Instagram Location and Hashtag Stories, Pinterest Autoplay Video Ads, and New Twitter Direct Message Cards

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social media researchWelcome to this week’s edition of the Social Media Marketing Talk Show, a news show for marketers who want to stay on the leading edge of social media.

On this week’s Social Media Marketing Talk Show with Erik Fisher, we explore Instagram location and hashtag stories with Peg Fitzpatrick, autoplay video ads on Pinterest with Jeff Sieh, Twitter Direct Message and emoji updates with Madelyn Sklar and more breaking social media marketing news of the week!

Watch the Social Media Morning Talk Show

If you’re new to the show, click on the green “Watch replay” button below and sign in or register to watch our latest episode from Friday, May 26, 2017.

For this week’s top stories, you’ll find timestamps below that allow you to fast-forward in the replay above.

Instagram Officially Rolls Out Location Stories and Hashtag Stories on Explore: Instagram rolled out location stories and hashtag stories, “two new ways to discover the world around you on Explore… and find stories related to your interests.” Location stories on Explore are currently available on the latest version of the Instagram app for iOS and Android. The new hashtag stories will be rolling out “over the coming weeks.” (9:22)

Instagram rolled out two new ways to discover the world around you on Explore and find images and videos that are related to your interests - location and hashtag stories.

Instagram rolled out two new ways to discover the world around you on Explore and find images and videos that are related to your interests – location and hashtag stories.

Instagram Tests New Archive Option for Posts: Instagram is testing a new archive feature that allows users to hide their published posts and “creates a private space for personal viewing” of these posts in a separate folder within the app. TechCrunch reports that Instagram plans to expand the archive option more broadly “over the next few months.” (16:27)

Pinterest Adds New Functionality to Lens Beta and Search: Pinterest rolled out the ability to recognize entire dishes to its Lens Camera search. With this new feature, users can take a photo of a complete meal with the Lens camera and find recipes related to it. Pinterest also rolled out new search filters that allow users “to find recipes by time, diet and the ingredients [they] have on hand” and “handy star ratings from sites like Epicurious, Martha Stewart, and Food Network… [which make it] easier to see how a recipe turned out for people who’ve already made it.” (21:41)

Pinterest rolled out the ability to use the Lens Camera to take a photo of an entire dish and get recipes to recreate the meal.

Pinterest rolled out the ability to use the Lens Camera to take a photo of an entire dish and get recipes to recreate the meal.

Pinterest Tests New Autoplay Options for Promoted Video Ads: Pinterest announced “big enhancements to Promoted Video,” a new autoplay format coming to home feeds, search results, and Related Pins galleries. Pinterest is currently testing these new promoted video options with a handful of select brands and plans to make them more widely available “later this summer.” (30:14)


Twitter Tests New Way to Reach Customers With Direct Message Cards: Twitter introduced “a new, customizable Direct Message Card that businesses can use to promote and share bots and other customer experiences built in Direct Messages.” Marketers can integrate engaging images or videos, promote a chatbot, or add up to four custom call-to-action buttons to Twitter’s new Direct Message cards. Twitter is currently beta testing this new feature with select Twitter advertisers. (33:19)

Twitter launched new, customizable Direct Message Cards.

Twitter launched new, customizable Direct Message cards.

Twitter Expands Support for Emoji 5.0: Twitter updated its custom emoji set with support for Emoji 5.0. Twitter users now have the option to choose from 69 unique new emoticons with a total of 239 variations for duplicates and skin tones. The Next Web notes that “not all new icons will be readily viewable outside of the official Twitter website and app. For example, flag emoji will default to black flag when viewed from third-party apps and clients.” (41:04)

Twitter Adds Support for Live 360-Degree Videos to Apple TV App: Twitter updated its Apple TV app with the ability to watch live 360-degree videos and support for Periscope’s Global Map. Adweek reports that “Apple TV users can use the Siri remote to explore 360-degree videos from any angle and search for live 360 videos via the new Periscope Global Map.” With the rollout of these new features, Twitter becomes the first Apple TV app to support live 360-degree video.

Facebook Adds New “Order Food” Section to Main Navigation: Facebook added a new “Order Food” option that handles the entire take-out process from select restaurant pages “from ordering to checkout,” all within Facebook. This new option can be found within Facebook’s main navigation menu and is rolling out to “select users” on both the web and mobile.

Facebook Live Announces New Collaborative and Private Chat Features: Facebook introduced Live Chat With Friends and Live With, two new features that make it “easier to share experiences and connect in real time with your friends on Live.” Facebook is currently testing Live Chat With Friends, which allows users to invite friends to a private chat about a public live broadcast, in several countries but plans to make it more broadly available “later this summer.” With the new Live With feature, users can invite friends to join them on a Live broadcast. This new feature is available now “for all profiles and Pages on iOS.”

Facebook introduced Live Chat With Friends and Live With, two new features that make it easier to share experiences and connect in real time with your friends on Live.

Facebook introduced Live Chat With Friends and Live With, two new features that make it easier to share experiences and connect in real time with your friends on Live.

Facebook Experiments With New Trending Results Features: Facebook introduced a redesigned Trending results page that will now feature “a carousel with stories from other publications about a given topic that you can swipe through.” This new feature is currently only available for iPhone users in the U.S. but is coming to Android devices and the web “soon.” Facebook also announced plans to begin testing new ways to make it easier for users to find its list of trending topics within the news feed.

Facebook redesigned the Trending result page on iPhone and is testing a new way to make it easier for users to find a list of trending topics within the News Feed.

Facebook redesigned the Trending results page on iPhone and is testing a new way to make it easier for users to find a list of trending topics within the news feed.

Facebook Expands Personal Fundraising Tool to More Users: Facebook gives users “another way to mobilize around causes they care about by expanding personal fundraisers to everyone over 18 in the US and by adding [support for] two new categories – community and sports.” All fundraisers must first be submitted and approved through a review process and are subject to fees that cover security, fraud protection, and other costs.

 Facebook expands its personal fundraising tool to more users in the U.S.

Facebook expands its personal fundraising tool to more users in the U.S.

Facebook Redesigns Messenger Home Screen: Facebook rolled out a new look and layout for the Messenger home screen that features new sections and tabs, activity notifications, and a central hub “for connecting with the people and businesses you want to in whatever way you prefer.” This Facebook Messenger update is available worldwide for all iOS and Android devices.

Facebook announces a new look and new features for the Messenger home screen.

Facebook announced a new look and features for the Messenger home screen.

Facebook, Messenger, and Instagram Test Cross-App Notifications: Facebook, Messenger, and Instagram are each testing new cross-app notifications that “make it easier for people to discover and connect with the people and things they care about” and easily switch between their various notifications from each account. Facebook confirms that this is only “a very small test” for now.

Snapchat Introduces Custom Stories: Snapchat rolled out the ability to create custom stories that are limited to a specific group of friends, direct contacts, or people within a geofenced area. Snapchat’s new custom stories function just like regular Snapchat stories, but will disappear entirely “if no one has contributed to them in the past 24 hours.”

Facebook Allows Group Admins to Easily Screen Potential New Members: Facebook recently rolled out a new feature that allows group admins to “establish up to three questions for people requesting to join their Group.” This new screening tool lets admins easily vet potential members “to ensure they’re the right fit for the group and will add constructively to the discussion, not just spam or troll the Group.” This feature is now available to all Facebook groups globally.

Facebook Partners With Major League Baseball on New Live-Streaming Deal: Major League Baseball and Facebook have finalized a partnership to stream at least 20 games on a weekly basis “with the remaining games to be announced at a later date.” These games can be accessed for free by U.S. viewers on the official MLB Facebook page.

Facebook partners with Major League Baseball on a new live streaming deal.

Facebook partnered with Major League Baseball on a new live-streaming deal.

Facebook Tests New Ways to Connect Users to Local News: As part of the Facebook Journalism Project, the network is testing three new products that “help people better discover local news and meaningfully engage with their community.” Facebook will use the Groups feature to build communities and facilitate more discussion around local news stories. Facebook is also rolling out a new badge that identifies local users when they comment on a news story and a tool that helps people find local groups that are relevant to their interests.

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Digital Marketing News: State of Content, Direct Ads on Twitter & Google Attribution

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Content Marketing Stats: The State of Content Marketing in 2017 [Infographic]
This infographic from our friends at MarketingProfs uncovers top content trends for B2B and B2C marketers in 2017. You’ll find insights on everything from top channels to budgeting and content goals.  (MarketingProfs)

Twitter is Offering Advertisers More Tools to Engage Consumers With Direct Messages
Twitter’s new Direct Message Cards that can include as many as four CTA buttons that will send users to specific content. The cards can also be used in organic tweets and are designed to encourage one-on-one conversations, making it easier for brands to connect with their audience. (AdWeek)

Hello Google Attribution, Goodbye Last-Click
Marketers around the world are rejoicing after the announcement of the new Google Attribution tool. While the tool is still in beta, marketers will soon be able to measure performance across devices and channels all in one place, for no additional cost. That means that marketers will soon have a better understanding of what marketing tactics are most effective at moving prospects through the customer journey. (Google Adwords Blog)

Introducing Location and Hashtag Stories on Explore
For users interested in what’s going on around them, Instagram now displays stories happening based on your location. Additionally, users can also search interest based hashtags to find groups of stories related to that specific topic. (Instagram Blog)

Snapchat Adds Collaborative Stories, Which Could Help Boost Exposure Through the App
Story collaboration on Snapchat just got a whole lot easier. Snapchat’s new custom stories features lets users invite other people to contribute to a story without having to host a takeover.  The stories will remain on the Stories page until no one has added for 24 hours, or the creator deletes it. (Social Media Today)

Bing Launches Bots for Local Businesses
Microsoft has started integrating chatbots into search results to make search more interactive. For now, this feature is only available to restaurants but Microsoft envisions rolling these bots out broadly in the future. The bots will answer common customer questions, be available across multiple channels and requires virtually no technical requirements from business owners.  (Search Engine Land)

Promoted Video Gets Even Better on Pinterest
Pinterest introduced promoted videos less than a year ago, and are already releasing three big enhancements. They have added an autoplay feature, better accessibility to video content (search and feeds) and improved reporting through a new partnership. (Pinterest Business Blog)

Google is Speeding Up Search Ads With AMP Technology
Google is speeding up AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) for search in two different ways: a new beta where advertisers can use AMP pages as landing pages and the entire Google Display Network is getting hit with AMP technology. (Search Engine Journal)

What Were Your Favorite News Stories This Week?

Thanks for watching and reading our weekly news roundup. Please feel free to share your favorite stories of the week in the comments below or send us a message on Twitter to @toprank.

Local Social Media Marketing With Facebook and Instagram

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How do you promote your business locally?

Are you using Facebook and Instagram?

To explore how to reach a local customer base on social media, I interview Bruce Irving.

More About This Show

The Social Media Marketing podcast is an on-demand talk radio show from Social Media Examiner. It’s designed to help busy marketers and business owners discover what works with social media marketing.

In this episode, I interview Bruce Irving, the host of the Smart Pizza Marketing podcast, where he helps local pizza restaurants master marketing. He’s a former pizzeria owner and you can find him at

Bruce explores why social media marketing is worthwhile for local businesses.

You’ll discover tips to get your local business started with social media video.

Local Social Media Marketing With Facebook and Instagram featuring insights from Bruce Irving on the Social Media Marketing Podcast.

Local Social Media Marketing With Facebook and Instagram featuring insights from Bruce Irving on the Social Media Marketing podcast.

Share your feedback, read the show notes, and get the links mentioned in this episode below.

Listen Now

You can also subscribe via iTunes, RSS, or Stitcher.

Here are some of the things you’ll discover in this show:

Facebook Marketing for Local Business

Bruce’s Story

Bruce has been in the pizza industry since he was 16 years old. He worked his way up and then partnered with someone to run his own pizza business. The restaurant did a pretty high volume of sales for their style of restaurant, which had 10 seats plus takeout and delivery.

Starting in the late 1990s, Bruce and his partner used old marketing methods such as direct mail, which worked well until the mid-2000s. Around 2008, the effectiveness of that kind of marketing started to dwindle, so they tried marketing their restaurant on social media.

Even as the economy struggled after the 2008 economic crash, their pizza business was successful and growing. When relatives and friends in the pizza business started asking how Bruce and his business partner used different types of marketing to grow, they began sharing their methods.

Bruce decided he wanted to talk to other pizzeria operators so they could learn from each other. In 2015, Bruce started his podcast and the knowledge-gathering he did for it evolved into creating an agency that helps local pizza-specific restaurants run social media and digital advertising.

Through the agency and podcast, Bruce helps local restaurant owners with their social media and digital marketing.

Success with social media led Bruce to create a podcast and an agency.

For the last 16 months, Bruce has been running the agency full time, helping local pizzerias grow their business and get better results with online marketing.

Listen to the show to discover why podcasting was a great way for Bruce to learn from other business owners while running his own pizza restaurant.

