Category: Digital Search

04- Aug2016
Posted By: Guardian Owl
412 Views

The continuing rise of voice search and how you can adapt to it | Search Engine Watch

Google’s I/O developer conference brought several huge announcements about Google’s future direction and projects, including two new technologies which demonstrate just how importantvoice search and natural language processing are to the company’s future development.

The first, Google Assistant, is a voice-activated digital assistant which builds on “all [Google’s] years of investment in deeply understanding users’ questions”, as Google’s blog declared. It takes Google’s voice search and natural language capabilities to the next level, while also allowing users to carry out everyday tasks like booking cinema tickets or restaurant reservations.

The second is Google Home, Google’s long-awaited smart home hub to rival the Amazon Echo, which comes with Assistant built in. Google Home – which will be “unmatched in far-field voice recognition”, according to VP of Product Management Mario Quieroz – will give users access to Google’s powerful search capabilities in answering their questions as well as linking together smart devices all over their home.

google assistant

It’s no surprise that Google is focusing heavily on voice search and natural language going forward when you consider that in 2015 alone, voice search rose from “statistical zero” to make up 10% of all searches globally, according to Timothy Tuttle of the voice interface specialist MindMeld. That’s an estimated 50 billion searches per month.

Indeed, Google CEO Sundar Pichai revealed in his keynote speech at I/O that 1 in every 5 searches made with the Google Android app in the US is a voice query. Bing produced a similar statistic earlier this month when it announced that a quarter of all searches on the Windows 10 taskbar using Bing are voice searches. And statistics like these are only like to increase further as search engines, apps and developers respond to this trend.

Digital assistants: The agents of voice search

Siri. Cortana. Google Now. Alexa. Google Assistant. These are only the names of the most well-known digital assistants from the major technology companies; a search for “digital assistant” on the iOS or Android app store shows just how many different varieties of these voice-controlled AIs there are.

Digital assistants are overwhelmingly the medium through which we interact with voice search and carry out natural language queries, so it makes sense that they, too, are on the rise as companies compete for the biggest share of this rapidly expanding market.

The figures show just how recent much of this uptake of voice search is. Late last year, MindMeld published a study of smartphone users in the U.S. and their use of voice search and voice commands. It found that 60% of smartphone users who used voice search had begun using it within the past year, with 41% of survey respondents having only begun to use voice search in the past 6 months.

mindmeldImage: MindMeld

With that said, digital assistants are not just confined to smartphones any more, increasingly integrated into devices like smart home hubs and game consoles. And the more that we speak to and interact with assistants, pushing the limits of what they’re capable of, the more sophisticated they become.

The newest generation of digital assistants, including Google Assistant and Viv, a new AI from the creators of Siri, are capable of interpreting and responding to long, multi-part and highly specific queries. For example, during a public demonstration in New York, Viv showed off its ability to accurately respond to queries like, “Was it raining in Seattle three Thursdays ago?” and “Will it be warmer than 70 degrees near the Golden Gate Bridge after 5PM the day after tomorrow?”

At the demonstration of Google Assistant at Google’s I/O conference, Sundar Pichai made much of the fact that you can pose follow-up queries to Assistant without needing to restate context. That is, you can ask a question like, “Who directed the Revenant?” and then follow up by saying, “Show me his awards,” and Assistant will know that you are still referring to director Alejandro Iñárritu in the second query. (It’s worth noting, though, that Bing’s web search has been able to do this for a while).

follow-up
Continuing the conversation: Google’s Assistant can now handle follow-up questions to a previous query without needing to hear the subject again

How voice queries are changing search

So how is this upswing in voice queries and technology’s increasing ability to respond to them changing the way that users search?

We don’t search with voice the same way that we search with a keyboard. Computer users have evolved a specific set of habits and expectations for web search based on its limitations and capabilities. So we would start off by typing a quite generalised, keyword-based search query like “SEO tips”, see what comes back, and progressively narrow down through trial and error with longer search terms like “SEO tips for m-commerce” or “SEO tips for beginners”.

