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The Professional’s Guide to SEO: Advanced SEO Strategy Sneak Preview

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The Professional’s Guide to SEO: Advanced SEO Strategy Sneak Preview

If you know Moz, you know the Beginner’s Guide to SEO. It’s the resource marketers the world over have used to learn SEO and get a taste for its potential and power. And while we offer a delectable buffet of guides in our content smörgåsbord, there hasn’t been one comprehensive resource to serve as a follow-up for those who’ve mastered the beginner level. That’s why we’ve developed the Professional’s Guide to SEO: a guide that will help folks take the next step, preparing them with all the baseline knowledge they need to practice SEO in a professional capacity.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing chapters and/or chapter excerpts here on the blog, with the full guide releasing at the end. Yes, we want to whet your appetite, but we’d also love to hear your feedback — if there’s something you know in your heart of hearts we should cover, get at us on Twitter (@moz) and let us know!

First up, we’re sharing a portion of our chapter on advanced SEO strategy. Brought to you by the inimitable Kavi Kardos, Moz alumni and SEO Manager at Automox, this chapter looks at getting started with a next-step strategy, tactics to implement, and resources for leveling up.

Bon appétit!

Advanced SEO Strategy

Getting started: SEO priorities & plausibility

In the beginning stages, it’s easy to audit a site and come up with long lists of pie-in-the-sky ideas for content, link building, technical, and so on. Most sites, especially those that have never been handled by an advanced SEO, need a lot of work, and the new strategist arriving on the scene often gets pulled in several directions by various teams seeking their expertise.

Prioritization of the tasks you’ll undertake and the tactics you’ll employ is a vital first step in developing an advanced SEO strategy. And it’s important to work on this step thoughtfully — ask questions, be realistic, and involve as many stakeholders as you’re able to meet with. A misstep in the prioritization stage can throw off your schedule for the whole quarter and cause important tasks to fall through the cracks.

Try a SWOT analysis

It may feel old-fashioned, but the classic SWOT analysis (identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) is a great way to frame your initial site audit because it will familiarize you with both the website itself and the competitive landscape in which it lives. As you explore both, jot down your thoughts in a Google Doc that you can return to whenever you discover something new.

  • Strengths: What is already working well? What high-value terms does the site already rank for? What high-authority sites already link to you? Does the site already score well in page speed and performance tests or avoid other common technical snafus?

  • Weaknesses: What is the site lacking? Is it difficult to navigate? Are its sitemaps and robots.txt file messy? Is the organization lacking insight because it doesn’t make use of basic reporting tools like Google Analytics? Does it have a lackluster content strategy?

  • Opportunities: What’s on the horizon that could be capitalized on as part of your strategy? Is there a highly valuable asset that’s already been created and is now begging for distribution? Is a tough competitor lagging behind in a certain content area?

  • Threats: What’s on the horizon that could be harmful to your search visibility? Is there an up-and-coming competitor with an obvious wealth of SEO resources? Is there a platform migration looming? Is the site likely to fall victim to the next algorithm update?

Being conscious of the site’s current standings, both in the SERPs and in terms of its overall health, will help you prioritize tactics based on urgency. The most dire threats should usually be addressed first, while minor weaknesses can often be moved to your “nice to have” list.

Assess the organization’s search maturity

Regardless of how urgent the need is or how simple a task seems to you, the difficulty of getting your SEO recommendations implemented will vary from organization to organization. The plausibility of executing your strategy depends largely on the organization’s search maturity, or how fully they understand and integrate SEO at all levels of the business.

The concept of search maturity was developed by Heather Physioc of VMLY&R, and her guidance on diagnosing where your organization falls along the maturity spectrum is an absolute must-read at this stage in the strategic planning process. Not only does using this model help you solidify your recommendations; it also makes it more likely that those recommendations will see the light of day because it allows you to communicate with stakeholders on their level.

How much buy-in can you expect from your department, your direct manager or client contact, and the rest of the larger team all the way up to the C-suite? If SEO has been socialized across the organization and is already a part of the company culture, you can probably expect your recommendations to be met with excitement. If not, you may experience some pushback when asking for necessary resources. At an agency, you’ll be dealing with the confines of existing SEO packages as well as the amount of time you’re expected to spend on each client each month. As an in-house SEO, you may have more autonomy but must often answer to more stakeholders and navigate more red tape.

