You know there are more platforms besides Google to exercise your marketing prowess, right? Yes, the Silicon Valley-based juggernaut still remains the bread and butter for digital marketers by a mile, but this doesn’t mean alternative or niche search engines should be left in the dark.
As you map out your strategies and campaigns for 2018, consider these five tips to help you optimize your presence on some of the web’s other heavy hitters including YouTube, Amazon, TripAdvisor, Yelp, and eBay.
YouTube: Focus on Descriptions and Thumbnails
From the drawing board to the edit bay, video production can consume so much time and effort. As a result, some miscellaneous, but nevertheless important, elements of the process might get put on the back burner.
Take it from Wpromote Senior SEO Manager, Justin McKinney: “Take advantage of product descriptions and thumbnails. Long-form product descriptions help YouTube understand what your video is about, and thus help your rankings. Compelling thumbnails entice people to click through to your videos.”
When writing out your keyword-rich description, be sure to put a link to the product page at the top. YouTube only displays around the first 100 characters of description. So, if viewers don’t click the “show more” button, make sure they at least see a strong call to action and link. It’s recommended to keep your description between 250 to 500 characters, but this isn’t a hard-and-fast rule. Depending on the length of your video, a transcript might be a suitable option if you’re looking to utilize all 5,000 characters that YouTube allots.
Thumbnails can determine whether a potential customer clicks on your video. Creating a compelling thumbnail might take some A/B testing, though. Experiment with bright-color backgrounds, text, close-up face shots, animation and other tactics to see what works. When you decide what’s best for you, ensure your thumbnail design stays consistent across the channel. Take a look at Klipsch’s YouTube page to understand this concept of consistency.
Amazon: Conversion > Content
Anyone who visits the world’s largest e-commerce store is obviously there to do one of two things: purchase something or dream of purchasing something. Therefore, it’s best to think like a buyer when it comes to your marketing strategy on Amazon. McKinney points out that “unlike traditional search, content is not king on Amazon, conversion is. Optimize your product listings for conversion and you will see ranking improvements.”
While the titles of your listings must include relevant keywords, they should also be easily readable and descriptive enough for buyers to know exactly what the product is.
Images are vital for conversion, too. Ensure your pictures are professionally shot, easy on the eyes, and at least 1,000 pixels by 1,000 pixels so buyers can enlarge the photo. Take time to brush up on Amazon’s image standards before posting anything.
TripAdvisor: The More Photos, The Better
Based on a 2018 digital transformation report, the bar graph below shows travel review sites, most notably TripAdvisor, as the number one source of information during the travel-planning phase, beating out word of mouth and traditional search engine results. These statistics prove that businesses, especially those in the hospitality industry, should establish a presence on TripAdvisor now more than ever.
Garnering high-rated reviews, responding to reviews and adding booking links to your page are all crucial tactics for optimizing your business on TripAdvisor. The quantity of photos posted on your listing helps keep potential customers engaged with your business longer.
“Imagery is very important to attract the customer, so show them what they want,” according to Wpromote SEO Director Bart Peters. “For hotels, people want to know what the room looks like. For restaurants, people want to see the food. TripAdvisor promotes that businesses with 30-plus photos have a 41 percent higher engagement than locations with 10 or fewer.”
Yelp: Respond to Reviews Regularly and Quickly
Although responding to reviews can be a time-consuming task, your business will thrive in the end since engaging with reviewers helps improve local SEO. Your response times can also affect your Yelp ranking, which can give you an edge over your competitors. A clever way to boost your Yelp ranking is to weave keywords into your responses. For example, if you own a computer repair shop and receive a positive review, write: “Thank you for letting us repair your computer. Please recommend us to your friends who live in the San Francisco area.”
You do not need to reply to every single review. Use your best judgment to decide when it’s appropriate to respond. As for negative reviews, always try to make amends. According to Moz, it’s 25 times more expensive to earn a new customer than to retain an existing one, so be sure to apologize sincerely and accept complete responsibility.
eBay: Be as Specific as Possible
Online shoppers don’t have time to scroll through thousands of listings, especially if they type a broad keyword like “men’s shoes” into the search bar. That why it’s imperative to fill out your item specifics when posting products on eBay. The photo below shows all the specifics that can be included for a men’s shoe listing. The number of specifics vary from item to item, but whether there are 5 or 25 specifics, make sure to provide as much information as possible so shoppers can find your product easily, which can lead to more conversions and higher rankings.
For your listing description, write at least 200 characters with relevant keywords at the beginning and end of your description. To help improve rankings and conversions, you could apply the 80/20 rule. This means 80 percent of your content involves the product itself, while 20 percent is used as promotion for your eBay store.
If your business needs help optimizing on alternative platforms in 2018, these five suggestions are sure-fire ways to improve your rankings and boost conversions.
Read more at https://www.business2community.com/seo/5-tips-alternative-search-engine-marketing-02044433
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.
We’ve all heard of growth marketing.
But what does growth marketing actually mean?