Or if we were looking to buy a pair of red shoes, we might search for “red shoes” and then navigate to a specific website, browse through their shoes and use the site interface to narrow down by style, size and designer.

Whereas now, with the advanced capabilities of search engines to understand longer, more specialised searches and the advent of voice search making natural language queries more common, we might start off by searching, “Quick SEO tips for complete beginners”, or, “Show me wide-fit ladies’ red shoes for under £50.”

voice vs keyword searchWe search differently with a keyboard to the way we search with voice

The increasing rise of voice search brings with it a wealth of new data on user intent, habits and preferences. From the first query about SEO, a site owner can see that the searcher is not just a novice but a complete novice, and is not looking to spend a lot of time researching in-depth SEO guides; they want a list that’s easy to digest and quick to implement.

From the second query, a shop owner can tell exactly what type of shoes the consumer is looking for, down to the fit and colour. The price range indicates a budget and an intent to buy.

When mobile users are conducting voice search with location enabled, site owners and business owners can also gain valuable location data. Often, the voice query will contain the important phrase “near me”, which shows that the searcher is looking for local businesses. Mobile voice searches are three times more likely to be local than text, so optimising for local search and mobile will also help you to rank for many voice searches.

A mobile screenshot of a Google search for "Marks and Spencer near me", showing the three-pack of local results below a small map of the area.

With the growth of voice search, we can expect to see more and more long-tail search keywords and natural language queries, which give increasing amounts of contextual information and useful data about searcher intent. The addition of voice assistants to smart home hubs like Amazon’s Echo and Google Home (Apple is also reported to be developing its own smart hub with Siri built in) will also give the companies behind them access to untold amounts of data on users’ daily life and habits, purchases, interests and more, opening up new avenues for marketing.

How can you capitalise on voice search?

With all of that in mind, what practical things can website owners do to take advantage of this new search frontier?

Look out for natural language queries in your site analytics

At the moment, there’s no way to tell outright which users are reaching your site through voice search, though Google is rumoured to be developing this feature for Google Analytics. But by looking out for natural language queries in your search traffic reports, you can start to get a feel for what users might be asking to find your site, learn from it and use it to inform your SEO strategy.

Think about how people are likely to phrase queries aloud

We need to start moving our approach from thinking of endless variations on different keywords to thinking about different types of questions and phrases that users might search. Ask yourself which questions might bring a user to your site, and how they will speak them aloud. What are the extra words, the ones that wouldn’t appear in a regular keyword search, and what information do they give you about the user’s intent on your site?

Make sure your site is set up to answer searchers’ questions

Once you’ve considered the types of questions a user might be asking, consider whether your site will satisfy those queries. Rob Kerry, in a presentation on the future of search at Ayima Insights, advised website owners to start integrating Q&A-style content into their sites in order to rank better for natural language searches and better satisfy the needs of users who are asking those questions.

Q&A-style content can also be excellent material for featured snippets, which is another great way to gain visibility on the search results page.

Develop content with a conversational tone

Because natural language queries reflect the way that people speak, they aren’t just longer but more colloquial. So consider if there are ways that you can create and incorporate content with a more conversational tone, to match this.

Use voice search!

One of the best ways to understand voice search, how it works and what kind of results it returns is to use it yourself. Search the questions you think might bring people to your site and see what currently ranks top, to get a sense of what works for others. Are there questions that aren’t being addressed, or answered very well? You can take this into account when creating content that is geared towards voice search.

Source: The continuing rise of voice search and how you can adapt to it | Search Engine Watch

03- Aug2016
Posted By: Guardian Owl
374 Views

7 e-commerce SEO trends we’re seeing in 2016

Few types of online business can benefit from SEO more than e-commerce websites that allow for direct consumer transactions. Not only can you secure more web traffic (and a larger stream of revenue), you can also optimize specific product pages to funnel traffic to your most profitable or popular pages.

But SEO (and e-commerce in general) is always evolving. New technologies, new insights and new best practices emerge on a regular basis, and the best e-commerce webmasters are jumping on these changes to stay ahead of the competition.

