Posted by Erica McGillivray

It's MozCon time! At SEOmoz, we're proud to announce that tickets for this year's MozCon are on sale now, and our planning is going full-steam ahead. You'll want to put this event on your calendar now.
 
Join us for a three day deep-dive into advanced search engine optimization, social media, conversion rate optimization, content marketing, analytics, and more.  
 

MozCon 2012 July 25th – July 27th, 2012 at the Westin in Seattle

$899 $699 PRO Members
$1,499 $1,299 Non-PRO
Register for MozCon Today!
 

Amazing Content from Industry Leaders

Want to learn something that will blow your mind with awesome? MozCon is the place for you. 

"MozCon is like Disneyland for SEOs, jampacked with super-geeky SEO Magic Tricks, and great chances to meet and say hello to others in the search industry." — Pete Campbell

Richard Baxter at MozCon 2011
 

Actionable Tips and Deep Insights

"MozCon is the best online marketing conference I have ever attended. The content is well-rounded and advanced." — Bekka Palmer, Thunder SEO

Wil Reynolds and the audience at MozCon 2011
 
We're working hard with our speakers to craft incredible talks just for you. Some of the topics we've been bouncing around, include:
  • SEO and Google+
  • Community as an Inbound Marketing Channel
  • Cutting Edge Web Spam Research
  • New Forms of Conversion Rate Optimization
  • Link Analysis through APIs
  • SEO Project Management
Roger Mozbot's busy making the schedule and checking it twice. We'll have our full agenda up soon, and you'll find it here.
 

Three Days and One Amazing Experience

"MozCon 2011 in Seattle was excellent! The new knowledge was plentiful, the planning was primo, and the food was incredible – tons of vegetarian options and lots of snack times! Frequent breaks were necessary to refresh our brains every few hours so we could cram more giant piles of information in." — Heather Physioc

Besides our programming, MozCon 2012 will give you the chance to meet face-to-face all the Mozzers you've been chatting with in the comments on this blog, in the answers on q&a, by email, customer service questions, or over Twitter. 
 
Grab an engineer and get a hint at a new SEOmoz product. Rickroll Jen in person, or ask Shelly about why someone drew her riding a unicorn on a whiteboard. 
 
And don't forget to hug Roger!
 
Roger makes friends!Roger and Rand high-five
Roger loves HillariRoger smiles
Roger's only set to Hugs
 
For those of you wondering about the food, have no fear! We'll provide you with breakfast and lunch all three days, appetizers/light meal Wednesday night, and food and drinks at our Thursday night party. Plus, plenty of snackage. You won't go hungry or have to fret about a meal budget.

Celebrate, Moz-Style

After a day of digesting knowledge, put down your laptop and enjoy being in the fabulous city of Seattle and getting to know those who share your passion for organic marketing. We'll be hosting a casual meet-up Wednesday night and a full-on party at the Garage Thursday night. Make some new friends and show off your bowling or pool skills.
 
Casey and Chris at MozCon 2011
 

Relax at the Westin Hotel in Downtown Seattle

MozCon goers get a discount for the Westin Hotel. And wow, do I have some awesome news for you, the Westin did a big remodel this past winter just for us! (Kidding about that last part.) All their rooms have been refreshed and upgraded. Swanky.
 
 
Plus, if you're coming from the airport, the Westin is an easy-peasy 30 minute LinkLight Rail ride away. Learn more and ditch that rental car.
 
What's also amazing is that you're within walking distance of Seattle's legendary Pike Place Market, Elliot Bay Waterfront, and… the Mozplex!

"I've been passionately involved in SEO/SEM for nearly a decade, and I can honestly say that MozCon was the most educational 3 days that I've ever experienced in that amount of time. There was a wealth of tangible information and insight that I'm going to be able to utilize in all aspects of SEO. MozCon was simply inspiring." — Greg Bebezas, OpenText Corporation

Don't Delay as the Early Bird Gets the Best Priced Worm

We listened to your feedback. This year, we're selling early bird priced tickets for 30 days. (Until Wednesday, April 20th at 11:59pm PDT.) 
 
