Friday, 20 July 2018

Reputation Management SEO: How to Own Your Branded Keywords in Google - Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

A searcher"s first experience with your brand happens on Google"s SERPs — not your website. Having the ability to influence their organic first impression can go a long way toward improving both customer perception of your brand and conversion rates. In today"s Whiteboard Friday, Rand takes us through the inherent challenges of reputation management SEO and tactics for doing it effectively.

Reputation management SEO: How to Own Your Branded Keywords in Google

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we are chatting about reputation management SEO.

So it turns out I"ve been having a number of conversations with many of you in the Moz community and many friends of mine in the startup and entrepreneurship worlds about this problem that happens pretty consistently, which is essentially that folks who are searching for your brand in Google experience their first touch before they ever get to your site, their first experience with your brand is through Google"s search result page. This SERP, controlling what appears here, what it says, how it says it, who is ranking, where they"re ranking, all of those kinds of things, can have a strong input on a bunch of things.

The challenge

We know that the search results" content can impact...
  • Your conversion rate. People see that the reviews are generally poor or the wording is confusing or it creates questions in their mind that your content doesn"t answer. That can hurt your conversion rate.
  • It can hurt amplification. People who see you in here, who think that there is something bad or negative about you, might be less likely to link to you or share or talk about you.
  • It can impact customer satisfaction. Customers who are going to buy from you but see something negative in the search results might be more likely to complain about it. Or if they see that you have a lower review or ranking or whatnot, they may be more likely to contribute a negative one than if they had seen that you had stellar ones. Their expectations are being biased by what"s in these search results. A lot of times it is totally unfair.

So many of the conversations I"ve been having, for example with folks in the startup space, are like, "Hey, people are reviewing my product. We barely exist yet. We don"t have these people as customers. We feel like maybe we"re getting astroturfed by competitors, or someone is just jumping in here and trying to profit off the fact that we have a bunch of brand search now." So pretty frustrating.

How can we influence this page to maximize positive impact for our brand?

There are, however, some ways to address it. In order to change these results, make them better, Minted, for example, of which I should mention I used to be on Minted"s Board of Directors, and so I believe my wife and I still have some stock in that company. So full disclosure there. But Minted, they"re selling holiday cards. The holiday card market is about to heat up before November and December here in the United States, which is the Christmas holiday season, and that"s when they sell a lot of these cards. So we can do a few things.

I. Change who ranks. So potentially remove some and add some new ones in here, give Google some different options. We could change the ranking order. So we could say, "Hey, we prefer this be lower down and this other one be higher up." We can change that through SEO.

II. Change the content of the ranking pages. If you have poor reviews or if someone has written about you in a particular way and you wish to change that, there are ways to influence that as well.

III. Change the SERP features. So we may be able to get images, for example, of Minted"s cards up top, which would maybe make people more likely to purchase them, especially if they"re exceptionally beautiful.

IV. Add in top stories. If Minted has some great press about them, we could try and nudge Google to use stuff from Google News in here. Maybe we could change what"s in related searches, those types of things.

V. Shift search demand. So if it"s the case that you"re finding that people start typing "Minted" and then maybe are search suggested "Minted versus competitor X" or "Minted card problems" or whatever it is, I don"t think either of those are actually in the suggest, but there are plenty of companies who do have that issue. When that"s the case, you can also shift the search demand.

Reputation management tactics

Here are a number of tactics that I actually worked on with the help of Moz"s Head of SEO, Britney Muller. Britney and I came up with a bunch of tactics, so many that they won"t entirely fit on here, but we can describe a few more for you in the comments.

A. Directing link to URLs off your site (Helps with 1 & 2). First off, links are still a big influencer of a lot of the content that you see here. So it is the case that because Yelp is a powerful domain and they have lots of links, potentially even have lots of links to this page about Minted, it"s the case that changing up those links, redirecting some of them, adding new links to places, linking out from your own site, linking from articles you contribute to, linking from, for example, the CEO"s bio or a prominent influencer on the team"s bio when they go and speak at events or contribute to sources, or when Minted makes donations, or when they support public causes, or when they"re written about in the press, changing those links and where they point to can have a positive impact.

One of the problems that we see is that a lot of brands think, "All my links about my brand should always go to my homepage." That"s not actually the case. It could be the case that you actually want to find, hey, maybe we would like our Facebook page to rank higher. Or hey, we wrote a great piece on Medium about our engineering practices or our diversity practices or how we give back to our community. Let"s see if we can point some of our links to that.

B. Pitching journalists or bloggers or editors or content creators on the web (Helps with 1, 4, a little 3), of any kind, to write about you and your products with brand titled pieces. This is on e of the biggest elements that gets missing. For example, a journalist for the San Francisco Chronicle might write a piece about Minted and say something like, "At this startup, it"s not unusual to find blah, blah, blah." What you want to do is go, "Come on, man, just put the word "Minted" in the title of the piece." If they do, you"ve got a much better shot of having that piece potentially rank in here. So that"s something that whoever you"re working with on that content creation side, and maybe a reporter at the Chronicle would be much more difficult to do this, but a blogger who"s writing about you or a reviewer, someone who"s friendly to you, that type of a pitch would be much more likely to have some opportunity in there. It can get into the top stories SERP feature as well.

C. Crafting your own content (Helps with 1, a little 3). If they"re not going to do it for you, you can craft your own content. You can do this in two kinds of ways. One is for open platforms like Medium.com or Huffington Post or Forbes or Inc. or LinkedIn, these places that accept those, or guest accepting publications that are much pickier, that are much more rarely taking input, but that rank well in your field. You don"t have to think about this exclusively from a link building perspective. In fact, you don"t care if the links are nofollow. You don"t care if they give you no links at all. What you"re trying to do is get your name, your title, your keywords into the title element of the post that"s being put up.

D. You can influence reviews (Helps with 3 & 5). Depending on the site, it"s different from site to site. So I"m putting TOS acceptable, terms of service acceptable nudges to your happy customers and prompt diligent support to the unhappy ones. So Yelp, for example, says, "Don"t solicit directly reviews, but you are allowed to say, "Our business is featured on Yelp."" For someone like Minted, Yelp is mostly physical places, and while Minted technically has a location in San Francisco, their offices, it"s kind of odd that this is what"s ranking here. In fact, I wouldn"t expect this to be. I think this is a strange result to have for an online-focused company, to have their physical location in there. So certainly by nudging folks who are using Minted to rather than contribute to their Facebook reviews or their Google reviews to actually say, "Hey, we"re also on Yelp. If you"ve been happy with us, you can check us out there." Not go leave us a review there, but we have a presence.

