What Happens When SEO and CRO Conflict?

Posted by willcritchlow

Much has been written and spoken about the interplay of SEO and CRO, and there are a lot of reasons why, in theory, both ought to be working towards a shared goal. Whether it’s simple pragmatism of the business benefit of increasing total number of conversions, or higher-minded pursuits such as the ideal of Google seeking to reward the best user experiences, we have many things that should bring us together.

In practice, though, it’s rarely that simple or that unified. How much effort do the practitioners of each put in to ensure that they are working towards the true shared common goal of the greatest number of conversions?

In asking around, I’ve found that many SEOs do worry about their changes hurting conversion rates, but few actively mitigate that risk. Interestingly, my conversations with CRO experts show that they also often worry about SEOs’ work impacting negatively on conversion rates.

Neither side weights as highly the risks that conversion-oriented changes could hurt organic search performance, but our experiences show that both are real risks.

So how should we mitigate these risks? How should we work together?

But first, some evidence

There are certainly some SEO-centric changes that have a very low risk of having a negative impact on conversion rates for visitors from other channels. If you think about changing meta information, for example, much of that is invisible to users on the page– maybe that is pure SEO:

And then on the flip side, there are clearly CRO changes that don’t have any impact on your organic search performance. Anything you do on non-indexed pages, for example, can’t change your rankings. Think about work done within a checkout process or within a login area. Google simply isn’t seeing those changes:

But everything else has a potential impact on both, and our experience has been showing us that the theoretical risk is absolutely real. We have definitely seen SEO changes that have changed conversion rates, and have experience of major CRO-centered changes that have had dramatic impacts on search performance (but more on that later). The point is, there’s a ton of stuff in the intersection of both SEO and CRO:

So throughout this post, I’ve talked about our experiences, and work we have done that has shown various impacts in different directions, from conversion rate-centric changes that change search performance and vice versa. How are we seeing all this?

Well, testing has been a central part of conversion rate work essentially since the field began, and we’ve been doing a lot of work in recent years on SEO A/B testing as well. At our recent London conference, we announced that we have been building out new features in our testing platform to enable what we are calling full funnel testing which looks simultaneously at the impact of a single change on conversion rates, and on search performance:

If you’re interested in the technical details of how we do the testing, you can read more about the setup of a full funnel test here. (Thanks to my colleagues Craig Bradford and Tom Anthony for concepts and diagrams that appear throughout this post).

But what I really want to talk about today is the mixed objectives of CRO and SEO, and what happens if you fail to look closely at the impact of both together. First: some pure CRO.

An example CRO scenario: The business impact of conversion rate testing

In the example that follows, we look at the impact on an example business of a series of conversion rate tests conducted throughout a year, and see the revenue uplift we might expect as a result of rolling out winning tests, and turning off null and negative ones. We compare the revenue we might achieve with the revenue we would have expected without testing. The example is a little simplified but it serves to prove our point.

We start on a high with a winning test in our first month:

After starting on a high, our example continues through a bad strong – a null test (no confident result in either direction) followed by three losers. We turn off each of these four so none of them have an actual impact on future months’ revenue:

Let’s continue something similar out through the end of the year. Over the course of this example year, we see 3 months with winning tests, and of course we only roll out those ones that come with uplifts:

By the end of this year, even though more tests have failed than have succeeded, you have proved some serious value to this small business, and have moved monthly revenue up significantly, taking annual revenue for the year up to over £1.1m (from a £900k starting point):

Is this the full picture, though?

What happens when we add in the impact on organic search performance of these changes we are rolling out, though? Well, let’s look at the same example financials with a couple more lines showing the SEO impact. That first positive CRO test? Negative for search performance:

If you weren’t testing the SEO impact, and only focused on the conversion uplift, you’d have rolled this one out. Carrying on, we see that the next (null) conversion rate test should have been rolled out because it was a win for search performance:

Continuing on through the rest of the year, we see that the actual picture (if we make decisions of whether or not to roll out changes based on the CRO testing) looks like this when we add in all the impacts:

So you remember how we thought we had turned an expected £900k of revenue into over £1.1m? Well, it turns out we’ve added less than £18k in reality and the revenue chart looks like the red line:

Let’s make some more sensible decisions, considering the SEO impact

Back to the beginning of the year once more, but this time, imagine that we actually tested both the conversion rate and search performance impact and rolled out our tests when they were net winners. This time we see that while a conversion-focused team would have rolled out the first test:

We would not:

Conversely, we would have rolled out the second test because it was a net positive even though the pure CRO view had it neutral / inconclusive:

When we zoom out on that approach to the full year, we see a very different picture to either of the previous views. By rolling out only the changes that are net positive considering their impact on search and conversion rate, we avoid some significant drops in performance, and get the chance to roll out a couple of additional uplifts that would have been missed by conversion rate changes alone:

The upshot being a +45% uplift for the year, ending the year with monthly revenue up 73%, avoiding the false hope of the pure conversion-centric view, and real business impact:

Now of course these are simplified examples, and in the real world we would need to look at impacts per channel and might consider rolling out tests that appeared not to be negative rather than waiting for statistical significance as positive. I asked CRO expert Stephen Pavlovich from conversion.com for his view on this and he said:

Most of the time, we want to see if making a change will improve performance. If we change our product page layout, will the order conversion rate increase? If we show more relevant product recommendations, will the Average Order Value go up?

But it’s also possible that we will run an AB test not to improve performance, but instead to minimize risk. Before we launch our website redesign, will it lower the order conversion rate? Before we put our prices up, what will the impact be on sales?

In either case, there may be a desire to deploy the new variation – even if the AB test wasn’t significant.

If the business supports the website redesign, it can still be launched even without a significant impact on orders – it may have had significant financial and emotional investment from the business, be a better fit for the brand, or get better traction with partners (even if it doesn’t move the needle in on-site conversion rate). Likewise, if the price increase didn’t have a positive/negative effect on sales, it can still be launched.

Most importantly, we wouldn’t just throw away a winning SEO test that reduced conversion rate or a winning conversion rate test that negatively impacted search performance. Both of these tests would have come from underlying hypotheses, and by reaching significance, would have taught us something. We would take that knowledge and take it back as input into the next test in order to try to capture the good part without the associated downside.

All of those details, though, don’t change the underlying calculus that this is an important process, and one that I believe we are going to need to do more and more.

The future for effective, accountable SEO

There are two big reasons that I believe that the kind of approach I have outlined above is going to be increasingly important for the future of effective, accountable SEO:

1. We’re going to need to do more testing generally

I talked in a recent Whiteboard Friday about the surprising results we are seeing from testing, and the increasing need to test against the Google black box:

https://fast.wistia.net/embed/iframe/jhr48lal4c?seo=false&videoFoam=true

https://fast.wistia.net/assets/external/E-v1.js

I don’t see this trend reversing any time soon. The more ML there is in the algorithm, and the more non-linear it all becomes, the less effective best practices will be, and the more common it will be to see surprising effects. My colleague Dom Woodman talked about this at our recent SearchLove London conference in his talk A Year of SEO Split Testing Changed How I Thought SEO Worked:

2. User signals are going to grow in importance

The trend towards Google using more and more real and implied user satisfaction and task completion metrics means that conversion-centric tests and hypotheses are going to have an increasing impact on search performance (if you haven’t yet read this fascinating CNBC article that goes behind the scenes on the search quality process at Google, I highly recommend it). Hopefully there will be an additional opportunity in the fact that theoretically the winning tests will sync up more and more – what’s good for users will actually be what’s good for search – but the methodology I’ve outlined above is the only way I can come up with to tell for sure.

I love talking about all of this, so if you have any questions, feel free to drop into the comments.

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What Do You Do When You Lose Organic Traffic to Google SERP Features?

Posted by Emily.Potter

Google’s increasing dominance of their own search engine results pages (SERPs) has kicked up a lot of panic and controversy in the SEO industry. As Barry Adams pointed out on Twitter recently, this move by Google is not exactly new, but it does feel like Google has suddenly placed their foot on the accelerator:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Follow that Twitter thread and you’ll see the sort of back-and-forth these changes have started to create. Is this an ethical move by Google? Did you deserve the business they’re taking in the first place? Will SEO soon be dead? Or can we do what we’ve always done and adapt our strategies in smart, agile ways?

It’s hard to think positive when Google takes a stab at you like it did with this move on Ookla:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

But regardless of how you feel about what’s happening, local packs, featured snippets, and SERP features from Google, properties like Google News, Images, Flights, Videos, and Maps are riding on a train that has no plans on stopping.

To give you an idea of how rapid these changes are occurring, the image below is what the SERP rankings looked like in November 2016 for one of our client’s key head terms:

And this image is the SERP for the same keyword by early December 2017 (our client is in green):

Check out MozCast’s Feature Graph if you want to see the percentage of queries specific features are appearing on.

Who is this blog post for?

You’re likely reading this blog post because you noticed your organic traffic has dropped and you suspect it could be Google tanking you.

Traffic drops tend to come about from four main causes: a drop in rankings, a decrease in search volume, you are now ranking for fewer keywords, or because SERP features and/or advertising are depressing your CTRs.

If you have not already done a normal traffic drop analysis and ruled out the first three causes, then your time is better spent doing that first. But if you have done a traffic drop analysis and reached the conclusion that you’re likely to be suffering from a change in SERP features, then keep reading.

