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How Marketing Like Netflix Will Save Your Lead-Gen Strategy

Written by admin on Dec 8th, 2016 | Filed under: Seo Tools

Posted by chelseascholz

Webinars are an incredibly popular lead-gen tool in most marketers’ toolkits. However, times have changed (and viewer attention spans have changed with it). Rather than try and force your audience to show up on time for live events and stay for a full hour (ain’t nobody got time for that), it’s time to consider delivering content they can watch anytime they want (just like their Netflix experience). We’re talking on-demand video.

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Now I know “on-demand” is an all-the-rage word as of late, but I really mean it. When is the last time you showed up for a live event or watched a television show on time? Can you even remember? I can’t. (Except for that time I bought expensive tickets to Wicked.) Now you can bet I’m showing up on time for that, because I paid for it. But if it’s free, my pulled-in-one-million-directions brain is going to forgo the things that aren’t urgent (or costly) – which means all those webinars I signed up for are lost conversions for the marketers who run them.

By thinking and delivering on-demand content like Netflix, the power is put in the hands of your audience to consume on their time – giving the audience edu-taining content to watch when they feel like it and giving us the ability to collect more leads and product sign ups than demanding live events.

Webinars vs. on-demand content

Now as a marketer at Unbounce, I also realize that webinars are a very powerful and well-used channel. Webinars were our bread and butter for a long time, as they are for many other marketing teams, but the shift in attention spans and the way marketers consume content (both professionally and personally) means that we tried to adapt our video content with it and saw great results when we launched The Landing Page Sessions in 2015.

We bounced around the idea of producing pre-recorded videos for our audience, which we saw as having a few benefits over webinars:

  • They give you more time to focus on high production value and fancy video editing
  • They allow the presenter to talk on-screen directly to the audience, as opposed to (less human) full-screen webinar slides
  • They relieve much of the stress caused by technical glitches associated with live webinars
  • They’re a great way to focus on showcasing your product with explainer videos and demos – showing spectators why they should buy your product
  • They have the potential to bring in leads and product signups for months without much active effort after the initial launch. No more breaking your back only to rely on the ROI of a very specific time slot

After all was said and done, this one series with 12 episodes has become an ongoing source of leads for us and brought in 87% more product signups than our webinars over the course of four months. Can I get a “heck yeah!”?!

The Landing Page Sessions was built with the goal of showcasing our product, Unbounce, in a way that was valuable to viewers and great for explaining the use of landing pages. During each episode of LPS, Unbounce co-founder Oli Gardner breaks down a full marketing campaign from start to finish and all the videos live on their own microsite where they can be accessed all day, every day.


This is a big change from traditional webinars which, as you probably know, include registering for a live event that largely entails 1–3 people chatting over a slide deck for about 30–45 minutes. Not exactly entertaining, but some companies pull them off really well. The problem for us was that while our webinars were well-produced, they had a declining registration rate and, subsequently, attendance rate. As you can imagine, this also lead to a declining amount of leads and product sign ups. The shift to on-demand content was intimidating, but we were pleasantly surprised. There is more work up front with pre-recorded content, but then it lives forever and you can drive as much or as little traffic to it as you want. Let’s break down some of the key benefits of using on-demand content over webinars.

3 benefits of on-demand content

1. Avoid technical snafus that go into running a live event.

A big win from switching over to on-demand content is that we avoid the technical snafus that can often happen in live content. With pre-recorded content you don’t have to worry about GoToWebinar going down, mics going amiss, ill-fitting slides, or power outages.

I used to run webinars at Unbounce when I first started, and I can’t tell you how many near-heart attacks I almost had because of the technical glitches with live events. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

We used pre-recorded video hosted with Wistia, and aside from avoiding live technical glitches, we were also able to optimize our video as we saw fit without the pressure of only getting one go at it. We would adjust our turnstiles and call-to-actions based on real-time stats, like average watch time and which of the episodes were most frequently clicked on.

2. Create more areas for conversion opportunities (turnstiles, overlays, and demo requests, oh my!).

And speaking of optimization, on-demand video also gives you the ability to create a ton of opportunity for conversions that’s otherwise pretty limited with live events (because you only capture when you collect registrations). There are sometimes opportunities post-webinar, but at Unbounce we’ve seen a pattern emerge: most people don’t convert after watching. They often sign up to get the recording but don’t end up watching that either, so whatever post-work you do can often be fruitless. Bummer.

With LPS we capture leads through many different avenues, including:

  • Wistia (lead-generating) turnstiles on each individual episode;
    Screen Shot 2016-12-05 at 10.20.42 AM.png
  • An exit overlay on the homepage of the show to remind people to sign up for new episode notifications;
    landing-page-sessions-exit-overlay (1).png
  • A landing page where we collected submissions (to be featured on the show) before, during and after the season went live;
  • and through a call-to-action to start a free trial of Unbounce at the end of every episode.
    landing-page-sessions-cta-free-trial (1).png

These were all things we couldn’t have done (or done very well) with live shows before, because there just wasn’t room. And if we were putting all this effort into running a show, why shouldn’t we see a good return on it?

Now, with all this space for opportunity to convert, you still have to be careful you’re not being a marketing jerk. It’s easy to overwhelm the viewer, and we experienced that first hand because we were a little “conversion-happy.” Remember that there are people on the other end trying to watch your awesome content, so try and place your calls-to-action strategically so they aren’t overwhelmed, and then subsequently bounce. So play it cool, folks, but take advantage of all the room for activities!

3. Create content with higher production value (even if the costs are relatively the same!) that people want to watch

And finally, your production value can be a lot higher (even with a budget that’s the same as what you were running webinars with).

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Here are a few takeaways about how to build your own high-quality, on-demand production without it feeling daunting:

The draw of webinars are not after they’ve happened, it’s during (as much as we’d like to believe our webinar recordings provide a ton of value, the fact of the matter is that they often don’t). Take what you know people like about those webinars and build that into your pre-recorded productions! If you’ve run a webinar, for example, where people really liked when a guest dissected email copy, create a short series around that topic.

Listen to your audience and ask them questions about what they’d like to see, then do it. Crowdsourcing is definitely underutilized, and sometimes as marketers we can over-complicate a situation. The easiest thing to do when deciding on new marketing channels is to ask the opinion of those who already love you. I learned this when I sent an email last year just asking “What do you need to get more out of landing pages?”, rather than assuming I knew what everyone’s issue or need was. And the result? I found myself a little surprised by some of the answers, and I was able to craft that into some stories for the show.

