Search engine optimization (SEO) is a fairly forgiving online marketing discipline. It’s a long-term strategy, so if you make one mistake, you’ll usually have plenty of time to correct it.
However, there are some important lessons every SEO practitioner must learn early on.
1. Don’t try to outsmart Google.
First, understand that you’re never going to outsmart Google. SEO is about understanding Google’s algorithm and working within it to provide better content for your visitors and, hopefully, earn higher organic search rankings in the process. If you try to find loopholes in that algorithm, or rely on “black hat” tactics to inch your way up the rankings, it’s only going to work against you in the long run.Too many newcomers believe they can get away with tactics like spamming links or stuffing keywords, but it never works for long; Google’s quality indicators have always been good, and they keep getting better, which means even if you get away with a tactic now, you probably won’t get away with it later – and you may find your website with an algorithmic or manual ranking penaltythat can be exceptionally difficult to recover from.
2. The same strategy won’t work for everyone.
Let’s say you’re working with a single client, and you have everything in order. You’ve picked the right keywords, you’ve developed great content, and you’ve built great links to see fast growth. Now you acquire a new client, with a different brand and a different audience. Do you use the same strategy?
It’s tempting for SEO newcomers to copy and paste the same approach, but this is inadvisable; your clients (or employers) will have different goals with their SEO campaigns, different competitors, keywords, and other variables, and may respond to different variables in strikingly different ways. Learn from your past strategies, and use elements from them in your new campaigns, but avoid trying to replicate any strategy in its entirety.
3. You have to change how you talk about SEO.
The more familiar you become with SEO, the deeper your technical knowledge will become. You’ll have an internal dialogue (or a dialogue with your peers) that freely uses terms like “robots.txt” or “meta data” like everyone knows what you’re talking about. But when you report your results to a client, or a boss who doesn’t understand the technical side, you’ll have to learn to talk about these technical factors in a way that makes sense to a non-SEO-expert.
Spend some time preparing to talk in this other level of language.
4. People don’t always search the way you expect.
When you start brainstorming keyword ideas, it’s a good idea to put yourself in the mind of the average searcher, imagining what words and phrases they might use to find a brand like yours. You may also use keyword research data to indicate which keywords are potentially most valuable for your brand. These are sound strategies, helping you both quantitatively and qualitatively predict how your users might search in the future.
But you should know that users don’t always search the way you’d expect them to; prepare to be surprised, and to adjust your campaign as you learn what your users are really searching for.
5. Only trust what you can measure.
You may think you have an amazing piece of written content, but how much traffic is it attracting? How many comments has it encouraged? You may think you’ve built a high-quality link, but how is it impacting your domain authority? How much referral traffic are you getting from it?
Even though you might feel like you’re developing an instinct for how campaigns develop (especially in the later stages of your career), it’s better to only trust what you can objectively measure.
6. Audit and reevaluate everything periodically.
Just because a strategy worked for you last year doesn’t mean it will this year. Things change too quickly, from the nature of the algorithm that drives how Google search works to the consumer preferences that drive search patterns. Accordingly, you’ll need to regularly reevaluate your tactics, determining whether they’re still worthwhile and finding opportunities to improve. I recommend doing a full sweep of your approach annually.
Monthly check-ins, when you report on results, are also a good idea, to spot high-level issues or successes in time to respond quickly to them.
7. Reading and talking is the only way to stay up-to-date in this fast-moving industry.
Remember what I said about things always changing? Early in your career, you’ll learn that to stay relevant, you need to plug yourself into the community. You’ll need to read relevant publications, and talk to other people like you on a regular basis if you want to stay relevant and up-to-date with the latest strategies. If nothing else, you’ll get helpful tips—and proactive words of warning if you’re taking the wrong approach.Are you familiar with these SEO principles? Good. You’re going to need them if you want to be successful. Though you’ll have many years to correct your behavior and accumulate assets like content and links to improve your campaign, if your underlying SEO philosophies are out of order, you may never achieve your true potential as an SEO ninja.
Keyword research is an integral part of any search engine optimization strategy – and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune.
Keyword research takes up a significant chunk of time, and this is the case for many marketers, website owners and content creators. But it is something that has been expanding outward toward small and medium business owners as well, as having a fully optimized website is a necessity in running a company with any kind of online presence.
In the past, it was a matter of putting in the leg work – often for hours a day – to find the best keyword strategy. Today it is much simpler as more tools have been developed to make the job much faster and easier than ever before. Unfortunately, many of those tools are costly and over budget for anyone but enterprise level brands.
To keep things more affordable you can use alternative tools – often several to compensate – that are low cost, or even completely free. Here are some keyword research tools that you won’t believe don’t cost a cent.
Ubersuggest can be used for both content research (and to help surpass any idea blocks) and keyword research tool. By entering a phrase or keyword, choosing the medium (i.e. web, images, Yahoo) and language preference, the platform will give you a list of related searches, along with search volume, CPC, and rate of competition by percentage.
For example, searching for “content marketing” gives 913 results with an overall volume of 18,100, a CPC of $23.25, and a competition rate of 0.58. Scrolling down gives you a breakdown of all the variants and how that changes, such as “affiliate ads” having a volume of 140, CPC of $4.70, and a competition rate of 0.36.
The tool requires no login and, unlike Keyword Planner (which shows a range), it shows the actual search volume and competition level.
Everyone knows about Google Keyword Planner and probably uses it, as it is the most accurate keyword tool on the web if your aim is to target Google search.
However, you may not have heard about Google Correlate, which is a very helpful and effective tool that works by taking searches and correlating them with trends happening both on the web and out in the real world. It establishes patterns that you might have never realized existed, and even lets you compare based on time period – both long and short term.
Do you want to know what is popular on all major search engines, and not just Google? Keyword.Guru is a great tool that takes live searches and lets you know the moment you start typing what suggestions it has, so you can see what people are searching for at any given time.
