Bluefin Strategy heading to MozCon 2017 in Seattle

On July 17 through July 19th, Bluefin Strategy will be attending MozCon 2017 in Seattle.   We’re excited to get to see some talented speakers, meet with fellow marketers, meet face to face with clients (both current and potential) and most importantly, take in a bit of charming Seattle.

If you’ll be attending MozCon, let us know as we’d love to buy you a coffee (Seattle joke) and talk shop.  More importantly, we’ll be doing an exciting giveaway just for MozCon so track us down if you’re in attendance or follow us on Twitter (@bluefinstrategy) or #mozcon to find out the details between July 16th through July 19th.

Bluefin is attending MozCon 2017 in Seattle Washington


Technical SEO Agencies & You

Recently a friend asked me to help him evaluate some SEO agencies much larger than we are (so we weren’t upset…). As we went through the process a theme developed over and over again. Nearly every agency focused on Technical SEO at the outset and then a ‘pass the buck’ approach with ongoing optimization. So I figured it was important to jot down some things you should consider when evaluating SEO agencies so that you don’t get caught in their margin game.

A Solely Technical SEO Focus

Not to discount this tactic, as it is incredibly important, but it is not the sole thing you should focus on. A solid technical foundation helps your site get found and ensures that your content is able to be read by the search engines. But that content it is reading must still be well-written and supporting a keyword theme. Therefore, having perfect technical SEO on a site won’t get you far if you sacrificed content. Make sure your agency is focused on a holistic content strategy as opposed to just fixing the technical stuff! Ask them how they approach keyword research, do they have content writers on staff, do they conduct voice exercises, etc.

Here’s a Report For You

Ongoing SEO requires vigilance to searcher behavior, search engine algorithm changes, content-writing, and back-links. There’s plenty more, but the main thing you do not see listed there is “reporting”. Is reporting important? Absolutely. BUT, you can go buy one of the tools yourself. We use Moz, SEMRush, Screaming Frog, among others. Go download or use them. They are awesome. OK, now that we gave you our secret sauce, how’s your SEO? Hiring an agency is more than the tools they bring to the table. It is the experience and strategy that they bring. Ask your agency what a typical monthly engagement looks like. How often are they re-evaluating keywords, do they have a strategy for algorithm pivots, how often are they writing or suggesting articles, and how many websites do they typically go after for back links?

What Does it all Mean?

A solid >90% of agencies out there push as much work as possible upon lower cost resources in order to increase margins. Everyone does it, even at the grocery store. The issue in the agency world is that often this results in a lack of strategy to the client. Our advice, constantly challenge your agency on new ideas, industry news, keyword suggestions. Don’t just accept a monthly report of numbers, but request an action plan of recommendations and how they are keeping you on the forefront of the SEO world!

The SEO Value of Breadcrumb Navigation

Website navigation gets a lot of attention when it comes to usability and SEO.

If my own experience with hundreds of websites is any indication, that fourth one likely stands out for some of you.

Do Breadcrumbs impact SEO?

Yes.  As with most on-page content, when breadcrumbs are properly optimized they can improve the overall SEO health and usability of your site in a few ways:

  • Breadcrumbs influence triggering site hierarchy in your search results
  • Improves a Search Engine’s ability of crawl your site
  • Improves a Search Engine’s ability to attribute links more efficiently based on site hierarchy
  • Improves and supplements the usability of your complex navigation

How do I optimize my Breadcrumbs for SEO?


  1. Ensure that your breadcrumbs are accurately displaying across your site with an accurate category hierarchy
  2. Add structured markup to your breadcrumbs using the BreadcrumbList schema
  3. Follow Google’s guidelines on Breadcrumb optimization.

Matt Cutts also provided some insight into why, if you already have Breadcrumbs on your site, why it may not be showing in search results:

Writing SEO Titles that Encourage Clicks

If you’ve been working in the SEO field for any length of time, you’re likely familiar with the standard Title template:

Primary Keyword | Secondary Keyword | Tertiary Keywords | Brand Name

The idea that it’s good SEO to have all your keywords in your Title Element, while a proven method, has begun to lose it’s luster over the last few years.  While it allows a Title element to cover all bases and may help admittedly with ranking signals, more and more Google is paying attention to engagement and user-intent than ever before.

This also ignores the increase in search prowess for the typical user who has begun to attribute certain mental models to what they encounter in search results.  Take for instance these two examples of a Title element:

  • Affordable Desks | Cheap Desks | Budget Desks – Desks-For-Less
  • Quality affordable desks that fit any budget | Desks-For-Less

The first hits all the standard marks.  Lead with your primary keyword, list your secondary keywords and your brand.  However, when compared to a title wrote towards the intent of the user, it reads as spammy and robotic while the latter still includes the primary keyword but drives home their value.   The issue at hand has become that optimizing Titles has been long stuck in optimizing for rank while meta-descriptions were to influence engagement versus the more modern ideal which is optimizing both for engagement.

