How I Use SEOmoz for Local Optimization Today

Posted by David Mihm

Hard to believe it’s already been two months since I’ve been a part of the SEOmoz team! We’ve made some great progress on syncing up our codebase with the SEOmoz development environment. Once that process is complete, the fun part REALLY begins, and we will start to build out additional Local functionality over the course of 2013 and beyond. I can’t wait to write Version Two of this post once we’ve got more of that functionality built.

As an SEOmoz PRO customer since the service launched in February 2007, I thought I’d give a quick little tour of how I’ve used SEOmoz’s existing tools for Local optimization in my consulting role at David Mihm, Inc. over the past six years.

Throughout the last 18 months, I’ve been helping my cousin Tracy with her small business Group Insurance PDX, which I'll use as an example for this post.

Keyword Difficulty Tool

My Goals:

  • Determine how realistic it is for an SMB site to rank
  • Assess optimization efforts to-date
  • Identify SMB competition
  • Identify large, fixed objects for “Barnacle SEO

Process:

  1. Launch the Keyword Difficulty Tool
  2. Enter the keywords you want to analyze
  3. View report for each keyword
  4. Pay attention to Domain Authority
  5. (Optional) Analyze backlink profiles of SMB Competitors using OpenSiteExplorer

Comments:

The keyword difficulty tool makes competitive research more efficient. Simply run a handful of these reports and, at a glance, you get a sense for who the major players are in your competitive space, and just how dominant they are. I like to pay particular attention to domain authority (rather than page authority) in Local because many small business websites have very few pages, and Google tends to display the homepage for many more terms than you’d typically see in an e-commerce or more national B-to-B space.

As you analyze the list of sites returned for your keywords, keep your eyes peeled for “Barnacle SEO” opportunities — large, high-authority sites that you might be at a disadvantage to outrank on your own, but offer the opportunity for comments, business listings, or traditional web directory listings. Getting cited or linked to from these bigger guys will give your own site a leg up, and you may be able to get a secondary clickthrough if searchers actually end up on those pages. If it’s your own profile that ranks on those larger players, you may end up with two results on the main SERP.

For the smaller players, check out their backlinks using OpenSiteExplorer simply by clicking the magnifying glass next to their website.

In Tracy’s case, I’m pretty pleased that a relatively young site is competing so favorably in organic SERPs for a lot of her top keywords. The keyword difficulty tool helped identify four of her Local competitors, one IYP where she should consider getting a listing (Dex Knows), and a couple of sites (OregonLive and Examiner) that at the very least she could comment on, and could yield some promising social media relationships.

Clicking through to the Examiner story in particular, the author writes frequently about topics right in Tracy’s wheelhouse, and includes a pretty extensive bio and a prominent Twitter handle. Her following count exceeds her follower count by a 5:1 ratio, which means she’s probably pretty excited about gaining new contacts in social media. This would be a great person for Tracy to get to know.

OpenSiteExplorer

My Goals:

  • Identify authoritative local (“Location Prominent”) inbound link and citation sources
  • Identify low-hanging inbound link opportunities
  • Identify active social networking prospects

Process:

  1. Enter site to search in URL box (or click magnifying glass next to site in Keyword Difficulty tool)
  2. Add additional competitors for a high-level overview
  3. Choose all links, only external, to pages on this root domain
  4. Sort links returned by Domain Authority for SMB competitors
  5. Pay attention to high-Domain-Authority links
  6. Run an Advanced Report for geographic anchor text on SMB competitors
  7. Run an Advanced Report for product/service anchor text on high-Domain-Authority competitors
  8. Save links that look promising as potential guest blog, content outreach, or local sponsorship opportunities

Comments:

The OpenSiteExplorer index has never really taken a deep enough dive on traditional citation sources (i.e., Internet Yellow Pages sites), and that’s one thing I’ll be working with the SEOmoz Engineering team on this year. However, it does do an excellent job of surfacing high-value inbound links.

Obviously, every business wants high-value/high-authority inbound links. But they’re particularly important in Local, where one of Google’s many patents regarding PlaceRank references “the highest score of documents referring to a business.”  In other words, one extremely high-quality, locally-relevant link or citation can be a difference maker in Local rankings, especially in competitive markets.

As I said above in the Keyword Difficulty section, in Local, Domain Authority tends to exceed Page Authority as a ranking consideration. Because of this, my ears prick up whenever I see a high-ranking small business with one or more of these incoming links. In Tracy’s case, several of her competitors had links from high Domain Authority sources: OregonLive.com (the website of the main newspaper in Portland), the Building Industry Association of Clark County, and two smaller local newspapers (one as a sponsorship, one covering a local neighborhood association meeting).

