MOZ

Headline Writing and Title Tag SEO in a Clickbait World – Whiteboard Friday

title tag whiteboard

Posted by randfish

When writing headlines and title tags, we're often conflicted in what we're trying to say and (more to the point) how we're trying to say it. Do we want it to help the page rank in SERPs? Do we want people to be intrigued enough to click through? Or are we trying to best satisfy the searcher's intent? We'd like all three, but a headline that achieves them all is incredibly difficult to write.

In today's Whiteboard Friday, Rand illustrates just how small the intersection of those goals is, and offers a process you can use to find the best way forward.

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

Video transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we're going to chat about writing titles and headlines, both for SEO and in this new click-bait, Facebook social world. This is kind of a challenge, because I think many folks are seeing and observing that a lot of the ranking signals that can help a page perform well are often preceded or well correlated with social activity, which would kind of bias us towards saying, "Hey, how can I do these click-baity, link-baity sorts of social viral pieces," versus we're also a challenge with, "Gosh, those things aren't as traditionally well performing in search results from a perhaps click-through rate and certainly from a search conversion perspective. So how do we balance out these two and make them work together for us based on our marketing goals?" So I want to try and help with that.

Let's look at a search query for Viking battles, in Google. These are the top two results. One is from Wikipedia. It's a category page -- Battles Involving the Vikings. That's pretty darn straightforward. But then our second result -- actually this might be a third result, I think there's a indented second Wikipedia result -- is the seven most bad ass last stands in the history of battles. It turns out that there happen to be a number of Viking related battles in there, and you can see that in the meta description that Google pulls. This one's from Crack.com.

These are pretty representative of the two different kinds of results or of content pieces that I'm talking about. One is very, very viral, very social focused, clearly designed to sort of do well in the Facebook world. One is much more classic search focused, clearly designed to help answer the user query -- here's a list of Viking battles and their prominence and importance in history, and structure, and all those kinds of things.

Okay. Here's another query -- Viking jewelry. Going to stick with my Viking theme, because why not? We can see a website from Viking jewelry. This one's on JellDragon.com. It's an eCommerce site. They're selling sterling silver and bronze Viking jewelry. They've actually done very classic SEO focus. Not only do they have Viking jewelry mentioned twice, in the second instance of Viking jewelry, I think they've intentionally -- I hope it was intentionally -- misspelled the word "jewelry" to hopefully catch misspellings. That's some old-school SEO. I would actually not recommend this for any purpose.

But I thought it was interesting to highlight versus in this search result it takes until page three until I could really find a viral, social, targeted, more link-baity, click-baity type of article, this one from io9 -- 1,000 Year-old Viking Jewelry Found On Danish Farm. You know what the interesting part is? In this case, both of these are on powerful domains. They both have quite a few links to them from many external sources. They're pretty well SEO'd pages.

In this case, the first two pages of results are all kind of small jewelry website stores and a few results from like Etsy and Amazon, more powerful authoritative domains. But it really takes a long time before you get these, what I'd consider, very powerful, very strong attempts at ranking for Viking jewelry from more of your click-bait, social, headline, viral sites. io9 certainly, I would kind of expect them to perform higher, except that this doesn't serve the searcher intent.

I think Google knows that when people look for Viking jewelry, they're not looking for the history of Viking jewelry or where recent archeological finds of Viking jewelry happened. They're looking specifically for eCommerce sites. They're trying to transact and buy, or at least view and see what Viking jewelry looks like. So they're looking for photo heavy, visual heavy, potentially places where they might buy stuff. Maybe it's some people looking for artifacts as well, to view the images of those, but less of the click-bait focus kind of stuff.

This one I think it's very likely that this does indeed perform well for this search query, and lots of people do click on that as a positive result for what they're looking for from Viking battles, because they'd like to see, "Okay, what were the coolest, most amazing Viking battles that happened in history?"

You can kind of see what's happened here with two things. One is with Hummingbird and Google's focus on topic modeling, and the other with searcher intent and how Google has gotten so incredibly good at pattern matching to serve user intent. This is really important from an SEO perspective to understand as well, and I like how these two examples highlight it. One is saying, "Hey, just because you have the most links, the strongest domain, the best keyword targeting, doesn't necessarily mean you'll rank if you're not serving searcher intent."

