PostHeaderIcon How to Use Keywords in Your Blogging Strategy



Posted by KameronJenkins

Even though blogging has been around for a while, it looks a lot different today than it did in the early 2000s. In those days, people read your blog because they followed it (anyone else have a few old .blogspot blogs floating around out there?) or subscribed to your RSS feed.

Online behavior has changed since then. While some people might stumble onto a blog they like and subscribe to its email list for updates, many people discover blog content through search engines. With more people searching than ever before, it’s a great time for bloggers to explore using keyword research in their content strategy.

This post was written for those that may be new to blogging, as well as those who have been blogging for some time but are just now starting to explore keyword research.

Ready? It’s time to dive into the beginner’s guide to keyword research for bloggers!

What are keywords?

Keywords are the words someone types (or speaks!) into a search engine.

People use search engines for all sorts of things — things like looking up movie times, seeing what the day’s weather will be like, or getting their local pizza place’s number. Every search is a quest for information, and the goal of search engines like Google is to supply the searcher with a satisfying answer as quickly as possible.

What does this mean for you as a blogger? It means that if you want to write for these searchers, you’ll need to know the questions they’re asking (keywords) and deliver the answer in your blog posts.

How will keywords change my blog strategy?

Blog posts developed on the basis of keyword research are different from other types of blog posts in that they focus on answering an existing question.

Contrast this with something like a blog post about a personal experience, or a post introducing a completely new idea — in both these scenarios, because your content doesn’t answer an existing question, it likely won’t get much traffic from search engines like Google, simply because no one is searching for it.

Does that mean you can only write to answer existing questions? Not at all! Even topics with no search demand could get great engagement and traffic on other channels like Facebook or Twitter, but if you want long-term free traffic, the best place to get it is from Google, and the best way to get Google to send you that traffic is to build your blogs on the foundation of keyword research.

Where do I find keywords?

A keyword research tool like Moz Keyword Explorer will do the trick!

This tool allows you to find new keyword ideas two main ways: by typing in a word or a phrase and getting back related keywords (the “Explore by Keyword” feature):

Gif of someone searching fried tofu recipe by keyword in Keyword Explorer

…or by typing in a page/website and getting back keywords that page or website ranks for (the “Explore by Site” feature):

Gif of someone searching moz.com by root domain in Keyword Explorer??

Another great feature is the filter for “are questions” — this allows you to see only keywords that are formatted as questions. Since answering your audience’s questions is such a key component of optimizing your content for search, this is a great tool to give you insight into what your audience wants to know.

What keywords do I pick?

Just because you found a keyword in a keyword research tool doesn’t necessarily mean you should use it in your blogging strategy. Once you have a list of keywords, it’s a good idea to whittle it down. Here’s how.

Choose keywords that match your audience

Knowing your audience is a prerequisite for keyword research because it helps you filter out keywords that, although technically related to your topic, are a mismatch for your audience.

If you haven’t done so yet, document an ideal audience for your blog. For example, if you run a fitness blog, you could write down something as simple as “fitness enthusiasts.” You could also go a bit deeper and create audience personas, full profiles of your ideal audience that include things like age, demographics, and interests.

The deeper your understanding of your ideal audience, the easier it will be to detect which keywords out of the bunch they would have searched for.

Evaluate each keyword’s difficulty score

You may also want to whittle down your keyword list to leave only those with an appropriate Difficulty Score, which Keyword Explorer will assign to every keyword. That score is determined by the strength of the pages that are currently ranking on page 1 for that keyword.

If you’re just getting started blogging and you have a fairly low Domain Authority (which you can check by downloading the MozBar plugin or using the free version of Moz Link Explorer), you may want to start with keywords that have a Difficulty Score in the 20-30 range, or even lower. For more on how to use Difficulty Score in your keyword research, check out this write-up from Rand Fishkin.

Look at each keyword’s search volume

Search volume gives you an estimate of how many people are searching for that keyword every month. It’s great to choose keywords that lots of people are searching for, but remember that quantity doesn’t always equal quality. You may opt for a lower-volume keyword because it’s much more relevant to your audience and your goals.

How do I use the keywords on my page?

When Google’s algorithm was less mature than it is today, it was easy to get your page to rank at the top of search results for certain phrases by repeating that keyword many times on the page.

Over the years though, Google has gotten better at ranking pages that answer the query, rather than just repeat it on the page. This is important to keep in mind because it’s tempting to think that all you have to do with your keyword list is add those words to your pages. To perform well in search engines though, you have to provide an answer to those queries that’s better than anything else out there.