At the risk of over-simplifying, growth marketing is essentially the path to attracting the right visitors to your business. Not just the low-hanging-fruit, top-of-funnel visitors, but those who are “sticky” and likely to lead to a conversion or sale.
Search engine marketing (SEM) is the unsung hero — and the secret weapon — for today’s growth marketing leaders.
In addition to achieving a successful consumer decision journey across multiple channels and devices, search delivers bottom-line results and ensures on-track results for the long-term.
Here are six best practices for a winning SEM strategy.
1. Deliver Value Across the Decision Journey
As the behavior of your fragmented customers evolves, your growth marketing plan should as well.
Who are the customers behind all those clicks?
New research from Bing Ads allows us to better understand the five distinct stages all customers share:
- Initiation: Getting background information and buying landscape to become a more informed researcher.
- Research: Exploring buying guides, recommendations, and products that meet basic criteria.
- Compare: Comparing a handful of products that meet the customer’s criteria, including ratings, reviews, features, and cost.
- Transaction: Finding where to buy, then seeing pricing and promotions, availability, and local stores.
- Experience: Getting customer service, asking maintenance questions, and making additional purchases.
2. Align Your Campaign & Business Goals
Search can impact, and help you measure, your business goals.
Be sure to align your SEM strategy with your campaign objectives:
- Brand awareness and perception: Bid competitively on your non-brand, brand, and competitors’ keywords. Non-brand searches are the key to starting a journey: 72 percent of brand ad clicks had a non-brand or conquest term in the user journey preceding the brand click. Searchers were 30 percent likelier to conduct a branded search after being exposed to a brand ad on a generic search query or a competitor’s branded query.
- Win new customers: Consumers rely on search to inform purchase decisions. SEM can help with every stage of the decision process. At the start of their journey, 49 percent of consumers use a search engine to find the products they want.
- Drive sales: Search’s strength is driving conversions. It outperforms other marketing channels across devices in conversion rates.
- Enter new markets: The ubiquity of search allows you to activate a cross-border marketing strategy that drives foot traffic with Location Extensions, get more phone calls with Call Extensions, and increase ad clicks with Sitelink Extensions.
3. Expand Your Marketing Funnel
As our constant companion, search is no longer just a product — it’s a behavior.
We turn to search at all times and in all places, whether on our desktops, laptops, tablets, or smartphones.
Understanding how people search at different points on their purchase journeys opens the door to engage your brand with this new audience.
Having become an engine of insights, search now delivers influence throughout the five buying stages (initiation, research, compare, transaction, and experience).
SEM also reinforces your conversion funnel and unifies disparate marketing activities.
4. Take Audience Targeting to the Next Level
Right-time, right-place engagement alone is no longer enough to compel potential customers.
You need to reach as many unique searchers as possible utilizing audience targeting.
Step 1: Build richer buyer personas that consider these factors:
- Behavioral: Past behaviors are useful for understanding consumers’ interests and their likelihood to purchase. To better measure user behavior, analyze activities across websites, searches, and content.
- Demographic: Buying preferences are influenced by elementary but important factors that include age, gender, and location.
- Contextual: Consumers often search in the moment. Analyzing where, when, and how they search can provide useful content for creating more impactful ad campaigns.
Step 2: Choose keywords that align with the key stages and mindsets of your target customers:
- Initiation: Keywords such as “What is” and “Benefits of” work best at this stage.
- Research: Keywords such as “Buying guide” and “Models” work best at this stage.
- Compare: Keywords such as “Reviews” and “Features” work best at this stage.
- Transaction: Keywords such as “Where” and “Coupon” work best at this stage.
- Experience: Keywords such as “Support” and “Experience” work best at this stage.
5. Lift Other Investments with Paid Search
Optimize your search efforts by combining organic search with a paid SEM strategy.
- Search and social: Customers who click your paid search and social ads are likelier to buy and spend more. Strengthen your keyword coverage to get more impressions, and tailor your bidding strategy for commercial-related PPC campaigns.
- Search and TV: Search volume spikes for days after a commercial airs. In a Bing Ads study of the biggest commercial event of the year, the Super Bowl, the increase in branded search volume followed a consistent pattern across industries.
- Search and display: Conversion rates increased by 52 percent while display and search were running simultaneously. Not only did conversion metrics increase, but campaign reach (impressions) increased by 45 percent as well.
- Search and other channels: When Bing Ads is alone in the purchase path, purchases have a 27 percent higher order average order value than purchases not including Bing Ads, which also generate value when paired with other channels.
6. Fight & Win the Battle for Paid Search Budget Share
SEM still competes with other channels for a share of your marketing budget.
So bring along hard data that connects the dots between search engine marketing and business benefits.
Your budget share battle plan involves three elements:
Pick the Right Metrics to Measure SEM Impact
Metrics provide an easy way to see what is and isn’t working.
Your team can test, change and optimize your brand’s SEM strategy for better results.
Focus your reporting by identifying and tracking key performance indicators that reflect your business goals:
- Acquiring new customers
- Driving foot traffic
- Getting more phone calls
- Increasing ad clicks
- Building your brand trust
- Expanding cross-border strategy
Separate SEM Impacts from Other Channels
Know which channels drive your marketing results.
