The Colossus Update: Waking The Giant

Posted by Dr-Pete

Yesterday morning, we woke up to a historically massive temperature spike on MozCast, after an unusually quiet weekend. The 10-day weather looked like this:

That’s 101.8°F, one of the hottest verified days on record, second only to a series of unconfirmed spikes in June of 2013. For reference, the first Penguin update clocked in at 93.1°.

Unfortunately, trying to determine how the algorithm changed from looking at individual keywords (even thousands of them) is more art than science, and even the art is more often Ms. Johnson’s Kindergarten class than Picasso. Sometimes, though, we catch a break and spot something.

The First Clue: HTTPS

When you watch enough SERPs, you start to realize that change is normal. So, the trick is to find the queries that changed a lot on the day in question but are historically quiet. Looking at a few of these, I noticed some apparent shake-ups in HTTP vs. HTTPS (secure) URLs. So, the question becomes: are these anecdotes, or do they represent a pattern?

I dove in and looked at how many URLs for our 10,000 page-1 SERPs were HTTPS over the past few days, and I saw this:

On the morning of June 17, HTTPS URLs on page 1 jumped from 16.9% to 18.4% (a 9.9% day-over-day increase), after trending up for a few days. This represents the total real-estate occupied by HTTPS URLs, but how did rankings fare? Here are the average rankings across all HTTPS results:

HTTPS URLs also seem to have gotten a rankings boost – dropping (with „dropping“ being a positive thing) from an average of 2.96 to 2.79 in the space of 24 hours.

Seems pretty convincing, right? Here’s the problem: rankings don’t just change because Google changes the algorithm. We are, collectively, changing the web every minute of the day. Often, those changes are just background noise (and there’s a lot of noise), but sometimes a giant awakens.

The Second Clue: Wikipedia

Anecdotally, I noticed that some Wikipedia URLs seemed to be flipping from HTTP to HTTPS. I ran a quick count, and this wasn’t just a fluke. It turns out that Wikipedia started switching their entire site to HTTPS around June 12 (hat tip to Jan Dunlop). This change is expected to take a couple of weeks.

It’s just one site, though, right? Well, historically, this one site is the #1 largest land-holder across the SERP real-estate we track, with over 5% of the total page-1 URLs in our tracking data (5.19% as of June 17). Wikipedia is a giant, and its movements can shake the entire web.

So, how do we tease this apart? If Wikipedia’s URLs had simply flipped from HTTP to HTTPS, we should see a pretty standard pattern of shake-up. Those URLs would look to have changed, but the SERPS around them would be quiet. So, I ran an analysis of what the temperature would’ve been if we ignored the protocol (treating HTTP/HTTPS as the same). While slightly lower, that temperature was still a scorching 96.6°F.

Is it possible that Wikipedia moving to HTTPS also made the site eligible for a rankings boost from previous algorithm updates, thus disrupting page 1 without any code changes on Google’s end? Yes, it is possible – even a relatively small rankings boost for Wikipedia from the original HTTPS algorithm update could have a broad impact.

The Third Clue: Google?

So far, Google has only said that this was not a Panda update. There have been rumors that the HTTPS update would get a boost, as recently as SMX Advanced earlier this month, but no timeline was given for when that might happen.

Is it possible that Wikipedia’s publicly announced switch finally gave Google the confidence to boost the HTTPS signal? Again, yes, it’s possible, but we can only speculate at this point.

My gut feeling is that this was more than just a waking giant, even as powerful of a SERP force as Wikipedia has become. We should know more as their HTTPS roll-out continues and their index settles down. In the meantime, I think we can expect Google to become increasingly serious about HTTPS, even if what we saw yesterday turns out not to have been an algorithm update.

In the meantime, I’m going to melodramatically name this „The Colossus Update“ because, well, it sounds cool. If this indeed was an algorithm update, I’m sure Google would prefer something sensible, like „HTTPS Update 2“ or „Securageddon“ (sorry, Gary).

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New Features in OSE’s Spam Score & the Mozscape API

Posted by randfish

This week, we launched a feature inside Open Site Explorer that I’m very excited about – the Spam Score Histogram, found by clicking on the „spam analysis“ tab:

The histogram is particularly useful for visualizing the distribution of potentially spammy links that show up in a site’s link profile. Above, for example, we’re looking at, with a strong distribution of sites that have 0-5 spam flags. According to our research, that means the vast majority of those sites are unlikely to be penalized or banned by Google.

For more detail on Moz’s Spam Score, check out the original blog post and my Whiteboard Friday.

The new histogram view lets us do nice comparisons like these: has a very large list of sketchy-looking sites linking to them (many seem to be very thin content sites from China, curiously).

Competitor (well, sort-of-competitor),, has a much smaller link profile with a very different distribution. Their link profile looks even healthier than Moz’s to me!

