Take Your Presentations to the Next Level, Great Tips from Erica McGillivray

Erica McGillivrayErica McGillivray is the Senior Community Manager at Moz. She also handles the presentations that are given during Mozcon to ensure that the presentations will be received in a positive light by the audience. Because Erica has so much experience with presentations, conference attendees and speakers I thought I would reach out and get some advice on presentation design, content and themes.

If you currently speak or you hope to speak one day I suggest you read Erica’s advice carefully and check out all the great resources she offers.

1. You are a huge part of the presentations at Mozcon. Can you tell us what your role is?

I essentially function as the speaker wrangler for MozCon. I herd cats. :)

But in all seriousness, I have the privilege to work with some of the brightest minds in our greater industry and bring their brilliance to the MozCon stage. MozCon speakers are selected by a small committee, and as part of that, I help get our speakers vetted and selected. Then I work with each speaker from initial outreach about coming to MozCon to post-MozCon feedback.

MozCon is quite a bit more hand-ons than other conferences in the space, because we believe that further coaching and help has gotten already amazing speakers to bring the best presentations (so far) of their careers to the stage. We have initial calls to discuss topics, reviews of drafts or outlines, early final deck reviews, a walkthrough of the stage pre-MozCon, final reminders before going on stage, and post-MozCon pretty robust feedback. There’s a lot I’ve learned over the years of doing this at MozCon (and from my own speaking) or have observed particular needs for the MozCon audience through their feedback and our stage setup.

2. What are the common mistakes you see in presentations?

Ian Lurie from Portent really summed up bad deck mistakes. The two biggest things I see are 1) text not being large enough for the entire audience to see, and 2) cramming too much text on a slide. The latter is the cause of excessive bullet points and often just bad design layout. Audiences will read your slides before they listen to you, so if you have more than 20ish words on a slide, they are likely not listening to you and instead are reading.

Besides the actual deck itself, the biggest mistake I see is not practicing your talk multiple times or not practicing it in front of a live audience. Great talks are practiced, and great speakers practice their talks. Too many speakers work on their decks until the very last minute — which most conferences runners hate — and don’t give the deck time to settle and the talk to fully form in their heads. You want to be comfortable with it on stage.

3. Based on your extensive experience can you tell us what makes a presentation successful with a live audience? How about on Slideshare?

I highly discourage presenters from attempting to make one deck for both the presentation and your Slideshare upload.

Presentations should mostly be about what you say, and most of the time, without your words, the deck will range from mildly to completely incoherent. The best decks present information clearly to the audience and support the talk itself.

TakeawayIt’s about storytelling and takeaways. (The MozCon audience is particularly finicky on those actionable takeaways in that you can give the best talk in the world and get killed in the feedback if there’s no easy-to-grab tips.) You don’t have to have the world’s prettiest deck, but it does need to clearly present the information. Those two things often get misconstrued as the same.

For SlideShare, you want to provide audiences with that extra information that’s missing from the deck, but relayed in the talk. Some speakers release their full speaker notes — though sometimes speakers are hesitant or perhaps embarrassed by them in the raw — and others go as far as transcripts or making a completely separate deck. Personally, I recently did a presentation where I put colored bubbles with text of information into the slides that needed more explanation, and this seemed to work well.

4. There are a lot of recommendations about not using text in presentations. What are your thoughts on this?

Text can be powerful, especially if you choose the right words. Sometimes text can also help the speaker in their flow. For instance, I’m pretty terrible at remembering numbers, and if I’m giving a talk on analytics, numbers are going to be important; so as a speaker, I will often make the slide show the numbers (or whatever else) that I might forget.

As mentioned above, great decks are often ruined by too many words. Limit them.

5. Should presentations be professionally designed?

While I don’t believe they need to be professionally designed, I do believe some basic art of slide building education or a critic of a deck by a designer can be a great thing. A lot of excellent speakers are brought down by bad decks.

I highly recommend Nancy Duarte’s slide:ology, which is a relatively easy book for a non-designer who’s building decks to get some basic principles. On the other hand, a professional designer never hurts if you can afford one. To be perfectly transparent, I was an art student and a graphic designer in a past life, and I know that this has given me a leg up in understanding the principles behind great or bad decks. But I do think that frequent presenters can at least learn some of the basics by reading Duarte’s book or other resources.

