Category: seo guide

Creating A Private Blog Network: PBNs In 2019 For SEO

Creating A Private Blog Network: PBNs In 2019 For SEO
Typical Parts Of A PBN
Each PBN site will include registering the domain, setting the name servers and hosting the site.

First and foremost the most important aspect of your Private Blog Network is randomness.  Consider what pattern or foot print your PBN might have and avoid that commonality.

patterns that give away a PBN
Patterns and commonality to avoid in building a Private Blog Network

Good PBNs Are Random, Start With Different Name Registrars

First off you need private domain registration, if not private then you’ll need people and addresses from all over.  If you always use Godaddy you’re going to have to try out others to avoid a pattern.  Incidentally if you always use Godaddy you’re getting ripped off as they will charge you for privacy and many others don’t.  Some popular Name Registrars are 1and1.com namesilo.com namecheap.com cosmotown.com each of these can save you a considerable amount over Godaddy considering they offer free private registration and using more than one breaks a pattern.

Each time you add a new site to your PBN you need to approach it from the beginning as if you’re playing a character in a story who has never made a website before, when I say that I mean if you know you have a site on Host A and you like that host you’re making decisions based on previous sites and are more likely to create a pattern.  Forget Host A how would you find a host for the first time?  Google popular web hosts and pick a cheap new partner.

One thing that’s really beneficial about building PBNs that is more helpful to you in the long run is the forced exploration.  After you’ve built ten sites on ten hosts using ten registrars and ten WordPress themes you’ll be able to write three top ten lists and rank the best of the 720 combinations that were available to you.  It’s a lot of practice and as you’re avoiding patterns and repetition you’ll find yourself stepping out of your norm.

Vary Your Web Hosts

Speed of a web host is important normally but not necessarily when your building a PBN.  While you want your primary or money site to load in under 3 seconds its perfectly fine if your PBN site loads in 7 seconds and that opens the door to all manner of generic no name web hosts.   Your primary goal with multiple web hosts is to utilize a different IP address.

Organizating A PBN Gets Complex
Considering the complexity that can quickly arise when seeking randomness of your sites.

The only two big issues with this model …

Organization OF PBN Resources

What site is down?  Oh….well which domain registrar did I use?  Am I using their nameservers, someone else’s?  Where did I point that to be hosted?  Sure these aren’t that annoying to answer with a 10 site network, but try answering it when you’ve built and scaled up to 200 sites using 7 registrars, 20 name servers, 150 different IPs … it becomes unmanageable as you find yourself searching for your site more than you are building new sites, and why are you having to search?  Maintaining a site is essential, as updates roll out to WordPress, plugins get updated and hackers exploit new vulnerabilities.  If you log into every site you own and spend 5 minutes on each site your 200 domain name network will take 16 hours … or two days a week and consider that you only spend 5 minutes on a site, you likely didn’t fix any issues and took no breaks!  It’s time to consider an apprentice or spreadsheets that fully document every aspect of your network, or both.

Uptime Monitoring

Somewhere around 100 domains I figured out I needed to approach this like an enterprise would and have actual uptime monitoring allowing me to see the state of the network easily.  UptimeRobot allows you to set up 50 monitors on a free account.

Uptime Monitoring Your PBN

In the real world 94% Uptime is horrible.  Consider that in the last 30 days I had a recorded 104765 minutes sites were down in this sample of sites.  I had issues with a server getting attacked by someone using 1700 servers causing a DOS attack.  Why?  Anyone’s guess … usually its a game to them and they aren’t paying for those 1700 servers but they’re other people’s hacked resources being used to grow their network.

You may be interested in MainWP or InfiniteWP … Godaddy provides Godaddy Pro.  You need to be mindful that these only work when they work and will they give away a signature pattern?  Likely they can create an easier management solution but easier is dangerous.

Costs Ballon And Randomness Prevents Savings

As you scale up from 10 to 20 to 50 sites your going to wake up one day and realize youre spending hundreds of dollars a month on infrastructure and all of your time will now be consumed with maintaining your network.  Adding someone to help you is going to increase costs and take your time to train them in being effective at maintaining the network.  Be careful who you bring in to help you, friends are obvious choices but when they get upset about something unrelated to the network they could leave you high and dry.  Worse yet, they are the most likely to teach you a lesson by bailing on you for a couple weeks.  Trust the people who are in it for the money … pay them more than they can get at a retail job to build loyalty to your mission. They need not be technical people but they need to understand that if a site is down, Google can’t index it and that backlink is missing now.  They need to be able to follow a logical progression and understand the parts that are in play to help you maintain the site.

The obvious answer to addressing costs is to bundle services and make sure you’re utilizing resources in the most effective manner but that is accomplished by making patterns.  You can’t find cost savings by giving away your sites.