Create a production schedule and stick to it. Nothing is worse than putting more effort in than necessary for little to no return (this is the danger of on-demand content, and I get asked this a lot: “When are you done?”). Giving yourself a schedule allows you to build better productions without perfecting them until the end of time. For the landing page sessions, it took us about 3–4 months to build, promote, and release the season, for example.

And finally, a pro-tip: If you’ve got something to show off, do it! Showcase your product! Pre-recorded video is a great way to do that without having the pressure of a live demo.

A new era of content production

All this means that you can get more conversions with on-demand video because it puts the user first. On-demand video lets the consumer watch what they want and when they want – and that’s the whole point, folks. People who watch on their own time are more likely to convert because they’ve taken a vested interest in seeking out (or saving your content) to watch at a time that suits them best. This means they’re already in a position to find more value in what you’re serving up, and reduce friction to converting. So you can create a high-quality production that takes the stress out of those live events and serves up highly relevant calls-to-action for highly motivated watchers. A match made in marketing heaven!

Wanna know a little more about our results?

Crunch the numbers

Compared to Unbounce webinars that were run over the same four months that The Landing Page Sessions was running, the landing page sessions had 41 more product sign-ups than the approximate 4 webinars we ran at the same time (47 product sign ups vs. 88 product sign ups). The Landing Page Sessions also brought in close to 2500 leads in that four months as well (which blew what webinars would usually bring in out of the water). Initial effort was higher for LPS, so that needs to be taken into account, but webinars are not consistent in their results month-to-month, either.

This really highlighted a point that Wistia preaches – people like to watch a video before they buy a product. We showcased Unbounce and made it clear how landing pages can be valuable for anyone’s marketing campaigns by breaking them down and seeing how all the pieces drive to them for optimal conversions.


My learning: Running continual seasons of LPS (now that we’re off the ground) will be more valuable and less effort in the long run than running monthly webinars, based on the combined effort and return on investment.

Additionally, because this content is pre-recorded, we have a ton of ability to milk it for all it’s worth and give it life even months after it’s debuted.

Optimize, optimize, optimize!

On-demand content can live forever. This means you can continue to drive conversions much longer than a traditional live production recording. The conversion opportunities aren’t limited just to where you can add more, but the time period in which you find them!

Things we’ve tried to do with LPS that you can try too include:

  • Continuing to drive traffic to your page and build social hype – leads beget more leads!
  • Using some paid traffic (Outbrain/Taboola) if you have budget to attract fresh users (but be targeted about it). You want the new watchers to be just as interested as your current audience.
  • If you collect emails, create a nurture campaign to talk to those people based on their interests and needs. Continue serving them relevant content, like an ebook or bonus episodes if you’ve got more footage!
  • Using social share buttons throughout your video (or on the landing page that it’s hosted on) with relevant and unique hashtags. If people like what they’re watching, they’ll share and drive more traffic back to your site through their own social channels.
  • We keep our submissions page for the show live all the time to encourage people to submit pages for critique 24/7. And we still get submissions daily even though we haven’t finished our second season yet. This is great because it continues to list-build if you do a show where you can crowdsource content, and you can talk to them so they don’t go cold before the next show.

And don’t forget to keep an eye on it! If you notice that there are opportunities for improvement with what you’ve got right now, test them out. There’s an ease for testing with on-demand content because you aren’t pressured by a live time box. Things we’ve tried with LPS include gating specific high-traffic episodes, driving more traffic to a high-performing episode through specific paid channels that have done really well, and using The Landing Page Sessions as a nurture tactic for nurturing our subscribers into qualified leads.

So when’s the next episode?

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We are going to be working on a season 2 this quarter and are experimenting with things like:

  • Releasing all the episodes at once instead of dripping week over week (this will reduce effort on production/promotion and satisfy the binge-watch culture of our consumers, while letting us sit back and relax)
  • Creating a version of LPS specifically for customers (ungated and used to create some evangelism in our community)
  • Optimize the request-a-demo portion of the site and ensure a smoother episode-to-Unbounce journey

So remember, don’t be afraid of trying out on-demand content in a webinar-soaked world. It can actually generate some long-lasting conversion channels with a higher production value and less effort. If you’re interested in doing some on-demand content, take a gander at what we put together at unbounce.com/lp-sessions.

Take a page out of Netflix’s playbook and provide your users with timely content they can consume at their leisure, and watch the relationship bloom between your audience and your product. Now is the time to binge watch everything from cat videos on Youtube to your favorite marketing Podcasts, so don’t wait for anybody to register to give them what they need.

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What Link Building Success Really Looks Like

Written by admin on Dec 7th, 2016 | Filed under: Seo Tools

Posted by mark-johnstone

A few weeks ago, a post was published entitled The SEO Myth of Going Viral. It referenced 8 pieces of content across 4 different sites that went viral and, most importantly for SEO, gained hundreds of linking root domains. I was the creative director on a lot of those campaigns while working as the VP of Creative at Distilled. Today, I’d like to add some important context and detail to the original post.

I actually agree with much of what it said. However, it’s based on the assumption that one big viral piece of content would result in a visible jump in rankings across the domain within about 3 months of the content being released. There are a few challenges with this as a basis for measuring success.

I wouldn’t advise setting your hopes on one big viral hit boosting your rankings across the domain. Not by itself. However, if that viral hit is part of ongoing link building efforts in which you build lots of links to lots of pieces of content, you can begin to see an upwards trend.

“Trend” is the important word here. If you’re looking for a dramatic step or jump as a direct result of one piece of viral content, this could cause you to overlook a positive trend in the right direction, and even tempt you to conclude that this form of content-based link building doesn’t work.

With regards to this type of link building and its impact on domain-wide rankings, I’d like to focus on the follow 4 points:

  1. How success really looks
  2. Why success looks like it does
  3. Other factors you need to consider
  4. How we can improve our approach

What successful link building really looks like

Simply Business was held up in the SEO myth post as an example of this kind of link building not working. I would argue the opposite, holding it up as an example of it working. So how can this be?

I believe it stems from a misunderstanding of what success looks like.

