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Our Readership: Results of the 2017 Moz Blog Reader Survey

SEOmoz December 5, 2017 Comments Off on Our Readership: Results of the 2017 Moz Blog Reader Survey

Posted by Trevor-Klein

This blog is for all of you. In a notoriously opaque and confusing industry that’s prone to frequent changes, we see immense benefit in helping all of you stay on top of the game. To that end, every couple of years we ask for a report card of sorts, hoping not only to get a sense for how your jobs have changed, but also to get a sense for how we can improve.

About a month ago, we asked you all to take a reader survey, and nearly 600 of you generously gave your time. The results, summarized in this post, were immensely helpful, and were a reminder of how lucky we are to have such a thoughtful community of readers.

I’ve offered as much data as I can, and when possible, I’ve also trended responses against the same questions from our 2015 and 2013 surveys, so you can get a sense for how things have changed. There’s a lot here, so buckle up. =)


Who our readers are

To put all of this great feedback into context, it helps to know a bit about who the people in our audience actually are. Sure, we can glean a bit of information from our site analytics, and can make some educated guesses, but neither of those can answer the questions we’re most curious about. What’s your day-to-day work like, and how much SEO does it really involve? Would you consider yourself more of an SEO beginner, or more of an SEO wizard? And, most importantly, what challenges are you facing in your work these days? The answers give us a fuller understanding of where the rest of your feedback comes from.

What is your job title?

Readers of the Moz Blog have a multitude of backgrounds, from CEOs of agencies to in-the-weeds SEOs of all skill levels. One of the most common themes we see, though, is a skew toward the more general marketing industry. I know that word clouds have their faults, but it’s still a relatively interesting way to gauge how often things appear in a list like this, so here’s what we’ve got this year:

Of note, similar to our results in 2015, the word “marketing” is the most common result, followed by the word “SEO” and the word “manager.”

Here’s a look at the top 20 terms used in this year’s results, along with the percentage of responses containing each term. You’ll also see those same percentages from the 2015 and 2013 surveys to give you an idea of what’s changed — the darker the bar, the more recent the survey:

The thing that surprises me the most about this list is how little it’s changed in the four-plus years since we first asked the question (a theme you’ll see recur in the rest of these results). In fact, the top 20 terms this year are nearly identical to the top 20 terms four years ago, with only a few things sliding up or down a few spots.

What percentage of your day-to-day work involves SEO?

We hear a lot about people wearing multiple hats for their companies. One person who took this survey noted that even at a 9,000-person company, they were the only one who worked on SEO, and it was only about 80% of their job. That idea is backed up by this data, which shows an incredibly broad range of responses. More than 10% of respondents barely touch SEO, and not even 14% say they’re full-time:

One interesting thing to note is the sharp decline in the number of people who say that SEO isn’t a part of their day-to-day at all. That shift is likely a result of our shift back toward SEO, away from related areas like social media and content marketing. I think we had attracted a significant number of community managers and content specialists who didn’t work in SEO, and we’re now seeing the pendulum swing the other direction.

On a scale of 1-5, how advanced would you say your SEO knowledge is?

The similarity between this year’s graph for this question and those from 2015 and 2013 is simply astonishing:

There’s been a slight drop in folks who say they’re at an expert level, and a slight increase in folks who have some background, but are relative beginners. But only slight. The interesting thing is, our blog traffic has increased significantly over these four years, so the newer members of our audience bear a striking resemblance to those of you who’ve been around for quite some time. In a sense, that’s reassuring — it paints a clear picture for us as we continue refining our content.

Do you work in-house, or at an agency/consultancy?

Here’s another window into just how little our audience has changed in the last couple of years:

A slight majority of our readers still work in-house for their own companies, and about a third still work on SEO for their company’s clients.

Interestingly, though, respondents who work for clients deal with many of the same issues as those who work in-house — especially in trying to convey the value of their work in SEO. They’re just trying to send that message to external clients instead of internal stakeholders. More details on that come from our next question:

What are some of the biggest challenges you face in your work today?