There aren’t any real metrics, but not everyone likes to deal with numbers. This tool is less technical than some, but more accessible if you just want to see what searches are most common without all the associated information, which can be overwhelming to even seasoned keyword researchers.
Google, Bing, Yahoo, Amazon, Wikipedia, and YouTube: what do they have in common? Soovlecovers all of them, which makes it easier to get a good grasp of what is going on through multiple channels.
Being able to search YouTube for video content, Wikipedia for educational articles, and Amazon for sales info is especially helpful for getting a broader glimpse of the current state of search on the web. Soovle doesn’t generate any numbers for each keyword, but lets you quickly get a general idea of what interests your audience across a range of channels.
Akin to Keyword.Guru, it does it on the same page and with live search updates.
Bulk Keyword Suggest Tool
Bulk Keyword Suggest Tool allows you to dig into auto-suggest results from Bing, Amazon and YouTube. It was created by SEOchat and uses core terms to build a wider circle of phrases for use.
It is simple to use, easy to read and very fast to search. You can run a second or third bulk suggest and compare, then export your results or only specific ones based on how you click.
Bonus: Awesome freemium tools
Serpstat is a growth-hacking tool, and an effective at that. It has paid versions starting at $19 per month, allowing you to graduate to new levels as your business grows. However, there is also a free version that works with different iterations of Google based on country.
Serpstat calculates keyword difficulty for each search query, shows “special elements” (which inform us on search intent) and social media domains ranking for each term, and offers advanced filters to dig deep into each keyword list. It is also one of the few tools that also works on Yandex.
The graphs that are generated are simple bar graphs that effectively break things down and make it easy to understand at a glance.
WordStream has a freemium model and its full featured tool is around $260 per month with a discount option to pay annually. However, it also has a free, limited version that I like to use because it allows you to specify industry if you wish.
That makes it a little bit easier if the key phrase you are working with it more general and could apply to unrelated fields. You can also specify based on country, which is great if you don’t want to automatically target a US audience (something that many tools do since it is the largest Google market).
Do you have a tool you feel deserves to be on this list? Let us know in the comments.
In today’s rapidly changing digital world, SEO techniques can change with the direction of the wind. Tricks that won you a front-page position two years ago may be useless now.
In order to drive a digital marketing campaign to success, it is vital to understand the importance of SEO. When used properly, SEO facilitates in increasing traffic to your site, engagements, as well as conversions.
Key metrics to assess your content marketing success
Here are three SEO techniques that you must master this year to ensure your content gets seen.
High-quality content is key
Though the marketing buzzphrase “content is king” often leads to a wave of eye-rolls, when it comes to SEA the quality of your content really is vital.
When creating your content, it is important to think like Google. With the search engine goliath constantly making efforts to enhance their search results, you must ensure you’re providing searchers with good quality, informative, interesting, and entertaining content.
Google’s ranking algorithm has shifted towards user intent, so you must ask yourself- does your content fulfill the reader’s needs, or leave them having to look elsewhere?
Good quality content goes beyond a blog post. Less “traditional” content such as videos, infographics, images, and more have been shown to engage readers at a far higher level and is more shareable. This shareability factor is also a powerful way to build backlinks.
Tip: In order to provide consumers with what they really want, try finding out where your audience are on social media via groups and hashtags, and from this join the conversation. Ask for suggestions about topics to talk about. Additionally, creating a blog post on “frequently asked questions” will increase your SEO by showing Google that you are answering the questions of consumers.
The importance of link building
Link building is the process of acquiring hyperlinks from other websites to your own and is a technique that you should perfect in order to improve your SEO.
Previously, backlinks were mainly about quantity, but now the effectiveness of backlinks is about the quality of the content which they lead to.
The theory behind this technique is that when another website links to yours, they are basically saying that it is a good resource. This is a strong signal of the quality of a page and is much like making a recommendation to a good restaurant.A few high-quality backlinks will do well in helping your website climb the SEO rank.
Tips: Reach out to bloggers in your industry to link back to your content, for instance, by providing them with infographics, images, etc. Also, ensure you include strong internal links, report broken links, produce high-quality content. This will all help to increase the visibility of your site and increase traffic.
Make your content mobile-friendly
Today, more searches are conducted on mobile devices rather than from desktop. As a result, it is vital to ensure your SEO targets mobile platforms as well in order to reach success.
A responsive design is essential in order to attract and retain visitors to your site who are so reliant on mobile to find information. It’s also integral to the user experience you provide.
Not getting it right on the mobile screen isn’t an option, especially for businesses that deal with consumers directly. How’ll they impulse shop if you make them wait to surf through your site?
Tip: Ensuring that your mobile-website is speedy, works on all mobile devices, has key information easy to access, and offers a variety of content formats is all vital to increase your SEO ranking.
We’re finally here. Set up one ad with multiple headlines and a couple of descriptions, and Google will start testing combinations dynamically to serve the combination deemed most likely to achieve the advertiser’s stated goal. Oh, and get more real estate than a standard text ad for giving the new machine learning option a go.
Google’s new responsive search ads are now in beta in AdWords, though not available to all advertisers yet.
They are part of the continuum to let machine learning models do the work of ad creative optimization. Some of the initiatives that have come before it: dynamic search ads, automated ad suggestions (formerly known as Ads Added by Google) and Google’s efforts over the past year to get advertisers to give up manual A/B testing and add at least three ads per ad group. This is the same concept, just more automated. And, of course, there’s the push to automated ad rotation optimization.
The argument for having multiple ad options is that your ad groups will have opportunities to compete in more auctions when there are more options for the keywords to trigger your ads. It also requires relinquishing more control to the machines, which can give those devoted to strictly controlling their ad tests agita. But responsive text ads are just one more indication that the days of manual A/B testing are coming to an end, and fast.
