Moz Keyword Explorer vs. Google Keyword Planner: The Definitive Comparison

Posted by BritneyMuller

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Keyword research, the blueprint to any successful SEO strategy

If you’ve been doing keyword research for a while, you’ve probably fallen into a routine. And that routine has likely been recently disrupted… thanks, Google.

If you’re new to keyword research, getting comfortable with new keyword research tools will come more easily to you. Lucky pups. But us change-averse old dogs can still learn new tricks when we need to. Are you ready to see which tool is right for you? –Woof.

My hesitations about writing this article:

  • I’m new to Moz and don’t want to be crucified for criticizing our own keyword research tool. This concern has only been met with acceptance and encouragement, so…*fingers crossed* they don’t change their minds. Love you guys!
  • My methods of keyword research revolve around finding qualified traffic for increasing conversions, not just any large search volume numbers (to make traffic look good).
  • I fear that this will come across as a Moz Keyword Explorer soft sell. It’s not. It’s a very honest comparison of Moz Keyword Explorer versus Google’s Keyword Planner. It’s a post that I’ve been wanting to read for a while.

Here are some great guides if you need a Moz Keyword Explorer refresher, or a Google Keyword Planner refresher.

< << TL;DR Skip to the conclusion here >> >

Google Keyword Planner’s recent change

Any habits we’ve held onto with Google Keyword Planner were disrupted early September when they decided to stop providing average monthly search volume data (unless you’re in that special group of higher-paying ad buyers who can still access the more precise search volume data). Instead, we now see huge swings of min-max search volume, which really starts to muddy the keyword research waters. Google recently came forward to explain that this change was done to deter scrapers from pulling their search volume data.

For a more comprehensive write-up on this change, read Google Keyword Unplanner by Russ Jones. He explains a little more about how this change affects various data sources and what Moz has been doing to mitigate the impact.

But, showing is better than telling. So let’s take a look for ourselves:

Screen Shot 2016-10-19 at 9.07.27 AM.png

A 900,000 average monthly search volume swing is crazy! In fact, Google now only provides one of seven volume sizes: 0–10, 10–100, 100–1000, 1000–10000, 10000–100k, 100k–1MM and 1MM+.

Moz’s Keyword Explorer also gives ranges, but they’re not nearly as vast (or as arbitrary). The machine-learning model behind Keyword Explorer is designed to predict monthly fluctuations in search volume. It’s mathematically tied to the most accurate keyword data available, and you can see exactly how, and how accurate Moz gets in this Clickstream Data to the Rescue article.

Screen Shot 2016-08-15 at 10.04.36 AM.png

Which is why I wanted to know:

http://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

What are quality keywords?

Quality keywords successfully target your demographic during their acquisition phase (education – purchase), have a specific searcher intent, low-medium organic competition, and medium-high search volume (this will vary based on what part of the acquisition funnel you’re targeting).

However, it’s important to keep in mind that some longer-tail queries (with little to no search volume) can be highly profitable as well.


Tier 1 keyword research setup

Google Keyword Planner:

This is my familiar ol, kooky friend that has been acting very strange lately (anyone else noticing all of the delays and glitches?). I’m a little worried.

Anywho, here’s how I begin keyword research within Keyword Planner:

keyword-planner.gif

  1. Enter in your keyword under “Search for more keywords using a phrase, website or category.”
  2. Make sure the region is set to United States (if wanting to research nationally).
  3. Set keyword options to “broad.” –Settle down, we’ll go back and change this to “closely related” after our first swoop.
  4. Sort keyword volume by highest to lowest and change the “show rows” to 100.
  5. IMPORTANT: Always scroll top to bottom! Otherwise, new keywords will populate from the bottom that you’ll miss.
  6. Select keywords with unique intents as you scroll down the first 100 rows, click “next,” and start again from the top until through all keyword results.

Moz Keyword Explorer:

My hip new friend that I’m not sure I can trust just yet. However, multiple trusted friends vouch for her integrity and… I really dig her style.

Here’s how I begin keyword research within Keyword Explorer:

keyword-explorer.gif

  1. Enter your keyword into the Keyword Explorer search bar.
  2. Navigate to “Keyword Suggestions” on the left-hand menu.
  3. Set “Display keyword suggestions that” to “include a mix of sources.”
  4. Set “Group Keywords” to “no.”
  5. Sort keyword list by highest search volume to lowest.
  6. Scroll down and select keywords with unique searcher intent.

Either way, this will give you one giant list of 1,000 keywords, which can be tough to pace through (compared to the 100 keyword chunks in GKP). A progress bar of sorts would be nice.

The thing that’s taken the most getting used to is not seeing a competition/difficulty metric adjacent to the search volume. The whole goal of keyword research is to discover opportunity gaps that offer mid-to-high search volume with low competition. If you’re anything like me, you’ve ran hundreds if not thousands of strange SEO tests and are very aware of what you can achieve “competition”-wise (domain-dependent) and what you can’t. (Or when a higher-competition keyword should take the form of a longer SEO plan.)

*It’s important to note that the KWP “Competition” metric is an advertising metric.

Despite this metric occasionally leading to an SEO correlation, it’s often misleading and not an accurate representation of how competitive the organic results are.

The KWE “Difficulty” metric, on the other hand, is an organic search metric. It also leverages a smarter CTR curve model to show when weaker pages are ranking higher (in addition to other ranking signals).

That being said, having to wait to find out the competition metric of a keyword until after I add it to a list is frustrating. I can’t help but feel that I’m not selecting keywords as strategically as I could be. Hopefully, Moz will add a historical competition metric up front (adjacent to search volume) sometime in the near future to help us better select ripe keyword opportunities.

The relevancy metric doesn’t do much to help my research because I’m already relying on the keywords themselves to tell me whether or not they’re relevant/have a unique user intent.

(I told you guys I would be honest!)

Label by keyword type:

Navigational: Searchers seeking a destination on the web.

Example: “University of Minnesota tuition”

Informational: Searchers researching, getting quick answers, often times using what, who, where, how, etc. modifiers.

Example: “what is a conker”

Commercial Investigation: Searchers investigating beyond an informational query. Comparing brands, searching for “best,” researching potential clients, etc.

Example: “ppc experts in london”

Transactional: Searchers looking to purchase something, comparing rates, seeking prices for things, etc.

Example: “affordable yoda action figure”

Transactional and Commercial Investigation types tend to be most profitable (depending on business model). For example, a blog could do very well from Informational-type keywords.

If you want a more in-depth understanding of keyword types; read Rand’s Segmenting Search Intent. <– An oldie, but a goodie!!

Compare results & answer:

  • Which tool provided better long-tail results?
  • Which tool provided better top-of-funnel queries?
  • What percentage of “keyword types” did each tool provide?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of each tool?

For whatever reason, “student loans” painted an accurate picture (of what I’ve found to be true across other competitive keywords) for each prospective tools’ wheelhouse. So, “student loans” will serve as our point of reference throughout this comparative analysis.


Tier 1 keyword research overview:

Moz Keyword Explorer Google Keyword Planner
Term: “student loans” “student loans”
Region: United States United States
Spectrum: Include a mix of sources Broad
Group Keywords: No
Total Results: 1000 700
#Keywords With Intents: 43 40

+ Moz Keyword Explorer results:

Keyword Modifier Type Min Volume Max Volume Difficulty Opportunity Importance Potential
student loan consolidation consolidation Commercial Investigation 11501 30300 60 83 3 79
student loan calculator calculator Informational 11501 30300 75 100 3 76
student loan Informational 118001 300000 82 84 3 82
federal student loan federal Navigational 30301 70800 63 48 3 76
student loan refinance refinance Commercial Investigation 11501 30300 55 83 3 77
student loan repayment calculator repayment calculator Informational 11501 30300 67 100 3 74
student loan interest rates interest rates Commercial Investigation 6501 9300 53 54 3 69
student loan hero hero Navigational 1701 2900 49 19 3 53
student loan forgiveness forgiveness Commercial Investigation 70801 118000 62 86 3 86
student loans information information Informational 501 850 90 55 3 39
applying for student loans applying for Informational 4301 6500 72 55 3 60
fafsa student loans fafsa Navigational 2901 4300 98 56 3 28
bad credit student loan bad credit Commercial Investigation 1701 2900 44 83 3 70
student loan websites websites Commercial Investigation 851 1700 79 53 3 48
where to get student loan where to get Informational 501 850 76 55 3 47
citibank student loans pay citibank pay Navigational 201 500 29 94 3 64
how to get a school loan how to get a Informational 201 500 68 55 3 45
how to find my student loans how to find my Navigational 101 200 54 58 3 48
how to check student loans how to check Navigational 101 200 63 55 3 45
discover private student loan discover private Navigational 101 200 53 21 3 36
check my student loan balance check my balance Navigational 101 200 55 100 3 52
apply for student loan online apply for online Transactional 101 200 68 53 3 41
look up student loans look up Commercial Investigation 101 200 53 90 3 51
student loan now now Transactional 51 100 72 86 3 42
stafford student loans login stafford login Navigational 51 100 76 60 3 36
federal student loan lookup federal lookup Navigational 11 50 55 100 3 46
how to view my student loans how to view my Informational 11 50 57 64 3 39
how do i find out who has my student loan how do i find out who has my Informational 11 50 59 86 3 42
apply for additional student loans apply for additional Commercial Investigation 11 50 73 64 3 34
what student loans do i owe what do i owe Informational 11 50 50 41 3 34
student loan application status application status Navigational 0 10 72 100 3 33
what is federal student loans what is federal Informational 0 10 78 58 3 25
who services federal student loans who services federal Informational 0 10 68 100 3 22
apply for student loan by phone apply for by phone Transactional 0 10 86 86 3 11
national student loan locator phone number national locator phone number Informational 0 0 58 29 3 11
i owe student loans who do i call i owe who do i call Informational 0 0 50 94 3 26
where do i find my student loan interest where do i find my interest Informational 0 0 78 58 3 11
how to find my student loan account number how to find my account number Informational 0 0 55 100 3 25
how much federal student loans do i have how much federal do i have Navigational 0 0 80 46 3 8
where do i pay my government student loans where do i pay my government Navigational 0 0 77 55 3 11
student loans lookup lookup Navigational 0 0 55 100 3 26
student loans payment history payment history Navigational 0 0 66 46 3 14
how many school loans do i have how many do i have Navigational 0 0 68 90 3 21

Additional tool features:

The Importance metric: …is powerful! However, I’ve left all my results at a neutral Importance (3) so you can see downloaded results without any customization (and to keep things fair, because I’m not prioritizing GKP keywords).

If you choose to use this metric, you set a priority level for each keyword (1=not important, 10=most important) that will then influence the keyword’s Potential score. This allows you to more easily prioritize a keyword plan, which is very helpful.

keyword-importance.gif

Group keywords with low lexical similarity: While this can save you time, it can also lead to missing keyword opportunities. In my example below, if I select “student loans” (and not “Select 821 keywords in group”), I would miss all of the nested keywords.

Use this feature carefully:

group-keywords.gif


+ Google Keyword Planner results:

Keyword Modifier Type Avg. Monthly Searches (exact match only) Competition Suggested Bid
student loan forgiveness forgiveness Commercial Investigation 100K – 1M 0.58 3.38
student loan refinance refinance Commercial Investigation 10K – 100K 0.96 34.57
student loan consolidation consolidation Commercial Investigation 10K – 100K 0.98 22.52
private student loans private Commercial Investigation 10K – 100K 0.99 28.51
student loans without a cosigner without a cosigner Commercial Investigation 1K – 10K 0.98 23.85
parent student loans parent Commercial Investigation 1K – 10K 0.96 10.27
best private student loans best private Commercial Investigation 1K – 10K 0.93 21.33
bad credit student loans bad credit Commercial Investigation 1K – 10K 0.97 4.02
best student loans best Commercial Investigation 1K – 10K 0.93 18.61
compare student loans compare Commercial Investigation 100 – 1K 0.98 23.8
medical student loans medical Commercial Investigation 100 – 1K 0.91 10.16
student loans from banks from banks Commercial Investigation 100 – 1K 0.97 13.09
student loans for international students for international students Commercial Investigation 100 – 1K 0.88 14.01
no credit check student loans no credit check Commercial Investigation 100 – 1K 0.98 5.74
nursing student loans nursing Commercial Investigation 100 – 1K 0.94 15.53
alternative student loan options alternative options Commercial Investigation 10 – 100 1 30.32
best student loan consolidation program best consolidation program Commercial Investigation 10 – 100 0.91 36.91
student loan bankruptcy bankruptcy Commercial Investigation 1K – 10K 0.42 9.48
student loan deferment deferment Commercial Investigation 1K – 10K 0.35 10.31
student loans Informational 100K – 1M 0.98 25.97
student loan calculator calculator Informational 10K – 100K 0.42 5.41
types of student loans types of Informational 1K – 10K 0.82 13.61
student loan options options Informational 1K – 10K 0.99 23.63
how to consolidate student loans how to consolidate Informational 1K – 10K 0.84 13.79
student loan default default Informational 1K – 10K 0.28 8.18
student loan help help Informational 1K – 10K 0.96 15.48
where to get student loans where to get Informational 100 – 1K 0.97 17.19
average student loan average Informational 100 – 1K 0.33 18.59
private education loans private Informational 100 – 1K 0.98 16.76
what is a student loan what is Informational 100 – 1K 0.6 8.75
how do you get a student loan how do you get Informational 100 – 1K 0.94 5.22
no credit student loans no credit Informational 100 – 1K 0.98 7.85
about student loans about Informational 10 – 100 0.92 14.9
information on student loans information Informational 10 – 100 0.94 14.08
iowa student loan iowa Navigational 10K – 100K 0.23 9.08
great lakes student loans great lakes Navigational 10K – 100K 0.18 7.05
fafsa student loans fafsa Navigational 1K – 10K 0.61 7.41
student loan interest rates interest rates Transactional 1K – 10K 0.7 10.11
low interest student loans low interest Transactional 100 – 1K 0.98 21.07
need student loan today need today Transactional 10 – 100 1 9.8
i need a student loan now i need now Transactional 10 – 100 0.99 13.7

Tier 1 conclusion:

Google Keyword Planner largely uncovered Commercial Investigation and Informational queries. GKP also better identified a broader set of top-of-funnel keyword opportunities: student loan help, parent student loans, types of student loans, etc.

