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Experiment: We Removed a Major Website from Google Search, for Science!

Posted by Cyrus-Shepard

The folks at Groupon surprised us earlier this summer when they reported the results of an experiment that showed that up to 60% of direct traffic is organic.

In order to accomplish this, Groupon de-indexed their site, effectively removing themselves from Google search results. That's crazy talk!

Of course, we knew we had to try this ourselves.

We rolled up our sleeves and chose to de-index Followerwonk, both for its consistent Google traffic and its good analytics setup—that way we could properly measure everything. We were also confident we could quickly bring the site back into Google's results, which minimized the business risks.

(We discussed de-indexing our main site moz.com, but... no soup for you!)

We wanted to measure and test several things:

  1. How quickly will Google remove a site from its index?
  2. How much of our organic traffic is actually attributed as direct traffic?
  3. How quickly can you bring a site back into search results using the URL removal tool?

Here's what happened.

How to completely remove a site from Google

The fastest, simplest, and most direct method to completely remove an entire site from Google search results is by using the URL removal tool.

CAUTION: Removing any URLs from a search index is potentially very dangerous, and should be taken very seriously. Do not try this at home; you will not pass go, and will not collect $200!

After submitting the request, Followerwonk URLs started disappearing from Google search results in 2-3 hours.

The information needs to propagate across different data centers across the globe, so the effect can be delayed in areas. In fact, for the entire duration of the test, organic Google traffic continued to trickle in and never dropped to zero.

The effect on direct vs. organic traffic

In the Groupon experiment, they found that when they lost organic traffic, they actually lost a bunch of direct traffic as well. The Groupon conclusion was that a large amount of their direct traffic was actually organic—up to 60% on "long URLs".

At first glance, the overall amount of direct traffic to Followerwonk didn't change significantly, even when organic traffic dropped.

In fact, we could find no discrepancy in direct traffic outside the expected range.

I ran this by our contacts at Groupon, who said this wasn't totally unexpected. You see, in their experiment they saw the biggest drop in direct traffic on long URLs, defined as a URL that is at least as long enough to be in a subfolder, like http://followerwonk.com/bio/?q=content+marketer.

For Followerwonk, the vast majority of traffic goes to the homepage and a handful of other URLs. This means we didn't have a statistically significant sample size of long URLs to judge the effect. For the long URLs we were able to measure, the results were nebulous.

Conclusion: While we can't confirm the Groupon results with our outcome, we can't discount them either.

It's quite likely that a portion of your organic traffic is attributed as direct. This is because of different browsers, operating systems and user privacy settings can potentially block referral information from reaching your website.

Bringing your site back from death

After waiting 2 hours, we deleted the request. Within a few hours all traffic returned to normal. Whew!

Does Google need to recrawl the pages?

If the time period is short enough, and you used the URL removal tool, apparently not.

In the case of Followerwonk, Google removed over 300,000 URLs from its search results, and made them all reappear in mere hours. This suggests that the domain wasn't completely removed from Google's index, but only "masked" from appearing for a short period of time.

What about longer periods of de-indexation?

In both the Groupon and Followerwonk experiments, the sites were only de-indexed for a short period of time, and bounced back quickly.

We wanted to find out what would happen if you de-indexed a site for a longer period, like two and a half days?

I couldn't convince the team to remove any of our sites from Google search results for a few days, so I choose a smaller personal site that I often subject to merciless SEO experiments.

In this case, I de-indexed the site and didn't remove the request until three days later. Even with this longer period, all URLs returned within just a few hours of cancelling the URL removal request.

In the chart below, we revoked the URL removal request on Friday the 25th. The next two days were Saturday and Sunday, both lower traffic days.

Test #2: De-index a personal site for 3 days

Likely, the URLs were still in Google's index, so we didn't have to wait for them to be recrawled.

Here's another shot of organic traffic before and after the second experiment.

For longer removal periods, a few weeks for example, I speculate Google might drop these semi-permanently from the index and re-inclusion would comprise a much longer time period.

What we learned

  1. While a portion of your organic traffic may be attributed as direct (due to browsers, privacy settings, etc) in our case the effect on direct traffic was negligible.
  2. If you accidentally de-index your site using Google Webmaster Tools, in most cases you can quickly bring it back to life by deleting the request.
  3. Reinclusion happens quickly even after we removed a site for over 2 days. Longer than this, the result is unknown, and you could have problems getting all the pages of your site indexed again.