I’m consistently amazed by the time and thought that so many of you put into answering this question, and rest assured, your feedback will be presented to several teams around Moz, both on the marketing and the product sides. For this question, I organized each and every response into recurring themes, tallying each time those themes were mentioned. Here are all the themes that were mentioned 10 or more times:

Challenge # of mentions
My clients / colleagues / bosses don’t understand the value of SEO 59
The industry and tactics are constantly changing; algo updates 45
Time constraints 44
Link building 35
My clients / colleagues / bosses don’t understand how SEO works 29
Content (strategy / creation / marketing) 25
Resource constraints 23
It’s difficult to prove ROI 18
Budget constraints 17
It’s a difficult industry in which to learn tools and techniques 16
I regularly need to educate my colleagues / employees 16
It’s difficult to prioritize my work 16
My clients either don’t have or won’t offer sufficient budget / effort 15
Effective reporting 15
Bureaucracy, red tape, other company problems 11
It’s difficult to compete with other companies 11
I’m required to wear multiple hats 11

More than anything else, it’s patently obvious that one of the greatest difficulties faced by any SEO is explaining it to other people in a way that demonstrates its value while setting appropriate expectations for results. Whether it’s your clients, your boss, or your peers that you’re trying to convince, it isn’t an easy case to make, especially when it’s so difficult to show what kind of return a company can see from an investment in SEO.

We also saw tons of frustrated responses about how the industry is constantly changing, and it takes too much of your already-constrained time just to stay on top of those changes.

In terms of tactics, link building easily tops the list of challenges. That makes sense, as it’s the piece of SEO that relies most heavily on the cooperation of other human beings (and humans are often tricky beings to figure out). =)

Content marketing — both the creation/copywriting side as well as the strategy side — is still a challenge for many folks in the industry, though fewer people mentioned it this year as mentioned it in 2015, so I think we’re all starting to get used to how those skills overlap with the more traditional aspects of SEO.


How our readers read

With all that context in mind, we started to dig into your preferences in terms of formats, frequency, and subject matter on the blog.

How often do you read posts on the Moz Blog?

This is the one set of responses that caused a bit of concern. We’ve seen a steady decrease in the number of people who say they read every day, a slight decrease in the number of people who say they read multiple times each week, and a dramatic increase in the number of people who say they read once a week.

The 2015 decrease came after an expansion in the scope of subjects we covered on the blog — as we branched away from just SEO, we published more posts about social media, email, and other aspects of digital marketing. We knew that not all of those subjects were relevant for everyone, so we expected a dip in frequency of readership.

This year, though, we’ve attempted to refocus on SEO, and might have expected a bit of a rebound. That didn’t happen:

There are two other factors at play, here. For one thing, we no longer publish a post every single weekday. After our publishing volume experiment in 2015, we realized it was safe (even beneficial) to emphasize quality over quantity, so if we don’t feel like a post turned out the way we hoped, we don’t publish it until we’ve had a chance to improve it. That means we’re down to about four posts per week. We’ve also made a concerted effort to publish more posts about local SEO, as that’s relevant to our software and an increasingly important part of the work of folks in our industry.

It could also be a question of time — we’ve already covered how little time everyone in our industry has, and with that problem continuing, there may just be less time to read blog posts.

If anyone has any additional insight into why they read less often than they once did, please let us know in the comments below!

On which types of devices do you prefer to read blog posts?

We were surprised by the responses to this answer in 2013, and they’ve only gotten more extreme:

Nearly everyone prefers to read blog posts on a full computer. Only about 15% of folks add their phones into the equation, and the number of people in all the other buckets is extremely small. In 2013, our blog didn’t have a responsive design, and was quite difficult to read on mobile devices. We thought that might have had something to do with people’s responses — maybe they were just used to reading our blog on larger screens. The trend in 2015 and this year, though, proves that’s not the case. People just prefer reading posts on their computers, plain and simple.

Which other site(s), if any, do you regularly visit for information or education on SEO?

This was a new question for this year. We have our own favorite sites, of course, but we had no idea how the majority of folks would respond to this question. As it turns out, there was quite a broad range of responses listing sites that take very different approaches:

Site # responses
Search Engine Land 184
Search Engine Journal 89
Search Engine Roundtable 74
SEMrush 51
Ahrefs 50
Search Engine Watch 41
Quick Sprout / Neil Patel 35
HubSpot 33
Backlinko 31
Google Blogs 29
The SEM Post 21
Kissmetrics 17
Yoast 16
Distilled 13
SEO by the Sea 13

I suppose it’s no surprise that the most prolific sites sit at the top. They’ve always got something new, even if the stories don’t often go into much depth. We’ve tended to steer our own posts toward longer-form, in-depth pieces, and I think it’s safe to say (based on these responses and some to questions below) that it’d be beneficial for us to include some shorter stories, too. In other words, depth shouldn’t necessarily be a requisite for a post to be published on the Moz Blog. We may start experimenting with a more “short and sweet” approach to some posts.


