Now, I know we technically have a few days left in 2017, but I’m ready to dive head-first into a fond, full-blown retrospective. Each year we look back on what we’ve published, compiling and sharing the pieces you liked best. Normally we divvy it up via various metrics: traffic, 1Metric score, total thumbs up, total comments, the best of YouMoz, and so on and so forth. This year, however, we’re doing things just a little differently.
A lot has changed in the past year…
The way we run the blog has changed in a few significant ways from the days of yesteryear. YouMoz, our user-generated content blog, was retired in the autumn of 2016 (though we hope to resurrect it in another form someday). We reduced our publishing frequency a bit, and refocused our content on core SEO topics after spending 2015 and 2016 branching out into other marketing subjects (like social media and content marketing). We also made some big changes with regards to commenting: we closed comments on posts older than 30 days (they became veritable spam factories), and implemented stricter moderation filters to better catch spammy comments fishing for either a link or easy MozPoints.
And if I’m being completely honest, I don’t think the “Best of” posts from years past have offered you, our beloved readers, as much value as they should’ve. The most excited comments on those posts occur when someone discovers a gem they’d missed, when a post reaches out to you from the masses of online content clamoring for your attention and speaks to you. The way we formerly ranked “the best” resulted in a lot of overlap; the same few posts with lots of thumbs up, a busy comments section, and high traffic overwhelmed the leaderboard.
What criteria now determines “best”?
At the end of 2017, we’re starting fresh. First, I’ve taken our ten most popular blog post categories by traffic — these represent the topics readers are actively seeking information on. Next, I thought about which metric matters most to me when I consider the success of a blog post. Traffic, thumbs, social shares… Nice to see, yes, but they don’t paint a very clear picture of a post’s impact. I found myself returning to my favorite blog post metric again and again: the comments.
A post with a lively comments section can be many things. Perhaps it sparked questions or debate; perhaps the findings were controversial; perhaps it was simply inspiring. Whatever the reason, a heavily commented-on post represents something that struck a chord, that convinced a person to peek out from behind their keyboard shield and contribute a thought, something that coaxed a little extra effort and commitment from our community. As a silent lurker myself, I am consistently blown away by the humility, genius, and generosity you all display in the blog comments section every day.
So there we have it: this year’s Best of the Moz Blog 2017 is a list of the top five most-commented posts in the top ten blog categories. That’s fifty unique blog posts throughout the year on a variety of topics, some of which you may have missed. Most blog posts fall into several of our categories, but every post will only be listed once; if it’s hit the top five in a more popular category, I’ve taken it out of the running for the rest. It’s my sincere hope that this list uncovers something useful for you, something that helps make your job and day just a little easier.
Without further ado, let’s get this party started!
Whiteboard Friday is far and away our most popular blog category, earning three times as much traffic as the rest. Because it always overlaps with at least one other category, you’re bound to get a tidy grab bag of SEO takeaways with this list!
What do the age of your site, your headline H1/H2 preference, bounce rate, and shared hosting all have in common? You might’ve gotten a hint from the title: not a single one of them directly affects your Google rankings. In this rather comforting Whiteboard Friday, Rand lists out ten factors commonly thought to influence your rankings that Google simply doesn’t care about.
Featured snippets and meta descriptions have brand-new character limits, and it’s a huge change for Google and SEOs alike. Learn about what’s new, when it changed, and what it all means for SEO in this episode of Whiteboard Friday. (And this is cheating, but for good measure, you might follow up with Dr. Pete’s official recommendation for meta description lengths in 2018.)
If you’ve ever been the victim of a Google penalty, you know how painful it can be to identify the problem and recover from the hit. Even if you’ve been penalty-free thus far, the threat of getting penalized is a source of worry. But how can you avoid it, when it seems like unnatural links lurk around every corner?
In this Whiteboard Friday, we warmly welcome Google penalty and unnatural link expert Marie Haynes as she shares how to earn links that do comply with Google’s guidelines, that will keep your site out of trouble, and that can make a real impact.
You may find yourself wondering whether the humble title tag still matters in modern SEO. When it comes to your click-through rate, the answer is a resounding yes! In this Whiteboard Friday, we welcome back our good friend Cyrus Shepard to talk about 7 ways you can revamp your title tags to increase your site traffic and rankings.
