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.

Growing Your Network Is Essential For Growing Your Business

GrowthI’m on record as saying brand storytelling, at least as it’s typically executed, is a bunch of hooey sold by marketers as a means of getting the content business from brands.

Even so, I do rather enjoy telling stories, especially those that help illustrate a point.

For example, I can’t think of a single time when, during the initial consultation with a prospect, I have not shared a research-related story I read in college, about why even amongst the brightest groups of people on earth, there are individuals who consistently rise above everyone else.

Decades ago researchers studied a group of scientist at the Rand Corporation to get at the answer, believing the institution—home to some of the brightest minds on earth—would provide the ideal sample.

What they found was surprising and unforgettable: The individuals at the top weren’t more intelligent than their peers. They were better connected. When they encountered a problem, their vast network could and would provide them with an answer faster than everyone else. This meant they were able to assimilate ideas sooner and better than teammates, and do so consistently.

I read this study many years later, as a sophomore in college, but to this very day I use the example to make a very important point when talking to prospects, colleagues, friends and family members.

“You’re only as strong as your network. You don’t need to be the smartest person in the room; you must strive to be the most connected person among your peers.”

This quote always comes up when business owners ask me “What one thing would you do, right now, if your were in my position?”

I always say “Grow your network as far and as wide as possible.”

Why?

  • It can protect you from reckless, haphazard decision-making.
  • You expand exponentially the pool of knowledge you’re able to pull from.
  • Connectedness makes you and your business “desirable,” largely because people want to know and be around people who know people.
  • It creates a level of all-important familiarity to other businesses and vendors, many of whom won’t do business with you if you’re not vetted.
  • It makes you more interesting. The more people you know, the more stories you have to share and the more interesting you become to others. (That’s the real value of storytelling, by the way—using the stories of others to add meaning to your brand.)

This line of thinking is all the more important for the online world, where, all too often folks rely only upon online connections and phone calls, which are not near as strong as in-person connections.

Now that you know why I recommend building your network, here’s how I recommend you go about making it a reality for your business:

1. Press the flesh. Join local organizations and associations that make it possible for you to interact with people in the overall community, not just the business community. Become an active, visible participant. What you do will naturally come up, and because you’re part of the group, the people you now know are more likely to think of you if they or someone they know needs your services.

2. Think beyond the business. The online world is so immersive it can be exhausting. That’s why it’s imperative you get away from the spreadsheets and work on you, the person. Take a walk, join a gym, volunteer at a local organization. The people you meet can and will enrich your life and make you a better businessperson.

3. Read widely. The world will be just fine if you didn’t read the latest marketing, SEO or social media blog for a few days. Visit the local library and pick up a few books, some with titles outside of business. The most important elements needed to move your company forward will come from disparate sources. Reading widely makes it easier to uncover tactics other business owners won’t be aware of.

4. Get adopted by many mentors. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t choose mentors; they choose you. Single out several people in your area who you admire and would love to learn from. (Do not limit it to businesspeople.) Reach out to them with an offer of buying them coffee or lunch with no strings attached. These initial interactions can become monthly meetings.

5. Develop a reputation for being a good listener. With each new interaction, strive to be interested, not interesting. Show a sincere interest in whomever you’re talking to and the information they’re sharing while working to be seen as the person who’s “easy to be around.” You’ll be amazed at how often you’re a party to conversations you might never have been a part of but that are immensely helpful.

I worry often that digital marketing is “training” us all to be insular experts of our domains, leading us to close ourselves off to the vast outside world.

Your business cannot afford such a course of action. Go ahead, become an expert, but realize that the experts all around you are a tremendous pool of talent who can help propel your business to new heights.

I’m reminded of a quote from historian Richard Brookhiser: “Perhaps the wise leader should strive to have [experts] on tap and not be one himself.”

Allow that to soak in.

Are you ready to start networking with purpose?

How to Use Screaming Frog with Excel

Screaming-FrogIf you haven’t used Screaming Frog, you are missing out.

Screaming Frog is a tool that scrapes your site and identifies common SEO issues. It then presents them in a way that is easy to export and edit in Excel. I know, my dream tool.

You can get started with Screaming Frog for free! Or you buy the tool for $99 a year and get these cool features:

  • The 500 URL crawl limit is removed
  • You can access ALL the configuration options
  • You can save and re-upload crawls
  • You can search for anything in the source code of a website with the custom source code search feature
  • You get support for any technical issues with the software

Check out the full tuTORIal here!