Video in Social Media

A pizzeria is a very visual style of restaurant. The cooks often work the pizza dough and put together pizzas in front of a big window because it’s entertaining. Even more traditional restaurants are moving to the open-kitchen concept because the chef creating the food is part of the show.

To bring this entertaining element to the web, Bruce encourages clients to do video. A lot of them shy away from video in the beginning, but it’s important to become comfortable in front of the camera.

Different styles of videos work in any business, not just restaurants. For instance, you can do tutorials. You can also give people a look behind the scenes. If you have the best pizza in town, show your fans why. Do you make your own dough? Do you use a special kind of sauce? Do you cut up all of your own vegetables?

Showing what makes your restaurant special helps you compete with every other place in your neighborhood and the big chains. Your personality also differentiates you from your competitors. If you’re a personable owner and can be charismatic in front of the camera, your personality (along with your products and services) separates you from other brands.

It’s all in the sauce – the special Stanislaus Pizza Sauce married with PizzaMan Dan’s secret blend of spices – which makes your PizzaMan Dan’s pizza mouth watering delectable!

TODAY ONLY – yes, MONDAY – we’re celebrating our long time relationship with the family-owned Stanislaus Farms in Stanislaus County, California and making it possible for you to get a PizzaMan Dan’s Piping Hot Pepperoni Pizza for only… $9.99. Just tell us the secret phrase when you order.

NOTE: You have to watch the video to get the secret phrase!!

Posted by PizzaMan Dan’s on Monday, April 3, 2017

Video is a huge strategy that’s also easy for a restaurant owner to do because everyone has a smartphone in their pocket. Plus, your customers are more likely to watch a video than read a blog on a restaurant website or listen to a podcast about a local business.

Bruce shares tips for how you can become comfortable in front of the camera. First, practice by using Instagram Stories and Snapchat, because the video goes away relatively quickly (unless someone saves the video, which is rare). When you’re ready to start communicating with customers, Instagram and Facebook are the platforms that work best right now.

Bruce and I also talk about the production value of videos for Instagram Stories versus regular Facebook video. Stories are short, raw, and authentic. You don’t need to make those videos look polished; however, Bruce advises making Facebook videos a bit more professional.

However you produce your video, keep the humanity behind your local restaurant because people want to see the owner. Back in the day, someone would go to the butcher shop on Thursday and the butcher would know exactly who they were and what they wanted. Video revives that personal connection.

Through video, a local business owner can say, “I’m here. If you want to stop by, great. If you want to call me or use my online ordering, this is me.”

PizzaMan Dan’s provides the utmost convenience in Ventura County when it comes to ordering great PizzaMan Dan’s food for parties, carry out, or delivery. Our ONE NUMBER ORDERING SYSTEM headquartered in our CALL CENTER at the Santa Clara Street location – where you speak with a REAL PERSON – makes ordering your PizzaMan Dan’s food a breeze. Want one with everything? Order today!

Posted by PizzaMan Dan’s on Tuesday, February 21, 2017

In this way, people get to know who’s behind their local businesses.

Listen to the show to learn why you should always practice in front of the camera.

Investing in Social Media

I ask how small business owners can know whether social media marketing is worth the time needed to create content. Bruce believes local businesses don’t have a choice about whether to use social media. The only choice is which platform to use, whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, or something else. And use a couple of platforms. That’s where the younger generation is hanging out and you need to be able to communicate with them.

Social media creates awareness of local businesses. Your ad or video may not register with someone the first time they see it, but by the second, third, or fourth time, your marketing starts to sink in. Then, when there’s a need for the service you offer, the people who’ve seen your marketing subconsciously think of you.

When I ask if clients are concerned about ROI, Bruce says of course. He frequently hears people say they tried Facebook and it didn’t work. Then he digs deeper and discovers they have 72 likes and spent $20 on one ad with bad copy and a generic picture. Of course they didn’t get anything out of it.

A social media presence doesn’t happen overnight. You have to build a rapport with your audience. Bruce encourages his clients to stick with social media marketing for three to six months. As long as you’re consistent over time and spend a little bit of money in the beginning to build engagement on Facebook, Instagram, or whatever platform, your social marketing will work.

Pizzamandans instagram account has grown through consistent effort over time.

Put in consistent effort over time, backed by a little money, and you can grow a successful social media presence.

As you get started, if you have a walk-in business like a pizzeria or an online ordering system, you can use those interactions to let customers know that you’re on social media and they can interact with your business on the social platforms where you’re active. You can also use online ordering to grow your email list.

Listen to the show to hear Bruce’s analogy between social media marketing and an episode of Seinfeld where George Costanza used a hat to get noticed.

Facebook for Local Business

Facebook has the best advertising platform for a local business.

Bruce used to send promotional postcards with EDDM (Every Door Direct Mail), which is direct mail you can send through the post office to specific zip codes, specific carrier routes, and so on. You can do the same thing on Facebook for less money. For example, if you have a pizza business in a huge city like Boston, you can target only the specific zip codes you serve with a Facebook ad.

On Facebook, to target people by location, you can input the physical address of the restaurant and target only people who are within a radius of one to five miles. You can even target people who live in that area or were recently in that area. For example, restaurants that serve a lunch crowd will want to get to those who work in the vicinity but don’t live there.

Target people who live near your location, were in the area recently, or were traveling there.

You have the ability to target people who live near your location or were in the area recently.

Another option is to upload your email list so you can target people who do or don’t open your emails. To get the best return for your money, Bruce recommends targeting people who don’t open your emails more aggressively so you can re-engage that audience. You can also target interests and fans of certain pages as long as those pages are big enough.

For clients, Bruce will run one ad targeting people who like a client’s Facebook page and another ad to people who live in the area but haven’t liked the client’s page. For example, to attract new customers, Bruce might show a $4-off coupon to people who live in a five-mile radius around the business, include people who have an interest in pizza, and exclude those who already like the client’s Facebook page.

Add interests to your location targeting.

Target interests, such as pizza, as well as fans of other restaurants’ pages, in addition to your location targeting.

Bruce finds that some of the special-use tabs and tools on Facebook don’t work so well. For example, you can promote a deal via the Offers tab, but Bruce finds ads that look like ads don’t work well. Also, the Now Hiring tool allows you to put in your criteria and someone can fill out an application on Facebook. Although this method does OK, it doesn’t work as well as your own creative idea that would prompt someone to visit your website and fill out an application.

For example, a recent video featured a young delivery driver with three or four pizza boxes on the roof of the car driving by the front door of the restaurant they were promoting. The ad said something like, “Hey, we obviously need some new delivery drivers. If you (or anyone you know) is looking for a job and wants to make $X, go here.”

This funny video got attention and people shared it with others in the area who were looking for a delivery driver job.

I ask what local businesses can do to generate organic exposure or interest. Bruce explains it’s difficult for someone starting from zero to gain traction without spending any money in the beginning.

Spend money on Facebook ads to give your business a boost.

You can get big results by just spending a little bit of money on Facebook advertising.

However, you can do things such as ask questions and develop contests and giveaways. For instance, in the restaurant industry, giving away an appetizer or a free pizza doesn’t cost much. To build a following, you can say, “Like and share this for a chance to win a free pizza. We’ll pick somebody at 8 PM.” If 40 people share that offer with their friends, you can imagine how your reach can expand pretty quickly.

For food pictures, Bruce recommends using your smartphone camera. People think they need to spend a lot of money hiring a photographer to take professional photos, but the ones people take themselves work best, as long as they’re good images. Because people are more aware of marketing, photos that look too professional make people think of advertising, which turns them off.

Take quality pictures to post on Facebook with your smartphone.

Rather than get professional photos taken, use your smartphone to take pictures for Facebook.

The more natural a photo looks in the environment, the better. Look at the photos people take of your food on Instagram and create the same kinds of pictures yourself. It’s not necessary to spend all kinds of money to get a photo of a pizza, a dish, a salad, or whatever you’re selling online.

Listen to the show to discover where you might use professional food photos instead of your own less-polished images.

Instagram Tips

A few months back, you could post one or two photos on Instagram a day. Now you want to scale back the number of posts a bit. You also really need one strategy for the Instagram feed and another for Stories.

For the feed, take really good photos of your products and services. Food, such as pizza (which is the number-one photographed food on Instagram), is really visual. You still want to use your smartphone, but take a little time composing the photo. Put the food in the right spot and make sure the angle and lighting are good. The copy really matters, too.

To keep your Instagram feed interesting, mix the subject matter (food, employees, the dining area), as well as the type of content (photos and videos). Boomerang videos, which turn a burst of images into a short video that moves back and forth, might show spinning the dough or sautéing in a pan. Mix those videos with pictures.

In the post copy, give a brief description and add hashtags. Really seek out and include your local hashtags because people still search on Instagram.

Mix up your content, so your Instagram feed is interesting.

Include a description and hashtags with your Instagram images.

Use Instagram Stories the same way you would use Snapchat a few months ago. Give people a behind-the-scenes look at what goes on in your restaurant or local business. For owners and employees, the daily routine might feel boring. However, for your customers, every day in your restaurant is different and interesting. Show your customers what it’s really like to work for your business. Doing this builds rapport with your customers.

For help with stories, ask your employees to create content. A trustworthy or senior-level employee can do takeovers for your restaurant, add their own creative ideas, and share what working in your business is like for an employee.

Another idea is to show your customers the rush hour. If your restaurant is really busy at dinnertime, show that in your Instagram stories in a quick 12-second video or a few back-to-back videos. If completing a pizza order is taking an hour, show your customers why it’s taking an hour to get the pizza to them.

If you want responses to your stories, ask for them. If you ask people for replies, be sure to monitor them. The last thing you want to do is ask for a reply and then not engage with that customer when they do as you asked.

As far as frequency of stories is concerned, anywhere from four to five clips (a mixture of photos and videos) throughout the day is the sweet spot. Anything more than that tends to get a little long, boring, and repetitive. Anything less than that isn’t really enough. The circles at the top of your feed are chronological. If you don’t space them throughout the day, your content gets lost in the shuffle.

Show followers a slice of your business' life through Instagram Stories.

Space your Instagram stories throughout the day.

I mention how we had Jenn Herman on the podcast a couple of months ago talking about Instagram business profiles. When you upgrade to a business profile, you get metrics on stories and therefore see what really resonates with your audience. Bruce adds a few other advantages specifically for local businesses: A business profile for a local business can display an email address and a Shop Now link.

Bruce runs a lot of ads that feature a really good photo of a dish (like a pizza). For the ad, which costs about $5, he creates an audience on Instagram and adds a Shop Now button, which goes directly to an online ordering page. You can convert customers right on Instagram.

When you’re a local business, you can get caught up in the day-to-day operations and things like social media go by the wayside. You really need to develop a strategy and follow it consistently. You don’t even have to spend a ton of money.

Listen to the show to learn the weekly allotment for a small social media budget.

Email Recommendations

Bruce admits he doesn’t necessarily believe in growing your email list for the sake of growing your list. Instead, grow your list and use those emails to target your subscribers. Then, when you do send an email, people open it and respond.

A giveaway is also a great way to increase email open rates. When you run a local business, the products you create don’t cost that much in the grand scheme of things. So on your website, give something away every week.

Give something away every week to build an email list you can use for targeting.

Give something away every week to build an email list you can use for targeting.

For instance, Bruce has clients who give away a free pizza. Through the giveaway, they collect emails on their website, and on Wednesday or Thursday they send out an email announcing the winner. The subject line reads, “This Week’s Free Pizza Winner Inside. Is it you?”

When people open the email to learn about the winner, they send a signal to their email provider that they want to see those emails. Inside the email, the message announces the winner and talks about what’s going on at the restaurant over the weekend.

You can run a weekly giveaway as a contest on social media; however, when someone visits your website, they usually already know who you are. That makes it a little easier to get them to choose to receive emails.

Bruce runs a mastermind group for the pizza industry and members of this group have doubled their business in the last year using only Facebook advertising. One person spends $500 to $800 per month on Facebook. Anyone in a local business who used to do direct mail knows that’s nothing.

Listen to the show to discover why you don’t have to put ads on all of your Facebook posts.

Discovery of the Week

Grids gives you a cool way to view and interact with Instagram on your desktop computer.

If you’re a marketer looking to mirror the Instagram mobile experience on your desktop, this stand-alone app has a beautiful and intuitive interface.

Grids mirrors the Instagram experience from your phone, and includes the ability to see Stories on your desktop.

Grids brings the mobile Instagram experience to your desktop.

The big bonus is the ability to see Instagram stories. You can also switch accounts without having to log out and log back in, and you can bookmark people, locations, and hashtags that interest you.

To take advantage the larger desktop screen, you can view Instagram posts in several different grid views, as well as a widget view that looks like a mobile device.

Essentially, Grids creates the Instagram mobile experience on your desktop, with a few extra features.

Grids is a stand-alone app for Windows or Mac OS X. The free version is extremely limited. It doesn’t include stories and you can add only one account; however, the features you get with the full version are well worth the $7.99 upgrade.

Listen to the show to learn more and let us know how Grids works for you.

