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Abishek GM (Kev)

Top Paid Search Strategies

Top Paid Search Strategies

By | Networking Bizz News

If you want your PPC campaigns to remain effective in 2020, you have no choice but to evolve. In some cases, that evolution will mean thinking about things very differently than before.

If your program isn’t in an advanced state already, here are ten tactics you must try this year (in no particular order).

1. Layered Audience: Demographics & Affinity:

It’s no secret that a campaign will perform best when you clearly define who it’s meant for.

By using the combined power of Google Ads and Analytics, you’re able to give your campaigns a better chance of success by targeting those most likely to take the desired action. I look at demographics and affinity as a more of a passive “who they are” classification.

The screenshot below shows current site visitors who fall into the affinity category of “Pet Lovers”. Those specific customers convert 46% better than the average. That’s an audience worth engaging:

Layered Audience

2. Layered Audience: In Market:

While Demographics and Affinity audiences are more about “who they are”, In-Market audiences are about “what they’re doing”.

In this case, this an audience who is exhibiting certain online behavior consistent with those who are actively “in the market” for a product or service.

Layered Audience: In Market

3. Layered Audience: Life Events:

Anyone who has ever run a Direct Response campaign (even in the pre-digital days) knows that reaching potential customers at key life event stages can be critical to its performance.

If you’ve ever gotten a mortgage (or even just moved to a new address), you’ve probably noticed an increase in the volume of offers you receive. There’s a very good reason for that – data shows it’s effective.

Google Ads allows you to run promotions for specific “life events” on a limited basis today. It’s limited because:

  • You’re restricted to life events concerning:
  • College graduation.
  • Marriage.
  • Moving.
  • It’s currently available for Gmail and YouTube campaigns.

They launched these targeting capabilities in the last couple of years and hopefully, it will eventually be expanded as a targeting layer for additional events and platforms.

4. Running One Responsive Search Ad (RSA) Per Ad Group:

I know. You tried it and were less than impressed. I get it.

Try it again, but this time on some keywords and audiences that might not be your core focus.

If your campaigns are anything like most, you have some core audiences and set of keyword variations that make up the bulk of the conversions and revenues.

Test RSAs to try and find success outside that core audience. The biggest things to remember:

  • The key word in machine learning is “learning.” In order to “learn” what works, the “machine” also must learn what doesn’t. That takes time and a bit of volume to get a good read.
  • You still need to input some quality headlines (minimum 3, up to 15) and descriptions (minimum 2, up to 4). If those are sub-quality, no amount of machine learning will help your campaigns.

5. Establish a Target Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) or Return on Ad Spend (ROAS):

This is a Marketing 101 principle that unfortunately even some of the largest companies in the world don’t complete (or at least complete properly).

The automation is now in place to optimize campaigns at scale to a specific CPA or ROAS, but that functionality is useless if you don’t have that figured out (and potentially even worse if you have a CPA or ROAS goal calculated with poor logic).

Is CPA a perfect metric? Nope.

Neither is ROAS.

I have challenges with both when we’re talking about a tactic like text search ads that usually play a role somewhere in the second half of a purchase journey.

Without proper context, CPA and ROAS are very incomplete numbers. However, you can get to a number that’s a reasonable mark for optimizing campaigns to once you take the time and effort to piece together the following:

  • The various marketing campaigns required to take a buyer from pre-awareness to a conversion.
  • The lifetime value of a customer.
  • Your margins.

6. Test Smart Bidding Strategies

See #5. Once you have that foundational element established, you can begin to let the system “do the grunt work” it takes to get the campaign there.

7. Invest in Microsoft Ads Already, Will You?!?!

Microsoft Ads have come a long, long way since the early days of Bing when a lot of us in PPC treated them like an afterthought that we would “get around to” when we had time and as long they made it easy to copy our AdWords campaigns over.

Of course, there are no guarantees it’ll be effective for your brand, but I’m seeing more consistent success across my account base than I did five years ago.

They even have some features that Google doesn’t (and can’t) have. For more insight on that, check out the recent post from contributor Tim Jensen.

8. Using Google Analytics Data to Execute Remarketing Campaigns:

Are you still remarketing equally to everyone who visits your site?

Are all your site visitors equal?

Of course not!

The example below is from a business that has both an ecommerce and physical retail presence.

A quality visit entering the site on a “store locator” page is an opportunity to present remarketing ads promoting the in-store experience.

Google Analytics Data

9. Report the Store Visits Metric (For Businesses with Brick & Mortar Locations):

While we’re on the subject of brick & mortar, leveraging the Store visits metric available in Google Ads is a great way to gain additional support for your campaigns.

Sometimes the management in the physical stores can feel like digital marketing campaigns are designed more for Ecommerce so it’s great to be able to present this kind of data.

Report the Store Visits Metric

10. Review & (Most Likely) Revise Your Campaign Structure:

A campaign restructure is often one of the first things an experienced PPC pro ends up recommending once an audit is complete.

A poor campaign structure is much like a bad foundation on a house – if that’s in bad shape, not much else matters.

A proper campaign structure has always been important, but it’s absolutely critical if you want to take advantage of the automation capabilities to optimize and scale your campaigns.

In order to let the automation handle the grunt work and get you out of the weeds, you must be very strategic about how you structure the campaigns.

There’s not a handbook on one way correct way to structure a campaign for all types of businesses, but in general, you need to take into account:

  • Geography.
  • Seasonality.
  • Product mix.
  • Core terms.
  • Budget ownership.
  • Your ability/bandwidth to manage it all.

Proper setup requires a lot of heavy lifting but will pay the dividends of a long shelf life and program scalability.

Ironically, this last recommendation is something you’ll likely need to do before you can find success with the earlier ones.

Final Word

Trying these tactics will not guarantee success and I’m certain there will be additional “Must Try” PPC features this year that will make sense for your campaigns.

If you haven’t tried the tactics from this post in your campaigns yet, try using this list as a checklist and track your progress. Good luck!

  • More Resources:

 

SEO in 2020

SEO in 2020: Basics You Need to Know to Be Successful

By | seo advice for business

In the field of SEO, it’s safe to say that things are always changing.

Optimization techniques that worked years ago fall by the wayside, and SEO as a whole evolves into a more intelligent discipline that evolves beyond spamming Google with links and keywords.

Sophisticated strategies for increasing organic traffic exist, along with things like competitor gap analysis, keyword gap analysis, and so on.

There are a number of strategies that one must use to be successful in the ever-increasing competitive landscape in SEO.

The Absolute Nuts & Bolts Basics:

There are four basic components of SEO that we all focus on as a daily part of our jobs. These components include:

  • Keywords (and keyword targeting).
  • Search volumes behind keywords.
  • Traffic coming from organic search.
  • Conversions of customers searching for our targeted keywords.

The actual techniques revolve around the following:

  • On-page optimization.
  • Link building.
  • Content.
  • Technical SEO.

These are all a focus of our professions as we report on our efforts and assess next steps in any SEO campaign.

How do you move forward through a campaign and make sure that these factors are nailed down sufficiently enough for you to either launch or expand an existing campaign?

Well, you’ve come to the right place.

This SEO for beginners guide is designed to do exactly that, going through in detail the basics, in order to give you a solid foundation with which you can then use on your own.

Topics, Entities & Keywords:

The first basic component we’re going to look at includes keywords and keyword targeting.

In the olden days of SEO, keywords were really all we had. Keywords and keyword targeting. Keyword targeting involved creating pages based on specific keywords and optimizing them.

The content would be laser-targeted and built around this keyword.

As you move forward with your SEO, you could technically include keyword synonyms, and related keywords in such a way that would help improve your rankings.

The problem with keywords, however, is that they can become redundant, too repetitive, and you can run out of SEO pain points in industry-related keywords fast.

There’s very little room to move forward.

For the process of keyword optimization, it used to be executed in the following way.

Say perhaps that you did keyword research, found the highest-performing ones in terms of search volume, created a page for the keyword, and ensured keywords were inter-weaved throughout your content accordingly. This was one way.

Let’s also not forget the different types of keywords, which are many. The goals of these keywords will change depending on how you want to approach your SEO:

  • Money Keywords
  • Head Keywords
  • Short Tail keywords
  • Long Tail Keywords
  • Supporting Keywords / keyword synonyms
  • Branded Keywords
  • Phrase Match Keywords
  • Broad Match Keywords
  • Negative Keywords
  • Exact Match Keywords

And many other keyword types. By the way, don’t get me started on LSI Keywords. Yes, they are a scam. And nothing more than a marketing attempt to brand synonyms and keyword relationships as something else.

That’s why LSI keywords are SEO snake oil.

Why are we going through such a detailed introduction of keywords? Because they are a fundamental skill of the SEO profession.

Recently however, there has been a shift from keywords to topics and entities.

If keywords are specific words and phrases, topics can be considered broader terms and concepts.

While there has been a shift, you still cannot do without keywords. They are the backbone of any SEO strategy.

A new wrench was thrown into the works with the introduction of entities. Just what’re entities, exactly?

Entities are places, persons, things. According to Dave Davies, entities are the world in the new SEO.

And this is why it is so important to ensure that your site is optimized with entities, keywords, and topics.

Topics, Topics, Topics – So What’s the Deal with Topics?

Just what is the deal with topics? As mentioned previously, SEO is traditionally about optimizing for targeted keywords.

And it was – used to be – considered an SEO best practice to create 1 page per single targeted keyword.

You can come up with your topics by performing topic research using a tool like AnswerThePublic.com.

SEMrush also has its own tool called the topic research tool.

Using both of these tools, you should be able to uncover suitable topics for the type of website you are working on.

That’s all well and good, but what should you do if you are optimizing for multiple topics?

Kristopher Jones here on SEJ has a wonderful method on how to optimize your site for multiple topics in his post, How to Optimize Your Website for Multiple Topics.

There are other basics, including content, links, and technical SEO that will make or break your success.

Let’s take a look at some of the most defining factors that will help your SEO in 2020, and basic elements that you must learn.

High-Quality Content:

Does Google’s algorithm suffer from issues when it comes to assessing whether or not content is of high enough quality?

It can, as this SEO found out recently when trying to game Google’s algorithm with Lorem ipsum text.

In general, high quality content is what’s going to help your site perform. But that takes on different forms depending on different attributes of your marketing campaign including:

  • Your site’s main industry.
  • What has been done to your site previously.
  • What is being done to your site now.
  • Your industry’s overall competition.
  • What your competition is doing.
  • What Google’s algorithm is doing.

Your site’s main industry

There are industry variations in SEO – no doubt about it. I highly suggest taking an open approach to SEO strategies, and not think that once you’ve learned a strategy, that you’re done. Not hardly.

Industry norms vary, and can be as different as the website itself. The way you find out about these norms is you should be doing a competitor gap analysis.

What a competitor gap analysis does is it will help you find what you need to do to increase those rankings above your competitor.

You can read more about how to perform a competitor gap analysis here.

The things that you’ll want to gain from your competitor gap analysis includes insights like:

  • Your competitor’s rankings.
  • Your competition’s content (frequency of posting, word counts, etc.).
  • The link profiles of your competitors.
  • And, to a lesser extent, on-page SEO and technical SEO.

Important: Correlation Is Not Causation:

In SEO, you may think that if you make a slight change to some keywords on a site, or you make changes to some links, that an immediate improvement is perceptible, and likely due to that change.

The problem is that it seldom works out that way in the real world.

When it comes to SEO, correlation is not causation. It’s not enough to say that you did this, this, and this, and that that was a contributor to your results.

On the contrary, detailed organic traffic data analysis and interpretation is needed to find the full story.

That’s what makes SEO so complex – the fact that it’s not a simple correlation / causation paradigm.

Instead, SEO is far more complex with layers of algorithms, not to mention the fact that Google makes changes to their algorithms daily.

The ones they choose to announce just so happen to be the most devastating if you’re in any way engaging in spammy practices.

Which brings me to the following topic: white hat SEO vs. black hat SEO.

White Hat SEO vs. Black Hat SEO vs. Grey Hat: Which Hat Should I Choose?

In the field of SEO, there are different philosophies. These philosophies don’t always mesh well. In fact, they can be frustrating for SEOs the world over, because one group believes one thing while another group believes another.

White Hat SEOs follow Google’s Webmaster Guidelines to the letter. They believe in implementing techniques that will be sustainable for the long-term, and that won’t cause Google to levy a penalty against them.

The most ethical SEOs are those who provide their clients with everything that they do – they give details, they give the links they build, all of it.

They are ethical and transparent in their SEO duties, and provide reports that the client can take reasonable action on in the future.

Black Hat SEOs are not afraid to embrace the latest and greatest in techniques, regardless of how far astray they lead them from Google’s guidelines.

They are masters of a perpetual churn-and-burn machine, often getting great short-term results, but lacking in long-term results.

It is these Black Hat SEOs who use programs like Scrapebox, SENuke, and XRumer in an attempt to build links en masse, so that these links will, in turn, push their rankings to the #1 spot – until Google catches them and all hell breaks loose.

Then, they just start over with another domain.

Grey Hat is a healthy mix of the two, usually using black hat techniques for research but not execution, and using a white hat approach for sustainable results in the long-term. This is likely where most aggressive SEOs fall.

There’s nothing legally, morally, or inherently wrong with this, but if you want to stay on Google’s good side, you will want to choose white hat or grey hat SEO.

Perform Industry Research, Especially If You Are Not Familiar With Your Client’s Industry:

Doing industry research is the first part.

Your primary source for such industry information should be your client. This is when you should perform some sort of discovery – and ask questions to determine any industry specifics that you should be aware of while doing SEO.

The next part would be figuring out the SEO elements that your competition is using to leverage their SERP performance.

If you can think of improving rankings and organic traffic as a core component of SEO, then the competitor gap analysis is a core component of assessing the next steps in an SEO campaign.

After looking into the industry, and defining your industry benchmarks, you will need to move forward with a site analysis.

This will help you uncover what has been done to the site previously, and what is being done to the site now.

It is imperative that you obtain this information, because one wrong step can cause you major issues in your SEO campaign later.

If you are lucky enough to be on a team that has this information, you can simply ask your team’s manager about the information and they should be able to give it to you on the spot.

However, if you are not quite as lucky, you may end up in the situation where you can’t assess that prior information.

In these cases, what is currently on the site is all you have, and you will have to think about your SEO campaign as moving forward from that point.

Your Competition’s Link Profiles Can Provide Valuable Insight:

Your competition’s link profiles, along with your own, should also be a core component of this analysis.

But, this is where things can get dicey. If you don’t have a good grasp on SEO, what may seem to be obvious in terms of correlation may be entirely different when looked at from the POV of having everything.

This is where the dicey part comes in.

If you don’t do a link analysis, but there are other weaknesses, you may never be 100% certain what was responsible for improving the site.

On the other hand, if you have all of the information, you may still never be 100% sure, but at least you can narrow down the exact root cause of the improvement.

Remember, search is not a simple correlation – correlation is not causation. Just because you added one thing doesn’t mean that that one thing caused said improvement.

On-page SEO & Technical SEO Are Important Factors As Well:

Other important factors you should be aware of include the latest in SEO techniques as they apply to on-page and technical SEO.

On-page optimization includes the following:

  • Optimizing the page to deliver unique value.
  • Optimization for phenomenal user experience (UX).
  • Laser-targeted keyword targeting.
  • Can easily be shared through the social networks.
  • Can transition seamlessly between devices.
  • Is crawler / bot accessible – Google’s Gary Illyes is on record as saying “Just make that damned site crawlable.”
  • Optimizing for authorship, meta data, schema, and rich snippets.

On-page SEO

Technical SEO:

Technical SEO is heavily focused on the crawling and indexing of your site. This is where you can tilt the odds heavily in your favor by making sure your site is properly optimized for crawlers.

This doesn’t have anything to do with content or links, and is highly technical in its implementation.

Technical SEO in 2020 includes the following that you must learn and implement to be successful:

  • Anything and everything to do with robots.txt.
  • Optimization of your navigation and website’s architecture.
  • URL structure optimization.
  • Schema.org Structured Data implementation.
  • Canonicalization of URLs.
  • Error page analysis and correction (4xx, 5xx, 3xx, etc.).
  • Server analysis for bottlenecks that can be costing you SERP performance.
  • SSL implementation for a secure website.
  • Page speed metrics along with individual SEO elements that increase page speed.
  • Mobile-friendliness.
  • Cross-browser and cross-platform compatibility.
  • Code optimization (including W3C aspects like validation, accessibility, and so on).
  • AMP for news publishers (which can cover a broad range of topics).
  • International multilingual implementations.
  • Pagination like next/prev.
  • Internal links.
  • Link Profile analysis to determine penalties or algorithmic adjustments (if any).

Our SEO ebooks can help, including my own book – The Ultimate SEO Audit Checklist.

Optimizing for Search Intent & Ensuring the Intent Matches the Target Query Precisely:

You must target and successfully fulfill user intent in order for your optimization to be successful.

This is a basic SEO practice that has been in use since the early part of the 2010s decade.

You must make sure that your keywords highly meet the user intent for that query.

Which brings us to another important consideration for SEO in 2020 – read and memorize the Google Search Quality Raters Guidelines – this is NOT to mean that you can go off and optimize what they say for organic search.

This is created by an entirely separate department from organic search. But, their manual contains important insights to understanding how Google overall views certain search factors that you can then translate into improving your overall E-A-T – Expertise, Authority, and Trust.

The following SEO factors you must know about are also important:

  • Optimizing for page speed
  • Strategic optimization of your target keywords (this includes within the page title, meta descriptions, H1s, and sub-heading tags)
  • Page URL optimization
  • Optimizing for page speed
  • Image file size
  • Image file names
  • Alternative (alt) text
  • Title Text
  • See my article on image optimization for more.
  • Write your content according to the intelligence level of your target audience
  • Internal link optimization when creating a page of content
  • Including images strategically throughout your text

E-A-T in 2020

Google’s core algorithm update of August 2018 had many people scrambling to understand what had destroyed their website so readily in the SERPs. It’s known as the medic update because it was believed that the update targeted medical sites.

When, in reality, it targeted YMYL (your money or your life) type sites as categorized in Google’s Quality Raters Guidelines.

In fact, it was one of the first updates where no SEO could figure out what happened within the first 60 days.

This update turned out to target the following types of sites:

  • YMYL – Your Money or Your Life – sites
  • Health sites
  • Ecommerce
  • Finance
  • Business
  • Technology
  • Travel
  • Entertainment
  • Coupon / Deal sites
  • Adult Sites

E-A-T in 2020

Why This Is Important for 2020:

This update was a turning point in Google Algorithms that specifically targeted sites for long-term authority and trust. Yes, authority and trust is a big deal.

How do you build authority and trust? By answering the user’s query thoroughly, and mind-mapping your content to achieve this ultimate goal.

In 2020, if you want to build your own sites and make sure that they are SEO friendly, long-term sustainable SEO is even more of a consideration now.

Like Alan Bleiweiss writes elsewhere on Search Engine Journal, you must be the answer to the query.

Answer the user’s question so thoroughly that no one else can catch you competitively speaking.

Bleiweiss reports that mindset failure – or being unable to find what one needs – is a single critical factor you must get right to succeed in SEO.

A Solid Focus on SEO Disciplines Is Needed to Succeed:

You can’t expect to do SEO for a month and achieve amazing results overnight. Seldom does it happen this way.

Instead, you must implement a multi-pronged approach leading to a solid foundation that takes into account many issues across SEO elements to be successful.

A focus on any one thing will only lead to sub-par results that create nothing more than a blip in your Google Analytics data.

An organized approach that focuses on the ultimate in quality is best, while keeping in mind your user’s pain points, wants, needs, and desires as they relate their query.

Be the answer in your industry for your user’s query. And your SERP performance will thank you.

  • More Resources:

SEO Strategy Guide

SEO Strategy Guide: Beat Your Competition in 2020

By | seo advice for business

What’s the secret to winning at SEO in 2020?

If you want to outrank your competition, there are three things you will need:

  • The best content you can produce.
  • The best content distribution plan you can design.
  • And the best site optimization you can muster.

You know you want to excel in them all. And luck is already on your side!

1. Search-Intent Oriented Content

The web has a content problem. There’s just too much of it.

Search Google for literally anything, and the total number of results will be in the hundreds of millions – and it’s an everyday thing.

What’s more, nobody expects all of those results to be good.

However, users expect to see something good on the Page 1 of Google.

Can you imagine digging through those millions of results to find only a dozen that deserve to be displayed there?

That’s what Google does every day, over 79,000 times per second.

Now, users might not occupy themselves with how Google is getting it done. But you, as a website owner, are different: you need to know the ins and outs of online search because you have content to promote.

How does Google decide which pages deserve to be at the top?

There are over 200 major ranking factors, but it all boils down to one thing: who’s the best at being helpful to users. Or, in SEO terms, at satisfying user search intent.

So how do you pull that off?

  • Have a Clear Grasp of What Exactly You Are Offering to Your Users

There was a reason you created your site in the first place. This reason is the foundation of your entire plan.

It could be selling products, or spreading information such as news and research, or maybe entertaining visitors with your original content.

What makes the “why” behind your creation so important?

If you can name it with clarity, then it brings you to the next step of the plan: the kind of people you want to come to your site.

Your relationship with them is going to decide your site’s fate – they are your target audience.

Once the “why” and the “who” are decided, they are followed by the “how”. The reason there are many different types of websites is because some of them are better suited for specific tasks than others.

For example, ecommerce stores are the best for selling products, and blogs are great for sharing articles.

If you aren’t using the best way to present your content to users, you should rethink this part before everything else.

Many site owners stumble on this first step because they don’t think about what they are doing.

Be better than that.

  • Pick Keywords That Will Lead Users to Your Content

Users try out all sorts of search phrases in Google, and only a precious few of them will be any good for your site.

The trick is to find those few phrases and turn them into your chosen keywords. So, how do you know you’ve found what you need?

  • They clearly reflect what you have to offer. Short, vague keywords like “buy boots” won’t be of any use to you. Even if a miracle lets you outrank the big brands, you’ll still risk bringing in users who don’t want the kind of product you have. Try optimizing for more specific phrases like “winter boots for women”.
  • They have a high search volume. The more people use a search phrase in a given area, the more people you can turn into your users. Keywords with a low search volume can also be useful, but only when you use many at once to make up for their individual low potential.

You can find search intent-oriented keywords with the Get Suggestions tool.

  • Proceed to Create High-Quality Content

In spite of how hard it is, people are getting better at making great content, and the quality standards keep rising.

Fortunately, the core principle remains the same: give users the best version of the thing they are looking for.

How do you make such content?

  • Research what the users want, as accurately and in-depth as you can. Users always want more details. If they can get those details from you, then you already have an advantage.
  • Make your content visually appealing. As humans are visual creatures, you should know how to make a good first impression and make it last.
  • Provide the best user experience you can. Let nothing on your site get on the users’ nerves. You are supposed to be helping them and making them feel welcome.
  • Address the users’ pain points. If you revive their problems in their heads, it will make them hungrier for the solutions you are about to offer.
  • Give detailed solutions to the users’ problems. Often users don’t know about all the pitfalls they can encounter on the way to their goal. Be sure to include solutions to those issues too: that’s what real experts do.
  • Seal the deal with a call-to-action.

And if you connect relevant pieces of content on your site with links, you can turn the user journey into a cycle, ensuring they’ll keep using your site (at a later time, if not immediately).

It will be even easier for them the next time, since they are already familiar with the whole process. Example: “people also buy” on ecommerce sites.

2. Keyword Research & Optimization

Have you figured out how to make your users’ dream content?

Great job! You have a good reason to be proud of yourself if you have pulled it off.

Now it’s time for the next step: helping users find your content in search engines. This part requires keywords.

In the previous section, it was said that your content needs to be tailored to users’ search intent. The same applies to keywords.

Phrasing reflects what exactly users are looking for, so keywords phrased with a specific intent in mind are the best at bringing in the audience you need.

Examples:

  • Plumber in my city: Your site is for users from your city who need plumber’s services.
  • How to remove rust off my sink: You provide instructions for removing rust stains from metal surfaces in bathrooms and kitchens.
  • Sell my old books: You buy books (and likely other things too) from people who don’t need them anymore.

What’s the best way to find such keywords?

Most likely, you will be starting with some ideas of your own. But you won’t know if those ideas are good unless you somehow test them out.

That’s where SEO tools come in. This is a job for a keyword finder like Get Suggestions.

Keyword Research

Just enter what you have in mind and press Search. The Google global searches column will show the search volume for every keyword in the table.

Sort the table by this column to make it easier to find the best keywords.

If you plan to rank in and get traffic from a particular region, you can narrow your keyword search down to a specific geographical area in the Settings (or by clicking on Add location).

In this case, the Google global searches will be called Google local searches.

Note the All keywords filter. Clicking on it opens a menu where you can opt to show only regular keywords or only question keywords.

The Question keywords filter is particularly useful if you want to optimize your site for voice search.

There are a couple more ways to find keywords.

  • From Google Search Console: If you have connected your WebCEO project to your Google Search Console account, it will start drawing data from Google. Then you can check out the Keywords from Google Search Console tool for all the various queries that bring your website traffic after being found in search. It will also show the usefulness of each query through statistics such as click-through rates and average ranking positions taken from global data over the past 30 days.
  • From your competitors: This is a two-step process. What keywords do your competitors use to optimize their sites? First, enter their URL address in the Spy on Competitors tool to find out. Add the keywords you’d like to rank for yourself to the keyword basket, then open the Competitor Rankings by Keyword report to check their rankings for those keywords. If you see someone rank poorly for a good keyword, start using it yourself – it’s an easy way to outrank them.

That covers keyword research.

Once you have a list of keywords you want to use, it’s time to optimize your site for them. Make sure to include everything from your list at some point!

  • Page URL addresses.
  • Titles.
  • Meta descriptions.
  • Image filenames, ALT attributes and captions.
  • H1-H4 headings.
  • Anchor texts of internal links.
  • Other text.

3. Competitor Research

How do you measure a site’s success?

You can judge it by its rankings, traffic, conversions, and the revenue it makes.

Ultimately, this SEO strategy is supposed to make you more successful than your rivals in the niche.

I bet you already have your eye on a few competitor websites that you want to beat. And that will be much easier if you can view their metrics whenever you want, too.

There’s also the possibility they aren’t really your rivals, and you need to be fighting someone else.

What’s the word for beating someone at their game only to find out you have won nothing?

“Awkward” is the nicest thing that comes to mind.

Let’s remove all awkwardness from your path to stardom.

Our starting point is the Dangerous Competitors tool.

Click on the Settings button.

Competitor Research

  • Keywords tab: Enter the keywords you intend to rank for.
  • Search engines tab: Select the search engines where you want to rank.
  • Mirrors & Subdomains tab: Enter the URLs of your site’s mirrors and subdomains (if you have any). It will let the tool know that they shouldn’t be considered competitor sites.
  • Competitors tab: Enter the URLs of the competitors you already know.
  • Search results tab: Check the boxes of all types of search results you want to scan.
  • Local searches tab: Select regions like states, counties or provinces to show keyword demand for (if you want to rank somewhere in particular and not just globally).

Once you’ve finished filling everything out, click Save.

Competitor

The tool will generate a graph and a table. Look for the sites that are above yours in the table. They can be your real, most dangerous competitors.

Note the “most likely” part. To be completely sure, visit those sites personally and see if they really specialize in the same field as you.

Irrelevant sites may appear if they happen to rank for the keywords you’ve entered without actually sharing a target audience with your site.

With this, you have discovered your true rivals. Fight them with every trick in the book:

  • Creating content.
  • Promoting content.
  • Providing a superb user experience.
  • Building a cordial relationship with users.
  • Optimizing your site.

And watch the metrics which reflect your progress: there’s no better way to find out if something is wrong.

  • Rankings: compare your ranking positions to theirs for your chosen keywords in the Competitor Rankings by Keyword
  • Backlinks: check the Competitor Link Profile report for everyone’s link profile statistics, including the total number of backlinks and domain authority
  • Traffic: the Competitor Traffic report has everyone’s traffic data for the last 12 months.

Another hugely important matter: competitor backlinks.

If you can look them up, you can find a huge number of sites where you can build backlinks to your own site.

How do you do that?

Just feed your rivals’ URLs to the Competitor Backlink Spy.

Competitor Traffic

Then sort the table by the Domain Trust Flow column to put all the best potential link sources where you can see them.

4. Page Speed Optimization

Something has been bothering me for the longest time. So, electricity travels at the speed of light, right?

The Internet runs on electricity, and data packets move at the same speed. Then how come there isn’t even a single website which can load at the speed of light? It’s unfair.

Of course, humans cannot comprehend such tremendous speeds anyway. So we are perfectly fine with the next best thing, which we usually describe as “in the blink of an eye”.

That’s how fast we want websites to load, and we get really upset when it doesn’t happen.

Fortunately, some people are slow blinkers. That must be why most users are comfortable with a couple of seconds of loading time. Any more can cause a problem.

Scan your site with the Page Speed Insights tool to check its loading speed. If the score is low (100 is excellent), there are plenty of ways to make your site load faster:

  • Host your site on a fast server.
  • Host your site on a CDN.
  • Optimize your images’ dimensions.
  • Save your images in the right format.
  • Compress images.
  • Use fewer elements.
  • Merge elements.
  • Use gzip compression.
  • Leverage browser caching.

Page Speed Optimization

5. Technical Audit

Errors are a nuisance no matter where you encounter them. Users won’t be appreciative if you let your website go.

Would you let garbage pile up in your office where everyone can see it?

Of course you wouldn’t; it would be disrespectful to the people who visit you.

The place where you receive your customers should be kept clean and run like a well-oiled machine. Websites are the same.

What kind of issues on your site could be hurting user experience?

  • Broken links
  • Broken images
  • Broken redirects
  • Server errors
  • Missing meta tags
  • Indexing issues
  • Crawling issues
  • Orphaned pages
  • Dead-end pages
  • Schema markup errors

Look at how many things can go wrong when you are not even looking. But you can’t possibly keep an eye on your site every waking hour.

Good thing there are fully automated tools for such tasks, isn’t it?

I can recommend a couple. The first is the Technical Audit tool.

Technical Audit

You can use it to detect the most common technical issues with your site, and then you can just proceed to fix them.

To make your job easier, you can (and it’s heavily recommended) set this tool to scan your site automatically as often as you want.