Cloudflare Allows Consolidation And The Pattern Is Indistinguishable

Cloudflare Use For PBNs
Cloudflare allows some consolidation while masking the pattern

12,000,000 sites utilize Cloudflare’s free services which include masking your host servers IP, CDN services and security.

Cloudflare offers the ability to hide among the masses.  Who is Cloudflare?  They stand in front of your server and take the brunt of the internets crap.  Upwork.com, Medium.com, Themeforest.net, Chaturbate.com are among the names using Cloudflare.com services.  Some estimates suggest that Cloudflare is about 8% of the entire internet.  Thats huge!  At one point they found themselves protecting the Israeli government’s network as well as the PLOs.Cyber Warfare: Cloudflare In The Middle

Using Cloudflare is hiding in plain sight and free.  I recommend it but in a mixture capacity still have some sites out side of their network just to avoid any one bottleneck, it would seem odd if 100& of the sites linking to a domain are using Cloudflare….remember they are 8% and while the largest chunk of the internet they aren’t the internet.

This article has focused mainly on external and infrastructure concerns of building a PBN.  This is really a third of topic and in the coming weeks I’ll include two more posts that address on site content issues of building a PBN and site design considerations for a network of sites.

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SEO Site Auditing With SEOprofiler Reports Part 1

SEO Site Auditing With SEOprofiler Reports Part 1

SEO Site Auditing With SEOprofiler Reports Part 1Ultimate SEO”

Updates That Matter AND Updates That Don’t :SEO Basics

Updates That Matter AND Updates That Don’t :SEO Basics

Updates That Matter AND Updates That Don’t :SEO Basics

Updates That Matter AND Updates That Don’t :SEO Basics

Free Auto Blogger

Free Auto Blogger
Free Auto Blogger
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UltimateSEO.online Purchase SEO Packages Now Live

UltimateSEO.online Purchase SEO Packages Now Live

Ultimate SEO has begun to develop its UltimateSEO.online site as a store front where visitors can purchase SEO products and services.  At this time we have several SEO Audit packages listed.  More details will be added to the products but they are the same as currently described on SEO Services

Additionally we will role out subscription packages for ranking reports and data trending as well as content development and backlinking campaigns.

seo tool

seo tool

Ultimate SEO”

We Dipped Our Toes Into Double Featured Snippets

We Dipped Our Toes Into Double Featured Snippets

This post was originally published on the STAT blog.


Featured snippets, a vehicle for voice search and the answers to our most pressing questions, have doubled on the SERPs — but not in the way we usually mean. This time, instead of appearing on two times the number of SERPS, two snippets are appearing on the same SERP. Hoo!

In all our years of obsessively stalking snippets, this is one of the first documented cases of them doing something a little different. And we are here for it.

While it’s still early days for the double-snippet SERP, we’re giving you everything we’ve got so far. And the bottom line is this: double the snippets mean double the opportunity.

Google’s case for double-snippet SERPs

The first time we heard mention of more than one snippet per SERP was at the end of January in Google’s “reintroduction” to featured snippets.

We Dipped Our Toes Into Double Featured Snippets

Not yet launched, details on the feature were a little sparse. We learned that they’re “to help people better locate information” and “may also eventually help in cases where you can get contradictory information when asking about the same thing but in different ways.”

Thankfully, we only had to wait a month before Google released them into the wild and gave us a little more insight into their purpose.

Calling them “multifaceted” featured snippets (a definition we’re not entirely sure we’re down with), Google explained that they’re currently serving “‘multi-intent’ queries, which are queries that have several potential intentions or purposes associated,” and will eventually expand to queries that need more than one piece of information to answer.

With that knowledge in our back pocket, let’s get to the good stuff.

The double snippet rollout is starting off small

Since the US-en market is Google’s favorite testing ground for new features and the largest locale being tracked in STAT, it made sense to focus our research there. We chose to analyze mobile SERPs over desktop because of Google’s (finally released) mobile-first indexing, and also because that’s where Google told us they were starting.

After waiting for enough two-snippet SERPs to show up so we could get our (proper) analysis on, we pulled our data at the end March. Out of the mobile keywords currently tracking in the US-en market in STAT, 122,501 had a featured snippet present, and of those, 1.06 percent had more than one to its name.

With only 1,299 double-snippet SERPs to analyze, we admit that our sample size is smaller than our big data nerd selves would like. That said, it is indicative of how petite this release currently is.

Two snippets appear for noun-heavy queries

Our first order of business was to see what kind of keywords two snippets were appearing for. If we can zero in on what Google might deem “multi-intent,” then we can optimize accordingly.