Our early bird pricing will be the largest discount on any ticket to MozCon 2012. If you're looking to save a dime or $200, in this case, purchase your ticket now.
 
Register for MozCon Today!
 
But you don't have to take my word for it…
 
Would your recommend MozCon? Overwhelmingly, YES.

"I walked into MozCon a great SEO and walked out a thought leader." — Mike King, iPullRank

Photos by Rudy Lopez

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

In doing some research for a new article, I recently came across a 12-year-old website that has quite a few broken external links, especially on its “links” page. Evidently this site hasn’t been updated in a long time and nobody has bothered to check for broken links.

Posted by psharp

“It’s official, Google is broken and my career is over. Time to hide under my desk.”

A bit extreme? Yes. But, if you saw what I saw a month ago, your reaction would’ve been exactly the same. Let me explain.

It was 5:55 pm and I was getting ready to go home after a good day’s work at Practice Fusion. “Let’s just do a quick Google search for Practice Fusion so I can give myself a high five before I head home.” That’s when the panic started.

Here’s what my non-personalized search for Practice Fusion pulled up in position #1:

Do you see what I see?! Ranking #1 for the term Practice Fusion isn’t our high-converting, very helpful homepage….it’s our rarely looked at, poor converting Executive Team page! OMG to the extreme! Plus, where the heck did our Google+ page go?

First thought: “Breathe. Crawl out from under desk.”

Second thought: “Maybe this has something to do with the fact that Google knows I’m in San Francisco.”

“Let’s change that to ‘United States’ and see what happens.”

Aww, that’s more like it. Seeing these results is like being reunited with a best friend, or some really good hot chocolate – it’s warm and soothes the soul. PracticeFusion.com is back on top, and our Google+ profile is showing up. Nice.

Then I tried changing my city to Oakland, Palo Alto, Mountain View, and New York. Every time I got my good results. Why the heck was the location of San Francisco giving me such a hard time?

“Are you responsible for this Lou Seal?!”

“Okay. Good.”

Still in a bit of disbelief I wandered over to Google Analytics to check a few things. First, I wanted to see where natural search visitors to our Executive Team page were coming from. Were most of them from San Francisco?

Short answer: yup.

Next, I wanted to see if the natural search visitors to the Executive Team page were coming in from the Practice Fusion keyword. It turns out that ALL visitors to the Executive Team page came in by searching for Practice Fusion.

Clearly, something is happening. Or, as Martin Lawrence would say…

Normally I’m all for Google local results, but this just seems wrong. Why would someone in San Francisco want to see our Executive Team page over our home page? It seems like a really bad user experience, especially since the Executive Team page has less authority (by far) than our home page.

Executive Page

Home Page

Why was Google doing this? Was it something I said?

Apparently, Google thinks that the Executive Team page will be a good result for people in San Francisco. But, why do they think this? The answer to this question is the same as the answer to “How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll pop?”

“The world may never know.”

However, after a lot of research, here’s my best guess. And, believe me, it’s a bit surprising.

Under certain conditions, Google will swap a sitelink for the main search result.

Yup, I said it.

Here’s how I tested it.

On February 7th I went into the “Sitelinks” section of Google Webmaster Tools and demoted the Executive Team page as a sitelink for our homepage URL. I was working a hunch.

After a few weeks went by, I looked at the results.

Visits to the Executive Team Page from San Francisco

As you can see, about a week and a half after demoting the Executive Team page from sitelinks, it no longer shows up as the first result (even if you’re in San Francisco) and the visits to that page go to zero.

This must mean that Google feels comfortable bumping a sitelink up to the main search result!

But why bump up the Executive Team Page? It’s only a guess, but it looks like it’s because of the sites linking to that page. Of the external sites with links pointing to the Executive Team page, 60% of them have “San Francisco” at least once on the page. Of the sites linking to our home page, only 29% of them mention “San Francisco”. Perhaps this is influencing Google.