Now, when we think about doing this for ourselves, that click-bait versus searched optimized experience for our content, what is it about? It's really about choosing. It's about choosing searcher intent, our website and marketing goals, or click-bait types of goals. I've visualized the intersection here with a Venn diagram. So these in pink here, the click-bait pieces that are going to resonate in social media -- Facebook, Twitter, etc. Blue is the intent of searchers, and purple is your marketing goals, what you want to achieve when visitors get to your site, the reason you're trying to attract this traffic in the first place.

This intersection, as you will notice, is super, uber tiny. It is miniscule. It is molecule sized, and it's a very, very hard intersection to hit. In fact, for the vast majority of content pieces, I'm going to say that it's going to be close to, not always, but close to impossible to get that perfect mix of click-bait, intent of searchers, and your marketing goals. The times when it works best is really when you're trying to educate your audience or provide them with informational value, and that's also something that's going to resonate in the social web and something searchers are going to be looking for. It works pretty well in B2B types of things, particularly in spaces where there's lots of influencers and amplifiers who also care about educating their followers. It doesn't work so well when you're trying to target Viking battles or Viking jewelry. What can I say, the historians of the Viking world simply aren't that huge on Twitter yet. I hope they will be one day.

This is kind of the process that I would use to think about the structure of these and how to choose between them. First off, I think you need to ask, "Should I create a single piece of content to target all of these, or should I instead be thinking about individual pieces that hit one or two at a time?"

So it could be the case that maybe you've got an intersection of intent for searchers and your marketing goals. This happens quite a bit, and oftentimes for these folks, for the Jell Dragon Viking Jewelry, the intent of searchers and what they're trying to accomplish on their site, perfectly in harmony, but definitely not with click-bait pieces that are going to resonate on the web. More challenging for io9 with this kind of a thing, because searchers just aren't looking for that around Viking jewelry. They might instead be thinking about, "Hey, we're trying to target the specific news item. We want anyone who looks for Viking jewelry in Danish farm, or Viking jewelry found, or those kind of things to be finding our site."

Then, I would ask, "How can I best serve my own marketing goals, the marketing goals of my website through the pages that are targeted at search or social?" Sometimes that's going to be very direct, like it is over here with JellDagon.com trying to convert folks and folks looking for Viking jewelry to buy.

Sometimes it's going to be indirect,. A Moz Whiteboard Friday, for example, is a very indirect example. We're trying to serve the intent of searchers and in the long term eventually, maybe sometime in the future some folks who watch this video might be interested in Moz' tools or going to MozCon or signing up for an email list, or whatever it is. But our marketing goals are secondary and they're further in the future. You could also think about that happening at the very end of a funnel, coming in if someone searches for say Moz versus Searchmetrics and maybe Searchmetrics has a great page comparing what's better about their service versus Moz' service and those types of things, and getting right in at the end of the funnel. So that should be a consideration as well. Same thing with social.

Then lastly, where are you going to focus that keyword targeting and the content foci efforts? What kind of content are you going to build? How are you going to keyword target them best to achieve this, and how much you interlink between those pages?

I'll give you a quick example over here, but this can be expanded upon. So for my conversion page, I may try and target the same keywords or a slightly more commercial variation on the search terms I'm targeting with my more informational style content versus entertainment social style content. Then, conversion page might be separate, depending on how I'm structuring things and what the intent of searchers is. My click-bait piece may be not very keyword focused at all. I might write that headline and say, "I don't care about the keywords at all. I don't need to rank here. I'm trying to go viral on social media. I'm trying to achieve my click-bait goals. My goal is to drive traffic, get some links, get some topical authority around this subject matter, and later hopefully rank with this page or maybe even this page in search engines." That's a viable goal as well.

When you do that, what you want to do then is have a link structure that optimizes around this. So your click-bait piece, a lot of times with click-bait pieces they're going to perform worse if you go over and try and link directly to your conversion page, because it looks like you're trying to sell people something. That's not what plays on Facebook, on Twitter, on social media in general. What plays is, "Hey, this is just entertainment, and I can just visit this piece and it's fun and funny and interesting."