It’s been a few years since we’ve covered the topic of comment marketing, but that doesn’t mean it’s out of date. There are clever, intentional ways to market yourself and your brand in the comments sections of sites, and there’s less competition now than ever before. In this Whiteboard Friday, Rand details what you can do to get noticed in the comments and the benefits you’ll reap from high-quality contributions.
The top 5 posts in On-Page SEO
The results of our recent Moz Blog Reader Survey highlighted on-page SEO as the topic you’d most like to learn about, so it’s not surprising to see that this category sits right under Whiteboard Friday for popularity. There’s an interesting theme that emerges from these top posts: it seems we’re still working on many of the same things, but how we treat them has necessarily changed over time.
Which link is more valuable: the one in your nav, or the one in the content of your page? Now, how about if one of those in-content links is an image, and one is text? Not all links are created equal, and getting familiar with the details will help you build a stronger linking structure. This Whiteboard Friday covers links in headers and footers, in navigation versus content, and how that can affect internal and external links, link equity, and link value between your site and others.
On-page SEO has evolved in the past five years. Rand outlines the changes in five succinct tactics: move beyond keyword repetition rules; searcher intent matters more than raw keywords; related topics are essential; links don’t always beat on-page; and topical authority is more important than ever.
Which meta tags are absolutely necessary, which are dependent on your situation, and which should you absolutely ignore or remove? Kate Morris refreshes her original 2010 post on the subject of meta tags, sharing a few new tips and reiterating what’s remained the same over the past 7 years.
Controlling and improving the flow of your on-site content can actually help your SEO. What’s the best way to capitalize on the opportunity present in your page design? Rand covers the questions you need to ask (and answer) and the goals you should strive for in this edition of Whiteboard Friday.
The top 5 posts in Local SEO
Local SEO overlaps with what we think of as traditional SEO in many ways, so it’s not surprising at all to see this category near the top. There’s still a lot of doubt and apprehension, it seems, when it comes to local SEO best practices and what really works, and the top posts in this category reflect that.
It’s very clear that spam tactics in Google’s local results are earning higher rankings. In this post, Casey Meraz identifies exactly what spammers are doing to get ahead, what they can get away with, and what you can do to fight back against the problem plaguing local results.
Not all common practices in local SEO are the best practices. In fact, some of them can be pretty darn harmful. Check out Miriam’s list of what-not-to-dos (and what-you-should-actually-dos) in this comprehensive blog post.
From Google providing intimate details about businesses to Amazon expanding even further into the local scene, local SEO stood to see a lot of change this year. Check out what the SEOs at Moz had to say about what to prepare for in 2017.
Are you outranked in Google’s Local Pack? Then it’s high time to perform a competitive business audit. Use this example analysis and downloadable spreadsheet to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of multiple businesses and devise a plan to win.
The top 5 posts in Basic SEO
Basic SEO is another category that enjoys a lot of overlap with other topics; perhaps that’s one reason why it’s so popular. This year’s top posts in this category cover a range of subjects, and all are pretty useful for someone learning (or leveling up in) SEO.
They say history repeats itself. In the case of the great 301 vs 302 vs rel=canonical debate, it repeats itself about every three months. In this Whiteboard Friday, Dr. Pete explains how bots and humans experience pages differently depending on which solution you use, why it matters, and how each choice may be treated by Google.
An absolute essential if you want to keep yourself from getting overwhelmed, Moz’s own SEO Britney Muller offers five tips for prioritizing your SEO work: setting specific goals, identifying important pages for conversions, uncovering technical opportunities via a site crawl, time management, and providing consistent benchmarks and reporting.
Typical link outreach is a tired sport, and we’ve all but alienated most content creators with our constant link requests. In this Whiteboard Friday, Rand outlines five smart ways to earn links to your site without having to beg.
We’re so fond of the idea that SEO is hard because it’s always changing. But is that really true? Bridget Randolph challenges a common industry refrain and brings us back to the basics of what’s really important in our work.
In this edition of our educational Next Level series, you’ll learn an easy workflow for researching and targeting multiple keywords with a single page.
The top five posts in Link Building
A thousand years from now, when the Space Needle has toppled into Puget Sound and our great-great-great-great-etc. grandchildren are living on Mars, link building will still prove to be one of the most popular subjects on the Moz Blog. And you get a double-whammy of goodness this year, because they just so happen to all be Whiteboard Fridays!
