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Common Technical SEO Problems and How to Solve Them

septiembre 10

Posted by Paddy_Moogan

I love technical SEO (most of the time). However, it can be frustrating to come across the same site problems over and over again. In the years I've been doing SEO, I'm still surprised to see so many different websites suffering from the same issues.  

This post outlines some of the most common problems I've encountered when doing site audits, along with some not-so-common ones at the end. Hopefully the solutions will help you when you come across these issues, because chances are that you will at some point!
 

1. Uppercase vs Lowercase URLs

From my experience, this problem is most common on websites that use .NET. The problem stems from the fact that the server is configured to respond to URLs with uppercase letters and not to redirect or rewrite to the lowercase version.  
 
I will admit that recently, this problem hasn't been as common as it was because generally, the search engines have gotten much better at choosing the canonical version and ignoring the duplicates. However, I've seen too many instances of search engines not always doing this properly, which means that you should make it explicit and not rely on the search engines to figure it out for themselves.
 
How to solve:
 
There is a URL rewrite module which can help solve this problem on IIS 7 servers. The tool has a nice option within the interface that allows you to enforce lowercase URLs. If you do this, a rule will be added to the web config file which will solve the problem.
 
 
More resources for solutions:
 
 

2.  Multiple versions of the homepage

Again, this is a problem I've encountered more with .NET websites, but it can happen quite easily on other platforms. If I start a site audit on a site which I know is .NET, I will almost immediately go and check if this page exists:
 
www.example.com/default.aspx
 
The verdict? It usually does! This is a duplicate of the homepage that the search engines can usually find via navigation or XML sitemaps.
 
Other platforms can also generate URLs like this:
 
www.example.com/index.html
www.example.com/home
 
I won't get into the minor details of how these pages are generated because the solution is quite simple. Again, modern search engines can deal with this problem, but it is still best practice to remove the issue in the first place and make it clear.
 
How to solve:
 
Finding these pages can be a bit tricky as different platforms can generate different URL structures, so the solution can be a bit of a guessing game. Instead, do a crawl of your site, export the crawl into a CSV, filter by the META title column, and search for the homepage title. You'll easily be able to find duplicates of your homepage.
 
I always prefer to solve this problem by adding a 301 redirect to the duplicate version of the page which points to the correct version. You can also solve the issue by using the rel=canonical tag, but I stand by a 301 redirect in most cases.
 
Another solution is to conduct a site crawl using a tool like Screaming Frog to find internal links pointing to the duplicate page. You can then go in and edit the duplicate pages so they point directly to the correct URL, rather than having internal links going via a 301 and losing a bit of link equity.
 
Additional tip – you can usually decide if this is actually a problem by looking at the Google cache of each URL. If Google hasn't figured out the duplicate URLs are the same, you will often see different PageRank levels as well as different cache dates.
 
More resources for solutions:
 
 

3. Query parameters added to the end of URLs

This problem tends to come up most often on eCommerce websites that are database driven. There of a chance of occurrence on any site, but the problem tends to be bigger on eCommerce websites as there are often loads of product attributes and filtering options such as colour, size, etc. Here is an example from Go Outdoors (not a client):
 
 
In this case, the URLs users click on are relatively friendly in terms of SEO, but quite often you can end up with URLs such as this:
 
www.example.com/product-category?colour=12
 
This example would filter the product category by a certain colour. Filtering in this capacity is good for users but may not be great for search, especially if customers do not search for the specific type of product using colour. If this is the case, this URL is not a great landing page to target with certain keywords.
 
Another possible issue that has a tendency to use up TONS of crawl budget is when said parameters are combined together. To make things worse, sometimes the parameters can be combined in different orders but will return the same content. For example:
 
www.example.com/product-category?colour=12&size=5
www.example.com/product-category?size=5&colour=12
 
Both of these URLs would return the same content but because the paths are different, the pages could be interpreted as duplicate content.
 
I worked on a client website a couple of years back who had this issue. We worked out that with all the filtering options they had, there were over a BILLION URLs that could be crawled by Google. This number was off the charts when you consider that there were only about 20,000 products offered.
 
Remember, Google does allocate crawl budget based on your PageRank. You need to ensure that this budget is being used in the most efficient way possible.
 
How to solve:
 
Before going further, I want to address another common, related problem: the URLs may not be SEO friendly because they are not database driven.  This isn't the issue I'm concerned about in this particular scenario as I'm more concerned about wasted crawl budget and having pages indexed which do not need to be, but it is still relevant.
 
The first place to start is addressing which pages you want to allow Google to crawl and index. This decision should be driven by your keyword research, and you need to cross reference all database attributes with your core target keywords. Let's continue with the theme from Go Outdoors for our example:
 
Here are our core keywords:
  • Waterproof jackets
  • Hiking boots
  • Women's walking trousers
On an eCommerce website, each of these products will have attributes associated with them which will be part of the database. Some common examples include:
  • Size (i.e. Large)
  • Colour (i.e. Black)
  • Price (i.e. £49.99)
  • Brand (i.e. North Face)
Your job is to find out which of these attributes are part of the keywords used to find the products. You also need to determine what combination (if any) of these attributes are used by your audience.
 
In doing so, you may find that there is a high search volume for keywords that include "North Face" + "waterproof jackets." This means that you will want a landing page for "North Face waterproof jackets" to be crawlable and indexable. You may also want to make sure that the database attribute has an SEO friendly URL, so rather than "waterproof-jackets/?brand=5" you will choose "waterproof-jackets/north-face/." You also want to make sure that these URLs are part of the navigation structure of your website to ensure a good flow of PageRank so that users can find these pages easily.
 
On the other hand, you may find that there is not much search volume for keywords that combine "North Face" with "Black" (for example, "black North Face jackets"). This means that you probably do not want the page with these two attributes to be crawlable and indexable.
 
Once you have a clear picture of which attributes you want indexed and which you don't, it is time for the next step, which is dependant on whether the URLs are already indexed or not.
 
If the URLs are not already indexed, the simplest step to take is to add the URL structure to your robots.txt file. You may need to play around with some Regex to achieve this. Make sure you test your regex properly so you don't block anything by accident. Also, be sure to use the Fetch as Google feature in Webmaster Tools. It's important to note that if the URLs are already indexed, adding them to your robots.txt file will NOT get them out of the index.
 
If the URLs are indexed, I'm afraid you need to use a plaster to fix the problem: the rel=canonical tag. In many cases, you are not fortunate enough to work on a website when it is being developed. The result is that you may inherit a situation like the one above and not be able to fix the core problem. In cases such as this, the rel=canonical tag serves as a plaster put over the issue with the hope that you can fix it properly later. You'll want to add the rel=canonical tag to the URLs you do not want indexed and point to the most relevant URL which you do want indexed.
 
More resources for solutions:
 
 

4. Soft 404 errors 

This happens more often than you'd expect. A user will not notice anything different, but search engine crawlers sure do.  
 
A soft 404 is a page that looks like a 404 but returns a HTTP status code 200. In this instance, the user sees some text along the lines of "Sorry the page you requested cannot be found." But behind the scenes, a code 200 is telling search engines that the page is working correctly. This disconnect can cause problems with pages being crawled and indexed when you do not want them to be.
 
A soft 404 also means you cannot spot real broken pages and identify areas of your website where users are receiving a bad experience. From a link building perspective (I had to mention it somewhere!), neither solution is a good option. You may have incoming links to broken URLs, but the links will be hard to track down and redirect to the correct page.
 
How to solve:
 
Fortunately, this is a relatively simply fix for a developer who can set the page to return a 404 status code instead of a 200. Whilst you're there, you can have some fun and make a cool 404 page for your user's enjoyment. Here are some examples of awesome 404 pages, and I have to point to Distilled's own page here :)
 
To find soft 404s, you can use the feature in Google Webmaster Tools which will tell you about the ones Google has detected:
 
 
You can also perform a manual check by going to a broken URL on your site (such as www.example.com/5435fdfdfd) and seeing what status code you get. A tool I really like for checking the status code is Web Sniffer, or you can use the Ayima tool if you use Google Chrome.
 
More resources for solutions:
 
 

5. 302 redirects instead of 301 redirects

Again, this is an easy redirect for developers to get wrong because, from a user's perspective, they can't tell the difference. However, the search engines treat these redirects very differently. Just to recap, a 301 redirect is permanent and the search engines will treat it as such; they'll pass link equity across to the new page. A 302 redirect is a temporary redirect and the search engines will not pass link equity because they expect the original page to come back at some point.
 