But, the new spam score histogram isn’t the only new feature. We’ve also got a new power available to API users – the ability to query data from the previous index. If you want to know what a previous Domain Authority score looked like, or how many links we reported to a page in our last index, you can now do so using the Moz API. If you want to get started, check out the documentation here, or get in touch directly with Chris Airola (email chris.airola at, who manages paid API accounts and loves to help.

Many thanks to the Research Tools and Big Data teams at Moz, who’ve worked to make this possible. I’m happy to answer questions and will try to be in the comments here frequently. I wish you good spam exploring my friends!

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How to Align Your Entire Company with Your Marketing Strategy

Posted by MackenzieFogelson

It’s no secret that building and executing integrated marketing strategies is the responsibility of your marketing team. The problem with that is the actions of everyone in your organization affect your marketing.

Marketing isn’t just what your customers see on the outside. It’s what happens when they get your product home. It’s the experience they have with any one person in your company at any given time and through any specific touchpoint. Whether or not you’re aware, all of the individuals on every team in your organization are contributing to your marketing on a daily basis.

That being the case, it would certainly be ideal to get everyone in your company focused on and aligned with:

    • Your marketing goals
    • The greater good that the company is working to accomplish
    • The real reasons you’re different from your competition
    • The value you provide your customers and community
    • The customers you’re working so hard to earn and keep
    • The most important strategic priorities your marketing team is working to accomplish so that your company will continue to thrive

We recently built a simple tool that has been helping our clients and their teams stay focused in their marketing efforts and also hurdle communication and goal alignment challenges. We call it the Focus Canvas and I’m going to show you how to build one of your very own (you’re so lucky).

The elements of your Focus Canvas

There are 8 key elements to your Focus Canvas. In a nutshell, here’s how they break down:

  1. Timeframe
    How long you’ll focus on the specific components you will identify in your Focus Canvas.
  2. Our Meaning Beyond Money
    The higher purpose your company is meant to achieve.
  3. Why We’re Different
    A short list that defines the valuable characteristics unique to your company.
  4. The Value We Provide
    A clearly communicated statement that helps your customers understand what you do and gives them reason to choose you over your competition.
  5. What We’re Trying to Accomplish
    The goals your teams (and company) are working to accomplish.
  6. Who Our Customers Are
    The very specific audience groups you’re working to earn and retain.
  7. How We’re Helping Our Customers
    The things you’re doing to remain relevant in your customers‘ lives.
  8. What’s Important Now
    The most important things (up to three) that you need to focus on over the next 90 days in order to accomplish goals and move the company forward.

And here’s where each of those pieces are going to fit:

Focus Canvas Template

What follows is a breakdown of each piece of the Focus Canvas, why it’s important, some examples, and the resources necessary to develop each component of your very own.

If you wish, at this juncture, you may download your very own Focus Canvas skeleton and work through it as you read this guide.

Download your Focus Canvas

Okay, kids, let’s get started.

Building your Focus Canvas


Focus Canvas Timeframe

Why it’s important

One of the most important characteristics of your Focus Canvas is that it’s meant to be a dynamic, living, and breathing thing. At the top left, you’ll find a spot to place the date range for the duration in which you’re focusing on the things that you’ve identified in your Focus Canvas.

Ideally, you will stay focused on the specific components of your Focus Canvas for 90 days at a time. Keep in mind, however, that not all of the elements will change every quarter. Some — like your meaning beyond money, your goals, and your audience groups may remain the same across many iterations of your Focus Canvas.

After you’ve used your Focus Canvas to drive a few strategy cycles, you can decide on your frequency for updating. Just make sure that you continue to revisit and evolve it as your company, your customers, and your strategy progresses.

Our meaning beyond money

Focus Canvas Meaning Beyond Money

Why it’s important

Your meaning beyond money is the cornerstone of your Focus Canvas. It’s the reason your company exists. It’s the higher purpose your company is serving by being in business and doing what it does every day.

Your meaning beyond money is an extremely important component to all of your marketing efforts because it’s the essence of your entire brand and it’s why people are attracted to your community. If this isn’t something your company has defined, or isn’t leveraging in your marketing, it’s time to start.

companies with purpose quote brian solis

Operating from your meaning beyond money provides many benefits to your company and your team. The most important is that employees are more engaged in purpose-driven companies because they know the work they do means something.

When it comes down to it, leading with meaning beyond money is what makes your company human. And the more you have the courage to be real, authentic, and genuine in everything your company does both on- and offline, the bigger the strategic advantage you’ll gain over your competition.


