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Kev

Way to build brand

Ways to Build Your Brand’s Authority

By | Digital Marketing & Google News
“Authority” is a buzzword in SEO and content marketing. Everybody wants it, but not everyone knows how to get it and keep it.In particular, Google prizes authority and is more likely to rank content that oozes with it.Brand authority is that holy grail you achieve after months of hard work and consistency in building your online reputation.There is no overnight “nobody to authority” story.Instead, you need to have patience and keep up a well-formed strategy to earn your title as a cemented expert in your industry.Ready to learn how?

1. Create a Content Strategy

Content marketing is a solid way to build your online authority, but only if you have a plan under your belt at the outset.If you go about content willy-nilly, expect willy-nilly, inconsistent results.Meanwhile, a strategy does a few things to keep that from happening:It keeps you accountable and consistent. It lays out what you need to create the best, most authority-building content possible (including helping hands, tools, keywords, topics, and budget). It looks ahead to your content future, helping you schedule posts and promote content around strategic dates, seasons, and events. It helps you create the kind of content that will appeal most to your audience, and ensures you promote it where that audience will see it. See how much a strategy matters?Without a plan to build your authority, you’ll be lost.Before you decide to lean on content marketing to make a name for yourself, spend the time and effort on strategizing, first.Map out your road to authority, and follow it intently.

2. Share What You Know (Help Others with No Hidden Agenda)

Sharing your expert knowledge is essential to building an authoritative reputation.However, the way you share your expertise makes all the difference.Specifically, aim to share what you know without an agenda or ulterior motive. (Yes, the overarching goal is to build brand authority, but your immediate intent should be to help people!)How do you do that?Give your readers value.Offer information that will improve their lives in some fashion.Help them solve problems they actually deal with.For example, Brightly is a division of Penguin Random House whose mission is “helping parents grow lifelong readers.” One of their blogs details useful, practical tips to help kids stay interested in reading, like listening to storytelling podcasts in the car, creating a reading ritual, and letting them choose their own books.listening to storytelling podcastsThere is no ploy to sell anything in this blog, no CTAs, no nothing. It’s purely informational with an aim to help parents with kids who struggle to stay interested in reading.As a result, it’s a trust-builder.

3. Participate in Your Industry Community

This tip is straightforward: Find and follow your industry peers.Post regularly on social networks where your audience lives, and make a point to interact and connect with others.When you participate in the community surrounding your industry, you not only get your name associated with a friendly presence – but also help others stay abreast of your latest content pieces overflowing with helpful (read: authority-building) advice and knowledge.Sharing your content, engaging in discussions, and actively participating in your online community are key parts of your overall content strategy. You can’t build online authority without them.Example: On Twitter, Ann Handley regularly posts relevant updates in the industry along with content, personal opinions, and funny links. Her tweets tend to spark comments and discussions aplenty.

4. Target Informational Keywords in Long-Form Content

Long-form, in-depth content gives you a greater opportunity to display your expertise than a short, pithy blog post or a Twitter update.Long-form content is where your authority can spread its wings and show the world what it can do.While you’re at it, target informational, long-tail keywords in your longer content pieces.Take care to make that content as great as humanly possible.Your knowledge and hard work will more than likely earn a top spot in Google rankings, which is an immediate signifier of authority to searchers.For example, this blog post from Cookie + Kate on how to make cold brew coffee is nearly 1,500 words, chock-full of useful information, and ranks #1 organically for that “how-to” keyword.blog post from Cookie#1 organically for that “how-to” keyword.

5. Deeply Focus on a Few Specific Topics

You may think you need to showcase a wide range of knowledge on multiple topics for your authority-building strategy, but, in fact, that’s not the case.Instead, it’s easier to narrowly and deeply focus on one or two main topic areas.Publish content within this scope to build “pillar pages,” or a type of blog archive covering all aspects of one single topic through multiple blog posts on topic facets – all of which link to each other and to the pillar page. (Elise Dopson via Content Marketing Institute calls this the topic cluster model, a term which originated from HubSpot.)one single topic through multiple blog postsThis technique is great for building authority in a specific niche as well as improving your Google ranking potential.According to HubSpot’s guide on the topic by Mimi An:“This linking action signals to search engines that the pillar page is an authority on the topic, and over time, the page may rank higher and higher for the topic it covers.”And when your pillar content ranks under your brand name, your authority grows, too.

Remember: Authority-Building is a Long-Term Game

Nobody builds a great reputation overnight.Instead, your consistent actions – what you do and say – proves to people you’re an authority over time.Online, that means:
  • Building your brand through consistent, strategic content and SEO.
  • Maintaining a social presence.
  • Being friendly and open, and making genuine connections with your peers and audience.
  • Working hard to prove your knowledge and provide value to your audience everywhere.
  • When you’re ready to show up consistently, you’re ready to start building authority.
SEO Guide for Creatives

SEO Guide for Creatives: 5 SEO Basics You Should Focus On

By | seo advice for business
If you’re a new business owner, a creative entrepreneur, or unfamiliar with what’s going on in search engine optimization, SEO can seem intimidating.After all, it’s your small business wrestling to get to the top of Google search engine results.But it doesn’t have to be that way. If creatives and SMBs focus on a few small elements of SEO, you can find success in driving visitors to your site from Google and other search engines.

SEO Isn’t Just for the Big Companies

It may seem like all you see in Google search results are bigger brands, but that doesn’t mean that SEO is only for huge companies.Small businesses and creatives can benefit from small steps toward SEO, too.The perception that SEO is only for the “big guys” also creates the misconception that it has to be expensive and time-consuming – and it absolutely doesn’t have to be.Most creatives’ sites are not as complex and cumbersome as those of household brand names – and that’s a benefit to your website.Take the small, inexpensive steps toward SEO on your site, and you’ll reap the benefits for a while to come.

Don’t Wait to Implement SEO Best Practices

Many entrepreneurs, SMBs, and creatives think that they’ll build their businesses first and work on SEO later. However, SEO isn’t just a “one and done” type of deal.Just how you have to make weekly additions and adjustments toward social media, email, and other marketing channels, SEO requires small, consistent efforts.It doesn’t have to be time-consuming, though. Find one hour a week to dedicate to your site’s SEO and use what you know about SEO as the foundation for your other marketing efforts, and you’ll be on a path to success.The key is to start now.

Where Should You Focus Your SEO Efforts?

When you’ve never worked in SEO before, it can be hard to know where to start.Here’s a quick guide for creatives to focus your SEO efforts, learn the basics, and grow your business through search engine traffic:

1. Mobile Responsive Site

Google implemented what’s called “Mobile-first indexing” about a year ago. This is just a fancy way to say that the way Google looks at your site is as if Google is on a mobile phone.Essentially, your site should adjust itself based on the device that your website visitor is on.If you’ve ever searched for something on your phone and clicked on a site only to have to zoom in and out with your fingers on a small screen – you’ve probably been to a site that does not adjust based on the device.The Yale Art website is a great example of this (on purpose, it seems, as anyone with a Yale ID can edit the site design). You can see the navigation on the side is too small to actually see much less click on a mobile device. The actual text is also too small to read.Mobile Responsive SiteA responsive site adjusts the page layout to a phone or tablet to ensure these issues don’t happen.You can make sure your site template or layout is responsive by checking in the specifications of the theme or even just by dragging the browser window to the size of a mobile device and seeing if the site adjusts.

2. Site Speed + Images

Along with having a responsive/self-adjusting website, it’s important that your site loads quickly when visitors click on it in a search result.Think about the last time you were waiting on a website that was loading super slowly. You likely clicked the back button and found another website that got you what you needed faster.One of the things that can weigh down a website, especially for image-based creatives is too big or slow-to-load files.Sure, you want your most high res photo or design on your site to show what you can do for your potential clients, but depending on what browser and internet connection your website visitor has – it can take ages for your site to load all those huge images.One way to help speed up a slow, image-laden site is to compress your images before uploading them. You can do it yourself or use a tool like TinyPNG (though TinyPNG uses what it calls “smart lossy compression”).Another way to keep images in check is to make sure you’re only uploading as much as you need size-wise. You probably don’t need a 4000 x 3000 px image, so scale it down to the size your site actually requires for images.

3. Google Analytics + Search Console

It’s hard to know what’s going on with your site if you don’t have a set of numbers to go by.Do you know how many people come to your site per week? If you don’t, then you don’t really know how to increase that number.Do you know what pages on your site are the most popular? If not, you may not be able to tell if your Facebook or Instagram ads are driving people to click to your site and book your services.Google Analytics can give you that information. It’s not hard to set up on your site (depending on what CMS you have). Here’s a guide to get you started.Search Console is a branch of Google’s offering to website owners. It helps you “monitor, maintain, and troubleshoot your site’s presence in Google Search results,” according to Google.More importantly, Search Console can tell you what people are typing into Google to find your site (and if they are clicking you in the search result).Search Console also tells you if your site has any major errors that would keep it from showing up in Google’s search results. If you aren’t in search results, your target audience isn’t finding you online!

4. Keyword Research + Content

Keyword research can be time-intensive and difficult. But it doesn’t have to be.Here’s a creative’s guide to quick keyword research:If you were looking for a service or product like yours, think about what you’d search for in Google. Maybe you’d look for “newborn photographer in omaha” or “graphic designer for a construction website.”Go to Google and actually look for that search phrase. What type of results is Google showing?A map? A carousel of images? A box with the answer? A list of websites? You can use what Google is showing for the terms you looked up to determine what you need to do to show up for that search, too.For the content that ranks in the top spots, click through and see what they’ve written about the topic.Is it a list? Did they create a video? Is it a how-to? How long is it? What do the titles or subsections contain? Once you have an idea of what’s ranking well, use the skyscraper technique to essentially write the type of article that’s showing up in the top results – and do it even better.

5. Google My Business

If you see that maps are showing in a search result and your website isn’t there, it means it’s time to invest in some local SEO strategy. Your business (even if it’s home-based) needs a Google My Business.If you don’t want to show your home address in the Google My Business profile, you can set what’s called a “service area.” You can set it for your city or state.If you serve anyone, set it for the United States or the country where you’re located.Not only does this help you show up in map results (if you have a set location), but it can also be a place where people leave reviews, you post updates and hours of operation, and more.Go Get Started These SEO basics for creatives will set you on the path to success for your website. SEO doesn’t have to be a huge, time-intensive effort for sole proprietors like photographers, copywriters, graphic designers, etc.But it’s definitely something you want to start on your site ASAP.
SEO Best Practices

Basic SEO Best Practices You Can Learn from top Brands

By | seo advice for business
The travel industry pioneers – Hotwire, Priceline, Travelocity, TripAdvisor – are SEO juggernauts.With a massive amount of searches for vacation and travel planning, it’s one of the top categories online.And there’s a lot of money in SEO for them.In fact, organic traffic is the #1 source of traffic for travel brands:traffic channelsJust a few position increases for their strategic portfolio of keywords can mean millions of dollars in revenue. So it’s fair to say they hire the best and the brightest of SEO talent to keep their traffic flowing.Knowing this, we can look to these sites for guidance for what’s still working in SEO today.And the results are surprising.They are still employing some traditional SEO practices that apparently are still working.Practices like text on the homepage; a bevy of internal links; and landing pages built for keywords.We’re going to look at what they’re doing – and we’re focusing on some basic principles that anyone can apply, not just companies with multi-million dollar SEO budgets. 

1. Home Page Text

In my opinion, text content on the home page is one of the most overlooked SEO tactics.I mean, it’s been around forever, but plenty of sites ignore the home page and just use it as a pretty portal page.If you’re a paid-ads focused brand, or in the fashion industry – I get it.But for most sites that prioritize organic search, not enough are doing it.Hotwire takes advantage of the power of their home page’s link equity, and juices it up with keyword-rich text:Brand seoBecause of employing this tactic, it helps them rank on page one for keywords like “travel sites” and “hotel sites”.Could you leverage this tactic for your website? 

2. Home Page Internal Links

For most websites, the home page will be the single most-linked-to page on the site.So with all of this link equity on the home page, are you helping it flow to your most important commercial pages?Likely not.Most websites – large and small – do have their most important pages in their main navigation, but they’re likely missing out on linking to some key pages because of limited space.Travelocity has one of the most extensive home page internal link structures I’ve found in my research.It’s quite aggressive:brand internal linksYou can certainly bet that they’ve hand-selected these bases on either pages that needed the biggest link boost, the most popular pages, or sections that need to earn more revenue. Your action item: go to your home page now and see if it’s worth adding some internal links to key pages on your site. 

3. Internal Links in Footer

There are mixed messages given by commentators in the SEO industry about how optimized and ambitious you can get with footer links.Some say they’re a good way to ensure your key pages are linked to and crawled.Others fear that the links are either devalued, completely ignored by Google, or can send unwanted signals.Hotels.com has no fear and goes straight for it with exact match anchor text:exact match anchor textShould you do the same on your site?It depends on the size of your site.Typically, huge sites with lots of link equity can have massive footers linking internally and still do well.Smaller sites would be better off adding a few links for crawlability and visibility, but you’re better off linking contextually. 

4. Text on Every Important Page

Do these huge travel sites even have the ability to hand-write content for every page on their site?It seems like a Sisyphean task – there are just too many pages.Nevertheless, on critical pages that are extra valuable, yes these brands will custom-craft content to rank higher. On less important pages, database-generated content will fill in the gaps.Kayak has taken the time to create text and faqs on their U.S. to Ireland flights page:4. Text on Every Important PagePerhaps they’ve been feeling the heat from Google Flights? They’ve continued to march upward in traffic, so perhaps they’re onto something:Traffic to websiteThe takeaway for you?If these sites with hundreds of thousands of pages can find a way to get keyword-rich content on their critical pages, you can too. 

5. Landing Pages Built just for Organic Keywords

This strategy works oh-so-well. Perfectly pair up keywords with landing pages and scale it up.This is SEO 101, but what makes companies like Enterprise experts as this is the pure volume of pages required to create and manage.They nail it in this example and rank #1 for their Boston page:Boston pageThis works beautifully for them, and they have 7,000+ pages just like this, driving over 1.7 million in organic traffic visits a month:organic traffic visits a monthCreating a huge amount of landing pages for SEO is typically reserved for large brands.But those of us running smaller sites can remember the importance of matching keywords to landing pages that serve the user intent.Even a dozen service or product pages can deliver targeted organic traffic for smaller sites. 

6. Click-Worthy Title Tags

I love title tags – they’re so basic, but so controllable and powerful at the same time.They’re one of the best elements to A/B test for SEO because you can experiment with a large swath of them at once.If you believe in click-through rates impacting rankings, then that’s even more of a reason to optimize these to the fullest.Googling “hotels in paris” we see all of these brands have pretty well-optimized title tags:Search resultI mean, while searching for hotels, would you ever not want the best? Don’t you want the cheapest and best?Yes – and likely these brands are constantly experimenting with new variations to stand out.What should you do? Don’t overlook the persistent favorite of SEO professionals everywhere: the humble title tag.Always be testing and trying to push the CTR higher and higher. 

7. Exact-Match Domains

This is a hard one to determine the impact. Google has clearly rollbacked the impact of exact-match and partial-match domains in recent years.But they do still have some positive signals, if not used in a spammy way.The proof is in the pudding:hotel-reservations search resultsDespite have weaker metrics than its competitors, Reservations.com is ranking #3 for “hotel reservations” (as of this writing) – a hugely competitive keyword. (Disclosure: Reservations.com is a client.)We see a similar result with CarRentals.com ranking well for “car rentals”, despite having weaker overall domain rating and link metrics:car rental search resultWhat can you do with this information? Well, it may be too late if you already have a website, but if you’re building a new one, don’t overlook the impact of an exact-match or partial-match domain.
Crucial Ecommerce Metrics Be Tracking

7 Most Crucial Ecommerce Metrics You Should Be Tracking.

By | E Commerce Business News
Selling things online has never been both easier and harder.On one hand, you have platforms like Amazon, eBay, and Etsy, all of which have lowered the barrier to entry for aspiring online merchants.On the other hand, succeeding as an online store operator means having to track a lot of data, which is much easier said than done.The most successful ecommerce businesses are the ones that can harness metrics to make informed decisions.These metrics, in turn, tell you everything you need to know about your store’s performance, from the number of sales by day, week, and month, to the average value of all items purchased at any given time.This, however, doesn’t mean that you should be tracking and optimizing every metric at your disposable. The key is to know the metrics that make the biggest impact on your ecommerce venture.To point you in the right direction, here’s a list of the seven most important ecommerce metrics you should be tracking and optimizing today.

1. Sales Conversion Rate

Your ecommerce sales conversion rate is, simply put, the percentage of people who visit your online store or page who make a purchase.To calculate your conversion rate, use the following formula:conversion rate calculationSo, if 1,000 people visited your store this week and only 10 people made a purchase, your conversion rate for the week would be 1%.Obviously, you’d want as high a conversion rate as possible.But the truth is that the average ecommerce conversion rate in the U.S. is much lower than you think – between 2% and 3%.According to WordStream, however, you might fair better with Google Shopping Ads.google shopping adsNow for the big question: How can I improve my conversion rate?This is a huge topic in itself, but a few things you can try include:Speeding up your product pages. Upload high-quality images of your products Optimize product listings using keywords

2. Website Traffic

Once you’ve tracked and optimized your conversion rate, you can then look at bringing more people to your ecommerce store.This is where measuring website traffic comes in.Let’s go back to your conversion rate of 1%, or 10 purchases for every 1,000 visits. After optimization, let’s suppose this rate increased to 5% – 50 sales for every 1,000 visitors.We can then infer that if you were to get 10,000 people to visit your site, you would also multiple your sales tenfold.This isn’t a guarantee, of course, but it’s nevertheless important to ensure that people know your online store or page exists to maximize your likelihood of generating more sales.To grow your website traffic, you can:Promote your offerings on social media. Optimize your site/store for search engines. Grow the number of people subscribing to your newsletter.

3. Email Opt-in Rate

Even in today’s social media age, email marketing continues to be one of the most important tools for ecommerce, particularly when it comes to remarketing and generating repeat business.According to Campaign Monitor, email marketing delivered an ROI of 4400% in 2016 and their 2018 annual report revealed 59% of marketers believe email delivers the highest ROI of all marketing channels:email marketing performanceSimilar to website traffic, the idea is to get as many people on your email list, even if they don’t necessarily purchase your products right away.But unlike ordinary website/page visitors, people who sign up to your newsletter care enough about your brand to get updates on your products and services. This means they are also more likely to become paying customers in the near future.One way to get people to subscribe to your emails is to offer something of value in exchange for your audience’s email addresses and contact information.For example, you can offer an exclusive deal (e.g., a voucher or code) to first-time subscribers on their next purchase.

4. Customer Lifetime Value

customer lifetime valueCustomer lifetime value (CLV) measures the total amount of what you earn from an average customer over their lifetime.For example, if a typical customer makes six transactions, each one worth $30, throughout their life, your CLV would be $180. Note that you still have to deduct your acquisition costs from this number, which brings us to the next point.Your CLV is important because it serves as a benchmark for how much you can spend to acquire customers and the lengths you should go to keep them.To increase your online store’s CLV, you can work on improving your average order value (more on this later) and engendering loyalty among your existing customers so they become repeat buyers.

5. Average Order Value

Obviously, you want your customers to spend as much as possible on your online store.As the name suggests, your average order value refers to the average value of each purchase made in your store.To calculate yours, simply divide the sum value of all sales by the number of carts.average order value calculationTracking your average order value allows you to set benchmarks and figure out how to get people to spend more on every purchase they make.Here are a few ways to drive this metric up:Upsell your customers complementary items that improve the usability of their primary purchase. Offer products as a package so customers get a small discount on each item as opposed to buying them separately. Offer free shipping on purchases above a certain threshold to entice customers to maximize their spending.

6. Customer Acquisition Cost.

While growing your customer base is obviously important, it’s also just half of the equation.If you’re spending an average of $30 to acquire every customer but your average order value is only $25, that means your business is still operating at a loss.This is where measuring your Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) comes in.Your CAC tracks the average cost of gaining one customer, including everything from marketing and sales costs to the cost of paying your staff and hosting your site.This will give you an overall figure, but you can also calculate your CAC by source (e.g. different traffic channels like search engines, social media, or email list).To bring down your CAC, you can:Improve your conversion rate. Optimize your advertising to spend less for every acquired customer. Invest in free/organic marketing like SEO and social media marketing. Invest in referral marketing to encourage existing customers to bring in new customers.

7. Shopping Cart Abandonment Rate

This metric refers to the percentage of shoppers who add products to their cart but ultimately leave your store without completing the purchase.These are window shoppers who are considering a purchase but haven’t quite made up their mind just yet.Shopping cart abandonment is more common than you think. According to Barilliance, around 78% of shoppers abandon their carts.This figure, however, can vary between industries. General retail, for example, has an abandonment rate of 72.8%, while fashion has 68.3%.cart abandonment rateBut even if your abandonment rate is roughly equal to these benchmarks, it’s still a good idea to do everything you can to bring it down.Simplify the shopping experience, particularly the checkout process, so customers can shop smoothly. Use remarketing to bring undecided shoppers back to your store. This can include targeted ads and follow-up emails. Although this list of ecommerce metrics is by no means exhaustive, it’s at least a good starting point for any online store.If you have a smaller online enterprise, you can start with primary metrics like average order value, customer lifetime value, and conversion rate.As your store grows and gets more orders, your data points will also increase in number, giving you more data to track, measure, and improve.And when you work on improving one metric, you’ll find that this leads to ripple effects on other metrics – for example, improving AOV helps you outpace your CAC.Ultimately, tracking these metrics will help you make the best decisions for your ecommerce site.
Social Media Marketing Strategies for Ecommerce

11 Social Media Marketing Strategies for Ecommerce Websites

By | Social Media News
Social media is one of those things, like high waisted shorts or people still using the hashtag #nomnoms, that you either love or really hate.But, if you’re an ecommerce company, it can be kind of cringe-worthy.Between Facebook, Instagram, and new social networks like Vero and Steemit, where do you start?As Brent Csutoras, co-owner and adviser of Search Engine Journal, puts it:
“In 2019, businesses need to really take the time to understand their customers and how they interact with the brand on each social media site, and then engage with them in the right tone, with the right medium, and in their communities.”
So to help get your ecommerce website one hell of a social media strategy, I’ve picked out 11 tips to share on four top social networks to drive sales.

Facebook

Tip 1: Go Live

Stop scheduling your promoted posts, put your content calendars away – Facebook is testing a new ecommerce tool for Facebook Live that allows Pages to display products in their stream.I know, I know, just another Facebook feature. But it works.Emily Ley sold 2.28x more planners in May 2018 launch compared to the previous year’s launch with help from Facebook Live video and ads.

Tip 2: Link to Facebook Messenger from Your Website

Facebook Messenger has more than 1.3 billion monthly active users.However, it’s still a huge sales channel that ecommerce brands are missing.Once you get your Facebook Messenger set up, you need to link it to your site.After you link it to your site, Facebook Messenger will show product updates, price changes, and give you the ability to provide customer support.Want proof?In one day, this brand generated 254 orders and $23,987.64 in revenue with Facebook Messenger.And, you better get on this soon. Facebook has a patent that allows users to pay for products through Messenger.

Tip 3: Invest in Facebook Ads

As the old saying goes, “you’ve got to pay to play.” And, that’s true with Facebook.The good news is that Facebook offers a variety of ads for ecommerce websites.For example, PupSocks spent $1 million in 30 days to gain $4 million in sales.How did they do it?They started with boosted posts then turned the top performing post into an ongoing ad campaign.Whereas MVMT tested multiple Facebook ad formats like video and carousel to help them grow from zero to $90 million in less than 5 years.

Instagram

Tip 4: Start Using Shoppable Posts

It may still be the reign of Facebook (pause for a united ughhh!), but I’m detecting the rise of Instagram.Enter: Shoppable Posts.This functionality originated in 2018 and unintentionally changed the ecommerce social media landscape.Spearmint LOVE, an eco-friendly children’s clothing company, saw a 25% increase in traffic and an 8% increase in revenue after using Instagram’s shoppable posts.Lulus, a womenswear brand, received over 100,000 visits to their website and 1,200 product orders after using shoppable posts.Shoppable posts give brands the opportunity to showcase their store front within the social network.Businesses can use shoppable posts in standard image posts and Stories.

Tip 5: Grow Your Followers

While growing your followers on Instagram may seem like common sense for any business, there are additional perks.When an Instagram account gets more than 10,000 subscribers, you have the opportunity to add direct links into Stories. This will take a user to your website with one swipe.Ecommerce brands can also create multiple folders for their Stories.These folders can be used as categories of your website like “Semi-Annual Sale” or “Best Sellers.”

Tip 6: Start Thinking about IGTV

IGTV hasn’t taken off yet for ecommerce brands like the other Instagram features. However, Instagram’s Collections may be the starting point.The new IGTV layout resembles Pinterest, especially with their Collections.If you wanted to showcase an outfit from clothes from your store, brands could add a collection of items you wore. This includes shoppable posts. This will likely take shape further in 2019.And, IGTV isn’t the only new feature for ecommerce brands that Instagram is rolling out.Word on the street is that Instagram developers are building native payment options.Soon, Instagram users will be able to book movie tickets, restaurants, or potentially buy without being redirected to the website.

Pinterest

Tip 7: Add Shop the Look to Your Pins

With new updates from Facebook and Instagram hitting the scene on what feels like a daily basis, it can be easy to forget about social networks like Pinterest.But, with the announcement of Pinterest’s IPO, this changes the game for ecommerce brands.Pinterest will now compete with Google as it looks to increase ad revenue through direct response, on-platform purchases, and better contextual discovery with its ‘Shop the Look’ Pins.You can see brands like Timberland already using the new tool with the help of Pinterest partner Olapic.pinterest-shop the lookWant more good news? Kunlong Gu, Engineer for Pinterest, announced it would be automating this ‘Shop the Look’ process.

Tip 8: Dedicate a Budget to Promoted Carousel Ads

Before you use up your ad budget with Facebook and Instagram, set aside a small portion to test Pinterest’s Promoted Carousel ads.Brands like Toyota, REI, Everlane, Away, etc. can already be seen using these.Check out Cheerios.pinterest promoted carousel adsThis campaign saw an 11.4 point lift in ad awareness and an 8.6 point lift in message association.

Tip 9: Activate Product Pins

In October 2018, Pinterest announced that Product Pins would be replacing Buyable Pins.pinterest product pinsThese Product Pins display pricing, stock information, and the ability to go to the product to buy in just a few clicks.In the past quarter, Pinterest saw a 40% increase in clicks on products to retail sites.Once you have Product Pins in place, it will also direct users to a shoppable feed like this:pinterest product pins shoppable feed

Others to Keep Your Eye On

Tip 10: Test Collection Ads on Snapchat

Snapchat partnered with Amazon in 2018 to test visual search shopping which led to the launch of Collection Ads.According to a company blog post, eBay saw a 5x higher engagement rate with Collection Ads compared to standard Snap Ads.The company is working with 40 new partners to grow their ecommerce offerings so I’d recommend stalking Snapchat if you’re looking to explore new channels.

Tip 11: Create a Video Strategy for YouTube

Nearly two-thirds of social media users report they use YouTube (63%) and Instagram (61%) more in 2018 than 2017, compared to 52% who say they use Facebook more this year.That’s why we’re seeing ecommerce brands start to take to YouTube to sell.Luxyhair.com grew to a 7-figure business with YouTube.And, Zagg utilized YouTube ads to increase conversions by 75%.

Social Media Is More Than a Sales Channel

Success doesn’t happen by accident on social media, no matter what you’re selling.You have to start, and fail, then succeed. You have to realize the value of building a brand, then adapt to your community.Many ecommerce companies make the mistake of assuming that just because you’re on social media means you’re giving your consumers what you want.But, the reality is, there are millions of options for consumers now. How can your ecommerce product be different?A study by Sprout Social found that a whopping 84.9% of customers won’t purchase an item until they’ve seen it multiple times.You have to find the channel your customers are listening to and talk to them there to develop a connection. It’s a continuous circle of testing.
ppc advertising ideas

7 Out-of-the-Box ppc advertising ideas You Should Try Now

By | Networking Bizz News

Regardless of your business or goals, there are several out-of-the-box ideas for targeting and ads that can be applied to your advertising plan if you think more creatively about how to apply them.

1. Google & Microsoft Ads Sitelinks

Let’s start with an old favorite that is easy to set-up and packs a nice little punch when executed with more creativity.

The purpose of sitelinks is to drive to deeper content on the site. But, as an industry, we have been quite boring in what website content we land searchers on.

We can do better than the typical “About us” and “Contact us” pages.

Here are some examples of using sitelinks to link to more interesting website content:

  • Blog posts
  • Videos
  • Case studies
  • Podcasts
  • Testimonials
  • Project galleries
  • Whitepapers
  • Research

An example of an architect showcasing the results of their designs and renovations from individual project pages.

ppc-google-sitelinks-content

An advertiser with a narrow scoped ad, such as “family law attorney”, they could mix and match from category sections to individual pieces as long as they are closely linked in theme.

Whatever type of content you choose, be sure that it is consistent so the same type of content/media is showing up together.

2. Countdown Ad Customizer Timer

This ad customizer inserts a countdown timer in Google Ads.

It is a nifty little feature that can increase the visibility of your ads and while communicating a sense of urgency to your call-to-action.

While it is a small feature, it could be used to design and boost any campaign.

The countdown function can be placed in any text ad and literally counts down by day, hour, then minute as the event time draws near.

This can be used in many creative ways, here are a few ideas:

  • Sales events
  • Grand openings
  • Product launch
  • New content/blog post released
  • Live Twitter chats
  • Live webinars/Video streams
  • News announcements

For implementation, there is a template widget that pops up and makes it easy to set up:

ppc-google-countdown

3. Twitter Follower Campaigns

Is your company’s Twitter presence underwhelming and not fully utilized?

Gaining Twitter followers organically by promoting your account through your website and social media channels, is a great place to start.

However, the Twitter Ads platform has a “followers” campaign that can also help with boosting your follower base. Promote your account based on various tailored audiences and demographics.

twitter-follower-campaign

The tailored audiences offer an amazing amount of options such as user-specific lists (emails or @handles), retargeting, behavioral, keywords and more.

In this campaign type, you pay per follower. You can enter any bid amount, but Twitter will suggest a range they calculate will yield the best exposure.

There are several different campaign types to test on Twitter for awareness, video, website traffic, and apps. Explore the options and find one that complements other advertising efforts.

4. Amazon’s Demand Side Platform (DSP)

Amazon’s Demand Side Platform (DSP) is similar to the Google Display Network – ads are served on Amazon and partner sites and link directly back to your website, not Amazon.

This platform offers audience targeting in retargeting, in-market, and lifestyle segments.

Fellow writer, Elizabeth Marsten has outlined the basics in her recent article, I highly recommend checking it out: What Search Marketers Should Know About Amazon DSP.

5. Price Extensions

Available in both Microsoft Ads and Google Ads, price extensions show a product or service and associated unit price.

This can be a great way to promote good and services that don’t fit into the standard ecommerce mold. Having the price qualifier and ability to select “from”, “up to” or ”average”, makes opportunities more flexible.

For example, a service company, insurance, wedding planner, software company – any business with a price point that can be advertised like “packages from $99.99” or “monthly subscription from $39.99” etc.

ppc-microsoft-price-extensions

6. Custom Intent Audiences in Search

While there are hundreds of audiences to target on Google Display Network, you can laser focus your efforts by creating your own custom intent audience.

Be creative and use keywords, video, apps, URLs that uniquely fit your business.

Keep in mind that for setup, custom audiences are applied at the ad group level where you can define in-market audiences, demographics, keywords, topics, and placements.

You can also use negative keywords to exclude placements. Consider excluding games here if you think that is appropriate.

7. Microsoft Ads Local Inventory Ads

Microsoft Ads offers one of the few tactics to drive traffic to physical locations with local inventory ads.

This feature allows retailers to bridge the gap between online and in-store inventory availability to customers nearby.

Inventory information is submitted by the retainers.

When a customer is near a store location, and searches for a product carried in the store, the customer is directed to find a store location and more information.

Microsoft Ads has posted a step-by-step guide on local inventory ads outlining how to get started on their blog.

Bonus Ideas

Many of these PPC advertising ideas can be and should be layered with one another.

Here are a few other ways to layer in more relevancy and reach:

Target Search Page Location Bidding

In Google Ads, you can opt for your ad to be served at the top of the search results page by letting Google automatically adjust your bids to reach this position.

This can be set up by creating a portfolio bidding strategy that targets impression share and selecting top of the results page as the ad location.

Add a new portfolio bid strategy from the shared library.

ppc-page-bidding

Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA)

RLSA is a way to reach your website visitors while they are searching on Google.

It is easy to add to existing keyword search campaigns, and you can use a bid modifier to increase visibility with those who are already familiar with your business.

Think retargeting in the search engine text ads rather than in display ads.

Final Thoughts

Many of the most common ad features can be used in unique ways to support your advertising goals.

Some, like the countdown timer and audiences, can be inspirations for overall campaign direction if you invest the time to brainstorm and think out of the box.

data science empowers performance search engine marketer

How Data Science Empowers Performance Marketing & SEM

By | Networking Bizz News
Throughout the last decade, the life of the modern-day search engine marketer has become centered around data and artificial intelligence (AI) applications.Debates and dialogues around AI subsets, machine learning and data science, and how exactly they affect the workings of the industry continue to multiply.This trend cannot be surprising, though, when taking into consideration:
  • The truly staggering amounts of data we’re creating every minute of every day.
  • And the pace with which we’re doing so is only accelerating with the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT).
With everything from clicks to swipes, tweets to likes, we are today compiling information at an unprecedented rate.For companies, all of this data brings new opportunities.Marketers can use the data to:
  • Develop trend recognition.
  • Attract new customers.
  • Ultimately create previously unforeseen efficiencies in their programs.
Up until just a few years ago, businesses of all sizes were in a position to decide whether they wanted to use data to gain a competitive advantage in their respective marketplaces.In the world of business, there is a constant vying and jostling for customers.Data is everything – and more.Executives and practitioners uncover analytical techniques to turn the data available to them into actionable insights. The more one knows about their business, the better the decision-making and performance.The sheer power of a data-driven marketing approach has been a much-covered subject.In a study conducted by Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson with Harvard Business Review and MIT, it was revealed that:
“[C]ompanies in the top third of their industry in the use of data-driven decision making were, on average, 5% more productive and 6% more profitable than their competitors.”
Pretty compelling numbers.

The Welcome Problem of Too Much Data

What does all this mean, then?Do marketers need to quickly enroll in night courses covering statistical programming and computation techniques to help them explore and decode large data sets?Well, the answer, in short, is no.No, they don’t.Thankfully, with this abundance of data has come the emergence of strategies and technologies.Performance marketers can take advantage of these to automate some of their processes and drive significantly better business outcomes.The multi-disciplinary field of data science is chief among them – empowering marketers to combine various data sets and decipher the variables in their campaigns that are having the biggest impact on performance.To paraphrase Steve Jobs, it’s like a “bicycle for the mind”, essentially helping humans increase productivity and output.As the sphere and practice of search engine marketing has matured and expanded, managing a program and making bids manually with spreadsheets have become immensely inefficient.Even the first-generation platforms that have dominated the ecosystem for years, those with legacy foundational infrastructure, are falling behind the innovative new solutions that come fully-equipped with data science techniques on a larger, more sophisticated scale.So, just what is this magical data science?Let’s define it as the “art of uncovering trends.”It is infinitely more complex than that once you dig under the surface.Data science features a blend of Bayesian statistics, predictive modeling, time-series analysis, clustering algorithms, and regression modeling to solve analytically advanced pains.And lying at the core of all that is data. Troves of the stuff.SEM has always been about data.We can talk about the metrics we live and breathe every day, which include:
  • Conversion rate percentages.
  • Cost-per-click (CPC).
  • Cost-per-acquisition (CPA).
  • Revenue-per-click (RPC).
  • Return-on-ad-spend (ROAS).
And these are just the outcomes.Starting at the beginning, where all this information originates, each ad click is home to an extraordinary wealth of data when taking into account modifiers such as:
  • Location.
  • Time (broken itself down into time-of-day and day-of-week).
  • Device (desktop, mobile, and tablet).
Then you can throw in on top of that other existing data points like the user’s:
  • Past browsing history.
  • Purchase history.
  • Age.
  • Gender.
  • Income.
  • And a whole lot more.
We’re talking about an unfathomable number of potential permutations for every one of your keywords.All of this raises this question:How do you parse and act on this information?This is where data science comes into play.

The Key to Unlocking SEM Efficiency

Employing data science, whether that’s through a third-party platform or proprietary in-house tools, will undoubtedly lead to a direct improvement in the performance of SEM campaigns.Here’s how it creates compelling value.

Superior Audience Targeting

Every click on a paid search ad contains vast riches of information – all sorts of demographic, psychographic, and behavioral data.Through the application of data science, marketers are empowered to parse through this information to better identify the make-up of their customers and then target them with increased accuracy accordingly.Reaching the right audience, at the right time, with the right message is paramount to any prosperous SEM campaign.

A Predictor of Success

The digital footprint that customers leave behind through their day-to-day searching habits paints an accurate portrait of their wants, needs, and interests.Predictive analysis encompasses the use of data science and statistical algorithms to translate this data and segment customer behavior. This can then be used to predict the probability of a conversion – whether it’s the buying of a product or the filling in of a form.Armed with this information, marketers can bid with more accuracy and eliminate pockets of wasted spend.

Automatically Create New Keywords

One of the many branches under the data science umbrella is natural language processing (NLP).In SEM terms, NLP is most aptly used as a keyword expansion tool whereby practitioners can:
  • Leverage the technology to analyze search queries.
  • Detect associated keywords.
  • Suggest semantically similar keywords.
This helps considerably in the expansion of your portfolio and presents areas of growth that were hitherto hidden.

Unrivaled Efficiency

Every keyword in a given SEM program has a unique, optimal bid value at which it drives the highest ROAS at the lowest possible price, otherwise known as the ideal CPC.Data science has made it possible to calculate this, unlocking efficiency on a scale not previously possible with manual bidding and legacy tools.The end result?A program that automatically and programmatically adjusts bids at the individual keyword level to ensure the best investments are being realized and new opportunities are being uncovered.

Wrapping Up

Through the introduction of data science into marketing stacks across the world, SEM managers have become empowered with significantly more knowledge about the workings and intricacies of their campaigns.With that, companies in this digital age can now reach performance levels that the executives of yesteryear could only imagine.As these technologies continue to become widespread:
  • Challenges will arise.
  • Management tactics will change.
  • Customers will demand more personalization from brands in the searching experience.
The evidence is clear, though: data science trends are showing no signs of slowing down.And when data science does meet SEM, advertising ROI improves quite considerably.
ecommerce link building strategies

4 Effective Ecommerce Link Building Strategies

By | Online Entrepreneur News
As an ecommerce site, the goal is to drive links and traffic to your product pages, as those are the final step before a customer clicks “add to cart” and completes a purchase.But creating valuable content and using other link building strategies can also help you convert users into customers.Offering high-quality content to your audience and working closely with partners to share your products on blogs or online publications can help drive more sales with a long-term strategy.The most successful ecommerce sites today don’t simply push out messaging that says “buy my product.”They are publishing content that says, “come learn about my product and what it does so you can make an educated purchasing decision with someone reputable, like me.”Today’s customers are looking for education and more information before they make a decision.If you prioritize content creation and link building efforts to become that information resource, you will likely be rewarded with more links and better conversions.Below are some of the ways to build worthwhile links through being a resource and trusted partner.

1. Offer an Education Section

People like seeing additional information on what they are looking for.The web has enabled us to become detailed researchers when it comes to making purchasing decisions.Offering advanced resources or an education guide on what you offer can be a big benefit.Take, for instance, this educational section from online jewelry store Blue Nile.blue-nileTheir “diamond education and guidance” section explains the different cuts and clarity levels of diamonds and other gemstones, which can help their customers understand justify the varying prices of jewelry.Not only is this a valuable resource for external websites to link to (like wedding or fashion blogs), having educated customers in a high-value market may convince them to buy at a higher price point.Other formats of research sections do extremely well for websites or publications that are facilitating their own research.For instance, Stone Temple Consulting has an “Insights” section on their website that includes all their proprietary research on voice search, featured snippets, and more.Not only are they providing a worthwhile resource to link to, but they are also setting themselves up as credible thought leaders in their industry.stone-temple-insightsThink about it: if you were a provider going to buy any service, whether it’s digital marketing services or jewelry, which is more reputable? A website without an education section or one with it?Customers are extremely likely to research a product online before they buy it both online or in-store. According to Bazaarvoice, 82% of shoppers research on their phone before making a purchase and 45% read reviews.