Here are some tips for using keywords to guide your blog content:

  • Keywords are the input. You’re creating the output. Instead of asking yourself “How can I include this keyword on my page?” ask yourself, “How can I answer this question?”
  • You don’t have to have a separate page for every keyword you want to rank for. If you’re writing a blog post about “choosing the best running shoes,” for example, it makes perfect sense to answer multiple questions related to that topic within the same post, such as “road vs. trail running shoes” and “running shoe features.”
  • Check out the pages that are currently ranking for your target keyword and think about how you can create a page better than that.

Where do I go from here?

The best thing to do next is to dive in and try it for yourself! As with most things, keyword research gets easier once you start to apply it.

A huge part of growing your blog effectively is developing a content strategy. There’s a fantastic free video course from HubSpot that walks you through developing your own content strategy, including how to use Moz Keyword Explorer for your keyword research. If you’re a visual learner like me, you should find it helpful!

Take the free course!

The most important thing to remember is that offering the right content tells you what your audience wants to know. As a blogger, this insight is invaluable! Write to answer their questions, and they’ll be more likely to find your content in search engines. 


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PostHeaderIcon 5 Common Objections to SEO (& How to Respond) – Whiteboard Friday



Posted by KameronJenkins

How many of these have you heard over the years? Convincing clients and stakeholders that SEO is worth it is half the battle. From doubts about the value of its traffic to concerns over time and competition with other channels, it seems like there’s an argument against our jobs at every turn. 

In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Kameron Jenkins cover the five most common objections to SEO and how to counter them with smart, researched, fact-based responses.

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

Video Transcription

Hey, everybody. Welcome to this week’s edition of Whiteboard Friday. My name is Kameron Jenkins, and today we’re going to be going through five common objections to SEO and how to respond. Now I know, if you’re watching this and you’re an SEO, you have faced some of these very objections before and probably a lot of others.

This is not an exhaustive list. I’m sure you’ve faced a ton of other objections, whether you’re talking to a potential client, maybe you’re talking to your friend or your family member. A lot of people have misunderstandings about SEO and that causes them to object to wanting to invest in it. So I thought I’d go through some of the ones that I hear the most and how I tend to respond in those situations. Hopefully, you’ll find that helpful.

1. “[Other channel] drives more traffic/conversions, so it’s better.”

Let’s dive in. The number one objection I hear a lot of the time is this other channel, whether that be PPC, social, whatever, drives more traffic or conversions, therefore it’s better than SEO. I want to respond a few different ways depending. 

Success follows investment

So the number one thing I would usually say is that don’t forget that success follows investment.

So if you are investing a lot of time and money and talent into your PPC or social and you’re not really doing much with organic, you’re kind of just letting it go, usually that means, yeah, that other channel is going to be a lot more successful. So just keep that in mind. It’s not inherently successful or not. It kind of reflects the effort you’re putting into it.

Every channel serves a different purpose

Number two, I would say that every channel serves a different purpose. You’re not going to expect social media to drive conversions a lot of the time, because a lot of the time social is for engagement. It’s for more top of the funnel. It’s for more audience development. SEO, a lot of the time that lives at your top and mid-funnel efforts. It can convert, but not always.

So just keep that in mind. Every channel serves a different purpose. 

Assists vs last click only

The last thing I would say, kind of dovetailing off of that, is that assists versus last click only I know is a debate when it comes to attribution. But just keep in mind that when SEO and organic search doesn’t convert as the last click before conversion, it still usually assists in the process. So look at your assisted conversions and see how SEO is contributing.

2. “SEO is dead because the SERPs are full of ads.”

??

The number two objection I usually hear is SEO is dead because the SERPs are full of ads. To that, I would respond with a question. 

What SERPs are you looking at? 

It really depends on what you’re querying. If you’re only looking at those bottom funnel, high cost per click, your money keywords, absolutely those are monetized.

Those are going to be heavily monetized, because those are at the bottom of the funnel. So if you’re only ever looking at that, you might be pessimistic when it comes to your SEO. You might not be thinking that SEO has any kind of value, because organic search, those organic results are pushed down really low when you’re looking at those bottom funnel terms. So I think these two pieces of research are really interesting to look at in tandem when it comes to a response to this question.