How difficult will it be to get recommended changes implemented? If the content team has an existing calendar that tends to be jam-packed, new assets may not get slotted in as quickly as you’d like. If the web devs are slammed, working back-end fixes into their sprint cycle can be challenging.

What resources will be available for SEO? Resources come in many forms, and the most scarce of them tend to be headcount and tools. Are there writers on staff who are capable of creating best-in-class content? Does the marketing team have dedicated developers, or are the folks with access to the site’s code in a totally separate department? What tool subscriptions already exist, and how much budget is available to add to your tool kit?

Create an impact vs. effort matrix

Once you know which areas of the site need the most help the fastest, it’s time to make a list of recommended tactics and further prioritize that list by likely impact weighed against required effort, based on what you learned in the previous step.

Create a matrix like the one above, perhaps in a meeting with relevant stakeholders. The likely impact of a tactic could be small, medium, or large, and the same scale will apply to the level of effort required to complete it. Plot each planned tactic into its own cell. Your list of tactics for the quarter, the year, or whatever time frame is dictated by your organization can include granular tasks as well as larger-scale projects — just make sure you’ve broken down any bigger ideas into pieces that make sense within the plot.

Taking urgency into account, tackle the tactics that will have the highest impact and require the lowest effort first. You may also want to set in motion some more demanding, high-impact tactics at kickoff if they can be chipped away at simultaneously. Low-impact, high-effort tactics can often be reevaluated.


Want more news about the Professional’s Guide to SEO? Don’t miss any of our future sneak peeks — make sure you’re signed up for Moz Blog email updates!

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45 Free Content Writing Tools to Love [for Writing, Editing & Content Creation]

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45 Free Content Writing Tools to Love [for Writing, Editing & Content Creation]

Creating content isn’t always a walk in the park. (In fact, it can sometimes feel more like trying to swim against the current.)

While other parts of business and marketing are becoming increasingly automated, content creation is still a very manual job. (more…)

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How data clean rooms might help keep the internet open

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How data clean rooms might help keep the internet open

Are data clean rooms the solution to what IAB CEO David Cohen has called the “slow-motion train wreck” of addressability? Voices at the IAB will tell you that they have a big role to play.

“The issue with addressability is that once cookies go away, and with the loss of identifiers, about 80% of the addressable market will become unknown audiences which is why there is a need for privacy-centric consent and a better consent-value exchange,” said Jeffrey Bustos, VP, measurement, addressability and data at the IAB.

“Everyone’s talking about first-party data, and it is very valuable,” he explained, “but most publishers who don’t have sign-on, they have about 3 to 10% of their readership’s first-party data.” First-party data, from the perspective of advertisers who want to reach relevant and audiences, and publishers who want to offer valuable inventory, just isn’t enough.

Why we care. Two years ago, who was talking about data clean rooms? The surge of interest is recent and significant, according to the IAB. DCRs have the potential, at least, to keep brands in touch with their audiences on the open internet; to maintain viability for publishers’ inventories; and to provide sophisticated measurement capabilities.

How data clean rooms can help. DCRs are a type of privacy-enhancing technology that allows data owners (including brands and publishers) to share customer first-party data in a privacy-compliant way. Clean rooms are secure spaces where first-party data from a number of sources can be resolved to the same customer’s profile while that profile remains anonymized.

In other words, a DCR is a kind of Switzerland — a space where a truce is called on competition while first-party data is enriched without compromising privacy.

“The value of a data clean room is that a publisher is able to collaborate with a brand across both their data sources and the brand is able to understand audience behavior,” said Bestos. For example, a brand selling eye-glasses might know nothing about their customers except basic transactional data — and that they wear glasses. Matching profiles with a publisher’s behavioral data provides enrichment.

“If you’re able to understand behavioral context, you’re able to understand what your customers are reading, what they’re interested in, what their hobbies are,” said Bustos. Armed with those insights, a brand has a better idea of what kind of content they want to advertise against.