6. If you had to single out one thing that consistently sets apart the presentations that get chosen from those that are rejected, what would it be?

Solid pitches that provide details and stand out as a new or unique twist on the topic, plus videos and slide decks from past presentations to serve as a speaking-ability resume. I’m constantly pretty surprised at how many people leave out the details of what makes their talk really different and cool from their descriptions. Sure, your talk’s goodies are a surprise to our audience, but shouldn’t be to show-runners.

7. Personality vs. Professionalism in presentations, what are your thoughts?

I think there can be a balance of both creating a so-called professional deck and put some personality in it. Similar to too much text, too much fun or theme-ing can overwhelm your talk.

For instance, I once created an Inspector Spacetime themed deck. Most of my marketer audience didn’t know that Inspector Spacetime is a fake TV show within the TV show Community. I had a lot of fun doing it, but my audience worried more about knowing how my theme-related and about the theme instead of about my talk. It convoluted the clarity of my deck. I’ve seen similar things happen to MozCon and Mozinar (our webinars) speakers.

8. Anything you would like to share? Resources, tips, pet peeves, etc.?

Don’t be afraid to get out there and speak. Speaking is like everything else in our professional lives: a skill that we learn and evolve to be better at over time. We all have moments where we’re due to falter and times that we will shine.

I always like to share my ever-evolving list of resources for speakers or those who are interested in speaking:

Books:

Articles:

  1. How to Give a Killer Presentation by Chris Anderson, curator at TED
  2. How to Become a Confident Public Speaker by Matthew Capala
  3. The Evolution of My Public Presentations by Rand Fishkin
  4. The Making of SearchLove by Mack Fogelson
  5. Too Busy To Succeed: How I let ‘busyness’ make me choke at MozCon by Adam Audette (make sure to read comments too!)
  6. 11 Things To NEVER Say In A Presentation by XCamilleWong
  7. Presentation Horrors: Don’t Do These Things by Ian Laurie
  8. Being a MozCon Community Speaker: A Look Inside by Zeph Snapp

Videos:

A Big Thanks to Erica McGillivray!

Erica is very busy and I really appreciate her taking the time to answer these questions for us, and for providing all these great resources to learn from. You can find Erica on Twitter , Google+ and Slideshare.

Smart Ways To Use Longtail Keywords To Stay Ahead of The Competition

LongtailIt’s 9:30 am, on a Monday, and I’m staring across the table at the CMO of a midsize company. He’s already warned me that I’m not to talk when his CEO, who has yet to enter the room, is talking. Most important, he said, I’m to answer the CEO’s questions directly, no “hemming and hawing.”

The CEO enters, shakes my hand, offers me a seat and gets right to the point. “Let’s cut straight to the chase: Can you help us get on the first page of Google?” inquires the CEO, who’s leaning forward, elbows on the table, eyes glaring into mine.

“That’s the question we need you to answer for us. Because that’s the only way we’re going to spend money with you.”

I begin with, “That’s a loaded answer, for—.”

“Stop talking,” he says. “Can you get us to the first page of Google? Can you?”

I do the only thing I can: I lie.

“Yes. I can get you to the first page of Google. I guarantee it.”

Hearing those words, the CEO leans back, glancing at his CMO and CFO, who’s now entered the room, then says “Well…? Keep talking.”

“By using the millions of dollars you’re going to give me for PPC ads,” I said

We all had a big laugh (me, nervously), which providing me with the occassion to talk about content, which was their real opportunity.

Being No.1 On Google Shouldn’t Be Your First Priority

I made them aware of a few facts that should be used to guide their steps, but they are just as useful for your business as well:

  1. Being No. l on Google doesn’t guarantee success (e.g., they could burn money in PPC with little to show for their efforts)
  2. Conversions will matter, but they matter a lot less when you’re trying to get a business off the ground (e.g., a high conversion rate when you only have 20 customers isn’t the goal; the goal is to have significant audience numbers to convert from)
  3. Social media, especially Twitter and Google is an area of opportunity.

The company, a start-up in the financial arena, had some stiff national competition in the sector, as you can imagine. The company also had some areas of opportunity, by way of content, audience and social, though they didn’t immediately see the potential

I’m convinced the tactics they’ve been successfully using for months now can benefit your company as well

Focus Your Content Efforts On Longtail Keywords

Let’s face it, competing with other large national brands on incredibly popular keywords is a fool’s errand. As brilliant SEO Bill Slawski said recently, “Don’t compete for ‘vanilla’ with Breyers.”

