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Proximity Third: A Deeper Dive into a Local Ranking Factors Surprise

Posted by MiriamEllis

Image credit: J.B. Hill

What’s the good of a survey if it doesn’t result in at least a few surprises?

I know my own eyebrows leapt skyward when the data first came in from the Moz State of the Local SEO Industry 2020 Survey and I saw that, in a break with tradition, participants had placed user-to-business proximity at a lowly third place in terms of influencing Google local pack rankings. Just a year ago, our respondents had voted it #1.

If you’re feeling startled, too, here’s our chance to take a more granular look at the data and see if we can offer some useful theories for proximity’s drop in perceived dominance.

First, a quick definition of user-to-business proximity

What do local SEOs mean when they speak of user-to-business proximity? Imagine an Internet searcher is standing in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, looking on their phone, laptop or other device for “pizza”. Local SEOs observe that it’s more typical for Google to show that person Pasquale’s Pizzeria, right next to the park, than to show them Yummy Pizza across town in the Glen Park neighborhood.

Make an identical query as you move around your city and you’re likely to see the local pack and mapped results change a little or a lot, depending on the competitiveness, density and diversity of local commerce in your town, relative to where you are standing when you search.

In 2014, the annual survey of world class local SEO experts known as the Local Search Ranking Factors survey rated proximity as having the 8th greatest influence on local pack rankings. By 2017 and in subsequent editions, proximity had hit #1. As mentioned, the 2019 Moz State of the Local SEO Industry report placed it first. But this year, something changed…

Proximity third: the data

Our large survey group of over 1,000 respondents ranked Google My Business elements (keywords in name, categories, etc.) and Google review elements (count, sentiment, owner responses, etc.) as having a greater influence on local pack rankings than does user-to-business proximity.

Now, let’s take a closer look at which participants ordered ranking influence in this way.

GMB elements ranked #1

It’s fascinating to see that, on average, agency workers rated Google My Business elements as having the most influence on local pack rankings. These would be practitioners who are presumably working directly with local clients on a day-to-day basis and continuously studying local packs.

Google review elements ranked #2

Overall, Google review elements rank second, and within this statistic, it’s survey takers who market one small local business who rate the influence of reviews most highly, on average. These would presumably be independent business owners or their in-house marketing staff who are regularly eyeing the local packs to see what seems to move the needle.

Proximity ranked #3

Overall, the proximity of the searcher to the place of business ranks third, and within this group, it’s agency workers who, on average, rate the influence of proximity most highly. So, again, it’s this group of marketing professionals who are contributing to the depiction of proximity being of less influence than GMB factors.

Three theories for making sense of the proximity shift

I was startled enough by the data to begin considering how to account for it. I came up with three different theories that helped make more sense of this to me, personally.

1. Could respondents just be wrong?

Certainly, it’s fair to ask this. I’ll be honest — my first reaction to the data when it crossed my desk was, “Wait...this can’t be right. How can proximity be in third place?”

I thought about how the long-running Local Search Ranking Factors project, which is confined to local SEO experts, has been placing proximity first for several years, and how our survey group is inclusive of every type of job title involved in marketing local businesses. Owners, creative directors, writers, in-house and agency SEOs, and many other types of practitioners contribute to marketing local businesses and participate in our initiative. Could it be that respondents who don’t do day-to-day SEO work swayed this result?

But I stopped asking that question when I saw that it was, in fact, agency workers who had contributed most to this view of GMB factors outweighing proximity. Digital marketing brands offering local SEO as a service can’t be summarily written off as mistaken. So, next, I asked myself what these agency workers could be seeing that would make them rank proximity lower than two other factors.

2. Could "it depends" be making absolutes impossible?

Here’s the thing: sophisticated local SEO practitioners know that there actually is no absolute #1 local ranking factor. What shows up in a local pack depends hugely on Google’s understanding of intent and its varied treatment of different industries and keywords.

For example, Google can decide that for a query like “coffee near me”, the user wants the closest option, and will cluster results in a tight proximity to the searcher. Meanwhile, a customer in any location looking for “used car dealership” may see results skewed to a certain part of town where there’s an auto row filled with such businesses — a phenomenon long ago dubbed the “industry centroid” effect. But, for the user seeking something like “sports arena”, Google can believe there’s a willingness to drive further away and can make up a local pack of businesses all over a city, or even all over a state.

So, the truth is, dubbing any factor #1 is an oversimplification we put up with for the sake of giving some order to the chaos of Google results. Proximity may be the dominant influence for some queries, but definitely not for all of them.

Taking this into consideration, it could well be that our survey’s respondents who work at agencies are observing such a diversity of behavior from Google that they are losing confidence in pinning it all down to proximity as the leading factor. And this leads me to my third theory.

3. Could a desire for control be at play here?

Proximity can be problematic. In a separate question in our survey in which we asked whether Google’s emphasis on proximity was always generating high quality results, only 38.6% of respondents felt satisfied. Most of us are frequently encountering local pack results that may be closest, but not best. This can leave agencies and business owners feeling a bit dubious about Google and even a bit helpless about acting in an environment that often ranks mere nearness over quality.

Unless a business is willing to move to a different location which Google appears to be favoring for core search phrase targets, proximity isn’t really something you can optimize for. In this scenario, what is left to local business marketers that they can control?

Of course — it’s GMB factors and reviews. You can control what you name your business, what categories you choose, your use of Google posts and Q&A, your photos, videos, and description. You can control your review acquisition campaigns and your rate and quality of owner responses.

Seeing respondents weigh GMB elements above proximity made me wonder if the strong desire for being able to have some control over local pack outcomes might subconsciously cause subjects to give a slight bump to factors they can observably influence. I’m not a psychologist, but I know I’m always writing here at Moz about focusing on what you can control. It could be that this internal emphasis might cause me to give more importance to factors other than proximity. Just a theory, but one to consider, and I’d love to hear in the comments if you have different hypotheses!