Each sale is the culmination of a series of marketing touches that may involve several channels over the course of days or even weeks.
Attribution gets quite complex at times, so if you can prove campaigns with paid search deliver ROI and bottom-line results, you’ll unlock more budget and further optimize search performance.
Apply the Same Process to Allocate Budget Between AdWords & Bing Ads
This last piece falls into place when you analyze the paid click share and query that each SEM option represents within your industry.
You’ll not only get your business in front of a large audience, you’ll be confident that your paid ads will lead to clicks.
SEM is the backbone of today’s marketing mix.
With so many channels and more fragmented customer journeys, the real challenge is ensuring you engage audiences at the right time through the right device.
You no longer can afford to put all of your marketing dollars into one search ad network.
Follow the best practices outlined here to maximize the reach, impact, and value of your paid search campaigns with bottom-line results.
Then your fight for marketing resources will be far easier to win!
Pay-per-click (PPC) is an advertising model where you pay a small amount of money each time someone clicks on your ads. It’s currently attracting the largest percentage of search traffic. If you aren’t running pay-per-click marketing campaigns, you’re obviously leaving lots of money on the table. Here are some of the top reasons why you shouldn’t ignore this channel.
Pay-per-click advertising allows you to target the right customers. As a result, you know where exactly your dollars are going to and only pay those who are interested in clicking your ads. And if your business only serves a particular region, you are able to target just that region alone with PPC.
Measurable Advertising Dollars
Since you can easily tell where you adverting dollars are going and also set conversion goals, you are in a position to see clearly how much it’s costing you to attract any given number of visitors to your website and then convert them to your customers. And also because you are able to see what’s working for you and what’s not working, you can optimize your marketing efforts and confidently scale up your spending.
Complements Search Engine Optimization
Search engine optimization (SEO) often takes a considerable amount of time to deliver results. In the meantime, you have to do a few things here and there to increase your chances of success. With PPC, however, nothing stops you from gaining top visibility immediately. This means it can result in an instant increase in leads and sales for your business.
You just need to have the budget to compete with top bids. When your SEO efforts result in an increase in your organic visibility, you have all the two areas fully covered, and your audience then can have the impression that your business is extremely relevant and popular.
Complete Control over Your Budget
In the current fast-paced business world, businesses are working with strict budgets. Small businesses, in particular, are looking for ways to realize their goals without spending too much money. With PPC, they are able to set their own daily budgets and change it at any time. While it’s appropriate to have huge budgets to compete effectively with established businesses, pay-per-click advertising gives them a chance to get started and run some tests.
Inform Your Marketing Channels
Do you want to know whether a particular keyword is converting well? If you do, use PPC to get this information and be able to plan better. And if you want to test the waters with new offerings so as to know the demand and find some valuable information insights, PPC can still be of great help to you and your marketing team. What’s more, it can help you to promote events such as oddball and others that wouldn’t be best for other advertising channels.
Now it’s likely that you can see how PPC is a viable marketing channel for your business. You can get in touch with organizations such as www.ppcpro.com.au for guidance if you need help to power up your own pay-per-click advertising model.
Maybe you’ve heard of blockchain, but why should you care? Contributor Tony Edward describes the dramatic impact the technology could have on digital marketing and advertising.
If you’ve heard of Bitcoin then you most likely have heard of blockchain, the technology that enables Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to exist and function. The technology is forecast to disrupt many industries as it allows users to conduct transactions without a middleman in a secure and transparent format.
Some of the industries that can potentially be disrupted are car sales, voting, ridesharing, real estate, insurance, sports management, loyalty cards and gun tracking. While the search marketing industry is not as mainstream as the aforementioned industries, it can also be potentially disrupted by blockchain.
Now, before we go any further, this article is not about Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies. However, if Bitcoin is adopted by large companies such as Amazon or Walmart, it will certainly have an impact on the future of payments between search marketing agencies, website owners, advertisers and others. Contract agreements will also be impacted, as the blockchain could be leveraged for more transparency and accuracy.
What is blockchain
Here is a great definition of blockchain offered by Don and Alex Tapscott, authors of a 2016 book called “Blockchain Revolution”:
The blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.
Image courtesy of weforum.org
In layman’s terms, it’s like a Google Doc spreadsheet that is shared with the public which displays transactions and is tamperproof. Many are considering blockchain to be as impactful as the internet was in the ’90s.
Impact on search engine marketing (SEM)
In the digital marketing world, many central authorities, such as Google and Facebook, connect advertisers with website owners. For example, Google is a central authority in programmatic ads, where it helps advertisers run ads on websites via the Google Display Network. Google essentially is the middleman that helps advertisers and website owners trust each other. If they already trusted each other, they would not need Google as an intermediary taking a cut of the profits.
Enter blockchain, which can verify that every user is genuine with 100 percent accuracy and that the website owner is only charging the advertiser for genuine clicks through to their site. Then the website owner and the advertiser don’t need a middleman to arbitrate their agreement, which would save them both money. Blockchain presents a big threat to Google’s display network revenue.