But I’m too lazy to do a full analysis

Aside from ruling everything else out, other strong indications that SERP features are to blame will be a significant drop in clicks (either broadly or especially for specific queries) in Google Search Console where average ranking is static, but a near consistent amount of impressions.

I’ll keep harping on about this point, but make sure that you check clicks vs impressions for both mobile and desktop. Do this both broadly and for specific key head terms.

When you spend most of your day working on a desktop computer, sometimes in this industry we forget how much mobile actually dominates the scene. On desktop, the impact these have on traffic there is not as drastic; but when you go over to a mobile device, it’s not uncommon for it to take around four full scrolls down before organic listings appear.

From there, the steps to dealing with a Google-induced traffic drop are roughly as follows:

  1. Narrow down your traffic drop to the introduction of SERP features or an increase in paid advertising
  2. Figure out what feature(s) you are being hit by
  3. Gain hard evidence from SEO tools and performance graphs
  4. Adapt your SEO strategy accordingly

That covers step one, so let’s move on.

Step 2.0: Figure out which feature(s) you are being hit by

For a comprehensive list of all the different enhanced results that appear on Google, Overthink Group has documented them here. To figure out which one is impacting you, follow the below steps.

Step 2.1

Based off of your industry, you probably already have an idea of which features you’re most vulnerable to.

  • Are you an e-commerce website? Google Shopping and paid advertising will be a likely candidate.
  • Do you tend to generate a lot of blog traffic? Look at who owns the featured snippets on your most important queries.
  • Are you a media company? Check and see if you are getting knocked out of top news results.
  • Do you run a listings site? Maybe you’re being knocked by sponsored listings or Google Jobs.

Step 2.2

From there, sanity check this by spot-checking the SERPs for a couple of the keywords you’re concerned about to get a sense for what changed. If you roughly know what you’re looking for when you dig into the data, it will be easier to spot. This works well for SERP features, but determining a change in the amount of paid advertising will be harder to spot this way.

Once again, be sure to do this on both mobile and desktop. What may look insignificant from your office computer screen could be showing you a whole different story on your mobile device.

Step 3.0: Gain hard evidence from SEO tools and performance graphs

Once you have a top level idea of what has changed, you need to confirm it with SEO tools. If you have access to one, a historical rank tracking tool will be the most efficient way to dig into how your SERPs are evolving. I most frequently use STAT, but other great tools for this are Moz’s SERP features report, SEOmonitor, and SEMRush.

Using one of these tools, look back at historical data (either broadly or for specific important keywords) and find the date the SERP feature appeared if you can. Once you have this date, line it up with a dip in your organic traffic or other performance metric. If there’s a match, you can be pretty confident that’s to blame.

For example, here’s what this analysis looked like for one of our clients on a keyword with a regional search volume of 49,500. They got hit hard on mobile-first by the appearance of a local pack, then an events snippet 10 days later.

This was the clicks and impression data for the head term on mobile from Google Search Console:

As this case demonstrates, here’s another strong reminder that when you’re analyzing these changes, you must check both mobile and desktop. Features like knowledge panels are much more intrusive on mobile devices than they are on desktop, so while you may not be seeing a dramatic change in your desktop traffic, you may on mobile.

For this client we improved their structured data so that they showed up in the event snippet instead, and were able to recover a good portion of the lost traffic.

How to adapt your SEO strategy

You may not be able to fully recover, but here are some different strategies you can use depending on the SERP feature. Use these links to jump to a specific section:

Have you tried bidding to beat Google?

I cover what to do if you’re specifically losing out on organic traffic due to paid advertising (spoiler alert: you’re probably gonna have to pay), but paid advertising can also be used as a tactic to subvert Google SERP features.

For example, Sky Scanner has done this by bidding on the query “flights” so they appear above the Google Flights widget:

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)

AMP is a project sponsored by Google to improve the speed of mobile pages. For a lot of these challenges, implementing AMP may be a way to improve your rankings as Google SERPs continue to change.

If you’ve noticed a number of websites with AMP implemented are ranking on the first page of SERPs you care about, it’s likely worth investigating.

If you are a news website, implementing AMP is absolutely a must.

Featured snippets and PAA boxes

If you’re losing traffic because one of your competitors owns the featured snippets on your SERPs, then you need to optimize your content to win featured snippets. I’ve already written a blog post for our Distilled blog on tactics to steal them before, which you can read here.

In summary, though, you have a chance to win a featured snippet if:

  • The ones you’re targeting are pretty volatile or frequently changing hands, as that’s a good indication the owner doesn’t have a strong hold on it
  • If you rank higher than the current owner, as this indicates Google prefers your page; the structure of your content simply needs some tweaking to win the snippet

If you’ve identified some featured snippets you have a good chance of stealing, compare what the current owner has done with their content that you haven’t. Typically it’s things like the text heading the block of content and the format of the content that differentiates a featured snippet owner from your content.

Local packs

At SearchLove London 2018, Rob Bucci shared data from STAT on local packs and search intent. Local SEO is a big area that I can’t cover fully here, but if you’re losing traffic because a local pack has appeared that you’re not being featured in, then you need to try and optimize your Google My Business listing for the local pack if you can. For a more in depth instruction on how you can get featured in a local pack, read here.

Unfortunately, it may just not be possible for you to be featured, but if it’s a query you have a chance at appearing in local pack for, you first need to get set up on Google My Business with a link to your website.

Once you have Google My Business set up, make sure the contact and address information is correct.

Reviews are incredibly important for anyone competing within a local pack, and not just high reviews but also the number of reviews you’ve received is important. You should also consider creating Google Posts. In a lot of spaces this feature is yet to have been taken advantage of, which means you could be able to get a jumpstart on your competitors.

More queries are seeing paid advertisements now, and there are also more ads appearing per query, as told in this Moz post.

If you’re losing traffic because a competitor has set up a PPC campaign and started to bid on keywords you’re ranking well for, then you may need to consider overbidding on these queries if they’re important to you.

Unfortunately, there’s no real secret here: either you gotta pay or you’re going to have to shift your focus to other target queries.

You should have already done so, but if you haven’t already included structured data on your website you need to, as it will help you stand out on SERPs with lots of advertising. Wrapped into this is the need to get good reviews for your brand and for your products.

Google Shopping

Similar to paid advertising, if the appearance of Google Shopping sponsored ads has taken over your SERPs, you should consider whether it’s worth you building your own Google Shopping campaign.

Again, structured data will be an important tactic to employ here as well. If you’re competing with Google Shopping ads, you’re competing with product listings that have images, prices, and reviews directly in the SERP results to draw in users. You should have the same.

Look into getting your pages implemented in Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), which is sponsored by Google. Not only has Google shown it favors pages that are in AMP, better site speed will lead to better conversion rates for your site.

To see if implementing AMP may be beneficial to your business, you can read some case studies of other businesses that have done so here.

Knowledge panels and carousels

Knowledge panels such as the one below appear for broad informational searches, and rarely on highly converting keywords. While they are arguably the most imposing of all the SERP features, unless you’re a content site or CelebrityNetWorth.com, they probably steal some of your less valuable traffic.

If you’re losing clicks due to knowledge panels, it’s likely happening on queries that typically can be satisfied by quick answers and therefore are by users who might have bounced from your site anyway. You won’t be able to beat a knowledge panel for quick answers, but you can optimize your content to satisfy affiliated longer-tail queries that users will still scroll to organic listings to find.

Create in-depth content that answers these questions and make sure that you have strong title tags and meta descriptions for these pages so you can have a better chance of standing out in the SERP.

In some cases, knowledge panels may be something you can exploit for your branded search queries. There’s no guaranteed way to get your content featured in a knowledge panel, and the information presented in them does not come from your site, so they can’t be “won” in the same way as a featured snippet.

To get into a knowledge panel, you can try using structured data markup or try to get your brand on Wikipedia if you haven’t already. The Knowledge Graph relies heavily on existing databases like Wikipedia that users directly contribute to, so developing more Wikipedia articles for your brand and any personal brands associated with it can be one avenue to explore.

Search Engine Journal has some tips on how to implement both of these strategies and more in their blog post here.

Google Jobs

Google Jobs has taken up huge amounts of organic real estate from listing sites. It will be tough to compete, but there are strategies you can employ, especially if you run a niche job boards site.

Shifting your digital strategy to integrate more paid advertising so you can sit above Google and to generating content in other areas, like on news websites and advice boards, can help you.

For more details on how to employ some of these strategies, you can read Search Engine Journal’s Google Jobs survival tips.

To conclude

Look, I’d be lying to you if I said this was good news for us SEOs. It’s not. Organic is going to get more and more difficult. But it’s not all doom and gloom. As Rand Fishkin noted in his BrightonSEO speech this September, if we create intelligent SEO strategies with an eye towards the future, then we have the opportunity to be ahead of the curve when the real disruption hits.

We also need to start integrating our SEO strategies with other mediums; we need to be educated on optimizing for social media, paid advertising, and other tactics for raising brand awareness. The more adaptable and diverse your online marketing strategies are, the better.

Google will always be getting smarter, which just means we have to get smarter too.

To quote Jayson DeMers,

“If you define SEO as the ability to manipulate your way to the top of search rankings, then SEO will die. But if you define SEO as the practice of improving a website’s visibility in search results, then SEO will never die; it will only continue to evolve.”