Listen to the show!

Key takeaways mentioned in this episode:

Social Media Marketing Podcast w/ Michael Stelzner

Ways to subscribe to the Social Media Marketing podcast:

What do you think? What are your thoughts on Facebook and Instagram marketing for local businesses? Please leave your comments below.

Local Social Media Marketing With Facebook and Instagram featuring insights from Bruce Irving on the Social Media Marketing Podcast.

Local Social Media Marketing With Facebook and Instagram featuring insights from Bruce Irving on the Social Media Marketing podcast.

Related Posts

Should SEOs Care About Internal Links? – Whiteboard Friday

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Internal links are one of those essential SEO items you have to get right to avoid getting them really wrong. Rand shares 18 tips to help inform your strategy, going into detail about their attributes, internal vs. external links, ideal link structures, and much, much more in this edition of Whiteboard Friday.

Should SEOs Care About Internl Links?

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat a little bit about internal links and internal link structures. Now, it is not the most exciting thing in the SEO world, but it’s something that you have to get right and getting it wrong can actually cause lots of problems.

Attributes of internal links

So let’s start by talking about some of the things that are true about internal links. Internal links, when I say that phrase, what I mean is a link that exists on a website, let’s say here, that is linking to a page on the same website, so over here, linking to another page on We’ll do /A and /B. This is actually my shipping routes page. So you can see I’m linking from A to B with the anchor text “shipping routes.”

The idea of an internal link is really initially to drive visitors from one place to another, to show them where they need to go to navigate from one spot on your site to another spot. They’re different from internal links only in that, in the HTML code, you’re pointing to the same fundamental root domain. In the initial early versions of the internet, that didn’t matter all that much, but for SEO, it matters quite a bit because external links are treated very differently from internal links. That is not to say, however, that internal links have no power or no ability to change rankings, to change crawling patterns and to change how a search engine views your site. That’s what we need to chat about.

1. Anchor text is something that can be considered. The search engines have generally minimized its importance, but it’s certainly something that’s in there for internal links.

2. The location on the page actually matters quite a bit, just as it does with external links. Internal links, it’s almost more so in that navigation and footers specifically have attributes around internal links that can be problematic.

Those are essentially when Google in particular sees manipulation in the internal link structure, specifically things like you’ve stuffed anchor text into all of the internal links trying to get this shipping routes page ranking by putting a little link down here in the footer of every single page and then pointing over here trying to game and manipulate us, they hate that. In fact, there is an algorithmic penalty for that kind of stuff, and we can see it very directly.

We’ve actually run tests where we’ve observed that jamming this type of anchor text-rich links into footers or into navigation and then removing it gets a site indexed, well let’s not say indexed, let’s say ranking well and then ranking poorly when you do it. Google reverses that penalty pretty quickly too, which is nice. So if you are not ranking well and you’re like, “Oh no, Rand, I’ve been doing a lot of that,” maybe take it away. Your rankings might come right back. That’s great.

3. The link target matters obviously from one place to another.

4. The importance of the linking page, this is actually a big one with internal links. So it is generally the case that if a page on your website has lots of external links pointing to it, it gains authority and it has more ability to sort of generate a little bit, not nearly as much as external links, but a little bit of ranking power and influence by linking to other pages. So if you have very well-linked two pages on your site, you should make sure to link out from those to pages on your site that a) need it and b) are actually useful for your users. That’s another signal we’ll talk about.

5. The relevance of the link, so pointing to my shipping routes page from a page about other types of shipping information, totally great. Pointing to it from my dog food page, well, it doesn’t make great sense. Unless I’m talking about shipping routes of dog food specifically, it seems like it’s lacking some of that context, and search engines can pick up on that as well.

6. The first link on the page. So this matters mostly in terms of the anchor text, just as it does for external links. Basically, if you are linking in a bunch of different places to this page from this one, Google will usually, at least in all of our experiments so far, count the first anchor text only. So if I have six different links to this and the first link says “Click here,” “Click here” is the anchor text that Google is going to apply, not “Click here” and “shipping routes” and “shipping.” Those subsequent links won’t matter as much.

7. Then the type of link matters too. Obviously, I would recommend that you keep it in the HTML link format rather than trying to do something fancy with JavaScript. Even though Google can technically follow those, it looks to us like they’re not treated with quite the same authority and ranking influence. Text is slightly, slightly better than images in our testing, although that testing is a few years old at this point. So maybe image links are treated exactly the same. Either way, do make sure you have that. If you’re doing image links, by the way, remember that the alt attribute of that image is what becomes the anchor text of that link.

Internal versus external links

A. External links usually give more authority and ranking ability.

That shouldn’t be surprising. An external link is like a vote from an independent, hopefully independent, hopefully editorially given website to your website saying, “This is a good place for you to go for this type of information.” On your own site, it’s like a vote for yourself, so engines don’t treat it the same.

B. Anchor text of internal links generally have less influence.

So, as we mentioned, me pointing to my page with the phrase that I want to rank for isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I shouldn’t do it in a manipulative way. I shouldn’t do it in a way that’s going to look spammy or sketchy to visitors, because if visitors stop clicking around my site or engaging with it or they bounce more, I will definitely lose ranking influence much faster than if I simply make those links credible and usable and useful to visitors. Besides, the anchor text of internal links is not as powerful anyway.

C. A lack of internal links can seriously hamper a page’s ability to get crawled + ranked.

It is, however, the case that a lack of internal links, like an orphan page that doesn’t have many internal or any internal links from the rest of its website, that can really hamper a page’s ability to rank. Sometimes it will happen. External links will point to a page. You’ll see that page in your analytics or in a report about your links from Moz or Ahrefs or Majestic, and then you go, “Oh my gosh, I’m not linking to that page at all from anywhere else on my site.” That’s a bad idea. Don’t do that. That is definitely problematic.

D. It’s still the case, by the way, that, broadly speaking, pages with more links on them will send less link value per link.

So, essentially, you remember the original PageRank formula from Google. It said basically like, “Oh, well, if there are five links, send one-fifth of the PageRank power to each of those, and if there are four links, send one-fourth.” Obviously, one-fourth is bigger than one-fifth. So taking away that fifth link could mean that each of the four pages that you’ve linked to get a little bit more ranking authority and influence in the original PageRank algorithm.

Look, PageRank is old, very, very old at this point, but at least the theories behind it are not completely gone. So it is the case that if you have a page with tons and tons of links on it, that tends to send out less authority and influence than a page with few links on it, which is why it can definitely pay to do some spring cleaning on your website and clear out any rubbish pages or rubbish links, ones that visitors don’t want, that search engines don’t want, that you don’t care about. Clearing that up can actually have a positive influence. We’ve seen that on a number of websites where they’ve cleaned up their information architecture, whittled down their links to just the stuff that matters the most and the pages that matter the most, and then seen increased rankings across the board from all sorts of signals, positive signals, user engagement signals, link signals, context signals that help the engine them rank better.

E. Internal link flow (aka PR sculpting) is rarely effective, and usually has only mild effects… BUT a little of the right internal linking can go a long way.

Then finally, I do want to point out that what was previous called — you probably have heard of it in the SEO world — PageRank sculpting. This was a practice that I’d say from maybe 2003, 2002 to about 2008, 2009, had this life where there would be panel discussions about PageRank sculpting and all these examples of how to do it and software that would crawl your site and show you the ideal PageRank sculpting system to use and which pages to link to and not.

When PageRank was the dominant algorithm inside of Google’s ranking system, yeah, it was the case that PageRank sculpting could have some real effect. These days, that is dramatically reduced. It’s not entirely gone because of some of these other principles that we’ve talked about, just having lots of links on a page for no particularly good reason is generally bad and can have harmful effects and having few carefully chosen ones has good effects. But most of the time, internal linking, optimizing internal linking beyond a certain point is not very valuable, not a great value add.

But a little of what I’m calling the right internal linking, that’s what we’re going to talk about, can go a long way. For example, if you have those orphan pages or pages that are clearly the next step in a process or that users want and they cannot find them or engines can’t find them through the link structure, it’s bad. Fixing that can have a positive impact.

Ideal internal link structures

So ideally, in an internal linking structure system, you want something kind of like this. This is a very rough illustration here. But the homepage, which has maybe 100 links on it to internal pages. One hop away from that, you’ve got your 100 different pages of whatever it is, subcategories or category pages, places that can get folks deeper into your website. Then from there, each of those have maybe a maximum of 100 unique links, and they get you 2 hops away from a homepage, which takes you to 10,000 pages who do the same thing.

I. No page should be more than 3 link “hops” away from another (on most small–>medium sites).

Now, the idea behind this is that basically in one, two, three hops, three links away from the homepage and three links away from any page on the site, I can get to up to a million pages. So when you talk about, “How many clicks do I have to get? How far away is this in terms of link distance from any other page on the site?” a great internal linking structure should be able to get you there in three or fewer link hops. If it’s a lot more, you might have an internal linking structure that’s really creating sort of these long pathways of forcing you to click before you can ever reach something, and that is not ideal, which is why it can make very good sense to build smart categories and subcategories to help people get in there.

I’ll give you the most basic example in the world, a traditional blog. In order to reach any post that was published two years ago, I’ve got to click Next, Next, Next, Next, Next, Next through all this pagination until I finally get there. Or if I’ve done a really good job with my categories and my subcategories, I can click on the category of that blog post and I can find it very quickly in a list of the last 50 blog posts in that particular category, great, or by author or by tag, however you’re doing your navigation.

II. Pages should contain links that visitors will find relevant and useful.

If no one ever clicks on a link, that is a bad signal for your site, and it is a bad signal for Google as well. I don’t just mean no one ever. Very, very few people ever and many of them who do click it click the back button because it wasn’t what they wanted. That’s also a bad sign.

III. Just as no two pages should be targeting the same keyword or searcher intent, likewise no two links should be using the same anchor text to point to different pages. Canonicalize!

For example, if over here I had a shipping routes link that pointed to this page and then another shipping routes link, same anchor text pointing to a separate page, page C, why am I doing that? Why am I creating competition between my own two pages? Why am I having two things that serve the same function or at least to visitors would appear to serve the same function and search engines too? I should canonicalize those. Canonicalize those links, canonicalize those pages. If a page is serving the same intent and keywords, keep it together.

IV. Limit use of the rel=”nofollow” to UGC or specific untrusted external links. It won’t help your internal link flow efforts for SEO.

Rel=”nofollow” was sort of the classic way that people had been doing PageRank sculpting that we talked about earlier here. I would strongly recommend against using it for that purpose. Google said that they’ve put in some preventative measures so that rel=”nofollow” links sort of do this leaking PageRank thing, as they call it. I wouldn’t stress too much about that, but I certainly wouldn’t use rel=”nofollow.”

What I would do is if I’m trying to do internal link sculpting, I would just do careful curation of the links and pages that I’ve got. That is the best way to help your internal link flow. That’s things like…

V. Removing low-value content, low-engagement content and creating internal links that people actually do want. That is going to give you the best results.

VI. Don’t orphan! Make sure pages that matter have links to (and from) them. Last, but not least, there should never be an orphan. There should never be a page with no links to it, and certainly there should never be a page that is well linked to that isn’t linking back out to portions of your site that are of interest or value to visitors and to Google.

So following these practices, I think you can do some awesome internal link analysis, internal link optimization and help your SEO efforts and the value visitors get from your site. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

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How to Inspire Your B2B Audience with Killer Content Marketing

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B2B content marketers: It’s time to get over our inferiority complex.

Yes, the B2C folks are over there marketing cool stuff like basketball shoes and energy drinks, while we’re stuck with cloud software solutions and medical imaging machinery.

Yes, we’re marketing to business professionals on a buying committee that has to commit to million-dollar deals. Which would buy a lot of basketball shoes and energy drinks.

But that does not mean B2C has more fun. It doesn’t mean B2B is boring. It doesn’t mean we have to play it safe.

Can B2B content be as compelling, as emotional, as vibrant—let’s face it—as cool as B2C?

As we say in Minnesota, yabetcha.

Not only can our content be all these things, it should be. We’re not marketing to robotic cogs in a corporate machine. We’re trying to have a conversation with actual human beings.

Make sure you’re a worthy conversational partner by following these tips:

#1: Don’t Skimp on Personality

It’s hard to create truly dynamic content when you’re stuck behind a brand façade. Corporations may or may not be people, but content that looks like it was written by committee rarely has that human spark.

Your content should bring out the people behind the brand. Don’t leave authenticity and transparency in your mission statement; show it in what you write. One of my favorite marketers for showing personality is Buffer’s Kevan Lee. Kevan isn’t afraid to show the whole gamut of human emotion on the Buffer blog, from taking pride in accomplishments to acknowledging failure. His post, We’ve Lost Nearly Half Our Social Referral Traffic in the Last 12 Months, is brutally honest but optimistic at the same time. Kevan pulls no punches in describing how Buffer’s traffic has fallen off, admitting he’s not sure why, and offering readers a chance to follow along as he learns.