2. Get Featured in Resource Sections

Another helpful section of many websites for users is the Resources section, where websites list trusted providers that offer tangential services.For instance, a Crossfit box (Crossfit gyms are called boxes) would likely link out to fitness-related resources, like Reebok’s Crossfit product line, an ecommerce store that sold weightlifting gloves, and a local massage therapist for soothing sore or tight muscles from workouts.Getting a link to your education guides or products on other websites is a great way to build useful links.Start by researching using Google or a content research tool like Clearscope or BuzzSumo (no affiliation).Search for industry keywords + a word like “Resources” or “related products.”Using our Crossfit example, here’s a box in California with a resources page:crossfit-resourcesAfter finding a website like this that is high quality, you can email them to offer your products as a resource to include.You can use a template, but it’s highly recommended that each email is as customized as possible for a more personal touch.Mentioning something you like about their website or offerings is a good way to break the ice. Just keep it genuine.Spending the time to make this unique is worth the effort and much more likely to result in a link.Besides offering your products as a recommended resource, if you have useful content you can recommend, try that approach as well.Let’s say we launched a Crossfit podcast.We can search for “crossfit podcast” and find round-up lists other blogs have created of available podcasts.From there, we can email the creators asking for inclusion on their list.top-podcasts-crossfitIf you have useful content, many websites or blogs will be happy to include you.Just make sure you explain why it’s useful to their audience and keep your recommended content or product as specific as possible to theirs.

3. Offer Coupon Codes

Everyone likes a good deal, so use coupon codes as a strategic part of your marketing.Just don’t make deals an integral part of your offering, or else sales may become dependent on customers who won’t buy unless there’s a discount.Shopify recommends using coupon codes for seasonal holidays (like Valentine’s Day), customer appreciation (like your annual anniversary of being in business or the customer’s birthday), and to build new customer loyalty.Experiment with the types of discounts offered to see what gets the most conversions.For instance, a $500 discount on a computer “seems” bigger than a 25% discount, even though they are the same for a $2,000 computer, cites marketing professor and author Dr. Jonah Berger.A/B test your types of discounts to know what is more appealing to your specific audience.

Coupon Codes + Affiliates

A women’s clothing boutique, Cents of Style, offers unique discount coupon codes and landing pages to its affiliates, who then add UTM codes to the end to get affiliate credit.Not only do unique codes allow them to track the success of their affiliate program, but it also gives the affiliates incentive to share their products, because they know they are giving their users a discount, which makes them much more likely to buy.buy 1 get 1 promoIf you have an affiliate program, consider offering unique discounts to them to share with their audiences, which feel more exclusive.If they know they are getting discounts that aren’t available publicly on other platforms, they become more enticed to share.Everyone likes being in the know!You can also send notice of available coupon codes to code websites, like RetailMeNot, Honey, and Ebates.These websites act as coupon code aggregators and many users search them first before making a purchase.

4. Give Away Free Products

Another incentivized way to get links to your website is through product giveaways.These can be contests on your own website and social media or through influencers and mommy bloggers.Giveaways were mentioned in one of my SEJ ThinkTank webinars because they have a good success rate.It’s just important to give away the right prizes (things people would actually want) and have the right content and promotional strategy behind it.

Blogger Outreach

To run a giveaway with an influencer, you can use a tool like BuzzSumo to research bloggers that get a lot of social shares.Just search for industry terms to get a list of popular articles about the topic. This can give you a jumping off point to research who you’d like to partner with.Most bloggers and influencers have their own set of guidelines and rates for giveaways.Some charge a fee on top of the giveaway, while others will take it for free. It usually depends on their own audience size and impact.Ask for a media kit to get a bird’s eye view of a blog’s audience and from there, you can ask for partnership terms and rates.Many bloggers enjoy doing giveaways because it also gives them a boost in engagement and traffic.They usually combine it with a review of the business or product so users know what to expect and are more enticed to enter to win.Here’s an example from a pressure cooking website:pressure-cooking-blog-review-giveawayFor any content with a blogger or influencer, make sure they use UTM links for analytics tracking and give proper FTC disclosure.By providing great value to your customers, you’ll not only end up bringing in more links but more sales and loyal customers as well.Online users are always looking for the best deal or most information, so being a high-quality resource that offers affordable options for customers can help your ecommerce website grow and flourish.
Top 10 paid search & seo tools

The Top 10 Paid Search & SEO Tools You Need to Use

By | seo advice for business
SEO tools are the online marketer’s best friend.Without at least a few in-depth, data-mining, keyword tracking, research-handling superstars in your SEO kit, you may find it hard to compete in the content crowd.That’s because research, planning, and strategy are located at the bottom of the content success ladder.You can’t reach new heights without first climbing and conquering these basics.With that out of the way, here are 10 awesome, dependable, so-worth-it, paid SEO tools I personally recommend.

1. Screaming Frog SEO Spider

10 Awesome Paid SEO Tools That Are Worth the MoneyThe only way to ensure your website is SEO-ready across all its pages is to audit regularly. And, to be blunt, you can’t do that without a tool like Screaming Frog SEO Spider – especially if your site is sprawling in size.Quite simply, Screaming Frog is a web crawler that scans your web pages for common errors like broken links, duplicate content, redirect chains and loops, and even meta descriptions and titles that are too short, too long, or missing altogether.Cost: Download a free version with limited features, or spring for the licensed, full-featured version for about $181/year, per license.

2. Ahrefs

10 Awesome Paid SEO Tools That Are Worth the MoneyAhrefs is a fan favorite across content marketers, content writers, and SEO-ers alike – with good reason.The company boasts some of the most comprehensive data collecting and storage out there so their tools are as up-to-date and accurate as possible. Plus, they’re easy to use and make analyzing all that SEO data simple.When you buy a subscription, you get access to their entire range of SEO helpers, including:
  • Site Explorer: See the backlink profile and organic search traffic data for any website.
  • Keywords Explorer: Research keywords and data like search volume, keyword difficulty, and clicks.
  • Rank Tracker: Track your Google rankings and compare them to your competitors’.
  • Site Audit: Get a full visual of your site’s SEO health.
Cost: The Lite plan with Ahrefs (including access for one user) costs $99/month. They also offer a free trial for 7 days that costs $7.

3. SEMrush

10 Awesome Paid SEO Tools That Are Worth the MoneyIf you want reams of SEO data at your fingertips or an all-in-one tool, SEMrush is the solution to buy.Here’s a breakdown:
  • Track keyword rankings, organic traffic, and backlinks.
  • Zero in on your competitors’ data and analyze how to do better.
  • Save your searches in lists, and have reports and updates sent to your email.
  • Do SEO site audits.
  • Get a LOT of insights and data at your fingertips.
Cost: A Pro plan with SEMrush costs $99.95/month. You can use it for free with an email sign-up, but results will be limited.

4. Moz Pro

10 Awesome Paid SEO Tools That Are Worth the MoneyMoz Pro is a suite of SEO tools that deserves its inclusion on this list.It’s another all-in-one solution that could potentially save some pennies in smaller brand budgets (keywords, links, site audits, rank tracking, and on-page optimization are all covered).Plus, the combination of user-friendly tools and a large support community means this is a good starting suite for beginners to SEO.Cost: The Standard plan with Moz Pro is $99/month, or $79/month if you pay annually.

5. Mangools KWFinder

10 Awesome Paid SEO Tools That Are Worth the MoneyKWFinder does exactly what it says, and does it well, to boot.This is a tool I recommend over and over because of its ease-of-use, simple design, and great UX – not to mention the accurate keyword data.If you just need to do keyword research, choose this SEO tool.Cost: The Mangools Basic plan costs $29.90/month. This has limits, but unless you’re doing a researching frenzy, it should be good enough for a beginner or intermediate user.

6. Searchmetrics

10 Awesome Paid SEO Tools That Are Worth the MoneySearchmetrics isn’t just an SEO tool, but also a valuable helper for your content strategy.This suite does it all: ROI reporting, competitive analysis, site audits, mobile and desktop site optimization, content optimization, web visibility analysis, and more.Cost: Searchmetrics offers three pricing plans: Suite Business, Suite Enterprise, and Suite Ultimate. All prices are only available on request.

7. Majestic

10 Awesome Paid SEO Tools That Are Worth the MoneyAre you all about those backlinks? Majestic should be your tool.It boasts the largest link index database on the planet.See where your links are coming from, the anchor text other sites use to link to you, and how much weight each backlink has overall.You can even compare the link profiles of up to five sites at a time.Cost: Majestic plans start at $49.99/month for the Lite plan.

8. cognitiveSEO

10 Awesome Paid SEO Tools That Are Worth the MoneyYet another wholesale SEO solution for your consideration: cognitiveSEO.This suite of tools includes all the basics you need to research, plan, and tweak your SEO strategy.Research keywords, crawl and audit your site, compare and analyze backlinks, and take advantage of local, desktop, and mobile rank tracking.Cost:  The Starter plan for cognitiveSEO costs $129.99/month. Or, sign up for yearly billing and save 30%.

9. Advanced Web Ranking

10 Awesome Paid SEO Tools That Are Worth the MoneyFor comprehensive position tracking and rank monitoring, Advanced Web Ranking is a solid choice.It offers local results tracking as well as tracking across search engines, including Amazon and YouTube.Along with all that, there are plenty of ways to dig into your data and glean new insights, including customizable filtering.Cost: AWR’s Starter plan is available for $49/month. Pay yearly and you get a 10% discount.

10. Yoast SEO for WordPress

10 Awesome Paid SEO Tools That Are Worth the MoneyYoast is a standard tool in most marketers’ line-ups because it’s so easy to use.It helps you optimize all your content posts and pages in WordPress, including metas, titles, links, keywords, readability, and more.If you’re an SEO newbie or need to provide SEO guidance for clients, this is a great tool for the job.Cost: It’s $89 to add the Yoast plugin to one site. There’s a free version with limited features, too.
Leveraging Content for Seasonal SEO Campaigns

Leveraging Content for Seasonal SEO Campaigns: A Real-World Example

By | seo advice for business
To earn more customers from your website you need to attract more visitors. And if you want to bring in more visitors from organic search, you need to rank your pages higher in the search results.Unfortunately, ranking improvements typically don’t come overnight.To enjoy the benefits of search visibility during the holiday season, you need to start optimizing now.And the best place to start is with your content.

Optimizing Existing Content

Do you have existing seasonal content from previous holidays?If so, updating and repurposing this content could be your most cost-efficient option to earn search visibility in the upcoming months.To best demonstrate the strategies I’ll be sharing in this post, I’m using a real-world example of a business that is heavily influenced by seasonality.My running example throughout the post is Hickory Farms. (Full disclosure: while I have no affiliation with Hickory Farms, I do think their snacks are delicious.)Let’s see if Hickory Farms has any old content that could be updated and optimized for this year’s holiday season.Searching through the company’s blog, I found that they have a Thanksgiving gift guide and a 2018 Holiday Gift Guide.Both pages could be leveraged to bring in qualified organic traffic during the holidays, but we need to investigate further to determine if they’re worth updating.The first thing you should do when analyzing organic search opportunity is to review the current search results. There is a lot you can learn from examining the SERPs, including:
  • Difficulty and competition: Are there big brand names plastered all over Page 1? Are the ranking pages high-quality in terms of content and design? If yes, it’s fair to assume it will be difficult to rank for these keywords.
  • Formatting best practices: Look for common trends among the ranking pages, as these are likely contributing factors to why those pages rank. For example, if you see multiple results with video, you should strongly consider adding video content to your page.
  • Searcher intent: Most importantly, the ranking pages will give you insight into searcher intent and what types of pages people are searching for. Are all the top results definitional content? Do you see multiple review pages? Analyze the results to better understand what searchers want.
A quick review of [holiday gift guide] indicates tough sledding for Hickory Farms to rank their page among some massive sites and brands:How to Leverage Seasonal Content for SEO CampaignsHowever, [Thanksgiving gift guide] appears to be more promising:How to Leverage Seasonal Content for SEO CampaignsWhile there are still some recognizable brands here, there are also pages ranking from lesser-known sites. That is encouraging for Hickory Farms.Furthermore, the brand’s page is currently ranking on Page 3:How to Leverage Seasonal Content for SEO CampaignsBecause their page is already ranking on Page 3 for this query, Hickory Farms faces less of an uphill battle to reach page one by the holidays.We should also analyze the opportunity based on search volume to get an idea for potential traffic.According to SEMrush, [thanksgiving gift guide] only has a monthly search volume of 30. However, we need to consider all the associated keywords as well.How to Leverage Seasonal Content for SEO CampaignsIt’s easy to see how these smaller volumes can quickly add up to a large number on aggregate.In fact, [Thanksgiving gift guide] isn’t the head term here. The main term would be [Thanksgiving gifts] which has a substantially larger monthly search volume:How to Leverage Seasonal Content for SEO CampaignsAnd what do you know? Hickory Farms’ page is ranking on Page 3 for that query as well.Now that we’ve confirmed this is a worthwhile opportunity, it’s time to analyze Hickory Farms’ page to see which updates and optimizations can be made.Immediately it’s clear that there is some on-page optimization that can be done.Not only does “Thanksgiving Gifts” only appear in a couple of H2s, but the page doesn’t have an H1.It would be an easy fix to:
  • Add an H1 along the lines of “Thanksgiving Gift Ideas”.
  • Include the same keywords in more H2s and H3s to help Google further associate the page with the topic and likely improve rankings.
Going back to the page one results again, we can get more ideas for how to improve Hickory Farms’ page.For example, adding a bulleted list of gift ideas could be beneficial and potentially help Hickory Farms nab a featured snippet:How to Leverage Seasonal Content for SEO CampaignsAnd below the featured snippet we can see a “People also ask” box which provides ideas for new sections Hickory Farms could add to their page:How to Leverage Seasonal Content for SEO CampaignsThese tweaks should get Hickory Farms’ page heading in the right direction. That said, link building will still likely be needed to push them to Page 1.While it will be difficult to convince site owners to link to Thanksgiving content out of season, by starting promotion early, Hickory Farms can have agreements in place with site owners who might want to share the content with their audiences closer to November.Having these “verbal agreements” in place will drastically improve link building success as it circumvents the main problem with contacting people during the holidays – people are often on vacation and unresponsive.This is a low-investment opportunity (in terms of content creation resources) that Hickory Farms could start executing now to potentially enjoy Page 1 rankings. It could bring qualified traffic during November when people are searching for Thanksgiving gift ideas.

Creating Seasonal Content

Updating existing pages may not be enough to take full advantage of the holiday season for your business. In these cases, you should also consider creating new season-specific pages.Content creation should always start with keyword research and creating seasonal content is no different.However, seasonality adds an extra wrinkle and you need to be mindful of past (and current) trends to ensure you’re targeting the right keywords.For example, using the free tool Google Trends, Hickory Farms could compare the queries [thanksgiving gift basket] and [holiday gift basket]:How to Leverage Seasonal Content for SEO CampaignsThis quick comparison shows that while there is some interest for [holiday gift basket] around November – and that interest is lower than the interest for [thanksgiving gift basket] – the interest for [holiday gift basket] peaks during December.This is helpful information as Hickory Farms can adjust their keyword strategy and focus accordingly.With the holiday season approaching, Hickory Farms should identify a content gap they could fill relatively easily to potentially earn significant organic traffic.To find this opportunity, I’ll use one of my favorite keyword research tools, Ahrefs.Ahrefs makes keyword analysis easy, as I can plug in Hickory Farms’ URL and navigate over to the “Organic Keywords” section to view all the keywords that Hickory Farms has a page ranking in the top 100 for.How to Leverage Seasonal Content for SEO CampaignsAs I analyze these keywords, I’m looking for the intersection of three metrics:
  • High search volume.
  • Low keyword difficulty.
  • Ranking positions near Page 1 or 2 for Hickory Farms.
A term that quickly jumps out is [Christmas gift baskets]:How to Leverage Seasonal Content for SEO CampaignsThis key phrase checks all the boxes:
  • Sizable search volume: 7,200
  • Low difficulty: 11 (out of 100)
  • Decent rankings for Hickory Farms: position 11
Hickory Farms’ product page for Christmas gifts is ranking on Page 2 currently, but there could be an opportunity for Hickory Farms to create a new page and push for Page 1 rankings.Diving in further with Ahrefs, I can see the opportunity to create informational content around [Christmas gift baskets] materialize.Ahrefs shows other phrases that contain the keyword, related questions, and other terms that the current ranking pages also rank for:How to Leverage Seasonal Content for SEO CampaignsThis is extremely powerful information for a content creator as it provides a blueprint for a new page.Questions like “how to make cheap Christmas gift baskets” and “what to put in Christmas gift baskets” would be perfect sub-headers and sections of a potential guide.Clicking the “View all” tab under the “Having same terms” section gives us more insight into related topics to cover within our hypothetical page:How to Leverage Seasonal Content for SEO CampaignsThere seems to be a fair amount of opportunity here for Hickory Farms to create an informational page that could rank for a variety of terms. However, there is still one more check we should make.While Ahrefs signals low difficulty across the board, I always like to review the current ranking pages to truly understand the competition.Let’s pull out one of the questions we saw earlier and look at the corresponding SERP. Here is a snapshot of the results for [what to put in Christmas baskets]:How to Leverage Seasonal Content for SEO CampaignsCountry Living is a prominent brand, but outside of that result and the Pinterest pins, I’m not seeing any brand names that stick out:How to Leverage Seasonal Content for SEO CampaignsThis supports Ahrefs’ assessment of low-difficulty. Further analysis of the individual pages reveals some are slideshow results:How to Leverage Seasonal Content for SEO CampaignsOr a simple list of links:How to Leverage Seasonal Content for SEO CampaignsOr full of ads:How to Leverage Seasonal Content for SEO CampaignsAlthough some of these pages have decent information, none of them are truly outstanding results for someone searching for more information on Christmas gift baskets.There is a real opportunity here for Hickory Farms to create something that is best-in-class.By creating an in-depth guide that addresses these informational queries, Hickory Farms can gain visibility during the holiday season and earn organic traffic for the top of their marketing funnel.Furthermore, if they promote this page for inbound links – and properly internally link to their Christmas gifts page – Hickory Farms could simultaneously improve rankings for the commercial terms their product pages serve.Since Hickory Farms’ Christmas gifts page is already on Page 2, support from an informational page could be enough to bump it onto Page 1 of the search results.By starting this process now, Hickory Farms could create and update their pages to begin promotion and link acquisition that will pay dividends by the time the holidays roll around.

Over to You

If the holiday season is important to your bottom line, the time to start planning your SEO content is now!Consider following these tips so you can appear in search when interest in your products and services is highest!Want even more tips? Check out Search Engine Journal’s ebook: A Complete Guide to Holiday Marketing
Why Your Content Isn't Ranking

4 Reasons Why Your Content Isn’t Ranking.

By | Networking Bizz News
If you’re even marginally familiar with SEO, you’ve likely heard the maxim “content is king.”While I won’t be discussing that exact topic today, the claim still has some relevance here.Suppose you’ve done your market research, scoped out the high-traffic pages you’re looking to optimize, and written your killer, keyword-infused content.Then you slap it on your site and sit back and wait.Months go by, and those pages still aren’t ranking well.In fact, there’s almost no change in positions at all, and sales are flat.How many of you have been in this exact position?You’ve done everything you knew you had to do, but for some reason, it just didn’t work.Obviously, this will be a frustrating situation for you. But all is not necessarily lost, and that content you slaved over need not have been crafted in vain.In this post, we’re going to review some probable reasons why search engines just aren’t picking up your content.

1. What Are You Writing About?

Search engine algorithms consider hundreds of ranking factors when “choosing” where to position your webpage.These range from your link profile to your page speed.But before addressing anything else, I’m recommending you look at the subjects of your content pieces, plain and simple.
  • What are you writing about?
  • Does it answer user questions that you’ve researched (e.g., in SEMrush’s topic research tool or deduced from Google Analytics data)?
  • Will it be useful to a wide audience?
These are questions surrounding content relevance.Your content needs to have several qualities for search engines to consider it relevant. It needs to be original, authoritative, and directly related to the webpage where it will be posted.Search engines know that users have no interest in reading duplicated, plagiarized, or irrelevant content. As such, you’d have to dive deep into Google’s SERPs to find such content.That isn’t where you want to be.Do your research beforehand so you can write brilliant content that you yourself would want to read if you searched for a topic online.Don’t be afraid to go long, either. The more you do to make your content appear smart, original, and reliable, the better off you will be.This will all go a long way toward getting your pages to climbs those SERPs.

2. What Keywords Are You Using?

The issue of keywords in your content opens up a kind of web of subtopics.You already know keywords have their place within all written SEO content, but where do you go from there?Well, perhaps you need to audit the type of keyword research you’re doing.You have to be attacking keywords with high search volumes, but, as you may have noticed, it can be quite challenging to try to rank for keywords such as “garden tools store” or “san antonio lawyers.”Instead, I’d like to call your attention to the long-tail keyword.Do you think your webpages will attract more potential buyers with “winter coats” or “men’s wool winter pea coats”?The latter is a long-tail keyword that is more likely to convert for your business because it is highly specific and most likely represents a later stage of a customer buying cycle.People using that search term are more likely to be ready to make a purchase.Do your research on the right long-tail keywords for your business. You can do this just by seeing what search engines populate in their predictive text when you search one or two words.Check out these keyword phrases in tools (e.g., SEMrush or Google’s Keyword Planner) to see how they are performing in the industry. Then leverage them to draw those users in with relevant content optimized for those keywords.Further, just as content can get old and become in dire need of a refresh, so, too, can keywords. Never think of anything in SEO as being evergreen.A top-performing keyword that got things done for you last year or even last month can do some funky things in the interim.Stay on top of your keyword research so you can always keep your content freshly optimized and relevant.

3. Update, Update, Update

By now, you might be noticing a common theme in all these points: relevance rules your rankings.
We’ve talked about how relevant content, with fresh keywords, will go a long way toward ensuring users actually find your website.And in the same way that content or keywords that were relevant some months ago can fall quickly out of favor with search engines, your website itself can also begin declining in rankings if you don’t regularly update your content.While the age of your domain may also hold some weight in determining organic ranking, it doesn’t matter much if your content is stale.Search engines care that you’re keeping up with everyone else in terms of producing relevant, authoritative, optimized content.If you haven’t given your web content a significant audit in more than a few months, it’s time to commit yourself to doing exactly that.Take a look at the keywords your content is using and update where needed.Again, you can use SEMrush’s topic research tool to see how users’ search questions and other interests may have changed since you last checked in.Just search your keywords yourself and investigate some of your competition.
  • How many of them weren’t there when you created your website and did your initial keyword research?
  • How might the presence of a strong new competitor affect your rankings, especially if your industry is focused on a niche product or service?
I pose these questions to help you think about how to update your on-site content on a regular basis.If your website doesn’t already have one, it’s also a great idea to start a company blog and publish to it on a schedule.As you can imagine, more or less keeping to that schedule’s deadlines by publishing new blog posts will tell search engines that your pages are up to date and relevant. After that, well, you know the rest.

4. Your Link Profile Is Weak

This point I truly cannot stress enough. Inbound links still matter. A lot.In fact, don’t assume that great content will rank without an effortful link building strategy.Try to think about your webpages from Google’s perspective.If Google sees your content is strong, your keywords are fresh, you update regularly, but your site has no inbound links, why is it going to rank you highly?For all Google knows, you’re up to something that’s keeping other sites from wanting to link to you. Google, consequently, wants to keep you out of its top rankings.If it’s easier, simply think about links from a user’s perspective.Finding your site via a link from a blog tells users that the blog trusts your site, that your site is relevant enough to be linked to from a third party with its own reputation to protect.Our hypothetical users then click on that link and discover your site, with its fresh, relevant, optimized content ready to answer their questions and even direct them to other useful sites with its own links.Links keep users flowing from site to site, but, more importantly, they make your own site look reliable.I’ve written previously on Search Engine Journal about competitive link analysis, one of the most reliable ways to build links back to your website.Competitive link analysis starts with evaluating who is linking to your competition.Examine why the referring domains may have agreed to link to those competitors.
  • What kinds of domains are they?
  • What unites them?
  • Who are their audiences?
  • How do your competitors’ link profiles differ from yours?
  • Furthermore, what are your competitors doing that you aren’t doing to earn those links?
When you discover the answers to these questions, you’ll know what you have to do, and who you have to target to build your own links.Your job then becomes endeavoring for those referring domains to link to your website, either through an optimized piece of extant content or through new content that you craft specifically for this purpose.You can also present pages on your site as ideal replacements for dead or broken links on those referring domains.No, this isn’t easy, but think of the authority that comes with a robust backlink profile.If all else fails, build those links!

To Sum Up

Now, in the midst of thinking about all that I’ve presented to you, don’t forget that a number of technical SEO issues may also be affecting your rankings.Mobile speed, page-load time, and problems with your XML sitemap can all drive users away from your site.However, assuming none of these things are giving you trouble, read through my four points again.And remember: when your content, keywords, webpages, and backlink profile are up to date and addressing user concerns, your SEO will be miles ahead of your competitors who aren’t as aware as you are.
Things No SEO Tool Can Ever Tell You

The 7 Things No SEO Tool Can Ever Tell You!

By | seo advice for business
We all rely on specific tools to do our jobs as SEO professionals.Often we gravitate toward the tools that save us the most time while also providing us with the best insights.This mix of tools in our stack includes those we’ve relied on for a long time as well as those that we’re testing out or that have emerged recently.With the number of tools available and the increasing costs of many of the leading platforms, we have to demand more than ever out of the technology we use.The challenge in this is that our reliance on tools can keep us too deep in our silos and in our SEO ways of thinking.There are seven distinct things that SEO tools can’t tell us that we need to remain aware of and push to close the gaps on.

1. What Your Goals Should Be

Many tools help us perform research on the front-end of SEO engagements.Whether it is keyword research, competitor research, or auditing tools to understand the current standing of technical issues on a website, we’re relying on technology early on.The sometimes wide variation in data provided in different keyword research tools alone should give us an indication that we should tread lightly here.The Google Keyword Planner is a paid search tool and all other keyword research tools are relying on third-party data or also on the Keyword Planner’s paid search data.Our interpretation of this data and use of the various tools is often what we use for setting goals with stakeholders or clients.Unfortunately, they don’t all know that these are not literal numbers and are based on sampling, estimation, rounding, and historical data.None of them can tell us what our real goals should be for positioning, impressions, traffic, and conversions. We have to do our best to determine these based on tools and industry data available and live with that.

2. How Many Leads or Sales You Will Get

When I’m doing research and providing projection data in the proposal and discovery process, I often tell and remind clients that the more levels deep I go, the more off that the estimate can be.If I’m using one tool to do keyword research, then using benchmark data to project impressions, traffic, and conversions, I’m layering estimates on top of estimates.We all understand the need to justify our efforts, but the more that we take data from different sources to try to predict how our efforts will pay off, the more variables and risk we’re putting into the equation.This might sound like a classic dodging of the question by an SEO.I’m not advocating for saying “just trust me”, but at the same time, we have to emphasize that the tools at our disposal are not smart enough (yet) to accurately tell us how our SEO campaign will perform.

3. Guaranteed or Promised Performance

AI and machine learning are improving quickly. At this time though, in the SEO realm, the tools we have available that utilize it still can’t make a guarantee or promise.Projections and simulations are based on past or predicted future trends.Additionally, site auditing tools are doing a programmatic view of a site and rely on technical factors. They don’t take a holistic view of content or the wider range of things that influence search engine rankings.Relying on and assuming that by fixing all of the issues in a site audit and focusing on specific keywords and rankings to be the holy grail in terms of driving performance when we achieve them is dangerous.We have the ability to make predictions based on the tools and data we have available, but not promises in terms of performance.

4. What the Future Holds

The tools we have now are based on the search algorithms we have now. Data often is tied to the past 90 days or year.All of this is looking at the present or recent past to draw trends and conclusions.Ranking factors change.Machine learning is already in the Google algorithm.Competitors in most industries are consistently doing their own SEO, content updates, website launches, and are moving targets.The biggest constant in SEO is change and the technology we use either reacts and adapts or gets left behind.

5. The Business Case for SEO

Thankfully, SEO has a more consistent seat at the marketing table for organizations. Attribution, however, remains a common struggle for marketers.SEO-specific tools often stop short of being able to provide predicted and even actual reported ROI numbers.There’s nothing worse than being in an SEO campaign and only being able to report on SEO-specific stats like rankings, impressions, traffic, and conversions.Conversions are where we want to be able to start. Then, going deeper and knowing sales and lead progress beyond the SEO and marketer’s hand-off.The reporting and analytics tools that we rely on for SEO can sometimes fill the gap, but often we have to find ways to integrate and tag leads and sales as they come through to close the loop or get manual feedback from sales and stakeholders to connect all the dots.

6. What Your Content Strategy Should Be

Content is fuel for SEO and there’s no dispute in the value and need of it.The challenge is that we have a lot of tools at our disposal to evaluate content that is ranking well on our sites and our competitors.We can mine for mentions and links, and find ways to reverse engineer what Google likes about a page or topic.The challenge is that we can’t get the exact answers or fit for what works best for our company or client through SEO tools.We can’t (and shouldn’t) copy off of competitors or others in the industry. Duplication won’t get us anywhere.We have to take the insights we gain on the types of content, format, engagement triggers, calls to action, and how to make it meaningful to the user in our own way and turn that into a plan and strategy.We can use the tools to gain these insights, but ultimately, the setup and strategy is ultimately on us and finding the resources and brand position to run with it.

7. How to Focus & Pace Your Work

There’s a lot of content about how to prioritize SEO work. Some tools will even evaluate a site and prioritize recommended updates.However, the priority and process for an SEO project or campaign can’t be automated or properly handed to us by technology.We should use tools to manage work, gain insights, and organize it.We have to trust our experience and expertise to review the recommendations and insights and prioritize them and scale them.While the largest number of on-page errors might be reported as missing image alt attribute text, focusing on thousands of updates in that category versus a handful of updates in a more influential category might be a waste of time.Over time, this is an area where I’m looking forward to seeing the emergence of AI in catching up with the human brains and decision making.

Conclusion

I never want to go back to the early days of SEO where a lot of the work was done by hand.There are so many great tools for research, crawling, measurement, benchmarking, and analysis that save time, provide insights, and really help with the strategy and execution of SEO.While we have a lot of great technology at our disposal, there are still some things that SEO tools can’t do and we have to provide our unique value as SEO professionals to fill that gap by interpreting and tying together with bigger marketing and business objectives to make SEO successful.
Expert Tips to Boost Your PPC Performance

7 Expert Tips to Boost Your PPC Performance Today

By | Online Entrepreneur News
Over the last decade, the number of account and campaign parameters to consider has shot up almost 20 times.How are PPC specialists expected to know which actions to choose for the best results?And what exactly do you need to do to continually increase performance while staying ultra-competitive in the marketplace?On August 14, I moderated a sponsored SEJ webinar presented by Adzooma’s Puneet Vaghela and Sal Mohammed.They shared seven essential PPC optimization strategies that are proven to boost ROI, save time, and reduce spend.Here’s a recap of the webinar presentation. Adzooma’s Puneet Vaghela and Sal Mohammed share seven essential PPC optimization strategies that are proven to boost ROI, save time, and reduce spend. From set up, budgeting and account structure, to the use of data, technology integrations and audience settings, this valuable webinar will cover it all.So much has changed in the paid search landscape in the past few years. Today, it has become a complex ecosystem with:
  • Numerous channels (Google, Bing, YouTube, etc.).
  • Multiple devices, locations, seasonality.
  • Increased competition across brand, generic and shopping activity.
  • Complex bidding rules and bid modifiers to automate bid management.
  • Laser-focused audience remarketing strategies.
  • Ludicrous amounts of data available for strategy and planning.
With all of this to consider, it’s essential to determine what actions to take through all the clutter of managing a PPC account.Here are seven areas to consider when optimizing your paid search campaigns if you want to bring the greatest returns.

1. Account & Campaign Settings

No one has an infinite marketing budget, therefore it’s important to find efficiencies wherever possible in your account.There are three different settings in your account and campaign that you can easily change to boost PPC performance.

Locations

Location targetingIt’s important to use location targeting in your PPC campaigns to drive efficiencies and identify geographic areas with a higher propensity to convert.It’s one of the best ways to actually reduce wastage in ad spend. Make sure to target your audience in the areas they’re searching.If you don’t use location settings, you’ll be wasting budget showing ads to people who have no interest in your business.Location settings also allow you to see in which areas you have the most traction. Therefore, you should concentrate budgets in these areas to maximize the effectiveness of your PPC spend.Make sure you select the country you want to target when you set up your campaigns initially and then drill down and create campaigns for specific locations for the top-performing areas.

Devices

Device targetingEnsuring you’re targeting the correct devices is also key to success.Google has said that about 30–50% of searches on mobile have local intent.If you’re a business or a high street store, you should be increasing bids on mobile targeting to reach people in the right place, at the right time.People also interact on devices differently so use the data within your search engine to see which devices are driving the strongest KPI performance and modify bids accordingly.Don’t worry about bidding too high, the data you gather will help inform you in your most profitable areas moving forward. That extra you spend in the beginning will just help you further down the line.

Ad Copy Rotation

Ad copy rotationThis is something that a lot of people just leave to Google to do for them.But a lot of advertisers do like rotating ads evenly so they can optimize it themselves.If the aim of your campaign is for branding, then this works. You can use tag lines from other media channels to support your messaging and then test it. Learn their ad copy to make sure you’re using the right one.However, if you’re running a direct response campaign, then you should be trying to maximize the number of clicks or conversions coming to your site.It would be a good idea to allow the system to actually optimize the ads for you based on the best click-through rate or conversion rate.

2. Automated Bid Management

Bid Management in the Engine

You should be using bid management in Bing or Google Ads to make your ads work as hard as possible for you.Firstly, you need to analyze your data from the engine or analytics to see how many searches people take to convert with you. You need this to know which bidding works best.You can then set up automated bidding in the engine based on the last-click conversion model if your conversion length is small.If your conversion length is high, set it up based on a many-per-click conversion model so you can capture all the keywords required for someone to convert.

Bid Management Using Rules

You can also use automated rules to ensure your account is performing to the standards you expect using third-party bid management platforms, such as Adzooma.When you’ve analyzed the data in your account, you’ll have identified how many impressions, clicks and conversions you need to drive profitability or hit your target KPI.With this knowledge, you can set up automated rules to make changes to your account based on these criteria and help drive greater performance on your account while saving you time.Bid management is generally a good strategy, particularly if you’re new and you don’t know which bids you should be putting in and how to manage them.If you’re a large-scale advertiser and you’re inundated with different campaigns that you’re running, it is also another great thing you can use.

3. Data Integrations

Data integration is vital to any marketing team. There’s an easy way to integrate your analytics data with your search data in one platform.Google Analytics, even if it’s the free version, is an important tool for marketers as it allows you to make more informed decisions on your PPC spend.To link Google Ads and Google Analytics, you’ll need administrative access to Google Ads account and edit permission to a Google Analytics account.Once you actually have the two platforms linked, you’ll be able to see a number of metrics you couldn’t before including:
  • How many of your clicks resulted in new visitors to your site.
  • How long people are spending on your site from PPC.
  • And, using goals in analytics, what actions people are actually taking on your site from PPC.
Using this data, you can see which keywords are working best for site engagement and optimize accordingly based on your KPIs.If you’re running a branding campaign, you want more people to spend more time on your site and visit more pages if you’re running a direct response campaign, you want more people to interact with specific goals on your site and probably convert at the same time.With an analytics integration, you can also start creating audiences based on people’s on-site behavior which is really important.

4. Audience Data

Paid search is based on keyword intent – targeting people based on what they are looking for at all times. It’s been like this since the start.However, today’s climate is very busy with multiple channels, devices, locations, seasonality, increasing competition, and more data than ever been before.So how do you sort through the clutter to make sure you’re targeting the people most likely to convert with you and thereby maximize the utilization of your marketing budget?

Why You Should Be Using RLSA

Remarketing lists for search ads (RLSAs) were introduced by Google in 2013 and have grown to become one of the most important strategies available to marketers.Identifying where people are interacting with your site and gauging who are most likely to convert with you is key to increasing efficiency in your ad spend and improving your conversion rate and cost per acquisition or cost per lead.In Google Ads and Bing Ads, you can create audiences based on which URLs people have visited on your website and then retarget them when they search for other relevant terms to either:
  • Ensure your ad is appearing in front of them (particularly good for generic keyword efficiency).
  • Or show people different messaging to entice them.
You can also use other data, like demographic data, to make your ads even more targeted. However, this is just one aspect of remarketing with audiences.

How to Create More Enhanced Lists for RLSA

Moving further along, you should also be integrating any CRM data with your search platforms to create customer match lists which are audience lists based on the email addresses within your database.This allows you to target people you know have already interacted with you and creates similar audience lists to target people similar to people who have already engaged with you and should play a part in your CRM strategy.Linking your analytics platform with Google Ads allows you to use other on-site metrics to create audience lists. Time on-site, bounce rate, goals, pages visited, etc. are all very important in creating audience lists.This will let you retarget people, not only based on what pages they visited on your site, but also how long they spend. This means you have another engagement aspect you can layer into your audience strategy.Why is this important?Audiences allow you to narrow down your targeting ratio.This means that rather than spending your budget guessing who might interact and convert with you, you can use this data to:
  • Make informed decisions on which groups of people have the highest propensity to convert.
  • Target them specifically – increasing the effectiveness of your media budget.
That’s really important because acquiring a customer can cost five times the amount of retaining a customer.If you find someone who’s gone to your site and shown interest, then creating a strategy that can reengage or similarly find more people like that user is something you should be leveraging.Demographic targeting is also key. It enables you to reach a specific audience based on age, gender, parental status, household income, and multiple other variables.

5. Generic Keyword Efficiency

With generic keyword being so expensive, it’s important to use them properly.Generics are higher in the funnel, used more for research purposes. Conversion rates on generic terms tend to be very low, and far lower than brand terms.It’s an ineffective way to drive business goals based on a last-click conversion model.

How to Use Generics Properly

You can use generics as a retargeting mechanism – targeting people in your audience lists when they search for generic terms are after visiting your site.They will have already engaged with you and so they will be familiar with your brand. Thus, when they widen their search, keep your brand at the forefront of their minds and get them back to convert, either through:
  • A different messaging (i.e., put an offer into the ad copy).
  • Or by increasing your bids on your audiences so that you appear more prominently on generic terms at a time when people are more likely to convert.
This will allow you to concentrate your generic keyword budget to an audience with a higher propensity to engage which will drive higher click-through rates (and hopefully conversion rates), reduce impression wastage, and allow you to use your budget more effectively.Using scripts can make the use of generics a lot easier. If you ensure your generic keywords are only live during certain moments or triggers, it increases their value to your business and makes the use of them more efficient.One example is if you sell ice cream, use generic terms when it’s really hot to increase the likelihood of people purchasing your product rather than wasting money showing your ad when it’s cold.How to use generics properlyTo run a strategy like this you can either write a weather script in Google ads using an API connection from a weather information source or you can use a third-party platform that already has the API connection set up.This will allow you to automate the process of activating ads for specific generic keywords based on the trigger you decide.This strategy can be used with a multitude of triggers such as TV ads, programs, social posts, news articles, stock market fluctuations, pollution levels, sports, and even other events.Basically, anything that you can get an API connection to, you can feed that back into Google Ads to trigger into a strategy like this.

6. Effective Account Structure

Your account structure forms the foundation of your entire account and how well it will performs.A broad structure will lead to impression wastage.A granular account structure may take longer to set up in the short run but will benefit you with more accurate data and bid management capabilities moving forward.

Ensure Your Campaigns Are Split by Products or Categories

Don’t lump random keywords together. This will allow you to write more relevant ad copy based on the keywords in your ad groups and campaigns.Some people like to use their websites as a touchpoint on how to structure their account and that’s a good idea.However, if it’s a particularly large website, it can get quite difficult to use so just make sure that you are splitting your products and categories into the keywords that they should be by a group.

If You’re Covering Your Main Brand Term, They Should Have Its Own Campaign

This will allow you to manage the daily budget for this keyword much more accurately than if it’s fighting for budget with other keywords.The same here comes into effect for your highest performing terms as well, even if they’re generics.

Create Single Keyword Ad Groups (SKAGs), Where Possible

For your top-performing keywords, keep them in their own ad groups to:
  • Make the ad copy as accurate as possible for testing and learning.
  • Give you the ability to manage their daily budgets and bids separately so all your other keywords in your account.

Split Your Campaigns by Match Types

Using the following match types is recommended:
  • Exact match for traffic generation.
  • Broad match modifier to identify new keywords to add to your account.
Why avoid other match types?
  • Using broad match can cause impression wastage and your budget can get depleted quickly.
  • Broad match modified basically can cover all phrase match plus can harness a large net for harvesting new keywords.
This will allow you to manage your traffic drivers more effectively and allocate the correct budget levels to them and then use your remaining budget to invest in broad match modifier terms to harvest new keywordsBy following these tips to building a strong foundation in your account, you’ll be able to initially identify your optimal bidding levels and you can then allow the bidding algorithms within the engine or third-party tool you’re using to optimize activity for more secure base.Once you’re happy with your account structure, you can use numerous review tools to check how it’s performing and benchmark against that.Using Adzooma’s free Google Ads Health Check tool can help you quickly spot 47 automatic areas on your account to see if it is set up the correct way.