What our readers think of the blog

Here’s where we get into more specific feedback about the Moz Blog, including whether it’s relevant, how easy it is for you to consume, and more.

What percentage of the posts on the Moz Blog would you say are relevant to you and your work?

Overall, I’m pretty happy with the results here, as SEO is a broad enough industry (and we’ve got a broad enough audience) that there’s simply no way we’re going to hit the sweet spot for everyone with every post. But those numbers toward the bottom of the chart are low enough that I feel confident we’re doing pretty well in terms of topic relevance.

Do you feel the Moz Blog posts are generally too basic, too advanced, or about right?

Responses to this question have made me smile every time I see them. This is clearly one thing we’re getting about as right as we could expect to. We’re even seeing a slight balancing of the “too basic” and “too advanced” columns over time, which is great:

We also asked the people who told us that posts were “too basic” or “too advanced” to what extent they felt that way, using a scale from 1-5 (1 being “just a little bit too basic/advanced” and 5 being “way too basic/advanced.” The responses tell us that the people who feel posts are too advanced feel more strongly about that opinion than the people who feel posts are too basic:

This makes some sense, I think. If you’re just starting out in SEO, which many of our readers are, some of the posts on this blog are likely to go straight over your head. That could be frustrating. If you’re an SEO expert, though, you probably aren’t frustrated by posts you see as too basic for you — you just skip past them and move on with your day.

This does make me think, though, that we might benefit from offering a dedicated section of the site for folks who are just starting out — more than just the Beginner’s Guide. That’s actually something that was specifically requested by one respondent this year.

In general, what do you think about the length of Moz Blog posts?

While it definitely seems like we’re doing pretty well in this regard, I’d also say we’ve got some room to tighten things up a bit, especially in light of the lack of time so many of you mentioned:

There were quite a few comments specifically asking for “short and sweet” posts from time to time — offering up useful tips or news in a format that didn’t expound on details because it didn’t have to. I think sprinkling some of those types of posts in with the longer-form posts we have so often would be beneficial.

Do you ever comment on Moz Blog posts?

This was another new question this year. Despite so many sites are removing comment sections from their blogs, we’ve always believed in their value. Sometimes the discussions we see in comments end up being the most helpful part of the posts, and we value our community too much to keep that from happening. So, we were happy to see a full quarter of respondents have participated in comments:

We also asked for a bit of info about why you either do or don’t comment on posts. The top reasons why you do were pretty predictable — to ask a clarifying question related to the post, or to offer up your own perspective on the topic at hand. The #3 reason was interesting — 18 people mentioned that they like to comment in order to thank the author for their hard work. This is a great sentiment, and as someone who’s published several posts on this blog, I can say for a fact that it does feel pretty great. At the same time, those comments are really only written for one person — the author — and are a bit problematic from our perspective, because they add noise around the more substantial conversations, which are what we like to see most.

I think the solution is going to lie in a new UI element that allows readers to note their appreciation to the authors without leaving one of the oft-maligned “Great post!” comments. There’s got to be a happy medium there, and I think it’s worth our finding it.

The reasons people gave for not commenting were even more interesting. A bunch of people mentioned the need to log in (sorry, folks — if we didn’t require that, we’d spend half our day removing spam!). The most common response, though, involved a lack of confidence. Whether it was worded along the lines of “I’m an introvert” or along the lines of “I just don’t have a lot of expertise,” there were quite a few people who worried about how their comments would be received.

I want to take this chance to encourage those of you who feel that way to take the step, and ask questions about points you find confusing. At the very least, I can guarantee you aren’t the only ones, and others like you will appreciate your initiative. One of the best ways to develop your expertise is to get comfortable asking questions. We all work in a really confusing industry, and the Moz Blog is all about providing a place to help each other out.

What, if anything, would you like to see different about the Moz Blog?

As usual, the responses to this question were chock full of great suggestions, and again, we so appreciate the amount of time you all spent providing really thoughtful feedback.

One pattern I saw was requests for more empirical data — hard evidence that things should be done a certain way, whether through case studies or other formats. Another pattern was requests for step-by-step walkthroughs. That makes a lot of sense for an industry of folks who are strapped for time: Make things as clear-cut as possible, and where we can, offer a linear path you can walk down instead of asking you to holistically understand the subject matter, then figure that out on your own. (That’s actually something we’re hoping to do with our entire Learning Center: Make it easier to figure out where to start, and where to continue after that, instead of putting everything into buckets and asking you all to figure it out.)