A post like that not only helps build rapport, it’s valuable to every member of Kevan’s audience that is experiencing a similar dropoff. The result of Kevan’s unfiltered sharing? 3.8 thousand shares and over 418 comments on just that one post. It’s powerful stuff.

#2: Bring Your Data to Life

Most marketers are familiar with Volvo Trucks’ “Split” commercial. It’s the one that features aging action star Jean-Claude Van Damme showing off his superpowers:

What’s often overlooked is that this video is B2B marketing. Volvo Trucks sells big rigs to businesses. That’s what this video is all about. While those not in the target audience see a cool stunt, truck drivers see amazing precision in handling, even while the trucks are in reverse.

Not only that, the commercial is an effective piece of B2B content marketing. After the ad aired, Volvo conducted a survey of 2,200 commercial truck owners. Half of those who saw the video said they were more likely to choose Volvo. A third had already visited the website or even contacted a dealer after watching the video.

B2B marketing relies heavily on data, much moreso than B2C. Tell a story with that data—give it tension and drama—and you’re more likely to persuade your buyer.

#3: Cut the Buzzwords

“Our cloud solutions actualize the potential of enterprise-level businesses to utilize resources and leverage best practices to ladder up their revenue.”

Is it just me, or is the previous sentence like being beaten to death with a damp sponge? What is it about corporate writing that makes people use words they ordinarily wouldn’t go near?

This concept is an extension of the “show your personality” mandate. Unless you go about your daily life talking like an instruction manual crossed with a thesaurus, drop the corporate-speak. And if you do talk like that in your daily life, seek help. Your friends and family will thank you.

On the minus side, if you start talking like people, you won’t sound like every other corporation. On the plus side…you won’t sound like every other corporation.

#4: Consider the Rest of Your Buyer’s Workday

What does your buyer think about when they’re not thinking about you? Most B2B content tends to focus on the narrow intersection between the buyer’s problem and the brand’s solution. That’s great for bottom-of-funnel content. But what are you doing to help your buyer the rest of the workday? How are you equipping them for success?

Some would say anything outside of the problem/solution framework is irrelevant. But it’s all relevant. The person you’re selling to has professional needs that go beyond your solution—help them advance their career and—again I say—yabetcha that will make a difference when the buying committee convenes.

HubSpot is a B2B outfit that has 100% internalized this idea. You will find plenty of marketing advice on their blog, but also posts on leadership techniques, mood improvement, and more.

#5: Take a Stand

So you’re committed to showing personality and talking like a human. The next big step is to bring a point of view to your content. Let your audience know what you stand for and fight against. Take sides. Stir up a little controversy, if it needs to be stirred.

Some brands steer clear of taking any kind of stand because they fear alienating potential buyers. Part of identifying your audience, however, is identifying who is not in your audience. The people who might be turned off by your brand expressing values, sharing a vision, or leading a discussion are people who were never potential buyers in the first place. Get opinionated and you can rally the people who matter to your brand and bottom line.

One of my favorite B2B marketers, Jason Miller, exemplifies this idea. He’s not afraid to counter the conventional marketing wisdom, or call out lack of diversity in the industry. This willingness to take a stand has helped make Jason a thought leader and helped bring readers to the LinkedIn Marketing Solutions brand.

#6: Be a Mirror, Not a TV

Would you rather be a talking head delivering a monologue to your customer? Or would you rather reflect who they are, what they value, and then show how your solution can help? Let’s make the question even easier: Which do you think your customers prefer?

Your audience should be able to see themselves in your content. That means writing with extraordinary empathy. Or, better still, that means showcasing their stories whenever you can. My favorite B2B example of this is HSBC’s “The Elevator.” The bank wanted to show they understood small business owners and were committed to helping them succeed.

So they created a web-based reality show with entrepreneurs from around the UK. HSBC provided business coaching for each contestant and awarded a cash prize to the winner. But the series wasn’t just about creating a compelling drama—every video showcased exactly the kind of customer HSBC was trying to reach. The result was an estimated £9 million in revenue from leads generated by the campaign.

No More B2C Envy

It’s time to step out of the shadow of our B2C colleagues. You have my permission to make your marketing every bit as personal, emotional, unique, and dynamic as the best B2C campaigns. Regardless of your vertical, good marketing is good marketing, and every target audience is made of—gasp—people.

Does marketing person-to-person get better results than marketing business-to-buyer?


Need help creating awesome B2B content? Explore our content marketing services.

Social Media Metrics: How to Choose and Track What Matters

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social media how toInterested in building a dashboard to track key social media metrics?

Wondering which data and metrics to include?

With a little strategic planning on the front end, you can select and track meaningful metrics that relate to your business goals.

In this article, you’ll discover which metrics to track and how to organize them into a simple dashboard.

Social Media Metrics: How to Choose and Track What Matters by Eleanor Pierce on Social Media Examiner.

Social Media Metrics: How to Choose and Track What Matters by Eleanor Pierce on Social Media Examiner.

#1: Define Social Media Marketing’s Expected Role in Relation to Your Business Goals

If you manage social media for your business, it’s likely you aren’t the person defining overall business and marketing goals. However, if you run a small business, you may oversee the whole kit-and-caboodle.

In either case, look first at your overall business goals. Tracking those goals is the best way to ensure you’ll have buy-in for your efforts, and stay on track and accountable.

For instance, suppose you’re a B2B and your objective is to introduce a new product line with sales of $500,000 by the end of the year. Knowing this business objective allows you to create measurable goals.

With knowledge of your existing product lines and sales cycle, you perform some calculations. Your new product is priced at $500, so you’ll need to sell 1,000 units ($500,000/$500) to meet your sales goal. Only one lead in five provided to sales closes, so marketing will need to provide 5,000 new leads to the sales department.

Look at your overall marketing goal first and then determine how social media will contribute to that goal.

Look at your overall marketing goal first and then determine how social media will contribute to that goal.

Social media will only be a part of this marketing strategy, but if you know your audience, you can set measurable goals outlining how social media will contribute. For example, given your audience size, budget, and engagement levels, you know social media will be able to contribute, at most, 500 of those 5,000 leads. Now you have your target.

Of course, marketing goals are often a bit murkier than the above example. If there isn’t a tight link between sales and marketing and a way to measure sales or leads, your marketing goals may be something like “raise awareness.” In that case, you’d need to set goals for fan growth and engagement.

#2: Outline the Social Tactics That Will Support Your Marketing Goals

Once you’ve defined your primary social media goals, you can assign tactics that help you deliver on those goals. Continuing with the lead generation example above, look for tactics to drive traffic to the pages that best convert users into leads. This might include a download page for a white paper or ebook, a popular blog post, or a page with a cost calculator and a big Contact Us button.

As you outline the social media tactics you’ll use to drive the right traffic to those pages, start thinking about what you’ll measure.

Move from your business objectives to the tactics you'll use day in and day out on social media.

Move from your business objectives to the tactics you’ll use day in and day out on social media.

Of course, there’s quite a bit to ensuring you’re driving the right traffic to your site. When you put together your plan, include specific social media channels and outline the tactics for each channel.

For instance, your plan may include the following tactics for Facebook:

  • Using data collected via the Facebook pixel on your website, create a Facebook lookalike audience and serve this audience paid ads to drive traffic to high-converting landing page A. Use testing to optimize your call to action.
  • Share content from your blog to the Facebook news feed, boosting posts that include content that links to landing page A.
  • Conduct a social media test and learn to optimize content types for engagement.
One Facebook tactic might be to create a lookalike audience to target with your Facebook ads.

One Facebook tactic might be to create a lookalike audience to target with your Facebook ads.

#3: Measure Metrics That Inform Your Decision-Making

This is an exercise in deciding what really matters. The reality is that you can track endless amounts of data. Figuring out what data to focus on is more important than collecting reams of data. Look at data you can learn from and that tells you a story about how to do better in your future efforts.

In the lead generation example above, the most important metric to track is the number of conversions on the page that come from social. But you’ll need to know more than that.

Focus on the social media metrics that will inform your decision-making going forward.

Focus on the social media metrics that will inform your decision-making going forward.

If you track impressions, clicks, users on the landing page, and conversions, you’ll start to see which parts of the process are working and which aren’t. Here’s what you might do with that information:

  • If your impressions are lower than you expect, think of ways to boost them.
  • If your impressions are good but no one’s clicking, work on optimizing your CTA.
  • If people get to the landing page but don’t convert, focus on optimizing your landing page or work harder to ensure the landing page delivers what’s promised in your social post.
  • If you’re converting from paid search but not paid social, you may be promising the wrong thing in your social ads.

#4: Create a Simple Tracking Dashboard

A “dashboard” is a place where you can see the progress of your marketing activities. It doesn’t have to be a highly complex, overly stylized document to be useful. It can be as simple as an Excel or Google spreadsheet that tracks weekly, monthly, and quarterly metrics. What’s most important is that it will highlight points of interest, and outline insights and recommendations for action.

There are also numerous dashboard tools you can use to make beautiful dashboards with visuals to illustrate your data points. Many social media management tools include built-in social dashboards and reports, but they generally can’t include internal data and website analytics. The more robust tools can also be expensive.

One free tool you may want to try is Google Data Studio. It lets you connect to a number of data sources and create customized dashboards. You can connect directly to Google Analytics, Google Sheets, AdWords, MySQL, Search Console, and more.

Google Data Studio lets you connect to a number of different data sources.

Google Data Studio lets you connect to a number of different data sources.

Although there isn’t yet a direct connection between, say, Facebook analytics and Data Studio, there are workarounds that let you upload social media data, provided you can export it from social networks or a monitoring tool to a CSV file.

Google Data Studio offers several report templates including this Google Analytics template.

Google Data Studio offers several report templates including this Google Analytics template.

Track KPIs and Action Items

Here’s an example of a simple tracking dashboard that an internal marketing team may use to stay on track.

Compiling these metrics on a weekly and monthly basis shouldn't be too time-consuming.

Compiling these metrics on a weekly and monthly basis shouldn’t be too time-consuming.

If you want to create a simple internal dashboard like this one, start with three sections. In the first section, track where your business is today in terms of domain authority, website sessions, social media followers on different channels, and engagement rates on several platforms.

In the second section, include KPI targets for each metric by month. At the end of each month, use green to denote areas where you’re on track and add red to areas where you’re falling behind. This color-coding lets you see at a glance where your strategy is working and where it needs improvement.

You may need to adjust key performance indicators (KPIs) as you move forward with your campaign.

You may need to adjust key performance indicators (KPIs) as you move forward with your campaign.

Formulate your KPIs based on how you think your business will progress toward your longer-term goals each month. Defining the right KPIs takes some practice. It’s a matter of looking at your long-term goals, understanding what you need to do to get there, and layering in knowledge of your own performance history, industry benchmarks, and your audience, budget, and potential hiccups.

In the third section, use text to call out insights and lay out recommendations and action items.

Keep Your Dashboard Updated

The goal is to create a dashboard that’s useful and not simply a chore. The process that works for you will depend on your staff, what you’re measuring, the length of your campaigns, and more.

One simple management method is to update numbers in your spreadsheet weekly so you can see how you’re progressing against the monthly KPIs. Then “top off” your data on the last day of the month. At that point, highlight your KPIs and make sure anyone on your team with an analytical mind gets a chance to dig into the data for insights.

Use these insights to craft recommendations for forward momentum at least once a month and send those recommendations to the larger team. Check in quarterly to see whether those recommendations were implemented and if so, how they affected the performance of your campaigns.


With a little thought up front, you can create a social media measurement plan that focuses on what matters most to your business. At the beginning of the planning process, carefully consider the variables. Once you’ve done that, it’s easy to create a simple dashboard to track your success. The best part? This process naturally leads to constant improvement of your execution and strategy.

What do you think? How do you define your social media goals and tactics? What metrics do you track? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Social Media Metrics: How to Choose and Track What Matters by Eleanor Pierce on Social Media Examiner.

Social Media Metrics: How to Choose and Track What Matters by Eleanor Pierce on Social Media Examiner.

Related Posts

CMWorld In-Flight Content Guide: Creating a Memorable Content Experience

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Today’s modern customer is OBSESSED with experience. Everything from the ability to quickly order an Uber through a mobile app to spending hard-earned money on trips and adventures, not your typical investments.

The customer expectations for content marketing experiences are no different. In fact, a recent study by  Kampyle found that 87% of customers think brands need to put more effort into providing a consistent experience.

So now that you’ve prepped for your content marketing journey by diving into our first eBook, In-Flight Content Guide: Prepping for Your Content Marketing Expedition, it’s time to create a great experience.

To help set you down the path to creating a great “in-flight”content  experience for your customers, TopRank Marketing and Content Marketing Institute have partnered to bring you yet another go-to-guide from some of the brilliant minds speaking at Content Marketing World in September.

Feel free to get up and stretch your legs as we expect a smooth flight ahead. Then buckle up and get ready for our second of three eBooks titled: In-flight Content Guide: Creating a Memorable Content Experience where our content crew shares their top tips for creating a great content experience.