The post highlighted three of the most successful pieces of content Distilled created for Simply Business. However, focusing on those three pieces of content doesn’t provide the full picture. We didn’t make just three pieces of content; we made twenty-one. Here are the results of those pieces:

Note: Data missing for the first two pieces of content

That’s links from 1466 domains built to 19 pieces of content over a period of 3 years.

The myth in question is as follows:

Building lots of links to one piece of content will result in a jump in domain-wide rankings within a reasonable timeframe, e.g. 3 months.

Though this wasn’t the hypothesis explicitly stated at the start of the post, it was later clarified in a comment. However, that’s not necessarily how this works.

An accurate description of what works would be:

Building lots of links to lots of pieces of content sustainably, while taking other important factors into consideration, can result in an increase in domain-wide rankings over time.

To hold up, the myth required a directly attributable jump in rankings and organic traffic within approximately 3 months of the release of each piece of content. So where was the bump? The anticipated reward for all those links?

No. The movement we’re looking for is here:

Not a jump, but a general trend. Up and to the right.

Below is a SEMRush graph from the original post, showing estimated organic traffic to the Simply Business site:

At first glance, the graph between 2012 and 2014 might look unremarkable, but that’s because the four large spikes on the right-hand side push the rest of the chart down, creating a flattening effect. There’s actually a 170% rise in traffic from June 2012 to June 2014. To see that more clearly, here’s the same data (up to June 2014) on a different scale:

Paints quite a different picture, don’t you think?

Okay, but what did this do for the company? Did they see an increase in rankings for valuable terms, or just terms related to the content itself?

Over the duration of these link building campaigns, Simply Business saw their most important keywords (“professional indemnity insurance” and “public liability insurance”) move from positions 3 to 1 and 3 to 2, respectively. While writing this post, I contacted Jasper Martens, former Head of Marketing and Communications at Simply Business, now VP of Marketing at PensionBee. Jasper told me:

“A position change from 3 to 1 on our top keyword meant a 15% increase in sales.”

That translates to money. A serious amount of it!

Simply Business also saw ranking improvements for other commercial terms, too. Here’s a small sample:

Note: This data was taken from a third-party tool, Sistrix. Data from third-party tools, as used both in this post and the original post, should be taken with a grain of salt. They don’t provide a totally accurate picture, but they can give you some indication of the direction of movement.

I notice Simply Business still ranks #1 today for some of their top commercial keywords, such as “professional indemnity insurance.” That’s pretty incredible in a market filled with some seriously big players, household UK names with familiar TV ads and much bigger budgets.

Why success looks like it does

I remember the first time I was responsible for a piece of content going viral. The social shares, traffic, and links were rolling in. This was it! Link building nirvana! I was sitting back waiting for the rankings, organic traffic, and revenue to follow.

That day didn’t come.

I was gutted. I felt robbed!

I’ve come to terms with it now. But at the time, it was a blow.

I assume most SEOs know it doesn’t work that way. But maybe they don’t. Maybe there’s an assumption that one big burst in links will result in a jump in rankings, as discussed in the original post. That’s the myth it was seeking to dispel. I get it. I’ve been there, too.

It doesn’t necessarily work that way. And, actually, it makes sense that it doesn’t.

  • In two of the examples, the sites in question had one big viral hit, gaining hundreds of linking root domains, but this on its own didn’t result in a boost in domain-wide rankings. That’s true.
  • Google would have pretty volatile search results if every time someone had a viral hit, they jumped up in the rankings for all their head terms.
  • But if a site continues to build lots of links regularly over time, like Simply Business did, Google might want that site to be weighted more favorably and worthy of ranking higher.

The Google algorithm is an incredibly complex equation. It’s tempting to think that you put links in and you get rankings out, and a big jump in one will correspond to a big jump in the other. But the math involved is far more complicated than that. It’s not that linear.

Other factors to consider

Link building alone won’t improve your rankings.

There are a number of other influential factors at play. At a high level, these include:

  1. A variety of onsite (and technical) SEO factors
  2. Algorithmic updates and penalties
  3. Changes to the SERPs, like the knowledge box and position of paid results
  4. Competitor activity

I’m not going to go into great detail here, but I wanted to mention that you need to consider these factors and more when reviewing the impact of link building on a site’s rankings.

Below is the graph from SearchMetrics for Concert Hotels, also via the original post. This is another site to which Distilled built a high volume of links.

As you can possibly tell from the large drop before Distilled started working with Concert Hotels, the site was suffering from an algorithmic penalty. We proceeded under the hypothesis that building high-quality links, alongside other on-site activity, would be important in the site’s recovery.

However, after three or four large link building successes without any corresponding uplift, we recommended to the client that we stop building links and shift all resources to focus on other activities.

As you’ll see at the end of the chart, there appears to be some positive movement happening. If and when the site fully recovers, we’ll never be able to tell exactly what contribution, if any, link building made to the site’s eventual rankings.

You can’t take the above as proof that link building doesn’t work. You have to consider the other factors that might be affecting a site’s performance.

How can we improve our approach?

As I mentioned at the start of this post, I actually agree with a lot of the points raised in the original post. In particular, there were some strong points made about the topical relevance of the content you create and the way in which the content sits within the site architecture.

Ideally, the content you create to gain links would be:

  • Topically relevant to what you do
  • Integrated into the site architecture to distribute link equity
  • Valuable in its own right (even if it weren’t for links and SEO)

This can be a challenge, though, especially in certain industries, and you might not hit the sweet spot every time.

But let’s look at them in turn.

Topical relevance

If you can create a piece of content that gains links and is closely relevant to your product and what you do for customers, that’s great. That’s the ideal.

To give you an example of this, Distilled created a career aptitude test for Rasmussen, a career-focused college in America. This page earned links from 156 linking root domains (according to the Majestic Historic Index), and the site continues to rank well and drive relevant search traffic to the site.

Another example would be Moz’s own Search Engine Ranking Factors. Building lots of links to that page will certainly drive relevant and valuable traffic to the Moz site, as well as contributing to the overall strength of the domain.

However, your content doesn’t have to be about your product, as long as it’s relevant to your audience. In the case of Simply Business, the core audience (small business owners) doesn’t care about insurance as much as it cares about growing its businesses. That’s why we created several guides to small business marketing, which also gained lots of links.