Need an incentive to try them? Google’s giving responsive search ads more character real estate than expanded text ads.
- Show up to three headlines instead of two.
- Show up to two 90-character descriptions instead of one 80-character description.
Writing ad combinations and ‘pinning’
Advertisers can set up as many as 15 headlines and four descriptions in a responsive search ad. The other fields are the same as expanded text ads.
The extra lines and automated order mean you’ll need to think through all the various combination scenarios. Google suggests writing your first three headlines as if they’ll appear together (in whatever order) in the ad.
Try to make the headlines distinct from each other, spotlighting different features, benefits, offers, calls to action and so on.
The best practice for responsive text ads — writing headlines that are relevant to the keywords in the ad group and including at least one of the keywords in your ad group in the headlines — remains valid.
There is an option to “pin” headlines and descriptions to specific positions. This will be particularly helpful for advertisers in sensitive categories that require disclaimers, for example. Keep in mind that if you pin just one headline or description to a position, that will be the only thing allowed to show in that spot. It’s possible to pin a few headlines or descriptions to a position to provide more flexibility in the dynamic matching.
To see reporting metrics on responsive search ads, create a filter for them in the ad type column then download the report or open it in Report Editor.
While they’re in beta, advertisers will only be able to add responsive search ads to ad groups with existing ads. You can find more details on the AdWords support page.
With increasing online competition, pay-per-click (PPC) is becoming a critical way to get your content in front of your potential customers.
With increasing online competition, pay-per-click (PPC) is becoming a critical way to get your content in front of your potential customers.
One pay-per-click program is called Google AdWords.
AdWords is an online advertising service where advertisers pay to display brief advertising copy, product listings and video content within the Google ad network to web users.
Here are three myths that may be keeping marketers from implementing successful AdWords campaign.
Myth #1: People don’t click on Google ads
Google is a publicly traded company—anyone can access their financial records that tell the story.
Google generates more than $100M in revenue every single day from people clicking on their ads. With an average cost per click between $1 and $2 that’s more than 50M clicks/day.
Google experiments constantly to make their ads entice more enticing.
They’re not going to present you with a free, organic result at the top of the search engine results page when they could showcase several ads that generate revenue. Start paying attention: The first few line items at the top of every search is an ad.
One more thing: Think about your own behavior
When you see an ad that entices you, do you click on it? Of course you do!
Smart companies are using remarketing efforts that identify customer tastes to present you with items that you may have been looking at earlier in the day.
They may serve up similar items or those by the same designer or manufacturer. I shop almost entirely online, and I’m fascinated by remarketing, which illustrates how marketing has gotten smarter.
Myth #2: My competitors can just click on my ads all day, costing me money
Google has extremely sophisticated technology to prevent “click fraud” and “invalid clicks.” This involves the analysis of several click-pattern factors.
Google provides very good reports on AdWords campaign performance, and any suspicious activity is quickly exposed. If a business is concerned they are victims of click fraud, they can contact Google directly to launch an investigation. Google reimburses questionable clicks.
Myth #3: AdWords is an outbound marketing tactic
AdWords is designed to showcase your content when potential customers are initiating a Google search. It’s the only inbound marketing tactic that guarantees your content will rank high on Google when a user performs a search. This is one very attractive reason to be using Google as your PPC platform. The sheer number of Google searches/day makes you part of this community.
PPC delivers a better user experience for the searcher
Think of the information you provide when you set up your Google account. This all becomes part of a huge database, and databased information makes it searchable.
Because of this information, when you create a Google ad, you are able to drill down by location, demographics, interests, etc.
This is not specific just to Google—Facebook, Linkedin and other social channels also provide rich search preferences.
Integrating AdWords with your inbound marketing strategy
Along with your existing content marketing and SEO (search engine optimization) efforts, PPC is becoming a critical component of an inbound marketing strategy.
Search Engine Optimization strategy is one of the toughest to plan and manage for most marketers. With regular algorithm updates from search engines which can drastically impact your rankings, you have to continually spruce up your SEO plans.
Yet, there are certain SEO pillars that have stood the test of updates and have stayed at the center of most of the SEO approaches.
Read ahead for golden SEO tips:
1. Focus on a Primary Topic: Make your website about one topic. Well! there can be other topics too, but choosing a central theme is a good SEO strategy. Research for a relevant ‘Keyword’ or ‘Search Phrase’ related to your theme and use this keyword across your content to show up better in search results. You can use Google Keyword Planner to discover keywords and keyword trends.
2. Content is still the King: Prioritize readers over Search Engines- Choosing keywords doesn’t mean you can sprinkle them liberally across your content. Yes, keywords used to drive search results but now Google penalizes badly written, keyword-stuffed content. So Beware!
Create amazing and engaging content that is written keeping in mind what your readers would like to read. The key is to create stuff that is unique and better than the rest.
3. Keywords at strategic positions: Titles and Headers- Use your keywords where they matter the most.
You can organize your articles or posts with Titles, Headers, and Sub Headers – let these be as close to the topic you are writing about. This way of organizing serves as a flag for your readers when they are sifting through the pages and also tells search-engines what the post is about.
4. Readable and meaningful URL: Keywords in URL
Ok! which URL would you have preferred to click?
The second option clearly indicates what this link is all about. Not that, the first option won’t work but the URL with the relevant keyword will help guide both the user as well as the search engine algorithm.
SEO Tip: URLs should be simple, easy to understand and easy to type.
5. Optimization of images: Use of alt-tag Image name and Image Tag are both important for users as well as SEO. It is easier for the user as well as the search algorithms to search for images that have a name in it.
Use relevant keywords(names) in image name as well as image alt-tag. Image alt-tag is a text designated to an image on a website, which appears if the image fails to load for some reason.