Search, like nearly every other industry today, will continue to come against dramatic unanticipated changes in the future. Yet search will also only continue to grow in importance. It may become increasingly more difficult to manipulate your way to the top of search results, but there will always be a need to try, and Google will continue to reward content that serves its users well.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

8 Top Brainstorming Techniques to Help You Write Killer Emails

brainstorming techniques

I can’t think of anything to write.

That’s one of the top reasons we hear from customers about why their email marketing went stagnate. They just run out of ideas or topics to write about. So instead of sending a lackluster email, they don’t send any at all.

Even pro writers come up with major email block. Ann Handley, co-founder of Marketing Profs and the popular book “Everybody Writes,” only sent two emails to her subscribers in 2017. (In fact, the lack of communication was her catalyst behind revamping her entire newsletter strategy this year.)

We never want your email list to go dormant. After all, you put in a ton of work to gather subscribers. Don’t leave them hanging. That’s why we’ve gathered 8 brainstorming techniques that will help you create a list of topics for future emails. Never waste time trying to think of a topic when you should be writing!

Quick Notes on Brainstorming

First things first: Let’s go over a few quick notes re: brainstorming.

  1. Coming up with ideas for your content is serious, but don’t get too caught up on producing the perfect idea right away. If you’re too critical, you won’t get anything written down. You never know what a random word now could make you think of later. Keep a positive mindset and be open to any and all ideas.
  2. Don’t worry too much about following the rules. Brainstorming is all about creativity and finding whatever method works best for you. While one person might do well with a structured brainstorming process, another might thrive with a loose, free-flowing idea session.

The important thing to remember about brainstorming ideas for your email campaigns is that you’ll want to stay open-minded throughout your process . . . regardless of what that looks like. Next, let’s start looking at a few specific brainstorming techniques you can try to get the ideas flowing.

Brainstorming Techniques for Stellar Email Ideas

Brainstorming Technique #1: Word Association

Start with one or two words related to a broad topic, and write down anything they make you think of. Let your inner editor rest for a bit and just jot down whatever ideas and words come to mind. If you need help, try a tool like Visuwords to get the process going.

Don’t overthink things or worry about explaining how the words are related (at least right now.) Instead, let the ideas flow and see what interesting concepts naturally arise.

Word Association Brainstorming Techniques

Image source:

Brainstorming Technique #2: Mind Mapping

This is a similar concept to the word association technique. Start with a word in the middle and draw lines outward to the ideas that word sparks. Mapping helps you visually process your ideas and decide which ones are the strongest.

Mind Mapping Brainstorm Techniques

Image source: CoSchedule 

Brainstorming Technique #3: The Medici Effect

If we can figure out how things are connected, sometimes we can borrow solutions or ideas from another field to solve our own problems. Look for parallels around the issues you’re facing in different areas – like your personal life or at work.

For example: Did you recently overcome a challenge at work that taught you a lesson or provided some new perspective on an issue? How can you share that experience as a story that may help your audience with their biggest pain point? You might have come to a solution that would make for a brilliant email campaign.

Brainstorming Technique #4: Blind Writing

Just. Don’t. Stop. You don’t need a plan of attack or an outline for this – just put words on a blank page, no matter what they are. You never know what will spark an idea, and writing anything is the first step to writing something good.

Brainstorming Technique #5: Challenger

Make a list of your assumptions (about your customers, your content, your format, etc.) and then challenge them one by one. You might think you already know the best way to do something, but we don’t make progress by never questioning things.

Related: FREE Course: Learn How to Write Better Emails

Brainstorming Technique #6: SWOT Analysis

Create a table to assess the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) to your current approach to email content. This helps you see your process in a more analytic way and logically decide if there is a more effective way to write, share, and educate.

As you complete your SWOT analysis, be sure to see what your main competitors are doing and make notes on how you may (or may not) be measuring up with your current approach.

SWOT brainstorming techniques

Image source:

Brainstorming Technique #7: Turn to Your Readers

Conversations with your subscribers can lead to a treasure trove of email ideas. Ask your subscribers questions and try to find out as much information about them as possible. What do they actually want or need from you? What are their biggest obstacles, goals, or main pain points?

Your subscribers feedback will be immensely valuable to your business. You can use it to write your next email, and other types of content like blog posts, videos, and social media posts. You can also take it a step further by using the feedback to correctly position your product, inspire loyalty, and/or develop all-new products.

Brainstorming Technique #8: Start with the Subject Line

Set a timer for 5 minutes. Then, come up with a list of subject lines that you would absolutely open if they hit your inbox.

These subject lines may spark some all-new content ideas. We use this technique at the start of many of our content planning meetings at AWeber. In fact, some of our most popular stories have come out of this exercise. We keep an updated swipe file of the subject lines – some of which are practical, some of which are outrageous – and browse the list for new blog post or email ideas whenever we need some inspiration.

Related: Your Guide to Writing the World’s Best Email Subject Lines

Brilliant Email Ideas, Time After Time

Consistently sending emails is a wonderful way to keep subscribers engaged, but try not to forget that no one wants to open an email that doesn’t actually have any new or useful information. Having a constant supply of fresh email ideas keeps you from getting marked as spam and sent to the junk mailbox, never to be opened again.

On a regular basis, brainstorm new topics through these different approaches and keep a swipe file of your best and brightest ideas. You’ll never hit a bottleneck in ideas for email campaigns again.

Ready to start sending killer emails to your list? Then sign up for your free 30-day trial of AWeber today.

The post 8 Top Brainstorming Techniques to Help You Write Killer Emails appeared first on Email Marketing Tips.

Getting Around the “One Form” Problem in Unbounce

Posted by R0bin_L0rd

What is Unbounce?

Unbounce is a well-known and well-regarded landing page creation tool designed to allow HTML novices to create impressive and impactful landing pages, while offering scope for more experienced coders to have a bit more fun.

In this post, I’m going to list some solutions to what I refer to as the “one form” problem of Unbounce, their strengths and weaknesses, and which I personally prefer.

What is the “one form” problem?

As with any system that tries to take complex processes and make them simple to implement, there’s a certain amount of nuance and flexibility that has to be sacrificed.

One limitation is that each landing page on Unbounce can only have one embedded form (there are a few community articles discussing the topic, for instance: 1, 2, 3). While there’s a definite risk of call-to-action fatigue if you bombard your visitors with forms, it’s a reasonable requirement to want to provide easy access to your form at more than one point.

For example, you could lead with a strong call to action and the form at the top of the page, then follow up further down the page when users have had time to absorb more information about your offering. A simple example of this is the below Teambit landing page, which was featured in Hubspot’s 16 of the Best Landing Page Design Examples You Need to See in 2017.

The top of this Teambit page features a simple email collection form

The form is repeated at the bottom of the page once visitors have had a chance to read more.

Potential solutions to the one-form issue

Now that we’ve established the problem, let’s run through some solutions, shall we?

Fortunately, there are a few possible ways to solve this problem, either using built-in Unbounce tools or by adding code through open HTML, CSS, and JavaScript inputs.

It’s worth bearing in mind that one solution is to not have the form on your page at all, and have your call-to-action buttons linking to other pages with forms. This is the approach Unbounce uses in the example below. While that’s a perfectly valid approach, I wouldn’t call it so much a solution to this problem as a completely different format, so I haven’t included it in the list below.

Here Unbounce use two CTAs (the orange buttons), but don’t rely on having the form on the page.

1. Scrolling anchor button

This is potentially the simplest solution, as it’s natively supported by Unbounce:

  1. Create a button further down the page where you would want your second form.
  2. Edit that button, in the “Click Action” section of the right-hand button settings panel, where you would normally put the URL you are linking to
  3. Add in the unique ID code for the box that holds your form (you can find that by editing the box and scrolling to the bottom of the right-hand panel to “Element Metadata”)

Register button

“Click Action” section of right-hand button settings panel

“Element Metadata” section at bottom of right-hand element setting panel

Benefits

Quick and easy to implement, little direct JavaScript or HTML manipulation needed.

Drawbacks

There are far more seamless ways to achieve this from the user perspective. Even with smooth scrolling (see “bonus points” below), the experience can be a little jarring for users, particularly if they want to go back to check information elsewhere on a page.

Bonus points

Just adding that in as-is will mean a pretty jarring experience for users. When they click the button, the page will jump back to your form as though it’s loaded a new page. To help visitors understand what’s going on, add smooth scrolling through JavaScript. Unbounce has how-to information here.

Double bonus

The link anchors work by aligning the top of your screen with the top of the thing you’ve anchored. That can leave it looking like you’ve undershot a bit, because the form is almost falling off the screen. You can solve this simply by putting a tiny, one-pixel-wide box a little bit above the form, with no fill or border, positioning it how you want, and linking to the ID of that box instead, allowing a bit of breathing room above your form.

Without and with the one-pixel-wide box for headroom

2. iFrames

Unbounce allows free blocks, which you can use to embed a form from another service or even another Unbounce page that consists of only a form. You’ll need to drag the “Custom HTML” block from the left bar to where you want the form to be and paste in your iFrame code.

The “Custom HTML” block in the left-hand bar

Blank HTML box that pops up

How HTML blocks look in the editor

Benefits

This will allow for multiple forms, for each form to be positioned differently on the page, to function in a different way, and for entries to each form to be tagged differently (which will offer insight on the effectiveness of the page).

This solution will also allow you to make the most of functionality from other services, such as Wufoo (Unbounce has documented the process for that here).

