Category: strategy

05- Aug2016
Posted By: Guardian Owl
489 Views

9 things most people don’t understand about SEO

New to the world of search engine optimization (SEO)? Columnist John Lincoln explains some things you might not know about this online marketing discipline.

woman-computer-annoyed-ss-1920SEO is a complicated discipline. There are many components to it, and best practices change from time to time. Add to that the fact that Google updates its algorithm frequently, causing ranking shifts that are known to make digital marketers lose sleep.

Additionally, Google often releases new technologies that offer alternative ways to rank. That makes the lives of SEOs even more complicated, as they have to overcome a learning curve to properly serve their clients.

One day, it might be easier to become a doctor than an SEO — kidding! (But not really… )

Even now, though, there’s a lot of misinformation (and missing information) about what it takes to rank a page in organic search results. Here are nine things most people don’t understand about SEO.

1. Bigger really is better, in most cases, for big terms

In some niches, Google favors larger sites.

If you’re launching an e-commerce site that sells men’s jeans, it’s not likely that you’re going to rank at the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs) for the search phrase, “men’s jeans.”

Why? Google “men’s jeans” right now and see who’s at the top.

Means Jeans - SEODisregard the sponsored ads, and you’ll notice names like Macy’s, Nordstrom, American Eagle, Levi, and Kohl’s. Do you really think you have the SEO power to knock any of those brands out of their position?

Spoiler: You don’t.

Google will generally favor brands that are household names over new startups when it comes to ranking. That’s because the search giant wants to provide the best possible experience for its users.

So does that mean all hope is lost if you’re running a new company that wants to sell men’s jeans online? Not at all.

First of all, you can optimize for your own brand name. That way, once you’ve got some reputation in your space, people can still find your site by searching for your name.

Also, you can run paid ads. They can put you at the top of the SERPs, but keep in mind that advertising can be costly. As of this writing, the suggested bid for “men’s jeans” is $2.09 per click, according to Keyword Planner, so your margins had better be spectacular.

You should also look for alternative keywords that you can use to promote your brand. You might come across some golden opportunities that even your biggest competitors haven’t noticed.

For example, you might be offering a specific style/color combination of men’s jeans. Optimize your site for a search term that includes that style and color.

2. Websites are broken up into segments

The reality is that you’re not trying to rank a site. You’re trying to rank pages within a site.

Unless you have a site that’s a just a single landing page, then ranking a page and a site aren’t the same thing. It’s more likely that you have various segments on your website, including a home page, a contact form, a blog, a categories page, a price table, an FAQ and possibly other parts. For example, if you take a look at the Levi’s website, they have a structure that breaks the site up into sections for Men, Women, Kids and so on.

Some of those segments are more valuable than others. For example, you’re probably not interested in ranking your contact form. However, you certainly want to rank the content on your blog. Focus on ranking pages that will reel in potential customers from the SERPs. Then, use your favorite method to capture their contact information and add them to your email list.

3. You might just need to rank for a few terms

You might think that to be successful in SEO, you have to rank for dozens of search terms in the top three positions. That’s not necessarily the case.

If you’re in a micro-niche or your target market is very narrow, it’s likely that you can get away with just ranking for one or two terms. For example, if you’re selling “disc profiles,” you are going to make most of your revenue from a few core terms.

Disc Profile ExampleThe main point here is that for some sites, ranking for lots of terms makes sense. For others, you can make great money just targeting a few core terms.

4. Content marketing is very competitive

You’ve probably heard “content is king.” Unfortunately, so has everybody else in your niche.

That’s why you need to be at the top of your game when it comes to inbound marketing. Invest the right amount of time and money into keyword research, hire the best writers, update your blog consistently, and pull out all the stops to create attention-grabbing headlines with amazing content.

I recommend using BuzzSumo and Moz Content. Both allow you to analyze a site’s content, uncover their strategies, track the new content they create and search the most popular content. Both create some pretty nice reports, too.

Take a look at your competition — then make a better page for your site.

5. Early adoption pays off

As we’ve seen, Google is known to release new technologies from time to time. Some of those technologies can help you rank in the SERPs.