Below, I’ve compiled a list of seven important SEO trends in the e-commerce industry you should be paying attention to:

1. Out-of-the-box SEO is better than ever

SEO technology is developing just as quickly as the search engines that have inspired them. What do I mean by “SEO technology”? I mean the third-party apps, widgets and tools webmasters can use to optimize their sites and improve results — with minimal manual input required.

In fact, some “out of the box” solutions have emerged in the template web design industry, enabling webmasters to ensure the on-site optimization of their sites in just a few steps upon launch. WordPress plugins have also been around for a while that handle a good amount of on-site SEO automatically, such as Yoast SEO.

These products and developments are tempting, and in fact useful, but currently, there’s no solution that can automatically perform every on-site function. You’ll still need to customize things like your title tags, navigation, rich snippets and so on, if you want to see the best possible results.

2. Long-form content is crucial

Until recently, product pages on e-commerce sites were places for short-form content: a title, a brief description, a handful of photos and a few customer reviews. However, user demand and search engine favoritism have shifted toward long-form content in almost every niche.

Longer-form content provides more detail, more long-tail and conversational phrases (which lend themselves to more relevant search queries) and more market differentiation from the increased competition that has arisen in recent years.

I strongly encourage you to develop more long-form content on your company blog, describing your products and offering insights on your company, provided your topics support that length without unnecessary fluff.

3. Sharability is key

Social media has been popular for many years, but it’s still somehow escalating in importance. In a recent survey I conducted of 357 online marketers, What Works in Online Marketing, 52 percent of respondents said they are currently seeing a positive ROI from social media marketing, while 65 percent believe it will become even more important over the course of the next five years. Most notably, 96 percent of respondents said they planned to increase their budgets or keep them the same over the next year.

More users are signing up for high-popularity standbys like Facebook, and newer, cutting-edge platforms like Instagram and SnapChat are shaping up to be major hits for younger generations.

One of the best ways to generate more visibility and more primary and secondary ranking signals (like inbound links and social signals, respectively) is to encourage more social sharing throughout the shopping and checkout process.

Have your users share your products. Have them share reviews. Have them share when they check out or when their products arrive. Keep your audience engaged with social opportunities throughout your site, and your visibility across search engines and social media channels will thrive.

4. Video content is outperforming pretty much every other kind of content

As mobile devices, WiFi availability and video sharing capabilities become more advanced and prominent, users are demanding more video content. Video content can show up as rich media in search results (if it’s hosted on YouTube) and has more potential for virality than any other type of content.

In fact, if you aren’t using video content on your product pages and in your company blog, you’re already behind the times. Video content is only going to become more popular, so get moving.

5. Mobile optimization is now absolutely critical

The basics of mobile optimization were already solidified by Google’s Mobilegeddon update, but merely meeting Google’s thresholds for mobile optimization is no longer enough to stand out in the search world.

Mobile optimization is about offering the best possible content and functionality experience to mobile users, who grow in numbers compared to desktop users by the day.

Mobile optimization is also starting to include app optimization, which Google is favoring heavily with developments like app streaming — and one day soon, e-commerce platforms may need to develop their own mobile apps just to survive in terms of visibility.

6. Voice search and digital assistants are gaining popularity and usage

Just a few years ago, digital assistants seemed like useless gimmicks that failed to recognize voices accurately and provided less-than-stellar results even when they did. Now, more people are relying on voice search, and every major tech company seems to have their own digital assistant capable of extraordinary feats, including Siri, Alexa, Cortana and Google Now.

Savvy e-commerce marketers are beginning to capitalize on this trend, offering more colloquial phrasing, more optimization for long-tail phrases and more “rich answers” that digital assistants can provide directly.

7. Local results are becoming more prominent

Local SEO has undergone a handful of overhauls in the past few years, and it’s likely that new technologies (like wearable tech) will increase the importance of local results even further.

E-commerce companies often don’t think about a local strategy, since they operate on a national level and therefore want to target a larger national audience. However, pursuing a local strategy in addition can help e-commerce companies differentiate themselves from the competition and target a smaller, possibly more relevant niche that their competitors are deliberately trying to avoid.