Moz Keyword Explorer largely uncovered Informational and Navigational queries. MKE better identified longer-tail keyword opportunities: how to get a school loan, apply for student loan online, apply for student loan by phone, etc.


Tier 2 keyword research setup

“closely related search terms” vs. “only include keywords with all of the query terms”

keyword-planner-closely.gif

Google Keyword Planner: Perform same setup, but select “Only show ideas closely related to my search terms.”

keyword-explorer-include.gif

Moz Keyword Explorer: Perform same setup, but select “only include keywords with all of the query terms.”

Note: Your .csv download will still say “Broad” for Google Keyword Planner, even though you’ve selected “Closely related”… Told you she was acting funny.


Tier 2 keyword research overview:

Moz Keyword Explorer Google Keyword Planner
Term: “student loans” “student loans”
Region: United States United States
Spectrum: Only include keywords with all of the query terms Closely related
Group Keywords: No
Total Results: 1000 700
#Keywords With Intents: 66 30

+ Moz Keyword Explorer results:

Keyword Modifier Type Min Volume Max Volume Difficulty Opportunity Importance Potential
student loan Informational 118001 300000 82 84 3 82
student loan forgiveness forgiveness Commercial Investigation 70801 118000 62 86 3 86
student loan calculator calculator Commercial Investigation 11501 30300 75 100 3 76
citi student loan citi Navigational 11501 30300 34 94 3 86
student loan consolidation consolidation Commercial Investigation 11501 30300 60 83 3 79
private student loan loan Commercial Investigation 11501 30300 62 80 3 77
student loan refinance refinance Commercial Investigation 11501 30300 55 83 3 77
student loan repayment calculator repayment calculator Commercial Investigation 11501 30300 67 100 3 74
student loan interest rates interest rates Transactional 6501 9300 53 54 3 69
application for student loan application for Commercial Investigation 4301 6500 64 54 3 63
apply for student loan apply for Commercial Investigation 4301 6500 60 53 3 64
student loan forgiveness for teachers forgiveness for teachers Commercial Investigation 4301 6500 58 100 3 71
bad credit student loan bad credit Commercial Investigation 1701 2900 44 83 3 70
student loan hero hero Navigational 1701 2900 49 19 3 53
student loan servicing servicing Commercial Investigation 1701 2900 70 90 3 62
discovery student loan discovery Navigational 851 1700 47 28 3 51
fsa student loan fsa Navigational 851 1700 90 58 3 41
student loan providers providers Commercial Investigation 501 850 66 53 3 51
where to get student loan where to get Informational 501 850 76 55 3 47
check student loan balance check balance Navigational 201 500 54 46 3 49
department of education student loan servicing center department of education servicing center Navigational 201 500 78 58 3 42
student loan status status Navigational 201 500 61 86 3 54
us student loan debt us debt Informational 201 500 66 56 3 49
all student loan all Informational 101 200 58 56 3 45
discover private student loan discover private Navigational 101 200 53 21 3 36
how do i find my student loan how do i find my interest Informational 101 200 59 86 3 51
student loan management management Commercial Investigation 101 200 57 53 3 45
student loan resources resources Commercial Investigation 101 200 49 83 3 52
where is my student loan where is Informational 51 100 61 55 3 42
student loan corporation citibank corporation citibank Navigational 11 50 36 94 3 45
student loan enquiries enquiries Commercial Investigation 11 50 61 100 3 43
fafsa student loan consolidation fafsa consolidation Navigational 11 50 99 53 3 1
federal student loan options federal options Commercial Investigation 11 50 75 54 3 34
federal student loan terms federal terms Commercial Investigation 11 50 81 90 3 31
get a student loan today get a today Transactional 11 50 66 83 3 41
need student loan now need now Transactional 11 50 71 83 3 37
student loan overview overview Informational 11 50 79 94 3 35
student loan payment history payment history Navigational 11 50 55 100 3 46
student loan website down website down Informational 11 50 42 90 3 44
apply for student loan by phone apply for by phone Commercial Investigation 0 10 86 86 3 11
apply online for student loan apply online for Commercial Investigation 0 10 68 53 3 28
citibank student loan promotional code citibank promotional code Navigational 0 10 38 94 3 28
student loan corporation sallie mae corporation sallie mae Commercial Investigation 0 10 63 100 3 23
dsl student loan dsl Navigational 0 10 51 90 3 38
how do i take out a federal student loan how do i take out a federal Informational 0 10 80 55 3 22
how to pay student loan online how to pay online Informational 0 10 52 55 3 32
student loan management app management app Commercial Investigation 0 10 43 83 3 26
my student loan account number my account number Informational 0 10 65 64 3 18
student loan servicing center pennsylvania servicing center pennsylvania Navigational 0 10 52 88 3 38
where to pay my student loan where to pay my Informational 0 10 68 100 3 22
student loan counseling center counseling center Commercial Investigation 0 0 58 83 3 23
deadline for student loan application deadline for application Informational 0 0 68 60 3 16
educated borrower student loan educated borrower Commercial Investigation 0 0 54 83 3 24
get subsidized student loan get subsidized Commercial Investigation 0 0 64 90 3 22
how do i find my student loan account number how do i find my account number Informational 0 0 55 100 3 26
how much student loan can i have how much can i have Informational 0 0 71 55 3 14
how to check the status of a student loan from direct loans how to check the status of a Informational 0 0 86 90 3 11
how to find out who is my student loan lender how to find out who is my lender Informational 0 0 60 60 3 19
how to get your student loan money how to get your money Informational 0 0 39 56 3 22
student loan information eligibility information eligibility Commercial Investigation 0 0 85 86 3 11
is financial aid a student loan is financial aid a Informational 0 0 72 60 3 15
national student loan data system for parents national data system for parents Commercial Investigation 0 0 53 22 3 10
national student loan database contact number national database contact number Navigational 0 0 57 64 3 20
nslds student loan login nslds login Navigational 0 0 73 46 3 11
subsidized loan and unsubsidized student loan subsidized and unsubsidized Commercial Investigation 0 0 57 94 3 24
what is a national direct student loan what is a national direct Informational 0 0 66 64 3 17

+ Google Keyword Planner results:

Keyword Modifier Type Avg. Monthly Searches (exact match only) Competition Suggested bid
student loan application application Commercial Investigation 1K – 10K 0.98 22.37
student loan bankruptcy bankruptcy Commercial Investigation 1K – 10K 0.42 9.48
how to get a student loan how to get Informational 1K – 10K 0.92 10.59
student loan help help Informational 1K – 10K 0.96 15.48
student loan deferment deferment Commercial Investigation 1K – 10K 0.35 10.31
alaska student loan alsaska Navigational 1K – 10K 0.54 2.21
south carolina student loan south carolina Navigational 1K – 10K 0.45 23.59
texas guaranteed student loan texas guranteed Navigational 1K – 10K 0.5 17.34
student loan interest rates interest rates Transactional 1K – 10K 0.7 10.11
student loan consolidation rates consolidation rates Transactional 1K – 10K 0.94 17.44
student loan refinance refinance Commercial Investigation 10K – 100K 0.96 34.57
student loan consolidation consolidation Commercial Investigation 10K – 100K 0.98 22.52
student loan calculator calculator Informational 10K – 100K 0.42 5.41
student loan gov gov Navigational 10K – 100K 0.28 16.42
iowa student loan iowa Navigational 10K – 100K 0.23 9.08
student loan forgiveness forgiveness Commercial Investigation 100K – 1M 0.58 3.38
what is a student loan what is Informational 100 – 1K 0.6 8.75
how can i get a student loan how can I get Informational 100 – 1K 0.97 7.71
how to get a private student loan how to get a private Informational 100 – 1K 0.96 14.82
student loan app application Navigational 100 – 1K 0.83 11.89
student loan cancellation cancellation Transactional 100 – 1K 0.41 4.5
student loan tax tax Transactional 100 – 1K 0.25 47.05
medical student loan consolidation medical consolidation Commercial Investigation 10 – 100 0.93 0
federal student loan options federal options Commercial Investigation 10 – 100 0.75 7.45
student loan consolidation faq consolidation faq Commercial Investigation 10 – 100 0.76 15.94
how to figure out student loan interest how to figure out interest Informational 10 – 100 0.38 10.52
how to apply for a student loan online how to apply Informational 10 – 100 1 20.61
how much is my student loan payment how much is my Informational 10 – 100 0.22 20.96
need a student loan now need now Transactional 10 – 100 0.99 12.02
need student loan today need today Transactional 10 – 100 1 9.8

Tier 2 conclusion:

Google Keyword Planner largely uncovered a pretty even percentage of all 4 keyword types (30% Informational, 20% Navigational, 30% Commercial Investigation, and 20% Transactional). GKP also continued to provide a broader set of top-of-funnel keyword opportunities: student loan bankruptcy, student loan gov, student loan help, how to get a student loan, etc.

Moz Keyword Explorer largely uncovered Commercial Investigation and Informational queries. MKE also continued to provide a broader set of long-tail keyword opportunities: student loan forgiveness for teachers, student loan providers, student loan status, how do i find my student loan, etc.


Where this is the end of the road for Google results, Moz has some other filters up its sleeve:

keyword-research-filters.gif

Let’s explore the other available Moz keyword filters and examine the discovered keyword results (keywords with unique intent).

Exclude your query terms to get broader ideas: 25 keywords

Most results are longer-tail queries around college tuition, educational expenses, private school tuition, etc. This evenly resulted in Informational, Navigational, and Transactional keyword results:

Based on closely related topics: 35 keywords

One of the more evenly distributed (search volume) results in this example. Most keyword results are around other types of loans or grants: payday loan, pell grants, auto loan, private loans, etc.

Based on broadly related topics and synonyms: 74 keywords

Results are mostly three words or longer and revolve around more specific types of loans; great lakes student loans, wells fargo student loans, student loan chase, etc.

Related to keywords with similar results pages: 187 keywords

Results are mostly long-tail Commercial Investigation queries around loan payments, student loan consolidation, student loan forgiveness for teachers, student loan payment help, etc.

Are questions: 111 keywords

Last, but certainly not least. The crème de la crème of an FAQ page.

Results reveal long-tail student loan questions (mostly Informational), like: can you file bankruptcy on student loans, do student loans affect credit score, are student loans tax deductible, where can i get a student loan, etc.


TL;DR

Conclusion:

Google Keyword Planner has limited search volume data, but continues to provide a broader set of top-of-funnel keywords (high volume, low competition <– ad metric). Despite the “closely related” filter resulting in a more even percentage of all 4 keyword types, it provided fairly similar results (35.4% duplicate) to “broad.” Commercial and Informational keyword types were most commonly found.

Moz Keyword Explorer provides more accurate search volume data, while providing a broader set of long-tail keywords (mid-to-low volume, low competition). The many keyword filters provide a wide range of keyword results (17% duplicate in first two filters) and keyword types depending on which keyword filter you use. However, Informational, Commercial Investigation, and Navigational keyword types were most commonly found.

Pros:

Moz Keyword Explorer: Google Keyword Planner:
The keyword search volume accuracy (IMO) is the most impressive part of this tool. The ability to view monthly trends, mobile versus desktop searches, and geo-popular areas is wonderful.
Better UX. Can add negative keywords/keywords to not include in results.
Keyword suggestion filters reveal far more keyword results. Sorting by 100 keywords is a nice cadence.
The “are questions” filter is incredibly useful for things like FAQ pages and content marketing ideas. Google Sheet download integration.
Saved keyword lists (that can be refreshed!? Say whaa!?) Average keyword bid (for further competition insight).
Detailed SERP data for SERP feature opportunities. Monthly keyword trend data (on hover).
Organic competition metric. Ability to target specific hyper-local areas.
Ability to prioritize keywords which influences the Potential metric (for smarter keyword prioritization).

Cons:

Moz Keyword Explorer: Google Keyword Planner:
The Min Volume | Max Volume | Difficulty | Opportunity | Importance | Potential can be overwhelming. Search volume ranges are widely skewed and bucketed.
No Google Sheet download integration. Individuals who start adding keywords from the bottom up of a list (scrolling up) will miss newly populated results.
No “select all” option. Broad & Closely Related filters tend to provide very similar results.
The list of 1,000 keyword results can be daunting when doing lots of keyword research. No SERP feature data.
Inability to target specific local regions. Can’t save lists.
Clunky, slow UX.

Which is right for you?

I’d consider where you want to target people in your sales funnel, and where you need to improve your current website traffic. If you have wide top-of-funnel traffic for your product/service and need to better provide long-tail transactions, check out Moz Keyword Explorer. If you need a brief overview of top-level searches, take a look at Google Keyword Planner results.

Which do I use?