Here are a couple of examples of how meaning beyond money can be communicated effectively through marketing:


Patagonia’s meaning beyond money is working to be a responsible company: both socially and environmentally. They are probably one of the best examples of a company that leads with purpose, and it bleeds through everything they do, especially in their marketing.

patagonia's meaning beyond money

In the recent months, Patagonia has been building an experience with their brand through an integrated campaign called „Worn Wear.“ With Worn Wear, you can have your Patagonia gear repaired to help it last longer—which means the people who do this are helping Patagonia leave less of a footprint on our world, living up to the higher purpose they have as an environmentally responsible company.

Patagonia lives their meaning beyond money so much so that they have been driving across country in a bio-diesel truck to spread the word. When they came through Fort Collins, I got a taste first-hand. And sure enough, they had people inside their bio-diesel truck repairing gear. Some of it wasn’t even made by Patagonia. That’s how deeply they believe in achieving their higher purpose (and it has helped their company to continue to be profitable).

patagonia fix-it bus

Traveling Vineyard

Serving a very different purpose as a company than Patagonia, Traveling Vineyard is a direct selling organization that sells wine. Their meaning beyond money is to help the people who sell wine for them find more personal and professional satisfaction in their lives.

Before profit comes Traveling Vineyard’s desire to support their Wine Guides in finding their passion and providing them with the resources and training necessary to build their own businesses, no matter what the bottom line looks like.

traveling vineyard's meaning beyond money

One of the ways Traveling Vineyard conveys their meaning beyond money is by telling the stories of the real people in their community and how their careers have changed their lives.

The biggest impact of a company’s meaning beyond money is the fact that it doesn’t have to be at scale. You can use your company as an agent for change one person at a time.

Whatever your company determines your higher purpose to be, this part of your Focus Canvas will keep your teams focused on accomplishing that greater meaning. Then it’s clear to them that this needs to guide the decisions they make since they are part of a company that stands for something bigger than simply making money.


As you prepare your meaning beyond money for your Focus Canvas, these resources may help your company define what that is (or compel you to become more purpose-driven):

Why we’re different

focus canvas why we're different

All of the elements of your Focus Canvas are interdependent, but the next two will build on each other. The reasons that you’re different will inform the value that you provide your customers.

Why it’s important

It’s rare that companies find themselves in markets that are not saturated by steep competition. As a result, it’s imperative that you identify, and that everyone in your company understands, how to effectively communicate the reasons your company is different from your competition. Why should someone choose to be your customer? Why not just choose the other guy?

When completing this part of your Focus Canvas, list up to five unique characteristics that you know to be true only to your company (and that make you valuable and relevant to your specific customers). Be careful that you’re not just listing all of the stuff that every company in your industry offers vs. what truly makes you stand out. This will also help keep your teams focused on delivering those very important promises of value.


Warby Parker

Warby Parker has many unique selling propositions (or USPs and sometimes may even be called a UVP or unique value proposition). The most noteworthy is the fact that they’ve disrupted the entire eyewear industry by using non-traditional methods to make glasses so that their product could be the alternative. They not only compete on price but also by giving back (for every pair you buy, they give to a pair to someone in need).

warby parker uvp


If you happen to like M&Ms (peanut kind, please), one of the USPs of their product is that it won’t melt in your hands. Lucky for you, they made this sweet commercial about it in 1981 (and you get to re-live the magic now).


One of Moz’s USPs is how they infuse their TAGFEE values into everything they do. It’s become an unmistakable part of their identity which their customers know they can’t get anywhere else. Same with Roger (as a mascot) and Rand (as a thought leader and approachable personality).

Moz TAGFEE code

This is my favorite example of a USP because it’s not solely functionality or product based. Many companies list technical components of their products as USPs, but that means they’re continually playing the competitor catch-up game; revising their USPs every time their competitors match functionality or features.

Although you definitely want to broadcast key features that your company alone has cornered the market on, look for ways to communicate USPs that won’t go out of style and also tie back into your meaning beyond money.


Here are some additional USP resources for y’all:

The value we provide

focus canvas the value we provide

Why it’s important

This spot on your Focus Canvas is for the full version of your value proposition (which is inclusive of the unique characteristics you defined in your USPs above). This will help your team properly communicate what you do and how it benefits your customers.

According to ConversionXL, your value proposition is a clear statement that:

    • Explains how your product solves customers‘ problems or improves their situation (relevancy),
    • Delivers specific benefits (quantified value),
    • Tells the ideal customer why they should buy from you and not from the competition (unique differentiation).

Try to keep this sucker brief at 2-3 sentences (with possibly a few USP bullet points to support).


Here’s one of the value proposition examples that Peep provides from Campaign Monitor. This example makes it very easy to tell what they do, who they do it for, and how that’s unique to them:

campaign monitor value proposition

Help Scout also has some great guidance on how to create great value propositions that work well. They provide these two examples of value propositions for Stripe and Synthesis:

help scout value propositions

synthesis value proposition

The biggest thing about your value proposition is that it needs to be incredibly clear and very easy to understand. Sometimes that can be easier to do on your website because you can take all the time you need to craft the perfect words, place the perfect images, and test how this affects your customers.