Blockchain being the unhackable distributed ledger is going to also help reduce online fraud. It will provide transparency for persons involved in a transaction without giving away their personal details, essentially proving they are a real person. Ad fraud is a big problem: It cost advertisers over $7 billion in 2016. A number of players — including Microsoft, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and DMA (in partnership with MetaX) — are already working on blockchain-based digital identification systems.
Impact on search engine optimization (SEO)
As companies start to adopt blockchain, they will need to integrate it within their websites. This involves the web developers as well as the SEOs, if they are trying to gain organic search benefits as well as display the information from the blockchain transactions.
This will present both technical issues and opportunities in which SEOs will have to work alongside developers to resolve compatibility issues with different content management systems and website platforms. I have noticed that the Schema community has already started to work on Schema Markup for blockchain certificates and user ID profiles. Both items are a work in progress and have not yet been published on Schema.org.
Here is a glimpse of what the codes for both items looks like.
The following sample markup (from our company) is in JSON-LD format. Full details can be viewed on GitHub.
Blockchain user ID profiles
As new blockchains are developed and it is more widely adopted, it will certainly disrupt the search marketing industry in many other ways. For now, search marketers should pay close attention to blockchain as it grows.
Getting the most out of an SEO campaign is all about measuring the results — everything comes down to data. Examining KPIs sheds light on what’s working and what’s not. That’s all well and good for most metrics like keyword rankings, organic search traffic, referring domain volume and so on. We have plenty of tools and data to do just that. However, there’s one particular SEO metric that’s impossible to measure but incredibly important.
Measuring The Unmeasurable
The unmeasurable metric I’m referring to here is — drum roll — brand signals. Brand signals contribute to your business’s credibility and authority. When I say brand signals, I mean going beyond just signals in the technical sense and looking closer into the actual perception of your brand in the mind of the user. I’m talking about going deep into the essence of how people truly perceive your brand.
Unfortunately, there’s no section on Google Analytics that tells you this straight up. You’ve got to do some digging. So how do you measure what your audience thinks about your brand and how much equity you carry? How do you measure the unmeasurable and make tactical brand mention measurements?
Here are a few ways to connect the dots:
I’m going to start with the absolute basics. While direct traffic doesn’t enable you to measure the number of brand mentions per se, it can give you a reasonable idea of how your brand equity is growing. That’s because the vast majority of direct traffic consists of visitors either typing in your URL directly or bookmarking your site on their browser, both of which are obvious indicators of brand knowledge and a receptiveness to your brand.
While there are other instances of direct traffic that essentially boil down to data “not being provided,” the volume your site receives should allow you to make an initial assessment. Any change in direct traffic is an indicator of changes to your brand awareness. In other words, a spike in direct traffic tends to mean an increase in brand awareness and vice versa.
Branded Terms In SERPs
A bit of research with Google search can also lend some insight. It’s very simple, but it should give you a good idea of what the current state of your brand equity is like. For starters, you’ll want to enter your brand name. Ideally, you will appear in the No. 1 organic position or close to it. That’s a good sign.
If you’re a local business, you’ll also want to enter a targeted keyword phrase and a local term. For my company NAV43, an example would be “digital advertising agency Toronto.” Popping up in the local three pack is ideal, but appearing near it is good as well. For instance, we’re ranked fifth overall in organic search results beneath the local three pack.
These two simple searches should give you a better idea of what overall user knowledge is like.
Addressing The Aspect Of Perception
Now it gets a little trickier. How can you measure perception in the mind of the user? Perhaps the most obvious route is to simply examine social media follower volume and growth. This can provide some level of insight, but let’s take it one step further and really get into the crux of the matter. What you really need to find out is how many people are talking about your brand and what they’re saying.
One of my favorite ways to quickly generate some tangible data is to use BuzzSumo. Just type in your brand name to see how many people are sharing your content and how many people are talking about your brand.
According to Search Engine Land, “88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.” So you can bet that the quantity and overall sentiment of your customer reviews heavily impact your brand equity.
This is especially true for local brands, where a few negative comments can potentially kill your foot traffic. Taking a look at some of the major customer review sites such as Google My Business, Yelp and so on should give you a bird’s eye view of things.
Finally, you can learn a lot by monitoring the volume of mentions your brand receives along with the context. One of my favorite tools for this is Mention. This aptly named platform allows you to monitor your brand’s reputation online and provides real-time updates whenever something is said.
It also includes a scoring system that lets you know how much influence someone has when mentioning your brand. For instance, praise from someone with 100,000 followers would carry much more weight than someone with only 100. There are, of course, several other platforms that offer similar services, which you can find out about here.
Brand signals are an extremely important SEO metric and contribute to the success (or failure) of your company in several different ways. Although they’re not measurable in the conventional sense like many other elements of SEO, you can still get a baseline reading with these techniques and work your way up from there.