By weighting our double-snippet keywords by tf-idf, we found that nouns such as “insurance,” “computer,” “job,” and “surgery” were the primary triggers — like in [general liability insurance policy] and [spinal stenosis surgery].

It’s important to note that we don’t see this mirrored in single-snippet SERPs. When we refreshed our snippet research in November 2017, we saw that snippets appeared most often for “how,” followed closely by “does,” “to,” “what,” and “is.” These are all words that typically compose full sentence questions.

Essentially, without those interrogative words, Google is left to guess what the actual question is. Take our [general liability insurance policy]keyword as an example — does the searcher want to know what a general liability insurance policy is or how to get one?

Because of how vague the query is, it’s likely the searcher wants to know everything they can about the topic. And so, instead of having to pick, Google’s finally caught onto the wisdom of the Old El Paso taco girl — why not have both?

Better leapfrogging and double duty domains

Next, we wanted to know where you’d need to rank in order to win one (or both) of the snippets on this new SERP. This is what we typically call “source position.”

On a single-snippet SERP and ignoring any SERP features, Google pulls from the first organic rank 31 percent of the time. On double-snippet SERPs, the top snippet pulls from the first organic rank 24.84 percent of the time, and the bottom pulls from organic ranks 5–10 more often than solo snippets.

We Dipped Our Toes Into Double Featured Snippets

What this means is that you can leapfrog more competitors in a double-snippet situation than when just one is in play.

And when we dug into who’s answering all these questions, we discovered that 5.70 percent of our double-snippet SERPs had the same domain in both snippets. This begs the obvious question: is your content ready to do double duty?

Snippet headers provide clarity and keyword ideas

In what feels like the first new addition to the feature in a long time, there’s now a header on top of each snippet, which states the question it’s set out to answer. With reports of headers on solo snippets (and “People also search for” boxes attached to the bottom — will this madness never end?!), this may be a sneak peek at the new norm.

Instead of relying on guesses alone, we can turn to these headers for what a searcher is likely looking for — we’ll trust in Google’s excellent consumer research. Using our [general liability insurance policy] example once more, Google points us to “what is general liabilities insurance” and “what does a business insurance policy cover” as good interpretations.

We Dipped Our Toes Into Double Featured Snippets

Because these headers effectively turn ambiguous statements into clear questions, we weren’t surprised to see words like “how” and “what” appear in more than 80 percent of them. This trend falls in line with keywords that typically produce snippets, which we touched on earlier.

So, not only does a second snippet mean double the goodness that you usually get with just one, it also means more insight into intent and another keyword to track and optimize for.

Both snippets prefer paragraph formatting

Next, it was time to give formatting a look-see to determine whether the snippets appearing in twos behave any differently than their solo counterparts. To do that, we gathered every snippet on our double-snippet SERPs and compared them against our November 2017 data, back when pairs weren’t a thing.

We Dipped Our Toes Into Double Featured Snippets

While Google’s order of preference is the same for both — paragraphs, lists, and then tables — paragraph formatting was the clear favorite on our two-snippet SERPs.

It follows, then, that the most common pairing of snippets was paragraph-paragraph — this appeared on 85.68 percent of our SERPs. The least common, at 0.31 percent, was the table-table coupling.

We Dipped Our Toes Into Double Featured Snippets

We can give two reasons for this behavior. One, if a query can have multiple interpretations, it makes sense that a paragraph answer would provide the necessary space to explain each of them, and two, Google really doesn’t like tables.

We saw double-snippet testing in action

When looking at the total number of snippets we had on hand, we realised that the only way everything added up was if a few SERPs had more than two snippets. And lo! Eleven of our keywords returned anywhere from six to 12 snippets.

For a hot minute we were concerned that Google was planning a full-SERP snippet takeover, but when we searched those keywords a few days later, we discovered that we’d caught testing in action.

Here’s what we saw play out for the keyword [severe lower back pain]:

We Dipped Our Toes Into Double Featured Snippets

After testing six variations, Google decided to stick with the first two snippets. Whether this is a matter of top-of-the-SERP results getting the most engagement no matter what, or the phrasing of these questions resonating with searchers the most, is hard for us to tell.

The multiple snippets appearing for [full-time employment] left us scratching our head a bit:

We Dipped Our Toes Into Double Featured Snippets

Our best hypothesis is that searchers in Florida, NYS, Minnesota, and Oregon have more questions about full-time employment than other places. But, since we’d performed a nation-wide search, Google seems to have thought better of including location-specific snippets.

Share your double-snippet SERP experiences

It goes without saying — but here we are saying it anyway — that we’ll be keeping an eye on the scope of this release and will report back on any new revelations.

In the meantime, we’re keen to know what you’re seeing. Have you had any double-snippet SERPs yet? Were they in a market outside the US? What keywords were surfacing them? 