Once a week is good, but if you’d rather do it more or less often, it’s up to you. It’s all in the Scan Schedule.

site overview

You can even set the tool to send you alerts when you get site errors.

For that, click on Reports -> Email Alerts in the top menu.

The other tool of importance is the On-Site Issues Overview.

On-Site Issues Overview.

This tool detects SEO errors on your site, such as issues with meta tags (short, repeating or outright missing). It, too, can be set for automatic regular scans and email alerts.

What else do you need to keep your site free of errors?

  • The Robots.Txt File

If you don’t have one in the first place, the On-Site Issues Overview tool will tell you, but there may also be issues with the file itself.

Be sure to check that it’s formatted correctly and that it allows search engines to crawl your site’s content, and prevents them from crawling pages you don’t want to appear in search.

  • Sitemap

If you haven’t uploaded a sitemap, its absence can be picked up by the On-Site Issues Overview, too.

Use a validating tool to make sure your sitemap is formatted correctly.

Also, if your site has more than 50,000 pages, you are going to need at least two sitemaps.

  • Schema Markup Validator

If you are using structured data on your site, you should always test your marked-up pages for errors before rolling them out.

Google has a free Structured Data Testing Tool you can use anytime.

Structured Data Testing Tool

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SEO tips

Important Image SEO Tips

By | seo advice for business

Think about the last time you uploaded an image to your website. Chances are you downloaded it from a stock photography site, uploaded it to the backend of your site, and then inserted it to the page.

This makes a shining example of image optimization, right? Not quite.

You’ve added a giant bowling ball weight to your site that’s slowing down the page speed. And, search engines can’t read your images without alt text.

Let’s change that.

Over 20% of all U.S. web searches happen on Google Images, according to 2018 data from Jumpshot.

SEO amateurs and pros alike know that optimizing images for your website is notoriously worth the time spent.

Dan Morgan at WebSpection got one of his photos to rank #1 in Google Images for “best person in Cardiff” in less than four days by optimizing his image.

And, Robbie Richards generated 150,732 visits by adding image alt tags, compressing images, and a few other SEO tricks.

Without proper image optimization, you’re wasting a valuable SEO asset.

It’s like the search engines are giving away Oreos and milk for free. But, you only take the Oreo. When in reality, the Oreo is way better dunked in milk.

Image optimization creates many advantages such as better user experience, faster page load times, and additional ranking opportunities. And, it’s becoming an increasingly more important role.

But which factors are most important to ensure your images are findable and don’t slow down your site?

Here are 11 important image optimization tips you need to know.

1. Choose the Right Format

Decoding all the various image format can feel like your first time ordering at Taco Bell. But, before you can start adding images to your site, you want to make sure you’ve chosen the best file type.

While there are many image formats to choose from, the PNG and JPEG are the most common for the web.

  • PNG: Produces better quality images, but comes with a larger file size.
  • JPEG: You may lose image quality, but you can adjust the quality level to find a good balance.

For me, PNG is the unsung hero of image formatting. Typically, I only use JPEGs for bigger, more visual images taken by a true photographer. But, for my daily use, PNG is the way to go.

2. Compress Your Images

Yep, hell hath no fury like a bloated web page after uploading an image that’s not compressed.

Search engines will look at your web page like you might look at a big vat of Crisco: You can’t seriously be considering putting that on you your website, right?

According to HTTP Archive, images make up on average 21% of a total webpage’s weight.

That’s why I highly recommend compressing your images before uploading to your site. You can do this in Photoshop or you can use a tool like TinyPNG. TingPNG also has a WordPress plugin you can use too.

However, I prefer WP Smush as my WordPress plugin. It reduces the image file size without removing the quality. Whatever plugin you use, make sure to find one that compresses the images externally on their servers. It reduces the load on your own site.

Increasingly.com improved website speed by 33% / 2 seconds by compressing images.

I mean, there’s just something sexy about faster page speed when after you compress your images.

If you’re unsure how your images are affecting your page speed, I recommend using Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool.

3. Create Unique Images

You want your photos to pop on your site. If you fill your website with stock imagery, you’ll look unoriginal – like thousands of other sites that don’t stand out.

Too many websites are cluttered with the same generic stock photos.

Think about a corporate website, a consulting firm, a business that prides itself on customer service. All these websites use virtually the same looking stock image of a businessman smiling.

I’m sure you’ve seen one that looks like this:

Create Unique Images

While you may have your stock images perfectly optimized, it won’t have the same impact or potential SEO benefits as an original, high-quality image.

The more original pictures you have, the better experience for the user and the better your odds are of ranking on relevant searches.

4. Beware of Copyright

Regardless of the image files you choose to use, make sure there’s no copyright conflict.

The Postal Service is paying $3.5 million in an image copyright lawsuit. And, Sketchers got sued for $2.5 million.

If Getty, Shutterstock, DepositFiles, or some other stock photo provider owns an image you use, and you don’t have a license to use it, then you’re risking an expensive lawsuit.

Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), you could be issued a notice if you have violated any copyright issues. If the owner of a piece of content sees their content on your website, they can issue a DMCA Takedown which you must comply with.

Google Images allows you to filter results based on those available for reuse. And, Mindy Weinstein shares 41 different websites to find free images.

5. Customize Image File Names

When it comes to SEO, creating descriptive, keyword-rich file names is absolutely crucial.

Not customizing your image file name is like getting a burrito with nothing in it. It just plain sucks.

Image file names alert Google and other search engine crawlers as to the subject matter of the image.

Typically, file names will look like “IMG_722019” or something similar. That’s like ordering from a menu in a different language. It doesn’t help Google.

Change the file name from the default to help the search engines understand your image and improve your SEO value.

This involves a bit of work, depending on how extensive your media library is, but changing the default image name is always a good idea. Let’s take this image of chocolate for example:

Customize Image File Names

I could name it simply “chocolate” but if you sell chocolate on your website, potentially every image can be named “chocolate-1,” “chocolate-2,” and so on.

I named this image “dark-chocolate-coffee” to let users and search engines understand the image.

6. Write SEO-Friendly Alt Text

Alt tags are a text alternative to images when a browser can’t properly render them. Similar to the title, the alt attribute is used to describe the contents of an image file.

When the image won’t load, you’ll get an image box with the alt tag present in the top left corner. Make sure they fit with the image and make the picture relevant.

Paying attention to alt tags is also beneficial to the overall on-page SEO strategy. You want to make sure that all other optimization areas are in place, but if the image fails to load for any reason, users will see what the image is supposed to be.

Plus, adding appropriate alt tags to the images on your website can help your website achieve better rankings in the search engines by associating keywords with images. Even Google has remarked on the value of alt text in images.

It provides Google with useful information about the subject matter of the image. We use this information to help determine the best image to return for a user’s query.

Alt text is required under the American Disabilities Act for individuals who are unable to view images themselves. A descriptive alt text can alert users exactly what is in the photo. For example, say you have a picture of chocolate on your website.

The alt text could read:

<img src=”chocolate-1.jpg” alt=”chocolate”/>

However, a better alternative text that describes the image would read:

<img src=”chocolate-1.jpg” alt=”dark chocolate coffee flavored bar”/>

Alt text is viewable in the cached text version of the page, aiding in its benefit to both users and the search engines. For further SEO value, the alt text can act as the anchor text of an internal link when the image links to a different page on the site.

7. Think About the Image File Structure

In 2018, Google updated its Image Guidelines. One of the major updates they revealed was that they use the file path and file name to rank images.

Repeat: The file path and file name is an actual ranking factor.

For example, if you’re an ecommerce brand with multiple products, instead of placing all your product images into a generic /media/ folder, I would recommend structuring your subfolders to more category related topics like /shorts/ or /denim/.

8. Make Your Page Title & Description

Google also revealed that it uses your page title and description as part of its image search algorithm.

All of your basic on-page SEO factors like meta data, header tags, copy on the page, structured data, etc. affects the way Google ranks your images.

It’s like putting all your toppings on your burrito. It tastes way better with guac. So, make sure to add the guac for improving image rankings.

9. Define Your Dimensions

If you’re using AMP or PWAs, you are required to define your image dimensions in the source code.

However, if you’re not using either, it’s still a best practice to define the width and height. It provides a better user experience.

Plus, it allows the browsers to size the image before the CSS is loaded. This stops the page from jumping when it loads.

10. Make Your Images Mobile-Friendly

Oh, mobile SEO. At its worst, it can give you a high bounce rate and low conversions. But, at its best, it can give you more ranking power and better user engagement.

Problem is, how do you optimize your images for the mobile-first index?

You create responsive images. This means the image will scale with the size of the site whether the user is using desktop or mobile. It adjusts to the size of the device.

11. Add Images to Your Sitemap

Whether you’re adding your images to your sitemap or creating a new sitemap for images, you want images somewhere in your sitemaps.

Having your images in a sitemap greatly increases the chances of search engines crawling and indexing your images. Thus, results in more site traffic.

If you’re using WordPress, Yoast offers a sitemap solution in their plugin.

Image Optimization Key Takeaways

So, before you begin uploading your image to your site, make sure to follow the image optimization rituals from above.

The most important thing is to make sure the image and alternative text are relevant to the page. Other key takeaways:

  • Choose the right file format. PNGs are my favorite for screenshots.
  • Reduce file size for faster page load speed.
  • Make sure your on-page SEO elements (meta data, structured data, etc.) pair with your image.
  • For crawlability, create an image sitemap or make sure your images are featured in your sitemap.

Optimizing images are no joke. With advancements in voice search technology, media is a growing importance and your entire site will benefit from taking the steps above.

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Essential On-Page SEO Factors

Essential On-Page SEO Factors

By | seo advice for business

Succeeding in organic search today requires optimizing for a combination of factors that search engines consider important – technical, on-page and off-page.

Over the years, we’ve seen increased focus toward off-page techniques – such as link building – and other technical elements.

But the reality is, off-page SEO won’t do much good if you don’t pay attention to the fundamentals – on-page SEO.

Smart SEO practitioners know that on-page optimization should be constantly prioritized.

And because the search landscape is ever-evolving, it’s important to make sure your on-page SEO knowledge is up to date.

In this post, we will cover what on-page SEO is, why it matters, and 10 of the most important on-page SEO considerations today.

What Is On-Page SEO?

On-page SEO (also known as on-site SEO) refers to the practice of optimizing web pages to improve a website’s search engine rankings and earn organic traffic.

In addition to publishing relevant, high-quality content, on-page SEO includes optimizing your headlines, HTML tags (title, meta, and header), and images. It also means making sure your website has a high level of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.

It takes into account various aspects of the webpage that, when added together, will improve your website’s visibility in the search results.

Why On-Page SEO Is Important

On-page SEO is important because it helps search engines understand your website and its content, as well as identify whether it is relevant to a searcher’s query.

As search engines become more sophisticated, there is a greater focus toward relevance and semantics in search engine results pages (SERPs).

Google, with its plethora of complex algorithms, is now much better at:

  • Understanding what users are actually searching for when they type a query.
  • Delivering search results that meet user intent (informational, shopping, navigational).

Adapting to this development is essential, and you can do it by ensuring that your website and its content – both what is visible to users on your webpages (i.e., text, images, video, or audio) and elements that are only visible to search engines (i.e., HTML tags, structured data) – are well-optimized according to the latest best practices.

Additionally, you can’t simply ignore on-page SEO because you have more control when optimizing for on-site elements – as opposed to off-page SEO that consists of external signals (i.e., backlinks).

If you put effort into on-page strategies, you’ll see a boost in traffic and a rise in your search presence.

This guide will walk you through the most important elements of on-page SEO.

Paying close attention to these 10 areas will help improve your content and authority – and increase your rankings, traffic, and conversions.

1. E-A-T:

E-A-T, which stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness, is the framework that Google raters use to assess content creators, webpages, and websites as a whole.

Google has always put a premium on high-quality content. It wants to make sure that sites producing high-quality content are rewarded with better rankings and sites that create low-quality content get less visibility.

There is a clear relationship between what Google considers high-quality content and what appears in the search results.

Call it correlation or causation – whatever it is, E-A-T is somehow playing a role in Google’s organic search results. Which means E-A-T must be a consideration in your SEO strategy.

2. Title Tag:

The title tag, an HTML tag that exists in the head section of each webpage, provides an initial cue or context as to what the topical subject matter is of the respective page it is on.

It is featured prominently in the search engine results pages (typically used as the clickable link) as well as in the browser window.

The title tag by itself has little impact on organic rankings, this why it’s sometimes overlooked.

That said, missing, duplicate, and poorly written title tags can all negatively impact your SEO results, so make sure you’re optimizing for this element.

3. Meta Description

Since the early days of SEO, meta descriptions have been an important optimization point.

Meta descriptions, meta tags that provide a description of what the page is about, are often displayed in the SERPs underneath the title of the page.

While Google maintains that meta descriptions don’t help with rankings, there is anecdotal evidence that indirect attributes of better descriptions do help.

Optimizing meta description correctly can help improve:

  • Click-through rate (CTR).
  • Perception of the quality of the result.
  • Perception of what your website offers all change.

4. Headlines

Want your website content to perform well on search? Then start writing compelling headlines.

Coming up with a title for a blog post might seem too basic, but a great headline can mean the difference between a click and an impression – that’s why it’s important to create them strategically.

Your headlines need to spark interest for it to stand out on the SERPs – enticing users to click through and continue reading the rest of the content.

5. Header Tags

Header tags are HTML elements (H1-H6) used to identify headings and subheadings within your content from other types of text (e.g., paragraph text).

Header tags aren’t as critically important for your site rankings as they used to be, but these tags still serve an important function – for your users and your SEO.

They can indirectly impact your rankings by:

  • Making your content easier and more enjoyable for visitors to read.
  • Providing keyword-rich context about your content for the search engines.

6. SEO Writing

SEO writing means writing content with both search engines and users in mind.

There is a strategy behind writing solid SEO content – and it is more than just keyword research and fill in the blanks.

Simply producing content for the sake of it won’t do. Remember that you’re writing content for people – therefore that content must be high-quality, substantial, and relevant.

7. Keyword Cannibalization

True or false? The more pages you have targeting a keyword, the better you’ll rank for that keyword.

False!

Targeting a specific term across multiple pages can cause “keyword cannibalization” which has some potentially disastrous consequences for your SEO.

When you have multiple pages ranking for the same keyword, you’re actually competing with yourself.

It’s important to identify whether keyword cannibalization exists on your website and resolve it right away.

8. Content Audit

Most content creators are focused on creating new content that they forget to audit their existing content. And this is a mistake.

Auditing your existing content is crucial because it helps you:

  • Evaluate whether your existing content is achieving its goals and gaining ROI.
  • Identify whether the information in your content is still accurate or has become stale (or even outdated).
  • Determine what types of content are working for you.

Content audits can greatly help your SEO strategy and they should be done on a regular basis.

9. Image Optimization

Adding images is a good way to make your webpages more appealing. But not all images are created equal – some can even slow down your website.

Optimizing images properly will help you make the most of a valuable SEO asset.

Image optimization has many advantages, such as:

  • Additional ranking opportunities (show up on Google Image Search).
  • Better user experience.
  • Faster page load times.

Images shouldn’t be an afterthought. Make sure to incorporate images that support your content and use descriptive titles and alt text.

10. User Engagement

Enhancing your website’s on-page SEO elements is only half the battle.

The other half lies in making sure that users will not bounce – but instead, they’ll continue viewing your content, interacting with it, and keep coming back for more.

Retaining engaged users is a great challenge in itself, but it’s certainly doable. To increase user engagement, focus on aspects such as site speed, user experience, and content optimization, among others.

Get Our Complete Guide to On-Page SEO

We’ve only just scratched the surface. Ready to go much deeper?

The Complete Guide to On-Page SEO, tackles the top on-page SEO factors that impact your pages’ visibility on the SERPs. networkingbizz.com

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Guide to SEO Reports: Which Metrics Matter & How to Use Them

By | seo advice for business

There is an overwhelming amount of data available to SEO professionals.

Some of it is useful, but a lot is not.

It can be tempting to report on data that doesn’t provide insight. We may have seen data used in someone else’s SEO report, or it’s a metric we’ve heard about a lot.

The reality is, unless you are careful, reports can become meaningless data-dumps.

Metrics used should be key performance indicators. If they don’t help identify if performance is improving or not, they shouldn’t be included.

What Is the Report For?

When creating reports we must identify what the report should show.

  • Is it a report of overall organic performance?
  • Are we reporting on the technical health of the website or the outcome of outreach work?

This should form the starting point from which we choose the report metrics.

Aspects of a Good SEO Report

A good SEO report will help communicate insight and the next steps.

It should have sufficient detail to help the reader make decisions.

Include Relevant Data

Reports should include data that is relevant to the topic being reviewed.

They should not overwhelm a reader with unnecessary information.

Keep Them Brief

Reports should be brief enough that pertinent data and insight is easy to find.

Brevity might be the difference between a report being read and being ignored.

Keep the data being reported on succinct.

Sometimes a chart will better illustrate the data than a table of it.

Remember the Audience

Reports should be tailored to the needs of the recipient.

It may be the report is being produced for another SEO professional, or the managing director of the company. These two audiences may need very different data to help explain the progress of SEO activity.

The needs of the report’s reader to make a decision and identify the next steps must be considered. A fellow SEO may need the detail of which pages are returning a 404 server error, the managing director likely won’t.

Make Them Easy to Understand

They should not include unexplained jargon or expect readers to infer meaning from statistics.

Write reports with the recipient’s knowledge in mind.

Liberal use of jargon for someone not in the industry might put them off reading a report.

Conversely, jargon and acronyms will be fine for someone who knows SEO and can help keep reports brief.

Keep Them Impartial

SEO reports are a form of internal marketing. They can be used to highlight all of the good SEO work that’s been carried out.

Reports should be honest and unbiased, however. They shouldn’t gloss over negatives.

Decreases in performance over time can highlight critical issues. These shouldn’t be omitted from the report because they don’t look good. They are a perfect way of backing up your expert recommendations for next steps.

Provide Insight

Data alone is likely to be unhelpful to most.

Reports shouldn’t just be figures.

Insight and conclusion must be drawn, too.

This means that as an SEO expert we should be able to add value to the report by analyzing the data. Our conclusions can be presented as actions or suggestions for a way forward.

Reporting on Metrics Correctly

Metrics used incorrectly can lead to poor conclusions being made. An example of this is “site-wide bounce rate”.

A bounce is typically measured as a visit to a website that only led to one page being viewed and no other interactions occurring. Bounce rate is the percentage of all visits to the site that ended up as a bounce.

The bounce rate of a page can be useful, but only really if it is being compared with something else.

For instance, if changes have been made to a page’s layout and bounce rate increases it could point to there being a problem with visitors navigating with the new layout.

However, reporting on bounce rate of a page without looking deeper at other metrics can be misleading.

For instance, if the changes to the page were designed to help visitors find information more easily then the increase in bounce rate could be an indicator of the new design’s success.

The difference in bounce rate cannot be used in isolation as a measure of success.

Similarly, reporting on the average bounce rate across the entire website is usually misleading.

Some pages on the website might have a high bounce rate but be perfectly fine. For example:

  • A contact page might see a lot of visitors bounce as they find a phone number and leave the site to call it.
  • A home page or product page with a high bounce rate is usually a sign that the page is not meeting the needs of users, however.

Reports should look to draw conclusions from a range of metrics.

Few metrics can be used in isolation and still enable accurate insight to be drawn.

Over-Reliance on Metrics

There are other metrics that are relied on a little too much in SEO reports. Measures of the authority of a page or domain for instance.

These third-party metrics do well to guess the ranking potential of a page in the eyes of the search engines, but they are never going to be 100% accurate.

They can help to show if a site is improving over time, but only against the algorithm of that reporting tool.

These sorts of metrics can be useful for SEO professionals to use, but can cause problems when reported to managers, clients, and stakeholders.

If they are not properly prepped on what these scores mean it is easy for them to hold on to them as the goal for SEO. They are not.

Well-converting organic traffic is the goal. The two metrics will not always correlate.

Which Metrics Matter?

Which metrics should be used together to illustrate SEO performance depends on the purpose of the report. It also depends on what the recipient wants to see.

Some clients or managers may be used to receiving reports with certain metrics in them. It may be that the SEO reports feed into their own reporting and as such, they expect to see certain metrics.

It is a good idea to find out from the report recipient if there is anything in particular they would like to know.

The report should always link back to the brand’s business and marketing goals. The metrics used in the report should communicate if the goals are being met.

For instance, if a pet store’s marketing goal is to increase sales of “non-slip pet bowls” then metrics to include in the SEO report could be:

  • Overall traffic to the pages in the www.exampledomain.com/pet-accessories/bowls/non-slip folder.
  • Organic traffic to those pages.
  • Overall and organic conversions on these pages.
  • Overall and organic sales on these pages.
  • Bounce rate of each of these pages.
  • Traffic volume landing on these pages from the organic SERPs.

Over time this report will help identify if SEO is contributing to the goal of increasing sales of non-slip pet bowls.

Organic Performance Reports

These are reports designed to give a picture of the ongoing performance of SEO of a website. They give top-level insight into the source and behavior of organic traffic over time.

They should include data that indicates if the business, marketing and SEO goals are being met.

An SEO performance report should look at the organic search channel both on its own and in relation to other channels.

By doing this we can see the impact of other channels on the success of SEO. We can also identify any trends or patterns.

These reports should allow the reader to identify the impact of recent SEO activity on organic traffic.

Metrics to Include

Some good metrics to report on for organic performance reports include:

  • Overall visits: The number of visits to the website gives something to compare the organic search visits to. We can tell if organic traffic is decreasing whereas overall traffic is increasing or if organic traffic is growing despite an overall drop in traffic. It is possible to use overall traffic visit data to discern if there is seasonality in the website’s popularity.
  • Traffic visits by channel: The number of visits coming from each marketing channel helps you identify if there is any impact from other channels on SEO performance. For instance, new PPC ads going online could mean cannibalization of organic search traffic.
  • All traffic and organic traffic goal completions: Have visitors been completing the goals set up in the website’s analytics software? Comparing organic and other traffic goal completions will again help identify if the organic traffic is completing above or below average goal completions compared to other channels. This could help determine if SEO activity is having as much of a positive effect as hoped.
  • Page level traffic: If there are certain pages that have been worked on recently, such as new content or keyword optimization, include organic traffic metrics for them. This means going granular in your reporting. Report on organic traffic over time, conversions on the pages (if appropriate) and actions carried out from that page. This can show if recent work has been successful in increasing organic traffic to those pages or not.
  • Organic landing page sessions: The pages that visitors arrived on from the organic SERPs. This identifies which pages are bringing the most organic traffic to the website. From here, pages that have not been optimized but show potential to drive traffic can be identified.

Google Analytics

Keyword Ranking Reports

A note on keyword rankings reports. Consider what they are showing before including them.

An overall report of “your site is ranking for X keywords” doesn’t give any useful insight or fuel for a way forward.

  • Which keywords?
  • Are those keywords driving traffic to the site?
  • Are they worth optimizing for further?
Metrics to Include

Keyword ranking reports should demonstrate growth or decline in rankings for specific keywords the site is being optimized for.

Ideally, data should be pulled from first-party tools like Google Search Console to give as accurate an indication of ranking as possible.

Technical Performance Reports

Good SEO performance requires a website that can be crawled and indexed easily by the search engines.

This means that regular audits need to be carried out to identify anything that might prevent the correct pages from appearing in the SERPs.

Reports are slightly different from audits in that a technical audit will look at a lot of different factors and investigate them.

A thorough technical audit can be vast. It needs to diagnose issues and methods of improving the site’s performance.

Depending on the audience of a technical report it may need to selectively highlight the issues. It should also show the success of previous SEO work.

The key to knowing which metrics to include in a technical report is understanding what’s happened on the site so far.

If work has been carried out on the site recently to fix an issue include metrics that indicate the success of that fix.

For instance, if there has been a problem with a spider trap on the site that has been fixed, then report on crawl metrics and log files.

This might not be necessary for every technical report, but it can be useful in this instance.

If the site has problems with loading slowly, then metrics about load speed will be crucial for the technical report.

If the site has had problems with being mobile-friendly then reporting on metrics such volume of Google Search Console mobile usability errors over time can indicate if it is improving.

A good way to convey the metrics in a technical SEO report is by including prioritization of actions.

If the metrics show that there are some urgent issues, mark them as such. If they are issues that can wait or be fixed over time, highlight this.

Technical SEO can feel overwhelming for people who aren’t experts in it.

Breaking down the issues into priorities can make your reports more accessible and actionable.

Metrics to Include

There are certain metrics that may be useful to include as part of a technical performance report:

  • Server response codes: It can be prudent to keep track over time of the number and percentage of pages returning a non-200 response code. An audit of the site should determine exactly which pages are not returning a 200 response code. This information may not be useful to the recipient of the technical performance report so it may be better to include it as an appendix or not at all. If the volume of non-200 response codes reduces over time this can be a good indicator that technical issues on the site are being fixed. If it goes up then it can be summarized that further work needs to be carried out.
  • Page load speed times: It can be helpful to report on an average of page load speed times across the site over time. This can indicate if the site’s load speed is improving or not. What is perhaps even more useful to report on is the average load speed of the top five fastest and five slowest pages. This can help to show if there are certain templates that are very quick as well as the pages that might need further improvement.
  • Any data that shows a need to act: This is really important to include. If an error on a site is going to prevent it from being indexed then this needs to be highlighted in the report. This might be different from report to report. Metrics could be crawl data, site down-time, broken schema mark-up, etc.

Link Building Reports

A link building campaign can yield benefits for a website beyond boosting its authority with the search engines.

If done well, links should also drive traffic to the website. It is important to capture this information on link building reports too as it is a good measure of success.

Metrics to Include
  • URLs of links gained – which links have been gained in the reporting period.
  • Which links have been gained through link building activity – of the links gained which ones can be directly attributed to outreach efforts.
  • Links driving traffic – of the links gained during the period which ones have resulted in referral traffic and what is the volume of visits.

You may be tempted to include a page or domain strength score in these reports. If that helps to communicate the effectiveness of an outreach campaign that’s understandable.

Do remember however that links from highly relevant websites will still benefit your site even if they do not have high authority.

Don’t let your outreach efforts be discarded because the links gained don’t score high with these metrics.

Conclusion

Which metrics to include in a report is determined by what the report is for.

Identify which goals are being influenced by SEO activity and report using the metrics that show success or failure.

Remember to stay clear of data that is not helping identify this. It can be misleading and prevent the message from being communicated.

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Essential Features Every SEO Platform Should Incorporate

Essential Features Every SEO Platform Should Incorporate

By | seo advice for business

SEO platforms have evolved from glorified ranking tools to full-scale platforms that manage SEO end to end.

But it can’t stop there.

Meanwhile, Google’s free Google Search Console (GSC) service has come a long way by incorporating additional data and displaying changes in month-over-month traffic and organic performance.

In fact, the new GSC provides:

  • 16 months of search traffic data.
  • Detailed information about a specific page – including index coverage, canonical URL and mobile usability.
  • Flow tracking to help monitor, fix, and request a recrawl of pages affected by crawling issues.

GSC v. SEO Platforms

While GSC does not currently provide content analysis, I think this will change as Google integrates additional tools to help users create better content experiences.

I think GSC will soon be so advanced, it will be like an operating system (OS) for the web.

Think of it like the Windows OS, which flags errors in real-time and provides recommended fixes – including diagnostic tools with helpful guides to walk you through the repair process – and optimization tips and techniques for better performance overall.

What’s more, Windows OS has programs like Word for creative direction in writing and grammar and PowerPoint for design and audiovisuals.

And, as structured data feeds become imperative for site owners, GSC will likely be able to offer creative/presentational alerts for website content, kind of like a quality score.

But I still don’t think GSC will replace SEO platforms.

Instead, I expect to see more integration with Google’s products by enterprise-level platforms because Google is a source of truth for data and therefore a source of desirable tools as well.

That being said, SEO platforms must continue to evolve alongside Google to remain competitive.

Some platforms have changed their models to be more service-oriented, incorporating professional services like content creation to their data and insights. It’s like one-stop shopping, which is where the industry is heading overall.

Here’s what else I’d like to see from SEO platforms this year.

1. SERP Changes:

Monitoring changes in SERPs is usually done by third-party tools, which is yet one more tool for SEO managers to monitor.

Instead, SEO platforms should build this into their systems.

This way, they can show clients how SERPs are changing, which could indicate Google is testing something or an update is coming, right from the platform itself.

2. Real-Time Reporting – and Apps

SEO platforms also need real-time data reporting functionality.

So, for example, during the critical end-of-year holiday period, a retailer could log on to the platform – or even an app – to get real-time data on SEO performance and make necessary changes that much faster.

And SEO platforms that offer apps would make it all that much easier for brands and agencies to get real-time data on SEO performance even quicker.

Another great feature would be if SEO platforms enabled real-time alerts for changes or problems.

Some platforms are starting to build this capability, but it’s time for all of them to get on the bandwagon because I have seen a lot of standalone tools start to pop up that offer these features at more reasonable price points.

3. Goal Reporting:

Every brand and agency have monthly, quarterly, and annual goals.

SEO platforms should have goal reporting functionality that mirrors this timeframe so marketers can see if they are on target to hit their goals.

They should also offer recommendations for clients who don’t hit these goals and what they need to do to improve their sites.

And I don’t mean generic recommendations – I mean real recommendations based on data.

4. Actionable Recommendations:

SEO platforms charge thousands of dollars each month.

To justify this cost, they need to start providing more actionable recommendations.

Most SEO platforms give generic suggestions their users likely already know, such as pointing out a keyword is missing from a title.

In other words, instead of telling a client they should have structured data, I believe SEO platforms should empower users to create and test structured data directly on the platform and implement it on their websites.

I want an SEO platform that can read the content on my page and recommend a title with the keyword, so all I have to do is push a button to optimize.

With advancements in machine learning, SEO platforms should be able to upload the new title directly onto my site, regardless of what CMS I’m using.

In addition, the platform should be continuously monitoring and retaining the title that performs best based on click-through rates of previous versions.

5. Video Metrics:

Video is a great tool to help consumers understand your product or service.

Video builds brand awareness by up to 74%, according to video production company Filmless.

In fact, YouTube is the #2 search engine in the world, per Google, and 75% of users visit brands’ websites after viewing a video on the site, Filmless says.