7. Attribution

When most people think about attribution, they think about a complex user journey and having to use a data science team to translate what the numbers mean into actionable marketing ideas.But attribution doesn’t have to be time-consuming or something only data scientists can do.Using Google Ads, you can use data-driven attribution to report on your performance and see which touchpoints along the user journey are leading to the conversions on your site.You can also use it to inform your bidding rules – which keywords to bid on – not based on the last-click model, but based on the effectiveness of each keyword in the journey.This means that rather than just pausing a keyword because it didn’t result in a conversion, you can now ensure that:
  • You’re visible on keywords that help in driving conversions throughout the user journey.
  • You’re optimized towards the ones which have the greatest impact at the beginning and in the middle of the journey
Data-driven attribution is different from the other attribution models in that it uses your conversion data to calculate the actual contribution of each keyword across the conversion path.Each data-driven model is specific to each advertiser.There’s a caveat, however.Data-driven attribution requires a certain amount of data to create a precise model of how your conversions should be attributed.Because of this, not all advertisers will see an option for data-driven attribution in Google Ads.As a general guideline, for this model to be available you must have at least 15,000 clicks on Google search and conversion action must have at least 600 conversions within 30 days.If you don’t have this volume of data, you can use attribution modeling in Google Analytics to identify your keyword values through the funnel, analyze that manually, and then attribute it back to your activity.

7 Key Takeaways

  • Push some simple change to your account that will make a big difference.
  • Automate the way you manage bids and improve performance.
  • Integrate data to enhance your bidding strategies.
  • Know why audience data is so important and how to use it.
  • Make generic keywords work harder for you.
  • Boost performance quickly with simple account structure changes.
  • Deploy data-driven attribution that drives performance.
Biggest Blogging Challenges

How to Overcome the 3 Biggest Blogging Challenges

By | Networking Bizz News
Content creation and blogging have become extremely saturated.But you knew that already.As a blogger, you’ve come face to face with countless challenges.Thankfully, you aren’t alone. And you don’t have to sit back and watch your content struggle.Here are the three biggest blogging challenges and how you can overcome them.

Challenge 1: Topic Ideation / Keyword Research

There are millions upon millions of bloggers, companies, and brands putting out content on a daily basis.That’s millions and millions of keywords being sought after.Topic ideation and finding worthwhile keywords that don’t take hundreds of DR70+ inbound links is a needle in a haystack.Take this keyword for example:How to Overcome the 3 Biggest Blogging ChallengesIt’s relatively long-tail, it’s top of the funnel, a great way to bring in some organic traffic and build brand awareness.But a 58 KD rating? Yikes. For 70 searches a month?That’s 118 inbound links just to crack the top 10 for this keyword.Worth it? Probably not.The moral of the story is: most keywords are dominated already, and it’s only getting worse.So, how do you bring in precious traffic and find topics that aren’t taken? Here is how.

Solution: Stop writing keyword content. Keyword content can be useful if you have the brand awareness already.

But are people really going to trust your brand over HubSpot when it comes to sales? Or Search Engine Journal (wink wink) when it comes to SEO?Doubtful.They’ll see Search Engine Journal or HubSpot and think: yeah, those folks know what they’re talking about.If you are struggling to generate ideas for topics that aren’t already beaten to a pulp, stop focusing so much on the keywords.Instead, focus on these elements:
  • Take a new angle on an existing topic.
  • Create your own keyword.
  • Develop a research study.
Taking a new angle on an existing topic can help you stand out in the SERPs that are way too crowded with “xx tips” post or “why XX is the best strategy.”For example, talking about how amazing PPC is and the benefits is old news.PPC is great for X and Y and Z reasons. Snooze.Instead, capture attention by flipping the script:How to Overcome the 3 Biggest Blogging ChallengesThis hits the proverbial curiosity nail right on the head.It’s something you don’t expect to see, driving you to click to learn more.Creating your own keyword is similar, and is a proven concept. Take Brian Dean of Backlinko for example. His Skyscraper technique wasn’t a keyword, and now it gets tons of searches every month years after it went viral:How to Overcome the 3 Biggest Blogging ChallengesDid you find a technique for increasing conversions? ROI? CTR? Anything?Name that specific, actionable, repeatable technique and blog about how you did it.Conduct outreach for links, share it and discuss on social and you can build your own keyword search volumes from the ground up.Lastly, this directly ties into the third point: creating your own research study.Original research is on fire right now, and for good reason: bloggers need data to back up their claims, and marketers need fresh ideas to test against their own audiences.Both create a winning formula for links, rankings, and traffic.

Challenge 2: Writing High-Quality 2,000+ Word Posts

While content length is generally arbitrary, it’s been proven that articles close to or above 2,000 words generate better rankings, more links, and more traffic.They solve multiple pain points and questions with a single post, leaving no need for a user to click back to Google.At least, they should.But writing content like this often leads to fluffy content with no real added value.Just because studies show that your content should be longer doesn’t mean filler is the answer.It means more of everything users are looking for: subtopics, tutorials, guides, exact steps, and images to showcase them.

Solution: Structure your content to match SERP flow and user intent.

There is no magic number for word count. Just having a page with 2,000 words doesn’t send signals to Google that say “gimme the rankings.”Each section of content in your piece should solve user queries, and most of all satisfy user intent completely.In a tool like Ahrefs or SEMrush, look up your target phrase and start compiling an outline based on related topics, searches, and intent:How to Overcome the 3 Biggest Blogging ChallengesNext, head to Google and inspect the SERP. Here is where you can start to do a deep dive on searcher intent to help refine your outline based on keywords and related searches.How to Overcome the 3 Biggest Blogging ChallengesFirst, start with the top-ranking post. This will help you align your content with the flow of the SERP.What’s the headline? What intent are they aiming at compared to the other content on the front page?Notice how the first ranking piece is tailored directly at beginners. And it makes sense. Someone searching for “outreach marketing” is more likely going to know nothing about it.Meaning tactics come secondary for this intent.Meaning your post should follow that same trend: explain it in grave detail before you even touch on a tactic.Now, look at the SERP features: what specific questions are listed? What other searches are commonly done after this generic search?These are all direct clues into what the majority of searchers are looking for when they click on something for outreach marketing.Using these factors will help you provide value to users and search engines alike.And with it, you’ll be cracking 3,000 words without breaking a sweat.

Challenge 3: Getting Traffic from Content

Creating content is the easy part. Getting real people to visit your content, enjoy it, and come back is brutal.With links being a critical SEO factor (and traffic factor), how do you get them?How do you build that authority to help your amazing content get seen?Here are some solutions.

Solution: Outreach & promotion, custom images, audio, and video.

First off, outreach and promotion need to be apart of your workflow, asap.If you think content can just pick up steam, you’re mostly wrong. The odds of that happening are slim to none.But, typical sharing of your content on social doesn’t work nearly as well as it did a few years ago.Instead, your promotion should be focused mainly on any email lists you’ve built or direct outreach for links.Direct outreach can be improved by creating custom images for your content and allowing other publications to cite them.Turn stats into a custom graph.Summarize the main points with a nice graphic.Lastly, start repurposing your blog content into other mediums that can drive traffic:Only 2 million podcasts are indexed by Google currently. Compare that to the millions of blog posts published DAILY.Don’t have time for a podcast? Utilize video tutorials in your content to showcase step-by-step sections and publish them on YouTube.Expand your written content beyond just your blog.

Conclusion

Blogging today isn’t as easy as write, publish, share.Everything from your topic and keyword research to the length and quality of content matter more than ever.Put these tips to use to conquer your biggest blogging challenges, improve traffic, and build your brand.
Tips to Make Your Brand More Memorable

4 Big Tips to Make Your Brand More Memorable & Appealing

By | Networking Bizz News
I’ve been in the midst of a property renovation for the last few months and this has involved a lot of buying items online.Hours of reading reviews looking for the best-recommended product and then, when I’m at the point of sale, searching for the best price so I can complete my purchase.For many items, I have found that my choice of a wide variety of retailers is not down to the cheapest price (however price-savvy I may be). Instead, I have actively tried to buy many of the bigger appliances from John Lewis (a department store in the U.K.).So, what is the pull of a brand at the “zero moment of truth” that has more power than making cost savings?John Lewis is an employee-owned business, which means that employees are involved in key decisions and they put their people first.For me, John Lewis represents a brand that has values and that I can rely on them. Even when I bought a mouse three years ago and no longer had the receipt, they replaced the item when it stopped working.John Lewis has built a reputation on their customer service. And, in an age when businesses are competing over price, they have gone the other way to ensure offering the best customer experience and satisfaction to overcome the brutal high street trading conditions we have in the U.K.So now, I want to buy as much from JL as possible as I know that I can rely on them when things go wrong. And when you buy big appliances, you really need to know that you have that support.As we are at peak saturation of consumerism, and everything is now available at astoundingly cheap prices at the mere click of a mouse, how does a brand stand out?Price alone is never a sustainable business model and to be memorable; you need to offer far more. The new businesses that are thriving against the constant collapse of behemoths is a brand that has values and purpose.It’s well known that Millennials are driven by beliefs and a 2017 Edelman study says that 65% of consumers buy based on beliefs while 57% boycott brands based on a social and political issue.Transparency, authenticity, and purpose are clichés for a reason.So, what makes a great brand?A brand is not a name, logo or a publicity stunt.A brand can be considered as a principle and a promise. Such as:
  • “I promise to deliver the best and most relevant search results.”
  • “I promise to make the fastest website with a user experience so intuitive that you don’t need to think.”
  • “I promise to help you run your personal best.”
The essence of a great brand is that it makes you feel something. And this is why a buyer chooses your site or product over the endless other similar products all competing on price.They will buy into how you make them feel.The following four brands know:
  • How to cultivate an audience and gain followers.
  • How to project a message.
  • What keeps their followers loyal.
And by example, they can show you how to be a more memorable and appealing brand.

1. Hiut Denim: Target a Niche & Engaged Audience

4 Ways You Can Create a More Memorable & Appealing Brand Hiut DenimDavid Hieatt knows how to build brands (multiple) with passionate followers. After creating and selling the niche sports brand Howies, he then founded the conference/festival The Do Lectures.Then, in a bid to save the jobs of 400 people in his home town of Cardigan, Wales, he went on to start the cult brand Hiut Denim.What Hieatt understands about brands is that you first find a niche and passionate audience who will care about the right brand (i.e., not price-driven) and then target the product and marketing to the audience.Hiut Denim and The Do Lectures are focused on an audience of creatives and people who have the motivation to do things.They produce outstanding content marketing, from the email newsletter to the limited-edition print books that are like crack to designers.Hieatt is taking the long approach. His strategy of using content marketing and newsletters to build his brand is not a stratospheric route.He believes in quality, craftsmanship, and purpose – much like his audience who all care about the details and are prepared to pay extra for a pair of jeans that is the embodiment of this ethos.Designers love niche, edgy brands that are out of the mainstream and Hiut fits into this perfectly. And one thing that designers are is loyal to a quality brand.If you want to build a lasting brand then first target a niche audience that you can own. As Kevin Kelly said, all you need is 1,000 true fans.

2. Poo-Pourii: Be Bold with Your Storytelling & Disrupt the Market

4 Ways You Can Create a More Memorable & Appealing Brand Poo PouriiOhhh, where do I start with Poo-Pourii?They created, quite possibly, my favorite viral ad of all time.How do you tackle the ultimate embarrassing subject of defecation?Full on, in the face, with a posh British accent and a touch of spoof comedy product video. Apparently.A natural human function that has historically been avoided for generations was in for a shock when Poo-Pourii arrived.By tackling such a squeamish subject so directly but smoothed at the edges in delivery with a frightfully posh British lady, Poo-Pourii created an advert that at first seemed like a spoof hoax.What Poo-Pourii did was to be bold and take risks with their storytelling.Instead of hiding behind the fact that they created a spray for people who made a smell when they go to the toilet (errm, all of us), they made this the highlight of their brand with no shying away.By using of every euphemism imaginable for pooping (“I’ve just dropped the motherload from my cavernous bowels.”), the brand swept away decades of advertising based on puppy dogs running around in toilet rolls or images of fresh Alpine mountains.By using carefully crafted humor that sits with your audience, you can shock and disrupt a stale market to get attention and to create a brand that no one will forget.But make sure you get your audience right.To be consistent, Poo-Pourii uses the same tone throughout all of their marketing and the sense of fun is infectious. Poo-Pourii is not a brand you can forget.The shock humor concept was so successful that subsequently, Squatty Potty quickly jumped on the bandwagon and created the rainbow ice cream pooping unicorn (that will stay with me forever).

3. Ronseal: Be Direct & Clear with Your Message

4 Ways You Can Create a More Memorable & Appealing Brand Ronseal

From one extreme to another – Ronseal is about as far away from rainbow farting unicorns as you can get.In 1994, TV advertising had become obsessed with cinematic shorts that were evocative and so surreal the message was completely lost in something equivalent of performance art.Then, along came Ronseal and in a radical move, they took an approach of stating the obvious and the classic “does what it says on the tin” phrase was born.What worked so well for Ronseal was that their audience were average people who wanted to varnish a front door so they played to that audience.Instead of trying to feed a David Lynchesque advert, they hit you straight between the eyes with a message of “use our product to get what you want.”The ripple effect of this no-frills approach can be seen today with anti-advertising, and brands like Innocent and its “Please buy smoothies” billboards.The Ronseal brand is one of no-nonsense and a reliable, trustworthy product – exactly what a DIYer or handyman needs.Can you imagine trying to sell Ronseal with unicorns and posh British accents?By focusing on one key message and really driving that message home consistently through repetition, then a brand is not going to be forgotten.It worked because Ronseal and “does what it says on the tin” are ingrained into the mind of anyone from that era.Even today, 25 years later, if I was to buy varnish, I would buy Ronseal.

4. Lego: Put Your Audience Front & Center

4 Ways You Can Create a More Memorable & Appealing Brand LegoIt’s not me, it’s you. It really is.Lego is a brand with a cult-like status and legions of devoted fans. At a value of $7.57 billion, it has become the world’s most valuable toy brand.And at over 60 years of age, how has the Danish family-owned company managed to overcome wilderness years to keep being celebrated as the world’s best brand?Simply, Lego is founded on core values of education, creativity, and problem-solving.This simplicity is its essence and that you can turn a simple little brick into just about anything – even a complex Millennium Falcon (5,195 pieces).Perhaps in part to being a private company, Lego has maintained control over their values and been able to keep simplicity and creativity at the heart of everything they do without being predominantly driven by profit (which can destroy many a great brand).One of the secrets to the success of Lego is that it appeals to not just children but has an obsessive following of adults known as AFOL (“adult fans of Lego”). And Lego has been smart to capitalize this by encouraging their older audience.The Lego ideas program enables people to submit designs and a successful design can be put into production and the original designer will get 1% of royalties.Nothing engages an audience more than getting them involved.When a person feels like they are participating, they have a sense of ownership and this is the secret that cultivates the loyal hardcore fans that brands such as Lego have.It’s why user-generated content works so well because you are opening an opportunity for someone to be involved.To create a brand that is woven into a person’s life, put them front and center of what you do.Get them involved and cultivate their ownership. This is the difference between Lego and Toys “R” Us – remember them?

To Sum Up

If you want to create a memorable brand:
  • Target a niche and engaged audience.
  • Be bold with your storytelling and disrupt the market.
  • Be direct and clear with your message.
  • Put your audience front and center.
Tips to Win at Local PPC

10 Tips to Win at Local PPC!!

By | Online Entrepreneur News
Local PPC is near and dear to my heart: helping members of the community profit by contributing to their communities is both satisfying and scalable.From SMBs driving leads to their owner-operated shop to a national brand channeling the trends of an individual location, and everything in between, there are decidedly right and wrong ways to leverage a PPC budget.Here are my top 10 ways to win at local PPC.

1. Claim Your Local Listings!

Google My Business (GMB) has evolved a lot over the years.Leaving your brand’s local listing open for a malcontent to wreak havoc on your brand is not only is bad branding, but it also deprives you of a powerful SEO/PPC marketing channel.GMB allows you to:
  • Monitor and respond to reviews about your business.
  • Share promotions.
  • Unlock placements on the search engine result page (SERP).
The data from GMB helps inform ad placements, as well as provide reviews.Google my business (GMB)Unfortunately, GMBs do require a physical address (no P.O. boxes) – some businesses opt to use their home address or main office, while others forgo GMB.Claiming your location requires requesting a post-card with a unique code (usually arrives in 10-15 days).It’s worth noting that Microsoft Advertising does not require a claimed listing to include location extensions.

2. Set Campaigns Up by Location vs. Service

There are pros and cons to each, but the structural choice ultimately boils down to the following:
  • Are all of your service areas the same?
  • Are there distinct market indicators that require more budget allocation control?
If different locations you serve represent drastically different market opportunity (due to affluence, demand, and other factors), you’ll want to make the campaigns oriented around your local market, and the ad groups as your services.location specific campaignsIf the services you offer represent drastically different margins, volume, and other factors that influence your ability to service your customers, you’ll want to make campaigns service focused.The ad groups will be the different ways those services can be sought after/allow you to layer on audiences for ad copy. In this scenario, all locations would be lumped into one campaign.service specific campaignsA major deciding factor is whether you have your GMB claimed for each location (and if it’s possible to have one per location).As mentioned earlier, GMB opens up additional ad placements, extensions, and ways to engage with your audience.You can’t tell Google which location to serve, so ideally you’ll only have one GMB listing per campaign.

3. Include Local Insider Knowledge in Creative

This one may seem obvious, but it’s painful how few businesses take advantage of their authentic local relationships and knowledge.Which of these two ads do you think performed better:ads with mild local copyWhile the second ad has “personality”, it doesn’t clearly own local intent. Additionally, the location extension creates discrepancies (Boston vs. Lynn).The first ad might be “boring” but it clearly spells out it’s a “Boston” business.By seeding true “local” knowledge into the ad, a business can disarm a weary browser and turn them into an excited prospect.Here are some examples we’ve used to great success:
  • Orient the user with local landmarks and highways.
  • Subtleties of local commutes (particularly important to layer device and schedule adjustments here).
  • Local lingo (great fodder for headlines and extensions).
  • Local seasonal activities (for example, if most apartment leases end around August 31, include references to that in creative).

4. Location Targeting by Profit Center

Not every location is worth the same. Conflating true value with perceived value is a dangerous path to waste.Every location has different auction prices. While it’s true not every location will have drastic differences, many will be as much as $2-$3 more/less per click based on WordStream’s latest Google Ads Benchmark report. (Disclosure: I work for WordStream.)Google BenchmarksWhile a few fluctuating prices won’t hurt the campaign, large differences in auction price at scale (think across hundreds/thousands of clicks) will begin to add up to both you and Google/Microsoft/Facebook.Budgets want a single job, which means combining one location representing high value (and higher average CPC) and another location representing volume but lower quality leads (and likely lower average CPC) will likely lead to impression share loss.Not every location deserves access to budget (either because it already has a steady flow of customers and can’t support anymore, or because the price for leads doesn’t work with conversion rates/profit centers).Sometimes it makes more sense to combine locations that are physically close and have a single strong campaign.There’s also value in consolidating locations into profit tiers (high, average, and low) so you can budget for each market’s value.Taking this path means you can’t guarantee budget makes its way to a given location, but it does mean you’ll have stronger campaign performance.

5. Localize Landing Pages

There’s a degree of implied trust prospects are willing to give to local SMBs that national brands have to work (and spend aggressively) to achieve.Don’t lose it on the landing page!At the end of the day, landing pages/websites are essentially virtual stores, and prospects want to feel just as at home in your virtual store as they do when they visit your business in person.Landing pages always need to have the following boxes checked:
  • Easy to convert. (A phone number is easy to see and clickable on mobile devices.)
  • If using a form-fill, it’s above the fold.
  • Honor that most people will read your site from top left to bottom right.
Local landing pages should factor in the following:
  • Local awards that highlight community love.
  • Local images that either show the business/team or real local customers.
  • Copy that shows local knowledge to back up the local creative in your ads.
  • One local number per page.
When structuring your site, you’ll have to decide if you’re going to have a single site with pages per location or a domain per location.single domain for all locationsIt can be tempting to go or the localized domain name, but be mindful of what you’re giving up:
  • Domain equity on the SEO side. (Many little URLs will have a tougher time ranking than one potent URL).
  • Simple conversion tracking.
  • Ease of landing page tests. (Only one domain allowed per ad group.)
local landing page with local urlThat said, here’s what you’d give up by going for a single domain:
  • Localized URL
  • Easy attribution of leads

6.  Include Search Partners

SERP with a Local Search Ad and four packWay back when there was a right-side of the SERP, exact meant exact, and ads were 70-character haikus, Search partners got purged from accounts.Who would want their ad serving on in-site search results?Today Search Partners are a little more interesting:
  • Sponsored placements on Google Maps.
  • YouTube spots.
  • Ecommerce sites that used Google’s in-site search tool.
It is doing your local business a disservice to exclude Search Partners. Yes, the aggregated metrics may look “ugly,” but your quality score isn’t negatively impacted by the CTR loss.You’ll unlock all these benefits by having your location extension turned on (which is pulled from your GMB listing).

7. Audit Capacity by Location for New Business

Google and Microsoft Ads need data to fuel their algorithms – which means campaigns need to be on most of the time (even if the budget is low/there’s a schedule in place).When deciding to leverage PPC for your local business, a big consideration needs to be “how many new customers are you currently getting and where can that number grow to?”Different locations are going to have different capacities for growth and it’s important to be honest with yourself on the true potential vs. the desired outcome.Assessing capacity starts with whether you’re a contractor business vs. a local shop with a fixed number of folks you can serve (due to physical space and staff).

8. Pick Your Competitors Carefully

Depending on your industry and location there may be more competitors than is worth actively focusing on.When you choose a competitor to include in a competitor campaign/keep track of in auction insights, it’s important to consider the following:
  • Are they priced at your level or they over/under?
  • Objectively, do they win on service, or are they lacking?
  • Are they going after the exact same people as you are, or is your audience tangential to them?
  • Are they a commonly searched business?
  • Is the competitor named something that could be considered a general keyword (Boston Locksmith, LA Fitness, etc.)
It can be tempting to exclude/go after all competitors, but that will cause budget problems.If you exclude all competitors, you’ll end up missing out on SERPs that could have held value.If you actively target all of them, only a few will get access to budget and the rest will drag down the quality of the campaign.Instead, pick 5-7 competitors that you know represent equal threat and opportunity for your business.Build an ad group for each competitor, and set those competitors as negatives everywhere else in the campaign.By taking this approach you ensure your campaign budget can support your chosen competitors, and that you can profit off of the strategy, as opposed to having your general service campaigns dragged down by lower CTRs and conversion rates.Each competitor gets an ad group because you want to be able to craft specific messaging about why you’re better. (Important: you aren’t putting your competitor down, just highlighting specific gains customers will get by going with you).These campaigns are great candidates for ad group level extensions, because you’ll want to highlight specific value by competitor.

9. Create Social Moments by Inviting Your Community to Share Your Space

This may seem like more of a “social” tip, but a big part of PPC success is bidding on transactional intent.While some businesses will have infinite money to throw at creating demand and brand affinity, there’s a lot of value in getting folks to talk about your brand organically.By being a community hub for more than just the services you offer (industry knowledge, hosting events, etc), you create:
  • Email lists (great for nurture campaigns).
  • Creative for your ads.
  • Clout with your prospects.
These events make amazing candidates for YouTube Live Streaming or Facebook Live. This content can then be turned into a YouTube placement to help educate your market on why you’re wonderful/they need you.You can also layer on a special audience onto your search campaigns based on users who have seen the video/ad/subscribed to your channel.

10. Budget for Your Bottom Line

The most catastrophic mistake most local businesses make is setting a budget that can’t support their campaigns.We chatted about prioritization earlier, and this is the most important application: only run campaigns for products/services that have a chance at positive ROI.Ideally, every campaign will be able to fit at least 10 clicks per day (10% conversion rate is really good for non-branded search).If the search budget/campaign structure you’ve set is operating at less than 30% impression share, odds are the entire endeavor is wasted spend because you can’t secure enough potential impressions, to get enough clicks, to get enough conversions.Whether you favor phone leads or form-fills will influence budget needs considerably. If all you value are phone calls, you may opt into call-only campaigns.call only vs call extensions Call-only campaigns are considerably more expensive than their traditional search counterparts because you’re opting exclusively into mobile SERPs (which require aggressive bidding).If you are budget constrained, I find including a call-extension and opting into search partners with your MB synced drives just as much value without the excessive price tag.In either case, you’ll want to use bid adjustments to direct budget towards or away from devices, locations, and times that make the most sense for your business.Automated bidding can do this work for you, but at the local level, there may not be enough volume for machine learning to outperform your business acumen.If you do opt for Smart Bidding, be sure you budget 15-20% more than you normally would to build the data-set and honor learning periods.
SEO Best Practice

Is SEO Best Practice the Enemy of Success?

By | seo advice for business
In an industry that abounds in folklore and celebrity influencers, is SEO “best practice” the key to mastering the SERPs or a shallow goal that leads to missed opportunities?What is “best practice,” who defines it, and why is it so widely adopted?

What Is ‘Best Practice’?

“Best practice” tends to refer to a method of working that has been generally accepted as better than others at achieving a result.When we speak about SEO “best practice” it conjures images of page title lengths, word-counts, and Domain Authority thresholds.It suggests that there is an accepted method of optimizing websites to make them more appealing to the search engines.

The Benefits of Best Practice

There are positives to be found from having a widely agreed set of practices. There is a reassurance that can be felt by both practitioners and their clients.

Security for Practitioners

SEO is an industry that still has so many unknowns.When you first start out in this industry ranking a webpage can feel like a mix of science and magic.Best practice gives us the security that we are working in a way that may generate results. It gives comfort and a clear path to follow to those who have no experience.

Security for Clients

Best practice also gives clients and stakeholders a feeling of security.If they are familiar with some aspects of SEO, knowing that their appointed experts appear to be following those guidelines assures them of their legitimacy and potential success.

The Issues with Best Practice

There are, however, downsides to accepting a set of practices that you have not tested yourself.

Deciding on ‘Best Practice’

“Best practice” is a noble goal, it suggests there is a right and wrong way of acting and that can clearly be defined.One problem with it within the SEO industry is that even the more common tenants are disputed amongst professionals.Without confirmation from the search engines, arguments abound.As seen in recent Twitter conversations following Moz’s Britney Muller’s discovery of a contentious statement in a Google document, we can’t even agree on whether click-through rate is a Google ranking factor.If seasoned professionals are unsure of what constitutes a ranking factor, the widely believed “best practice” for this industry could be leading us all astray.

Differences

“Best practice” also suggests there is only one route to success. In SEO however, there are many facets to growing traffic.Back in 2017 Google’s Gary Illyes stated in relation to a question about top ranking factors that “it very much depends on the query and the results which signals count more.”How then can we suggest that there is a “best” way to optimize a page if the signals that determine its ranking are weighted differently for each search query?

Ammunition for the Competition

The touting of best practice is often the opening gambit of SEO agencies trying to get a foot in the door with a new business.Often the lack of an H1 on a terms and conditions page, or a missing robots.txt is listed as a fundamental flaw in the optimization of a site bringing doubt over clients’ minds of the efficacy of their incumbent provider.In reality, however, such a small detail is unlikely to bring the website to its knees as the try-hard agency might allude.

Cost

The other concern with best practice is that ticking all of those boxes can be costly.If the only purpose of including a robots.txt file is to have one then this might not be a good use of an SEO or a developer’s time.The resource and financial implications of following best practice can result in more important tasks that have the propensity to move the needle being relegated due to time and resource restraints.

How Was SEO ‘Best Practice’ Formed?

Determining if SEO best practice is a help or a hindrance really hinges on how it has formed and is followed.It could be argued that best practice within the industry doesn’t really exist.With so many methods shared and taught, however, there is definitely a set of traditions that individuals either trust or have actively rejected.

Formulas

There are many detailed and valuable guides to SEO for beginners.They help to signpost the way forward for those who have never optimized for search engines before.They shine a light on the way search engines work, what they favor, and how websites can capitalize on that.The real issue with these mediums is not the resources themselves, but how SEO professionals approach them.They should be treated like a car manual, telling you all you need to know about how the vehicle works, what the warning lights look like, and how to fix the engine if it goes wrong.Armed with this knowledge we can feel confident to drive off into unchartered territory and explore.Instead, some have fallen into the trap of approaching these guides like a sat-nav, fully expecting them to guide us to our desired destination of Position 1.Many of us don’t take the time to wonder though, how is it that webpages with thin content, non-existent backlink profiles or poor meta-tag usage are ranking higher than our own, finely optimized sites?Unfortunately, the answer would appear to be that sometimes the search engines do not behave in the way we expect them to.When we try to follow best practice, we are in fact trying to abide by a set of rules that the likes of Google have not backed.It is like only ever filling your car up with a certain brand of fuel because your local car owners’ forum tells you it’s the best one.It might actually be the most expensive and unless you experiment with other types of fuel, or the manufacturer confirms the engine was built to perform best with it, why would you take that suggestion as gospel?Unless there is evidence to back up this claim it would be foolish to assume it is correct.Search engines are complicated, and the truth is, the algorithms are not known outside of the organization that developed them.Any attempt to categorically state that they work in a particular way, unless confirmed by the company themselves, is naïve.Instead, we should use the guides and checklists as our jumping-off point. They should form the start of our testing, holding our hands as we enter the murky world of SEO.

Influencers

The word “influencer” may conjure up images of make-up mavens, heavily filtered images and exotic backdrops, all hoping to persuade you to buy a product so they get a cut of the sale.Apart from the odd entrepreneur who is trying to flog their latest online course, the SEO community taking part in social media and forums is largely trying to disseminate information and help others in their quest to improve.These may be for purely altruistic reasons. It might be to increase their own profile. The result is the same; there are a lot of “experts” in this space touting their view on how SEO works.There is nothing wrong with professionals who have gained experience and wish to share it with others, it truly is a selfless act.The problem again is how we approach the insights given by these experts.The barrier to becoming an SEO influencer is low. How do you decide who is a credible person to pay attention to?There is the additional problem of differing opinions. There are many well-respected SEO professionals who take the time to really engage with their following.These people give advice based on their years of experience. There are others with as large a following and impressive a career history who totally disagree with the advice they give.So who is right?Whenever I hear SEO best practice discussed, a tweet is often used as the evidence to substantiate it; “I saw [SEO influencer] say on Twitter that click-through rates are a ranking factor”.Before we know it, this becomes lore.Agencies hold meetings to update their teams, blog posts are written and strategies are altered to accommodate this new insight.The issue with the blind following of others’ advice is that it might not be right.It could be correct for what that SEO has seen on their own site, or within that particular vertical, but how can it be guaranteed that it will be the case for our own?Best practice seems to pass down the lineage of SEOs through word of mouth. Juniors trust that what their seniors say is correct.If those seniors are trusting what they see on Twitter without testing and questioning then the industry becomes rife with information that is inaccurate.At best, the information being spread forms another checklist.

Examples of Damaging ‘Best Practice’ Myths

There are many best practice rules that can be questioned. Below are a few persistent ones that are often championed without question.

Meta Title Character Limits

Sixty characters maximum or your rankings will suffer. That’s a myth that seems to raise its head ever so often and particularly amongst newer SEO practitioners.Although truncation does occur on both mobile and desktop SERPs, this differs between devices and search engines.This image is an example of a page’s title truncated in the desktop search results.Example of a truncated page title on a desktop SERPThis image shows the same page’s title truncated in the mobile SERPsExample of a truncated page title on a mobile SERPGoogle’s own guidelines on writing page titles suggest we “avoid unnecessarily long or verbose titles, which are likely to get truncated when they show up in the search results.”There is no maximum character limit stated, however.In fact, as discussed by Moz, “there’s no exact character limit, because characters can vary in width and Google’s display titles max out (currently) at 600 pixels.”Imagine an “I” compared to a “W”, these take up a differing number of pixels. Sixty wide characters might take up more than 600 pixels, whereas 60 thinner characters may leave space for more letters.My agency, Avenue Digital, recently ran an experiment to see if Google reads and indexes keywords past the truncation point.We found that Google did pick up the keywords in the title, despite them being truncated.This suggests that the arbitrary character limit is unnecessary for ranking purposes and therefore only needs to be considered for click-through optimization.Example of a meta title truncated where missing words were counted for rankingThe issue with keeping your page titles to 60 characters or fewer means your goal of avoiding truncation in the SERPs might not be achieved and you could well be missing out on valuable keyword real-estate.As Google is picking up words after the point of truncation and ranking the page based on those keywords (although to what degree these keywords are factored into rankings remains undetermined), then it would be foolish to miss out on this opportunity to include keywords that could help your rankings.

Include a Robots.txt File

Often one on the checklist when auditing a website is the robots.txt. It doesn’t seem to go further than that.Now, what does the file contain?Is it necessary considering the set-up of the site?More often, simply, is there one present?The presence of a robots.txt is not going to impact the crawling, indexation, or ranking of your website.Therefore, when this point is raised in audits or adding a robots.txt is escalated as an urgent task, it is another example of best practice being followed blindly without consideration for the benefits.When a task is executed without any clear understanding of what it is hoped to achieve then the cost of implementation should be ruled prohibitive.

Disavow All Bad Backlinks

The Google Search Console disavow tool is dangerous. It allows people with little knowledge of what they are doing to easily decimate years of constructive outreach efforts.One common assertion in the SEO industry is that “bad” backlinks should be disavowed.However, with recent iterations of the Google algorithm, even Google spokespeople have stated that for the majority of sites the disavow tool is not needed.Google’s own John Mueller has declared that we shouldn’t “fret the cruft” when using the disavow tool.That it is really designed for use with links that you intentionally built that go against Google’s guidelines, not the ones that have organically grown in your backlink profile over the years.John Muellers Tweet about disavowingFollowing the “best practice” advice of disavowing any “spammy” link can damage your success. It takes time and resources away from work that could actually benefit your SEO rankings and traffic.It can also lead to genuinely helpful backlinks being disavowed because their origin is unknown or they are misunderstood to be harmful links.

Copy Length

Another myth of the best practice lore is that copy needs to be long in order to rank.When asked by copywriters or clients how long a piece of copy should be “for SEO” we’ll often reply “the longer the better.”Some may even give a word count minimum, such as 800 words or even longer.However, this is not necessarily accurate. It is more correct to say that copy should be as long as is needed to convey an adequate answer to a searcher’s query.For example, when searching “what is the weather like in Portugal”, the first organic listing in my SERPs is https://www.theweathernetwork.com/pt/14-day-weather-trend/faro/albufeira.The total word count for copy on this page, discounting anchor text for other pages on the site, is less than 20.Second place is https://www.accuweather.com/en/pt/albufeira/273200/weather-forecast/273200, which has even fewer non-anchor text words.These two pages are ranking with barely any copy on them at all because the answer to the searcher’s query can be summarized in a simple graphic showing the temperature over the upcoming week.Writing copy is a laborious task.Writing high-quality, well-converting copy is even harder.Giving copywriters a minimum number of words they have to write for acceptable content is a distracting and unnecessary stipulation that can lead to poor copy being churned out.For pages where conversion is key having reams of text that does not add value to the reader can be detrimental in achieving a sale or contact.

Conclusion

Best practice should be treated like training wheels.It:
  • Helps us to feel safe when we’re new to the road.
  • Gives us the confidence to speak to outsiders and appear knowledgeable.
  • Gives routine and ideas when we’re lacking.
But like any training wheels, at some point, they need to be removed so you can ride over more rocky terrain and accelerate.Following “best practice” can distract from activities that will actually benefit your SEO efforts and in some cases can be harmful.Use it as a guide in your early days but if you have called yourself an SEO for more than a year it would be worth re-evaluating what you “know” about SEO and seek to prove your knowledge with results.
Keyword Research for Ecommerce

How to Effectively Perform Keyword Research for Ecommerce

By | seo advice for business
Keyword research is the foundation of every SEO strategy, especially when it comes to onsite SEO. Done well, it provides direction for what type of content you should be optimizing for.On the other hand, a good keyword with a badly executed strategy won’t help you make sales in your ecommerce store.

Keyword Research for SEO

When doing keyword research for ecommerce (or otherwise), there are two major ways to go about it:
  • Starting from nothing with your own research.
  • Spying on the competition.
Before getting started, it’s important to understand the various factors that go into choosing good keywords.Here are a few important considerations:

Search Volume

There are several free keyword research tools, though this author swears by the paid tool, Ahrefs. Use your tool of choice to determine search volume.A high exact match search volume means there are a lot of users searching for a given term. That said, high search volume might also indicate high competition for ranking. You have to be realistic when comparing search volume to ranking difficulty in terms of your website’s domain authority.A basic rule of thumb for choosing keywords is that anything over 20 monthly searches is worth at least considering.

Ranking Difficulty

A high ranking difficulty score means that it will be hard to compete with existing search results. Ultimately, it comes down to your website’s domain authority in your specific niche.Ahrefs provides a useful tool for determining where you stand when it comes to domain authority (they refer to it as “domain rating”), based on your existing backlinks.Ahrefs Site Explorer - The BlogsmithIn general, for a new website, you’ll want to stay on the lower end of keyword difficulty. Like the now-defunct Klout score, it becomes exponentially harder to come up in relevant search for terms as their difficulty approaches 100. The same can be said for growing domain authority, which is also measured on a logarithmic scale.

Search Relevance

Even if you find a keyword with high search volume that you’re confident you’ll be able to rank for, you must consider its relevance to your website and what you’re selling.To put this into context, consider the value of 10 qualified prospects driven by search over 1,000 unqualified visitors who will never actually buy anything and who bounce immediately when your website fails to deliver on what they were hoping to find due to a relevance mismatch.

Which Ecommerce Pages to Optimize

For an ecommerce store, your home page and product pages are the highest priority for keyword optimization but certainly not the only pages worth these efforts. Don’t miss the opportunity to optimize category pages, blog posts, and even image files/ALT tags for your target keywords.

Determining Where You Rank in Relevant Search

Before you can make informed decisions with regards to your keyword strategy, you must first establish benchmarks. Doing this can be useful for guiding your efforts around creating new content versus updating old content.

Using Keyword Rank Tracking Tools to Benchmark Success

Already started to build your ecommerce website and have made attempts to incorporate keywords? Then make sure that you’re incorporating some type of keyword ranking tracker to determine where you stand in relevant search.Again, Ahrefs can accomplish this task for you alongside other already-mentioned functions with their Rank Tracker feature.But you can also rely on free data readily available by connecting your website to Google Search Console.The Performance report is where you’ll want to look to determine which keywords you’re ranking for and their average position in search. Make sure to manually add your keywords in addition to those suggested within the report.GSC - Performance ReportRegularly checking on your rankings can provide a trigger for improving content that starts dropping in terms of average ranking positions. Dropping rankings act as an early warning that updates are needed to preserve your spot on search engine results pages (SERPs).

Spy on the Competition

After determining where your website is ranking, check to see how your competition is ranking. This will help you to determine how much work you’ll have to do to come out on top and to get ideas to focus your own keyword research efforts.This is especially important for ecommerce because not ranking first directly translates to losing out on conversions. If you’re in second place on the SERPs and your competitor is first, you could stand to lose about half the potential traffic for that query.A few things to look out for during your competitor research process:
  • The specific keywords they’re going after.
  • The page authority required to rank where they’re ranking.
  • Their domain authority, a measure of the power of a domain (based heavily on high-authority/niche-related backlinks).
  • Where their backlinks are coming from, which can give you ideas for guest posting and other collaboration opportunities.
The SEMRush keyword tool is one of the best out there for doing competitor research in terms of both SEO and PPC efforts. It can help you to determine all of the aforementioned pieces of the puzzle.

SEMRush Keyword Tool

The SEMRush keyword tool is useful for monitoring and research for your own ecommerce website, but SEOs also love it for its usefulness in spying on the competition.All you have to do is input a URL and it will display metrics like organic search volume, organic traffic over time, paid search volume, number of backlinks, referring domains and IP addresses, and traffic by geographic channels.You can see these stats in terms of both desktop and mobile search, as well as Google indexes in different countries. You can also perform regional searches for the specific areas you sell to.SEMRush also gives you a list of related keywords and phrase match keywords – variations of the keywords that users input into the search bar, identifying websites that are most similar to yours based on seed organic keywords. This feature is especially useful if you’re not exactly sure who your closest competition is.What’s more, SEMrush offers a tool that allows you to see common and unique keywords for up to five domains, as well as another tool that shows how difficult it is to rank against keywords your competitor is using.As if giving you the ability to spy on the competition wasn’t enough, SEMRush also has a Keyword Magic Tool, which gives you access to over 2 million keyword ideas.It really is an all-in-one solution for competitor analysis, though it’s worth noting that Ahrefs also offers many similar features if you want to stick with just one monthly SEO tool subscription.Ideally, you’ll experiment with both before deciding on the best one for your needs.

Use Long-Tail Keywords

In a nutshell, using broad keywords isn’t a good SEO strategy in modern times both because of too much competition and because of relevance issues.So make sure to optimize primarily for long-tail keywords, especially when it comes to creating product pages and blog post content for your ecommerce website. It’s true that fewer people will search for these queries, but they’re also the ones who are surer of what they want and as a result, have higher purchasing intent.High intent keywords are those that have high commercial intent, which signifies a strong likelihood for the searcher to take an action, whether to inquire, purchase, or simply gather information, which may later lead to a sale.One way to identify keyword intent in terms of ecommerce is by looking at the cost per click (CPC) on your favorite keyword research tool (a metric that references paid search ads). More specific keywords tend to cost more but are an indicator of high search intent.Many SEOs identify three kinds of search intent (navigational, informational, and transactional) but based on findings shared on Think with Google, there are really four:Google search intentFor this ebook, we’ll focus on the main three that most SEOs identify.Since navigational intent is more or less about users typing in branded queries to find a specific page on a company website, we’ll talk about the other two types of intent (and one that bridges the gap between these two):

Informational Intent

Keywords with informational intent signal that a user is looking for information and has questions that need answering.According to Google’s Search Quality Rater guidelines, these keywords would fall under the “I want to know” searches, and in the sales funnel, they would place searchers at the top of the funnel.According to Practical Ecommerce, optimizing for these types of keywords probably won’t lead to a sale right away, but they still represent ways to engage with potential clients early in their buying process.Informational intent keywords usually answer questions (how, how to, what to, where to, etc.), and are most ideal for creating content that provides tips and answers questions.Optimizing for informational intent has the added benefit of giving your content a shot at the featured snippet (position zero) for your target keywords, giving you the opportunity to jump ahead of other content currently ranking in the top ten, even if you’re not otherwise competitive with currently ranking domains sharing this type of content.Choosing keywords that optimize for informational intent is best for positioning yourself as an authority, which is especially important when you’re selling informational products like online courses and ebooks.