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Advanced Linkbuilding: How to Find the Absolute Best Publishers and Writers to Pitch

Advanced Linkbuilding: How to Find the Absolute Best Publishers and Writers to Pitch

In my last post, I explained how using network visualization tools can help you massively improve your content marketing PR/Outreach strategy —understanding which news outlets have the largest syndication networks empowers your outreach team to prioritize high-syndication publications over lower syndication publications. The result? The content you are pitching enjoys significantly more widespread link pickups.

Today, I’m going to take you a little deeper — we’ll be looking at a few techniques for forming an even better understanding of the publisher syndication networks in your particular niche. I’ve broken this technique into two parts:

  • Technique One — Leveraging Buzzsumo influencer data and twitter scraping to find the most influential journalists writing about any topic
  • Technique Two — Leveraging the Gdelt Dataset to reveal deep story syndication networks between publishers using in-context links.

Why do this at all?

If you are interested in generating high-value links at scale, these techniques provide an undeniable competitive advantage — they help you to deeply understand how writers and news publications connect and syndicate to each other.

In our opinion at Fractl, data-driven content stories that have strong news hooks, finding writers and publications who would find the content compelling, and pitching them effectively is the single highest ROI SEO activity possible. Done correctly, it is entirely possible to generate dozens, sometimes even hundreds or thousands, of high-authority links with one or a handful of content campaigns.

Let’s dive in.

Using Buzzsumo to understand journalist influencer networks on any topic

First, you want to figure out who your topc influencers are your a topic. A very handy feature of Buzzsumo is its “influencers” tool. You can locate it on the influences tab, then follow these steps:

  • Select only “Journalists.” This will limit the result to only the Twitter accounts of those known to be reporters and journalists of major publications. Bloggers and lower authority publishers will be excluded.
  • Search using a topical keyword. If it is straightforward, one or two searches should be fine. If it is more complex, create a few related queries, and collate the twitter accounts that appear in all of them. Alternatively, use the Boolean “and/or” in your search to narrow your result. It is critical to be sure your search results are returning journalists that as closely match your target criteria as possible.
  • Ideally, you want at least 100 results. More is generally better, so long as you are sure the results represent your target criteria well.
  • Once you are happy with your search result, click export to grab a CSV.
Advanced Linkbuilding: How to Find the Absolute Best Publishers and Writers to Pitch

The next step is to grab all of the people each of these known journalist influencers follows — the goal is to understand which of these 100 or so influencers impacts the other 100 the most. Additionally, we want to find people outside of this group that many of these 100 follow in common.

To do so, we leveraged Twint, a handy Twitter scraper available on Github to pull all of the people each of these journalist influencers follow. Using our scraped data, we built an edge list, which allowed us to visualize the result in  Gephi.

Here is an interactive version for you to explore, and here is a screenshot of what it looks like:

Advanced Linkbuilding: How to Find the Absolute Best Publishers and Writers to Pitch

This graph shows us which nodes (influencers) have the most In-Degree links. In other words: it tells us who, of our media influencers, is most followed. 

These are the top 10 nodes:

  • Maia Szalavitz (@maiasz) Neuroscience Journalist, VICE and TIME
  • Radley Balko (@radleybalko) Opinion journalist, Washington Post
  • Johann Hari (@johannhari101) New York Times best-selling author
  • David Kroll (@davidkroll) Freelance healthcare writer, Forbes Heath
  • Max Daly (@Narcomania) Global Drugs Editor, VICE
  • Dana Milbank (@milbank)Columnist, Washington Post
  • Sam Quinones (@samquinones7), Author
  • Felice Freyer (@felicejfreyer), Boston Globe Reporter, Mental health and Addiction
  • Jeanne Whalen (@jeannewhalen) Business Reporter, Washington Post
  • Eric Bolling (@ericbolling) New York Times best-selling author

Who is the most influential?

Using the “Betweenness Centrality” score given by Gephi, we get a rough understanding of which nodes (influencers) in the network act as hubs of information transfer. Those with the highest “Betweenness Centrality” can be thought of as the “connectors” of the network. These are the top 10 influencers:

  • Maia Szalavitz (@maiasz) Neuroscience Journalist, VICE and TIME
  • David Kroll (@davidkroll) Freelance healthcare writer, Forbes Heath
  • Jeanne Whalen (@jeannewhalen) Business Reporter, Washington Post
  • Travis Lupick (@tlupick), Journalist, Author
  • Johann Hari (@johannhari101) New York Times best-selling author
  • Radley Balko (@radleybalko) Opinion journalist, Washington Post
  • Sam Quinones (@samquinones7), Author
  • Eric Bolling (@ericbolling) New York Times best-selling author
  • Dana Milbank (@milbank)Columnist, Washington Post
  • Mike Riggs (@mikeriggs) Writer & Editor, Reason Mag 

@maiasz, @davidkroll, and @johannhari101 are standouts. There’s considerable overlap between the winners in “In-Degree” and “Betweenness Centrality” but they are still quite different. 