What many marketers forget is that their search results are not just competing for rank but competing for engagement against results that may be more optimized for relevance and engagement than theirs.  Take for instance these results for “Fashionable shoes for tall men” (I’m 6’8″ so this search happens daily):

google search results for tall fashion

Despite my searching for what fashionable shoes for tall men, many of the results are targeting someone wanting a shoe that makes them taller.  Taking that to the Title Element, compare the Tall Shoes | Height Increasing Shoes  to the 10 Style Tips for Tall Guys from an NBA Stylist result and imagine which would be more enticing to me based on my search intent?

When approaching the Title element, try and consider why a user is searching for your products or services.  While keyword data may return a number of variants for the same product, the days of simply adding each into your Title and measuring its success solely on rank are behind us.  The goal should be combining your keyword data with the topics and user intent behind your customer’s searches so that your search results provide the most relevant option to them.

Want to learn more?  Moz has put together a good list of 8 old school SEO best practices that are no longer effective including a section on Title elements.


Tools to Help with Keyword Research in 2017

SEO continues to evolve as it always has and one of the core aspects of SEO, keyword research, is no different.

While the classic method of keyword research has been identifying the best keyword opportunities and then creating individual pages with on-page content focusing on those exact keywords, Google’s continued focus on user-intent has forced content creators to focus on the intent of a user’s search versus matching towards select keywords.

So, with Google focusing more and more on returning results that match with the full intent of a user’s search versus matching keywords, what does that mean for you?  Does the classic style of exact keyword research still work?  Or should you be focusing simply on researching broad, topical context strategies when creating and optimizing content for SEO?

Most experts in the SEO realm, like Moz, believe that a combination of the two keyword research strategies is what will continue to work best.

Tl:dr: Keyword research in 2017 should focus both on what question is your content answering and what questions are your target customers asking?

That means that the classic method of keyword research is still vital but so is making sure you understand if your content is answering the same question topics your customers are asking.

What tools should I use to research at Topics?

There’s a host of good topic research tools out there, he’s a few of my favorites:

What tips or tools have you found useful for your online marketing in 2017?



How to Prepare for Google’s Mobile-First Index Change

If you follow the SEO industry, you’ve likely heard that Google has begun testing its Mobile-First Index.  If not, the short-version is Google currently indexes both the Desktop and Mobile versions of your website based on the Desktop version.  Google now plans to flip that and begin indexing your Desktop & Mobile versions based on the Mobile version of your website.

“Awesome.  So what?”

Well, for those of you with a standard Responsive or Dynamic Serving website, there isn’t much to worry about as quoted by the Google Webmaster Blog:

If you have a responsive site or a dynamic serving site where the primary content and markup is equivalent across mobile and desktop, you shouldn’t have to change anything.

Seems you can sit back and relax.

But I don’t have a responsive website though…

For those of you with a website that serves different markup to mobile and desktop and feel that your organic search results are important, the Mobile-First Index is another signal that Google is looking to push website owners further towards a responsive standard for the web. At this point, if you run a website, you’ve likely had to field the “Why aren’t we responsive yet?”question. And if you haven’t, the Mobile First Index test is a great conversation starter for a move to Responsive. With that in mind, I’ve put together the below list of guides that can get you on the right path towards avoiding penalties when Google pushes the Mobile First Index live in 2017.


3 Free Blogging Tools to Combat Writer’s Block

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Writing, regularly, is difficult for most. It requires a deep well of inspiration and discipline, tightly aligned with the ability to allow the perfectionist within us all to let go of the reins on a regular basis.

However, the myth usually surrounds the enviable idea that most writers are at least writing about their passions. For us Marketers that have to do this regularly but on topics we may lack passion on, simply getting started can be a monumental task.

Given this, I’ve put together three websites I use to help me get over the initial hump of generating topics. Getting this first step down makes the next step easier and snowballs into momentum, which is what all of us need as writers to generate near infinitely.

Portent’s Title Generator


Portent’s Content Idea Generator is the first place I go whenever I have a writing assignment on the horizon. Matched with a slick design and clever tutorial tips, it simply asks you to put in a topic (anything you want) and responds back with a singular, random 4-piece topic idea.

Hitting the refresh button will endlessly churn out new ideas, giving me a very quick set of titles based on a topic to start from. Below are some examples I did just now:

  • The Only Digital Publishing Resources You Will Ever Need
  • 19 Things Your Boss Expects You Know About Digital Publishing
  • How Digital Publishing Will Stop Poverty

It doesn’t write the article for you. It simply gives some ideas (many very clever as they sometimes insert pop culture references) to start from.

With a few ideas in mind, I move to my next site:

Answer the Public Topic Generator

Answer the Public Idea Generator Screenshot

Answer the Public isn’t the same type of site as Portent’s Idea Generator. It returns actual questions searched by users on topics you search for.

Note: When searching, the only annoyance is the “Country” drop down defaults to UK. Ensure you check that with each search.