How to compete with national retailers by utilising the power of PPC: a guide for small retailers – Retail Times
What is PPC? Pay-Per-Click advertising is a form of online advertising in which you pay a certain fee each time someone clicks on one of your ads. In simple terms, if you create ad copy that contains the word “summer shoes”, and your target audience is women, PPC can enable your ad to show up as the top result in Google for someone searching “summer shoes for women”.
Most national retailers are well aware of PPC advertising and integrate it into their marketing campaigns. By doing so, they are able to dominate local listings and effectively leave local retailers behind. This also blocks local retailers from gaining access to a national audience.
Having a PPC strategy is essential to generate traffic to your website and thus, boost your sales. To ensure your PPC strategy is effective, you need to have certain practices in place.
So, what can be done to compete with national retailers who have a huge advertising budget, nationwide presence and brand awareness at a local level?
Utilise the power of location-based advertising
All the main search engines and social media platforms allow you to display ads (both text and image) in specific locations. This can be done at city or town level (such as “Oxford” or “Abingdon”) or by using a radius around a location such as “10 miles around Abingdon” or “5 miles around OX1”.
Because the message can be specifically targeted at a chosen location, it can be tailored to that audience. National retailers rarely push out local messages, focusing on a more general approach. This gives local retailers an advantage.
A few examples include:
- Using localised keywords as part of your PPC keyword selection, such as:
- “Washing Machines Skipton”
- “Dishwashers Portishead”
- “Hair Dryers Oxford”
These searches are hyper localised and predominantly performed by people in the local area looking for a local retailer. Thus, Click Through Rates and Conversion Rates are likely to be high.
- Using localised messages in your ad copy to advertise your local presence. These could be:
- “Washing machines Oxford”
- “Local washing machine shop in Oxford”
- “In stock in Oxford right now”
- “Oxford’s number 1 washing machine centre”
- “Get advice, drop in to our Warrington branch or call”
- Using the display URL in AdWords to advertise your location: www.example.com/oxford or www.hooversbuxton.co.uk.
- Promoting your local phone numbers in your ads and onsite, which increases local relevancy and can drive increases in calls, sales and revenue.
Mobile is everything
Imagine this: you are out and about, and suddenly realise you have completely forgotten about a birthday party your daughter is going to later in the day. What’s your first instinct?
Pull out your smartphone and search for “kid’s birthday presents”. Go to the nearest store that pops up. Job done.
Mobile has completely dominated the way we search, which opens a variety of opportunities for retailers. However, it can be a challenge. Local businesses often don’t recognise the importance of making their sites mobile-friendly.
Google uses mobile-first indexing, which means mobile-friendly pages are more likely to be found, as they will show up higher in search engine rankings. Use that to your advantage!
Make it easy for people to find you
The above-mentioned scenario relies heavily on a customer being able to find you easily. The first step to achieving that is by setting up a Google My Business account. By getting your business listed, and including all the relevant (and up to date) details, such as your address, phone number, website etc. you make sure customers will be able to find you quickly and easily.
When using Google Maps, and searching for a particular product, we are often shown a box which contains three listings in the local area which match our query and supply the product or service we are looking for. This box is called the “Google Local pack” – and it’s very convenient to be a part of it!
Ensuring your Google My Business account is set up properly, and linked to your advertising account will help you get the top spot and thus your address will show up for people who are searching for your products locally.
Rank higher in Google, so people find you more often
It is universally known, that people rarely venture past the first two pages of Google (or Bing) search results. This means, as a retailer, it should be your goal to rank as high as possible.
You can achieve that by doing one of two things (or, for best effects, by a combination of both):
Create high-quality content for your website. Whether it be blogs, case studies, ‘How to?’ guides – the possibilities are endless. What matters is that it shows expertise, is comprehensive, goes deep into the subject and of course, focuses on the keywords you are targeting.
Even if you think your niche or specialism is not something you can create engaging content about – think again. Curiosity is deeply embedded in human nature and therefore you can be confident that the more quality content you create, the more people will want to read more.
The second part of ranking high is by bidding on certain keywords, which will help position your website higher in search results. For example, if you choose to bid on “Christmas gifts Durham”, a link to your page will be displayed to people searching for that term.
However, even if your listing shows up first, but the ad isn’t very enticing, they might choose a different website. Therefore, make sure you invest in good quality ad copy as well.
Plan for seasonality
You probably won’t run all your AdWords accounts all year round. It is important to look at trends data to ensure you are planning for product seasonality.
If you have been managing your account for a while, the data available to you is invaluable and can be used for more accurate creation of future campaigns. However, bear in mind that if you have a wide range of products, the seasonality of different products will be varied as well.
For more insight on how to plan for seasonality in retail have a look at our guide on how to get a PPC account ready for Christmas-time sales.
Believe in yourself!
Finally, never forget to believe in yourself and your business’s potential. Being a small, local business doesn’t mean you don’t stand a chance with national retailers.
Remember, people love what they know – and being a local business means there’s a bigger chance your potential consumers will form an emotional connection with you.
Increasing your online presence is bound to increase your brand awareness. Whether you are a kid’s goods supplier or a car dealership, the end goal is for people to associate your area of activity with your brand.