How to solve:
 
To find 302 redirected URLs, I recommend using a deep crawler such as Screaming Frog or the IIS SEO Toolkit. You can then filter by 302s and check to see if they should really be 302s, or if they should be 301s instead.
 
To fix the problem, you will need to ask your developers to change the rule so that a 301 redirect is used rather than a 302 redirect.
 
More resources for solutions:
 
 

6. Broken/Outdated sitemaps

Whilst not essential, XML sitemaps are very useful to the search engines to make sure they can find all URLs that you care about. They can give the search engines a nudge in the right direction. Unfortunately, some XML sitemaps are generated one-time-only and quickly become outdated, causing them to contain broken links and not contain new URLs.  
 
Ideally, your XML sitemaps should be updated regularly so that broken URLs are removed and new URLs are added. This is more important if you're a large website that adds new pages all the time. Bing has also said that they have a threshold for "dirt" in a sitemap and if the threshold is hit, they will not trust it as much.
 
How to solve:
 
First, you should do an audit of your current sitemap to find broken links. This great tool from Mike King can do the job.
 
Second, you should speak to your developers about making your XML sitemap dynamic so that it updates regularly. Depending on your resources, this could be once a day, once a week, or once a month. There will be some development time required here, but it will save you (and them) plenty of time in the long run.
 
An extra tip here: you can experiment and create sitemaps which only contain new products and have these particular sitemaps update more regularly than your standard sitemaps. You could also do a bit of extra-lifting if you have dev resources to create a sitemap which only contains URLs which are not indexed.
 
More resources for solutions:
 
 

A few uncommon technical problems

I want to include a few problems that are not common and can actually be tricky to spot. The issues I'll share have all been seen recently on my client projects.
 

7. Ordering your robots.txt file wrong

I came across an example of this very recently, which led to a number of pages being crawled and indexed which were blocked in robots.txt.
 
The reason that the URLs in this case were crawled was because the commands within the robots.txt file was wrong. Individually the commands were correct, but they didn't work together correctly.
 
 
Google explicitly say this in their guidelines but I have to be honest, I hadn't really come across this problem before so it was a bit of a surprise.
 
How to solve:
 
Use your robots commands carefully and if you have separate commands for Googlebot, make sure you also tell Googlebot what other commands to follow – even if they have already been mentioned in the catchall command. Make use of the testing feature in Google Webmaster Tools that allows you to test how Google will react to your robots.txt file.
 

8.  Invisible character in robots.txt

I recently did a technical audit for one of my clients and noticed a warning in Google Webmaster Tools stating that "Syntax was not understood" on one of the lines. When I viewed the file and tested it, everything looked fine. I showed the issue to Tom Anthony who fetched the file via the command line and he diagnosed the problem: an invisible character had somehow found it's way into the file.  
 
I managed to look rather silly at this point by re-opening the file and looking for it!
 
How to solve:
 
The fix is quite simple. Simply rewrite the robots.txt file and run it through the command line again to re-check. If you're unfamiliar with the command line, check out this post by Craig Bradford over at Distilled.
 

9.  Google crawling base64 URLs

This problem was a very interesting one we recently came across, and another one that Tom spotted. One of our clients saw a massive increase in the number of 404 errors being reported in Webmaster Tools. We went in to take a look and found that nearly all of the errors were being generated by URLs in this format:
 
/aWYgeW91IGhhdmUgZGVjb2RlZA0KdGhpcyB5b3Ugc2hvdWxkIGRlZmluaXRlbHkNCmdldCBhIGxpZmU=/
 
Webmaster tools will tell you where these 404s are linked from, so we went to the page to findout how this URL was being generarted.  As hard as we tried, we couldn't find it. After lots of digging, we were able to see that these were authentication tokens generated by Ruby on Rails to try and prevent cross site requests. There were a few in the code of the page, and Google were trying to crawl them!  
 
In addition to the main, problem, the authentication tokens are all generated on the fly and are unique, hence why we couldn't find the ones that Google were telling us about.
 
How to solve:
 
In this case, we were quite lucky because we were able to add some Regex to the robots.txt file which told Google to stop crawling these URLs. It took a bit of time for Webmaster Tools to settle down, but eventually everything was calm.
 

10. Misconfigured servers

This issue is actually written by Tom, who worked on this particular client project. We encountered a problem with a website's main landing/login page not ranking. The page had been ranking and at some point had dropped out, and the client was at a loss. The pages all looked fine, loaded fine, and didn't seem to be doing any cloaking as far as we could see.

After lots of investigation and digging, it turned out that there was a subtle problem caused by a mis-configuration of the server software, with the HTTP headers from their server.

Normally an 'Accept' header would be sent by a client (your browser) to state which file types it understands, and very rarely this would modify what the server does. The server when it sends a file always sends a "Content-Type" header to specify if the file is HTML/PDF/JPEG/something else.

Their server (they're using Nginx) was returning a "Content-Type" that was a mirror of the first fiel type found in the clients "Accept" header. If you sent an accept header that started "text/html," then that is what the server would send back as the content-type header. This is peculiar behaviour, but it wasn't being noticed because browsers almost always send "text/html" as the start of their Accept header.

However, Googlebot sends "Accept: */*" when it is crawling (meaning it accepts anything).

(See: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8&q=cache:http://www.ericgiguere.com/tools/http-header-viewer.html)

I found if I sent a */* header this caused the server to fall down as */* is not a valid content-type and the server would crumble and send an error response.

Changing your browsers user agent to Googlebot does not influence the HTTP headers, and tools such as web-sniffer also don't send the same HTTP headers as Googlebot, so you would never notice this issue with them!

Within a few days of fixing the issue, the pages were re-indexed and the client saw a spike in revenue.

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Using Followerwonk to Grow Your Twitter Account – Whiteboard Friday

septiembre 7

Posted by randfish

Building and analyzing social accounts is a must for SEOs. In this week's Whiteboard Friday, Rand discusses the newest free product for SEOmoz PRO members: Followerwonk! This splendid tool is a great way for SEOs to manage their social accounts through linkbuilding, outreach, adding value to campaigns, growing a social media presence, and more.

Based on four key sections of the Followerwonk site, you'll learn how to search inside Followerwonk for specific users, compare your users for overlaps in follows and followers, analyze your followers for details and stats, and track your followers for wins and losses. Analyzing your social accounts has never been so easy – and so fun!

 

Video Transcription

Howdy, SEOmoz fans! Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we're going to talk a little bit about Followerwonk.
 
Now, for those of you who don't know, SEOmoz recently acquired Followerwonk. It's now a completely free product for PRO users. So if you're a SEOmoz Pro customer, you literally just go over to Followerwonk, connect your SEOmoz account, log in with Twitter if you haven't already connected a Twitter account, and boom, you're good to go. You get Followerwonk free. We're very excited about this.
 
I've loved Followerwonk for a long time, kind of wanted to do a Whiteboard Friday about all the cool ways that I use it, and all the cool ways that SEOs can use it to do magical stuff with their social accounts on link building and outreach and all that kind of stuff, but I figured hey, let's wait until it's free for you. So, here you go. Now Followerwonk, totally free, you can use it any time you want.
 
So I've got four tips, and this is based on four different sections of Wonk. So if you go to the Followerwonk product, you'll see four tabs that look like this: Search, Compare, Analyze, and Track. Those four tabs, there's actually a fifth tab that I'm not going to mention today, but you can go check it out, too.
 
Number one, the first one, is the Bio Search feature. Now, this is very cool for sort of outreach and discovery. If you think of Open Site Explorer as a look into the link graph of the Web, the bio search inside Followerwonk is really a look into the Tweet graph or the Twitter user graph of Twitter.
 
So I can go and I can do things like outreach, look for journalists or bloggers, influencers in a specific niche, etc., just by searching the words in here. A warning though, you've got to be pretty literal. So I would do a couple of things. I would first click on the More Options. There's a More Options link right below the search box. If you click that link, it'll drop down another box that shows you a bunch of other options. Get creative in there. Start searching for synonyms. Someone might call themselves a journalist, a reporter, a writer, an investigator, whatever it is, and you want to be making sure that you're using all those different combinations.
 
Same is true for location stuff. So some people, they'll say they're in Dublin, they'll say they're in Ireland, they'll say they're in Southern Ireland, they'll say they're in some weird combination of phrases. Sometimes people will use SEA to describe Seattle. Fine, great. So you just need to be creative when you're plugging those terms in here.
 