As Jasper Martens explains:

“Before I left Simply Business, the guides we created attracted 15,000 unique visits a month with a healthy CTR to sign-up and sales. It was very effective to move prospects down the funnel and make them sales-ready. It also attracted a lot of small business owners not looking for insurance right now.”

Integrating the content into the site architecture

Distilled often places content outside the main architecture of the site. I’ll accept this isn’t optimal, but just for context, let me explain the reasons behind it:

  1. It creates a more immersive and compelling experience. Consider how impactful New York Times’ Snowfall would have been if it had to sit inside the normal page layout.
  2. It prevents conflicts between the site’s code and the interactive content’s code. This can be particularly useful for organizations that have restrictive development cycles, making live edits on the site difficult to negotiate. It also helps reduce the time, cost, and frustration on both the client-side and agency-side.
  3. It looks less branded. If a page looks too commercial, it can deter publishers from linking.

While it worked for Simply Business, it would make sense, where you can, to pull these things into the normal site architecture to help distribute link equity further.

Content that’s valuable in its own right (even if it weren’t for links and SEO)

Google is always changing. What’s working now and what’s worked in the past won’t necessarily continue to be the case. The most future-proof way you can build links to your site is via activity that’s valuable in its own right — activities like PR, branding, and growing your audience online.

So where do we go from here?

Link building via content marketing campaigns can still make a positive impact to domain-wide rankings. However, it’s important to enter any link building campaign with realistic expectations. The results might not be as direct and immediate as you might hope.

You need to be in it for the long haul, and build links to a number of pieces of content over time before you’ll really see results. When looking for results, focus on overall trends, not month-to-month movements.

Remember that link building alone won’t solve your SEO. You need to make sure you take other on-site, technical, and algorithmic factors into consideration.

It’s always worth refining the way you’re building links. The closer the topics are aligned with your product or core audience’s interests, the more the content is integrated into your site’s architecture, and the more the content you’re creating is valuable for reasons beyond SEO, the better.

It’s not easy to manage that every time, but if you can, you’ll be in a good position to sustainably build links and improve your site’s rankings over time.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

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Mastering the Owner Response to the Quintet of Google My Business Reviews

Written by admin on Dec 5th, 2016 | Filed under: Seo Tools

Posted by MiriamEllis

Two dates to know: August 4, 2010 – the day Google enabled owner responses to Google My Business reviews; November 17, 2016the day Moz enabled incredibly easy GMB owner response functionality in the Moz Local dashboard. Why are these noteworthy events in Local Search history?

Because reviews and owner responses are direct reputation management, free marketing, free advertising, damage control, and quality control all wrapped up in one multi-voice song about your brand.


What’s missing from the picture of this free-for-all of voices caroling sentiment about your brand? You arethe conductor! If you’re not leading the tune — from setting customer service policies, to training staff, to managing complaints, to engaging directly with consumers online — you’re giving up available reputation management controls.

Make no mistake: No brand can prevent every sour note, but with owner response functionality, you can not only retune relationships with valuable customers, but can also protect revenue by keeping those customers instead of having to invest 25x as much in obtaining new ones. Owner response mastery is, indeed, smart business.

For the past six years, since Google launched owner responses as part of its local product, I’ve been studying them and acting as a consultant to a variety of local business owners and agencies regarding effective usage of this remarkable capability. Today, in celebration of Moz Local’s support of this function, I’m going to break down the types of reviews into 5 categories and offer you my tips for skilled management. With reputation and revenue on the line, every local brand needs an intelligent strategy!

Getting up-to-speed on owner responses

During our recent launch, a Moz community member let us know he’d never heard of owner responses before, so real quick: Many review platforms give you the option, as the business owner, to respond to reviews your customers have left you. This is normally done from within your dashboard on that platform, or, in some cases, via mobile apps.

In the Moz Local dashboard, the Google My Business owner response function is a real time-saver. We alert you when new reviews come in, and you simply click the ‘reply’ link to write your response. A little form pops up in which you can type away handily:


Now let’s delve into responding to the five basic types of reviews most local brands can expect to receive.

Type 1: “I love you!”

Real-world example:


Diagnosis: This is the customer every brand wants to have: the delighted evangelist who goes to the lengths of saying that nothing else on the local scene can compare to what the business offers. Honestly, reviews like this are like beautiful greeting cards validating that your business is getting it right on all points. Pure music to your ears!

Owner response strategy:

Many business owners ask if it’s necessary to respond to positive reviews. My short answer is yes, if you wish your business to come across as courteous and engaged. Part of conducting the flow of your reputation is acknowledging customer satisfaction and thanking them for the time they invest in writing such nice things about your company. It’s just good manners.

Having said this, I’ll qualify it by mentioning scale. If your enterprise has 100+ locations which each have 100+ positive Google My Business reviews, responding to every single one may not be the best use of your resources. Prevent the appearance of ungrateful neglect by aiming for a percentage — maybe 10% — of ‘thank yous’ in response to your best reviews.

Pro tips:

  • Your thanks can be brief, but avoid repetitiousness. Write a unique response each time. There are owner response profiles out there that have made me strongly suspect robots manage them, as in ‘thank you for your review’ written on 30 different responses. Avoid that.
  • Remember that owner responses are content consumers read. They are, in essence, free advertising space. Don’t go over the top with this, but if a customer mentions something they love, latch onto that. In our sample review above, the owner could mention that comments like this one inspired them to bottle their hot sauce for retail sales, or they could mention that they actually just won a best-in-Bay-Area award from X publication. Think products, services, and hyperlocal/local terminology. No, don’t put the hard sell on the customer in the owner response, but use this real estate with savvy. If there’s something you think a happy customer would be excited to know, promote it in a nice, friendly way!
  • Positive reviews indicate that a customer is already in a good, receptive mood. The more personable your owner response, the more of an impression your business can make, encouraging the customer to come back for more. Here, company culture, personality, and fun can shine. Your customer thinks you are special — act like it in the response.

Suggested owner response:

Hi Charley!

We were just thrilled by your review — in fact, we showed it to Chef Rosa, because the pique sauce you love is based on her grandmother’s traditional recipe brought from Puerto Rico in the 1930s. It’s the real deal, and we’re actually offering it bottled for retail now right next to the hostess stand at both our San Rafael and San Francisco locations, based on diner requests. Hint: one secret ingredient is apple cider vinegar, but that’s all we can say! We’d love to see you back soon, and Chef Rosa says, “Thank you for the lovely compliment.” ‘Best in the Bay Area’ makes us all proud!