I’m a little ashamed to say that I still use both. Checking Google Keyword Planner gives me the peace of mind that I’m not missing anything. But, Moz Keyword Explorer continues to impress me with its search volume accuracy and ease of list creation. As it gets better with top-of-funnel keywords (and hopefully integrates competition up front) I would love to transition completely over to Moz.

Other keyword research tips:

I’ve also been a big fan of ubersuggest.io to give your initial keyword list a boost. You can add your selected keywords directly to Google Keyword Planner or Moz Keyword Explorer for instant keyword data. This can help identify where you should take your keyword research in terms of intent, sub-topic intents, geographic, etc.

Answer the Public is also a great resource for FAQ pages. Just make sure to change the location if you are not based in the UK.

Would love your feedback!

  • Please let me know if you can think of other ways to determine the quality of keywords from each tool.
  • Any other pros/cons that you would add?
  • What other tools have you been using for keyword research?

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

from Raymond Castleberry Blog http://raymondcastleberry.blogspot.com/2016/10/moz-keyword-explorer-vs-google-keyword_31.html
via http://raymondcastleberry.blogspot.com

Moz Keyword Explorer vs. Google Keyword Planner: The Definitive Comparison

Posted by BritneyMuller

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Keyword research, the blueprint to any successful SEO strategy

If you’ve been doing keyword research for a while, you’ve probably fallen into a routine. And that routine has likely been recently disrupted… thanks, Google.

If you’re new to keyword research, getting comfortable with new keyword research tools will come more easily to you. Lucky pups. But us change-averse old dogs can still learn new tricks when we need to. Are you ready to see which tool is right for you? –Woof.

My hesitations about writing this article:

  • I’m new to Moz and don’t want to be crucified for criticizing our own keyword research tool. This concern has only been met with acceptance and encouragement, so…*fingers crossed* they don’t change their minds. Love you guys!
  • My methods of keyword research revolve around finding qualified traffic for increasing conversions, not just any large search volume numbers (to make traffic look good).
  • I fear that this will come across as a Moz Keyword Explorer soft sell. It’s not. It’s a very honest comparison of Moz Keyword Explorer versus Google’s Keyword Planner. It’s a post that I’ve been wanting to read for a while.

Here are some great guides if you need a Moz Keyword Explorer refresher, or a Google Keyword Planner refresher.

< << TL;DR Skip to the conclusion here >> >

Google Keyword Planner’s recent change

Any habits we’ve held onto with Google Keyword Planner were disrupted early September when they decided to stop providing average monthly search volume data (unless you’re in that special group of higher-paying ad buyers who can still access the more precise search volume data). Instead, we now see huge swings of min-max search volume, which really starts to muddy the keyword research waters. Google recently came forward to explain that this change was done to deter scrapers from pulling their search volume data.

For a more comprehensive write-up on this change, read Google Keyword Unplanner by Russ Jones. He explains a little more about how this change affects various data sources and what Moz has been doing to mitigate the impact.

But, showing is better than telling. So let’s take a look for ourselves:

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A 900,000 average monthly search volume swing is crazy! In fact, Google now only provides one of seven volume sizes: 0–10, 10–100, 100–1000, 1000–10000, 10000–100k, 100k–1MM and 1MM+.

Moz’s Keyword Explorer also gives ranges, but they’re not nearly as vast (or as arbitrary). The machine-learning model behind Keyword Explorer is designed to predict monthly fluctuations in search volume. It’s mathematically tied to the most accurate keyword data available, and you can see exactly how, and how accurate Moz gets in this Clickstream Data to the Rescue article.

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Which is why I wanted to know:

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What are quality keywords?

Quality keywords successfully target your demographic during their acquisition phase (education – purchase), have a specific searcher intent, low-medium organic competition, and medium-high search volume (this will vary based on what part of the acquisition funnel you’re targeting).

However, it’s important to keep in mind that some longer-tail queries (with little to no search volume) can be highly profitable as well.


Tier 1 keyword research setup

Google Keyword Planner:

This is my familiar ol, kooky friend that has been acting very strange lately (anyone else noticing all of the delays and glitches?). I’m a little worried.

Anywho, here’s how I begin keyword research within Keyword Planner:

keyword-planner.gif

  1. Enter in your keyword under “Search for more keywords using a phrase, website or category.”
  2. Make sure the region is set to United States (if wanting to research nationally).
  3. Set keyword options to “broad.” –Settle down, we’ll go back and change this to “closely related” after our first swoop.
  4. Sort keyword volume by highest to lowest and change the “show rows” to 100.
  5. IMPORTANT: Always scroll top to bottom! Otherwise, new keywords will populate from the bottom that you’ll miss.
  6. Select keywords with unique intents as you scroll down the first 100 rows, click “next,” and start again from the top until through all keyword results.

Moz Keyword Explorer:

My hip new friend that I’m not sure I can trust just yet. However, multiple trusted friends vouch for her integrity and… I really dig her style.

Here’s how I begin keyword research within Keyword Explorer:

keyword-explorer.gif

  1. Enter your keyword into the Keyword Explorer search bar.
  2. Navigate to “Keyword Suggestions” on the left-hand menu.
  3. Set “Display keyword suggestions that” to “include a mix of sources.”
  4. Set “Group Keywords” to “no.”
  5. Sort keyword list by highest search volume to lowest.
  6. Scroll down and select keywords with unique searcher intent.

Either way, this will give you one giant list of 1,000 keywords, which can be tough to pace through (compared to the 100 keyword chunks in GKP). A progress bar of sorts would be nice.

The thing that’s taken the most getting used to is not seeing a competition/difficulty metric adjacent to the search volume. The whole goal of keyword research is to discover opportunity gaps that offer mid-to-high search volume with low competition. If you’re anything like me, you’ve ran hundreds if not thousands of strange SEO tests and are very aware of what you can achieve “competition”-wise (domain-dependent) and what you can’t. (Or when a higher-competition keyword should take the form of a longer SEO plan.)

*It’s important to note that the KWP “Competition” metric is an advertising metric.

Despite this metric occasionally leading to an SEO correlation, it’s often misleading and not an accurate representation of how competitive the organic results are.

The KWE “Difficulty” metric, on the other hand, is an organic search metric. It also leverages a smarter CTR curve model to show when weaker pages are ranking higher (in addition to other ranking signals).

That being said, having to wait to find out the competition metric of a keyword until after I add it to a list is frustrating. I can’t help but feel that I’m not selecting keywords as strategically as I could be. Hopefully, Moz will add a historical competition metric up front (adjacent to search volume) sometime in the near future to help us better select ripe keyword opportunities.

The relevancy metric doesn’t do much to help my research because I’m already relying on the keywords themselves to tell me whether or not they’re relevant/have a unique user intent.

(I told you guys I would be honest!)

Label by keyword type:

Navigational: Searchers seeking a destination on the web.

Example: “University of Minnesota tuition”

Informational: Searchers researching, getting quick answers, often times using what, who, where, how, etc. modifiers.

Example: “what is a conker”

Commercial Investigation: Searchers investigating beyond an informational query. Comparing brands, searching for “best,” researching potential clients, etc.

Example: “ppc experts in london”

Transactional: Searchers looking to purchase something, comparing rates, seeking prices for things, etc.

Example: “affordable yoda action figure”

Transactional and Commercial Investigation types tend to be most profitable (depending on business model). For example, a blog could do very well from Informational-type keywords.

If you want a more in-depth understanding of keyword types; read Rand’s Segmenting Search Intent. <– An oldie, but a goodie!!

Compare results & answer:

  • Which tool provided better long-tail results?
  • Which tool provided better top-of-funnel queries?
  • What percentage of “keyword types” did each tool provide?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of each tool?

For whatever reason, “student loans” painted an accurate picture (of what I’ve found to be true across other competitive keywords) for each prospective tools’ wheelhouse. So, “student loans” will serve as our point of reference throughout this comparative analysis.


Tier 1 keyword research overview:

Moz Keyword Explorer Google Keyword Planner
Term: “student loans” “student loans”
Region: United States United States
Spectrum: Include a mix of sources Broad
Group Keywords: No
Total Results: 1000 700
#Keywords With Intents: 43 40

+ Moz Keyword Explorer results:

Keyword Modifier Type Min Volume Max Volume Difficulty Opportunity Importance Potential
student loan consolidation consolidation Commercial Investigation 11501 30300 60 83 3 79
student loan calculator calculator Informational 11501 30300 75 100 3 76
student loan Informational 118001 300000 82 84 3 82
federal student loan federal Navigational 30301 70800 63 48 3 76
student loan refinance refinance Commercial Investigation 11501 30300 55 83 3 77
student loan repayment calculator repayment calculator Informational 11501 30300 67 100 3 74
student loan interest rates interest rates Commercial Investigation 6501 9300 53 54 3 69
student loan hero hero Navigational 1701 2900 49 19 3 53
student loan forgiveness forgiveness Commercial Investigation 70801 118000 62 86 3 86
student loans information information Informational 501 850 90 55 3 39
applying for student loans applying for Informational 4301 6500 72 55 3 60
fafsa student loans fafsa Navigational 2901 4300 98 56 3 28
bad credit student loan bad credit Commercial Investigation 1701 2900 44 83 3 70
student loan websites websites Commercial Investigation 851 1700 79 53 3 48
where to get student loan where to get Informational 501 850 76 55 3 47
citibank student loans pay citibank pay Navigational 201 500 29 94 3 64
how to get a school loan how to get a Informational 201 500 68 55 3 45
how to find my student loans how to find my Navigational 101 200 54 58 3 48
how to check student loans how to check Navigational 101 200 63 55 3 45
discover private student loan discover private Navigational 101 200 53 21 3 36
check my student loan balance check my balance Navigational 101 200 55 100 3 52
apply for student loan online apply for online Transactional 101 200 68 53 3 41
look up student loans look up Commercial Investigation 101 200 53 90 3 51
student loan now now Transactional 51 100 72 86 3 42
stafford student loans login stafford login Navigational 51 100 76 60 3 36
federal student loan lookup federal lookup Navigational 11 50 55 100 3 46
how to view my student loans how to view my Informational 11 50 57 64 3 39
how do i find out who has my student loan how do i find out who has my Informational 11 50 59 86 3 42
apply for additional student loans apply for additional Commercial Investigation 11 50 73 64 3 34
what student loans do i owe what do i owe Informational 11 50 50 41 3 34
student loan application status application status Navigational 0 10 72 100 3 33
what is federal student loans what is federal Informational 0 10 78 58 3 25
who services federal student loans who services federal Informational 0 10 68 100 3 22
apply for student loan by phone apply for by phone Transactional 0 10 86 86 3 11
national student loan locator phone number national locator phone number Informational 0 0 58 29 3 11
i owe student loans who do i call i owe who do i call Informational 0 0 50 94 3 26
where do i find my student loan interest where do i find my interest Informational 0 0 78 58 3 11
how to find my student loan account number how to find my account number Informational 0 0 55 100 3 25
how much federal student loans do i have how much federal do i have Navigational 0 0 80 46 3 8
where do i pay my government student loans where do i pay my government Navigational 0 0 77 55 3 11
student loans lookup lookup Navigational 0 0 55 100 3 26
student loans payment history payment history Navigational 0 0 66 46 3 14
how many school loans do i have how many do i have Navigational 0 0 68 90 3 21

Additional tool features:

The Importance metric: …is powerful! However, I’ve left all my results at a neutral Importance (3) so you can see downloaded results without any customization (and to keep things fair, because I’m not prioritizing GKP keywords).

If you choose to use this metric, you set a priority level for each keyword (1=not important, 10=most important) that will then influence the keyword’s Potential score. This allows you to more easily prioritize a keyword plan, which is very helpful.

keyword-importance.gif

Group keywords with low lexical similarity: While this can save you time, it can also lead to missing keyword opportunities. In my example below, if I select “student loans” (and not “Select 821 keywords in group”), I would miss all of the nested keywords.