Conclusions

  • Under certain conditions, Google will bump a sitelink up to the main search result. Potentially, and sneakily, costing you conversions.
  • One of those conditions might be the content of the sites linking to you and the location of the person searching.

Suggestion

Look in analytics to find the landing pages for your branded searches. If they’re not going to your home page, it might have something to do with your sitelinks. Check it out, you might just save yourself some conversions.

 

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

WebmasterWorld Members discuss what makes good quality content from Google’s point of view.

At the end of last year, Apple revealed it had $97.6bn in cash. It expects to use $45bn over the next three years.

Posted by Carson Ward

SEO (and inbound marketing) consultants, agencies, and in-house professionals rely upon their creativity to solve problems every single day. Just compare an experienced SEO to an industry thought leader—or a failed piece of linkbait to a fantastic piece—to see the difference that creativity makes. Nowhere is creativity more important than in the creation of content.

 
“Content quality matters a lot. So a lot of time, in the SEO world, people will say, ‘Well, you have to have good, unique, useful content.’ Not enough. Sorry. It's just not enough. There are too many people making too much amazing stuff on the Internet for ‘good…’”
 
 
Content rarely attracts natural links by merely being useful, but by being unique and creative. Every good link-loved piece of content has a creative idea, and every creative idea comes from brainstorming. Whether spontaneous or planned, individual or group-based, brainstorming is nothing less than producing unique or novel solutions that help us fix problems and achieve our goals. 
 
So, how can we be more creative?
 
Science.
 
XKCD - Stand back, I'm going to try science!
Courtesy of XKCD
 

Enhancing Individual Creativity

 
Many of us have been brought up with the myth that creativity is something you either have or you don’t. Fortunately, that’s not entirely true. A “lack of creativity” may in fact have a lot more to do with bad habits your brain has gotten into – and can get out of. 
 

Love the Obstacles, Define Constraints

The best advice I can start with is also the most counter-intuitive: set constraints. Don’t think about everything – think about one thing. Research indicates that specific obstacles stimulate our brain and our creativity1  – probably because we are wired to overcome obstacles and solve problems.
 
Release from Deception Dan Webb - Shroud
Artists like Francesco Queirolo, Dan Webb, and William Shakespeare realize the constraints of their medium, perhaps allowing them to sculpt marble into net, wood into a flowing bag, and rigid iambic pentameter into Romeo and Juliet.
 
When you start thinking about it, putting constraints on brainstorming makes perfect sense. Brainstorming linkbait with a broad directive like, “brainstorm ideas about electronics” is extremely difficult. When you start with broad topics, your mind spends (or in this case, wastes) a lot of time trying to determine what information to filter out, while tending to bounce between topics that you think about often or have thought about recently. You’ll have much better results by starting with specific obstacles and questions, such as “how can we show people that (iPhones/Android phones) are the way to go?”
 
Set your linkbait constraints before you even try to brainstorm: budget, medium, tone, topic, etc. 
 

Get Motivated, Invest Personally

Unsurprisingly, people are more creative and come up with better ideas when motivated, especially when that motivation is intrinsic2. And that’s the tricky part: we can’t just flip a “care more” switch. There are certainly things that an organization can do to – and we’ll discuss some of them later – but my two suggestions revolve around the fact that anonymity breeds mediocre creativity.3
 
First, we are likely to be motivated working for people that we actually talk to. Building barriers between SEOs and clients might make calls less awkward, but it can also reduce the SEO’s intrinsic motivation. Next, consider how to get your name(s) on work and ideas. I recently noted here that my intrinsic motivation to create great content soars when my real name is attached to something. When I created anonymous content on an old site, the content was at best mediocre. With my name attached, I want to make it better and unique.
 