Good Eating!

Marta Sanchez, Owner

Type 2: “My mind isn’t made up yet.”

Real-world example:


Diagnosis: A 3-star rating is the hallmark of the consumer who likes some things about your business, but isn’t totally loyal yet. They may/may not return and may/may not recommend you to others. Undecided patrons represent an exciting challenge to transform dissatisfactory aspects of your business and specific consumer sentiment, all at the same time.

Owner response strategy:

The honesty of a less-than-5-star review, when written in detail, delivers two valuable assets to your brand: it tells you where you’re hitting and where you’re missing, giving you the opportunity to improve and turn a lukewarm consumer into a loyal one.

Strategy for the owner response involves thanking for praise, accepting responsibility for faults, apologizing for disappointments, and making some kind of an offer. This offer, meant to sweeten the pitch that you hope the consumer will give your company a second chance, could be a comp or a coupon for future use, or it could simply be an explanation of how you have heard their feedback and made changes.

Pro tips:

  • Express gratitude for consumer complaints — they are valuable. Do not attempt to shift blame onto anyone else, including the customer or staff members.
  • Document both the positive and negative sentiment of so-so reviews and use it as your playbook for keeping what’s good and improving what isn’t excellent.
  • Be sure the customer feels heard. Cite their complaints back to them. By doing so, you are demonstrating to all future potential customers that your brand is responsive to feedback.

Suggested owner response:

Dear Yesenia,

We’re so grateful to you for letting us know that our prices, staff, and in-hotel restaurants pleased you, and, I also want to express my thanks to you for mentioning that the housekeeping wasn’t exceptional. I need to hear that, and take full responsibility for the dusty room. I have been trying a variety of cleaning services this past year, with the goal of finding the best.

While I want to be sure that every guest knows we honor any requests during their stay (just dial 9 on your in-room phone), I also want to let you know that, based on your comments, I held an all-staff meeting with our current cleaning service and have issued a new 10-point cleaning checklist (including dusting all surfaces) for each housekeeper. Should you honor us with a second stay, I personally guarantee you will find your room immaculate, and I would also like to offer your party a free breakfast in the Palm Room, as you enjoyed our restaurants. Just tell them Rob sent you, and it will be our pleasure to serve you! Thank you for your valuable and honest review.


Rob Brown, Owner

Type 3: “There was hair in my taco…”

Real-world example:


Diagnosis: The dreaded 1-star review! The customer has a specific, legitimate complaint, and your job as the owner is to address their dissatisfaction, take responsibility, and, whenever possible, make an offer to make things right. A negative review is likely the last life preserver an unhappy customer will throw you — a last chance to earn them back with superior responsiveness. Given the cost of replacing them, rewards for the effort can be great. When a customer ‘saves you’ by making their complaints known, an adept response from you may ‘save them’ in return, earning their repeat business.

Pro tips:

  • Apologize!!! Say the words, “I’m sorry, I apologize.”
  • No blame shifting, no lectures — just total accountability, humility, and a willingness to learn.
  • Be as honest as possible about whatever circumstance led to the customer’s bad experience, and state what you’re doing to improve that circumstance. Sometimes, the circumstances may include faults on the customer’s part. If you have to mention these in order to be honest, do so with great care and no blame, as in the sample response below.
  • Negative reviews often run on for agonizing paragraphs and chapters, but your response should not. Be thorough, but concise.
  • Offer something, even if it’s just a few minutes of your time on the phone, to try to make it right.
  • Aim for a ‘wow’ factor — as in you want future potential customers to say, “Wow, this business really cares!” when they read the response.
  • For more tips on managing negative reviews, please read Diagramming The Story of a 1 Star Review.
  • Document all complaints; they are incredibly valuable both in terms of damage control and quality control. Consider doing a full review audit on a set schedule to catch emerging problems and resolve them.

Suggested owner response:

Dear Vivi,

This is Dr. Tom, and I want to begin by apologizing for the inconvenience you experienced. I hate to think of you having wasted both time and gas on this. I’m so sorry.

I regret that you missed the message about hours for the shot clinic on our homepage, and your review has made me concerned that other patients may be missing it, too. Thanks for alerting me to this. Here’s what we’ve done:

  • Enlarged the homepage hours message + included those hours in the header of every website page
  • Put this at the top of our Facebook page
  • Updated our off-hours phone message to include the info that folks need to come in by 3:00 to ensure walk-in service.

Will you give me a second chance to make this right for you? It’s so important that your pet gets proper shots. Please phone and let my receptionist know Dr. Tom is offering you a priority appointment, any day of the week, and I’d like to make friends with your pup by treating him to one of our wonderful new chew toys. Hoping to have the great pleasure of caring for you and your awesome companion animal!


Dr. Tom

Type 4: “I’m actually your competitor.”

Real-world example:


Diagnosis: Unfortunately, fake reviews happen. They may stem from unscrupulous competitors, disgruntled past employees, or individuals with personal grudges against someone at the company. The line to walk here is whether the reviews are simply false (warranting a response + Google action) or citing such defamatory or illegal practices that you should consult with a lawyer before taking any further action. Our real-world example is of the former kind — it illustrates what a fake review might look like with sentiment that is negative but not accusing the business of criminal activity.

Pro tips:

  • If research has made you aware that a review has been left by a competitor or by someone who is not a customer, that’s a violation of Google’s Review Policy.
  • First, leave a brief owner response to the review (as shown in my sample response below) to alert consumers to the falsity of the review. Note: I don’t advise ‘outing’ the bad actor — it’s not professional.
  • Second, follow Google’s steps for flagging the review. I suggest waiting 24 hours after doing this before moving on.
  • Next, on that same page, you will see options for speaking directly with Google via phone, chat, or email. Contact Google to let them know about the fake review you have flagged. Hopefully, they will be able to rectify this for you and remove the review.
  • However, if you get a rep who doesn’t seem to understand your issue, turn to the Google My Business Community, post the complete details of your scenario, and beg for a Top Contributor to help escalate your issue.
  • Don’t expect a quick fix. You may have to be persistent to obtain resolution.
  • But, again, please don’t take these steps if a review accuses your business of something illegal. We’ll cover that, below, in Type 5.