Sage advice, indeed.

A much better approach is to focus your energy around longtail keywords which opens to the door to far more opportunities and, better yet, will be far less competitive.

the-long-tail-of-search1

Keywords can be broken into three parts: head, modifier and tail. The head and tail, or all three together, is what’s known as a “longtail keyword.”

Longtails are vital because they comprise nearly 3/4 of all online searches and, most important, are far more specific, meaning we’re getting closer to discerning true user intent via search.

Consider the following three examples:

cupcake > red velvet cupcakes > red velvet cupcakes near Candler Park

It’s pretty apparent that the user looking for “red velvet cupcakes near Candler Park” would likely be much easier to convert than someone who simply enters “cupcake,” right? That’s the approach I had the financial services company take.

For example, instead of focusing their efforts on “financial planning,” going with “financial planning advice for Millennials” was a much better play.

The specific phrases also make it easy for a business such as yours to create additional pages around them.

To get started with longtail keywords, you have numerous options, including Google’s Adword Planner.

But I recommend starting elsewhere:

1. Good old Google Autocomplete.

Type in your main term, then hit space an start typing a single letter, beginning with “a.” This, more than anything, will provide you with ideas of what to create content around. Be sure to try it logged into Google and without logged into email, for the results will vary by location and who you’re connected to via Google products.

cupcakes - Google Search 2014-09-11 08-41-51

2. Think globally, act locally.

Put yourself in the position of the consumer who would be interested in and/or purchase your product. What would your main criteria be? What would you look for in a brand? How much would you be willing to pay? Who would you seek out for recommendations?

Armed with answers to these questions, you can now set about creating content that answers each and every one of the potential objections.

In this way, you’re basically creating a potentially rankable database of FAQ’s that’s useful and share-worthy.

Create a Google Spreadsheet with your questions and share it with the team, making them aware of the need to add their own questions. Once you have a solid base of questions, get your content, SEO and PPC teams in the same room and let them parse what questions should be answered first.

Then start building out these pages. Most important, be sure to (a) share the pages as answers to questions on social media, (b) link to the pages from relevant blogs on the site and (c) have team members visit forums, review site and discussion boards, where they can answer related questions and share a link to the web page.

What’s more, create blogs around the topics as well.

3. Make blogs a benefit, not a detriment to your longtail keyword strategy.

Remember, blogs are not high-converting pieces of content. That’s where your main category pages, eBooks, case studies and webinars come into play. That being the case, refrain from creating keyword-stuffed blogs since they have the ability to compete with your main product/service pages in the SERPs.

Instead, use blogs for more broadly focused content using your targeted keywords, and do so without loading the text with the specific keywords/keyword strings you hope to rank for (e.g., if “red velvet cupcake bites” is a main category page term, don’t create a blog riddled with “red velvet cupcake bites.”)

This is the first in a three-part series designed to help you smartly and easily gain a head of steam against the competition.

In the next post, I’ll dive into why, early on, conversions matters less than growing your audience, and share actionable tips for growing the latter.

In the comments below please share your thoughts.

Does Your Content Look Like Panda Chowder To Google?

panda-closeFew things make content marketers more jittery than Google penalties, which can be swift, harsh and lasting. Any business owner that’s ever suffered through a penalty will use words like “painful,” “severe,” unclear” and “lengthy.” CMOs and CEOs tend to get real close and personal with their in-house SEOs and content people when their business suffers a Penguin Update, which often pay a visit after company’s have engaged in questionable link building practices.

But mention a Panda update to any exec and you’re likely to witness equal parts rage and sadness.

Panda-penalty“The damn thing came out of nowhere,” said the CEO of a midsize Dallas, Texas-based company. “With Penguin, it hurt, but I knew we’d bought links, so it wasn’t a shock. [Panda] basically pushed us off a cliff. Our main keywords went kaput seemingly overnight. It drove home to the point that we need to update our content…get quality content on our site, and have folks at every level be accountable for what’s placed on our web properties. This can’t happen again.”