What plays well in search, however, is something that let's someone accomplish their tasks. So it's fine to have information and then a call to action, and that call to action can point to the conversion page. The click-bait pieces content can do a great job of helping to send link equity, ranking signals, and maybe some visitor traffic who's interested in truly learning more over to the informational page that you want ranking for search. This is kind of a beautiful way to think about the interaction between the three of these when you have these different levels of foci, when you have these different searcher versus click-bait intents, and how to bring them all together.

All right everyone, hope to see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com


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By |March 20th, 2015|MOZ|0 Comments

How to Stop Spam Bots from Ruining Your Analytics Referral Data

Screen-Shot-2015-01-21-at-2.30.22-PM.png

Posted by jaredgardner

This post was originally in YouMoz, and was promoted to the main blog because it provides great value and interest to our community. The author's views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of Moz, Inc.

A few months back, my agency started seeing a referral traffic spike in our Google Analytics account. At first, I got excited. Someone is linking to us and people are clicking. Hooray!

Wrong! How very, very wrong. As I dug deeper, I saw that most of this referral traffic was sent from spammers, and mostly from one spammer named Vitaly Popov (or, as I like to call him, “the most recent pain in my ass”).

The domains he owns have been giving our company's site and most of our clients' sites a few hundred sessions per month, enough to throw off the analytics data in many cases.

His sites aren't the only ones I'll cover in this how-to, but his spam network has been the biggest nuisance lately. If you're getting spam referrers in your analytics, you should be able to follow the same steps to stop these data-skewing nimcompoops from spoiling your data, too.

Why do I need to worry about blocking and filtering these sites?

There are two main reasons I'm motivated to block these on all sites that I work with. First: corrupt analytics data. A few hundred hits a month on a site like Moz.com isn't going to move the needle when compared to the sheer volume of sessions they have daily. However, on a small site for a local plumber, 30 sessions per day is likely going to be 70% spam referral traffic, suffocating the remaining legitimate traffic and making marketing analysis a frustrating endeavor.

Second: server load and security. I didn't ask them to crawl or visit my site. Their visits are using my server resources for something that I don't want or need. An overloaded server means slower load times, which translate to higher bounce rates and lower rankings. On top of that, who knows what else they're doing on my site while they're there. They could easily be looking for WordPress, plugin and server vulnerabilities.

Popular referral spam domains

Using WHOIS.net, I found that Mr. Popov's spam network includes these domains:

  • darodar.com (and various subdomains)
  • econom.co
  • ilovevitaly.co (and other TLD variations)

Other spammers plaguing the web include:

  • semalt.com (and various subdomains)
  • buttons-for-website.com
  • see-your-website-here.com

Many other sites have come and gone. These are just the sites that have been active lately.

Why are they hitting my site?

Why are people going through so much effort to crawl the web without blocking themselves from analytics? Spam! So much spam, it still blows me away. I looked into a few of the sites listed above. Three of the most prolific ones are doing it for very different reasons.

See-your-website-here.com

This site takes the cake for being the most frustrating. This site is using referrer spam as a form of lead generation. What is their product you ask? Web spam. You can pay see-your-website-here.com to perform web spam for your company as a form of lead generation. The owner of this domain was kind enough to make his WHOIS information public. His name is Ben Sykes and he's from London.

Semalt.com

Screen-Shot-2015-01-21-at-2.44.09-PM.png

Semalt.com and I have had a tumultuous relationship at best. Semalt is an SEO product that's designed to give on- and off-page analysis such as keyword usage and link metrics. Their products seem to be somewhat legit. However, their business practices are not. Semalt uses a bot to crawl the web and index webpage data, but they don't disable analytics tracking like most respectable bots do. They have a form to remove your site from being crawled at http://semalt.com/project_crawler.php, which is ever so nice of them. Of course, I tried this months ago and they still crawled our site. I ended up talking with a representative from Semalt.com via Twitter after I wrote this article: How to Stop Semalt.com from Plaguing Your Google Analytics Data. I've documented our interactions and the outcome of that project in the article.

Darodar.com, econom.co, and ilovevitaly.com

Screen-Shot-2015-01-21-at-4.03.48-PM.png

This network appears to exist for the purpose of directing affiliate traffic to shopping sites such as AliExpress.com and eBay.com. I am guessing that the site won't pay out to the affiliate unless the traffic results in a purchase, which seems unlikely. The sub-domain shopping.ilovevitaly.com used to redirect to aliexpress.com directly, but now it goes to a landing page that links to a variety of online retailers.