So instead of naming your image as 1211.jpeg, name it as littleBlackDress.jpeg for it to rank higher in search results.
6. Internal and Inbound Links It’s good to talk about the good content you have produced. -Link to your best content from other pages of your website. Tell readers about what interests them is available on your website.
Links from other sites is a ‘vote’ for your site. Google relies heavily on external links to determine the ‘goodness’ of your page. Produce superb content by researching and investing time on your posts.
You can also encourage other websites to link to you and do some ‘link building’ to get links to your page.
7. Site Speed is important: Slow loading website is a bad user experience and can frustrate the user and increase your bounce rates. eConsultancy says “40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load.”.
In 2010 Google included Site Speed as a vital ranking factor so get rid of non-essential items like large images, flash graphics, unessential widgets, music players, plugins you don’t need, etc.
8. Consistent and Fresh Updates: This is a no-brainer. Sites that are updated frequently rank higher on search engines. That doesn’t mean you roll out content too frequently. But you need to be consistent and disciplined with your updates, squeezing in topics that need immediate attention. Produce fresh, unique and valuable content.
9. Link to external content: It might appear to be a bad SEO strategy to link out to other pages as it takes people off your page. But linking to relevant content is a smart SEO move. If done sparingly and if done well it provides value to your readers and tells search engines that you are trusted authority on a niche topic.
Moreover, you can reach out to the owner of the page/post you link out to, and if they find your content interesting they can link back to you. Link-building is a critical strategy for SEO.
10. Meta descriptions for every page: Optimizing meta description is crucial for SEO. Meta description doesn’t have a direct impact on rankings but a well-written meta description supports your page title, informs users what your page is about and encourages them to click.
Since different pages will talk about different topics you should have a unique meta description for every page.
A Meta description is more for the users than for search engines. Users can pick the most relevant result for their query with a well-crafted meta description and increase chances of your page getting clicked.
Lastly, a good SEO approach is to always keep users in mind. Creating valuable content for your readers will take you miles ahead and help you generate significant traffic. Stay ahead of your competitors and rank ahead in the SEO game with these tips!
Source: Top 10 Evergreen SEO Tips
Whether paid or organic, when it comes to search marketing, keywords are king.
Good keyword research is at the heart of any successful search marketing campaign, so it pays to get it right from the get-go.
Good keyword research, however, isn’t just about search volume, competition level, suggested bids or any of the other metrics you see in a keyword research tool like Google’s keyword planner.
While all of these metrics are helpful, the most important trait of any keyword is the intent behind it.
From a data perspective, a keyword can look like a perfect fit, but if most of the searches related to a term aren’t related to your business, that keyword probably isn’t worth your time or money.
Unfortunately, Google’s keyword planner doesn’t tell you a lot about the intent behind a keyword. But that doesn’t mean you have to guess. Google can still tell you a lot about the intent behind a keyword; you just have to know where to look.
In this article, we’ll take a look at why intent is such an important part of keyword research, how to get at the intent behind a keyword and ways to use intent to guide your search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimization (SEO) keyword strategies.
To begin, let’s start by taking a look at how the intent behind a keyword can affect your SEM and SEO efforts.
Intent and SEM
The easiest way to demonstrate the importance of intent in search marketing is to look at a search engine marketing example.
Why? With SEM, you pay for every click, so if you’re targeting the wrong intent, you can waste a lot of money… fast!
For example, one of my company’s clients offers business translation services (documents, international deals and so on). During our initial audit of their accounts, I noticed something interesting: They were bidding on the keyword “translate.”
At first glance, this keyword seems to make sense. Their business is all about translation, so “translate” seems like a no-brainer keyword, especially when the keyword gets hundreds of millions of searches every month.
Not surprisingly, bidding on “translate” had won them a lot of clicks: $150,000 worth of clicks, to be precise.
This would have been great, except for one little thing: Those clicks didn’t turn into sales.
Despite the fact this keyword and many others looked relevant to their business and had great search volume, their SEM campaigns were a colossal waste of money. The intent behind their keywords was wrong.
While “translate” is a great match for what this business does, most people who use the word “translate” in an online search aren’t looking for business translation services. In other words, the keyword was right, but the intent was wrong, and the end result was $150,000 down the drain.
Intent and SEO
Intent isn’t just an SEM problem, though.
For example, someone in my company recently wrote an article focused on pay-per-click (PPC) tactics. It was a cheeky piece that used Wes Craven’s Freddie Krueger slasher film as a framework for discussing why different PPC branding tactics were so effective.
Almost overnight, traffic to our blog increased 497 percent. It was our first real blogging breakthrough!
Which would have been great… except that no one was converting.
Our traffic wasn’t finding us because they were not searching for things like “PPC branding” or “branding tactics,” they were searching for “freddy krueger tactics.”
Somehow, we had ended up as the #1 article for “freddy krueger tactics,” and we were getting hundreds of clicks a day from fans of the knife-fingered serial killer.
Our content was targeted on the right keywords, but the intent we were targeting was wrong, horribly wrong.
Bad traffic is bad news
Now, before you argue that free traffic is always good for your content, even if the intent is wrong, try searching on Google for “PPC branding tactics”:
Yes, our company article ranks #1, but it isn’t our Freddy Krueger article. Even after all those thousands of clicks, that article doesn’t rank on the first page for the keyword it was optimized for. In fact, it doesn’t even show up for this search.
Instead, the article that matches the intent behind the keyword “PPC branding tactics” is the one that ranks.
Wondering why? Because Google is dedicated to understanding intent. For Google’s algorithms, an article that gets a lot of clicks from people searching for “Freddy Krueger tactics” probably isn’t a good match for people who are searching for “PPC branding tactics,” even if that’s what the article is actually about.
Obviously, we didn’t write this article with the goal of dominating the keyword “Freddy Krueger tactics,” but the article was written to catch the eye of “Nightmare on Elm Street” fans, so we inadvertently ended up targeting the wrong intent and completely missing our target audience.