Learn and Try New Things

Yes, we should learn about marketing, design, and writing – but we should also learn more about the people involved and the industry they work in. It should come as no surprise that subject-matter expertise and knowledge lead to creativity.4
 
Don’t just learn about new things – do new things! People who are open to new experiences tend to perform better on creative tests and achievements in their lives.5 6 7 Get used to breaking out of your routine. Meet people from different cultures, learn new skills (Photoshop? Juggling?), and try that new brand of ketchup! The worst thing that could happen is that you could become more satisfied with your life.8
 

Take Care of Yourself

It’s always important to take care of yourself and stay healthy, but here are some things that you can do personally to make yourself better at coming up with ideas for linkbait (or anything else):
  • Get plenty of sleep at night: REM sleep, specifically, makes us more creative. Preventing interruptions to deep sleep is, therefore, just as important as getting enough sleep.9 10
  • Exercise: Exercise improves your health and mood, but it also independently enhances creativity.11;
  • Mood: For the type of tasks common to business and online marketing, being in a good mood can make us more creative. Never be apathetic.12 13 14 15
Companies who rely heavily on employee creativity may do well to encourage and/or fund employee visits to sleep clinics and gyms. Taking responsibility for our own creativity, however, sounds a lot like taking responsibility for our own happiness. 
 
When trying to brainstorm solutions to problems and useful content/linkbait strategies, the answer is rarely to “do more work.” The seemingly paradoxical, yet research-backed truth is this: taking the time to sleep and work out gives us more free time by making our minds more efficient all day.
 

Enhancing Group Creativity and Efficacy

When you make an individual more creative, you make the group that he/she is a part of more creative. Additionally, the group can have a strong positive effect on the individual’s creativity.16 One key to brainstorming creative linkbait (or anything else) is leveraging this powerful and mutually-reinforcing relationship between group and individual creativity.
 

Brainstorm Individually, Discuss Together

Brainstorming with others yields ideas that we may have never thought of on our own, but it can also slow us down from running with our own ideas. In fact, people tend to come up with more ideas on their own when compared with a traditional brainstorming group due to the “production blocking” effect of group work.17
 
The solution (and this is important) is to generate linkbait and strategy ideas by harnessing both individual and group creativity.
  1. Get everyone together and explain the problem or goal. Remember what we learned about constraints.
  2. Have individuals write down their own ideas, and then present their ideas one-by-one.
  3. After (and only after) everyone has presented their ideas, discuss them all as a group.
  4. If you need to choose or prioritize ideas, have each group member write or send their own rankings for each idea.
Groups following this process (called “nominal groups” in research) routinely out-perform even the best-run “traditional” brainstorming groups.18 19 20
 
It would probably be wise to plan brainstorming at least a day in advance and encourage team members to get plenty of sleep and learn a little bit about the topic, as we know that this makes the individual more creative.
 

Meet in Person, Use Large Groups

Groupthink is your enemy in group brainstorming, especially if your brainstorming group is large (and large groups do usually come up with more and better ideas21 22 23). Also, remote meetings are a bad idea. Those people calling in tend to add less to the group, probably because they are less engaged and more distant. Research also shows that electronic brainstorming (with anonymous or masked idea generation and voting) is less productive.24 25;
 
Where possible, group brainstorming should occur in person, with up to 12 participants for important brainstorming sessions. 
 

Create Diverse Groups

Imagine that you’ve just duplicated yourself, along with all of your memories and experiences. 
 
“I was just thinking the same thing…”
 
You would, no doubt, get along with your other self, but you would be unlikely to brainstorm ideas that you (or you #2) couldn’t have thought of separately. Perhaps this is why research indicates that groups that are diverse are more creative.26 27
 
When forming a group to brainstorm the next set of juicy linkbait ideas, we would be wise to include people of various ages from diverse backgrounds with different interests and experiences.
 

Build a Creative Company Culture

I’ve chosen to focus on things that everyone in an organization can do to enhance their own creativity and the creativity of their teams or brainstorming groups. In the future, I would like to write about what companies and their managers can do to make their companies more creative. A good start would be reading Teresa Amabile's How to Kill Creativity.
 