Internal links are one of those essential SEO items you have to get right to avoid getting them really wrong. Rand shares 18 tips to help inform your strategy, going into detail about their attributes, internal vs. external links, ideal link structures, and much, much more in this edition of Whiteboard Friday.
We all know how effective link building efforts can be, but it can be an intimidating, frustrating process — and sometimes even a chore. In this Whiteboard Friday, Rand builds out a framework you can start using today to streamline and simplify the link building process for you, your teammates, and yes, even your interns.
Without a solid base of links, your site won’t be competitive in the SERPs — even if you do everything else right. But building your first few links can be difficult and discouraging, especially for new websites. Never fear — Rand is here to share three relatively quick, easy, and tool-free (read: actually free) methods to build that solid base and earn yourself links.
How can you effectively apply link metrics like Domain Authority and Page Authority alongside your other SEO metrics? Where and when does it make sense to take them into account, and what exactly do they mean? In this Whiteboard Friday, Rand answers these questions and more, arming you with the knowledge you need to better understand and execute your SEO work.
Image link building is a delicate art. There are some distinct considerations from traditional link building, and doing it successfully requires a balance of creativity, curiosity, and having the right tools on hand. In this Whiteboard Friday, Moz’s own SEO and link building aficionado Britney Muller offers up concrete advice for successfully building links via images.
The top 5 posts in Advanced SEO
2017’s top posts in the advanced SEO category cover just about every post type we like to publish (and that you like to read): in-depth case studies, Whiteboard Fridays, best practice advice, and solid how-tos.
If you’ve been struggling to take the number-one spot in the SERPs for a competitive keyword, take a cue from this case study. Dmitry Dragilev shares his team’s 8-step methodology for ranking first in a popular niche.
It’s common industry knowledge that PPC can have an effect on our organic results. But what effect is that, exactly, and how does it work? In this Whiteboard Friday, Rand covers the ways paid ads influence organic results — and one very important way they don’t.
If you’ve ever had any questions about the canonical tag, well, have we got the Whiteboard Friday for you. In this episode, Rand defines what rel=canonical means and its intended purpose, when it’s recommended you use it, how to use it, and sticky situations to avoid.
The end of November saw a spike in the average length of SERP snippets. Across 90K results, we found a definite increase but many oddities, such as video snippets. Our data suggests that many snippets are exceeding 300 characters, and we recommend a new meta description limit of 300 characters.
The top 5 posts in Technical SEO
Technical SEO posts are some of my favorite categories to publish (which is perhaps a strange sentiment coming from a poetry major). The debate that recently raged — about whether it’s necessary or unnecessary for SEO — will always stick with many of us, as will Rand’s excellent Whiteboard Friday rebuttal on the topic.
Thinking about going secure? It’s more important than ever, with Google issuing security warnings for many non-secure sites in Chrome. This comparison of three popular HTTPS services will help you determine the best option for implementing an SSL certification on your site.
Schema.org can be a confusing resource if you’re trying to learn how to use and implement structured data. This mini-guide arms you with the right kind of thinking to tackle your next structured data project.
The top 5 posts in Keyword Research
The posts generating the most buzz in our keyword research category seem to revolve around quick yet effective wins and tactical advice. And with time constraints being one of the biggest challenges reported in our Reader’s Survey, it’s really no surprise.
Keyword research doesn’t have to be a marathon bender. A brisk 30-minute walk can provide incredible insights — insights that connect you with a wider audience on a deeper level. Britney Muller shares several ways to get your keyword research tasks done efficiently and well.
What’s the secret to earning site traffic from competitive keywords with decent search volume? The answer could be as easy as 1, 2, 3 — or more precisely, 2, 0, 1, 7. In this Whiteboard Friday, Rand lets you in on a relatively straightforward tactic that can help you compete in a tough space using very fresh content.
Trying to target a small, specific region with your keywords can prove frustrating. While reaching a high-intent local audience is incredibly valuable, without volume data to inform your keyword research, you’ll find yourself hitting a wall. In this Whiteboard Friday, Rand shares how to uncover powerful, laser-focused keywords that will reach exactly the right people.
You don’t want to try to rank for every one of your competitors’ keywords. Like most things with SEO, it’s important to be strategic and intentional with your decisions. In this Whiteboard Friday, Rand shares his recommended process for understanding your funnel, identifying the right competitors to track, and prioritizing which of their keywords you ought to target.