Drawbacks

Having chosen Unbounce as a one-stop-shop for creating landing pages, breaking out of that to use external forms could be considered a step away from the original purpose. This also introduces complications in construction, because you can’t see how the form will look on the page in the editing mode. So your workflow for changes could look like:

  1. Change external form
  2. Review page and see styling issues
  3. Change layout in Unbounce editor
  4. Review page and see that the external form isn’t as readable
  5. Change external form
  6. Etc.

Bonus points

Unbounce can’t track conversions through an iFrame, so even if you use another Unbounce page as the form you draw in, you’re going to be breaking out of Unbounce’s native tracking. They have a script here you can use to fire external tracking hits to track page success more centrally so you get more of a feel for whether individual pages are performing well.

Double bonus

Even if you’re using an identical Unbounce page to pull through the same form functionality twice, tag the form completions differently to give you an idea of whether users are more likely to convert at the top of the page before they get distracted, or lower down when they have had time to absorb the benefits of your offering.

3. Sticky form (always there)

An option that will keep everything on the same page is a sticky form. You can use CSS styling to fix it in place on a screen rather than on a page, then when your visitor scrolls down, the form or CTA will travel with them – always within easy reach.

This simple CSS code will fix a form on the right-hand side of a page for screen widths over 800px (that being where Unbounce switches from Desktop to Mobile design, meaning the positioning needs to be different).

Each ID element below corresponds to a different box which I wanted to move together. You’ll need to change the “lp-pom-box-xxx” below to match the IDs of what you want to move down the page with the user (you can find those IDs in the “Element Metadata” section as described in the Scrolling Anchor Button solution above).

@media (min-width: 800px) {
#lp-pom-box-56{ position:fixed; left:50%; margin-left: 123px; top:25%; margin-top:-70px}
#lp-pom-form-59{ position:fixed; left:50%; margin-left: 141px; top:25%; margin-top:60px}
#lp-pom-box-54{ position:fixed; left:50%; margin-left: 123px; top:25%; margin-top:50px}}

Benefits

This allows you to keep tracking within Unbounce. It cuts out a lot of the back and forth of building the form elsewhere and then trying to make that form, within an iFrame, act on your page the way you want it to.

Drawbacks

The problem with this is that users can quickly become blind to a CTA that travels with them, adding some kind of regular attention seeking effect is likely to just annoy them. The solution here is to have your call to action or form obscured during parts of the page, only to reappear at other, more appropriate times (as in the next section).

It can be difficult to see exactly where the form will appear because your CSS changes won’t take effect in the editor preview, but you will be able to see the impact when you save and preview the page.

4. Sticky form (appearing and disappearing)

The simplest way to achieve this is using z-index. In short, the z-index is a way of communicating layers through HTML, an image with a z-index of 2 will be interpreted as closer to the user than a box with a z-index of 1, so when viewing the page it’ll look like the image is in front of the box.

For this method, you’ll need some kind of opaque box in each section of your page. The box can be filled with a color, image, gradient – it doesn’t matter as long as it isn’t transparent. After you’ve put the boxes in place, make a note of their z-index, which you can find in the “Meta Data” section of the right-hand settings bar, the same place that the Element ID is shown.

This box has a z-index of 31, so it’ll cover something with an index of 30

Then use CSS to select the elements you’re moving down the page and set their z-index to a lower number. In the below lines I’ve selected two elements and set their z-index to 30, which means that they’ll be hidden behind the box above, which has a z-index of 31. Again, here you’ll want to replace the IDs that start #lp-pom-box-xxxx with the same IDs you used in the Sticky Form (Always There) solution above.

 
#lp-pom-box-133{z-index: 30; }
#lp-pom-box-135{z-index: 30; }

When you’re choosing the place where you want your form to be visible again, just remove any items that might obscure the form during that section. It’ll scroll into view.

Benefits

This will allow you to offer a full form for users to fill out, at different points on the page, without having to worry about it becoming wallpaper or whether you can marry up external conversions. Using only CSS will also mean that you don’t have to worry about users with JavaScript turned off (while the bonus points below rely on JavaScript, this will fall back gracefully if JavaScript is turned off).

Drawbacks

Unlike the iFrame method, this won’t allow you to use more than one form format. It also requires a bit more CSS knowledge (and the bonus points will require at least a bit of trial and error with JavaScript).

Bonus points

Use JavaScript to apply and remove CSS classes based on your scrolling position on the page. For example you can create CSS classes like these which make elements fade in and out of view.

CSS:

@media (min-width: 800px) {
/* make the opacity of an element 0 where it has this class */
.hide {
opacity: 0;
}
/* instead of applying an effect immediately, apply it gradually over 0.2 seconds */ .transition {
-webkit-transition: all 0.2s ease-in-out;
-moz-transition: all 0.2s ease-in-out;
-o-transition: all 0.2s ease-in-out;
transition: all 0.2s ease-in-out;
}}

You could then use this JavaScript to apply the .hide class when user scrolls through certain points, and remove it when they get to the points where you want them to see the form. This can be used for finer-grained control of where the form appears, without having to just cover it up. As before, you’ll need to update the #lp-pom-box-xxx strings to match the IDs in your account.

JavaScript:

// This script applies the “hide” class, which makes opacity zero, to certain elements when we scroll more than 100 pixels away from the top of the page. Effectively, if we scroll down the page these items will fade away.
$(window).scroll(function() {
if ($(window).scrollTop() > 100 ){
$('#lp-pom-box-54').addClass('hide');
$('#lp-pom-box-228').addClass('hide');
}
// This section removes the hide class if we're less than 500 pixels from the bottom of the page or scroll back up to be less than 100 from the top. This means that those elements will fade back into view when we're near the bottom of the page or go back to the top.
if ($(document).height() - ($(window).height() + $(window).scrollTop()) < 500 ||
$(window).scrollTop() < 100 ){
$('#lp-pom-box-54').removeClass('hide');
$('#lp-pom-box-228').removeClass('hide');
}}

Double bonus

You could consider using JavaScript to selectively hide or show form fields at different points. That would allow you to show a longer form initially, for example, and a shorter form when it appears the second time, despite it actually being the same form each time.

For this, you’d just add to your .scroll JavaScript function above:

 if ($(document).height() - ($(window).height() + $(window).scrollTop()) < 75){ 
// This part hides the “full name” part of the form, moves the submit button up and reduces the size of the box when we scroll down to less than 75 pixels away from the bottom of the page
$('#container_full_name').addClass('hide');
$('#lp-pom-box-54').stop().animate({height: "200px"},200);
$('.lp-pom-button-60-unmoved').animate({top: '-=75'}, 200);
$('#lp-pom-button-60').removeClass('lp-pom-button-60-unmoved');
$('#lp-pom-button-60').addClass('lp-pom-button-60-moved');}
else{
// This part adds the “full name” part back in to the form, moves the submit button back down and increases the size of the box if we scroll back up.
$('#container_full_name').removeClass('hide');
$('#lp-pom-box-54').stop().animate({height: "300px"},200);
$('.lp-pom-button-60-moved').animate({top: '+=75'}, 200);
$('#lp-pom-button-60').removeClass('lp-pom-button-60-moved');
$('#lp-pom-button-60').addClass('lp-pom-button-60-unmoved');

When scrolling within 75px of the bottom of the page, our JavaScript hides the Full Name field, reduces the size of the box, and moves the button up. This could all happen when the form is hidden from view; I’ve just done it in view to demonstrate.

Conclusion

In the table below I’ve pulled together a quick list of the different solutions and their strengths and weaknesses.

Solution

Strengths

Weaknesses

Scrolling anchor button

Easy implementation, little coding needed

Jarring user experience

iFrame

Multiple different forms

Requires building the form elsewhere and introduces some styling and analytics complexity to workflow

Sticky form (always there)

Keeps and design tracking within one Unbounce project

CTA fatigue, using up a lot of page space

Sticky form (appearing and disappearing)

The benefits of a sticky form, plus avoiding the CTA fatigue and large space requirement

CSS knowledge required, can only use one form

Personally, my favorite has been the Sticky Form (appearing and disappearing) option, to reduce the need to integrate external tools, but if I had to use multiple different forms I could definitely imagine using an iFrame.

Which is your favorite? Have I missed any cool solutions? Feel free to ping me in the comments.

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The Moz Year in Review 2017

Posted by SarahBird

Yay! We’ve traversed another year around the sun. And I’m back with another Moz year-in-review post that promises to be as boring as its predecessors. Reading it feels like being locked in your tin can space capsule through lightyears of empty space. If you’re a little odd and like this kind of thing, do please continue.

Before we begin our odyssey, I invite you to check out previous reports: 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012. Transparency is a Moz core value. Putting detailed financial and customer data on the blog is one of the ways we live our values. We’re a little weird like that.

Image: Tesla's red car in outer space, floating past Earth with Rocketman at the wheel

Okay spacepeople: take your protein pills and put your helmets on.

Launch to your favorite parts:

Part 1: TL;DR

Commencing countdown, engines on

Part 2: SO MANY wins

Now it’s time to leave the capsule if you dare

Part 3: Customer metrics

You’ve really made the grade

Part 4: Financial performance

And the stars look very different today

Part 5: Inside Moz HQ

The papers want to know whose shirts you wear

Part 6: Into the future

I think my spaceship knows which way to go


Part 1: TL;DR

Commencing countdown, engines on

What a year! 2017 was a time of doing new things differently – new teams, new goals, and new ways of operating. I’m so proud of Mozzers; they can do anything. If I’m sent to a far-off space colony, I want them with me.