You can also use it for geo-targeting, so find folks to connect with. If you're going to a city, you're going to an event somewhere, you're visiting somewhere, and you know hey, let me just see if there are influential people in my sphere. So if you're in the paper goods industry and you want to see if there's a big letterpress person, a big engraver person, a big craft artist who happens to be in Philadelphia or Pittsburgh or Austin, Texas, wherever you're going, you can use that Bio Search to find those people, start tweeting back and forth. "Hey @soandso, I'm visiting next week. Any recommendations?" You often get great replies and can build great connections out of that.
 
Events and interests, so this is another way to use this. If you're going to be at a specific event, even an online event, a webinar, or you're going to participate in a Twitter chat or something like that, you can look for the people who have those hashtags and who are in a location or in a specific field. So if I'm going to Dublin, for example, later this month, I might search for SEOs who happen to be in Dublin, and I can see if I can connect with those folks, get them to come to an event that I'm going to be speaking at while I'm there, those kinds of things. You can really use this to figure out who are the influencers in a specific industry or at a conference or meet-up.
 
Number two: Compare Users. This has got to be one of my favorite features, and the reason is really simple. When you think about doing link outreach, one of the most powerful ways and things that people do is use the SEOmoz link intersect tool, and they use it to go, "Who is linking to two or more of my competitors, but not to me?" Magical. You can do that with Followerwonk on Twitter.
 
If you go to the Compare Users tab, you can only do it for two at a time, but it still works really well and it's very fast. So I can go, "Oh, hey, I want to see who's following Joel and who's following Karen, who is not following me." And that's exactly what this point of intersect in the little Followerwonk Venn diagram does. If I look at those, there's a list on the side, I can actually click and see the list of users, sort them by influence, sort them by follower count, sort them by a ratio, whatever I want to sort them by. I can even download in Excel that group if I want, and then import and play around with it and do my pivot tables, whatever you want to do. This is an awesome way for discovering those likely influential followers of your topic area, who are interested in things you're interested in and follow multiple competitors. If they follow one of your competitors, they might just be a fan of them. If they follow two or more, chances are they're a subject matter expert or subject matter interested person, and that means they're a great potential target for outreach, for influence. You know that you want to probably reach that group, particularly the ones who have lots of followers.
 
Number three: the Analyze Followers. Oh, I don't know. Tough call as to whether this is my favorite feature or this one. For you, for your own account, what I recommend is plugging it into the Analyze Followers. So I'd plug in @randfish, you plug in your account name, and it'll show you all sorts of things. If you scroll to the bottom of that list, there's tons of stuff. So there's geo-data, and there's tweet and re-tweet data, and there's the distribution of the influencers of your followers, and all sorts of other cool stuff. But one of my favorite ones is this little graph right here. It basically shows times of day. So this'll be 12:00 a.m. or whatever, and this will be 12:00 p.m. here, and that's 11:00 p.m. down here, and it'll show me what time my followers are online and what percentage of them are online.
 
The coolest part about this is if you look at the top, the highest bar on there, what you'll most likely see is something under 10%. What this means is that people who are on Twitter, of your followers who are on Twitter, less than 10% for me it's 6.5% of my followers maximum are on Twitter, using Twitter at any given time. So if I tweet a link, unless someone's going back through and looking at all their tweets and my account specifically, the maximum number of people that I'm going to reach is less than 3,000, because I have 60,000-ish followers. So 5% of that would be around 3,000. Crap! You know what this tells me? This tells me I really, really, really should be sharing not just at this time of day, but probably at least once or twice more if I have an important link to share.
 
So I put up a new blog post pretty much every night on Moz.com/rand, my new blog, and I share late, late at night. In fact, I share right there, at probably the worst possible time I could share, because that's when I'm up, and I go to sleep around 1:00 or 2:00 am, and I don't get enough sleep. I should probably change that. But I share here. I need to share again in the morning Pacific time, because that's when the most, the highest number of my followers. And I could probably do with sharing again the next afternoon, without much overlap. There are very few people who are going to be online all three of those times. Sharing twice or three times saying,
"Hey, here's my post from last night in case you missed it," that kind of a thing, which I do almost every morning, this is a very, very excellent idea. And then this graph will show you exactly when to do that. Super smart, really, really cool.
 
For other accounts, I would also recommend that you plug in some other folks and analyze, particularly folks in your industry or folks who are influencers or journalists or whoever it is that you think you want to have some overlap with, find who their most influential followers are. So this could be a competitor. It could be a reporter in your space. It could be someone who's just a very powerful blogger, and whether they're a right target, because the list of data that you'll see will show you a lot of information about who's following them from a demographic and psychographic perspective and a tweet-likelihood perspective, and a influencer perspective. Sometimes clicking on that list of high influencers, of followers of them, that have a lot of influential followers and seeing who those people are, those can also turn into great targets to connect with.
 
Last thing: the Track Followers account. My favorite part of this particular feature is that it shows me a timeline of new followers and lost followers. So basically, what I'm seeing up here is I gained +100 new followers on this day. Well, what did I do that day? And I can click and actually see who are those followers. I can click over to my Twitter account and see what was I tweeting that day. This is a great, great way to see, "Am I doing a good job of engaging? Is it when I tweet a lot, or when I tweet a little? Or when I get a lot of re-tweets? Or when I share a particular link? What am I doing that's getting me there?"
 
In fact, I had a fascinating example recently. This past week, actually when you're watching this, this will be two weeks ago, I was in Boston for the Inbound Conference from HubSpot, and I spoke to a big audience there. There were almost 2,000 people in the audience I think like 2,800 attendees, so big audience. I do a keynote session on some SEO stuff, and this is what happened. I basically had my highest growth day that I've had in almost three months – well, I had a big day when we got some funding too
- but this was like +390 some odd followers that joined that day and started following me. And I had a bunch a followers the next day, and that same time, I got verified by Twitter. Twitter sent me and email saying,
"Oh, hey, we'd like to verify your account."
 
So kind of a fascinating thing and this actually keeps track of who those people are and what happens so I can see and I can try and track down, "Was it really me doing the HubSpot conference, or was it something else?" It probably was the Inbound Conference, but this is a fascinating thing. I can do this same thing on the other side and look at, "Why did I lose so many followers here? What did I tweet?"
 
By the way, almost every time I lose a bunch of followers, it's one of two things: I tweeted something relatively political, and I mean political not just in the sense of like American politics and national politics, but also political in terms of black-hat/white-hat, and SEO spammers versus the good guys in SEO, that kind of stuff. That can lose me quite a few followers. And then the other reason that I lose a lot of followers that I've seen is when Twitter does a big spam clear out. So clear out a ton of spam accounts and that'll drop my follower account.
 
So it's fascinating to watch this stuff. All four of these are just great reasons to be using Followerwonk. If you've got an SEOmoz Pro account, you should go check this out. Even if you don't, a lot of these features are free. You can use them for the first time for free, so I would encourage you to do it. You'll get a ton of value out of Wonk. In terms of Twitter and adding value to your SEO campaigns and growing your social media presence and the reach of your links, there's nothing like this. So that's why I was so excited to acquire them.
 
If you have great suggestions for Followerwonk, things that you want to see, please leave them down in the comments. We would love that.
 
Thanks very much everyone. We'll see you again next time for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Where Are My Rankings?

septiembre 7

Posted by Thomas McElroy

Over the last 3 weeks, you may have noticed some instability with our Rankings tools through missing data and error messages stating some tools are unavailable. On Friday, we experienced a totally different, unrelated problem with our rankings data. We expect to have an updated prognosis for that problem by tomorrow, but we want to fill you in on what went down at Mozplex to cause these issues in the first place. To be as transparent as possible about what happened and how we're working to fix the issue, below is a summary of what was impacted, the work we did to get things going again, and what we’re doing in the future to make the system more resilient.

Database issues? What gives?

Our SERP data subsystem (which runs on the distributed storage technology Riak) had a couple of nodes fail. To learn more about Riak, here's a blog post we wrote when we made the switch last year. The subsystem is designed to handle such failures; however, we did not handle the failure correctly. 
 