Share Insights From Our Content Crew Members

If you’d like to share tips from your favorite crew members, simply click below to tweet!

Slow your publishing process to ensure content is as valuable as it could be. @marketingprofs Click To Tweet A great experience starts with disrupting expectations. @CarlaJohnson Click To Tweet Spend time with people in your target audience to make better content experiences @dougkessler Click To Tweet Uncover audience questions and use them in content to improve site rankings. @wilreynolds Click To Tweet A great content experience starts with a story. @BrennerMichael Click To Tweet Visual communication helps create great content experiences for your audience. @scottberinato Click To Tweet Content can be found anywhere, but good content is read. @JillianHillard Click To Tweet Before you create content, write down the problem you are solving for them (Purpose). @jaybaer Click To Tweet Make the audience the hero of the story you’re telling. @ardath421 Click To Tweet In content creation, when you share ‘what to do’, think also about ‘how to do’. @IanCleary Click To Tweet Create interactive content to get your audience directly engaged. @HeinzMarketing Click To Tweet Ask your audience what type of content is most helpful to create great experiences. @ahaval Click To Tweet

What’s Next?

Keep your eyes peeled for the next eBook in our series, the In-Flight Content Guide: Making the Most of Your Content Journey.  

If you’re not attending Content Marketing World this year, don’t worry! You can still follow along and participate in conversations via Twitter by using the hashtag #CMWorld, by following CMI on Twitter or by subscribing to our blog.

How to Run an Instagram Story Takeover

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social media how toWant to reach more people with your Instagram stories?

Have you considered hosting an Instagram Story takeover to grow a larger following?

Collaborating with highly engaged Instagram users will introduce their followers to your content.

In this article, you’ll discover how to plan and execute an Instagram Story takeover.

How to Run an Instagram Story Takeover by Peg Fitzpatrick on Social Media Examiner.

How to Run an Instagram Story Takeover by Peg Fitzpatrick on Social Media Examiner.

What’s an Instagram Story Takeover?

Instagram takeovers have been around for a few years. In a takeover, you arrange for someone to take over your Instagram account for regular Instagram posts. The takeover might happen for a day or during a special event, and can help grow your Instagram community and build brand awareness.

An Instagram story takeover is a little bit different. Remember that Instagram stories don’t appear in your grid or feed. They appear in the Story bar at the top of the screen, and your followers need to tap your Story bubble to see those posts. Your story is like a second stream of content. And because the content disappears after 24 hours, a story takeover is especially time-sensitive.

Your business might partner with an Instagram influencer to preview a new product to create buzz for the launch, infusing their creativity and style into the posts. Or you might have an expert do a Q&A session that would interest your followers.

In the example below, actress and model Jaime King takes over the Harper’s Bazaar Instagram account to share her day getting ready for and attending the Dior Cruise show.

Harper's Bazaar turned over their Instagram story to Jaime King for the Dior Cruise show.

Harper’s Bazaar turned over their Instagram story to Jaime King for the Dior Cruise show.

#1: Find Someone Whose Stories Align With Your Brand

An Instagram story takeover means partnering with another person or brand. They create the content and post it to your account or share it with you for execution. The type of person you choose will impact the type of content that appears in the story.

For example, an employee is ideal for showing a day in the life at your company. A happy customer can share a story about your product or service. Content creators and artists can tell a unique story that reflects their voice and aesthetic.

Check the Instagram bio and website of the person you’d like to connect with. They may state their preferred method of contact. If they don’t provide contact information, you can contact them via Instagram Direct. You might want to let them know in an Instagram post comment that you sent them a direct message to make sure they see it.

When you contact potential influencers, have a budget in mind for your project. You don’t work for free, and they won’t either. Be respectful of their time when you make a request to connect for an Instagram story takeover.

To contact an Instagram influencer about a story takeover, look for contact information on their Instagram profile.

To contact an Instagram influencer about a story takeover, look for contact information on their Instagram profile.

To find customers and superfans who want to do Instagram story takeovers, inspirational retailer Walk in Love uses an online application that clarifies what they’re looking for and what the applicant will do. This is a great way to build an audience, highlight your products, and appreciate your Instagram fans.

To find customers and superfans to host Instagram story takeovers, Walk in Love has an application on its website.

To find customers and superfans to host Instagram story takeovers, Walk in Love has an application on its website.

#2: Clarify the Parameters for the Takeover

The beauty of an Instagram story takeover is that it brings new voices and style to your Instagram account. Give the person who does the takeover freedom to express themselves. However, if you have any parameters for the story, state your requirements up front. For example, you might ask the influencer to avoid certain language or dress, and state that you reserve the right to make the judgment call for posting.

You’ll want to have an agreement on the quantity of posts. Does the person have free rein to post all day? Five times? Being clear will help your Instagram story takeover run smoothly.

In most cases, you’ll be arranging the takeover of your account. If you arrange a takeover exchange, you could swap accounts so that each of you posts on the other person’s account.

#3: Find a Tool for Planning and Exchanging the Instagram Story Content

After you find a partner and work out the parameters, you need to decide how to execute the Instagram stories. Instagram stories are uploaded to the Instagram app and have to be added within the past 24 hours to your camera roll.

As a safety precaution, I don’t recommend giving out your account password. Instead, share content using a tool like Trello, which allows you to organize content for your story on a board. Or ask your partner to upload files to Dropbox.

With Trello, you can create a board for sharing content with your Instagram story takeover partner.

With Trello, you can create a board for sharing content with your Instagram story takeover partner.

Another option is Instagram management tool Planoly, which has a new Instagram Story Planner feature. It enables you to plan your stories within the 24-hour time frame with tools to help you order and schedule the posts.

Planoly allows you to coordinate posts with team members. You could add your partner to your Planoly account, and they could upload the story content to your Instagram account. This will allow you to plan content for before and after the takeover. For example, you can have a post that announces your guest and one that answers questions afterward.

#4: Develop a Plan for Co-Promotion and Engagement

Chances are you picked a savvy partner who knows how to boost an event, but it’s good to make suggestions and create a plan together so things go off as planned. Drive social traffic to your Instagram story and ask your guest to post on their social media accounts as well. For example, Anna Sachs announced her takeover of the Ward Village Instagram story the day before the event.

Ask your partner to announce an upcoming story takeover to their Instagram followers.

Ask your partner to announce an upcoming story takeover to their Instagram followers.

To point your followers to your story, create an Instagram post that lets people know you have a special guest on your Instagram stories. You can also promote your takeover on your other social media accounts.

On the day of your Instagram story takeover, make sure you’re prepared to respond to messages or have the person completing the takeover respond to messages. Hopefully, your activities will garner great engagement that your responses will enhance.

Story Takeovers on Other Social Media Platforms

The Internet is sprouting influential tastemakers as Millennials and everyone else spend more time looking at their smartphones than television. These stars are popping up on social media channels like Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat.

Visual story takeovers gained traction on Snapchat when brands worked with creative artists like Shaun McBride, better known as Shonduras, who has collaborated with Samsung, Google, Taco Bell, and others.

Here’s an example of a Snapchat takeover that visual artist and storyteller Shaun Ayala did for the L.A. Chargers. He’s super-creative and devised a fun training camp game. Working with a professional helped the Chargers build buzz for their team. Shaun designed an interactive game that encouraged fans to draw selfies and tag with a hashtag. Amazing!


Instagram story takeovers are a winning combination of great content, fun interaction, and a new way to grow your Instagram account. Delight your loyal followers with a surprise guest. You can stay safe by using Dropbox, Trello, or Planoly to exchange files to execute your takeover.

Allow your guest to use their talents and creativity but give parameters that are important to your brand if needed. Be open to creating a new experience for your Instagram fans.

What do you think? Which ideas will help you find a partner for your Instagram stories? What tools might you use to collaborate on an Instagram story takeover? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

How to Run an Instagram Story Takeover by Peg Fitzpatrick on Social Media Examiner.

How to Run an Instagram Story Takeover by Peg Fitzpatrick on Social Media Examiner.

Related Posts

It’s Here: The Finalized MozCon 2017 Agenda

This post was originally published on this site

That sound you hear is the coming together of MozCon 2017.

[You can hear that, right? It’s not just me.]

With less than two months to go, most of the nuts and bolts of the event have been fastened together to create what looks to be one of the strongest MozCons in history. Yeah, that’s saying a lot, but once you’ve perused the speakers’ lineup, we’re sure you’ll agree.

MozCon has a rich tradition of bringing together the best and brightest minds in digital marketing, creating a place for individuals across the globe to learn from top-notch speakers, network, share ideas, and learn about the tools, services, and tactics they can put to use in their work and their business.

As a bonus, attendees also get to enjoy lots of snacks, coffee and lots and lots of bacon.

Also, this year we’ll offer pre-MozCon SEO workshops on Sunday, July 16. Keep reading for more info.

You will, however, need a ticket to attend the event, so you might want to take care of that sooner rather later, since it always sells out:

Buy my MozCon 2017 ticket!

Now for the meaty details you’ve been waiting for.

The MozCon 2017 Agenda



Rand Fishkin

Welcome to MozCon 2017

Rand Fishkin, Wizard of Moz

Rand Fishkin is the founder and former CEO of Moz, co-author of a pair of books on SEO, and co-founder of Rand’s an un-save-able addict of all things content, search, and social on the web.

How to Get Big Links

Lisa Myers, Verve Search

Everyone wants links and coverage from sites such as New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the BBC, but very few achieve it. This is how we cracked it. Over and over.

Lisa is the founder and CEO of award-winning SEO agency Verve Search and founder of Feminist, mother of two, and modern-day shield maiden.


Data-Driven Design

Oli Gardner, Unbounce

Data-Driven Design (3D) is an actionable, evidence-based framework for creating websites & landing pages that will increase your leads, sales, and customers. In this session you’ll learn how to use the latest industry conversion data to inform copywriting and design decisions that impact conversions. Additionally, I’ll share a new methodology for prioritizing your marketing optimization that will show you which pages are awesome (leave them alone), which pages aren’t (massive ROI potential here), and help you develop a common language that your teams of marketers, designers, and copywriters can use to work better together to collectively increase your conversion rates.

Oli, founder of Unbounce, is on a mission to rid the world of marketing mediocrity by using data-informed copywriting, design, interaction, and psychology to create a more delightful experience for marketers and customers alike.

AM Break

How to Write Customer-Driven Copy That Converts

Joel Klettke, Business Casual Copywriting & Case Study Buddy

If you want to write copy that converts, you need to get into your customers’ heads. But how do you do that? How do you know which pain points you need to address, features customers care about, or benefits your audience needs to hear? Marketers are sick and tired of hearing “it depends.” I’ll give the audience a practical framework for writing customer-driven copy that any business can apply.

Joel is a freelance conversion copywriter and strategist for Business Casual Copywriting. He also owns and runs Case Study Buddy, a done-for-you case studies service.

What We Learned From Reddit & How It Can Help Your Brand Take Content Marketing to the Next Level

Daniel Russell, Go Fish Digital

It almost seems too good to be true — online forums where people automatically segment themselves into different markets and demographics and then vote on what content they like best. These forums, including Reddit, are treasure troves of content ideas. I’ll share actionable insights from three case studies that demonstrate how your marketing can benefit from content on Reddit.

Daniel is a director at Go Fish Digital whose work has hit the front page of Reddit, earned the #1 spot on YouTube, and been featured in Entrepreneur, Inc., The Washington Post, WSJ, and Fast Company.

How to Build an SEO-Intent-Based Framework for Any Business

Kathryn Cunningham, Adept Marketing

Everyone knows intent behind the search matters. In e-commerce, intent is somewhat easy to see. B2B, or better yet healthcare, isn’t quite as easy. Matching persona intent to keywords requires a bit more thought. I will cover how to find intent modifiers during keyword research, how to organize those modifiers into the search funnel, and how to quickly find unique universal results at different levels of the search funnel to utilize.

Kathryn is an SEO consultant for Adept Marketing, although to many of her office mates she is known as the Excel nerd.


Size Doesn’t Matter: Great Content by Teams of One

Ian Lurie, Portent, Inc.

Feel the energy surge through your veins as you gain content creation powers THE LIKES OF WHICH YOU HAVE NEVER EXPERIENCED… Or, just learn a process for creating great content when it’s just you and your little teeny team. Because size doesn’t matter.

Ian Lurie is founder, CEO, and nerdiest marketing nerd at Portent, a digital marketing agency he started in the Cretaceous era, aka 1995. Ian’s meandering career includes marketing copywriting, expert dungeon master, bike messenger-ing, and office temp worker.


The Tie That Binds: Why Email is Key to Maximizing Marketing ROI

Justine Jordan, Litmus

If nailing the omnichannel experience (whatever that means!) is key to getting more traffic and converting more leads, what happens if we have our channel priorities out of order? Justine will show you how email — far from being an old-school afterthought — is core to hitting marketing goals, building lifetime value, and making customers happy.

Justine is obsessed with helping marketers create, test, and send better email. Named 2015 Email Marketer Thought Leader of the Year, she is strangely passionate about email marketing, hates being called a spammer, and still gets nervous when pressing send.