Using the above ideas from my searches on Portent, I then take the singular keywords (digital publishing) and see what actual questions people are asking regarding the topic, like the below:

  • digital publishing without adobe
  • digital publishing with xml
  • problems with digital publishing

These are singular instances of searches the site returns from Google/Bing that give me a few ideas on what I should possibly add to my topic if any are relevant.

It’s important to note, this is more an optional step I take to see if any inspiration hits me that I wasn’t expecting. Most often, the results return bland or irrelevant options but each gives me a good idea on the structure I should use on my overall topic regardless.

Once checked, I simply move on to the next step.

HubSpot Title Generator

Hubspot Blog Topic Generator Screenshot

By now, I likely have a few terms and structures I’m considering. In this instance, the “How Digital Publishing Will Stop Poverty” has began to nag at me as a very interesting idea I could begin to research.

With that, I use HubSpot’s Topic Generator and enter up to three terms to get some final topic ideas, like the below:

  • How To Solve The Biggest Problems With Poverty
  • 14 Common Misconceptions About Poverty
  • The Superpower the Digital Publishing Industry is Hiding

Again, these are to simply see if anything adds to my already branching ideas. I’ll typically research multiple times until I’m certain the ideas being returned don’t detract or deter my anticipated course. In the above, it simply gave me some added ideas on how to approach a topic that is both sensitive, human and likely not considered a tie between digital publishing and poverty.

With that done, I begin my research and my writing.

The above, typically taking me around 5-10 minutes and aiding me to skip the part of chewing on my pen and staring at a wall until my head magically makes a new idea.

We all need help!

Digital Marketing HelpI had a conversation with a small business the other day where after presenting them with several issues that are easily fixed on their website the marketing person responded with, “ya we know all of that”. I guess this is why so many of us keep driving the car despite the engine light shining a Texas orange glow on the dash? How is it possible that in today’s landscape a business can dismiss such easy wins? Below I will outline a few of the common issues with the digital marketing landscape and how to overcome them with a digital strategy partner.

Lack of Knowledge

Many marketers in top positions have come from the Baby Boomer generation and haven’t grown up in the digital world. This isn’t bad, it just means there’s a larger learning curve, and we always fear what we don’t know. Another thing I have seen in my career is that many marketers don’t want to rock the boat for fear of getting the ax. Therefore, they just do the same things every year and don’t worry about upsetting what might be ‘sort of’ working today. Trying small things can reap huge benefits, but the quickest is implementing web analytics on your site complete with Event Tracking and Campaign Tracking Variables included. This is all offered free by Google and has very minimal upfront cost when working with a knowledgeable small agency to implement a rock solid analytics strategy. Knowledge equals power and web analytics provides it!

Lack of Time

There are hundreds of mediums and tactics to get your marketing message out there. Just within the digital marketing world there is SEO, PPC, Email Marketing, Social Media… etc. Many marketers today have a traditional and digital mix and really don’t have the time (or so they think) to monitor all of these moving pieces. Therefore they simply dip their toe in the water or keep it out all together, meaning not much attention is being paid and the results will suffer. Once web analytics are implemented on the site automatic reports can be setup to show how your inbound marketing is performing as well as where abandonment points may be on your website. This may take a couple of hours upfront, but then the reports are ‘set it and forget it’. Yes you still have to read them, but you won’t have to dig for the data every month to see what is working and what is not. Now you can answer with certainty to the question “what is our best online marketing medium”.

Lack of Money

When you add the word ‘digital’ to anything everyone expects the price tag to jump wildly. And in many companies’ defense digital agencies have been taking advantage of them for years with high margins and outrageously padded proposals. It’s like your electrician. If he charges you $50,000 for a job and says it will take 3 weeks you say, “OK, if that’s what it takes”. The truth is that many companies can get real digital strategy help for as little as $500 a month or quarter. Obviously the greater investment the greater the return, but the point is that it doesn’t have to be an ‘all in’ approach when it comes to your digital marketing investment. Additionally, many companies often think they need to spend $60,000 or more bringing on an internal resource. The point is, for a small investment (as little as just $2,000 per year) you can have a digital partner by your side guiding your digital initiatives and ensuring that your strategy is optimized and driving conversion success!

Bringing it all together

You don’t have to save the world all alone. I personally know nothing about an electrical circuit breaker and my electrician knows nothing of web analytics. But I also know that when I need an electrician I go for a small shop with a person I trust rather than some large regional company. My needs are smaller and therefore I want someone on that level. Hiring a digital strategy company is no different. On the flip side, larger companies can benefit from bringing on smaller agencies with lower costs for better resources. Many large agencies hire young kids out of college, so you’re paying top dollar for junior talent. You want a firm that understands that you do not have the knowledge, the time, nor the resources to do this on your own. Bringing on a digital marketing agency helps you focus on what you’re good at and lets them focus on what they are good at, driving website success!