Use this feature carefully:

group-keywords.gif


+ Google Keyword Planner results:

Keyword Modifier Type Avg. Monthly Searches (exact match only) Competition Suggested Bid
student loan forgiveness forgiveness Commercial Investigation 100K – 1M 0.58 3.38
student loan refinance refinance Commercial Investigation 10K – 100K 0.96 34.57
student loan consolidation consolidation Commercial Investigation 10K – 100K 0.98 22.52
private student loans private Commercial Investigation 10K – 100K 0.99 28.51
student loans without a cosigner without a cosigner Commercial Investigation 1K – 10K 0.98 23.85
parent student loans parent Commercial Investigation 1K – 10K 0.96 10.27
best private student loans best private Commercial Investigation 1K – 10K 0.93 21.33
bad credit student loans bad credit Commercial Investigation 1K – 10K 0.97 4.02
best student loans best Commercial Investigation 1K – 10K 0.93 18.61
compare student loans compare Commercial Investigation 100 – 1K 0.98 23.8
medical student loans medical Commercial Investigation 100 – 1K 0.91 10.16
student loans from banks from banks Commercial Investigation 100 – 1K 0.97 13.09
student loans for international students for international students Commercial Investigation 100 – 1K 0.88 14.01
no credit check student loans no credit check Commercial Investigation 100 – 1K 0.98 5.74
nursing student loans nursing Commercial Investigation 100 – 1K 0.94 15.53
alternative student loan options alternative options Commercial Investigation 10 – 100 1 30.32
best student loan consolidation program best consolidation program Commercial Investigation 10 – 100 0.91 36.91
student loan bankruptcy bankruptcy Commercial Investigation 1K – 10K 0.42 9.48
student loan deferment deferment Commercial Investigation 1K – 10K 0.35 10.31
student loans Informational 100K – 1M 0.98 25.97
student loan calculator calculator Informational 10K – 100K 0.42 5.41
types of student loans types of Informational 1K – 10K 0.82 13.61
student loan options options Informational 1K – 10K 0.99 23.63
how to consolidate student loans how to consolidate Informational 1K – 10K 0.84 13.79
student loan default default Informational 1K – 10K 0.28 8.18
student loan help help Informational 1K – 10K 0.96 15.48
where to get student loans where to get Informational 100 – 1K 0.97 17.19
average student loan average Informational 100 – 1K 0.33 18.59
private education loans private Informational 100 – 1K 0.98 16.76
what is a student loan what is Informational 100 – 1K 0.6 8.75
how do you get a student loan how do you get Informational 100 – 1K 0.94 5.22
no credit student loans no credit Informational 100 – 1K 0.98 7.85
about student loans about Informational 10 – 100 0.92 14.9
information on student loans information Informational 10 – 100 0.94 14.08
iowa student loan iowa Navigational 10K – 100K 0.23 9.08
great lakes student loans great lakes Navigational 10K – 100K 0.18 7.05
fafsa student loans fafsa Navigational 1K – 10K 0.61 7.41
student loan interest rates interest rates Transactional 1K – 10K 0.7 10.11
low interest student loans low interest Transactional 100 – 1K 0.98 21.07
need student loan today need today Transactional 10 – 100 1 9.8
i need a student loan now i need now Transactional 10 – 100 0.99 13.7

Tier 1 conclusion:

Google Keyword Planner largely uncovered Commercial Investigation and Informational queries. GKP also better identified a broader set of top-of-funnel keyword opportunities: student loan help, parent student loans, types of student loans, etc.

Moz Keyword Explorer largely uncovered Informational and Navigational queries. MKE better identified longer-tail keyword opportunities: how to get a school loan, apply for student loan online, apply for student loan by phone, etc.


Tier 2 keyword research setup

“closely related search terms” vs. “only include keywords with all of the query terms”

keyword-planner-closely.gif

Google Keyword Planner: Perform same setup, but select “Only show ideas closely related to my search terms.”

keyword-explorer-include.gif

Moz Keyword Explorer: Perform same setup, but select “only include keywords with all of the query terms.”

Note: Your .csv download will still say “Broad” for Google Keyword Planner, even though you’ve selected “Closely related”… Told you she was acting funny.


Tier 2 keyword research overview:

Moz Keyword Explorer Google Keyword Planner
Term: “student loans” “student loans”
Region: United States United States
Spectrum: Only include keywords with all of the query terms Closely related
Group Keywords: No
Total Results: 1000 700
#Keywords With Intents: 66 30

+ Moz Keyword Explorer results:

Keyword Modifier Type Min Volume Max Volume Difficulty Opportunity Importance Potential
student loan Informational 118001 300000 82 84 3 82
student loan forgiveness forgiveness Commercial Investigation 70801 118000 62 86 3 86
student loan calculator calculator Commercial Investigation 11501 30300 75 100 3 76
citi student loan citi Navigational 11501 30300 34 94 3 86
student loan consolidation consolidation Commercial Investigation 11501 30300 60 83 3 79
private student loan loan Commercial Investigation 11501 30300 62 80 3 77
student loan refinance refinance Commercial Investigation 11501 30300 55 83 3 77
student loan repayment calculator repayment calculator Commercial Investigation 11501 30300 67 100 3 74
student loan interest rates interest rates Transactional 6501 9300 53 54 3 69
application for student loan application for Commercial Investigation 4301 6500 64 54 3 63
apply for student loan apply for Commercial Investigation 4301 6500 60 53 3 64
student loan forgiveness for teachers forgiveness for teachers Commercial Investigation 4301 6500 58 100 3 71
bad credit student loan bad credit Commercial Investigation 1701 2900 44 83 3 70
student loan hero hero Navigational 1701 2900 49 19 3 53
student loan servicing servicing Commercial Investigation 1701 2900 70 90 3 62
discovery student loan discovery Navigational 851 1700 47 28 3 51
fsa student loan fsa Navigational 851 1700 90 58 3 41
student loan providers providers Commercial Investigation 501 850 66 53 3 51
where to get student loan where to get Informational 501 850 76 55 3 47
check student loan balance check balance Navigational 201 500 54 46 3 49
department of education student loan servicing center department of education servicing center Navigational 201 500 78 58 3 42
student loan status status Navigational 201 500 61 86 3 54
us student loan debt us debt Informational 201 500 66 56 3 49
all student loan all Informational 101 200 58 56 3 45
discover private student loan discover private Navigational 101 200 53 21 3 36
how do i find my student loan how do i find my interest Informational 101 200 59 86 3 51
student loan management management Commercial Investigation 101 200 57 53 3 45
student loan resources resources Commercial Investigation 101 200 49 83 3 52
where is my student loan where is Informational 51 100 61 55 3 42
student loan corporation citibank corporation citibank Navigational 11 50 36 94 3 45
student loan enquiries enquiries Commercial Investigation 11 50 61 100 3 43
fafsa student loan consolidation fafsa consolidation Navigational 11 50 99 53 3 1
federal student loan options federal options Commercial Investigation 11 50 75 54 3 34
federal student loan terms federal terms Commercial Investigation 11 50 81 90 3 31
get a student loan today get a today Transactional 11 50 66 83 3 41
need student loan now need now Transactional 11 50 71 83 3 37
student loan overview overview Informational 11 50 79 94 3 35
student loan payment history payment history Navigational 11 50 55 100 3 46
student loan website down website down Informational 11 50 42 90 3 44
apply for student loan by phone apply for by phone Commercial Investigation 0 10 86 86 3 11
apply online for student loan apply online for Commercial Investigation 0 10 68 53 3 28
citibank student loan promotional code citibank promotional code Navigational 0 10 38 94 3 28
student loan corporation sallie mae corporation sallie mae Commercial Investigation 0 10 63 100 3 23
dsl student loan dsl Navigational 0 10 51 90 3 38
how do i take out a federal student loan how do i take out a federal Informational 0 10 80 55 3 22
how to pay student loan online how to pay online Informational 0 10 52 55 3 32
student loan management app management app Commercial Investigation 0 10 43 83 3 26
my student loan account number my account number Informational 0 10 65 64 3 18
student loan servicing center pennsylvania servicing center pennsylvania Navigational 0 10 52 88 3 38
where to pay my student loan where to pay my Informational 0 10 68 100 3 22
student loan counseling center counseling center Commercial Investigation 0 0 58 83 3 23
deadline for student loan application deadline for application Informational 0 0 68 60 3 16
educated borrower student loan educated borrower Commercial Investigation 0 0 54 83 3 24
get subsidized student loan get subsidized Commercial Investigation 0 0 64 90 3 22
how do i find my student loan account number how do i find my account number Informational 0 0 55 100 3 26
how much student loan can i have how much can i have Informational 0 0 71 55 3 14
how to check the status of a student loan from direct loans how to check the status of a Informational 0 0 86 90 3 11
how to find out who is my student loan lender how to find out who is my lender Informational 0 0 60 60 3 19
how to get your student loan money how to get your money Informational 0 0 39 56 3 22
student loan information eligibility information eligibility Commercial Investigation 0 0 85 86 3 11
is financial aid a student loan is financial aid a Informational 0 0 72 60 3 15
national student loan data system for parents national data system for parents Commercial Investigation 0 0 53 22 3 10
national student loan database contact number national database contact number Navigational 0 0 57 64 3 20
nslds student loan login nslds login Navigational 0 0 73 46 3 11
subsidized loan and unsubsidized student loan subsidized and unsubsidized Commercial Investigation 0 0 57 94 3 24
what is a national direct student loan what is a national direct Informational 0 0 66 64 3 17

+ Google Keyword Planner results:

Keyword Modifier Type Avg. Monthly Searches (exact match only) Competition Suggested bid
student loan application application Commercial Investigation 1K – 10K 0.98 22.37
student loan bankruptcy bankruptcy Commercial Investigation 1K – 10K 0.42 9.48
how to get a student loan how to get Informational 1K – 10K 0.92 10.59
student loan help help Informational 1K – 10K 0.96 15.48
student loan deferment deferment Commercial Investigation 1K – 10K 0.35 10.31
alaska student loan alsaska Navigational 1K – 10K 0.54 2.21
south carolina student loan south carolina Navigational 1K – 10K 0.45 23.59
texas guaranteed student loan texas guranteed Navigational 1K – 10K 0.5 17.34
student loan interest rates interest rates Transactional 1K – 10K 0.7 10.11
student loan consolidation rates consolidation rates Transactional 1K – 10K 0.94 17.44
student loan refinance refinance Commercial Investigation 10K – 100K 0.96 34.57
student loan consolidation consolidation Commercial Investigation 10K – 100K 0.98 22.52
student loan calculator calculator Informational 10K – 100K 0.42 5.41
student loan gov gov Navigational 10K – 100K 0.28 16.42
iowa student loan iowa Navigational 10K – 100K 0.23 9.08
student loan forgiveness forgiveness Commercial Investigation 100K – 1M 0.58 3.38
what is a student loan what is Informational 100 – 1K 0.6 8.75
how can i get a student loan how can I get Informational 100 – 1K 0.97 7.71
how to get a private student loan how to get a private Informational 100 – 1K 0.96 14.82
student loan app application Navigational 100 – 1K 0.83 11.89
student loan cancellation cancellation Transactional 100 – 1K 0.41 4.5
student loan tax tax Transactional 100 – 1K 0.25 47.05
medical student loan consolidation medical consolidation Commercial Investigation 10 – 100 0.93 0
federal student loan options federal options Commercial Investigation 10 – 100 0.75 7.45
student loan consolidation faq consolidation faq Commercial Investigation 10 – 100 0.76 15.94
how to figure out student loan interest how to figure out interest Informational 10 – 100 0.38 10.52
how to apply for a student loan online how to apply Informational 10 – 100 1 20.61
how much is my student loan payment how much is my Informational 10 – 100 0.22 20.96
need a student loan now need now Transactional 10 – 100 0.99 12.02
need student loan today need today Transactional 10 – 100 1 9.8

Tier 2 conclusion:

Google Keyword Planner largely uncovered a pretty even percentage of all 4 keyword types (30% Informational, 20% Navigational, 30% Commercial Investigation, and 20% Transactional). GKP also continued to provide a broader set of top-of-funnel keyword opportunities: student loan bankruptcy, student loan gov, student loan help, how to get a student loan, etc.

Moz Keyword Explorer largely uncovered Commercial Investigation and Informational queries. MKE also continued to provide a broader set of long-tail keyword opportunities: student loan forgiveness for teachers, student loan providers, student loan status, how do i find my student loan, etc.


Where this is the end of the road for Google results, Moz has some other filters up its sleeve:

keyword-research-filters.gif

Let’s explore the other available Moz keyword filters and examine the discovered keyword results (keywords with unique intent).

Exclude your query terms to get broader ideas: 25 keywords

Most results are longer-tail queries around college tuition, educational expenses, private school tuition, etc. This evenly resulted in Informational, Navigational, and Transactional keyword results:

Based on closely related topics: 35 keywords

One of the more evenly distributed (search volume) results in this example. Most keyword results are around other types of loans or grants: payday loan, pell grants, auto loan, private loans, etc.

Based on broadly related topics and synonyms: 74 keywords

Results are mostly three words or longer and revolve around more specific types of loans; great lakes student loans, wells fargo student loans, student loan chase, etc.

Related to keywords with similar results pages: 187 keywords

Results are mostly long-tail Commercial Investigation queries around loan payments, student loan consolidation, student loan forgiveness for teachers, student loan payment help, etc.

Are questions: 111 keywords

Last, but certainly not least. The crème de la crème of an FAQ page.

Results reveal long-tail student loan questions (mostly Informational), like: can you file bankruptcy on student loans, do student loans affect credit score, are student loans tax deductible, where can i get a student loan, etc.


TL;DR

Conclusion:

Google Keyword Planner has limited search volume data, but continues to provide a broader set of top-of-funnel keywords (high volume, low competition <– ad metric). Despite the “closely related” filter resulting in a more even percentage of all 4 keyword types, it provided fairly similar results (35.4% duplicate) to “broad.” Commercial and Informational keyword types were most commonly found.

Moz Keyword Explorer provides more accurate search volume data, while providing a broader set of long-tail keywords (mid-to-low volume, low competition). The many keyword filters provide a wide range of keyword results (17% duplicate in first two filters) and keyword types depending on which keyword filter you use. However, Informational, Commercial Investigation, and Navigational keyword types were most commonly found.

Pros:

Moz Keyword Explorer: Google Keyword Planner:
The keyword search volume accuracy (IMO) is the most impressive part of this tool. The ability to view monthly trends, mobile versus desktop searches, and geo-popular areas is wonderful.
Better UX. Can add negative keywords/keywords to not include in results.
Keyword suggestion filters reveal far more keyword results. Sorting by 100 keywords is a nice cadence.
The “are questions” filter is incredibly useful for things like FAQ pages and content marketing ideas. Google Sheet download integration.
Saved keyword lists (that can be refreshed!? Say whaa!?) Average keyword bid (for further competition insight).
Detailed SERP data for SERP feature opportunities. Monthly keyword trend data (on hover).
Organic competition metric. Ability to target specific hyper-local areas.
Ability to prioritize keywords which influences the Potential metric (for smarter keyword prioritization).