What else can we learn?

The middle of the visualization holds many of the largest sized nodes. The nodes in this view are sized by “In-Degree.” The large, centrally located nodes are disproportionately followed by other members of the graph and enjoy popularity across the board (from many of the other influential nodes). These are journalists commonly followed by everyone else. Sifting through these centrally located nodes will surface many journalists who behave as influencers of the group initially pulled from BuzzSumo.

So, if you had a campaign about a niche topic, you could consider pitching to an influencer surfaced from this data —according to our the visualization, an article shared in their network would have the most reach and potential ROI

Using Gdelt to find the most influential websites on a topic with in-context link analysis

The first example was a great way to find the best journalists in a niche to pitch to, but top journalists are often the most pitched to overall. Often times, it can be easier to get a pickup from less known writers at major publications. For this reason, understanding which major publishers are most influential, and enjoy the widest syndication on a specific theme, topic, or beat, can be majorly helpful.

By using Gdelt’s massive and fully comprehensive database of digital news stories, along with Google BigQuery and Gephi, it is possible to dig even deeper to yield important strategic information that will help you prioritize your content pitching.

We pulled all of the articles in Gdelt’s database that are known to be about a specific theme within a given timeframe. In this case (as with the previous example) we looked at “behaviour health.” For each article we found in Gdelt’s database that matches our criteria, we also grabbed links found only within the context of the article.

Here is how it is done:

  • Connect to Gdelt on Google BigQuery — you can find a tutorial here.
  • Pull data from Gdelt. You can use this command: SELECT DocumentIdentifier,V2Themes,Extras,SourceCommonName,DATE FROM [gdelt-bq:gdeltv2.gkg] where (V2Themes like ‘%Your Theme%’).
  • Select any theme you find, here — just replace the part between the percentages.
  • To extract the links found in each article and build an edge file. This can be done with a relatively simple python script to pull out all of the <PAGE_LINKS> from the results of the query, clean the links to only show their root domain (not the full URL) and put them into an edge file format.

Note: The edge file is made up of Source–>Target pairs. The Source is the article and the Target are the links found within the article. The edge list will look like this:

  • Article 1, First link found in the article.
  • Article 1, Second link found in the article.
  • Article 2, First link found in the article.
  • Article 2, Second link found in the article.
  • Article 2, Third link found in the article.

From here, the edge file can be used to build a network visualization where the nodes publishers and the edges between them represent the in-context links found from our Gdelt data pull around whatever topic we desired.

This final visualization is a network representation of the publishers who have written stories about addiction, and where those stories link to.

Advanced Linkbuilding: How to Find the Absolute Best Publishers and Writers to Pitch

What can we learn from this graph?

This tells us which nodes (Publisher websites) have the most In-Degree links. In other words: who is the most linked. We can see that the most linked-to for this topic are:

  • tmz.com
  • people.com
  • cdc.gov
  • cnn.com
  • go.com
  • nih.gov
  • ap.org
  • latimes.com
  • jamanetwork.com
  • nytimes.com

Which publisher is most influential? 

Using the “Betweenness Centrality” score given by Gephi, we get a rough understanding of which nodes (publishers) in the network act as hubs of information transfer. The nodes with the highest “Betweenness Centrality” can be thought of as the “connectors” of the network. Getting pickups from these high-betweenness centrality nodes gives a much greater likelihood of syndication for that specific topic/theme. 

  • Dailymail.co.uk
  • Nytimes.com
  • People.com
  • CNN.com
  • Latimes.com
  • washingtonpost.com
  • usatoday.com
  • cvslocal.com
  • huffingtonpost.com
  • sfgate.com

What else can we learn?

Similar to the first example, the higher the betweenness centrality numbers, number of In-degree links, and the more centrally located in the graph, the more “important” that node can generally be said to be. Using this as a guide, the most important pitching targets can be easily identified. 

Understanding some of the edge clusters gives additional insights into other potential opportunities. Including a few clusters specific to different regional or state local news, and a few foreign language publication clusters.

Wrapping up

I’ve outlined two different techniques we use at Fractl to understand the influence networks around specific topical areas, both in terms of publications and the writers at those publications. The visualization techniques described are not obvious guides, but instead, are tools for combing through large amounts of data and finding hidden information. Use these techniques to unearth new opportunities and prioritize as you get ready to find the best places to pitch the content you’ve worked so hard to create.

Do you have any similar ideas or tactics to ensure you’re pitching the best writers and publishers with your content? Comment below!