This exercise yields several link building ideas:

  • Establishing a relationship with the OregonLive reporter (more on this in Followerwonk section)
  • Creating a dedicated page on her own website for each of her clients, that they can send their employees to for healthcare information
  • Sponsoring key local events covered by newspapers
  • Inviting newspaper reporters and other local bloggers to key meetings for each of the three groups on which she serves on the Board

Followerwonk

My Goals:

  • Start REAL, offline relationships via Twitter
  • Identify high-influence social networking prospects
  • Identify Twitter users likely to participate in a conversation
  • Identify additional marketing/link building opportunities

Process:

  1. Identify a core group of three popular Twitter accounts to follow.  These can be distributors, brands, or manufacturers whose products you sell, competitors, popular neighborhood businesses, etc.
  2. Visit the Compare Users tab of Followerwonk
  3. See who follows all three accounts
  4. Sort them by influence score
  5. Reverse-sort them by number of followers
  6. Start following them
  7. Read their Tweets to understand what makes them tick
  8. Reach out to them with great content!

Comments:

As you can probably tell from her Tweet stream, Tracy’s like most small business owners. She doesn’t immediately understand Twitter, and unlike those of us who do Internet marketing for a living full-time, she doesn’t have time to monitor her contacts’ streams 24×7 or send out a lot of Tweets herself. She needs a core group of folks to follow and some crib notes of how to interact with them in a way that will lead to some downstream benefit online. It's important for her to figure out who is most likely to:

  • Start up a conversation
  • Retweet her content
  • Lead to additional marketing opportunities like guest columns or interview requests

Tracy is a major extrovert and very active in traditional business groups, including her local Rotary club, local neighborhood association, and local business association. In her case,  the goal is just to translate her offline comfort with networking into the Twittersphere.

In this case, I’m looking for people interested in her space, so I chose to compare three of the insurance carriers she represents. Folks who follow all three of them are probably pretty interested in health care for small business owners! I then looked at accounts that were high-authority, but very few followers, to identify those who would most likely pay attention if Tracy were to start up a conversation with them.

Among the group that Followerwonk helped me identify were the healthcare reporter for the Oregonian (whose Twitter bio says “tips welcome”) and Cover Oregon, the statewide health exchange launching later this year (but only has 124 Twitter followers so far). Pretty awesome opportunities to start some productive relationships, wouldn’t you say?

Well, that’s my real-life example. I am sure that among our 18,000+ PRO subscribers, many of you are more actively involved in Local Search at a tactical level and have great input on how you use our tools. I’d love to hear about some of them in the comments! And if you have ideas for features you’d like to see in our forthcoming Local products, please pass them along here. Thanks for reading!

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Exploring the New Features in Bing Webmaster Tools

Posted by Daniel Butler

Bing recently announced some pretty cool new features within their Webmaster Tools, so in this blog post we are going to delve a little deeper to see exactly what these tools are capable of.

The Markup Validator (Beta)

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Found within the ‘Crawl’ tab of BWMT, the Beta Markup tool works in a similar way to the Google rich snippets testing tool extracting the following elements from a specified URL:

  • Microdata
  • Microformats
  • RDFa
  • Schema.org
  • pen Graph

The inclusion of the open graph is a nice touch, and I can see this coming in handy. Upon submitting a URL, we are presented with a neat extract of any featured markup. Let’s use imdb.org as an example:

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However other than extracting elements from a page, there seems to be little actual validation taking place. There are no references to missing elements for example, or whether the mark up could potentially generate a rich snippet.

Let's take a closer look at a URL with incomplete mark up. In the following example an “fn” field is missing for the hproduct element of a page, causing a flag to be raised within Google’s testing tool:

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However pasting this same URL within the Bing markup validator just produces the below:

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The URL actually being tested here contains hreview-aggregate and extensive use of hreview but there are no references within the Bing Validator, so results are also incomplete.

I really want to like this tool, but I need jam in my Victoria sponge – as this is still in a Beta format, fingers crossed for an update (or perhaps a rename).

Bing Keyword Research Tool

So Bing have finally released their own keyword tool:

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Overview of features:

  • Broad/Exact (select ‘strict’ for exact) match keyword search volumes
  • 6 month data history (you can select any date range within this period)
  • Export data for a max of 100 keywords at a time
  • Filter by country and language
  • History feature to track previous research queries

A very clean and simple to use interface but a shame that the data isn’t yet available via an API as there is going to be quite a bit of heavy lifting if you’re generating a substantial keyword research campaign, but none the less we now have some data to play with from Bing directly.