How to stop spam bots

Block via .htaccess

The best way to block referrers from accessing your site at all is to block them in your .htaccess file in the root directory of your domain. You can copy and paste the following code into your .htaccess file, assuming you're on an Apache server. I like this method better than just blocking the domain in analytics because it prevents spam bots from hitting your server altogether. If you want to get creative, you can redirect the traffic back to their site.

# Block Russian Referrer Spam
RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} ^http://.*ilovevitaly.com/ [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} ^http://.*ilovevitaly..ru/ [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} ^http://.*ilovevitaly.org/ [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} ^http://.*ilovevitaly.info/ [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} ^http://.*iloveitaly.ru/ [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} ^http://.*econom.co/ [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} ^http://.*savetubevideo.com/ [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} ^http://.*kambasoft.com/ [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} ^http://.*buttons-for-website.com/ [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} ^http://.*semalt.com/ [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} ^http://.*darodar.com/ [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ – [F,L]

Warning: .htaccess is a very powerful file that dictates how your server behaves. If you upload an .htaccess file with one character out of place, you will likely take down the whole site. Before you make any changes to the file, I would suggest making a backup. If you don't feel comfortable making these edits, see the WordPress plug-in option below.

Analytics filters

By itself, .htaccess won't solve all of your problems. It will only protect you from future sessions, and it won't affect the sessions that have already happened. I like to set up filters by country in analytics to remove the historical data, as well as to help filter out any other bots we might find from select countries in the future. Of course this wouldn't be a good idea if you expect to get legitimate traffic from countries like Russia, Brazil, or Indonesia, but many U.S.-based companies can safely block these countries without losing potential customers. Follow the steps below to set up the filters.

First, click on the "Admin" tab at the top of the page. On the view column you will want to create a "new" view so that you still have an unadulterated report of all traffic in Google Analytics. I named my mine "Filter Bots." After you have your new view selected, click in to the "Filters" section then select the "+New Filter Button."

View_filter_fianl.png

Setting up filters is pretty simple if you know what setting to use. I like to filter out all traffic from Russia, Brazil, and Indonesia. These are just the countries that have been giving us issues lately. You can add more filters as you need them.

The filter name is just an arbitrary label. I usually just type “block [insert country here].” Next, choose the filter type “custom.” Choose “country” from the “Filter Field” drop down. The “Filter Pattern Field” is where you actually define what countries you are filtering, so make sure you spell them correctly. You can double check your filters by using the “Verify This Filter” button. A graph will pop-up and show you how many sessions will be removed from the last seven days.

Filter_settings_final.jpg

I would recommend selecting the “Bot Filtering” check box that is found in “View Settings” within the “Admin” tab. I haven't seen a change in my data using this feature yet, but it doesn't hurt to set it up since it's really easy and maybe Google will decide to block some of these spammers.

Viewsettings_bot_button_final.jpg

Using WordPress? Don't want to edit your .htaccess file?

I've used the plugin Wp-Ban before, and it makes it easy to block unwanted visitors. Wp-ban gives you the ability to ban users by IP, IP range, host name, user agent and referrer URL from visiting your WordPress blog all from within the WordPress admin panel. This a great option for people who don't want to edit their .htaccess file or don't feel comfortable doing so.

Additional resources

There are a few other great posts you can refer to if you're looking for more info on dealing with referrer spam:

  1. http://www.optimizesmart.com/geek-guide-removing-referrer-spam-google-analytics/
  2. http://megalytic.com/blog/how-to-filter-out-fake-referrals-and-other-google-analytics-spam
  3. http://blog.raventools.com/stop-referrer-spam/
  4. http://www.analyticsedge.com/2014/12/removing-referral-spam-google-analytics/

Conclusion

I hope this helps you block all the pesky spammers out there. There are definitely different ways you can solve this problem, and these are just the ones that have helped me protect analytics data. I'd love to hear how you have dealt with spam bots. Share your stories with me on Twitter or in the comments below.