Investigational Intent

An investigational search can be described as something between an informational and transactional search.It’s not directly transactional (there’s a chance that users searching for these queries may not be ready to make a purchase) but they represent users further along in the sales funnel compared to informational searches.When people engage in an investigational search, they may be trying to compare prices and various product features, or furthering their understanding of something (by doing research).Investigational intent isn’t normally included with the top three types of search intent, but it makes sense to expand on this hybrid type of intent when considering ecommerce purposes.Some keyword signals for this type of intent include: compare, for men, for women, alternative, review, and best.In general, optimize for these keywords to make content convincing your potential customers that you are better than the competition.

Transactional Intent

Transactional searches are those performed when the customer is ready to buy something. These are usually referred to as high commercial intent keywords.Some keywords that indicate transactional intent include: sale, coupon, price, buy, for sale, free shipping, where to buy, discount, and review.Product keywords (“winter clothing”, “coffee maker”), specific products (iPhone XS, Samsung S9), and branded searches can also be keyword signals for transactional searches.Use these keywords to create optimized product pages and local SEO content.Besides looking for long-tail keywords, also aim to target opportunity keywords, which are keywords that rank in the 11-20 spots, and have a good search volume/low difficulty score.Bring it all together by creating an editorial calendar that reflects a strategy optimizing for each type of intent. Don’t just focus on optimizing for transactional intent – you’ll build up a more complete sales funnel that reaches people at various stages of the buyer’s journey by creating content to appeal to each type of intent.

Wrapping Up: How to Effectively Perform Keyword Research for Ecommerce

Keyword research is an important foundational step for developing an ecommerce SEO strategy. Done well, it provides useful direction regarding what tactics and strategies to employ.Try approaching keyword research from two different vantage points: starting from nothing with your own research, then spying on competitors.Just make sure that you’re focusing on the right metrics – search volume alone is not enough to determine the keywords that will eventually lead to ecommerce conversions.
paid search

Paid Search is Still the Dominant Digital Ad Channel in 2019

By | Networking Bizz News
A new study shows paid search is still the top digital ad channel as far as advertisers’ budgets are concerned.Paid search accounted for 39% of advertisers’ total budgets, according to Marin Software’s State of Digital Advertising 2019 report,Data in the report was collected from over 450 B2B and B2C digital marketing professionals in the US and the UK.While paid search is by far the dominant ad channel, advertisers are spending more on other channels than they were last year.

Ad Spend on Paid Social is Up

Paid social accounted for the second-highest share of advertisers’ budgets (18%), followed by display advertising (16%).Ad spend on Instagram, in particular, is going up. But the study finds the increase in spending on Instagram ads is not a result of advertisers spending less on other social media ads.Rather, the greater spending on Instagram ads will come from an incremental budget increase instead of transferring ad dollars from elsewhere.

Advertisers Plan to Spend More on Amazon

According to the study, 60% of respondents plan to increase spending on Amazon ads over the next year.In addition, 55% of respondents say they started using Amazon ads because they see it as a significant growth opportunity.When asked what their goals are with Amazon ads, one in four respondents said they are looking to increase purchases at the lower end of the funnel.

Other Insights

Here are some additional highlights from the report:
  • Google is the most trusted publisher among advertisers – 98% rated Google a 4 or 5 (out of 5) on the trust index.
  • 84% of respondents who use paid search are currently using or planning to use Google’s new responsive search ads.
  • 65% say their company’s use of shoppable images within search will increase in 2019.
  • 32% say video is the most effective social ad format, followed by image ads (26%), Instagram Stories (23%), and carousel ads (19%).
Hidden PPC Features

7 Hidden PPC Features You Probably Don’t Know About

By | Networking Bizz News
I like to find tidbits that fly under the radar or are generally hidden in a PPC ad campaign.Even if you implement one or two of these hidden gems, you are sure to be the superstar of the office this week.To give you a hand, here are seven hidden PPC features you need to know about in Google Ads, Microsoft Ads, and complementary products.

1. Product Audiences for Search

In Microsoft Ads, advertisers can get remarketing lists for products that allow you to target searchers based on the exact product IDs they interacted with and promote those same product IDs to them in an ad.This is a new feature and ads will be served in search and the Microsoft Audience network. This is similar to Google’s dynamic remarketing feature.This feature requires a Microsoft Merchant Center catalog feed and implementation of their Microsoft Advertising UET tag on every page of your website.

2. Account Notes Panel

In Google Ads, the account notes panel allows you to simply add notes for the account. This is useful for documenting changes, performance observations, budget changes, etc.While any changes will be in the change history, the change history is more technical while the notes is a free form writing area.The notes panel can also be opened then minimized for easy access as one works in the platform. Notes can be made at the account or campaign level.From the All campaigns view, a note is entered refers to the entire account.From an individual campaign view, the note will be applied to that specific campaign only.Where do you find that elusive notes panel? It is under the “More” icon.7 Hidden PPC Features You Probably Don’t Know About

3. Search Partners

A feature that is easy to forget about is the serving of ads on Google’s and Microsoft search partners. These include other search sites that serve ads powered by Google or Microsoft.For example, Microsoft now exclusively serves ads to Yahoo search traffic. However, that data is currently combined in the reports, so I would like to see that data separated at some point in the future.There are two key areas you need to explore for digging into the search partners:
  • Reporting: In both Microsoft Ads and Google Ads, you can see the performance from the campaign view, ad group view, or keyword by using the “segment” button to break out the performance. In both platforms, the network data is also available in the report tabs.
  • Settings: In each platform, in the campaign settings, you have the option to opt-out of the search partners if you see the performance is poor.
7 Hidden PPC Features You Probably Don’t Know About

4. LinkedIn Profile Targeting

This is one of the best new features released by Microsoft Ads, yet the most difficult to find.Target audiences in LinkedIn by industry, company and job function. Boost bids for the selected values within those three dimensions. These audiences are “bid only” so they won’t reduce the available traffic.
This is the set-up from the campaign level:
  • In the campaign, select “Settings”.
  • Scroll down to the “Campaign targets”.
  • Select “Edit target categories”.
  • Select the criteria you want to target.
  • Scroll down again – you will see the targeting criteria appear and a link to edit it.
7 Hidden PPC Features You Probably Don’t Know About

5. Multi-Image Extensions

Make your text ad visually stand out in Bing by enhancing it with multiple images.This new ad extension can display five images, on the first ad on the mainline only.As a newly released feature, it may not be on your radar yet.7 Hidden PPC Features You Probably Don’t Know About

6. Data Studio

Data Studio is a free Google reporting tool that helps users visualize data in a form that is interactive and always “live” online.Several data sources can be linked to the Data Studio account including:
  • Google properties, such as:
    • Google Ads.
    • Google Analytics.
  • 141 partner connectors, such as
    • Adroll
    • Microsoft Ads
    • CallRail
    • Facebook
    • And many more.
Some of these partner connectors charge a fee.To get started, Google offers a Data Studio Report Gallery to geek out on.

7. Game Placements

Your Google display campaigns have a sudden surge in traffic or the results are tanking fast. This can be the result of the ads appearing in game placements.Turning off game placements in the account settings can help to direct ad serving to more relevant placements.If you are selling an app or game, this would be an ideal fit for an advertiser, but for practically everyone else it is a budget suck, for two reasons:
  • People playing games are involved in a high engagement activity and turning one’s attention from a game to an ad click is challenging.
  • Second, game developers tend to put the ads in easy to click places where they will get accidentally clicked, especially by children.
7 Hidden PPC Features You Probably Don’t Know About
Increased Visibility in the SERPs

Structured Data: Your Path to Increased Visibility in the SERPs

By | seo advice for business
Whether you participate in paid search advertising or are attempting to climb the rankings within organic search, the landscape is competitive.In paid search, the uphill fight is a little easier as additional budget helps ease the effort.Within organic search, you often are at the helm of massive amounts of content creation, expert strategy and the assistance of technical teams. Additionally, results take time.With this in mind, I have always been a proponent of conversion rate optimization because this can lead to a faster and fatter return.When it comes to quick wins in added real estate in search results, structured data is the way.Let’s take a look.

What Is Structured Data?

Think of structured data as a way of combining your content with a predefined, standardized set of values which help search engines better understand your content.Picture it as handing your website to a crawling search engine to review vs. sitting down with Google or Bing and thoroughly walking them through your site so that they truly understand every facet of your content.In 2011, Schema.org was founded in collaboration with individuals from Google, Bing, Yahoo, and later Yandex. They formed the predefined, standard values I mentioned earlier and this was the birth of “schema”.Schema involved a hierarchy of values including:
  • Item Scope: Essentially, this acts like a container. The announcement of a new item, a group of name-value pairs.
  • Item Type: This acts as the sub-container. All properties are associated with a specified type and will be noted with the URL of the type as found on schema.org.
  • Item Property: This is the breakout of specific sub-values associated with the item type.
There are hundreds of item properties to choose from at schema.org.You have to make sure that you are choosing the most specific and relevant properties to markup your content.This is one of the many rules that Google has announced in offering the use of schema and structured data markup.They also note understanding the location of your markup and when to and not to provide values for content.With the implementation of structured data sets, you will see the availability of multiple formats of implementation including:
  • Microdata.
  • RDFa.
  • JSON-LD.
In 2017, Google announced that JSON-LD is the preferred format.Here is a sample of JSON-LD format.Structured Data: Your Path to Increased Visibility

How Did We Get Here?

Why did structured data became a preferred use for webmasters by search engines? It is not hard to see when forming a historical timeline.Looking back, shortly after the creation of schema.org, in 2012, the knowledge graph came to Google search results.Structured Data: Your Path to Increased VisibilityHere, we see Google moving from simply providing indexed organic content and paid ads to showing knowledge panels and cards with information pulled from website content combined from multiple sources in many informational formats.Structured data from the website allows specific values of the card to be understood by Google and displayed on the page including contact numbers, logo, social profiles, etc.Structured Data: Your Path to Increased VisibilityIn 2013, Google announced “Hummingbird”. This was a major revamp of Google’s algorithm. The major change involved was moving away from results based on queries in favor of results that began to cater to the intent of the searcher.In the example below, searching for “Italian” from a downtown location years ago would likely result in information about the country or the language.Now, we can see that Google is pairing results that are likely for someone interested in eating at a local Italian restaurant.In 2015, RankBrain became responsible for understanding all the search queries Google had never seen before.RankBrain is the artificial intelligence component to Google’s algorithm that continually learns search behavior in order to perfect the ability to provide searchers with results truly suited to their behavioral intent.Considering the events of the last decade, your part in this timeline is to markup your content to help search engines provide the most relevant results.Guess what? They are willing to reward you for it, too!

Why Use Structured Data?

So, this sounds like a lot of work, why are we doing this?By helping Google and Bing better understand our website content we are rewarded with richer web results.Once called “rich snippets”, these are now referred to as “rich results”. These can come in the form of cards, carousels, additional data in organic results boxes, etc.Below are examples of common rich results and the schema types that can help you attain these display formats.

Product Offer

The ability to feature information about products before the user clicks into the website. This may entice more qualified traffic that knows the price, availability and rating preference of your products.Structured Data: Your Path to Increased Visibility

Events

With events specifically, there is a saturated area of organic results.Considering this, if your site can feature specific events or details about events you are able to stand out from the pack.Structured Data: Your Path to Increased Visibility

Location

What, we have to do more than having verified Google and Bing business listings?Yes, featuring location schema is what can help to deliver this type of information into your company knowledge panel sections.
Structured Data: Your Path to Increased Visibility

WebPage (Search Box)

If you use an internal search feature on your site, then this schema markup has a great benefit.You can service someone in search results that has likely found you via a branded search and knows the specific area of your site they are interested in visiting.This allows for a shorter click path and ultimately helps lead a user to desired content faster.Structured Data: Your Path to Increased Visibility

Breadcrumb

I call this the second, third, and fourth chance to drive a visitor into your site.The use of this markup allows for similar site pages to be featured with your organic listing. This is often a child page of the ranking page.Nonetheless, a great way to snag a visitor if the ranking page is not enticing them.Structured Data: Your Path to Increased Visibility

Job Posting

While websites with job posting sections such as Indeed, LinkedIn, and Glassdoor will populate results into Google Jobs, Job Posting schema placed on your individual job pages will provide the clarification of data to likely feature Google listing your webpage vs. job sites.This is great because now a candidate is only a click away from your About Us, Our People, Mission, etc. pages to truly understand the culture of your company.Structured Data: Your Path to Increased Visibility

Where Structured Data Is Headed

Alright, get excited! Schema opportunities continue to grow and will continue to do so thanks to voice search.Over the past few years, we have seen the advent of How-to, FAQ and now Q&A schema types. These are great for finding your way into “position zero” placement ahead of first place organic searches results.Their importance will only grow as voice search usage continues to grow as searchers often perform these types of queries.Structured Data: Your Path to Increased VisibilityWhat’s next in structured data?Currently in beta, speakable is a new schema type which allows you to markup content on your webpage that is preferred for audible playback via Text-To-Speech.Don’t get too excited yet as this feature is only available for qualifying news sites. It goes to show though that this is the direction that search is heading and the search engines are preparing for it.

How to Use Structured Data

If you have had a chance to check out schema.org and the markup seems confusing, you need not worry, tools can help.Google’s Structured Data Helper is a great tool for helping you to create structured data from your website’s content.Beginning with choosing your preferred schema types and providing a URL, you are then on to highlighting page content.Structured Data: Your Path to Increased VisibilityOnce this is complete you can choose to download the JSON-LD formatted markup.A benefit to doing this is that you can get a feel for all of the item properties available for a specific item type. This can quickly identify content which you are missing from a page that would help inform a search engine or even a user.As a downside, if you only have few pages needing a specific schema type then this tool is perfect for you. If you have many pages to markup then further coding development or a plugin will be a need.You’ve created your markup, but did you do it right?Google can help here, too. Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool is an effective way for you to validate your markup on a per-page-basis.The beauty of this tool is that it first will show structured data by item type. Drilling down into the tool you will be able to then review by property the error or warning issues that exist.Structured Data: Your Path to Increased Visibility

I’m Structured, Now What?

Now it’s time for the fun part, analyzing the progress of your rich results. Google Search Console provides in-depth review capabilities of your structured data by item type.While you can see the overall impression and click behavior over time, the ability to move into the query, and more importantly, the page level will be of benefit to you.Structured Data: Your Path to Increased VisibilityIn this, reviewing at a page level will allow you to review if impression levels are on the rise or in a decline.For those in decline, these are perfect candidates to run through the Google Structured Data Testing Tool. Here you may likely see errors or warnings in need of correction.
SEO trends

5 SEO trends that will matter most

By | seo advice for business

Google’s heavily investing to be the best. SEOs are trying to adapt to changes that follow. That’s how SEO trends are born. Let’s view what trends will make a difference in 2019.

To be atop the waves, think about your SEO strategy in advance. A shortcut to success: get to know the upcoming trends and work out an action plan for each.This year, Google’s shaken the world with its mobile- and speed-related efforts. As a result, most of next year’s SEO efforts are expected in this direction. However, some “non-Google” game-changers will also influence how we build our SEO campaigns. Let’s explore these trends and ways to embrace them.

1. Mobile-first indexing

In a nutshell, mobile-first indexing means that Google uses the mobile version of your page for indexing and ranking. Since March 2018, Google’s started the process of migrating sites to mobile-first index. It might happen that Search Console has already notified you about it.Bear in mind, a mobile-first index does not mean “mobile-only.” There’s still a single index with both mobile and desktop versions. However, the whole “mobile-first” buzz means that Google will be using the mobile versions for ranking once the site’s migrated.You get it, right? With your mobile version being the primary one for ranking, there’s no excuse to procrastinate with mobile-friendliness.Action plan:
  • Any mobile version type is fine. Just take into account a few moments. Google’s Trends Analyst John Mueller mentioned: “If you want to go responsive, better do it before the mobile-first launch”. So, if your site hasn’t migrated yet, and you’ve been thinking about switching, do it now. Plus, Google strongly recommends against m-dot and responsive for the same page, as it confuses crawlers.
  • To understand how search engine spiders see your mobile pages, crawl them with a mobile bot. For example, WebSite Auditor can do it for you:
  • Track your mobile pages’ loading speed. It’s easy with PageSpeed Insights.
  • Regularly check whether your pages deliver impeccable user experience. You can use WebSite Auditor and its mobile performance section for this task.

2. Page speed

Google’s nuts about delivering the best UX and delivering it fast. Desktop page loading time has been a ranking factor for a while. In July, it got a twin sibling – mobile page speed’s become a ranking factor for mobile.This crucial change calls for understanding which metrics matter for Google in terms of page speed evaluation.Historically, when analyzed in PageSpeed Insights, a site was evaluated just on the basis of technical parameters. Now, both for desktop and mobile, it’s graded according to two different metrics: Optimization and, a new one, Speed.The game-changing part here is how Speed score is generated. The data for the metric’s taken from Chrome User Experience report, the real users’ performance database. It reflects how your site loads for each visitor. It’s obviously hard to measure how fast each visitor’s device loads your site. As a result, the metric’s impossible to get through local tests.As for Optimization score, you can totally control it by fixing all the issues preventing your site from loading fast.So, which metric has the strongest influence on rankings? According to the mobile page speed experiment by SEO PowerSuite, the correlation between the page’s Optimization score and its position in SERPs is strong (0.97). And there is no correlation between the page’s position and its Speed score. In other words, now Google can rate your site as slow, but your rankings stay the same.However, Speed metric is something new, so it’s clear Google’s testing it. With time, those correlations may change.Action plan:Optimization score is what matters now for rankings. Luckily, site optimization and result tracking are totally in your hands. Google’s nicely provided a handy list of recommendations. You may also refer to the even more detailed guide on improving the Optimization score.

3. Brand as a ranking signal

Gary Illyes, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst, has stated at Pubcon that Google uses online brand mentions in its search algo. There’re two ways it can use a brand as a ranking signal.First of all, through unlinked brand mentions, the search engine learns that your brand’s an entity. By further analyzing all the properties mentioning it, Google gets a better picture of your authority in a particular field.Second, each component’s sentiment and context matters: reputation, trust, advertising, complaint-solving, etc. Through context, Google learns to tell the good from the bad. For example, its Search Quality Guidelines state that reputation matters for rankings. Consequently, the sentiment around brand mentions can affect the site’s rankings.Action plan:
  • Backlinks are still a strong ranking signal. However, building links fast is rarely a white-hat business. Use the power of linkless backlinks then. Mention your brand name online whenever you have a natural opportunity.
  • Cater to your reputation. Try to address the customers’ pains with your brand. Engage with happy clients as well. For that, track mentions of your brand online. Try the monitoring tool Awario for finding such linkless mentions all across the Web.
  • Find influencers ready to talk about you (but who haven’t realized it yet) or who are already talking about your brand. Awario tool has everything to help you here as well.
  • Look at your competitors. By reverse-engineering their strategies, you will look at your own SEO efforts holistically, not single-pointedly. For that, look at the competitors’ brand mentions to see how they grow awareness. Or go for a deep analysis of your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses.

4. GDPR

Let’s bet you got annoyed this spring when your inbox got filled with GDPR and Privacy Policy mails. What’s this thing?GDPR is the General Data Protection Regulation passed in the European Union. It regulates a very nagging issue – who owns the data created by users’ interactions online. From now on, it’s users who do, not corporations which collect it. Consequently, users can now request to see what personal data the company has about them and ask for its correction or export. If a company doesn’t comply with the regulations, it can be hit with severe fines (€20 mln or 4% of the company’s annual profit).This regulation affects the EU companies and customers. However, international companies should also comply with GDPR. As a result, Google’s decided to introduce changes into its Analytics. Now all personal user data expires after 26 months since it was collected. Such data includes demographic and affinity data (earlier kept perpetually) and doesn’t include sessions and goal completions. However, each site owner can change this data collection default period. Plus, it’s now possible to delete the data of individual users upon their request.Action plan:If you have no European customers:
  • You can switch to the “do not automatically expire” option in Google Analytics. Beware that this way Google shakes off the user data protection responsibility on you. Plus, these user data control efforts can extend well outside the EU. Just wait for it.
If you have European customers or plan to:
  • Review all the sources collecting user data on your site. Make sure you don’t accidentally send some private data to Google Analytics;
  • Update your Privacy policy file by GDPR requirements;
  • Revise your cookie consent form. It should have the following content: what information you collect, why you do it, where you store it, affirm the info’s protected;
  • If you use Google Tag Manager, activate IP anonymization. Don’t worry, you will still have a general idea where your traffic comes from. It just will be a bit less precise.

5. Amazon search

First things first, Amazon’s not a universal search engine. It’s an algo similar to Google’s, but used for internal search within Amazon pages. What’s the fuss about then? Well, more and more people go straight to Amazon to do shopping. According to a study, 56% of consumers visit Amazon first if they have shopping in mind. 51% check with Amazon after finding something elsewhere.These figures tell us that Amazon’s becoming Google of e-commerce. It means that if you sell something and you’re not on Amazon, you are missing out on all those 56% of potential customers.Thus, if you’re a seller of books, music, electronics, etc., include optimization for Amazon into your SEO strategy.Action plan:1. Run keyword research. To be more industry-wise, use Amazon itself. Rank Tracker, for example, has Amazon Autocomplete keyword research tool:
  1. Make item’s title&description efficient and user-friendly (+ smart use of keywords);
  2. Provide high-quality images;
  3. Cater to “backend keywords” (or meta tags, if in Google’s terms). They tell Amazon algo that a specific item targets a specific keyword on the site;
  4. Track customers’ reviews and address complaints.

Looking at the year ahead…

Few trends, but big changes. While all things mobile are going far, we still have to keep an eye on Amazon and GDPR’s consequences. This list’s still a prediction, we’ll surely have zillions of things to discuss in 2019. What are your thoughts on an SEO landscape for the next year?
Warning Signs of a Bad SEO

5 Huge Warning Signs of a Bad SEO or Digital Marketing Agency

By | Online Entrepreneur News
Out of my 15-year career, 7 of them were spent at a digital marketing agency.It’s where I learned to cut my teeth, put a deck together, speak to clients properly (jury is still out on this one), etc.Were we perfect?Of course not, but we were honest and approached every engagement with heart and our customers best interest in mind.I also spent the first part of my SEO career as a private consultant working with smaller businesses and approached it in the same way – with honesty and enthusiasm.Even when things weren’t going great, I was straight with my clients and told them the good and the bad. Full transparency was key to building and maintaining those relationships.Out there in the world, however, there are some less than honest folks who are simply looking to take your money.Below I highlight, based on my interactions with these companies and individuals over the last 15 years, some of the ways to identify and avoid them and ensure you are working with solid SEO professionals.

1. They Ask to Own Your Data/Logins

One of the hallmark signs of an agency/consultant trying to trap you is by starting off the engagement by asking you for full control over your logins, data, and reporting.Many companies fall for this under the guise of “I just want them to handle it, that’s what I’m paying for, for them to handle everything”, but don’t realize how truly dangerous this can be if things don’t work out between the two companies.Let’s say you get to the point where you no longer want to work with your agency/consultant, unfortunate yes, but it happens.What many shady agencies/consultants will do in this situation is to hold your data and logins hostage to keep the contract going.This can balloon into legal disputes that stretch on for months, even years, and in the worst-case scenario, ends with you needing to create new logins and adding new tracking code to your sites.I have seen this happen time and time again, especially with smaller businesses.The lesson here: the beginning of any professional relationship should be built on trust, but it’s a two-way street.While you are hiring these individuals to “handle everything” from an SEO perspective from you, check their background and get references, if they can’t provide any references then look elsewhere.

2. They Guarantee #1 Rankings/ Top Results

It still boggles my mind that there are SEO professionals out there winning business with the pitch “We guarantee #1 rankings”, but they’re out there and people are hiring them.Look at this ad that showed up when I Googled “SEO companies”:Really? First-page rank guaranteed? Tell me your secrets, oh magical wizards of search.What they aren’t going to tell you is what they are going to get ranked on Page 1.Any SEO worth their anxiety can get something to rank on Page 1, regardless of if it’s driving quality traffic, revenue, or leads to your site.This is a common ruse used by less than honest agencies and consultants to get you in the door. Here is how it works:
  • They get you on the phone to discuss your site. This will be done by luring you in with deceptive ads like the above, a free audit that they send you, or a long-winded email about something that just happened with Google which they always position as something you should be worried about because we saw a drop in your site using their proprietary yadda yadda yadda.
  • You get freaked out and give them a shot because you need to fix whatever issues they have explained to you because you probably don’t fully understand all of the ins and outs of organic search and you just want someone to handle it.
  • Work starts. Within a few weeks you see a few keywords jump to Page 1, which fulfills their claim of guaranteeing Page 1 results. You are thrilled. You can’t believe you haven’t worked with these guys before, and you can’t wait for the business to start rolling in.
  • Fast forward a few months and Page 1 rankings continue to come, but no new business does. No new leads. Just rankings.
  • They explain that SEO is a slow burn and that you are seeing new Page 1 results every week and to be patient, but never really getting into the weeds with you to explain everything that’s going on. It’s all good news from them, everything is going great, but you aren’t seeing any return.
  • Ultimately after 6+ months, you start looking into the keywords you are “winning” on and realize they have next to no monthly search volume and are not that relevant to your business. You realize you’ve more than likely been duped, reach out and get canned non-answers, and begin the process of canceling your engagement.
PSA: Google’s algorithm is a giant, floating math equation out in space that is controlled by a machine learning AI that learns our search habits and modifies its results based on those learnings.
The lesson here is that no one can guarantee anything when it comes to Google’s algorithm, not even the algorithm itself. If any of us could, we would be very rich have slightly less anxiety.

3. They Tell Their Story, Not Yours

Speaking of reporting on metrics, another telltale sign of a less than stellar agency/consultant is if their reporting is always telling their story and not yours.What I mean by that is that they are always highlighting what went right, what they did awesome at, and why you should pay them more at the upcoming renewal.They never talk about what went wrong, what didn’t work, and the lessons that were learned to make the current campaign so successful, which sometimes is more important than the wins themselves.Only knowing half of the story is detrimental to your business and your own education. By not being transparent your agency/consultant has done you a large disservice by not allowing you to learn from their mistakes.Agencies/consultants in this mindset are always afraid to tell you exactly what they are doing because they don’t want to give away their “secret formula” that is making everything work.The truth is most of the time that formula involves many tests and missteps that allowed the campaign to get to its current state, which is super valuable for everyone involved to know, not just them.The lesson here is to make sure you are hearing about what didn’t work, as well as what worked. Regardless if you are happy about it or not it’s better to see the entire picture.

4. The Partnership Is Positioned as Transactional

You always be mindful of how an agency/consultant pitches you, as it is very telling of how the relationship will operate.People who want to help you will tell you they want to help you, people who don’t will tell you how much their service costs and how monthly meetings will be structured. This is the difference between hiring a partner and a vendor.A partner is going to dig in with you, weather the storm with you when things aren’t going good, and celebrate the wins with you together as a team.A vendor is going to send you a bill.If an agency/consultant comes in and spends the hour or two you have given them of your time and only talks about how great they are and doesn’t give any insight into what they can do for you, the relationship probably won’t be that fruitful.While there is nothing wrong with a brag slide or two, you should always be looking for folks who did research on your brand and provide actionable things they believe you can accomplish together supported by data. Those are the ones who care about your business and while they will still send you a bill every month, you won’t mind paying it so much.The lesson here is to always seek a partner, not just another vendor.

5. Their Case Studies Are Outdated

Speaking of brag slides, you should always ask what year the projects/results are from. One of the greatest injustices of organic search is how long people use case studies for.SEO changes every single day and while it’s awesome you really knocked it out of the park for Pets.com back in 2000, that story doesn’t really help me gauge your talent in 2019.The lesson here is to always dig a little deeper on those wins and when they happened. With SEO changing as much as it does, even a project from a couple of years ago could have no relevance today. 

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Trending Topics to Build Links

How to Use Trending Topics to Build Links & Boost Traffic

By | seo advice for business
More traffic, more links, more conversions – the trifecta of search engine optimization (SEO).Whether you’re an SEO expert or a website owner looking to increase your presence online, you know that engaging, SEO-friendly content is the key to attracting high-quality links and organic traffic.However, you may feel like you are fresh out of ideas or even that you are in a “boring” niche that makes it difficult to think up interesting content topics.Fortunately, by staying tuned into current events and trending topics in your niche, you can easily and creatively develop content that’s clickable, shareable, and linkable.Here are five ways to use trending topics to attract links and targeted traffic to your website.

1. Keep Up with the Times

The first step in creating content that’s bound to go viral is staying ahead of the trends as much as possible.By the time you are seeing tons of articles on a given topic, it may be too late to ride the wave.That’s why you should leverage several tools to stay on top of current events, news stories, pop culture, and more.That way, as soon as a story breaks, you can start drafting up your own article, review, video, or opinion piece.

The Best Tools for Keeping Up with Trending Topics

Google TrendsGoogle Trends is a great trending topics tool, as it shows you the top rising searches related to your keyword.You can also filter your searches by region and date.Use Google Trends to see what topics are trending in your niche and keep track of any increases in traffic.FacebookWhile most of us use Facebook to stay in touch with friends, share our thoughts, and even follow our favorite brands, it’s no surprise that Facebook is great for recognizing what topics are trending online.You can check out popular hashtags related to your niche, pop into Facebook groups to see what your audience is talking about, or simply stay tuned into what events are showing up on your Timeline.You may even want to survey your followers to find out what they are interested in at the moment.TwitterMuch like Facebook, Twitter is a hub for all that is happening online – from important social issues to celebrity news and everything else in between.Check out the Trending section to see what’s hot online right now, or visit popular hashtags in your industry. You may also want to follow public figures and your favorite brands to see what is being shared and talked about most.RedditReddit is underrated, but it can actually be a highly valuable tool, both for finding content and promoting your own.You can explore “Subreddits” related to current events, technology, politics, and nearly any niche you can imagine.You can also engage with posts to boost your “karma” so that you will have more opportunities for engagement on your own posts later on.Reddit can be a great place to find out what’s happening in the world of SEO, business, and beyond.

2. Look Out for Opportunities

Once you are aware of what topics are currently trending in your space, then you can to look out for opportunities to create some truly amazing content.Doing so goes far beyond simply writing a spinoff of an existing article or even an opinion piece on a current event. Now is the time to think outside the box.Rather than scouring the web for ideas, the best approach is to start with what you know already – your brand.If you are honed in on your brand message and what your audience is looking for, recognizing solid content opportunities should be much easier than starting “from scratch”.Here are some questions to ask yourself when looking for content opportunities:
  • Is there a “gap” in what’s currently being covered? Is there an angle that other news outlets and websites are missing? Can you offer a fresh take on a current issue?
  • What is my audience interested in at this moment? Is there a pressing issue that needs to be addressed? Sometimes it’s as simple as asking them what they are interested in, and creating content around that.
  • What are your competitors talking about? If your competition is covering a topic, that’s a good indication that you should be too. Just make sure that it is, in fact, relevant to your audience and that your content is original.
  • What has worked in the past? Regardless of what’s trending now, is there a style or format of content that has worked well in the past. Can you replicate your “evergreen” content with a modern twist?
  • What kind of content is most linkable in your niche? This takes a bit of digging, but by searching your key terms, you should be able to find some content pieces that have performed well online. If they have a high number of quality links, see if you can dissect their strategy and format.
I don’t recommend “starting cold” and covering a trending topic without doing a bit of research first.If you truly understand your audience, you will get a sense of what is of interest to them and how to format your content in an effective way

3. Develop Shareable, Engaging Content

The beauty of creating content around trending topics is that it is relatively low risk with potentially high rewards.While getting the hang of it may take some trial and error, it involves rather minimal investment.That being said, there are some tricks for creating content that will attract linksand boost traffic.

Choose the Best Format

While the go-to for content tends to be blog posts, sometimes it’s best to get a bit more creative.Think long and hard about what format would be most engaging for the content you hope to put out.Would a short video do the trick? A listicle? A funny cartoon?
The possibilities are nearly endless.When it comes to trending topics, most times people are looking to get their information as fast as possible.You want them to know instantly what the content is about, what your main points are, and what actions you want them to take.The faster they can consume it, the more likely they are to share it.

Aim for a Wider Audience

Most of the time when you are crafting a content marketing piece, especially for links, you will want to tailor it to a unique audience.However, what matters here is that your content is picked up by a wide range of platforms and is shared at hyperspeed.By aiming for a wider audience, there’s more potential for it to be shared across the web.It may not be the most conversion-friendly piece you have put together, but the point is that it:
  • Generates a lot of traffic.
  • Attracts links.
With more shares, the odds are in your favor.

Add Images, Infographics & Videos

Adding images, videos, and more to your content will only up the engagement factor, making it more likely that people will share your content.This also helps it appeal to people who prefer different kinds of information (video, written, etc.).Also, by adding other features to your content, you make it easy to repurpose your content for other platforms.For example, you can share your graphics on Instagram, your video on YouTube, promote an infographic via email, and more. This opens up even more traffic channels.

Optimize for Search

Obviously, if traffic and links are your main objectives, you will want to optimize your content for search engines.If you aren’t well-versed in SEO yet, you can work with a content marketer or SEO copywriter to make sure that your content follows SEO best practices.Don’t worry if your website isn’t fully optimized. Your goal here is to create content to market across platforms quickly and obtain links in a shorter period of time. You can always work to optimize your site later on.

Optimize for Sharing

This should be an obvious point but it is often overlooked.It should be super easy for users to share your content as they wish. This means making the share buttons accessible on your website, including an engaging title and description, and setting a featured image for your post.You will also want to optimize your content for mobile and even make it available in a variety of formats, if possible. This makes it easy for users to share your content to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and more.

5. Repurpose Across Platforms

Once it’s time to share your content, it’s worth being strategic about what platforms you are going to circulate your content on and how.Simply sharing a blog post on Facebook won’t do much to get you the traffic and links you are looking for.If social media management isn’t your forte, again, it may be worth working with a content marketing expert to develop a strategy for your content.If that’s not quite in the budget, here is a list of ideas to get you started:
  • Turn written content into a slide video with voiceover to share on YouTube.
  • Address the topic via Facebook Live on your business page.
  • Add images from your article on your Instagram Story.
  • Run a campaign to your email list that includes a link to your content.
  • Circulate your content in niche-related Facebook Groups.
  • Connect with influencers in your industry to promote your content for you.
  • Run a Facebook or Instagram ad campaign.
  • Use email outreach to attract links to your video, article, or infographic.
  • Run a competition or promotion with your audience for a prize in exchange for social shares.
  • Contact friends and contacts in your network to share your content.
Keep in mind what platforms you are already active on and which ones your audience is most likely to engage on.Think creatively about how best to repurpose content into a variety of formats for optimal sharing.Again, this may take some trial and error, but eventually, you will be able to see which platforms bring in the most traffics and links.Make a note of this and you will be sure to fine-tune your approach the next time around.

Conclusion

Using trending topics in your content marketing can be a great way to go viral in your content and boost traffic and links to your website.You must be able to stay on top of the trends, keep your eyes open to opportunities, and then craft content that’s made to engage.Then, share it like crazy and watch the magic happen!
ways to improve your website experience

User-Centric Optimization: 3 Ways to Improve Your Website Experience

By | seo advice for business
SEO is multifaceted and each optimization factor is dependent on the others.You can create first-class content that engages users and that is relevant to their search intent, but if your pages load slowly, your users will never get the chance to read this outstanding content you’re creating for your website.Users are impatient and they will bounce if they have to wait for more than a few seconds.
Load time vs bounce rate graphic by Think With GoogleData from Think With Google
Can you blame them, though? Think about how frustrated you feel when you have to watch a loading wheel spinning, for what feels like an eternity.Three different loading wheel iconsThis is the mindset we need to have when we approach any performance optimization work because the most meaningful improvements will happen when you approach things from a place of empathy for your users.

Understanding the Different Browsing Conditions of Users

Empathy for users is a great starting point, but we also need to support that with an understanding of how your users are accessing your website.For example, what devices and browsers are they using to visit your website? What kind of internet connections are they browsing with?These differences in browsing conditions can have a bigger impact on performance than you might expect.This is demonstrated by the results from testing JavaScript processing times for the CNN homepage across different devices from WebPageTest.JavaScript processing times for CNN graphThe iPhone 8, which is a higher-end device with a better CPU, loaded the CNN homepage in 4 seconds compared to the Moto G4 which loaded in 13 seconds.However, the results were even more dramatic for the Alcatel 1X which loaded the same page in 36 seconds.Processing times for three different phonesPerformance isn’t a ‘one score fits all’ scenario. It can vary drastically depending on each user’s browsing conditions.The Audience tab in Google Analytics is a great place to start digging around and doing some research into how your users are accessing your website.For example, you can see the split of the most commonly used devices under Audience > Mobile > Devices.Google Analytics mobile devices reportThat’s just one report of many, so take a closer look in your analytics account to get a better understanding of your users and the factors that could be impacting their experience on your website.

User-Centric Performance Optimization Is the Future

Considering the varying nature of performance depending on the browsing conditions of each individual user, there’s a lot more that marketers can be doing to improve the way we speed up websites.The future of site speed should be focused on tailoring performance around the user and their particular browsing environment.Here are three areas that can be optimized to improve how users experience your website:
  • The user’s device
  • The user’s internet connection
  • The user’s journey

1. Optimizing Performance Based on the User’s Device

The key to ensuring that every user has a positive, fast experience on your website is to implement a baseline level of performance that works for the most basic device you’re optimizing for.Two web development strategies that work around this concept are:
  • Progressive enhancement
  • Graceful degradation

Progressive Enhancement

Progressive enhancement focuses on making the core content of a page accessible, and then progressively adds more technically advanced features on top of the capabilities of the user’s device or browser allow for.For example, the website might provide clean, accessible content in the HTML first as a priority.Then if it is detected that the user’s browsing conditions can handle more complex features, some additional CSS visual alterations can be layered on top, and perhaps some more advanced interactivity via JavaScript.

Graceful Degradation

Graceful degradation is basically the opposite of progressive enhancement.The website will start with the full experience, but will then start falling back to a gradually less complex experience by switching off certain low-importance elements if the user’s device is unable to handle the more advanced features.These web strategies can be really powerful because if your website loads quickly and performs well even on the most basic device, think about how much faster it will load on higher-end devices.

2. Optimizing Performance Based on the User’s Internet Connection

Internal connection is one of the most inconstant factors of a user’s browsing conditions, especially for those on mobile. As we use our devices on the move, internet connectivity is bound to fluctuate and drop off.However, it is possible to optimize for different levels of internet connectivity to ensure that users will still have a good experience of your website on a 3G or 2G connection.

Network Information API

The Network Information API provides information on a user’s internet connection status, including the type and strength of their connection.You can use the Network Information API to detect changes in the user’s internet connection, by using this code example:
Network Information API code exampleYou can also set instructions for what should happen if the internet connection changes, and how the content on a website should adopt.As demonstrated at Google I/O 2018, if a user’s connection is 4G you can set a video to be loaded as this connection would be able to handle this rich experience.However, if a user is browsing on a 2G or 3G connection you can set a static image to be loaded in place of the video so you’re not putting too much strain on the user’s already limited connection.Google I/O example of swapping a video for an image depending on connection typeIn this circumstance, the user doesn’t have the expectation of watching a video or animation and doesn’t know what they’re missing. The important thing is that they’re seeing content quickly.This contributes to the user’s perception of speed as they’re getting a fast experience rather than having to wait a long time for a non-critical video to load.

3. Optimizing Performance Based on the User’s Journey

One way of prioritizing the most important resources to be loaded as quickly as possible is by the user’s journey.When a user is on a particular page, where are they most likely to click next? Which links and resources will be needed for that next page in the user’s journey?Again, this is another method of optimizing what is needed as a priority rather than optimizing every page that a user could potentially land on and every resource they could potentially need.A fast, seamless journey between pages contributes a great deal to a user’s perception of speed.