I think this was put out sometime last year by Varn Research, and it said that 60% of people, when they see ads on the search results, they don’t even recognize that they’re ads. That’s actually probably higher now that Google changed it from green to black and it kind of blends in a little bit better with the rest of it. But then this data from Jumpshot says that only about 2% to 3% of all search clicks go to PPC.

So how can these things coexist? Well, they can coexist because the vast majority of searches don’t trigger ads. A lot more searches are informational and navigational more so than commercial. 

People research before buying

So just keep in mind that people are doing a lot of research before buying.

A lot of times they’re looking to learn more information. They’re looking to compare. Keep in mind your buyer’s entire journey, their entire funnel and focus on that. Don’t just focus on the bottom of the funnel, because you will get discouraged when it comes to SEO if you’re only looking there. 

Better together

Also, they’re just better together. There are a lot of studies that show that PPC and SEO are more effective when they’re both shown on the search results together for a single company.

I’m thinking of one by Seer, they did right now, that showed the CTR is higher for both when they’re on the page together. So just keep that in mind. 

3. “Organic drives traffic, just not the right kind.”

The number three objection I hear a lot is that organic drives traffic, just not the right kind of traffic. People usually mean a few different things when they say that. 

Branded vs non-branded

Number one, they could mean that organic drives traffic, but it’s usually just branded traffic anyway.

It’s just people who know about us already, and they’re searching our business name and they’re finding us. That could be true. But again, that’s probably because you’re not investing in SEO, not because SEO is not valuable. I would also say that a lot of times this is pretty easily debunked. A lot of times inadvertently people are ranking for non-branded terms that they didn’t even know they were ranking for.

So go into Google Search Console, look at their non-branded queries and see what’s driving impressions and clicks to the website. 

Assists are important too

Number two, again, just to say this one more time, assists are important too. They play a part in the eventual conversion or purchase. So even if organic drives traffic that doesn’t convert as the last click before conversion, it still usually plays a role.

It can be highly qualified

Number three, it can be highly qualified. Again, this is that following the investment thing. If you are actually paying attention to your audience, you know the ways they search, how they search, what terms they search for, what’s important to your brand, then you can bring in really highly qualified traffic that’s more inclined to convert if you’re paying attention and being strategic with your SEO.

4. “SEO takes too long”

Moving on to number four, that objection I hear is SEO takes too long. That’s honestly one of the most common objections you hear about SEO. 

SEO is not a growth hack

In response to that, I would say it’s not a growth hack. A lot of people who are really antsy about SEO and like “why isn’t it working right now” are really looking for those instant results.

They want a tactic they can sprinkle on their website for instant whatever they want. Usually it’s conversions and revenue and growth. I would say it’s not a growth hack. If you’re looking at it that way, it’s going to disappoint you. 

Methodology + time = growth

But I will say that SEO is more methodology than tactic. It’s something that should be ingrained and embedded into everything you do so that over time, when it’s baked into everything you’re doing, you’re going to achieve sustained growth.

So that’s how I respond to that one. 

5. “You can’t measure the ROI.”

Number five, the last one and probably one of the most frustrating, I’m sure this is not exclusive to SEO. I know social hears it a lot. You can’t measure the ROI, therefore I don’t want to invest in it, because I don’t have proof that I’m getting a return on this investment. So people kind of tend to mean, I think, two things when they say this.

A) Predicting ROI

Number one, they really want to be able to predict ROI before they even dive in. They want assurances that if I invest in this, I’m going to get X in return, which there are a lot of, I think, problems with that inherently, but there are some ways you can get close to gauging what you’re going to get for your efforts. So what I would do in this situation is use your own website’s data to build yourself a click-through rate curve so that you know the click-through rate at your various rank positions.

By knowing that and combining that with the search volume of a keyword or a phrase that you want to go after, you can multiply the two and just say, “Hey, here’s the expected traffic we will get if you will let me work on improving our rank position from 9 to 2 or 1” or whatever that is. So there are ways to estimate and get close.

A lot of times, when you do improve, you’re focusing on improving one term, you’re likely going to get a lot more traffic than what you’re estimating because you tend to end up ranking for so many more longer tail keywords that bring in a lot of additional search volume. So you’re probably going to even underestimate when you do this. But that’s one way you can predict ROI. 

B) Measuring ROI

??

Number two here, measuring ROI is a lot of times what people want to be doing.

They want to be able to prove that what they’re doing is beneficial in terms of revenue. So one way to do this is to get the lifetime value of the customer, multiply that by the close rate so that you can have a goal value. Now if you turn on your conversions and set up your goals in Google Analytics, which you I think should be doing, this assumes that you’re not an e-commerce site.