Whether it’s SEM or SEO, the intent behind your keywords has an enormous effect on the success of your marketing. This doesn’t mean that you can’t get clever with your content or ads, but if you want to succeed at search marketing, you need to match your marketing to the intent behind your keywords.
Figuring out intent
Fortunately, when it comes to intent, you don’t have to guess, Google has actually done a lot of the work for you!
Google is dedicated to understanding search intent. It has invested enormous resources into creating algorithms that can identify the intent behind a search and deliver the results you’re looking for. Instead of picking keywords that seem right and hoping for the best, why not use Google’s algorithms to identify the intent behind your keywords?
To show you how this works, let’s jump back up to our translation company example and take a look at the search results for “translate”:
First off, the fact that the first result is a giant Google Translate widget should be a big red flag.
If so many people type in “translate” because they want to quickly translate a word or phrase that Google has created a dedicated widget for meeting that need, that keyword probably isn’t one a business to business (B2B) translation business should be targeting.
Even if we ignore the widget, none of the first-page results are related in any way to business translation. Same goes for the second page of results.
In fact, translation services of any type don’t show up until the third page, and those translation services are for individuals, not businesses:
Now, I’m not saying Google is perfect at predicting or interpreting intent, but based on the results Google is showing here and 450 million other times a month, I’d wager that almost no one who types in “translate” is looking for a business translation service.
On the other hand, let’s take a look at what we get if we search for “business translation”:
First off, unlike the “translate” keyword, the first thing you see from this keyword is ads.
If you’re thinking about running SEM ads, that’s actually a good sign. Yes, it means you’ve got competition, but it also means that other companies think the intent is good enough to run their own ads on the keyword.
But let’s see what Google thinks people who search for “business translation” are after. Here are the organic search results:
The keyword “business translation” could imply a lot of different intents, ranging from educational intent (“what is business translation?”) to the actual desire to know what the word “business” is in another language.
However, from these business listings, it looks like Google thinks people who search for “business translation” are looking for a business translation service. This seems like a good intent to target.
Of course, the monthly search volume for “business translation” is several orders of magnitude lower than the search volume for “translate,” but it’s much better to get 100 conversions a month than 1 million clicks a month from the wrong traffic — especially when you’re paying for those clicks.
As a quick aside, if you want a real eye-opener, take a look at your search terms report and try typing in the searches your ads are showing up for. Your ads just might be showing up in some of the most unexpected places.
SEM vs. SEO: Targeting the right intent
While checking the search engine results page (SERP) for a keyword seems simple, in my experience, many search marketers, especially paid search marketers, never bother to look at what Google thinks is relevant content for a keyword.
That is unfortunate, because the wealth of insight Google offers can save you from wasting a ton of money and/or time on the wrong keywords.
Depending on whether you’re trying to pick the right keywords for an SEM or an SEO campaign, however, the “right” intent can mean very different things. Here are some things to keep in mind while picking SEM and SEO keywords:
- SEM keywords. SEM keywords are expensive. Every click costs you, so if you’re going to target a keyword in your SEM campaigns, you need to target keywords with high purchasing intent. So, if none of the first page search results for a potential keyword indicate purchasing intent (home pages of sales or lead-gen orientated sites, product pages, services pages and so on), it may not be a good SEM keyword. No matter how right a keyword seems, a SERP filled with links to forums, question and answer (Q&A) sites, blog posts, Wikipedia pages or other informational sites usually isn’t worth spending money on. People in information-gathering mode usually don’t want to buy right away, so paying to get them to your site or landing page is usually a waste of money. However, if the SERP is filled with links to businesses, especially competitors, you’ve probably just discovered a great candidate for your SEM campaigns.
- SEO keywords. SEO keywords, on the other hand, are fairly cheap. As long as the intent behind a search is relevant to your business (i.e., not “Freddy Krueger”), an SEO keyword doesn’t need to be particularly high-intent to be profitable. That is important, because ranking organically for high-intent keywords can often be difficult and time-consuming. With SEO keywords, it’s often a good idea to target a wide range of keywords that indicate an interest in what your business offers. Even if those keywords don’t translate into an immediate purchase, they help you build brand awareness with a relevant audience. So, if you type in a potential keyword and see a lot of blog posts, Q&A sites or forums that are discussing topics that are directly related to your core business offering, you’ve found a great keyword.
Creating content around those keywords will help put you in front of the right audience and will eventually improve your organic ranking for high purchasing-intent keywords. So it’s a double win!
Whether you’re trying to pick SEM keywords, SEO keywords or both, the key to successful search marketing is picking keywords with the right intent. No matter how much search volume a keyword might have, if those searches aren’t relevant to your business, they aren’t worth your time and/or money.
Fortunately, you don’t have to guess why people use certain keywords in their searches. By conducting those searches yourself and taking a hard look at the results, you can use Google’s algorithms to get at the general intent behind a given keyword.
I’ve been working in the search engine optimization (SEO) space for years, yet I’m still pleasantly surprised to learn new things about the industry. I’ll discover a new update, or witness a trick used by one of my colleagues, and rush to the drawing board to incorporate it into my running campaigns. SEO is truly an industry of constant evolution and discovery, so I try not to succumb to the illusion that I know everything about it.
But on the other hand, the fundamentals of SEO have remained more or less the same, despite two decades of progression. And, in part because people never bothered to learn how SEO really works and in part because of myths that are still circulated by uninformed writers, most people still don’t fully understand how those fundamentals work.