Or follow along below, whichever tickles your fancy.

Step 1 – Off to the Races

Enter in your domain and hit the start button. It will take about 1-3 minute, depending on the size of your site. The links will start dropping in.

sf_step1_

Step 2 – Play and Explore

You can sort by any of these columns, just by clicking on the header. An arrow will appear and you can sort by ascending or descending.

sf_step2-sort_

Step 3 – Find Broken Links

I’m in the External tab right now, which means I’m looking at all the links that are on AuthorityLabs.com and linking to other sites. You can see that this status code is a 404, which means that the link is broken. I can go into the bottom portion of the tool for a more in depth look at the link I have selected.

sf_step3-fix

Step 4 – Drill Down

While in the Meta Description tab, you can find out more about any of the content in these rows by just clicking on the cell. Once you do that, the bottom portion of the tool will breakdown more details about that specific page’s meta description.

sf_step4-drilldown

Step 5 – Export Your Data

Exporting your data is super simple. While on a main tab, select the export button. Then save to your specific folder. In this tuTORIal, I exported the Internal, External and Meta Description tabs.

sf_step5-export

Step 6 – Bring it into Excel

Here I took my three raw CSVs exports and complied them into one Raw Data tab.

2_step1-copy over raw data

Step 7 – Creating Tables

To do this, I selected the data I wanted in my table and selected, Home > Styles > Format as Table. If you would like to learn more about table formatting, check out my Excel for Noobs post.

2_step2-formatdata

Step 8 – Formatting

For the External Response Codes, I created four conditional formatting rules. If you’re not familiar with how to do this, skip ahead to where I cover it in this tutorial. Want to learn more about it? Check out my 101 Wednesday on Conditional Formatting.

2_step1-conditionalformatting

Step 9 – More Formatting!

Because, pretty colors. I repeated this process over for the Meta Descriptions. Follow along here.

2_step3-metaformatting

Step 10 – Make Your Own Pretty Colors!

youcandoit

Now that I’ve given you a starting point, I hope you explore this tool even more. Feel free to share you screamingly awesome endeavors with me on Twitter. Thanks!

 

Ditch The To-Do List and Instantly Get More Done

To-do-list

You’ve read about the Pomodoro Technique, the Marinara Technique, the Burrito Principle, the Not to-Do List, and every other system designed for streamlining your day. Still, you resort to the tried-and-true Sticky Notes for organizing your to-dos, and that, too, is a frustrating affair. They either get lost, get smudged or, worse yet,  get ignored as more and more things are added to your plate.

What’s a busy marketer to do?

We feel your pain.

The AuthorityLabs crew is in the same boat. We have a plethora of tools to help order our steps daily, but even with the best laid plans, things quickly go awry when impromptu meetings pop up, a computer malfunctions, that Excel doc we’ve been working on disappears or calls from vendors eat a big chunk out of our day.

Take Back Control Of Your Busy Day By Viciously Guarding Your Time

Trying to control what happens over the course of the day is a fool’s errand, so we resort to managing the outcome of every day. You can do the same.

It begins by throwing out the to-do list and replacing it with the “Stop-Doing List,” a concept first shared by Good To Great author Jim Collins.

Make it work for you by following these simple steps:

  • Using a notepad, track your daily work activities for a week, logging any effort that takes 15 minutes or more of your time.
  • The following weekend, find a quiet spot where you won’t be interrupted and begin going through the list with a fine-tooth comb.
  • Beside the things you accomplished each day, write a check; beside the things you worked on but did not complete, write an x; and beside the things that were not related to a task you needed to complete (e.g., checking social media, personal phone calls, etc.), write a circle. (The symbols carry meaning: “✓”=yes; “X”=maybe; “O”= no.)
  • The following week, your job is to eliminate as many circles as possible, which means there will be more ✓‘s and X’s with fewer O’s. (For us, that takes shape as using the drive to the gym or the commute home for personal calls that interrupt our workflow. Also, for some of us it means only checking social media during the first 15 minutes of the day, then at lunch.)
  • Meet with your staff at the beginning of the week and make them aware that you’re taking back control of your day, so emails and phone calls likely won’t be returned immediately and they should come see you if a matter requires “right-now” attention. Also, inform them that, if they add something to your plate, they either need to take something away, by taking on a task you already had on your list, or come up with a solution not requiring your input.
  • Get to work.
  • Execute, assess, repeat.