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By |March 18th, 2015|MOZ|0 Comments

In-App Social & Contact Data – New in Open Site Explorer

Posted by randfish

Today I'm excited to announce the launch of a new feature inside Open Site Explorer—In-App Social & Contact Data. With this launch, you'll be able to see the social or email accounts we've discovered associated with a given website, and have one-click access to those pages.

Initially, the feature offers:

  1. Availability today on the inbound links tab and in Link Intersect on the "pages -> subdomains" view. In the future, if y'all find it useful, we hope to expand its presence to other areas of the tool as well.
  2. Email accounts will only be shown if they match the domain name (e.g. rand@moz.com would be shown next to moz.com, randfishkin@yahoo.com would not) and if they appear in standard format on the page (we don't try to grab emails in JavaScript or that use alternate formats to obsfucate).
  3. We show Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and email addresses we've found on multiple pages of the site (we take a small random set and analyze whether these social/contact data pieces are uniform). If we find multiple accounts, you'll see this:

Use cases

There are three major use cases for this feature (at least for me; you might have more!):

1) Link/Outreach prospecting

It can be a pain to visit sites, find social accounts/emails, and copy them into a spreadsheet or send messages (and recall which ones you have/haven't done yet). By including social/contact data in the same interface where you're doing link analysis, we hope to save you time and clicks.

2) Link/site trust and audience reach analysis

We're actually using this data on the back end at Moz for our upcoming Spam Score feature (coming very soon), but you can use it manually to help with a quick mental filter for trustworthy/authoritative/non-spammy sites, and to get a sense for the size and reach of a site's social audience.

3) At-a-glance analysis of social networks among a group

If you're in a given space (e.g. travel blogs), it's a process to determine which social networks are/aren't being used by industry participants and influencers. Social/contact data in OSE can help with that by showing which social networks various sites are using and linking to from their pages:

We need your feedback

This first implementation is relatively light in the app—we haven't yet placed this data anywhere/everywhere it might be useful. Before we do, we want to hear what you think: Is this useful and valuable to your work? Does it help save you time? Would you want to see the feature expanded and if so, in what sections would it provide the greatest value to you? Please let us know in the comments, and by getting back in touch with us after you've had a chance to try it out for yourself.

Thanks for giving social/contact data a spin, and look for more upgrades to Open Site Explorer in the very near future!


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By |March 17th, 2015|MOZ|1 Comment

The Art of Concision: How to Effectively Make Your Point in Fewer Words

illustration-scissors

Posted by Isla_McKetta

You and your readers are being bombarded with information. Too often that's in the shape of long-winded emails, blog posts, and reports that say very little or assume that because digital space is (virtually) free and unlimited, so is your time.

But time and attention are valuable. If you learn to practice concision in all your writing (from emails and reports to blog posts, whitepapers, and product copy), you'll not only get your point across, you might also earn your readers' trust, gratitude, and repeat traffic. Plus, concise copy converts better.

Quick advice on writing concisely

The best advice I ever received about writing concisely came from former newspaperman (and current Moz associate) Ronell Smith. He said that in order to clearly get your point across in the fewest possible words it's essential to:

  • Write a one-sentence description of the post you wish to write (this is basically the headline)
  • Think of the number one thing you'd like readers to take away from the post
  • Highlight at least three facts (authoritative, supportive evidence) that support this main point
  • Jot down notes that help you tell the story using these facts
  • Spend a few days letting the elements "breathe"

Now if I were writing the most concise blog post ever, I'd stop right there, because Ronell already said the most important things. But sometimes it's helpful to see how someone else puts advice into action. So here's how I'm putting Ronell's advice to work to write a post about concision.

Write a one-sentence description of the post

Learning how to make your point in as few words as possible will help you capture your audience's attention.

I could (and should) stop there. But I want to make a couple of points about why this is important:

  • Your brain does a lot of work as it's trying to condense that amazing idea in your head down into one sentence—as much work as creating a whole first draft.
  • Once you have a one-sentence description of where you're going, it's easy to toss aside all those other exciting ideas that try to plant themselves on the page and focus on what you wanted to say in the first place.