In the process of fixing our Riak storage, we disrupted some of our queues for SERP data processing. Given Moz's growth over the last six months and the number of SERPs processed in the Riak cluster, Roger can no longer recover from outages in a timely manner. In late 2011, we could recover the system in 3-8 hours and be caught up on data processing in a few days. This time around, it took us six days to get the system back up and another two weeks to catch up on the missing data and the inconsistent data states that resulted.
 

Impacted services

Riak stores our SERP data (rankings data), so all the systems that depend on it were impacted. The impacted systems include:
  • Custom reports
  • On-page reports
  • Historical rankings CSVs
  • Rankings
  • Keyword Difficulty & Full SERP Analysis reports

Work completed to get things going again

Our dev teams have been hard at work to restore all missing and inconsistent data post Riak malfunction. At a high-level, here's what we did to get Rankings and all its dependencies going again:
  • Created scripts to heal the different broken states of jobs
  • Added more nodes to speed up processing and help in future failures
  • Improved monitoring to get information about failures and performance bottlenecks
  • Improved performance in a multiple areas

Future work

It took the team 20 days to fully recover from the cascading problems that resulted from the original issue. We know that this timeframe is highly unacceptable, and we apologize for not being able to recover quicker. We are now in the process of ensuring that the same failures do not occur in the future and to lessen downtime in the event something like this does happen again. Work has begun on multiple improvements to help us reach our goals, including:
  • Improving health checks and threshold monitoring of Riak nodes and subsystem dependencies
  • Adding more Riak nodes
  • Beefing up queue and job execution monitoring and alarming
  • Creating a dependency matrix that indicates what’s impacted when something goes down
  • Improving fault tolerance in parts of the system
  • Providing additional excess service capacity 
  • Creating system operations documentation for dealing with emergency scenarios and how to recover

So, what's the current ETA?

Unfortunately, as you can probably tell, we have a lot of work to do to get Rankings back to 100%. We don't have an ETA quite yet. However, we hope to have a solid date in place by tomorrow and will update the post as soon as we know. Again, we apologize for the failure and any issues it has caused. We are working our butts off to ensure it doesn’t happen again!
 
If you need an immediate alternative for rank-checking, try using the Rank Checker at SEOBook.
 
For status updates on this issue, please check out our Rankings page on the Help Hub.
 

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Ensuring Client Collaboration Through Agile Marketing

septiembre 6

Posted by Mackenzie Fogelson

I’m probably a little late for the agile marketing train. It’s only in the past few weeks that I’ve been reading everything I can about the concept, and I've been working to integrate some of the ideas I’ve discovered into our existing daily practices at my company, Mack Web Solutions; I can already see that it is going to be a very powerful approach for us. Agile has been such a huge part of my last few weeks that I'd like to share my newfound appreciation and takeaways, and hopefully you'll fall just as hard as I did for this wonderful practice. 

Agile marketing is not rocket science

Maybe I’m missing some hidden depths, but I think the simplicity of agile is the point. It’s meant to be extremely practical, easy to grasp, and begging for you to take it for a spin. Who doesn’t want a company that can adapt quickly to change, provide amazing experiences for their team and their clients, measure the results of their efforts with actual data, and efficiently create remarkable products?

When I first started reading about the concept, I realized that Mack Web was a natural fit for agile marketing. At our current size of four, we are inherently collaborative and can be extremely flexible with how we work. I can certainly see how it will play a significant role in shaping our company in the years and team members to come.

What the heck is it?


Simply put, agile marketing centers around the customer. It’s a small shift in focus and perspective, but it really does mean big changes for how you work with your team and your customers.

10 Principles of Agile Marketing

Based off the methods of agile software development, agile marketing pulls together a variety of different elements to create a sleek, flexible, data-driven approach to any project. There are a lot of technical aspects to it: shorter production cycles, continual testing, lots of analysis and feedback. But the underlying philosophy of the thing is, in a word: people.

Agile marketing forces you to break down the barriers that normally come with departments, systems, and processes. Instead of letting your processes drive (as I have now realized we are guilty of doing), the agile process is people-oriented, both internally and externally. It is the interaction among these people that contributes to success (which makes a lot more sense than asking that of a systematized process).

 

Agility in marketing centers on the understanding that clients and employees are people with different skill sets, different outlooks, and different limitations. Agile encourages groups to find a way to make differences work in a complementary (as opposed to adversarial) way, and then ground the process in the indisputable facts of solid data. All you’re left with is pure win.

Encouraging the individuals on your team to collaborate fosters creativity and communication, allowing them to deliver exceptional products, services, and valuable results each day. That collaboration, along with the transparency that true teamwork requires, is what makes agile successful.

See…Agility. Teamwork. They go together (except that there's no Denzel).

Being agile is using what you've got


The beauty of agile marketing is that it is, by definition, very adaptable. The entire intent is to enable you to run things smoothly and efficiently with the pieces you have in place.

That means that even adopting agile as a new method can be done with agility. Our company has long been process-driven because we got both results and peace of mind that way. But as we’ve grown more self-aware, we’ve realized that part of the reason our processes work is that we were subconsciously enacting some agile principles almost by default.

Now that we’ve come to this realization, we’re slowly transitioning our conscious process to match. This approach is working because, honestly, throwing all of our current systems out the window at once was very much a baby-bathwater situation. It’s also a great way to make sure that business tanks, that our clients feel insecure and unsatisfied, and that our office descends into chaos. Not good.

And definitely not agile.

So, slowly but surely, we’re using the principles of agile marketing as a filter for our internal processes: does this method actually work for all clients? For the individuals on our team? Does it allow us to easily change course mid-stream or does it put us between a rock and a hard place?

So far, so good.

Agile and your 'team'

With agile marketing, even the concept of your ‘team’ takes on a new meaning. For example, instead of maintaining the walls of separate departments like SEO, design, link building, social media, and content generation, everyone works together as a unified whole. And, not just your team, but with your client’s team as well. For us, this was extremely important.

My discovery of agile marketing came at a perfect time. As we transition our clients away from their traditional understanding of SEO, we’ve also started looking for new clients who understand that the work we do is demanding and goes beyond just keyword research and link building. To actually deliver real company stuff, help them build relationships in their online community, and work towards their business objectives, we rely on their involvement in the process.

Internally, we’ve established a highly collaborative environment; we thrive as a team. Our ideal clients embrace the spirit of participation and are willing to engage with us, to be active and responsive, and to grasp the magnitude of what it will take to succeed.

What we have found (and there’s no surprise here) is that in order to achieve results, the client has to be on board. We truly integrate ourselves into the client’s world. We learn everything there is to know about their company. We become familiar with their customers’ pain points and challenges. We solve issues that save them time and money. We can’t do this without complete participation from the client. For us, client collaboration is imperative for customer satisfaction and success. It’s also a fundamental principle of agile marketing.

How agile is helping to solve client collaboration challenges


Agile has helped us to solve a common problem that we were having when it came to things like ongoing implementation of our content and social media marketing efforts. At the outset, we explained that it was an inherently collaborative process and our clients would smile and nod and say they understood. Then we would all sign a nice, simple agreement stating that we would, jointly, undertake their ongoing implementation and they would pay us for it.

A few months later when we had no results to show because we could never get the client to hold up their side of the deal, or because they were expecting more than we were able to provide within the confines of the agreed-upon budget, no one was happy.

So, we decided to really take to heart the agile ideas of transparency, flexibility, communication, individual abilities, and collaboration right from the outset.   

And that’s why we’ve been trying this

Before we even go under contract (we’re talking acquisition phase), we have found that this has really helped:
Mack Web Solutions Client Collaboration Approach

Why we think it works


This approach is purely transparent. It helps the client to understand exactly what is expected of them, what they are committing to, and what they can expect from us.

This also provides a perfect opportunity to discuss budget (remember, we’re not even under contract yet). The level that we’re showing here requires the client to contribute approximately 10 hours of work to achieve desired results. If the client cannot dedicate the internal resources necessary to handle this volume (and they have the luxury of a larger budget), we can take on more and reduce the workload on their internal team.

Transparency is necessary for successful collaboration

Transparency in Agile Marketing
To us, this approach is very agile not only because it’s transparent, but it satisfies the human element and client-centered approach. We understand that every company is made up of people with different skill sets, schedules, and personalities. We have found that people respond well when they understand what is expected of them. When they agree up front to commit to the work, then we have the permission to push and hold them accountable. Remember that with agile, the client is a part of your internal team, not separate from it.