E. Filing trademark violations (Helps with 1 & 3). So this is a legal path and legal angle, but it works in a couple of different ways. You can do a letter or an email from your attorney"s office, and oftentimes that will shut things down. In fact, brief story, a friend of mine, who has a company, found that their product was featured on Amazon"s website. They don"t sell on Amazon. No one is reselling on Amazon. In fact, the product mostly hasn"t even shipped yet. When they looked at the reviews, because they haven"t sold very many of their product, it"s an expensive product, none of the people who had left reviews were actually their customers. So they went, "What is going on here?" Well, it turns out Amazon, in order to list your product, needs your trademark permission. So they can send an attorney"s note to Amazon saying, "Hey, you are using our product, our trademark, our brand name, our visuals, our photos without permission. You need to take that down."

The other way you can go about this is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) protocols. You can do this directly through Google, where you file and say basically, "Hey, they"ve taken copyrighted content from us and they"re using it on their website, and that"s illegal." Google will actually remove them from the search results.
This is not necessarily a legal angle, but I bet you didn"t know this. A few years ago I had an article on Wikipedia about me, Rand Fishkin. There was like a Wikipedia piece. I don"t like that. Wikipedia, it"s uncontrollable. Because I"m in the SEO world, I don"t have a very good relationship with Wikipedia"s editors. So I actually lobbied them, on the talk page of the article about me, to have it removed. There are a number of conditions that Wikipedia has where a page can be removed. I believe I got mine removed under the not notable enough category, which I think probably still applies. That was very successful. So wonderfully, now, Wikipedia doesn"t rank for my name anymore, which means I can control the SERPs much more easily. So a potential there too.

F. Using brand advertising and/or influencer marketing to nudge searchers towards different phrases (Helps with 5). So what you call your products, how you market yourself is often how people will search for you. If Minted wanted to change this from Minted cards to minted photo cards, and they really like the results from minted photo cards and those had better conversion rates, they could start branding that through their advertising and their influencer marketing.

G. Surrounding your brand name, a similar way, with common text, anchor phrases, and links to help create or reinforce an association that Google builds around language (Helps with 4 & 5). In that example I said before, having Minted plus a link to their photo cards page or Minted photo cards appearing on the web, not only their own website but everywhere else out there more commonly than Minted cards will bias related searches and search suggest. We"ve tested this. You can actually use anchor text and surrounding text to sort of bias, in addition to how people search, how Google shows it.

H. Leverage some platforms that rank well and influence SERP features (Helps with 2 & 4). So rather than just trying to get into the normal organic results, we might say, "Hey, I want some images here. Aha, Pinterest is doing phenomenal work at image SEO. If I put up a bunch of pictures from Minted, of Minted"s cards or photo cards on Pinterest, I have a much better shot at ranking in and triggering the image results." You can do the same thing with YouTube for videos. You can do the same thing with new sites and for what"s called the top stories feature. The same thing with local and local review sites for the maps and local results feature. So all kinds of ways to do that.

More...

Four final topics before we wrap up.

  • Registering and using separate domains? Should I register and use a separate domain, like MintedCardReviews, that"s owned by Minted? Generally not. It"s not impossible to do reputation management SEO through that, but it can be difficult. I"m not saying you might not want to give it a spin now and then, but generally that"s sort of like creating your own reviews, your own site. Google often recognizes those and looks behind the domain registration wall, and potentially you have very little opportunity to rank for those, plus you"re doing a ton of link building and that kind of stuff. Better to leverage someone"s platform, who can already rank, usually.
  • Negative SEO attacks. You might remember the story from a couple weeks ago, in Fast Company, where Casper, the mattress brand, was basically accused of and found mostly to be generally guilty of going after and buying negative links to a review site that was giving them poor reviews, giving their mattresses poor reviews, and to minimal effect. I think, especially nowadays, this is much less effective than it was a few years ago following Google"s last Penguin update. But certainly I would not recommend it. If you get found out for it, you can be sued too.
  • What about buying reviewers and review sites? This is what Casper ended up doing. So that site they were buying negative links against, they ended up just making an offer and buying out the person who owned it. Certainly it is a way to go. I don"t know if it"s the most ethical or honest thing to do, but it is a possibility.
  • Monitoring brand and rankings. Finally, I would urge you to, if you"re not experiencing these today, but you"re worried about them, definitely monitor your brand. You could use something like a Fresh Web Explorer or Mention.com or Talkwalker. And your rankings too. You want to be tracking your rankings so that you can see who"s popping in there and who"s not. Obviously, there are lots of SEO tools to do that.
All right, everyone, thanks for joining us, and we"ll see again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com


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The Moz Blog

New Distilled ODN features including SEO friendly URLs for enterprise platforms

If you’re a regular reader of our content, you’ve probably come across our ODN platform which enables both SEO A/B testing and more agile changes to large and enterprise sites.

Earlier this year, we had a quarter where we deployed our platform to two Fortune 100 companies’ sites and to the website of one of the largest private companies in the UK. I’ve written before about the ways that split testing is changing consulting but what we’ve found in these enterprise environments is that we are getting radically different results by adding agility to the mix. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it turns out that sometimes, being able to get stuff done is a differentiator in the enterprise. My research showed that the average SEO at a big company has been waiting over six months for their highest priority technical change and doesn’t anticipate seeing it deployed for at least another six months. Indeed 40+% have been waiting over a year!

It’s been very rewarding to attack this problem directly: our core values have always been skewed towards getting things done above simply identifying what needs to be done. Now we are hearing from our customers things like: the ability to make changes to local store pages has been one of our most successful initiatives this year, we’re up 10% and seeing the impact on footfall (that was from a Fortune 100 company - and +10% is pretty visible and meaningful in that kind of environment).

We have new functionality in the ODN

As part of improving our platform’s value in these kind of situations, we are just finishing up a series of enhancements that will be rolled up into a launch we have internally called REQMOD.