For local businesses, having a strong presence in the local search results is fundamental to those all-important conversions.
Just to be clear, a “local business” refers to any business that has either a physical location that offers face-to-face contact with the customer, such as a showroom or shop, or one that offers a face-to-face service within a certain area.
When it comes to local search, it’s simple: if searchers can’t find you on the web, then frankly, you don’t exist. It’s the way of the modern world.
It’s all very well dominating the SERPs for your more general target keywords, but if you fail to rank highly for location-specific terms then you are missing an almighty opportunity.
When users are searching for a local term, they are far more likely to be looking for a service or product. Hence why the conversions on local search tend to be higher, and why you need to ensure that your local search engine marketing is up to scratch.
Those fundamentals will set you up for ranking well for local search terms, but there are extra steps you must take to differentiate yourself from the competition and really bolster your local SEM strategy.
Local business listings
The first place to start is with local business listings. Ensure that your business is included in all the major directories (Yell, Yelp, Thomson Local, etc.), as well as any industry specific ones. Some listings may already exist, and it may just be a case of claiming your business so that you can take ownership of the listing.
We recommend keeping track of all your business listings in one comprehensive spreadsheet to save you repeating or forgetting any entries. It also enables you to be consistent (more on this in the next point) in your information across all listings.
Remove all duplicated entries, as multiple listings for one business or location can become confusing, both to potential customers but also to Google. And we certainly don’t want to be confusing the Big G.
Be thorough but don’t be reckless. Avoid spammy directories as these could have a detrimental effect on your SEO. Deploy a spot of common sense to identify the spammy directories but if you are really unsure then it’s worth checking the spam score via Moz’s Open Site Explorer or via other similar tools.
So this technically falls under business listings, but it’s so important we’ve given Google My Business it’s own subheading. Arguably the most important business listing because, well, it’s Google. Remember to implement the following:
- Claim your business via a verification process
- Include accurate information: contact details, location and opening hours
- Carefully select a small number of highly relevant categories to represent your business
- Ensure up-to-date branding, such as in any images of logos or premises
- Use high quality images to represent the business
Be comprehensive and accurate in the information you provide in order to strengthen your Google My Business profile and improve your chances of being featured in Google’s three-pack.
NAP consistency sounds a like a fancy term but the concept is very simple. NAP stands for Name, Address and Phone number, although it is sometimes expanded to NAP+W to include website address too. As mentioned above, it is crucial that your business information appears consistently across the web.
This is particularly important to consider if your business has changed address, contact details or even rebranded. Any mentions of your business will need to be checked and updated to ensure accuracy.
Simply google your business name (do the same with your previous business name if you have undergone a name change) and work your way through the listings. Maintain a spreadsheet of your progress so you can keep track.
Reviews can bring both utter joy and absolute misery to any business owner. Unfortunately you cannot simply ignore them, as reviews are indeed used as ranking signals in the eyes of the search engine. This is especially true for your Google My Business reviews.
Not only are reviews important in terms of local rankings, they are also key in terms of click-through rates. According to a recent study by BrightLocal, 74 per cent of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more.
Apart from providing the most incredible customer service you can muster, how else can you seize some control over your reviews? No, this isn’t about getting your mum, brother and great-nan to write a review for your business. It’s about a bit of gentle encouragement and managing a bad customer experience before it reaches the review stage.
It is also important to check the rules and regulations of each review platform, as they all have very different policies on asking customers for reviews and responding to them.
We’ve had several clients who have received a negative one-off, anonymous review that is either quite clearly spam, or in some cases, a bitter competitor or personal enemy. These situations can get a bit sticky, but sadly there isn’t an awful lot you can do.
Generally people won’t be deterred by one bad review, and the best course of action is to encourage other happy customers to get reviewing. This will push the bad review down and push the average star rating back up.
Many review platforms allow you to reply to reviews. This can be a good opportunity to set the record straight but you have to be careful about it. For this reason, sometimes it is best to get someone who is not as emotionally invested in the business to either write the response or edit it before it gets published. Be professional, remain calm, and kill them with kindness.
If you don’t already have location pages on your website, then you could be missing a valuable opportunity to target all the relevant locations. For each key location that your business operates within, create a page dedicated to that location on your website. This is easier if you have a unique physical address in each location, as it is important to include as much location-specific information as possible.
Where there is a physical location, be sure to include an interactive map and images to further enhance the page. If you do not have separate physical addresses, try including testimonials and case studies relevant to each location.
This will help you to avoid duplicating content across your location pages; it’s a fine art to differentiate the copy, but do it right and it can have seriously good effects on your local SEM strategy.
Once you have your location pages set up, the cherry on the cake is schema markup. The whole concept of structured data can sound very daunting to markup newbies, but it’s easier than it sounds. Schema markup simply helps search engines to understand what your website is about.
This is particularly important for local information, as it will help those spiders crawl your location pages and you’ll benefit as a result.
According to a study by Searchmetrics, pages with schema markup rank an average of four positions higher in search results. Now that’s a pretty good incentive. Get your head around schema markup and you’ll have that crucial advantage over your competitors in the local search results.