In my conversations with SEO newcomers (including some people radically opposed to the idea), I’ve discovered there are eight main points that most people get wrong about SEO:
- It’s a gimmick, trick, or scheme. The way some people talk about SEO, it’s natural to think it’s some kind of gimmick. It may have been presented to you as a sequence of tricks designed to get your site to rank above others in search results; but this is only partially true. The white-hat search optimizer isn’t trying to deceive Google’s search algorithm or game their way to the top. Instead, they’re trying to figure out what website features and content are most important to users (and search engines), and provide it to them. Most of the time, this results in organic, well-intentioned website improvements—not spam, hacks, or short-term tricks.
- Keyword rankings are all that matter. Yes, one of SEO’s biggest priorities is getting you ranked as high as possible in search engine results pages (SERPs), but this often leads to an error in prioritization, with marketers believing keyword rankings are all that matter. In fact, there are dozens of metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) you should be measuring to gauge your campaign’s success, and keyword rankings are only one of them.
- Google penalties are a major threat. The way some people write about Google penalties, you’d think they were handed out more often than speeding tickets. But the reality is, the most severe Google penalties are a result of a manual action—in response to truly egregious behavior that most webmasters know to stay away from. Automatic penalties, or temporary ranking drops, are more common but far less severe. If you follow best practices, you have nothing to worry about.
- The less you spend on SEO, the better. SEO is known for being a cost-effective strategy with a high return on investment (ROI). Accordingly, many newcomers think the best approach to SEO is to spend as little as possible to avoid risk and maximize long-term returns. However, low budgets often come with amateur work and minimal strategic execution; in many cases, it’s better to spend more on better services.
- SEO is too technically complex. It’s true that there are many technical components to SEO, and to a first-timer, things like robots.txt file editing and canonical tags can look intimidating. But even without coding experience, it’s possible to learn the basics of areas like these within a few hours. I maintain that SEO is highly learnable—so long as you’re dedicated to mastering it. And to help people learn it, I wrote SEO 101: A Guide for the Technically Challenged.
- SEO is easy. That said, I’ve also seen people on the other side of the fence, insisting that SEO is so simple anyone can do it without experience. That isn’t quite true either. You can learn many SEO concepts in an afternoon, but there are so many variables to remember and so many strategic directions you could take, it takes years of practice before you can consider yourself a master. And even then, you need to keep up with the latest industry changes if you want to stay relevant.
- Link building is spam. Link building can be spammy—if you execute it poorly or without strategic planning. But capable link builders know that the tactic isn’t about stamping your links on as many off-site pages as possible; it’s about creating relevant, valuable content that people want to read, and including natural, informative links within that content to boost your search relevance. If you’re doing link building right, you’ll be adding value to the web (and boosting your own domain authority as a fortunate side effect).
- The process is always the same. This is one of the biggest misconceptions I see; people seem to think the SEO process is always the same. They expect an SEO agency to use a reliable procedure, step by step, and get the same results for client B that they did for client A, within the same timeframe. But the truth is this is nearly impossible; SEO is an art as much as it is a science, and different clients will require different targeting strategies, execution methods, and investment levels to get comparable results.
If you’ve held any of these beliefs or assumptions, I can’t blame you; with so much content in circulation, and few opportunities to learn the basics of the strategy, it’s natural that you may have a skewed vision of how SEO really works. Of course, even if you do have a grasp of the fundamentals, there’s always something new to learn coming up around the bend.
Hopefully, this article has given you grounds to challenge one of your underlying assumptions, has taught you something new, or has sparked a renewed interest in SEO. There’s much to learn, even from a ground level, and plenty of time to learn it.
As Google has scaled up its Shopping products in recent years, there has been a growing consensus in the retail search marketing space that Shopping ads are one of the most effective ways to win valuable consumer clicks.
This is especially true of the non-branded, broader search terms that are typical of the early stages of the customer journey.
During this phase, Google Shopping ads – commonly referred to as Product Listing Ads, or PLAs – are considered to be a key means of engaging consumers early, and boosting new customer acquisition.
If the trends that we are currently seeing continue, 2018 will be a year of increased investment in Google Shopping ad formats across product-based search.
While text ads are still the most popular advertising format in many categories, retail-specific categories tell a very different story, with spend on Google Shopping ads far outstripping text ads in retail categories.
A new study by AI-powered search intelligence platform Adthena, analyzing 40 million search ads from more than 260,000 retailers, has shed light on the extent to which Google Shopping ads have come to dominate retail search marketing.
In this piece, we will look at some of the key findings from the report, explore the causes of Google Shopping’s phenomenal expansion, and consider what retailers can do to “future-proof” their search marketing strategy against upcoming shifts in the market.
Content produced in collaboration with Adthena.
The growth of Google Shopping
The Google Shopping ad unit has evolved considerably over the past few years, with increased attention and prominence afforded to Shopping ads in the search results page. This has resulted in a rise in clicks and impressions that has fueled the growth of Google Shopping ads in retail categories.
As of Q1 2018, Google Shopping ads are driving 76.4% of retail search ad spend in the US, and 82% of retail search ad spend in the UK – an overwhelming majority in both instances.
Adthena’s research found that in the US, this 76.4% of search spend was responsible for 85.3% of all clicks on AdWords or Google Shopping ads between January and February 2018. In the UK, the 82% of retail search ad spend invested in Google Shopping ads was responsible for 87.9% of clicks.
These figures confirm that Google Shopping ads are still offering good value to retailers in terms of spend/click ratio, and suggest that the value of Google Shopping ads has not (yet) reached saturation point, with room for growth in some key areas.
Mobile is one of these: according to Adthena’s research, although shopping ads on desktop generate a slightly greater share of clicks, Google Shopping ad spend on mobile now matches that of desktop, supporting evidence that mobile search is serving as a crucial touchpoint for product purchasing decisions.
Presently, Google Shopping ads on mobile are driving 79% of device ad spend in the US, and win 87.9% of clicks. With Google shifting more and more emphasis onto mobile search, this is likely to become an increasingly important area for retailers to invest in, and we may yet see these numbers grow further.