Because video is in such great demand, SEO platforms should provide more reporting on related metrics, like:

  • View counts.
  • Play rates.
  • Engagement.
  • Social sharing.
  • Click-through rates.
  • Conversion rates.
  • Average completion rate.
  • Viewer feedback (i.e., “I liked this video because it showed how to build a staircase in 20 easy steps.”)

In addition, Google determined 53% of users will click off a mobile page it if takes more than 3 seconds to load, so SEO platforms should offer metrics for load speeds, too.

Many SEO platforms offer some of these features, but they could all be more robust.

6. No Extra Charge:

It would also be nice if enterprise-level platforms did not charge extra for new features or if they offered new features at a more reasonable cost.

In my opinion, new features should be included in the platform price tag because brands and agencies already pay a pretty penny.

Adding additional fees might make the platform cost-prohibitive – particularly when they are planning for the future.

That means everybody loses: SEO platforms miss out on renewals and clients potentially miss out on critical new features like content analysis.

Conclusion:

There are some great SEO platforms on the market that help digital marketers manage SEO end to end and provide tools to increase clients’ visibility and drive more high-quality traffic to their websites.

But they must continue to evolve with additional features that serve brand and agency needs so these clients don’t have to seek out tools elsewhere.

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Improve Your Website Navigation: Essential Best Practices

By | Website Design Advice

Website navigation, when done right, is great for your users and your SEO performance.

Good website navigation makes it easy for your visitors to find what they want and for search engines to crawl. The result: more conversions and greater search visibility.

But how do you actually do it? By using these website navigation best practices.

What Is Website Navigation?

Website navigation (a.k.a., internal link architecture) are the links within your website that connect your pages. The primary purpose of website navigation is to help users easily find stuff on your site.

Search engines use your website navigation to discover and index new pages. Links help search engines to understand the content and context of the destination page, as well as the relationships between pages.

Users come first. This is the underlying objective of website navigation you must always remember.

Satisfy users first. Make navigation easy. Then, optimize for search engines without hurting the user experience.

If you more basic information on website navigation, you’ll find these SEJ posts helpful:

  • Internal Link Structure Best Practices to Boost Your SEO by Corey Morris
  • Your Essential Guide to Internal Content Linking by Julia McCoy

The remainder of this post will maintain a broader focus on website navigation best practices, outlining various internal linking situations that can cause issues for your website visitors and search engines.

This topic will be especially relevant and important for anyone working on large websites.

Website Navigation & Content Hierarchies:

When searching for a specific page within a book, you can simply read through the table of contents or the index.

When you walk around the grocery store, the aisles are labeled with general section categories and more subcategories are listed on the shelves themselves.

Both provide an efficient way to navigate through a lot of content.

Content hierarchies exist to simplify the process of locating content. When a mass amount of content exists, it can be broken down into a few broad categories.

Within those broad categories, you can create even narrower classifications; this builds differing hierarchical levels that users can easily navigate.

Utilizing content hierarchies organizes pages of a website in a way that makes sense to the user and the search engine.

contenthierarchy

Importance of Content Hierarchies & Website Navigation:

The categorization and sub-categorization of content help pages improve in rank for general head terms and for specific long-tail terms.

ContentHierarchyandSEO

Problems Caused by Content Hierarchies:

Categorization of content and building hierarchies create content silos, like clusters of closely related topics. Google will crawl different pages at different rates, following links from different sites.

Some content silos are more popular than others. These pages may get more external links and traffic than others and, as a result, earn more prominent positions in organic search.

When content is too siloed and fails to get links and traffic, it might not perform as well – even if your other content silos perform extremely well.

The content hierarchies can isolate certain popular page clusters that may be located too deep within the site.

This is where horizontal linking comes into play.

As much as link relevancy helps in ranking, the lack of cross-linking between content silos can be detrimental to your overall rankings.

There are always ways to create relationships that horizontally link categories to one another. The fact that all pages belong to the same website already indicates that these pages are not completely irrelevant to each other.

crosslinks

Action Items: Linking Between Content Categories:

  • Categorize content in a way that forms category hierarchies that make sense to the user and interlink these pages properly, going up and down the hierarchy. These are the majority of the links.
  • Create cross-linking between pages that are under different categories but still have similarities.

Links Between Product & Content Marketing Pages:

Companies selling more than one product or service will do everything mentioned above on categorizing the pages, creating content silos, and interlinking them.

However, many SEO teams and content teams also create assets that are designed to be compelling and shareable. Oftentimes, this comes in the form of a blog, with posts containing links to specific products and services.

Blog posts can be useful because they direct more traffic toward product pages. However, many sites fail to link the product pages back to the blog pages.

Using this type of horizontal linking helps inform users about your product or service and increases your SEO performance.

blogandproducts

Action Items: Linking Between Product and Content Pages:

  • Product pages should also link back to related content marketing pages. This may include blog posts, FAQs, and product manuals.

Website Navigation Using JavaScript Effects:

Occasionally, links and web pages are written in JavaScript. This is a problem because search engines have difficulty locating internal links that are created in JavaScript.

Although Google has improved in recent years in terms of reading JavaScript, SEO specialists have concluded that results are inconsistent.

Other search engines still have no capabilities when it comes to reading JavaScript. This means your internal linking could be completely lost when search engines crawl your content.

The SEO world is divided over whether using JavaScript is practical.

  • On the one hand, some SEO experts avoid JavaScript altogether.
  • On the other hand, web designers and usability experts claim that JavaScript is essential to the user experience.

I believe there is a middle ground where JavaScript can be used while avoiding any SEO issues.

Links That Display and Hide Content Already on the Page:

JavaScript can be used to display and hide certain content on a page without actually changing the page you are on. When this happens, all of your content is pre-loaded to the page.

In this case, search engines are still able to crawl all of your content, even when some of it is hidden. This is only successful when the amount of content that is hidden remains minor; it can become problematic when the entire page changes but the URL remains the same.

Problems arise because of the fact that when you hide too much content within one URL, it dilutes the content focus of what that page is all about. A completely different topic should have its own page.

Action Items: Links That Display and Hide Content:

  • For small amounts of content, remove the anchor tag and replace with a JavaScript onclick event handler.
  • Use CSS to control the cursor and change from an arrow to a hand pointer.
  • For large amounts of content, including single-page parallax scrolling websites, not all content should be pre-loaded.
  • Only pre-load content directly related to the URL.
  • For all anchor tags, there should be an href value and an onclick setting.
  • This href value leads to a new URL that only pre-loads the content related to this new URL.
  • The onclick function will prevent the new URL from loading but will allow content from the destination URL to load.
  • Use the pushState function to update the URL even if that page did not load.

Clarity

A more in-depth presentation of how this can be specifically implemented on websites is explained well in this presentation done at seoClarity in 2016.

It specifically talks about AngularJS, a popular JavaScript framework, and its SEO issues and solutions. However, the lessons here are also applicable to almost any JavaScript framework.

Using Tracking Parameters in the URL:

Usability experts and conversion optimization specialists track user behavior in different ways. Sometimes, this involves using tracking parameters in URLs within the site.

This causes duplicate content issues due to linking to different URLs that have the exact same content. This can be resolved in a number of ways.

Action Items: Tracking Parameters in URLs

  • Avoid using tracking parameters in the URL. Instead, track these by using JavaScript tracking onclick event handlers on links that will pass the same tracking parameters. If using Google Analytics, this can be done with event tracking.
  • Always using a self-referencing canonical tag is a good practice to have to avoid many kinds of duplicate content issues.

The First Link Priority

A web page that contains two or more links leading to the same URL is believed to cause issues in search engine crawling where only the first link is considered and the duplicate link is disregarded.

This has been discussed in forums and tested in 2008 by a number of people, including Rand Fishkin and myself.

first-anchor-text-counts

A few things worth mentioning:

  • In 2014 Matt Cutts, former head of Google’s spam team, said this is no longer an issue. I have yet to test this again and I haven’t seen any other SEO professionals test this recently.
  • When this was first tested and detected to be an issue, the HTML version was 4.1, XHTML 1.1 was on the rise, and HTML 5 did not yet exist. Today, HTML 5 exists with tags like <header>, <article>, and <sidebar>. Maybe this time Google treats links in the header, sidebar, and article tags.

SEO Issues That Arise From the First Link Priority:

Top-bar navigation and left side-bar often comes first within the source code before the main content. Additionally, navigational elements in these menus often have short anchor text. They tend to be less keyword focused and more design focused.

Links within the main content of a page have a tendency to be more keyword focused, with surrounding content that supports the keyword. They are also more flexible in length, with longer, more specific anchor text; this longer text increases the variety of keywords that a page can potentially rank for. However, because of first link priority issues, these links are often overlooked by search engines.

Action Items: First Link Priority Issue:

  • Consider code order. Prioritize the main content before the sidebar and top bar navigation. CSS can be used to control float direction, from left to right or right to left to make the sidebar navigation load after the main content. The top bar navigation can be controlled with absolute positioning.

Handling Navigation in Large Websites:

For large websites (those with hundreds of thousands or millions pages), website navigation can be a huge challenge.

The natural site navigation within categorized menus generally links to all pages of the site, and an XML sitemap can help index all pages.

However, the lack of cross-linking between content silos can create distance between pages.

On a large site, it can be difficult to identify all possible links between product pages and the corresponding product marketing pages.

Some sections of large sites may not be receiving much of the link love they need from other pages.

Additionally, other issues like the first link priority and issues with JavaScript could be hard to detect across millions of pages.

Here are three solutions to these challenges:

1. Delegate to Different Departments:

Large companies have proportionately large websites with multiple employees belonging to different departments. Many departments may correspond to different sections of the website.

Make sure that everyone involved in maintaining the different website sections abides by the same SEO principles and practices. Then, distribute the labor in optimizing navigation across the whole website.

2. Use Tools or Build Tools:

Automation always makes manual processes more scalable. Unless you have your own proprietary tool, there may not be a single tool to identify and fix all the issues mentioned above.

Crawling tools like Xenu, Screaming Frog, DeepCrawl, or Botify can analyze your existing links, determine the issues, and provide a description of the site architecture.

If you want to visualize the site architecture, tools like DynoMapper and PowerMapper can help achieve this.

Link research tools like Moz’s Open Site Explorer, Ahrefs, Majestic, Sistrix, LRT, and CognitiveSEO can analyze which pages get the most backlinks externally then add cross-links from these pages leading to more important pages of the site.

The proprietary tool we use automates the process of crawling the page and determining which pages link to one another.

3. Use a Phased Approach:

Large websites don’t always have large teams behind them to distribute the work of optimizing pages. If there is a lack of resources, you can create your own tools to ease this process.

If these tools do not provide the help you need, then consider a phased approach. This entails working on one section at a time with an optimization schedule. This is a day-by-day process and may take longer, but relying on metrics like organic search traffic will help you determine what to optimize first.

7 Key Takeaways:

  • Users come first: Your website navigation should satisfy users first. Then, optimize your navigation for SEO performance. Never compromise the user experience.
  • Cross-linking between content silos: Content relevancy between pages is important for ranking, which comes naturally in a well-categorized, hierarchical site architecture. However, this can have limitations when it lacks cross-linking between content silos where some pages are just too deep or too far away from receiving a good amount of link juice from other sources.
  • Blogs to products, products to blogs: Create high-quality content that is helpful and relevant to your target audience. If these blog posts help in a product buying decision, then link to the blog post from the specific product page(s).
  • Tracking parameters: Avoid using them; use the onClick event handler on links for tracking purposes. It is always safe to have a self-referencing canonical tag.
  • JavaScript links: Avoid using JavaScript to write content and links. If there is no way around it, there are methods to make it work.
  • First link priority: Ideally, main content comes first. Next, is the sidebar, followed by the top bar. Lastly, handle the footer. Further testing is needed to determine if this is really still a valid concern, but it doesn’t hurt to stick to this method.
  • Huge websites: Thousands to millions of pages are hard to do all of the above. Delegate to a team, automate tasks by using tools, or handle the issues one at a time.

Build Links Ethically in 2020

By | seo advice for business

Google has made it clear that content and links are two of the biggest SEO factors.

Content without links limits your referral traffic and hinders ranking potential.

The only problem is: Google has also put strict guidelines into place about link building.

So, how do you acquire critical links from top-tier websites without breaking Google’s “rules” and requirements?

How do you build links in an ethical manner that positively impacts your website and brand image?

Here are three ethical link building strategies for 2020.

1. Be a Journalistic Source of Information:

One of the most ethical sources of backlinks online is being a journalistic source of information.

What does that mean?

Essentially: Providing a quote or tip or piece of information in exchange for a mention of your name, your brand, and your website.

For example, this is something I just recently did on a blog post about SaaS holiday marketing:

Expert interviews, roundups, or quotes are fantastic content marketing tools that can help improve content impact.

It’s always interesting to gather multiple opinions from different sources on a single subject to understand concepts and utilize experience from more than one source.

It makes for fantastic user experiences when reading and looking to implement new ideas.

Because of this, reporters, journalists, and writers are always looking for people to contribute to their content.

And when you are trying to build ethical, by-the-book backlinks, this should be music to your ears.

So, how do you do this efficiently and scale your ethical link building?

How on earth do you contact content marketers and bloggers to get featured without being annoying or spammy?

My favorite tool is HARO, otherwise known as Help a Reporter Out. It’s used by more than 55,000 bloggers and journalists alike.

HARO is a website where writers can post their topic and what type of quote or tip they are looking for.

All you have to do is respond via email with your submission and wait for them to confirm.

The best part is: the sources you contribute to aren’t unknown, random, or sketchy websites.

In fact, I’ve contributed to publications from HubSpot to Forbes using it:

HubSpot to Forbes

With HARO, you can create a free account that will deliver media opportunities directly to your inbox on a daily basis.

Depending on what niches you want to focus on, you will get potentially hundreds of media opportunities each week to respond to.

With a long, curated list, you can pick the topics and publications that appeal most to you and your brand goals.

Best of all?

It’s free.

Sure, it takes time to write a valuable quote or tip, but getting exposure on websites like Forbes makes it worthwhile.

So, what are you waiting for? Go become a journalistic source of information and acquire powerful links, ethically.

2. Link Reclamation: Improve Value in Existing Content:

Broken link building is nothing new.

You search for content mentioning your specific anchor text goals and hope the link is broken, allowing you to pitch yours to replace it.

This can work, but at scale, it’s nothing short of a nightmare.

It could take you hundreds of articles to find a single potential link spot, not to mention the poor conversion rate you’ll have actually getting a link placed.

This type of ethical link building is a needle in a haystack link building tactic. It’s one in a thousand.

Ditch broken link building and start working on link reclamation.

What’s that?

Essentially, link reclamation focuses on brand mentions (with or without a link).

For instance, if someone writes an article and mentions your software tool but doesn’t link to you, this is a great opportunity to:

  • Thank them for the mention
  • Request that they add a link to one of your target pages that is relevant to the copy
  • Build a connection with this site or writer for future collaboration

Using a tool like Ahrefs, you can quickly locate these. Fire up Ahrefs and use the content explorer tool:

Link Reclamation

From here, enter your brand name into the search bar and hit enter.

Select a date range to target, focusing on more recent content first.

Next, select “only live” links and a minimum domain rating range.

Remember: you want to focus on big wins here while weeding out spam.

Next, be sure to select “One page per domain” as well. Now you can export your list and have an entire spreadsheet showing where and when your brand is getting mentioned.

From here, it’s on you to research the site, the writer, and perform outreach!

One of the biggest keys to link reclamation is picking the right link to pitch.

Instead of just a homepage link, dig deeper into the topic of the article and find a landing page, feature page, etc, on your site that fits well.

Select your top priority target pages and find existing anchor text spots that align.

If you don’t currently have one, consider spinning up a new, more targeted landing page that directly fits.

Link reclamation is about as ethical as it gets: you are actually increasing the value a reader gets from a blog post by providing a link on that page where they can learn more.

Without it, they are forced to spend multiple searches to find that page.

The real question is:

Does it work?

If done correctly, it absolutely works. I’ve been running link reclamation with multiple clients and have seen a 25% conversion rate on average for getting links placed.

3. Guest Post to Build Connections:

Guest posting. It’s been a debate for a long time whether or not guest posting “works” or if it should be done for links or not.

Almost six years ago now, Matt Cutts said: “Okay, I’m calling it: if you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop.”

But, was he really talking about providing a stellar quality article to HubSpot and linking once to a valuable piece of content on your own site?

Not at all.

In fact, it was the opposite that he was referencing:

Spinning existing content and link-stuffing it to quickly drive your domain rating and rankings.

This is clearly spammy, creates zero value for readers, and was meant to game the system.

On the other hand, high-quality bylined content is still thriving, and for good reason:

Blogs need better quality content more than ever before, and hiring top-tier content marketers ain’t cheap.

That’s where you come into play: providing value with a content piece.

But don’t just submit your guest post and call it a day. Sure, you probably will get at least a byline link and drive some referral traffic. But the whole point of this tip isn’t just to guest post.

That’s a pretty obvious tactic. Instead, take this opportunity and build connections with your contact.

If it’s an editor, ask to become a regular contributor. Ask how you can provide them with more value.

Once you have a connection built, ask them if they need help with any in-progress content they are doing for other websites.

Use this as an opportunity to help by adding quotes, tips, statistics, and helpful links back to your own content.

Ditch guest posts on paid and spammy websites, and start focusing on natural guest post links on top-tier sites, with the main focus on building editorial connections.

Conclusion:

Link building is changing, fast.

It’s no longer about infographics, scouring the ends of the earth for broken links that might fit your anchor text, or guest posting for links.

Instead, it’s about finding ethical link building strategies that have one thing in common:

Improving the value for people reading the content and clicking your links while keeping Google penalties at bay.

Implement these three strategies in 2020 to do just that.

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Things SEO Professionals Must Avoid in 2020

Things SEO Professionals Must Avoid in 2020

By | seo advice for business

We all should know by now the top common black hat tactics to avoid. Most SEO professionals like to think of themselves as white hat, or at least gray hat.

However, did you know that there are several white hat strategies that can seriously hurt your long-term SEO performance?

The reason most of these white hat strategies can hurt you is that they’re often “too easy to be good for you.”

When we become complacent in the easy way out, our organic search performance can start to suffer.

For the TL;DR SEOs out there, here are my quick links to help you jump to the section you want to read.

The top six easy SEO strategies you must avoid:

  • Assembly line SEO strategy.
  • Blaming performance drops on algorithm updates (without evidence).
  • Copying location page copy.
  • Using automated auditing tools to drive strategy.
  • Paying for links.
  • Being too scared to ask questions.

1. Assembly Line SEO Strategy:

I define “assembly line SEO” as when a person or agency uses the same exact tactics for every client.

Many of the larger SEO agencies use this strategy for their SMB division because it’s efficient to manage.

Typically, after the site goes through its first round of on-page optimizations, the routine tactics include blogging and paying for links.

However, just because it’s easy, doesn’t mean it’s always the best.

This type of strategy may be fruitful for a short period of time, but unless there’s zero competition, the website is bound to experience a growth plateau.

What to Do Instead:

Instead of getting stuck in this routine “task-based” strategy, focus on finding out unique ways to deliver value to your website’s audience.

Investigate what your competitor’s top-ranking content is, and how they’re approaching their content strategy. Make a list of all of your competitor’s strategies and look for content gap opportunities.

Take these opportunities and make sure your content is built to serve your audience at each stage of their purchase funnel.

The continual research and content production may be more time-consuming, but it will inevitably be more fruitful. Another added bonus is that this will show your stakeholders that you truly care about their performance.

2. Blaming Performance Drops on Algorithm Updates (Without Evidence):

Performance drops can happen as suddenly and frequently as algorithm updates, depending on the website.

These days, algorithm updates happen so frequently that it could be easy to point fingers at Google and say they caused your rankings and organic traffic to drop.

Sometimes, it’s true!

However, more often than not, performance drops can occur for different reasons.

Some common reasons for organic performance drops include:

  • Newly discovered technical issues on the site.
  • Significant content changes.
  • Seasonality.
  • Competitor changes.
  • Manual actions.

Keeping those possibilities in mind, it’s important that we don’t take the easy way out and blame an algorithm update.

What to Do Instead:

There are several SEO recovery guides out there that you can reference for more in-depth steps on how to bounce back from organic performance drops.

Here are some quick tips on how to investigate whether your site was truly hit by an algorithm.

Did Google Discover New Technical Issues?

A technical issue is one of the more common reasons why a site’s performance may drop.

This usually happens when a site admin unknowingly updates various parts of the site and creates significant technical issues.

Investigate this issue by checking the following places:

  • Check the coverage report in Google Search Console.
  • Run a Screaming Frog or Sitebulb crawl to check for structural changes and crawl traps.
  • Run an automated audit in your SEO tool of choice to look for any hidden errors.
  • Check robots.txt for any new disallow directives.
  • Run a fetch and render to see how Google may be rendering your site.
Significant Content Changes:

This is another common cause for significant ranking fluctuations. Some sites, such as ecommerce, frequently change content.

If your site rarely updates content and experiences a dip in organic traffic or rankings, then you may want to investigate if your client or another site admin made some unexpected changes.

Some ways you can investigate site changes include:

  • Check the Changes tool in the Wayback Machine.
  • Install an activity log plugin to track your site changes.
  • Investigate which pages in Google Analytics took the biggest hit and analyze those pages.
Seasonality:

It’s rare to find sites that are unaffected by some sort of seasonality.

Whenever a stakeholder comes to you freaking out about site performance dips, make sure to check your year-over-year benchmarks.

Compare quarterly trend lines on top of each other so you can show your stakeholders that these dips may not be unusual.

Additionally, you should forecast ahead to let them know of any future expected dips based on previous year’s trends.

The key here is that you’re still improving year-over-year.

Competitor Changes:

Some traffic changes can occur because of a competitor improving their organic strategy.

Typically, this will be indicated by a steady decline in organic performance and is unusual for it to occur with sharp drops in performance.

If you think that your competitors are starting to steal your rankings from you, don’t panic!

I have a Python script that allows you to spy on your organic competitors. It will display who’s continually ranking for your topic keywords.

Manual Actions:

Manual actions are not a frequent as they used to be, but they still happen.

If your site has experienced a steep drop in traffic, take a look at Google Search Console for any manual actions.

3. Copying Location Page Copy:

When developing location pages for large websites with many locations, creating unique copy for each location can be tedious and time-consuming.

It may seem like the easy way out to just use the same copy for each location page, but I highly advise against it.

You can get much better local ranking performance by focusing on unique copy for each location page.

Check out my location page checklist to learn how to create the ultimate location page.

4. Using Automated Auditing Tools to Drive Strategy:

Relying on automated tools may not be the best way to drive your organic strategy.

Many new SEO professionals tend to conduct their initial SEO audits with automated tools and let that guide their global SEO strategy.

What’s the problem with this?

These SEO grading tools don’t “ask questions.”

The key to any good SEO strategy is to ask questions including, but certainly not limited to:

  • Who’s my target audience and what information do they need to take action?
  • Are there any obstacles for Google to crawl and interpret my site?
  • Does my internal linking structure facilitate entity-optimization?

What to Do Instead:

Invest in a tool like Screaming Frog or Sitebulb and learn how to look holistically at a site.

Use visualization tools to analyze the structure of a site.

Look for content gap opportunities and ensure that your technical structure is sound.

When your technical foundation is clean, search engines may have an easy time discovering, crawling, and rendering your webpages.

5. Paying for Links:

Now I know this article is meant to be focused on white hat tactics, but there is a gray hat method of link building in which you can pay link building companies for guaranteed links.

This is a great way to guarantee that you get a specific number of backlinks for your clients each month.

However, quality and relevance are almost never up to par.

What to Do Instead:

Link building tends to have a snowball effect.

If you get links in well-known publications, it’s possible that another writer will discover you and link to you in their own articles.

However, this is a less common occurrence with smaller DA backlinks.

I recommend investing in some PR partners to help you craft content and get features in noteworthy publications.

These larger publications tend to have a greater rate of organically growing your backlink profile through the snowball effect.

6. Being Too Scared to Ask Questions:

It’s too easy to just search the answers to your questions, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

However, when it comes to strategy or tackling specific problems, Google may not always return the right answer for you.

It’s OK to reach out to your peers for help. Even the best of us frequently run polls and ask for help on Twitter. There’s absolutely no shame in that.

In fact, it’s highly encouraged!

No respectable SEO will make fun of you for not knowing something.

We all have to learn somehow.

If you’re still a little too nervous, reach out to Search Engine Journal’s “Ask an SEO” column to get your anonymous questions answered publicly. That way others may benefit from the shared knowledge.

  • More Resources:

 

Top SEO Trends to Watch in 2020

Top SEO Trends to Watch in 2020

By | Networking Bizz News

It’s time to take our annual look at what’s ahead for SEO professionals in 2020.

What SEO strategies and tactics will work and help you dominate in the SERPs and earn more revenue in 2020?

This is the question we ask every year here at Search Engine Journal.

This year, I asked 58 of today’s top SEO professionals for their thoughts.

Here are the top 10 trends you need to know in 2020, according to the experts.

Trend #1: BERT & User-Focused Optimization:

In 2019, the launch of Google’s new BERT algorithm got a lot of attention. Naturally, every SEO professional wants to learn how to optimize for BERT.

Well, rather than focusing on how to optimize for that specific algorithm, take a page from Kelly Stanze, Search Strategist, Hallmark, who will be focusing on user-focused optimization and the technical delivery of content.

In short, that means reassessing user access points to search and aligning content with that.

“Look at the mechanics of how something is crawled, indexed, and served in a variety of different search settings,” Stanze said. “With users having more options than ever in how they search for things, it’ll be even more important for SEOs to bear in mind the fundamentals of clean architecture and content delivery.”

With the incorporation of BERT this year into the ranking and featured snippets algorithm, Google has taken a huge leap forward into making search really about intent matching rather pure string matching, according to Eli Schwartz, Growth Consultant and Advisor.

“Content will truly have to be written to user intent rather than just strings that a user might search,” Schwartz said. “Keyword research tools may even become less relevant with the primary dataset for content creation coming from suggested queries. In 2020, the really smart SEOs will get up from their desks to talk to customers so they can find out what their audience really wants from them.”

“There’s no sign of [natural language processing] NLP and deep learning research slowing down anytime soon, and you can expect search engines to shift even further from keywords to intent in 2020,” Dubut said. “Both practitioners and tooling providers will need to shift their efforts towards ‘intent research’ and fulfilling user needs.”

As Jenn Mathews, Senior SEO Manager, Groupon, points out, Google is continually updating to optimize search results based on user intent rather than a focus on content/page to keyword matching.

“SEOs need to understand the nuance of what this means with their content as well as have a firm grasp on Google’s past updates leading to this trend.”

We’ve all wanted to focus on intent for the last several years, and better understand what the journey of our customers looks like, said Duane Forrester, VP, Industry Insights, Yext. Now it’s become such an important part of the landscape, it’s integral to the survival and growth for most online businesses.

“If you focus on the customer’s intent, you’ll clearly understand where you fit on that path,” Forrester said. “By providing the best answers for questions on that path, you can more reliably capture and convert customers.”

What does this mean for you?

Focus on how our users talk about their issues, problems, and needs at each aspect of the buyer’s journey much more, according to Keith Goode, Sr. SEO Strategist, IBM.

“Additionally, we’re going to have to extend our efforts far beyond the purchase in that journey to include content that addresses needs after the sale – support, opportunities to advocate, community-building and staying relevant for future purchases,” Goode added.

Always focus on your customers, said Sam Hollingsworth, Director of Search, Elevation Ten Thousand

“Too many brands forget or fail to realize what it takes to attract and impress potential customers. They want real value,” Hollingsworth said. “Just like in a brick-and-mortar establishment, customers want to know that you’re on their side, that they can trust you, and that you are a reliable partner in what is going to be a long-term – hopefully lifelong – relationship.”

Carolyn Lyden, Lead SEO/Owner, Search Hermit, hopes 2020 brings a change where we get back to the qualitative, human side of search.

“So many marketers market their products and services having never spoken one-on-one to their target audiences,” Lyden said.

Without talking to our customers and understanding why they are behaving the way they are, we are limiting our ability to create a smart and holistic strategy, according to Sarah Gurbach, Senior Account Manager, Search and Audience Insights, Seer Interactive.

“So, in 2020, I recommend you go and sit down with your customers,” Gurbach said. “Talk to them, ask them to tell you about their journey to purchase, how they used search, what they thought of your site. Use that data in every decision you make.”

User-focused optimization can only truly be done by integrating SEO into a holistic marketing strategy. Ryan Jones, SEO Group Director, Publicis Sapient, said this will be the biggest trend in 2020.

“Now, more than ever, companies are going to have to stop treating SEO as a condiment that they just add on to their digital strategy, and instead treat it as a key ingredient of their business plan,” Jones said. “SEOs are going to have to grow their skillsets to understand the full marketing and digital stack. It’s going to be less about fixing SEO issues and more about fixing marketing and business issues.”

Trend #2: High-Quality, Optimized Content:

Anna Crowe, Assistant Editor, Search Engine Journal, said there is one thing that has been and will continue to be the lifeblood of SEO:

Content.

“Content affects everything in SEO,” Crowe said. “From your site structure and internal linking strategy to the types of links you build.”

To succeed in 2020, you will have to write something that is relevant and valuable, said Tony Wright, CEO, WrightIMC.

“This means that SEOs need to learn how to write or hire people who know how to write,” Wright said. “Google’s editorial discretion isn’t perfect yet – there will still be content that ranks that shouldn’t. But the day is coming when the best content will win.”

Make it your goal to have the best content on the web for your topic, or at least an important subset of your topic, said Eric Enge, General Manager, Perficient Digital. By doing so, you will be future-Google-proofing your business.

“This allows you to compete effectively for long-tail searches (which still remains about 70% of all search queries), will help build your site authority and demand for your content, and can be done in a directly ROI positive way,” Enge said. “In addition, this type of approach to content is exactly what Google is looking for to satisfy user needs and represents the type of market investment that Google will likely never make, because Google is about doing things with massively scalable algorithms.”

Jesse McDonald, Global SEO Strategist, IBM, and Jessica Levenson, SEO & Content Strategy Consultant, both said 2020 is the time to move away from the obsession with keywords. Stop targeting individual keywords, chasing pageviews, and “spraying and praying” with content.