There are a ton of awesome posts to check out on SEOmoz that go into detail about the keyword research process, so I’m not going to go into great detail here, but with the data available from Bing I would be looking to:

  1. Consolidate data into a single spreadsheet
  2. Obtain current rankings for each keyword in both Bing and Google
  3. Use the Google Adwords API to extract monthly search volume for each keyword
  4. Using Google analytics, marry up keywords and associated traffic
  5. Break down keywords into meaningful categories
  6. Use pivot tables/charts to compile this data for identifying key opportunities (low hanging fruit) in both search engines:

    1. Along one axis display separated search volumes for both Google and Bing, also traffic from analytics
    2. On the other axis display current ranking position in both Google and Bing
    3. Filter this chart by ranking between position 5 and 20.

For illustration purposes here is a quick mock up of how this can be developed:

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The numbers along the bottom reflect specific keywords, but for demonstration purposes these have been labelled as numbers.

Although the keyword data from Bing isn’t yet available within an API, Bing has released an API for the rest of the data within Webmaster Tools (looking forward to having a play around with this).

Look forward to hearing about your experiences using Bing’s latest tools.

Whew! That, my friends was my first ever SEOmoz post. Did I get round to introducing myself? I’m Dan, Senior SEO consultant at SEOgadget.  I’d love to know what you think and how you’re using the new features in Bing’s toolset. Until the next time!

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Stop Paying for Stupid Clicks: Negative Keywords for Positive ROI

Posted by KeriMorgret

One of my guilty pleasures is looking through the search query reports (SQR) of an AdWords campaign for the cringe-worthy search queries that led to someone clicking on a PPC ad. Really Google? You felt that goat transportation cost was related to my keyword of freight costs? Or that a babe cam search should show my ad for digital camera? Sadly, these matches and worse can happen if you lack proper negative keywords.

This screenshot shows what happens when your campaign does not have enough negative keywords. It is just as important to have negative keywords as it is to have regular keywords.

  • People really DO click on anything and everything, including these off-target ads, and the advertiser gets charged for that click.
  • Most people are smart enough to not click, so the advertiser isn't directly charged. They just get hit when it comes to their quality score (affecting your cost per click and ad ranking) , which is based in part on your clickthrough rate (CTR). If nobody is clicking on your ads, Google is apt to lower your quality score and increase your cost per click.

I'm going to help you brainstorm and greatly expand your negative keyword list. Evan Steed, co-founder of Meathead Movers, has been brave enough to let me look at his AdWords account and share some real-life examples with you here (and in my February 29th SMX presentation) from an account with no negative keywords. Meathead Movers is based near my hometown on the central coast of California, and they do some awesome things in the community, including moving women out of domestic violence situations for free. That's always impressed me, and I'm glad to be able to give something back to a local business.

Start with the Search Query Report

Download your search query report, and review what people actually entered to trigger your ad. You'll find some good candidates for negative keywords here, and you can start developing organized negative keyword lists.

Go Beyond the Search Query Report to Find Negative Keywords

I use the search query report for gathering negatives I had missed, and to find ideas for entire classes of negative keywords. This all started when I found "honeymoon with a stranger" in a search query report, found out it was a movie title, and got the idea to search IMDB for other titles containing honeymoon. Suddenly I had "zombie honeymoon", "honeymoon for three", and a large variety of other keywords in my negative keyword list. I saw lots of honeymoon resort ads showing for these queries, and realized not too many people were using this method, and started thinking of other ways to find negative keywords.

I prefer to have a good negative keyword strategy in place before I even launch a campaign, to prevent some of these stupid clicks from ever happening. Here are some of the resources I use.

The first resource is an engaged brain. Words often have many meanings, and this can cause you trouble. If you are marketing only to the United States, it's tempting to dump a list of all countries except the US into a list, but remember that Georgia is both a US State and a country. Also, make sure that you don't use the same word in your campaign as in your negative keyword list. Microsoft AdCenter has a nice feature that will alert you to these keyword conflicts.

Existing Negative Keyword Lists

Review existing negative keyword lists that other people have generated. If you do nothing else, review these lists. You'll find near-universal keywords (like ebay, craigslist, sex, porn), keywords to exclude job seekers (resume, position, salary, job), keywords to exclude information seekers (how to, about, what is, how do I), and many more.

Geography Lists

This is helpful for excluding people searching outside of your area of service. Even though Meathead geo-targeted their ads to appear only where they offered service (they only offer moving services in the state of California), people are looking to move from California to another state. Lists like this are also helpful in building your regular keyword list, as you can easily find all of the counties in a state, and all of the cities in each county, and develop targeted ad groups for your product or service.