Cons:

Moz Keyword Explorer: Google Keyword Planner:
The Min Volume | Max Volume | Difficulty | Opportunity | Importance | Potential can be overwhelming. Search volume ranges are widely skewed and bucketed.
No Google Sheet download integration. Individuals who start adding keywords from the bottom up of a list (scrolling up) will miss newly populated results.
No “select all” option. Broad & Closely Related filters tend to provide very similar results.
The list of 1,000 keyword results can be daunting when doing lots of keyword research. No SERP feature data.
Inability to target specific local regions. Can’t save lists.
Clunky, slow UX.

Which is right for you?

I’d consider where you want to target people in your sales funnel, and where you need to improve your current website traffic. If you have wide top-of-funnel traffic for your product/service and need to better provide long-tail transactions, check out Moz Keyword Explorer. If you need a brief overview of top-level searches, take a look at Google Keyword Planner results.

Which do I use?

I’m a little ashamed to say that I still use both. Checking Google Keyword Planner gives me the peace of mind that I’m not missing anything. But, Moz Keyword Explorer continues to impress me with its search volume accuracy and ease of list creation. As it gets better with top-of-funnel keywords (and hopefully integrates competition up front) I would love to transition completely over to Moz.

Other keyword research tips:

I’ve also been a big fan of ubersuggest.io to give your initial keyword list a boost. You can add your selected keywords directly to Google Keyword Planner or Moz Keyword Explorer for instant keyword data. This can help identify where you should take your keyword research in terms of intent, sub-topic intents, geographic, etc.

Answer the Public is also a great resource for FAQ pages. Just make sure to change the location if you are not based in the UK.

Would love your feedback!

  • Please let me know if you can think of other ways to determine the quality of keywords from each tool.
  • Any other pros/cons that you would add?
  • What other tools have you been using for keyword research?

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from Raymond Castleberry Blog http://raymondcastleberry.blogspot.com/2016/10/moz-keyword-explorer-vs-google-keyword.html
via http://raymondcastleberry.blogspot.com

Economists Need to Review the Tax Interaction Effect Before Writing on Climate Change

There are many facets to the debate over manmade climate change, and what policies (if any) the U.S. federal and state governments should take in response to it. In recent years, a few writers have made the interesting argument that even if conservatives and libertarians don’t buy into the catastrophic warnings, they should still support a carbon tax so long as its revenues are used to reduce other taxes. What is fascinating about this argument is that the peer-reviewed literature rejects it, and yet these writers keep making the pitch, apparently unaware that their position is untenable. Let me give a very recent example of what I mean, and then review the state of the literature.

Scott Sumner Makes an Intuitive, and Totally Wrong, Appeal

On the classical liberal blog EconLog, Chicago-trained free-market economist Scott Sumner recently wrote:

I seem to be one of the relatively few right-of-center intellectuals that worry about global warming. In previous posts I’ve argued that if the GOP were smart (no jokes please) they would propose the following policy:

1. Global warming is a crisis for our planet, and it’s time to stop playing politics with the issue. Therefore we suggest that Congress pass the sort of policy that experts believe is the most effective solution…

2. It’s clear that experts view a carbon tax as the most efficient solution.

3. This tax should be completely revenue neutral…

4. Therefore the carbon tax should be offset by reductions in our most distortionary taxes, especially those that bias us toward consumption…

I’ve suggested that this is a win-win for the GOP. First, it’s possible (indeed likely) that the concerns over global warming are valid. In that case a revenue neutral carbon tax is clearly beneficial. And second, even if scientists are wrong about global warming, our current tax system is so grotesquely inefficient that it would be easy to find taxes far more distortionary than the carbon tax, which could then be reduced to offset its impact. Thus it’s probably a sound public policy, even if global warming is not a problem at all. [Bold added.]

Sumner’s arguments have a superficial plausibility. After all, with so many natural scientists worried about it, surely climate change might be a decent problem, right? And economists know that the current U.S. tax code is awful, because it destroys a lot more than $1 in potential private sector output for every $1 in revenue it raises for the government.

In this context, then, one would think that levying a carbon tax and using the revenue solely to reduce the rates on other productive activities (such as working and investment) would have to be a good idea. As the popular slogan says, “Tax bads, not goods.” And indeed, Sumner does think this.

Yet as I’ve argued over the years, such reasoning is wrong. Generally speaking, the pre-existence of a distortionary tax code is a reason for levying a smaller carbon tax than one would initially want to do, in light of the underlying assumed environmental harm. Because of this, if one were agnostic about the threat of manmade climate change from carbon dioxide emissions, then it would be clearly harmful to the economy to levy a carbon tax, even if it were revenue neutral.

The “Tax Interaction Effect”

The specific concept that throws a monkey wrench into the apparently commonsense reasoning of writers like Sumner is called the “tax interaction effect.” I’ve written about this extensively in other posts (such as here and here). But here’s the basic intuition, which the leaders in the field use to explain the effect:

Taxes on labor and capital income are harmful because they drive a “wedge” between how much work and investment produce, versus how much take-home earnings the workers and capitalists get to keep. In this context, a carbon tax amplifies this wedge, because it makes energy more expensive and drives up prices. Thus the after-tax, real earnings of workers and capitalists are reduced even further with the imposition of a carbon tax. Even if the revenues of a new carbon tax are fully recycled and used to reduce, dollar for dollar, pre-existing taxes on labor and capital, it is still possible (and indeed empirically likely) that the economy ends up with more total distortion than before.

It may help to understand the big picture by the following consideration: Levying a tax on carbon-intensive activities violates a fundamental principle of efficient taxation, because it strikes at a narrow base. Yes, taxing all labor income is distortionary, but taxing all businesses that start with the letter “J” would be even worse. This is why levying a tax of trillions of dollars on carbon dioxide emissions would be very harmful to standard measures of economic growth.

Estimating the Size of the Tax Interaction Effect

The tax interaction effect is not a mere curiosity; estimates of its size can be very large. For example, in a pioneering 1994 article, Bovenberg and Goulder ran a simulation of the U.S. economy and tax code, and presented these results:

Source: Table 1 from my EconLib article, available here.

In the table above, we see just how powerful the tax interaction effect can be. For example, if we assume the “social cost of carbon” is $50 per ton, then the “optimal” textbook carbon tax is $50 per ton—assuming a blank slate with the rest of the tax code.

But look what happens if we now assume that prior existence of the U.S. tax code, circa 1994. If the proceeds of the carbon tax are returned lump-sum to citizens (meaning it is revenue neutral, and doesn’t fuel new government spending), then the optimal carbon tax falls to $0 per ton. Even stipulating a large environmental “negative externality” of $50 per ton, if the proceeds are simply returned in lump-sum fashion back to households, then even a $1 per ton carbon tax would cause more total economic damage than it would spare in climate change. Thus the government should “do nothing” if it’s only option were to enact a carbon tax and return all the revenue back to households in lump-sum fashion.

However, we can do better than that. Specifically, we can take all of the carbon tax receipts and use them to reduce the rates charged on the personal income tax. This alters incentives, and gives individuals a reason to work more and thus generate more income.

However, notice that even in this scenario, Bovenberg and Goulder estimate the “optimal” carbon tax at merely $27 per ton. The prior existence of the distortionary income tax code has led to an “optimal” carbon tax that is close to half of the value suggested by the raw negative externality. This is the opposite of the intuition from writers like Sumner.

A Modern Estimate

These qualitative results have held up over time. Consider for example a chart from a 2013 Resources for the Future (RFF) study (source and analysis here)—and keep in mind that RFF as an organization is favorable to a carbon tax.

Source: My earlier IER article.

In the above chart taken from the 2013 RFF study, we see that if a new carbon tax is used to fully fund any of (a) lump-sum rebates to households (purple line), (b) a reduction in sales taxes (green line), or (c) a reduction in payroll taxes (red line), then GDP will be stifled. So we see that a revenue-neutral carbon tax is not sufficient to spare the economy.

Now in fairness, Sumner could point to the one thing that would salvage his point: The RFF study estimated that if all of a new carbon tax’s receipts—which would be more than one trillion dollars over the first decade, for standard ranges of the tax—were fully devoted to reducing taxes on capital (the blue line), then we could see a boost to conventional GDP growth, as well as any environmental benefits.

Yet even here, the effect isn’t that significant. In the chart, we can see that the blue line just breaks 1% on the positive side, while the green line goes lower into negative territory. This means that the economic damage from a revenue-neutral carbon tax with all receipts being used to reduce sales taxes (the green line) causes more harm, than a revenue-neutral carbon tax with all receipts devoted to reducing capital taxes would yield in economic growth.

Furthermore, as the chart shows, the purple line (where receipts are returned to households in a lump-sum fashion) causes triple the damage that the blue line yields in benefits. And remember—these lines are all plotting the effects of a fully revenue-neutral carbon tax. If we realistically allow for the fact that government spending on “green” projects will go up, then the outcome would be much worse.

I don’t think Sumner (let alone the average EconLog reader) realized just how tenuous his case was. Most people assume that if you are already vaguely worried about climate change, then a revenue-neutral carbon tax tied to, say, a combination of payroll and corporate income tax cuts, plus rebates for poor households to help them deal with higher energy prices, would be a no brainer. And yet the standard models in this literature show just the opposite. Writers urging libertarians and conservatives to consider a carbon tax should review the literature before picking up their keyboards.

Conclusion

In this post, I have set aside all of the practical and political problems with a U.S. carbon tax. In reality, we are certainly not going to get a “revenue neutral” carbon tax—just look at what the progressives themselves are saying about it.

However, for the sake of argument, we can stipulate a revenue-neutral carbon tax, and even allow that its receipts would be used to reduce distortionary personal income tax rates. Even in this contrived setting, standard models in the literature show that one would set the “optimal” carbon tax well below the level corresponding to the assumed environmental problem.

Therefore, if conservatives and libertarians doubt that there really is an impending catastrophe from manmade climate change, then they should have nothing to do with a “carbon tax deal”—assuming they want to foster U.S. economic growth.

The post Economists Need to Review the Tax Interaction Effect Before Writing on Climate Change appeared first on IER.

from Raymond Castleberry Blog http://raymondcastleberry.blogspot.com/2016/10/economists-need-to-review-tax.html
via http://raymondcastleberry.blogspot.com

Economists Need to Review the Tax Interaction Effect Before Writing on Climate Change

There are many facets to the debate over manmade climate change, and what policies (if any) the U.S. federal and state governments should take in response to it. In recent years, a few writers have made the interesting argument that even if conservatives and libertarians don’t buy into the catastrophic warnings, they should still support a carbon tax so long as its revenues are used to reduce other taxes. What is fascinating about this argument is that the peer-reviewed literature rejects it, and yet these writers keep making the pitch, apparently unaware that their position is untenable. Let me give a very recent example of what I mean, and then review the state of the literature.

Scott Sumner Makes an Intuitive, and Totally Wrong, Appeal

On the classical liberal blog EconLog, Chicago-trained free-market economist Scott Sumner recently wrote:

I seem to be one of the relatively few right-of-center intellectuals that worry about global warming. In previous posts I’ve argued that if the GOP were smart (no jokes please) they would propose the following policy:

1. Global warming is a crisis for our planet, and it’s time to stop playing politics with the issue. Therefore we suggest that Congress pass the sort of policy that experts believe is the most effective solution…

2. It’s clear that experts view a carbon tax as the most efficient solution.

3. This tax should be completely revenue neutral…

4. Therefore the carbon tax should be offset by reductions in our most distortionary taxes, especially those that bias us toward consumption…

I’ve suggested that this is a win-win for the GOP. First, it’s possible (indeed likely) that the concerns over global warming are valid. In that case a revenue neutral carbon tax is clearly beneficial. And second, even if scientists are wrong about global warming, our current tax system is so grotesquely inefficient that it would be easy to find taxes far more distortionary than the carbon tax, which could then be reduced to offset its impact. Thus it’s probably a sound public policy, even if global warming is not a problem at all. [Bold added.]

Sumner’s arguments have a superficial plausibility. After all, with so many natural scientists worried about it, surely climate change might be a decent problem, right? And economists know that the current U.S. tax code is awful, because it destroys a lot more than $1 in potential private sector output for every $1 in revenue it raises for the government.

In this context, then, one would think that levying a carbon tax and using the revenue solely to reduce the rates on other productive activities (such as working and investment) would have to be a good idea. As the popular slogan says, “Tax bads, not goods.” And indeed, Sumner does think this.

Yet as I’ve argued over the years, such reasoning is wrong. Generally speaking, the pre-existence of a distortionary tax code is a reason for levying a smaller carbon tax than one would initially want to do, in light of the underlying assumed environmental harm. Because of this, if one were agnostic about the threat of manmade climate change from carbon dioxide emissions, then it would be clearly harmful to the economy to levy a carbon tax, even if it were revenue neutral.

The “Tax Interaction Effect”

The specific concept that throws a monkey wrench into the apparently commonsense reasoning of writers like Sumner is called the “tax interaction effect.” I’ve written about this extensively in other posts (such as here and here). But here’s the basic intuition, which the leaders in the field use to explain the effect:

Taxes on labor and capital income are harmful because they drive a “wedge” between how much work and investment produce, versus how much take-home earnings the workers and capitalists get to keep. In this context, a carbon tax amplifies this wedge, because it makes energy more expensive and drives up prices. Thus the after-tax, real earnings of workers and capitalists are reduced even further with the imposition of a carbon tax. Even if the revenues of a new carbon tax are fully recycled and used to reduce, dollar for dollar, pre-existing taxes on labor and capital, it is still possible (and indeed empirically likely) that the economy ends up with more total distortion than before.