However, how much longer can Google Shopping continue its rise before the market eventually becomes saturated? To answer that, we need to understand what has fuelled Google Shopping’s dominance of the retail search market in the first place.
What is fueling Google Shopping’s retail dominance?
Ashley Fletcher, VP of Marketing at Adthena, believes that prominence and reach are the two key factors that have driven the rise of Google Shopping ads in retail search marketing.
Google’s introduction of a carousel for desktop Shopping ads in October 2016 was the first major change which gave increased prominence to Google Shopping ads. Since then, the ad unit has only developed further, with even more different formats for advertisers to benefit from.
“The unit has evolved both in terms of prominence on the page and in terms of ad features,” says Fletcher. “It’s also very rich in content – particularly on mobile – with multiple variants of the unit available to advertisers.”
In the US and the UK, the number of ads in the desktop carousel has even doubled as of February 2018 to surface 30 paid listings. This may go some way to explaining the particular dominance of Google Shopping ads in the US and UK – as we saw from the statistics in the previous section.
Then there’s reach: as Fletcher explains, in the past year, Google Shopping Ads have begun influencing users higher up the purchase funnel through far broader terms, appearing for much more generic product searches than before.
“In the last year, Shopping ads have started to trigger on a lot of the upper-funnel, generic terms – like “red dress”, or “black dress”. This is really driving users into a brand experience around those generics: it encourages the user to start drilling into those terms, and conduct longer-tail keyword searches off the back of that.
“These are very high-volume terms, keywords with a lot of traffic – so mastering that could be a challenge for search marketers, but you now need to be present at the top of that funnel, as well.”
While these developments have spurred a huge surge of growth in Google Shopping ads over the past two years, Fletcher believes this expansion won’t continue for long.
“In 2018, we’ll get closer to saturation point,” he says. “I don’t think there’s much room for further growth.
“Then I think we’ll get into the space we were in with text ads, where advertisers will be limited on spots, margins are going to be squeezed – meaning CPCs are going to increase – and it will come down to marginal gains: how can you optimize performance, as growth slows down?”
What can retailers do to get the most out of their ad spend in that environment?
“First and foremost, being able to manage at scale is a must-have,” says Fletcher.
“Secondly, master your categories. If you are a retailer, then knowing that you’re winning in – for example – men’s board shorts, and getting down to that level of knowledge with your categories, is essential.
“If you don’t do that, then you’ll have a very blinkered view of what’s going on.
“If you’re a department store retailer, for example, and your products reach more than 200 different categories, there is a dependency on knowing how well you’re performing in each of these categories. You’re going to have different competitors in each one: the challenge is knowing that, and making sure you are still winning there.”
Adapting for the future of search marketing
The rapid uptake of Google Shopping ads as the most significant part of retail ad spend budgets reveals how quickly search marketers adapt to new formats and opportunities.
As search advertising practices continue to change and new formats are introduced, advertisers will need to maintain this agility in order to keep ahead of the game.
“Google Shopping can be quite daunting for some advertisers when they take their first steps into it,” says Fletcher. “But if you do that with enough research, and enough context about what’s going on in each of your retail categories, you’ll have a far better chance of surviving.
“If you don’t follow the trends, adopt early, and understand these channels, you will get left behind.”
Amazon Shopping, for example, is a growing force in the retail search landscape which Fletcher believes will only play a bigger role in years to come, threatening to erode the dominance that Google Shopping currently enjoys.
Even as they take steps to future-proof their search marketing campaigns in the realm of Google Shopping, search marketers should investigate the opportunities presented by Amazon, in order to ensure the longevity of their search marketing strategy going forward.
Google AdWords is a highly effective marketing channel for brands to engage with customers.
The auction-based pay-per-click (PPC) model has revolutionized the advertising industry, but beneath the seductive simplicity of this input-output relationship lies a highly sophisticated technology.
Within this article, we round up five advanced features that can help you gain that vital competitive advantage.
Google AdWords has undergone a host of changes over the past 12 months, some cosmetic and some functional. Google’s prime revenue-driver has a new, intuitive look and feel that makes it even easier for marketers to assess performance and spot new opportunities.Under the hood, AdWords is home to some increasingly sophisticated machine learning technology. Everything from bid adjustments to audience behavior and even search intent is now anlyzed by machine learning algorithms to improve ad targeting and performance.
All of this is changing how we run search campaigns, largely for the better.
Meanwhile, there are broad trends that continue to converge with search. Voice-activated digital assistants, visual search, and the ongoing growth of ecommerce all center around Google’s search engine.
At the intersection of Google and these emerging trends, paid search will evolve and new ways to reach audiences will arise.
Though this future-gazing reveals just how exciting the industry is, marketers also need to keep one eye firmly on the present.
As it stands, AdWords provides a vast array of features, all of which can impact campaign performance. Though automation is taking over more aspects of the day-to-day running of an account, there is arguably more need than ever before for seasoned paid search experts how know how to get the most out of the platform.
Below are five advanced AdWords features that can boost any PPC campaign.
For all of AdWords’ virtues, it has not been able to rival Facebook in terms of sheer quantity of demographic targeting options.
As part of Google’s ongoing shift from a keyword focus to a customer-centric approach, demographic targeting has improved very significantly.
This feature now allows advertisers to target customers by income and parental status, along with gender and age. Targeting by income is only available for video advertising and is restricted to the U.S., Japan, Australia, and New Zealand for the moment.
Nonetheless, this is a noteworthy update and provides an advanced feature that many brand will welcome.