In spite of (and because of!) all this change, we grew revenue and became significantly EBITDA and cash flow positive. Nice! We have a nice economic engine primed and ready to make some more big investments in 2018. Stay tuned.

These positive results were not from one single thing. Rather, iterative product and operations improvements helped improve both our top and bottom line. Plus, we made a bunch of longer-term investments that don’t show up yet in the 2017 report but will bear fruit in 2018 and beyond.


Part 2: Ch-ch-ch… Changes!

Now it’s time to leave the capsule if you dare

Here’s a little more detail on some of the changes I talked about.

We launched Keywords By Site, relaunched our crawler (a major technical undertaking), sunsetted two products (content and Followerwonk), built a bunch of new developer tools and standardized on some dev frameworks, and improved our local data distribution network. Check out Adam Feldstein’s post for a lot more detail on our 2017 major product accomplishments!

We’ve got another exciting launch on the way, too. We’ve invested a ton of blood, sweat, and tears into it during 2017 and can’t wait to share it with everyone.

All of these changes support our 2016 strategy of “more wood behind fewer arrows.” We choose to focus our energy on being the best place to learn and do SEO. Our mission is to simplify SEO for everyone through software, education, and community.

For those of you worried about Followerwonk, it’s going to be okay. Better than okay. Our beloved “Work Dad” Marc Mims is now the proud father of Followerwonk! Marc’s dedication to the success of Followerwonk has never wavered over the many, many years he’s been building and maintaining it. We already miss his compassion, humor, and bike stories around the Mozplex. We wish him and Followerwonk the best! We bought that product because we loved it then; we love it even now. Sadly, though, it never quite fit with our mission as well as we’d hoped.

We created new programs to help people get the SEO help that’s right for them. We completely rebuilt our SEO Learning Center with fresh educational content. There’s a brand-new SEO podcast, MozPod, for you to check out.

We also began experimenting with and are now expanding SEO training workshops delivered by experts we trust and admire. I’m so excited about this because it’s a new way for Moz to have impact; it’s personal, live, interactive, and immediate in a way that most of our SEO education work can’t be. We won’t stop doing free, scalable education. It’s core to our beliefs. But it is fun to deliver custom, live training sessions in the mix too.

1340 Training registrations. Training programs offer live webinars taught by real SEO instructors.

5574 Walthroughs completed. Book your walkthrough to get 1:1 time with a Moz expert and learn how the tools can help you achieve your SEO goals.

Many of our accomplishments are behind the scenes, and will deliver long-term positive impact.

Our investments in retiring tech debt, improving monitoring, investing in our development platforms, and nurturing our engineering culture have resulted in the most stable and performant software in Moz history. Our hard work and ingenuity is paying off in resilient and performant software.

We’ve also rebuilt most of our customer stack: new Salesforce implementation, HubSpot launch, new internal data warehouse, new CMS (Craft), Segment.io, and more! Phew! That’s a lot! In Q1 2018, we started with Terminus for Account-Based Marketing, and partnered with third-party data vendors, like Full Contact, to supplement our data warehouse. These big changes are going to set us up really well for the years ahead. And we’ve got more internal tools launching soon!

Image: an animated gif of rockets boosting

We are on a roll with internal improvements and momentum.


Part 3: Customer metrics

You’ve really made the grade

We could ship and launch until our circuits go dead, but at the end of the day all our work is in service of meeting your needs.

Image: stats about community & customer numbers

Image: graph showing +9% increase in organic traffic to moz.com

We know you can hear us! You’re following us now more than ever before.

Image: stats about social media followers


Part 4: Financial performance

And the stars look very different today

Check out the infographic view of our data barf.

I’m proud of what we accomplished in 2017, especially considering the incredible amount of change in strategy and team structure. More revenue while spending less = magic! Also, the economic strength we’ve built will allow us to place some nice-sized bets this year. Boom!

We made $47.4 million in GAAP revenue in 2017, an increase of 11% from 2016.

$47.4 million. 2017 revenue

We brought our over all expenses way down in 2017. Cost of Revenue increased slightly to $11.8 million. We reduced operating expenses aggressively. Curious on what we spend on, and trends? Check out this breakdown of our major expenses (OpEx and Cost of Revenue) as a percentage of annual revenue:

Image: Major expenses graphed for 2013 through 2017

We generated cash, positive EBITDA, and for the first time in recent Moz history, we were positive net income.

$5.5 million EBITDA gain. EBIDTA is one of our superstar metrics at $5.5 million, an 11.5% improvement!

That’s quite a turnaround from 2016, in which we closed the year negative EBITDA of $5.7 million! We flipped EBITDA! We have adopted a cash-flow-neutral-to-positive operating philosophy right now to be ready for some future investments. We may decide to go cash flow negative again to fund further growth.


Part 5: Inside Moz HQ

The papers want to know whose shirts you wear

So, who is behind the wheel here?

We ended 2017 with roughly the same number of Mozzers as we began. It was a conscious choice to remain approximately headcount neutral in 2017; we only opened up new positions after ensuring rigorous conversations took place around the business need for the role. This discipline is hard to live under, but we like the results. We’re working smarter, and getting more rigorous in our decision-making.

Let me be clear: WE ARE HIRING! These are just 5 of our currently open positions:

See more at our Careers page!

Here’s where we need YOU: Moz is committed to bringing more women into tech. There is a dire lack of diversity in the technology industry. This past year we added 6% more women to the company overall and 9% to engineering specifically. We must and will do better. We need more women in engineering and leadership roles here. Check out those jobs above and join the team!

Stats on women in tech roles at Moz

Moz partners with some fantastic organizations focused on getting more women into the tech pipeline. Ada Academy, Year Up, Ignite Worldwide, and Techbridge all encourage women and girls to pursue STEM careers early in their lives. Our newest partner, Unloop, enables people who have been in prison to develop skills and succeed in careers in tech. It is our responsibility to ensure that all people have opportunity and access to participate in STEM fields.

Generosity comes in many forms. One way in which we support the generosity of Mozzers is to match charitable donations to 501c3 organizations by 150%.

Moz Charitable Donation Match: $65810 donated to charity. We have a generous 150% charity donation match program.

We also donated our space 35 times to various organizations in the community requesting to use the Mozplex as a venue for their meetups. Check our our event brochure and take a 360 tour of the Mozplex!

Mozzers also donate a ton of time to causes they are passionate about. We also offer a very discounted price for nonprofits that we’re happy many folks take advantage of. We’re passionate about communities and helping folks.

303 Coaching sessions in 2017

Moz partnered with Halo Partners to provide professional coaching to all employees. 54 Mozzers received coaching. 27 Mozzers used this benefit for the first time! I’m a huge believer in coaching and training. Beginner’s mind is how we grow and become the best versions of ourselves.

Through it all, we made sure to have some fun. Moz offers a Paid Paid Vacation benefit, reimbursing employees $3k per year in vacation costs. Yes, that’s right. You get your regular pay, plus another $3k a year to spend on your trip! It’s bonkers!

Paid, paid vacation: $456,728.40. Paid vacation isn't enough. We also pay for Mozzers' airfare, hotels, yours, and food while they vacation.

Mozzers visited 6 of the 7 continents last year!

We also had 7 Mozling babies last year. Luv those babies.


Part 6: Into the future

I think my spaceship knows which way to go

2017 was a strengthening year for Moz. We went through a lot of change and made some important investments. Mozzers are dynamic, helpful, smart, and hardworking. They have a service orientation and build for the long term. The investments we made in 2017 will bear fruit in the years ahead. And we’re poised to make some ambitious moves in the coming months.

While I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished, I believe we have higher mountains still to climb. We have had triumphs and tribulations, heartbreaks and happy dances. These many years later, the SEO industry is healthy, growing, and dynamic. Many organizations are still struggling with basic web presence, let alone thoughtful SEO strategy. Moz is still teensy-tiny compared to the opportunity. I believe the opportunity for SEO expertise is vast.

I want to close on a note of gratitude.

First, a bunch of folks helped pull together the metrics for our 2017 report, and I am deeply grateful for their help. This post is kind of a bear! Thank you Jess, Felicia, Christian, Kevin, Susan, Michael, Jeremy, and anyone else who pulled data and helped get this post off the ground!

Second, thank you to this community. It’s because of you that we are here. This community would be nothing if it wasn’t for your care, attention, and feedback. We will continue to work hard to make your work lives more enjoyable and successful. We want to be your favorite resource for doing great SEO. If we’re not there yet, trust that we will keep working to be. Thank you for the opportunity to serve.

Gratitude also to David Bowie for inspiring this post and so much more. We miss you. ❤

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MozCon 2018: Making the Case for the Conference (& All the Snacks!)

Posted by Danielle_Launders

You’ve got that conference looming on the horizon. You want to go – you’ve spent the past few years desperately following hashtags on Twitter, memorizing catchy quotes, zooming in on grainy snapshots of a deck, and furiously downloading anything and everything you can scour from Slideshare.

But there’s a problem: conferences cost money, and your boss won’t even approve a Keurig in the communal kitchen, much less a ticket to a three-day-long learning sesh complete with its own travel and lodging expenses.

What’s an education-hungry digital marketer to do?

How do you convince your boss to send you to the conference of your dreams?

First of all, you gather evidence to make your case.