Can we know the truth?

I was so intrigued by our survey’s results that I ran a very quick Twitter poll to take another snapshot of current sentiment about proximity. Most of my followers are interested in or involved with local SEO, so I was eager to see the outcome of this:

While a robust 66% placed proximity first, an interesting 34% didn’t. In other words, there just isn’t total agreement about this topic. Most revealingly, more than one respected SEO tweeted back at me, “It depends.”

This is why I believe that my second theory above is likely as close to the truth as we’re going to get. All surveys which aggregate anecdotal opinion must take into account the variety of respondents’ experiences. Consider:

  • If my agency specializes in working with convenience stores or coffee shops, proximity may well be ruling my workday because Google draws such a tight net around users for my target keywords.
  • If most of my clients operate tourist attractions or B2B brands, it could be that reviews or the names on Google Business profiles appear to shape my world much more than proximity does.
  • Or, I may have such a wide array of clients, each experiencing different Google behavior, that my overall confidence in putting proximity first has simply eroded the more I observe the variations in the results.

What we can say with certainty is that there has been a year-over-year shift in how participants in the Moz State of the Local SEO Industry 2020 survey rate the influence of proximity. They believe it’s less dominant than it was just a year ago. Knowing this may not change your local pack strategy, because as we’ve noted, you could never do much to influence proximity in the first place.

What takeaway can we glean, then, if there is no absolute #1 local ranking factor upon which all parties agree? I’d boil it down to this: our survey shows that participants are heavily focused on GMB factors and reviews. In your competitive landscape, awareness of these elements is lively, and your ability to compete means taking an active approach to managing what you can control.

Moz Local software offers one smart solution for taking maximum charge of your Google Business Profiles, and I’ll close here with my short list of links to assist you in marketing local businesses in Google’s competitive environment:

Curious about what other insights you’ll find in our survey? Download the full, free Moz State of the Local SEO Industry 2020 report.

Get the Full Report


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Blog Topics: How to Find Your Sweet Spot (Even in a Boring Niche)

Posted by DaisyQ

I hate to tell you, but Googling “blog topic ideas” is not going to give you the content you should be creating.

Not all content is created equal. Letting the internet tell you what to blog about leads to mediocrity. Mediocrity is fine in some cases, like forcing yourself to show up at the gym at 5:00 p.m. when you’d much rather call it a day. But if you’re going to try and stand out in the very crowded search results page, you won’t stand a chance.

The reality is, it’s hard

The web is overrun with companies that have bigger budgets than you and can churn out content every day. Meanwhile, you’re lucky to get a blog post out once a month. Where you put your time can make or break your digital efforts. How do you compete? What content will grow your traffic month after month and year after year?

If you’re going to put your time into creating and promoting a blog post, and hope to get results, you owe it to yourself to figure out what you’re best suited to blog about.

Forget the 50 handy tools and blog topic lists

The internet will say: “Just research topics using these 50 handy tools and you’ll get a ton of ideas!” That’s cancelled. Slogging away with topics every week for three-plus years taught me that this advice — though well-intentioned — quickly wears thin. Especially if your topic or industry is niche.

So here’s what I would recommend instead:

  • Figure out what your people care about
  • Find where the magic happens
  • Keyword research your topics
  • Brainstorm, categorize, and prioritize
  • Execute

And that’s what we’ll cover. It may take a little more time, but it will give you ideas and direction you can use for months.

Figure out your people

The best way to find blog topic ideas is to look at your audience. What are their pain points, concerns, and obsessions when it comes to your products? Easier said than done sometimes, but chances are you already have at least an inkling on why they choose you. So start there and backtrack.

If you’re lucky, you’ll have some research or set personas to use. If you aren’t, make do. The point isn’t to get hung up on idealizing your audience, or nailing down that brand of tofu sausage they like. The point is to nail down their pain points and desires and move on.

Think about your best customers: How are you helping them live their best life? What are you helping them solve? What frustrates them about your line of services? When do they realize they need someone like you?

Take the time to understand the people that currently buy from you. So you can find more of them. In some cases, finding your audience is easy. In other instances, your audience is really diverse, or you just want what your neighbor’s having. Getting the perfect audience persona isn’t super important. Just get a good enough portrait, and move on.

Find where the magic happens

I barely passed math in college but one thing I did get was Venn diagrams. Two circles, and the magic is where they intersect, cool.

When mulling over what to blog about, I use this type of diagram to decide what I am best positioned to talk about. On the left would be the audience interests and concerns that you figured out in the previous step. On the right, your expertise. In the middle, you get a set of themes that you can specialize in. This doubles as the position you can take in your customer’s world. If you can pinpoint a mix of exciting, aspirational, and realistic themes here, that’s best.

It’s one thing to know what your audience likes. But chase that, and you’re competing with Medium or Buzzfeed.

It’s another to know what you’re good at talking about. But chase that, and you’re talking to yourself.

The magic is finding the spot where your audience’s interests and yours intersect.

During a recent workshop, a woman asked me, “I’m a photographer, and the people who like to work with me are outdoorsy — so are you saying I should create a blog post on hikes in the area?”

No.

Don’t do that.

There are a lot of websites out there that are way more invested in writing about hikes than you, and chances are they have more authority in that topic.

My reply to her: “How about creating content around the most photographable hikes in the area? You can create one blog post for Instagram, another for portraits, and even another one for engagement photos!”

The point is not to create content just because people care about X, Y, or Z. Ask yourself what you are best equipped to talk about, and how that intersects with your audience's interests. The more specific, and more unique to you and your audience, the better.

Keyword research your topics

Once you know your sweet spot, think about general topics and plug those into a doc or spreadsheet. Then pull those ideas into your favorite keyword research tool. I generally start with a list that has one root word, and export out different keyword ideas using a few tools. As I get more ideas, I plug those in, export, and build a small but healthy list to work with.