Further reading

Moz community member Adina Toma wrote an excellent YouMoz post on the re-inclusion process using the same technique, with some excellent tips for other, more extreme situations.

Big thanks to Peter Bray for volunteering Followerwonk for testing. You are a brave man!

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By |August 12th, 2014|MOZ|1 Comment

Beyond Search: Unifying PPC and SEO on the Display Network


Posted by anthonycoraggio

PPC and SEO go better together. By playing both sides of the coin, it's possible to make more connections and achieve greater success in your online marketing than with either alone.

That the data found in search query reporting within AdWords can be a valuable source of information in keyword research is well known. Managing the interaction effects of sharing the SERPs and capturing reinforcing real estate on the page is of course important. Smart marketers will use paid search to test landing pages and drive traffic to support experiments on the site itself. Harmony between paid and organic search is a defining feature of well executed search engine marketing.

Unfortunately, that's where the game all too often stops, leaving a world of possibilities for research and synergy waiting beyond the SERPs on the Google Display Network. Today I want to give you a couple techniques to kick your paid/organic collaboration back into gear and get more mileage from combining efforts across the disciplines.

Using the display network

If you're not familiar with it already, the GDN is essentially the other side of AdSense, offering the ability to run banner, rich media, and even video ads across the network from AdWords or Doubleclick. There are two overarching methods of targeting these ads: by context/content, and by using remarketing lists. Regardless of your chosen method, ads here are about as cheap as you can find (often under a $1 CPC), making them a prime tool for exploratory research and supporting actions.

Contextual and content-based targeting offers some simple and intuitive ways to extend existing methods of PPC and SEO interaction. By selecting relevant topics, key phrases, or even particular sites, you can place ads in the wild to test the real world resonance of taglines and imagery with people consuming content relevant to yours.

You can also take a more coordinated approach during a content marketing campaign using the same type of targeting. Enter a unique phrase from any placements you earn on pages using AdSense as a keyword target, and you can back up any article or blog post with a powerful piece of screen real estate and a call to action that is fully under your control. This approach mirrors the tactic of using paid search ads to better control organic results, and offers a direct route to conversion that usually would not otherwise exist in this environment.

Research with remarketing

Remarketing on AdWords is a powerful tool to drive conversions, but it also produces some very interesting and frequently neglected data in the proces: Your reports will tell you which other sites and pages your targeted audience visits once your ads display there. You will, of course, be restricted here to sites running AdSense or DoubleClick inventory, but this still adds up to over 2 million potential pages!

If your firm is already running remarketing, you'll be able to draw some insights from your existing data, but if you have a specific audience in mind, you may want to create a new list anyway. While it is possible to create basic remarketing lists natively in AdWords, I recommend using Google Analytics to take advantage of the advanced segmentation capabilities of the platform. Before beginning, you'll need to ensure that your AdWords account is linked and your tracking code is updated.

Creating your remarketing list

First, define who exactly the users you're interested in are. You're going to have to operationalize this definition based on the information available in GA/UA, so be concrete about it. We might, for example, want to look after users who have made multiple visits within the past two weeks to peruse our resources without completing any transactions. Where else are they bouncing off to instead of closing the deal with us?

If you've never built a remarketing list before, pop into the creation interface in GA through Admin > Remarketing > Audiences. Hit the big red '+ Audience' button to get started. You're first presented with a selection of list types:

The first three options are the simplest and least customizable, so they won't be able to parse out our theoretical non-transactors, but can be handy for this application nonetheless. The Smart List option is a relatively new and interesting option. Essentially, this will create a list based on Google's best algorithmic guess at which of your users are most likely to convert upon return to your site. The 'black box' element to Smart Lists makes it less precise as a tool here, but it's simple to test and see what it turns up.

The next three are relatively self explanatory; you can gather all users, all users to a given page, or all that have completed a conversion goal. Where it gets truly interesting is when you create your own list using segments. All the might of GA opens up here for you to apply criteria for demographics, technology/source, behavior, and even advanced conditions and sequences. Very handily, you can also import any existing segments you've created for other purposes.