The key things this will enable us to do via the ODN platform are:

  1. Move pages individually or en masse (e.g. to serve content on SEO friendly URLs without parameters and redirect the old pages)
  2. Move sub-domain content into sub-folders
  3. Enable easy SEO A/B testing of full page redesigns

Key benefit #1: Moving pages or folders of content

We often come across enterprise-scale sites built on technologies that rely heavily on parameters. It’s really common to see, for example, e-commerce sites built 5+ years ago with no keywords in the URLs at all and often multiple query-string parameters (e.g. /store/product?id=product_id&style=style_id). In fact, there are myriad ways that URLs can be less-than-perfect for users and search engines.

In general, it’s easy to fix this on small or personal sites. A bit of .htaccess fiddling, some rewriting and a redirect or two is all it takes. The complexity (and what’s at stake) is much greater on enterprise platforms.

Having spoken to a bunch of large sites who’d buy a solution to just this problem, we figured it was a great thing to build into our platform since we have all the moving pieces. So - with this release, our platform:

  • Returns the correct page content on a request for the new (“pretty”) URL exactly as if the origin server was configured to serve it for that request
  • Returns 301 redirects at the individual page level for all the old URLs to the new pretty ones

This feature also makes it easy to create new pages by pulling in the outline of a page you want to base your new page on and updating key information (title / meta information, body content) without having to recreate menus, footers etc. It works in a very similar way to moving a page, but with no associated 301.

Key benefit #2: Move sub-domains to sub-folders

Despite the official line coming out of Google, we know that this is still important:

(The difference between the carefully-worded technical correctness of official Google statements and what happens in the real world is something that’s well-worth being aware of. If you haven’t dug deep into it, I recommend this whiteboard Friday on precisely this topic and history and background here [video for DistilledU subscribers]).

The point being, in the real world, this is something you might well want to do.

It can be tricky though: often sub-domains are created because they run different software stacks and / or use different servers, or even because they point at fully external hosted services. It can be hard or impossible to integrate them into your core web servers and so sometimes the only way to host them from a sub-folder is via technology like the ODN that deploys into the web server stack.

In a similar way to the way that the new features enable the ODN to move pages from one path to another, we can also modify the request to origin to go to a different server entirely, enabling us to move sub-domains into sub-folders, for example:

  • Redirect all blog.example.com/path pages to www.example.com/blog/path
  • When www.example.com/blog/path is requested, serve the content from blog.example.com/path

As per Rand’s tweet above, many sites have seen significant benefit from this kind of change, and deploying our stack will make it super easy to manage.

Key benefit #3: A/B test complete redesigns

Everyone who has ever had to release a major redesign of a bunch of pages that get significant organic search traffic has worried about the potential impact the redesign will have - and rightly so. There are a ton of horror stories about this kind of change going wrong. Some parts are avoidable with diligent processes - there are horror stories of brands moving to entirely JS-rendered content that flummoxes search engines for example, that could be avoided with SEO input to the new design - but some parts remain inevitably nerve-wracking.

When you redesign a page, you almost inevitably change its HTML, and it’s virtually impossible to tell in advance how Google will view it. Even further: in a world where usage signals play a role, it’s clear that it’s only on launch that you’re going to begin getting the feedback loop from new design to users’ response to it to Google’s response to that.

So. Your nerves are wracked. Now what?

Well - the new tech enables to make it easy to roll out the new design to just a small percentage of pages, and so as long as you have enough pages and enough traffic, you can run an A/B test to see how they perform in the search results. This is different to the kind of testing you can do with CRO / UX testing tools as it’s visible to the search engines and specifically designed to measure the impact on search performance.

The first test like this that we ran for a customer was strongly negative. I mean, strongly negative. We knew that this customer liked the new design and wanted to deploy it, but getting this insight about its impact on traffic and revenue enabled an iterative approach to understand what still needed to be tweaked and user-tested and then tested again for search impact before pushing the button to roll it out across the site section.

Much like the sub-domain example above, this piece of functionality can work by routing requests just for the variant pages to a new server while routing the control pages to the existing origin server. Alternatively, depending on your setup and configuration, another option is for our platform to inject a header into the request for variant pages (e.g. x-split-test: variant) and to have the origin server respond with the new template when that is present, and the old template when it’s not.

Get in touch if you want to see the ODN in action

If you work on a site that is suffering from an inability to make these kinds of changes (tidy up URLs, move pages or site sections, transfer content from a sub-domain to a sub-folder and more) then get in touch to see a demo of our platform in action.

Similarly, if you have a redesign of a large site section coming up, and you’re nervous about the impact on organic performance of deploying a totally new template across hundreds or thousands of pages then you should check out our ability to split-test at the template level and see how it performs on a smaller number of pages before you hit the big scary button.


Distilled

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Google"s John Mueller Shares His SEO Related Podcast List

A Reddit thread asks folks to share their favorite SEO related podcasts. I spotted John Mueller of Google share his list of his favorite SEO podcasts as well...

Search Engine Roundtable

Daily Search Forum Recap: July 18, 2018

Here is a recap of what happened in the search forums today...

Search Engine Roundtable

Seven Sure-Fire Ways to Annoy a Blog Editor (and What to Do Instead)

The post Seven Sure-Fire Ways to Annoy a Blog Editor (and What to Do Instead) appeared first on ProBlogger.

Ways to annoy a blog editor

This is a post by ProBlogger writing expert Ali Luke.

Are you (inadvertently) annoying bloggers you want to impress?

If you’re hoping to build a great relationship with a blog editor – maybe so you can land a guest post, or interview them on your blog – then this post is for you.

Because you might just be getting yourself on their blacklist without even realising.

For ten years, I’ve been the owner-editor of my blog Aliventures. I have an assistant for some admin tasks, but emails still come through me. And while my blog definitely isn’t the biggest out there, I still get a fair number of annoying emails.

Back in 2013–14 I spent some time editing Daily Blog Tips, where I fielded a lot of comments, enquiries, guest post requests, and so on.

With both Aliventures and Daily Blog Tips, I’ve had plenty of wonderful interactions with lovely readers. But a few readers obviously didn’t realise their comments or emails were guaranteed to irritate me.

Some of the mistakes I’m about to go through might seem fairly obvious; some might not. I’ve tried to explain why each one is so annoying to an editor.

If you’ve been making some of these mistakes, don’t worry. None of them are awful, just annoying. And all you need to do is avoid making them in future.