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14 SEO Predictions for 2019 and Beyond, as Told by Mozzers

14 SEO Predictions for 2019 and Beyond, as Told by Mozzers
14 SEO Predictions for 2019 and Beyond, as Told by Mozzers

With the new year in full swing and an already busy first quarter, our 2019 predictions for SEO in the new year are hopping onto the scene a little late — but fashionably so, we hope. From an explosion of SERP features to increased monetization to the key drivers of search this year, our SEO experts have consulted their crystal balls (read: access to mountains of data and in-depth analyses) and made their predictions. Read on for an exhaustive list of fourteen things to watch out for in search from our very own Dr. Pete, Britney Muller, Rob Bucci, Russ Jones, and Miriam Ellis!

1. Answers will drive search

People Also Ask boxes exploded in 2018, and featured snippets have expanded into both multifaceted and multi-snippet versions. Google wants to answer questions, it wants to answer them across as many devices as possible, and it will reward sites with succinct, well-structured answers. Focus on answers that naturally leave visitors wanting more and establish your brand and credibility. [Dr. Peter J. Meyers]

Further reading:

2. Voice search will continue to be utterly useless for optimization

Optimizing for voice search will still be no more than optimizing for featured snippets, and conversions from voice will remain a dark box. [Russ Jones]

Further reading:

3. Mobile is table stakes

This is barely a prediction. If your 2019 plan is to finally figure out mobile, you’re already too late. Almost all Google features are designed with mobile-first in mind, and the mobile-first index has expanded rapidly in the past few months. Get your mobile house (not to be confused with your mobile home) in order as soon as you can. [Dr. Peter J. Meyers]

Further reading:

4. Further SERP feature intrusions in organic search

Expect Google to find more and more ways to replace organic with solutions that keep users on Google’s property. This includes interactive SERP features that replace, slowly but surely, many website offerings in the same way that live scores, weather, and flights have. [Russ Jones]

Further reading:

5. Video will dominate niches

Featured Videos, Video Carousels, and Suggested Clips (where Google targets specific content in a video) are taking over the how-to spaces. As Google tests search appliances with screens, including Home Hub, expect video to dominate instructional and DIY niches. [Dr. Peter J. Meyers]

Further reading:

6. SERPs will become more interactive

We’ve seen the start of interactive SERPs with People Also Ask Boxes. Depending on which question you expand, two to three new questions will generate below that directly pertain to your expanded question. This real-time engagement keeps people on the SERP longer and helps Google better understand what a user is seeking. [Britney Muller]

Further reading:

7. Local SEO: Google will continue getting up in your business — literally

Google will continue asking more and more intimate questions about your business to your customers. Does this business have gender-neutral bathrooms? Is this business accessible? What is the atmosphere like? How clean is it? What kind of lighting do they have? And so on. If Google can acquire accurate, real-world information about your business (your percentage of repeat customers via geocaching, price via transaction history, etc.) they can rely less heavily on website signals and provide more accurate results to searchers. [Britney Muller]

Further reading:

8. Business proximity-to-searcher will remain a top local ranking factor

In Moz’s recent State of Local SEO report, the majority of respondents agreed that Google’s focus on the proximity of a searcher to local businesses frequently emphasizes distance over quality in the local SERPs. I predict that we’ll continue to see this heavily weighting the results in 2019. On the one hand, hyper-localized results can be positive, as they allow a diversity of businesses to shine for a given search. On the other hand, with the exception of urgent situations, most people would prefer to see best options rather than just closest ones. [Miriam Ellis]

Further reading:

9. Local SEO: Google is going to increase monetization

Look to see more of the local and maps space monetized uniquely by Google both through Adwords and potentially new lead-gen models. This space will become more and more competitive. [Russ Jones]

Further reading:

10. Monetization tests for voice

Google and Amazon have been moving towards voice-supported displays in hopes of better monetizing voice. It will be interesting to see their efforts to get displays in homes and how they integrate the display advertising. Bold prediction: Amazon will provide sleep-mode display ads similar to how Kindle currently displays them today. [Britney Muller]

11. Marketers will place a greater focus on the SERPs

I expect we’ll see a greater focus on the analysis of SERPs as Google does more to give people answers without them having to leave the search results. We’re seeing more and more vertical search engines like Google Jobs, Google Flights, Google Hotels, Google Shopping. We’re also seeing more in-depth content make it onto the SERP than ever in the form of featured snippets, People Also Ask boxes, and more. With these new developments, marketers are increasingly going to want to report on their general brand visibility within the SERPs, not just their website ranking. It’s going to be more important than ever for people to be measuring all the elements within a SERP, not just their own ranking. [Rob Bucci]

Further reading:

12. Targeting topics will be more productive than targeting queries

2019 is going to be another year in which we see the emphasis on individual search queries start to decline, as people focus more on clusters of queries around topics. People Also Ask queries have made the importance of topics much more obvious to the SEO industry. With PAAs, Google is clearly illustrating that they think about searcher experience in terms of a searcher’s satisfaction across an entire topic, not just a specific search query. With this in mind, we can expect SEOs to more and more want to see their search queries clustered into topics so they can measure their visibility and the competitive landscape across these clusters. [Rob Bucci]

Further reading:

13. Linked unstructured citations will receive increasing focus

I recently conducted a small study in which there was a 75% correlation between organic and local pack rank. Linked unstructured citations (the mention of partial or complete business information + a link on any type of relevant website) are a means of improving organic rankings which underpin local rankings. They can also serve as a non-Google dependent means of driving traffic and leads. Anything you’re not having to pay Google for will become increasingly precious. Structured citations on key local business listing platforms will remain table stakes, but competitive local businesses will need to focus on unstructured data to move the needle. [Miriam Ellis]

Further reading:

14. Reviews will remain a competitive difference-maker

A Google rep recently stated that about one-third of local searches are made with the intent of reading reviews. This is huge. Local businesses that acquire and maintain a good and interactive reputation on the web will have a critical advantage over brands that ignore reviews as fundamental to customer service. Competitive local businesses will earn, monitor, respond to, and analyze the sentiment of their review corpus. [Miriam Ellis]

Further reading:

We’ve heard from Mozzers, and now we want to hear from you. What have you seen so far in 2019 that’s got your SEO Spidey senses tingling? What trends are you capitalizing on and planning for? Let us know in the comments below (and brag to friends and colleagues when your prediction comes true in the next 6–10 months). 😉

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Ultimate SEO”

Affordable, Stat-Based Retail Strategy for Your Agency’s Clients

Affordable, Stat-Based Retail Strategy for Your Agency’s Clients
Affordable, Stat-Based Retail Strategy for Your Agency’s Clients

Retail clients are battling tough economics offline and tough competitors online. They need every bit of help your agency can give them. 

I was heartened when 75 percent of the 1,400+ respondents to the Moz State of Local SEO Industry Report 2019 shared that they contribute to offline strategy recommendations either frequently or at least some of the time. I can’t think of a market where good and relatively inexpensive experiments are more needed than in embattled retail. The ripple effect of a single new idea, offered up generously, can spread out to encompass new revenue streams for the client and new levels of retention for your agency.

And that’s why win-win seemed written all over three statistics from a 2018 Yes Marketing retail survey when I read it because they speak to motivating about one quarter to half of 1,000 polled customers without going to any extreme expense. Take a look:

Affordable, Stat-Based Retail Strategy for Your Agency’s Clients

I highly recommend downloading Yes Marketing’s complete survey which is chock-full of great data, but today, let’s look at just three valuable stats from it to come up with an actionable strategy you can gift your offline retail clients at your next meeting.

Getting it right: A little market near me

For the past 16 years, I’ve been observing the local business scene with a combination of professional scrutiny and personal regard. I’m inspired by businesses that open and thrive and am saddened by those that open and close.

Right now, I’m especially intrigued by a very small, independently-owned grocery store which set up shop last year in what I’ll lovingly describe as a rural, half-a-horse town not far from me. This locale has a single main street with less than 20 businesses on it, but I’m predicting the shop’s ultimate success based on several factors. A strong one is that the community is flanked by several much larger towns with lots of through traffic and the market is several miles from any competitor. But other factors which match point-for-point with the data in the Yes Marketing survey make me feel especially confident that this small business is going to “get it right”. 

Encourage your retail clients to explore the following tips.

1) The store is visually appealing

43–58 percent of Yes Marketing’s surveyed retail customers say they’d be motivated to shop with a retailer who has cool product displays, murals, etc. Retail shoppers of all ages are seeking appealing experiences.

At the market near me, there are many things going on in its favor. The building is historic on the outside and full of natural light on this inside, and the staff sets up creative displays, such as all of the ingredients you need to make a hearty winter soup gathered up on a vintage table. The Instagram crowd can have selfie fun here, and more mature customers will appreciate the aesthetic simplicity of this uncluttered, human-scale shopping experience.

For your retail clients, it won’t break the bank to become more visually appealing. Design cues are everywhere!

Share these suggestions with a worthy client:

Basic cleanliness is the starting point

Affordable, Stat-Based Retail Strategy for Your Agency’s Clients

This is an old survey, but I think we’re safe to say that at least 45 percent of retail customers are still put off by dirty premises — especially restrooms. Janitorial duties are already built into the budget of most businesses and only need to be accomplished properly. I continuously notice how many reviewers proclaim the word “clean” when a business deserves it.