As a content strategist who frequently audited sites having very “ugly” content, (i.e., thin, duplicate, etc.), I can tell you firsthand that the Panda update can be a lasting hurt, in large part because it signals that someone’s eyes were not squarely on the ball. (Panda Updates are meant to punish websites that promote a poor user experience while bumping up in the SERPs those websites that reward users with an excellent user experience, making the penalties as beneficial as they are harsh.)

Though the updates can be brought on by a wide range of user-experience-related causes, three of the most common and most easily fixed tend to show up time after time after time, in my experience:

  1. Thin content: content that’s often keyword stuffed but lacking in specificity, which means searchers land on the page, discern no real value, then leave.
  2. Duplicate content: two are more pages of the exact same copy and/or images, which is something Google hates.
  3. Web design wastelands: sites that load slowly owing to homepage sliders and annoying graphics, but lack engaging content and thus has zero engagement.

Again, the list of elements that could bring the Panda to your doorstep is long and wide, but basically it comes down to this: Would a user benefit from finding, then “interacting” with your content?

For the three sins above, the fixes are fairly straightforward. We’ll go through them one at a time:

Thin Content

Take a look at your main product or service pages. They’re likely light on images, graphs or charts and heavy with keyword-bloated copy. Am I right? You’ll need to rewrite these, beefing them up to add value, depth and lower the keyword density. That’s where most companies stop, however.

(To gain a thorough understanding of how Google defines thin content, listen to Matt Cutts as he lists some of the main culprits.)

To further ensure that users are rewarded for their efforts, you need to take two additional steps:

  1. Ensure that each page is geared to answer a single question (e.g., focused on a specific area of service) and has the depth to answer the question the user likely asked in the search query, and do so with more
    depth than anyone else could. Your job is to make each page the definitive resource for the user who lands on that page.
  2. Include links to similar pages on the website. A high bounce rate is a big no-no for Google. Give readers a reason to stay on your site by linking to blogs on the same or similar topic and to other web pages they might find interesting as well. The longer users stay on site, and the more pages they visit, the further away you’re keeping Panda.

Duplicate Content

It doesn’t matter how many pages you think you have on your website. What matters is how many pages have been indexed by Google. Typically the numbers you think you have and the number Google says you have are not in agreement, which means your website has duplicate content. A few pages here or there aren’t the problem.

Hundreds of pages on a website that only has a few thousand pages is, however, a problem.

duplicate content

Image provided courtesy of Moz.com

There are a few ways to fix the problem, but we’re only going to focus on three:

  • Use the Rel=”canonical”tag, which tells Google that a given piece of content is a copy of the content shown at the URL listed.
  • A 301 Direct basically condenses two pages of copy into a single page, as Google sees it, which ensures they won’t compete against one another.
  • While not the most palatable means of handling duplicate content when there are hundreds or thousands of pages to fix, when thin duplicate pages are in play, a “cut and condense” approach could be the simplest fix. Kill off the useless pages, creating one useful page in their place.

Web Design

Business owners love to ask “What, exactly, should be on my homepage?” A more beneficial question might be, “What should never be on my homepage?”

The list would begin with homepage slider. But for as bad as sliders are, poorly designed navigation is not much better. We’ve all seen the blog hidden in the main navigation, haven’t we? And we already know users can’t visit what they cannot find.

HubSpot Main Navigation

Make users a priority by…

  • Having the blog and/or other main category pages clearly visible in the Main Nav
  • Adding social buttons to each post and page (Social activity is clear sign to Google that the page contains useful information)
  • Adding a clear call-to-action on every page (e.g., “download this free ebook,” “take our short survey,” “get your free guide now,” etc.)

Let me be very clear: I’m not saying taking care of the issues above will keep you out of harm’s way as it regards Panda. What I am saying is, by doing the things above, your business will be less at risk of suffering the fate so many others have fallen victim to.

What do you see as the biggest priority for keeping Panda away?

SERP Analysis 2014 – Everything You Need to Know About Google Results

Learn-everything

The Times They Are A-Changin’

When you’re doing online marketing it’s really easy to get stuck in a pattern of looking at analytics, your SEO tools, or your spreadsheets to determine your next move on your own site. This time last year I created a post to help understand the SERPs, and explored what you could expect from the results page when you search on Google. It’s shocking to see just how much has changed in the past year and how it could impact your strategic decisions for your online marketing. When I started writing this blog post, we still had authorship photos. When I reached out to a couple of my SEO friends for their input, we’d just had the bombshell drop that authorship photos were now gone from the SERP.