There are a couple of tools worth investing in to get this information (and some free options, too). Because I believe in a simplified approach to tools, I recommend:

  • A keyword research tool like Moz, SEMrush, or Keywordtool.io
  • A content research tool like Answer the Public, or Buzzsumo
  • A bonus tool like Ubersuggest or good old “People Also Ask”

Rank your bounty by monthly search volume, keyword difficulty, and social interest. Then, cherry pick the topics you want to tackle for the quarter.

Don’t be disheartened if your key terms are competitive. It’s the 2020s — anything worth anything is competitive. The goal is to start creating content that will pay off over time, while you grow your domain authority.

Word of caution: the topics you pick should be in your sweet spot and help your readers live their best life.

Brainstorm, categorize, and prioritize

Once you've defined the themes that can anchor your content efforts, use these four categories to help you pick topics within those areas. I like to think of this approach as a pyramid where you cover all the obvious “duh” questions before moving on to the sexy stuff.

Think about topics that would apply in each of these four sections, starting with the largest, general foundation category.

  • Evergreen content relates directly to the product or industry. These are the questions people ask day in and day out. At face value, the keywords may seem like small fish — i.e., they only get 800 to 1K monthly searches. But if they are aligned with your topic, then you very much want to answer these questions. If you don’t, someone else will. Ultimately, the goal of content is to bring in website visitors who are researching your product or service.
  • Original research answers a question or provides insight for an area closely tied to what you do. It’s premium content (long form blog posts, supporting guest posts) that takes more resources to create than a typical blog post, but helps build domain authority. This content hopefully helps you get links from reputable sources and is also fun to work in.
  • Trends and timely content are blog posts that aim to generate buzz, capture attention, and may aid in link building, but tend to be short-lived. These are topics that are in your sweet spot and hot right now. Jump on these seasonally.
  • Lifestyle content is blog content on topics that relate to company values and will connect with readers. Yes, it’s nice to show the human side of your business, because people buy from people they like. But I’d rather have a post that answers my questions over a post showing me cute dog photos, you?

What might seem like basic info to you might be a totally new revelation to your potential audience.

I've built a blog to attract over 100K monthly visitors, and one thing I learned was that the content that brought us traffic month after month was the basic stuff. The simple, how do I figure out ______ stuff.

And chances are your blog (or website for that matter) lacks this “beginning of the buyer’s journey” content. If you think everybody knows this stuff, they don’t. You’re probably too close to it — I’ve been there, too.

Questions you can ask yourself to get going:

  • What are some common questions that your audience asks? What are the solutions you can give them?
  • How would you explain this concept to your grandma, or a kid?
  • What is a cool trend with __________ that is worth investing in?
  • What do you wish your best customers knew about __________?

Sources of information you can also look at:

  • Trade pubs (for ideas that can be repurposed for the general audience)
  • Events (for ideas that can be super timely and relevant to a select audience)
  • Influencers in your space (for ideas on what your audience gravitates to)

Execution

Ideally you’ll have a mix of topics on the pyramid to choose from, each quarter. Schedule those. I’ve used Google Sheets, or Trello. The cool kids use Airtable — whatever floats your boat and helps you get your content out.

Eyes on the prize

Blog traffic growth should pick up speed over time. If you build your content accordingly, it will. Determine the point where your interests and your audience interests intersect. Find topics that cater to that sweet spot by answering common FAQs. Add original research seasonally, and sprinkle in some trends and lifestyle content.

When you create blog topics that are more in line with your brand and your strengths, and that match what your audience is looking for, you are much more likely to stand out in a crowded space. The internet is hella crowded — to differentiate and appeal to customers, you need to “do you” best.


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Core Web Vitals: The Next Official Google Ranking Factor – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by Cyrus-Shepard

There's a new ranking factor in town: Core Web Vitals. Expected in 2021, this Google-announced algorithm change has a few details you should be aware of. Cyrus Shepard dives in this week on Whiteboard Friday.

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

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. I'm Cyrus Shepard here at Moz. Today we're talking about the next official Google ranking factor — Core Web Vitals. Now what do I mean by official ranking factor?

Google makes hundreds of changes a year. Every week they introduce new changes to their algorithm. Occasionally they announce ranking factor changes. They do this in particular when something is important or they want to encourage people, webmasters to make changes to their site beforehand. They do this for important things like HTTPS and other signals.

So this is one they actually announced. It's confusing to a lot of people, so I wanted to try to demystify what this ranking signal means, what we can do to diagnose and prepare for it, and basically get in a place where we're ready for things to happen. So what is it? Big first question. 

What are Core Web Vitals?

So these are real-world experience metrics that Google is looking at, that answer things like: How fast does the page load? How fast is it interactive? How fast is it stable? So basically, when visitors are using your web page on a mobile or a desktop device, what's that experience like in terms of speed, how fast can they interact with it, things like that.

Now it's joining a group of metrics that Google calls Page Experience signals. It's not really a standalone. It's grouped in with these Page Experience metrics that are separate from the text on the page. So these are signals like mobile friendliness, HTTPS, intrusive interstitials, which are those pop-ups that come on and appear.

It's not so much about the text of the page, which are traditional ranking signals, but more about the user experience and what it's like, how pleasant it is to use the page, how useful it is. These are especially important on mobile when sometimes the speed isn't as high. So that's what Google is measuring here. So that's what it is.

Where is this going to affect rankings? 

Well, it's going to affect all regular search results, mobile and desktop, based on certain criteria. But also, and this is an important point, Core Web Vitals are going to become a criteria to appear in Google Top Stories. These are the news results that usually appear at the top of search results.

Previously, AMP was a requirement to appear in those Top Stories. AMP is going away. So you still have to meet the requirements for regular Google News inclusion, but AMP is not going to be a requirement anymore to appear in Top Stories. But you are going to have to meet a minimum threshold of Core Web Vitals.