McDonald said to focus more on topics.

“The goal of switching the mentality to more of a topic-focus is to create content that addresses an entire conversation holistically as opposed to just worrying about the single keyword a page should be targeting,” McDonald said.

Levenson said to adopt a deliberate and methodically organized cluster of content that delivers comprehensive and intuitive topical experiences while meeting business objectives.

“Know what answers the user needs next,” Levenson said. “Boiled down:

  • Understand who your audience is and how they search.
  • Understand the intent behind the questions they are asking or problems they need to solve.
  • Give them solutions or answers in the formats they prefer via on-point, quality, and authoritative content.
  • Execute in this fashion for every stage of their journey to create a satisfactory topical experience that serves their needs again and again.
  • Iterate because just because you do it well once doesn’t mean intent won’t change or someone else won’t do something better.”

Another thing to watch out for, according to Aja Frost, Head of Content SEO, HubSpot: content cannibalization.

“I’d recommend auditing all of your content for overlapping rankings and merging, redirecting, and archiving as needed so every page ranks for a unique set of keywords,” Frost said. “If your website covers the same topics again and again, even if you’re covering these topics from different angles, your pages are going to knock each other out of the results.”

In 2020, it’s time to take a hard look at the quality of your content – and optimizing that content for users rather than search engines, said Michelle Robbins, VP Product & Innovation, Aimclear.

“In a way, the key to staying successful in search marketing 2020 is the same as it ever was – put out good content, with consistent brand messaging, in all your channels,” Robbins said. “As the search engines become ever more adapted to natural language understanding, the best-written content – in all forms – will win the day.”

And in the world of international SEO, the time is now to invest in good localization of content, said Motoko Hunt, President, AJPR.

“Many global websites have poorly translated content that hasn’t been edited for the local tongue,” Hunt said. “It’s not the placement of the keywords, it’s about how well your content is written for the local audience.

Trend #3: E-A-T & Your Unfair Advantage:

In 2020, Google will continue to look at the overall reputation and E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness) of a given company and the individuals who publish content on behalf of that company, said Lily Ray, SEO Director, Path Interactive.

“Companies that struggle with a poor reputation, customer service issues or other trust issues will have a harder time competing,” Ray said. “These trust issues not only manifest themselves as reviews and feedback about your brand, but they also take the form of technical or security issues on your site.”

Ray expects that it will become increasingly difficult to receive organic visibility for YMYL (Your Money, Your Life) queries without the proper expertise and credentials to write on those topics.

Trustworthiness will be super important for publishers in 2020, said Grace Kindred, Junior Technical SEO Analyst, News UK.

“There will be a strong focus on quality content and fighting against fake news,” Kindred said. “It will be more important than ever to focus on the trust value of authors (verifying authors and showing their authority for particular subjects) and sites as a whole.”

According to Loren Baker, Founder, Search Engine Journal, opening up nofollow as a hint was an attempt by Google to better understand the sources of news stories, the sources, and references in large papers and academic study.

“Match that with the credentials of the author (which can be defined by structured data markup) and any fact-checking oriented schema, and we have an easier way for Google to weigh authority and trustworthiness of a piece of content, whether a news or publishing story,” Baker said.

Put simply: The offline is coming online, said Jason Barnard, Owner, Kalicube.pro. Every business needs to find its unfair advantage.

“With entity-based search, the Knowledge Graph and the rise of E-A-T, our capacity to create an accurate and convincing online representation of our offline world will become a major differentiating factor,” Barnard said. “All those offline events, conferences, awards, partnerships, etc. that Google cannot see suddenly take on enormous importance. Pull them online and push them to Google to feed its need for understanding and credibility.”

Alexis Sanders, SEO Senior Manager, Merkle, shared a few ways to have a digitally-based competitive advantage:

  • Supply chain excellence (e.g., delivering within 2-days (or less) with relevant status updates).
  • Customer service (e.g., ability to answer the user’s question with minimal friction).
  • Digital charisma / branding (e.g., Having users seek you out, because they want to do business with you? Do most of your reviews look more like love letters?).
  • User experience (e.g., is your experience more convenient / useful / simple?).
  • Price.
  • Niche products.

Trend #4: UX & Technical SEO:

The biggest trend that smart SEO professionals should focus on in 2020 for greater success is UX – user experience, according to Brock Murray, Co-founder, seoplus+.

“This includes the overall experience from the initial interaction in the SERPs, to the overall landing page experience, and even the experience after they leave your site (think remarketing, drip campaigns, personalization for returning users),” Murray said. “Think about how you can help your users have the best possible experience while truly pondering what value you can provide to them during their visit. ”

Technical SEO is a key piece of the UX discussion, according to Goode.

“While I believe Google will do a lot to compensate for our site’s own poor technical foundations (e.g., canonical corrections, hreflang corrections, etc.), it’s going to become increasingly more important for SEOs to focus on shoring up their technical foundations,” Goode said. ”I don’t think it’s accidental that Martin Splitt spends as much time as he does promoting good technical best practices from Google’s perspective. We should consider that a signal in and of itself.”

When we talk about technical SEO and UX, you have to talk about site speed and page speed.

Dan Taylor, SEO Account Director, SALT.agency, noted that Google has reinvigorated discussions and focus around site speed, with the new Chrome “slow warning badges”, and the speed reports in Google Search Console.

“This for many will reignite conversations with developers and in some cases lead to systems requiring almost complete redesigns of page templates and reengineering of how assets are loaded,” Taylor said.

Going further in the technical realm, Aleyda Solis, International SEO Consultant & Founder, Orainti, expects to see a further shift to a more technical SEO ecosystem, fueled by more JavaScript frameworks usage, PWAs, and a need for SEO automation for bigger websites.

“This already started since a few years ago but has become far more obvious this year,” Solis said. “In 2020, it will only get bigger with the popularization of JS frameworks, app first businesses that will also more strongly shift to the web due to the benefits of PWAs, and the need for SEO task automation for bigger sites where machine learning with Python can provide a solution.”

Trend #5: Mobile SEO:

Surprised to see mobile SEO as an important 2020 trend? Don’t be. As Wright put it:

“Almost every prospect coming into our shop has a mobile site that is a mess,” Wright said. “To survive in 2020, you need to implement 2017 tactics and fix your mobile.”

What’s that mean?

“Build sites for mobile-first, then make them compatible for desktop,” Kindred said. “That way those sites don’t have to be optimized for speed after launch.

Kris Jones, Founder / CEO, LSEO.com, said if you don’t have a mobile-friendly and mobile-optimized website, you need to take action immediately. You can’t wait any longer.

“All of your online reporting must reflect insights into your mobile performance as a priority,” Jones said. “Instead of visualizing a person sitting at a desktop computer you have to realize that most of the time people will find your website via a mobile device.”

But mobile SEO doesn’t stop there. Study the mobile SERPs.

“SEOs need to be looking at real, mobile search results, to know what they are up against, what kind of traffic they can expect, and what kind of optimization will actually be successful at impacting the bottom line,” said Cindy Krum, CEO, MobileMoxie

Trend #6: Structured Data:

We know high-quality content will be important in 2020. However, algorithms still don’t fully understand context.

So we need to give search engines “hints” to better understand and deliver results, based on a searcher’s intent, said Jeremy Knauff, CEO, Spartan Media.

“This means structuring the data in a way that helps search engines to better understand not only what is on a page, but also how each element relates to other elements on the page, and how that page relates to other pages within the website,” Knauff said.

Ultimately, you want to be understood, found by your customers through any channel and be well-positioned to take advantage of future features from Google and other structured data consumers like Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, and AI Chatbots, said Martha van Berkel, CEO, Schema App.

“Done right, structured data becomes your marketing data layer,” van Berkel said. “It will allow you to publish your content for any machine/search engine/voice assistant/chatbot with context to provide service to your customers across any surface and at any moment of interaction.

“Smart SEOs will start leveraging their structured data to enhance their analytics so that they can gauge what part of their content is driving results and use this data to influence content strategy, marketing strategy, product features and more, across their companies,” she added.

Also, don’t assume that because you marked up all the most common data in early 2019, you are good, said Shelly Fagin, SEO, Highly Searched / Brand Ambassador, SEMrush.

“New types of markup are continuously being added or improved upon,” Fagin said. “I also expect to see a lot more manual penalties related to poor implementations of structured data. Don’t automatically trust some plugin you’ve installed to structure your data correctly.”

Trend #7: Entity & Knowledge Graph Optimization:

The search of the future increasingly is about real-world objects, said Bill Slawski, Director of SEO Research, Go Fish Digital.

“Google is finding ways to include entity related information in search results through things such as augmentation queries,” Slawski said. “You can optimize entities that your site is about by doing things such as optimizing those for Google’s Knowledge Graph and making sure that they appear in Knowledge Panels.”

As pointed out by Greg Gifford, VP of Search, SearchLab Chicago, local search is the forefront of entity-based search, so everyone should pay attention to what’s happening in this space.

“Local SEO has been entity-based for years – you’ve always been able to rank local businesses even if they don’t have a website,” Gifford said. “Google is tracking real-world visits already and recently received a patent for using ‘quality visits’ as a ranking signal.”

Dixon Jones, Founder, DHJ Ventures, said you need to tie large amounts of your cornerstone content to definite entities, which Google either recognizes or doesn’t. Writing around semantically close entities helps to better answer user journeys not just through better content, but also content that Google can see will be a good result.

“I think in 2020, internal linking will come to the fore, but again based around things, not strings,” Jones said. “Understanding the unique knowledge graph our web presence makes will empower us to be able to link those concepts together better within the content under our control, to the benefit of users and crawlers alike.”

Want your brand or business be seen as an entity? Here’s some advice from Alina Benny, SEO & Content Lead, Nextiva:

“If you publish original industry reports, compile new expert advice, and are among one of the dominant voices in the market, Google will start seeing you as an entity,” Benny said. “It’s these entity-related signals that are going to help you keep ranking.”

Trend #8: Link Building & Brand Building:

Want to acquire top-tier links in 2020? Shannon McGuirk, Head of PR and Content, Aira Digital, said it’s time to move link building from the dark ages into a consumer-first approach for 2020.

That means focusing on three types of journalistic writing:

  • Planned editorial: Topics that are covered by journalists every single year at a given point (e.g., Black Friday, Valentine’s Day).
  • Planned reactive editorial: Features written by journalists on a topic that ties to a seasonal event or theme that we know is being covered due to time frame, but we don’t know the exact story until editors or journalists write it on the morning of their editorial meeting.
  • Reactive editorial: Features written in the here and now that are unplanned and can’t be predicted and are dictated due to a news story breaking.

Carrie Rose, Co-founder / Creative Director, Rise at Seven, said link building will be more about brand building in 2020.

“The responsibility will fall on SEOs to build links and media placements that drive traffic and push brand, not just links that help with search rankings,” Rose said. “Now our link building activity has to be on-brand, or there’s a realistic chance that there won’t be any brand-building activity at all.”

Building a brand people trust and want to do business with is essential, according to Casie Gillette, Senior Director of Digital Marketing, KoMarketing.

“Customers are getting smarter and they expect more when it comes to marketing,” Gillette said. “The more they trust you, the more they are willing to share your content (links), talk about you (value), and buy your products (revenue).”

Trend #9: Focus on Visibility, Not Just Blue Links:

Zero-click searches have been a big reality in 2019. On-SERP SEO will only continue to grow in importance in 2020.

Thus, adapting to zero-click searches will be key, according to Cyrus Shepard, Founder, Zyppy.

“More and more brand marketing is happening on Google itself, and not necessarily on your website,” Shepard said. “Smart marketers will need to learn how to adapt and take advantage of this by getting more strategic about the information shown in search snippets.

Shepard said this includes basic tactics to increase actual clicks over impressions, such as featured snippet optimization, using newer schemas (e.g., FAQ and HowTo), image targeting, and favicon optimization.

But it’s more than just zero-click searches we need to plan for in 2020. We need to optimize for much more than blue links, Krum said.

“Ranking number 1 under a Knowledge Graph, Found on the Web or a Featured Snippet is different than ranking number 1 without those things,” Krum said. “Similarly, even if you are not in Position 1, ranking just below a People Also Ask result or Interesting Finds will not get as much traffic, because those things look better and thus, drive more clicks in the search result.

“Further, I think we will continue to see more localization in search results, with more Map Packs, News and Events ranking and taking clicks from traditional organic rankings,” she added.

Trend #10: Programming:

In 2020, you should tap into programming languages like Python and R to eliminate your most time-consuming and redundant tasks, according to Britney Muller, Senior SEO Scientist, Moz.

SEO automation will free you up to harness the power of marketing fundamentals:

  • Branding.
  • Creating great customer experiences.
  • Storytelling.
  • Speaking your customer’s language.
  • Listening to your target market & providing thoughtful/timely responses.
  • Providing easy to consume content (in the way in which your users want it).
  • Being human.

As Paul Shapiro, Head of SEO, Catalyst, put it: Programming makes SEOs better SEOs. And we’re starting to really see increased adoption.

“There are real advantages to moving beyond Excel for analysis. It permits a more sophisticated analysis of your own data, as well as the ability to:

  • Incorporate other data sources for insights.
  • Apply machine learning to solve complex problems.
  • Make decisions that normally would be difficult and require human input (for which there is limited time to provide human input).”

Ways to Use Social Profiles to Get Quality Links

Ways to Use Social Profiles to Get Quality Links

By | Social Media News

Using company or personal online profiles to generate links is a tricky subject.

Some people think it is spammy or misleading, especially when someone creates profiles for the sole purpose of getting links.

Even though a few shady marketers have twisted the purpose of profiles, it doesn’t mean you can’t do it in a genuine way.

It is possible to have real profiles that share your information, background, and accomplishments, while also using it for more than just a way for people to find you online.

Having online profiles on the main social networks and websites your core audience visit is not only important to online visibility, but it can help you grow your network, which can organically lead to more inbound links for your content.

Below are five of the best ways to use profiles to help get quality links.

1. Outreach with an Executive’s Profile for Better Response Rates:

Connections made with a real person get higher engagement and provide better trust than the same activities done with a company profile.

Many online users have learned to ignore messages and requests from brands on social networking sites, simply because there are just too many companies on there trying to get users to buy their products or share their content.

Personal connections continue to matter. It is possible to use network building as a way to share content on an individualized basis, but it does take some work to grow the relationship first.

Some digital marketing teams log into executive’s personal profiles to add friends or connections, or to follow-up with existing contacts to help build relationships.

This helps executives get to know others in the industry, which can lead to a reciprocal relationship of sharing and promoting each other’s content.

However, while this seems like a good way to offload some of the social networking, it can have a lot of potential drawbacks.

If the executive doesn’t know what was said and then happens to talk to the connection in person or on the phone (or even in email), it can make them seem disingenuous and untrustworthy.

If a team is helping an executive with their social media, make sure they are still involved in the process.

2. Forum Profiles Can Be Used to Build Relationships with Highly Technical People:

Most people are on the basic social networks, like LinkedIn and Facebook.

But there are many more niche networks and forums that are commonly used daily by those that are deeply involved in a certain industry.

Try to find these online communities and get more involved.

You’ll find that there is often more depth to the questions and discussions, leading to a lot of good opportunities to build trust and get others interested in your content (provided it’s useful to the discussion at hand).

Some sites to check include:

Reddit, which has thousands of “subreddits” or threaded discussion boards based on a specific topic.
Github, which is a portfolio hosting and online community for programmers and developers.
Because these are highly technical forums, it doesn’t make sense to go in and start spamming discussions with your links.

Try to integrate with the community by answering questions, getting involved, completing your profile, and staying active before even attempting to share your own content.

When you share your content, make sure it’s actually useful to other users. Otherwise, you may find yourself being ostracized for trying to commercialize the discussion.

3. Use LinkedIn to Share Your Content with the Right People:

When possible, ask your executives to get involved with your online activity or set up a sharing schedule (with their permission) to regularly share content on their personal social media profiles.

LinkedIn is the perfect platform for this, as executives can have their own profiles and can share content as needed.

Because executives have more personal credibility, their link suggestions are much more like to be taken seriously by users than a company profile simply sharing links to their blog.

The executive’s profile is “vouching” for the content, making it more trustworthy.

When possible, ask executives for their insight or commentary on an article that can then be shared with the link.

Users like hearing the opinions of influential or high profile people, so adding this personal touch can help increase interest.

4. Reach out to the Social Profiles of People Who Are Authorities:

LinkedIn is great for building personal credibility and sharing content, but you can also use Twitter, forums, and Facebook to do outreach and get others interested in your content.

On Twitter (and Instagram), it’s a common practice to follow people in your industry you hope will follow you back.

Taking the “first step” toward building a relationship can help get you noticed organically and hopefully start a relationship.

After following someone, send them a tweet mentioning something they did recently, such as podcast they were on or an article they wrote.

This can show that you admire their work.

People are much more likely to take an interest in someone that they know already appreciates what they do – because it doesn’t feel like they have to win them over – it’s already done!

Building genuine relationships with influencers or authorities in your field can be a fulfilling way to not only grow your online visibility, but to also learn from some of the best minds in the business.

As these influencers and authorities begin to trust you, you can ask them about sharing your links or if there is a way you can continue to help one another promote new ventures and projects.

5. Promote Your Content with Facebook Ads to Drive Traffic, Shares & Links:

WordStream founder Larry Kim is a master at getting tons of traffic to his content, and he has shared in presentations and in blog posts how this strategy has lead to big gains. He even did a webinar about this topic for SEJ.

Essentially, with the right targeting and even as little as $50, you can get your content in front of the right people on Facebook.

When you have clear and concise targeting, the ad spend is lower, and the user interest is usually a lot higher.

Try to target exact interests or industries (e.g., manufacturing VPs in the U.S. instead of simply users who have an interest in “business”) and make sure your content title and description shares exactly how it is useful to the people you’re trying to target.

As the ad garners more visibility, you’ll see a trend in natural links as well, as users who see the ad share the content with their own networks.

This helps it grow organically, making your ad budgets stretch much further.

Conclusion:

Getting shares and links for your content using online profiles and personal outreach certainly isn’t the fastest way to build links, but it is one of the most genuine and usually has the greatest long-term impact.

As you grow your network, you’ll find that people are more likely to share content from people they know, like, and trust.

By focusing on building your online profiles by staying active, sharing interesting and relevant information, and promoting the work of others, you’ll find that it often comes back to you in a big way.

Summary:

Timeframe: 10-20 forums per month

Results detected: It will likely take more than 30 days to see the first round of links come in, but typically you will see results with link building in 3-6 months, depending on a large number of factors.

Average links per month: The number of links should depend on how competitive the targeted keywords are or how aggressively you want to build Domain Authority. But a base program should have 10-15 links per month, minimum.

Tools:

  • BuzzSumo
  • Upfluence
  • Facebook

Benefits:

This type of program will generate highly contextual links from natural relationships, which is how Google seems to intend links to be built. This is a very low-risk link building program.

Build a Successful SEO

Simple Tips to Build a Successful SEO Strategy on a Small Budget

By | seo advice for business

We’ve read the blogs, we’ve heard the talks, we’ve seen the case studies.

Big brands are winning at SEO.

They’ve got:

  • A team of experts working on fine-tuning their tech.
  • A world-class agency planning their next digital PR campaign.
  • A fund for stationery that rivals your entire year’s marketing budget.

It can feel demoralizing as a marketer with a small SEO budget to hear those stories. Their success can feel completely out of reach.

That doesn’t have to be the case.

If you are working with a small SEO budget for your brand or your agency’s client you can still have success.

The key to building a winning SEO strategy when you are low on funds is learning to prioritize.

Read on to learn the top 12 ways you can prioritize, structure, and run SEO campaigns that will bring exceptional ROI from your small budget.

1. Identify How Your Budget Limits You:

This is a crucial first step. A small budget often means you are having to compromise in some areas. Regardless of whether you are working in-house, in an agency or as a freelancer, small budgets often mean:

Lack of Time
If your client has a small marketing budget then you are likely to be very limited in how much time you can dedicate to their SEO each month.

Similarly, if you work in-house for a brand with a small budget then your time is probably shared amongst other channels, too.

A small budget often means you are not given enough time to do all of the work you want to.

Less Resources
If you are working with a small SEO budget you might not have access to all the fancy tools you think you need. Extensive keyword trackers, backlink identifiers and log-file analyzers can be quite expensive.

If you are working for an agency you may have access to these, but in-house marketers on a small budget are unlikely to.

Knowledge
If you have a limited SEO budget as a brand marketer, chances are you don’t have an array of SEO experts at your fingertips.

Even as an agency marketer working with clients who don’t have much budget means your SEO team is probably not highly specialized. This can leave serious gaps in your knowledge that could be hampering your SEO efforts.

Money for Assets
A lack of money often means that you don’t have the budget for work outside of your skill-set. If you want to plan an outreach campaign, for example, you may feel blocked by the cost of asset creation.

For instance, you might have felt a designer, media producer and content manager would be crucial to get your idea off the ground.

Identifying what your SEO budget is, and is not, translating to in terms of your resources and knowledge gives you a good idea of what you should be prioritizing. It also helps you to stop wandering down paths that aren’t going to yield results.

2. Fill Those Gaps:

If you know your budget means you cannot afford the best tools you may need to look at cheap or free alternatives.

There are ways to track rank, identify backlinks, and analyze log files without spending a fortune.

The options are usually just a little less shiny and require a bit more manual labor to get the same level of intel.

If it is time that you are short on then you may need to have a conversation with your team or your client about getting more.

I’ve heard of agencies who will sell SEO packages in at 3 or 4 hours a month. This is, in my opinion, hard to work with.

You may need to speak to your client about the limitations such a small commitment to SEO gives and perhaps show the possible increase were they to invest more.

Some in-house bosses are also unaware of how much time SEO analysis and implementation takes to carry out well.

If there is really no option to increase the time you have allocated to spend on SEO then you will need to be laser-focused on the work you do. See point 5 for more advice on that.

If it is a knowledge gap that you feel is holding you back then you need to know what your weaker areas are.

It may be that you are an excellent copywriter and feel that digital PR is your jam, but the technical side of SEO is still a bit baffling to you. This can be your opportunity to develop your skills.

3. Assess Your Strengths:

You might feel like you are at a disadvantage due to your lack of budget, but what are you already doing well? It could be you have access to a great development team, or you are a digital PR at heart.

Make sure you keep an element of the work that comes easily to you in your plan. That way you will know that you are guaranteed some success for your efforts.

Your brand might be well known already in your industry or local area. You can capitalize on this fame to build backlinks or gain reviews.

Use your and the brand’s strengths to your advantage in your strategy.

Start analyzing what you have available to you. Audit the knowledge, skills, and resources you can access. This will help you to identify what to prioritize.

For instance, if you are limited on resources but have a good relationship with local business, reach out to them. There may be some deals that you can make to use to your advantage.

Perhaps you can partner with local sports teams or schools that will enable you to give back to your community as well as earn links from them.

Another local company or agency may swap their designer’s skills for your SEO advice. It is worth exploring the support you can get outside of your own team.

4. Set Expectations:

The key to a really successful strategy when working with small budgets is setting expectations.

Your boss or your client may have lofty visions of what they expect SEO to achieve for them. They might be completely unrealistic.

Get an idea for the baseline of organic traffic currently going to your site.

From there you can use a predictive model to estimate organic traffic growth.

You may get pressure to drive rankings up or double organic traffic but you need to be clear about what is achievable.

It is also worth discussing the sorts of activity you will be able to carry out within your budget.

Elaborate outreach campaigns and redesigning the structure of the website might be completely unfeasible now.

That doesn’t mean you can’t begin building a case for that work in the future.

5. Start Small:

An important factor in developing a well-performing organic strategy on a budget is knowing where you can focus your efforts to achieve the most growth.

You may need to look at what your focus product, service, or content is. Prioritize the pages or goals that are most important.

You are going to be able to achieve more for those one of two pages than if you are trying to spread your limited budget across your whole site.

If you will benefit from traffic searching with local intent then optimize your Google My Business listing. It may only require some small changes.

Your effort and resources may be better spent trying to rank for local terms where competition is more limited.

6. Fix Your Problems First:

Your hard work can be for nothing if your website is fundamentally flawed.

You don’t have the money to waste optimizing your website whilst it is suffering from technical debt, or has an abundance of backlinks with anchor text for services you no longer provide.

A comprehensive audit, although time-consuming, can reveal issues that you never knew you had. It may seem like an indulgent use of budget but it will put you in a much stronger position to form a winning strategy.

Look into the state of your website.

A few points you need to cover include:

  • Has it migrated recently? Was that carried out effectively or might it still be suffering the effects?
  • What does your backlink profile, including anchor text look like?
  • Which pages have already been optimized on the site and are they growing in visibility?
  • What does the technical set-up of the site look like? Can it be crawled easily, with the signals as to which pages should be indexed consistently?

Once you have an idea of which areas of your site might be holding you back you can see a focus for the first stages of your strategy.

It’s important to note that the reason these issues have not been fixed before could be due to the limits of the budget.

Perhaps there isn’t enough money available to bring back the developer who built the site to fix the issues it’s suffering from or the migration went south because of the lack of knowledge in the company.

This can complicate matters but doesn’t mean your strategy is doomed. You may need to focus even more on compensating for the site’s shortcomings while trying to fix what you can.

For instance, I’ve worked on sites before that had terrible copy but the client was adamant it could not be changed because they did not want to pay for someone to re-write what had only just been written by their in-house copywriter.

Not being able to better theme a page’s copy to the search terms I know their clients are searching with isn’t great for ranking the page or converting traffic that lands on it.

In that instance, I had to focus even more on increasing the other signals that suggest the page’s relevancy for those terms, like page titles, internal linking, and anchor text.

7. Prioritize Results:

It may be that you are not going to make much progress optimizing for your head terms in a crowded market.

It can be tempting in this situation to look at how to drive traffic the fastest, such as going for a long-tail keyword strategy. However, this might not be the best use of your budget if it doesn’t bring about conversions.

This comes back to point four, setting expectations correctly.

If you have agreed that conversions is one of your key metrics for showing success then a long-tail keyword strategy in isolation may not be your best course of action.

However, if the goal is to increase visibility or organic traffic only then it may be more suitable.

Your strategy needs to focus on what will meet the goals of the campaign. Look for opportunities that will bring about the best ROI.

8. Think Outside the Box:

With a limited budget in a crowded industry, you will need to get imaginative with how you spend your resources.

Google’s standard organic results might not be your best starting point.

This sounds very counter-intuitive.

Depending on your SEO goals though you could be better off looking at another way to increase organic traffic to your site.

If your product is very visual, then consider focusing on ranking your images for image searches and carousels. This could land converting traffic to your site easier than if you are trying to rank for head terms associated with your product.

Consider Other Search Engines
Perhaps Google isn’t the search engine you should focus on immediately.

Depending on the industry you may find you have a high percentage of organic visitors from other search engines.

StatCounter shows Bing’s share of the U.S. search engine market to be 6.33% in October 2019. I recently accidentally conducted a Yahoo search when using a very old laptop that had the default search engine changed.

There are still people not using Google.

This might be a focus point for you.

For instance, Bing Places is often forgotten by companies that are focusing on Google only.

It may be that you can rank your site’s local businesses’ Places easier in Bing than in Google due to lower competition. It may be enough to move the needle of converting organic traffic to your site.

Similarly, if you have a lot of video content, then optimizing them for YouTube’s organic algorithm may allow you to drive more awareness of your brand. Again, it all comes down to what the goals of your campaign are.

9. Ignore Best Practice:

Something that is often a time-sink is trying to conform to “best practice”.

The results of audits by less experienced SEO professionals may highlight issues like the XML sitemap not being referenced in the robots.txt or page titles exceeding 60 characters.

If you are in a position where you need to be very careful with where you focus your efforts then trying to tick all the “best practice” boxes is likely to be a waste of time.

Often, these items will do little for your SEO other than make you feel like your above criticism from outside agencies trying to poach your job.

At worst, they can be detrimental to your work by stealing your attention away from results generating activity.

Everything you include in your strategy needs to have a clear objective that goes towards achieving your desired ROI.

Will adding a reference to the XML sitemap in your robots.txt cause an external development agency to charge for an hour’s work?

Is that worth coming out of your budget if you could add the XML sitemap’s location to Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools?

Why are you going back through all the meta descriptions on your site to ensure they are less than a certain number of characters when Google may well change them in the SERPs anyway?

It can feel risky leaving your work open to criticism from less-informed parties.

Your strategy is not about ticking boxes. It’s about driving results.

All of your activity needs to reflect that.

10. Learn from Your Competitors:

A good way of saving some time and resources is to look at what your competitors are already doing. Find out where they are getting their backlinks from.

See if any of those sites are worth approaching for your own links. Understand how their copy is out-ranking yours and use that knowledge to improve your own.

See who has the featured snippet you are coveting and improve your copy so it is structured similarly. Ensure it better answers the searchers’ question.

It has to be stressed though, just because another site is doing something does not mean your site should be doing it, too. The search algorithms are complicated.

There can be many reasons why a poorly optimized page might be ranking above yours. Don’t just blindly copy what you see others doing. Ensure your changes fit in with what you know about the algorithms.

It is also crucial that you don’t look too far out of your website’s industry for inspiration. These are not your competitors. They are not the websites that yours will be competing with in the SERPs.

Therefore the reasons they are ranking number 1 for a term that is not relevant to your site does not mean your site will start ranking better for the terms that should be driving traffic to your site.

11. Use Your Colleagues:

Another factor in developing a winning SEO strategy on a small budget is borrowing resources from other places.

This can be achieved in several ways:

  • Educate your colleagues so they work in an SEO-first way. If your development team fully understands the implications of their coding changes they can work alongside you on technical SEO. Talk to your PPC team about their audience targeting for brand terms searches so they don’t cannibalize organic traffic.
  • Use their data. Other internal teams and external agencies working on your brand will have their own wealth of data that could be useful in informing your strategy. Make sure you are liaising with paid media team to find out what search terms are converting for them.
  • Ask for their assistance. If time and skills are limited in your SEO team then you may also need to get creative with asking for help from other members of your team. Can a designer help with your outreach assets, or a developer help you identify the cause of your spider trap? You may have the right resources at your disposal already, just not within your direct team.

12. Improve Existing Content Before Writing New:

A final suggestion for making the most of your limited budget when creating a winning SEO strategy is to improve content you already have.