In this figure, we're simply translating the example from above into some criteria that should fairly accurately pick out the individuals in which we are interested.

Setting up and going live

When you've put your list together, simply save it and hop back over to AdWords. Once it counts at least 100 users in its target audience, Google will let you show ads using it as targeting criteria. To set up the ad group, there are a few key considerations to bear in mind:

  1. You can further narrow your sample using AdWords' other targeting options, which can be very handy. For example, want to know only what sites your users visit within a certain subject category? Plug in topic targeting. I won't jump down the rabbit hole of possibilities here, but I encourage you to think creatively in using this capability.
  2. You'll of course need fill the group with some actual ads for it to work. If you can't get some applicable banner ads, you can create some simple text ads. We might be focusing on the research data to be had in this particular group, but remember that users are still going to see and potentially click these ads, so make sure you use relevant copy and direct them to an appropriate landing page.
  3. To hone down on unique and useful discoveries, consider setting some of the big generic inventory sources like YouTube as negative targets.
  4. Finally, set a reasonable CPC bid to ensure your ads show. $0.75 to $1.00 should be sufficient; if your ads aren't turning up many impressions with a decent sized list, push the number up a bit.

To check on the list size and status, you can find it in Shared Library > Audiences or back in GA. Once everything is in place, set your ads live and start pulling in some data!

Getting the data

You won't get your numbers back overnight, but over time you will collect a list of the websites your remarketed ads show on: all the pages across the vast Google Display Network that your users visit. To find it, enter AdWords and select the ad group you set up. Click the "Display Network" and "Placements" tabs:


You'll see a grid showing the domain level placements your remarketing lists have shown on, with the opportunity to customize the columns of data included. You can sift through the data on a more granular level by clicking "see details;" this will provide you with page level data for the listed domains. You're likely to see a chunk of anonymized visits; there is a workaround to track down the pages in here, but be advised it will take a fair amount of extra effort.


Tada! There you are—a lovely cross section of your target segment's online activities. Bear in mind you can use this approach with contextual, topic, or interest targeting that produces automatic placements as well.

Depending on your needs, there are of course myriad ways to make use of display advertising tools in sync with organic marketing. Have you come up with any creative methods or intriguing results? Let us know in the comments!

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By |August 11th, 2014|MOZ|2 Comments

7 lies about starting an online business that society has us believe


“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” - Henry Ford

The general public – also known as “people” – isn't always the best source of business advice or tips. This is something that the likes of Henry Ford or Steve Jobs understood long before the world had ever seen their flagship creations.

People thought that what those guys wanted to achieve couldn't be done. When horsepower was the main means of transportation, Ford introduced mechanical horsepower. When the world was crazy about going small as the main trend in cellphone design, Jobs decided to screw it and went large. They just didn't care about “common knowledge” and knew that there's much misconception floating around.

But let's go back to the 21st century and discuss online business, since it's what interests us the most.

Asking for advice is a dangerous game to play, even though it doesn't seem like it at first. For example, if you ask the right person, you will get some great guidance that will help you succeed quicker. But if you ask the wrong person, you will only get sidetracked and lose valuable months going the wrong way.

“Ignore the conventional wisdom. If everybody else is doing it one way, there's a good chance you can find your niche by going in exactly the opposite direction.” – Sam Walton

So just to help you stay on your toes, here's a list of seven common lies or misconceptions about starting an online business. Treat it as a warning sign to help you get through the clutter and on the right path.

1. “You have to be better to succeed”


In every market there's competition. You will always come across people who have been there for longer than you, who have more connections than you, who are more creative than you, who have more money to invest than you, and so on and so forth. This is only natural.

But a very big lie, or should I say excuse that people use to explain why they've decided to quit a given project, is that you need to be better than all those people to succeed.

On the contrary, you just need to bring in something unique about what you're offering. Don't compete with people at their game – the game that they are already better than you at. Introduce a new angle and own it.

Just work with what you have and be different rather than better.

“There is always going to be someone out there that knows they have to compensate for maybe having less talent with harder work and preparation.” – Mark Cuban

2. “You have to search for an untapped niche”

The concept of being the first person on the field sounds very attractive, doesn't it?