There’s different tracking for that, but a similar type of methodology applies. If you apply these things, you can have a goal value. So that way, when people convert on your site, you start to rack up the actual dollar value, the estimated dollar value that whatever channel is producing. So you can go to your source/medium report and see Google organic and see how many conversions it’s producing and how much value.

This same thing applies if you go to your assisted conversions report. You can see how much value is in there as well. I think that’s really beneficial just to be able to show people like, “Look, it is generating revenue.My SEO that’s getting you organic search traffic is generating value and real dollars and cents for you.” So those are some of the most common objections that I hear.

I want to know what are some of the ones that you hear too. So pop those in the comments. Let me know the objections you hear a lot of the time and include how you’re either struggling to respond or find the right response to people or something that you found works as a response. Share that with us. We’d all love to know. Let’s make SEO better and something that people understand a lot better. So that’s it for this week’s Whiteboard Friday.

Come back again next week for another one.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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PostHeaderIcon Aren’t 301s, 302s, and Canonicals All Basically the Same? – Best of Whiteboard Friday



Posted by Dr-Pete

They say history repeats itself. In the case of the great 301 vs 302 vs rel=canonical debate, it repeats itself about every three months. And in the case of this Whiteboard Friday, it repeats once every two years as we revisit a still-relevant topic in SEO and re-release an episode that’s highly popular to this day. Join Dr. Pete as he explains how bots and humans experience pages differently depending on which solution you use, why it matters, and how each choice may be treated by Google.

Aren't 301s, 302s, and canonicals all basically the same?

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

Video Transcription

Hey, Moz fans, it’s Dr. Pete, your friendly neighborhood marketing scientist here at Moz, and I want to talk today about an issue that comes up probably about every three months since the beginning of SEO history. It’s a question that looks something like this: Aren’t 301s, 302s, and canonicals all basically the same?

So if you’re busy and you need the short answer, it’s, “No, they’re not.” But you may want the more nuanced approach. This popped up again about a week [month] ago, because John Mueller on the Webmaster Team at Google had posted about redirection for secure sites, and in it someone had said, “Oh, wait, 302s don’t pass PageRank.”

John said, “No. That’s a myth. It’s incorrect that 302s don’t pass PR,” which is a very short answer to a very long, technical question. So SEOs, of course, jumped on that, and it turned into, “301s and 302s are the same, cats are dogs, cakes are pie, up is down.” We all did our freakout that happens four times a year.

So I want to get into why this is a difficult question, why these things are important, why they are different, and why they’re different not just from a technical SEO perspective, but from the intent and why that matters.

I’ve talked to John a little bit. I’m not going to put words in his mouth, but I think 95% of this will be approved, and if you want to ask him, that’s okay afterwards too.

Why is this such a difficult question?

So let’s talk a little bit about classic 301, 302. So a 301 redirect situation is what we call a permanent redirect. What we’re trying to accomplish is something like this. We have an old URL, URL A, and let’s say for example a couple years ago Moz moved our entire site from seomoz.org to moz.com. That was a permanent change, and so we wanted to tell Google two things and all bots and browsers:

  1. First of all, send the people to the new URL, and, second,
  2. pass all the signals. All these equity, PR, ranking signals, whatever you want to call them, authority, that should go to the new page as well.

So people and bots should both end up on this new page.

A classic 302 situation is something like a one-day sale. So what we’re saying is for some reason we have this main page with the product. We can’t put the sale information on that page. We need a new URL. Maybe it’s our CMS, maybe it’s a political thing, doesn’t matter. So we want to do a 302, a temporary redirect that says, “Hey, you know what? All the signals, all the ranking signals, the PR, for Google’s sake keep the old page. That’s the main one. But send people to this other page just for a couple of days, and then we’re going to take that away.”

So these do two different things. One of these tells the bots, “Hey, this is the new home,” and the other one tells it, “Hey, stick around here. This is going to come back, but we want people to see the new thing.”

So I think sometimes Google interprets our meaning and can change things around, and we get frustrated because we go, “Why are they doing that? Why don’t they just listen to our signals?”

Why are these differentiations important?

The problem is this. In the real world, we end up with things like this, we have page W that 301s to page T that 302s to page F and page F rel=canonicals back to page W, and Google reads this and says, “W, T, F.” What do we do?