Where your value proposition really gets put to the test is how your employees use it in person when people ask them what they do. Your Focus Canvas is a great spot for this. Provide your team with a very brief, value-fueled elevator pitch that helps them to communicate the right things in their daily interactions with customers, colleagues, and friends.


For your convenience, here are the posts I mentioned above, plus some additional resources that will help you to build or revise your existing value proposition (that’s informed by your USPs):

What we’re trying to accomplish

focus canvas what we're trying to accomplish

Why it’s important

When you’re aligning teams, getting everyone on the same page, and working toward the visionary goal of the company, things can get messy. This requires a great deal of collaboration across channels and teams of people, all with their own agendas, goals, and expectations of results. All the more reason to use your Focus Canvas as a tool for…wait for it…focus and alignment.

Keep in mind that when you’re identifying what you’re trying to accomplish, your teams can have different goals, but ultimately everyone should be working toward achieving the overarching vision of the company.

Before you place your goals into your Focus Canvas, make sure you’re using your meaning beyond money to inform them. Those goals will then help you build an integrated marketing strategy that determines the tools and tactics you’ll use (like content, SEO, video, social, email marketing, paid channels, etc.). That way, your teams will be working on accomplishing the right things in the short term in order to reach your long-term goals.

focus canvas goals core tactics

Ultimately, everything you’re producing in your marketing strategy is working toward becoming the company you’re meant to be, and at the same time, connecting your community to your higher purpose and more fully to your brand.


When looking at what you’re trying to accomplish, consider three categories of goals: visionary, business, and brand. Place these goals on your Focus Canvas so that you can continue to work towards these goals until you’ve accomplished them. As mentioned, your goals (especially visionary goals) will most likely carry over several cycles as you revise and refresh your Focus Canvas.


Visionary goals are the longer term ones that your entire company is working toward. It’s the bigger, more audacious goals that may take 2-3 years (or longer) to complete. If you’re using this Focus Canvas inside of a large company, you can set a visionary goal for your team or division. Just make sure it’s aligned with the greater visionary goal of the company as a whole.

If it helps, as a company, Mack Web has two visionary goals:

    • Change the way companies build their brands
    • Change the way marketing is measured

Ultimately we exist to help companies build better businesses, so our visionary goals are part of making this happen.


Business goals are the stuff that’s related to your team and company’s financial goals. When identifying these goals, consider the financial benchmarks that must be accomplished in order to reach your department’s, and ultimately your company’s, revenue goals.

Currently, Mack Web’s business goals are to:

    • Diversify revenue streams (we specify actual numbers per stream internally)
    • Work with responsive, purpose-driven companies
    • Keep Mack Web running smoothly and profitably


Brand goals are the qualitative benchmarks that your team is held accountable for. When identifying these goals, consider questions like:

    • What is your meaning beyond money?
    • Who does your company really want to become?
    • How does the above inform your team’s goals?
    • How does all of this fit into the vision of your company’s brand?

Mack Web has many brand goals that we’re working to accomplish:

    • Help our clients feel valued
    • Ensure clients are reaching their goals
    • Earn long-term partnerships and mentorships
    • Earn reputable speaking and blogging gigs
    • Attract companies who align with our values and approach

Essentially, if Mack Web accomplishes our brand and business goals, we will be well on our way to accomplishing our visionary goals, and most importantly, realizing our higher purpose and the reason we exist as a company.


One of the ways we often get to goals (and also tactics to accomplish those goals) is by working through a visioning exercise we learned from working with the Paterson Process. Here’s how that works:

Where are you today?

In the first part of this exercise, you’re going to paint the picture of where your team or company stands today. Are you having a lot of conflict and roadblocks? Are you finding synergy? Are you short-handed? Do you have everything you need to be great? Are you lacking resources or training? Paint the picture, positive or negative, of your team’s status as it stands today.

where are you today

Where are you going?

Now you want to think about where you want your team (and company) to be in a year. In two years. In three years. What does that mountain look like that you want your team to stand on? Is everyone certified in Google Analytics? Have you reached a certain level of profitability and brand awareness? Did you develop a tool or resource for your customers? Paint the picture of that mountain that you’d like to summit. These desires will become your goals that you will categorize into visionary, business, and brand as detailed above.

where are you going

How will you get there?

Lastly comes the action. How the heck are you gonna make that stuff happen? What needs to be put into place? Do you need training? Do you need to hire more people? Do you need better communication with other teams? Write down all of the things that will help your team get up your mountain. As you work to build your integrated strategy, these things will become the tactics that you execute.

how will you get there

Once you’ve worked through these exercises and worked with your team(s) to identify goals, you can place your visionary, business, and brand goals on your Focus Canvas. Next, we’ll focus on your customers.