By working at Distilled, I have instantly become more creative. Not only am I intrinsically driven to work with the company long-term, but the company encourages and supports innovation. I remember staring at Will with a sense of confusion as he told us to “fail faster.” What he understands is that to be a creative and innovative company, you have to take (smart) risks. Icarus flew too close to the sun and fell hard and fast – but the Wright Brothers defied gravity in a way that seemed impossible.
 
Never underestimate the impact of company culture on creativity. Companies that encourage, support, and invest in innovation can prevent themselves from turning into slow, boring, and risk-averse corporations.
 
I am by no means claiming to be the world’s leading expert on creativity research, but I have taken experts’ research to uncover actionable ways to solve problems more efficiently and effectively. Creativity is so much more than artistic originality or idea generation – it’s a necessary element to solving problems and achieving defined goals. 
 
What do you do to enhance your or your teams’ creativity?
 

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

“…profile pages that have been redesigned to look ‘more beautiful’ and to display users’ influencers more prominently.”

Matt Cutts: “We don’t normally pre-announce changes but there is something we are working in the last few months and hope to release it in the next months or few weeks. We are trying to level the playing field a bit. All those people doing, for lack of a better word, over optimization or overly SEO – versus those making great content and great site.”

Posted by randfish

Google's Search Suggest automatically recommends popular searches as you type your query into the search field. Let's examine how Google determines these results and what factors go into influencing them.

In this week's Whiteboard Friday, Rand suggests how you can use these instant recommendations to leverage your brand, or business. Please leave you comments below with your own suggestions!



As part of the test mentioned in the video, we'd love to have your help running the query "Does Anyone Watch Whiteboard Friday"

Does Anyone Watch Whiteboard Friday

We'll watch the results for search suggest/instant and see what happens. Here they are just prior to publication of the blog post:

Does Anyone Search Suggest

Video Transcription

Howdy, SEOmoz fans! Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we're talking about the very exciting topic of search suggest, also known as Google Instant or Google Suggest. Bing actually does this as well. So do search engines like DuckDuckGo. Even places like Quora and Wikipedia are starting to do this so that as you type a query, so I started typing "Does anyone . . . " and Google has suggested things to me that perhaps I might want to search for. Curious things like, "Does anyone still use MySpace?" Well, maybe I am interested in that. "Does anyone use MySpace anymore?" Well, thank you, Google, that's quite repetitive of you. "Does anyone live in Greenland?" Well, yes, there are at least a few people. "Does anyone use Google+?" Nope, nobody. I'm just kidding. Hopefully, at least all of you watching Whiteboard Friday are using Google+.

These suggestions are interesting from two perspectives. Number one, they're interesting because sometimes negative things can show up in here as you start searching for a business name. Things like scam or fraud or, I don't know, illegal activity or criminal or something like that, bad stuff can come up. Occasionally, SEOs will receive calls from clients or potential clients seeking to have that altered. Or you might be trying to control the reputation for your own business or your own name, making sure that search suggest is controlled so that the queries that show up in here, the phrases that are suggested by Google, are good ones.

The second thing, of course, that is really, really interesting is thinking about this from a branding perspective. So I'll give you an exciting example. For years and years, if you started a search, let's make our own little search box here, if I started a search for SEO, the first thing that would come up, at least in most of the United States, was Seoul. Seoul, Korea, which is the capital there and the most common flight destination. Now, that's interesting, but there were other things that would come up – SEO book, SEO guide. Then as SEOmoz started to become a brand, SEOmoz would become suggested in there, which we thought was tremendously exciting and we really liked that. Then, over time, that actually moved up, and today, at least in most of the United States, although interestingly enough not Seattle because we have a lot of Korean-Americans here in Seattle who fly back and forth to Seoul and I think we have a direct flight as well, so Seattle has a lot of searches for Seoul compared to most of the rest of the country. SEOmoz is now the number one suggested result under SEO, which resulted when that shift happened. You could actually see the search traffic, if this was the line in our analytics for how much traffic we were getting for our branded keyword, that actually shot up within a couple days of that becoming the number one term. It went from, if I remember correctly, this was about a year and a half, two years go, it went from number three to number one, which is super cool. Really, really interesting stuff. This search suggest is influenceable, and it is something that over time through branding you can change the words and phrases that show up here.