What can you optimize that is already on your site?

Think about videos, images and audio files.

Look into the schema markup available for your content. This can help its presentation in the SERPs which may gain you more visibility without having to spend money on new content.

Look at the copy on your site that is ranking on pages two or three. See if there are tweaks that can be made to get it ranking on the first page.

You must make sure the assets you already have are working hard for you.

Conclusion:

It can be a struggle to drive well-converting organic traffic to a site when your budget is small. It isn’t impossible though.

Some of the most exciting SEO happens when you need to be creative with your time and resources.

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Innovative PPC Tactics

Innovative PPC Tactics

By | Digital Marketing & Google News

Managing pay-per-click campaigns (be they search, social, or display based) usually becomes a series of habitual tasks.

While this allows for stability and scalability, sometimes it causes blind-spots in legacy accounts (working together more than a year).

Here are my favorite tactics to break the mold.

Tactic 1: A Single Long-Tail Broad Match Keyword, with Every Other Word Added As Negatives:

If there’s one universal truth to PPC managers, it’s that we value control over everything.

Broad match is the antithesis of that control.

Broad match keywords become grounded in the actual syntax of the keyword chosen when they have at least 5 words.

Additionally, broad match opens up access to keyword concepts that would be too expensive to actively invest in.

keyword-branding-

When you adopt this strategy it’s crucial you take the following steps:

  • Every keyword you’re actively targeting gets added as an exact match negative. This will ensure your broad match keyword can focus on new query ideas/one off searches, while your core campaigns can deliver leads/sales via proven keyword concepts.
  • If an applicable in-market audience exists, layer it on the broad ad group/campaign so you can prequalify the data acquisition.
  • Audit your queries regularly, and be open to swapping keyword concepts you’re actively targeting for ideas your broad match keyword secures (provided there’s enough volume/the business case is there).
  • Campaigns should only have one broad match keyword (sequestered away in its own ad group). Any more than that, and the data acquisition will turn into waste.

Tactic 2: Lead with Display, Remarket with Search:

Not every business hast the budget for Google search as the first touch with a prospect.

Display is here to bring the curated audience worth investing in.

The beauty of custom intent, custom affinity, and in-market audiences is that they represent prequalified leads another brand paid for.

Lead with Display

Layering these audiences on a display campaign (where the cost-per-click are dramatically cheaper) allows your brand to curate a list of ideal prospects – ripe for the picking by branded search and/or RLSA.

All ad types should be aligned with the target audience, and display is no exception.

Display creative needs to be attention-grabbing, and can lean on image, text, or a hybrid approach.

Hybrid creative can look like this:

Hybrid creative

This ad achieves the following:

  • Grabs the user’s attention with a bold statement with focusing images.
  • Highlights the product with a strong call to action.
  • Subtlety engages the user to think about their subscription model as opposed to a one-off purchase.

Leveraging text-heavy display well is tricky, but possible:

text-heavy display

This ad achieves the following:

  • Entices the prospect with an offer.
  • The call to action is clear and stands out from the rest of the creative.
  • The both the product brand and vendor brand are clearly displayed for ease of retention.

If you decide to leverage this tactic, it’s vital two considerations are in place:

  • Your industry is approved for remarketing. Full list of restricted industries is here.
  • You have your remarketing tag and Facebook pixel in place.

Depending on the initiative, the display campaign may be sending folks to a microsite or subdomain, so it’s important to confirm the tracking codes used on your main site make it over to your PPC landing pages.

Tactic 3: Sequester Branded & Competitor Terms in Their Own Campaigns:

Regardless of where you fall on the branded/competitor campaign debate, there is value in protecting your general service terms from false positive (branded) and false negative (competitor) metrics.

Most keywords are capable of adding in branded or competitor terms to their queries, creating false positives/negatives in the metrics.

cost-of-queires

When branded and competitor terms live in their own campaigns (and are made negatives everywhere else), campaigns are able to focus on the main job they’ve been given.

Campaigns jobs range from:

  • General service/product: Core service offerings and products offered – ad groups are different ways of referring to that service/product.
  • Location-based: Campaigns have very similar structure but are targeted to different location so they’re not competing with each other and can have ads/keywords that account for how that location searches/thinks.
  • Buyer Persona: While this usually makes more sense at the ad group level, if the buyer persona represents different margins/profit potential, it can make sense to set campaigns in line with prospect potential value.
  • Branded: A safe space for the cheaper and higher converting queries revolving around your brand, as well as a focused spot for branded creative.
  • Competitor: Top five to seven competitors with a competitor per ad group that allows you to set specific messaging in line with why you’re better.
  • Experimental campaigns: Safe spaces for crazy ideas that you don’t actually want to run but are “forced” to by team members/clients

Every campaign represents additional budget, so it’s important to choose the jobs that will serve your brand best, as well as allow you to have an account that’s easy to manage.

Tactic 4: Use DSA for Keyword Research:

Dynamic Search Ads (DSA) represents a beautiful hybrid approach between SEO and PPC – empowering PPC campaigns through well SEO’ed sites.

DSA functions by allowing Google to crawl the site, and match the best landing page to the user’s query (if it was included in the dynamic target).

DSA for Keyword Research

There are two main benefits to DSA:

  • Empowering budgets to support hundreds/thousands of landing pages without needing hundreds of campaigns.
  • Teaching us how our prospects search and at what cost.

All keywords you’re targeting in other campaigns need to be made negatives in the DSA campaign.

By making the keywords negatives, you ensure your actively chosen keywords get a fair shake to be profitable, and DSA can focus on net new ideas.

It is vital regular audits of the search term reports accompany DSA. You’ll be checking for the following:

  • Keyword concepts you want to actively target.
  • Keyword concepts that need to be made negatives.
  • Auction price range of valuable queries.

Tactic 5: Invest Aggressively in the Beginning and Then Roll Spend Back:

Most campaigns begin with a small testing budget – advertisers are loath to invest until they see results.

Yet if there isn’t enough fuel for the keyword concepts/targets chosen, the learning period can drag causing waste.

If the campaign is operating at less than 30% impression share (of all available impressions, the amount it’s securing), that means at least 70% of potential prospects aren’t getting access to your brand.

Invest Aggressively branding

Sometimes, new campaigns need to be less ambitious in scope (targeting only part of the offerings/some of the market) to allow the budget to fully fuel their learning periods.

The first month of a campaign should get a 15%-20% increase in budget for data acquisition (how prospects search, what they will cost, and to teach the ad networks the value of the campaign).

After the initial learning period (minimum of two weeks but can go for the full month), you’ll have the intel to make educated and profitable decisions about the account.

This can mean:

  • Rolling back spend to ideal parameters.
  • Leveraging a smart (conversion-oriented) bidding strategy.
  • Campaign optimizations (negatives, new keywords/ad groups, creative choices).

Final Thoughts:

Our job as PPC marketers is to consonantly push the boundaries of what’s possible in profit and scale.

Yet if we add in too many variables, we won’t know what was behind our success.

Give yourself a full learning period as you test out these innovations.

    • More Resources:

 

Google my Business

Tips to Boost Your Google My Business Profile

By | Digital Marketing & Google News

Are you leveraging your responses to Google reviews and using the new Google My Business (GMB) tools to get a leg up on your local search competitors?

If not, here are some major points to consider when boosting your GMB presence.

1. Encourage Reviews:

Reviews are one of the best ways to grow your GMB profile. They cost nothing but do much to raise your business’s profile to organic searchers.

Think about how you might go about weeding through a large selection of local general contractors if you have never employed one before.

You have no idea if the claims made on a contractor’s website are accurate since you don’t have third-party confirmation of areas such as costs and quality of workmanship.

In this case, what you need are GMB reviews to raise you up in local searches.

People who look up contractors in their area will be more likely to trust your business if they see you have 10 or 15 reviews in the four-to-five-star area.

But those reviews won’t show up overnight.

You often have to do a little outreach to happy customers to get them to leave reviews at all.

You can do this by email, postcard, or simply by asking them verbally to review their experience with you.

Another option is to take advantage of review-management platforms such as BirdEye, ReviewPush, and Pozative. These programs allow you to:

  • Organize your customer reviews.
  • Send text message review requests.
  • Respond to new Google reviews directly from email alerts.

No matter how you do it, your review requests should encourage customers to be honest and detailed in their analyses.

Ask them to provide original photographs of the work you did for them or a product you sold them.

Photos are great for increasing your GMB profile’s visibility even more.

2. Avoid Spammy Tactics:

Google is definitely smart enough today to know when someone is trying to cheat the system by, for instance, automating content, creating doorway pages, and keyword stuffing.

The same idea applies to GMB.

This is Google’s own tool, so why would the largest, most robust search engine in existence let you get away with spammy tactics such as paying people to leave positive reviews?

Potential customers are going to trust real, honest reviews.

Google and those review sites I mentioned do, too. They know when you’ve paid some dubious website to provide a fake five-star review for your business.

In fact, review sites are able to detect spammy reviews and will flag your site as being dishonest.

The flag will result in a popup that users will see when they arrive on one of your pages, warning them not to trust your site.

The same concept applies to offering incentives, such as future discounts, for people to leave positive GMB reviews. In this case, doing this could simply backfire on your online reputation.

If people mention the incentive in their review, potential customers might think their praise is false.

At the same time, trying to bribe people for positive reviews glosses over the potential facts of a situation.

Even if people had negative experiences with your business, they won’t say so in their reviews. This makes it more likely that future customers will be “fooled” and end up having a bad time when they expected something better.

3. Respond to Negative Reviews:

Instead of working harder than you need to by engaging in these kinds of tactics, I advise you simply to preempt negative GMB reviews before they happen or to respond diligently to bad reviews that do come through.

The former would obviously require you to dig in and make sure that every aspect of your enterprise is running smoothly.

Cater to your customers at all times, and if something goes wrong, be understanding, address it then and there, and make sure people leave happy.

When negative reviews do appear online, reach out to those customers to apologize and empathize. This shows the general public that you care about your clients even after they depart your establishment.

4. Leverage New GMB Tools:

My final recommendation for boosting your GMB profile is to take advantage of the relatively recent additions Google has rolled out for its online business tool.

One such feature is the Google Marketing Kit, which allows you to create free stickers, posters, and social media posts for advertising your business’s promotions and events.

In particular, the social posts should be an enormous boon to your online presence. You can create cool posters of your positive reviews, featuring blurbs from the text, and then share them on your social media platforms.

GMB also now lets users follow your business’s local profile just as they would on a social network such as Facebook or Instagram. Followers would then get access to your business’s:

  • New GMB social posts.
  • Offers.
  • Blog posts.
  • Events.
  • Product updates.

All of these things help to increase brand awareness in your followers.

Lastly, Google Posts let you advertise new coupons, deals, and events in creative ways. You can even use images, videos, and call-to-action buttons to drive up user engagement.

Google Posts is a great GMB advertising method because its analytics feature lets you see how users interacted with whatever you posted. You can use the data you discover to craft even better posts next time.

In the not-too-distant future, keep an eye out for GMB’s “local favorites” feature, which will award digital and physical badges to the top 5 percent of local businesses per category.

Not many details are known about this yet, such as whether the categories of businesses will be separated by region, and, if so, how those regions will be partitioned.

Conclusion:

As you can see from the effort Google is putting into its new GMB tools, the search engine giant wants you to build up your business’s local profile.

Having a vigorous GMB presence will help local customers find you, and encouraging those customers to leave positive reviews will drive even more clients into your establishment.

      • More Resources:

 

Helpful Tips to Choose the Right Keywords to Optimize

Helpful Tips to Choose the Right Keywords to Optimize

By | Digital Marketing & Google News

Keyword research and targeting have been around as long as SEO. We all do it at some level.

While context and quality of content are what really matter, we have to at some level determine what keywords or topics we want to be well-positioned for.

There are a ton of great tools, resources, and processes for doing keyword research.

But no matter how good the keyword research process is, there’s always a risk of choosing to target keywords and topics that require a lot of effort and don’t produce the results we want.

Ultimately, we need to be careful to choose the right keywords to optimize for.

We can do so by taking an approach that includes specific principals to keep us on track for the right targeting for our organizations.

1. Identify Goals:

It might seem like it goes without saying, but we have to start with goals for any organic or paid search effort.

Knowing ultimately what we want to accomplish at a business or organizational level and working backward to determine how search influences it is our starting point.

If we want to grow our leads, sales, engagement, or other metrics, by a certain amount, we can determine how many search conversions and traffic we need.

To get the traffic, we have to be found for specific keywords and topics.

2. Ask Stakeholders:

With goals in place, we’re ready to start finding the right keywords.

To generate a seed list, we can gather insights and ideas from stakeholders like salespeople, other parts of the marketing team, the C-suite, customers, and prospects.

Get input from stakeholders of what they would search for to find your business, your products, your services, or your content.

At this point, take anything they give you. We’re not yet at the step of filtering or judging the validity or accuracy of what they’re telling you.

Capture and build out a list of what you’re hearing and learning.

3. Analyze Competitors:

We never want to assume that our competitors are doing it right or well.

However, we have to take a look at what they are targeting and doing.

  • Are your traditional competitors outranking you?
  • Do they offer the same products, services, or content?

Then, chances are there is something to learn from them.

Review:

  • Their title and meta description tags.
  • The topics of the pages on their site.
  • What they are talking about and are positioned for prominently in search results, social media, PR, and beyond.

Create a list of what topics, terms, and phrases you’re finding competitors focusing on that align in any way with your organization and content.

4. Perform Keyword Research:

There are a lot of great resources that talk about the tools and processes for doing keyword research for both organic and paid search.

I’m not going to detail that here, but do want to note that you need to take care in ensuring you’re looking at match types and using the right tools for paid versus organic search.

Know the mistakes to avoid and don’t use Google Keyword Planner for SEO.

As you research, you’ll want to use the seed keywords and terms you identified through stakeholder and competitor review.

Work to further expand these lists by finding related keywords.

5. Identify Topics:

Chances are, you’ve got a ton of individual words and phrases after you performed your keyword research.

The good news is that topics matter more than keywords.

You won’t be building out pages for every single keyword and you don’t need to. If you haven’t, you need to translate from keywords to topics.

To help get started on that, you can use the content on your site (unless you’re launching a new organization from scratch).

At some point, decisions were made on how to group content on the website into product, service, or topical structures.

I’m not assuming that your site navigation or information architecture is perfect. But, there are likely topics or themes there if you have some depth of content already.

You can use those topics as a starting point if you feel confident in them.

Regardless, if you looked through your full keyword research data, specific themes or topics have probably emerged naturally.

From your keyword list, ensure that you’ve found meaningful groups of topics.

These will likely be your ad groups for paid search or your content clusters or sections on the site for SEO focus.

6. Ensure Topical Relevance & Alignment:

With keyword research distilled down to specific topics and themes, you can then validate the keywords to make sure they are the right terms.

While it might seem like a great idea to want to rank for “cars” as a local car dealership – that might not be the best use of paid search budget or SEO investment.

Yes, technically, we are all about cars at the car dealership. But, we’re about a whole bunch of layers deeper and more specific in what we are really about.

If the person searching is looking for a brand I don’t carry new inventory for, I have wasted that effort or budget for that click.

Find the balance of your topics and keywords to ensure it is as closely tied as possible to your products, services, or content offerings.

7. Review the SERPs:

It might feel like we’ve used all of the filters and ways to validate our keywords we can.

However, with the ever-changing layout of the search engine results pages, we have to dedicate some time to manually looking at them.

Take some of your top keywords and topics and literally search for them on the search engines.

  • What comes up?
  • Do you see the competitors you expect?
  • Where do the organic and paid listings appear on the page?
  • Is there a lot of noise?

If you’re finding that the search results aren’t where you want to be or where your target audience is searching, then you might want to rethink the importance of those keywords or that topic in your strategy.

This is especially true for organic results. They can be pushed so far below the fold on desktop and phone browsers that even with the right keyword ranked number one, you still might not get the traffic to drive the conversions and end goals that you need.

8. Monitor Performance:

It’s only when your paid search and SEO plans are put into action that you’ll get the real data you need – and find out if you’ve picked the “right” keywords.

Certain keywords may perform better than others. There can be a large number of reasons why.

However, when you have data you can adjust the priority you put on specific topics and keywords. Or, you can identify other areas to optimize in your marketing or website.

Things to watch for:

  • Keywords that you can’t rank for organically.
  • Keywords that produce a lot of impressions but few clicks.
  • Keywords that produce a lot of traffic, but not a lot of conversions.

All of these are indicators to dig deeper and go back through the principles outlined.

I’d start by looking at the SERPs and then dig into analytics to see if there’s a conversion rate optimization need, a UX issue, or something deeper.

Conclusion:

The nature of search marketing and ever-changing landscape makes the word “right” feel subjective.

Technically, it is when choosing keywords for paid and organic search.

However, you have to start somewhere.

Make sure you have a way to ensure that the work that is being put into keyword research and optimization matters.

By knowing end goals, creating topics, and validating the keywords we’re choosing, we can put forth our best effort initially.

From there, the ongoing monitoring and validation doesn’t end.

We have to cycle through the principals to ensure that we did pick the right terms and that we continue to refine our campaigns and efforts with a focus on quality and performance.

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Tried & Tested Tips for Improving SEO & Developer Relations

Tried & Tested Tips for Improving SEO & Developer Relations

By | Networking Bizz News

The relationship between SEO professionals and developers is one typified by frustration and misunderstanding.

From an SEO perspective, it can be difficult to communicate the value and importance of search-related initiatives and to get them prioritized in development pipelines.

From a developer’s point of view, SEO can seem like a never-ending source of tickets and annoyance that delays them from delivering their work on time.

As web technologies become more advanced, SEO is becoming more technically sophisticated, which means it is increasingly important that we actively examine ways to work more harmoniously with development teams.

Over the past few months, I’ve been speaking with some of the most experienced and respected people in SEO and digital marketing to find out how they’ve built and nurtured relationships with development and engineering teams to achieve success.

In this post, I’m going to share some of the best insights from these conversations.

1. Heal the Wounds Left by Bad SEO Experiences:

While a large part of SEO is now focused on meeting the user intent of searchers with high-quality content, developers and other teams may still have a lingering mistrust of SEO pros.

The days of keyword stuffing and bulk link buying are no longer seen as popular or sustainable SEO practices by most, but it may take time and relationship building for an SEO to win the trust of developers because of their prior experiences.

At a previous job, JP Sherman, Manager of Search and Findability from Red Hat, needed to gain the trust of developers who had been burnt by a bad SEO agency.

Rather than going into the business and making demands of the developers about what needed to be changed from an SEO perspective, Sherman made a point sitting down with the company’s developers to establish their common goals and put a plan in place to achieve these while overcoming shared frustrations with the website.

After a year of this approach, he managed to build a level of trust with the development team and turned an audience of skeptics into SEO advocates.

2. Involve Developers by Hosting a Hackathon:

One novel way to get developers interested and engaged with SEO initiatives is by hosting a hackathon.

Polly Pospelova, Head of Search at Delete, organized a hackathon and invited the agency’s developers to participate.

The sole aim of the hackathon was to get a perfect score in Lighthouse for the agency’s own website.

The event was a massive success, as the developers were not only able to achieve a score of 100 in Lighthouse but this shared objective laid the blueprint for speed optimization work that Pospelova was able to roll to many of Delete’s clients.

Pospelova’s hackathon is an inspiring and original example of how SEO and marketing pros can work successfully with developers by working to achieve a common goal.

3. Embed Yourself in Your Client’s Organization:

From an agency’s perspective, it often isn’t enough to simply provide a list of SEO recommendations off the back of an audit and expect these to be actioned by the client’s developers.

Without clear explanations and prioritization of your SEO recommendations backed by a close understanding of the client’s business, there is a fair chance your suggestions will get lost amongst other priorities.

Arnout Hellemans, Consultant at OnlineMarketThink, suggests making an effort to embed agency staff within their client’s organization for a fruitful long-term relationship.

He’s spoken with agencies who send their staff out to work from their client’s offices for a couple of days every now and again.

Rather than the relationship, largely existing only Slack and emails, the agencies are able to build much stronger relationships with their client’s developers by sitting with them and better understanding their priorities, challenges, and ways of working.

4. Pick Your Battles Carefully:

While it’s clearly important for SEO pros to build strong relationships with developers, it can also pay to be strategic in terms of the recommendations that you push to be actioned.

It’s often the case that there are large numbers of actions resulting from an audit, but are all of them going to have the same impact?

Areej AbuAli, Technical SEO Manager at Zoopla, said it’s important to avoid overwhelming developers with too many recommendations at once.

She learned the hard way that it is beneficial to focus on getting the mission-critical items prioritized in development pipelines and actioned first before moving on to less pressing recommendations.

This approach helps to ensure that you’re maximizing your SEO impact, while not overwhelming developers with tickets of varying importance.

5. Become a Bridge Between the Technical and Commercial:

Being able to understand and empathize with both commercial and technical challenges and frustrations is another way that SEO professionals can work effectively with developers.

It’s important to become a bridge between the technical and commercial aspects of the business, according to Ecommerce Consultant Luke Carthy.

Have regular meetings with the business’s developers to empathize with the challenges that they face in order to help overcome shared pain points, Carthy suggested.

Doing so can help to put long term solutions in place and increase the chance of forming strong working relationships.

In his example, he listened closely to the company’s developers and raised their frustrations with the managing director so they were able to completely redevelop the site and stop papering over cracks with short-term solutions.

6. Upgrade Your Technical Skills:

Your ability to work with development teams as an SEO professional is going to greatly improve the more you’re able to speak their language and understand the challenges they face.

It’s one thing to be able to identify technical issues impacting the crawling and indexing of a website by search engines and raise that with a developer.

However, it’s far more valuable if you can debug technical issues and propose well-reasoned solutions after:

  • Evaluating the pros and cons of different approaches.
  • Taking into account the circumstances of the website, business and available resources.

AbuAli said it’s important to upskill and hone technical skills. This will help you move faster analyzing large datasets as an SEO.

Improving your technical skills and better understanding of how the web works will empower you to have more productive conversations with developers.

This leaves less room for misunderstanding and leads to more agile decision making.

7. Establish Yourself as a Trusted Authority:

Another crucial component to building trust and a healthy relationship with development teams is to show yourself to be knowledgeable in your field.

Actively promote ongoing education on SEO topics that are relevant to the business.

At Red Hat, Sherman hosts regular presentations and in-person meetings, and writes documentation to encourage discussion and interest within development teams who wouldn’t otherwise be keeping up to date with SEO developments.

He aims to lay out the case for making SEO improvements in advance of search engine changes (like mobile-first indexing) through knowledge-sharing sessions.

When this work is then prioritized, Sherman makes sure he backs this up with internal guidance and documentation that is ready to share with the relevant people.

Sherman also acknowledged that it can be frustrating when SEO recommendations aren’t prioritized or actioned but sometimes it’s important to understand that your suggestions are necessarily going to be the best thing for the website or business to do at that time.

8. Get SEO Involved from the Beginning:

One common frustration between SEO professionals and developers is that the former gets involved far too late on projects.

This is an annoyance for developers because they are likely going to receive a lot of last-minute SEO related tasks that they don’t necessarily see the benefit of completing.

From an SEO point of view, being involved too late on in a project will mean we are forced to fight fires and make last-minute development requests to avert disaster impacting a website’s organic performance.

Chris Green, Head of Marketing Innovation at Footprint Digital, said it’s important to get SEO considerations into projects from their inception rather than as an afterthought.

After completing hundreds of migrations, Green has acknowledged that SEO pros aren’t usually the most popular people on projects.

But this can be averted by making compromises and focusing on the tasks that are critical to organic performance and technical health rather than adding to the developers workloads for the sake of SEO best practice.

For example, during a migration SEO pros should be prioritizing things like 301s, crawl budget optimization’, and breadcrumbs rather than social media icon alt tags, minimum word counts, and rel=”next” and rel=”prev”.

Share Your Experiences
I hope this post has featured a helpful selection of ideas to help you work more effectively with development teams.

I would be keen to continue the discussion in the comments below. Share your experiences, approaches, and tips about what’s worked and hasn’t worked for you.

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sem vs seo vs ppc

SEM vs. SEO vs. PPC Defined: What’s the Difference?

By | Digital Marketing & Google News

What’s the Difference?

As someone who likes to think he is organized – or, as someone who at least likes to organize things – I’ve attempted to treat digital marketing terms similarly.

The same can be said for now-Googler and search industry pioneer Danny Sullivan when he began routinely using the term “search engine marketing” in 2001 to describe the overarching niche within the digital marketing industry that focuses on search engines.

As my thinking went (and as Sullivan admits he intended), search engine marketing, or SEM, would be (and once was) a useful way to summarize and classify both the paid and non-paid initiatives that go into digital marketing via search engines.

That would mean both the pay-per-click advertisements, or PPC ads, and the organic search initiatives commonly referred to as search engine optimization, or SEO, would fall under that SEM blanket term.

SEM would be the category of marketing through search engines. The paid (PPC) and non-paid (SEO) channels of SEM would both fall under it in terms of hierarchy.

And, even when you consider the literal terminology in coordination with this idea of SEO and PPC falling under that SEM blanket, it almost makes sense.

But, much like the English language, pop culture, and the Cleveland Browns, it simply can’t work the way it’s supposed to.

There will always be exceptions to the rule (like the aforementioned conundrums above).

So, confusing it may be. But the search industry shapes itself, and it has not agreed with Mr. Sullivan over the years, adopting the term SEM to fit strictly into the paid search sphere.

It surely appears it’s there to stay, too.

Difference Between SEM & PPC:

PPC is SEM.

That is, pay-per-click advertising (PPC) is the same as search engine marketing (SEM), or at least a vital part of it.

SEO is none of those things.

What likely evolved over time due to the multiple potentially confusing digital marketing acronyms, as well as the need to define specific paid initiatives outside of Google paid search, brought two heavily used cost-driven marketing terms to mean the same thing (leading to even more potential confusion from newbies).

I’ve always tried to make sense of the literal meaning of things, too, especially acronyms.

But from there, it’s easy to get even more lost in the idea.

While the breakdown of the abbreviation PPC is spot on — regardless if it’s called PPC, CPC, paid search, search ads – we know it is referring to paid search marketing, typically through search engines like Google and Bing.

Other terms and tactics used in digital marketing initiatives – especially those tied to search marketing tactics (both paid and organic) – may not be so simple and clearly defined, though.

Difference Between SEO & PPC:

We know SEO is search engine optimization.

But, to echo the sentiments of search pioneer Mike Grehan, that never did make much sense.

Marketers aren’t optimizing search engines; we’re optimizing content and websites for search engines (secondly, right after optimizing them for humans) so they can better understand, access, and relay our property to the masses.

Again, acronyms don’t always make sense. So, naturally, this is a bit illogical.

Just like other things in life that don’t always add up, there are some acronyms that will never make sense either.

Like Humvee, which doesn’t stand for any words that start with U or E in them. (It actually stands for High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, and was spawned from the original acronym, HMMWV.)

We’ve also determined that PPC marketing is (at least now) the same as, or a very large part of, SEM.

  • Both are paid initiatives.
  • Both need budget.
  • Both make search engines like Google and other advertising platforms a lot of money.

But, while Wikipedia defines SEM as “a form of Internet marketing that involves the promotion of websites by increasing their visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs) primarily through paid advertising,” it’s not so quick to call them the same exact thing.

In fact, pay-per-click marketing has its own separate Wikipedia page than the topic of search engine marketing (despite there being plenty of discrepancies and confusion throughout the page).

The bottom line is this:

SEO is not a component of SEM.

And, while PPC is typically the largest and most demanding component of SEM, both PPC and SEM are paid initiatives that offer real-time data, ROI, and protected data that can only be accessed by advertisers of certain platforms.

Why It Matters:

The most important reason for clarification around these important terms and abbreviations is consistency.

Too many novice marketers, or marketers who aren’t specialists in maximizing value through search, have adopted these industry definitions and crossed them, combined them, confused them, and used them in a way that only further diluted their true meaning.

And even well-seasoned marketers who simply didn’t agree with or possibly even completely understand the terms themselves help contribute to the turning tide as well.

Conferences have set up entire segments of their educational offering around the SEM naming convention when referring to strictly paid marketing efforts, but those efforts aren’t strictly done through search engines.

SEM, at least from this perspective, includes PPC ads on search engines but also on third-party platforms like Amazon and YouTube, as well as industry-focused platforms like Houzz, or Thumbtack, or Yelp. It also includes display ads and remarketing efforts.

And, as the opportunity to advertise on social media continues to grow, it tends to include paid advertising on those networks, too.

Keeping the definitions and their usage consistent is going to be the best way to keep the information organized in a way that makes sense for marketers.

It also helps us as marketers to convey our thoughts and ideas to clients and their stakeholders, our peers, or a friend who is curious about what exactly it is we do for a living.

Using the Marketing Right Terms for the Right People & Setting:

When discussing digital marketing – specifically search marketing – and how it pertains to a brand or message, it’s important for marketers to use language that is digestible for clients and potential clients.

Needless to say, 8 out of 10 times, non-marketers already don’t know the difference between incredibly different key terms.

Like SEO and PPC (or SEM), when speaking to someone outside of the search marketing community, these terms need to be clearly defined at least once, and typically more than once, throughout the conversation.

We all have those new-business pitch stories where a client goes on throughout years of his or her life thinking SEO is responsible for paid search ads or that paid search ads were achieved through organic optimizations.

First, the terms must be understood on a level playing field. Hopefully, this post helps do that.

We now are in agreement that:

  • SEM and PPC refer to paid initiatives through search and other advertising platforms on the internet.
  • While SEO is the organic effort that goes into marketing through search engines.

Secondly, we must always consider who the audience is and the level of knowledge it has when it comes to digital marketing, particularly search marketing, while also ensuring we detail:

  • What each term means.
  • How it works.
  • How it relates to the audience’s goals.

Lastly, and most importantly, we must never assume someone on the other end of our conversation knows what we are referring to when we use important industry terms like SEO, PPC, or SEM.

We must be concise and explain exactly what is we are talking about. Ensure the group partaking in the conversation is in agreement.

On a bad day, someone else in the room may disagree and tell us we are wrong.

On a good day, though, we’ll get a room full of people all on the same page who are able to move forward and correctly use consistent terminology for some of the most important practices in digital marketing today.