#1: Leaving a Comment With a Keyword as Your Name

Have you ever seen (or even left) a comment on a blog with the name field filled in as something like “SEO guru” or “India Travel Tips” or “Top Freelance Writer”? I can understand why people do this. Even though it won’t help you rank for that keyword (links in comments are no-follow), it might tempt a curious reader to click on your name and visit your site.

Using a keyword as your name is really irritating for the blog editor. It looks shady and spammy. And no-one wants any part of their blog, including their comment section, to look like that.

It’s also a technique often used by actual spammers. So for many blog editors, seeing a keyword in the “name” field of a comment is such a red flag that they’ll delete your comment altogether.

Instead: Use your actual name. (If you don’t want to use your full name, just use your first name). It’s not that hard. And don’t think you can get round this with something like “Ali Luke | Top Freelance Writer”. While a blog editor might let it stand, it doesn’t leave the best impression.

#2: Sending Vague, Unanswerable Questions by Email

While I welcome emails from readers, and an always happy to answer a question or two, sometimes their emails just leave me scratching my head.

They’ll be something like, “I want to write stories, please can you help?” or even “How do I become a writer?”

If I only received one email like this it wouldn’t bother me. But when I get similar emails regularly, I can’t help but feel a little exasperated. These questions could easily take me a whole book to answer. They’re not really something I can answer in a quick email.

I can’t imagine what response the emailer is hoping for. Maybe they think they might be able to strike up a mentoring relationship or similar. Or perhaps they think I have some special writing secret I only give out privately and won’t share on my blog.

While I’m not cross about these emails – I’m sure they’re well-meaning – I do find them a bit frustrating. I usually respond by sharing a link to one or more of my favourite writing websites, and giving my best wishes. But I’d really love it if these people would figure out one specific question I could help them with.

Instead: If you’re emailing a blogger for help and advice, ask something specific. (Check their blog first to make sure they haven’t covered it already).

If you’ve got a fairly broad question you want answered, you could frame it as “I’d love to see you blog about…” Most blog editors are happy to receive reader suggestions.

#3: Making Snide Remarks About Typos or Mistakes

With a degree in English Literature and a Masters in Creative Writing, I like to think my grasp of the English language is more than reasonable. But like everyone else I make the occasional typo or mistake. (And I don’t always proofread quite as well as I should.)

One of the most irritating things blog readers can do is to point out those errors in a nasty – and public – way. They may leave a comment saying, “Wow, I thought you were a professional writer, and you can’t even spell”. Or they’ll take issue with a particular word or phrase I’ve used that’s perfectly correct in British English (which is what I use for my own blog and many of my guest posts).

Instead: Do alert a blog’s editor to any typo or mistake you spot. Believe me, they’ll want to know. But do it in private (by email or direct message) and be nice about it. Something along the lines of: “I think a typo slipped through in your first paragraph (‘potatoe’ should be ‘potato’). Just thought you’d like to know.”

#4: Starting an Argument in the Comments

On large blogs, I’ve seen the attitude among some readers that the blog is a “public forum” and they should be entitled to have their say – even if they’re being nasty to other readers.

This is really frustrating for a blog editor. They’ll have to spend time checking the comments, and potentially deleting ones that fall foul of the blog’s commenting policy. (Even if the blog doesn’t have a commenting policy, editors will still quite rightly delete comments that are hostile and rude.)

Remember: even if the blog you’re reading is large, it’s still someone’s website. It isn’t a public forum or social network. (Even sites such as Facebook and Twitter can delete your posts if you write something truly outrageous.)

Instead: If you disagree with someone, there’s nothing wrong with saying so. But be civil, and if you wouldn’t say it in the blogger’s living room then don’t say it on their blog. If someone else attacks you, either respond calmly or not at all. (Sometimes, it’s best just to walk away.)

#5: Ripping Off Their Content

If you want to really wind up a blog editor, here’s a great way to do it: steal one of their posts and publish it on your own site.

While some spammers do this fully knowing it’s wrong, I’ve also come across occasional readers who are new to the blogging world and simply don’t realise they can’t republish other people’s work on their own blog.

So, just in case you’re wondering, here’s what is (and isn’t) okay:

  • You can quote other bloggers. (Make sure you clearly identify the words you’re quoting, and that you name the blogger and link to the source of the quote where possible).
  • You can link to other bloggers’ posts to recommend them to your readers. You can republish a short excerpt from the post (but again, make sure it’s identified as a quote).
  • You can’t publish someone else’s entire post unless they’ve given you explicit permission to do so.
  • You can’t publish images from their post without explicit permission to do so.
  • You can’t take someone else’s post and rewrite it sentence-by-sentence to make it your own. If you’re using their structure and their thoughts, the fact you’ve switched lots of words for different ones or reworked some sentences doesn’t matter. You’re still committing plagiarism.

Instead: Normally, the best thing to do is to simply write your own original blog posts. That way there’s no danger of ripping off someone else’s work. But if you particularly love a post someone else wrote, you could write something inspired by it. (Make sure you link to and acknowledge the original.)

If you really want to republish someone’s post, email newsletter, etc. on your blog, then email them and ask for permission.

#6: Emailing Badly Written, Off-Topic Guest Post Suggestions

In my email inbox, I have a specific label for ‘bad guest post pitches’. Here are a few lines taken verbatim from various emails under that label. Note that these were all guest post pitches for my blog Aliventures, which is about the “art, craft and business of writing”.

“I can provide you 100% Copyscape protected the interesting and informative article that will be helpful to your readers. […] I have also articles published in some of the major websites.”

“I write excellent content with good information that will be appealing to your audience along with attractive images and infographics. I write on varied topics like health, marketing, gifts, travel, etc.”

“I`ve got some useful and unique content about Business Correspondence Skills, that would naturally attract the attention of the authors and the audience alike.”

I’m not sure what people hope to achieve with guest post pitches like this. I suspect they send out so many that eventually someone agrees to take a post from them.

As a blog editor, I’m not going to accept a post that’s off-topic for my blog. (It’s annoying that people email me without even checking what I cover.) And if the pitch itself is badly written and full of spelling mistakes, I won’t want even an on-topic guest post from that writer.

A milder (but still annoying) form of this is when people email me saying something like, “Can I send you a guest post to look at?” I need more than that to go on.

If you’re pitching a guest post, send an actual pitch. And don’t think sending a email like this to get a “Yes, send it on over” response will get you a foot in the door. It just makes you look a bit clueless).