We sent bad signals. We’ve done something that just doesn’t make sense, and Google is forced to interpret us, and that’s a very difficult thing. We do a lot of strange things. We’ll set up 302s because that’s what’s in our CMS, that’s what’s easy in an Apache rewrite file. We forget to change it to a 301. Our devs don’t know the difference, and so we end up with a lot of ambiguous situations, a lot of mixed signals, and Google is trying to help us. Sometimes they don’t help us very well, but they just run into these problems a lot.

In this case, the bots have no idea where to go. The people are going to end up on that last page, but the bots are going to have to choose, and they’re probably going to choose badly because our intent isn’t clear.

How are 301s, 302s, and rel=canonical different?

So there are a couple situations I want to cover, because I think they’re fairly common and I want to show that this is complex. Google can interpret, but there are some reasons and there’s some rhyme or reason.

1. Long-term 302s may be treated as 301s.

So the first one is that long-term 302s are probably going to be treated as 301s. They don’t make any sense. If you set up a 302 and you leave it for six months, Google is going to look at that and say, “You know what? I think you meant this to be permanent and you made a mistake. We’re going to pass ranking signals, and we’re going to send people to page B.” I think that generally makes sense.

Some types of 302s just don’t make sense at all. So if you’re migrating from non-secure to secure, from HTTP to HTTPS and you set up a 302, that’s a signal that doesn’t quite make sense. Why would you temporarily migrate? This is probably a permanent choice, and so in that case, and this is actually what John was addressing in this post originally, in that case Google is probably going to look at that and say, “You know what? I think you meant 301s here,” and they’re going to pass signals to the secure version. We know they prefer that anyway, so they’re going to make that choice for you.

If you’re confused about where the signals are going, then look at the page that’s ranking, because in most cases the page that Google chooses to rank is the one that’s getting the ranking signals. It’s the one that’s getting the PR and the authority.

So if you have a case like this, a 302, and you leave it up permanently and you start to see that Page B is the one that’s being indexed and ranking, then Page B is probably the one that’s getting the ranking signals. So Google has interpreted this as a 301. If you leave a 302 up for six months and you see that Google is still taking people to Page A, then Page A is probably where the ranking signals are going.

So that can give you an indicator of what their decision is. It’s a little hard to reverse that. But if you’ve left a 302 in place for six months, then I think you have to ask yourself, “What was my intent? What am I trying to accomplish here?”

Part of the problem with this is that when we ask this question, “Aren’t 302s, 301s, canonicals all basically the same?” what we’re really implying is, “Aren’t they the same for SEO?” I think this is a legitimate but very dangerous question, because, yes, we need to know how the signals are passed and, yes, Google may pass ranking signals through any of these things. But for people they’re very different, and this is important.

2. Rel=canonical is for bots, not people.

So I want to talk about rel=canonical briefly because rel=canonical is a bit different. We have Page A and Page B again, and we’re going to canonical from Page A to Page B. What we’re basically saying with this is, “Look, I want you, the bots, to consider Page B to be the main page. You know, for some reason I have to have these near duplicates. I have to have these other copies. But this is the main one. This is what I want to rank. But I want people to stay on Page A.”

So this is entirely different from a 301 where I want people and bots to go to Page B. That’s different from a 302, where I’m going to try to keep the bots where they are, but send people over here.

So take it from a user perspective. I have had in Q&A all the time people say, “Well, I’ve heard that rel=canonical passes ranking signals. Which should I choose? Should I choose that or 301? What’s better for SEO?”

That’s true. We do think it generally passes ranking signals, but for SEO is a bad question, because these are completely different user experiences, and either you’re going to want people to stay on Page A or you’re going to want people to go to Page B.

Why this matters, both for bots and for people

So I just want you to keep in mind, when you look at these three things, it’s true that 302s can pass PR. But if you’re in a situation where you want a permanent redirect, you want people to go to Page B, you want bots to go to Page B, you want Page B to rank, use the right signal. Don’t confuse Google. They may make bad choices. Some of your 302s may be treated as 301s. It doesn’t make them the same, and a rel=canonical is a very, very different situation that essentially leaves people behind and sends bots ahead.

So keep in mind what your use case actually is, keep in mind what your goals are, and don’t get over-focused on the ranking signals themselves or the SEO uses because all off these three things have different purposes.

So I hope that makes sense. If you have any questions or comments or you’ve seen anything weird actually happen on Google, please let us know and I’ll be happy to address that. And until then, we’ll see you next week.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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