But there's on big flaw here. Being first will only pay off as long as the field you've chosen has the potential to become popular. If it won't, you will be just standing there with your business wondering why nobody's coming to buy your stuff.

Joining a niche that already has some players in it, on the other hand, gives you a lot better chance of building something significant.

When you think about it, the fact that a niche is popular means only one thing – that there's money in it. So join an existing niche and get your piece of the pie.

3. “You need to create a business plan”



Sorry to break this to you, but business plans are a thing of the past.

And you don't have to take my word for it. Here's what Neil Patel of QuickSprout and KISSmetrics has to say about it:

“If you think having a business plan is going to increase your odds of success, it won't. There are no stats proving that writing a business plan is going to help you succeed. So, do yourself a favor, and save your time.”

Basically, business plans are flawed because they assume way too many things and give you a false impression that you're on top of everything, and that you're ready for every possible scenario that can happen in the future. This clearly isn't true.

So just focus on what you have today and take care of these two elements:

  • know what you're selling,
  • know who you're selling it to.

4. “If you build it, they will come”

Oh the great internet, all you need is a domain, a website, and you can rule the world. Sounds about right, doesn't it?

Let's break this down on a timeline: (1) getting a domain – 5 minutes, (2) getting a Squarespace account, setting up the site and launching it to the world – 10 minutes. Total = 15 minutes.

At that point, all you have to do is sit patiently and wait for people to come in and buy whatever you're offering, right?

Well, I'd love for it to be this simple! Too bad it isn't.

My first personal experience with this issue was back when my mom had her first go at online business four or five years ago. She had a website built (online English course for Polish people), she rented the content, set up some simple e-learning environment, and … crickets. Nobody signed up for months. Months!

It was when I learned that on the web, nothing goes far without promotion.

And this is hugely unlike any other type of offline business. For instance, if you open a cafe in a popular area of the city, you will have people stumbling through the door naturally. On the web, not so much.

In a nutshell, you really need some money set aside for marketing if you want to get your project off the ground.

5. “Email marketing is for the big brands”



With all the social media sites we have these days, all the messenger apps, platforms like Feedly and so on, email is still the most effective way to reach your audience and get them back to visit your site.

It's been reported that every dollar spent on email marketing brings $40 back on average, and not only that, but also the people who come to a website via email marketing, shop more and spend more than those who visit you through other channels (including social media).

The funny thing is that email still manages to perform that well in spite of the amount of spam that's circulating around.

So, there can be only one conclusion here, just get started today. If you're not offering any kind of email newsletter on your site right now, put it on your to-do list and fix it right away.

Companies such as Sendinblue or MailChimp offer free email newsletter software that will allow you to manage your contacts, send out newsletters, and even track the results every message is generating.

Back in the day, having such a tool at your disposal wasn't possible without a sizeable budget or at least some serious web development or programming skills.

6. “You should wait for the perfect idea”

“Don't spend so much time trying to choose the perfect opportunity, that you miss the right opportunity.” – Michael Dell

I think Michael Dell puts it very well.

Building a business, especially in the online is a road filled with many unknowns, guessing, taking risks and trying out things that are as far from “standard business practice” as possible. You will naturally find a lot of failure along your way until you come across that one approach that works.

There's a kind of “chicken and egg” problem with waiting for the perfect idea. Basically, how do you know that an idea is perfect before you test it out in the real world? Well, you don't.

So instead of procrastinating, just get started with a basic, minimum viable idea, and then expand over time once you have some real feedback from customers/audience. Don't be picky. Just take action on the idea you have, whatever it might be.

Which brings me to:

7. “You should come up with your own 100% original idea”



Being this one inventor who locks himself in a hut somewhere in the mountains, works on a new creation, gets no outside contact or insight, and then releases something awesome to the world a year later is a pure fairytale.

In today's world, everything is a remix. Every online business idea has been built on top of a set of other ideas, taking bits and pieces and remixing them into something new.

It seems that the secret isn't to try figuring out everything on your own, but to look at what other people are doing – look at their ideas – and then try giving them your own spin. It's way too easy getting caught up in the process and spending too much time thinking about what to do, instead of just taking action on the information you already have and releasing something as soon as possible.