R.I.P. Author Photos in SERPS. Google doesn’t want any visuals distracting from paid search real estate. With Google+ leadership shakeup, is Google Authorship next on the chopping block? – Steven Shattuck

Of course, as just a little more time passed, the removal of Google Authorship from the SERP in it’s entirety happened. There’s plenty to digest here in this change. The most important thing though is to truly understand that Google is not going to sit still. They’re constantly releasing changes to their algorithm, and aren’t afraid to shake up the SERPs just because they’ve made a significant investment.

Ninja in a blazer

“Google stopped treating the SERPs like bus stop benches. So authorship photos are out.” – A.J Ghergich

Knowledge Graph- It’s Growing, and Becoming More Important

“The biggest changes I’m seeing with SERPs is the use of scraped content and Google’s promotion of their own services. Google is increasingly displaying publisher content at the top of their search results, thus negating the need to visit a publisher’s site. In addition, they’re promoting their own properties well above other competing sites. A good example of this can be seen with the search “Weird Al, Word Crimes” – Jon Henshaw of Raven Tools

Weird Al, Word Crimes - Google Search

Some other SEOs are thinking that not only is there a broadening of their own content or scraped content, but it’s something that SEO’s truly need to be concerned about. Tadeusz Szewczyk is a well known voice in SEO, here’s what he had to say:

“In 2014 Google’s tendency to resemble a portal become less apparent. Google still wants to prevent users from clicking through to third party sites but attempts to reduce clutter while at it. With the recent removal of Google authorship images and follower counts as well as video thumbnail previews from SERPs Google cleans up so that there are fewer distractions from their ads. The most unnerving recent change is the increased scraping of third party sites. It has been already going on in 2013 but mostly for long tail “how to” queries. Right now already two word keyphrases like “treat sunburn” lead to a content pages on Google that scrape from a third party site while the link to it is far below. Additional results are mostly below the fold even without ads showing. So Google is effectively stealing text content from sites without sending traffic their way.

In many cases all you need to know is already displayed on Google or at least enough advice to start with. You can click for an additional bullet point or two if you really want to. This is a dangerous development for webmasters both of the scraped sites and those showing below the scraped results. After books, news, images, music the big Google content grab finally reaches the main stage, all other websites that were meant to “just create great content”. Now we know why. It’s for Google to steal and republish for free.” – Tadeusz Szewczyk of seo2.us

Google Query for [treat sunburn]

Let’s take a look at some of these queries Tad is talking about to get an idea of what’s going on in the results.

Artist Queries [Weird Al]

Weird AL - SERP

A search where you can see the impact of Google playing the role of data provider is on a search for a musical artist. Try searching for [Weird Al] and you’ll get a full length, multi-section knowledge graph entry. This includes additional knowledge based entries about his spouse, parents and movies that don’t even send to third parties but to additional queries! It’s really important to also note that there’s now direct monetization of the Knowledge Graph.

Foil - Click from Weird AL Google Search

Knowledge Base For Movies [Karate Robo Zabogar] & Books [Snow Crash]

karate-robo-zaborgar-Google-Search

Here we again see wikipedia cited as a source, and additional searches for more information about the characters, the book series and the Author. There’s also review data from 3rd party sites in addition to Google Books.

Notable Issues with Knowledge Graph

While Google is generally very good about how it displays information stored in it’s Knowledge base, it’s not perfect.

Terry Richardson Photographs

“Google Knowledge graph is everywhere and not always quite right…Apparently Terry takes photos of President Obama and IS Obama…so I guess this is a selfie.” – A.J. Ghergich

The Rich World Of Snippets

The very clever AJ Kohn wrote this must read analysis of rich snippets and the separate algorithm that triggers them in your results. It really does help to understand that it’s not enough anymore just to add schema markup in order to get rich snippets, there are other factors at play.

Reviews of Guardians of the Galaxy

“The difference between stupid and intelligent people—and this is true whether or not they are well-educated—is that intelligent people can handle subtlety. They are not baffled by ambiguous or even contradictory situations—in fact, they expect them and are apt to become suspicious when things seem overly straightforward.” Neal Stephenson

We have now become suspect when we see a 5 star rating on a restaurant with more than 5 reviewers. We know that within every group of customers, there’s always going to be a curmudgeon, an oscar the grouch who will always be that 1 star review.