Instead: Write a great guest post pitch. Tell the blogger the topic or title you propose to write about, and make sure it’s firmly on-topic for their blog. Don’t feel you’re “not good enough” or that your blog “isn’t big enough” for you to pitch a guest post yet. Trust me, your pitch will be far better than most of the ones coming the editor’s way.

#7: Asking for a Link to Your Post

This might seem a little controversial. But as a blog owner/editor, I find it annoying to receive link requests.

Yes, I know getting links to your blog is really important and a big part of offsite SEO. But I get so many link request emails that they always come across as an irritation, not a great opportunity.

The requests I receive often seem like they’re generic template emails, too. They either tell me they’ve linked to me and they’d appreciate a link back (reciprocal link exchanges isn’t a good idea in SEO terms), or that they noticed I linked to someone similar to them in a particular post and want me to link to them too.

(I assume they’re using a tool to find backlinks to their competitors so they can target bloggers to request links to their posts as well.)

However brilliant your post is, the truth is most blogger editors won’t have much time to invest in checking it out. Plus, if I wrote a post six months ago I’m not interested in going back and updating it to add more links.

Instead: By all means seek out links to your blog. But don’t email loads of big-name bloggers in the hopes of getting somewhere. Instead, build up relationships with blogging peers who write about your topic. (This is a great idea for lots of reasons, not just to get links.) Then once it’s appropriate, let people know you’d be happy to link to them any time they have a post they’re particularly trying to promote. Hopefully they’ll return the favour. But don’t be upset if they don’t.

 

Most of these mistakes are easy ones to make. You might think they’re all little things, and that editors shouldn’t get annoyed by them. But imagine receiving the 20th irrelevant, badly spelt guest post pitch in a week, and you’ll see why editors might not have much patience left.

Have you been inadvertently making any of these mistakes? What will you do differently next time around?

Image Credit: Ben White

The post Seven Sure-Fire Ways to Annoy a Blog Editor (and What to Do Instead) appeared first on ProBlogger.

      

ProBlogger

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

The Local SEO’s Guide to the Buy Local Phenomenon: A Competitive Advantage for Clients

Posted by MiriamEllis

Photo credit: Michelle Shirley

What if a single conversation with one of your small local business clients could spark activity that would lead to an increase in their YOY sales of more than 7%, as opposed to only 4% if you don’t have the conversation? What if this chat could triple the amount of spending that stays in their town, reduce pollution in their community, improve their neighbors’ health, and strengthen democracy?

What if the brass ring of content dev, link opportunities, consumer sentiment and realtime local inventory is just waiting for you to grab it, on a ride we just haven’t taken yet, in a setting we’re just not talking about?

Let’s travel a different road today, one that parallels our industry’s typical conversation about citations, reviews, markup, and Google My Business. As a 15-year sailor on the Local SEO ship, I love all this stuff, but, like you, I’m experiencing a merging of online goals with offline realities, a heightened awareness of how in-store is where local business successes are born and bred, before they become mirrored on the web.

At Moz, our SaaS tools serve businesses of every kind: Digital, bricks-and-mortar, SABs, enterprises, mid-market agencies, big brands, and bootstrappers. But today, I’m going to go as small and as local as possible, speaking directly to independently-owned local businesses and their marketers about the buy local/shop local/go local movement and what I’ve learned about its potential to deliver meaningful and far-reaching successes. Frankly, I think you’ll be as amazed as I’ve been.

At the very least, I hope reading this article will inspire you to have a conversation with your local business clients about what this growing phenomenon could do for them and for their communities. Successful clients, after all, are the very best kind to have.

What is the Buy Local movement all about?

What’s the big idea?

You’re familiar with the concept of there being power in numbers. A single independent business lacks the resources and clout to determine the local decisions and policies that affect it. Should Walmart or Target be invited to set up shop in town? Should the crumbling building on Main St. be renovated or demolished? Which safety and cultural services should be supported with funding? The family running the small grocery store has little say, but if they join together with the folks running the bakery, the community credit union, the animal shelter, and the bookstore ... then they begin to have a stronger voice.

Who does this?

Buy Local programs formalize the process of independently-owned businesses joining together to educate their communities about the considerable benefits to nearly everyone of living in a thriving local economy. These efforts can be initiated by merchants, Chambers of Commerce, grassroots citizen groups, or others. They can be assisted and supported by non-profit organizations like the American Independent Business Alliance (AMIBA) and the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR).

What are the goals?

Through signage, educational events, media promotions, and other forms of marketing, most Buy Local campaigns share some or all of these goals:

  • Increase local wealth that recirculates within the community
  • Preserve local character
  • Build community
  • Create good jobs
  • Have a say in policy-making
  • Decrease environmental impacts
  • Support entrepreneurship
  • Improve diversity/variety
  • Compete with big businesses

Do Buy Local campaigns actually work?

Yes - research indicates that, if managed correctly, these programs yield a variety of benefits to both merchants and residents. Consider these findings:

1) Healthy YOY sales advantages

ILSR conducted a national survey of independent businesses to gauge YOY sales patterns. 2016 respondents reported a good increase in sales across the board, but with a significant difference which AMIBA sums up:

“Businesses in communities with a sustained grassroots “buy independent/buy local” campaign reported a strong 7.4% sales increase, nearly doubling the 4.2% gain for those in areas without such an alliance.”

2) Keeping spending local

The analysts at Civic Economics conducted surveys of 10 cities to gauge the local financial impacts of independents vs. chain retailers, yielding a series of graphics like this one:

While statistics vary from community to community, the overall pattern is one of significantly greater local recirculation of wealth in the independent vs. chain environment. These patterns can be put to good use by Buy Local campaigns with the goal of increasing community-sustaining wealth.

3) Keeping communities employed and safe

Few communities can safely afford the loss of jobs and tax revenue documented in a second Civic Economics study which details the impacts of Americans’ Amazon habit, state by state and across the nation:

While the recent supreme court ruling allowing states to tax e-commerce models could improve some of these dire numbers, towns and cities with Buy Local alliances can speak plainly: Lack of tax revenue that leads to lack of funding for emergency services like fire departments is simply unsafe and unsustainable. A study done a few years back found that ⅔ of volunteer firefighters in the US report that their departments are underfunded with 86% of these heroic workers having to dip into their own pockets to buy supplies to keep their stations going. As I jot these statistics down, there is a runaway 10,000 acre wildfire burning a couple of hours north of me…

Meanwhile, Inc.com is pointing out,

“According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, since the end of the Great Recession, small businesses have created 62 percent of all net new private-sector jobs. Among those jobs, 66 percent were created by existing businesses, while 34 percent were generated through new establishments (adjusted for establishment closings and job losses)”.