Suggested owner response:

To Our Valued Customers,

Sadly, after researching this, our company discovered that this review was left by a competitor. We are taking the appropriate steps to report this to Google, and we hope having this fake review removed will encourage this unfortunate competitor to seek other, more honest forms of promoting his business. If he persists, we will engage appropriate legal counsel.


Jim Davis, Owner

Type 5: “I’m citing illegal stuff.”

Real-world example:


Diagnosis: Whether a negative review is true or false, any time illegal or dangerous behavior is cited, it’s a cue to you that you need to speak with an attorney before taking any further steps. Don’t respond and don’t attempt to have the review removed, as both could be used as evidence in a court of law. Seek an attorney well-versed in cyber law and act on his or her advice, rather than on any advice you may read on the Internet or receive from marketers, friends, etc. And if you run an SEO agency, I urge you not to advise clients on Type 5 reviews — we’re SEOs, not attorneys, and shouldn’t be consulting on legal matters.

Orchestrating the ideal owner response environment

If you already have an excellent customer service training program in place at your business, chances are good that you will mostly be managing Type 1 and Type 2 reviews with only the occasional Type 3. Types 4 and 5 will hopefully be the exception rather than the rule. Given that one 2016 survey found that 57% of consumer complaints relate to employee behavior, we can estimate that at least half of your reputation is anchored to the quality of your staff hiring and training practices. So, definitely place first and fundamental focus there, and then manage the ensuing consumer sentiment as it flows in with these tips:

  • Observe the typical rate at which you normally receive reviews. It could be a few per week, or if you’re managing multiple locations, numerous reviews per day.
  • What you observe dictates how frequently you need to monitor your reviews. If you’re a Moz Local customer, we’ll conveniently alert you as each new review comes in, and you can check that as often as makes sense.
  • Avoid unnecessary customer frustration and bad reviews stemming from bad data. There must be literally millions of negative reviews on the web citing wrong phone numbers, wrong hours of operations, wrong addresses. Do a quick citation health check to see if your major local business listings are fomenting negative sentiment. Correct problems.
  • I’ve seen various theories about how quickly an owner should respond to reviews; my own opinion is ASAP, particularly when it comes to Type 2 and Type 3 reviews. If you are trying to catch complaints for the purpose of resolving them and winning back unhappy customers, there may be circumstances (like our example with the puppy shots) that make it vital to respond quickly to avoid customer loss.
  • While it may be ideal to have owners be the authors of all owner responses, scale may make that an untenable situation. If you are designating a staff member or marketer to represent the owner, prevent mistakes by clearly outlining company policies, voice, permissions, and objectives with that person.
  • Responsiveness can be a competitive difference maker. Observe your direct competitors; if they are careless about active management of reviews, you can take advantage by making your brand the one that always responds, demonstrating care and accessibility.
  • Know that expert owner responders experience thrilling victories, like having an unhappy customer update their review and raise their star ratings after receiving a great owner reply. These are rewards that make the input of effort well worth it!

Six years into Google’s rollout of the owner response function, I still encounter many business owners expressing fear of reviews. At the root of this, I often find that they feel powerless and overwhelmed by the prospect of managing their brand’s reputation.

It’s my hope that this post signals to every local business owner that you do, indeed, have significant power in this regard. Via the the right combination of skilled customer service and active review management, you can orchestrate an exceptional online reputation for your brand in concert with your customers, in harmony with your professional goals and dreams.

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Competing for Local Queries With No Physical Premises

Written by admin on Dec 4th, 2016 | Filed under: Seo Tools

Posted by Tom.Capper

When we think of local SEO, we think of local packs, Google My Business listings, and local citations. While these things certainly are local SEO, they aren’t the whole picture. Local SEO can be split into three categories:

  • Local pack results for organizations with local premises
  • Organic results for organizations with local premises
  • Organic results for organizations without local premises

It’s the third category that I want to cover here today. This often-neglected and little-discussed area plays host to some of the biggest and most lucrative spaces in organic search. Think about searches like:

  • Chemical engineering jobs in London
  • Flats to rent in London
  • Used Ford Focus for sale in London

These terms are local in nature, and local businesses might compete for them — whether they be recruitment agencies, letting agents, or car dealerships. However, businesses without any local premises might also compete for them — whether they be online-only job boards, property listings sites, or eBay and Craigslist.

Let’s take recruiters as an example. A search for “recruiters near me” from Distilled HQ in London produces this result:

There’s a local pack, but the top result is for a listings site that does not itself have any local premises.

If we search for something more specific:

Firstly, this is a “near me” search with no local pack. The second very noticeable thing is that after the four PPC ads, Totaljobs.com are ranking both first and second(!!!). Neither they nor Indeed.co.uk have any physical premises, and the second result ranking isn’t even location-specific. In case you’re curious, Indeed gets the double-rank if I swap out “near me” for “in London”:

The points I want to make are that:

  • It’s totally legitimate for Indeed and Totaljobs to try to rank for these queries
  • This is local SEO, but there are no local packs, and these are not local sites

There are a whole range of niche concerns around this sort of situation, which I’ll cover in turn:

  • Whether this applies to you: Should you be competing for local queries at all?
  • Granularity: Which local queries should you be competing for?
  • Optimizing pages to compete in these spaces.

A quick side note: It is possible to generate Google My Business listings for locations where you can get someone to sort your verification, but you yourself have no real premises. This is either spam or misleading marketing depending on how you look at it. Like many other spam techniques, some sites are having success with it, but it’s not something I would endorse or recommend, and I won’t be covering it any further here.

Should you be competing for local queries at all?

The example search queries I used above all had something in common — they were different offerings based on the location a user was interested in, so having location pages made absolute sense for the users, for the sites, and for Google.

This isn’t always true. Take this example from Serenata Flowers:

Award-winning florist in West Wellow.

For context, there are no florists in or even particularly near West Wellow, which is a tiny place on the edge of the New Forest National Park in Southern England:

Furthermore, the offerings on this page are identical to those that Serenata appears to offer on every other location page. This page exists purely for SEO benefit — it’s to target local search volume, with no benefit to users other than their ability to find it through that search volume. There’s nothing you can do on this page that you can’t do from any other non-location-specific page on the site.