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Ongoing: Your Secret to SEO Success

Ongoing: Your Secret to SEO Success

By | seo advice for business
Ongoing education is essential to SEO success.

It’s how the top SEO professionals, and the brands they manage, stay on top.

SEO is an ever-changing industry and landscape. The same rule that applies to search rankings applies to SEO savvy: if you remain status quo, you’re losing ground.

What would your SEO strategy look like if you were still following best practices from 2010? 2000? 1996 when search engines rose to prominence?

You would have keyword-stuffed pages and be chasing blog comment links, and you would not be performing in search.

As an SEO, to avoid getting left behind you must constantly educate yourself to keep up with the changing times and best practices.

Just Look at 2019!

To understand how rapidly SEO changes and why continuous education is necessary, we don’t have to look any further than this current year.

In 2019 alone, we’ve seen major changes and important trends emerge that have a drastic and lasting impact on the SEO landscape. These trends include:

  • The evolution of how Google measures E-A-T and its significance in terms of search rankings.
  • And Google’s continuous push to answer queries within the SERP and the emergence of zero-result queries.

This is not the entire list of everything that happened in 2019, but it demonstrates how quickly things can move in SEO. Let’s take a quick look at each of these developments.

The Influence of E-A-T on Search & Our Understanding of It:

Right off the bat, I want to explicitly state E-A-T is not a ranking factor.

However, this does not mean E-A-T doesn’t influence rankings, or rather, our understanding of and investment in E-A-T influences our ability to rank.

Ryan Jones explains this concept well in a tweet from Pubcon:

We should be working to improve the expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness of our site because these improvements correlate with the actual signals (content quality and backlinks) that Google is trying to measure with their algorithm.

While this all may seem somewhat ambiguous – I can hear Matt Cutts saying, “create good content!” – Lily Ray has done a great job of sharing actionable insights.

Some things you can do to improve the E-A-T of your website include:

  • Improving your online reputation via third-party review sites.
  • Minimizing ad placements on your site to avoid diminishing user experience.
  • Being transparent about who your brand is and who the people are behind it, particularly the authors of your content.
  • Citing credible sources and earning citations as a credible source.

You can see more of Lily’s helpful tips here, or check out these other helpful E-A-T resources here on Search Engine Journal:

  • 5 Things You Can Do Right Now to Improve Your Google E-A-T Rating
  • Google’s John Mueller is Asked About Links and E-A-T
  • Google’s Mueller Asked About increasing E-A-T with Structured Data

Is Google Trying to Create an Answer Engine?

With the recent trends we’ve seen from Google, it seems that they are pushing more and more towards having an answer engine rather than a search engine – Google wants to answer queries within their platform, rather than provide links to external resources.

The idea of zero-result SERPs is a frightening prospect for SEO professionals who work to build search visibility and gain organic traffic from Google’s search results, and for some queries, this notion is already a reality.

Furthermore, there has been a rise in queries that show results but result in zero-clicks – obviously, this isn’t ideal for an SEO either.

Rand Fishkin has been conducting research into click-through-rates and how Google is trying to keep users on their platform, and I recommend you review his findings to learn more.

This type of “future-casting” is a great example of why you need to be continuously learning and experimenting in SEO – you need to identify trends to understand where the industry is heading and how you can get ahead.

For example, if you’re targeting a keyword because it has a large monthly search volume, but it’s tied to queries with zero-clicks, you’re going to struggle to earn organic traffic.

Operating based on outdated assumptions (big search volume = big opportunity) can lead to ineffective and inefficient work.

These are just some of the changes and updates that we saw this year that demonstrate how rapidly the SEO landscape can evolve. If you’re not paying attention and leveling up your skills, you will be left behind.

Staying Informed with SEO

So how do you stay informed and continually grow your knowledge base for SEO?

The SEO community, in general, is great about collaborating and sharing information.

Since nobody really knows how Google’s search algorithm works exactly, it seems to foster a “we’re in this together” mentality within the SEO space where people share their tests and findings to help move the collective understanding forward.

Some of the ways you can tap into the community to support your ongoing SEO education include:

  • Attending trade shows and industry events.
  • Staying active on social media.
  • And reading and watching online content.

Each of these channels provide opportunities to challenge your assumptions and further your SEO knowledge.

Trade Shows & Events

One of the best ways to keep tabs on what’s happening in the SEO industry is to attend trade shows and industry events.

The presentations at these events typically feature discussions and research from the bleeding-edge of SEO. These are the platforms where industry experts like to share their new studies and discoveries, and sometimes these shows even feature experts from Google sharing best practices and updates on search.

You can find a list of the top SEO events here on Search Engine Journal.

Paying for tickets and travel to these shows can get expensive.

So, If you’re unable to make it to the show itself, it’s always a good idea to follow the sponsored hashtag on Twitter and keep an eye out for recap posts.

While these options aren’t as valuable as going to the shows – you miss out on all the networking opportunities – social posts and recap blogs will keep you abreast of the biggest takeaways from the event.

Social Media

Speaking of social media, you can learn a lot about SEO via social.

Twitter, in particular, has an active SEO community.

While 280 characters may not seem like enough space to have in-depth SEO discussions, the way the platform is designed, combined with an active community, makes for a great learning environment.

Twitter is often the place where updates and major changes to search rankings are discovered.

SEO pros from across the industry can share and compare the changes they are seeing in real-time, which makes it possible to spot trends and draw conclusions about how search results are changing.

In fact, Twitter often provides an opportunity to speak directly to Google employees. Some notable accounts you should be following include:

  • John Mueller, Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google
  • Gary Illyes, Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google
  • Danny Sullivan, Public Search Liaison at Google
  • Official Google Webmasters account

Outside of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn groups provide great platforms for SEO discussion as well.

There are also several great SEO forums, such as:

  • Google’s Webmaster Forum
  • r/BigSEO
  • SEOChat
  • Warrior Forum
  • The Moz Q&A Forum

The key is to find the right group for your knowledge level and area of interest, and of course, you want to find a group that is active and start engaging yourself – often, the best way to learn more about an SEO subject or theory is by trying to explain it to someone else.

Quora is an excellent place to answer SEO questions and demonstrate, and test, your SEO knowledge.

There are also numerous SEO experts to follow that share industry news and insights daily. Check out Search Engine Journal’s list here to find some of the best and brightest minds in SEO to learn from.

SEO Content

As mentioned before, the SEO industry is great about sharing knowledge, and as such, there is never a shortage of fresh, quality SEO content.

Whether it’s a video, podcast, or blog post, there is always new, informative content available. News sites like Search Engine Journal provide the best of both worlds with in-depth, actionable blog posts as well as analysis of the latest developments in SEO.

I’d recommend subscribing to the SEJ Today newsletter to keep a pulse on the industry as a whole and to keep an eye out for content that may provide a solution to the current challenge you’re facing. The Moz Top 10 is another great resource that curates the best SEO content from around the web every two weeks.

Again, explaining SEO concepts is often the best way to learn more and writing your own SEO content is an effective way to increase your knowledge base.

Personally, I’ve learned much of what I know about SEO from conducting the necessary research associated with the post I write.

The process of writing an in-depth guide on a new topic requires a deep understanding of that topic, so if you want to learn something new, try writing a post about that concept.

Of course, if you’re not a writer or are looking for outside perspectives, there are many great SEO blogs to follow, and Search Engine Journal has a solid list here,

Test Everything You Learn with SEO Experiments

Really, the best way to expand your knowledge and challenge SEO assumptions is by doing the actual work and experimenting.

Again, no one outside of Google search engineers – and with all the machine learning, maybe not even them at this point – knows all the intricacies of the search algorithm, so even the most widely accepted SEO theories are still just theories.

You should always be tracking the results of your SEO efforts to make sure you’re working toward your goals, but you can also leverage these opportunities for learning experiences.

Learned about a new link building tactic? Test it on a small scale within your own campaign and measure the efficacy.

Heard about a new best practice for on-page SEO?

Implement the change on a subset of your pages and track the results.

The best way to learn is by doing, and it’s no different with SEO.

There are so many mitigating factors in SEO (different business models, different niches, different websites, etc.) that you need to take any best practice with a grain of salt anyway, so testing on your own site is necessary.

The key with SEO testing and experiments is to contain your test to a small sample size and then scale up as you see positive results.

Through continual learning (and testing of what you learn), you’ll ensure that you’re always following SEO best practices and implementing changes that improve the performance of your site in search.

While there is no “magic bullet” in SEO that will guarantee you success, through ongoing education, you can hone in on what has the largest impact on your website, overcome any challenges or obstacles, outmaneuver your competition, and the results will feel like magic!

    • More Resource:

 

Simple & Fast Ways to Elevate Your Content

Simple & Fast Ways to Elevate Your Content

By | Digital Marketing & Google News

1. Know Your Audience

Knowing your audience is a prerequisite to every marketing campaign.

And maybe because this immutable marketing law has been ingrained in the marketer’s mind for so long, too many content marketers take it for granted.

Others fail to appreciate that different target audience segments respond to different content differently.

Let’s say you sell professional baking tools, and your target audience consists of two primary segments: baking enthusiasts and professional bakers.

You might be tempted to write the same article touting the benefits of your baking tools for both segments. But then you wouldn’t be writing content optimized for conversions.

  • The amateur baker will likely want to hear more about how reliable and easy-to-use your baking products are.
  • Whereas the experienced professional baker might be more interested in technical features that speak to how advanced or versatile your products are compared to the competition.

The area of expertise is another good criterion for content segmentation.

  • If you’re selling software to hospitals, you may want to create content emphasizing the product’s finance features when targeting hospital administrators, CFOs, and other C-suite professionals.
  • But when targeting marketing and customer service professionals, you can focus on the CRM component of your software.

Both audience segments are interested in the same product, but your content should be tailored to each group’s unique needs, interests, or goals.

2. Follow Online & Offline Trends:

The best way to get your content seen by as many people as possible is to ride whatever big trend is popular – as long as it’s relevant.

Many companies boost their social media presence by commenting on current events, especially on Twitter, but you can take it even further and integrate the trend in an article or post.

Take every opportunity to make your brand part of the conversation, but make sure to avoid tackling any controversial topics or messages that would come across as tone-deaf.

Most consumers think companies’ sole goal is to make money, so adopting an overly preachy tone (e.g., Gilette’s “We Believe” ad) might attract ridicule.

3. Focus on Titles:

The title is the most important element of your content when it comes to catching readers’ attention.

Not only should the title be catchy and intriguing, but it should also accurately reflect the article’s central theme in a way that optimizes click-through rates.

It’s no wonder many writers spend a significant amount of time poring over different title versions.

So how do you write a CTR boosting title? Here are some quick tips:

  • Use numbers and statistics whenever possible.
  • Inform the reader, but don’t give away everything.
  • Use a headline analyzer like CoSchedule to check how your title fares in terms of length, word choice, and other key variables.
  • Resist the temptation of clickbait – it may garner a large number of clicks, but it will only damage your credibility; you need to find the right balance between intriguing and obnoxious.

4. Don’t Focus on Selling All the Time:

Nothing takes you out of an insightful read like a sales pitch or excessive promotional links. When users come to your site, they want value, not ads.

Granted, there’s nothing wrong with mentioning your products or services if they are relevant to the topic – even independent influencers sprinkle affiliate links in their posts.

But keep in mind that consumers might find affiliate links off-putting.

5. Offer Actual Insight:

You’ve probably come across articles that were only one step above lorem ipsum text in terms of value – simply written to take up screen space and hit keywords.

Clearly, that is not the kind of content you want associated with your brand.

All text on your website or social media should be purposeful.

Avoid fluff and any content that doesn’t enhance your audience’s understanding of the subject.

Strike the right balance between informative and concise, and you won’t lose your audience with content that doesn’t add any value to the subject at hand.

6. Include Data:

There’s something about numbers that makes people click.

For example, saying that ‘86% of people look up the location of a business on Google Maps’ wouldn’t have the same impact if you replaced the percentage with a word like ‘most’. That’s because data works on several levels.

  • Quantifiable insight automatically makes your argument more credible. In fact, articles with digits in their titles are 175% more likely to be shared.
  • Data can help predict future trends. For example, if a topic suddenly spiked in popularity at some point and then leveled out, we can probably assume that the trend isn’t sustainable in the long-term.
  • Data can also help your audience understand the current and future trends in their areas of interest by assessing how many of their peers are adopting new technologies or using new services.
  • Data provides social proof, making your audience conscious of what other people are doing, and implicitly making them more likely to follow suit.

7. Repurpose Old Content:

There is nothing wrong with recycling a good idea, especially if you’ve generated a lot of content throughout the years.

You can easily breathe new life into content like articles, podcasts, and webinars.

For example:

  • Old webinars can be re-edited into video tutorials.
  • Old blog posts and articles can become whitepapers or newsletters.
  • Presentations can be stitched into infographics.
  • Any interesting tidbit or fragment can be posted on social media.

The point is to not think of your most engaging content as a one-shot deal, but rather as an opportunity to restructure and reshare it across new mediums, reaching broader and more diverse audiences.

Think about how often arguments made in newspaper op-eds eventually make it into books, and vice versa. So, recycle away!

8. Be Mindful of Structure:

Nothing discourages a reader like a block of text. Whether it’s a 100-word email or a 1,000-word article, line breaks are a must.

Longer paragraphs (up to 15 rows) are fine within articles or blog posts.

For emails, 5 rows should be the limit. Each paragraph should have its own sub-topic and seamlessly transition into the next paragraph.

Bullet points, images, tables, charts, and infographics are also a great way to break a lengthier article or post. Not only that, but they also help the reader better digest the information they’ve just read by putting it in a visual form.

Your reader is much more likely to retain information about your product if that information is displayed in a chart, not just text.

9. Use Conversion-Optimizing Images:

Your content needs images.

It’s cliché, but true: a picture really is worth a thousand words – and your main eye-catcher, no matter what content you’re promoting.

Content with relevant images gets 94% more views.

So how much attention do you pay to the quality and type of images you include?

The truth is that many of us simply rush to upload the first stock photo that remotely matches the content – hardly a conversion-optimizing tactic.

Get into the habit of putting more thought into the images you select. Whether it’s a standalone post, a thumbnail for a video, or a banner, each image you post should meet these criteria:

  • High-quality files: Make sure you save your .jpeg files in the highest quality possible to avoid any artifacts showing up. Even better, use the .png format whenever possible to avoid quality loss.
  • Well-taken shots: There’s a reason why people hire professional photographers or pay for stock photos. Getting the lighting and composition right is not easy, and it makes all the difference. Professional (or advanced amateur) shots are more eye-catching.
  • No obvious stock photos: We’ve all seen typical stock images of smiling employees gathered around a laptop or looking at a chart all over the internet. They’re cheesy, overused, and old news. A good, well-placed stock image should still stand out. Pick authentic images that complement your subject.
  • Appropriate composition for the placing: Certain images only work well for specific uses. For example, choosing a group shot of your team for a video thumbnail is a bad idea because the image will be displayed too small to discern faces. However, that same image would work well in a blog post about your firm’s career opportunities.

Conclusion

Too many marketers lose sight of the importance of thinking about every aspect of content marketing strategically, simply going through the motions of churning out content.

But really, you should think of content marketing as a powerful conversion tool that gives you a wealth of strategic options for reaching different audience segments with tailored messages across various outlets.

The story you tell through content is what drives consumers to your products, and ultimately builds brand loyalty.

And you should tell that story in a way that optimizes conversions, which, if you follow these nine tips, should be a layup.

    • More Resources:

 

Creative Ways to Boost Your Content Marketing ROI

Creative Ways to Boost Your Content Marketing ROI

By | Digital Marketing & Google News
Content marketing works.

But – what if it’s not working for you?

What if you’re not seeing the ROI you expected?

This is a frustrating scenario, especially if you read the case studies and follow the success of top content marketers.

What are you doing wrong?

Take a deep breath.

Maybe you just need a few creative tweaks to your content strategy to boost your ROI.

1. Create High-Quality, Evergreen Blog Content:

Investing, time, effort, and money in poor content that doesn’t perform is like throwing all three of those resources in the trashcan.

Instead, ensure your budget is going toward evergreen content pieces that will stay relevant long after you publish them.

Not only that, make doubly sure these blogs are the highest quality you can manage.

Evergreen content is not tied to any one season, news cycle, trend, or fad.

Instead, this content type contains information that will remain true, relevant, and useful for the long term.

If you add quality to the mix, evergreen content will continue to draw in traffic and leads for months after the fact – or even years.

According to Google’s Search Quality Rating Guidelines, high-quality content has these features:

  • Highly useful – Useful content serves a purpose for the reader. It should DO something for them. That can be as simple as providing information on a topic they want to know about, or as complex as solving a specific problem for them.
  • Highly relevant – Relevance in content is key. If your content isn’t relevant to the reader’s search intent for the keyword you’re targeting, you won’t rank. Period.
  • Strong E-A-T – Google wants vetted experts who know their stuff populating the search results – not know-nothing non-experts who just want to rank. Proving your E-A-T (expertise, authoritativeness, trustworthiness) is non-negotiable in high-quality content.

google-search-quality

Think of this strategy (evergreen + high-quality content) as putting some of your content on auto-pilot. It can perform in the background while you focus on more pressing matters, which might be exactly what you need to boost your content marketing ROI.

A truly meta example of evergreen content is Aaron Orendorff’s guide to evergreen content types on Copyblogger. It’s useful and relevant to content creators any time, any place, and the information won’t date itself quickly. It also goes without saying that this is high-quality content.

2. Find Useful, Relevant Topics Your Audience Wants to Read:

Once you decide to publish high-quality evergreen content, what should you write about?

Random topics won’t do. Neither will ones tied to high-volume, highly competitive keywords.

Instead, for the best ROI, you should focus on topics that are:

  • Useful and highly relevant to your audience’s needs and interests.
  • Tied to low-competition keywords with SERPs you can edge into.

For this to work, it goes without saying you need to know and understand your target audience before you can dive into finding topics they’ll respond to.

Once you have a clear picture of your ideal customer in your mind, you can do further research to find those useful, relevant topics tied to keywords:

  • Start with broad keywords or topic areas related to your industry, products, or services. Since this is just a starting point, you can brainstorm these off the top of your head. (For example, “SEO” is a good broad topic area.)
  • Think about what your audience needs/wants to know from your chosen topic/keyword. Remember, this knowledge should help them or improve their lives in some way.
  • Use keyword research tools to find out how competitive this term is and whether you can possibly rank for it.
  • Poke around where your audience lives online to discover if this is the language they’re using to ask Google about this topic.

the-public-preposition-keywords

  • With my keyword tool of choice, KWFinder, I discover the keyword “SEO basics” is too competitive. However, there are related options to target, like “what is SEO.”

kwfinder-research

  • On Twitter, I search the hashtag #seobasics and find a few variations and related keywords within what people are posting. I can research and potentially use these, too!

twitter-keyword-

This is just one method to find relevant keywords on useful topics. The main point to remember, though, is to think like your target reader.

What topics in your wheelhouse would be both useful and relevant to their lives? Start there, then branch out.

3. Bank on Consistency:

After you start publishing quality content on high-ROI topics, you need to start getting consistent. The more consistently you produce stellar, evergreen, useful, relevant content, the better the returns you’ll see.

That’s because Google’s algorithm notices consistency. So do readers.

Think about it. Which brand is more trustworthy and authoritative: The one publishing amazing content every few weeks, or the one pushing out mediocre blogs left and right?

Don’t forget this little fact: The more ranking blogs you have, the more qualified traffic chances you have. The more qualified traffic coming in, the more potential conversions.

That’s why publishing high-quality content regularly is just one of the secrets to boosting your content marketing ROI.

4. Tweak Your Website UX:

For better content marketing ROI, absolutely do focus on improving your content strategy, but don’t forget about another important foundational element: Your website.

Without a good website serving as your content hub and brand headquarters, you won’t rank nearly as high with both Google and readers.

For one, readers/users (or whatever term you prefer to call them) need to be able to seamlessly access your content to consume it, engage with it, and gain something useful from it.

If your site takes 10 minutes to load, or has a confusing design, or too many ads or pop-ups…

Those are roadblocks to your content. The user will be too annoyed or lost to stick around to read your amazing article and start to trust you.

Google picks up on these signals and takes them into account when determining your page’s ranking, especially if your UX lags far behind the competition.

Good UX, or user experience, is a baseline necessity.

A few things you can tweak to improve UX, and thus convince users to at least stay on your page long enough to read your blog headline:

  • Improve your site speed and page load times.
  • Reduce annoying distractions like interstitials and ads. Only include them when they make sense, have relevance to the user experience, or will help the user in some way.
  • Revamp your page navigation so it’s clear, easy to find, and logical.

user-experience

5. Renovate Your Internal & Outbound Links:

Did you know one way to improve your site’s E-A-T is to use internal and outbound links strategically?

Yes, you should link to your other relevant content pieces inside the new ones you publish.

At the same time, you should also link out to other authoritative sources of information inside your content.

Now, a lot of site owners are resistant to this practice, because they think any link going to another site is a distraction that will lead the reader away from their page.

However, that’s just not true.

As long as you’re not linking to direct competitors, linking out to other high-quality information sources to prove points, back up research, or add strength to your argument or topic analysis strengthens your E-A-T.

According to a Reboot study, linking out to other sites shows you associate with them.

If you thus link out to topically relevant pages with authority, that counts positively for you.

Why?

Because you’re showing the user (and Google) pages related to yours that may expand and improve their experience.

In other words, you’re contributing to a useful, connected web, which is exactly how it’s supposed to work.

Take the Holistic View When Boosting Content Marketing ROI

No single tactic is going to help you win more ROI from content.

Instead, you need to think of each piece of your content strategy as parts of an interconnected machine.

No one part will do all the heavy lifting.

Each piece needs to pull its own weight for the whole strategy to work.

So, tweak and tinker with all of the above suggestions, but remember you aren’t working in a vacuum.

If you pour all your focus into one part of content marketing, you’ll lose the big picture.

Zoom out from each piece of the strategy from time to time, see how everything connects, then refocus. With hard work and patience, the ROI will come.

    • More Resources:

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The Rise of Advertising on Ecommerce Marketplaces

By | E Commerce Business News

We all know, it’s no secret.

Amazon has come to disrupt budgets, raise expectations on conversion rates, and call attention to the quality of what we get for a “click.” (Massive amounts of first-party data is a heck of thing, isn’t it?)

So, instead of rehashing what we already know about the size of the impact to date, let’s pull back a few more levels and take a bigger picture look at:

  • What this means.
  • Who is joining the party.
  • What you should think about as we head into 2020.

Amazon isn’t the first or only marketplace to do advertising – this is just a signal of what is to come, the inevitable, cyclical expansion of advertising.

What we need to do is stop thinking about what is to come in silos and pull our holistic digital butts together. (I want to add other butts, like offline and local, but one thing at a time, eh?)

One thing I want to call out before I start in with the examples is noting a fundamental difference that I hear a lot of search folks complain about when comparing marketplace advertising platforms and options to search.

Remember, advertising is second (and sometimes third or fourth) to selling on the marketplace in revenue generation.

The revenues that a marketplace pulls in from advertising dollars is a fraction of what they pull in from seller fees (category commission rates, ranging from 5%-20% and sometimes as high as 40% of the sale) and store fees (monthly fee).

Adding advertising revenue is pocket change, relatively speaking.

They’re just trying to get you to spend a little more.

So, when you think about investments in the platform, reporting capabilities and attribution, a search engine is highly incentivized to answer those questions and often provide those tools for free to keep you on the platform and searching versus a marketplace.

Advertising in Marketplaces:

Examples – let’s take a look at a non-exhaustive list of marketplaces now offering self-service-ish advertising:

  • Amazon
  • Walmart
  • Wayfair
  • eBay
  • Houzz
  • Etsy

Invite only marketplace/retailer advertising options:

  • Target (via Roundel) (select sellers)
  • Costco
  • Overstock
  • Kroger (via 8451)

That’s a lot longer list than the big two of Google and Microsoft before it gets social with Facebook/Instagram, Pinterest (ecomm friendly-wise).

Granted, the volumes are top heavy with Amazon and Walmart – those are the two that are making significant investments in their advertising options to expand their operations.

But what interests me is that there is a natural desire to diversify budgets and now we either have to find more budget or steal it from elsewhere.

The Return of Traditional Advertising:

The current prediction (February 2019), according to eMarketer, is that traditional ad spending will drop slightly and digital will overtake traditional for the first time this year, ever.

emarketer-traditional

That being said, there are some new players to the traditional space we haven’t seen there before, specifically, startups and D2C brands that are looking for places and spaces to gain awareness and have been pushed out of the digital channels on price or saturation.

So…cutting budgets from traditional advertising, maybe not a great idea. In fact, you might want to spend more.

Get Ahead of the Rise of Advertising on Marketplaces:

I can’t tell you what to do exactly – or where to get the funds, that’s not how this works.

I can only give you what is coming:

  • More advertising options on marketplaces.
  • More silos to break down.

But here are a few things you can do, organizationally speaking, that will set you up for success to navigate this ever-expanding digital universe.

1. Retail Readiness:

This means being able to:

  • Compete on pricing, multiple fulfillment centers (or staffing the one appropriately) inventory intelligence (in-stock, quantities and decrementing) in an automated fashion.
  • Process returns, customer complaints, reviews and get those orders out the door. The new norm is two days.

Search folks aren’t often involved here – I get it, we sell the thing. But you need to start understanding this stuff, too.

If your .com conversion rates start dropping, slowly, over time and you haven’t been looking to see where else that item is sold…you might be losing sales to Amazon.

If the .com is listing a 7-day shipping window and the brand you’re working for set up FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon) for that item and it has 2-day free shipping with Prime and for a lower price, guess where your conversion went? (Also, you might want to check out the Amazon Attribution beta, if that’s the case.)

2. Content & Creative:

Take advantage of the features and functionality that each platform offers – they built it that way for a reason.

Some reasons are better than others, but there are key differences in how they function (for example, Amazon product pages vs. Walmart product pages.)

Plus, having product content that is informative, helpful, customer-friendly, consistent and – well – pretty, causes conversions.

And product pages are crawled, indexed and totally show up in search results. Own that SERP all the way.

3. Internal Organization:

This is the number one “thing” I have seen collapse or stunt ecommerce efforts.

If the people in the organization are not incentivized to work outside their boxes within digital, then they won’t.

And if not incentivized, at least having the conversation, getting clear on roles and responsibilities and how those touch upon one another.

4. Process:

Piggybacking off the internal organization piece, if there is not a clear process for rolling out products on which platforms, price points and fulfillment, things get very messy, very fast.

5. Product:

Invest in the tools of the trade that enable growth. Or build it. Whatever.

(Or set fire to the proprietary tool/system that’s been in place since 2010 that requires that one dev guy to hold together, but he’s always busy and therefore is holding the business hostage. A true story, more than once, unfortunately.)

Ask for More:

Every year, search marketers get asked to do more – types of ads, targeting, new platforms, new markets, and often with the same tools and resources we had the year before.

In 2020, start asking for more in return to help you navigate and succeed in the expanding digital advertising universe.

For example – point of sale data.

If you’re at a brand or working for one that has brick and mortar stores, what are they doing or getting or could be getting that would be useful.

Some offline attribution would be great, but how about some location-based bidding, on category or product level?

Think about what is popular online: Is that because they can’t get it where they live? And is it bought in-store more elsewhere for those that live nearby vs. online?

Visualization – sure, you’re cool and have a spreadsheet with 20 tabs, 17 formulas, slicers and pivots that you’ve developed over the last two years.

It’s a nerd masterpiece – but face it, it’s the Matrix and you’re Neo. Not everyone can dodge bullets.

Equip yourself with software that makes your life easier and insights faster. Then, when the bullets start flying, you won’t even have to dodge them.

More than anything else though, plan on expansion. It’s happening. Get ahead of it now and own it, rather than it owning you.

More Resources:

Causes of High Bounce Rate (& How to Fix Them)

By | Website Design Advice

What Is Bounce Rate?

As a refresher, bounce rate refers to the percentage of visitors that leave your website (or “bounce” back to the search results or referring website) after viewing only one page on your site.

Before you start worrying, consider that “high” is a relative term.

Most websites will see bounce rates between 26% to 70%, according to a RocketFuel study.

high_and_low_bounce_rate

Based on the data they gathered, they provided a bounce rate grading system of sorts:

  • 25% or lower: Something is probably broken
  • 26-40%: Excellent
  • 41-55%: Average
  • 56-70%: Higher than normal, but could make sense depending on the website
  • 70% or higher: Bad and/or something is probably broken

The overall bounce rate for your site will live in the Audience Overview tab of Google Analytics.

Audience-Overview-Bounce-Rate

You can find your bounce rate for individual channels and pages in the behavior column of most views in Google Analytics.

Landing-Pages-Bounce

There are a number of reasons your website can have a high bounce rate.

Let’s review 10 common ones and how to fix them.

1. Slow-to-Load Page:

Site speed is part of Google’s ranking algorithm, so it’s just good SEO to focus on it.

Google wants to promote content that provides a positive experience for users, and they recognize that a slow site can provide a poor experience.

If your page takes longer than a few seconds to load, your visitors may get fed up and leave.

Fixing site speed is a lifelong journey for most SEO pros and webmasters, but the upside is that with each incremental fix, you should see an incremental boost in speed.

Review your page speed (overall and for individual pages) using tools like:

  • Google PageSpeed Insights.
  • Pingdom.
  • TMetrix.

They’ll offer you recommendations specific to your site, such as compressing your images, reducing third-party scripts, and leveraging browser caching.

2. Self-Sufficient Content:

In some cases, the user will get everything they were looking for from the page on your site.

This can be a wonderful thing – perhaps you’ve achieved the content marketer’s dream and created awesome content that wholly consumed them for a handful of minutes in their lives!

Or perhaps you have a landing page that only requires the user to complete a short lead form.

To determine whether bounce rate is nothing to worry about, you’ll want to look at the Time Spent on Page and Average Session Duration metrics in Google Analytics.

If the user is spending a couple of minutes or more on the page, that sends a positive signal to Google that they found your page highly relevant to their search query. If you want to rank for that particular search query, that kind of user intent is gold.

If the user is spending less than a minute on the page (which may be the case of a properly optimized landing page with a quick-hit CTA form), consider enticing the reader to read some of your related blog posts after filling out the form.