PM Break



How to Be a Happy Marketer: Survive the Content Crisis and Drive Results by Mastering Your Customer’s Transformational Journey

Tara-Nicholle Nelson, Transformational Consumer Insights

Branded content is way up, but customer engagement with that content is plummeting. This whole scene makes it hard to get up in the morning, as a marketer. But there’s a new path beyond the epidemic of disengagement and, at the end of it, your brand and your content become regular stops along your customer’s everyday journey.

Tara-Nicholle Nelson is the CEO of Transformational Consumer Insights, the former VP of Marketing for MyFitnessPal, and author of the Transformational Consumer.

Thinking Smaller: Optimizing for the New Wave of Social Video Platforms

Phil Nottingham, Wistia

SnapChat, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Periscope… the list goes on. All social networks are now video platforms, but it’s hard to know where to invest. In this session, Phil will be giving you all the tips and tricks for what to make, how to get your content in front of the right audiences, and how get the most value from the investment you’re making in social video.

Phil Nottingham is a strategist who believes in the power of creative video content to improve the way companies speak to their customers, and regularly speaks around the world about video strategy, SEO, and technical marketing.

Monday Night #MozCrawl

The Monday night pub crawl is back.

For the uninitiated, “pub crawl” is not meant to convey what you do after a night of drinking.

Rather, during the MozCon pub crawl, attendees visit some of the best bars in Seattle.

(Each stop is sponsored by a trusted partner; You’ll need to bring your MozCon badge for free drinks and light appetizers. You’ll also need your US ID or passport.)

More deets to follow.




I’d Rather Be Thanked Than Ranked

Wil Reynolds, Seer Interactive

Ego and assumptions led me to chose the wrong keywords for my own site — yeah, me, Wil Reynolds, Mr. RCS. How did I spend three years optimizing my site and building links to finally crack the top three for six critical keywords, only to find out that I wasted all that time? However, in spite of targeting the wrong words, Seer grew the business. In this presentation, I’ll show you the mistakes I made and share with you to approaches that can help you to build content that gets you thanked.

A former teacher with a knack for advising, he’s been helping Fortune 500 companies develop SEO strategies since 1999. Today, Seer is home to over 100 employees across Philadelphia and San Diego.

Winning Value Propositions for Crawlers and Consumers

Dawn Anderson, Move It Marketing/Manchester Metropolitan University

In an evolving mobile-first web, we can utilize preempting solutions to create winning value propositions, which are designed to attract and satisfy search engine crawlers and keep consumers happy. I’ll outline a strategy and share tactics that help ensure increased organic reach, in addition to highlighting smart ways to view data, intent, consumer choice theory, and crawl optimization.

Dawn Anderson is an International and Technical SEO Consultant, Director of Move It Marketing, and a lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University.

AM Break

MozCon Ignite Preview

More Than SEO: 3 Ways To Prove UX Matters Too

Matthew Edgar, Elementive

Great SEO is increasingly dependent on having a website with a great user experience. To make your user experience great requires carefully tracking what people do so that you always know where to improve. But what do you track? In this 15-minute talk, I’ll cover three effective and advanced ways to use event tracking in Google Analytics to understand a website’s user

Matthew is a web analytics and technical marketing consultant at Elementive.

A Site Migration: Redirects, Resources, & Reflection

Jayna Grassel, Dick’s Sporting Goods

Site. Migration. No two words elicit more fear, joy, or excitement to a digital marketer. When the idea was shared three years ago, the company was excited. They dreamed of new features and efficiency. But as SEOs, we knew better. We knew there would be midnight strategy sessions with IT. More UAT environments than we could track. Deadlines, requirements, and compromises forged through hallway chats. …The result was a stable transition with minimal dips in traffic. What we didn’t know, however, was the amount of cross-functional coordination that was required to pull it off.

Jayna is the SEO manager at Dick’s Sporting Goods and is the unofficial world’s second-fastest crocheter.

The 8 Paid Promotion Tactics That Will Get You To Quit Organic Traffic

Kane Jamison, Content Harmony

Digital marketers are ignoring huge opportunities to promote their content through paid channels, and I want to give them the tools to get started. How many brands out there are spending $500+ on a blog post, then moving on to the next one before that post has been seen by 500 people, or even 50? For some reason, everyone thinks about Outbrain and native ads when we talk about paid content distribution, but the real opportunity is in highly targeted paid social.

Kane is the founder of Content Harmony, a content marketing agency based here in Seattle. The Content Harmony team specializes in full funnel content marketing and content promotion.


Marketing in a Conversational World: How to Get Discovered, Delight Your Customers and Earn the Conversion

Purna Virji, Microsoft

Capturing and keeping attention is one of the hardest parts of our job today. Fact: It’s just going to get harder with the advent of new technology and conversational interfaces. In the brave new world we’re stepping into, the key questions are: How do we get discovered? How can we delight our audiences? And how can we grow revenue for our clients? Come to this session to learn how to make your marketing and advertising efforts something people are going to want to consume.

Named by PPC Hero as the #1 most influential PPC expert in the world, Purna specializes in SEM, SEO, and future search trends. She is a popular global keynote speaker and columnist, an avid traveler, aspiring top chef, and amateur knitter.


Up and to the Right: Growing Traffic, Conversions, & Revenue

Matthew Barby, HubSpot

So many of the case studies that document how a company has grown from 0 to X forget to mention that solutions that they found are applicable to their specific scenario and won’t work for everyone. This falls into the dangerous category of bad advice for generic problems. Instead of building up a list of other companies’ tactics, marketers need to understand how to diagnose and solve problems across their entire funnel. Illustrated with real-world examples, I’ll be talking you through the process that I take to come up with ideas that none of my competitors are thinking of.

Matt, who heads up user acquisition at HubSpot, is an award-winning blogger, startup advisor, and a lecturer.


How to Operationalize Growth for Maximum Revenue

Joanna Lord, ClassPass

Joanna will walk through tactical ways to organize your team, build system foundations, and create processes that fuel growth across the company. You’ll hear how to coordinate with product, engineering, CX, and sales to ensure you’re maximizing your opportunity to acquire, retain, and monetize your customers.

Joanna is the CMO of ClassPass, the world’s leading fitness membership. Prior to that she was VP of Marketing at Porch and CMO of BigDoor. She is a global keynote and digital evangelist. Joanna is a recognized thought leader in digital marketing and a startup mentor.

PM Break

Analytics to Drive Optimization & Personalization

Krista Seiden, Google

Getting the most out of your optimization efforts means understanding the data you’re collecting, from analytics implementation, to report setup, to analysis techniques. In this session, Krista walks you through several tips for using analytics data to empower your optimization efforts, and then takes it further to show you how to up-level your efforts to take advantage of personalization from mass scale all the way down to individual user actions.

Krista Seiden is the Analytics Advocate for Google, advocating for all things data, web, mobile, optimization, and more. Keynote speaker, practitioner, writer on Analytics and Optimization, and passionate supporter of #WomenInAnalytics.


Facing the Future: 5 Simple Tactics for 5 Scary Changes

Dr. Pete Meyers, Moz

We’ve seen big changes to SEO recently, from an explosion in SERP features to RankBrain to voice search. These fundamental changes to organic search marketing can be daunting, and it’s hard to know where to get started. Dr. Pete will walk you through five big changes and five tactics for coping with those changes today.

Dr. Peter J. Meyers (aka “Dr. Pete”) is Marketing Scientist for Seattle-based Moz, where he works with the marketing and data science teams on product research and data-driven content.

MozCon Ignite

Join us for an evening of networking and passion-talks. Laugh, cheer, and be inspired as your peers share their 5-minute talks about their hobbies, passion projects, and life lessons.

Be sure to bring your MozCon badge.



The Truth About Mobile-First Indexing

Cindy Krum, MobileMoxie, LLC

Mobile-first design has been a best practice for a while, and Google is finally about to support it with mobile-first indexing. But mobile-first design and mobile-first indexing are not the same thing. Mobile-first indexing is about cross-device accessibility of information, to help integrate digital assistants and web-enabled devices that don’t even have browsers to achieve Google’s larger goals. Learn how mobile-first indexing will give digital marketers their first real swing at influencing Google’s new AI (Artificial Intelligence) landscape. Marketers who embrace an accurate understanding of mobile-first indexing could see a huge first-mover advantage, similar to the early days of the web, and we all need to be prepared.

Cindy, the CEO and Founder of MobileMoxie, LLC, is the author of Mobile Marketing: Finding Your Customers No Matter Where They Are. She brings fresh and creative ideas to her clients, and regularly speaks at US and international digital marketing events.


Powerful Brands Have Communities

Tara Reed, Apps Without Code

You are laser-focused on user growth. Meanwhile, you’re neglecting a gold mine of existing customers who desperately want to be part of your brand’s community. Tara Reed shares how to use communities, gamification, and membership content to grow your revenue.

Tara Reed is a tech entrepreneur & marketer. After running marketing initiatives at Google, Foursquare, & Microsoft, Tara branched out to launch her own apps & startups. Today, Tara helps people implement cutting-edge marketing into their businesses.

AM Break


From Anchor to Asset: How Agencies Can Wisely Create Data-Driven Content

Heather Physioc, VML

Creative agencies are complicated and messy, often embracing chaos instead of process, and focusing exclusively on one-time campaign creative instead of continuous web content creation. Campaign creative can be costly, and not sustainable for most large brands. How can creative shops produce data-driven streams of high-quality content for the web that stays true to its creative roots — but faster, cheaper, and continuously? I’ll show you how.

Heather is director of Organic Search at global digital ad agency VML, which performs search engine optimization services for multinational brands like Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Electrolux/Frigidaire, Bridgestone, EXPRESS, and Wendy’s.

5 Secrets: How to Execute Lean SEO to Increase Qualified Leads

Britney Muller, Moz

I invite you to steal some of the ideas I’ve gleaned from managing SEO for the behemoth bad-ass Learn what it takes to move the needle on qualified leads, execute quick wins, and keep your head above water. I’ll go over my biggest successes, failures, tests, and lessons.

Britney is a Minnesota native who moved to Colorado to fulfill a dream of being a snowboard bum! After 50+ days on the mountain her first season, she got stir-crazy and taught herself how to program, then found her way into SEO while writing for a local realtor.


SEO Experimentation for Big-Time Results

Stephanie Chang, Etsy

One of the biggest business hurdles any brand faces is how to prioritize and validate SEO recommendations. This presentation describes an SEO experimentation framework you can use to effectively test how changes made to your pages affect SEO performance.

Stephanie currently leads the Global Acquisition & Retention Marketing teams at Etsy. Previously, she was a Senior Consultant at Distilled.


Reverse-Engineer Google’s Research to Serve Up the Best, Most Relevant Content for Your Audience

Rob Bucci, STAT Search Analytics

The SERP is the front-end to Google’s multi-billion dollar consumer research machine. They know what searchers want. In this data-heavy talk, Rob will teach you how to uncover what Google already knows about what web searchers are looking for. Using this knowledge, you can deliver the right content to the right searchers at the right time, every time.

Rob loves the challenge of staying ahead of the changes Google makes to their SERPs. When not working, you can usually find him hiking up a mountain, falling down a ski slope, or splashing around in the ocean.

PM Break

rand-fishkin-150x150-32915.jpgInside the Googling Mind: An SEO’s Guide to Winning Clicks, Hearts, & Rankings in the Years Ahead

Rand Fishkin, Founder of Moz, doer of SEO, feminist

Searcher behavior, intent, and satisfaction are on the verge of overtaking classic SEO inputs (keywords, links, on-page, etc). In this presentation, Rand will examine the shift that behavioral signals have caused, and list the step-by-step process to build a strategy that can thrive long-term in Google’s new reality.

Rand Fishkin is the founder and former CEO of Moz, co-author of a pair of books on SEO, and co-founder of Rand’s an un-save-able addict of all things content, search, and social on the web.

MozCon Bash

Join us at Garage Billiards for an evening of networking, billiards, bowling, and karaoke with MozCon friends new and old. Don’t forget to bring your MozCon badge and US ID or passport.

Additional Pre-MozCon Sunday Workshops

SEO Intensive

Offered as 75-minute sessions, the five workshops will be taught by Mozzers Rand Fishkin, Britney Muller, Brian Childs, Russ Jones, and Dr. Pete. Topics include The 10 Jobs of SEO-focused Content, Keyword Targeting for RankBrain and Beyond, and Risk-Averse Link Building at Scale, among others.

These workshops are separate from MozCon; you’ll need a ticket to attend them.

Amped up for a talk or ten? Curious about new methods? Excited to learn? Get your ticket before they sell out:

Snag my ticket to MozCon 2017!

Tackling Tag Sprawl: Crawl Budget, Duplicate Content, and User-Generated Content

This post was originally published on this site

Alright, so here’s the situation. You have a million-product website. Your competitors have a lot of the same products. You need unique content. What do you do? The same thing everyone does — you turn to user-generated content. Problem solved, right?