Ensuring your local search marketing strategy is up to scratch needn’t be difficult or convoluted. Follow the above steps and obey the usual SEO rules. With some hard work and perseverance, you’ll start dominating those coveted top spots and see your conversions skyrocket in no time.
The future of search is visual, whether it’s on Amazon, Pinterest, or Google. Learn what this shift means for SEO and how to adapt.
I want to tell you a story about a young Google algorithm.
He was born blind, in a world where a picture is worth a thousand searches. This little algorithm had one dream. To be able to see. So he got his friends to describe him images, but still he couldn’t see.
He built magical Google Goggles, but these didn’t work. Then one day, he built a learning machine and finally, after years of struggle, he could recognize images.
That little algorithm who could is named visual search and has taken on a job as the world’s personal shopper.
Image Searches Are Now Commonplace
Look at the two options below, which is more useful if you wanted to buy a handbag?
Slyce asked that question to consumers. 74 percent of them replied that text-based keyword searches are inefficient in helping to find the right product online.
A 2017 report by Jumpshot & Moz further supports that discovery through pictures is alive and well, with around 27 percent of all searches being for images. MozCast reports image blocks in around 11 percent of Google results. While Jumpshots’ data shows images earn 3 percent of all Google search clicks.
Image SEO: The Early Years
Let’s be honest, image optimization is the dinosaur of the SEO world. Sure you sayyou implement image SEO for additional ranking opportunities in Google image search, but in most cases, you don’t truly believe this will have a significant impact on your KPIs.
When is the last time you looked at the sessions from image search in Google Analytics? Did you even notice years ago the change from the referral path /imgres under google.com referral to a fully fledged source medium as images.google.com?
Most of the image SEO best practices are more for user experience than search engines rankings. Take a critical look at common image optimization tips:
Primary Reason Behind Common Image Optimization Tips
- Rankings OtherShy away from stock to use original, high-quality images
- Shy away from stock to use original, high-quality images
- Context is key, be relevant to surrounding text
- Appropriate file format so images are crisp
- Optimize image file size for web page load times
- Use standard image ratios
- Use image dimensions large enough to be clearly visible on any device
- Add descriptive captions for users who scan
- Descriptive image file names
- Descriptive alt text
- Descriptive image titles
- Submit an image sitemap
- Schema markup
- Open Graph tags
- Twitter cards
- Beware of copyright
And one can argue descriptive image file names, alt text, and image titles are used as an opportunity to add a keyword in order to rank the page, not necessarily the image itself.
Not to say the image optimization tips above are not valuable. You should still do these things.
The hard truth is SEO professionals often neglect image optimization as an afterthought to page-level optimization, if it’s considered at all. And this level of image optimization alone is not going to be enough to win users.
So why are you reading about it…
The Rise of Visual Search
In the past there was image search, where search engines took a text-based query and tried to find the best visual match.
In the present there is visual search, where search engines, social networks, ecommerce powerhouses, startups and many companies in between take an image as the query.
A change in consumer behavior is happening. In the words of Jeffrey Gitomer “people don’t like to be sold to, but they love to buy.”
When you see something you’re interested in, whether it’s online or offline, you want a fast an easy way to get more information.
For example, you see a pair of shoes in a magazine. With image recognition, you can take a photo and find similar item for sale online.
This see-snap-buy behavior is becoming commonplace and has opened up opportunities for companies to enter the purchase cycle with the photo as the search query. This places them higher in the conversion funnel than a text-based search query.
Visual search is fast becoming a staple of shopping apps. And with the impact on KPIs, it’s no surprise why.
BloomReach found that visual search is associated with 48 percent more product views. Consumers are 57 percent more likely to make a return visits and spend on average 9 percent more on mobile than those who do not use it.
Amazon, Pinterest, and many more have launched visual search capabilities on mobile. There is a battle of the brands to be your snap and shop app of choice.
At present, early adopters Amazon (turning the world into a hyperlink) and Pinterest (promoting on online discovery) are leading the pack. But Google isn’t taking this lying down.
Visual Search & Google
Google has been quietly adding machine learning and image recognition capabilities to mobile image search over the last years. Plotting the updates, you can see clear stepping stone technologies building on the theme of visual search.
- Related images (April 2013): Click on a result to view visually similar images.
- Collections (November 2015): Allows users to save images directly from Google’s mobile image search into folders. Google’s answer to a Pinterest board.
- Product images in web results (October 2016): Product images begin to display next to website links in mobile search.
- Product details on images (December 2016): Click on an image result to display product price, availability, ratings, and other key information directly in the image search results.
- Similar items (10th April 2017): Google can identify products, even within lifestyle images, and showcases similar items you can buy online.
- Style ideas (April 17, 2017): The flip side to similar items. When browsing fashion product images on mobile, Google shows you outfit montages and inspirational lifestyle photos to highlight how the product can be worn in real life.
- Image badges (August 1, 2017): Label on the image indicate what other details are available, encouraging more users to click. For example, badges such as “recipe” or a timestamp for pages featuring videos. But the most significant badge is “product” – shown if the item is available for purchase online.