Resource Hints

Leaving the browser to load every single resource all at once can be an inefficient process which adds more time for the user as they sit and wait for a page to load.This is where resource hints can help. Resource hints are instructions that you can give to a browser to help it prioritize what is most important to be loaded first.PreloadPreload specifies the highest priority resources that impact the current navigation that should be loaded first.
<link rel=”preload” as=”script” href=”example.js”>
PreconnectPreconnect establishes connections with the server and other origins earlier. This process can take a long time for users with poor connectivity.
<link rel=”preconnect” href=”cdn.example.com”>
PrefetchPrefetch specifies key links and resources that will be needed as part of the future navigation or for the next step in the user’s journey.
<link rel=”prefetch” href=”example.jpg”>

Guess.js

Guess.js takes resource hints to the next level by automating the process of prefetching important resources and prioritizing the ones that are most likely to be needed next in the user’s journey.It works by using Google Analytics data to analyze how users navigate your website, using metrics like pageviews, previous page paths, and exits.It then uses machine learning to model predictions for what the next page is most likely to be in a user’s journey from any given page.It then prefetches the pages that a user is likely to visit in the next step of their journey through your site. This means that the next page will already have been loaded by the time the user goes to click on it, providing a fast, seamless navigational experience.How Guess.js worksThe optimization methods mentioned in this article will require developer work.If you liked the look of any of them while reading through, then make sure you sit down with your development agency or engineering team to talk through what will be possible for your website from an implementation perspective.

In Conclusion

We need to stop assuming that everyone is accessing our websites in optimal conditions.Each user will have their own unique browsing environment. This is why we need to work harder to tailor our performance optimization efforts around our users and the different variables that make up their browsing experience, such as their device and internet connection.Doing this isn’t easy, however. It certainly isn’t something that an SEO or marketer should try to tackle by themselves.We need to spend more time talking to developers and learning from them about the latest technologies and methods available for user-centric performance optimization.

11 Awesome Google Analytics Reports for Marketers

By | Networking Bizz News
Google Analytics is the primary measurement platform for millions of websites and digital marketing campaigns.Along with Google Search Console and other third-party measurement tools and platforms, Google Analytics provides insight into key metrics on your audience, organic search, paid search, social media, and website performance.While it is a given that Google Analytics is a part of our daily routines for monitoring performance and reporting, we can get into a routine of just going in and getting the stats and using the reports we always have.Or, for those who only rely on a few key metrics and aren’t well versed in all that Google Analytics has to offer, take a moment to see if any of these 11 reports can help you.

1. Custom Dashboards

How many times do you jump into Google Analytics to find the same report, same stats, or slice of data?How many times do you have to answer the same question for a stakeholder?If more than once, then custom dashboards are for you.You can create custom dashboards from pretty much any data view you can drill down into in Google Analytics. Plus, you can add data and reports in widget format from multiple reports into one page.This is a big time saver. It can also be scheduled for automatic export and delivery to you or key stakeholders once you have it set up the way you want it.This is a great starting point before jumping over to Google Data Studio, where you can do even more.Custom Dashboard

2. Lifetime Value

This report still has the “beta” tag in Google Analytics. However, over time, I’ve found more use for it in sites that have a lot of engagement within the 30-90 day cookie window that Google Analytics can track.If you have a site that engages users and that they come back to often to make one or more purchases, you can track the value of specific users and factor this in with other aspects of the buyer’s journey that you’re measuring.Note that when something is in beta, I keep in mind that the report could be updated, enhanced, removed, or that data could change over time, so beware.Lifetime Value

3. User Explorer

User explorer allows us to drill down into the journeys of specific website visitors.While we can’t personally identify the user in Google Analytics by default (and be careful if you try to match up data as Google has specific guidelines on this), we see how individual users consumed content and acted within the website over a period of time.User ExplorerThis information isn’t necessarily as powerful as some third-party user recording and heat mapping tools but it provides some aggregation and insight that rolls up revenue data and other standard Google Analytics metrics in a single report.Being able to see individual user journeys – including the number of sessions, what pages/activities they did during them, and ultimately when they purchase or make a decision – can help with user experience and conversion rate optimization.It can also help set expectations for marketing activities and how many steps are realistically part of the customer journey.User Explorer Detail

4. Interests – Affinity Categories

The Interests/Affinity Categories report can be really interesting and helpful across a wide range of uses.If you don’t see data by default, you have to simply agree to the terms and give Google authorization to show it for your account.The categories shown may or may not align with what you expect.You can leverage these categories by:
  • Further drilling down into them to understand behavior.
  • Sharing this data with those running paid search or social media campaigns and writing content targeting specific audiences.
  • Comparing the segments to each other.
Finding opportunities to leverage specific audiences and segments is powerful when tuning your content strategy.This data provides a lot of options for adding dimensions and slicing and dicing the views. It can be a great starting point for spending some in-depth time looking at:
  • Who your current audience really is.
  • How they convert.
  • Where you should prioritize your efforts across the digital marketing spectrum.
Interest Affinity Categories

5. Benchmarking – Channels

If you’ve ever wondered or been asked about how your website performance compares to others in your industry, the benchmark report is a hidden gem that can help.You can select some pretty detailed industry verticals and see how your site compares across the different channels in the standard Google Analytics traffic metrics.This is great data to use to set a baseline and establish goals if you’re struggling to determine how to do so.It can be a lot more helpful and fun to put some real competitive targets in place rather than looking inward or arbitrarily setting goals that may or may not be realistic.Benchmarking Channels

6. Users Flow

This report has visually overwhelmed me for a long time. On first glance, it looks busy and hard to decipher.Give it a moment, though, and use the zoom slider and move around in the page. Also, use the dropdown above the first column to change the dimensions you want to review.
Once you get the hang of it, this page can provide some solid insight in a way that you would have to drill down through level after level in other reports to get the same info.Seeing how your users navigate through the site in aggregate and the popular paths can lead to further investigation if there are surprises.You can also see patterns and tendencies in the user journey to help you shape your content to shape changes in the paths over time.Users Flow

7. Site Content – Landing Pages

While pretty basic, this report is often overlooked.Knowing the top landing pages for your website can help validate and connect the dots between specific marketing efforts, organic search, viral content, and more.By using the dimension tools you can also see the source for each page and quickly know what is driving the most traffic to it.For SEOs, you want to confirm that over time you’re getting a diversified set of landing pages based on your optimization strategy.Chances are that you aren’t trying to drive all traffic to and through the home page.You want to have as many landing pages possible as entry points for the most relevant traffic topically to be entering through them respectively.Site Content Landing Pages

8. Site Search – Search Terms

While most content management systems and ecommerce platforms provide reporting on what terms are being searched through on-site search functions, Google Analytics can help you dig deeper.With the Google Analytics search terms report, you can see the same terms your web platform likely shows you, but from there you can also apply all of the typical Google Analytics dimensions and see more about the users’ source, behavior, and what they did on the site in a much more extensive and detailed way.You can then use this data for UX, CRO, and other improvements to make content easier to find and ensure your search is working as intended.Site Search Search Terms

9. Multi-Channel Funnels – Assisted Conversions

In many, if not most instances, lead submission or ecommerce purchase goal conversions don’t happen on the first visit. Being able to give credit to visits prior to the visit where the conversion happened is powerful.Google Analytics provides an assisted conversions report to show us how each channel is involved in the journey when not responsible for the actual conversion visit.In some cases, you’ll see the same channel as the bulk of your last-click conversions. However, being able to give credit where it is due is important.For example, you may be getting ready to write off a specific channel like social as it isn’t driving any leads or revenue.However, the assisted conversion report (plus others showing user paths and journeys) may tell you otherwise.The great part of having revenue tracking set up is that you can see dollar amounts tied to the specific traffic and how much the assists are worth in helping close the deal.Multi-channel funnels assisted conversions

10. Multi-Channel Funnels – Top Conversion Paths

Going a step further than assisted conversions, we can see aggregated data showing the most popular mixes and orders of channels leading to conversions in the customer journey.This is again another powerful way to see how the channels work together and what revenue comes from it.Multi-channel funnels top conversion paths

11. Attribution – Model Comparison Tool

Attribution has been a top concern of digital marketers for a long time.Google Analytics provides a tool to compare the different models like first-click against the default of last-click. You can even find other models, import them, and create your own to suit your business needs.Knowing this report exists and how the different models show your data is a great first step that Google Analytics provides for us.Attribution Model Comparison Tool

Conclusion

Because we’re buried in our busy day-to-day routines, we often don’t go deeper into Google Analytics than we need to.We tend to grab the data we need, create reports, and answer questions.Know and use the wide range of reports available to you in Google Analytics. It will help improve your marketing on various channels, UX, and CRO. And it will help connect your content with users to ultimately move them toward conversion points.

11 Ways to Increase User Engagement & Why It Matters for SEO

By | seo advice for business
Most SEO professionals know how important user engagement is to their success.Without searchers coming to our sites and taking action in some way, chances are our place in the SERPs would drop.Search engines’ main goals include giving the user the best answers to what users are looking for.When Google determines that your site doesn’t cut the mustard – they’ll replace it in SERPs with one that does give users what they want and need.

What Is User Engagement?

At the most basic level, user engagement is any way in which a visitor to any of your digital properties takes action on that platform as opposed to browsing passively or exiting immediately to find a better source of information.

Types of Engagement

Click-Through Rate (CTR)

CTR offers the entry-level engagement that’s required for further engagement to take place.CTR requires optimal SEO best practices to show up on the first page of SERPs and gives searchers the content and answers they’re looking for.Along with decent content, you’ll need to focus on the types of content titles and meta descriptions that encourage users to click through to your site.You can check this by looking in your Google Search Console account for pages and keywords that have high impressions but low clicks.

Actions From Outside Sources

Not all engagement happens on-site. In fact, come of the most valuable engagement comes from outside sources:
  • Linking to your content.
  • Driving more traffic to your site.
  • Sharing your pieces on platforms that increase your reach.
  • Encouraging users to engage in different ways.
Inbound links remain a top SEO ranking factor year after year. It means that someone read your content and felt it was authoritative enough to use it as a source for the piece they’re writing about a similar or related topic.While sharing on social media isn’t a ranking factor that directly affects SEO, it does help drive more traffic to your site and encourage more visitors, more links, and more conversions.Sharing, liking, commenting, and subscribing are versions of user engagement that occur on third-party sites not necessarily affiliated with yours – but can benefit your overall digital presence.

Dwell Time

In a recent SEJ article, Duane Forrester dives into what’s called dwell time.According to Forrester:
“Dwell time is the length of time a person spends looking at a webpage after they’ve clicked a link on a SERP page, but before clicking back to the SERP results.”
Dwell time is an inherent measurement that helps search engines determine if a searcher’s needs were met with the results the search engine provided.Searchers will input their query, click through to a top result, and stay on a site that satisfies their need.For search engines, it’s a measure of their effectiveness.Forrester points out that there’s not a single way to track dwell time – that search engines alone can do that. However, it’s important for webmasters and SEO pros to be aware that it could affect your site.

Engagement Metrics to Track

While these measures don’t have a direct effect on rankings, they’re important on-site engagement metrics that are crucial for website administrators to track and keep an eye on.These numbers give you an idea of how well your users are engaging with your site and content. There’s no set “good’ or “bad’ number for each of these metrics. It’s more important to track trends and take anomalies for your site into account.

Pageviews

In Google Analytics, when you go to Audience > Overview, you can get an idea of how many total pageviews your site has received in the given time period.This metric includes multiple views of a single page. Watch for any large fluctuations in pageviews – whether up or down – to determine if users are drastically increasing or decreasing their engagement with your site.

Top Content

Under Behavior > Site Content > All Pages, you can find which pages/pieces of content on your site are engaging users the most for the selected period of time. Check each week for changes in these pages.Watch how new pages climb in the ranks to perform well. And ensure that main pages that have always drawn the majority of your visitors and kept users on the site for a long time aren’t dropping in this top content section for any reason.

New vs. Returning Visitors

In Analytics under Audience > Overview, you can see a pie graph of new versus returning visitors. New visitors are always great.We love new eyes on our sites, discovering our products or services, and potentially converting and becoming returning visitors.It’s crucial to watch your balance of new vs. returning visitors. Once you’ve established a sort of baseline after a few weeks of observing, you’ll be able to see when and how the balance changes.Returning users are engaged users, especially depending on your product or service model.

Bounce Rate

Every time I talk to someone who is just learning SEO or digital marketing, I get the question: “What is a good bounce rate?”The answer (as with everything in SEO) is that it depends – on your business model, your website goals, your content types, and more.If your goals are to truly serve the searchers’ needs, then someone clicking to your site, reading an article that gives them exactly what they need, and clicking away.As with all these metrics, tracking bounce rate trends is often what’s most effective.Any huge drops or jumps can not only tell you something’s off with your Analytics implementation but also if users are engaging with what you’re putting online.You can find this one under Audience > Overview, as well.

Time on Site

Time on site, or average session duration, gives you a metric for how long users are spending on your site. As with bounce rate, there’s no set good or bad number, but more of a trend to track over time.Observe how your session duration changes as you engage some of the user engagement tactics below. If you start producing longer-form content for your site:
  • Does it increase because users have a reason to stay longer?
  • Or does it decrease as they are intimidated by long content that would take them too long to read?
Adjust your strategy accordingly.

Conversions

This is one of the most important measurements to track. If you don’t watch the trends for any of the other engagement metrics in this post, at least watch conversions.Conversions through Analytics are goals you set up to track and assign value to.However, too many people get caught up in tracking only end-goals (like signups or phone calls).It’s critical for user engagement metrics to also track micro-conversions that help move users down the funnel.Whether it’s a newsletter signup, a download of a whitepaper, talking to a chatbot, or the completion of an online survey – these smaller conversions can give you an idea of the funnel toward larger, monetized conversions.Learn more about how to set up goals in Google Analytics.

Why Does It Matter For SEO?

The above metrics are not ranking factors, so I understand if you’re asking yourself why user engagement matters for SEO. Dwell time is definitely a ranking factor, according to Forrester.Interpretation of the March 2019 Google algorithm update also indicates that search engines are paying close attention to user engagement through metrics like dwell time to determine if they are serving searchers useful results – essentially, if they’re doing their job:According to Marcus Tober:
“Looking at the March 2019 Core Algorithm Update, we see another example of Google rewarding user engagement and helpful content. This means that, as the amount of available online content grows, Google is paying more attention to signals that indicate whether users are happy or not.”
This means that instead of focusing on what search engines, SEO pros, and website admins should also be focusing on what users want.
A few ways to do that include doing the audience research, focusing your content to your specific target audiences, and think about the specific stages of the funnel for each group.

Tactical Ways to Increase Engagement

1. Speed up Your Site + Make It Responsive

“If your landing page is too slow, almost half your potential visitors admit they’re less likely to make a purchase,” according to an Unbounce study. And about 25% will go find a competitor with a faster site.People will stay on your site longer and are more willing to search around for what they need when they don’t feel like they’re wasting time waiting for pages to load (on any device).

2. Eliminate Basic Technical SEO Errors

Nothing is more disruptive to a website’s user experience than weird technical issues.I was doing some research for a client this week and found a search result that I thought would be the answer to my question. But when I clicked the blue link, it led to a 404.“No worries,” I thought. “I’m an avid SEO, and will find it elsewhere.”But the site had gotten rid of the piece altogether and hadn’t redirected it or bothered to publish an updated piece.I had to go back to SERPs and find another, less satisfying result. That’s traffic lost, but also money down the drain.

3. Give People Different Ways to Engage in Your Content (Text, Video, Audio)

When I was a kid, I remember taking an assessment that determined my learning style.Some people learn better through visual, auditory, or tactile styles. Think about this when you create content.We always focus on written word online (because that’s what’s indexable), but we all absorb information in different ways.Try using video with text transcription to reach new people or recording your written blogs for people to listen to instead of reading.Go with a trusty infographic or another visual representation of data.Mix up your content forms and observe how the key metrics on your site change.

4. Produce Helpful Content (a.k.a. Give Knowledge Away for Free)

Create thorough, useful content that serves users’ needs.Zapier’s blog does a great job of this. They realize that users who come to their site are probably researching the best ways to automate things.We automate things so we don’t have to do them manually, which saves time and lets us do other tasks that require more brain power (or are more fun!).So Zapier has focused its blog on productivity. They dig deep on how-tos and tool tips, give examples of some of the best ways to automate things that normally require manual work, and also present good information on the science of productivity as a whole.I use them as an example because it’s one of the few blogs I go to on my own and peruse what’s new.When you create useful content that helps your target audience do their jobs better – your site will become a destination for them.

5. Clean up Your Navigation & Site Design

Many businesses start small and scale quickly. While that’s great for the bottom line, it often means your website ends up as a catch-all for new information.Perform a check every quarter to make sure that your website design and navigation makes sense for users.Give your aunt or nephew a basic task to perform on your site, and if they struggle to figure where to do it, it’s time to make it simpler.Figure out what fits in the top-level categories, and organize down from there.

6. Improve Internal Linking & Suggested Posts

Help people find the content that’s most relevant to what they’re currently looking at on your site.The best ways to do that are through internal linking within pieces of content on your site and suggested posts.Every time you mention something that you’ve written about before, link to it!Categorize and tag your posts so you can refer website visitors to something similar once they’re done reading.

7. Have a Site Search Option

If people can’t find what they need when they’re on your site, they’ll leave and find it somewhere else.Having a good on-site search option allows users to search all the content available on your digital property to find the best fit to serve their own needs.And then you can use your site search data to write more content.

8. Clear CTAs to the Next Stage of the Funnel

One of my biggest pet peeves is someone trying to shove me down the funnel before I’m ready.I remember going to a site a few years ago where the only navigation option was “Buy.” I didn’t even know the product/service and why I should buy it.The same principle should go for the content you create on your site.If it’s a top of funnel, informational piece, use your CTA to direct people to the corresponding content that’s in the middle of the funnel.From there, you can encourage people to the bottom to buy.

9. Introduce a Chatbot

If you have the capability for a live chat option, give users the opportunity to ask questions to a real person who’s an expert.If not, you can create automated chatbot scripts that can help answer top questions on your site and make users feel like they’re getting more personalized treatment.If they can’t find answers to their questions elsewhere on your site, the chatbot can keep them on your site and engage with suggested content.

10. Collect Email Addresses + Engage With Email

Keep returning visitors coming back by delivering your content directly to their inboxes.You can have a subscribe box or pop up on your site, or you can collect email addresses by gating middle- to bottom-funnel content and then following up with useful content based on your target audience’s needs.

11. Create Surveys & Publish the Data

Everyone loves original data.By running experiments, creating surveys, and collecting data in other ways, you become the go-to resource when someone needs information on that topic:
“People curate data. Whether it’s to prove a point they believe in strongly, to show their boss they should invest in a strategy or solution, to inform their own next move, etc., we’re a data-driven society.”
Keep engagement trending upward on your site by regularly publishing the data you’re producing. Not only will it drive more engaged traffic, but it will increase your inbound links, too.

Summary

SEO is a puzzle with many pieces. No single piece or small group of pieces alone will give a complete picture of SEO health.Instead, all the pieces need to be in place and fixed the right way to best serve users’ needs and increase engagement on your sites.

Meet Cocolyze, the SEO Tool That REALLY Simplifies Your Work

By | seo advice for business
A few months ago the SEO solution, Cocolyze.com discreetly launched, a newbie among the SEO tools.Now, you’re probably used to page analysis and scan tools, rank tracking tools, and even backlink audit tools. But Cocolyze isn’t offering a new “all-in-one” solution.This newcomer actually reveals some quite surprising and practical surprises that haven’t been seen before.

1. Do You Know Why You Lost a Rank Yesterday?

Who hasn’t asked themselves this question on a Friday night in panic after noticing a ranking drop on a keyword with no obvious explanation?Backlinks problem? Internal website problem? Google update? A competitor change?Utter panic!Everything has been gone over with a fine tooth comb and we often still have that bitter taste of doubt and certainty.It’s a major progress in SEO: Cocolyze tracks and monitors all ranked pages on a keyword, their positions, their backlinks, and their optimization. Every single day.A real comparative of strengths and weaknesses, the solution simplifies our lives by registering every detected change.It also makes it a lot easier to understand if a competitor has just benefited from a better ranking thanks to its newly added pages if the rank fluctuation is due to an error on your site or a competitor’s.This huge amount of data reproduced in a really simple interface is essential for each of the strategic keywords that you target.We’re wondering why we haven’t seen a solution offering this functionality before!Ranking Analysis

2. Do You Know What Your Competitors Optimized a Week Ago?

What an interesting question!You’ve probably never asked it yourself, simply because you know it’s impossible to easily get the answer.Every strategy must include the competitor sphere and this audit is generally done from time to time. But in this context where SEO is continually changing, it’s no longer enough to just track your competitors once a year.Imagine knowing what your competitors changed on their page over the past three weeks to achieve this rank. It’s only by having this information that you can know which optimizations to work on.Cocolyze offers us daily tracking of your competitors ranked pages, completely automatic and in such unusual simplicity!This solution registers each change made by a neighboring page in the SERP every day: change to a page title, content keywords, design change, loading time – basically all aspects that impact your SEO.We can only imagine the amount of data analyzed every day by the tool and yet the simple and refined interface allows us to easily navigate in the pages’ history.Events Timeline

3. You Track Your Ranks but Do You Know What Keywords Need the Most Attention?

Any good SEO project manager monitors their SEO rank tracking nearly every day.Lots of rank tracking solutions have been developed due to the limitations of Google Search Console.These tools alert you of a change in position, generally with a classic performance indicator: the average rank.If you have several hundred keywords this can quickly become unnecessarily complicated where we’ll get lost in the table rows.Cocolyze surprises us again here by introducing an interesting key performance indicator: SEO Value.This indicator calculated by the tool ranks the positions in order of importance.In other words, it’s able to tell you that your position 4 on keyword x is more important than your position 1 on keyword y.The SEO Value of Cocolyze proves to be impressively effective when it comes to sorting out the keywords in order of return on investment, and this is already in the pipeline for the solution.Cocolyze actually filters the keywords in order of value to gain, this is the value that you can gain on your SEO by increasing your ranks on a keyword vis-à-vis another keyword.I think consultants and SEO project managers will love this indicator to prioritize their daily tasks and reporting!Cocolyze Dashboard

4. You Crawl Your Site but Are You Analyzing the Right Pages?

Using crawl tools, tools that scan all the pages of your website to test the exploration, is indispensable.Again, the problem comes from the sometimes ridiculous amount of suggested errors to correct: “You have 32,439 errors” (I can imagine what that to-do list looks like).The Cocolyze solution innovates in this sector by not offering the scanning of the site from the links, but the scanning of the site from the ranked pages.It’s thanks to this knack that the tool only analyzes the pages with high potential and automatically gets rid of the useless pages (such as the terms of service if they aren’t pertinent for you).Of course, the SEO solution still analyzes pages that aren’t yet ranked in the case when you want to work on the ranking of a new page.It’s therefore quite easy for Cocolyze to propose a list of strategic pages, prioritized by importance to optimize rather than the traditional crawl reports with thousands of errors that you have to sort through.Again, a great innovation which simplifies your SEO work and has never been offered by other tools.

5. Do You Know Which Backlinks You’ve Lost and How to Get Them Back?

Cocolyze isn’t limited to Google rank and page analysis. The solution also includes a full backlinks monitoring tool, which is both powerful and fun at the same time.You probably carry out (I hope anyway!) backlink audits. In most cases, you’ll get your best backlinks and the toxic backlinks to disavow.As you know, getting quality backlinks is complex.It’s for this reason that Cocolyze.com provides us with an interesting solution to retrieve the lost quality backlinks, as it’s also simpler to retrieve lost backlinks than to get new ones.The solution tracks and analyzes your backlinks every day, providing quite interesting different scores:
  • The domain influence and the page influence, which measures the popularity of a page.
  • The Spam Rating, which measures the level of the quality of the link (a backlink referring to a popular page but of poor quality).
Thanks to these scores, the tool fetches the toxic links to disavow, new links but also, and especially, lost links, every day.This data is very reliable.We decided to use Majestic for the backlinks database (rather than creating our own or using another one) for a simple reason: it has the biggest database in the world, with more than 8 trillion links.We added our own layer of analysis thanks to our algorithms of backlink scores to make it manipulable and interpret it. The solution, therefore, goes way beyond some alternatives, such as SEMrush and others.

6. How Long Do You Spend Looking for Optimizations to Do?

The answer: never enough!Unfortunately, this is the observation that we make after discovering new mysteries, analysis after analysis.Generally, an SEO consultant uses up to 12 different SEO tools regularly – and just as many invoices!Cocolyze offers all the features, which allows it to offer complete dashboards and time-saving at its best.Cocolyze offers all the features that you need, and some more. For specific needs, you can use complementary tools, but generally Cocolyze is enough to meet nearly all of your needs.Even if this solution is autonomous (no need to link your account with Google Search Console, the data comes directly from Cocolyze), and almost meets all needs, it’s always interesting to use another complementary tool on the side to compare the data of different tools.In terms of pricing, Cocolyze is an affordable solution – especially considering all the functionalities it offers.Remember: Cocolyze is the first SEO solution that:
  • Tracks the rankings of your website and of your competitors.
  • Analyzes your ranked pages and backlinks.
  • Registers every change in order to provide one of the most complete SEO history reports in the market, for a more than affordable price for the average person.

How to Take Your Website Beyond Fast

By | seo advice for business, Website Design Advice
Slow sites frustrate consumers. Frustration costs money.To delight consumers, beat competitors, and to please Google, your site will need to load in under a second. And you’ll need to get there fast, otherwise, your competitors might beat you to the finish line.Sound impossible? Web performance is no longer an art, but a science.Alderson shared the top tips, tricks, tools, and tactics you need to speed up your website.Here’s a recap of the presentation.Page Speed OptimizationUsers expect fast – a fast website, a fast app, a fast digital experience. The relationship between web performance and user behavior is backed by plenty of research.
  • A research by Google found that delays of over 3 seconds can lead to over 50% abandonment.
  • In 2014, a study revealed that 47% of people expect a site to load in less than 2 seconds.
  • Radware discovered that 20% of users abandon their cart if the transaction process is too slow.
Time is money and every single millisecond could be costing you users or conversions. People are impatient, and delays reduce the likelihood of them spending, converting, or taking action.The statistics mentioned were from as far back as 2014. It was around that time that it became apparent that site speed is quite a big deal.By that logic, we should’ve been on top of this and nailing it. But it turns out, that’s not really the case.This table, which shows data from Google’s Industry Benchmarks for Mobile Page Speed, tells us the number of seconds it takes for a website for an average website in various sectors and different countries to be completed loading on a mobile phone on a 3G connection.Seconds to load on a 3g connectionThese sites are taking over eight seconds to load which is extremely slow.We know users dislike this kind of experience and how much it impacts conversions, so Google took matter into its own hands.

Google’s Take on Site Speed

Now the world is changing primarily because Google, as a powerhouse of influence and authority, has become very interested in speed – and for a whole bunch of different reasons.In early 2018, Google announced how important they consider speed to be and that it’s officially going to be a ranking factor for mobile searches starting July of that year.The search engine’s advice?
“We encourage developers to think broadly about how performance affects a user’s experience of their page and to consider a variety of user experience metrics.”
What Google is essentially saying here is that speed underpins user experience.When you are browsing , trying to get your page or channel to load, or add a product to a shopping cart, how quickly that happens is a huge component of the overall UX.For Google, speed = efficiency. And as sites get faster, slow is going to feel slower.Consumers expectations’ will increase and the fastest, best experiences they have will become their expectation for the norm.So, what do we need to do?

Approaching Speed Optimization

The secret isn’t to do a big web (re)development project.In speed optimization, you’ll win by a thousand tweaks – now, and every day, forever. You’ll need to find the important bits and make them faster.At the heart of speed optimization, you need to understand two fundamental truths:
  • There’s no such thing as speed.
  • The only thing which matters is perception of speed.

There’s No Such Thing as Speed

When you start exploring this, it becomes very difficult to answer the question, “How do you measure speed?”How do you put a metric against how fast your website is?You could probably start off by saying “The time how long it takes for a page to finish loading.”But, what does that mean?What if the server responds quickly, but then it takes ages to show the content?What if the page has components which only load when you interact, or scroll? Are they “finished”?We need better definitions to understand how well we are doing.Most stock metrics from speed check and optimization tools are flawed and designed to give you a false sense of comfort.Until recently, Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool was equally nonsense. The score didn’t actually measure speed and the charts were bad because measuring against slow competitors makes you complacent.When Google updated the tool, it added the metric First Contentful Paint which:
“…reports the time when the browser first rendered any text, image (including background images), non-white canvas or SVG. This includes text with pending webfonts. This is the first time users could start consuming page content.”
In other words, how quickly can we show something interesting? How many milliseconds until we can put something on screen that looks like it’s doing something rather than having a blank white page with just a spinner or loading icon?How quickly can we make it look like it’s happening? For many people that will be a hero image at the top of the page, a logo or the navigation bar.If you can optimize your site in such a way that you load the important bits first with a minimum amount of delay (and then worry about loading all the other stuff after), then it feels much faster.This works because waiting without visual feedback is the worst kind of slow.Optimizing for First Contentful Paint will make your site look and feel faster.Your scores might not change that much, but the goal is not to optimize for scores. Just make it faster.

The Only Thing Which Matters Is the Perception of Speed

Google’s own documentation says this much.
Load is not a single moment in time — it’s an experience that no one metric can fully capture. There are multiple moments during the load experience that can affect whether a user perceives it as “fast” or “slow”.
However, regardless of what your website is, what sector you’re in or how it works, there is one golden moment that you might want to measure. It’s Time to Interactive.The Time to Interactive (TTI) metric measures how long it takes a page to become interactive.Simply put, how quickly can we make it feel ready?If there’s a fundamentally important thing to understand here is that it’s not likely that Google is specifically measuring the actual page speed.What they’re much more interested in is the perception of speed. If you make a lightning-fast website that feels slow to load, you’ve wasted a lot of time and money.The emphasis needs to be on:
  • How do we show something quickly?
  • How do we make it feel ready?
The challenge is that perceived speed is hard to quantify. There are lots of moving parts in that ecosystem.But the good news is that performance optimization is now a science. There are hard rules, processes, guides and techniques you can follow to achieve this.Every site in the world can load in less than one second. You just need to follow the rules.Thankfully, Google offers a wide array of documentation into the topic.

Where Do You Start?

You need to start by finding the slow stuff. While tools aren’t good for giving you metrics over time, they are really good at spotting problems.The most impactful thing you can learn about speed optimization is to look at the way in which pages load and find out what’s waiting for other stuff.If you can remove those bottlenecks, change the order of how things load in, and get them to load at once rather than one at a time, then everything else happens sooner.One other thing to remember is that Google is monitoring, measuring and analyzing sites in a mobile-first way. Many of our users are using mobile devices and that’s where the particularly slow pain points are.There is no magic bullet. We’re on a journey of 1,000 tweaks.Here’s what you can start doing today, instead.

Top Tips to Shortcut Speed

Load Less Stuff

You might want to consider lessening your website’s elements.Some things to look at:Basics
  • Plugins, extensions, and integrations
  • Bytes transferred
  • DOM complexity
  • Fonts
  • Colors, details, icons, lines, borders, shadows
  • JavaScript
Advanced
  • Lazy-loading, deferring or async’ing resources
  • Cross-domain resource reduction
  • DNS and asset prefetch/preload

Tidy up Your CMS

Use plugins, extensions, and integrations to measure.What to use: Query Monitor, New Relic

Bolt on a CDN (Cloudflare)

Advanced
  • Page rules
  • Edge workers
  • Server push
What to use: Cloudflare

Get Good Hosting

You need to do your own research to find a good hosting company but here are a few recommendations:How to Take Your Website Beyond Fast

Use a Static Page Cache

Rather than every user triggering your website to load up to request all its themes and plugins to go through that process to manipulate the outcome, why don’t you just save that the page and the outcome or save that database query and whatever it said.This is not for everybody. If you want an easy win and you’re on a simple site, this might be a good fix for you.What to use: WP Rocket or Total Cache for WordPress, Redis, Varnish Cache

Optimize Your Resources

Consider optimizing your images using tools like TinyPNG or Squoosh.You can also do some advanced things, such as:
  • Offload media to, e.g., Amazon S3.
  • Use an image CDN like Cloudinary or Imgix.
  • Modularise CSS and JavaScript.

Use AMP(?)

The AMP project, at its heart, is an attempt to fix how broken and slow the Internet is, particularly the mobile web.Rather than building your sample with normal HTML, JavaScript, and CSS, you might want to use the AMP framework. Your website will be fast, however, you will be constrained by their guidelines and restrictions.It’s more technically complicated to customize especially through custom JavaScript so all of your ads, analytics, etc. will be limited.That said, it’s worth looking into.What to use: “The official” AMP WordPress plugin

Other Things You Can Do

Aside from the tips and tricks mentioned above, you can also try:
  • Canonical AMP
  • Post-load interaction improvements
  • New ways of thinking about CSS

How to Optimize for PPC Landing Page Experience

By | E Commerce Business News
There’s an old adage that our CRO team likes to share. Companies spend $92 of every $100 to bring customers to their site, but only $1 to convert them.Seems off, doesn’t it?Landing page experience is one of the more under-optimized facets of search marketing. It doesn’t fit neatly into a budget, so it’s difficult to find resources.The average search marketer doesn’t have the skillset to design and build a landing page.Powerful development tools like Unbounce and Instapage exist to do the heavy lifting. But without the right starting point in mind, it’s akin to giving a 16-year-old a driving test in a Ferrari.This author has many misgivings around old best practices.Lists of features, minimized form fields, and trust signals are great, but won’t make you stand out.Testing new versions of the same ol’ same ol’ leave you stuck in a feedback loop. You collect small wins, but don’t impact the business.Remember, you aren’t optimizing for conversion rate alone.You’re optimizing for:
  1. The business.
  2. Google.
  3. Conversion rate.
All three “targets” point to the same question to help guide your testing efforts.Does this test benefit the end user?With that in mind, here are six top tips to optimize your PPC landing pages.

1. Focus on Speed

According to Google, 53% of all mobile visitors abandon a page that takes more than three seconds to load. The data that can load in three seconds varies.Users have a different experience depending on the device, connection speed, weather, astrological sign, whatever!Needless to say, landing pages need to be darn snappy to load within a three-second “limit.”Your mobile speed score matters to Google.This wasn’t explicitly expressed as a factor in quality score. But it’s a factor in quality score.The correlation between speed and quality score is directional but clear. Speed kills, especially when it comes to landing pages!Below are a few resources to help with speed:
  • Pingdom Speed Test
  • Google PageSpeed Insights
Do faster pages benefit users? You bet! This focus on speed yields our next point.

2. Mobile-First Design (For Most)

A question for you, dear readers. How many of test your landing pages on a fast connection, working off a powerful laptop and 32-inch monitors?Now, look at your stats in Google Ads or Analytics. How do the majority of your users access your site?You can all read between the lines here. Design and test your landing pages based on how most of your users will see them.Your gorgeous hero image, precise value propositions, and shiny trust signals may not show when starting with the wrong base.Below is an example: The image is built for and renders perfect on my desktop setup.6 Tips to Improve Your PPC Landing Page Experience (&#038; Quality Score)On my Pixel 3, it’s a different story. The callouts, value propositions, and branding are all pushed far below the fold.The escape hatch (see: point 6) has vanished. The privacy policy is invisible. Most of what made the desktop page great no longer show.Travel Perk Mobile Landing PageIf you want to benefit your users, you need to test like your users.

3. Optimize for Customers, Not Conversions

Yes, you read right. Do not optimize for conversion rate.This may seem a bit contrarian, but whatever. It’s my post, I do what I want.
Optimizing for front end conversion rate is dangerous.Consider the following:You cut landing page form fields to only ask for name, email address, and phone number. Your conversion rate doubles (yay!) which means you beat your CPA goal.Your boss or gives you more money to get more leads at these conversion rates. The business team hires more salespeople to handle the volume.Turns out these new conversions were junk. By removing the form fields, you encouraged everyone to convert without prequalifying them. Your boss is now mad, and you are now sad.This is too common in landing page testing. Advertisers check the success of a test in a vacuum.Instead, look at downstream metrics when conducting a test to make sure it’s a net positive for the business.From a user perspective, it’s a net positive as well – it saves them time and gets the right people to your business.

4. Be a Minimalist

That’s right, everybody – Marie Kondo making an appearance! Cut everythingfrom your landing pages that do not spark joy for the user.No, that does not mean reducing the content to bare bones nothingness. Nor does it mean cutting your landing pages off below the fold or cutting your form fields to two.The best landing pages allow the customer to flow from search to ad to landing page to business.Remove anything and everything that gets in the way. Exit intent or email capture pop-ups have a place in the marketing world, not landing pages.The same goes for marketing pixels on your landing page. Keep pixels limited to what’s necessary. This:
  • Helps foster speed.
  • Prevents privacy mishaps.
  • Ensures there aren’t any rogue takeovers or broken images.
Have I made my point yet? Make sure everything on the page adds value to the end user.

5. Personalize with Purpose

Personalization is a delicate topic in the age of privacy.It may be a bit too much to embed a user’s first name and favorite kind of cookie on a landing page.A few audience-based content adjustments can take your experience to the next level.Tweak to the landing pages by adjusting the hero image based on user location. Toy with value propositions or even headlines/taglines based on entry channel.Work for a meal delivery company or a restaurant? I’d put dollars to doughnuts you’d see a huge lift from showing different food to male and female visitors.Localization is a powerful weapon; use it with care. It’s easy to tell if a company is trying to “appear” local, which is worse than not trying at all.If you do localize, get someone who’s a true local area to test and make sure your method fits.As long as you give the users what they’re looking for, you’ll be happy with the results.

6. Test the Little Things

Don’t shy away from “the little things” in landing pages.
  • Take advantage of meta data and title tags. Odds are they won’t take your quality score from zero to hero, but they won’t hurt!
  • Test form fields, form styles/flow and yes, even button color. It’s unlikely these little changes will make a big impact on their own. But, even incremental improvements to customer flow can benefit landing page performance.
  • Toy with your content style and length. Don’t be shy about taking users below the fold; they’ll navigate there if you’ve done a good enough job setting the hook.
  • Explore different taglines, different ways of expressing features and benefits. Make sure your landing page highlights the answer to a users’ question and gives them a smooth flow to the next step.
  • Ensure landing pages have some form of an escape hatch. That is, a way for users to navigate off the landing page. Search engines don’t explicitly punish for bounce rate. But, they do punish for locking a user into a single page. Not to mention the potential frustration and soured view of the business.
Finally, don’t forget the big things that seem little. Your landing page will always need a findable, legible, and legal privacy policy.

To Sum Up

If there’s one point I hope I’ve driven home with this post, it’s to focus your landing page experience on the user.Happy users make happy search engines.Happy search engines make happy quality scores.Happy quality scores make a happy you.

7 Tips to Protect Your Brand’s Online Reputation

By | Website Design Advice
The advice you’ll read in this article works for both proactive reputation management, and for those that already have online negative content/reviews about them.Be advised, however, that some sites may be impossible or very hard to beat.Major news sites (e.g., The Wall Street Journal, LA Times, New York Times) require significant work to manage.If a major news site has posted negative content about you, then you really need to be (or hire) an expert in SEO.The do-it-yourself option is just not feasible at that scale. That said, these tips will help some DIYers before moving on to an expensive reputation management firm.Up until recently, popular complaint website RipoffReport was also hard to beat.Recent changes to Google’s algorithm (which we think occurred in September 2018) have pushed some complaint sites lower in search ranking. Read my prior article for more details about this.7 Expert Tips to Protect Your Online Reputation

Tip 1: Provide Excellent Service

You want to make sure that you really are providing an excellent service to avoid getting negative reviews in the first place. Consider going above and beyond your current efforts.For example, if you run a restaurant, maybe provide a free appetizer to surprise new or returning customers.If you notice even the slightest sign that a customer is unhappy, try your best to resolve the issue ASAP. The next best thing is to offer a free service or refunds to make up for the issue.You can’t make everyone happy. I have been doing SEO services for over 20 years and there have been many times when I’ve had unhappy clients.I have always either offered free services or provided refunds to my unhappy clients, and this is how I have kept a near flawless record online.They say the client is always right. I know that sometimes they are not, but consider whether arguing with your customer is worth your reputation.The decision may come down to the dollar value of your services.Maybe a negative review on Yelp or Google Maps would not affect your overall rating because you have many positive reviews.But what would happen if you got a negative review on a complaint site like RipoffReport?Often, these kinds of reviews rank high for the brand name and can do more damage in a few months than the amount in dispute with your client.I have offered full refunds to several clients over the years because the threat of a negative review on the right site can hurt.My firsthand knowledge of the damage done to businesses has made me overly cautious.One negative review can cost thousands of dollars in online reputation management (ORM) services to try and repair.

Tip 2: Ask for Reviews

Certain professions are more likely to have more negative reviews than positive.For example, dentists for some reason usually get a high number of negative reviews.My guess is that no one goes to a dentist with a happy feeling. One usually goes to a dentist to fix a cavity or do a cleaning, which could result in the discovery of cavities and require more work.Having to spend money you had not planned on spending is a pretty good reason for most people to get upset. Even the best dental insurance requires some kind of a copay, so dental procedures can be expensive.Even if you aren’t a dentist, you’re more likely to get positive reviews if you ask for them.If you avoid asking your best customers for reviews, you may end up with more negative reviews than you would have wanted.Just make sure that you know your customers are happy before you ask for the review.If you are seeing your customer in person, you may start by asking how they felt about your service right after you finish the job.Alternatively, you may want to follow up after a few days.Another tip is to use a different person to follow up then whoever served the customer. If it is one of your staff that did the work/sale, then either a manager or you should do the follow-up.This way the customer is more likely to tell you about a negative experience, and you won’t feel as defensive about it since you were not the one involved.