If you want an extreme example, let's not forget about Bill Gates and Microsoft. What is regarded as their biggest innovation – presenting things inside windows – wasn't an original idea. It's believed that Microsoft borrowed the core of the design and the way it behaved from the early products of Apple – Lisa and Macintosh computers.

Your turn

Finding confidence when building an online business isn't always an easy thing. Not every bit of advice turns out accurate, and it's rather hard to pick the sources you can trust.

In the end, probably one of the best possible approaches is to:

  • take on just the minimum amount of information that you need in order to get started,
  • listen to the tips people give you, but don't treat them as gospel all the time,
  • and then just follow your gut when executing on your plan and ideas.

“The follow-your-gut mentality of the entrepreneur has the potential to take you anywhere you want to go or run you right out of business – but it's a whole lot more fun, don't you think?” – Bill Rancic

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By |August 10th, 2014|Content Marketing|2 Comments

Syndicating Content – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by Eric Enge

It's hard to foresee a lot of benefit to your hard work creating content when you don't have much of a following, and even if you do, scaling that content creation is difficult for any marketer. One viable answer is syndication, and in this Whiteboard Friday, Eric Enge shows you both reasons why you might want to syndicate as well as tips on how to go about it.

Heads-up! We published a one-two punch of Whiteboard Friday videos from our friends at Stone Temple Consulting today. Check out "I See Content (Everywhere)" by Mark Traphagen, too!

For reference, here's a still of this week's whiteboard!

Video transcription

Hi everybody. I'm Eric Enge, CEO of Stone Temple Consulting. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday, and today we're going to be talking about syndicated content. I probably just smeared my picture, but in any case, you hear about syndicated content and the first thing that comes across your mind is, "Doesn't that create duplicate content, and isn't somebody going to outrank me for my own stuff?" And it is a legitimate concern. But before I talk about how to do it, I want to tell you about why to do it, because there are really, really good sound reasons for syndicating content.

Why (and how) should I syndicate my content?

So first of all, here is your site. You get to be the site in purple by the way, and then here is an authority site, which is the site in green. You have an article that you've written called, "All About Fruit," and you deliver that article to that authority site and they publish the same article, hence creating the duplicate content. So why would you consider doing this?

Well, the first reason is that by association with a higher authority site there is going to be some authority passed to you, both from a human perspective from people that see that your content is up there. They see that your authored content is on this authority site. That by itself is a great thing. When we do the right things, we're also going to get some link juice or SEO authority passed to you as well. So these are really good reasons by itself to do it.

But the other thing that happens is you get exposure to what I call OPA or Other People's Audiences, and that's a very helpful thing as well. These people, as I've mentioned before, they're going to see you here, and this crowd, some of this crowd is going to start to become your crowd. This is great stuff. But let's talk about how to do it. So here we go.

Three ways to contentedly syndicate content

#1 rel=canonical

There are three ways that you can do this that can make this work for you. The first is, here's your site again, here's the authority site. You get the authority site to implement a rel=canonical tag back to your page, the same page, the exact article page on your site. That tells Google and Bing that the real canonical version of the content is this one over here. The result of that is that all of the PageRank that accrues to this page on the authority site now gets passed over to you. So any links, all the links, in fact, that this page gets now gets passed through to you, and you get the PageRank from all that. This is great stuff. But that's just one of the solutions. It's actually the best one in my opinion.

#2 meta noindex

The second best one down here, okay, same scenario -- your site, the authority's site. The authority's site implements a meta no index tag on their page. That's an instruction to the search engine to not keep this page in the index, so that solves the duplicate content problem for you in a different way. This does as well, but this is a way of just taking it out of the index. Now any links from this page here over to your page still pass PageRank. So you still want to make sure you're getting those in the process. So a second great solution for this problem.

#3 Clean Link to Original Article

So these are both great, but it turns out that a lot of sites don't really like to do either of these two things. They actually want to be able to have the page in the index, or they don't want to take the trouble to do this extra coding. There is a third solution, which is not the best solution, but it's still very workable in the right scenarios. That is you get them to implement a clean text link from the copied page that they have on their site over to your site, to the same article on your site. The search engines are pretty good at understanding, when they see that link, that it means that you're the original author. So you're still getting a lot of authority passed, and you're probably eliminating a duplicate content problem.