It may help to understand the big picture by the following consideration: Levying a tax on carbon-intensive activities violates a fundamental principle of efficient taxation, because it strikes at a narrow base. Yes, taxing all labor income is distortionary, but taxing all businesses that start with the letter “J” would be even worse. This is why levying a tax of trillions of dollars on carbon dioxide emissions would be very harmful to standard measures of economic growth.

Estimating the Size of the Tax Interaction Effect

The tax interaction effect is not a mere curiosity; estimates of its size can be very large. For example, in a pioneering 1994 article, Bovenberg and Goulder ran a simulation of the U.S. economy and tax code, and presented these results:

Source: Table 1 from my EconLib article, available here.

In the table above, we see just how powerful the tax interaction effect can be. For example, if we assume the “social cost of carbon” is $50 per ton, then the “optimal” textbook carbon tax is $50 per ton—assuming a blank slate with the rest of the tax code.

But look what happens if we now assume that prior existence of the U.S. tax code, circa 1994. If the proceeds of the carbon tax are returned lump-sum to citizens (meaning it is revenue neutral, and doesn’t fuel new government spending), then the optimal carbon tax falls to $0 per ton. Even stipulating a large environmental “negative externality” of $50 per ton, if the proceeds are simply returned in lump-sum fashion back to households, then even a $1 per ton carbon tax would cause more total economic damage than it would spare in climate change. Thus the government should “do nothing” if it’s only option were to enact a carbon tax and return all the revenue back to households in lump-sum fashion.

However, we can do better than that. Specifically, we can take all of the carbon tax receipts and use them to reduce the rates charged on the personal income tax. This alters incentives, and gives individuals a reason to work more and thus generate more income.

However, notice that even in this scenario, Bovenberg and Goulder estimate the “optimal” carbon tax at merely $27 per ton. The prior existence of the distortionary income tax code has led to an “optimal” carbon tax that is close to half of the value suggested by the raw negative externality. This is the opposite of the intuition from writers like Sumner.

A Modern Estimate

These qualitative results have held up over time. Consider for example a chart from a 2013 Resources for the Future (RFF) study (source and analysis here)—and keep in mind that RFF as an organization is favorable to a carbon tax.

Source: My earlier IER article.

In the above chart taken from the 2013 RFF study, we see that if a new carbon tax is used to fully fund any of (a) lump-sum rebates to households (purple line), (b) a reduction in sales taxes (green line), or (c) a reduction in payroll taxes (red line), then GDP will be stifled. So we see that a revenue-neutral carbon tax is not sufficient to spare the economy.

Now in fairness, Sumner could point to the one thing that would salvage his point: The RFF study estimated that if all of a new carbon tax’s receipts—which would be more than one trillion dollars over the first decade, for standard ranges of the tax—were fully devoted to reducing taxes on capital (the blue line), then we could see a boost to conventional GDP growth, as well as any environmental benefits.

Yet even here, the effect isn’t that significant. In the chart, we can see that the blue line just breaks 1% on the positive side, while the green line goes lower into negative territory. This means that the economic damage from a revenue-neutral carbon tax with all receipts being used to reduce sales taxes (the green line) causes more harm, than a revenue-neutral carbon tax with all receipts devoted to reducing capital taxes would yield in economic growth.

Furthermore, as the chart shows, the purple line (where receipts are returned to households in a lump-sum fashion) causes triple the damage that the blue line yields in benefits. And remember—these lines are all plotting the effects of a fully revenue-neutral carbon tax. If we realistically allow for the fact that government spending on “green” projects will go up, then the outcome would be much worse.

I don’t think Sumner (let alone the average EconLog reader) realized just how tenuous his case was. Most people assume that if you are already vaguely worried about climate change, then a revenue-neutral carbon tax tied to, say, a combination of payroll and corporate income tax cuts, plus rebates for poor households to help them deal with higher energy prices, would be a no brainer. And yet the standard models in this literature show just the opposite. Writers urging libertarians and conservatives to consider a carbon tax should review the literature before picking up their keyboards.

Conclusion

In this post, I have set aside all of the practical and political problems with a U.S. carbon tax. In reality, we are certainly not going to get a “revenue neutral” carbon tax—just look at what the progressives themselves are saying about it.

However, for the sake of argument, we can stipulate a revenue-neutral carbon tax, and even allow that its receipts would be used to reduce distortionary personal income tax rates. Even in this contrived setting, standard models in the literature show that one would set the “optimal” carbon tax well below the level corresponding to the assumed environmental problem.

Therefore, if conservatives and libertarians doubt that there really is an impending catastrophe from manmade climate change, then they should have nothing to do with a “carbon tax deal”—assuming they want to foster U.S. economic growth.

The post Economists Need to Review the Tax Interaction Effect Before Writing on Climate Change appeared first on IER.

Economists Need to Review the Tax Interaction Effect Before Writing on Climate Change

There are many facets to the debate over manmade climate change, and what policies (if any) the U.S. federal and state governments should take in response to it. In recent years, a few writers have made the interesting argument that even if conservatives and libertarians don’t buy into the catastrophic warnings, they should still support a carbon tax so long as its revenues are used to reduce other taxes. What is fascinating about this argument is that the peer-reviewed literature rejects it, and yet these writers keep making the pitch, apparently unaware that their position is untenable. Let me give a very recent example of what I mean, and then review the state of the literature.

Scott Sumner Makes an Intuitive, and Totally Wrong, Appeal

On the classical liberal blog EconLog, Chicago-trained free-market economist Scott Sumner recently wrote:

I seem to be one of the relatively few right-of-center intellectuals that worry about global warming. In previous posts I’ve argued that if the GOP were smart (no jokes please) they would propose the following policy:

1. Global warming is a crisis for our planet, and it’s time to stop playing politics with the issue. Therefore we suggest that Congress pass the sort of policy that experts believe is the most effective solution…

2. It’s clear that experts view a carbon tax as the most efficient solution.

3. This tax should be completely revenue neutral…

4. Therefore the carbon tax should be offset by reductions in our most distortionary taxes, especially those that bias us toward consumption…

I’ve suggested that this is a win-win for the GOP. First, it’s possible (indeed likely) that the concerns over global warming are valid. In that case a revenue neutral carbon tax is clearly beneficial. And second, even if scientists are wrong about global warming, our current tax system is so grotesquely inefficient that it would be easy to find taxes far more distortionary than the carbon tax, which could then be reduced to offset its impact. Thus it’s probably a sound public policy, even if global warming is not a problem at all. [Bold added.]

Sumner’s arguments have a superficial plausibility. After all, with so many natural scientists worried about it, surely climate change might be a decent problem, right? And economists know that the current U.S. tax code is awful, because it destroys a lot more than $1 in potential private sector output for every $1 in revenue it raises for the government.

In this context, then, one would think that levying a carbon tax and using the revenue solely to reduce the rates on other productive activities (such as working and investment) would have to be a good idea. As the popular slogan says, “Tax bads, not goods.” And indeed, Sumner does think this.

Yet as I’ve argued over the years, such reasoning is wrong. Generally speaking, the pre-existence of a distortionary tax code is a reason for levying a smaller carbon tax than one would initially want to do, in light of the underlying assumed environmental harm. Because of this, if one were agnostic about the threat of manmade climate change from carbon dioxide emissions, then it would be clearly harmful to the economy to levy a carbon tax, even if it were revenue neutral.

The “Tax Interaction Effect”

The specific concept that throws a monkey wrench into the apparently commonsense reasoning of writers like Sumner is called the “tax interaction effect.” I’ve written about this extensively in other posts (such as here and here). But here’s the basic intuition, which the leaders in the field use to explain the effect:

Taxes on labor and capital income are harmful because they drive a “wedge” between how much work and investment produce, versus how much take-home earnings the workers and capitalists get to keep. In this context, a carbon tax amplifies this wedge, because it makes energy more expensive and drives up prices. Thus the after-tax, real earnings of workers and capitalists are reduced even further with the imposition of a carbon tax. Even if the revenues of a new carbon tax are fully recycled and used to reduce, dollar for dollar, pre-existing taxes on labor and capital, it is still possible (and indeed empirically likely) that the economy ends up with more total distortion than before.

It may help to understand the big picture by the following consideration: Levying a tax on carbon-intensive activities violates a fundamental principle of efficient taxation, because it strikes at a narrow base. Yes, taxing all labor income is distortionary, but taxing all businesses that start with the letter “J” would be even worse. This is why levying a tax of trillions of dollars on carbon dioxide emissions would be very harmful to standard measures of economic growth.

Estimating the Size of the Tax Interaction Effect

The tax interaction effect is not a mere curiosity; estimates of its size can be very large. For example, in a pioneering 1994 article, Bovenberg and Goulder ran a simulation of the U.S. economy and tax code, and presented these results:

Source: Table 1 from my EconLib article, available here.

In the table above, we see just how powerful the tax interaction effect can be. For example, if we assume the “social cost of carbon” is $50 per ton, then the “optimal” textbook carbon tax is $50 per ton—assuming a blank slate with the rest of the tax code.

But look what happens if we now assume that prior existence of the U.S. tax code, circa 1994. If the proceeds of the carbon tax are returned lump-sum to citizens (meaning it is revenue neutral, and doesn’t fuel new government spending), then the optimal carbon tax falls to $0 per ton. Even stipulating a large environmental “negative externality” of $50 per ton, if the proceeds are simply returned in lump-sum fashion back to households, then even a $1 per ton carbon tax would cause more total economic damage than it would spare in climate change. Thus the government should “do nothing” if it’s only option were to enact a carbon tax and return all the revenue back to households in lump-sum fashion.

However, we can do better than that. Specifically, we can take all of the carbon tax receipts and use them to reduce the rates charged on the personal income tax. This alters incentives, and gives individuals a reason to work more and thus generate more income.

However, notice that even in this scenario, Bovenberg and Goulder estimate the “optimal” carbon tax at merely $27 per ton. The prior existence of the distortionary income tax code has led to an “optimal” carbon tax that is close to half of the value suggested by the raw negative externality. This is the opposite of the intuition from writers like Sumner.

A Modern Estimate

These qualitative results have held up over time. Consider for example a chart from a 2013 Resources for the Future (RFF) study (source and analysis here)—and keep in mind that RFF as an organization is favorable to a carbon tax.

Source: My earlier IER article.

In the above chart taken from the 2013 RFF study, we see that if a new carbon tax is used to fully fund any of (a) lump-sum rebates to households (purple line), (b) a reduction in sales taxes (green line), or (c) a reduction in payroll taxes (red line), then GDP will be stifled. So we see that a revenue-neutral carbon tax is not sufficient to spare the economy.

Now in fairness, Sumner could point to the one thing that would salvage his point: The RFF study estimated that if all of a new carbon tax’s receipts—which would be more than one trillion dollars over the first decade, for standard ranges of the tax—were fully devoted to reducing taxes on capital (the blue line), then we could see a boost to conventional GDP growth, as well as any environmental benefits.

Yet even here, the effect isn’t that significant. In the chart, we can see that the blue line just breaks 1% on the positive side, while the green line goes lower into negative territory. This means that the economic damage from a revenue-neutral carbon tax with all receipts being used to reduce sales taxes (the green line) causes more harm, than a revenue-neutral carbon tax with all receipts devoted to reducing capital taxes would yield in economic growth.

Furthermore, as the chart shows, the purple line (where receipts are returned to households in a lump-sum fashion) causes triple the damage that the blue line yields in benefits. And remember—these lines are all plotting the effects of a fully revenue-neutral carbon tax. If we realistically allow for the fact that government spending on “green” projects will go up, then the outcome would be much worse.

I don’t think Sumner (let alone the average EconLog reader) realized just how tenuous his case was. Most people assume that if you are already vaguely worried about climate change, then a revenue-neutral carbon tax tied to, say, a combination of payroll and corporate income tax cuts, plus rebates for poor households to help them deal with higher energy prices, would be a no brainer. And yet the standard models in this literature show just the opposite. Writers urging libertarians and conservatives to consider a carbon tax should review the literature before picking up their keyboards.

Conclusion

In this post, I have set aside all of the practical and political problems with a U.S. carbon tax. In reality, we are certainly not going to get a “revenue neutral” carbon tax—just look at what the progressives themselves are saying about it.

However, for the sake of argument, we can stipulate a revenue-neutral carbon tax, and even allow that its receipts would be used to reduce distortionary personal income tax rates. Even in this contrived setting, standard models in the literature show that one would set the “optimal” carbon tax well below the level corresponding to the assumed environmental problem.

Therefore, if conservatives and libertarians doubt that there really is an impending catastrophe from manmade climate change, then they should have nothing to do with a “carbon tax deal”—assuming they want to foster U.S. economic growth.

The post Economists Need to Review the Tax Interaction Effect Before Writing on Climate Change appeared first on IER.

How to Craft the Best Damn E-commerce Page on the Web – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

From your top-level nav to your seal-the-deal content, there are endless considerations when it comes to crafting your ecommerce page. Using one of his personal favorite examples, Rand takes you step by detailed step through the process of creating a truly superb ecommerce page in today’s Whiteboard Friday.

http://fast.wistia.net/embed/iframe/07cmxciuwr?seo=false&videoFoam=true

http://fast.wistia.net/assets/external/E-v1.js

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy all and welcome to a special edition of Whiteboard Friday. My name is Rand Fishkin. I’m the founder of Moz, and today I want to talk with you about how to craft the best damn ecommerce page on the web. I’m actually going to be using the example of one of my very favorite ecommerce pages. That is the Bellroy Slim Wallet page. Now, Bellroy, actually, all of their pages, Bellroy makes wallets and they market them online primarily. They make some fantastic products. I’ve been an owner of one for a long time, and it was this very page that convinced me to buy it. So what better example to use?