The Big 2014 SERP Style Update

One big change that you’re going to notice if you’re comparing the SERP to yesteryear is the styling. Dr. Pete over at Moz detailed all of the changes in his before and after post. In short though, you can see changes to Adwords display, Title link underlining and general text styling.

moz before and after 2014 SERP update

Developments in Personalization & Customization of SERPS

“Customization is going to continue to to risk creating a bit of an echo chamber for SERPs. Marketers will need to sharpen their social and targeting games to reach broad audiences.” – Paul Nicholson

best restaurants in NashvilleMy SERP is directly impacted by the people in my G+ circles, when I search for [Best restaurant in Nashville] this G+ result comes up from Robert Warren who I only know through G+ and Ingress (Viva la Resistance!). This is important to keep in mind if your planning your social media strategy and are not thinking about using Google Plus. No other social media outlet is going to impact people’s SERP results directly like this.

How Google Displays Brands

“Brands have been the big winners in organic search lately. It’s only a matter of time until Google does the same thing for local search, and recent updates like Pigeon only put us one step closer. It will be very interesting to see what happens in the next 6-12 months with local search results.” – Tanner Petroff

UpDesk

Google is still providing advantages to established sites by providing Sitelinks to deeper content, powered by your Titles and descriptions providing even more incentive to get your metas right site wide.

Authority Labs

If you properly deploy Rel=publisher markup, then you can also expect to see your recent G+ activity on your brand term SERP. Given the recent treatment of Authorship, it’s no guarantee to stay around forever but for now it’s worth the small effort.

Mac Wikipedia entry

You also now have incentive to try and get a Wikipedia entry for your company if it’s of a large enough size, as you will be attributed a brand knowledge graph element. Good luck navigating the process of getting a Wikipedia entry created without being marked as spam though.

Google Local SERPs

“The Google ‘Pigeon’ Update Boosts Local Directories such as Yelp. It also aligned local search results more closely with the ranking factors they use in normal web search. – A.J. Ghergich”

In the early Summer of 2014 Google announced an update to the algorithm that affected local searches. Not only did it alter the order of local results, it also had an impact on which SERPs for specific industries would contain the local mapped results. Let’s take a look at some local queries to see what the local search scene looks like here in 2014.

bars in nashville - Google Search

The Google Carousel is alive and well, and now includes a filtering option to allow you to sort by price, rating or more.

nashville realtors

While [Nashville realtor] and [Nashville real estate] won’t trigger local results after the Pigeon update, there’s still plenty of reason to fight for local placement on queries where local is still a result.

nashville landscaping

If you provide a service where you come to your client’s home, like landscaping, then you now get special demarkation on your local result showing your service area.

Let’s See What Google Can Do!

There are more and more queries are giving more and more functionality to the Google SERP. Here’s an exploration of queries that will trigger some novelty and possibly useful SERPs for you.

Plan a Trip with Google Flights [BNA to Norfolk Cost]

With the increase in air travel this SERP could be really helpful for planning. Of course, you should note that these are actually paid advertisement deals that the airlines have worked out with Google.
google-flights SERP

Set A Timer [Timer For 20 Minutes]

Need to cook something and don’t have a stopwatch handy? Use this SERP to set a timer with a surprisingly loud alarm.

Timer SERP

What Is My I.P?

Need to filter out your traffic from Google Analytics, here you go.

What Is My IP - Google Search

Need Awnser To Maths?

x+y=7 Google SERP

If your query has a number of results from forums or answer sites then you may see this type of result, showing how many answers and when they were posted.

More Advanced Maths

x^2+y^2

While you can do advanced graphing now with Google SERPs if you’ve got an updated browser, you can also put in less specific terms and still get the results you’re looking for from Google calculator.

20 percent of 2 billion

What’s For Dinner?

Calories in a potato

What To Do Tonight [Nashville Concerts]

Nashville Concerts

You can expect to see some rich snippets here and there for event based queries.