These developments highlight that Google is making a play to turn image search into shoppable product discovery. It’s easier to show than tell.
The new visual search capabilities are all algorithmically selected based on a combination of schema and image recognition. Google told TechCrunch:
“The images that appear in both the style ideas and similar items grids are also algorithmically ranked, and will prioritize those that focus on a particular product type or that appear as a complete look and are from authoritative sites.”
How To Get Your Brand’s Images Featured
1. Implement Schema Markup
Badges are simple enough to win:
- For the recipe badge, use recipe markup.
- For the video badge, use video markup.
- For the product badge, use product markup.
Getting into the Similar Items and Related Items sections are a touch more challenging. To do this, ensure you have product markup on the host page with the meta-data minimum requirement:
But the more quality detail, the better, as it will make your results more robust. How product markup elements are populated into Google image search is shown below.
2. Validate Your Implementation
Run a few URLs through Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool. Don’t simply scan if there are no errors and move on. Be sure to look at the information itself to ensure it’s user-friendly.
It can take up to one week for your site’s images to be crawled. Like all schema markup, how items display in search results is at Google’s discretion and not guaranteed. However, quality markup will “increase the chance” of your images showing up.
4. Do a Site:Yourdomain.Com Query
Why your own site? To confirm your images have been indexed. Be sure to do this image search on mobile web or in the Android Search app. It is a mobile-first world. Not all image search functionality is visible on desktop.
If you see no image results badges, you likely have an implementation issue. Go back to step two.
If you see badges, click a couple to ensure they show your ideal markup in the details. Once you confirm all is well, then you can begin to search for your targeted keywords to see how you rank and if you are eligible for Similar Items or Related Items.
Note: While Badges and Related Items are common, Similar Items only cover a limited number of products in fashion. Google says it will expand in the coming months.
The Next Steps for Visual Search
The future is “Lens” – using your smartphone to translate real world input to digital action. No more QR codes or snap tags.
Markerless image recognition is coming. A world where nothing needs to be done to an image or object to turn it into a visual trigger to cue digital content. The static world becomes digitally connected simply by pointing your phone at it.
Both Pinterest and Google have the functionality, but I’ll let Google CEO Sundar Pichai explain in more detail:
I can envision:
- Product packaging coming to life. You point your phone at the product and it displays recipe possibilities, maps to nearby stores with the item in stock or coupon for an online order.
- Billboards of celebrities endorsing products will naturally connect you to the store to buy the product, but may also provide the latest gossip on that celebrity.
- Stranger’s outfits become walking ads when I can snap a pic and literally buy the shirt off their back. This will be a world where you can spontaneously buy most items you can see.
That is the power of visual search.
So, what are you doing to make your brand more visually appealing?
PPC can be an incredibly cost-effective way to generate leads through search engines. The key is to look at the right metrics for the right situations and use that data to make the most meaningful changes to your campaigns.
There’s one thing nearly every potential B2B buyer does before buying a product or signing a contract for your services: search.
In fact, 77 percent of B2B buyers are said to research on Google before making a buying decision.
And while improving your organic search engine ranking is important, executing an search engine optimization plan takes time. It’s a long-game approach that pays long-term dividends.
For many businesses, pay-per-click (PPC) advertising through services like Google Adwords has become an incredibly effective way to leverage the keywords potential customers are using to search for your business or industry.
Here are a few reasons why PPC might be an incredibly valuable marketing tactic to increase traffic to your website and generate new leads.
1. You don’t have to wait to start generating leads
Because you’re paying for them, PPC allows you to get up and running with ads for the keywords you want to rank for pretty quickly. While an organic SEO strategy takes time, PPC allows you to get in the game for important industry keywords.
2. You only pay for what you convert
With PPC campaigns, you only pay for the clicks you generate. This means you’re only paying for the people who actually click through on the ad and visit the landing page you intended them to visit.
3. You can easily track conversions to measure ROI
By adding conversion pixels to your landing pages, PPC allows you to identify the exact cost-per-lead of your campaign, which can be a lot more arduous to generate with other marketing tactics. As a result, you’re able to continually tweak and optimize your ads to decrease the cost-per-lead.
How to measure PPC success
The truth is there are dozens of PPC metrics you can track. So, which ones matter most when it comes to reaching your business goals?
Rather than focusing solely on PPC analytics like clicks, impressions and click-through rates, here are some metrics that allow you to analyze macro metrics that speak to the ROI of your efforts:
- Cost-per-conversion. This helps you determine if the PPC clicks you’re generating represent quality traffic that’s actually converting into sales.
- Most valuable keywords. Being able to track which keywords lead to sales can help you zero in on where to give credit within your PPC campaigns.
- Lifetime value of PPC customers. Once you have an understanding of how much it costs to convert a PPC lead, compare that to the other cost-per-customer marketing tactics against the lifetime value of your customers.
At the end of the day, PPC can be an incredibly cost-effective way to generate leads through search engines. The key is to look at the right metrics for the right situations and use that data to make the most meaningful changes to your campaigns.