So that's an important point. So this could potentially affect a lot of ranking results. 

When is it going to happen? 

Well, Google has told us that it's going to happen sometime in 2021. Because of COVID-19, they have pushed back the release of this within the algorithm, and they want to give webmasters extra time to prepare.

They have promised us at least six months' notice to get ready. As of this recording, today we have not received that six-month notice. When that updates, we will update this post to let you know when that's going to be. So anytime Google announces a ranking factor change, the big question is: 

How big of a change is this going to be?

How much do I have to worry about these metrics, and how big of results are we going to see shift in Google SERPs? Well, it's important to keep in mind that Google has hundreds of ranking signals. So the impact of any one signal is usually not that great. That said, if your site is particularly poor at some of these metrics, it could make a difference.

If you're in a highly competitive environment, competing against people for highly competitive terms, these can make a difference. So it probably is not going to be huge based on past experience with other ranking signals, but it is still something that we might want to address especially if you're doing pretty poorly.

The other thing to consider, some Google signals have outsized impact beyond their actual ranking factors. Things like page speed, it's probably a pretty small signal, but as users experience it, it can have outsized influence. Google's own studies show that for pages that meet these thresholds of Core Web Vitals, visitors are 24% less likely to abandon the site.

So even without Core Web Vitals being an official Google ranking factor, it can still be important because it provides a better user experience. Twenty-four percent is like gaining 24% more traffic without doing anything, simply by making your site a little more usable. So even without that, it's probably still something we want to consider.

Three signals for Core Web Vitals

So I want to jump briefly into the specifics of Core Web Vitals, what they're measuring. I think people get a little hung up on these because they're very technical. Their eyes kind of glaze over when you talk about them. So my advice would be let's not get hung up on the actual specifics. But I think it is important to understand, in layman's terms, exactly what's being measured.

More importantly, we want to talk about how to measure, identify problems, and fix these things if they happen to be wrong. So very briefly, there are three signals that go into Core Web Vitals. 

1. Largest contentful paint (LCP)

The first being largest contentful paint (LCP). This basically asks, in layman's terms, how fast does the page load? Very easy concept. So this is hugely influenced by the render time, the largest image, video, text in the viewport.

That's what Google is looking at. The largest thing in the viewport, whether it be a desktop page or a mobile page, the largest piece of content, whether it be an image, video or text, how fast does that take to load? Very simple. That can be influenced by your server time, your CSS, JavaScript, client-side rendering.

All of these can play a part. So how fast does it load? 

2. Cumulative layout shift (CLS)

The second thing, cumulative layout shift (CLS). Google is asking with this question, how fast is the page stable? Now I'm sure we've all had an experience where we've loaded a page on our mobile phone, we go to click a button, and at the last second it shifts and we hit something else or something in the page layout has an unexpected layout shift.

That's poor user experience. So that's what Google is measuring with cumulative layout shift. How fast is everything stable? The number one reason that things aren't stable is that image sizes often aren't defined. So if you have an image and it's 400 pixels wide and tall, those need to be defined in the HTML. There are other reasons as well, such as animations and things like that.

But that's what they're measuring, cumulative layout shift. 

3. First input delay (FID)

Third thing within these Core Web Vitals metrics is first input delay (FID). So this question is basically asking, how fast is the page interactive? To put it another way, when a user clicks on something, a button or a JavaScript event, how fast can the browser start to process that and produce a result?

It's not a good experience when you click on something and nothing happens or it's very slow. So that's what that's measuring. That can depend on your JavaScript, third-party code, and there are different ways to dig in and fix those. So these three all together are Core Web Vitals and play into the page experience signals. So like I said, let's not get hung up on these.

How to measure & fix

Let's focus on what's really important. If you have a problem, how do you measure how you're doing with Core Web Vitals, and how do you fix those issues? Google has made it very, very simple to discover. The first thing you want to do is look in Search Console. They have a new report there — Core Web Vitals. They will tell you all your URLs that they have in their index, whether they're poor, needs improvement, or good.

If you have URLs that are poor or needs improvement, that's when you want to investigate and find out what's wrong and how you can improve those pages. Every report in Search Console links to a report in Page Speed Insights. This is probably the number-one tool you want to use to diagnose your problems with Core Web Vitals.

It's powered by Lighthouse, a suite of performance metric tools. You want to focus on the opportunities and diagnostics. Now I'm going to be honest with you. Some of these can get pretty technical. You may need a web developer who is an expert in page speed or someone else who can comfortably address these problems if you're not very technical.

We have a number of resources here on the Moz Blog dealing with page speed. We'll link to those in the comments below. But generally, you want to go through and you want to address each of these opportunities and diagnostics to improve your Core Web Vitals score and get these out of poor and needs improvement into good. Now if you don't have access to Search Console, Google has put these reports in many, many tools across the web.

Lighthouse, of course, you can run for any page. Chrome Dev Tools, the Crux API. All of these are available and resources for you to find out exactly how your site is performing with Core Web Vitals and go in and we have until sometime in 2021 to address these things. All right, that's it.

That's Core Web Vitals in a nutshell. We've got more than six months to go. Get ready. At least at a very minimum dive in and see how your site is performing and see if we can find some easy wins to get our sites up to speed. All right. Thanks, everybody.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Introducing the Moz API for Google Sheets

Posted by DaveSottimano

We’ve officially released the Moz API for Google Sheets and want to take you on a quick feature tour.

This Google Sheets add-on allows users to gather Moz URL metrics easily without using code directly in a Google Sheet and provides a few extra functions to help you manipulate data.

In the past, if you wanted link metrics for hundreds of URLs, you either had to enter them manually one at a time, or you needed technical expertise to use the LinkScape API. So, I built this free Google Sheets add-on, and now you can pull link metrics for those URLs in seconds, no coding required.