Tip 3: Incentives for Reviews

Consider offering some kind of incentive for reviews, but be warned that this practice is against Yelp. If you do this, make sure to never ask for it in writing, but always verbally.If someone reports you to Yelp for doing this, you may get a warning or a demotion in Yelp’s search results.
I have seen businesses post messages behind their business cards asking for Yelp reviews, with a discount for positive reviews.A customer just needs to take a picture of this and send it to Yelp. Yelp will quickly follow up with a Consumer Alert on your account.

Tip 4: Offer Refunds to Unhappy Clients

If you have clients that are unhappy with your services, at first try to resolve or fix the issues, but if this is not possible, then offer a full or partial refund or some other incentive such as discount coupons or even retail gift cards.Accept that you were wrong. Trying to resolve issues will always sit better with clients than trying to argue.Refunds can either help avoid the negative review or lessen the damage and turn the negative review into a somewhat positive one.I’ve had clients where even a partial refund has meant the difference between a 1-star and a 4-star review. Even a 5-star rating may be possible.

Tip 5: Review Generating Platforms

Many companies offer platforms for review generation. The basic concept is to collect your customer’s emails and/or phone numbers.After their visit, or every so often, you can send a survey email or text message to ask for feedback.The message will ask how they felt about your services and if the answer comes back positive you can then ask them to give you a review on the review site of your choosing, such as Yelp and Google Maps.If the answer comes back negative, you will see the message and can reach out to them to try and resolve the issue before they think about posting a negative review in the first place.These services typically cost as little as $30 per month to run yourself, or up to hundreds of dollars for a full-service provider (ORM company). Some companies that offer this service include:
  • Birdeye
  • ReviewInc
  • ShoutAboutUs
  • GatherUp

Tip 6: Consider Revising Your Business Model

I have a client with an ecommerce fashion store that dropships items from China, even though the business is based in the U.S.The delivery time is usually 2 to 5 weeks, which is slow for most people. In addition, sometimes the Chinese sizes run smaller than US sizes.So this business often gets many negative reviews and requests for returns/refunds. They also further upset clients by asking the customer to send back the item at their own expense.As you can see, this kind of business cannot avoid negative reviews unless they change their business model.The main benefit of their service is that it’s affordable. In fact, they are extremely cost-effective compared to similar fashion items found at major department stores.So, what can a business like this do?My advice begins with an adjustment to their sales copy informing customers that items are delivered from China and that shipping may take 2-5 weeks.This tactic reduces some of their sales, but it avoids so many unhappy customers and unnecessary refunds.Most people would probably not mind waiting a little if that would save them some money.The customers that don’t want to wait that long are usually the ones that would complain most because they probably needed the item to be there for an occasion.Also, they can offer free or reduced shipping costs for returns.If the item is pretty cheap, another option is to provide a full refund and have the customer simply keep the item. Amazon used this tactic effectively in its growth phase to encourage Prime users.The good news with this business is that they decided to change business models and keep inventory on hand to ship from the U.S. after I consulted with them.They have been getting fewer negative reviews since they did this couple of months ago.So my point here is to take a look at your business model to see what adjustments you can make to avoid situations that lead to negative reviews.Even if it is going to cost you some business or money, you would be better off in the long run.Not only will you increase business from new customers (thanks to positive reviews), happy clients will return and refer others to your business.

Tip 7: Be Proactive, Not Reactive

There are a number of things you can do to create a positive online image.Your goal should be to populate the top 20 of Google with positive content about your business, which in turn may help to keep negative content out.I plan on writing another article soon to cover more specifics, but in general, here are a few recommendations:
  • Register your social media profiles on the top social media sites, and stay active on those platforms.
  • Active Twitter profiles often get in the top 10 for their brand names, and Google may even show the latest feeds from them taking additional real estate space.
  • YouTube videos will often rank well for brand names. You can create a professional video for less than $1,000, or an even lower budget video using your smartphone. Also, you can hire a freelancer on a site like Fiverr to do a slide show type video about your business.
  • Distribute press releases every few months. Try to use different networks for distribution to get maximum coverage.
  • If you don’t already have a blog, create one and post on a regular basis (once a week is what we recommend to our clients as a minimum).
  • Create mini sites or blogs with subdomain blog platforms, such as wordpress.com or tumblr.com. Make sure your brand name appears as part of the subdomain (i.e., yourbrand.wordpress.com).

Yoast SEO Becomes First WordPress Plugin to Offer Defragmented Schema Markup

By | Digital Marketing & Google News
Popular WordPress plugin Yoast is releasing an update which offers defragmented implementation of Schema.org markup.What makes this a first-of-its-kind update is that it cleans up the “fragmented mess” created by most Schema implementationsEven the best Schema implementations are not done very well, the company says, as they often provide no context to search engines.For example, if a page has eight pieces of Schema markup it’s often unclear to search engines how they’re related to each other.Here’s what error-free Schema markup looks like in Google’s structured data tester when implemented by other tools:Yoast SEO Becomes First WordPress Plugin to Offer Defragmented Schema MarkupIt’s clean, but those are still eight individual items and search engines need will need to figure out how they’re related to each other.In addition, it’s also not clear to search engines what the main entity is on the page.Yoast explains how the latest update to its plugin weaves everything together:
“In our implementation, which we’re releasing today, all of the pieces “stitch together”: we form them into a nested structure. Without this nesting, a search engine doesn’t know how all these pieces relate to each other, and what the most important piece on a page is. Our implementation also clearly and explicitly defines the “main thing” on that page. This removes all of the guesswork and adds a lot of context for search engines.”
You can see the difference for yourself by running one of Yoast’s example pages through Google’s structured data testing tool.Here’s a screenshot of what you’ll see in the testing tool:Yoast SEO Becomes First WordPress Plugin to Offer Defragmented Schema MarkupIn this screenshot, you can see that the main entity of the page is an article. The article is part of a webpage, which is part of a website.Scrolling further down you’ll see more entities which Google detects as being related to the article, such as images, author, publisher, and more.

What does this mean for SEOs and site owners?

Implementation of Schema markup with Yoast’s plugin can result in:
  • Correct info in Google Knowledge Panels.
  • Full support for Rich Article Pins on Pinterest.
  • Showing up in a News listing or carousel (when combined with the News SEO plugin).
  • Higher chance of product snippets in Google Search results (when combined with the WooCommerce SEO plugin).
  • Higher chance of good local listing snippets (with the Local SEO plugin).
Yoast SEO 11.0 with Schema.org implementation is available now by upgrading the plugin. And yes, these new features are all available in the free version.

7 SEO Tactics to Absolutely, Always Avoid Doing

By | seo advice for business
Despite the evolution of Google and the internet, bad and outdated SEO tactics still proliferate.And the worst part is they continue to wreak havoc to webpages, search rankings, traffic, and conversions because website owners themselves have no idea they no longer work.So, what are some of the craziest and most common “do nots” of SEO?On April 10, I moderated an SEJ ThinkTank webinar presented by Julia McCoy, CEO of Express Writers.McCoy discussed the most common bad SEO tactics that are still happening all over the web along with smart solutions and replacements to help you avoid them for good.

Google Is Pro-User

Why should we care about what “NOT” to do when it comes to our website and Google-friendly practices?We care about Google and avoiding bad practices for search because more than half (60 percent) of all traffic on the web starts with a Google search.To forget, or even worse – ignore! – how your website is performing in search, is irresponsible.The good news?If you put the right practices in place, you might be on the verge of a success story.Here are seven bad SEO tactics Google really hates and how to avoid them.

Bad Tactic 1: Using Your Target Keyword in an Outdated, Forced & Stuffy Style

Back in the day, it was common to see multiple pieces of content targeting the same keyword.How to Make a LatteToday, if we were to separate related keywords like this into multiple pieces of content, we would be ignoring the importance of semantic search, which looks at the topic of a page rather than the repeated instances of keywords to determine relevancy to the search engine user.Creating too much content around similar keywords can also cannibalize your keyword rankings.

Solution: Naturally Incorporate Synonyms of Your Focus Keyword in One Comprehensive Piece of Content

Scroll down to Google after you type in your target keyword to find synonymous keywords.Searches related to how to make a latteAll of the synonymous keywords make excellent keyword choices to use in your blog.

Bad Tactic 2: Developing Only Short, Thin, Non-Comprehensive Content

Short content has its place. Not so much in SEO.

Solution: Create Long-Form Content

Based on several studies, the most-shared and the highest-ranked content is long-form (1,900-3,000 words).BuzzSumo analyzed more than 100 million articles. The most-shared posts were long-form. Backlinko studied 1 million blogs, and found 1,900-2,000-word posts at the top of Google.

Bad Tactic 3: Posting Content Erratically Instead of on Schedule

If you post content consistently, you’ll feed Google, your website, and build your email list.HubSpot looked at blogging frequency data from over 13,500 marketers and agencies. Those who blogged 16+ times per month earned the most traffic and the most leads.

Solution: Set a Blogging Schedule

Post consistently and regularly to build up your content library – but, make sure not to lose quality in the process.

Bad Tactic 4: Prioritizing Quantity Before Quality

Google cares about quality content, in a big way. Poorly-written, crappy content does NOT contribute to high rankings.According to Google Quality Rater Guidelines, Google says that pages with the highest quality:
  • Achieve an intended purpose.
  • Demonstrate a high level of E-A-T (expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness).

Solution: Focus on Creating Better Content

Create content that is much better than the results that already exist in the top five results on page 1 of Google for your keyword/term.

Bad Tactic 5: Publishing Duplicate Content

According to an SEMrush study of over 100,000 websites, one of the most common on-page SEO errors is duplicate content.

Solution: Use Copyscape to Check for Originality

Use Copyscape to run your content through a duplicate search, and rewrite any pages that have a high percentage match. The ultimate goal is to have a 0% match.

Bad Tactic 6: Buying Links

This is an old and outdated SEO practice.Buying links is expressly forbidden and penalized by Google nowadays.Google views each link to your site essentially as a “vote of confidence”. If you buy links, Google equates that to vote rigging.In Google’s Webmaster forum, Google says that buying or selling links may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

Solution: Create Link-Worthy Content, Consistently

Strive to become a known resource that people know, like, trust, and link to. This takes time and commitment.It is possible for businesses to survive without physically buying or acquiring links.For instance, Express Writers has never sought out a link in eight years. Quality of content, originality of thought, and relevancy for their audience have always come first.There are also other leaders that have earned thousands of links without ever seeking one:
UnbounceOli Gardner wrote free ebooks and blogs to grow their brand. He created a 13,000-word, 15 million pixel infographic, The Newb’s Guide to Online Marketing, for Moz.It was downloaded over 150,000 times and earned thousands of links.BufferKevan Lee has created “ultimate”-style content that’s earned hundreds of links per post for Buffer. Their “What We Learned Through 43 Million Facebook Posts” earned 164 organic links.

Bad Tactics 7: Forgetting About Consumer Reviews – or Even Worse, Getting Fake Ones Posted & Written

Seventy percent of consumers today check out company and product reviews before making an online purchase.A study by the Washington Post found that 61% of electronics reviews on Amazon are fake.

Solution: Ask Your Happy Customers for Reviews

Ask more happy customers on a regular basis to review you on social media or your most important site (BBB, Yelp, Amazon). Listen for customer “YAY!” moments, and ask then.

Key Takeaways

  • Don’t create too much content around similar keywords. Naturally incorporate synonymous keywords.
  • Don’t create short, thin content. Comprehensive content earns more mentions, shares, and rankings.
  • Don’t post content erratically. Stick to a content schedule.
  • Don’t put quantity before quality. Focus on creating better content than what’s already in Google’s top 5.
  • Don’t post duplicate content. Use Copyscape to check for originality.
  • Don’t buy links. Create link-worthy content.
  • Don’t forget customer reviews – and never have fake ones created and posted. Ask happy customers for reviews in their “Yay!” moments.

Link Building: Don’t Do These 10 Things

By | Online Entrepreneur News
Every SEO professional worth their salt knows that links (along with content) are the backbone of SEO.Links continue to remain a significant ranking factor.What happens when you get bad links on enough of a scale to harm your site?Your site can get algorithmically downgraded by Google – or worse, you get a manual action.While Google maintains they are good at ignoring bad links, enough bad links can harm your site’s ranking.This guide will explain 10 different types of bad links that can get you penalized, and what you can do about them.

1. Press Release Links

Press Release Links

Press release links were popular about 10 years ago.These links were super easy to get.All you had to do was write a press release and syndicate it to hundreds of press release distribution sites.You’d quickly get hundreds of links.Like any SEO tactic that worked well, it got abused.Now, Google considers press release links a link scheme because these are so easy to manipulate.You especially want to avoid any press release links that rely on over-optimized anchor text targeting your main money keyword.If you absolutely must have a website link due to factors beyond your control, use naked URLs or branded URLs as your anchor text, and use only one link from the contact area of the press release.

2. Discussion Forum Links

Discussion Forum Links

To be clear: not all forum discussion links are bad.If a link is coming from a good quality site, an established user, and the link itself is not manipulative or spammy, you probably will want to keep it.However, if you have thousands of links coming in from foreign discussion forums, they are all low-quality spammy links, and they continue to come in, you may want to disavowthem.Any links that looks spammy won’t do you any favors in Google’s eyes.

3. Links From Foreign Guestbooks

Foreign Guestbook Links

Links like these are also manipulative.Links from foreign guestbooks can be placed manually or with the aid of an automatic program.Enough of these at scale can cause ranking drops.When in doubt, disavow.

4. Many Random NoFollow Links

Think you can fool Google by randomizing your footprint just enough so that your spammy link building will go undetected? Think again.If you are not using an automated program, Google will find your footprint.Humans are naturally creatures of habit. It is exceedingly difficult to create randomized footprints that you think Google will not detect.If you are using an automated program, it is increasingly likely that Google will find the footprint of that automated program, unless it is truly random.Why? The simple act of nofollowing the link is a footprint.Thousands of links from many different sites that are all nofollowed is an indicator that something spammy is going on.

5. Private Blog Networks (PBNs)

Private Blog Networks (PBNs)

PBNs used to be a great way to build links to get rankings.You could randomize your footprint and all would be well.You could continue to see significant gains from using these techniques.Not anymore.Now, PBNs on a massive enough scale can tank your site and cause it to lose organic traffic.Google is able to detect – and punish – most PBNs. Some PBNs may take longer to spot than others, but eventually Google will catch on.

6. NoFollowed (& Followed) Social Bookmark Links

Social bookmarking links are also considered to be manipulative by Google.This can get you in trouble if you do it too much.Think about it. They are all manually-placed and are spammy as hell.It’s no wonder Google considers these a link scheme.

7. Directory Submissions (or a Directory Submissions Service)

Directory Submission Service

Directory submission services love to tell you that you will get great traction and gains from their links.“We’ll help increase your Google rankings!!” they will say.However, nothing could be further from the truth.Submitting to low-quality directories will likely do more harm than good for your rankings.As with many things in SEO, there is an exception.It is OK to use relevant and targeted directories for natural link building – especially in local SEO.

8. Blog Comments

Historically, blog comments have been one of the most-abused tactics in SEO.Comment spam is an ancient link acquisition tactic to avoid.It. Does. Not. Work!In fact, you can thank spammy blog comments for the introduction of nofollowed links.The goal was to prevent spammers from getting SEO benefits from abusing the comments section.But there is a right way to approach blog comments. The key is leaving topically relevant comments on topically relevant sites.

9. Links From Fiverr or Other Cheap Link Services

This is yet another abused tactic in SEO.Again, this is so egregiously bad that, while they are not part of Google’s guidelines, the patterns and footprints left behind are likely obvious to Google’s algorithms.It would not be hard for Google to set up an investigative protocol to sign up for accounts for these services, pose as SEOs or other webmasters, and check out the most common patterns used by these services.Just always remember – that person you’re talking to on the black hat forums regularly could very well be a Googler.

10. Links Built by Automatic Link Building Programs

Ever heard of tools like GSA Search Engine Ranker, Scrape Box, or XRumer?Sure these tools can build you lots of links. However, in recent years, these programs have become less effective.This SEO professional does not recommend using these programs for your SEO efforts, especially not on your money site.If an SEO can think of it, it is likely that Google is already several steps ahead with pattern variations already built into their algorithm.

Are Links Actually to Blame, or Is It Something Else?

Penguin or Panda Penalty

So far we’ve talked about links that harm you. But could it be something else?To find out, you should perform multiple audits. Assess the state of your site and move forward from there.
  • A technical SEO auditto uncover any potential crawl issues, technical issues, or any similar issues impacting the site.
  • A content audit to determine the state of the site’s content.
  • A link profile audit to assess the current state of the site’s overall link profile.
From here, you will be able to move forward with steps to fix the site. If you are unfortunate enough to have a complex site with issues in all three columns, you will need to get to work.

Manual Action: Preparing the Disavow File

In my opinion, nothing beats Link Detox by Link Research Tools. It can assess links from the most sources (25), such as Majestic, GSC, Moz, Ahrefs, SEMrush, and many more.You will want to compile all links for as many sources as you can get your hands on. Upload them according to the instructions in Link Detox.Once you have done this, and you have gone through Link Detox’s process of reviewing and rating links, it will be necessary to prepare the disavow file.

Frequently Asked Questions About Link Audits

How Can You Assess Whether You Have a Link Penalty?

Panda or Penguin Recovery

Did you get a manual action notification?Just check under manual actions within Google Search Console.You’ll know immediately if Google has penalized your site.Did your site get downgraded algorithmically?Usually, you can assess whether you have an algorithmic downgrade by examining your Google Analytics data.Typically, you’ll see an approximate 35-50 percent drop in overall traffic. This could be to certain pages, folders, or even sitewide.A careful analysis can sometimes reveal other issues (e.g., technical or content) on a site that are causing such traffic drops.In these cases, you should begin with a multi-tiered audit implementation approach designed to fix content-related issues along with link-related issues.

What to Do If You Identify a Negative SEO Attack?

You need to stop the attack as quickly as possible. If you are under high volume link attack, it’s only a matter of time before you will be penalized.The process itself is really fairly simple and not overly complex:
  • Block all bots. Except perhaps the major ones: Google, Bing, and Yahoo.
  • Do a mass disavow of all incoming links.
  • Implement a regular link review and disavow process to continue disavowing all incoming links until the link attack goes away.

What Is the Best Way to Implement a Good Link Profile?

Creating a Better Link Profile

Adopt good habits:
  • Use branded anchor text where possible.
  • Use naked URLs.
  • Do not use exact match keyword anchor text.
  • Don’t get links from bad sites or bad neighborhoods.
  • Don’t place links with over-optimized anchor text manually or with tools.
  • Make sure your links are editorially vouched for by the site owners involved.
  • Get links from good authority sites in your niche.
  • Engage with people
In general, your link profile should be fairly balanced, and types of links should not exceed approximately 20 percent of your overall link profile.Avoid spammy, unnatural links and disavow any against Google’s guidelines.

How Long Does It Take to Remove an Algorithmic Downgrade?

It can very well take 6-8 months or more depending on its severity. And if it’s a manual action, you could be looking at close to a year.I’ve personally worked on a 200,000+ link profile in the legal industry that took over a year to fully get completely reversed, and seven submissions of the reinclusion request sent to Google.Don’t give up – it’s possible to repair even the worst of the worst link profiles.

How to Remove Your Personal Information from Google

By | Online Entrepreneur News
Google is an integral part of our lives. We use it for research, reading and getting from points A to B.Thanks to the internet of things, some of us even have a Google Assistant, ready to answer any question or even settle a family dispute as quickly as you can say “Hey Google”.With so much information at our fingertips, it can become unnerving. Let’s face it – there are times when you’d rather not have certain content made publicly available.Perhaps there’s a shot of you on Google Street View that you’d prefer to be blurred out. Maybe sensitive personal information has been leaked that you wish to keep private.In this post, I’ll explain how to remove your information from Google’s Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). Legally, there may be additional protections and remedies available under the concept of the “right to be forgotten.”Before we drill any deeper, it’s worth noting that Google is primarily a web aggregator, indexing billions of web pages every day.When content is “removed from Google”, they actually deindex the web page(s) from their search results, but the source content will still be online.If you’re seeking to have personal content removed from the web altogether, you need to reach out to the site owner.

How to Remove Your Personal Information from Google

A Note on Social Media

In an age where we live update just about everything, it’s worth noting that social media posts will often be indexed by Google.If you’ve ever searched for yourself, chances are pretty good that your social media pages are what come up first. The best way to combat this is to change the privacy settings on these accounts.

Google’s Removal Policies

Google has come under scrutiny recently for having a “liberal bias.” In reality, their goal is to provide unbiased, algorithmically driven search results.In an effort to protect that neutrality, Google is reluctant to remove information. Exceptions include “sensitive personal information” and certain legal issues.

Legal Removal Requests

Legally, if any web content includes anything to do with child sex abuse or inappropriate images of said children, it will be removed.Additionally, they also remove any content that infringes copyright, as long as they meet the requirements of the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act).If you’ve ever owned a website, you may be familiar with submitting DMCA requests. Any legal removal requests need to be submitted to Google via this page.

Personal Information Removal

Certain personal information will be removed by Google, including credit card information, bank account numbers, images of signatures, explicit images that were shared without your permission and confidential medical records.They will also remove any national identification numbers such as social security numbers, passport numbers and tax identifiers.They will not, however, remove things such as telephone numbers, addresses and your date of birth. This is usually a matter of public record.Moreover, if the information about you was found through a government website, it is most likely not going to be removed, as this is once again classed as public information.Personal removal requests are reviewed and assessed by Google on a case by case basis. To submit a request for removal, go to this page.What follows are directions on how to complete each request.

How to Submit a Legal Removal Request

1. Go to this page to initiate your requestGoogle requires you to submit a removal request for each Google platform which you would like content removed from.2. Select the platform by clicking the corresponding radio button as seen in the screenshot below:How to Remove Your Personal Information from GoogleYou will then be asked specifically what the content is related to. Select the option which best matches the type of content you’d like to be removed.How to Remove Your Personal Information from GoogleGoogle will provide you with a link to the page where you can submit all the necessary information.

How to Remove an Image from Google

Google usually doesn’t remove images from their search results. This is because Google doesn’t physically have the images, they are just indexed through other websites.They state that even if they remove it from their search results, the image will still exist on the third-party site and other search engines are able to pick it up.Google suggests that you contact the owner of a website directly if you wish to have an image removed.
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If the image contains sensitive personal information such as credit card details or national identification documents such as a passport, then Google will endeavor to get it removed.Refer back to their removal policies to see if the image you wish to remove is covered. Then, to begin the process, click here and fill out the questionnaire and click on Submit once you’re finished.Google will also endeavor to remove any unwanted explicit images of yourself that you did not consent to being posted online. We discuss how to remove them in the next section.

How to Remove Unwanted/Explicit Personal Images from Google

Google put together a separate guideline for reporting the misuse of sexually explicit images of yourself. They will remove the photo if one or more of the following applies:
  • You’re engaging in a sexual act or are nude.
  • You intended the content to be private and it was posted online without your permission (“revenge porn”).
  • You did not consent to the act and the images were published without your consent.
As we discussed in the previous section, even if the image is removed from the search engine results pages, it will still be on the web.It’s recommended that you also contact the owner of the website to get it removed from the web altogether. You can find out more about contacting the site owner (webmaster) here.When filling out the Google form to have the image removed, be sure to give as much detail as possible. Include the offending URLs of the SERPs that show the image, as well as a screenshot of the image.The image can be censored to obscure the explicit nature of the photo, but must still be easily identifiable.

How to Remove Involuntary Fake Pornography from Google

Involuntary fake pornography includes images or videos of you that have been doctored to make it look like you’ve engaged in a sexually explicit act, even though you haven’t.In order for Google to consider your removal request, the content must meet the following criteria:
  • You must be clearly identifiable in the images/videos.
  • The content is fake and falsely depicts you as being nude or engaging in a sexually explicit act.
  • The content was posted without your permission.
As with genuine explicit personal images, you need to provide screenshots of the offending image, and the URLs of the SERPs it appears in, so that Google can process the request.As above, once you have filled out this form, Google can remove the imagery from the SERPs, however, if you want the content to be taken down altogether, you will need to contact the webmaster.

How to Remove Content About You on Sites That Have Exploitative Removal Practices from Google

Some webmasters tend not to be accommodating when it comes to removing your personal information from their site, even after a polite request.It’s not uncommon to find companies that try to exploit web users into paying them to remove explicit images or other sensitive data.In these types of cases, Google may endeavor to remove such links from their SERPs. Google’s requirements for this are the following:
  • You must be the subject of the content.
  • The site is not a business review website.
  • The website insists that you must pay to have the content removed.
To get the content deindexed, click on this form and select the option that confirms that the webmaster is requesting payment. Then fill out all your personal details and select Submit.You may wish to seek further legal action directly again the webmaster to get the content removed from the website.

How to Remove your Information from Other Google Products

Your personal information can also show up on other Google related products and services.Here’s how to remove any personal information from each:

Google Maps

Google Maps shows up contact details for businesses. However, from time to time, they rely on third-parties to source that information and it can sometimes show up your personal information rather than business information.Even if you’re not a business owner this can sometimes erroneously happen. To request information be removed from Google Maps, go to this page and follow the instructions.They also have instructions on how to go about getting your picture blurred on street view.

Blogger

Blogger is just that, a blogging platform. Therefore information shared on there is classed as opinions and generally Google will not remove it unless their terms of service are violated.

YouTube

As with Blogger, YouTube is a content sharing platform so generally Google will not remove YouTube videos from their SERPs.The exception to this rule is when there is a copyright infringement or if the content violates Google’s terms of service.

The Takeaway

My post “14 Great Search Engines You Can Use Instead of Google” generated a great deal of interest, in no small part, due to Google privacy issues. If your privacy has been violated by Google, you do have recourse.Follow the steps outlined above. Better still, if you haven’t run into a privacy issue, now is the time to be proactive and be diligent in protecting your privacy.

6 Actions You Must Take After an SEO Audit.

By | seo advice for business
Want to improve the organic search visibility of your website?Step one is commonly an SEO audit.An SEO audit can produce valuable insights. It reveals past SEO strategy and tactics – or lack thereof – and is a fresh way to get started with a new partnerThe best audits are done in-depth and focused on aspects across the three key areas of SEO:
  • Technical.
  • On-page.
  • Off-page.
They also use some keyword or goal-oriented focuses to compare against. This allows for a deeper analysis of keyword performance and competitor comparison.When investing time, energy, and actual dollars in an SEO audit, you are probably doing it with the goal of taking action afterward. Perhaps you’re looking to get a return on investment or jump-start ranking, traffic, and conversion goal improvements.So what comes next?Here are some specific next steps you should take after the audit is completed to build momentum and ensure your time and investment isn’t wasted.

1. Develop a List of Insights

A detailed, handcrafted audit report often includes:
  • The list of SEO items audited.
  • What the status is of those items weighed against best practices, audience, and competitive filters.
  • Recommendations of aspects to correct or improve.
These are often woven throughout the report and sometimes are summarized in an executive summary or conclusion section.For lighter or more automated audits, this section of findings might be lacking clarity or depth.Your first step after the SEO audit is to get to the short (or possibly long) list of specific insights and things that need action.

2. Prioritize Based on Level of Impact

Using the list that was included in the audit report, or the insights you compiled, it’s time to begin the planning phase.If you have the option to go back to the person or team (internally or externally) who conducted the audit or do a post-audit meeting, this is the time to learn and understand the expected level of impact of each of the items on the insights list.Not all corrective or optimization actions will have the same magnitude of impact. While SEO professionals are pressed to avoid promises due to the uncertain nature of the industry, there should be a scale and objective way to prioritize the list based on how big issues are.Setting expectations of what the impact could be, even when they are based on benchmarks and where you want to be, will be helpful later for measurement of actual impact.For example, resolving the issue of missing title and meta description tags on every page of the site by writing custom, helpful, keyword focused tags will likely have more impact and should have higher priority than implementing schema structured data for a contact us page.

3. Determine Necessary Resources

With a prioritized list of action items based on the level of impact, you can now determine the necessary time, budget, and resources needed to tackle each item.Some updates can be made in minutes by a single person with little training. Others might require the assistance of other departments, individuals, or outside vendors.Something like the implementation of a sophisticated canonical tag strategy might require a good technical SEO mind plus the skills of a web developer. Those resources may cost money and have to be slotted into schedules.Once you know how long it will take to implement each item, what it will cost in time and resources, coupled with the level of impact from the previous step, you can filter the list and re-prioritize.

4. Develop a Timeline

You now have an outline of the work and needs in front of you. This is not the time to take your foot off the gas.
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Pushing forward on the SEO plan can be daunting due to time, resource, and budget constraints. However, SEO is a long-term commitment that is fueled by short-term activities and tactical execution.At this point, you should be able to see what the all-in investment is for implementing all of the items on the list.Based on budgeting, pacing, and the ability to commit, it should be possible to know how much time overall it will take to work through everything.With this in hand, you can develop a timeline with specific milestones, goals, and reporting cycles to measure the impact of the effort.

5. Create an Action Plan

Putting the plan in motion, you’ll need to find the right systems to ensure that:
  • Collaboration is easy.
  • Tasks are scheduled and assigned.
  • Accountability is attached.
Whether that is a workflow program, SEO tool, or project management suite, treating this as a real project or campaign following the audit is one of the best things you can do to give it a fair shot.Heaping a big stack of tasks or assignments on an individual, team, or group of roles with no expectation or accountability is a big risk for failure. Setting the tone with a plan and an expectation of it being organized and completed on budget and on time is critical.Not all stakeholders and roles will understand the potential impact of improving SEO if they only have a small role in certain pieces.The IT manager (no offense) probably won’t care much about why you want them to change 302 redirects to 301s or set a canonical version of the root domain.Without some education and a clear assignment with a due date that tucks into the plan, it might go into an IT queue with low priority and never get done.

6. Achieve Success

How are you going to know what SEO success looks like and that this effort was worthwhile?Tying back into the goals and expectations you set in the first post-audit step of assessing the best estimate possible of the level of impact of the action items identified, you can measure performance.Using baseline or benchmark data, you can isolate the project schedule and see where average position, impressions, traffic, and conversions changed during the project or campaign.With a dedicated plan and concerted effort, you should be able to track specific improvements.Be sure to use the annotation feature in Google Analytics and have regular reporting cycles monthly or weekly depending on how long your timeline is for implementing the plan.This is a great way to track improvement over time and understand the actual impact versus the estimated level of impact and to make any agile revisions to the plan or to keep going with the original schedule.

Conclusion

The SEO audit process can be overwhelming.Depending on the type of audit, and how much support and education you receive at the end of the process, it can be challenging to use the audit as a powerful tool to improve the optimization of a website.Through working from insights to fully-actionable and measurable plan, you can achieve success and find ROI not just for the audit investment itself, but in leveraging SEO as a valuable digital marketing channel.

Choose an SEO-Friendly Website Platform

By | seo advice for business
I’m sure most of us have seen, it’s difficult to give our clients the results they desire when they operate a five-page site using Wix or Weebly.Of course, it can be just as difficult working with a client using a WordPress site that is littered with errors that can take hours upon hours of consulting to uncover.Web design and development should be developed with SEO in mind.While I confess that my knowledge of web design and development is cursory at best, my experience and knowledge of the industry have shown me that certain platforms are better for SEO than any others.Let’s explore!

Website Builder vs. CMS: What’s the Difference?

Unless you are a coding genius, most website development projects will be built either using a pretty basic website builder or a more sophisticated content management system.A website builder should be pretty familiar to anyone in SEO. The most common examples, include Wix, Weebly, and GoDaddy Website Builder.Website builders incorporate drag and drop UX and UI that makes it easy for anyone to build a site without hiring a developer.For this reason, website builders are often a great choice for cash-strapped small businesses, although this does come at the cost of scale and sophistication.While a website builder offers intuitive styling features, developers will be hard-pressed to make any changes to the backend or files that are hosted by the builder.For this reason, developers often prefer the flexibility and blank slate that a CMS like WordPress provides.Content management systems are software programs that enable developers to store and structure content on their site.It’s often a misconception that WordPress is a website developer, when it’s really a CMS that can incorporate website builders and other plugins into its API.Using a CMS, developers are free to:
  • Add their own HTML.
  • Manipulate .htaccess files.
  • Organize content on their website however they choose.
Furthermore, CMS platforms offer themes and templates that can make building pages a lot easier.

Website Builder Pros

  • Easy learning curve.
  • Cost effective.
  • Drag and drop features.

Website Builder Cons

  • Limited development options.
  • Often poor URL structures.
  • Some plans may be limited in page size.

CMS Pros

  • Flexibility/sophistication.
  • Data management.
  • .htaccess file management.
  • SEO plugins and tools.
  • Simple and intuitive interface.

CMS Cons

  • Steep learning curve.
  • Easy to break.
With this in mind, you may be more likely to turn to a CMS for the added SEO value. But different businesses should look at different options.The following factors should determine which platform you use to build a new website:
  • Your budget
  • level of expertise
  • website’s purpose

What Program Is Best for Your Business?

WordPress

Wordpress dashboardWordPress’s open source software platform and library of plugins make it the most one of the most robust CMSs for SEO professionals.WordPress is great for companies that produce lots of content and are looking for simple designs.Plugins, such as Yoast and WP Rocket can help improve your onsite SEO strategy.WordPress offers web designers and developers the flexibility and customization they need to create an SEO-friendly website that is fast and responsive.One issue that frequently does come up with WordPress is its security.WordPress is fine for most publishers and businesses, but some ecommerce companies and financial institutions prefer their own proprietary code and other platforms for this reason.

Shopify

Shopify home pageShopify is one of the most innovative web builders on the market.Perfect for ecommerce stores, Shopify allows webmasters to create an entire online business and marketplace all in a self-hosted platform.Businesses don’t have to worry about much in terms of a hosting and are given the flexibility to customize their CSS and HTML however they like.I’d recommend Shopify for small retailers and mom-and-pop stores looking for a more sophisticated platform then Etsy or a basic website builder.
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Squarespace

Squarespace templatesSquarespace has long been a favorite website builder for small businesses, offering visually stunning design templates and flexible pricing options.one of the best website builders for small, local businesses that don’t have a ton of money to dump into a new website.With that said, Squarespace does falter when it comes to SEO features and integrating other API.Its lack of support for third-party apps and limitations on what you can do in the backend of a site means you will have to go the extra mile in terms of marketing to reach new customers.Messing with meta data on Squarespace can be a bit tricky and many of their SEO features, such as setting up redirects are not too easy to figure out for first time users.

Wix

Wix HomepageYou won’t find much love for Wix in the SEO community, Wix builder is probably the best solution for creating a small website that is thin on content.Affordable and super simple to design, Wix is a great short-term solution for websites who don’t require a huge organic presence over traditional search to succeed.Of course, Wix’s SEO features are bare bones at best. Wix significantly limits your ability to optimize new content, set up canonical tags, or add new markup to your site to assist in search.Worst of all, there is no way to export data from Wix.

Weebly

Weebly HomepageFinally, Weebly is the most simple website builder on this list. Its drag and drop features make it easy for anyone who doesn’t understand source code to create a website.Unfortunately, Weebly does make it difficult to implement advanced technical features, such as schema and other technical SEO necessities.Worst of all, migrating from a Weebly site to a Wix or WordPress site is incredibly frustrating. Generally, I rank Weebly as one of the worst website builders, although it’s not a bad place to start for a small business.

Further SEO Considerations for Developing a Website

Working with JavaScript

In the past, it was frowned upon to build a site heavy in JavaScript.Fortunately, the search engines have become much better at reading JavaScript, although it’s still all too easy to block search engine bots from crawling a site without even knowing it.You want search engines to see the same exact page that a user sees.Unfortunately, when actions are required for JavaScript to fire and ends up blocking search engine bots, it means that search engines are seeing a lesser version of your site, which could hurt rankings.Work with your developer to ensure that JavaScript is used sparingly and does not impede crawl paths and site speed.

Design for Mobile First

All designs should be made with mobile-first in mind.Whether you are building a WordPress or a Wix site, it’s important that your actual design conforms to the physical requirements of a smaller screen size and different user habits.With the mobile-first index search engines will rank sites higher that provide the following:
  • Responsive web design
  • Fast page speeds
  • Easy accessibility
Finding a solid website builder and CMS that can account for these considerations is important for your ongoing SEO.

Reinvent E-Commerce Personalization in 2019

By | Online Entrepreneur News

You’d be hard pressed to find a tactic more capable of winning and losing customers than personalization. In the past, bad personalization has cost businesses three-quarters of a trillion dollars. In the future, Gartner claims smart personalization will enable businesses to boost their profits by up to 15 percent:

Today, personalization is everywhere — in B2B, B2C, e-commerce, SaaS — the list goes on. Unfortunately, the term “personalization” still carries much confusion with it, which is evidenced by the often-heard admonition that brands still aren’t getting it right.The trouble is, personalization is hard — both to plan and to implement. It requires several stages of preparation that many businesses either don’t know about or skip altogether. Here’s what they are and why they shouldn’t…

What Is E-Commerce Personalization?

E-commerce personalization is the process of serving specific marketing messages to targeted segments and subsegments of a given audience, with the goal of boosting e-commerce revenue.
ecommerce personalization segments chart
E-commerce personalization is built on the idea that every customer is different with respect to the problem that needs to be solved, the product needed to solve it, the way the customer gets that product (path to purchase), and how the problem is solved with that product.To carry out e-commerce personalization effectively, a business must be able to do three things:
  • Amass data on users. This could be, geographic, behavioral, demographic, etc.
  • Analyze that data to find segments that may respond more favorably.
  • Deliver an experience to that segment in real time.
Ultimately, the goal of these three preparational stages is to deliver more relevant content to users — but when stages are skipped or neglected, things don’t always go as planned.

Setting Up Personalization

The last several years have seen a major rise in adoption of personalization among marketers. Now, 98 percent of marketers agree that it advances the customer relationship.As effective as it is, there’s a problem with the perception of personalization: It’s assumed it works, no matter the way it’s used or the goal it aims to achieve. That’s never the case for any tactic, regardless of how popular.Personalization isn’t a one-size fix-all, which means that if you want to use it, you need to make sure it’s worth implementing.You might argue that personalization is worth implementing, at least in some capacity. There are plenty of easy ways to “personalize” your content — from name in email to recommendations on product pages. Because they’re “easy,” many implement these tactics without consideration.However, it’s not a question of whether you can get them done easily, but whether it is worth it right now for you.

Resist Getting Swept Up

It’s easy to get swept up in the obsession with personalization. As with any tactic, though, personalization methods require a strategic evaluation of business needs.Is personalization where your resources are best spent right now? What are your goals, and how are you trying to achieve them?For some, a universal user experience may work fine. For others, personalization may make sense. However, you should never implement a tactic for the sake of doing so, even if other businesses tout its effectiveness. In this case, you have to remember one all-important fact: Their business is not your business.

Cost vs. Benefit

Determining whether a tactic like personalization can work for you is as simple as performing a cost-benefit analysis. Work backward from your goals. What are you trying to achieve?From there, lay out different routes for getting there. Is personalization the most effective route to accomplishing what you’re trying to do? Or are there other tactics that will move the needle more? Consider whether there are other tactics that will require significantly fewer resources than the personalization methods you’re trying to implement.Personalization is as complex as you want it to be — and the more complex it gets, the more effective it can get, too. What’s also true is that the more complex it gets, the more difficult it can be to monitor. The more segments you create, the more you have to manage — and you have to manage them well. Poorly managed personalization is no personalization at all.

So You Want to Personalize

If you believe you’re prepared for personalization, you’ll have two ways to go:
  • Personalization by business observations
  • Personalization by machine learning
The first allows a member of a business to base its segmentation on observed factors in their data. This is similar to conducting any kind of optimization, in which you base your personalization on a test conducted, intuition, or qualitative/quantitative data. Say, prospects in different regions are showing very different buying preferences. That may push you toward creating personalized experiences for each.The second, machine learning, allows you to use software to detect trends that are exploitable via personalization. Instead of your making the observation, it’s sophisticated software that does so in this case. Both methods are equally effective, though in the beginning, machine learning can be costly.Once you’ve discovered methods for personalization, it comes time for another cost/benefit analysis. How personalized should you get?The more rules for personalization you set up, the more complex it is to manage. The complexity of segmentation shows itself in future experiments, in support tickets, and in mismatches caused by machine or human error.This is where tracking return on investment is crucial. You have to know whether a rule for personalization results in a boost in ROI. If it does, it’s worth replicating. If not, it’s simply costing you resources now, and will continue to drain them in the future, by boosting complexity without sustainable return.