Think of the number one thing you'd like readers to take away from the post

Fewer words often makes for clearer, more impactful communication. Once I know exactly what it is that I want you to take away from this post, I can make a promise that everything will contribute to that number one goal. This is good because:

  • It helps you focus on one audience. When you're writing amazing tips on keyword research, it can be really easy to want to also remind readers why keyword research is important. That's the moment when you lose the interest of people who get the whys of keyword research. They are now bored and done with you (even though you were just about to blow their minds with really revolutionary information).
  • You know what to lead with. Even if you're writing a crucial email, you can bet not everyone will read every word (or paragraph). By leading with the most important part, your message is more likely to be understood.

Highlight at least three facts that support this main point

Technically, I've been cheating so far and adding in facts along the way. This step will help you:

  • Build an outline of what you want to say. It's easier to write to outlines and you'll be sure to include all the points you wanted to see.
  • Preview the quality of your argument. If you're writing an article about how content is king and your first fact is "because everyone says so" and the second is "readers share stuff" and you're struggling for a third fact, go back and find a stronger argument.
  • Stay on topic.

Jot down notes that help you tell the story using those three facts

Hooray! You finally get to elaborate. I'll start my elaboration by telling you that I've deleted about 500 words from this post already just because I was thinking so hard about concision. Do I miss a little of my standard whimsy and storytelling style? Yes (although I'm making up for it in this paragraph).

Because you've already honed in tight on your subject, you can let your creative self a little loose now. Enjoy embellishing your evidence with relevant examples and case studies. Relish the chance to make your points more memorable and engage your audience by sharing pertinent stories.

Spend a few days letting the elements "breathe"

Once you've pulled together your main point with supporting facts and illustrated those with stories, you need to step away from your writing. If you're writing an email, you might not have a few days, but at least go to lunch or grab a coffee. Giving your writing room to breathe allows you to:

  • Spot gaps. Everything makes perfect sense in your head, but a breath of fresh air might help you see where you forgot to actually write down a crucial piece of your argument.
  • See redundancies. Sometimes you're so passionate about something you say it twice (although usually in slightly different ways). A second, later read can show you where you're repeating yourself.
  • Be rational. Speaking of passion, sometimes we write things we'd never actually want to see out in the world. Allowing your writing to rest can help you make your point without saying anything you wouldn't want repeated. This makes you easier to listen to as well.

The rest of the story

Now that we've seen Ronell's points in action, there are a few more things I want to add.

Concision usually happens in editing

If you've been following Ronell's advice, your writing is going to be a lot clearer, shorter, and more impactful. But don't count on your first draft to be the best draft. You can usually clean up a lot of extra words (and random errors) with a second draft.

Why concision?

You're busy. Your boss is busy. Your reader is busy. We're all reading less and less of the information presented to us. But reading is still a critical way that we share information. By learning to say more with fewer words, you'll get your point across and come out on top.

Concision ain't easy

In fact, you might spend more time crafting your message. Making your point makes that time and effort worth the extra work. Take the Moz Top 10 for example: over the last six editions, the ones with the fewest number of words have had the highest click-through rates.

ctr rate concise copy

Shortening the Moz Top 10 often takes me an extra draft, but that kind of increase in CTR is worth one more pass.

How this works at Moz

I was shocked when Trevor and I found that the most popular Moz blog posts (usually) come in at 1,200-1,800 words. That seemed long to me (especially for the Internet), but then I realized how much advice and education are usually packed into one post.

Compare that with what we sometimes see in YouMoz, which are initial drafts of 4,000-8,000 words. I am certain that a few of those authors have that much valuable information to share about one topic. But my guess is that most of those articles are trying to do too much in one post or are repeating themselves unnecessarily. I'd also be really surprised if most readers manage to reach the end of a post that long. That's the real tragedy of overly wordy writing: No matter how brilliant you are, unless you are the most engaging writer ever, no one is reading what you're writing. And according to one study, visitors only read 18% of content beyond the 1,250 word mark.

Do you have tips for stripping the bloat from your writing? Or do you truly love (and actually read) long-form writing on the web? Write me a novel in the comments ☺


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By |March 17th, 2015|MOZ|0 Comments

9 Simple Tips For Making An About Us Page That Works For Your Brand

blogtyrant.jpg

Posted by Ben.Austin

This post was originally in YouMoz, and was promoted to the main blog because it provides great value and interest to our community. The author's views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of Moz, Inc.