There may be a clustering effect as more e-commerce companies begin to realize the benefits here, which is good motivation to get involved as early as possible.

Final thoughts

Keep an eye on these seven trends to ensure that your campaign remains relevant and visible in the modern era. Depending on your goals and how heavy a role SEO plays in your overall business growth, the suggestions above should take a high priority in your marketing spend.

That being said, these certainly aren’t the only trends I anticipate developing for e-commerce, and it’s hard to predict exactly what’s around the corner — so keep your campaign flexible, and always be on the lookout for the next breakthrough development.

For those managing search engine optimization for e-commerce websites, contributor Jayson DeMers has some advice for what to focus on to stay ahead of the competition.

Source: 7 e-commerce SEO trends we’re seeing in 2016

24- May2016
Posted By: Guardian Owl
348 Views

Companies Will Spend $65 Billion on SEO in 2016, Much of it Will Be Wasted

Entrepreneur magazine contributor, Mike Templeman, shares his thoughts on the SEO snake oil being solicited by top agencies and advertisers alike.  SEO takes time and like Mike references, there is no “overnight” fix or silver bullet that can take you to the top.

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Don’t get burned by a snake oil salesperson when it comes to your company’s SEO needs.Do you know what snake oil is? It’s a term used to describe any product with questionable or unverifiable quality or benefit. If you read this Wikipedia article on the topic, you’ll see that real oil from snakes used to be prescribed as a cure for everything from small cuts on up to arthritis and skin diseases.

And a recent study came out touting that companies will be spending $65 Billion on SEO this year.

Now, as the title to this article would imply, I believe that the SEO industry, and the digital marketing industry in general is full of snake oil salespeople. Individuals who knowingly are selling a product that either will not work for the buyer or that they know is of inferior quality.

Let me explain. I run a marketing agency. I have to hear dozens of horror stories every week about wasted budgets, sites damaged beyond repair, digital campaigns that produce zero results and everything else business owners and marketers are terrified of. These stories are the grownup versions of the campfire stories we told each other as children. Except now, they end in the loss of millions of dollars. Terrifying, I know.

Now, I mentioned that I run an agency, as such you’d think that we’d have a pretty good grasp on marketing. But you wouldn’t guess that if you looked at my spam folder. I receive hundreds, yes hundreds of unsolicited emails every day from marketers promising to take my brand to the #1 spot in Google (total lie). Or to bring me thousands of visitors in a matter of weeks (liar liar pants on fire). They tell me that my site is breaking numerous rules set forth by the search engines and if I don’t fix them my company will die a fiery death (oh really?).

Related: Here’s What Really Matters for SEO in 2016

These are the Exhibit A’s in the snake oil industry of digital marketing and SEO.

To see the Exhibit B’s you’ll need to reach out to an agency of your choice and ask to speak with their sales team. Odds are you’ll end up talking with someone that will guarantee that your wildest dreams will be fulfilled by focusing on SEO. Or maybe they’re a social media agency. If that’s the case, their silver bullet will undoubtedly be social media. Either way, they’ve got the tonic that will cure your website’s disease. And if you act now, you’ll be guaranteed results!

Look, as someone who has worked in SEO and every other digital medium for the last decade or so, I can tell you that there are no silver bullets and that nothing is guaranteed. I also know that SEO doesn’t work for some companies. Just like PPC isn’t for everyone, nor is social media. After all, billboards and commercials don’t work for every industry, so why would digital marketing be any different?

But let’s examine what makes a lot of SEO services snake oil and give you the information you’ll need to protect yourself.

Why is it snake oil?
Snake oil originated in the medical industry. It was used as a cure for ailments. It was easy for salespeople to pull the wool over they’re buyers’ eyes because back in the day, no one really knew what the heck was going on with their bodies. Medical information wasn’t as readily available. And since medical conditions are by nature quite scary, the sufferers were ready to believe anything that was thrown their way.