It’s not often that a product-focused post makes our blog’s Best of the Year list, so this is both interesting and heartening to see. We worked really hard to bring better data and more usefulness to Keyword Explorer this year, and y’all left some really kind sentiments in the comments. Thanks for always being here for us, folks! 🙂
The top 5 posts in Content
I won’t say it, I promise. 😉 But content is just as important as ever, and the rather vague advice of “create great content and the rest will come” has certainly gotten a bit exhausting over the years. We’ve made an effort to publish more actionable ways to think about and use content, and it seems like that’s been resonating with you so far!
You’ve got top-performing content on your site that does really well. Maybe it’s highly converting, maybe it garners the most qualified traffic — but it’s just sitting there gathering dust. Isn’t there something else you can do with content that’s clearly proven its worth?
As it turns out, there is! In this Whiteboard Friday, Britney Muller shares three easy steps for identifying, repurposing, and republishing your top content to juice every drop of goodness out of it.
The perfect blog post length or publishing frequency doesn’t actually exist. “Perfect” isn’t universal — your content’s success depends on tons of personalized factors. In this Whiteboard Friday, Rand explains why the idea of “perfect” is baloney when it comes to your blog, and lists what you should actually be looking for in a successful publishing strategy.
Keywords are important for innumerable SEO tasks, but driving your content marketing strategy isn’t one of them. Your strategy should be based on the audience you’re trying to reach if you want your organic traffic to convert.
Paid Search Marketing
While it perhaps seems a little strange for an SEO blog to cover, paid search plays an important part in our digital marketing world, and as reported in our Reader’s Survey, plenty of us wear more than one hat. Here are the top posts from 2017 that generated the most commentary about all things paid:
Stuck in a content marketing rut? Relying on your existing newsletter, social followers, or email outreach won’t do your launches justice. Boosting your signal with paid social both introduces your brand to new audiences and improves your launch’s traffic and results. In this Whiteboard Friday, we’re welcoming back our good friend Kane Jamison to highlight four straightforward, actionable tactics you can start using ASAP.
Conversational interfaces are becoming more and more popular, but it’s hard to know where to start when it comes to voice search. A $50 PPC budget is enough to jumpstart your voice search keyword list and strategy — learn how in this step-by-step guide.
Top comments by thumbs up
Comments are my favorite blog post success metric, and it simply wouldn’t do if we didn’t honor the folks who contributed the most popular comments in 2017. Thank you, all of you, for sharing your thoughts with the greater Moz and SEO community, and for taking precious time out of your day to make the blog a more interesting and better place. And for all the comment lurkers out there like me, I offer you solemn solidarity and zero judgment (but I’d be delighted to see y’all venture out from behind the screen now and again ;).
Short, sweet, accurate, relevant advice is the name of the game. 🙂 We’ve had feedback before that some readers come to the blog for the comments as much as the post itself, and this example shows why. Thanks for sharing your insight, Praveen!
A bittersweet comment that clearly struck a chord with many in our community. Rand, I hope you know how much we all love and appreciate you! And Trevor, thank you so much for your candid and genuine thoughts; you truly spoke for all of us there.
By using the comments section to clarify a few points about his Whiteboard Friday video and highlight his advice, Rand adds extra value and oomph to the post as a whole… and the community responded. 🙂 Thank you for always leaving 10X comments, Rand!
The discussion in the thread spurred by this helpful, on-topic comment is the kind of lively, educational back-and-forth we love to witness. Thank you for inspiring folks to ask questions and learn, Eric!
In an incredibly meta turn of events, Gianluca’s comment on our Comment Marketing Whiteboard Friday rounds out the list of 2017’s top comments on the Moz Blog. I don’t think there’s a person on this Internet that’s done a better job of personal comment marketing than Gianluca! 🙂
Here’s to you!
Thank you all, each and every one of you, for helping to keep our little community a thriving, nurturing place to learn SEO, share ideas, and hey, even make mistakes now and again. It’s an honor to have a hand in providing content to such a TAGFEE and brilliant group of people, and I can’t describe how excited I am for all that 2018 will bring.
Let me know in the comments how you liked the change-up this year, what other “Best of” formats or lists you might find helpful, and any other ponderings or thoughts you might have — and thank you again for reading!