User-generated content (UGC) can be an incredibly valuable source of content and organization, helping you build natural language descriptions and human-driven organization of site content. One common feature used by sites to take advantage of user-created content are tags, found everywhere from e-commerce sites to blogs. Webmasters can leverage tags to power site search, create taxonomies and categories of products for browsing, and to provide rich descriptions of site content.

This is a logical and practical approach, but can cause intractable SEO problems if left unchecked. For mega-sites, manually moderating millions of user-submitted tags can be cumbersome (if not wholly impossible). Leaving tags unchecked, though, can create massive problems with thin content, duplicate content, and general content sprawl. In our case study below, three technical SEOs from different companies joined forces to solve a massive tag sprawl problem. The project was led by Jacob Bohall, VP of Marketing at Hive Digital, while computational statistics services were provided by J.R. Oakes of Adapt Partners and Russ Jones of Moz. Let’s dive in.

What is tag sprawl?

We define tag sprawl as the unchecked growth of unique, user-contributed tags resulting in a large amount of near-duplicate pages and unnecessary crawl space. Tag sprawl generates URLs likely to be classified as doorway pages, pages appearing to exist only for the purpose of building an index across an exhaustive array of keywords. You’ve probably seen this in its most basic form in the tagging of posts across blogs, which is why most SEOs recommend a blanket “noindex, follow” across tag pages in WordPress sites. This simple approach can be an effective solution for small blog sites, but is not often the solution for major e-commerce sites that rely more heavily on tags for categorizing products.

The three following tag clouds represent a list of user-generated terms associated with different stock photos. Note: User behavior is generally to place as many tags as possible in an attempt to ensure maximum exposure for their products.

  1. USS Yorktown, Yorktown, cv, cvs-10, bonhomme richard, revolutionary war-ships, war-ships, naval ship, military ship, attack carriers, patriots point, landmarks, historic boats, essex class aircraft carrier, water, ocean
  2. ship, ships, Yorktown, war boats, Patriot pointe, old war ship, historic landmarks, aircraft carrier, war ship, naval ship, navy ship, see, ocean
  3. Yorktown ship, Warships and aircraft carriers, historic military vessels, the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier

As you can see, each user has generated valuable information for the photos, which we would want to use as a basis for creating indexable taxonomies for related stock images. However, at any type of scale, we have immediate threats of:

  • Thin content: Only a handful of products share the user-generated tag when a user creates a more specific/defining tag, e.g. “cvs-10”
  • Duplicate and similar content: Many of these tags will overlap, e.g. “USS Yorktown” vs. “Yorktown,” “ship” vs. “ships,” “cv” vs. “cvs-10,” etc.
  • Bad content: Created by improper formatting, misspellings, verbose tags, hyphenation, and similar mistakes made by users.

Now that you understand what tag sprawl is and how it negatively effects your site, how can we address this issue at scale?

The proposed solution

In correcting tag sprawl, we have some basic (at the surface) problems to solve. We need to effectively review each tag in our database and place them in groups so further action can be taken. First, we determine the quality of a tag (how likely is someone to search for this tag, is it spelled correctly, is it commercial, is it used for many products) and second, we determine if there is another tag very similar to it that has a higher quality.

  1. Identify good tags: We defined a good tag as term capable of contributing meaning, and easily justifiable as an indexed page in search results. This also entailed identifying a “master” tag to represent groups of similar terms.
  2. Identify bad tags: We wanted to isolate tags that should not appear in our database due to misspellings, duplicates, poor format, high ambiguity, or likely to cause a low-quality page.
  3. Relate bad tags to good tags: We assumed many of our initial “bad tags” could be a range of duplicates, i.e. plural/singular, technical/slang, hyphenated/non-hyphenated, conjugations, and other stems. There could also be two phrases which refer to the same thing, like “Yorktown ship” vs. “USS Yorktown.” We need to identify these relationships for every “bad” tag.

For the project inspiring this post, our sample tag database comprised over 2,000,000 “unique” tags, making this a nearly impossible feat to accomplish manually. While theoretically we could have leveraged Mechanical Turk or similar platform to get “manual” review, early tests of this method proved to be unsuccessful. We would need a programmatic method (several methods, in fact) that we could later reproduce when adding new tags.

The methods

Keeping the goal in mind of identifying good tags, labeling bad tags, and relating bad tags to good tags, we employed more than a dozen methods, including: spell correction, bid value, tag search volume, unique visitors, tag count, Porter stemming, lemmatization, Jaccard index, Jaro-Winkler distance, Keyword Planner grouping, Wikipedia disambiguation, and K-Means clustering with word vectors. Each method either helped us determine whether the tag was valuable and, if not, helped us identify an alternate tag that was valuable.

Spell correction

  • Method: One of the obvious issues with user-generated content is the occurrence of misspellings. We would regularly find misspellings where semicolons are transposed for the letter “L” or words have unintended characters at the beginning or end. Luckily, Linux has an excellent built-in spell checker called Aspell which we were able to use to fix a large volume of issues.
  • Benefits: This offered a quick, early win in that it was fairly easy to identify bad tags when they were composed of words that weren’t included in the dictionary or included characters that were simply inexplicable (like a semicolon in the middle of a word). Moreover, if the corrected word or phrase occurred in the tag list, we could trust the corrected phrase as a potentially good tag, and relate the misspelled term to the good tag. Thus, this method help us both filter bad tags (misspelled terms) and find good tags (the spell-corrected term)
  • Limitations: The biggest limitation with this methodology was that combinations of correctly spelled words or phrases aren’t necessarily useful for users or the search engine. For example, many of the tags in the database were concatenations of multiple tags where the user space-delimited rather than comma-delimited their submitted tags. Thus, a tag might consist of correctly spelled terms but still be useless in terms of search value. Moreover, there were substantial dictionary limitations, especially with domain names, brand names, and Internet slang. In order to accommodate this, we added a personal dictionary that included a list of the top 10,000 domains according to Quantcast, several thousand brands, and a slang dictionary. While this was helpful, there were still several false recommendations that needed to be handled. For example, we saw “purfect” correct to “perfect,” despite being a pop-culture reference for cat images. We also noticed some users reference this saying as “purrfect,” “purrrfect,” “purrrrfect,” “purrfeck,” etc. Ultimately, we had to rely on other metrics to determine whether we trusted the misspelling recommendations.

Bid value

  • Method: While a tag might be good in the sense that it is descriptive, we wanted tags that were commercially relevant. Using the estimated cost-per-click of the tag or tag phrase proved useful in making sure that the term could attract buyers, not just visitors.
  • Benefits: One of the great features of this methodology is that it tends to have a high signal-to-noise ratio. Most tags that have high CPCs tend to be commercially relevant and searched frequently enough to warrant inclusion as “good tags.” In many cases we could feel confident that a tag was good just on this metric alone.
  • Limitations: However, the bid value metric comes with some pretty big limitations, too. For starters, Google Keyword Planner’s disambiguation problem is readily apparent. Google combines related keywords together when reporting search volume and CPC data, which means a tag like “facbook” would return the same data as “facebook.” Obviously, we would prefer to map “facbook” to “facebook” rather than keep both tags, so in some cases the CPC metric wasn’t sufficient to identify good tags. A further limitation of the bid value was the difficulty of acquiring CPC data. Google now requires running active Adwords campaigns to get access to CPC value. It is no simple feat to look up 5,000,000 keywords in Google Keyword Planner, even if you have a sufficient account. Luckily, we felt comfortable that historical data would be trustworthy enough, so we didn’t need to acquire fresh data.

Tag search volume

  • Method: Similar to CPC, we could use search volume to determine the potential value of a tag. We had to be careful not to rely on the tag itself, though, since the tag could be so generic that it earns traffic unrelated to the product itself. For example, the tag “USS Yorktown” might get a few hundred searches a month, but “USS Yorktown T-shirt” gets 0. For all of the tags in our index, we tracked down the search volume for the tag plus the product name, in order to make sure we had good estimates of potential product traffic.
  • Benefits: Like CPC, this metric did a very good job of consolidating our tag data set to just keywords that were likely to deliver traffic. In the vast majority of cases, if “tag + product” had search volume, we could feel confident that it is a good term.
  • Limitations: Unfortunately, this method fell victim to the same disambiguation problem that CPC presents. Because Google groups terms together, it is possible that on some occasions two tags will be given the same metrics. For example: “pontoons boat,” “pontoonboat,” “pontoon boats,” “pontoon boat,” “pontoon boating,” and “pontoons boats” were in the same traffic volume group which also included tags like “yacht” and “yachts.” Moreover, there is no accounting for keyword difficulty in this metric. Some tags, when combined with product types, produce keywords that receive substantial traffic but will always be out of reach for a templated tag page.

Unique visitors

  • Method: This method was a no-brainer: protect the tags that already receive traffic from Google. We exported all of the tags from Google Analytics that had received search traffic from Google in the last 12 months. Generally speaking, this should be a fairly safe list of terms.
  • Benefits: When doing experimental work with a client, it is always nice to be able to give them a scenario that almost guarantees improvement. Because we were able to protect tags that already receive traffic by labeling them as good (in the vast majority of cases), we could ensure that the client had a high probability of profiting from the changes we made and minimal risk of any traffic loss.
  • Limitations: Unfortunately, even this method wasn’t perfect. If a product (or set of products) with high enough authority included a poor variation of a tag, then the bad variant would rank and receive traffic. We had to use other strategies to verify our selections from this method and devise a method to encourage a tag swap in the index for the correct version of a term.

Tag count

  • Description: The frequency with which a tag was used on the site was often a strong signal that we could trust the tag, especially when compared with other similar tags. By counting the number of times each tag was used on the site, we could bias our final set of trusted tags in favor of these more popular terms.
  • Benefits: This was a great tie-breaker metric when we had two tags that were very similar but needed to choose just one. For example, sometimes two variants of a phrase were completely acceptable (such as a version with and without a hyphen). We could simply defer to the one with a higher tag count.
  • Limitations: The clear limitation of tag frequency is that many of the most frequent tags were too generic to be useful. The tag “blue” isn’t particularly useful when it just helps people find “blue t-shirts.” The term is too generic and too competitive to warrant inclusion. Additionally, the inclusion of too broad of a tag would simply create a very large crawl vs. traffic-potential ratio. A common tag will have hundreds if not thousands of matching products, creating many pages of products for the single tag. If a tag produces 50 paginated product listings, but only has the potential to drive 10 visitors a year, it might not be worth it.

Porter stemming

  • Method: Stemming is a method used to identify the root word from a tag by scanning the word right to left and using various pattern matching rules to remove characters (suffixes) until you arrive at the word’s stem. There are a couple of popular stemmers available, but we found Porter stemming to be more accurate as a tool for seeing alternative word forms. You can geek out by looking at the Porter stemming algorithm in Snowball here, or you can play with a JS version here.
  • Benefits: Plural and possessive terms can be grouped by their stem for further analysis. Running Porter stemming on the terms “pony” and “ponies” will return “poni” as the stem, which can then be used to group terms for further analysis. You can also run Porter stemming on phrases. For example, “boating accident,” “boat accidents,” “boating accidents,” etc. share the stem “boat accid.” This can be a crude and quick method for grouping variations. Porter stemming also is able to clean text more kindly, where others stemmers can be too aggressive for our efforts; e.g., Lancaster stemmer reduces “woman” to “wom,” while Porter stemmer leaves it as “woman.”
  • Limitations: Stemming is intended for finding a common root for terms and phrases, and does not create any type of indication as to the proper form of a term. The Porter stemming method applies a fixed set of rules to the English language by blanket removing trailing “s,” “e,” “ance,” “ing,” and similar word endings to try and find the stem. For this to work well, you have to have all of the correct rules (and exceptions) in place to get the correct stems in all cases. This can be particularly problematic with words that end in S but are not plural, like “billiards” or “Brussels.” Additionally, this method does not help with mapping related terms such as “boat crash,” “crashed boat,” “boat accident,” etc. which would stem to “boat crash,” “crash boat,” and “boat acci.”


  • Method: Lemmatization works similarly to stemming. However, instead of using a rule set for editing words by removing letters to arrive at a stem, lemmatization attempts to map the term to its most simple dictionary form, such as WordNet, and return a canonical “lemma” of the word. A crude way to think about lemmatization is just simplifying a word. Here’s an API to check out.
  • Benefits: This method often works better than stemming. Terms like “ship,” “shipped,” and “ships” are all mapped to “ship” by this method, while “shipping” or “shipper,” which are terms that have distinct meaning despite the same stem, are retained. You can create an array of “lemma” from phrases which can be compared to other phrases resolving word order issues. This proved to be a more reliable method for grouping variations than stemming.
  • Limitations: As with many of the methods, context for mapping related terms can be difficult. Lemmatization can provide better filters for context, but to do so generally relies on identifying the word form (noun, adjective, etc) to appropriately map to a root term. Given the inconsistency of the user-generated content, it is inaccurate to assume all words are in adjective form (describing a product), or noun form (the product itself). This inconsistency can present wild results. For example, “strip socks” could be intended as as a tag for socks with a strip of color on them, such as as “striped socks,” or it could be “stripper socks” or some other leggings that would be a match only found if there other products and tags to compare for context. Additionally, it doesn’t create associations between all related words, just textual derivatives, so you are still seeking out a canonical between mailman, courier, shipper, etc.