For too many online companies the About Us page is the elephant in the room, and often the most awkward thing to write. It's a shame because analytics often shows the page as one of the most frequented on any website. Imagine a ceremonial elephant adorned in his embellished head plate, raising you above your competitors. This could be your About Us page if you show it the care and attention it deserves.

The good news is your about page doesn't require several hundred pounds of vegetation on a daily basis, nor is there any real need for expensive antique rhinestones.

The bad news is crafting the perfect about page is easier said than done. Many find it difficult to strike the right balance between selling themselves to their customers and driving them away with a self-focused approach, which helps explain why the pages are so often neglected.

At Absolute, we're looking to revamp our entire website over the coming months, and in particular we'll be focusing our attention on our about page. We recognize that our page is currently a little on the dull side and while we are researching the topic, I thought it would be great to share nine great, easily applicable techniques we picked up from some of our favorite About Us pages from around the web.

Start by talking about your audience, not yourself

Human nature dictates that we are, first and foremost, concerned with our own problems. While some of us may give to charity or volunteer in our spare time, when it comes to searching for products or services online, we're all about ourselves and what a brand can do for us.

Blog Tyrant is a great example of a blog that is focused on its visitors. The first thing you see when you land on their about page is a video titled "About Me and You." The text that follows is then split into two sections, "About Me" and "About You (The Tyrant Troops)."

Image Source: www.blogtyrant.com

If this frank, upfront style doesn't suit your company there are more subtle ways to become more customer-orientated.

  • Dedicate your opening sentence(s) to your audience's challenges and objectives. Starting with the very reason they come to your site in the first place is a good way to demonstrate that you have their needs in mind. In our case, for example, it might be a good idea to acknowledge the difficulties marketing managers have in finding an agency that combines creativity with the essential technical skills, which can sometimes be overlooked.
  • State the facts: If you're still finding it hard to strike a happy medium between highlighting your selling points and plain boasting, then simply present your readers with the facts. This could be anything from your client retention rate to the amount of new products you offer each month to the number of awards you've collected. No one can argue with raw figures.

Let your customers do the talking

When you are thinking of trying out a new hairdresser, dentist or even a fish and chip shop, you don't base your decision on what they say about themselves. You turn to those around you. By including a few glowing (and up-to-date) customer testimonials on your about page, you can create a hub of information.

  • Be sure to include the customer or client's full name and any relevant details that could add credibility to your testimonials. Better still, include photos of your customers, if possible. It all helps to build trust in your brand.
  • Include customer-focused awards and accreditations. Perhaps you were voted your area's favorite provider of security products in 2013, or maybe you are part of some authoritative bodies or organisations within your industry. Exploit the instinctive human need to seek reassurance from our peers.

Include different forms of media

Make your about page a feast for the eyes by considering the use of photos, timelines, videos or infographics. If people are going to seek and find your about page, it makes sense to capture their attention for as long as possible, and this is precisely what Moz does. Their timeline incorporates strong image and design while still providing visitors with the key information they need.

mozstoryresized.jpg

Image Source: www.moz.com

  • Photos don't necessarily need to be of each individual team member. Although individual head shots do help prospective customers visualize your company, head shots of management, photos of you in action at a fundraising event or even images from a work night out (preferably ones that aren't likely to spark legal action), can all add character to your brand.
  • Videos are a great way of entertaining those with particularly short attention spans and can sum up the feeling of your company in a matter of seconds or minutes. If you don't have extensive time or resources in this area, Vine videos are a great way to add something different to your about page.

Tell your story

Even if your brand doesn't have an interesting story, you can still tell a story. Focus on the things that make you human.

That's precisely what a client of ours, ITS, has done with their About Us page. Unfortunately it's not something we can take credit for personally, but it still embodies everything a great story should have. It starts at the beginning, documenting their modest founding, in 1981 as a 150 square foot shop, all the way to modern day, with plenty of photos along the way. It's great to see the quality of the photos changing through time, almost like a family scrapbook. Customer ratings and social icons make this page even stronger.

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Image Source; www.its.co.uk

  • Don't be afraid of where you have come from. If, eight years ago, your headquarters happened to be your CEO's conservatory, celebrate it. The more that people can identify with you the more trust they'll place in your brand. We have become so desensitized to marketing that a company needs a personal touch to set it apart.
  • You don't have to tell people everything. If you have been established for 80 years, people don't want to read a year-by-year account of everything that has happened in that time. Therefore, filter information accordingly, mentioning those key elements of human interest, but keep tales of new windows or a change of paper suppliers to yourself.