3. Disproportional Contribution by a Few Pages:

If we expand on the example from the previous section, you may have a few pages on your site that are contributing disproportionally to the overall bounce rate for your site. Google is savvy at recognizing the difference between these.

So if your single CTA landing pages reasonably satisfy user intent and cause them to bounce quickly after taking action, but your longer-form content pages have a lower bounce rate, you’re probably good to go.

However, you will want to dig in and confirm that this is the case or discover if some of these pages with a higher bounce rate shouldn’t be causing users to leave en masse.

Open up Google Analytics, go to Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages, and sort by Bounce Rate.

Consider adding an advanced filter to remove pages that might skew the results.

For example, it’s not necessarily helpful to agonize over the one Twitter share with 5 visits that have all your social UTM parameters tacked onto the end of the URL.

My rule of thumb is to determine a minimum threshold of volume that is significant for the page.

Choose what makes sense for your site, whether it’s 100 visits or 1,000 visits, then click on Advanced and filter for Sessions greater than that.

Disproportional Contribution

4. Misleading Title Tag and/or Meta Description:

Ask yourself: Is the content of your page accurately summarized by your title tag and meta description?

If not, visitors may enter your site thinking your content is about one thing, only to find that it isn’t, and then bounce back to whence they came.

Whether it was an innocent mistake or you were trying to game the system by optimizing for keyword clickbait (shame on you!), this is, fortunately, simple enough to fix.

Either review the content of your page and adjust the title tag and meta description accordingly or rewrite the content to address the search queries you really want to attract visitors for.

5. Blank Page or Technical Error:

If your bounce rate is exceptionally high and you see that people are spending less than a few seconds on the page, it’s likely your page is blank, returning a 404, or otherwise not loading properly.

Take a look at the page from your audience’s most popular browser and device configurations (e.g., Safari on desktop and mobile, Chrome on mobile, etc.) to replicate their experience.

You can also check in Search Console under Coverage to discover the issue from Google’s perspective. Correct the issue yourself or talk to someone who can – an issue like this can cause Google to drop your page from the search results in a hurry.

google-search-console

6. Bad Link from Another Website:

It’s possible you could be doing everything perfect on your end to achieve a normal or low bounce rate from organic search results, and still have a high bounce rate from your referral traffic.

The referring site could be sending you unqualified visitors or the anchor text and context for the link could be misleading.

Sometimes this is a result of sloppy copywriting. The writer or publisher linked to your site in the wrong part of the copy, or didn’t mean to link to your site at all.

Start by reaching out to the author of the article, then the editor or webmaster if the author doesn’t have the ability to update post-publish.

Plead your case and politely ask them to remove the link to your site or update the context, whichever makes sense.

(Tip: you can easily find their contact information with this awesome guide by Joshua Daniels.)

Unfortunately, the referring website may be trying to sabotage you with some negative SEO tactics, out of spite or just for fun.

For example, they may have linked to your Guide to Adopting a Puppy with the anchor text of FREE GET RICH QUICK SCHEME.

You should still reach out and politely ask them to remove the link, but if needed, you’ll want to update your disavow file in Search Console.

Disavowing the link won’t reduce your bounce rate, but it will tell Google not to take that site’s link into account when it comes to determining the quality and relevance of your site.

7. Affiliate Landing Page or Single-Page Site:

If you’re an affiliate, the whole point of your page may be to deliberately send people away from your website to the merchant’s site.

In these instances, you’re doing the job right if the page has a higher bounce rate.

A similar scenario would be if you have a single-page website, such as a landing page for your ebook or a simple portfolio site.

It’s common for sites like these to have a very high bounce rate since there’s nowhere else to go.

Remember that Google can usually tell when a website is doing a good job satisfying user intent even if the user’s query is answered super quickly (sites like WhatIsMyScreenResolution.com come to mind).

If you’re interested, you can adjust your bounce rate so it makes more sense for the goals of your website.

8. Low-Quality or Under Optimized Content:

Visitors may be bouncing from your website because your content is just plain bad.

Take a long, hard look at your page and have your most judgmental and honest colleague or friend review it (ideally, this person either has a background in content marketing or copywriting, or they fall into your target audience).

One possibility is that your content is great, but you just haven’t optimized it for online reading.

  • Are you writing in simple sentences (think high school students vs. PhDs)?
  • Is it easily scannable with lots of header tags?
  • Have you included images to break up the copy and make it easy on the eyes?

Writing for the web is different than writing for written publications.

Brush up your online copywriting skills to increase the time people spend reading your content.

The other possibility is that your content is poorly written overall or simply isn’t something your audience cares about.

Consider hiring a freelance copywriter or content strategist who can help you revamp your ideas into powerful content that converts.

9. Bad or Obnoxious UX:

Are you bombarding people with ads, pop-up surveys, and email subscribe buttons?

CTA-heavy features like these may be irresistible to the marketing and sales team, but using too many of them can make a visitor run for the hills.

Is your site confusing to navigate?

Perhaps your visitors are looking to explore more, but your blog is missing a search box or the menu items are difficult to click on a smartphone.

As online marketers, we know our websites in and out. It’s easy to forget that what seems intuitive to us is anything but to our audience.

Make sure you’re avoiding these common design mistakes, and have a web or UX designer review the site and let you know if anything pops out to them as problematic.

10. The Page Isn’t Mobile-Friendly:

While we know it’s important to have a mobile-friendly website, the practice isn’t always followed in the real world.

In fact, one study found that nearly a quarter of the top websites in 2018 were indeed not mobile-friendly.

Websites that haven’t been optimized for mobile don’t look good on mobile devices – and they don’t load too fast, either. That’s a recipe for a high bounce rate.

Even if your website site was implemented using responsive design principles, it’s still possible that the live page doesn’t read as mobile-friendly to the user.

Sometimes, when a page gets squeezed into a mobile format, it causes some of the key information to move below-the-fold.

Now, instead of seeing a headline that matches what they saw in search, mobile users only see your site’s navigation menu.

Assuming the page doesn’t offer what they need, they bounce back to Google.

If you see a page with a high bounce rate and no glaring issues immediately jump out to you, test it on your mobile phone.

You can identify non-mobile-friendly pages at-scale using Google’s free Test My Site tool.

google-test-my-site-for-mobile-friendly

11. Wonky Google Analytics Setup:

It’s possible that you haven’t properly implemented Google Analytics and added the tracking codes to all the pages on your site.

Google explains how to fix that here.

5 Pro Tips for Reducing Your Bounce Rate:

Regardless of the reason behind your high bounce rate, here’s a summary of best practices you can implement to bring it down.

1. Make Sure Your Content Lives Up to the Hype:

Your title tag and meta description effectively act as your website’s virtual billboard in Google.

Whatever you’re advertising in the SERPs, your content needs to match.

Don’t call your page an ultimate guide if it’s a short post with three tips.

Don’t claim to be the “best” vacuum if your user reviews show a 3-star rating.

You get the idea.

Also, make your content readable:

  • Break up your text with lots of white space.
  • Add supporting images.
  • Use short sentences.
  • Spellcheck is your friend.

2. Keep Critical Elements Above the Fold:

Sometimes, your content matches what you advertise in your title tag and meta description; visitors just can’t tell at first glance.

When people arrive on a website, they make an immediate first impression.

You want that first impression to validate whatever they thought they were going to see when they arrived.

A prominent H1 should match the title they read on Google.

If it’s an ecommerce site, a photo should match the description.

3. Speed Up Your Site:

When it comes to SEO, faster is always better.

Keeping up with site speed is a task that should remain firmly stuck to the top of your SEO to-do list.

There will always be new ways to compress, optimize, and otherwise accelerate load time.

  • Implement AMP.
  • Compress all images before loading them to your site, and only use the maximum display size necessary.
  • Review and remove any external or load-heavy scripts, stylesheets, and plugins. If there are any you don’t need, remove them. For the ones you do need, see if there’s a faster option.
  • Tackle the basics: Use a CDN, minify JavaScript and CSS, and set up browser caching.

4. Minimize Non-Essential Elements:

Don’t bombard your visitors with pop-up ads, in-line promotions, and other content they don’t care about.

Visual overwhelm can cause visitors to bounce.

What CTA is the most important for the page?

Highlight that in a compelling way.

For everything else, delegate it to your sidebar or footer.

5. Help People Get Where They Want to Be Faster:

Want to encourage people to browse more of your site?

Make it easy for them.

Leverage on-site search with predictive search, helpful filters, and an optimized “no results found” page.

Rework your navigation menu and A/B test how complex vs. simple drop-down menus affect your bounce rate.

Include a Table of Contents in your long-form articles with anchor links taking people straight to the section they want to read.

Summary:

Hopefully, this article will help you diagnose what’s causing your high bounce rate, and you have a good idea how to fix it.

More Recourse:

PPC Trends

PPC Trends to Get Ready for in 2020

By | Digital Marketing & Google News

Predicting the future is never easy:

Particularly in the world of PPC. Even with all the campaign data in the world, you don’t know the latest trends until they hit.

It’s a tough task staying on top of all the updates released by the likes of Google, Bing, and YouTube. It can be even harder to learn new things and quickly adapt to the changes.

Some of the changes involve:

  • Ad copy.
  • Smart bidding.
  • Average position.
  • Audiences.

As innovation in digital marketing continues to grow at an exponential rate, smart PPC pros need to keep up with the market.

Here are five trends you should be looking at in 2020 in order to stay ahead of the game.

1. Audience Segmentation:

Audience segmentation is based on taking a group of people who have interacted with you online – either on your website, your CRM database, through a YouTube channel or one of your other social media channels.

These people are then segmented based on:

  • What URLs they’ve visited on your website.
  • How they’ve interacted on your site (i.e., whether they’ve purchased).
  • What videos they’ve watched.

Then they’re placed into buckets that serve specific ads based on how they interacted with you.

This allows you to increase or decrease bids to make sure you’re more or less prominent to your audiences based on the value that they have on your business.

Although it seems very in-depth, this is still the most basic way to use audiences.

However, as we gather more and more data on our customers and audiences, we can begin to break them up into specific buckets and thereby making our messaging even more personalized and our bidding strategies more informed based on specific data points.

  • What type of user are they? Where did they leave your site? Did they purchase something?
  • What are your audiences interested in?
  • What age and gender are they?
  • What demographic group do they fall under?
  • Where are they searching and browsing for you or your products? What device are they on?
  • Are they coming from other websites? What keywords are they finding you through?
  • Where are they in their life? Are they happy? Are they sad? Are they angry?

The inclusion of specific data sets, as well as inferred emotional data, means that you can make your ads extremely bespoke to the people you want to target.

You can also identify exactly which type of person you should be spending your resources on to grow your business.

Make sure to create audience lists in Google Ads to leverage this opportunity.

How to Create an Audience List:

Step 1:  In the top right-hand corner of your Google Ads account, click the Tools & Settings icon. Navigate to the Shared Library column and then click Audience manager.

Create an Audience List

Step 2: In Audience manager, click on the blue circle with the plus sign to start creating a remarketing list.

Audience manager

Step 3: Once there, you’ll have a drop-down menu of where you actually want to create your list. You can either choose from:

  • Website visitors.
  • App users.
  • YouTube users.
  • Customer list from your CRM database.
  • Custom combination.

CRM database.

Step 4: In this step, you’ll actually create your list. First, you need to name your audience.

audience

Next, select the List members – the type of visitors from which you’d like to create an audience. You’ll then have to identify specific rules according to the type of visitors you choose.

Click on Create Audience once done.

Step 5: The final step is assigning your audience to a campaign or ad group.

campaign or ad group

On the left side of your Google Ads account, left click on Audiences. Once you’re in Audiences, click on the blue circle with a pencil inside.

You’ll then get the screen on the right where it says Edit audiences. Here, the first drop-down Add to – you can either choose Campaign or Group.

Once you’ve chosen which level you want, on the right-hand side you can then choose which campaigns or ad groups it actually goes into.

You then have two options:

  • Targeting: For narrowing the reach of your campaign to specific audiences, and get reports.
  • Observation: For getting reports on additional items without narrowing the reach of your campaign.

Click Save. Your audience list is now into your campaigns and ad groups.

So What Do You Need to Do?

  • Ensure you’ve created audience lists in Google Ads.
  • Use the data from visitors to your site to identify the most prominent and lucrative audience categories.
  • Begin creating more granular lists based on these criteria and create different campaigns and ad groups for each.
  • You should be maximizing your budget toward these audience-based campaigns.

2. Automation & Account Management

Automation has already started – but it’s going to be even more important in 2020.

We’re already seeing it in:

  • PPC optimization: Automating the ability to identify opportunities within your PPC account to make changes and improve performance and account hygiene.
  • PPC account management: Automating rules within your account to manage bidding and daily account management tasks.
  • That said, not enough automation is being used in the industry currently. Automating processes, such as bid management, can help marketers harness the power of automation.

Target CPA and ROAS are great examples of how this has been implemented already in day-to-day account execution.

And even if you’re reluctant to let go of manually managing your bids, then there are other areas where you can apply automation to.

A number of companies are emerging to knit together optimization across properties such as Albert, an AI tool that takes data from across all of your marketing activity and decides where investments should be focusing.

Moment marketing tools such as Mporium will allow marketers to automate changes to the campaigns based on triggers from third-party sources such as TV, social media content, weather, and even stock market changes.

What Will Be Different in 2020?

In 2020, there will be an even bigger light shined on marketing performance, with clients and businesses requiring more data analysis, reporting, planning, and servicing.

With more businesses advertising online, it will become more difficult to cut through the clutter.

There will also be a higher prominence of automation tools to help you with optimization, daily tasks, reporting, project and account management.

What Should You Be Doing About It?

  • There are plenty of ways to leverage automation in paid search:
  • Use scripts in Google and Bing to automate account management alerts and changes.
  • Invest in optimization servicing tools (OSTs), such as Adzooma, Search Squared or GOA.
  • Use bidding rules to manage the performance of your campaigns.
  • Set up alerts across all your activities to inform you of major changes.
  • Set up automated reporting, reduce manual reporting time.
  • Spend more time analyzing your data and audiences to deliver the best experience for your customers.
  • Test Smart Campaigns in Google Ads to hit your target KPIs.

3. Voice Search

ComScore predicts that by 2020, 50% of all searches will be voice searches.

So what does this mean for PPC?

This means that the search terms that trigger ads to appear are going to change as people interact in a more conversational way with their voice-enabled devices.

Obviously, we’re still quite a long way away from seeing paid search within voice.

That said, it would be beneficial to:

  • Start using more conversational and long-tail terms in your keyword targeting.
  • Make sure your landing pages are more conversational as well for both the UX and for SEO reasons.
  • Test and learn more long-tail terms in 2020, measure the impressions and impression share on them, as well as the CTR and CVR.

4. Visual Search

Search is becoming more visual. Now, you can upload an image to a search engine and use the engine to find you relevant results based on other images similar to the one you uploaded.

Surprisingly, this development first came from the social media world with Pinterest releasing its first visual search tool in 2015. They have since refined their visual discovery tools with the introduction of Pinterest Lens in 2017.

Other social channels such as Instagram and Snapchat followed suit, allowing users to search with images.

Last year, Snapchat announced a Visual Search partnership with Amazon which allows users to search products on Amazon straight from the Snapchat camera.

So what does this mean for PPC?

Bing has also released its own visual search engine which allows people to do the same thing but use their entire index of the web as their source of information – much of the info that is on a retail site or social network platform.

So What Do You Need to Get Ready For?

Preparing for the growth of visual search now will make it easier for people to find you in the future. You should:

  • Start thinking about images that showcase your offering on your website.
  • Ensure they have the correct ALT text on them so the SERPs can pick them up.
  • Ensure you’re using the best images to showcase your products or services.
  • Use multiple images where possible so the SERPs have a choice of what to index.

5. PPC & SEO Integration

The relationship between PPC and SEO will be an important area to address moving forward. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, yet they can be used together to maximize your results.

In 2020, make an effort to integrate PPC and SEO through:

  • Keyword unearthing.
  • Efficient position strategy.
  • Data and information sharing.
  • Increased SERP coverage.

What’s the Best Way to Do This?

  • Use PPC data to inform SEO of the most viable and profitable keywords to target for organic ranking boosts.
  • Use SEO ranking data alongside PPC bidding to identify which keywords you should be paying for and which ones you shouldn’t.
  • Use PPC copy data to help identify the best messaging to use for meta data in SEO.
  • Use PPC advertising alongside SEO organic listings to make your brand more prominent on the SERP against competitors.

Bonus: Attribution Measurement Will Be Your KPI in 2020

Attribution is key to understanding the true value of your PPC spend. Make sure to use Google Analytics or other analytics tools to measure the direct and indirect effect of your target keywords on your overall business.

The Amazon SEO Game Plan

By | Networking Bizz News, seo advice for business

Effective SEO can help you stand above the noise on Amazon. Crafting the perfect keywords without misleading your customers and making your descriptions informative, readable and optimized for mobile experiences will go a long way in helping your products become big winners on Amazon.

It’s no secret that nearly half of all consumers now begin their product searches on Amazon. And, one of the many reasons Amazon has dominated is because its algorithm ensures that shoppers are shown a comprehensive list of highly relevant products from their search queries, leading to increased purchase rates and stronger sales.

There is a massive opportunity for growth on Amazon as it continues to take over the online retail space. SEO can make or break a seller in the marketplace. Tighter margins on Amazon mean that a paid search strategy alone will not suffice. As consumers are challenged by a “paradox of choice,” you, the seller, must quickly figure out the right game plan in order to break through the noise organically.
Amazon displays products with the strongest SEO according to its algorithm. If your product is not seeing the rankings you anticipated, you might need to amend your approach to your listings. In order to do so successfully, consider the following best practices.

Amazon SEO Play #1: Keywords are Key

One of the most important features of strong SEO is a straightforward title with important keywords placed up front. Your product’s title should describe exactly what it is, who made it an important key features in order of importance. For example, a title for a 16-fluid ounce bottle of organic shampoo by the Natural Shampoo Brand would look something like this:

Natural Hair Brand – Organic Shampoo, 16 fl oz, argan oil, sulfate-free, moisturizing

One of the most important features of strong SEO is a straightforward title with important keywords placed up front.

When crafting your title, it is critical to remember that shoppers are humans. As such, the title should include the keywords needed to catch the algorithm but should also make sense to the person reading it. Since including a lot of information in one title can get messy, it is perfectly acceptable to use punctuation like dashes and commas for easier readability.

In the event not all of your desired keywords fit into one title or description, you can put them in the back-end of your product listing. Just log into your Seller Central account and insert keywords into the five different sections, including target audience, subject matter, and search terms. Your customers won’t see it, but the algorithm will be more likely to pick up your product. This is a good place to enter keywords that might be associated with your product but aren’t high-volume enough for the description on the front end.

Also, remember that some products have multiple uses. For example, baby powder can be used to get grease stains out of clothes, so you might use keywords like “degreaser” or “stain remover” in the back-end. Each keyword section in your Seller Central account can take up to 200 words, so take advantage of it. One crucial point to keep in mind when you’re threading keywords throughout your product listing is not to misrepresent your product. Not only could this leave you with bad reviews, but you could also be banned from selling on Amazon. If you list your product as “giant inflatable pool toy,” it better be huge.

Amazon SEO Play #2: A Good Description Goes a Long Way

When filling in your product’s description, make sure to do so in order of importance. The most crucial information should come first, and it should have strong keywords right at the beginning. A description with strong keywords is more likely to be picked up by the algorithm but remember the human element. Make sure the description is well-written and makes sense. Describe how the product can be used, how it feels and how it works.

This is especially important for apparel items, linens and other products shoppers traditionally like to view in stores. Another pivotal section of the product listing is key features. This is your chance to get the main idea or purpose of your product out in a few concise sentences. Like the description, you will want to prioritize in order of importance. Put keywords in each bullet point and keep sentences short. You don’t need to worry about proper punctuation—but make sure sentences are still easily readable.

Considering more Amazon shoppers are moving to mobile, you will want your description and bullet points to cater to a mobile setting. Long descriptions and bullet points are often cut off on mobile, so make sure to put the most important information at the top of each section.

Amazon SEO Play #3: The Visual is Pivotal

We live in a visual world and your product listings should be no different. Amazon requires you to have at least one picture to display your product. The main product picture must also meet Amazon’s standards, including a pure white background and a minimum of 1000 pixels. While one image is the minimum to post a listing, providing several other pictures for customers to look through helps them get a better understanding of your product and helps you stand out from the competition.

Close-up images that show the details of the product and the product in the context of its intended use are both encouraged—the product should take up 80-85% of the space in the image. Including a video of the product in use is also a good way to connect with audiences.

When it comes to selling on Amazon, standing above the noise can be attainable by adding a few new plays to your SEO game plan. Crafting the perfect keywords without misleading your customers and making your descriptions informative, readable and optimized for mobile experiences will go a long way in helping your products become big winners in the world of Amazon.

Trends Shaping E-commerce In 2019

By | Online Entrepreneur News

Building a strong commerce experience for customers, particularly online, has never been more critical. If a customer has a great experience with a brand app, that becomes the new benchmark which they expect, even demand, from every other brand touchpoint they have moving forward.

Evolving an e-commerce strategy in 2019 means understanding the top shopping trends across the media and advertising landscape: their potential audience reach today and tomorrow, their maturity and what brands will have to do to take full advantage. Take a look at the top seven trends that are likely to notably impact how businesses plan their e-commerce strategy over the coming year.

Trend 1: Voice commerce

Growth in voice-controlled purchasing, fuelled by Alexa.

Currently, only 2% of global Alexa users report using v-commerce tools regularly, with most looking for ongoing deals and monitoring order status via voice instead. This is because we typically like to see imagery of products before we buy them, and the extent of smart speaker functionality is difficult to know without trial and error.

But as screens are added to smart speakers and the experience is fine-tuned, transactions via voice are expected to grow significantly, generating sales worth $40bn by 2022 as against $2bn in 2018. Brands need to optimise their voice strategy to include relevant purchase, payment, delivery and re-order information. That will ensure organic visibility, deliver a strong user experience and drive sales from voice interactions.

Trend 2: Experiential commerce

Using Augmented Reality (AR) technology to bring products to life in a more immersive way, connecting through to transaction.

The aim of experiential strategies is to connect digital to physical, providing a differentiated and unique consumer experience as well as gathering valuable data that can be used to customize future interactions.

Research has suggested that 70% of consumers are expecting retailers to launch an AR app within the next six months, and 40% say they would pay more for a product they can experience through AR. On top of AR itself, brands can utilize a variety of technologies to enhance in-store or online commerce experiences, ranging from smart mirrors and image recognition to live streaming and virtual reality.

Trend 3: Democratisation of product

Products personalized by brand ‘super fans’ who share, promote and sell to their peers.

Brands are inviting their biggest fans to have a deeper connection and be more involved through owned apps and private social media environments, and sometimes even to create new lines of products.

 

This can enable peer-to-peer commerce with special editions, like the Xbox Franchise model that recently saw custom controller sales increase by 350%. Brands should consider how they can activate their biggest fans to help pioneer new product development and be part of the influential marketing mix.

 

Trend 4: Retail 2.0

Traditional bricks and mortar are expanding online while online giants like Alibaba & Amazon buy into physical space.

New age online marketplaces are approaching physical stores quite differently to traditional retail. Fuelled by data and technology, in-store experiences are becoming customised, purposeful and immersive.

The idea is to provide a multi-sensory experience for consumers, getting hands-on with high quality relevant products, aided by knowledgeable sales staff and fulfilled on the spot or via the online convenience provided by their platforms. Brands need to consider the strength of their reviews and first customer experiences with products, in order to ensure visibility on the new shelf.

Trend 5: Subscription everything

Consumer brands position themselves as a ‘lifestyle’ service as well as a product.

In an effort to build a stronger relationship with consumers and capture mounds of rich data, subscription models are arising in previously unexpected categories, ranging from Nespresso and Threadbox to Uber and Just Eat.

These models allow consumers to forgo large upfront hardware costs, protecting against price fluctuation or saving on recurring purchases, and we expect these services to continue to expand to more categories like video games, apparel, and child and baby items. Brands may need to rethink their business models to understand what products could be more profitable and relevant when sold as a subscription.

 

Trend 6: Connected commerce

Every touchpoint links through to another personalized purchase opportunity.

With the rise of connected data sources and more sophisticated analytics, omnichannel marketing has become a key focus of many leading global brands. Three-quarters (73%) of consumers are using multiple channels to do their shopping, and those interacting with an omnichannel experience spend 4% more in-store and 10% more online. A cohesive journey across channel and devices can significantly increase ROI.

Brands should develop connected consumer journeys, understanding all available touch-points in the owned, earned, shared, paid ecosystem to deliver personalized experiences that are shoppable at any moment.

Trend 7: End-to-end social

Users can discover, research and complete a purchase without ever leaving their social feed.

While ‘Buy Now’ buttons are nothing new in social media environments, 2018 saw shoppable ‘tagged’ posts explode, with Instagram reporting that 41% of brands advertising on the platform had tried the new format.

Social platforms continue to create engaging ad formats that blend high-quality brand content (especially video) with shoppable features. So in 2019, brands should utilise new catalogue-like formats and curated product lists to drive purchase objectives, often fulfilled via third parties, all within the social platform.

Streamline YouTube SEO Optimization With These Tools

By | seo advice for business

With video streaming services and social media platforms reporting large amounts of traffic, videos are slowly but surely moving front and center as the most popular form of online content. Plus, they are made more accessible by the widespread use of mobile devices and the growing average speed of Internet connectivity.

Look no further than sites like Twitch and YouTube to understand how powerful videos can be at keeping people glued to their screens. As a matter of fact, according to YouTube, U.S. residents aged 18-34 watch more videos on mobile devices than they do on any TV broadcast or cable network.

Bearing this in mind, performing video optimization has never been as important as it is today. To get more eyeballs looking at your videos, you must do your best to ensure that people can find your videos online and that they choose to watch your video over the vast pool of competition.

Getting yourself noticed on YouTube can be quite a daunting challenge, but in this post, we’ve rounded up some of the best tools that can help you optimize your YouTube videos for SEO.

Without further ado, let’s get started!

One of the most crucial parts of producing videos is getting everything ready even before the camera starts rolling. The bulk of the work is actually done during the video pre-production or planning stage. After all, you can’t create a great video without laying out a plan first, right?

Conducting keyword research

Knowing what topics are popular and what colloquial terms are used most to find videos is imperative to the success of your digital video marketing strategy. By creating videos around a specific target keyword, you’ll have a much better chance of getting ranked higher on the YouTube SERP.

YouTube autocomplete

You’ve probably noticed that YouTube suggests certain keywords and phrases as you type a query into the search box:

What makes the Autocomplete feature so great is that it’s free and only puts popular keywords forward. Basically, YouTube points out for you the terms people use most to find videos. From the standpoint of YouTube SEO, your videos should be optimized around these suggested keywords.

Above you can see that YouTube suggests several other keywords along with the initial query. Each suggestion can be a great idea for a video topic, but they are awesome long-tail keywords as well. Besides being popular, long-tail keywords are also not very competitive, and, hence, are easier to get ranked for.

Analyzing yours and your competitors’ channels

You have enough on your plate managing your channel as it is, but the only way to know which direction to go or what you need to do to get better results is to scrutinize all of your channel’s existing data and compare it to that of your main rivals.

Of course, there are also a number of tools that can help you dissect your channel and get to know everything about the channels you’re going up against.

YouTube Analytics

YouTube Analytics is the best place to learn what’s working on your channel and what’s not. This free, easy-to-use but comprehensive tool can tell you who watches your videos and what they like to watch, plus it can help you figure out which videos can produce more income.

This solution enables you to perform a detailed analysis of your channel and each separate video, providing you with real-time reports, view count, ratio of likes and dislikes, as well as viewer demographics.

YouTube Analytics offers three key report categories to work with: Revenue, Watch time, and Engagement — make sure to explore all of them for maximum results. On top of that, these categories are complemented by real-time and Overview sections. To take advantage of the tool, you must start uploading videos so that the system has some data to work with to boost your performance.

Snagging competitor tags

To dig a bit deeper into your competition, take a look at the tags they use to get their videos noticed by YouTube. Not only do tags help you get ranked for the target keyword, but they can also help you show up as a related video in YouTube’s sidebar when someone watches a video with a similar tag.

Although tags are initially hidden on YouTube, they can be viewed through the page’s HTML code. To do this, right-click on the page and go to “View Page Source.” Then search for the word “keywords” on the page. Everything that goes after it is the video’s tags! But if HTML is not your cup of tea, there are plenty of tools that will help you out.

TagsForYouTube

YouTube decided to hide video tags from the public eye many years ago. With the free Tags for YouTube Chrome extension, YouTube tags are returned to their original position.

To view what tags are attached to a video, simply click “show more” right under the description of the video. No sidebars, overlays or layers of data — bare tags only. It’s not a powerful tool regarding analytics, but it does save you the hassle of looking up tags via HTML.

If you want to have a simple way of seeing just the tags of YouTube videos without any additional analytical information, this tool is exactly what you need.

TagsYouTube

Unlike the previous tool that simply allows you to spy on your competitors’ tags, this free solution can generate tag based on the target keyword.

The free version of the TagsYouTube tool enables you to get a list of tags related to your target keyword, select the ones you like, and add them to the final list of tags. You can then add another keyword and add those tags to your final list of tags as well. Continue adding keywords until you get a list of tags you are happy with.

Besides generating tags, this service also offers features such as Advanced Title, Description, Thumbnail Generator, as well as practical tips and advice on how to best optimize your videos for YouTube.

RapidTags

Just as the name suggests, this free tool can quickly generate tags. One of the great things about RapidTags is that you can apply a language filter as you perform a search to get tags for different localities.

The workflow is pretty straightforward: enter your target query into the search box and the tool will generate relevant tags which you can then copy to YouTube.

You can then further analyze the target query to find out its traffic details like how many views, likes, dislikes and comments it currently has. RapidTags also shows the estimated number of views and engagement signals — such as likes — required for your video to rank for the target query.

Now that you’ve done all the preparatory work around your video and have recorded it, you need to add some finishing touches before it’s ready to go public.