Here are a few use cases for the Moz API for Sheets add-on:

  1. Get Moz Spam Score in metric to assist toxic link analysis (paid plan required).
  2. Get domain authority and page authority in bulk to help you assess the quality of sites for link outreach, domain valuation, and more (available with free and paid plans).
  3. Use built-in custom formulas to parse URLs, save URLs to the Wayback Archive, etc., all without having to write complicated nested formulas or use regular expressions.

Here’s what you can expect as output from the add-on:



The only thing you’ll need to get started is a Google account and Mozscape API credentials (a free plan is available).

Important limitations:

  1. The free plan will allow the collection of domain authority and page authority for 200 URLs at a time, at a rate of 10 URLs per 10 seconds.
  2. The paid plan will allow all metrics for 10,000 URLs at a time with no rate limiting.

Once you have the add-on installed, you’ll need to enter your Mozscape API credentials to activate the tool. From there, simply select your metrics and add in your URLs to get the report working.

The formulas tab

There are a few helpful custom formulas that come with the add-on. Simply click on the “formulas” tab at the bottom of the add-on to see them. As you type any of these formulas, a help file will pop up to guide you.

For example, use the =PARSE_URL formula to quickly parse URLs into the root, path, anchor, and more without having to write novel-length formulas or remember difficult regular expressions.

Stuck? Click on the “help” tab to display additional information.

 

That's it! We hope you enjoy the add-on and we welcome your feedback.

P.S. A massive thank you to Britney Muller and Cyrus Shepard for giving me the opportunity to build the add-on and being incredibly patient/helpful during the process.

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MozCon Virtual 2020: Top Takeaways from Day One

Posted by cheryldraper

Today marked day one of the first-ever MozCon Virtual! Even though we weren’t together in person, it was so exciting to get the best people in the industry together again.

So much of the day was different from what we expected six months ago, but the one thing we can always count on from our speakers is a MASSIVE amount of value. We’re talking insights, game plans, cheat codes — you name it, we’ve got it — and this year was no different.

Let’s get to it.

Sarah Bird — Welcome & State of the Industry

It’s always inspiring to hear from our fearless leader. Sarah hit on some of the changes that we’ve seen this year and how they’ve affected both us as people and us as an industry.

Sarah also laid out her thoughts on major SEO trends for 2020.

In closing, Sarah reminded us that we rise and fall collectively and that in the end, the world is our work. In difficult times we must all come together.

We’re all so happy to be able to create this virtual experience and allow for everyone to have something (somewhat) predictable to look forward to for two days.

Andy Crestodina — Thought Leadership and SEO: The 3 Key Elements and Search Ranking Strategies

Andy started off by walking us through the three key aspects of thought leadership: personal brand, taking a stand, and proving expert insights.

Then, very kindly, Andy laid out exactly what to do to fulfill each aspect.

Expert Insights

  • Create original research
  • Write books
  • Share novel ideas

Take a stand

  • Have a strong opinion
  • Don’t shy away from controversy
  • Inspire others

Build a personal brand

  • Have a social following
  • Be cited by others
  • Be influential

This presentation was 163 slides of actionable insights. It’s definitely one that we’ll have to watch a few times over!

Shannon McGirk — Great Expectations: The Truth About Digital PR Campaigns

Shannon came to set us straight: we aren’t showing the full picture when it comes to Digital PR, and it’s quite toxic.

She started out by showing a few of her own tweets and pointing out that she rarely, if ever, shares anything about campaigns that don’t “go viral”.

Shannon explained that we talk about Digital PR campaigns as if the majority of them are “huge wins”. The reality, however, is that most of our campaigns will be steady performers and the huge wins are actually just anomalies.

How we talk about campaigns:

How campaigns actually perform:



Aira put out a state of digital PR study and found that most campaigns only got between one and 20 links. When Shannon broke down the numbers for Aira, they were consistent: about 17 links were gained per campaign!

What do we do about this? Shannon challenged us to take as much time looking into what didn’t work as we do looking into what did work.

Using a custom made success matrix, Shannon and her team were able to spot the trends for both “successful” and “not successful” campaigns and implement plans accordingly.

Her parting strategy:

  1. Take off the pressure of “virality” and focus on steady performers and fails.
  2. Realize that steady performers can consistently impact weighty SEO KPIs.
  3. Use the success matrix to review campaigns and catch trends early.

Robin Lord — Whatever You Do, Put Billboards in Seattle: Getting Brand Awareness Data from Google

Wow! Our minds are still blown from this presentation. Robin took us through some extremely valuable workflows for collecting and analyzing data.

When it comes to determining the success of your “brand,” the numbers aren’t straightforward. There are a lot of data points to take into consideration. In fact, Robin started off by asking us if we used multiple datasets, collected data on our competitors, and got granular. Needless to say, many of us knew we were in for a ride.

Honestly, this presentation was so jam-packed with information that we had a hard time keeping up! Thankfully, at the end of his presentation, Robin laid out step-by-step instructions on how he collected, compiled, and analyzed all of this data.

Alexis Sanders — The Science of Seeking Your Customer

Determining your audience is about more than demographics and affinity data; it’s about truly understanding your audience as people.

Alexis took us through four questions we should try to answer when defining our audience:

  1. What’s the key information?
  2. What are they like at their core?
  3. How do they choose products?
  4. What’s their relationship with technology?

She even provided a list of free and paid resources that anyone can use to collect this information.

Alexis also explained that audience research is not something that happens only once (at the beginning of a campaign), but instead should inform the entire customer journey.

Her parting words encouraged us to learn fast and become in-tune with the constant change, instead of always trying to guess correctly!

Phillip Nottingham — How to Build a Global Brand Without a Global Budget

The marketing funnel is broken, we all know that. But if we aren’t focusing on getting people to work down a funnel, what are we working towards? Building our brand. Right. Well, how do we go about doing that?

Phil blew our minds with insights on how he helped Wistia change their mindset when it came to creating “brand awareness.” The first step was to stop calling it brand awareness and instead call it brand affinity.