There are a plethora of excellent reasons why attending conferences is good for your career (and your bottom line). In digital marketing, we exist in the ever-changing tech space, hurtling toward the future at breakneck speed and often missing the details of the scenery along the way.

A good SEO conference will keep you both on the edge of your seat and on the cutting-edge of what’s new and noteworthy in our industry, highlighting some of the most important and impactful things your work depends on.

A good SEO conference will flip a switch for you, will trigger that lightbulb moment that empowers you and levels you up as both a marketer and a critical thinker.

If that doesn’t paint a beautiful enough picture to convince the folks that hold the credit card, though, there are also some great statistics and resources available:

Specifically, we’re talking about MozCon

Yes, that MozCon!

Let’s just take a moment to address the elephant in the room here: you all know why we wrote this post. We want to see your smiling face in the audience at MozCon this July (the 9th–11th, if you were wondering). There are a few specific benefits worth mentioning:

  • Speakers and content: Our speakers bring their A-game each year. We work with them to bring the best content and latest trends to the stage to help set you up for a year of success.
  • Videos to share with your team: About a month or so after the conference, we’ll send you a link to professionally edited videos of every presentation at the conference. Your colleagues won’t get to partake in the morning Top Pot doughnuts or Starbucks coffee, but they will get a chance to learn everything you did, for free.
  • Great food onsite: We understand that conference food isn’t typically worth mentioning, but at MozCon you can expect snacks from local Seattle vendors – in the past this includes Trophy cupcakes, KuKuRuZa popcorn, Starbucks’ Seattle Reserve cold brew, and did we mention bacon at breakfast? Let’s not forget the bacon.
  • Swag: Expect to go home with a one-of-a-kind Roger Mozbot, a super-soft t-shirt from American Apparel, and swag worth keeping. We’ve given away Roger Legos, Moleskine notebooks, phone chargers, and have even had vending machines with additional swag in case you didn’t get enough.
  • Networking: You work hard taking notes, learning new insights, and digesting all of that knowledge – that’s why we think you deserve a little fun in the evenings to chat with fellow attendees. Each night after the conference, we’ll offer a different networking event that adds to the value you’ll get from your day of education.
  • A supportive network after the fact: Our MozCon Facebook group is incredibly active, and it’s grown to have a life of its own – marketers ask one another SEO questions, post jobs, look for and offer advice and empathy, and more. It’s a great place to find TAGFEE support and camaraderie long after the conference itself has ended.
  • Discounts for subscribers and groups: Moz Pro subscribers get a whopping $500 off their ticket cost (even if you’re on a free 30-day trial!) and there are discounts for groups as well, so make sure to take advantage of savings where you can!
  • Ticket cost: At MozCon our goal is to break even, which means we invest all of your ticket price back into you. Check out the full breakdown below:

Can you tell we’re serious about the snacks?

You can check out videos from years past to get a taste for the caliber of our speakers. We’ll also be putting out a call for community speaker pitches in April, so if you’ve been thinking about breaking into the speaking circuit, it could be an amazing opportunity – keep an eye on the blog for your chance to submit a pitch.

If you’ve ever seriously considered attending an SEO conference like MozCon, now’s the time to do it. You’ll save actual hundreds of dollars by grabbing subscriber or group pricing while you can (think of all the Keurigs you could get for that communal kitchen!), and you’ll be bound for an unforgettable experience that lives and grows with you beyond just the three days you spend in Seattle.

Grab your ticket to MozCon!

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Free Local SEO Tools That Belong in Your Kit

Posted by MiriamEllis

What a lot can change in just a few years! When I wrote the original version of this post in January 2014, the local SEO industry didn’t have quite the wealth of paid tools that now exists, and many of the freebies on my previous list have been sunsetted. Definitely time for a complete refresh of the most useful free tools, widgets, and resources I know of to make marketing local businesses easier and better.

While all of the tools below are free, note that some will require you to sign up for access. Others are limited, no-cost, or trial versions that let you get a good sense of what they provide, enabling you to consider whether it might be worth it to buy into paid access. One thing you may notice: my new list of local SEO tools offers increased support for organic SEO tasks, reflective of our industry’s growing understanding of how closely linked organic and local SEO have become.

Now, let’s open this toolkit and get 2018 off to a great start!


For Research

US Census Bureau Tool Set

Looking to better understand a target community for marketing purposes? You’ll find 20+ useful resources from the US Census Bureau, including population statistics, economic data, mapping and geocoding widgets, income and language information, and much more.

Client Onboarding Questionnaire & Phone Script

Onboarding a new client? Reduce repetitious follow-ups by asking all of the right questions the first time around with this thorough questionnaire and easy-to-follow phone call script from Moz. Includes helpful tips for why you are asking each question. As local SEO veterans will tell you, a missed question can lead to unhappy (and costly) surprises down the marketing road. Be sure you have the total picture of an incoming client in clear view before you begin strategizing.

Location Information Spreadsheet

Vital when marketing multi-location businesses, this free Moz spreadsheet will ensure that you’ve got all the info at your fingertips about each locale of a company.

*Pro tip: When working with large enterprises, be certain that the data you’re inputting in this spreadsheet has been approved by all relevant departments. It’s really no fun to find out six months into a marketing campaign that there’s internal disagreement about company NAP or other features.

Local Competitive Audit Spreadsheet

Now we’re really getting down to brass tacks. When you need to look for answers to the perennial client question, “Why is that guy outranking me?”, this free Moz spreadsheet will help you document key competitive data. The end result of filling out the sheet will be two columns of stats you can compare and contrast in your quest to discover competitors’ ranking strengths and weaknesses. Need more guidance? Read my blog post in which I put this audit spreadsheet into action for two San Francisco Bay Area Chinese restaurants.

Manual GeoLocation Chrome Extension

Watch Darren Shaw demo using this tool to show how a local pack changes when a user virtually crosses a street and you’ll quickly understand how useful this Chrome extension will be in approximating the impacts of user-to-business proximity. Works well on desktop devices.

Our industry still hasn’t fully recovered from Google removing the Local Search filter from its engine in 2015, and I still live in hope that they will bring it back one day, but in the meantime, this extension gives us a good sense of how searcher location affects search results. In fact, it may even be a superior solution.

The MozBar SEO Toolbar

Local businesses in competitive markets must master traditional SEO, and the free MozBar provides a wonderful introduction to the metrics you need to look at in analyzing the organic strengths and weaknesses of clients and competitors. On-page elements, link metrics, markup, HTTP status, optimization opportunities – get the data you need at a glance with the MozBar.

Google Advanced Search Operators

Not a tool, per se, but the best tutorial I have ever seen on using Google advanced search operators to deepen your research. Dr. Pete breaks this down into 67 steps that will enable you to use these search refinements for content and title research, checking for plagiarism, technical SEO audits, and competitive intelligence. Be totally wizardly and impress your clients and teammates, simply by knowing how to format searches in smart ways.

Google Search Console

Apologies if it already seems like a no-brainer to you that you should be signed up for Google’s console that gives you analytics, alerts you to serious errors, and so much more, but local SEO is just now crossing the threshold of understanding how deeply connected it is to organic search. When playing in Google’s backyard, GSC is a must-have for businesses of every type.

BrightLocal’s Search Results Checker

This popular tool does an excellent job of replicating local search results at a city or zip code level. In some cases, it’s best to search by city (for example, when there are multiple towns covered by a single zip code), but other times, it’s better search by zip code (as in the case of a large city with multiple zip codes). The tool doesn’t have the capability to recreate user-level results, so always remember that the proximity of a given user to a business may create quite different results than what you’ll see searching at a city or zip code level. I consider this a great tool to suss out the lay of the land in a community, identifying top competitors.

Offline Conversion Tracker Form

Give this handy Whitespark form to anyone who answers your phone so that they can document the answer to the important question, “How did you hear about us?” Submitted information is saved to Whitespark’s database and tracked in Google Analytics for your future reference and analysis. For local businesses, knowledge of offline factors can be priceless. This form provides a simple point of entry into amassing real-world data.


For Content

Answer the Public

One of the best-loved keyword research tools in the digital marketing world, Answer the Public lets you enter a keyword phrase and generate a large number of questions/topics related to your search. One of the most awesome facets of this tool is that it has a .CSV download feature – perfect for instantly generating large lists of keywords that you can input into something like Moz Keyword Explorer to begin the sorting process that turns up the most powerful keywords for your content dev and on-page optimization.

Buzzsumo

Another great content inspiration tool, Buzzsumo shows you lets you enter a keyword, topic or domain name, and then shows you which pieces are getting the most social shares. For example, a search for wholefoodsmarket.com shows that a highly shared piece of content at the time of my search is about an asparagus and broccoli soup. You can also sort by content type (articles, videos, infographics, etc.). Use of Buzzsumo can help you generate topics that might be popular if covered on your website.

OSHA Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) System Search

Another interesting resource for brainstorming a wide pool of potential keywords for content dev consideration, OSHA’s SIC search returns big, comprehensive lists. Just look up your industry’s SIC code, and then enter it along with a keyword/category to get your list.

USPS Look Up a ZIP Code Widget

Working with service area businesses (SABs)? Note the second tab in the menu of this widget: Cities by zip code. When you know the zip code of a business you’re marketing you can enter it into this simple tool to get a list of every city in that zip. Now, let’s not take a wrong step here: don’t publish large blocks of zips or city names on any website, but do use this widget to be sure you know of all the communities for which an SAB might strategize content, link building, brand building, real-world relationship building, social media marketing, and PPC.