15 E-Commerce Personalization Points

Think you’re reading to start using e-commerce personalization? Following are 15 methods that may work for your business.1. Shoppable Social MediaThe majority of Internet users access the Web via mobile device, and mobile device users spend most of their time in a select few apps. Among their favorites: social media.At first, it doesn’t seem like a fact that benefits e-commerce businesses. However, research has shown that more than three-quarters of people have bought something they’ve seen on social media.This leaves e-commerce brands with a unique and effective way to get into the wallets of their ideal customers: shoppable posts.Shoppable posts feature images or videos of products, accompanied by a product page link that visitors can click on to shop. They can be as simple as these below from Urban Outfitters and Nike:
Urbanoutfitters, Nikewomen screenshots
Or, they can look like a regular post, with a link in the description where visitors can find the content of the post for purchase:
product page post screenshot
Both are a great way to get products in front of your audience in a noninvasive way. They’ve constructed their feed, so they’ve opted into seeing your content. In this case, personalization is simply showing them what they’ve requested to see, but in a shoppable way.2. Influencer PartnershipsShoppable Instagram posts aren’t the only way to get into the feeds of your target audience. Accounts with large, engaged followings composed of your ideal prospects are perfect channels through which to advertise your product.The benefit of influencer partnerships over shoppable posts is that they take advantage of a relationship between the user and the influencer. These posts aren’t just pictures of clothing, like the ones above. They’re personal recommendations from people your users trust, and the added social proof makes them infinitely more powerful.3. Device-Specific OfferingsContext matters. Personalization isn’t just about the “who” shopping for the “what,” but “how” they’re shopping, too.For example, someone shopping on a desktop computer or a tablet is very likely in a different mindset than someone shopping on a mobile phone. There’s a chance that the mobile phone user is actually out looking for a brick-and-mortar location that sells what they’re shopping for.The desktop user, however, almost certainly is shopping from a fixed location with the intention of buying online. Offering in-store discounts to mobile users who are near your brick-and-mortar location is a great way to lure them in.4. Geographic Product OfferingsHowever, personalization’s use isn’t limited to brick-and-mortar stores.Even if you’re a local shop with one location, it’s unlikely you’re selling only to people in-store. What’s more likely is that your visitors span a variety of geographic regions.If location is related to the products they may buy, consider personalizing your offerings the way Shop Direct did with its website, Very:
Shop Direct website Very screenshot
Shop Direct website Very screenshot
“We know that relevance wins in retail, and right now customers are drowning in a sea of irrelevant choices,” said Alex Baldock, Shop Direct group chief executive.Personalization was just one of many ways to narrow the field.Very unofficially was known to the e-commerce world as one of the first extensively dynamic personalized homepages. It didn’t just personalize them by geography, but showed users information based on browsing history as well. Today, the website can be delivered in an impressive 3.5 million different ways, depending on who’s visiting.5. Time-Sensitive Product OfferingsWhere geographic product offerings like the one above can make shopping for clothing a little easier, so can time-sensitive offerings.To use clothing as an example, once again, it would mean highlighting the most popular shopping categories based on the time of year. In summer that might be dresses, while in winter it would be heavier coats.If you were a sporting goods store, your homepage might highlight baseball products in the spring, basketball in the winter, football in the fall, etc.This seems like a very basic form of personalization; however, even the basic things can make shopping a little easier. Making the path to purchase just a little bit easier can result in significant improvements in conversion rate.6. Paid Search Landing PagesOne of the major issues facing personalization is the personalization gap. This results when only one half of an advertising campaign is personalized: the pre-click stage.
  • The pre-click stage is everything that happens before a user clicks through an advertisement. That includes, but is not limited to, ad design, targeting, platform, etc.
  • The post-click stage is everything that happens after a user clicks through an advertisement. That includes, but isn’t limited to, page load speed, landing page design, conversion ratio, etc.
Too many campaign creators still focus on personalizing the pre-click experience by tightening targeting, segmenting by platform and device, and then neglecting the post-click stage by sending their visitors to a homepage.This creates a personalization gap: The user is served an offer with a great level of personalization in the ad, but then is made to look for that offer from a home page, or a landing page that isn’t targeted to that user.For example, it’s not uncommon for someone who clicks an ad for “men’s dress socks” to be directed to the page for generic “men’s socks,” or even worse, “menswear.” This is poor user experience in that it promises something and then does not deliver on that promise.Every promotion should have its own targeted landing page to match the ad in the pre-click stage. If you run an ad for “men’s dress socks,” then you should have a landing page for “men’s dress socks.” This is how campaigns should be run to meet the user’s expectations.It’s one of those low-hanging-fruit fixes that many e-commerce businesses don’t know they can make, which can boost campaign performance almost immediately.7. Off-Site RetargetingOn their first visit to your website, 98 percent of users don’t convert. Retargeting is the most effective way to get them back.With off-site retargeting, reach visitors on their favorite website, social media platforms, and even in email to get them to reconsider purchasing with ads created from their browsing history.Some say this method is “creepy” and “ineffective,” but there’s evidence to show exactly the opposite:
Wordstream conversion rates graph
The key to succeeding with off-site retargeting is personalized listings. You can’t just show a generic ad for your website and expect it to entice visitors to return. Show them ads specific to their browsing history to increase the likelihood they click through to re-evaluate.8. On-Site RetargetingLike retargeting off-site, you can set up personalized pop-ups based on things like cart, session number and browsing history, both past and present. They’re a great way to supplement off-site retargeting, especially when you consider that the goal of off-site retargeting is to get people back to your website. With on-site retargeting, they’re already on your website — you just have to keep them from leaving.This can be accomplished with contextual exit pop-ups. If it’s your visitors first time at your store, show a pop-up for 15 percent off their first order. If they’re shopping for shoes, show them the free shipping on sneakers pop-up. Too many exit pop-ups lead with a generic message. Make yours relevant to get visitors to reconsider leaving a great deal on the table.9. Continuous shoppingThe customer journey is long with, in some cases, countless touchpoints. That being the case, customers will arrive at your site, leave, then return — and they will repeat the process many times.Sometimes the best thing you can do is get out of their way and simply make it easier for them to pick up where they left off. This is known as “continuous shopping.” Jan Soerensen, General Manager of Nostro North America, likens it to the Netflix “continue watching” section:“Continue watching” is one of the most powerful features Netflix created. When we saw that, we realized we could apply it to e-commerce. Thus, continuous shopping recommendations was born, and it’s one of the tactics we recommend most to high-growth retailers.”Amazon is known for personalizing its homepage in this way. When you return to the website, whatever you previously were browsing will appear on the homepage. When Shoeline used this method to personalize its homepage, based on browsing history, it earned a click-through rate of up to 26 percent and a conversion rate of 18 percent:
ShoeOnline screenshot
10. Intelligent recommendationsRecommendations may seem like a tired form of personalization, but they’re a tried-and-true way to boost e-commerce sales. In fact, Amazon makes 30 percent of its revenue from recommendations.The key to great recommendations isn’t simply recommending another product based on the one that’s being viewed, but combining browsing history to offer a very specific, wide range of options.For example, if you’re viewing a book called Knitting for Beginners, the common recommendation might be a more expensive, comprehensive version of a beginner’s knitting book. This is known as “upselling.”However, an e-commerce business with troves of data can see that browsing histories indicate other people who have been interested in this book also have been interested in knitting needles and yarn. This is known as “cross-selling.” It’s also where Amazon gets its “frequently bought together” category at the bottom of product detail pages.An e-commerce business can bring your browsing history into the equation, to see what you’ve been looking at in order to give you an even more-detailed recommendation. Maybe you previously bought a specific brand or type of yarn, which it can recommend to you again in a different color.These are just a few ways to incorporate personalization data to offer better recommendations than ones based simply on the product you’re viewing.11. Detailed Product PagesIf you’re the seller, the advantages of your product may be clear. Let’s use backpacks as an example. You think that most people simply want a backpack that can carry a lot of cargo, and that may be true.However, if you create product pages based on “most people,” you may be neglecting a significant portion of your potential buyers. “Most” can be 90 percent of buyers, it can be 70 percent of buyers, or it can be 51 percent of buyers.What you may not realize is that there are other significant numbers of prospects who base their backpack preferences on something else — or, at the very least, more than simply one main feature (I like the carrying capacity, but I don’t like the colors it’s offered in…).Consider these customer preferences:
  • Want to be able to carry a lot, but want to look stylish as well. For them, pictures of all the different colors offered would be highly valuable.
  • Want to be able to organize their cargo efficiently. For them, you might show photos of all the pockets in the bag, but also internal photos of compartments that can be used to divide up cargo.
  • Want to be able to carry a very specific kind of cargo. Is there a place for me to store my water bottle for long hikes? Images and descriptions that confirm such a feature are valuable to this subset of prospects.
These are the kinds of things you need to take into account on your product pages. Show as many valuable images as possible, and create as much bullet-pointed copy as is necessary to completely describe all features of a product that may be attractive to different segments of your audience.12. Post-Purchase AdjustmentsWhile marketers associate personalization with revenue, the relationship isn’t always linear. In fact, you might argue that it sometimes seems to act in the opposite interest of earning business.Consider Amazon’s “manage order” button. This allows buyers to adjust or even cancel their order after making a purchase.For most businesses, this feature wouldn’t just be difficult to follow through on for logistical reasons — it also would face opposition from decision makers in the company. “You want to allow people to cancel their orders within a certain time frame, after we’ve gotten them to buy? Right. Sure. Great idea.”Attitudes like that are short-sighted, however. Ultimately, it’s not the one-time buyer who will keep your business profitable, but the loyal customer who returns for repeat purchases. A personalized feature that allows customers to manage their orders on their own terms post-purchase, is exactly the kind of thing that makes people comfortable with purchasing in the future.13. Programmatic Email MarketingEmail marketing is still considered the most valuable tool in a business’s arsenal. It’s reported to generate upwards of US$40 for every $1 spent.While that number may be surprising, the sentiment is not. Consumers have indicated on more than one occasion that email is their preferred way of contact. It’s a very low-friction way of reaching out to them with timely offers, as opposed to telephone, which is much more intrusive.Email’s power is fully realized when combined with programmatic capabilities that can serve behavioral recommendations for the following:
  • products to be up-sold based on purchase history
  • products to be cross-sold based on purchase history
  • sales personalized by browsing history (e.g. mens/womens)
  • sales personalized by geography
  • sales personalized by time, etc.
The more specific your segments get, the more likely your visitors will respond to them. While time- and geographic-sensitive recommendations are effective, browsing history is likely to be where you see the most returns.14. Content MarketingContent marketing? For e-commerce? Absolutely.One of the biggest problems consumers face is product overload. There are so many options out there that it’s hard to determine, on your own, which is the best for you.This is where content marketing comes in. If I’m shopping for new running shoes but I’m not sure which are best for me, I’m probably going to search for a shoe-buying guide.This one from REI is a great resource for someone in my position, and it even offers different ways to consume the content: text or video. It also positions REI as an authority on the subject of running shoes, and now I’m thinking: “These guys know their stuff, maybe I’ll browse their running shoes to see what they have for a runner like me.”
REI How to Choose Running Shoes screenshot
This isn’t just valuable before the sale, but afterward too. Part of getting customers to purchase with you again is to make sure they’re happy with their current purchase. A way to do that is by making sure they’re getting the most out of your product. The best part of this method is that you don’t even have to do it yourself (see below).15. User-Generated ContentArguably the best way to personalize content to your audience is to allow your audience to create it. User-generated content is exactly that: content created by your users with your product.This content can be served via email or social media to inspire your customers to use your product in new ways, effectively by saying: “Look, here’s what so and so did with the product. You can too.”GoPro is a great example of this. The more users upload different and innovative uses for their cameras, the more we’re able to see how versatile the product is.Similarly, clothing and accessory brands have leveraged UGC by getting customers to submit different “looks” that prospects can steal from. For such a simple concept, the effect of UGC can be major.One study of 559,276,000 online shoppers found the average conversion rate was 166 percent higher for visitors who saw UGC than for those who didn’t:
user generated content / conversion statistics

E-Commerce Personalization: Effective When Implemented Correctly

As with any flavor-of-the-week/year/decade tactic, there’s a lot of information on personalization out there. It can be overwhelming. The longer it goes on, the harder it becomes to tune out the noise and just, as they say, “do you.”With e-commerce personalization, businesses need to do just that. While there are plenty of tactics on this list that you can start with, not all will be right for you today. Maybe none will.However, they’re a great place to start when the time is right for e-commerce personalization to deliver the best return on your investment.

A WordPress safety plan for SEOs and developers

By | seo advice for business

How to protect your WordPress site from attack and keep it safe and secure.

WordPress powers an astonishing one-third of all websites these days. It has been the CMS platform of choice for our community since the mid-aughts when many of WordPress’s SEO features were implemented. It is therefore relentlessly attacked, largely for SEO spam reasons, but attacks can escalate to much worse.

Is WordPress safe?

The latest version of WordPress is very safe out of the box. Neglecting to update it, however, among other things, can make it unsafe. This is why many security professionals and developers aren’t WordPress fans. WordPress also resembles PHP spaghetti code which is inherently insecure, where WordPress itself warns that vulnerabilities “stem from the platform’s extensible parts, specifically plugins and themes.”

WordPress updates:

There is no such thing as a 100 percent secure system. WordPress needs security updates to operate safely, and those updates shouldn’t negatively affect you. Turn on automatic security updates. Updating the WordPress core, however, does require that you make sure everything is compatible. Update plugins and themes as soon as compatible versions are available.

Open source:

WordPress is open source, which entails risks as well as benefits. The project benefits from a developer community that contributes code for the core, the core team patches security flaws found by the community, while hooligans discover ways to pry things open. Vulnerabilities are scripted into scans by exploit applications which can detect what versions of things are running to match known flaws to your versions.

Protect yourself first:

There are things you can do to protect yourself even when you don’t have an administrator role. Make sure you’re working on a secure network with a regularly scanned workstation. Block ads to prevent sophisticated attacks that masquerade as images. Use VPN for end-to-end encryption whenever you’re working at public WiFi hotspots to prevent session hijacking and MITM attacks.

Secure passwords:

Securely managing passwords is important no matter what role you have. Make sure your password is unique and long enough. Combinations of numbers and letters are not safe enough, even with punctuation, when passwords aren’t long enough. You need long passwords. Use phrases of four or five words strung together if you need to memorize but it’s better to use a password manager that generates passwords for you.

Password length:

Why is length so important? Put it this way, eight character passwords crack in less than 2.5 hours using a free and open source utility called HashCat. It doesn’t matter how unintelligible your password is, it only takes hours to crack short passwords. Starting at 13+ characters, cracking begins to get insurmountable, at least for now.

Administrators:

If you have an admin user role, create a new user for yourself that’s limited to an editor role. Begin using the new profile instead of admin. That way, wide area net attacks will be centered on attacking your editor role credentials, and if your session gets hijacked you have the admin capacity to change passwords and wrest control away from the intruders. Compel everyone, perhaps through the use of a plugin, to follow a strong password policy.

Security policy:

If you have security experience, perform code audits of your plugins and themes (obviously). Establish the principle of least privilege for all the users. You then are forcing hackers to perform shell popping tricks and privilege escalation which involves attacking targets other than WordPress credentials.

Change file permissions:

If you control the host, provide yourself with a SFTP account through the use of the Control Panel if you have one, or try what administrator user interface you have access to. It may have the side effect of configuring credentials to open a secure shell terminal window (SSH). That way you can perform additional security measures using system utilities and more.

Lock down critical files:

There are a few files that should never be accessed except by the PHP process running WordPress. You can change file permissions and edit the .htaccess file to further lock these files down. To change file permissions, either use your SFTP client (if it has the option), or open a terminal shell window and run the chmod utility command.$ chmod 400 .wp-config $ ls -la
Wordpress Config File Security

WordPress Config File Security

This means that only the PHP process running WordPress will be able to read the file, and nothing else. The file should never have the “execute bit” set, like with chmod 700. You should always have zeros in the second and third place — that’s what really locks it down. Verify your changes running the ls utility with -la options and have a look.Having strict file permission settings means nothing can be written to the file, even by WordPress. You’ll want to grant write permissions back with $ chmod 600 .wp-config when there is a major WordPress update wherein the config file has modifications. That should happen extremely rarely, if ever.

WordPress login file:

I like to lock down the wp-login.php file using .htaccess rules. Limiting access to only my IP addresses is great for when I work from one statically assigned IP, or a small handful of addresses for myself and some users. It’s not difficult to change the setting if you’re logging in from another location as long as you can obtain a shell on the host. Simply comment out the deny directive, login with your browser, and uncomment it afterwards.
Wordpress Htaccess Limit By IP

WordPress Htaccess Limit By IP

XSS and SQL injection:

By far the scariest attacks that you’ll encounter will be cross-site scripting (XSS) and SQL injection. There are .htaccess query string rewrite rules you can use to stop some of these, and you might be best off using a plugin that will manage this for you. Some security plugins will scan your installation looking for signs of compromise. If you know how to use rewrites, redirect or block query string signatures for attacks you read about or see in your logs.

Security plugins:

Some security plugins will scan your installation looking for signs of compromise. Wordfense is a popular security plugin, and it gets regularly updated. Sucuri Scanner has a paid option that will scan your installation. Ninja Firewall is going to try and limit request-base attacks, blocking them before they reach WordPress core. You can also write an application utilizing Google’s new Web Risk API to scan your site’s pages.

10 Dominating SEO Trends for 2019

By | seo advice for business
As Google changes all year round, so does search engine optimization. Webmasters who want to keep their rankings and traffic (and potentially gain even more) are always on the lookout for the new ways to beat their competitors, thus setting new SEO trends. And now that 2018 is rapidly approaching its end, it’s time to ask ourselves: what can we expect from SEO in 2019?

1. Voice search domination

The list opens with the entry everybody saw coming. It’s hard not to, with so much talk about it! The bigger mobile Internet grows, the further we get removed from good old orthodox typing. Teaching computers to understand our speech – that’s what the future is about. And the path to this bright future lies through voice search SEO.It is said that by 2020, half of all online traffic will be coming from spoken queries. I can only imagine what kind of futuristic technology will eventually come to replace voice search. Can you?

2. Video optimization

Voice search isn’t the only SEO trend taking over the Internet; videos are, too. They are an ever increasingly popular information medium, which makes them a rich source of customer traffic when you use them cleverly.While your videos need to be excellent in order to rank on YouTube (any other quality standard is unacceptable there), they won’t be able to without being optimized for carefully picked keywords.A different 2020 prediction says that videos will become a magnet for 75% of all Internet traffic. Get with the times or get crushed by the competition!

3. Mobile-first indexing

2018 was the year when Google finally rolled out their mobile-first index. How does it work? Simply put, websites are now ranked based on the quality of UX they provide on mobile devices. If a site has mobile and desktop versions, the index adds the mobile one; if there’s only the desktop version, it gets indexed the same as normal.What does this tell us? You need to master mobile SEO! You must have a mobile-friendly version of your site, or else Google will index something you can’t show to mobile users. And a large chunk of traffic will go right past you.

4. Quality content development

Content is king, and high-quality content opens the path to high Google rankings; this is common knowledge. But what exactly does it mean? What kind of content counts as “high-quality”?It’s actually pretty easy once you remember who the content is meant for: users. When they do a Google search, they hope to find something that will satisfy their needs 100% and then some more. When you take the users’ search intent into account, you can prepare a piece of content that does exactly that. The Internet will be dominated by people who are the best at getting into their audience’s mindset.

5. Protection of user data

Online security is a huge deal – and fortunately, the powers that be are taking it seriously. Earlier this year, the EU enacted the General Data Protection Regulation which entitles users to more control over their private information that’s used by sites. While it certainly works towards making user data safer, there are still many vulnerabilities that can be exploited by malicious third parties. It’s too early to celebrate just yet!2019 will undoubtedly present us with more data protection initiatives, as well as more ways to make our online experience more secure.

6. Seamless user experience

The user experience on a website can make or break a deal of any magnitude. Therefore, business owners who would prefer to keep making a profit with their sites will do their best to guarantee a silky smooth UX. That means an easy-to-understand, intuitive design, a low page load time, and absolutely no technical issues.A website gives a better impression of a business than any advertisement. Never let your most powerful assets tarnish your reputation.

7. Blockchain for SEO

Blockchain technology has uses in making the Internet more secure, which is why it’s been getting more popular lately. Webmasters are looking for ways to integrate it into their sites and potentially profit from it. It is expected that blockchain can also be used in SEO for things like validating backlinks.The exact effect blockchain is going to have on SEO is not clear yet, but enthusiastic webmasters are already carrying out their experiments. We may see the fruits of their labor in 2019.

8. Influencer marketing

It’s always great to have someone important vouch for you. Especially in business, where there’s so much competition and you want people to know at least that you are here for them. What tricks do companies use to get an advantage? There are too many to list, but one of the most trending ones is to involve an influencer in your marketing campaign.To do that, you need to connect with an influencer first. Fortunately, pretty much all of them use social media, so it’s only a matter of finding a way to get their approval of what you do. Did you know that 99% of all influencers spend their time on Instagram? There’s your easiest chance to connect with a few.

9. Long and in-depth content

Everyone can agree that the more time users spend on your website, the better. Long content obviously takes more time to consume, which makes it seem like the ideal solution. In reality, size doesn’t matter. Or rather, you can’t expect users to be satisfied with size alone.And yet the websites ranking on the first page of Google tend to have over 2000 words. If their secret is not the length of their content, that logically leaves its depth and quality. Content that is not just long, but also engaging keeps its status as the page one ranking winner even in 2019.

10. Artificial intelligence

AI technology has massive potential. It’s little wonder businesses are actively looking for ways to use it in their work. The same goes for Google, and if (or rather when) they figure out how to make it work, it will inevitably affect SEO.As an example of how artificial intelligence could be integrated into Google’s ranking algorithm, it can be used to more effectively sniff out websites practicing black-hat SEO.SEO trends 2019: infographic

Machine vs. man: What really matters for SEO success

By | seo advice for business

Changes to the core concepts of quality and authority over the past year have altered the course of SEO forever, with Google both improving algorithms and increasingly relying on human “quality raters.”

Old methods of dynamically generating content and other quick hacks no longer result in long-term, sustainable SEO performance.Gone are the days of low-quality ghostwriting as a means of rapidly producing new blog articles for the sake of “content freshness.” Additionally, SEOs can no longer rely upon re-purposing information otherwise found online (especially without citing one’s sources) as an effective and sustainable content strategy.To succeed in this new landscape, SEOs must learn how Google has changed the rules regarding content quality and authority and what steps website owners must take to ensure they’re seen as trustworthy.What are the biggest changes in how sites are evaluated and ranked that you’ve seen over the past year?2019 was the year when Google turned up the dial on analyzing the quality and trustworthiness of web pages and domains. In previous years, making small tweaks to well-known ranking factors (such as adjusting title tags or adding new internal links) could have been enough to see an improvement in SEO performance, even if the website wasn’t known as an authority on the subject being written about.Those types of quick on-page optimization tactics are no longer sufficient to obtain top positions in the search results, especially if the website contains other issues related to quality and trust. Google is now honing in on the reputation and credibility of both the website itself, as well as the creators who contribute to its content. It has also placed great importance on user experience, such as by rolling out several updates related to page speed and switching to mobile-first indexing.What steps do you take when one of your clients has had a huge traffic drop due to an algorithm change?We start by looking at both on- and off-site issues related to quality and trust when a client has been hit. We analyze which pages were hit or whether the effect was site-wide, to see if a certain section of the site contains E-A-T (expertise, authoritativeness, trustworthiness) issues or if the entire domain’s authority was called into question. We take a close look at the content on affected pages compared to that of our competitors. Does it adequately answer the search query with the appropriate vocabulary, citations and page structure?Doing a “site:” search is another step we take when gauging the current organic footprint of a site; it’s common to find many thin, duplicate, or low-quality pages in the index that could benefit from being merged or removed. Another good tactic (which is actually suggested by Google) is to look up reviews of the content creator or the website itself, while excluding results pulled from the website in question. There may be external issues related to the client’s trustworthiness that need to be resolved.How closely should people be following the Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines?Our SEO team has a printed-out copy of the 2019 Search Quality Rater Guidelines on our bookshelf, which we often dive into when analyzing an affected site or whenever else we have questions about how Google defines “high quality” content. While we are fully aware that Google has stated that many of the recommendations in the guidelines are not current ranking factors, we know these are good long-term marketing strategies that Google teams will work to build into future evolutions of the search algorithm.Furthermore, we have already seen ample evidence in recent months that the algorithm has made great improvements in learning how to behave like a human being when analyzing website quality. And although it may be obvious to most SEOs by now, the updated guidelines clearly state that old-fashioned SEO techniques like keyword stuffing, auto-generating content or writing low-quality blog articles for the sake of churning out new content are not sustainable strategies to produce good results in the future.How much impact are artificial intelligence and machine learning having on ranking algorithms?I think a lot of what we have seen in recent months with algorithm updates stems from Google’s rapid advancements in machine learning. When Ben Gomes of Google said the rater guidelines are “where we want the search algorithm to go,” he confirmed that humans continue to be the best judge of what is high-quality and what is not (for now at least), but there is still work to do for the algorithms to catch up with human judgment.Machine learning makes that process much quicker and more scalable than it has ever been before. But when we see major fluctuations in search, as we have in the past six months with sites drastically rising and falling after each algorithm update, it’s a good indication that sometimes the algorithms can miss the mark and still have a lot of work to do.What kind of changes are you anticipating for the coming year?By focusing so much on the reputation of the website and the creators of the content — especially for YMYL (Your Money Or Your Life) sites — Google has made it hard to rank well with mediocre content or lack of expertise. Ranking in 2019 will require more time and effort than ever before, because short-term hacks won’t lead to sustained SEO success.I believe that companies and individuals who are focused on their search presence should keep a close eye on their online reputations and take steps to address anything that may bring their credibility or trustworthiness into question. This includes actually listening to their customers and addressing their concerns across different platforms. It includes not overwhelming customers with calls to action or advertisements. It also includes providing easy ways for customers to get in touch with them when customers have a problem and incorporating that feedback into how they operate their business.These are not easy things to achieve; digital brands must be all-hands-on-deck to build and maintain long-term organic visibility. But these are also the things human searchers evaluate as they make informed consumer decisions, and search engines are quickly catching up to humans in their ability to emulate those evaluation processes.

SEO is Dead: Long Live OC/DC

By | seo advice for business
This may come as a surprise to many since I am the resident SEO guy at networkingbizz and very active in the SEO community.But for the past two years I have felt that the entire concept of SEO, while an important part of online marketing, had a very “spammy” connotation.The term too often aligns our work with unprofessional practices like link buying and web spamming for article placement.And with the recent issues around the SEO effort of Rap Genius, and the resulting negative impressions about SEO with the wider public, I have made it my mission for 2014 to eradicate the term SEO once and for all.Yes, SEO is officially dead. Not the practice, but the term.But what term should take its place?One that more accurately defines what people really mean when they say “SEO.”

So … what do we really mean when we say “SEO”?

Talk with any professional expert in SEO and you will quickly find they rarely just spend time optimizing a site for a search engine.In fact, most people who started out as SEO experts have morphed their services over the years to encompass the full spectrum of content marketing activity.Make no mistake: legitimate SEO tactics still matter today as part of any content marketing campaign.The problem is that the terms themselves — SEO and search optimization — are used when discussing what is actually the broader strategy of content marketing.

Introducing “OC/DC” — the replacement for SEO

What people really mean when they say “SEO” is the idea of optimizing content for discovery and conversion across a wide spectrum of the web … not just search engines.Think about it: When you optimize your site, is it just so that it will rank in Google … or are your goals wider than that?Absolutely, for many sites, traffic from Google is important. But sites get traffic from a variety of sources — social media, related blogs, and so forth.Are search engines the only source of valuable traffic? Of course not. Yet we still call the tactics of optimizing for organic traffic “SEO.”Silly isn’t it?Optimizing Content for Discovery and Conversion, or “OC/DC” for short, encapsulates this idea of amplifying the overall reach and results of content creation.OC/DC defines a new role for the former SEO activities, broadening the scope and applicability to what a professional online marketer actually does.The real rock stars of search optimization have always known that it took a lot more than just getting the top result in Google to measure the success of their work.Now is the time for OC/DC to replace SEO in the online marketing lexicon … and leave the spammers and link buyers in the dustbin of history.

How should OC/DC be defined?

OC/DC can be thought of as two distinct areas of focus:
  1. External optimization
  2. On-site optimization
External optimization refers to traffic generated to your site, and the research and refinement necessary to improve its quantity and quality.The external part of OC/DC includes numerous traffic sources — search engines, social media sites, blogs, as well as aggregation sites like Slideshare.net and content syndication sources like Business Insider.On-site optimization makes the most of these external efforts. This matters because improving the quantity and quality of your traffic only helps you if visitors take the action you want when they find your site.Load times, usefulness of content, responsive design, and ease of conversion are all encompassed within the on-site portion of OC/DC.Once you understand the breadth of what OC/DC entails, it is easy to see how it plays a crucial role in the execution of a smart content marketing strategy.

Here’s what OC/DC looks like in practice

Armed with this new and better concept, how can we apply it to our online marketing?Below are six tactics you can implement right now as part of your effort to optimize content discovery and conversion.

1. Improve content symmetry

All pieces of content on your site should work seamlessly together.If you have been active in creating content, this may be a good time to stop and re-edit your existing content.For example …
  • Edit headlines — We talk a lot about the importance of headlines, so it may not come as a surprise that we routinely edit published headlines . If you have under-performing articles, take some time to rethink and optimize your existing headlines. (And grab this handy tool for when you do.)
  • Review in-links — More than likely, your earlier published content doesn’t link to the latest articles you have been publishing. Take a look through your early articles that are drawing the most traffic, and find ways to link from that content to your best recent work. (Remember: time on site matters for conversion, so the more links to other internal resources, the better to keep the user on-site.)
  • Improve calls to action — Who cares if you are getting a lot of visitors if those visitors don’t take the actions you want? Take a hard look at the way you are including your calls to action. Test different wording and designs for improved conversion.
  • Convert list posts into individual posts — The numbered listis a tried and true format for drawing more traffic. If you’re looking for new content ideas, consider mining your successful list posts, breaking them down and expanding them into new individual posts, and using internal links to stitch them together.
  • Revamp keywords — The Google Hummingbird update placed a new emphasis on the context of keywords within your content. Once again, spend some time reviewing your old posts, then use a tool like Scribe to make sure you are doing a good job of building out the keyword context across your site.

2. Consider mobile responsive design a requirement

Web traffic from mobile devices keeps growing.If your site is not properly rendering for the myriad mobile devices out there, then you are severely limiting your OC/DC efforts.Luckily, there are many pain-free ways to optimize a site for mobile devices. Using the Rainmaker Platform is one of them. StudioPress also has lots of mobile responsive designs that work beautifully for WordPress.

3. Target a 3-second load time (max)

OC/DC practitioners appreciate the fact that a site loading slowly equals the loss of business.If you are using WordPress, consider a fast, secure, reliable managed hosting provider.Of equal importance is the code that is running on the server.Spend time reviewing the loading of your site using tools like WebPageTest.org and find ways to optimize your page loads.

4. Repurpose your existing content

One of my favorite sites to visit networkingbizz is Business Insider. A tactic they use is to republish existing content from other sites directly on the Business Insider site.No, they are not stealing the content. And no, search engines do not penalize Business Insider or the original publisher for duplicate content.What Business Insider is doing, as well as a lot of other sites, is reposting existing content from reputable sites and using the “rel=canonical” meta tag to link back to the original post (with permission of course).For example, check out this post at Business Insider by Belle Beth Cooper from Buffer.If you look at the source code of the page, you will quickly see that the content originally appeared on the Buffer blog.By syndicating its existing content to other sites, Buffer can increase its exposure online … while sites like Business Insider can serve more content to their visitors.It’s a win-win strategy for all involved.So if you have posts that have done well, don’t be afraid to find sites that would be willing to syndicate the content using the “rel=canonical” tag.This is a simple tactic for optimizing content discovery if your site has authority.

5. Create your own research

Here is a unique idea to become a real rock star with OC/DC.Most sites love to publish original research reports within their industry. In the past, creating a research report would take a lot of time and money.However, with services from Google and SurveyMonkey, creating a research report is much simpler.The trick is how you publish the data.Once you have your survey completed and some basic analysis done, you can repurpose that research in a variety of ways:
  • Downloadable report from your site
  • Infographic highlighting the key data points
  • Presentation deck uploaded to sites like SlideShare.net
  • Narrated presentation deck on YouTube
  • Webinar discussing the results of the analysis
  • Press release detailing the analysis
  • Guest posts on the results of the research
  • In-person speaking opportunities to present the data
For an expenditure of a few hundred dollars, you have at least eight ways to generate content … from just one piece of research.That is true optimization of content discovery.

OC/DC is here to stay

I hope you will join me in my crusade to remove the scourge of online marketing — the term “SEO” — from our lexicon.SEO not only has a negative connotation, it is too often used inaccurately to explain a wide breadth of services and tactics that have nothing to do with search engines.Optimizing Content for Discovery and Conversion, OC/DC, is a more accurate term, describing exactly what a content marketing strategy must encompass to be successful.So … if you are a reformed SEO practitioner like me, join our cause and rock on with OC/DC!

Embracing automation and maximizing SEO performance

By | seo advice for business

Intelligent automation allows SEOs to schedule tasks and immediately activate data to inform smarter optimizations.

Automation is critical in making informed, data-driven decisions in a world in which the amount of data companies are attempting to manage is unprecedented. But we’re at the point now where, as marketers have attempted to automate various tasks, many are struggling with unwieldy stacks of different technologies all vying for resources and budget.If you or your clients are spending more time trying to find workarounds for your tech than putting insights to work, money is being left on the table. As creative marketers with technical and analytical skills, SEOs are in a great position to lead the creation and implementation of automation strategies companies now need to succeed.

Automation and the customer experience

Automation in your SEO and content process can create efficiencies and ease the burden of redundant tasks, but we’ve evolved so far past that (and quickly). Today, automation alone is not enough. SEOs must automate intelligently — not only to complete tasks but to analyze data and make decisions about which tasks to prioritize (and how to carry them out), as well.AI is enabling the collection and analysis of datasets we simply cannot get through on our own. Layers of natural language processing and machine learning enable smarter optimizations driven by predictive analytics, pattern recognition, and evidence-based learning.Source: Search & the Customer Experience: Utilizing AI to Drive Continuous PerformanceSite audits, competitive analysis, monitoring rankings and other SEO tasks are made easier and more efficient with automation. But are you ready to take the next steps?AI is already reshaping content marketing, all the way from ideation, planning and optimized content creation through to promotion to specific market segments. This isn’t new technology; in fact, the Associated Press has been using artificial intelligence to write business news since 2014 (and even then, the program could churn out 2,000 articles per second). We’re now at the point where automation can help identify new revenue opportunities and make recommendations on content topics, attributes, optimizations, strategic CTAs and more.Intelligent automation also allows SEOs to schedule tasks and immediately activate data, to inform smarter optimizations. You can target specific content to searchers who interact with your chatbot, for example, depending on what led them to the interaction in the first place.

Automation – Data analysts, real-time research, content and communications

Intelligent automation is giving SEOs greater insight into – and control over – how search optimizations impact customer experience throughout every stage of the journey. Now, the insights gleaned from the real-time analysis of customer interactions can help shape every aspect of the customer experience, from discovery to conversion.Source: PWC

How AI is driving superior search performance

Google’s dedication to AI is resulting in far more interactive search results that speak directly to searcher intent, as in these three similar queries that each produces different results:Google is using taller organic cards, the local three-pack, Quick Answers, images and video, carousels, site links and dozens of other enhanced results to better answer searchers’ needs. The algorithm is listening to searcher cues and constantly learning to bring back the most relevant result. More and more often, that result will answer the need in such a way that the searcher doesn’t even need to click through to learn more. This is Google’s RankBrain technology at work.Last year, research by BrightEdge (my company) revealed that 80-plus percent of queries return universal search results. Optimizing, structuring and marking up your content to show Google its relevance for queries of varying intents helps increase your visibility when and where it matters most. At the same time, you’re providing more compelling content and may even convert searches to sales without the consumer ever having visited your site.SEO is moving further away from the static website; what you are optimizing for spans the entire search-based experience. And as Google’s ability to determine intent continuously improves, SEOs and marketers need to keep pace with AI and automation to stay on top and produce properly structured content.
  • Optimize for voice search. Use a more conversational tone in your content and incorporate longer-tail keywords. Applying a question and answer format to some content can help you rank in Instant Answers and as the best voice response. Be sure to apply proper schema markup, too. Read how visual and voice search are revitalizing the role of SEO for more.
  • Enable voice search on-site, where possible. Incorporate speech recognition in your app or on-site, if possible. You can extend the same hands-free convenience that delivered a searcher to your site by enabling some voice-free functionality.
  • Make good use of descriptive text. While many of your audience members crave visual imagery and video, some will not be able to render, watch or hear this content. AI can help in the creation of descriptive text and also with categorizing all kinds of content to improve both your accessibility and SEO.
  • Use intelligent automation to complement your skills. It’s important to understand that automation can’t ever entirely replace the creative and the strategist—they will continue to decide which technology to apply, and where. However, the Intelligent use of automation will help you do your job more effectively, so you can focus on more important and higher impact tasks.
  • Monitor regularly for new opportunities. Google is constantly testing and launching new features in the SERPs. It’s not a static space, and you cannot afford to sit still. Use automation to regularly analyze your search presence, as well as that of your most important competitors. Ensure that you have properly formatted, optimized and marked up content in place to take advantage of new SERPs features.
Embracing automation will be increasingly important to your ability to scale and succeed in all facets of digital. If you’re just getting started, try automating time-consuming, repetitive tasks like keyword research, data visualization, reporting, data collection, SERP similarity comparisons, testing JS rendering, generating content ideas, link building and technical auditing.Next, look to AI to begin simplifying complex decision-making and prioritizing your SEO and content efforts, all with improved consumer experience in mind. SEOs who can embrace automation are making great strides in positioning themselves as the digital marketing leaders of tomorrow.

SIGNS THAT YOU SHOULD NOT OPEN A SHOPIFY STORE

By | Online Entrepreneur News
Let me be clear – this article isn’t about Shopify.  I believe that Shopify is the no-brainer eCommerce solution for any small or medium business.  This article is about YOU or YOUR BUSINESS.I’m a Shopify Expert that is focused on small and medium-sized businesses.  As such, I talk to a lot of owners of eCommerce (or prospective eCommerce) businesses.  Through those many conversations and interactions, I’ve been able to see what things lead to a successful store and business and those that don’t.  So I thought it would be useful to discuss those things that I’ve seen that tend to lead to failure.My hope with this blog post is not to dissuade you from creating your own online business.  My goal is to warn you about common pitfalls that eCommerce stores experience so that you can avoid them.  This article assumes you are new, small store that is run by one to three people.  So here are the common pitfalls in no particular order:

1. THE PRODUCT IS NOT UNIQUE.

In today’s industrialized world, it is very easy to make a commodity product, say a t-shirt.  And there are massive company’s out there that operate on efficiencies of scale that can make a t-shirt cheaper and more reliably than a small company can.So, a small company’s t-shirt must be different.  Maybe it has a unique design.  Or its made of highly sustainable bamboo fabric.  Or something else unique.  Think of successful brands on Shopify.  One thing they have in common – product differentiation.

2. YOU THINK THAT MORE FUNCTIONALITY IN THE STORE IS THE SOLUTION.

To over-simplify, there are four areas an eCommerce business’ efforts fall into:– Product development – identifying product/market fit and creating a unique product. – Infrastructure – website, payment processing, design, etc. – Operations – fulfillment, accounting, inventory, etc. – Marketing – customer acquisition, social, direct, advertising, etc.Of these things, the infrastructure is actually the easiest.  There’s a whole army of Shopify Experts out there that can build just about anything for your store.  All too often, I see store owners that are way too focused on building more functionality into their stores when I believe that they should instead be building customer acquisition channels.Let me illustrate with some math.  Let’s say a store has a conversion rate of 2% (which I consider to be a good rate) and 100 sales per month.  My recommendation to that store is to focus on doubling the traffic to the store (which should double sales to 200/month).  But some stores instead spend that effort on increasing the conversion rate, which if they get to a great conversion rate (over 3%) will result in 1 extra sale per month.

3. YOU ARE NOT A PROBLEM SOLVER.

One oversimplification of the world says that there are two types of people – problem finders and problem solvers.  To be a successful store, you are going to need to be a problem solver.  With little or zero staff besides yourself, you are going to need to find solutions to a wide, wide variety of things.  From defining the brand to determining pricing to paying business taxes.  There’s always something that needs a solution.  Successful store owners are able to cross things off of their to-do list.

4. YOU THINK THAT MARKETING IS UNIMPORTANT.

The hardest part of building a new e-commerce business is acquiring customers.  Having a great product and building an engaging website do nothing to bring people to it.  Customer acquisition is a never-ending process of trial and error across a wide range of sources like advertising, organic search, social, influencers, press, etc.To be successful, an online store needs to execute well on driving traffic to the store.  Hence the need for marketing.

5. YOU REFUSE TO SPEND MONEY ON ADVERTISING.

It is possible to have a successful online store without paying for advertising, but those stores are very rare exceptions.I’ve worked with many stores that have a small flow of customers from non-advertising sources.  They even have decent conversion rates.  But to grow their business, they need paid advertising.Many stores hesitate with advertising because their pricing model doesn’t support it.  An ad campaign is going to cost 25-33% of the revenue it brings in (that’s if it is executed well).  So the product margins need to support that level of spending.

6. YOU READ THE 4 HOUR WORK WEEK.

This book (which is a great book BTW) was written in 2007, which at the time that I’m writing this article is 11 years ago.  And that 11 years is the point.  The internet and more specifically eCommerce has changed drastically since then.  In 2007, setting up a website that could collect payments was much harder than it is today.  In 2007, reselling products (alternatively known as dropshipping) was much harder than it is today.  Today, you can create a fully functioning store with a product catalog of 1,000s of items that looks professional in less than a day.So, if your business model is going to be to sell thousands of widgets from Alibaba in your generic Shopify store, you will not succeed.  Hopefully reading this full article will explain why I believe that.