Well, guess what? The Internet is the new medical industry when it comes to snake oil. You see, the Internet is still not that old. It’s really only become prolific over the last 20 years or so. With that being the case, most people don’t understand the ins and outs of it. Yes, like a medical condition, they can tell when something is wrong. But they’re not really quite sure what the cause of the issue is. Enter the snake oil salespeople.

Whenever there are uninformed customers, there will always be predatory groups looking to take advantage of that situation. And with a 65 Billion dollar industry up for grabs, the streets are running wet with snake oil right now.

Related: 10 Questions to Ask When Hiring an SEO Consultant

What I’ve seen.
While some snake oils can be rather harmless, when it comes to your digital marketing snake oil is anything but. For instance, I wrote an article a few years back about a large company that was removed from the Google search results due to their digital marketing activities. They had some sloppy marketing being done and it ended up making them disappear from the search results. Harmless, right? Wrong. You see, this company relied heavily on their search results for new leads to their call center. This call center was staffed by dozens of people. These people had families, mortgages, and relied on that income.

Well, when the phones just stop ringing one morning, it’s going to be very hard for a company to keep employing an entire sales floor. And while the company did their best to avoid the inevitable, they eventually had to face the facts and they ended up laying off the entire department.

So this one company that unfortunately trusted a snake oil salesperson, ended up having to lay off almost 50 people at a time when the economy wasn’t doing so well. I’m sure there was a lot of financial pain felt by these families.

So, yes, snake oil SEO can be extremely dangerous in today’s digital economy.

How do business owners avoid getting burned?
This is probably the most important part of this article. As I mentioned earlier, the reason these groups are able to prey on consumers is because of the lack of information. To this end, you need to gird yourself with knowledge. Do research on the topic you’ll be discussing with your potential agency partners. Have talking points and specific questions that you’d like answered. By doing this, you’ll be able to avoid the bottom-of-the-barrel snake oil salespeople that can’t even face mild scrutiny.

Related: The Top 4 Reasons SEO Is Dead

Once you’ve weeded those ones out, you’ll want to really do your research on the agencies that have made the first cut. Check the background of the founders, look for third party reviews. Ask them for case studies, testimonials, and references. Do not look at a slick sales deck and assume that because they can put together a decent PowerPoint that they can provide you with proper marketing services. I’ve seen hundreds of dreams crushed on the expectations set by a nice sales presentation. Any group you don’t feel 100 percent comfortable with should be cut after this.

Now that you’ve made it to your third round of choices, you’ll want to watch what they produce for you very closely. Don’t accept an agency that does not give you full visibility into what they’re doing. I can’t tell you how often I see shoddy work being done, and the business owner would have been able to identify that work as being shoddy, but because they weren’t aware it was being done, they had no way of stopping it.

Because of this you’ll want to make sure that the group you’re working with is willing to show you everything they’re doing and will actually take the time to explain and train you on what they’re doing. After all, an informed client is the best kind of client.

And if you follow these steps, you’ll be assured that you’ve probably weeded out all of the snake oil salespeople and you’ll be working with a reputable agency. Now, this doesn’t guarantee that you will get great results. As I mentioned above, sometimes SEO isn’t a solution for all industries and sometimes marketing campaigns don’t result in massive successes. But those are the chances you should be willing to take. If you know you’re working with the right group that does things the right way, then you’re in it together. And the engagement should feel like a partnership, rather then a vendor relationship.

So, as you’re out there trying to spend your marketing dollars wisely, watch for those shady characters that are touting the magical properties of their services. Odds are, there’s a lot of snake oil in their pitch.

Source: Companies Will Spend $65 Billion on SEO in 2016, Much of it Will Be Wasted

21- Feb2016
Posted By: Guardian Owl
382 Views

Google AdWords Switching to 4 Ads on Top, None on Sidebar

It seems that Google is rolling out a change to Google AdWords that sees 4 ads at the top of the search results, none on the sidebar at all, and an additional 3 ads at the bottom of the search results.  This replaces the usual mix of top, bottom and sidebar-heavy AdWords ads, depending on the specific search result.

Many of the ads do have additional features like sitelinks, but it is hard to tell if those have increased or not.