Who our customers are

focus canvas who are your customers

Why it’s important

When you’re considering how you’re going to reach your goals, it’s probably a good idea that everyone, not only those on your team but also in your company, knows who they’re talking to. Getting to know your audience is an in-depth, ongoing process of connecting, validating, and refining so that you’re continually giving your audience what they need.

When identifying who your customers are, it’s important to remember that it’s not everyone. Earning and retaining customers requires a great deal of bandwidth and resources from your team. If they know which audience groups are a priority, they can focus their strategy and efforts there, making it more likely that they’ll accomplish goals.


If you haven’t yet done so, take a long look at this slide deck from Mike King. It’s got some really important stuff in it about validating personas (and not just guessing that who you’ve identified as personas are the people you think you’re talking to).

As Mike would put it:

quantitative v qualitative

The entire deck is full of instructions on how to build data-driven persona that will help you verify whether these people are actually coming to your website, or other touchpoints in their experience, and whether you’re giving them what they need.


Once you’ve identified your top three customer groups, you can place their details in your Focus Canvas (perhaps with a link to any additional context you may want to provide). Your teams can then build their strategies and focus their efforts around them.


Here are some additional resources for you that will help you identify your top three customer groups (in addition to Mike’s deck):

How we’re helping our customers

focus canvas how we're helping customers

This part of your Focus Canvas is going to evolve as you continually work to create the resources that are relevant to your customers‘ lives.

What you see on your Focus Canvas skeleton are just some sample phases of a possible customer’s journey. You’ll want to identify what these phases are for your customers before you can decide the resources that will fulfill their needs during each phase and where you will need to provide them (on your website, on social, via email, offline, etc.).

Like personas, how you’re helping your customers requires continuous effort and validation. And, with other parts of this Focus Canvas, how you’re helping your customers must change based on the data you collect and the experiences you have with them.

Why it’s important

When it comes down to it, your company exists to help other people; to improve their lives in some way. In order to do this, you’ve got to continually stay relevant in their lives. Each phase in your customer’s journey is going to require a different level of support in order to earn their trust and business. Being adaptive to their needs ongoing is what will keep them with you long term.


One very simple way to help your customers is to identify each of the stages of their experience with your company, and then determine what questions you may need to answer (or resources you need to develop) during each phase. Joanna Lord has developed a very simple and effective guide that will take you through how to do this. You can then map those phases, questions, and their touchpoints in this spreadsheet, and then place the ones you’re focusing on in your Focus Canvas.

customer touchpoints chart

If you haven’t already identified customer touchpoints, then you’ll want to first look at your customer’s behavior phases and then determine the questions they may ask (or wouldn’t have enough knowledge to ask) during those phases. It may take you a few cycles to get through all of the questions, but you can use your Focus Canvas to keep track of the ones you’re focused on answering.

If you’ve already done this, then you can focus your team’s efforts elsewhere, like developing resources your customers can download and use. Whatever the task, place it in the Focus Canvas so that you can easily communicate what the focus is at this time.


In addition to Joanna’s guide, these resources will help you map your customer’s journey and identify some important things that you can be doing to better serve them:

What’s important now

focus canvas what's important now

Why it’s important

Knowing what to focus on in order to accomplish your company’s goals is probably one of the toughest parts of strategy. Within every company, no matter how big or small, there are always many things that are broken, stuff that has to get done to earn customers, and an ever-changing world to contend with.

The difficulty this presents is the temptation to do too many things at once, which will only dilute your efforts, keep you focused on nothing, and ultimately get you nowhere.

oliver emberton quote multitasking

At the bottom of your Focus Canvas you’ll find three spots to identify the most important things to focus on now, over the next 90 days. These are your strategic priorities; the things you need to cross off your list so that your team and company can get closer to getting up that mountain and achieving its goals.

Notice that there are only three spots on your canvas. If one of your strategic priorities is really big, you can even choose to focus on just one of them. The point is to focus. And, as you’re executing your integrated strategy and shiny things start to surface, come back to your Focus Canvas, all of the elements, and especially your strategic priorities, to determine whether it’s more important to take that detour or exercise some self-control and stay focused right where you are.


Right now, Mack Web has two pretty big strategic priorities that we’re working through: a rebrand and the improvement of our company operating system (we’re testing and implementing some holacracy components). These two things alone are plenty for us to chew on, so we’re capping our strategic priorities, or what’s important now, for the next 90 days on only these two things.

mack web focus canvas

These things are communicated on our Focus Canvas so that when unexpected challenges arise or shiny things present themselves, we can weigh them against what we’ve identified as priorities and either say „no“ or „not now.“ And, because what we’re focusing on is recorded on the Focus Canvas, it helps to take the emotion out of decisions and keep us on track.