The publisher does need to have a certain level of first-party data for the matching to take place, even if it doesn’t have a universal requirement for sign-ins like The New York Times. A publisher may be able to match only a small percentage of the eye-glass vendor’s customers, but if they like reading the sports and arts sections, at least that gives some directional guidance as to what audience the vendor should target.

Dig deeper: Why we care about data clean rooms

What counts as good matching? In its “State of Data 2023” report, which focuses almost exclusively on data clean rooms, concern is expressed that DCR efficacy might be threatened by poor match rates. Average match rates hover around 50% (less for some types of DCR).

Bustos is keen to put this into context. “When you are matching data from a cookie perspective, match rates are usually about 70-ish percent,” he said, so 50% isn’t terrible, although there’s room for improvement.

One obstacle is a persistent lack of interoperability between identity solutions — although it does exist; LiveRamp’s RampID is interoperable, for example, with The Trade Desk’s UID2.

Nevertheless, said Bustos, “it’s incredibly difficult for publishers. They have a bunch of identity pixels firing for all these different things. You don’t know which identity provider to use. Definitely a long road ahead to make sure there’s interoperability.”

Maintaining an open internet. If DCRs can contribute to solving the addressability problem they will also contribute to the challenge of keeping the internet open. Walled gardens like Facebook do have rich troves of first-party and behavioral data; brands can access those audiences, but with very limited visibility into them.

“The reason CTV is a really valuable proposition for advertisers is that you are able to identify the user 1:1 which is really powerful,” Bustos said. “Your standard news or editorial publisher doesn’t have that. I mean, the New York Times has moved to that and it’s been incredibly successful for them.” In order to compete with the walled gardens and streaming services, publishers need to offer some degree of addressability — and without relying on cookies.

But DCRs are a heavy lift. Data maturity is an important qualification for getting the most out of a DCR. The IAB report shows that, of the brands evaluating or using DCRs, over 70% have other data-related technologies like CDPs and DMPs.

“If you want a data clean room,” Bustos explained, “there are a lot of other technological solutions you have to have in place before. You need to make sure you have strong data assets.” He also recommends starting out by asking what you want to achieve, not what technology would be nice to have. “The first question is, what do you want to accomplish? You may not need a DCR. ‘I want to do this,’ then see what tools would get you to that.”

Understand also that implementation is going to require talent. “It is a demanding project in terms of the set-up,” said Bustos, “and there’s been significant growth in consulting companies and agencies helping set up these data clean rooms. You do need a lot of people, so it’s more efficient to hire outside help for the set up, and then just have a maintenance crew in-house.”

Underuse of measurement capabilities. One key finding in the IAB’s research is that DCR users are exploiting the audience matching capabilities much more than realizing the potential for measurement and attribution. “You need very strong data scientists and engineers to build advanced models,” Bustos said.

“A lot of brands that look into this say, ‘I want to be able to do a predictive analysis of my high lifetime value customers that are going to buy in the next 90 days.’ Or ‘I want to be able to measure which channels are driving the most incremental lift.’ It’s very complex analyses they want to do; but they don’t really have a reason as to why. What is the point? Understand your outcome and develop a sequential data strategy.”

Trying to understand incremental lift from your marketing can take a long time, he warned. “But you can easily do a reach and frequency and overlap analysis.” That will identify wasted investment in channels and as a by-product suggest where incremental lift is occurring. “There’s a need for companies to know what they want, identify what the outcome is, and then there are steps that are going to get you there. That’s also going to help to prove out ROI.”

Dig deeper: Failure to get the most out of data clean rooms is costing marketers money


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Ascend | DigitalMarketer

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Ascend | DigitalMarketer

At this stage, your goal is to generate repeat buys and real profits. While your entry-point offer was designed for conversions, your ascension offers should be geared for profits—because if you’re serving your customers well, they’ll want to buy again and again.

Ascension offers may be simple upsells made after that initial purchase… bigger, better solutions… or “done for you” add-ons.

So now we must ask ourselves, what is our core flagship offer and how do we continue to deliver value after the first sale is made? What is the thing that we are selling? 

How we continue to deliver value after the first sale is really important, because having upsells and cross sales gives you the ability to sell to customers you already have. It will give you higher Average Customer values, which is going to give you higher margins. Which means you can spend more to acquire new customers. 