So what I want to do today is walk us through the elements of a fantastic ecommerce page, talk about some things where I think perhaps even Bellroy could improve, and then walk through, at the very end, the process for improving your own ecommerce page.

The elements of a fantastic e-commerce page

So let’s start with number one, the very first thing which a lot of folks, unfortunately, don’t talk about but is critical to a great ecommerce process and a great ecommerce page, and that is…

1. The navigation at the very top

The navigation at the top needs to do a few things. It’s got to help people:

  • Understand and know where they are in the site structure, especially if you have a more complex site. In Bellroy’s case, they don’t really need to highlight anything. You know you’re on a wallet page. That’s probably in Shop, right? But for Amazon, this is critically important. For Best Buy, this is hugely important. Even for places like Samsung and Apple, critical to understand where I am in the site structure.
  • I want to know something about the brand itself. So if this is the first time that someone is visiting the website, which is very often the case with ecommerce pages, they’re often entry points for the first exposure that you have to a brand. Let’s recall, from what we know about conversion rate optimization, it is uncommon, unusual for someone to convert on their first visit to a brand or a website’s page, but you can make a great first impression, and part of that is what your top navigation needs to do. So it should help people identify with the brand, get a sense for the style and the details of who you are.
  • You need to know where, broadly, you can go in the website. Where can I explore from here? If this is my first visit or if this is my second visit and I’m trying to learn a little bit more about the company, I want to be able to easily get to places like About, or I want to be able to easily learn more about their products or what they do, learn more about the potential solutions, learn more about their collections and what other things they offer me.
  • I also, especially for ecommerce repeat visitors and for folks who are buying more than one thing, I want to have this simple navigation around Cart. I don’t, in fact, love how Bellroy minimizes this, but you want to make sure that the Search bar is there as well. Search is actually a function. About 10% to 12% of visitors on average to ecommerce pages will use Search as their primary navigation function. So if you make that really subtle or hard to find or difficult to use, the Search feature can really limit the impact that you can have with that group.
  • I want that info about the shopping process that comes from having the Cart. In Bellroy’s case, I love what they do. They actually put “Free shipping in the United States” in their nav on every page, which I think, clearly for them, it must be one of the key questions that they get all the time. I have no doubt that they’ve done some A/B testing and optimization to make sure, “Hey, you know what? Let’s just put it in front of everyone because it doesn’t hurt and it helps to improve our conversion rates.”

2. Core product information

Core product information tends to be that above-the-fold key part here. In Bellroy’s case, it’s very minimalist. We’re just talking about a photo of the wallet itself, and then you can click left or right, or I think sometimes it auto-scrolls as well on desktop but not mobile. I can see a lot more photos of how many cards the wallet can hold and what it looks like in my pants, how it measures up compared to a ruler, and all that kind of stuff. So there’s some great photography in here and that’s important, as well as the name and the price.These core details may differ from product to product. For example, if you are selling a more complex piece of technology, the core features may, in fact, be fairly substantive, and that’s okay. But we are trying to help. With this core product information, we’re trying to help people understand what the product is and what it does. So wallet, very, very obvious. If we’re talking about lab equipment or scientific machinery, well, a little more complicated. We better make sure that we’re communicating that. We want…

  • Visuals that are going to serve to… in this case, I think they do a great job, but comprehensively communicate the positioning, the positioning of the product itself. So Bellroy is clearly going with minimalist. They’re going with craft. They’re a small, niche shop. They don’t do 10,000 things. They just make wallets, and they are trying to make that very clear. They also are trying to make their quality a big part of this, and they are trying to make the focus of the product itself, the slimness. You can really see that as you go into, well obviously, the naming convention, but also the photography itself, which is showing you just how slim this wallet can be in comparison to bulky other wallets. They take the same number of cards, they put them in two different kinds of wallets, they show you the thickness, and the Bellroy is very, very slim. So that’s clearly what the positioning is going for.
  • Potentially here, we might want video or animation. But I’m going to say that this is only a part of the core content when it truly makes sense. Great example of when it does make sense would be Zappos. Zappos, obviously, has their videos for nearly every shoe and shoe brand that they promote on their website. They saw tremendous conversion rate improvements because people had a lot of questions about how it moves and walks and how it looks with certain pieces of clothing. The detail of having someone explain it to you, as I’m explaining ecommerce pages to you in video form, turned out had a great impact on their conversion rate. You might want to test this, but it’s also the case that this content, that video or animation content might live down below. We’ll talk about how that can live in more of the photos and process at the very bottom at the end of this video.
  • Naming convention. We want price. We want core structural details. I like that Bellroy here has made their core content very, very slim, just the photos, the name, and the price.

3. Clear options to the path to purchase

This is somewhere where, I think, a lot of folks unfortunately get torn by the Amazon model. If you are Amazon.com, which yes, has phenomenal click-through rates, phenomenal engagement rates, phenomenal conversion rates, but you are not Amazon. Repeat after me, “I am not Amazon.” Therefore, one of the things that Amazon does is they clutter this page with hundreds of different things that you could do, and they built that up over decades, literally decades. They built up so that we are all familiar with an Amazon page, ecommerce page, and what we expect on it. We know there’s going to be a lot of clutter. We know there’s going to be a ton of call-to-actions, other things we could buy, things that are often bought with this, and things that could be bundled with this. That is fine for Amazon. It is almost definitely not fine for you unless you are extremely similar to what Amazon does. For that reason, I see many, many folks getting dragged in this direction of, “Hey, I want to have 10 different calls-to-action because people might want to X, Y, and Z.” There are ways to do the “might want to X, Y, and Z” without making those specific calls-to-action in the core part of the landing page for the ecommerce product. I’ll talk about those in just a second.

But what I do want you to do here is:

  • Help people understand what is available. Quick example, you can select the color. That is the only thing you can do with this wallet. There are no different sizes. There are no different materials that they could be made of. There’s just color. Color, Checkout, and by the way, once again, free shipping.
  • I am trying to drive them to the primary action, and that is what this section of your ecommerce page needs to do a great job of. Make the options clear, if there are any, and make the path to purchase really, really simple.
  • We’re trying to eliminate roadblocks, we’re trying to eliminate any questions that might arise, and we want to eliminate any future frustration. So, for example, one of the things that I would do here, that Bellroy does not do, is I would geo-target based on IP address. So I’d look at the IP address of the visitor who’s coming to this page, and I would say, “I am pretty sure you are located in Washington State right now. Therefore, I know that this is the sales tax amount that I need to charge.” Or, “Bellroy isn’t in Washington State. I don’t need to charge you sales tax.” So I might have a little thing here that says, “Sales Tax” and then a little drop-down that’s pre-populated with Washington or pre-populated with the ZIP code if you know that and “$0.” That way it’s predictive. It’s saying already, “Oh, good. I know that the next page I’m going to click on is going to ask me about sales tax, or the page after I enter my credit card is.” You know what, it’s great to have that question answered beforehand. Now, maybe Bellroy has tested this and they found that it doesn’t convert as well, but I would guess that it probably, probably would convert even better with that messaging on there.

4. Detailed descriptions of the features of the product

This is where a lot of the bulk of the content often lives on product pages, on ecommerce pages. In this case, they’ve got a list of features, including all sorts of dimension stuff, how it’s built, what it’s made from, and what it can hold, etc., etc.

What I’m trying to do here is a few things:

  • I want to help people know what to expect from this product. I don’t want high returns. Especially if I’m offering free shipping, I definitely don’t want high returns. I want people to be very satisfied with this product, to know exactly what they’re going to get.
  • I want to help them determine if the product fits their needs, fits what they are trying to accomplish, fits the problem they’re trying to solve.
  • I want to help them, lead them to answers quickly for frequently asked questions. So if I know that lots of people who reach this page have this sort of, “Oh, gosh, you know, I wonder, what is their delivery process like? How long does it take to get to me because I kind of need a wallet for this trip that I’m going on, and, you know, I’m bringing pants that just won’t hold my thick wallet, and that’s what triggered me to search for slim wallets in Google and that’s what led me to this page?” Aha, delivery. Great job. You’ve answered the question before or as they are asking it, and that is really important. We want answers to the unasked questions before people start to panic in the Checkout process.

You can go through this with folks who you say, “Hey, I want you to imagine that you are about to buy this. Give me the 10 things in your head. I want you to say out loud everything that you think when you see this page.” You can do this with actual customers, with customers who are returning, with people who fit your target demographic and target customer profile but have not yet bought from you, with people who’ve bought from your competitors. As you do this, you will find the answers to be very, very similar time after time, and then you can answer them right in this featured content. So warranty is obviously another big one. They note that they have a three-year warranty. You can click plus here, and you can get more information.

I also like that they answer that unasked question. So when they say, “Okay, it’s 80 millimeters by 95 millimeters.” “Man, I don’t know how big a millimeter is. I just can’t hold that information in my head.” But look, they have a link “Compare to Others.” If you click that, it will show you an overlay comparison of this wallet against other wallets that they offer and other wallets that other people offer. Awesome. Fantastic. You are answering that question before I have it.

5. A lot of the seal-the-deal content

When we were talking before about videos or animations or some of the content that maybe belongs in the featured section or possibly could be around Checkout, but doesn’t quite reach the level of importance that we’ve dictated for those, this is where you can put that content. It can live below the fold, scrolling way down. I have yet to see the ecommerce page that has suffered from providing too much detail about things people actually care about. I have seen ecommerce pages suffer from bloating the page with tons of content that no one cares about, especially as it affects page load speed which hurts your conversions on mobile and hurts your rankings in Google because site speed is a real issue. But seal-the-deal content should:

  • Help people get really comfortable and build trust. So if I scroll down here, what I’m seeing is more photos about how the wallet is made, how people are using it. They call this the nude approach, which cleverly titled, I’m sure it makes for a lot of clicks. The nude approach to building a wallet, why the leather is so slender, why it adds so little weight and depth, why it lasts so long, all these kinds of things.
  • It’s trying to use social proof or other psychological triggers to get rid of any remaining skepticism. So if you know what the elements of skepticism are from your potential buyers, you can answer that in this deeper content as people get down and through this.

Now, all right, you might say to yourself, “These all sound like great things. How do I actually run this process, Rand?” The answer is embedded in what we just talked about. You’re going to need to ask your customers, your potential customers, your customers who bought from you before, and customers who did not buy from you but ended up buying from a competitor, about these elements. You’re going to need to test, which means that you need some infrastructure, something like an Unbounce or an Optimizely, or your own testing platform if you feel like building one, your engineers do, in order to be able to change out elements and see how well they convert, change out pieces of information. But it is not helpful to change things like button color, or to change lists of features, or to change out the specific photos when the problem is, overall, you have not solved these problems. If you don’t solve these problems, the best button color in the world will not help your conversion rate nearly enough, which is why we need to form theories and have hypotheses about what’s stopping people from buying. That should be informed by our real research.

SEO for ecommerce pages

SEO for ecommerce pages is based on only a few very, very simple things. Our SEO elements here are keywords, content, engagement, links, and in some cases freshness. You hit these five and you’ve basically nailed it.

  • Keywords, do you call your products the same thing people call your products when they search for them? If the answer is no, you have an opportunity to improve. Even if you want to use a branded name, I would suggest combining that with the name that everyone else calls your things. So if this is the slim sleeve wallet, if historically Bellroy had called this the sleeve wallet, I would highly recommend to them, “Hey, people are searching for slim wallet. How about we find a way to merge those things?”
  • Content is around what is on this page, and Google is looking for content that solves the searcher’s problem, the searcher’s issue. That means doing all of these things right and having it in a format that Google can actually read. Video is great. Transcripts of the video should also be available. Visuals are great. Descriptions should also be available. Google needs that text content.
  • Engagement, that is going to come from people visiting this page and not clicking the back button and going back to Google and searching for other stuff and clicking on your competitor’s links. It’s going to come from people clicking that Checkout button or browsing deeper in the website and from engaging with this page by spending time on the site and not bouncing. That’s your job and responsibility, and this stuff can all help.
  • Links come from press. It can come from blogs. It can come from some high-quality directories. Be very careful in the directory link-building world. It can come from partnerships. It can come from suppliers. It can come from fans of the product. It can come from reviews. All that kind of stuff. People who give you their testimonials, you can potentially ask them for links, so all that kind of stuff. Those links, if they are from diverse sets of domains and they contain good anchor text, meaning the name of your actual product, and they are pointing specifically to this page, they will tremendously help you rank above your competition.
  • Freshness. In some industries and in some cases, when you know that there is a lot of demand for the latest and greatest, you should be updating this page as frequently as you can with the new information that is most pertinent and relevant to your audience.

You do these things, and you do these things, and you will have the best damn ecommerce page on the web.
All right, everyone, thanks for joining us. We’ll see you again hopefully on Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

from Raymond Castleberry Blog http://raymondcastleberry.blogspot.com/2016/10/how-to-craft-best-damn-e-commerce-page_28.html
via http://raymondcastleberry.blogspot.com

How to Craft the Best Damn E-commerce Page on the Web – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

From your top-level nav to your seal-the-deal content, there are endless considerations when it comes to crafting your ecommerce page. Using one of his personal favorite examples, Rand takes you step by detailed step through the process of creating a truly superb ecommerce page in today’s Whiteboard Friday.