If you need a little assistance figuring out where your focus should be for the next 90 days, we’ve adapted an exercise we learned from the Paterson Center called Four Helpful Lists.

four helpful lists

In a nutshell, here’s how it works (if you’d like some additional guidance, this post will help you better understand how we’ve worked through this exercise and applied it with our team):

Start with a question

Before we break down what’s most important to focus on, we start with a strategic question so that we can get to the underlying issues that need to surface (and then we can work on them). So, for example, if your team is challenged with available resources, instead of asking, „who are we going to hire next?“ we would ask, „how is the team functioning?“ That way, we can then go right into each of the prompts in the lists: what’s right, what’s wrong, what’s missing, and what’s confused.

Complete the four lists

Each of the four lists will help you uncover a variety of things that your team or company needs to focus on in order to accomplish your goals. The columns work this way:

  1. What’s right
    Always start with what’s going right. Exhaust all of the positive aspects of your current situation.
  2. What’s wrong
    This is anything that is typically putting up roadblocks. Or it’s the stuff that is taking you way off track that you probably need to consider putting on pause.
  3. What’s missing
    These are the opportunities you can explore, and also the things you wish you had. A lot of times we find what’s missing are things like processes, systems, and resources.
  4. What’s confused
    This is what you’ll need to get figured out in order to move forward. It’s what requires additional info in certain places in order to proceed.

Once you’ve gone through each list, you can then map out the items that are the most important to handle in order to move the company forward. You then choose three that will become your strategic priorities for the next 90 days. Make sure the priorities you’ve selected match your goals and align with the other elements of your Focus Canvas.

What’s next?

As you work through building your Focus Canvas, you may have unearthed some things that have been holding your team or company back. You may have noticed some gaps in many of these simple elements. That’s okay. One of your strategic priorities could be working on resolving the holes so that you know you’re focusing on the right things. Just know that it could take a few months to fully develop your first Focus Canvas.

Once you’ve got your Focus Canvas in place, you can meet with the other teams in your company to help them understand all of these important elements. Even better, maybe those teams will be inspired to be part of building the next one, or even build one that’s specific to their team but that also aligns with the focus of the marketing department.

With the awareness of what your company is here to do, who they’re doing it for, and what’s important to do now, you’re ready to develop a strategy that aligns with all of these components. We typically build strategies that recycle and reset every 90 days (this post will help you better understand how that works). You’ll want to test whatever works best for your team and company.

Final words

Not many companies work on focus because it’s hard. It means you probably have to face some conflict and work through challenges with the people on your team and in your company. It can be tough at first, but putting in the effort to get your teams focused and aligned will make a huge impact on your company.

As you work on developing and integrating your Focus Canvas within your company, I’m happy to answer any additional questions you have. Please ping me in the comments below.

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Dissecting and Surviving Google’s Local Snack Pack Results

Posted by MiriamEllis

Google’s Snack Packs (a.k.a Local Stacks) haven’t gotten the best reception in the local business community. Many people feel these results serve Google itself more so than the local businesses they feature. For this reason, it may be more important than ever to make sure your local search marketing is both accurate and thorough. In this post, we’ll dive into why.

Let’s take one of these results apart and discover how best to respond to their limitations.

I was never a fan of Google’s Carousel. The vivid, image-oriented, horizontal display moved me out of my comfort zone after a decade or so of easy familiarity with the minimalist blue/grey/green palette of more traditional packs. A few orange stars here, a red teardrop marker there—like most Google users, I had been conditioned to see and understand these elements of pack results at a glance. The carousel felt like a shocking departure from the simplicity I consider to be a chief hallmark of Google’s historic style. I wasn’t sorry to bid them farewell … until I got my first look at the Snack Packs that have now become the standard results for hospitality and entertainment searches.

Bearing in mind that „Google’s goal is to provide users with the most relevant results and a great user experience,“ please join me in dissecting the parts of a single Snack Pack entry to see if you think it’s living up to Google’s stated purpose.

elements of google's snack pack

Key to the Snack Pack

Here we’re going to see what each of the elements of this Snack Pack result for a search for „Tex Mex Restaurants“ in Dallas signifies and directs us to. But before we do so, let’s quickly note what isn’t immediately accessible in this type of result:

  1. The phone number of the business
  2. The full address of the business
  3. A link to the website of the business

In other words, if we want to call the business right now, or understand exactly where it’s located, or visit the website to see a menu or get the feel of the place, we’re out of luck on our first try. Instead of instant gratification, we’re going to have to start clicking around on the elements of the typical snack pack to see if Google will give us what we want. Here’s what happens when we interact with these 10 elements:

Element 1

The business name is clear enough. We click on it, perhaps assuming that we’ll be going to the website of the business, as we would in an organic result, or at least to a Google+ Local page which years of Google use will have acquainted us with. Instead we end up on a secondary interface that isn’t a website and isn’t a Google+ Local page. It’s more like a large knowledge graph hanging in space above some organic results:

element 1 google snack pack

Personally, I find the hanging-in-space presentation of this secondary interface a bit odd, but at least we can now see the full address, phone number and a globe icon linking to the website. Likely, we’ve now found what we need, but I’m left asking why we had to click to get to this information. Traditional packs gave us instant, direct access to NAP+W—the core name, address phone number and website elements of any citation. By contrast, Snack Packs may make us feel that Google is holding out on us, making us click further into their own product before they’ll deliver.

Elements 2 and 3

Clicking on the stars and reviews also takes us to the in-space interface. Fair enough. We probably didn’t expect to see all of the Google reviews on our first try, but I do have to wonder why we don’t reach them in one click on these elements. Instead, we have to go from the second interface to a third, by clicking on the „View All Google Reviews“ link. It looks like this, and is again disconnected, sitting on a greyed-out background:

elements 2 and 3 google snack pack

I have to ask, why doesn’t the reviews link in the Snack Pack take us directly to all of the reviews right away? Presumably, I want to see all of the reviews if I’m clicking that link—not just three of them.

Elements 4 and 5

The price gauge and the word Mexican“ take us to the in-space interface. Fine enough. I confess, I’m not sure where that word „Mexican“ comes from, and as a student of regional American cuisines, I’ll state for the record that Tex-Mex food is not Mexican food. I was curious enough about this to go hunt up the Google+ Local page for Mia’s Tex-Mex Restaurant.

You can’t get to it from the Snack Pack, as we’ve seen, and Google has been making direct links to Google+ Local pages harder and harder to find, so here’s a shameless plug for the Moz Check Listing tool. Look up the name and zip in Check Listing to get right to the Google+ Local page. No fussing with Google Maps, branded searches, etc.

Then, once you’re there, take a tip from Darren Shaw and click on the category on the Google+ Local page to see what appears to be a full list of the categories a business has selected:

elements 4 and 5 google snack pack

Okay, so now we’ve seen that the business did select „Mexican Restaurant“ as a category, and perhaps if we visited, we’d find that they’re serving traditional Chiles en Nogada alongside the Tex-Mex standard queso dip. If the word „Mexican“ in the Snack Pack display is coming from the categories, it has been abbreviated and given precedence over the primary, exact match „Tex-Mex Restaurant“ category. I know the word isn’t coming from Zagat, where this restaurant is categorized as „Tex-Mex“. I’m not 100% sure about the origin of this word being given such prominence in the Snack Pack, but I guess we can let it go at that.

Elements 6 and 7

I really do have a bone to pick with element 6—the partial street address. What good does this do anyone? Not only are we lacking a street number to tell us exactly where the restaurant is, but the fact that there is no city shown erodes our confidence that we are, indeed, being shown a result in Dallas. We’ll have to click through to the in-space interface if we want Google to deliver the goods for us on this one.

Element 7, the sentiment snippet „longtime spot with famous brisket tacos“ also takes us to the second interface. It’s not a direct quote of the business description which reads, „Bustling, casual, longtime eatery (since 1981) popular for its brisket tacos & other Tex-Mex fare.“ It also doesn’t seem to originate directly from a user review, and I don’t see it described this way on Zagat. So, it appears to be a custom hybrid of sentiments Google and Zagat have created. I’m fine with this, but should it be more important to see random sentiment than a phone number in the Snack Pack? Which element do you feel is more deserving of pack real estate?

Elements 8 and 9

This is where I feel the average Google user may become somewhat confused, if they don’t understand that Google acquired Zagat in 2011. Clicking on the prominent Zagat logo or the wording „Zagat—Dallas‘ best Tex-Mex restaurants“, one might expect to go to Zagat. But, you guessed, it—we’re going ridin‘ on a freeway right back to the in-space interface, and we’re not even taken to the portion of it that shows the Zagat data. We have to scroll down to get to this:

elements 8 and 9 google snack pack

So, now we’re kind of intrigued. What does it mean that Zagat is voting this restaurant to be one of the best? We click that link, again likely assuming that we’re going to Zagat. Instead, we get yet another interface. It looks like this, and Mia’s Tex-Mex isn’t even the first thing we see on it. It’s down at numero cuatro in some sort of Google list that appears to be branded with Zagat’s name:

google snack pack

Just for fun, let’s click on Mia’s and see where we go. Que cosa? We’re back on the in-space interface yet again, and maybe feeling a bit like we’re going in circles.