There is no perfect system when it comes to making your day more productive. We’ve spent far too many hours trying to find the “ideal method,” even reaching out to vendors, friends and former co-workers, in addition to reading books and magazines, for help

The one true consistency we’ve found is you have to take things off your plate to get more done. That alone ensures you’re operating more effectively and, most important, results in far less frustration over the long haul.

We’ve chosen to focus on what must get done instead of what’s possible to get accomplished.

What are your tips for squeezing more out of the day?

Press Releases Still an SEO Strategy? The Experts Speak

Lately I have been surprised at how many times I have seen people/companies with “Press Releases” listed as one of their main SEO strategies. I thought this was an older strategy that was no longer used for “SEO purposes”, but I don’t know everything. So, I thought I would reach out to some of the best of the best in our industry and get their opinions. I asked one simple question:

Can you tell me what you think about press releases as an SEO strategy?

I think the answers can be quite helpful to many in our industry. I want to say thank you to everyone that contributed to this article; your thoughts are so appreciated.

Julie Joyce – @JulieJoyce

Julie-joyceI don’t use press releases and never have, and I don’t plan to. I think they are a good way to get more visibility and draw attention to something but I’d rather use social media to get the word out. After Google changed the rules on press releases and warned against using optimized anchor text, I was extra happy that I’d never used them.

I think that people can use them wisely but a lot of the time you see utter crap being done as a press release. If it’s truly notable (like you’ve found a cure for Ebola) then do it. If you’re just announcing that you painted your office door red in order to increase productivity and it made one person show up for work on time 2 days in a row, no one gives a damn.

LinkFishMedia.com

Rand Fishkin – @Randfish

Rand-FishkinMy view on press releases is similar to my view on a lot of marketing & content channels – be the exception and you can stand out in a remarkable way. We’ve done this at Moz with our funding press releases and acquisition announcements, all of which did really well in the tech media.

Co-founder and Wizard of Moz

Rae Hoffman – @Sugarrae

Rae-HoffmanPress releases haven’t been an effective direct strategy “for SEO” in a direct way for almost a decade now. Matt long ago stated as much” – meaning the links from the actual press release site itself has had no direct value for a long time now.

Then in 2013, Google officially added press releases with followed links (especially those with keyword rich anchors) here.

That said, they still have indirect value to your SEO efforts, assuming you’ve done something WORTH sending out a press release about. If having to nofollow links within the press releases makes you second guess doing a press release then you’re doing it for the wrong reason. The only way a press release will help your SEO in 2014 and beyond is if the press release is merely to put something a-freaking-mazing that you’ve done in front of people who can feature, talk about and highlight you to your target audience – and if you’re lucky, some will do so with followed links.

Rae Hoffman, AKA Sugarrae, CEO of PushFire

Barry Schwartz – @RustyBrick

Barry-Schwartz-the-StudI don’t think press releases should be used with the intention of an SEO strategy.

Is that short enough? ;-)

RustyBrick.com

Marty Weintraub – @AimClear

Marty-Weintraub-aimclearPress releases probably have little SEO value on their face to support your website’s content. Behind the scenes, however, writers still subscribe to press releases. Midsize and small publications still use press releases to auto-populate sites. Think of press releases as reverse targeting, where potentially influential users request feeds by category, keyword, and topic, etc.

Whereas a press release may not garner much page-building punch in the SERPs, when a writer for a newspaper, publisher, media outlet or blog consumes a release, picks up your story and covers your news, THAT mention, citation, Google+ post, link and and associated buzz may well help your business. Potential customers are often impacted by content created by writers that pick it up. News, SERPs and buzz, can easily stimulate sales.

So, press releases can be valuable for SEO, when thought of as stimulating third parties to champion your news. It’s the content third parties create we should aim for. The major caveat is that press releases better cover meaningful business developments well steeped in actual notarially. You can’t wrap a turd up in a bow and expect anyone to give a crap.

Eric Enge – @StoneTemple

Eric-EngeA few thoughts on this:

Press releases should, in principle, have no direct SEO value. They come under the heading of the following principle I like to talk about for links: “You Can’t Vote For Yourself”. Links are really supposed to represent academic citation level endorsements.