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Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy all and welcome to a special edition of Whiteboard Friday. My name is Rand Fishkin. I’m the founder of Moz, and today I want to talk with you about how to craft the best damn ecommerce page on the web. I’m actually going to be using the example of one of my very favorite ecommerce pages. That is the Bellroy Slim Wallet page. Now, Bellroy, actually, all of their pages, Bellroy makes wallets and they market them online primarily. They make some fantastic products. I’ve been an owner of one for a long time, and it was this very page that convinced me to buy it. So what better example to use?

So what I want to do today is walk us through the elements of a fantastic ecommerce page, talk about some things where I think perhaps even Bellroy could improve, and then walk through, at the very end, the process for improving your own ecommerce page.

The elements of a fantastic e-commerce page

So let’s start with number one, the very first thing which a lot of folks, unfortunately, don’t talk about but is critical to a great ecommerce process and a great ecommerce page, and that is…

1. The navigation at the very top

The navigation at the top needs to do a few things. It’s got to help people:

  • Understand and know where they are in the site structure, especially if you have a more complex site. In Bellroy’s case, they don’t really need to highlight anything. You know you’re on a wallet page. That’s probably in Shop, right? But for Amazon, this is critically important. For Best Buy, this is hugely important. Even for places like Samsung and Apple, critical to understand where I am in the site structure.
  • I want to know something about the brand itself. So if this is the first time that someone is visiting the website, which is very often the case with ecommerce pages, they’re often entry points for the first exposure that you have to a brand. Let’s recall, from what we know about conversion rate optimization, it is uncommon, unusual for someone to convert on their first visit to a brand or a website’s page, but you can make a great first impression, and part of that is what your top navigation needs to do. So it should help people identify with the brand, get a sense for the style and the details of who you are.
  • You need to know where, broadly, you can go in the website. Where can I explore from here? If this is my first visit or if this is my second visit and I’m trying to learn a little bit more about the company, I want to be able to easily get to places like About, or I want to be able to easily learn more about their products or what they do, learn more about the potential solutions, learn more about their collections and what other things they offer me.
  • I also, especially for ecommerce repeat visitors and for folks who are buying more than one thing, I want to have this simple navigation around Cart. I don’t, in fact, love how Bellroy minimizes this, but you want to make sure that the Search bar is there as well. Search is actually a function. About 10% to 12% of visitors on average to ecommerce pages will use Search as their primary navigation function. So if you make that really subtle or hard to find or difficult to use, the Search feature can really limit the impact that you can have with that group.
  • I want that info about the shopping process that comes from having the Cart. In Bellroy’s case, I love what they do. They actually put “Free shipping in the United States” in their nav on every page, which I think, clearly for them, it must be one of the key questions that they get all the time. I have no doubt that they’ve done some A/B testing and optimization to make sure, “Hey, you know what? Let’s just put it in front of everyone because it doesn’t hurt and it helps to improve our conversion rates.”

2. Core product information

Core product information tends to be that above-the-fold key part here. In Bellroy’s case, it’s very minimalist. We’re just talking about a photo of the wallet itself, and then you can click left or right, or I think sometimes it auto-scrolls as well on desktop but not mobile. I can see a lot more photos of how many cards the wallet can hold and what it looks like in my pants, how it measures up compared to a ruler, and all that kind of stuff. So there’s some great photography in here and that’s important, as well as the name and the price.These core details may differ from product to product. For example, if you are selling a more complex piece of technology, the core features may, in fact, be fairly substantive, and that’s okay. But we are trying to help. With this core product information, we’re trying to help people understand what the product is and what it does. So wallet, very, very obvious. If we’re talking about lab equipment or scientific machinery, well, a little more complicated. We better make sure that we’re communicating that. We want…

  • Visuals that are going to serve to… in this case, I think they do a great job, but comprehensively communicate the positioning, the positioning of the product itself. So Bellroy is clearly going with minimalist. They’re going with craft. They’re a small, niche shop. They don’t do 10,000 things. They just make wallets, and they are trying to make that very clear. They also are trying to make their quality a big part of this, and they are trying to make the focus of the product itself, the slimness. You can really see that as you go into, well obviously, the naming convention, but also the photography itself, which is showing you just how slim this wallet can be in comparison to bulky other wallets. They take the same number of cards, they put them in two different kinds of wallets, they show you the thickness, and the Bellroy is very, very slim. So that’s clearly what the positioning is going for.
  • Potentially here, we might want video or animation. But I’m going to say that this is only a part of the core content when it truly makes sense. Great example of when it does make sense would be Zappos. Zappos, obviously, has their videos for nearly every shoe and shoe brand that they promote on their website. They saw tremendous conversion rate improvements because people had a lot of questions about how it moves and walks and how it looks with certain pieces of clothing. The detail of having someone explain it to you, as I’m explaining ecommerce pages to you in video form, turned out had a great impact on their conversion rate. You might want to test this, but it’s also the case that this content, that video or animation content might live down below. We’ll talk about how that can live in more of the photos and process at the very bottom at the end of this video.
  • Naming convention. We want price. We want core structural details. I like that Bellroy here has made their core content very, very slim, just the photos, the name, and the price.

3. Clear options to the path to purchase

This is somewhere where, I think, a lot of folks unfortunately get torn by the Amazon model. If you are Amazon.com, which yes, has phenomenal click-through rates, phenomenal engagement rates, phenomenal conversion rates, but you are not Amazon. Repeat after me, “I am not Amazon.” Therefore, one of the things that Amazon does is they clutter this page with hundreds of different things that you could do, and they built that up over decades, literally decades. They built up so that we are all familiar with an Amazon page, ecommerce page, and what we expect on it. We know there’s going to be a lot of clutter. We know there’s going to be a ton of call-to-actions, other things we could buy, things that are often bought with this, and things that could be bundled with this. That is fine for Amazon. It is almost definitely not fine for you unless you are extremely similar to what Amazon does. For that reason, I see many, many folks getting dragged in this direction of, “Hey, I want to have 10 different calls-to-action because people might want to X, Y, and Z.” There are ways to do the “might want to X, Y, and Z” without making those specific calls-to-action in the core part of the landing page for the ecommerce product. I’ll talk about those in just a second.

But what I do want you to do here is:

  • Help people understand what is available. Quick example, you can select the color. That is the only thing you can do with this wallet. There are no different sizes. There are no different materials that they could be made of. There’s just color. Color, Checkout, and by the way, once again, free shipping.
  • I am trying to drive them to the primary action, and that is what this section of your ecommerce page needs to do a great job of. Make the options clear, if there are any, and make the path to purchase really, really simple.
  • We’re trying to eliminate roadblocks, we’re trying to eliminate any questions that might arise, and we want to eliminate any future frustration. So, for example, one of the things that I would do here, that Bellroy does not do, is I would geo-target based on IP address. So I’d look at the IP address of the visitor who’s coming to this page, and I would say, “I am pretty sure you are located in Washington State right now. Therefore, I know that this is the sales tax amount that I need to charge.” Or, “Bellroy isn’t in Washington State. I don’t need to charge you sales tax.” So I might have a little thing here that says, “Sales Tax” and then a little drop-down that’s pre-populated with Washington or pre-populated with the ZIP code if you know that and “$0.” That way it’s predictive. It’s saying already, “Oh, good. I know that the next page I’m going to click on is going to ask me about sales tax, or the page after I enter my credit card is.” You know what, it’s great to have that question answered beforehand. Now, maybe Bellroy has tested this and they found that it doesn’t convert as well, but I would guess that it probably, probably would convert even better with that messaging on there.

4. Detailed descriptions of the features of the product

This is where a lot of the bulk of the content often lives on product pages, on ecommerce pages. In this case, they’ve got a list of features, including all sorts of dimension stuff, how it’s built, what it’s made from, and what it can hold, etc., etc.

What I’m trying to do here is a few things:

  • I want to help people know what to expect from this product. I don’t want high returns. Especially if I’m offering free shipping, I definitely don’t want high returns. I want people to be very satisfied with this product, to know exactly what they’re going to get.
  • I want to help them determine if the product fits their needs, fits what they are trying to accomplish, fits the problem they’re trying to solve.
  • I want to help them, lead them to answers quickly for frequently asked questions. So if I know that lots of people who reach this page have this sort of, “Oh, gosh, you know, I wonder, what is their delivery process like? How long does it take to get to me because I kind of need a wallet for this trip that I’m going on, and, you know, I’m bringing pants that just won’t hold my thick wallet, and that’s what triggered me to search for slim wallets in Google and that’s what led me to this page?” Aha, delivery. Great job. You’ve answered the question before or as they are asking it, and that is really important. We want answers to the unasked questions before people start to panic in the Checkout process.

You can go through this with folks who you say, “Hey, I want you to imagine that you are about to buy this. Give me the 10 things in your head. I want you to say out loud everything that you think when you see this page.” You can do this with actual customers, with customers who are returning, with people who fit your target demographic and target customer profile but have not yet bought from you, with people who’ve bought from your competitors. As you do this, you will find the answers to be very, very similar time after time, and then you can answer them right in this featured content. So warranty is obviously another big one. They note that they have a three-year warranty. You can click plus here, and you can get more information.

I also like that they answer that unasked question. So when they say, “Okay, it’s 80 millimeters by 95 millimeters.” “Man, I don’t know how big a millimeter is. I just can’t hold that information in my head.” But look, they have a link “Compare to Others.” If you click that, it will show you an overlay comparison of this wallet against other wallets that they offer and other wallets that other people offer. Awesome. Fantastic. You are answering that question before I have it.

5. A lot of the seal-the-deal content

When we were talking before about videos or animations or some of the content that maybe belongs in the featured section or possibly could be around Checkout, but doesn’t quite reach the level of importance that we’ve dictated for those, this is where you can put that content. It can live below the fold, scrolling way down. I have yet to see the ecommerce page that has suffered from providing too much detail about things people actually care about. I have seen ecommerce pages suffer from bloating the page with tons of content that no one cares about, especially as it affects page load speed which hurts your conversions on mobile and hurts your rankings in Google because site speed is a real issue. But seal-the-deal content should:

  • Help people get really comfortable and build trust. So if I scroll down here, what I’m seeing is more photos about how the wallet is made, how people are using it. They call this the nude approach, which cleverly titled, I’m sure it makes for a lot of clicks. The nude approach to building a wallet, why the leather is so slender, why it adds so little weight and depth, why it lasts so long, all these kinds of things.
  • It’s trying to use social proof or other psychological triggers to get rid of any remaining skepticism. So if you know what the elements of skepticism are from your potential buyers, you can answer that in this deeper content as people get down and through this.

Now, all right, you might say to yourself, “These all sound like great things. How do I actually run this process, Rand?” The answer is embedded in what we just talked about. You’re going to need to ask your customers, your potential customers, your customers who bought from you before, and customers who did not buy from you but ended up buying from a competitor, about these elements. You’re going to need to test, which means that you need some infrastructure, something like an Unbounce or an Optimizely, or your own testing platform if you feel like building one, your engineers do, in order to be able to change out elements and see how well they convert, change out pieces of information. But it is not helpful to change things like button color, or to change lists of features, or to change out the specific photos when the problem is, overall, you have not solved these problems. If you don’t solve these problems, the best button color in the world will not help your conversion rate nearly enough, which is why we need to form theories and have hypotheses about what’s stopping people from buying. That should be informed by our real research.

SEO for ecommerce pages

SEO for ecommerce pages is based on only a few very, very simple things. Our SEO elements here are keywords, content, engagement, links, and in some cases freshness. You hit these five and you’ve basically nailed it.

  • Keywords, do you call your products the same thing people call your products when they search for them? If the answer is no, you have an opportunity to improve. Even if you want to use a branded name, I would suggest combining that with the name that everyone else calls your things. So if this is the slim sleeve wallet, if historically Bellroy had called this the sleeve wallet, I would highly recommend to them, “Hey, people are searching for slim wallet. How about we find a way to merge those things?”
  • Content is around what is on this page, and Google is looking for content that solves the searcher’s problem, the searcher’s issue. That means doing all of these things right and having it in a format that Google can actually read. Video is great. Transcripts of the video should also be available. Visuals are great. Descriptions should also be available. Google needs that text content.
  • Engagement, that is going to come from people visiting this page and not clicking the back button and going back to Google and searching for other stuff and clicking on your competitor’s links. It’s going to come from people clicking that Checkout button or browsing deeper in the website and from engaging with this page by spending time on the site and not bouncing. That’s your job and responsibility, and this stuff can all help.
  • Links come from press. It can come from blogs. It can come from some high-quality directories. Be very careful in the directory link-building world. It can come from partnerships. It can come from suppliers. It can come from fans of the product. It can come from reviews. All that kind of stuff. People who give you their testimonials, you can potentially ask them for links, so all that kind of stuff. Those links, if they are from diverse sets of domains and they contain good anchor text, meaning the name of your actual product, and they are pointing specifically to this page, they will tremendously help you rank above your competition.
  • Freshness. In some industries and in some cases, when you know that there is a lot of demand for the latest and greatest, you should be updating this page as frequently as you can with the new information that is most pertinent and relevant to your audience.

You do these things, and you do these things, and you will have the best damn ecommerce page on the web.
All right, everyone, thanks for joining us. We’ll see you again hopefully on Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

from Raymond Castleberry Blog http://raymondcastleberry.blogspot.com/2016/10/how-to-craft-best-damn-e-commerce-page.html
via http://raymondcastleberry.blogspot.com