This isn’t unusual in this vertical, or in several others. In fact, this is one of the last big areas where doing something just for the SEO benefit not only makes sense, but seems sustainable and fairly white-hat.

One might tenuously argue that users want reassurance that their flowers will be cut close to their intended delivery destination, or that Serenata offers delivery in this area. However, in this case it would make far more sense for Serenata to have landing pages for the locations where the flowers are cut, or for logical delivery areas rather than individual villages; nobody would think that a florist in nearby Romsey offering delivery would for some reason refuse to deliver to West Wellow.

The best litmus test for whether you should be pursuing this type of landing page strategy is whether you can actually think of a useful way to differentiate these pages for users (as opposed to for Google). A flower delivery site probably can — by showing local stock and delivery times and distances — but small villages are too fine a granularity for this.

I imagine Serenata drive considerable revenue through some of their location pages for higher volume locations — despite not differentiating these pages in this way — but it’s the fact that users would look for a locally differentiated page in the first place that makes this strategy viable.

Granularity: Which local queries should you be competing for?

When deciding how to target your location pages, there will be a wide range of options, for example:

  • State
  • County
  • City
  • Town
  • Zip/Postal Code
  • Street
  • All of the above

Which of these options makes sense for you comes down to two main factors:

  1. At what level of granularity are your potential customers searching?
  2. What level of indexation can your site support?

The first question initially looks like a simple keyword research problem, but it’s harder than that. We’re getting into the seriously long-tail with some of these groupings, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t volume. Search volume tools like Google Keyword Planner and Moz’s own Keyword Explorer start to struggle to tell the difference between “zero” and “low” when we get into this sort of territory, so you’re probably going to have to do something better than that. Some ideas worth considering:

  • Test for volume and interest with paid search
  • If you already have a variety of pages, find out which ones receive zero or nearly zero organic traffic and conversions
  • Test opening up deeper locations for a small number of areas (small enough that you’re confident the strain on indexation and spreading of equity won’t impact your site as a whole!)
  • Search for the smaller locations you’re considering. Does your higher-level page already rank well?
  • Look at data from your internal site search
  • See what your competitors are doing. They might not be getting it right, but it could be a useful source of ideas to validate

The second question is more complex. Adding thousands or even millions of extra pages to any website is a dangerous game. You should be concerned as to whether Google will allocate enough crawl budget, or whether you’ll damage the strength of existing pages.

Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Test opening up extra locations for half of areas. Monitor the performance of the unaffected half of the site vs. a counterfactual, as well as the affected half of the site vs. the unaffected half.
    • If the affected side underperforms, you’re spreading yourself too thin.
    • If the unaffected side underperforms but the affected side does not, work out whether the aggregate effect was positive or negative.
  • Make sure you’re being clever with your information architecture.
    • Minimize the number of extra URLs Google has to crawl.
    • Consider using HTML sitemap (“browse all areas”) pages that are linked to internally, but “NOINDEX, FOLLOW” to distribute equity without crowding user-facing pages with links.
    • Test using nofollow attributes on individual facet links to control any potential spider traps.
    • Use breadcrumbs (marked up in structured data) to make the structure of the site and location hierarchy as clear as possible to search engines.
    • Monitor server logs to discover any crawling problems.

(How not to) Optimize pages for local search

Here’s what Serenata have done to optimize for local search in the example I used above:

This is sitting at the bottom of the category page and contains such stunners as “Our florists in West Wellow have the experience and the passion to create beautiful bouquets for any occasion.” I’m sure they would, if they existed.

Clearly this is keyword stuffing at its finest. In or out of local search, this kind of category/listing page SEO drivel feels like it shouldn’t work anymore, but in fact your mileage may vary, and again, if you already have this, you should test:

  • Removing it entirely
  • Turning down the keyword density

I’ve seen numerous examples in the last year of sites benefitting from improving or getting rid of this kind of useless content.

So what to do instead? Above, I said:

  • “The best litmus test for whether you should be pursuing this type of landing page strategy is whether you can actually think of a useful way to differentiate these pages for users.”

This means that you should have something genuinely useful that you can put on these pages. Some recommendations:

  • Proprietary data – e.g. what the most popular flowers are in this location.
  • Local differentiation – e.g. are some of the products delivered to this location sourced locally?
  • Genuine local expertise – could any employees or subcontractors in this area contribute?
  • Reviews for this location
  • Reassurance – e.g. if you think a user is looking for a local florist because of delivery concerns, say how long the flowers will be traveling for

Looking forward

As location targeting without physical premises is an area that still feels a little old-fashioned in its SEO trends, it’ll be interesting to see how it develops in the next few years. Personal assistants could have a particularly large impact here, for example. I’d love to hear your thoughts and predictions in the comments below.

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Which Page Markup + Tags Still Matter for SEO? – Whiteboard Friday

Written by admin on Dec 3rd, 2016 | Filed under: Seo Tools

Posted by randfish

Should you focus on perfecting your H1s and H2s, or should structured data demand all your on-page attention? While Google hasn’t completely pulled the rug out from under us, don’t let the lack of drastic change in page markup fool you. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand outlines where to focus your efforts when it comes to on-page SEO and offers some tools to help with the process.

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

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we are going to chat about page markup and tags and which ones still matter for SEO.

Now, weirdly enough, you would think that over the last, say, seven or eight years we would’ve had an enormous growth in the number of tags and the optimization options and what you have to do on a page, but that’s not actually the case. Google kind of gave us a few that were important — things like rel=author — and then took some away. So it’s changed a little bit, but it is not as overhauled massively as you might think, and that’s a good thing.

Old-school SEO markup

Old-school SEO best practices were sort of like, okay, I had to worry about my title, my meta description and keywords tag — keywords a little less though, keywords haven’t been worried about for maybe 15 years now — my robots tag certainly, especially if I was controlling bot behavior, rel=canonical and the rel=alternate tag for things like hreflang, which came about six or seven years ago, and my headline tags. Some potential basically markup or text tags that could change the format of text, like strong and bold and EM, these have gotten less important. I’ll talk about that in a sec. Obviously, with URLs worrying about rel=nofollow and other forms of the rel tag, and then image source having the alt attribute.

This was kind of the basic, bare-bones fundamental minimums. There were other tags that some people employed and obviously other tags that Google added and took away over time or that they paid attention to a little bit and then didn’t. But generally speaking, this was the case.