Schema/JSON-LD Generators

Rather than list a single tool here, I’m going to take the advice of my friend, schema expert David Deering, who has taught me that no one tool is perfect. In David’s opinion, there isn’t currently a schema/JSON-LD generator that does it all, which is why he continues to build this type of markup manually. That being said, if you’re new to Schema, these generators will get you started:


For Citations

Moz Check Listing

I can say without bias that I know of no free tool that does a better job of giving you a lightning-fast overview of the health of a local business’ listings. On the phone with a new prospect? Just plug in the name and zip and see how complete and accurate the company’s citations are on the sources that matter most, including the major local business data aggregators (Acxiom, Factual, Infogroup, Localeze) plus key platforms like Google My Business, Facebook, Yelp, YP, and more.

Literally at a glance, you can tell if inconsistencies and duplicate listings are holding a business back. It can also be used for competitive analysis, defining whether a clean or messy citation set is impacting competitors. The value of the free Check Listing tool becomes most fully realized by signing up for the paid Moz Local product, which automates aggregator-level listing management even at an enterprise level with hundreds or thousands of listings, and offers options for review monitoring, ranking analysis, and more.

Whitespark’s Local Citation Finder (free version)

The free version of this cool tool from our friends at Whitespark will give you a sense of how the paid version can help you discover additional places, beyond the basics, where you might want to get listed. It also analyzes your competitors’ citations.


For Reviews

The Hoth’s Online Business Review Checker Tool

You’ll have to sign up, but this free tool gives you an overview report of a local business’ reviews on a variety of platforms. This is a smart thing to do for every incoming client, to gauge reputation strengths and weaknesses. The state of a company’s reviews indicates whether it has an offline problem that needs to be corrected at a real-world structural level, or if its core challenge is a lack of strategy for simply earning a competitive number of positive reviews.

Free Review Monitoring

Need to know when a new review comes in on a major or industry-specific review site? Signing up for this free tool will send you email alerts so that you can respond quickly. Watch the little video and pay attention to its statement that the majority of unhappy customers will consider visiting a business again if it quickly resolves a complaint. Good to know!

Review Handout Generator

Another freebie from Whitespark in partnership with Phil Rozek, this very simple resource lets you enter some business info and generate a printable handout your public-facing staff can give to customers. Active review management has become a must in even moderately competitive geo-industries. How nice to have a physical asset to offer your customers to get more of those reviews rolling in!

Google Review Link Generator

Google’s local product has gone through so many iterations that finding a link to point consumers to when requesting a GMB review has been foolishly difficult at times. Whitespark helps out again, at least for brick-and-mortar businesses, with this easy widget that lets you enter your business info and generate a shareable link. Unfortunately, SABs or home-based businesses with hidden addresses can’t use this tool, but for other business models, this widget works really well.


For social

Notify

Whenever your business gets mentioned on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Linkedin, Reddit, and a variety of other platforms, Notify uses Slack or HipChat to send you an alert. By being aware of important conversations taking place about your brand, and participating in them, your business can achieve an excellent status of responsiveness. Social media has become part of the customer service environment, so a tool like this comes in very handy.

Followerwonk

A free trial is available for this app which acts as serious analytics for Twitter. If Twitter is a favorite platform in your industry, definitely give this resource a spin. Understand the characteristics of your followers, find and connect with influencers, and use data to improve your outreach.

Character Count Online

I use this ultra-basic tool all of the time for three specific tasks. Some social platforms either have character limits and don’t always have counters, or (like Google Posts) truncate your social messaging so that only a limited snippet appear at the highest interface. Just plug in your text and see the character count.

And, of course, you’ll want a character counter to be sure your on-page title tags and meta descriptions read right in the SERPs.

My third use for this counter relates to content marketing. Most publications have character count parameters for the pieces they will accept. Here on the Moz Blog, we’re not into length limits, because we believe thorough coverage is the right coverage of important topics. But, when I’m invited to blog elsewhere, I have to rein myself in and be sure I haven’t galloped past that 800-character limit. If you’ve found that to be a problem, too, a character counter can keep you on-track as you write. Whoa, horsie!


So, what did I miss?

If you’re saying to yourself right now, “I can’t believe this totally awesome free local SEO tool I use every week isn’t included,” please share it with our community in the comments. One thing I know I’d love to find a free solution for would be a tool that does review sentiment analysis. Paid solutions exist for this, but I’ve yet to encounter a freebie.

My criteria for a great tool is that it makes work better, stronger, faster… or is that the intro to The Six Million Dollar Man? Well, Steve Austin had some amazing capabilities (and a cool 70s jogging suit, to boot!), and I’m hoping you’ll feel kitted up for success, too, with this list of free tools in the year ahead.

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Followerwonk Is Moving On to a New, Loving Home

Posted by adamf

We have exciting news to share with you about our Twitter analytics tool, Followerwonk! For a while now we’ve been looking for a new home for the tool. We’re very pleased to announce that Marc Mims, one of the tool’s original developers, formed a company to acquire it and will continue to operate the popular service under the Followerwonk brand.

A little history

In August 2016, we announced our intention to sell Followerwonk. It’s a useful and powerful application, but since acquiring it in 2012, we discovered that the overlap between users of Followerwonk and users of our core SEO products was smaller than we anticipated. To address that problem, in 2015 we offered it as a separate subscription – part of a larger strategy to extend our services beyond SEO. Last year we made some hard choices, ultimately deciding to refocus our efforts on our SEO core. It was then that we decided to seek a better home for our Twitter analytics tool.

Marc and Followerwonk go way back. As an engineer on the team that originally built and launched the tool, he came on board at Moz in 2012 when Moz first acquired it. He spent his first year on the Moz engineering team working on Followerwonk, and then a year working on Open Site Explorer, after which he returned to Followerwonk to help us relaunch it as a standalone product. In August 2016 we put Followerwonk in a holding pattern while we sought a buyer; during this time, Marc stayed on as a contractor to keep it healthy and operational for existing customers.

When Marc made an offer to acquire the product, it was like everything had come full circle; we were delighted to know Followerwonk will continue in good hands. There are only a few buyers in the world who could bring Marc’s knowledge and passion for Followerwonk to the table.

In the months since August 2016, Marc spent his time making improvements and optimizations to the backend. He has quietly deployed 52 releases of Followerwonk in that time, improving performance and stability. He’s excited to be able to start adding new features now, too.

What does this mean for existing customers?

It means you can expect continued service from the product you love and the addition of new features and capabilities in the future. Moz will continue to host Followerwonk during a transition period while Marc prepares it to run on its own infrastructure. During that time, you can continue to use Followerwonk as you always have.

As Marc and Moz work together to transfer the service, Followerwonk customers should not notice much change; most of the work will be happening behind the scenes. Accounts will be transferred securely, and we will communicate directly with customers if any actions are required.

If you have legacy access to Followerwonk as part of your Moz Pro subscription from before its 2015 relaunch as a separate service, you will continue to have uninterrupted access to the tool through the transition period. Near the end of that period, Marc and Moz will jointly make a special offer allowing you to subscribe to Followerwonk and continue using it after the tool has left Moz’s infrastructure.

The transition period should take between three and six months. During that time, you can access the tool through your Moz login at https://moz.com/followerwonk. Afterwards, you’ll find it at https://followerwonk.com.

We’ll be sure to reach out to all customers and those with legacy access to provide more details well before any changes occur.

Final thoughts

In our hearts and minds, this is absolutely the best possible outcome for Followerwonk. It continues in the hands of a strong engineer, a beloved and respected member of the Moz team, an incredibly TAGFEE person, and someone who knows Followerwonk inside and out. Please join us in wishing Marc great success as he builds a team and a business around Followerwonk, giving it the love and attention it richly deserves.


If you’ve got any questions, would like a few more details, or simply wish to congratulate Marc in person, head over to the Q&A post he authored here and join the conversation!

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Tangential Content Earns More Links and Social Shares in Boring Industries [New Research]

Posted by kerryjones

Many companies still don’t see the benefit of creating content that isn’t directly about their products or brand. But unless you have a universally interesting brand, you’ll be hard-pressed to attract much of an audience if all you do is publish brand-centric content.

Content marketing is meant to solve this dilemma. By offering genuinely useful content to your target customers, rather than selling to them, you earn their attention and over time gain their trust.

And yet, I find myself explaining the value of non-branded content all too often. I frequently hear grumblings from fellow marketers that clients and bosses refuse to stray from sales-focused content. I see companies publishing what are essentially advertorials and calling it content marketing.

In addition to turning off customers, branded content can be extremely challenging for building links or earning PR mentions. If you’ve ever done outreach for branded content, you’ve probably gotten a lot of pushback from the editors and writers you’ve pitched. Why? Most publishers bristle at content that feels like a brand endorsement pretending not to be a brand endorsement (and expect you to pay big bucks for a sponsored content or native advertising spot).

Fortunately, there’s a type of content that can earn your target customers’ attention, build high-quality links, and increase brand awareness…

Tangential content: The cure for a boring niche

At Fractl, we refer to content on a topic that’s related to (but not directly about) the brand that created it as “tangential content.”

Some hypothetical examples of tangential content would be:

  • A pool installation company creating content about summer safety tips and barbeque recipes.
  • A luggage retailer publishing country-specific travel guides.
  • An auto insurance broker offering car maintenance advice.