The available options now include:
Demographic targeting for Search, Display or Video campaigns:
- Age: “18-24,” “25-34,” “35-44,” “45-54,” “55-64,” “65 or more,” and “Unknown”
- Gender: “Female,” “Male,” and “Unknown”
Demographic targeting for Display or Video campaigns can include:
- Parental status: “Parent,” “Not a parent,” and “Unknown”
Demographic targeting for Video campaigns can include:
- Household income (currently available in the U.S., Japan, Australia, and New Zealand only): “Top 10%,” “11-20%,” “21-30%,” “31-40%,” “41-50%,” “Lower 50%,” and “Unknown”
Combined with the improved user interface, this can lead to some illuminating reports that highlight more detail about audiences than we have ever seen in this platform.
It’s not perfect yet and has some drawbacks in practice, as creating audiences can be quite labor-intensive when combining different filters. Nonetheless, demographic targeting is improving and will be an area of focus for Google this year.
Our previous article on demographic targeting goes into more detail on how to set this feature up.
A very natural byproduct of the increase in mobile searches has been an explosion in the number of calls attributed to paid search.
In fact, BIA/Kelsey projects that there will be 162 billion calls to businesses from smartphones by 2019.
Search forms a fundamental part of this brand-consumer relationship, so businesses are understandably keen to ensure they are set up to capitalize on such heightened demand.
Click-to-call can be an overlooked opportunity, as it does require a little bit of setup. If advertisers want to add call extensions, report specifically on this activity, and even schedule when these extensions appear, it is necessary to do this manually within AdWords.
Helpfully, it is now possible to enable call extensions across an account, simplfying what was once a cumbersome undertaking.
This is becoming an automated process in some aspects, whereby Google will identify landing pages that contain a phone number and generate call extensions using this information. However, some manual input will be required to get the most out of this feature.
Our step-by-step guide contains a range of handy tips for marketers who woud like to enable click-to-call campaigns.
Optimized ad rotation
Google made some very notable changes to its ad rotation settings in the second half of 2017.
In essence, ad rotation constantly tests different ad variations to find the optimal version for your audience and campaign KPIs.
Google’s machine learning technology is a natural fit for such a task, so it is no surprise that Google wants to take much of the ad rotation process out of the hands of advertisers and turn it into a slick, automated feature.
Perhaps this focus on the machine learning side of things has led advertisers to beleive that the process now requires no input from them.
A recent study by Marin Software across their very sizeable client base found that many ad groups contain fewer than three creatives:
This is very significant, as Google recommends providing at least three ads in every ad group. Their official stance is, “The more of your ads our system can choose from, the better the expected ad performance.”
Creating a range of ads provides the resources Google needs to run statistically significant tests. No matter how sophisticated the machine learning algorithms are, with only one or two ads in each group there is very little they can do to improve performance.
There is a broader lesson to be taken here, beyond just getting the most out of this AdWords feature.
Even the most advanced technology requires the right quantity and quality of inputs. Although more and more elements of AdWords management can be automated, this doesn’t mean we can leave the machines to their own devices.
There are plentiful best practices that we still need to follow. Optimizing your ad rotation by including at least three ads in each group certainly counts as one of these.
Custom intent audiences
Google is clearly making a play for more of the traditionally ‘top of funnel’ marketing approaches.
The launch of more granular custom intent audiences with the Google Display Network is part of a wider strategy to take on the likes of Facebook by providing greater control over target audiences.
Google’s guidelines provide clear definition over how this recently launched feature works:
For Display campaigns, you can create a custom intent audience using in-market keywords – simply entering keywords and URLs related to products and services your ideal audience is researching across sites and apps.
In-market keywords (Display campaigns)
- Enter keywords, URLs, apps or YouTube content to reach an online audience that’s actively researching a related product or service.
- It’s best practice to add keywords and URLs (ideally 15 total) that fit a common theme to help AdWords understand your ideal audience.
- Avoid entering URLs that require people to sign in, such as social media or email services.
- Include keywords related to the products and services that this audience is researching; these will be used as the focal point for building the custom intent audience.
Custom intent audiences: Auto-created (Display campaigns)
To make finding the right people easy, Google uses machine learning technology to analyse your existing campaigns and auto-create custom intent audiences. These audiences are based on the most common keywords and URLs found in content that people browse while researching a given product or service.
For example, insights from existing campaigns may show that people who’ve visited a sporting goods website have also actively researched all-weather running shoes. AdWords may then auto-create a new ‘waterproof trail running shoes’ custom intent audience to simplify the process of reaching this niche segment of customers.
Once more, we see the addition of machine learning into a core Google product.
These automated audience lists are generated based on activity across all of your Google marketing channels, including YouTube and Universal App Campaigns, along with Search and the Google Display Network.
Although this does not yet provide the level of targeting that Facebook can offer, custom intent audiences do dramatically improve the product and they move Google closer to a truly customer-centric approach.
Sophisticated advertisers will find thata this advanced feature improves performance for both prospecting and remarketing.
Smart bidding has some crossover with the other AdWords features on our list. In a nutshell, smart bidding uses machine learning to asses the relationships between a range of variables and improve performance through the AdWords auction.
It is capable of optimizing bids to ensure the best possible return on investment against the advertiser’s target KPIs. Smart bidding does this by looking at the context surrounding bids and isolating the factors that have historically led to specific outcomes. Based on this knowledge, it can automatically bid at the right level to hit the advertiser’s campaign targets.
These targets can be set based on a target CPA (cost per acquisition), ROAS (return on ad spend), or CPC (cost per click).
The latest option available to brands is named ‘maximize conversions’ and this will seek to gain the optial number of conversions (whatver those may be for the brand in question) against their set budge.
As we have noted already, these algorithms require substantial amounts of data, so this is a feature best used by this with an accrual of historical AdWords performance data.
Smart bidding is also not quite a ‘set and forget’ bidding strategy. Some marketers will still prefer the control of manual bidding and it would be fair to say that smart bidding levels the playing field somewhat across all advertisers.
Nonetheless, it is a hugely powerful AdWords feature and can create multiple account performance efficiencies.