This level of transparency has made an enormous difference in the type of clients that we are attracting. (By which we mean, we’re starting to pull in those we actually want to work with). It has been essential to the success of the projects we are working on and certainly with the relationships we’re building. By defining these tasks before the project gets started, everyone involved knows what they’re signing up for. And, even more importantly, they know that there is a lot more involved than "SEO."

Once we get under contract, what we do (and what the client does) on a daily basis is obviously a lot more involved than this (we reveal those details in their content and social media marketing strategy). Starting with an agile strategy is what ensures that expectations are clear. We’re setting everyone up for success.


As for flexibility, we frequently have clients who start out with good intentions in terms of their participation and then realize how big the commitment (once they’re actually staring at it in-house). With all the tasks spelled out in advance, it becomes pretty easy to reallocate responsibility based on who is best prepared to take it on. No plan survives the first encounter, but a sufficiently fluid plan allows for rapid adaptability.

Which is, really, just another way of saying agility.

Agile is different for everyone

There’s no right way to integrate agile marketing. The concepts are there for you to mold and shape into the right fit for your company and your customers. Agile marketing at Distilled is going to look different from what we do with it at Mack Web. That doesn’t mean either of us are doing it better. It’s just how it fits our specific companies. Agile marketing isn’t really agile unless it works for you, your relationships, your personality, and your culture. (And just as you and your stuff are different from us and our stuff, so too will your version of agile be.)

Are you on the agile train?

What’s your journey been like with agile?
 Have you integrated pieces into your company? How’s that working for you?

Certainly there’s a lot more to agile than I’ve explained here, but this has been our journey so far. We’re also working on improving our weekly meetings and as the owner, I’m learning how to get out of the way. Call it agile, or call it whatever you’d like. It’s inspiring us to look at what we do in a whole new way so that we can do things better, provide more value for our clients, and enjoy the work that we do each day.
 

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Wednesday Webinar Series

septiembre 6

Posted by Abe Schmidt

Hello Mozzers!

In an attempt to provide future awesomeness, the Help Team has combined super powers to introduce a new series of informational webinars. Starting next week, we will be launching our Wednesday Webinar series!

 

 

In each webinar, an SEOmoz team member will take 30 minutes to dig into a tool and answer questions from community members on the spot. Each webinar will cover a different SEOmoz tool and how you can apply it to your inbound marketing strategy.

 

Below are the topics for our upcoming webinars. Make sure to reserve your spot!

 

September 12th: Rankings in the Web App

September 19th: Social in the Web App 

September 26th: The MozBar

October 3rd: Crawl Diagnostics in the Web App

 

We've got the next few topics covered, but we want your help in selecting the rest of our Wednesday Webinar series topics. We’ve created a survey of various SEOmoz tools we’d love to cover. Our future Wednesday Webinars are going to be based on user suggestions, so make sure to throw us some ideas. We would love your feedback!

 

 

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The Ultimate Guide to Content Planning

septiembre 5

Posted by simonpenson

This post was originally in YouMoz, and was promoted to the main blog because it provides great value and interest to our community. The author’s views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of SEOmoz, Inc.

A transition is in effect. The web is maturing and like any form of media that has gone before it that can mean only one thing: That content is now at the epicentre of audience creation once again.

The introduction of Penguin, as we know, is forcing every online business to re-examine how it ‘does’ online marketing and begin looking for ways to grow reputation, reach and visibility via content rather than the link building practices of old.

As Google turns up the algo to promote great content and social gives us all access to the social graph and the network effect it offers there has never been a better time to get your content game in shape and pull together a killer strategy for your brand.

I recently wrote a piece for another digital marketing site that goes into a little more detail around why content is coming to the fore and so for extra context it is certainly worth a read.

In addition to the above theory one thing we do know is that all forms of media before the web have followed the same basic evolution. It starts with obsession about the technology and the iteration of it to a place where the platform has mass media reach. The end game, and the thing that gives the platform longevity, is the content shared on it. Think print, TV and radio and this is true of all of them. We don't get excited about where a paper is printed any more. Instead its about the content that's printed on it.

The web is next and in this post I want to delve a little deeper into how to structure your own content planning to take advantage of this change and maximise the reach and impact of this change.

How to Plan

Stage one of any great content strategy is the plan. Without it you will fail. Without a clear roadmap of the kinds of content you need to produce, when and for whom you’ll quickly become an also-ran.

The question is how do you first understand what you should be creating and how can you structure your plan to cater for the various personas visiting your site?

Firstly you need to understand exactly WHO your audience is. Many people, especially when they start to become more comfortable with content strategies, often overlook this; and it's key to the whole process.

The point is all men and women are not the same. Obvious, right? Well we can all be guilty of treating our audience as the same person with the same ideals, needs and beliefs. Clearly this isn't the case and so it is important to segment your audience in a way that create two, three or four 'types' – all of which get to your product or service in different ways.

To explain this, and the planning process as a whole, I organised a round table catch up (an evening of beers) with some former colleagues of mine from the world of consumer magazines to pick their brains again on the best way to structure and execute your content plan

Their view, and mine, is always to ‘keep your reader as close to you as possible in every decision you make.’

That process must follow the same basic steps:

  1. Understand your Brand

You cannot begin to talk about personas or content ideas before you truly have your brand values down on paper. Many businesses skip this part but you MUST know exactly what you stand for, your tone of voice, political and social allegiances etc.

To do this you must first map the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors. A simple SWOT analysis works well here as it lets you see easily where you might be able to steal a march and differentiate.

You can then align these strengths and opportunities to your brand values and begin to build a map of what you may want to ‘own’ from a content strategy perspective.

There are lots of tools out there to make this process easier too. SWOT analysis templates are available across the web while Moz's own TAGFEE core values can really help you structure your own mission statement and brand strategy. For those really interested in this area I can whole heartedly recommend spending time reading Michael Porter's work and strategies. His books make for great reading.

With this in place you can then move onto stage two…

  1. Understand your Audience

The plan to understand your reader is twofold; the first part is to create the ‘Typical Reader’. Here you should be specific and a great example may be:


Steve is 24 and drives a 2006 plate Range Rover Sport and he sees this as being the second most important thing in his life, after his fiancée!

He spends his time and money socialising, discussing sport, music and cars. He drinks Budweiser and occasionally a decent whiskey (as he thinks this is cool). He wears Ralph Lauren shirts but can’t afford to stretch his brand tastes further and so goes with generic jeans and shoes. To him brand is as important as the product, and it influences his buying behaviour.


The process of getting to this point is a post in its own right but the key point is to do your research well. Split it down into two specific parts:

1. Quantitative > Surveys via email and social work well for this. Ask general questions about your product or service so you can get a picture of where it sits in their lives and in their buying cycle. This can lead you to stage two, which is…

2. Qualitative > Customer focus groups, either in a pub or working with research companies and utilising controlled environments helps you to add 'colour' to the picture, enabling you to understand tone and emotive pointers etc.

From this you will usually be able to model your 'typical' client or customer, as above. You'll also be able to understand how to break the audience down into personas, each of which have more specific characteristics and ways of getting to, or interacting with what it is you are selling. For a step-by-step of using data to create them I recommend Mike King's excellent Keyword Level Demographics post.

The next step is then to nail your editorial proposition and to do this you must record your key USPs (things like ‘jargon free advice’ and ‘well written by people who understand the culture and fashions of the market’).

This is a relatively straightforward process and should get you to a point where you can easily sum up your editorial/content persona in the form of a famous person.

This is a really useful way of working as by agreeing that as a brand you are ‘John Wayne’, for instance, it becomes much easier to share tone of voice and attitude across a team, either in house or externally.

While this process is really useful to capture your core values we all know that in reality you have many different types of ‘reader’ and so the process of persona mapping is key to really ensuring your content appeals to your chosen audience.

The process of creating personas is a subject all of its own and this post cannot cover the entire process but several pieces here recently including this one and this one can help you segment your audience in a way that will help you when it comes to pulling together your content strategy.

Let’s assume then that you have followed those tips and have three or four tidy personas in place.

At this point you now have a really clear picture of who you are, your tone and editorial stance. You may even have drawn up an editorial guidelines document to steer the entire team in the same direction.

In short you are more prepared than a cub scout but structure is nothing without great ideas….

  1. Brainstorm Ideas

Ideas are the lifeblood of any content strategy. Without creativity your content marketing campaign is dead in the water. The good news though is that there are ways that you can make the whole process a little more structured and easier.