Modern SEO markup

Nowadays there are a few more, but they’re really centered around just a few small items. We do have metadata now. I’m going to call this SEO even though technically it is not just for the search engines. Those are Open Graph, Twitter Cards, and the favicon. I’ll talk about that in a sec why that actually changed even though favicon has been around for a long time. Then, things like the markup for Google itself, the structured data markup that’s part of schema.org that Google is employing.

I want to be clear. Google is not using every form of schema. If you go to schema.org, you can find schema markup for virtually anything. Google only uses a small portion of that. While certain websites have seen an uptick in traffic or in prominence or in their visibility and display in the search engine results, it is not a guaranteed rank booster. Google says they don’t typically use it to boost rankings, but they can use it to better understand content, which in my opinion, better understanding content is something that often leads to better rankings and visibility, so you should be doing it. As a result, many of these old-school tags still apply of course — alt attributes and in the header tag the title and the meta description, meta robots, canonical.

What’s changed?

Really what’s changed, the big things that have changed, added to the header of pages, I would tell you generally speaking that you should think and worry about:

  • Twitter Cards
  • Open Graph markup
  • The favicon

Twitter Cards is pretty obvious. Basically, because Twitter is such a big distribution network for content and can be, it pays to have your cards optimized rather than to just have the URL exist on its own. You can stand out better in Twitter that way.

Open Graph markup, this is basically used by Facebook, an even bigger distribution platform than Twitter, and so of course you want to be able to optimize how you appear in those. Because social media in general is so well correlated with all sorts of positive SEO things, you want to put your best foot forward there. Therefore, I’m going to say this is an SEO best practice as well as a social media marketing one.

Favicon is a little weirder. Favicon’s been around for forever. It’s the little graphic that appears in your browser window or at the top of the browser tab. The reason that it matters is because so many sites — social media platforms and many distribution sites, places like Pocket, places that scrape, places that will show your stuff including sometimes, at least in the past, Google’s knowledge cards — will sometimes use that favicon in their display of your site. For that reason, it certainly can pay to have a good favicon that stands out, that’s obvious and clear, much more so than it was, say, a decade ago.

Not as important…

The H1, H2, and H3

I know what you’re going to say. You’re looking around like, “Wait a minute. I still see a lot of recommendations from tools, even like Moz Pro, that say I should use H1, H2, H3.” It is a best practice. I’d say H1 and H2 are best practices, but they are not going to transform or massively help your rankings. They’re not very well correlated with better rankings. In lots of testing, folks could barely ever observe a true, reconcilable difference between using the headline tag and just having those headlines be big and bold at the top of the page. However, I’m saying this alone. If you are using itemprop to describe a headline, an alternate headline, in your schema.org markup, that actually can be more useful. We do think that Google is at least using that, as they say, to better understand your content. I think that’s a positive thing. Then, there are lots of other sites that can use schema as well. Google is not the only place. That can certainly help your visibility too.

Strong, bold, and EM

It just kind of doesn’t matter as much. With CSS taking things over, you don’t need to worry about visual display of text in your HTML code nearly as much and certainly not from the search engine perspective.

Added to body

I’m adding to the body tag of course all of the schema.org options. I’m just showing the article ones here, but you should consider any of the ones you’ve got — recipes or news or videos or all sorts of stuff.

What about…?

Questions that folks might have around page markup:

  • What about other metadata? There’s the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative and other forms of open metadata and other forms of markup that you could put in there. I’m going to say no, don’t bother. Until and unless something gets truly popular and used by a lot of these different services, Google included, it just doesn’t pay, in my opinion, and it adds a little bit of extra weight to a page that just doesn’t matter.
  • W3C validation, does it matter if I have valid HTML code that’s sort of very, very perfect? Nope, it doesn’t seem to matter much at all. It didn’t matter back in the day. It doesn’t matter now. I would not worry about it. Most of the most popular and most visible sites in Google do not actually validate at all.
  • Schema that Google hasn’t adopted yet? I’m going to be a little controversial and say it’s probably worthwhile. If Schema has already stated this is how this format works, but you don’t yet see Google using it, it could still pay to be an early adopter, because if and when Google does do that, it could bring benefit. Now, if you’re worried about heavy page load or if this is very time-consuming for you or your dev team, don’t worry about it too much. You can certainly wait until Google actually implements something before you go and add that relevant schema to your site.
  • Other forms of semantic markup? I know there are lots of people who believe semantic markup is the future and those kinds of things, but I don’t. I don’t think that until and unless the engines adopt it, it probably does not pay. Certainly we have not seen browsers, we have not seen search engines, and we have not seen big organizations that in the social media world start to adopt this semantic markup stuff, so I would worry less about that. I think, to be honest, the engines of the future are worried about parsing the content themselves, not about how you mark it up on your pages.
  • Header, footer, sidebar labels in CSS? This was like a spam or manipulation or link counting thing for a long time, where SEOs worried that page markup that called out this is in the header, this is in the footer, this is in the sidebar of the visual of the page, like I’m saying these links are in here or these links are over here or these links are down here, this was a concern. I am less worried about it nowadays. If you are very paranoid or concerned, you certainly could use alternate things. I just wouldn’t worry about it very much.

Want to check your pages?

If you want to check these pages, you want to go through a process of actually reviewing all this stuff, there are a few tools that will do all of this stuff for you. They’ll look at all of these different tags and markup options.

The free one I love the most happens to be a Moz tool. I just really like it.

  • MozBar. You can download it for free. There are almost 400,000 people who use it regularly for free, and that’s awesome. It does have a little on-page checking option. It’ll run through all this different stuff for you.
  • View source and do it manually in your browser.
  • Google Structured Data Checker tool, which is linked to from the MozBar’s on-page checker, but also you can Google it yourself and then plug stuff into it. You don’t need to be logged in to your Webmaster Tools or Search Console account. It will validate at least the schema.org options that Google considers, which is great, and some ones that they don’t use, but that’s cool too.
  • Facebook has the same thing with Open Graph checking.
  • Twitter with their Card Validator.

If you want to use a paid service to go crawl your site automatically and surface all these issues for you:

With these options, I would love to actually hear from you in the comments if you have seen markup or tag options that are not covered here that you think are influencing SEO for a wide range of folks. Please bring them up. Let’s talk about them. Let’s talk about any of these you disagree with.

We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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