When communities have Go Local-style business alliances, they are capitalizing on the ability to create jobs, increase sales, and build up tax revenue that could make a serious difference not just to local unemployment rates, but to local safety.

4) Shaping policy

In terms of empowering communities to shape policy, there are many anecdotes to choose from, but one of the most celebrated surrounds a landmark study conducted by the Austin Independent Business Alliance which documented community impacts of spending at the local book and music stores vs. a proposed Borders. Their findings were compelling enough to convince the city not to give a $ 2.1 million subsidy to the now-defunct corporation.

5) Improving the local environment

A single statistic here is incredibly eye opening. According to the US Department of Transportation, shopping-related driving per household more than tripled between 1969-2009.

All you have to do is picture to yourself the centralized location of mainstreet businesses vs. big boxes on the outskirts of town to imagine how city planning has contributed to this stunning rise in time spent on the road. When residents can walk or bike to make daily purchases, the positive environmental impacts are obvious.

6) Improving residents’ health and well-being

A recent Cigna survey of 20,000 Americans found that nearly half of them always or sometimes feel lonely, lacking in significant face-to-face interactions with others. Why does this matter? Because the American Psychological Association finds that you have a 50% less chance of dying prematurely if you have quality social interactions.

There’s a reason author Jan Karon’s “Mitford” series about life in a small town in North Carolina has been a string of NY Times Best Sellers; readers and reviewers continuously state that they yearn to live someplace like this fictitious community with the slogan “Mitford takes care of its own”. In the novels, the lives of residents, independent merchants, and “outsiders” interweave, in good times and bad, creating a support network many Americans envy.

This societal setup must be a winner, as well as a bestseller, because the Cambridge Journal of Regions published a paper in which they propose that the concentration of small businesses in a given community can be equated with levels of public health.

Beyond the theory that eating fresh and local is good for you, it turns out that knowing your farmer, your banker, your grocer could help you live longer.

7) Realizing big-picture goals

Speaking of memorable stories, this video from ILSR does a good job of detailing one view of the ultimate impacts independent business alliances can have on shaping community futures:

I interviewed author and AMIBA co-founder, Jeff Milchen, about the good things that can happen when independents join hands. He summed it up,

“The results really speak for themselves when you look at what the impact of public education for local alliances has been in terms of shifting culture. It’s a great investment for independent businesses to partner with other independents, to do things they can’t do individually. Forming these partnerships can help them compete with the online giants.”

Getting going with a Go Local campaign, the right way

If sharing some of the above with clients has made them receptive to further exploration of what involvement in an independent business alliance might do for them, here are the next steps to take:

  1. First, find out if a Go Local/Shop Local/Buy Local/Stay Local campaign already exists in the business’ community. If so, the client can join up.
  2. If not, contact AMIBA. The good folks there will know if other local business owners in the client’s community have already expressed interest in creating an alliance. They can help connect the interested parties up.
  3. I highly, highly recommend reading through Amiba’s nice, free primer covering just about everything you need to know about Go Local campaigns.
  4. Encourage the client to publicize their intent to create an alliance if none exists in their community. Do an op ed in the local print news, put it on social media sites, talk to neighbors. This can prompt outreach from potential allies in the effort.
  5. A given group can determine to go it alone, but it may be better to rely on the past experience of others who have already created successful campaigns. AMIBA offers a variety of paid community training modules, including expert speakers, workshops, and on-site consultations. Each community can write in to request a quote for a training plan that will work best for them. The organization also offers a wealth of free educational materials on their website.
  6. According to AMIBA’s Jeff Milchen, a typical Buy Local campaign takes about 3-4 months to get going.

It’s important to know that Go Local campaigns can fail, due to poor execution. Here is a roundup of practices all alliances should focus on to avoid the most common pitfalls:

  1. Codify the definition of a “local” business as being independently-owned-and-run, or else big chain inclusion will anger some members and cause them to leave.
  2. Emphasize all forms of local patronage; campaigns that stick too closely to words like “buy” or “shop” overlook the small banks, service area businesses, and other models that are an integral part of the independent local economy.
  3. Ensure diversity in leadership; an alliance that fails to reflect the resources of age, race, gender/identity, political views, economics and other factors may wind up perishing from narrow viewpoints. On a related note, AMIBA has been particularly active in advocating for business communities to rid themselves of bigotry. Strong communities welcome everyone.
  4. Do the math of what success looks like; education is a major contributing factor to forging a strong alliance, based on projected numbers of what campaigns can yield in concrete benefits for both merchants and residents.
  5. Differentiate inventory and offerings so that independently-owned businesses offer something of added value which patrons can’t easily replicate online; this could be specialty local products, face-to-face time with expert staff, or other benefits.
  6. Take the high road in inspiring the community to increase local spending; campaigns should not rely on vilifying big and online businesses or asking for patronage out of pity. In other words, guilt-tripping locals because they do some of their shopping at Walmart or Amazon isn’t a good strategy. Even a 10% shift towards local spending can have positive impacts for a community!
  7. Clearly assess community resources; not every town, city, or district hosts the necessary mix of independent businesses to create a strong campaign. For example, approximately 2.2% of the US population live in “food deserts”, many miles from a grocery store. These areas may lack other local businesses, as well, and their communities may need to create grassroots campaigns surrounding neighborhood gardens, mobile markets, private investors and other creative solutions.

In sum, success significantly depends on having clear definitions, clear goals, diverse participants and a proud identity as independents, devoid of shaming tactics.

Circling back to the Web — our native heath!

So, let’s say that your incoming client is now participating in a Buy Local program. Awesome! Now, where do we go from here?

In speaking with Jeff Milchen, I asked what he has seen in terms of digital marketing being used to promote the businesses involved in Buy Local campaigns. He said that, while some alliances have workshops, it’s a work in progress and something he hopes to see grow in the future.