So again, let's just recap briefly. The reason why you want to go through this trouble is you get authority from the authority site passed to you, both at a human level and at an SEO level, and you can gain audience from the audience of that authority site.

So that's it for this edition of Whiteboard Friday.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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By |August 8th, 2014|MOZ|1 Comment

I See Content Everywhere – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by MarkTraphagen

Most of us who work in content marketing have felt the strain that scaling puts on our efforts. How on Earth are we supposed to keep coming up with great ideas for new pieces of content? The answer is, in some sense, all around us. In today's Whiteboard Friday, MozCon community speaker Mark Traphagen shows us how to see the world in a different way—a way that's chock full of content ideas.

Heads-up! We're publishing a one-two punch of Whiteboard Fridays from our friends at Stone Temple Consulting today. Be sure to check out "Content Syndication" by Eric Enge, as well!

For reference, here's a still of this week's whiteboard!

Video transcription

Hey, hello. I'm Mark Traphagen from Stone Temple Consulting, and welcome to this week's Whiteboard Friday. I want to talk to you today, starting out, about a movie that I hope you've all seen by now, because this should not be a spoiler alert. I'm not even going to spoil the movie, but it's "The Sixth Sense."

Most of you know that movie. You've seen it and remember it. The little kid who says that creepy thing: "I see dead people."

What I want to give to you today, what I want to try to teach you to do and bring to you is that you see, not dead people, but content and see it everywhere. Most of us realize that these days we've got to be producing content to be effective on the Web, not only for SEO, but to be effective in our marketing, in our branding and building the reputation and trust authority that we need around our brand. That's going to be happening by content.

We're all topically challenged

But if you're the one tasked with coming up with that content and you've got to create it, it's a tough job. Why? Most of us are topically challenged. We come to that moment, "What do I write about? What do I do that video about? What do I make that podcast about? What's the next thing I'm going to write about?" That's going to be the hardest thing.

When I talk to people about this, people who do this, like I do every day for a living, producing, inventing content, they're almost invariably going to put that in the top three and usually number one. What do I do? Where do I get this from?

It's more important now than ever before. It used to be just most companies that did content at all, websites, would hire an SEO copywriter. They'd actually use that term. We need an SEO copywriter. That usually meant that we're looking for somebody who's going to know where to put the keywords in enough times, and we don't really care what else goes on with the content, what they write or how they say it or how good a writer they are as long as they can know the ways to manipulate the search engines.

Well, I think most of us now, if you watch these Whiteboard Friday videos, you know it, that that just doesn't work anymore. That's not going to cut it. Not only does that not really work with the search engines so well anymore, but it's not really using your content effectively. It's not using it to build, again, that reputation, that trust, that authority that you need around your brand and that content can be so powerful to do.

Get yourself some cyborg content eyes

So what I'm going to challenge you to do today is to get content eyes. You've got to get content eyes. You've got to get eyes that see content everywhere. This is what I train myself to do. It's why I'm never out of ideas for that next blog post or that next video. You start to see it everywhere. You've got to get those eyes for it.

You've got to be like that professional photographer. Professional photographers are like this. This is what they have. Some of them, maybe they are born with it, but I think a lot of them have just developed it. They train themselves that everywhere they walk, when they're going down the city street, when they're out in the country, or wherever they are, they see photographs. The rest of us will walk right by it and say, "That's just stuff happening." But they see that old man on the street that has a face that tells a story of long ages. They see the way that shadow falls across the street at that moment, that right time of day. They see that's a photograph. That's a photograph. That's a photograph.

You've got to start looking for that with content. You've got to be like Michelangelo. According to legend anyway, he said that he could look at a block of granite and see the sculpture that was inside it, waiting for him to chisel it out. That's what you've got to train yourself to do.

So what I want to do today with the rest of this time is to give you some ways of doing that, some ways that you can look at the other content that you're reading online, or videos you're watching, conversations that you get into, listening to a conference speaker, wherever you are to start to look for that and get those content eyes. So let's break into what those are.

Like the bumper sticker says, question everything

By questioning everything here, I mean develop a questioning mind. This is a good thing to do anyway when you're reading, especially when you're reading non-fiction content or you're looking at and evaluating things. But for the content producer, this is a great tool.