It is at this stage you can let your imagination run wild. If you have a team then a couple of hours in a bar or even just outside can produce a long list of crazy content concepts. Of course you don’t have to worry right now about them being realistic or actionable. The key point is to get them down on paper.

One great technique to use in recording and expanding your idea list is the use of mind maps. Bubbl.us is a great tool to use to help you do this.

Tools can help too and below is our top five for helping us isolate content ideas.

  1. Bottlenose

Bottlenose social search engine

This is a great new tool to highlight trending articles and social commentary based on specific keywords. It’s a social search engine and can really help you create news or hot topic led content.

  1. Spezify

spezify

Does a similar thing to Bottlenose but in a less structured but more visually interesting way.  Creates a tapestry of related tweets, images, music etc.

  1. UberSuggest

A popular tool for expanding on keyword ideas and the concept works well for helping you think more laterally.

  1. Keyword Expander

keyword expander

A really cool tool by Optimal Social it allows you to find relationships between things that people like.  So people that like (insert keyword) also like XXX. This has obvious benefits and can also help with persona creation. Free registration required.

  1. SEOGadget’s Content Ideas Generator

A popular one around these parts and for good reason; it may not be flashy but it does a great job of pulling in content ideas from a number of useful sources into one Google Doc.

Together these and some good old fashion thinking time can produce a great list of ideas, which will then need refining, which brings us onto the next stage.

  1. Segment your content types and flow

The next step is to begin organising the list you have into content types; working out the best way of presenting that concept for maximum reach.

This is where an understanding of content types comes in and the Content Matrix. This simple yet effective infographic by SmartInsight helps you understand the strengths and weaknesses of the different kinds of content you can create, while also giving you a great starting list of ideas.

It is then useful to segment your ideas into a simple table of types such as this:

  1. Create your content plan

I wrote this on the YouMoz blog last year as a introduction to content planning and it contains some useful elements around beginning to structure your editorial calendar, or plan, by using key elements.

The key part of the process though is ensuring you achieve the right flow.

Every great content schedule, whether it’s for TV, radio or any other media has peaks and troughs as you must have the small to appreciate the big stuff.

If you examine the very best musical pieces they are built in the same way and you should think of your content plan in the same way.

Create a planner as you wish. The one we use is shown below and captures the following elements. If you want a copy simply email us at infoatzazzlemedia.co.uk and we’d be glad to send you a copy.

The basics are that you segment as you would with a normal calendar with months and weeks. The key is then how you transplant the ideas you have into it.

Alongside ideas we capture key dates in the calendar. So in our example as a fitness website we might include key exhibition dates, official Get Fit weeks, peak times of the season such as January and so on. This work helps us capture the visitor’s general mood and frame of mind too and this helps you create content as a solution.

The key piece is getting the flow right and this is where the work done on content type is important as it enables you to then fill in the weeks with a view on what kind of content will follow each other well.

Timing too is important. Huge amounts of effort and many 'column inches' have been put into measuring and understanding the timing of social media activity and the same is true of other content. During a stint working for the UK's biggest golf media brand we discovered that sending a newsletter on a Friday full of equipment reviews etc worked amazingly well as the 'reader' believed that they were about to shoot the round of their lives that weekend, and wanted all the kit to do it with. Come Monday though reality had set in and so we would send a newsletter full of tips to help them improve!

Dan Zarella's blog is great for insight around social sharing and I would suggest you spend some time here absorbing that data to help you build your own content plan.

The other secret is then creating both ‘big bang’ and smaller regular content ideas and get them to work in unison, but that’s a post for another day.

Simon Penson is MD and founder of Zazzle Media, a UK based content marketing and technical optimisation agency.

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How To Get More Comments On Your Articles

septiembre 4

Posted by Jacob Klein

If you've spent any amount of time reading up on content creation, you've most likely seen a post or two with a similar title to this one. In my experience, these articles are typically littered with buzz-phrases such as "have a call to action" or "write compelling content" and consist of 30+ overlapping ways to do either of those things. While asking your readers to comment and creating comment-worthy content are certainly important concepts to understand, I'm going to assume you're already on-board and looking for something a bit more actionable.

Why are comments important?

The benefits of user generated content are obvious to most. Not only are you generating additional unique, (hopefully) on-topic content for your pages, comments may even contribute to your article's freshness score. While it's debatable whether the number of comments on a page is directly correlated with higher rankings, we all understand the value of having more fresh, relevant content on a page to say nothing of user engagement and community building.

No matter how in-depth your keyword research is, you'll never be able to naturally incorporate every iteration of a key phrase onto your landing page – and you wouldn't want to anyhow. With user generated comments, you're able to get some of those alternate queries (long-tail or otherwise) without having to shoehorn them into your on-page copy. Let me give you an example of this in action:

The highlighted text isn't actual copy from the page itself. It's from one of the comments towards the bottom of the page. Google has determined that this page is relevant to the query in part because of a comment that includes text that the webmaster hadn't even thought to include on the page. Would the page have ranked without the comment? Possibly. But to me, an example like this shows that Google clearly uses comments to help determine page relevance. In a competitive space where most competing pages look startlingly similar, you're going to need any edge you can get.

I'm sure you've all had the experience of landing on an article after searching for something only to "ctrl + F" your way to the comments section to find your answer. Content from users can provide real value, and this article will arm you with tips to help increase your user comments.

Actionables

Okay, so maybe you didn't need much convincing as to the importance of user generated content. You're here because you want to read something you haven't read before about getting users to comment on your posts. Over the last 10 years, I've founded several fan community pages covering such nerd-tastic staples as Magic the Gathering, Nintendo, and Game of Thrones (yes, ladies, I am that cool). While building these communities, I've picked up a few tricks for attracting article comments that I thought I'd share with the Moz community.

1. Make it as easy as possible to leave a comment

Does "website" really need to be a required field? Are your CAPTCHA images harder to solve than a Rubik's cube? Sometimes the effort it would take to comment on your blog outweighs the potential user benefits. Take a look at each field and ask yourself "is this a hoop I'd be willing to jump through to leave a comment on a blog I've never visited before?" Most users are wary about giving out an email address, so assure them that their data won't be used for anything other than unique identification or just let them login using Twitter of Facebook (more on that below). In the end, you should be mostly concerned with their username, email address (to distinguish their comments from others, gravatars etc), and the comment itself. Anything else is a barrier to entry that should be scrutinized and broken down wherever possible.

2. Comment placement

So many widgets, so little real estate. If I didn't know any better, I'd think that the end of a blog post is the hottest piece of property on the net these days. After you've pumped your full author bio, social buttons, "other articles you might like," opinion disclaimer, and multiple ad units, the comment section often ends up an entire page screen below the actual content. I know, I know, it's tough to demote any of these widgets because of course ad placement is important; of course, "related content" and extra pageviews are important, but if you're truly serious about getting the conversation going on your article, then you should consider giving the comment section a more prominent position on the page.

At the very least, give users an anchor jump at the end of the article that reads "Leave a Comment" or "Join the Conversation" and bumps them down to the appropriate level.

3. Social logins

If for whatever reason you simply must require users register for commenting (a rather large barrier to entry) consider allowing them to log in using the social media accounts they're already using. If you're running WordPress, this can be done by installing one or two plugins of your choice. Simple Facebook Connect will get the job done and the Twitter version will do the same. If you're looking for a more comprehensive solution (all social networks), try Social Login. Social logins on custom CMS' obviously vary and can be achieved using OAuth and following the developer instructions from Facebook and Twitter. There's also the all inclusive Disqus comment system that you've probably already seen in use on many blogs.

Not only does this offer users a 1-click login option for commenting and other community activities around your site; this option also gives your users an automatic avatar and social identity. Comments coming from a person with a traceable identity are almost surely of higher quality than those coming from completely anonymous users. And hey, once they're logged in with Twitter or Facebook, it stands to reason that the chances of someone sharing your page on one of those networks increases considerably.

4. Profiles, Awards, and Rankings

You've probably used (or been used by) a piece of ego bait in a link building campaign and the same principles of human nature apply to community building. In-depth profiles, award systems, and commenter rankings are great ways to encourage your contributors to keep coming back for more. A simple database comment count for each individual is all that is required for deployment. Attach fun titles such as "Youngling," "Aspirant," or "Padawan" to these values and you'll not only please current commenters, but you'll also give readers a way to gauge that person's standing within the community.