Why does this matter? It matters because of this universal law of marketing and customer acquisition, he or she who is able and willing to spend the most to acquire a customer wins.

Very often the business with the best product messaging very often is the business that can throw the most into customer acquisition. Now there are two ways to do that.

The first way is to just raise a lot of money. The problem is if you have a lot of money, that doesn’t last forever. At some point you need economics. 

The second way, and the most timeless and predictable approach, is to simply have the highest value customers of anyone in your market. If your customers are worth more to you than they are to your competitors, you can spend more to acquire them at the same margin. 

If a customer is worth twice as much to you than it is to your competitor, you can spend twice as much trying to acquire them to make the same margin. You can invest in your customer acquisition, because your customers are investing in your business. You can invest in your customer experiences, and when we invest more into the customer we build brands that have greater value. Meaning, people are more likely to choose you over someone else, which can actually lower acquisition costs. 

Happy customers refer others to us, which is called zero dollar customer acquisition, and generally just ensures you’re making a bigger impact. You can invest more in the customer experience and customer acquisition process if you don’t have high margins. 

If you deliver a preview experience, you can utilize revenue maximizers like up sells, cross sales, and bundles. These are things that would follow up the initial sale or are combined with the initial sale to increase the Average Customer Value.

The best example of an immediate upsell is the classic McDonalds, “would you like fries with that?” You got just a burger, do you also want fries with that? 

What distinguishes an upsell from other types of follow up offers is the upsell promise, the same end result for a bigger and better end result. 

What’s your desired result when you go to McDonalds? It’s not to eat healthy food, and it’s not even to eat a small amount of food. When you go to McDonalds your job is to have a tasty, greasy, predictable inexpensive meal. No one is going there because it’s healthy, you’re going there because you want to eat good. 

It’s predictable. It’s not going to break the bank for a hamburger, neither will adding fries or a Coke. It’s the same experience, but it’s BIGGER and BETTER. 

Amazon does this all of the time with their “Customers Who Bought This Also Bought …” But this one is algorithmic. The point of a cross sell is that it is relevant to the consumer, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be aligned with the original purchase. What you don’t want to do is start someone down one path and confuse them.

You can make this process easy with Bundles and Kits. With a bundle or a kit you’re essentially saying to someone, “you can buy just one piece, or you can get this bundle that does all of these other things for a little bit more. And it’s a higher value.”

The idea behind bundles and kits is that we are adding to the primary offer, not offering them something different. We’re simply promising to get them this desired result in higher definition. 

The Elements of High-Converting Revenue Maximizers (like our bundles and kits) are:

  1. Speed

If you’re an e-Commerce business, selling a physical product, this can look like: offering free shipping for orders $X or more. We’re looking to get your customers the same desired result, but with less work for them.

  1. Automation

If you’re a furniture business, and you want to add a Revenue Maximizer, this can look like: Right now for an extra $X our highly trained employees will come and put this together for you. 

  1. Access 

People will pay for speed, they’ll pay for less work, but they will also pay for a look behind the curtain. Think about the people who pay for Backstage Passes. Your customers will pay for a VIP experience just so they can kind of see how everything works. 

Remember, the ascension stage doesn’t have to stop. Once you have a customer, you should do your best to make them a customer for life. You should continue serving them. Continue asking them, “what needs are we still not meeting” and seek to meet those needs. 

It is your job as a marketer to seek out to discover these needs, to bring these back to the product team, because that’s what’s going to enable you to fully maximize the average customer value. Which is going to enable you to have a whole lot more to spend to acquire those customers and make your job a whole lot easier. 

Now that you understand the importance of the ascend stage, let’s apply it to our examples.

Hazel & Hem could have free priority shipping over $150, a “Boutique Points” reward program with exclusive “double point” days to encourage spending, and an exclusive “Stylist Package” that includes a full outfit custom selected for the customer. 

Cyrus & Clark can retain current clients by offering an annual strategic plan, “Done for You” Marketing services that execute on the strategic plan, and the top tier would allow customers to be the exclusive company that Cyrus & Clark services in specific geographical territories.



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