That’s why you should be an early adopter.

For starters, take a look at accelerated mobile pages (AMP). That’s an open-source project backed by Google that enables webpages to load lightning-fast on a mobile platform. AMP pages can appear at the very top of mobile search results in carousel format. You can see a visual of this in the video below:

Video Player

 

Speaking of mobile, make sure that your site is fully mobile-friendly. Google uses mobile-friendlinessas a ranking factor for mobile search results, so if you expect your site to rank there, it had better behave well for a mobile audience.

Finally, be an early adopter when it comes to using HTTPS on your website instead of HTTP. Even though Google announced back in 2014 that it was giving secure sites a ranking boost, a lot of sites have still stubbornly refused to make the switch. If you want to potentially have an edge on your competition, use HTTPS.

When it comes to SEO, you need to be the first to market with new technology. These are just a few examples. It takes time to plan, develop and execute, so it is always a good idea to start when the news of new tech breaks.

6. SEO can be used to target different global markets

Did you know that you can rank your site in different countries? If your product or service is something that can be appreciated by people outside the United States, you should optimize your site for an international audience.

One way to do that is by offering a country-specific domain — for example, if you’re targeting people in France, you can use the country-code top-level domain (ccTLD) of .fr. You can also host separate content for each different country on a directory or a subdomain.

When targeting other markets, don’t forget to translate your content into the appropriate foreign languages. After all, you can’t expect your content marketing efforts to be successful if people in foreign countries can’t read your articles in their native language.

You should also register your business in foreign countries, list your business in web directories specific to those countries, and even have your site hosted in those regions.

Here is a client we recently pushed into 27 different countries and languages. Check out this growth in Italy alone.

SEM Rush Italy

7. There are lots of ways to be visible in Google results

You might be under the impression that the only way to rank in Google is by building backlinks and using on-site SEO so that a page ends up as high in the SERPs as possible. However, there are other ways to gain visibility and visitors from the SERPs.

For example, if you can get into Google’s Knowledge Graph, your brand can potentially earn a prominent spot at the top of the SERP, to the right of organic listings. It’s quite an effort to get a Knowledge Graph entry, but once you do, you could give your brand a big boost.

You can also stand out from the crowd by using structured data markup to display rich snippets, which are visual enhancements to a SERP listing. Structured data markup is added to your website code to provide Google with more information about the content on your site.

If you Google “best pancake recipe” right now, you’ll see results that include aggregate ratings in the form of stars. You’ll also see calorie counts. Those are rich snippets, and they make the listing in the SERPs stand out.

By the way, you’ll also see that there’s a direct answer at the very top of many search engine results pages. That’s another way that you can achieve search visibility: by establishing your site as an authority in your space and producing content that Google determines to be a quick answer to a user’s query.

If you have a brick-and-mortar business, you can also rank within the local 3-pack. If you Google the name of your city plus the word “plumber,” you’ll see a map below the paid ads at the top. Just below that map, you’ll see three listings in your area. (To get started with local SEO, check out Marcus Miller’s “The big picture guide to local SEO: ranking in 2016 & beyond.”)

As discussed above, publishers can rank by appearing at the top of the mobile SERPs when they implement accelerated mobile pages (AMP).

Here is a list of common result types that appear in Google’s blended search results pages:

  • Organic listings
  • Knowledge Graph cards
  • The local 3-pack
  • Instant answers (also known as “featured snippets”)
  • AMP carousel
  • Google Images
  • Google Videos
  • Google News

SEMrush and many of the other SEO ranking tools actually report on these varying result types now, which is great.

SEM Rush ReportThe main point is, there’s more than one way to win.

8. There are many different specialties in SEO

Search engine optimization is a broad online marketing channel that includes a handful of niche disciplines. There are SEO practitioners who specialize in technical SEO, link building, content marketing, local SEO, international SEO and more.

And guess what? Each requires a different skill set.

Bottom line: You need to determine first how you want to rank a site and then select the appropriate campaign strategy.

9. There are other search engines besides Google

Sure, Google is the undisputed leader in web searches. That doesn’t mean that other search engines don’t exist and that people in your target market don’t use them.