7. YOU THINK THAT YOU WON’T NEED TO BE HANDS ON.

Again, the store that runs itself concept from 2007 has faded.  Today’s successful store owners are constantly:
  • Innovating on their product
  • Exploring new distribution channels
  • Managing advertising campaigns
  • Building press and industry relationships
  • Tweaking their conversion funnels
Your business is going to need constant care and feeding.

8. YOU WON’T TALK ABOUT YOURSELF OR POST A PHOTO OF YOURSELF.

For a new, small online business, the old adage that ‘people buy from people’ is very true.  One of the ways that your store will differentiate itself from Amazon, Walmart, and the Chinese manufacturers is that it is not a global corporation.  Instead, it is run by real people with real names.  You MUST leverage this advantage over the bigger players.  Your About Us page should detail the PEOPLE at the company, not the product or mission.  You will need to be confident, willing to talk about yourself and post your photo.Many people say they are too shy or too humble to do this.  My response is that they are then too shy or too humble to succeed.  Remember ‘fortune favors the bold.’The best way to get more comfortable in front of a camera or by talking about yourself is to just do it.  If you look at videos of a stand-up comedian over their career, you’ll see their comfort on stage grow over time.  Same is true for bands in their music videos.  Or any other field.  Most people aren’t naturals in this role.  But most people can learn to appear natural in this role.

9. YOU DON’T RESPECT YOUR CUSTOMERS.

Again, ‘people buy from people’.  Your customers will want to connect with you at a personal or emotional level.  If you don’t respect your customers, it will come through.  Your customer service will be poor, you won’t understand your customer’s buying process, or some other aspect of your relationship with your customers will falter.This lack of respect can come from a couple of different angles.  In the first, you just don’t agree with your customers.  Say you hate the color red but open a store where everything is red.  (Purposely using a stupid example to avoid the very polarizing example of republican/democrat.)Another way I’ve seen this play out is if the store owner that believes they are the prototypical customer for their product and build it just to satisfy themselves.  They don’t listen to their customers needs and the business falls short.

10. YOU AREN’T DATA-DRIVEN.

It’s a numbers game.  If I could only have one metric for a new store, that metric would be Conversion Rate.  All effort should be focused on improving the conversion rate.  And if you’re not looking at the numbers, then you don’t really know what is working and what is not.For my clients, I create weekly scorecards in Google Analytics (GA) and have them mailed to the team every Monday morning.  I also create reports from GA data that show the important metrics in a daily timeline and add that report directly into their Shopify store.  The reason for this is that one way to help a team become data-driven is to push the data on regular basis and make it as easy as possible to access the data.Signs you are not data-driven include:
  • Do things just because your competitors do them.
  • Not having Google Analytics in your store (it’s free).
  • Not looking at the same set of metrics on a regular basis.
  • Not comparing the data before and after significant efforts/changes.

11. YOU DON’T CREATE CONTENT.

There are many ways that consumers make purchase decisions.  Some look at the price.  Some want to see reviews.  Some want scientific research.  Some want to see the product in action.  Some want to know who they are buying from.  There’s not just one way to sell your product.  You will need to give different customers different information to lead them down the conversion funnel.As such, you will need to create different types of content in order to satisfy the different needs.  You’ll need to be able to produce product description, general copy, product and lifestyle photography, user manuals, videos, illustrations and more.A simple product photo and a price won’t be enough to sell your product (unless you are selling $100 bills for $10).Successful store owners think nothing of creating a new landing page for a new ad campaign and optimizing the copy and photography on that page for the intended audience.

12.  YOU ARE PART-TIME ON THIS.

Building an online business is very hard.  And it takes a ton of effort.  It is a never-ending to-do listing.  If your efforts are part-time, you’ll not be able to keep pace with the competition.

13. YOU ARE A ‘BIG-PICTURE’ PERSON.

Let’s assume that you already have product/market fit figured out.  The bulk of the work remaining to make the store successful is execution.  That takes someone that is heads-down, focused, meticulous and gets things done.Let me put it another way.  Let’s say a certain store owner is a ‘genius’ at brand image.  They go out to the press and razzle and dazzle them.  They generate a bunch of hype and create demand that then turns into orders.  Well now, those orders must be delivered or all of that brand building will be for not.

14. YOU ARE GOING TO DO EVERYTHING YOURSELF.

As your business grows, you are going to need to delegate tasks to others.  Either to free up your time to focus on activities with high return.  Or because your business needs a level of expertise that you do not have.

15. YOU ARE A ‘PERFECTIONIST.’

Reid Hoffman (the man who sold LinkedIn to Microsoft for 30 billion) says “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”And I agree.  One will learn much more from how consumers interact with the site and products than they will by hypothesizing how the consumers may interact.  I’m a big proponent of shipping website changes quickly to see the consumer response.In other words, the speed of e-commerce doesn’t allow you to everything perfectly.  You must be comfortable with good enough.  To understand more, read about Minimal Viable Products or MVPs.

16. THERE IS NO PRODUCT/MARKET FIT.

There are some product ideas that sound crazy, but in the end are just brilliant.  For example, if you told someone in 1970 that bottled water would be a $7 billion business in 2018, they would have laughed at you.  And they would have been wrong.  (The plastic used in water bottles was invented in 1973 which changed the game.)But then there are other product ideas that sound crazy, and in the end, are crazy (or at least just not a good business).It is important that you are selling a product at enough of a margin that enough people want to create your desired revenue stream.  I’m amazed at some of the just plain bad ideas I see.

17. YOU DON’T HAVE GOOD BUSINESS SENSE.

You’ve probably noticed that some of the things I’ve said above directly conflict with other things I’ve said.  And if you ask 5 ‘experts’ about your business, you’ll probably get 5 sets of differing advice.  A successful store owner is going to know their space better than anyone.  They are going to able to look at the data, listen to their customers, watch the industry and competitors, listen to advice, and from all of that information make the best choices for their business.  In other words, you need to be the decision maker for your business.  And to do that, you’ll need good business sense.

CONCLUSION

For every one of the ‘rules’ above, you can find an exception.  Someone or some business that succeeded despite defying one or more of these rules.  While there are always exceptions, that doesn’t mean that rules don’t apply.  That said though, these rules are only my opinion.  Hopefully, they give you insight into common pitfalls that other stores have been caught by.  For you to be successful, you’ll need to know your business, products, customers, competitors, etc so well that you’ll know when to follow the rules and when to follow your expert opinion.

51% of web site hacks related to SEO spam

By | seo advice for business
report released by Sucuri states that over half of sites hacked in 2018 were done so for SEO reasons. These hacks target web sites in order to try to manipulate the success of a site’s SEO campaign and boost its rankings in Google, Bing or other search engines.The report shows that 51.3 percent of all infection cases in 2018 were related to SEO spam campaigns, which is up 7.3 percent from the previous year, making it one of the fastest growing families of hacks in the past year. The “SEO Spam family” as Sucuri defines it “is comprised of attacks that specifically target the manipulation of search engine optimization.”The growth. Year-over-year, SEO related hacks grew 7.3 percent, this is up from up from 44 percent in 2017. The blue line in the chart below shows the growth of spam attacks over the past year by quarter, which includes SEO spam, backdoor and malware injections:Hard to detect. The security company said this form of hacking extremely hard to detect. “They are difficult to detect and have a strong economic engine driven by impression-based affiliate marketing,” per the report.Search Engine Poisoning. The most use method is what is called “Search Engine Poisoning (SEP)” attacks. This is where attackers attempts to abuse a site rankings in the search results in order to monetize the site. It typically occurs via PHP, database injections, or .htaccess redirects.“Websites impacted by SEO attacks often become infected with spam content or redirect visitors to spam-specific pages. Unwanted content is regularly found in the form of pharmaceutical ad placements but may also include injected content for other popular industries like fashion or entertainment (i.e. pornographic material, essay writing, fashion brands, loans, and online gambling),” the report explained.Why you should care. It may be that your web site is hacked and you don’t even know it. Google is pretty good at notifying site owners of potential hacks via Google Search Console, so verifying your property with Search Console is a first step. Bing Web Master Tools has similar notifications.  In addition, it is recommended you keep your web site up-to-date and on the latest security patches to reduce the chance of your site getting hacked.If your site is hacked, it can not only hurt your rankings in search, but it can potentially hurt your web site visitors.

The technical SEO hierarchy of needs!!

By | seo advice for business
Use the hierarchy of your site's technical SEO needs to understand its technical growth and actualization — and uncover what to do next to improve it.
What makes a site become the best site it can be? Healthy, functional sites that have reached their full SEO potential have been optimized based on market and keyword research, E-A-T, content relevance to search intent, backlink profiles, and more. But they all have one thing in common: their technical SEO needs are met.Your site’s technical SEO needs form a hierarchy. If needs lower in the hierarchy aren’t met, needs on the next level are difficult to fulfill. Each level responds to a different requirement in the world of search engines: crawlability, indexability, accessibility, rankability, and clickability.Understanding what each level of the pyramid involves helps make technical SEO look less intimidating without oversimplifying its role in making a website great. 
The foundations of technical SEO: crawlability
At the foundation of the pyramid of technical SEO needs is a URL’s crawlability.Crawlability concerns a URL’s ability to be discovered by search engine bots. URLs that are not crawlable might still be accessible to users navigating your website, but because they are invisible to bots, they can’t appear in search results.Crawlable URLs, therefore, are:
  • Known to search engines. Search engines discover URLs by crawling links and reading sitemaps.
  • Not forbidden to bots. Most search engine bots will respect meta robots instructions and directives in a robots.txt file that ask them not to crawl certain pages or directories.
  • Covered by the website’s crawl budget. Less commonly, the “budget” accorded by Google’s algorithms is spent on other parts of a site, causing delays or problems in getting a specific URL crawled.
The first step in a technical SEO audit, for example, is to uncover pages that can’t be indexed, and why. Sometimes this is intentional, and sometimes it’s an error and a quick win for SEO.Similarly, while crawl budget may seem esoteric and difficult to quantify, the basic principle is that when the cost of crawling is optimized and when priority pages are presented first, more traffic can be gained through search engines. Technical SEO uses how pages are discovered and prioritized to promote better crawling; it leverages historical data for crawl frequency and past situations that provoke increased crawling activity to improve current crawl rates.Newly crawled pages distribution by page groups. The ‘Other’ grey category being the garbage category. A lot of crawl budget has been wasted crawling those pages. Source: OnCrawl.
Indexability
Just above crawlability in the hierarchy of technical SEO needs is indexability.Indexable URLs are URLs that a search engine can include in a catalog of pages that are available to be presented in search results pages. Even when a URL has been crawled, various properties can prevent it from being added to the index.In the most straightforward situations, pages can be prevented from being indexed by meta robots and robots.txt directives.State of indexability by strategic groups of pages. Source: OnCrawlBut Google also chooses not to index pages when a more authoritative version exists for the same content. This is the case when a bot discovers the following elements:
  • Duplicate content.
  • Canonical declarations.
  • Alternate versions such as printable pages or mobile pages. (In the current move to a mobile-first index, mobile versions are indexed instead of desktop versions.) To ensure that the right pages can be indexed, technical SEO verifies that these elements are correctly set up and that they apply to the correct pages.

    Accessibility and website performance

    An accessible URL is easy to display or render.A URL that is both crawlable and indexable might still be inaccessible at the moment when a search engine’s bot attempts to crawl it. Pages and sites that rank but that have persistent accessibility problems are often penalized in the search results.Accessibility for bots — and for users — covers a broad range of related topics:
    • Server performance.
    • HTTP status.
    • Load time/page size.
    • JavaScript rendering.
    • Page depth in the site architecture.
    • Orphan pages.
    • Website resistance to spam and hacking.

      The goal is to discover the threshold at which accessibility and performance metrics negatively impact SEO performance, and to ensure that all pages of a website meet at least that minimum level. Technical SEO, therefore, uses tools to measure anything from server downtime or HTTP status served to bots and users, to the size of resources (CSS, JS, images…) transferred when a page is requested or load time metrics such as TTFB, FCP, or TTLB.

      Average response time between desktop and mobile bots and resources encountered. Source: OnCrawlTechnical SEO audits that conclude you need links to certain pages are often working to eliminate underperforming orphan pages and URLs with excessive page depth. Some will include accessibility for users; a page that does not work with a screen reader cannot be used by many users, no matter how great its content or keyword optimization.Once accessibility issues have been addressed, we can say that the basic technical SEO needs of a page are met. Without them, page and website SEO suffer. As we continue to move further up the hierarchy of needs, we pass from blocking factors to factors of improvement.

      Rankability: the role of technical SEO in improving positions

      Rankability is the first of the two top levels of the pyramid that deal with optimizations. Instead of forming the foundations of SEO, they are sometimes considered advanced technical SEO.Clearly, crawlable, indexable and accessible URLs can rank. Some can even rank well. However, the average URL will rank better with a little help.
      Using links to boost rankings
      Linking, whether internal or external, transfers page importance (and traffic!) from popular pages to less popular pages. This second group profits. Technical SEO strategies will, therefore, examine backlinks to determine the most advantageous profile, or use internal linking structures to promote pages.Not only can internal links improve crawl rate (by reinforcing freshness when linking from new or updated content) and conversion (by funneling users towards high-converting and goal pages), but they also transfer page importance and help build content silos, two strategies for improving page rank.Distribution of SEO traffic regarding the number of inlinks by page. After 50 inlinks, the activeness of a page is increased. Source: OnCrawl
      Improving positions with semantic optimization
      Content silos, created by interlinking semantically related content, help groups of pages rank better than a single page could. They build both depth and expertise while expanding keyword reach with pages that focus on long-tail keywords and semantically related concepts.In some cases, it can also be worthwhile to look at the pertinence of a page with regard to the rest of the site, examine keyword density, number of words, text-to-code ratio, and other factors that can be either red flags or content quality indicators for a given keyword group.
      Clickability: the link between SEO and user behavior
      The final level of technical SEO optimization concerns technical elements that make it more likely for a user to click on your results.Because of how search engines present results, this can include earning coveted SERP locations outside of the normal organic results order and enriching your URL listings.Content structure, such as lists, tables, and headings, help search engines understand your content and facilitate dynamic creation of featured results, carousels and more.Similarly, formal structured data, including Schema.org markup, enhance search listings with rich elements:
      • Breadcrumbs.
      • Star ratings.
      • Product information (price, stock…).
      • Event information (date, location…).
      • Recipe information (thumbnail, rating, preparation time, calories…).
      • Site links to key pages on the same site.
      • Site search from the SERP.
      Likewise, videos and images with appropriate markup have an advantage in image and video search.Relevance to search intent and content uniqueness draw users. While these remain abstract concepts, the technical tools to analyze and improve them are emerging. Techniques such as machine learning can be applied to search intent and user click behavior, while content creation aids such as AI are intended to facilitate the creation of new content.OnCrawl shows the Impact of rich data on CTRIn the meantime, technical SEO aims to use technical means to spot and signal potential discrepancies in search intent or duplicate content through similarity analysis.Finally, technical SEO analyzes user behavior data combined with website characteristics in order to discover correlations. The objective is to create more of the situations in which your website draws users. This strategy can uncover surprising correlations between page or website structure and user-based metrics like bounce rate, time on site or CTR.

      Implementing technical improvements

      You don’t need a technical background to understand or to meet the critical needs at the bottom of the technical SEO hierarchy.If there are issues that keep your site from being crawled, indexed, ranked, or clicked, SEO efforts in other areas won’t be as effective. Spotting and resolving these issues is the role of technical SEO. Solutions like OnCrawl will help you understand where to start with actionable dashboards and reports combining your content, log files and search data at scale.

SEO Website Audit: Website Need One?

By | seo advice for business

Do you really need an SEO website audit?

It’s amazing how many businesses put their heart, souls and (often) a lot of money into creating a website but then neglect to monitor how it’s performing, especially when it’s been established for a while.This means that issues such as broken links, slow page loading times, duplicate content, and missing meta data can all go unnoticed while collectively chipping away at the website’s rankings.Ask yourself how much you know about your website right now.
  • How many backlinks do you have?
  • Do you know your site’s Domain Authority?
  • Which are the highest domain sites linking back to yours?
  • Are there broken links on your site?
  • Are you using temporary or permanent redirects in the appropriate places?
  • Are you using Schema Markup?
  • Could your URL structure be hurting your SEO efforts?
  • Does every page have a focus keyword and relevant meta data that follows best practice (e.g. right length, call to action, reflecting accurately what the page is about)?
  • Is your site mobile-friendly?
If you’re not able to answer these questions then you probably need an SEO website audit.In fact, I would always recommend conducting a website audit before you create or make changes to your SEO strategy.It will help you to form a better picture of what you’re already doing well and where there is room for improvement. You can also hone in on the most critical issues, helping you to prioritise what needs to be done next.

The goals behind an SEO website audit.

It’s crucial to have clear goals behind your SEO website audit and subsequent SEO strategy so you know why you’re doing what you’re doing.I think the following three goals work well for most businesses:
  1. Increase the targeted organic traffic coming to the website via search engines
  2. Improve the website’s conversion rates, i.e. visitors performing certain actions such as signing up for a free download, filling out an enquiry form or making a purchase
  3. Grow the revenue created by the website
You might also want to add a goal that’s about ranking higher than your local competitors, out-performing them for specific keywords or occupying a niche for which they don’t cater.

What’s covered in an SEO website audit?

As you’re probably aware, the search engines’ algorithms are constantly evolving and being tweaked to return the best search results.Google, for example, has never published a definitive list of the hundreds of factors that can affect rankings, although – through a process of research, analysis and observation – we can make some sensible assumptions about some of the key ranking signals.For this reason, SEO professionals may present website audits differently and focus on different factors, depending on what they feel are the most relevant to achieving your goals.Broadly speaking though, a professional SEO website audit will cover topics/issues such as:
  • Crawl diagnostics
  • Page speed
  • Mobile usability
  • On-site optimisation
  • Off-site optimisation
Let’s take a look at these topics in more detail:
  • Crawl diagnostics
Could there be any issues that are affecting how search engines are able to crawl some or all pages of your website?Technical issues such as ‘Page not found’ messages or pages with incorrect redirects can send both users and search engines to the wrong URL, negatively affecting how they interact with your site.Google has what is known as a ‘Crawl budget’, which it defines as ‘the number of URLs Googlebot can and wants to crawl’ on each website. It’s a balancing act between not putting too much strain on your host server and meeting the crawl demand for your site based on how popular it is versus how much stale content you have.To make the most of the crawl budget allocated to your site, it’s important to make crawling your pages as quick, easy and logical as possible.Duplicate content is another common issue usually caused by:
  1. Issues with the technical build of the site; or
  2. Physical content that is the same on two or more pages of your site.When, for example, websites can be accessed by https://www.domain.com or https://domain.com (without the www), search engines will see this as two separate versions of the site, unless told otherwise. This means every page could count as duplicate content that may have its rankings penalised as a result.In order to fix duplicate content issues, you’ll need to specify which of the duplicates is the “correct” one.There are three main ways to do this:
    1. Setting up a 301 redirect from the “duplicate” page to the original content page
    2. Applying a canonical tag (e.g. rel canonical) to the master versions of each page that you dowant search engines to index
    3. Using the parameter handling tool in Google Search Console.
    A website audit may also explore any design elements of your website that affect the user experience. This could include widgets, plugins, call to action button sizes and positions for mobile users, ad placements, external embedded media, image sizes and other issues.
    • Page speed
    How long does it take for your web pages to load? Are there any that are slower and what is causing this problem?The speed at which a web page fully loads can have a massive impact on your web traffic. Google has even confirmed in the past that Site Speed – and, consequently Page Speed – is a ranking signal.Pages with slow load times tend to have higher bounce rates and less dwell time. In fact, according to Yoast in April 2017:Google’s latest research shows that the chance of a bounce increases 32% when the page load time goes from 1s to 3s. 1s to 5s increases the chance to 90% and if your site takes up to 10s to load, the chance of a bounce increases to 123%.Therefore, addressing the issues that affect Page Speed must be a priority. A website audit should help you to identify the issues relevant to your site.
    • Mobile usability
    Google now does what it calls ‘mobile-first indexing’, which means that it crawls the mobile version of your site first, only crawling the desktop version if there isn’t a mobile alternative. This reflects the fact that more and more of us access the web via mobile devices.Is your website mobile friendly? Do you have a responsive design or, at the very least, identical mobile and desktop versions of the same site?If not, creating a good user experience (UX) for people viewing it on smartphone or tablets should be one of your priorities. A web audit will help you look at issues such as whether:
    • All of the elements of your mobile web page are crawlable and indexable (including images, videos and text)
    • Any of your content is wider than a mobile screen
    • Any of the clickable elements are too close together
    • Your URL structure is mobile friendly
    • Your website theme has been updated to the latest, most mobile-friendly version
    • web pages have good load speeds Google’s free mobile-friendly test tool can give you some top-level information about suggested changes you could make to your site but an in-depth audit is likely to address potential issues in more detail across your whole domain rather than by one URL at a time.
  • On-site optimisation
There are a number of on-site optimisation elements that can make a significant difference to your website’s click through rates from Google and also to how search engines understand the information on each of your web pages.As I explored in my recent Keyword Research Guide, ideally each web page should have a targeted focus keyword or phrase – often medium-tail – that accurately sums up what the main topic of the page is about.This target keyword should, if possible, appear in the SEO title for your page, the meta description, the H1 heading, one or more alt tags (only if appropriate) and other H2/H3 etc. heading tags.Your meta data isn’t just about including the right keywords though. The SEO title should sum up what the page is about and the meta description should act as a call to action, showing the benefits of clicking through from SERPs to the page.SEO titles and meta descriptions that are missing, too long or too short, or that simply don’t grab the reader’s attention can dent your SEO efforts.Remember that, more often than not, an SEO title and meta description for one of your web pages will be the first thing that someone ever reads about your business – it’s important to make a good first impression. A website audit can help you find and plug gaps in your meta data.Using a website audit as your starting point, you may also be able to build up a better picture of your current internal links and how you could develop your internal linking strategy to better tie related content together.Let’s not forget too that an SEO website audit may include a section about your content quality and strategy. Which are your most successful blog articles? What search terms are people using to find your site? How can you increase the relevance of your content so that it’s more appealing to your audience?
  • Off-site optimisation
Your off-site optimisation is important to your SEO efforts too but sometimes harder to keep tabs on.Google likes content that is shared because it’s an indication of trust, authority and relevance. Your social media presence and interactions such as likes, shares and retweets can give important signals to Google on this front so many website audits will include a section about social media within an SEO context.The backlinks that your site gains from third party websites will also affect your rankings. Search engines view them as a vote of confidence so the more respected the source of the backlink is, the better for your site’s domain and page authorities.A professional SEO website audit may well look at your current external linking strategy, linking domains and ways you can improve your domain authority.A tailored SEO strategyThe findings of a professional audit typically form the basis of a tailored SEO strategy that highlights your priorities moving forwards. This may be broken down into urgent areas needing attention, new developments and areas for ongoing improvements and monitoring.One of the many benefits of an SEO website audit is that it gives you tangible evidence upon which to base your SEO strategy. This means you know where to invest your budget rather than just taking a wild stab in the dark about what will work.Is it possible to do a DIY SEO website audit?Absolutely.There are some fantastic free or relatively inexpensive tools available, some of which I’ll link to below.However, free tools have their limitations. When all is said and done, they’re marketing incentives to entice you to sign up to the provider’s mailing list and maybe invest in paid-for tools or support in the future.This means that most free tools only provide top-level information or you have to audit your website one URL at a time, which can be time-consuming if you have a site with lots of pages.SEO specialists have usually invested in powerful auditing tools that let them assess sites of all sizes and purposes. I know here at SEO+, we think nothing of auditing sites of 100,000+ pages because we have the tools that enable us to do this.If you do want to carry out a DIY website audit, you might like the following tools:
  • Woorank
  • Screaming Frog SEO Spider
  • ContentKing
  • DeepCrawl
  • Oncrawl
  • Website Auditor

Digital ad spending to top traditional for first time

By | Digital Marketing & Google News
Amazon continues to eat away at the duopoly of Facebook and Google with an increase in share of 8.8 percent.
Digital ad spending in the U.S. will exceed traditional ad spending in 2019, according to a forecast out Wednesday by eMarketer. Much of that share will come from Google and Facebook, with Amazon gaining speed from behind.The report predicts that digital will make up more than two-thirds of total U.S. media spending by 2023The numbers. Digital ad spending is forecasted to grow 19 percent to $129.34 billion this year, and will make up more than half (54.2 percent) of total U.S. ad spending. At $87.06 billion, mobile will account for more than two-thirds of that amount.Amazon’s U.S. ad business will swell more than 50 percent this year and its share of the U.S. digital ad market will increase to 8.8 percent, knocking into the share formerly enjoyed by heavy hitters Google, Facebook, Verizon and Microsoft.The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) released revenue numbers earlier this month showing that digital ad revenues rose to $26.2 billion in the third quarter of 2018, capping off what it calls the industry’s “highest-spending first three quarters on record” — a 20.6 percent increase over 2017.Where are those dollars coming from? From traditional ad spending. Spending share on non-digital advertising is down this year from 51.4 percent to 45.8 percent, led by directories like the Yellow Pages, which are down 19 percent. Spending on traditional print will drop nearly 18 percent and TV ad spending will decline 2.2 percent to $70.83 billion this year, a dip eMarketer attributed to lack of any big elections or sporting events.Why you should care.  The trend is hard to ignore — advertisers are spending on digital and there’s no sign of them ever going back.“2018 was a landmark year for U.S. digital advertising,” said Sue Hogan, SVP, research and measurement, IAB. “Brands continued their record-breaking investment in the marketplace in the third quarter.”Monica Peart, eMarketer forecasting director, said, “the steady shift of consumer attention to digital platforms has hit an inflection point with advertisers, forcing them to now turn to digital to seek the incremental gains in reach and revenues which are disappearing in traditional media advertising.”

SEO RISKS TO TAKE AND SEO RISKS TO AVOID

By | seo advice for business
Many business people have a hard time seeing the value of SEO, and we understand that. There is a lot of information and misinformation out there about search engine optimization, and it can really increase the difficulty of this decision.While an effective SEO strategy will take many months to yield positive results for a company, and the tactics may not make sense for non-SEOers, it can make a significant improvement in a company’s online exposure and profits.Many companies are naturally nervous about trying something out they’re not familiar with, but let’s face it, nearly any business decision is going to carry some risks with it. Some can be avoided, and some can lead to sudden and serious growth.The question that has to be asked, then, is what SEO risks are worth it, and which should be avoided.Before we get into it, though, let’s put this out there first: the greatest SEO risk a company can make is to avoid SEO altogether. Everyone got that? Great. Let’s consider a few more.

SEO Risks to Take

Making and Testing Large and Small Changes

The overall goal of SEO is to get traffic and, ultimately, transactions on your website.Neither of those will happen if nobody clicks on your website in the first place.So, what if you’re getting your website to rank well for certain keywords, but no one is actually clicking on your link?There could be any number of reasons for this, and it can take some time to zero in on exactly why it isn’t performing as well as expected.And the only way to do that is through A/B testing. You’re going to have to take one element at a time, whether that’s the meta descriptions, the titles, the content and more, and test them against new variations.That’s all well and good and even a little obvious. So what makes it a “risk”?It will likely take a bit of trial and error to come up with the correct wording and layout combination that results in maximum website traffic and transactions. During this time, you may find a combination that doesn’t work well at all and ends up reducing what traffic you do have – at least for a while.The risk is worth it, though, because once you find the best results, you’ll be able to focus on that element and continue to drive more traffic and get better returns.Getting and Giving High-Quality BacklinksWhy would one company feature a link to another company’s website and risk the web user leaving their page?Backlinks are a well-established part of SEO, and most companies want to get as many of them as they can. They help increase rankings and build authority.However, it’s not just about being the one with the most links. Sometimes you need to give a little back.So, yes, you may risk losing a few web visitors by providing a link to other high-quality sites, but at the same time, you’re showing Google that you are using and referencing reliable sites with established authority.Just keep in mind, webpages that knowingly feature links to low-quality, malicious, spam websites are at risk of getting penalized by Google. You may also get penalized by getting too many links to your site from those poor-quality sites.

Enhancing Your Site’s URL Structure

Ideally, your homepage URL should be short, with only the company name, such as www.yourcompany.com. Short, simple, concise and easily remembered.Subsequent pages, however, should have targeted keywords and be more specific about the content of the webpage.Even so, you don’t want to let the URL get out of hand. If they’re too long and descriptive, the search engine will truncate their display with an […] after a cut-off point.So, it may be time to alter some of your URLs with an overhaul of the site’s structure.The risk, here, is that any kind of change like this can impact your rankings. As you alter old URLs and 301 redirect traffic to the new ones, you may see some dips in traffic and rankings.However, if you do it right, you can end up with a streamlined structure that appeals to both search engines and internet users.

Overhauling Your Website

Every once in a while, websites need to get updated and redesigned. Website redesigns can be risky and expensive, not to mention time-consuming.Eventually, though, your website may need a new facelift. Maybe it just looks extremely outdated. Then again, it may be optimized for search engines, but human users find it difficult to navigate. There could be any number of reasons to take another look at your website and maybe – just maybe – consider reconstructing it from the ground up.Of course, just like changing the URL structure, these types of changes come with a risk to your rankings as Google tries to re-evaluate your site. For that matter, it comes with the risk of alienating customers who have grown accustomed to your website just the way it is.Usually, though, Google understands that every website goes through these overhauls every once in a while, so your rankings will usually bounce right back. You just have to be patient. Most of your customers will eventually get used to the changes, too. More importantly, updated your website has a better chance of bringing in many more new clients.

Buy Expired or Available Domains

Some website owners, for whatever reason, don’t renew their domains, making them available for others to buy and use.Buying some domains with history and redirecting them to your site can potentially be a quick and easy way to increase the number of valuable backlinks adding some link juice to your site.There are some serious risks with this technique, though, so you should only do so when you know exactly what you’re doing.The domain, for example, has to be related to your business. It should be professional and legitimate, because if that domain still receives rankings and traffic, those visitors will be redirected to your site, and there is nothing more frustrating than arriving on a site that isn’t at all related to your original search.Also, expired domains that were filled with spammy content and links will also be transferred over to your website, causing your site to potentially drop in rankings and get penalized by Google.This tactic, however, is inexpensive and has the potential to drive serious traffic to your site if you follow the best practices.

SEO Risks to Avoid

Now that you have an idea of what SEO risks are worth taking, here are SEO risks that will likely do your business more harm than good:

Poor Doorway Pages (or any doorway pages at all)

Doorway pages are simple and easy to create in batches to target specific keywords and keyword groups. Trustworthy SEOers avoid doorway pages as a rule because Google greatly dislikes them and penalizes sites that use them.Google’s opinion of such pages should be reason enough for you to avoid this particular risk.The only time Google will let doorway pages slide is if they offer unique, clear and valuable content and information to the site visitor – in other words, only if it acts just like the regular content on your website.There is simply no reason to bother with them, so don’t risk it.

Disallowing Neutral Backlinks

You want good backlinks to your website, not bad ones. What about the ones that are neutral, that doesn’t help, yet don’t hurt your website’s ranking and SEO?Neutral backlinks may not give your website the SEO boost it needs, but they also won’t subject your site to Google’s potentially harsh penalties.In fact, with Google’s Penguin update, some penalties for bad backlinks because the search engine realized that the websites themselves don’t have control over every site that links to theirs.As a result, it is harder for a site to be punished by Google for malicious backlinks.The only way you’ll be able to tell if the backlinks on your website are bad, spammy and low-quality is if you’ve noticed that Google has taken manual action on your site.If no action has been taken against your website by Google, the backlinks on your website are safe, though they may not be high enough quality to boost your site’s search rankings.It is possible to disavow certain links, but you need to be careful about it. If you attempt to disavow all your neutral links, you risk potentially blocking sites that can improve your ranking.

Deleting or Condensing Content or Entire Pages

It may seem like no big deal to delete a page from your website, especially if it is about a product or service your company has discontinued.Once a page is deleted, the keywords it once ranked for are now gone. The same thing happens to the URL of the page, which also includes those page-specific keywords.Instead of risking the loss of those rankings, consider keeping the webpage even if you’ve discontinued the product. Simply leave a message on the page for the visitor that redirects them to a similar page with a relevant product or service.If you’re merging or condensing two pages into one, make sure to include 301 redirects on the old URLs to make sure that all the link juice and traffic isn’t lost.

Using Exact Match Keywords in Anchor Text

It may seem logical to have your targeted keyword as the anchor text for a link to your website. After all, you want your site to rank for that keyword or phrase.This practice was popular for SEOers in the past who had the same logic. Unfortunately, this practice got abused by “black hat” SEOers who used an excessive amount of exact match keyword anchor texts to link to their websites – and the links didn’t exactly come from the most authoritative sites.Since then, Google has greatly cracked down on this practice and will punish websites who overdo this practice. Don’t risk it. Look for more natural ways to link to your site and develop a more varied backlink portfolio.

Making Too Many “Small” SEO Changes to a Site

Occasionally, it is a good idea to update the content on your website. In fact, Google favours fresh, updated content.However, constantly changing the content and the look and feel of your website, even a little bit at a time, strictly for SEO purposes, will not go unnoticed by your website visitors or Google.Making too many changes to your website or making the changes too often will raise red flags for Google which will likely see your webpage as suspicious and likely penalize your site.Over time your site visitors will also notice the changes (especially since most of the changes were likely done for search engines instead of them). If this happens, they may find your site harder to navigate and find value. Some visitors may even start to think your site is suspicious.

Balancing Risk and Reward: 

SEO is essential for any business to succeed. There are many risks to SEO, some of which are worth taking because they can produce favourable results for a business. Other risks can harm and hinder a company’s internet marketing strategy and online presence.As risky as SEO is, the only thing riskier is for a company not to do any SEO at all.Social media has its own share of risks. So before you jump into your next campaign, download and complete this checklist to ensure everything is ready to go.

Local SEO an ‘artisanal’ discipline dominated by small agencies

By | seo advice for business

Roughly 53 percent of firms doing local SEO have 10 or fewer clients

A new survey from Bright-local offers a window into the state of agencies doing local SEO. The survey polled roughly 650 digital agencies, SEO freelancers and in-house marketers from small businesses and enterprises. The results overall describe a market segment that faces challenges but is upbeat — a reflection of the dynamic and constantly changing nature of organic search.

Agency size and revenues. A majority (54 percent) of those doing local SEO are smaller agencies and small businesses themselves. However, the number of large agencies involved with local SEO grew somewhat compared with two years ago.

The majority of respondents had fewer than 20 SEO clients, with 53 percent having fewer than 10. The largest group (65 percent) were making less than $1 million annually from their SEO customers (some much less); roughly 18 percent were making between $1 million and $5 million and 6 percent were making more than $5 million annually. And 18 percent said they didn’t know how much they were making from local SEO clients.

Monthly retainer amounts were all over the place, but the bulk (59 percent) were in the $100 to $1,000 range. In terms of hourly rates, 30 percent of respondents were charging between $50 and $100, and 34 percent charged between $100 and $150, with 28 percent charging more than that. The vast majority of practitioners (83 percent) were making $100,000 or less in salary, with 17 percent earning over that amount.Results hard to deliver. A majority (56 percent) said it will be more challenging to deliver local SEO results for clients this year, but that number is actually down from 2017. In other words, more SEOs are upbeat about potential performance. Indeed, 93 percent of the marketers surveyed said they are “fairly optimistic” or “very optimistic” about the outlook for the SEO industry overall.The local search marketing services most in demand from clients were:
  1. Web design.
  2. On-site optimization.
  3. SEO audits and analysis.
  4. PPC
  5. GMB optimization.
  6. Social media.
  7. Reputation management.
  8. Citation management.
  9. Link building and content outreach.
  10. Content creation and optimization.
Asked about how they got new clients, practitioners responded that word of mouth was the leading source, followed by SEO itself. Content marketing was number three, local business groups was next, followed by PPC advertising, then conferences and Facebook. The latter dropped as a source of new business from number three last year to number seven this year.Why you should care. Far from being dead, SEO business appears to be growing for the agencies participating in the survey. However, local SEO is a sub-segment that, for the moment, is dominated by smaller firms and smaller dollars.Many people in the industry treat local SEO as a niche or see it purely as a concern for small business. However, the truth is the opposite; it’s something that every business or brand that sells through physical stores or service outlets should be focused on.

6 Things Marketers Should Know About Facebook’s App Integrations

By | Digital Marketing & Google News
On January 25, Facebook announced a plan to fully integrate the three platforms: Facebook Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp.The revolutionary project will empower users to message each other, regardless of the apps they’re using, according to The New York Times.People on Instagram will be able to effortlessly message friends on Facebook. WhatsApp users can reach out to friends on Instagram.It was proposed by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, which came as a surprise to some after he’d previously advocated for the apps’ distinct separation.So far, the word is that Facebook’s plans for the platform integration will be complete by 2020.This is about to have a huge impact on digital marketers.Here are six key things every marketer should know about Facebook’s announcement.This Is a Big Win for Folks Using These Apps“[We want to] build the best messaging experiences we can; and people want messaging to be fast, simple, reliable and private,” say Facebook reps.Being able to use the app you’re already using to reach friends, colleagues, and family on other apps – without having to download a new app on your phone? Convenient!. There are more than 2.6 billion combined users on Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram.By integrating the apps, Facebook doesn’t have to try to coerce users into downloading the other messaging platforms they wouldn’t use otherwise. Instead, users just need one of the three apps to message friends and family across the platforms.“We’re working on making more of our messaging products end-to-end encrypted and considering ways to make it easier to reach friends and family across networks,” said Facebook.Marketers Need to Get to Know Facebook Messaging AdsAfter closing another quarter beating earnings estimates ($16.9 billion last quarter!) Facebook will benefit its bottom line with new revenue opportunities through the apps integration.It was just a few years ago that Facebook said it was running out of space in the News Feed to show ads. As long as Facebook gives advertisers robust targeting capabilities and good placement opportunities, then demand and inventory will grow. With this integration, expect to see new ad formats and placements within the Facebook Ads ecosystem open up on Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp.The big takeaway here: It’s time to start running Facebook Messenger ads with automated chatbot “landing page” experiences. Start looking at Facebook click-to-Messenger ads and developing your strategy for awesome engagement with competitive ROAS.When you’ve nailed the click-to-Messenger ad, you’ll be ready when WhatsApp and Instagram release similar direct messaging ads.Did You Know, Chat & Text Are Preferred to Email & Phone?(Not so) news flash: most people prefer chatting over any other channel.This includes communications via email, phone, and traditional mail.Here are the stats:
  • 8 percent of consumers prefer to use messaging apps to communicate with businesses over email.
  • 55 percent of people are interested in reaching out to a business through messaging apps to solve an issue.
  • 47 percent of consumers are open to purchasing via chat automation (chatbots).
Ergo, marketers should use chat apps like Messenger and WhatsApp as marketing channels.Marketers Will Be Able to Streamline Chat Marketing CampaignsThe new app integration though will allow businesses to expand their marketing presence and reach new target markets.Because consumers prefer chatting, chat marketing is the most engaging channel today. 60 percent open rates and 20 percent click-through rates are the norm.Competitor clicking on your Google Ads?  Protecting your ads from competitors & bots is simple with automatic IP blocking by Click Cease. Start your free trial today.That’s why learning to use a platform that lets you do chat marketing automation is one of the best things you could do for your campaigns and business today.Creating a Facebook Messenger chatbot is easy with a visual campaign builder. But creating a chatbot for WhatsApp and Insta today, while possible, is super technical and pretty pricey. For instance, to construct a chatbot on Instagram, you can hire a developer to go to Github and copy open source code from the website.This will create a basis for your bot that will be plugged into your VM instances under your computer engine. From there, you continue to code until your bot is up and running.WhatsApp isn’t much easier. To create a bot on the messaging platform, businesses must apply for a beta program called WhatsApp Business API which still has limited public preview. Of course, the bot you built for one app won’t work for other chat apps. And so businesses usually choose one platform to invest in development.After the three communication apps are integrated though, businesses will be able to use a visual chat bot campaign builder to create bots without coding for all three global chat applications. That makes reaching the 1 billion monthly users on Instagram, 1.5 billion on WhatsApp and 1.3 billion on Facebook Messenger possible from one convenient, easy-to-use chatbot builder.Look to WeChat for Facebook’s Big GoalsWeChat is a messaging system where users can complete online tasks and it dominates in China.People use it to order clothing, buy a meal, call a ride – without leaving the application. We can only assume that Facebook wants to achieve the same through this integration. Services haven’t really been possible in other similar messaging apps just because users are fragmented. But the consolidation of Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp can change all of this.With Facebook’s united system in place, businesses can invest in making their goods and services available to users across all the messaging apps!Act Fast with Chat Marketing to Get Early Adopter AdvantageIf you’re seeing this all unfold, you can see what’s coming down the turn.Chat marketing is about to become a dominant channel for business purposes. It’s time to develop your chatbot marketing strategies.Start creating marketing automations on Facebook Messenger, the first of the three chat apps with a messaging API allowing for integrations with your other business systems.You can be the first on the scene and among your competitors when the messaging infrastructures are combined in 2020
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