As a Local SEO, that future is now for you and your fortunate clients. Here are some ways I see this working out beautifully:

Basic data distribution and consistency

Small local businesses can sometimes be unaware of inconsistent or absent local business listings, because the owners are just so busy. The quickest way I know to demo this scenario is to plug the company name and zip into the free Moz Check Listing tool to show them how they’re doing on the majors. Correct data errors and fill in the blanks, either manually, or, using affordable software like Moz Local. You’ll also want to be sure the client has a presence on any geo or industry-specific directories and platforms. It’s something your agency can really help with!

A hyperlocalized content powerhouse

Build proud content around the company’s involvement in the Buy Local program.

  • Write about all of the economic, environmental, and societal benefits residents can support by patronizing the business.
  • Motivated independents take time to know their customers. There are stories in this. Write about the customers and their needs. I’ve even seen independent restaurants naming menu items after beloved patrons. Get personal. Build community.
  • Don’t forget that even small towns can be powerful points of interest for tourists. Create a warm welcome for travelers, and for new neighbors, too!

Link building opportunities of a lifetime

Local business alliances form strong B2B bonds.

  • Find relationships with related businesses that can sprout links. For example, the caterer knows the wedding cake baker, who knows the professional seamstress, who knows the minister, who knows the DJ, who knows the florist.
  • Dive deep into opportunities for sponsoring local organizations, teams and events, hosting and participating in workshops and conferences, offering scholarships and special deals.
  • Make fast friends with local media. Be newsworthy.

A wellspring of sentiment

Independents form strong business-to-community bonds.

  • When a business really knows its customers, asking for online reviews is so much easier. In some communities, it may be necessary to teach customers how to leave reviews, but once you get a strategy going for this, the rest is gravy.
  • It’s also a natural fit for asking for written and video testimonials to be published on the company website.
  • Don’t forget the power of Word of Mouth Marketing, while you’re at it. Loyal patrons are an incredible asset.
  • The one drawback could be if your business model is one of a sensitive nature. Tight-knit communities can be ones in which residents may be more desirous of protecting their privacy.

Digitize inventory easily

30% of consumers say they’d buy from a local store instead of online if they knew the store was nearby (Google). Over half of consumers prefer to shop in-store to interact with products (Local Search Association). Over 63% of consumers would rather buy from a company they consider to be authentic over the competition (Bright Local).

It all adds up to the need for highly-authentic independently-owned businesses to have an online presence that signals to Internet users that they stock desired products. For many small, local brands, going full e-commerce on their website is simply too big of an implementation and management task. It’s a problem that’s dogged this particular business sector for years. And it’s why I got excited when the folks at AMIBA told me to check out Pointy.

Pointy offers a physical device that small business owners can attach to their barcode scanner to have their products ported to a Pointy-controlled webpage. But, that’s not all. Pointy integrates with the “See What’s In Store” inventory function of Google My Business Knowledge Panels. Check out Talbot’s Toyland in San Mateo, CA for a live example.

Pointy is a startup, but one that is exciting enough to have received angel investing from the founder of Wordpress and the co-founder of Google Maps. Looks like a real winner to me, and it could provide a genuine answer for brick-and-mortar independents who have found their sales staggering in the wake of Amazon and other big digital brands.

Local SEOs have an important part to play

Satisfaction in work is a thing to be cherished. If the independent business movement speaks to you, bringing your local search marketing skills to these alliances and small brands could make more of your work days really good days.

The scenario could be an especially good fit for agencies that have specialized in city or state marketing. For example, one of our Moz Community members confines his projects to South Carolina. Imagine him taking it on the road a bit, hosting and attending workshops for towns across the state that are ready to revitalize main street. An energetic client roster could certainly result if someone like him could show local banks, grocery stores, retail shops and restaurants how to use the power of the local web!

Reading America

Our industry is living and working in complex times.

The bad news is, a current Bush-Biden poll finds that 8/10 US residents are “somewhat” or “very” concerned about the state of democracy in our nation.

The not-so-bad news is that citizen ingenuity for discovering solutions and opportunities is still going strong. We need only look as far as the runaway success of the TV show “Fixer Upper”, which drew 5.21 million viewers in its fourth season as the second-largest telecast of Q2 of that year. The show surrounded the revitalization of dilapidated homes and businesses in and around Waco, Texas, and has turned the entire town into a major tourist destination, pulling in millions of annual visitors and landing book deals, a magazine, and the Magnolia Home furnishing line for its entrepreneurial hosts.

While not every town can (or would want to) experience what is being called the “Magnolia effect”, channels like HGTV and the DIY network are heavily capitalizing on the rebirth of American communities, and private citizens are taking matters into their own hands.

There’s the family who moved from Washington D.C. to Water Valley, Mississippi, bought part of the decaying main street and began to refurbish it. I found the video story of this completely riveting, and look at the Yelp reviews of the amazing grocery store and lunch counter these folks are operating now. The market carries local products, including hoop cheese and milk from the first dairy anyone had opened in 50 years in the state.

There are the half-dozen millennials who are helping turn New Providence, Iowa into a place young families can live and work again. There’s Corning, NY, Greensburg, KS, Colorado Springs, CO, and so many more places where people are eagerly looking to strengthen community sufficiency and sustainability.

Some marketing firms are visionary forerunners in this phenomenon, like Deluxe, which has sponsored the Small Business Revolution show, doing mainstreet makeovers that are bringing towns back to life. There could be a place out there somewhere on the map of the country, just waiting for your agency to fill it.

The best news is that change is possible. A recent study in Science magazine states that the tipping point for a minority group to change a majority viewpoint is 25% of the population. This is welcome news at a time when 80% of citizens are feeling doubtful about the state of our democracy. There are 28 million small businesses in the United States - an astonishing potential educational force - if communities can be taught what a vote with their dollar can do in terms of giving them a voice. As Jeff Milchen told me:

One of the most inspiring things is when we see local organizations helping residents to be more engaged in the future of their community. Most communities feel somewhat powerless. When you see towns realize they have the ability to shift public policy to support their own community, that’s empowering.”

Sometimes, the extremes of our industry can make our society and our democracy hard to read. On the one hand, the largest brands developing AI, checkout-less shopping, driverless cars, same-day delivery via robotics, and the gig economy win applause at conferences.

On the other hand, the public is increasingly hearing the stories of employees at these same companies who are protesting Microsoft developing face recognition for ICE, Google’s development of AI drone footage analysis for the Pentagon, working conditions at Amazon warehouses that allegedly preclude bathroom breaks and have put people in the hospital, and the various outcomes of the “Walmart Effect”.