There are actually pages on Zagat for these things. Here’s their page for the best Tex-Mex restaurants in Dallas, which I’ve noticed appears to have a completely different ordering of the results. It’s interesting that, instead of Google’s Snack Pack or the secondary interface taking us directly to this page, we remain firmly locked with Google’s own interfaces.

Element 10

As with most of the other elements, clicking the image takes us to the secondary interface (which appears to be different than the Google+ Local image gallery interface) and that then clicks to a page like this one which also feels a bit disconnected to me.

Unfortunately for this business, their primary image isn’t doing their listing any favors, but I don’t really have a problem with having to click a couple of times to get to an image gallery.

In sum, the initial interface of the Snack Pack may feel to users a bit like stubbing one’s toe on a blunt object of questionable usefulness. I know that’s the approximate sensation I have when I encounter this display.

Google may have turned off the Carousel for restaurants, but human users are still getting quite a merry-go-round ride trying to use and interpret the Snack Pack that has replaced it. As they bounce from one Google-owned interface to another instead of being given immediate NAP+W or taken directly to owner-managed websites or Google+ Local pages, or even directly to platforms like Zagat, users are given few signals about what connects all of these disparate elements together. To me, the experience is piecemeal and lacking in cohesive glue and feels like a step backward from the clearer UX of the traditional local packs that Google has so long promoted. What do you think? In your opinion, does this search results display live up to Google’s goals of usability and quality?

Snack Pack survival for local business owners and SEOs

However I may feel about Snack Packs, this I know: when I want to play with Google, it’s always got to be by their rules. So how can businesses like hotels, restaurants, bakeries, venues, bars, clubs, amusement parks, caterers and their marketers survive Snack Pack treatment?

The answer is clear:

Given that your customers will be interacting within a series of Google interfaces, it is now more important than ever that your Google-related marketing be as flawless as possible.

Using that secondary in-space interface as our springboard, this means that you have to get all of the following correct:

In your Google My Business dashboard

  1. Business name
  2. Address
  3. Phone number
  4. Website
  5. Description
  6. Hours of operation
  7. Categories
  8. Images

Beyond your Google My Business dashboard

  1. You must be earning positive, Google-based reviews and keeping an eagle eye on any patterns of negative reviews that arise so that you can quickly remedy internal service problems and respond appropriately.
  2. If you’re marketing a food service business, you should upload your menu to sites like UrbanSpoon and GrubHub. These are the sites from which I’ve seen Google pulling menus, but there could be other platforms I haven’t noticed.
  3. Food-oriented businesses must also tackle the Zagat environment. Here are Google’s detailed guidelines covering how to get Zagat rated, what’s allowed and what isn’t, editing listings, uploading menus, and lots more.
  4. Remember that Google draws data not just from places like Zagat but from all over the web. This means that your website, your structured citations, and unstructured mentions of your business must accurately, and hopefully positively, represent your business.
  5. There is no replacement for good service at your place of business, and excellent service may earn you additional perks like being added to „Best Of“ lists by Google’s Zagat, which then make it into the interfaces Google controls.
  6. Be prepared for change. If we’ve learned one thing in the local SEO industry, it’s that Google makes both small and large changes on an on-going basis. We all went for a ride on the Carousel in 2013 and, with the exception of a few search categories, hopped off in 2014. Now we’re gnawing on Snack Packs. Tomorrow, who knows? What has historically stood business owners in good stead amidst all of these search evolutions is adherence to guidelines and data accuracy on Google’s products and around the web.

Your key takeaway: Be alert to developments but don’t be dismayed—if you’re getting your marketing right, chances are good that you’ll survive any foreseeable local display change. That’s good news for local business owners and their marketers alike!

Header images by Scott Bauer (United States Department of Agriculture) [Public domain] and Ricraider (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], both via Wikimedia Commons.

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Männer die Vaginas malen


„Draw the Vagina of your dreams“ ist die Aufgabe, die diesen Männern in dem Video vom LOLpervs gestellt wurde. Keine Ahnung, warum man sowas „beauftragt“, hat wahrscheinlich was mit diesem Internet zu tun.

Ich hoffe, im nächsten Teil dürfen die Frauen dann auch mal ran und den Penis ihrer Träume zeichnen!

va Sleazemag

Männer die Vaginas malen (Quelle: Blogrebellen)

Perlen des Journalismus: „Das ist keine Frau aus Schokolade“


Hui, ein hoffentlich unbewusster Ausrutscher im „Wolfenbütteler Schaufenster“. „Wichtig“ für den Leser dieses Blättchens sind augenscheinlich auch die Hinweise „links“ und „oben“.

Perlen des Journalismus: „Das ist keine Frau aus Schokolade“ (Quelle: Blogrebellen)