Whiteboard Friday remains a perennial favorite, and we were surprised to see more requests for more posts about our own tools than we had requests for fewer posts about our own tools. (We’ve been wary of that in the past, as we wanted to make sure we never crossed from “helpful” into “salesy,” something we’ll still focus on even if we do add another tool-based post here and there.)

We expected a bit of feedback about the format of the emails — we’re absolutely working on that! — but didn’t expect to see so many folks requesting that we bring back YouMoz. That’s something that’s been on the backs of our minds, and while it may not take the same form it did before, we do plan on finding new ways to encourage the community to contribute content, and hope to have something up and running early in 2018.

Request #responses
More case studies 26
More Whiteboard Friday (or other videos) 25
More long-form step-by-step training/guides 18
Clearer steps to follow in posts; how-tos 11
Bring back UGC / YouMoz 9
More from Rand 9
Improve formatting of the emails 9
Higher-level, less-technical posts 8
More authors 7
More news (algorithm updates, e.g.) 7
Shorter posts, “quick wins” 7
Quizzes, polls, or other engagement opportunities 6
Broader range of topics (engagement, CRO, etc.) 6
More about Moz tools 5
More data-driven, less opinion-based 5

What our readers want to see

This section is a bit more future-facing, where some of what we asked before had to do with how things have been in the past.

Which of the following topics would you like to learn more about?

There were very, very few surprises in this list. Lots of interest in on-page SEO and link building, as well as other core tactical areas of SEO. Content, branding, and social media all took dips — that makes sense, given the fact that we don’t usually post about those things anymore, and we’ve no doubt lost some audience members who were more interested in them as a result. Interestingly, mobile took a sizable dip, too. I’d be really curious to know what people think about why that is. My best guess is that with the mobile-first indexing from Google and with responsive designs having become so commonplace, there isn’t as much of a need as there once was to think of mobile much differently than there was a couple of years ago. Also of note: When we did this survey in 2015, Google had recently rolled out its “Mobile-Friendly Update,” not-so-affectionately referred to by many in the industry as Mobilegeddon. So… it was on our minds. =)

Which of the following types of posts would you most like to see on the Moz Blog?

This is a great echo and validation of what we took away from the more general question about what you’d like to see different about the Blog: More tactical posts and step-by-step walkthroughs. Posts that cut to the chase and offer a clear direction forward, as opposed to some of the types at the bottom of this list, which offer more opinions and cerebral explorations:


What happens next?

Now we go to work. =)

We’ll spend some time fully digesting this info, and coming up with new goals for 2018 aimed at making improvements inspired by your feedback. We’ll keep you all apprised as we start moving forward.

If you have any additional insight that strikes you in taking a look at these results, please do share it in the comments below — we’d love to have those discussions.

For now, we’ve got some initial takeaways that we’re already planning to take action on.

Primary takeaways

There are some relatively obvious things we can take away from these results that we’re already working on:

  • People in all businesses are finding it quite difficult to communicate the value of SEO to their clients, bosses, and colleagues. That’s something we can help with, and we’ll be developing materials in the near future to try and alleviate some of that particular frustration.
  • There’s a real desire for more succinct, actionable, step-by-step walkthroughs on the Blog. We can pretty easily explore formats for posts that are off our “beaten path,” and will attempt to make things easier to consume through improvements to both the content itself and its delivery. I think there’s some room for more “short and sweet” mixed in with our longer norm.
  • The bulk of our audience does more than just SEO, despite a full 25% of them having it in their job titles, and the challenges you mentioned include a bunch of areas that are related to, but outside the traditional world of SEO. Since you all are clearly working on those sorts of things, we should work to highlight and facilitate the relationship between the SEO work and the non-SEO marketing work you do.
  • In looking through some of the other sites you all visit for information on SEO, and knowing the kinds of posts they typically publish, it’s clear we’ve got an opportunity to publish more news. We’ve always dreamed of being more of a one-stop shop for SEO content, and that’s good validation that we may want to head down that path.

Again, thank you all so much for the time and effort you spent filling out this survey. Hopefully you’ll notice some changes in the near (and not-so-near) future that make it clear we’re really listening.

If you’ve got anything to add to these results — insights, further explanations, questions for clarification, rebuttals of points, etc. — please leave them in the comments below. We’re looking forward to continuing the conversation. =)

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