While there’s a time for branded content further down the sales funnel, tangential content might be right for you if you want to:

  1. Reach a wide audience and gain top-of-funnel awareness. Not a lot of raving fans in your boring brand niche? Tangential topics can get you in front of the masses.
  2. Target a greater number of publishers during outreach to increase your link building and PR mention potential. Tangential topics work well for outreach because you can expand your pool of publishers (larger niches vs. a small niche with only a few dedicated sites).
  3. Create more emotional content that resonates with your audience. In an analysis of more than 300 client campaigns, we found the content that received more than 200 media mentions was more likely than low-performing campaigns to have a strong emotional hook. If your brand niche doesn’t naturally tug on the heartstrings, tangential content is one way to create an emotional reaction.
  4. Build a more diverse content library and not be limited to creating content around one topic. If you’ve maxed out on publishing content about your niche, broadening your content repertoire to tangential topics can reinvigorate your content strategy (and your motivation).

Comparison of tangential vs. on-brand content performance

In our experience at Fractl, tangential content has been highly effective for link building campaigns, especially in narrow client niches that lack broad appeal. While we’ve assumed this is true based on our observations, we now have the data to back up our assumption.

We recently categorized 835 Fractl client campaigns as either tangential or on-brand, then compared the average number of pickups (links and press mentions) and number of social shares for each group. Our hunch was right: The tangential campaigns earned 30% more media mentions and 77% more social shares on average than the brand-focused campaigns.

So what exactly does a tangential campaign look like? Below are some real examples of our client campaigns that illustrate how tangential topics can yield stellar results.

Most Hateful/Most Politically Correct Places

  • Client niche: Apartment listing site
  • Campaign topic: Which states and cities use the most prejudiced/racist language based on geo-tagged Twitter data
  • Results: 67,000+ social shares and 620 media pickups, including features on CNET, Slate, Business Insider, AOL, Yahoo, Mic, The Daily Beast, and Adweek

Why it worked

After a string of on-brand campaigns for this client yielded average results, we knew capitalizing on a hot-button, current issue would attract tons of attention. This topic still ties back into the client’s main objective of helping people find a home since the community and location of that home are important factors in one’s decisions. Check out the full case study of this campaign for more insights into why it was successful.

Most Instagrammed Locations

  • Client niche: Bus fare comparison and booking tool
  • Campaign topic: Points of interest where people post the most Instagram photos in North America
  • Results: 40,000+ social shares and more than 300 pickups, including TIME, NBC News, Business Insider, Today, Yahoo!, AOL, Fast Company, and The Daily Mail

Why it worked

Our client’s niche, bus travel, had a limited audience, so we chose a topic that was of interest to anyone who enjoys traveling, regardless of the mode of transportation they use to get there. By incorporating data from a popular social network and using an idea with a strong geographic focus, we could target a lot of different groups – the campaign appealed to travel enthusiasts, Instagram users, and regional and city news outlets (including TV stations). For more details about our thought process behind this idea, see the campaign case study.

Most Attractive NFL Players and Teams

whitney-mercilus.png

Client niche: Sports apparel retailer

Campaign topic: Survey that rates the most attractive NFL players

Results: 45,000+ social shares and 247 media pickups, including CBS Sports, USA Today, Fox Sports, and NFL.com

Why it worked

Since diehard fans want to show off that their favorite player is the best, even if it’s just in the looks department, we were confident this lighthearted campaign would pique fan interest. But fans weren’t the only ones hitting the share button – the campaign also grabbed the attention of the featured teams and players, with many sharing on their social media profiles, which helped drive exposure.

On-brand content works best in certain verticals

Tangential content isn’t always necessary for earning top-of-funnel awareness. So, how do you know if your brand-centric topics will garner lots of interest? A few things to consider:

  • Is your brand topic interesting or useful to the general population?
  • Are there multiple publishers that specifically cover your niche? Do these publishers have large readerships?
  • Are you already publishing on-brand content that is achieving your goals/expectations?

We’ve seen several industry verticals perform very well using branded content. When we broke down our campaign data by vertical, we found our top performing on-brand campaign topics were technology, drugs and alcohol, and marketing.

Some examples of our successful on-brand campaign topics include:

  • Growth of SaaS for a B2B software comparison website
  • Influencers on Instagram for an influencer marketplace
  • Global Drug Treatment Trends for an addiction recovery client
  • The Tech Job Network for a tech career website

Coming up with tangential content ideas

Once you free yourself from only brainstorming brand-centric ideas, you might find it easy to dream up tangential concepts. If you need a little help, here are a few tips to get you started:

Review your buyer personas.

In order to know which tangential topics to choose, you need to understand your target audience’s interests and where your niche intersects with those interests. The best way to find this information? Buyer personas. If you don’t already have detailed buyer personas built out, Mike King’s epic Moz post from a few years ago remains the bible on personas in my opinion.

Find topics your audience cares about with Facebook Audience Insights.

Using its arsenal of user data, this Facebook ads tool gives you a peek into the interests and lifestyles of your target audience. These insights can supplement and inform your buyer personas. See the incredibly actionable post How to Create Buyer Personas on a Budget Using Facebook Audience Insights for more help with leveraging this tool.

Consider how trending news topics are tangential to your brand.

Pay attention to themes that keep popping up in the news and how your brand relates back to these stories (this is how the most racist/bigoted states and cities campaign I mentioned earlier in this post came to be). Also anticipate seasonal or event-based topics that are tangential to your brand. For example, a tire manufacturer may want to create content on protecting your car from flooding and storm damage during hurricane season.

Test tangential concepts on social media.

Not sure if a tangential topic will go over well? Before moving forward with a big content initiative, test it out by sharing content related to the topic on your brand’s social media accounts. Does it get a good reaction? Pro tip: spend a little bit of money promoting these as sponsored posts to ensure they get in front of your followers.

Have you had success creating content outside of your brand niche? I’d love to hear about your tangential content examples and the results you achieved, please share in the comments!

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Create Your Buyer Persona in 5 Simple Steps

writing for personas

Do you know who your customers are?

More importantly, do you know what they want or need from you?

If you don’t, writing engaging email content for your audience will be a challenge. After all, it’s difficult to write content for someone you don’t know or understand.

That’s where buyer personas come in. A buyer persona is a fictional person who represents your ideal customer or a portion of your audience. Their interests, challenges and problems align with your audience’s.

With a persona, you can write more engaging email content that resolves your audience’s problems and speaks to their interests. On top of that, you can also use personas to improve your overall marketing!

Are you ready to create your own buyer persona? Read this post and get step-by-step guidance to build your very own persona.

Bonus resource: Complete your buyer persona as you read this post!

Download our free buyer persona worksheet.

Step 1: Research your target audience

The first step is to do a little research. Researching your audience will help you create a realistic persona, and possibly find interesting details about your customers you didn’t know before.

To get started, look at your current customer base. Who are your best customers and repeat purchasers? Are there any similarities between them?

By finding commonalities among your best customers, you can create a persona that’ll help you attract more great customers.

To gather information, try setting up a phone call or in-person interview with someone you love doing business with. This will allow you to ask follow-up questions based on their previous answers to get even more detailed information.

You can also research customers you’ve had a bad experience with to learn which kind of people aren’t the right fit for your product or service.

To quickly gather information from multiple people, you could create and send a survey email to your current subscribers.

The survey could ask questions like:

When do you open your emails?

What questions do you have about [Insert your industry]?

What kind of content would you like to receive from me?

What challenges do you have?

After a few years of using this research, conduct new research to refresh your buyer persona with updated information.

Step 2: Narrow down the most common details

Once you’ve completed your research, narrow down your results by finding the most common answers you received from customers and subscribers.

Then, weed through your research to determine the most important details that’ll affect how you communicate with your audience.

For example, if a majority of people share the same challenge, this will be an important detail to include in your persona.

Here is some of the information you should determine in this step:

  1. Demographics (age, occupation, etc.)
  2. Behaviors (skill level, interest in your product offering, how they use your product or service, what they read and watch, etc.)
  3. Challenges and interests

  4. Email preferences (how often they want to receive emails, when they open their emails, etc.)

Step 3: Create separate personas

Now that you’ve narrowed down the most common details about your customers, you should organize those details into separate personas.

To do this, identify people in your audience with the same challenges and goals and group them into their own category. These different categories will represent different personas.

For example, if you’re a fitness instructor, you may have clients who want to increase muscle and gain weight and others who want to lose weight. Since they have very different goals, you should create two separate personas for these clients.

If you find that you need to gather more information about a certain persona, go back and do more research to find the missing information.

Step 4: Give your personas names

The best way to write for and think about your buyer persona is to give them a name!

Assigning a name to your persona will remind you that you’re speaking to an actual person when you write emails. This can help you write more personalized content.

You can even take it one step further and find an image or photo to represent your buyer persona! Check out this example below:

Step 5: Start writing personalized emails

Now that you have a buyer persona (or personas!) with a name, face and details, you can start writing your emails and content with this persona in mind.

Your subscribers will engage with your emails more, because you can create more personal, relevant content for them. (And solve their problems!)

Not sure how to write effective emails for your new buyer persona? Download our free “What to Write in Your Emails” guide and get more than 45 fill-in-the-blank email copy templates and an email writing course.

what to write

The post Create Your Buyer Persona in 5 Simple Steps appeared first on Email Marketing Tips.

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