Building an affinity to a brand means spending time with a brand. A KPI that usually gets lost in the mix of impressions, clicks, etc.

In his presentation, Phil breaks down the exact method he used with Wistia to get people to spend as much time on the site watching four videos as they did reading all 1,170 blogs.

Greg Gifford shared a great summary slide here:

Dr. Pete — Moving Targets: Keywords in Crisis

We were so thrilled to have Dr. Pete back to speak at his NINTH MozCon this year. While this year’s conference was unlike any other, his presentation was just as insightful.

Dr. Pete talked all about spotting trends. Nothing about this year could have been predicted. There was no way that hair salons could have predicted that “how to cut hair” was going to be an opportunity keyword.

However, there is still a way to capitalize on these opportunities as we spot them.

Dr. Pete showed us exactly how we can use tools that we’re familiar with, and a few that we might not be familiar with, to spot trends and turn them into opportunities including Google Trends, Pinterest, Twitter search, and even Boing Boing Store.

There were some real gems in this presentation!

Needless to say, Dr. Pete has officially gone nine straight years impressing MozCon.

Francine Rodriguez — Let It Go: How to Embrace Automation and Get Way More Done

2020 has really come out swinging. Francine voiced exactly what we were all thinking: “that’s enough!”

We have enough to worry about, do we really need to keep adding to the list?

When it comes to search engine marketing, there are a lot of moving parts and it can be excruciating to try and keep up with it all. There is a solution though: ROBOTS! (Someone call Roger!)

Google is constantly learning, so why not let them leverage their new knowledge?

Francine walked us through the different areas of PPC automation:

  • Bidding
  • Ad copy
  • Smart campaigns
  • Keyword matching

If you’re looking for a great example of letting go and embracing automation, Microsoft Ads is a good place to go. They allow you to import all of your Google Ads right into Microsoft ads so they can start running right away.

Rob Ousbey — A Novel Approach to Scraping Websites

What do we even say about this presentation? Rob is one of a kind.

If you take a look at the #MozCon feed on Twitter, you’ll notice far fewer people live-tweeting — that’s because they were busy taking notes!

Rob showed us how he scrapes websites (including the big G) in seconds using a few lines of code. He walked us through every piece of code needed to scrape G2, Google, and even Google’s Lighthouse tool.

He wrapped it all up by showing off exactly what he did to integrate Lighthouse data into Moz Pro’s SERP analysis.

Again, this is going to be one of those presentations that you have to rewatch multiple times. Or maybe even at half-speed!

Ross Simmonds — Designing a Content Engine: Going from Ideation to Creation to Distribution

We closed out day one with the Coolest of Cool.

Ross came in hot with some Disney references to make us think.

Disney movies — where do the storylines usually come from? Other stories!

In recent years we’ve seen Disney “revise” their previous movies to make them fit today’s world. And actually, some of the original Disney movies were “remixes” of Shakespeare’s plays.

Ross loves his four Rs (revise, remix, remove, redirect), and this year he gave us even more actionable plans.

This closing session really encouraged us to put on our “Sherlock Homeboy” hat and get curious about what others are doing, and how we can do it better.

A few places to find inspiration for innovation that Ross mentioned:

  • Your favorite website’s site map
  • Wayback machine for industry leaders’ sites
  • Wikipedia

There’s so much to do

For now, we're calling it a day and getting some rest because we get to do it all again tomorrow!

If you want to access the speaker slides, you can sign in with your Moz Community credentials and download them on this page.

If you did join us today, what was your favorite session? Your biggest takeaway? We can’t wait to see you tomorrow!

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!

New Google Shopping Ads Policy Against Phishing & Scamming

Google has updated its Google Shopping Ads policies to add two new "unacceptable business practices." These include (1) scamming users by concealing or misstating information about the merchant's business, or product, or service and (2) offer destinations that use "phishing" techniques to gather user information.

Google: To Say All Link Building Is Bad Would Be Wrong

There you have it, Google's John Mueller said not all link building is bad. He said on Twitter "there are lots of ways to work on getting links that are fine, and useful for both the site and the rest of the web." "To say all link building is bad would be wrong," he added.

SEO Negotiation: How to Ace the Business Side of SEO — Best of Whiteboard Friday

Posted by BritneyMuller

SEO has become more important than ever, but it isn't all meta tags and content. A huge part of the success you'll see is tied up in the inevitable business negotiations. In this helpful Whiteboard Friday from August of 2018, our resident expert Britney Muller walks us through a bevy of smart tips and considerations that will strengthen your SEO negotiation skills, whether you're a seasoned pro or a newbie to the practice.

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

Video Transcription

Hey, Moz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. So today we are going over all things SEO negotiation, so starting to get into some of the business side of SEO. As most of you know, negotiation is all about leverage.

It's what you have to offer and what the other side is looking to gain and leveraging that throughout the process. So something that you can go in and confidently talk about as SEOs is the fact that SEO has around 20X more opportunity than both mobile and desktop PPC combined.

This is a really, really big deal. It's something that you can showcase. These are the stats to back it up. We will also link to the research to this down below. Good to kind of have that in your back pocket. Aside from this, you will obviously have your audit. So potential client, you're looking to get this deal.

Get the most out of the SEO audit

☑ Highlight the opportunities, not the screw-ups

You're going to do an audit, and something that I have always suggested is that instead of highlighting the things that the potential client is doing wrong, or screwed up, is to really highlight those opportunities. Start to get them excited about what it is that their site is capable of and that you could help them with. I think that sheds a really positive light and moves you in the right direction.

☑ Explain their competitive advantage

I think this is really interesting in many spaces where you can sort of say, "Okay, your competitors are here, and you're currently here and this is why,"and to show them proof. That makes them feel as though you have a strong understanding of the landscape and can sort of help them get there.