Grab the Top Contributors plugin for WordPress and show your top commenters some love. You could also display "X-Year Club" awards on user profiles or a "She's Over 9000aaaand!" badge for your most ambitious contributors. Anything you can do to give your loyal commenters a feeling of community and importance will encourage more comments.

5. Join the conversation

This one's a no-brainer. Respond to comments on your articles. You took the time to write the piece, so get in there and stand by it! Keep the conversation rolling with questions of your own and address things you may have glossed over in your initial publishing.

Try highlighting author comments so that they stand out a bit. This immediately communicates to readers that the author is paying attention and will most likely respond to their comment if they take the time to write one. The reality is that articles with comments get more comments. Articles without comments have trouble getting initial comments. The difference between 0 comments and a handful can mean everything. Who wants to be the first person to comment on a post? Each new user post offers an entry point for new lines of discussion. Help get the chain reaction going by helping the initial conversation to get started.

6. Email notification on reply

With great power comes great responsibility. If a loyal reader has given you their email address and contributes to your site on a regular basis, the last thing you want to do is lose their trust. You've got their email address but no one wants a "quarterly site update" or "Jan 1st Happy Birthday" email from every website they've ever commented on, right? But what most people would probably be okay with is a notification that their thoughtful comment has just received an equally thoughtful reply thus giving them the chance to respond.

Try Comment Reply Notification for WordPress if you're looking to add this feature to your blog. You can choose to alert everyone on the thread whenever anyone replies or limit it to personal replies. You could also allow users to choose for themselves with a simple checkbox as they reply. Disqus also offers this feature.

7. Tracking your progress

For many blogs it will be obvious when the influx of new commenters come in, but on larger sites it might be more difficult to track your progress. One simple and universal way to track your progress is to set up a Google Analytics goal associated with a new comment. Here are some instructions on how to do this. You can also easily set up GA event tracking any number of ways using the Raven GA config tool.

Have you found other effective methods of attracting commenters?  Try some of the above and leave a comment below!

Oh, and don't forget to have "create compelling content" and "a call to action."

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Tips for Filming Whiteboard Presentations

septiembre 3

Posted by Nick Sayers

Whiteboard presentations are a great way to easily communicate advanced ideas and engage your audience. Sure kid, but what isn’t so great is lighting for whiteboard presentations. No bulls-eyeing womp rats here. In fact, sometimes filming a presentation on a whiteboard can be like listening to a self-entitled princess micromanaging your ship. Needless to say, we get a lot of people writing in and asking about our WBF gear, so here it is!

(One caveat: I cannot take credit for the current WBF setup. The lighting was already professionally set up before I joined the Moz team.) Let's dive right in!

Lights

Lighting is the most important aspect of our setup. The mission of our lighting setup is threefold:

  1. Light the presenter
  2. Light the whiteboard
  3. Eiminate shadows

Sounds easy enough, right? Whoa! Don’t get ahead of yourself, kid. Too much light directly on the Whiteboard will create glare; too little light and the actor will cast a distracting shadow over their content. The best way to get even light is by using lights with softboxes.

whiteboard side lighting    Whiteboard friday lighting set up

Most people ask Rand what camera we use for WBF, but they really should be asking about our lighting setup. We use four lights with soft boxes. The camera is important, but you should spend most of your time on lighting. Just remember hokey cameras and ancient microphones are no match for a good lighting kit at your side, kid.

You can see what Moz's lighting setup looks like from my advanced and very technical schematics:

Whiteboard lighting presentation

We have two lights mounted about 3 feet above and 6-7 feet away from the whiteboard. Mounting the lights above and back will light your presenter as well as cast less shadows on the whiteboard. We have another two lights on the left and right side of the whiteboard to provide an even, fill light across the board, which should eliminate any left over shadows. You will have to test how far to stage your lights from the whiteboard based on any reflections or glares. I recently found that you get an even look if you place your lights in the bottom corner and the top corner on opposite sides. This can also reduce glare. Again, all of this takes some fine-tuning, so you will need to experiment until you find the perfect placement. But don’t get cocky, kid.

Camera

I would suggest any prosumer camcorder (price ranges vary), but if you use your lights well, then you can go skimpy on the camera. At Moz, we have a pretty spendy Panasonic camera. If your latest smuggling runs aren’t producing enough to keep the Hutts off your back and you’re afraid to shoot first, then you can go for something a bit cheaper.

whiteboard friday camera set up

The features you should look for in cameras include:

  1. Iris control
  2. A manual focus ring
  3. Zebra lines

Iris control will allow you to manually open or close the lens to regulate the brightness and darkness of the scene. A manual focus ring will let you set focus either to the whiteboard or the presenter. This is important because automatic focus functions get confused with expansive white spaces and can ruin your shots. The zebra lines will help you see what is overexposed or blown out. This is a great way to see if your iris is at the perfect spot. Always remember to practice with your camera because filming isn’t like dusting crops or moister farming.

Sound

Sound is fairly important for whiteboard presentations. I would say your sound quality is more significant than your video quality as people are more likely to turn off a video because of bad audio over subpar cinematography. For our sound recording, we use Sennheiser lavs, which are a bit pricey, but the price is well worth it for great audio.

You want sound that will isolate your presenter’s voice and eliminate background interference. Isolated sound is also a must if you have bantering protocol droid roaming around the office. Again, if you’re low on credits, just go cheaper with other brands likes Azden or Audio-Techina. Make sure your lavs have at least two frequencies to avoid interference from your hyperdrive (you wouldn’t want to warp into a sun or a supernova). If you want to get the lower-end lavs or microphones, you should look into some audio/video editing programs that let you clean up hums, noise, and interference. Use Audacity to accomplish some crisp audio, but don’t get any delusions of grandeur. There are some other great editing programs out there.

Editing

We were using iMovie for WBF, but we recently switched to Adobe Premiere. The reason for the switch was to take advantage of the amazing color correction tools. This is essential in keeping the WB balanced and white instead of reddish, yellowish, or bluish. Use any robust editing program if you are having trouble with color temperature and you can’t seem to fix with lighting or camera settings. With practice, you can make that whiteboard look almost as sleek as the Millennium Falcon.

whiteboard presentation color correction

Studio

If you want to regularly publish whiteboard content, then you should look into creating a studio. Make sure the room is at least 20’x20’ so you have enough room to experiment with different lighting schemes. Remember what I said about sound, kid? Well, you should probably put some sound deadening panels on the walls. Wait, won’t that make my converted studio ugly? Not so fast—there is such a thing as sound deadening wall art! Bet you didn’t see that one coming.

Host

Looking for an amazing host? Look no further, because Wistia has you covered. Wistia offers excellent compression options, comprehensive analytics, world-class customer service, and a blog that is more addictive than Coruscant death-sticks. Oh, and they also let you add your videos directly to a sitemap for excellent indexing opportunities. If that isn’t enough to get you signed up for Wistia, then maybe this will: if you are a PRO member, you get an awesome discount!

Transcriptions

Any Whiteboard Friday fan knows we have nifty transcriptions below each video. Not only are these great for the hard of hearing, they are also great for SEO. We use Speechpad because they have an easy upload process and their turnaround is amazingly fast. Don’t get any ideas; they’ve got nothing on the Falcon, but they can blow any Star Destroyer out of the sector.

Non-lizard brained creature

Don’t try getting some rodian or trandoshan to shoot your presentations. I would also stay away from any Fetts. I recommend finding someone who has experience with cameras to shoot the presentations. If there are any bumps in the road, an experienced filmer will have the knowledge to correct the issue. If you don’t know anything about shooting video, here are some great materials to get you started:

  1. The first thing you want to read is The Bare Bones Camera Course for Film and Video. This book is one of the greatest resources I’ve seen for a quick and comprehensive intro to shooting video.
  2. Then, you will want to learn about color temperature and white balance.
  3. Next, you will want to learn how sound works.
  4. The last thing you should learn is the best export settings for your video hosting. If you don’t have an awesome host like Wistia, then you will need to compress your video correctly to avoid host compression settings.

Last but not least, you should definitely thank the people who make Whiteboard Fridays come to life. Give Kenny, Aaron, Casey, Joel and Abe a huge round of applause for making WBF happen every week!

Think you can film a whiteboard presentation now? Well good luck, kid. Oh yeah, and may the force be with you.