The most obvious competitor to Google is Bing. That’s Microsoft’s search engine, and as of this writing, its share of search traffic is growing faster than Google’s.

And don’t forget about YouTube. Believe it or not, YouTube is the second-largest search engine in the world behind Google.

Of course, there’s also Amazon. You might think of Amazon as more of an e-commerce giant than a search engine. However, it’s the starting point for 44 percent of consumers searching for products.

When you’re optimizing your content assets, make sure that you take into account the broad spectrum of search engines that exist online. Where you choose to focus your optimization efforts will depend on your goals online.

There is a lot to know

What you don’t know can hurt you when it comes to SEO. Going forward, it’s important that you also keep up with the latest changes in SEO best practices — otherwise, your future optimization efforts might fall flat.

 

Source: 9 things most people don’t understand about SEO

05- Aug2016
Posted By: Guardian Owl
562 Views

The Effectiveness of Search – Search Engine Journal

How does your SEM strategy affect your bottom line? Let’s take a look at how search plays a role in your marketing goals on Search Engine Journal.

SEM is considered one of the most powerful marketing channels. But does SEM really help drive traffic to your site?

It’s a question many search marketers have heard from clients ?, especially since SEM is taking up a large chunk of marketing budgets.

With so much of our time being spent optimizing for user experience and so much of our work measured on conversions, SEM has become a major part of our marketing roadmap — a new way to optimize your brand without leaving your desk.

Understanding the success of your search campaigns is a must for any business looking to drive traffic to their website. To better understand the effectiveness of SEM, let’s look at the research.

In An Overcrowded Space, SEM Finds Your Niche

SEM’s effectiveness is dependent on how strategic you are in your roadmap.

When your tasks and goals are clearly defined, and you have a little wiggle room for experimentation, SEM will be a consistent lead generation for your business.

“Search engine marketing and search engine optimization are critically important to online businesses. You can spend every penny you have on a website, but it will all be for nothing if nobody knows your site is there.” — Marc Ostrofsky, Author of Get Rich Quick

Take a look at these case studies to investigate how SEM can be a lead generator.

Teri Merrit discusses how Marriott International used SEM and SEO to drive demand and customer engagement to book group meetings. By setting growth metrics and tracking the analytics, they exceeded their total booking revenue, received a high conversion rate of 14%, and increased online submissions by 84%.

In 2015, Seer Interactive had 76,587 incremental conversions on Bing Ads for all their clients. One of their clients generated $461,159 in revenue from just Bing Ads! I’m not surprised because Bing has seen a massive 35% click growth year over year.

No, this isn’t magic. It’s the work of a great SEM strategy. Some industry experts would argue that it isn’t SEM itself, but rather improvements from the business as a whole. As you can see from above, the proof is in the numbers.

Search Ads Drive In-Store Sales

For businesses who want to see in-store sales, search ads seem to work the best.

Consider case studies like this one from Century Novelty. Utilizing Bing Shopping Campaigns Century, Novelty saw an increase in revenue by 1237% and return on investment grew by 20%. This isn’t shocking, as 25% of clicks on Bing Network are queried only through Bing.

Or, look at this study from Pinterest and Oracle Data Cloud. Together, they measured in-store sales of 26 different Promoted Pin categories. The results? Promoted Pins drove five times more incremental in-store sales per impression.

And, of course, Facebook recently launched several new local advertising options. French retailer E.Leclerc tested a Local Awareness campaign, and they saw 12% of clicks on their Facebook ads were then followed by an in-store visit within a week.

Chobani even saw a 9% increase in sales by utilizing SEM and SEO on multiple search engines.

As you can see above, research has proven that a strategic approach to search ads can not only build awareness but improve your bottom line.

SEO + PPC Create SEM Harmony

It is beneficial for a business to combine the powerful forces of SEO and PPC together if you need to produce results at a faster rate.

The reason is that new SEO tactics take time; since you don’t know what to expect from your competitors or the SERPs, you are inclined to create an SEO strategy for long-term growth.

