But you know what? It’s going to be Android Central and Google Play, Tom’s Guide, Android Headlines, right?

If I have a new TV comedy, it would be fantastic because a lot of people are searching for “TV comedies” or “TV comedies on Netflix” or what have you. If I was Netflix or if I were some of these folks, I would love to come up here. But instead, it’s UPROXX and Ranker and IMDB. It’s comparative media sites almost always.

The problems

So what do we do? The first step is we have to identify the problem, like what is fundamentally going on. Why is it that these types of sites consistently outperform? This is not universal, but it’s close enough, especially on competitive head terms, like some of these, where it gets close to impossible or feels that way.

I. It’s really tough to rank without using the right words and phrases.

If you are a boutique hotel in Edinburgh, you might not be very comfortable using words like Hilton or Marriott or some of these other words that are branded terms that are owned by your competition. There could be legal issues around that, but it might also just be a brand guidelines type of thing. So that’s one part of the hard problem.

II. It’s really hard to rank without serving the searcher’s true intent.

In these cases, the searcher’s intent is, “I want to compare multiples of these things.” So if you have an individual hotel website or an individual headphone website, an individual Android word game, that’s not actually answering the searcher’s intent. It used to be easier, back before RankBrain and before Google got really smart with Hummingbird around their query intent understanding. But these days, very, very challenging. So that’s the second one.

III. It’s really hard to get links, hard to get links when you’re purely promotional or self-interested, you’re just one brand trying to outrank these folks, because these types of pieces of content seem sort of less selfish. The comparisons feel less self-interested, and therefore it’s easier for them to get organic links.

So tough challenge here. Three big issues that we have to address.

5 primary solutions

There actually are some solutions. There are some ways that some very creative and clever folks have worked around this in the past, and you can use them as well.

1. You can try separating your media or your blog or editorial content.

By separate, I mean one of two ways. You could go with a wholly separate domain. That’s pretty tough. You won’t inherit the domain authority. It will probably be a new domain, so that will be a challenge. Or you simply separate it editorially, such that it’s segmented from the promotional content. Moz actually does this, and, as a result, we rank for a lot of these types of queries. We even rank for a lot of SEO software types of queries that are clearly comparative, because we have that editorial independence in our editorial content. So this is one way you can go about doing that.

2. You could try a guest posting strategy or a guest contribution.

So if you can go out to the websites that are already listed here or ones like them, those independent, editorial, media-driven properties and say, “Hey, I will contribute to this as an independent author or writer. Yes, I work for this brand, but I think when you see my content, you will see that I’ve done my research and I am not biased.” If you can prove that to the editors at these publications, you can often prove that to the audience as well, and then you can earn these types of rankings.

You can actually see an example of this. I think it was, yes, I think the Forbes contributor here, I suspect they worked either with or for or at least in conjunction with a brand, because it seemed like they had a preference behind them and the author had a connection there.

3. You can commission independent research.

This is something that a lot of big companies will do. They’ll go out and they’ll say, “Hey, you’re an independent research firm that’s well-trusted. Will you do some research in our particular space?” Then hopefully it’s something that the press will pick up. It’s these press websites that you’re actually hoping are going to earn the rankings over here.

I will say while most of the folks doing this right now are very large companies with big research budgets and big advertising and promotional budgets, you don’t have to be. You can go and contract a single expert in the field, someone that you trust to do a great job, and you can say, “Hey, you already contribute to CNET, you already contribute to Time Out, you’re already a contributor to Tom’s Guide or Android Headlines or whatever it is. Could you do this independent research? We’ll pay you. Whatever the results you find, we’ll pay you regardless.” That can be quite successful.

4. If you need to do it yourself, but you don’t want to keep it on your own site, you could use a microsite.

So creating a site like if I’m Q over here and I’m XvsYvsQ.com, I’m not sure the exact match domain is precisely the route I’d take, but conceivably that microsite can perform well in these searches, and there are several examples, few and far between though they are, of this strategy working.

5. Win all the lists.

So if I want to rank in “best Broadway shows,” well, maybe I could just be “Hamilton.” If I want to win at “compare headphones,” maybe I could invent that patent on the noise-cancelling headphones that Bose have, which, by the way, win like three out of five of these. If I want to win the FullContact versus Clearbit, well, I need the features and the functionality and the things that these reviewers are using in order to win.

There’s almost always a bunch of objective criteria that you can identify by looking through these SERPs and related SERPs to figure out what you need to do. The challenge is it’s not just a marketing or an SEO or a content problem. Now it becomes a product and a positioning and oftentimes an engineering problem as well in order to have that win. But now you’ve got the strategies, hard though it may be. This is not impossible. It’s just difficult.

All right. Look forward to your comments and we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

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Digital Marketing News: Marketing Personalization, Google Website Builder and Bing Ads

Four Steps to Unlocking the Real Power of Marketing Personalization [Infographic] Personalization is a priority for many marketers to better reach and engage with their audience. This infographic shares statistics and 4 easy steps to create content experiences that resonate with your audience and provide valuable and personalized information. MarketingProfs Google Releases A Website Builder for Small Businesses A new tool called “Website”, is a single-page website builder that is free and allows small business owners to create and edit websites in minutes, either on desktop or mobile. This feature is an extension of Google My Business, meaning you have to have a complete GMB listing to use the tool. Search Engine Journal The Most Hated Online Advertising Techniques This is an updated study, originally conducted in 2004, to understand how consumers respond to online advertisements today. Participants were shown different types of advertisements and rated how much they liked or disliked them. The results show the most (and least) “hated” online advertisements for both mobile and desktop platforms, and some of the characteristics remained the same as the early 2000’s. Nielsen Norman Group Data-Inspired Guides to B2B Sales & Marketing Lead Generation Targeting the right leads at the right time is one of the biggest challenges for B2B marketers, and this report shows you insights on lead generations, how quality data can optimize demand generation programs and ways to shorten the modern sales cycle. Dun & Bradstreet Bing Ads: Opt Out of Displaying Ads on Desktop Advertisers can completely opt out of desktop displayed ads by now setting their bids to -100%. This is a new feature that is aimed to support mobile-only campaigns and allows advertisers to set negative bids for desktops. It will be available to all advertisers in the next few weeks, and is supported by Bing Ads Web Interface, Bing Ads Editor for Mac and Windows and Bing Ads API. Search Engine Journal Snapchat Opens Self-Serve Ad Platform, Provides New Ad Creation Tools and Options Advertisers can now create and purchase their own Snapchat ads via a new dashboard. You can also use Snapchat audiences, which includes lookalikes, Audience Match options and Snap Lifestyle categories which use in-app data and location-tracking to reach audiences with more relevant messaging. Lastly, the Snap Publisher tool allows advertisers to create Snap ads with pre-designed templates, which will be available in the near future. Social Media Today Twitter is Testing a Way to Let Users Know What’s ‘Happening Now’ Twitter’s new module at the top of a user’s timeline showcase popular events that are occurring, such as sports. You can click on a card to see a timeline of tweets related to those events. This feature is still in experimentation phase, but could be launched soon. AdWeek Introducing the LinkedIn Content Insights Quarterly: Q1 2017 These insights will appear after the close of every quarter which uses LinkedIn data to examine what content LinkedIn members are engaging with on the platform. Categories included in this report are top topics, top articles, top growth topics and advertising and engagement topics and articles. LinkedIn Marketing Solutions Blog What were your top digital marketing news stories this week? We’ll be back next week with more top digital marketing news! Need daily news? Follow @toprank on Twitter!

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