I think that the primary (well, only) SEO benefit of press releases is captured by the attached image I did for an article I wrote a while back. This is an indirect value. If someone picks up the press release and chooses to write about it, then that can work really well for you.

eric-enge-press-releases

Pete Meyers – @Dr_Pete

Dr. PeteMost of my experiences with press releases for search have been with SMBs, and, unfortunately, what that often means is people becoming over-reliant on blasting out every tiny announcement they have and calling it “news”. I think it’s pretty clear at this point that Google frowns on that practice. At best, it’s a problem of diminishing returns. Having 500 links from FreePRPlace.net (invented to protect the innocent) isn’t really going to accomplish more than having 5 links from a site like that, even if those links are never penalized.

Plus, at some point you have to ask – what’s the message I’m putting out to people? If you write a press release every time you successfully order a latte, people aren’t going to take you seriously. At some point, you’ll damage your reputation with mediocrity.

Marketing Scientist at Moz

Andy Beal – @AndyBeal

Andy-BealIf you have an established, respected brand then you should only issue a press release if you can honestly say that you have something newsworthy to share. If so, your focus should be on attracting the attention of a journalist first, with any SEO benefits a distant concern.

If you’re a new company–or a very small fish in a big pond–then issuing a press release solely for SEO purposes is acceptable. While you really won’t see an SEO benefit from the release itself, it may still get picked up by an aggregator or blogger that has some “Google juice” to pass on.

CEO of Trackur

Arnie Kuenn – @ArnieK

Arnie-KuennWe don’t view press releases as an SEO strategy at all anymore. However, we do view them as a marketing strategy, which we believe SEO has really become anyway. We frequently work with clients to create press releases promoting a single piece of content.

So, instead of focusing on the latest “company news”, we will announce a brand new (and sometimes not so brand new) resource that our client has developed. It could be as simple as an infographic or a free 200 page ebook or maybe a new microsite. If the content has a significant value to a specific audience, we target that audience and announce it via a press release. Bloggers and editors seem to really like this approach and we get some nice pickups from them.

CEO of Vertical Measures

Cyrus Shepard – CyrusShepard

Cyrus-shepardShould you send press releases when you have a big story to share? Yes

Should your press release contain a followed link? No

Press releases, when done right, are an effective way to reach corners of the media you wouldn’t normally have access to. The sad truth is 98% of people who spend money on press release distribution throw their money away because they’ve:

  • Not presented a compelling story
  • Not targeted the right channels
  • Expect the reporter to do all the work

The simple question I ask myself when crafting a press release is this: if my press release was printed in a magazine as a story, would I take the time to read it and share it with my friends?

The challenge is often finding a “hook” in your story that’s bigger than your immediate problem. Nobody cares that your company just released a new type of scissors that reduces paper cuts! But people would be interested in a story about the hidden everyday dangers of children’s’ school supplies.

The success of your press release is directly proportional to the interest level of you story. However interesting you think your story is, cut your estimate in half and brainstorm more ideas.

That’s how you do a press release.

SEO & Content Astronaut at Moz

So, What Do You Think?

Do you think press releases are a part of an SEO strategy? We would love to know your thoughts and experiences.

7 Harsh Truths That Should Guide Your Content Marketing Journey

Harsh Truths

When you first heard that content marketing was the surest avenue to bring your business the customers you desire, you were skeptical, but you committed to it.

You hired two copywriters, an SEO and a part-time social media manager, dove fervently into Google Analytics, contracted with a conversion-rate-optimization firm, brought on two additional salespeople, redesigned your website and, most important, remained patient, buying into the notion that content marketing is part of the long game.

Now, eight months in, you’re staring at a balance sheet bloated with expenses, and that new business you were expecting is yet to materialize.

Before you throw in the towel, understand that you’re not alone.

In fact, most businesses will fail or give up content marketing altogether well before it has time to work for them—and that’s assuming what they were doing in the first place had merit.

Truth is, the industry hasn’t done a very good job of making two very important things clear:

  1. While content marketing does take time, time is no guarantee of success.
  2. There must be a prioritization of activities early on to enhance your chances of success.

As I’ve said and written numerous times before, online marketers are great at telling businesses to do something often (e.g., “start blogging,” “Engage  your audience via social media,” etc.) before businesses learn to do any one thing well, a fact that often leads to time and money wasted, and frustration that borders on rage.

Make Sure Your Business Doesn’t Wind Up On The Content Marketing Scrap Heap

Here’s what you need to know to put yourself closer to the finish line:

1. Content marketing is not about conversions—at first. No matter how great your blogs are, no one converts after reading a single blog. In fact, blogs are poor drivers of conversions anyway. You’re producing content to get noticed, gain authority, credibility and lower the barrier for clients to do business with your company. It can take a dozen or more encounters for a prospect to decide to grab the bait and become a customer. So think of each blog or piece of content you create as a chum slick that gets prospects closer to the hook.