With a PPC strategy, you know what lies ahead. Growth and lead generation require less time.
The combined efforts of SEM creates benefits in other ways too; it’s best to start with an idea and experiment to see what works best in your niche.

Let’s take a look at a few case studies:

  • Maryland Tub & Tile partnered with G3 Group to restructure their PPC campaigns and overhaul their SEO strategy. The combination of paid search and organic resulted in 325% increase in traffic.
  • Hedges & Company saw a 30% increase in sales from organic traffic and a 68% increase in PPC traffic with an automotive client.
  • Through targeting more relevant keyword terms, A/B testing, and creating content that attracts links, Digital Third Coast increased organic conversions by 49.4% and gained 851 view-through remarketing conversions for Olivet Nazarene University.

The SEM strategy you create impacts the overall goals of the business. When deciding what tactics will fill your marketing calendar, be specific; test until you discover what is most effective for your brand.

Image Credits:

Featured Image: Image by pressmaster/depositphotos

Source: The Effectiveness of Search – Search Engine Journal

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

22- Feb2016
Posted By: Guardian Owl
181 Views

Show Me The Money: Following The PPC Keywords That Make Dollars & Sense

Structuring campaigns based on personas is can effective, but what happens when you have keyword overlap that dilutes your messaging?

Keywords and search queries can mean different things to different people. That’s where intent comes in. You might, for example, have one keyword that serves multiple personas.

So the work that you need to do to qualify those leads in a PPC environment typically happens at the ad creative and landing page level, not necessarily with the PPC campaign structure.

My agency recently inherited a PPC account that was building campaigns based on personas, and the strategy didn’t prove itself. (By the way, if you’re interested in the cabinet of curiosities we discovered when we got into the account, check out my column from last month.)

Using this account as a case study, I’ll share with you some important lessons on understanding keywords, what to do when they serve more than one audience type in PPC and what results you can see when you reorganize based on the moneymakers.

The Situation: Misguided Campaign Structure

The business in question runs on licensing and continuing education for a particular industry. So the company wanted to target two distinct personas based on those two different groups.

The previous PPC account managers had separated the campaign structure based on audience personas: continuing education seekers and new licensees.

That sounds okay at the outset, except the keywords that were in the continuing education campaign were some of the same keywords that were in the new licenses campaign — and frankly, any of them could cater to either audience.

Here’s an example of how it was structured:

Continuing Education Campaign
dog walking continuing ed
dog walking renewals
dog walking licensing

New Licenses Campaign
dog walking licenses
dog walking courses
dog walking license tests

For the continuing education ads, searchers landed on a page that catered to that side of the business, and for the new license ads, they landed on a page with info specific to that.

But the thing is, it was a crap shoot. Any new licensee or a person seeking continuing education could come in via “dog walking courses,” for example.

adwords-mockupSo in the off chance they did convert on a particular landing page, in my opinion, it was pure luck.

The Fix: Follow The Money

When we dug into the account, we rolled up our sleeves; we had work to do. And we did what we always do: Follow the keywords that are making the business money.

The client was at first hesitant and wanted to continue the way they had been: campaigns based on personas. (We did get past that.)

Once we restructured the campaigns with the keywords that drove traffic and conversions, we refocused the ad creative and the landing pages (our messaging strategy catered to both possible personas), and let those do the work of qualifying the personas:

qualifying-landing-page

The Results: 123% Lift In Revenue

With a little love, the account experienced a huge lift in conversion rates, transactions and revenue for the client year over year. We suspect this will only get better, as we are still testing our strategy and adjusting it as we go.

yoy-progress

[Click to enlarge]

From the report, we see:

  • A 39-percent lift in conversion rates.
  • An 84-percent lift in transactions.
  • A 123-percent lift in revenue coming from PPC.

The moral of the story is this: PPC managers and online advertisers need to do the work to understand the intent behind the keywords, and then work that insight into various steps in the funnel.

That starts with ensuring the account structure is sound, following the keywords that are showing the most ROI, and then using marketing insights to make the ad messaging and landing pages guide the audience down the path to conversion.

Source: Show Me The Money: Following The PPC Keywords That Make Dollars & Sense