Let's talk about the signals that Google is using inside of search suggest. So, first off, query volume. If lots and lots of people start searching for "Does anyone else watch Whiteboard Friday," how about we all search for that. Wouldn't that be cool? Should we do a test? Let's do a test! Oh, that's a great idea! All right. So try searching "Does anyone watch Whiteboard Friday?" I tell you what. I will Tweet some links and share some stuff on Google+, and we'll see if we can't get some people searching for this particular phrase and we'll track how many. I'll use a bitly link and share it. In fact, I'll put the bitly link in this Whiteboard Friday so that we can actually test this. What you'll see, what you'll probably see, is with a few hindered to a couple thousand searches from across the US, about 50% of SEOmoz's traffic is here inside the US, folks who watch Whiteboard Friday, and the other 50% is from other countries all around the world, which is awesome. What you'll see is that may start to show up inside of these results over time. Now this is happening because query volume is something that the engines look at and they see, hey, people are searching for this. Let's start to suggest it.

Now, be very careful, because Google did, in fact, have even a particular relationship with Amazon's Mechanical Turk a few years ago. There was a representative at Mechanical Turk who was contacted by Google and Google said, basically, hey we want to know if anyone's asking for search suggest influencing, that kind of thing. Google has gotten a lot more sophisticated about this, so you can bet that today they're probably using things like unique verifiable accounts, independent users. You know, if I go and search from my computer 100 times, that's probably not going to make a big difference, but if 500 people all around the Seattle area all start searching, you can bet that "Does anyone watch Whiteboard Friday?" will probably show up pretty highly in these results at least in this geographic area.

Which gets to the second point, the second input, and that is the geography of the searchers themselves. Now interestingly we actually ran a test here at SEOmoz a while back, where I had about 1000 people around the world search for a phrase, and that was "travel blog" and then the word that my wife's blog actually "Everywhereist." I wanted to see if search suggest actually had an influence on ranking position. So, essentially, does putting the brand name here, will that bump up the rankings of a site? It did not appear to, at least in this example. But what it did do is show me that very quickly this would pop into search suggest, and it popped into geographic areas where I had lots of followers or friends who searched for that, which is really, really interesting. It suggests strongly that the geography is influential but that you don't necessarily need that many users searching for a particular phrase in order to get it included in here.

Now, obviously, there is black and gray hat things you could do with this. Don't do that. Don't try it. You're going to get in trouble. Google obviously does some scrubbing of these results anyway, so it is going to get caught very quickly. But if you can naturally do it, through branding, through product naming, through social sharing, through content marketing, through all sorts of forms of inbound marketing, then this is something you can change.

Finally, and interestingly, the keyword a phrase mentions, and what I mean by mentions is actually mentions on the Web. So particularly in news and fresh content seeing the word, right, seeing the word "travel blog Everywhereist" appear or seeing the word "Does anyone watch Whiteboard Friday?" appear, so this video for example, as this blog post goes out and the phrase "Does anyone watch Whiteboard Friday?" appear across the Web as RSS feeders pick it up and people start searching for it and all those kinds of things. That will influence the search suggest as well.

I am betting that Google does something where they verify both geographically and through unique users, and they look for keyword phrases and mentions. So if something is being searched for, but no one is talking about it on the Web, that might be a little odd. But if something is in the news, especially in news headlines, and it's popular, it's in lots of sources, and it's getting search volume, then it's probably going to make its way into search suggest.

Hopefully this Whiteboard Friday has helped you to understand how Google is doing this stuff, and I look forward to seeing you again next week. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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