It was huge news in December when Google began testing 4 ads at the top of the search results, and quite a controversial one for many.  While advertisers loved it, regular SEOs weren’t so happy since it pushed the organic search results even further down the page.

AdWords hasn’t confirmed it publicly yet, but multiple advertisers are confirming this is what their AdWords reps are telling them.

Dr. Pete Meyers from Moz is reporting their Mozcast data went from less than 0.1% of their tracked search results having 4 ads above the fold to 19% of them.

Which equals a 19,000% increase.

From AdWords:

And then they seemed to be taking a joke in stride while #ppcchat’ers were waiting for the official announcement (even though all evidence points to the change being made).

 

This isn’t a huge surprise when you really think of it.  Google has been bringing their search results closer to the mobile experience over the past year, and this definitely qualifies for it.

It also leaves more room for Google’s Product Listing Ads to show in the sidebar – they are still being run in the sidebar even with 4 ads above the fold. And it shows more PLAs since Google often shows two rows of PLAs in the sidebar while only one row at the top of the search results.  PLAs can still appear above the search results though.

Google Adwords switches to 4 ads top with pla

And also makes it available for other features such as the knowledge panel.

Some are saying the rollout is expected to complete by February 22nd, which is a few days from now.

We will update if/when AdWords confirms the changes.  But all evidence from what people are seeing in the search results currently is that most people worldwide are seeing this change to 4 ads on top, 3 on bottom but none at all on the sidebar.

Update from Google: A Google spokesperson reached out to The SEM Post with the following.

“We’ve been testing this layout for a long time, so some people might see it on a very small number of commercial queries. We’ll continue to make tweaks, but this is designed for highly commercial queries where the layout is able to provide more relevant results for people searching and better performance for advertisers.”

Update from Google #2: this change is global and impacts all languages. I asked for clarification on the commercial queries, and they are queries where people express a deep intention to buy.

Source: Google AdWords Switching to 4 Ads on Top, None on Sidebar

16- Feb2016
Posted By: Guardian Owl
534 Views

Guardian Owl D I G I T A L (@guardian_owl) • Instagram photos and videos

[G o o d] Morning #digital friends! Not sure where we’d be without ☕️????.#didyouknow Neurofuse, one of the most popular nootropic formulations out there, was originally developed by Harvard students looking to gain an academic edge but not interested in the risks associated with prescription products. They built a safe and effective formula and recently released it publicly. Read the full article —>http://nextshark.com/9-reasons-elite-entrepreneurs-are-using-study-pills-to-crush-work-1/ #google #instadaily#instapic #instagood #guardianowldigital #louisville #coffee #coffeeaddicts#me #love #energy #awake #business #women #girlboss #marketing#professional #life #goodmorning #googlepartners #louisvilledigital #tech #technology #entrepreneur #seo #sem

[G o o d] Morning #digital friends! Not sure where we'd be without ☕️?. #didyouknow Neurofuse, one of the most popular nootropic formulations out there, was originally developed by Harvard students looking to gain an academic edge but not interested in the risks associated with prescription products. They built a safe and effective formula and recently released it publicly. Read the full article —>http://nextshark.com/9-reasons-elite-entrepreneurs-are-using-study-pills-to-crush-work-1/ #google #instadaily #instapic #instagood #guardianowldigital #louisville #coffee #coffeeaddicts #me #love #energy #awake #business #women #girlboss #marketing #professional #life #goodmorning #googlepartners #louisvilledigital #tech #technology #entrepreneur #seo #sem #keurig

A photo posted by Guardian Owl D I G I T A L (@guardian_owl) on

09- Feb2016
Posted By: Guardian Owl
423 Views

Super Bowl Ads drove 7.5 incremental searches for Advertisers

Google stated that 82% of TV ad-driven searches during the Super Bowl occurred on mobile devices. This year, the ads drove 7.5 million incremental searches during the game which was a 40 percent higher lift than last year.

The winning Super Bowl Ad of 2016? Audi, “Commander” won the top spot.  Four of the top five ads driving lift in brand search were from automotive manufacturers: Audi, Acura, Honda and Kia.