Movie Lists

I use IMDB's title search and check Feature Film, TV Movie, and TV series to get the most common titles without being bogged down in every single TV episode title ever made.

In the display options at the bottom, I choose to display compact and sort by number of votes descending. This gets you a list of the most popular movies at the top of the list, and you can easily copy the titles that make sense for your list.

Music Lists

Leo's Lyrics does a good job of listing song names in a compact format. In this example, with so many titles being just "move", I'd consider adding some artist names to a keyword list, along with the words lyrics, artist, and album.

Book Lists

For books, I haven't found a great way to get just the most popular titles in an easy manner. I'd just scan Amazon and Barnes and Nobel online and sort by popular items.

Wikipedia Lists

Wikipedia is a great source of lists on nearly any topic. Search "list of [keyword] wikipedia" and you'll often get a great list, along with references for other sites that have similar lists. If you are an animal shelter that only has cats and dogs, you might go for the list of domesticated animals in Wikipedia so your ad doesn't show for people wanting to adopt a pig (and you might want to head to their list of cat and dog breeds as well when you develop your regular keywords).

Government Lists

Governments are great for more than just good backlinks. For regulated industries, they often have lists of  approved companies in that industry. You can use that for a negative list in your branding campaign, and as a keyword list in a campaign targeting people searching for your competitors. Another handy feature is that there is often an export option in these lists to download in a text or CSV format.

Top Lists

Forbes and other sites have endless top 10 and top 100 lists of all kinds of subjects. In Evan's case, I'd use some of the celebrity names as negatives to block his ads from being shown when someone searches for information on a celebrity moving to Los Angeles or Santa Barbara or another of his target cities.

Affiliate Lists

Some affiliate programs have detailed lists of negative keywords that can provide inspiration. If I were advertising for something related to Whitney Houston, I'd add the list of JC Whitney (an auto parts retailer) variations to my negatives list.

Paulson Management Group and Link Connector have several lists of negative keywords for specific campaigns.

Finding alternate meanings

You don't want your financial institution showing up for queries for blood banks and food banks. How to think of some of those other meanings for words ahead of time?

Wikipedia Disambiguation pages

Google Queries

Meathead has a new service for packing in addition to just moving. They knows they need to exclude Green Bay Packers, but wants ideas of what other meanings packing can have beyond the moving industry. Searching for [packers -"green bay" -moving -movers] yields a company in their service area called Island Packers, agriculture packing, and a restaurant called Packers.

Vocabulary lists

Meathead had a query for moving furniture. They don't focus on rearranging furniture, so needs to have an exclusion list for their campaigns that focuses on furniture. An ESL vocabulary list provides a nice text-based list for easy copying and brainstorming.

Yahoo Answers

Yahoo Answers provides some natural-language ideas for negative keywords that you might have otherwise missed.

Keyword Research Tools

Soovle shows suggestions from any number of engines (you can choose) for your keyword. It's another way of quickly spotting off-topic trends.

Übersuggest scrapes Google Suggest and other suggestion services to come up with lists.

Short Words

If you have a short keyword or an acronym, check to see if it's also an acronym for something else, a stock symbol, or an airline code.

Link Builder and SEOs

You also don't want to show your ad to people looking to build links related to your keywords. Rand's post has a number of phrases you'd want to exclude, like "submit url" "add site" "suggest a url".

Trending Topics

Keep an eye on Google Trends and Twitter Trends for a new phrase that has come into prominence. Google seems to not display ads for suddenly trending topics much of the time (like not showing ads when you searched for [cruise ship italy] right after the cruise ship sank), but it's also good to add in negatives to keep yourself covered rather than completely trust in Google's algorithms.

Bonus Round! Tools to Harvest Data

Not every site is going to have a nice plain text list ready for you to copy and paste. I've found a couple of tools that are helpful for harvesting data and making it easily usable.

Dafizilla Table2Clipboard lets you easily paste data with its formatting to Excel, where you can then manipulate the data for just the information you need.

Outwit Hub offers a variety of ways for you to extract data from web pages. This tool deserves several blog posts of its own on its overall uses for SEO, not just in collecting keywords.

Wrapping Up

Whew! There's a lot to think about when finding negative keywords. Is it all worth it? Check out an interview with Ken Jurina with case studies where using tens of thousands of negative keywords has helped businesses save 5% to 40% on their PPC.

What are some of your favorite ways to find negative keywords, and what are some of the worst search queries you have seen?

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