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Ten Painless Tactics To Earn Attention On Twitter – Whiteboard Friday

agosto 31

Posted by evolvingSEO

Twitter is similar to passing signs at full speed on the highway. How do you get your signs (tweets) noticed and read? How can your profile stand out from the rest? For many, Twitter can be a fun and exciting, yet illusive and challenging social media platform. This Whiteboard Friday (to be followed by a Whiteboard Plus and Moz YouTube post) includes ten Twitter tactics for you to put to good use.

Watch as Dan Shure explains how to earn Twtitter attention with ten totally-actionable, Twitter-riffic tips you can use to get people to notice you in the most fast-paced social media platform in the world. These can all apply to individuals or brands. Also, don't miss the next two videos (coming soon!) in this series focusing on how to grow your audience and driving action. Each of the following two videos will include ten more Twitter tips for a total of thirty Twitter tactics. Wow!

Look for parts 2 and 3 coming soon!
Part 2 will be on our Google+ page and Part 3 will be featured on our brand new SEOmoz YouTube page!

Video Transcription

Hey, everyone, welcome to Whiteboard Friday. No, I am not Rand. My name is Dan Shure, and I'm an SEOmoz associate. I'm here in the MozPlex for the MozCon Conference. I'm very excited. I just flew in a little bit earlier today, and I'm going to do the Whiteboard Friday this week.

Today, we're going to talk about the Top Ten Twitter Tactics times three. So I've got three lists here of ten tactics for each category that we're going to go through. Those categories first are attention, that is getting attention onto your profile or who you are, just getting noticed by people that don't follow you. The second is audience, so that is getting people to follow you and then maintaining that audience, and the third is action. So that is getting people to take actions from your tweets, from the people that are following you.

So let's get right into the first one. For attention, the first thing I would say is you want to set up a profile that looks professional, that has personality, and that stands out in a way that you will get noticed. That might be a nice looking photo. That might be a clear user name, not something with a lot of underscores or weird digits in it or things that aren't spaces. You want to have it be something that people will instantly recognize as your name.

Second, you want a contrast what's happening out in Twitter a little bit and kind of stand out. So I'll give you a few examples. One might be, suppose . . . so I'm a tad nervous. I'm not going to stop though. We're doing this in one take. So, to contrast and stand out a little bit. If a lot of people around you are tweeting things that are really long, like using the full 140 characters, if you do a lot of short tweets, you're going to stand out more because you're going to look different than everyone else.

Also, if you do what I like to call – what I've been trying to do – double tweeting, and that is I will tweet once, that's kind of the prep tweet to get people's attention, and then a second tweet to actually do the action, to get people to do the action. Or actually, that second tweet will have the content that I want people to really notice.

Third, indirect mention. So what I mean by this is suppose you're trying to get an influencer to pay attention to you, but you want to use, maybe, a little bit more of a soft sell sort of tactic. What you can do is if you find an article or something of theirs that you really like, you can tweet that but just mention them in it in a way where you're not trying to get a response or being really hard sell about it. It's just a little bit of a soft sell, and I think influencers especially really appreciate that, especially if you talk about their post in your tweet in an original way and grab their attention.

Number four, ask for help. A lot of people say you should help others to get attention, but you can get a lot of attention just by asking for help. Then when you ask people for help, ask people to retweet you. "Hey, I need to find a programmer for this project" or "Hey, does anybody know the answer to blah, blah, blah" and you ask for a retweet. And then people start retweeting that. You can get some attention that way. And the other thing this does is this shows people that you're willing to learn, that you're out there to get help from other people and try to get better at whatever it is that you're doing.

Number five, helping others. So Will Reynolds has talked a lot in the past about using "if this, then that." It's IFTTT.com to set up alerts for certain people or certain keywords. When those tweets happen, you'll get a text message or an email or some type of alert, however, you want it to be set up, and you'll get that and so you can react to that right away. Suppose there's an influencer, for example, that maybe needs help with their computer and you can help with computers. Maybe you're trying to get the attention of somebody that's a food blogger, and they don't know anything about computers. They tweet something, "Hey, I need help with my computer", and then you get a text message from IFTTT, and you can respond to that right away and help that person out.

Number six, listen. Go away from Twitter and do something and then come back and deliver. So here's an example. A few months ago Rand tweeted something, actually about IFTTT. He said, "Hey, somebody in inbound marketing should write about IFTTT. It could be this great new inbound marketing thing." Most people might reply to that, "Oh, yeah, hey, Rand, I'll write about that" or like, "Hey, Rand, do you think this would be a good idea if I do blah, blah, blah?" But what I'm saying here is to listen. He's already said he's looking for that content. It might be interesting. I went and wrote that post without asking permission. I just went and did it. Then the next day, 24 hours later, I came back, I tweeted it, and I said,
"Hey, here's something Rand suggested" and he retweeted it, and that post has done very well. So that's suggestion six.

Seven, consistency. This is kind of like traditional branding in a way where you're trying to get your logo to be recognized by people instantly, like the Starbucks logo or like the Nike logo. You want people to see it and know exactly what it is. This is very much that same mindset. So what I mean by consistency is if you're trying to get an influencer to notice you, you don't want to try to go for that quick sell or that quick reaction or try to jump . . . it's like approaching a girl right away, like too quickly. You want to, over time, maybe respond to questions or maybe ask them a question or mention them. If they see you doing things on a consistent basis and putting out content that's good on a consistent basis, then they're going to notice you. That's going to be a much stronger type of relationship and type of attention that you will have earned by that consistent action.

Number eight, so this is great actually. I don't know how many of you have participated in SEO Chat or I think there's a PPC Chat, but this is a great way to get attention outside of your existing audience in Twitter. I think SEO Chat is on Thursday nights. They might have changed it, but it was Thursday nights, and PPC Chat, I think, is Tuesdays. You can go into any of these and just say, "Hey, what's up? I'm checking it out." Get some people to notice you that are part of that community. The great thing about that is you're walking into a built-in community, something on Twitter that's already happening. You're getting tons of people to notice you right away with that hashtag.

Number nine, a little similar. So we're at MozCon now. I think anybody would be really smart to use the MozCon hashtag while they're here in a way where they can get attention. So I'll give you another example. Last summer I was at the Affiliate Summit, because I won a free ticket, and as an SEO at an Affiliate Summit, there were a lot of affiliate marketers there but not many SEOs. So I used the hashtag for the event and tweeted, "Hey, anybody would like help with SEO, come find me." That was a perfect way to get people's attention because you're in a conference full of affiliates, and you're one of the only SEOs. So you can use hashtags like that very strategically at events, live events.

Finally, number ten, retweets from followers that influencers will see. Let me explain that a little more carefully. So I'll give another example. A year ago when I was first starting out in the public world of SEO, there were a few influencers that I wanted to make sure saw me, like Rand, Will Reynolds, and Tom Critchlow, and people like that. I knew that if a few of the people that were already following me retweeted my content, if let's say Tom Critchlow was following John Doherty, if John retweeted something of mine, Tom would see it. And the more that happened, the more I would be in front of influencers and not just my immediate audience, and that was done intentionally.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Following The Trend: Mozscape Gets Faster and Cleaner

agosto 31

Posted by AndrewDumont

There's a trend emerging with Mozscape, and it's a good one. Updates are getting more regular and indexes are increasing in size (with exception to a few bumps in the road). Today, we're happy to announce a few more awesome features to add to that list!

A few weeks back, Rand announced the Mozscape API beta, and the Moz community came by the dozens to try it out. Thanks to that passionate group of beta testers, we nailed down some bugs and battle-tested the new API.

Now, it's ready for primetime.

Starting today, Mozscape just got a whole lot faster. It now supports 200 requests per second for everyone on paid levels — that's a 20x increase from the current paid levels! This rate limit increase will allow users to pull Mozscape data as they please, with a lot less wait time in between requests. Even better, you don't need to change a thing on your end to utilize latest update as a paid Mozscape user – just keep calling. No new keys, no new code.

Free Mozscape users, we didn't forget about you! We've got a small rate limit increase coming your way in the coming weeks.

We're also rolling out a fresh update to the Mozscape API documentation. We've heard time and time again that the old documentation caused headaches for folks who have tried to integrate Mozscape data. That's a bummer, so we completely refreshed the structure of our API documentation to remove some of the pain that came with navigating through the docs. This update is also live as of today.

All of these updates tie directly back to the theme of progression with Mozscape. We've got some of our best people on the job, and some 18 million resources behind improving our data (if you know what I mean). Much more to come!

PS. If you've built something awesome with Mozscape, drop me a line or let us know in the comments. We may be sending some love your way soon.

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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