Jaccard index

  • Method: The Jaccard index is a similarity coefficient measured by Intersection over Union. Now, don’t run off just yet, it is actually quite straightforward.

    Imagine you had two piles of with 3 marbles in each: Red, Green, and Blue in the first, Red, Green and Yellow in the second. The “Intersection” of these two piles would be Red and Green, since both piles have those two colors. The “Union” would be Red, Green, Blue and Yellow, since that is the complete list of all the colors. The Jaccard index would be 2 (Red and Green) divided by 4 (Red, Green, Blue, and Yellow). Thus, the Jaccard index of these two piles would be .5. The higher the Jaccard index, the more similar the two sets.
    So what does this have to do with tags? Well, imagine we have two tags: “ocean” and “sea.” We can get a list of all of the products that have the tag “ocean” and “sea.” Finally, we get the Jaccard index of those two sets. The higher the score, the more related they are. Perhaps we find that 70% of the products with the tag “ocean” also have the tag “sea”; we now know that the two are fairly well-related. However, when we run the same measurement to compare “basement” or “casement,” we find that they only have a Jaccard index of .02. Even though they are very similar in terms of characters, they mean quite different things. We can rule out mapping the two terms together.

  • Benefits: The greatest benefit of using the Jaccard index is that it allows us to find highly related tags which may have absolutely no textual characteristics in common, and are more likely to have an overly similar or duplicate results set. While most of the the metrics we have considered so far help us find “good” or “bad” tags, the Jaccard index helps us find “related” tags without having to do any complex machine learning.
  • Limitations: While certainly useful, the Jaccard index methodology has its own problems. The biggest issue we ran into had to do with tags that were used together nearly all the time but weren’t substitutes of one another. For example, consider the tags “babe ruth” and his nickname, “sultan of swat.” The latter tag only occurred on products which also had the “babe ruth” tag (since this was one of his nicknames), so they had quite a high Jaccard index. However, Google doesn’t map these two terms together in search, so we would prefer to keep the nickname and not simply redirect it to “babe ruth.” We needed to dig deeper if we were to determine when we should keep both tags or when we should redirect one to another. As a standalone, this method also was not sufficient at identifying cases where a user consistently misspelled tags or used incorrect syntax, as their products would essentially be orphans without “union.”

Jaro-Winkler distance

  • Method: There are several edit distance and string similarity metrics that we used throughout this process. Edit Distance is simply some measurement of how difficult it is to change one word to another. For example, the most basic edit distance metric, Levenshtein distance, between “Russ Jones” and “Russell Jones” is 3 (you have to add “E”,”L”, and “L” to transform Russ to Russell). This can be used to help us find similar words and phrases. In our case, we used a particular edit distance measure called “Jaro-Winkler distance” which gives higher precedence to words and phrases that are similar at the beginning. For example, “Baseball” would be closer to “Baseballer” than to “Basketball” because the differences are at the very end of the term.
  • Benefits: Edit distance metrics helped us find many very similar variants of tags, especially when the variants were not necessarily misspellings. This was particularly valuable when used in conjunction with the Jaccard index metrics, because we could apply a character-level metric on top of a character-agnostic metric (i.e. one that cares about the letters in the tag and one that doesn’t).
  • Limitations: Edit distance metrics can be kind of stupid. According to Jaro-Winkler distance, “Baseball” and “Basketball” are far more related to one another than “Baseball” and “Pitcher” or “Catcher.” “Round” and “Circle” have a horrible edit distance metric, while “Round” and “Pound” look very similar. Edit distance simply cannot be used in isolation to find similar tags.

Keyword Planner grouping

  • Method: While Google’s choice to combine similar keywords in Keyword Planner has been problematic for predicting traffic, it has actually offered us a new method to identify highly related terms. Whenever two tags share identical metrics from Google Keyword Planner (average monthly traffic, historical traffic, CPC, and competition), we can conclude that there is an increased chance the two are related to one another.
  • Benefits: This method is extremely useful for acronyms (which are particularly difficult to detect). While Google groups together COO and Chief Operating Officer, you can imagine that standard methods like those outlined above might have problems detecting the relationship.
  • Limitations: The greatest drawback for this methodology was that it created numerous false positives among less popular terms. There are just too many keywords which have an annual search volume average of 10, are searched 10 times monthly, and have a CPC and competition of 0. Thus, we had to limit the use of this methodology to more popular terms where there were only a handful of matches.

Wikipedia disambiguation

  • Method: Many of the methods above are great for grouping similar/related terms, but do not provide a high-confidence method for determining the “master” term or phrase to represent a grouping of related/duplicate terms. While considerations can be made for testing all tags against an English language model, the lack of pop culture references and phrases makes it unreliable. To do this effectively, we found Wikipedia to be a trusted source for identifying the proper spelling, tense, formatting, and word order for any given tag. For example, if users tagged a product as “Lord of the Rings,” “LOTR,” and “The Lord of the Rings,” it can be difficult to determine which tag should be preferred (certainly we don’t need all 3). If you search Wikipedia for these terms, you will see that they redirect you to the page titled “The Lord of the Rings.” In many cases, we can trust their canonical variant as the “good tag.” Please note that we don’t encourage scraping any website or violating their terms of use. Wikipedia does offer an export of their entire database that can be used for research purposes.
  • Benefits: When a tag could be mapped to a Wikipedia entry, this method proved to be a highly effective at providing validation that a tag had potential value, or creating a point of reference for related tags. If the Wikipedia community felt a tag or tag phrase was important enough to have an article dedicated to it, then the tag was more likely to be a valuable term vs. random entry or keyword stuffing by the user. Further, the methodology allows for grouping related terms without any bias on word order. Doing a search on Wikipedia creates a search results page (“pontoon boats”), or redirects you to a correction of the article (“disneyworld” becomes “Walt Disney World”). Wikipedia also tends to have entries for some pop culture references, so things that would get flagged as a misspelling, such as “lolcats,” can be vindicated by the existence of a matching Wikipedia article.
  • Limitations: While Wikipedia is effective at delivering a consistent formal tag for disambiguation, it can at times be more sterile than user-friendly. This can run counter to other signals such as CPC or traffic volume methods. For example, “pontoon boats” becomes “Pontoon (Boat)”, or “Lily” becomes “lilium.” All signals indicate the former case as the most popular, but Wikipedia disambiguation suggests the latter to be the correct usage. Wikipedia also contains entries for very broad terms, like each number, year, letter, etc. so simply applying a rule that any Wikipedia article is an allowed tag would continue to contribute to tag sprawl problems.

K-means clustering with word vectors

  • Method: Finally, we attempted to transform the tags into a subset of more meaningful tags using word embeddings and k-means clustering. Generally, the process involved transforming the tags into tokens (individual words), then refining by part-of-speech (noun, verb, adjective), and finally lemmatizing the tokens (“blue shirts” becomes “blue shirt”). From there, we transformed all the tokens into a custom Word2Vec embedding model based on adding the vectors of each resulting token array. We created a label array and a vector array of each tag in the dataset, then ran k-means with 10 percent of the total count of the tags as the value for number of centroids. At first we tested on 30,000 tags and obtained reasonable results.
    Once k-means had completed, we pulled all of the centroids and obtained their nearest relative from the custom Word2Vec model, then we assigned the tags to their centroid category in the main dataset.
    Tag Tokens Tag Pos Tag Lemm. Categorization
    [‘beach’, ‘photographs’] [(‘beach’, ‘NN’), (‘photographs’, ‘NN’)] [‘beach’, ‘photograph’] beach photo
    [‘seaside’, ‘photographs’] [(‘seaside’, ‘NN’), (‘photographs’, ‘NN’)] [‘seaside’, ‘photograph’] beach photo
    [‘coastal’, ‘photographs’] [(‘coastal’, ‘JJ’), (‘photographs’, ‘NN’)] [‘coastal’, ‘photograph’] beach photo
    [‘seaside’, ‘photographs’] [(‘seaside’, ‘NN’), (‘photographs’, ‘NN’)] [‘seaside’, ‘photograph’] beach photo
    [‘seaside’, ‘posters’] [(‘seaside’, ‘NN’), (‘posters’, ‘NNS’)] [‘seaside’, ‘poster’] beach photo
    [‘coast’, ‘photographs’] [(‘coast’, ‘NN’), (‘photographs’, ‘NN’)] [‘coast’, ‘photograph’] beach photo
    [‘beach’, ‘photos’] [(‘beach’, ‘NN’), (‘photos’, ‘NNS’)] [‘beach’, ‘photo’] beach photo

    The Categorization column above was the centroid selected by Kmeans. Notice how it handled the matching of “seaside” to “beach” and “coastal” to “beach.”

  • Benefits: This method seemed to do a good job of finding associations between the tags and their categories that were more semantic than character-driven. “Blue shirt” might be matched to “clothing.” This was obviously not possible without the semantic relationships found within the vector space.
  • Limitations: Ultimately, the chief limitation that we encountered was trying to run k-means on the full two million tags while ending up with 200,000 categories (centroids). Sklearn for Python allows for multiple concurrent jobs, but only across the initialization of the centroids, which in this case was 11 — meaning that even if you ran on a 60-core processor, the number of concurrent jobs was limited by the number of initialization, which in this case, was again 11. We tried PCA (principal component analysis) to reduce the vector sizes (300 to 10) but the results were overall poor. Finally, because embeddings are generally built based on probabilistic closeness of terms in the corpus on which they were trained, there were matches that you could understand why they matched, but would obviously not have been the correct category (eg “19th century art” was picked as a category for “18th century art”). Finally, context matters and the word embeddings obviously suffer from understanding the difference between “duck” (the animal) and “duck” (the action).

Bringing it all together

Using a combination of the methods above, we were able to develop a series of methodology confidence scores that could be applied to any tag in our dataset, generating a heuristic for how to consider each tag going forward. These were case-level strategies to determine the appropriate methodology. We denoted these as follows:

  • Good Tags: This mostly started as our “do not touch” list of terms which already received traffic from Google. After some confirmation exercises, the list was expanded to include unique terms with rankings potential, commercial appeal, and unique product sets to deliver to customers. For example, a heuristic for this category might look like this:

    1. If tag is identical to Wikipedia entry and
    2. Tag + product has estimated search traffic and
    3. Tag has CPC value then
    4. Mark as “Good Tag”
  • Okay Tags: This represents terms that we would like to retain associated with products and their descriptions, as they could be used within the site to add context to a page, but do not warrant their own indexable space. These tags were mapped to be redirected or canonicaled to a “master,” but still included on a page for topical relevancy, natural language queries, long-tail searches, etc. For example, a heuristic for this category might look like this:
    1. If tag is identical to Wikipedia entry but
    2. Tag + product has no search volume
    3. Vector tag matches a “Good Tag”
    4. Mark as “Okay Tag” and redirect to “Good Tag”
  • Bad Tags to Remap: This grouping represents bad tags that were mapped to a replacement. These tags would literally be deleted and replaced with a corrected version. These were most often misspellings or terms discovered through stemming/lemmatization/etc. where a dominant replacement was identified. For example, a heuristic for this category might look like this:
    1. If tag is not identical to either Wikipedia or vector space and
    2. Tag + product has no search volume
    3. Tag has no volume
    4. Tag Wikipedia entry matches a “Good Tag”
    5. Mark as “Bad Tag to Remap”
  • Bad Tags to Remove: These are tags that were flagged as bad tags that could not be related to a good tag. Essentially, these needed to be removed from our database completely. This final group represented the worst of the worst in the sense that the existence of the tag would likely be considered a negative indicator of site quality. Considerations were made for character length of tags, lack of Wikipedia entries, inability to map to word vectors, no previous traffic, no predicted traffic or CPC value, etc. In many cases, these were nonsense phrases.

All together, we were able to reduce the number of tags by 87.5%, consolidating the site down to a reasonable, targeted, and useful set of tags which properly organized the corpus without wasting either crawl budget or limiting user engagement.

Conclusions: Advanced white hat SEO

It was nearly nine years ago that a well-known black hat SEO called out white hat SEO as being simple, stale, and bereft of innovation. He claimed that “advanced white hat SEO” was an oxymoron — it simply did not exist. I was proud at the time to respond to his claims with a technique Hive Digital was using which I called “Second Page Poaching.” It was a great technique, but it paled in comparison to the sophistication of methods we now see today. I never envisioned either the depth or breadth of technical proficiency which would develop within the white hat SEO community for dealing with unique but persistent problems facing webmasters.

I sincerely doubt most of the readers here will have the specific tag sprawl problem described above. I’d be lucky if even a few of you have run into it. What I hope is that this post might disabuse us of any caricatures of white hat SEO as facile or stagnant and inspire those in our space to their best work.