2. You must commit to grow your audience before working to grow your revenue. When you first start creating content, you have no choice but to compete for eyeballs. Then, as you produce and share more information, the goal is to have those initial followers become fans who enlist their friends and followers (networks) to engage with and share your content. Once those networks are sharing your content, you’re “in the money,” as the saying goes. This is what Rob Garner, in his book Search and Social: The Definitive Guide To Real-Time Content Marketing, refers to as moving from a one-to-one to a one-to-many to a many-to-many level of connectedness. Akin to the multiplier effect, this growth is essential to the success of your company, which further drives home the need to produce content that people actively seek out. “Not being connected…,” writes Garner, “means that a marketer does not effectively exist in those conversations and economic opportunities afforded in networks.”

3. The “best” ideas might not be the “best-for-right-now” ideas for your business. Being a part of a fast-moving industry means things change quickly and good information can be hard to decipher. We hear “SEO is dead,” “Content is king,” “Stop guest blogging.” Then, the next day, we hear the exact opposite from online sources supposedly just as credible. What do you do? First, read for enjoyment and take everything with a grain of salt. Then, realize that, while much of what you hear and read could have value, it (a) might not have value for your business and (b) likely shouldn’t be part of your right-now plans.
Try this:

  • Establish what the immediate priorities are for your business, based on the overall needs of the company, not on what’s possible
  • Rank and order the priorities based on the impact to the business
  • Create a realistic outline (you don’t need a full-on plan to get started) for execution, assigning tasks to various team members and making everyone aware of what’s expected of them
  • Ensure that every activity you take over the following three months aligns with those plans
  • Measure the performance of each activity
  • Assess what worked and what didn’t
  • Repeat—only this time you’re replacing what didn’t work with other options in their place

If this sounds a little on-the-fly-ish, that’s because it’s supposed to be. Content marketing, in the early stages, is a very iterative process, a point captured perfectly in a tweet I shared from Eric Enge of Stone Temple Consulting.


4. Ignoring the potential of offline opportunities leaves you vulnerable to the competition. Keep in mind that what you do offline also impact your online presence. Speak at a conference? Sponsor an event? Deliver a presentation at the local chamber? All of these offline activities can and will build authority while also buttressing your online visibility as well. All you have to do is ask for a link from each organization’s website to your website, preferably to one of your main product or service pages, or your blog. Activities such as these can have a significant and immediate impact, bringing you eyeballs, social shares and, likely, conversions down the road.

5. Becoming the dominant informational resource isn’t optional. Everywhere marketers are telling businesses what they need to do to set themselves apart. The information ranges from sound (e.g., “Develop a reputation for delivering amazing content,” “Smartly use PPC,” etc.) to comical (e.g., “Social signals are the same as links, so spend more time on social media and less time producing content”). Here’s the truth: If you want to get noticed quickly and own a spot for your business that’s tough to be moved off of, work to become the foremost informational resource in your category. With every piece of content you create, strive to answer prospects’ questions better than anybody else possibly could. Google and prospects will reward you for the effort. Also, on social media, create filters for various keywords in your category, then jump in to answer questions being asked, without regard for whether the person follows you or not. You’ll quickly set yourself apart.

6. Study the competition, but don’t blindly follow them. There’s too much monkey-see, monkey-do in content marketing. You don’t have the time energy or the resources to waste time on efforts that might never pan out for you. Whenever you have the urge to follow the herd, revert to your “best-ideas-for-right-now” checklist, which serves as your guidepost.

7. A long winter is ahead, and your survival is not guaranteed: Remember when your college Stat 301 professor said “Look at the person on either side of you. At least one of them won’t be here in three weeks.” He was right. The same can be said of content marketing, where more and more players are competing for eyeballs that grow more weary by the day. Stone Temple’s Enge has predicted that, when all is said and done, some 90 percent of content marketers could fail or leave the field altogether. A lot factors go into that number coming to fruition. But this much is known: Those businesses not taking the adequate steps to become brands customers actively seek out will be some of the first to starve. Don’t be one of them.

My hope is that these seven points serve to make it clear that the way forward in content marketing will be a rough path littered with obstacles and the carcasses of failed businesses. I also want to make it clear that your business does not have to be one of them.

What are some additional tips you’d add to the list?