☑ Emphasize quick wins

I almost didn't put this in here because I think quick wins is sort of a sketchy term. Essentially, you really do want to showcase what it is you can do quickly, but you want to...

☑ Under-promise, over-deliver

You don't want to lose trust or credibility with a potential client by overpromising something that you can't deliver. Get off to the right start. Under-promise, over-deliver.

Smart negotiation tactics

☑ Do your research

Know everything you can about this clientPerhaps what deals they've done in the past, what agencies they've worked with. You can get all sorts of knowledge about that before going into negotiation that will really help you.

☑ Prioritize your terms

So all too often, people go into a negotiation thinking me, me, me, me, when really you also need to be thinking about, "Well, what am I willing to lose?What can I give up to reach a point that we can both agree on?" Really important to think about as you go in.

☑ Flinch!

This is a very old, funny negotiation tactic where when the other side counters, you flinch. You do this like flinch, and you go, "Oh, is that the best you can do?" It's super silly. It might be used against you, in which case you can just say, "Nice flinch." But it does tend to help you get better deals.

So take that with a grain of salt. But I look forward to your feedback down below. It's so funny.

☑ Use the words "fair" and "comfortable"

The words "fair" and "comfortable" do really well in negotiations. These words are inarguable. You can't argue with fair. "I want to do what is comfortable for us both. I want us both to reach terms that are fair."

You want to use these terms to put the other side at ease and to also help bridge that gap where you can come out with a win-win situation.

☑ Never be the key decision maker

I see this all too often when people go off on their own, and instantly on their business cards and in their head and email they're the CEO.

They are this. You don't have to be that, and you sort of lose leverage when you are. When I owned my agency for six years, I enjoyed not being CEO. I liked having a board of directors that I could reach out to during a negotiation and not being the sole decision maker. Even if you feel that you are the sole decision maker, I know that there are people that care about you and that are looking out for your business that you could contact as sort of a business mentor, and you could use that in negotiation. You can use that to help you. Something to think about.

Tips for negotiation newbies

So for the newbies, a lot of you are probably like, "I can never go on my own. I can never do these things." I'm from northern Minnesota. I have been super awkward about discussing money my whole life for any sort of business deal. If I could do it, I promise any one of you watching this can do it.

☑ Power pose!

I'm not kidding, promise. Some tips that I learned, when I had my agency, was to power pose before negotiations. So there's a great TED talk on this that we can link to down below. I do this before most of my big speaking gigs, thanks to Mike Ramsey who told me to do this at SMX Advanced 3 years ago.

Go ahead and power pose. Feel good. Feel confident. Amp yourself up.

☑ Walk the walk

You've got to when it comes to some of these things and to just feel comfortable in that space.

☑ Good > perfect

Know that good is better than perfect. A lot of us are perfectionists, and we just have to execute good. Trying to be perfect will kill us all.

☑ Screw imposter syndrome

Many of the speakers that I go on different conference circuits with all struggle with this. It's totally normal, but it's good to acknowledge that it's so silly. So to try to take that silly voice out of your head and start to feel good about the things that you are able to offer.

Take inspiration where you can find it

I highly suggest you check out Brian Tracy's old-school negotiation podcasts. He has some old videos. They're so good. But he talks about leverage all the time and has two really great examples that I love so much. One being jade merchants. So these jade merchants that would take out pieces of jade and they would watch people's reactions piece by piece that they brought out.

So they knew what piece interested this person the most, and that would be the higher price. It was brilliant. Then the time constraints is he has an example of people doing business deals in China. When they landed, the Chinese would greet them and say, "Oh, can I see your return flight ticket? I just want to know when you're leaving."

They would not make a deal until that last second. The more you know about some of these leverage tactics, the more you can be aware of them if they were to be used against you or if you were to leverage something like that. Super interesting stuff.

Take the time to get to know their business

☑ Tie in ROI

Lastly, just really take the time to get to know someone's business. It just shows that you care, and you're able to prioritize what it is that you can deliver based on where they make the most money off of the products or services that they offer. That helps you tie in the ROI of the things that you can accomplish.

☑ Know the order of products/services that make them the most money

One real quick example was my previous company. We worked with plastic surgeons, and we really worked hard to understand that funnel of how people decide to get any sort of elective procedure. It came down to two things.

It was before and after photos and price. So we knew that we could optimize for those two things and do very well in their space. So showing that you care, going the extra mile, sort of tying all of these things together, I really hope this helps. I look forward to the feedback down below. I know this was a little bit different Whiteboard Friday, but I thought it would be a fun topic to cover.

So thank you so much for joining me on this edition of Whiteboard Friday. I will see you all soon. Bye.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com


Scoop up more SEO insights at MozCon Virtual this July

Don't miss exclusive data, tips, workflows, and advice from Britney and our other fantastic speakers at this year's MozCon Virtual! Chock full of the SEO industry's top thought leadership, for the first time ever MozCon will be completely remote-friendly. It's like 20+ of your favorite Whiteboard Fridays on vitamins and doubled in size, plus interactive Q&A, virtual networking, and full access to the video bundle:

Save my spot at MozCon Virtual!

Still not convinced? Moz VP Product, Rob Ousbey, is here to share five highly persuasive reasons to attend!

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!

Manager Accounts Now On Google Ads Mobile App

The mobile app for iOS and Android for Google Ads now supports manager accounts. Google said "today, we're launching manager accounts in the mobile app so you can easily view and manage all of your Google Ads accounts in one place."

How to Bring Your Best Self to the Online Conference Season

Posted by cheryldraper

Conference season is here! Of course, this year it looks a bit different. Instead of signing in at the front table and snagging seats next to some new pals, you’ll be setting up your computer as the main stage.

For some, this is going to be a major learning curve. Virtual events can be tougher to follow and engage with. To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of best practices that will help you get ready to take on any online event you choose to attend this year.

Don't forget, if you haven't yet, there is still time to purchase your MozCon Virtual ticket!