Let’s Wrap This Up: Keep Ahead Of The SERP

“Due to Google’s increased understanding of users’ needs, traffic coming from the SERPs performs better and better. Is it more challenging to rank appropriately these days? Yes. But the increase in quality traffic is worth it. If SEOs have the same goal as Google, provide better web experiences for their users, then the internet will be a happy place. The most most attractive thing about being an online marketer is the constant challenge to better our skills. Bring it on Google!” – Ashley Balstad

There’s plenty of changes this year to the SERPs and you can expect just as much change in the coming days. Just be sure to surface from your client reports and check out what it’s actually like to search Google in a real way that people would use to find your service or product. Take advantage of advanced tactics, but know that they aren’t always going to give you the same advantage over time.

If you’ve seen some other unusual SERPS or have a useful observation then be sure to share it in the comments!

How To ‘Keep The Main Thing The Main Thing’

Focus

Google’s latest change, removing Authorship from the search results, was a enough to set the online marketing community aflutter, as folks wondered what’s next from the search engine juggernaut. It doesn’t help that a rumored Panda refresh sent tremors through the industry recently and, word is, a Penguin update is expected any day now.

What’s a marketer to do?

Take a deep breath. We don’t have a crystal ball —at least not one that we’re ready to make public— but the latest changes and rumors of change are nothing to lose sleep over. Google makes changes daily, and most of those changes arouse little fanfare, primarily because they go unnoticed. What we’ve learned is the news itself can often serve to be more harmful than the actual substance of the news.

For example, most brands that don’t play the low-quality links or thin-content game have little to fear from Penguin and Panda. What’s more, the HTTPS migration warrants caution, not hysteria.

Don’t Become Distracted From Your Long-Term Goals

Recently, while while watching ESPN’s recent coverage of 2014 NCAA Football National Champion Florida State Seminoles, we heard a quote that resonated: “Keep the main thing the main thing.”Those words were uttered by FSU coach Jimbo Fisher when asked how he keeps his team focused on the year ahead.

We liked the short, sweet, all-inclusive summation that coalesces individual and team goals. Most important, however, we like how, when applied to business, it serves to keep our eyes on the prize so we always know what’s important -the goal(s).

Let’s say your company has a 90-day goal of growing blog traffic, which means you’ll need team members producing engaging content for the site on a daily basis. To do this, each person is given the assignment of spending two hours per week to better understand the needs of their prospects and clients, through phone calls, emails and online research.

With the “Keep the main thing the main thing” mantra top-of-mind, you can deliver several actionable tips to the team:

1. Take a timeout: Saying “Don’t let daily distractions get in the way of progress” is easy in theory. In reality? Not so much. Whenever you read or hear something that gives you pause, take a chill pill before deciding to do anything with the information. Get away from the report or the news, then come back with a fresh perspective. If it requires attention, get a second opinion. If could be that the information deserves nothing in the way of meaningful attention.

2. Make the time for what’s important: It’s not enough that team members are responsible for finding two hours a week for research and interviews. They must build this routine into their schedule. Have each person block off time during the day or the week to make this a reality.

3. Reconvene, regroup, refine. Remember, the goal is to see sustainable progress at or before 90 days. With that in mind, your team must be continually meeting, assessing, refining and deploying new techniques to get at what performs best in the way of onsite content. The best results come about through making the process iterative, whereby you’re subtly tweaking the content even as the results are improving in your favor.

Care to share your company’s tips for keeping your eye on the prize and attacking your goals?

Track Google Rankings in Cities Worldwide and New Report Scheduling

We’re excited to announce two new, awesome features that will be very useful for everyone using our rank tracking interface.

Worldwide City and Postal Code Rankings for Google

Tracking search results at the city level is now mandatory for many industries. We have had the ability to track rankings by city or zipcode for the United States as a feature of our interface for a while. As of today, you can begin tracking down to the city or zip code in almost every location worldwide that is supported by Google.

Track Google Rankings at the City Level

To get started, click the “Add Domain” button in your sidebar. You will be able to select a country and if we have supported cities within that country, an additional box will display where you can search for supported cities.

New Report Scheduling

While we have had several SEO reporting options for a while, many people have requested automatic emails of our PDF reports. You can now choose to send immediate, weekly, or monthly reports to anyone at any email address specified.

Scheduled PDF

When you set the PDF up to share, it will maintain the sorting options of your current view, so make sure to get it looking the way you want and then use the share button in the top right corner to schedule the report.

We know that everyone will love these new features. As always, if you have any questions or feedback, feel free to contact us through the Support link in the sidebar of the interface.