The Buy Local movement is poised in time at this interesting moment, in which our democracy gets to choose. Gigs or unions? Know your robot or know your farmer? Convenience or compassion? Is it either/or? Can it be both?

Both big and small brands have a major role to play in answering these timely questions and shaping the ethics of our economy. Big brands, after all, have tremendous resources for raising the bar for ethical business practices. Your agency likely wants to serve both types of clients, but it’s all to the good if all business sectors remember that the real choosers are the “consumers”, the everyday folks voting with their dollars.

I know that it can be hard to find good news sometimes. But I’m hoping what you’ve read today gifts you with a feeling of optimism that you can take to the office, take to your independently-owned local business clients, and maybe even help take to their communities. Spark a conversation today and you may stumble upon a meaningful competitive advantage for your agency and its most local customers.

Every year, local SEOs are delving deeper and deeper into the offline realities of the brands they serve, large and small. We’re learning so much, together. It’s sometimes a heartbreaker, but always an honor, being part of this local journey.


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Rand Fishkin Has a New Startup — and He Wants to Do Things Differently

Sparks flew when Rand Fishkin left Moz.

If Rand Fishkin, co-founder of SEO software startup Moz, could do it all over again, he’d do it differently. The mustachioed SEO icon recently sat down with Conductor’s SEO podcast Search On Tap to talk the lessons he learned in his 17 years at Moz, the new ways he thinks about starting a business, his new book Lost and Founder: A Painfully Honest Field Guide to the Startup World, and more.

Read on for a taste of the conversation, and listen to the whole thing below:

Rand Fishkin on Leaving Moz: Moving Forward

All good things come to an end. Rand founded Moz with his mom, Gillian Muessig, in 2004 and shepherded its growth as CEO from 2007 to 2014. After stepping down as CEO in 2014, he continued to work at Moz in a variety of individual contributor roles for another 4 years.

In February of this year, after putting over a decade and a half of his life into Moz, Rand parted ways with the company. “The day I left Moz — that was a shit day. It was a hard day,” Rand told Search On Tap. “This is a company that I built with my mom, and obviously Geraldine, my wife, was hugely involved in the early days… A ton of the people there are people that I hired. It was painful, just super painful. It’s the only job I’ve ever had.”

“I have some people I want to prove wrong. That’s always a good motivator for me.” -Rand Fishkin

One thing that helped ease the pain of moving on: an outpouring of support for Rand from the SEO community. Over the 48 hours following his departure from Moz, Rand received over 1,600 emails from friends and fans thanking him for his impact on their lives and wishing him the best. Reading them was “an overwhelming experience,” he said.

He realized, in his own words: “Holy shit — this stuff really matters. This stuff makes a difference to people and they’re thankful and they show that thanks.”

But Rand isn’t completely at peace about leaving Moz just yet. “Right now, I have a chip on my shoulder,” Rand said. “I have some people I want to prove wrong. That’s always a good motivator for me.”

Rand Fishkin on Startups: The Problem of Scale

In the years leading up to Rand’s departure from Moz, he’d already begun feeling some discomfort with the company. Moz had simply grown too big for Rand’s tastes.

“One of the things that I disliked as Moz grew was I didn’t feel as good at a company of more than 50, 60 people,” Rand told Search On Tap. “I really liked it small.”

Rand thinks he fell prey to a belief that he sees too many entrepreneurs treat as gospel: the only way to get funding for a tech startup is to grow as quickly as you can. “I think that’s crap, frankly,” he said. “There should be lots of paths, there should be lots of kinds of tech companies. Not everyone needs to pursue the ‘growth at all costs, as fast as possible, 95% death rate’ [model].”

“We can make ourselves happier, more productive — a higher quality company.” -Rand Fishkin

He sees a better way to start a business: “I think that a lot of companies would be great companies who could delight their employees and founders and customers if they weren’t trying to go at crazy breakneck speeds in order to return 5 to 10x capital in 5 to 7 years.”

Rand wants his new startup, SparkToro, to be a different kind of company. “We will find ways to scale that don’t require people, and we will intentionally — potentially — turn down revenue and customers and opportunity if the only way to get it is to build a big team,” he said. “We can make ourselves happier, more productive — a higher quality company.”

Rand Fishkin on What’s Next: Starting a Business

What exactly is Rand’s new startup SparkToro? Here’s how he pitched it to Search On Tap: “You have an audience you want to reach. We will show you the publications and people and sources and channels that influence that audience.”

Companies producing products or services far outside of the mainstream need to supplement their organic search strategy by looking to other marketing channels, Rand explained. “No one’s actually looking for the thing they’re selling. It’s too new or unique or weird or outside the norm.”

If there aren’t yet enough potential customers searching around topics related to your company’s products or services to attract to your company’s site through content marketing and convert, you’re going to have to build awareness in other ways.

“You’ve got to figure out who your audience is, you’ve got to get in front of publications and people and channels and sources that influence that audience, and then you have to earn the amplification in the right ways to them.” -Rand Fishkin

That’s where SparkToro comes in. “You’ve got to figure out who your audience is, you’ve got to get in front of publications and people and channels and sources that influence that audience, and then you have to earn the amplification in the right ways to them,” Rand said.

But the process of building a list of influencer sources and publications is still incredibly labor intensive. “It felt like SEO did in 2002 — just totally manual, no tools,” Rand realized. “I thought, ‘We can automate this.’”

“Just to be clear: this product does not exist yet,” Rand added, laughing. “We just closed our funding round.”

In some ways, SparkToro is a response to Rand’s experience at Moz: he’s set on keeping the company small and not raising venture capital to fund it. “You are a reaction to your past and it can be tough to not let that control you,” Rand admitted.

But for Rand, SparkToro is less about looking backward than it is about moving forward. Reflecting on the twists and turns of his adventure through the world of SEO so far, Rand said, “It’s been a great journey, it’s been a hard journey at times… but I think this new beginning is looking really exciting.”

Listen to the full episode with Rand Fishkin and be sure to subscribe to Search On Tap on Apple Podcasts, Soundcloud, Stitcher, Google Play, and the Conductor Learning Center.

The post Rand Fishkin Has a New Startup — and He Wants to Do Things Differently appeared first on Conductor Spotlight.


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