Join us for MozCon Virtual!

Set your intention

To get the most out of your online event, you need to go in with an intention. That way you’ll be more likely to gain something from the experience.

Ask yourself, what are you hoping to achieve? Some examples could be:

  • Gain a business opportunity
  • Learn more about how to recover from the latest algorithm update
  • Find ways to increase efficiency within your SEO processes
  • Feel more confident selling your services

Schedule accordingly

    Many events will provide you with schedules ahead of time — look at them! (Pssst...if you haven’t yet, now is the perfect time to check out the agenda for MozCon Virtual.)

    These schedules can help you go into the conference with a clear idea of how you’re going to spend your time. Going in with a plan will allow you to focus on the content of the event and your intentions each day, as opposed to wasting time frantically trying to decide what sessions you’re going to attend.

    Choosing your sessions

    Once you know what your intentions are and you have the event schedule, determine what will be the most beneficial content for you. This can be especially helpful when the event has multiple tracks, very few break times, etc.

    Choosing your sessions may come down to a process of elimination, and it’s much easier to eliminate sessions when you have some sort of goal in mind.

    Things to consider when choosing your sessions are:

    • The topic
    • The speaker
    • The time
    • The availability of on-demand videos post-conference

    Your intention may be to broaden your horizons this year, so instead of opting to see presentations with the same topics or speakers that you saw last year, you may see someone new discussing something you find interesting but haven’t had time to explore. You may have a tight schedule and not be able to make anything past 3pm. If some of the sessions will be available after the conference, it may be worth checking out topics you wouldn’t have otherwise.

    Know when to take a break

    When you’re planning out your schedule, you need to make sure you build in time for breaks. This means time to eat, time to decompress, time to refill your coffee cup, and time to do work or home stuff.

    Conferences usually have a lot of breaks and that’s for good reason. Ideally, you’re going to be learning a lot. But if you try to learn it all at once without giving your brain a break, very little of it will stick.

    So, be sure to listen to your body. If you start to feel foggy or overwhelmed, take a break, grab some water, and move around a bit.

    Build in networking time

    Something else you want to account for when planning your virtual event agenda is when you’re going to network. Some conferences will have time to network built in, but others won’t.

    You’ll want to dedicate time to get to know the other attendees by joining conversations and adding people on social media. This will look a bit different in the virtual space, as you won’t be meeting for coffee or chatting in the lobby, but try to stay creative! Zoom chats and video calls are a great way to connect with new or old friends.

    Check out our recent blog on networking online like a champ for more tips.

    Recap at the end of the day

    At the end of each day, take some time to reflect. Think back to what your intention was, what you did throughout the day to fulfill that intention, and what you can put into action moving forward.

    This is a great exercise to ensure you’re making the most out of the event. Far too often, we take in all of the information and do nothing with it! That’s why we like to suggest creating at least three action items at the end of each day.

    Gather the essentials

      Okay, it’s the first day of the conference and you’re about to jump in front of the computer. BUT! Before you do that, you need to make sure you have everything you need to be successful.

      Get a clean notebook or start a fresh doc

      Having a clean slate for notes will help you stay focused while attending any conference (virtual or otherwise). So grab a new, crisp notebook or create a new document file on your computer before you get started.

      If you decide to go the computer route, be sure you close all other tabs and turn off notifications! You want to be sure that your attention stays on the conference.

      Taking notes during a virtual conference

      With that new notebook or document of yours, you’ll want to take the most effective notes possible. With that in mind, here are a few things to take note of:

      • What you learned
      • How can you apply it
      • What can you share with your team

      To ensure that you’re on track to capture each of these things, when you go into each session, write your intention for the session at the top of your notes page. Then, divide your pages by “what I learned,” “how to apply,” and “what to share.” This will keep your notes nice and organized and give you a visual cue on whether or not you’re getting what you expected out of the session. It will also make your end-of-day recap much easier.

      When it comes to virtual events, one of the biggest benefits is that you often get the slide decks and video bundles afterward. We suggest finding out whether the event you’re attending offers those things before you start taking notes, as it may lighten your note-taking burden a bit.

      Have some snacks, water, and coffee (or tea)

      Perhaps the most important things to have during a virtual conference are the snacks and drinks! As you know, at MozCon, we take this part very seriously, so we expect nothing less if you attend our virtual event.

      Brain food can help you stay focused. Some of our favorite snacks are granola bars, nuts, veggies, and of course, donuts. However, you have full control over the spread this year.

      Be sure to also have plenty of water and your favorite caffeinated beverage as well!

      Show up

        You’re ready to go! All that’s left is showing up. With virtual events, this can be hard to do. Especially if you know that the content is going to be available after the event is over. But there is so much to be gained by being a part of the live event and the conversations happening around it.

        So show up, and show out!

        PS: If you’re looking for a virtual event to attend this year, Roger is still hoping to give you a virtual hug at MozCon Virtual 2020.

        Join us for MozCon Virtual!

        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!

        GoogleBot Is Able To Add Products To Your Shopping Cart

        As I covered at Search Engine Land last night, according to a Wall Street Journal article, Google confirmed that it has systems that automatically will add products to your e-commerce site's shopping cart. It does this to verify the price merchants give them matches what is found in the shopping cart.

        How spam reports are used at Google

        Thanks to our users, we receive hundreds of spam reports every day. While many of the spam reports lead to manual actions, they represent a small fraction of the manual actions we issue. Most of the manual actions come from the work our internal teams regularly do to detect spam and improve search results. Today we’re updating our Help Center articles to better reflect this approach: we use spam reports only to improve our spam detection algorithms. Spam reports play a significant role: they help us understand where our automated spam detection systems may be missing coverage. Most of the time, it’s much more impactful for us to fix an underlying issue with our automated detection systems than it is to take manual action on a single URL or site. In theory, if our automated systems were perfect, we would catch all spam and not need reporting systems at all.…