Creating a thumbnail

Book covers and film posters give us an idea of what we can expect from a book or a movie, respectively. Video thumbnails serve the same purpose: they give people a rough understanding of what they’ll see in a video if they watch it. Therefore, before uploading your video to YouTube, create a high-quality custom thumbnail using a professional tool.

Canva

Canva is a leading graphic design tool that is perfect for creating beautiful thumbnails for YouTube videos. It’s easy to use, even if you’re not a designer.

It should be noted that this tool is not exclusively used for creating thumbnails — Canva can also be engaged in a number of other design-related tasks such booklets, presentations, sales pitches and so forth. It offers over a million fonts, graphics, photos and templates for you to choose from, as well as the option to upload images from your collections.

In terms of making thumbnails, Canva is packed with a plethora of free stock photos, backgrounds, texts, shapes, illustrations, and much more, making it a great solution. Moreover, you can use this tool free of charge on computers, Android and iOS devices, with the exception of several paid features and elements.

FotoJet

Another powerful free web graphic designer, photo editor, and collage maker tool is FotoJet. With this solution, creating amazing YouTube thumbnails is a walk in the park.

What makes this graphic design tool stand out is the fact that it puts more focus on creating amazing thumbnails for YouTube — not just general design features. With more than 500 templates for collages, FotoJet is a great resource for producing various graphics for YouTube, including video thumbnails.

The best part of this tool is the advanced thumbnail creator tool. It lets you make all sorts of fine adjustments to your creations — rotate images, add filters, crop or resize them. Also, similar to Canva, FotoJet’s drag-and-drop interface provides for an intuitive and hassle-free user experience.

Optimizing the video

Before you decide to upload your video to YouTube, you may want to polish it off and add finishing touches by running it through an editing tool. Luckily, there’s a variety of video optimization tools that can show you new ways of improving your videos, and fast-track the process.

iMovie

If you’re a greenhorn when it comes to editing YouTube videos and want to use only native apps on your Mac — give iMovie a try.

With this intuitive video editing software, you are free to trim, crop and rearrange sections of your video whichever way you like. Plus, the tool allows you to fix shaky videos, insert titles, throw in great visual effects and manage the video’s audio files.

One of the cool things about iMovie is that it supports 4K and HD videos, which is great news for those of us who record videos on GoPro cameras, iPhones, and other modern quality cameras. Moreover, the tool lets you easily upload and publish such high-definition videos to Facebook, Vimeo and, of course, YouTube.

So, if you’re still learning the ropes of video editors, this tool is perfect for getting started.

Blender

A free video editing tool that is more advanced than the previous option is Blender. Not only does it offer features that allow you to use the tool for 3D, VFX, rendering, animation, modeling, and even creating video games, it also enables you to trim videos, apply all sorts of filters and transitions — just what YouTubers need.

With Blender, you can add as many image, audio and video files to a video’s timeline as you want and edit them as you see fit on Mac, Windows or Linux devices. Blender also visualizes waveforms and allows users to mix audio files, which makes for a creative experience. Also, you can take advantage of the tool’s histogram displays, live preview, vectorscope features, and so much more.

It should be noted that due to this tool’s complexity, it may take you some time to figure out all of its ins and outs to yield the best results.

With almost two weeks’ worth of video content being added to YouTube every single minute, finding hundreds of videos on any given topic is a piece of cake. However, if not promoted the right way, your video just won’t be found. By making use of specialized tools, you can ensure that you get the kind of stats that are only obtained by top players in the YouTube game. If you’re doing video SEO, regular video ranking check-ups via position tracking tools are a prerequisite for the success of your YouTube channel. Such check-ups can tell you who you’re competing with and enable you to adjust your video marketing campaign accordingly.

SE Ranking

SE Ranking has a top-notch keyword tracking tool that can be used to get accurate data, detailed reports, and analysis. Along with the keyword tracking tool the platform offers a bunch of other useful features that help you perform more tasks.

The keyword rank checker tool specifically can run daily checks on Google, Yahoo and YouTube rankings for any location and device. It conveniently shows the daily ranking changes expressed in figures as well as graphs and specifies the URL for each ranking position. Also, you can set a target URL for each query, and all non-target URL positions will be highlighted in red.

The tech behind the tool collects data by simulating how users with no browsing history would behave for the selected target location and provides a cached copy if you want to verify the data for yourself.

Besides tracking rankings on five search engines and locations, you are free to track up to 5 competitors from your industry and get accurate, competitive intelligence on them. Moreover, the tool enables you to track the TOP 100 results for any search query — check how positions have changed over a specific period for any keyword or search engine from your project.

YTRank

YTRank is a very simple free tool that was designed with one goal in mind: to track the YouTube video ranking position for a specific keyword.

Once you access their website, all you have to do is select the country where you get most of your traffic from, enter the URL of your YouTube video and add up to 6 keywords you want to check positions for.

Then just scroll down to see which page and on what position your keyword is currently located on. It’s as simple as that.

Getting more eyes looking at your videos is incredibly important to the success of your video marketing campaigns, and social media platforms are perfect resources to execute on that. Here are some of the tools that can help you spread the word about your video far and wide.

DrumUp

The process of promoting YouTube videos involves making them easy to find for viewers. DrumUp is a paid tool that enables you to schedule the promotion of your videos on various social networks.

With DrumUp, you can add your social media accounts from Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook, and communicate with your target social audiences from one easy-to-access platform.

Once you authenticate your social profiles, you will be able to see a preview of your social posts before making them public online. Customize your messages that promote your videos with a simple, intuitive social auto-posting solution.

HootSuite

Another social media management service that enables companies to perform social marketing activities is HootSuite. This paid tool aims to take communication to the next level and empowers companies to foster relationships with clients — not just send generic messages.

The tool’s dashboard provides tabs for each social account that’s connected to the app. Modern social media goes beyond posting messages and includes providing support, offering exclusive deals, and encouraging customers to make repeat purchases.

Hootsuite makes managing several profiles at the same time effortless. The advanced options are not free but with some extra investment, you get advanced social analytics, security, audience engagement and multiple users.

eClincher

eClincher is another fully-featured paid social media management tool that makes it easy to oversee and manage your social presence. This solution’s toolset includes an intelligent social dashboard, content curation, keyword tracking, analytics, publishing and automation, a unified social inbox, and a bunch of other useful options.

Manage, set up, schedule and publish content (including YouTube videos) on all your social profiles from a single location with eClincher. If a certain piece of content is performing well, eClincher will let you know and you’ll be able to use it again for more effective engagement on the social channels that haven’t seen that piece of content yet.

This social tool can lend you a hand in finding hot relevant content from the web and instantly adding it to your feed. Since the tool can determine what content will be appreciated by your audience, this feature can boost the performance of your social media profiles.

Have you ever been in a situation where you’re getting more social media comments and questions than you can physically handle? Social comments are the modern-day version of business reviews and are vitally important to your brand. Good thing many tools can help you stay on top of all your social engagements.

YouTube comment moderation

YouTube has its own content moderation tool that gives you the possibility to customize the settings that will automatically filter out inappropriate comments, leaving only engaging comments in place.

To configure the settings that define what comments can appear, you need to go to the Creator Studio and access the Community settings.

There, you can add users to enable their comments to be approved automatically. You can also view the comments left by users marked as ‘hidden’. Moreover, by entering a list of words you want to block, comments that match or closely match the specified words will be put aside for human review. Additionally, mark the checkbox next to the Block links option to hold back new comments and live chat messages with hashtags and URLs. Last but not least, configure the basic settings regarding comments on your videos, channel and live chat before hitting ‘Save’.

As for the comments themselves, go to Comments section to view the comments that are public, those that have been held for review, and those that are considered to be spam by YouTube. This is where you can decide which comments deserve to be visible on your comments feed, but it will, unfortunately, require doing a lot of manual work. There are, however, some solutions that ease up the load.

TubeBuddy

TubeBuddy is a free browser extension that equips you with multiple tools that help you manage your YouTube channel. No need to switch between your channel and external tools to see the data — all the tools are added on top of YouTube’s interface.

Being a popular solution, TubeBuddy is full of useful tools and has quite a few ways of helping you moderate your comments.

First off, when working directly within the YouTube comments page, TubeBuddy gives you the option to filter comments: those you haven’t replied to, those that need a follow-up reply, those with positive or negative sentiments, or questions. That way you can easily find out where you need to interact more and learn what your viewers are talking about.

Canned responses is another helpful tool that allows creating quick go-to answers to popular viewer comments. Once you’ve prepared your short replies, you can select one right next to a user comment under the video, saving loads of time on creating messages anew.

The last comment-related TubeBuddy tool that deserves mention is the word cloud. The cloud contains the most used words from your comments, those that stand out for your channel and give you a quick insight into the general tone of voice of your channel.

Smart Moderation

A paid tool that provides comment moderation for social media platforms is SmartModeration. It’s designed to remove profane comments and protect your reputation on the web on autopilot in real time.

Most automated comment moderation tools solely rely on lists of keywords to understand what’s written in comments. In turn, YouTube has its own tools that look to keyword blacklists and algorithms to filter out spammy comments. However, this tool only puts them aside for human review without deleting them.

This is where Smart Moderation comes in. This tool connects to your social profiles on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube and deletes unwanted comments the moment they are posted. On top of that, the tool’s machine learning AI removes such comments very accurately — like a human would. This feature makes this solution stand out because it understands words like humans. Plus its intelligence engine can be trained as you continue using the service.

Finally, the software supports multiple languages and can, therefore, be used by content producers from all over the planet to protect their audience and content.

There is little doubt that video content is a must-have component of any marketing strategy. Good thing we have YouTube that gives everyone the amazing opportunity to attract new audiences, encourage engagement and growth, as well as boost overall customer conversions.

By making the most of the tools listed in this article, you can get miles ahead of your competitors and get higher rankings on YouTube’s SERP.

The Biggest SEO Trends Of 2019

By | Online Entrepreneur News, seo advice for business

SEO strategy with components for successful marketing as icons on cubes on wooden backgroundGETTY

How will the world of search engine optimization change in 2019? What new trends will emerge, what old trends will die, and which trends will continue in the next year?

SEO is in constant motion, always changing to the point where it’s difficult to keep up with everything.

In this blog post, we’re going to go over some of the biggest SEO trends to be tracking in 2019.

Voice Search Begins Its Rule

Voice search is clearly growing in popularity – and at a very rapid rate, too. In fact, I feel like in a couple of years, we’re all going to hear “Ok, Google” all around us every few minutes. By 2020, the experts believe that 50% of all searches will be voice searches.

The number of people who use voice assistants is actually growing year by year, at a very rapid rate; for example, 35.6 million Americans use a voice activated device at least once a month, and one in six Americans now own smart speakers.

While it’s true that the world of search engines and SEO is constantly changing and evolving, the increase in voice search usage is one of the biggest changes yet. That’s because it’s something completely different and it requires a completely different optimization strategy

Think of it this way: there’s one way you’d search for something on Google (the regular website) and one way to ask about something.  “You got to realize, the questions they’re going to ask are going to be a bit different,” explains Stone Temple’s Eric Enge in an episode of the Sure Oak podcast, “and it’s going to create a need for our content that we’re returning – be it either via web page or a return voice interaction – to be prepared to answer those more natural language queries.”

It’s also important to note that Google prefers short answers to voice search queries: the typical result is about 29 words on average.

Even more interestingly, there looks to be a very big connection between voice search optimization and Google’s featured snippets – those short answers you sometimes get above all other results, that have position zero in SERPs.

Mobile-first Indexing As A Work In Progress

Back in March 2018, Google finally started rolling out the so-called mobile-first indexing. A change that many might say has been a long time coming: after all, mobile devices now account for nearly 60% of all traffic and that number is only going to grow.

But what exactly does mobile-first indexing mean for SEOs and web designers? And when can the “voice search index” be expected?

The mobile-first index is less than a year old, so it’s difficult to say where exactly it’s going to head. But what is clear is how important speed is, as well as how important it is to build a truly responsive website, one that not only is fully functional on mobile devices but also one that moves very quickly.

Building better mobile websites and creating better user experiences for visitors using mobile devices is imperative. Because while it’s not clear exactly what is coming up next for mobile-first indexing, what is clear know, based on the Google’s past, is that it’s all about offering your audience websites that are easy to use and navigate, that offer a good user experience and that move fast.

Blockchain Technology Impacts SEO and SEM

Blockchain might be mostly associated with Bitcoin and cryptocurrency in general, but blockchain’s influence will be much more far-reaching than that.

And not surprisingly, it’s also going to reach and impact search engine optimization, if not digital marketing in general. But how exactly can it influence SEO in a meaningful way?

Blockchain, in short, aims to create a secure and trustworthy record of transactions.

And it can be used to secure the transactions happening on search engines too – the connections between advertisers and website owners. Google, in this sense, is the middleman between the advertiser and website owner, helping them trust each other so that all of these transactions will run smoothly.

But that is exactly what blockchain does, by definition – only a bit more effectively. Blockchain can verify that every user is who they say they are, with 100% accuracy.

It can see whether an ad was viewed by an actual real person and not a bot. It can help you make sure that website owner only pay for genuine click-throughs to their website. And even more so, all of this will help reduce online ads fraud.

This, of course, will not only impact Google’s ad revenue, but it is also likely to impact SEO in general. Microsoft – and other big companies – are already collaborating with blockchain-based identity systems Blockstack Labs and ConsenSys to help improve apps and services

The Rise of Amazon Search Optimization

It’s difficult to see how Amazon Search can ever compete with Google – after all, it’s hard to see oneself searching for “how to remove carpet stains” on Amazon – but it’s actually a huge competitor. Many SEO specialists are expecting a huge growth in Amazon Search Optimization in the coming year.

Not convinced? Well, to start with, 72% of shoppers now use Amazon to find products, based on a study from Kenshoo across consumers in the US, Germany, UK, and France.

What’s even more interesting is that they also found that 56% of consumers actually search on Amazon first before they go looking at other sites. Plus, they don’t just find products – they find everything they need that they would otherwise need Google for: product reviews, similar product suggestions, and all kinds of other products that you might be interested in. In other words, they really don’t need another search engine to find what they need or want to buy, as well as do some proper research before making a purchasing decision.

And that is definitely a pretty big threat to Google and Google Ads. If fewer people are googling for products, that can have a big impact on its advertising and revenue.

And when it comes to actually making purchases, people favour Amazon because if its convenience, prices and ease of shipping, according to the latest data from BigCommerce’s Global Omni-Channel Consumer Shopping Research Report.

Conclusion

There are a lot of changes happening in the digital world right now, including in the world of search engine optimization. It’s an exciting – if also a little scary – time. It might not be clear what the future will bring exactly, but it’s clear that emerging and older technologies are starting to have a huge impact on SEO – if it’s not already happening, then at the very least it’s bound to happen soon.

Should Facebook Still Be A Part Of Your Social Media Marketing in 2019?

By | seo advice for business

New Year, new you! Many small businesses are trying to decide on their social media marketing in 2019 in the hopes of increasing sales and foot traffic on their websites. Marketing for most small businesses is often not a priority, but it should be. How else will people learn about your product or services? Word of mouth? Well, that might have worked 15 or 20 years ago, but does not work now. Today’s audience does not “talk” to each other; they text, chat and wave to each other online.

Small businesses can compete in the social media realm so long as they have a strategy.

Despite the ongoing investigation delving into Zuckerburg’s situation, for the first time in social media history, Facebook is in the number three spot for social networksjust behind YouTube and Google. Facebook still has 1.47 billion people logging in daily with more than 70% in the United States. Therefore, Facebook is still a safe and lucrative place to put your marketing dollars.

So, where do you start with your marketing strategy? Our suggestion is Facebook, YouTube, and Direct Mail Marketing, otherwise known as cross-channel marketing.

THE REAL DEAL ON SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING IN 2019

Facebook

Facebook is still a great place for your brand to get discovered. More people go to Facebook first for research and recommendations than any other social media outlet. Paid ads are a great way to get discovered, if you know your target demographics and use the audience selection features to ensure you are reaching your potential customers. It’s also cost-effective with a great ROI.

YouTube

YouTube recently surpassed Facebook as the number one social network. Creating video content is a critical part of your marketing strategy. Not just video, but mobile-optimized video is crucial for brand awareness. There is nothing more frustrating to our mobile hungry younger generation than a video that doesn’t load or is not clear in the size screen they want to view it on. Slow-loading video is a quick way to lose potential customers.

Marketing is an ever-changing beast. Your market reach is no longer determined by zip codes. Social media is your marketing stage. Consider the numbers — two out of three shoppers online have purchased something from a business in another country. Does this mean we abandon the local SEO? Of course not, it actually means you have to work harder to get found because it’s not just what’s local. It’s more about convenience. Many of these studies have noted that people are willing to pay more if getting the product or using the service makes life easier for them.

So, how to appeal to the local market? Consider direct mail campaigns. This cross-channel marketing method helps you connect with your local customer in a familiar but new way. Here’s to yet another year for your success!

 

Mobile Commerce On The Rise

By | Networking Bizz News

Smartphones’ share of US online retail sales, excluding apps, climbed to 31.8% in Q3 2018, according to a report from Criteo.

That marks a 14% year-over-year (YoY) increase in share, while tablets’ share dropped 12% YoY and laptops’ and desktops’ fell 5% YoY. This demonstrates the growing importance of mobile, and specifically smartphones, to both the present and future of US e-commerce.

While mobile commerce (m-commerce) is on the rise in the US, it already accounts for most sales in several other countries. M-commerce made up 40% of sales in the US in Q3 2018, excluding apps, a notable increase from its 35% share a year prior.

However, it holds a 50% or higher share in nine other countries, with Sweden leading the way at 60%, and m-commerce has a larger share in 18 countries than it does in the US. So, although retailers and brands may be bolstering their mobile capabilities to take advantage of m-commerce’s growing importance in the US, it’s even more important that they invest in the area in other countries, or they’ll disappoint consumers using the popular channel.

Leveraging the smartphone’s omnichannel capabilities can allow retailers to maximize its value. Only 7% of consumers shopped online and in-store for a product, but that small contingent accounted for 27% of sales made in Q3. Retailers need to provide omnichannel tools and experiences to capitalize on this opportunity, and smartphones are the perfect device for doing so.

They’re convenient, can be used in-store, and hold a growing influence on all retail sales, in addition to their rising e-commerce importance. Displaying details like where products are located in-store on mobile sites and apps can encourage and simplify omnichannel shopping, while in-store research tools such as Walmart’s AR comparison feature can offer more information to drive conversion among omnichannel shoppers.

In addition to preparing for the future, investing in m-commerce should pay dividends immediately given its tremendous performance over the holidays. Smartphones brought in $33.3 billion in sales from November 1 through December 19, according to Adobe, and tablets racked up $9.8 billion.

These devices accounted for 40% of retail revenue and 58% of traffic — 50% through smartphones and 8% via tablets. This shows how important it is to invest in m-commerce, as retailers and brands with lackluster mobile experiences risk alienating consumers in an extremely popular channel.

2019’s Six Key Social Media Marketing Trends

By | Digital Marketing & Google News, Online Entrepreneur News

It’s that time of year again – say goodbye to 2018 and hello to 2019, a year with the potential to kickstart your business!  Now is the time to start planning your social media marketing strategy for the upcoming year. These are the key trends to follow for another successful year of social media marketing for your business.

Before you pick up on these trends, we highly recommend reviewing your existing social media marketing strategy to find what works and what can be improved. A closer look at your past campaigns, social posts, best-performing channels, and analytics can help you get ready for 2019.

As the social media landscape is changing at a fast pace, it’s important to keep up with the latest trends every year to ensure that your strategy is still successful.

1. Engagement is more important than ever

Facebook has announced early in 2018 the focus on meaningful interactions as part of their updated algorithm.

This meant that their algorithm started favoring content that sparks a genuine conversation, which inspired many Page Managers to create more engaging content.

As organic reach becomes harder, the only way to survive is to aim for content that is:

  • Interesting
  • Appealing
  • Engaging

Algorithms are becoming smarter so there’s no short route to genuine engagement. It’s not enough anymore to encourage people to like, comment, share on your post. Social platforms are trying to cut down on engagement bait techniques so you may risk losing your existing reach in the longer term with such techniques.

Thus, it’s time to stop ‘cheating’ to win engagement and start thinking of an improved engagement strategy for every channel to continue reaching your followers.

2. Influencer marketing and the rise of micro-influencers

Influencer marketing is becoming an established element of your marketing mix. Influencers can make thousands of dollars through paid sponsorships while brands are constantly seeking for the best influencers for their campaigns.

As influencer marketing grows, big influencers are becoming more expensive for small and medium-sized brands. That’s when micro-influencers came in to make up for the gap between being interested in influencer marketing and having the right budget to try it out.

Micro-influencers may not have the outreach of celebrities, but they may have an even bigger influence on their own followers. Even 40k followers as an audience can be perfect for a brand, provided that they are working with the right influencer for their target audience.

For example, a food brand may see better results by working with a rising food blogger with 30k followers than a well-known chef who may ask for 20x of the budget.

And just as micro-influencers keep winning ground, there is also the trend of nano-influencers, or else influencers who have up to 10k followers. They may not have a big audience to follow them, but they can still have a great influence over them, either by their job, their engaging social presence or their passion about a specific industry/topic.

Nano-influencers don’t require a big budget to work with them but you may need to spend more time on the research to find the perfect one for your brand.

Since they may still be new to the influencer marketing world, they may be seeking a partnership that matches their values and could possibly last in the longer term. They can also be easier to reach since they don’t have to deal with thousands of messages every day.

3. Social media for sales enablement

Social media is already helping customers in the phase of product discovery. Brands are able to promote their products through social channels and customers are finding out about them before making a purchase.

Social media is not anymore just about awareness and engagement, but it’s heading even more towards consideration and sales enablement in the business funnel.

A vast majority of respondents who discovered a product through social media proceeded to a purchase later on. Facebook seems to be the first channel that people discover new products, with Instagram and Pinterest following up.

What do these mean for 2019? Brands have a great opportunity to benefit from this trend to improve their social strategy. You don’t always need a sales pitch in all your messaging to convince people to trust you. Social media can help you tell your story and improve consideration. Right after someone discovers your product online, it’s up to you to provide a smooth experience that will make sales easier.

4. AI and customer service

Bots and automated messaging have already shown up in many brands’ customer service. Social media has made it easier for customers to reach a brand, which means that the expectations about the response time are increasing.

Chatbots have started becoming popular through Facebook’s Messenger when brands realized that it’s an easy way to add an additional customer support to the mix.

Not all customers were convinced that this is the best way to reach a brand, but the adoption rate is improving thanks to the enhanced intelligence and programming of the latest bot experiences. More brands are spending the time to program the bots in a way that they seem as authentic as possible. Whether it’s about giving them their own character or simply predicting as many customer questions as possible, there has certainly been great progress in how they work.

AI can also come in providing automating messaging to customers who want an answer to a common question. Brands can set up messaging that keeps their customers satisfied while they’re also saving time in repeatedly answering the same questions.

2019 will bring an improved adoption of AI as part of social customer service and it’s time for more brands to give it a try to ensure that their customers are finding the answers to their questions as fast as possible.

5. Stories, stories, stories

Stories are everywhere! Visual content in a vertical format that usually lasts for 24 hours became popular from Snapchat and it soon was copied by Instagram to turn into a global trend for people of all ages.

Snapchat may have struggled since then to remain relevant, at least in the way that it was known for, but we’ve already seen Stories to Instagram, Facebook, Youtube, and just recently, LinkedIn.

There are currently more than 400 million people consuming Stories on Instagram on a daily basis, while Facebook is trying to integrate Stories to our daily routines.

Advertisers have already realized that Instagram Stories ads can be very effective, with Snapchat and Facebook following up with their current hype and demand. Why are stories so successful?

Stories are:

  • easy to create
  • fun and engaging
  • spontaneous  (they don’t necessarily require much editing before uploading them)
  • authentic
  • are not always lasting more than 24 hours

6. The end of fake followers

Instagram is currently one of the most popular apps in the social media landscape. Influencers have benefited from the app’s success by rising to fame through their growing audience.

However, it was no secret that several Instagram accounts have artificially increased their number of followers to boost their popularity. Many services provide fake followers for a fee and Instagram knew that sooner or later this had to stop.

Just last month, Instagram announced that they’ve started removing inauthentic likes, follows, and comments from accounts that used third-party apps to increase their popularity. They have actually built machine learning tools to identify such activities so that they prevent it from happening in the future.

This is a big step for Instagram towards maintaining their reputation as a popular social network where people (and brands) can grow their community through genuine interest and engagement.

Since the change has just started rolling out, 2019 will prove that the number of followers will not be as relevant anymore comparing to the actual influence and engagement that you’re having within your community.

As a brand, there’s no need anymore to chase for increasing your followers if you’re not already engaging with your existing ones. Spend more time on growing your community organically to avoid seeing a sudden drop of (fake) followers and likes.

What can we learn from all these trends?

2018 has been a big year for social networks and it will probably affect their future more than what we can predict now.

There have been small steps to improve trust, transparency, authentic engagement and genuine followers.

There is still a long way to go but it’s still important for brands to pay attention to the latest trends.

It’s better to start applying them to your social media strategy now to stay ahead of the curve instead of insisting on old tricks that might not work anymore.

Find the channels that work better for you, spend more time (and money) on them and always listen to your audience. They can offer valuable insights on what you need to improve on your social tactics.

6 Instagram Marketing Tips for Business That Get Results

By | Online Entrepreneur News, seo advice for business

What was the last thing posted your company’s Instagram account? Was it posted after careful thought? Was it created based on your target audience’s interests? If you answered yes to both questions, great job! You most likely have a successful marketing strategy on Instagram and a consistent layout to keep your viewers interested.
As one of the biggest social media platforms, Instagram can be a great tool to drive results for your marketing, so long as you have a solid strategy. However, with nearly a 4X higher engagement rate than any other social network, brands have a lot of opportunities to build communities among their mobile audiences. Today, we’ve got a few helpful tips to help you captivate your audience and get more engagement for your company:

1. Post Consistently

Many brands will post 2-3 photos a day, but there is no “right” number. Your posting cadence should align with your goals for this channel. More importantly: be consistent. Photos should be story-driven, compelling visuals. Short on content? You can also ask for photo submissions from followers or show the behind-the-scenes life of your business. Don’t forget that Instagram Stories allows for 15-second videos, too. Some brands have found creative ways around the time restriction, like breaking longer clips into multiple 15-second videos and posting them consecutively.

IT’S TIME TO POST!!

2. Offer Deals & Giveaways

A lot of deals and giveaways on Instagram are community-driven. Offer prizes to customers who take the best pictures of themselves with the product. Share a special promo code to reward your followers for remaining loyal to your business. They’ll be thankful for the deal and continue to follow your account for future perks. You can also ask followers to tag friends in posts or take selfies in order to enter contests and giveaways.

3. Work with Influencers

Influencer marketing on Instagram can be highly effective. By working with someone who already has an established audience on Instagram, brands can tap into new audiences and build followings. The most common tactic is to allow influencers to “take over” a brand’s Instagram account for a few days, so that the influencer’s followers will start looking at the account. Influencers often test or promote a brand’s product in each photo or video. Look for influencers who align with your brand’s values and mission, or who’ve shown interest in your company in past.

4. Harness the Power of Hashtags

The best way to start building an audience is to use common hashtags. Not just one or two, either. You can opt for anywhere from 5-11 hashtags per post to start growing awareness. By hashtagging industry terms and common words, you can quickly boost engagement and followers. Include hashtags that align with the content you’re sharing, and go for a mix of really popular tags and more niche-specific ones. The former will immediately get your post in front of a lot of people, whereas the latter will ensure your post remains near the top of results for longer. This goes hand in hand with SEO keywords. Hashtag the keywords you want your company to be searched for!

5. Keep Your Profile Link Fresh

The link in your bio is the best way to drive traffic from Instagram. Top tip: Use a Bitlink for any piece of content in your bio and you’ll be able to track exactly how many unique clicks your Instagram page has driven to your content. To add polish and improve engagement, many major brands use a customized branded domain in for all their Bitlinks.

For savvy social media managers who are constantly rotating their profile link, upgrading to Bitly Enterprise allows you to redirect your link to a new URL without actually changing the link in your profile, making it easy to update and track new campaigns on the fly.

6. Actively Engage Your Followers

The most successful businesses on Instagram don’t just respond to comments, they favorite and comment on other posts as well. By engaging with posts related to your industry or brand, you can create outbound awareness. However, don’t expect immediate results. It might take some time for your efforts to pay off, but don’t worry! Think of this as an opportunity to extend your brand’s voice and connect with potential customers.

 

Payless sold discount shoes at luxury prices — and it worked!

By | Digital Marketing & Google News

If you serve fast food on white tablecloths in a tony-looking restaurant, people sometimes think it’s haute cuisine. (At the very least, it tastes a lot different than it does when you’re scarfing it down from a drive-through bag).

It turns out you can do the same for bargain kicks by showcasing the footwear against the kind of chic backdrop usually reserved for luxury labels like Jimmy Choo and getting people to pay outrageous markups.

That’s what Payless did recently in Santa Monica, taking over a former Armani store and stocking it with $19.99 pumps and $39.99 boots. The chain, via agency DCX Growth Accelerator, invited groups of influencers to the grand opening of “Palessi” and asked their opinions on the “designer” wares.

Partygoers, having no idea they were looking at discount staples from the mall scene, said they’d pay hundreds of dollars for the stylish shoes, praising the look, materials and workmanship. Top offer: $640, which translates to a 1,800 percent markup, and Palessi sold about $3,000 worth of product in the first few hours of the stunt.

Payless, or “Palessi,” did ring up those purchases but didn’t keep the money. Influencers got their cash back, along with free shoes. Their reactions caught in the short- and longer-form ads—those shocked “gotcha” moments—are fairly priceless.

The retailer “wanted to push the social experiment genre to new extremes, while simultaneously using it to make a cultural statement,” said Doug Cameron, DCX Growth Accelerator’s chief creative officer. “Payless customers share a pragmatist point of view, and we thought it would be provocative to use this ideology to challenge today’s image-conscious fashion influencer culture.”

Payless CMO Sarah Couch says the chain aimed to tackle the brand’s perception issues head-on at a time when retailers are feeling more heat than ever from giant e-commerce sites.

“The campaign plays off of the enormous discrepancy and aims to remind consumers we are still a relevant place to shop for affordable fashion,” Couch says.

 

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