Include your address and contact details

Many people are still hesitant when it comes to parting with their money over the Internet and are thus keen to know you aren't simply looking to fleece them to make a bit of extra cash.

  • If you don't want to disclose your full address, at least state your city or town. Potential customers are not so likely to get in touch if you're less than forthcoming about your location. After all, what else might you be holding back?
  • Make certain your contact details are up to date. It sounds obvious, but having an out-of-date telephone number or email address could not only lose you a sale but might also send alarm bells ringing.
  • Your contact details should also include social handles and skype details if applicable.

Cut out the jargon

Writing in acronym-infested jargon might make you feel clever at the time, but it's boring and it's cold. People won't remember you. What they really want when they land on your about page is to learn, in simple unambiguous terms, precisely what you do.

  • Write conversationally. There is no best way to write. The style you adopt will depend on your company, but make an effort to write in a way that makes your content, and your site, feel accessible and friendly. The Adventurists site offers a great example of this. Their about page serve its intended purpose and is quite enjoyable to read. More to the point when they talk about "mobile phones tagged with twattery about which restaurant serves the best mocha-latte-frappeshite", you find yourself agreeing with them, even if their greater aim of getting youto cross the sub-continent in a three wheeled lawnmower powered tin isn't likely to happen anytime soon.
  • Don't name your about page some obscure name like, Our Ethos, or The Journey. People are looking for an About Us page, so give them one. Come up with a name that is too vague and people may miss you completely.

Ask for other peoples' opinions

Don't be afraid to ask employees, friends, peers, even clients, what makes you stand out as a business. When you have worked somewhere for a long time, it is tough to see your brand the way customers might see it. An objective opinion can help.

  • When you have decided on what makes you stand out, be sure to make this a focus.
  • If your peer search becomes more like soul-searching because you find there is actually nothing different about your company, despair not. Don't try and force something that isn't there. Instead, turn it around and focus on what makes your audience unique.

Make sure it reflects your company

In our quest for the perfect about page, we came across some really extravagant examples. Some had really impressive videos, special features or high tech designs. All of those examples were extremely applaudable, but will only really work if this fits in with the rest of your website, your industry and your company as a whole. It's easy to lose sight of who you are in your mission to create the best page possible.

  • Even if your website isn't overly visual, you can still include photos, just make sure they follow the same format as the rest of your website. If your site focuses on boxy shapes and bold colors, then keep this theme running throughout your images. Just as with your marketing, the key is to be succinct. Maintaining a consistent look and feel automatically gives your brand more authority.
  • The same goes applies for tone. Remember, in today's multi-platform society, your website may not be someone's first interaction with you, with visitors often reading an article or coming across a tweet beforehand. In that sense, an about page is almost like a meeting point, an amalgamation of everything that makes your brand who you are.

Test it!

There is no magic formula for about pages. If there were, you probably wouldn't be 2,000 words into this blog. A good way to treat the process of creating such a page, then, is as a work in progress.

  • Don't be afraid to make amendments. Spend a fair amount of time checking your analytics for traffic volumes, bounce rate and visit duration on the page. Tweak the odd sentence, add images, chop them out, introduce a video, etc, based on what the data tells you.
  • Make sure the page is accessible across all devices. It makes no sense to spend all this time creating an amazing page that is only visible to a small percentage of your audience, which is roughly what will happen if you ignore mobile and tablet users. Whether you have responsive design or a dedicated mobile site, test the performance of the page continually.

Of all the pages we looked at, our favorite is the one below, from Macmillan. Their About Us section is actually split into different pages, but the initial page makes use of video, explains briefly and simply what they do, includes contact details, testimonials and, most important, thanks people for their continued support.

Those readers who then want to learn more, as undoubtedly many will, can do so via links directing them to images of the team, as well as facts, figures and corporate partnership details. It might not be as flashy or as up to date as some, but it's what best represents them and that's the point.

macmillan_aboutusresized.jpg

Image Source: www.macmillan.org.uk


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By |March 15th, 2015|MOZ|0 Comments