Inspiration is affordable

Affordable, Stat-Based Retail Strategy for Your Agency’s Clients

Whatever employees are already being paid is the cost of engaging them to lend their creativity to creating merchandise displays that draw attention and/or solve problems. My hearty winter soup example is one idea (complete with boxed broth, pasta, veggies, bowls, and cookware). 

For your retail client? It might be everything a consumer needs to recover from a cold (medicine, citrus fruit, electric blanket, herbal tea, tissue, a paperback, a sympathetic stuffed animal, etc.). Or everything one needs to winterize a car, take a trip to a beach, build a beautiful window box, or pamper a pet. Retailers can inexpensively encourage the hidden artistic talents in staff.

Feeling stuck? The Internet is full of free retail display tips, design magazines cost a few bucks, and your clients’ cable bills already cover a subscription to channels like HGTV and the DIY network that trade on style. A client who knows that interior designers are all using grey-and-white palettes and that one TV ad after another features women wearing denim blue with aspen yellow right now is well on their way to catching customers’ eyes.

Aspiring artists live near your client and need work

Affordable, Stat-Based Retail Strategy for Your Agency’s Clients

The national average cost to have a large wall mural professionally painted is about $8,000, with much less expensive options available. Some retailers even hold contests surrounding logo design, and an artist near your client may work quite inexpensively if they are trying to build up their portfolio. I can’t predict how long the Instagram mural trend will last, but wall art has been a crowd-pleaser since Paleolithic times. Any shopper who stops to snap a photo of themselves has been brought in close proximity to your front door.

I pulled this word cloud out of the reviews of the little grocery store:

Affordable, Stat-Based Retail Strategy for Your Agency’s Clients

While your clients’ industries and aesthetics will vary, tell them they can aim for a similar, positive response from at least 49 percent of their customers with a little more care put into the shopping environment.

2) The store offers additional services beyond the sale of products

19–40 percent of survey respondents are influenced by value-adds. Doubtless, you’ve seen the TV commercials in which banks double as coffee houses to appeal to the young, and small hardware chains emphasize staff expertise over loneliness in a warehouse. That’s what this is all about, and it can be done at a smaller scale, without overly-strapping your retail clients.

At the market near me, reviews like this are coming in:

Affordable, Stat-Based Retail Strategy for Your Agency’s Clients

The market has worked out a very economic arrangement with a massage therapist, who can build up their clientele out of the deal, so it’s a win for everybody.

For your retail clients, sharing these examples could inspire appealing added services:

The cost of these efforts is either the salary of an employee, nominal or free.

3) The store hosts local events

20–36 percent of customers feel the appeal of retailers becoming destinations for things to learn and do. Coincidentally, this corresponds with two of the tasks Google dubbed micro-moments a couple of years back, and while not everyone loves that terminology, we can at least agree that large numbers of people use the Internet to discover local resources.

At the market near me, they’re doing open-mic readings, and this is a trend in many cities to which Google Calendar attests:

Affordable, Stat-Based Retail Strategy for Your Agency’s Clients

For your clients, the last two words of that event description are key. When there’s a local wish to build community, retail businesses can lend the space and the stage. This can look like:

Again, costs here can be quite modest and you’ll be bringing the community together under the banner of your business.

Putting it in writing

The last item on the budget for any of these ventures is whatever it costs to publicize it. For sure, your client will want:

  • A homepage announcement and/or one or more blog posts
  • Google Posts, Q&A, photos and related features
  • Social mentions
  • If the concept is large enough (or the community is small) some outreach to local news in hopes of a write-up and inclusion of local/social calendars
  • Link building would be great if the client can afford a reasonable investment in your services, where necessary
  • And, of course, be sure your client’s local business listings are accurate so that newcomers aren’t getting lost on their way to finding the cool new offering

Getting the word out about events, features, and other desirable attributes don’t have to be exorbitant, but it will put the finishing touch on ensuring a community knows the business is ready to offer the desired experience.

Seeing opportunity

Sometimes, you’ll find yourself in a client meeting and things will be a bit flat. Maybe the client has been disengaged from your contract lately, or sales have been leveling out for lack of new ideas. That’s the perfect time to put something fresh on the table, demonstrating that you’re thinking about the client’s whole picture beyond CTR and citations.

One thing that I find to be an inspiring practice for agencies is to do an audit of competitors’ reviews looking for “holes” In many communities, shopping is really dull and reviews reflect that, with few shoppers feeling genuinely excited by a particular vertical’s local offerings. Your client could be the one to change that, with a little extra attention from you.

Every possibility won’t be the perfect match for every business, but if you can help the company see a new opportunity, the few minutes spent brainstorming could benefit you both.

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Ultimate SEO”