When I'm looking at a piece of content, when I'm watching one of Rand's Whiteboard Friday videos, I don't just say, "Oh, it's Rand Fishkin. I've got to take everything that he says." I formulate questions in my mind. Why is that true? He just went past that fact there, but how does he know that?

Wait, I'd like to know this, but I'm looking at a Whiteboard video. I could yell at it all day, and Rand's not going to answer me. But maybe instead of just putting that question in the comments, maybe that becomes my next piece of content.

Install a question antenna

So question everything. Get those questions. Related to that -- get a question antenna up. Now what I mean by that is look for questions that are already there, but aren't getting answered. You see a great blog post on something, and then you look in the comments and see somebody has asked this great question, and neither the author of the blog post nor anybody else is really answering it adequately. Chances are, if that's a really great question, that person doesn't have it alone. There are a lot of other people out there with that same question.

So that's an opportunity for you to take that and make a piece of content out of it. We're talking here about something that's relevant to the audience that you're after, obviously. So that's another thing is looking for those questions, and not just on other pieces of content, but obviously you should be listening to your customers. What are the questions they're asking? If you don't have direct access to that, talk to your sales staff. Talk to your customer service people. Whoever interfaces with the customers, collect their questions. Those are great sources of content.

Finally, here, not finally. Second to finally, penultimate, do the mash-up. I love mash-ups. I'm totally obsessed with them. It's where somebody, an artist goes and takes two or three or sometimes more pieces of pop music --
they could be from different eras -- and puts them together in a very creative way. It's not just playing one after the other, but finds ways that they sonically match up and they can blend over each other. It might be a Beatles song over Gangster's Paradise. A whole new thing happens when they do that.

Juxtapose this! By which I mean do a mash-up.

Well, you can do mash-ups. When you're reading content or watching videos or wherever you're getting your stimulation, look for things that juxtapose in some way, that you could bring that in, in some way that nobody's done before.

Quickly, there are four kinds of things you should be looking for to do your mash-up. Sometimes you could be writing about things that intersect in some way. You might see two different pieces of content and, because you've got your content eyes out there, you say, "Ah, there's an overlap here that nobody is talking about." So you talk about it. You write about that.

It might be a total contrast. It might be like over here people are saying this, and over here people are saying that. Why is there such a difference?
Maybe you can either resolve that or even just talk about why that difference is there.

It can be just an actual contradiction. There's contradiction in this thing. Why is that contradiction there? Or maybe just where they complement each other. That's supposed to be a bridge between there. Not a very good bridge. The two things, how do they complement each other? The mash-up idea is taking two or more ideas that are out there floating around, that you've been thinking about, and bringing them together in a way that nobody else has.

Before I go on to the last one here, I just want to say "Do you see what we're doing?" We're synthesizing out of other stimulus that's out there to produce something that is unique, but birthed out of other ideas. That's where the best ideas come from. That's a way that you can be getting those ideas.

Let's brand-name-acne-treatment this topic up

Let's go to the last one here. I call it Clearasil because it's clearing things up. This is one I use a lot. Maybe it's because I have a background as a teacher years ago. I've got to make this clear. I've got to explain this. When you see something out there that is interesting or new, somebody presents some new facts, a test result, whatever it is, but they just kind of presented the facts, you could go, if you understand it, and say, "I think I know what that's happening. I think I know the implications of that." You could go and explain that. Now you have cleared that up, and you've created a great new piece of useful content.

A quick example of that kind of thing is I had a chat with Jay Baer recently, of Convince & Convert. Something he said just pinged in my mind and I said, "Yes, that's why some of my content works." He has this thing that he calls "and therefore" content. He says that he's trained his staff and himself that when they go out and they see something where somebody has said like, "This happened out there," kind of reporting of the news, they say, "Let's write about or do a video about or an audio or whatever, and therefore what this means to you, and therefore the next steps you need to take because of that, and therefore what might happen in the future." You see the power of that?

So the whole thing here is getting content eyes. Learning to see content everywhere. Train yourself. Begin to ask those questions. Begin to look at the stimulus that comes in around you. Listen, look, and find out what you can put together in a way that nobody else has before, and you'll never run out of those content ideas. Thanks a lot for joining me today.

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By |August 8th, 2014|MOZ|0 Comments