19- Apr2018
Posted By: DPadmin
28 Views

How to align SEO and sales teams so everyone benefits 

If your sales and SEO team need a refresher on how to work together, Columnist Casie Gillette has the answer with five communication tips that will get them talking in no time.

It’s no secret that marketing and sales don’t always see eye to eye.

The sales team gets mad at the marketing team for lack of leads and marketing gets mad at sales for not closing deals.

For two areas so closely tied to one another, the lack of cooperation is pretty amazing.

In fact, according to a recent study from InsideView titled, “The State of Sales and Marketing Alignment in 2018,”  only 37 percent of salespeople reported meeting with marketing to discuss lead scoring.

Even more telling, Hubspot’s State of Inbound 2017 report noted only 44 percent of marketers feel they are aligned with sales. Yikes!

Breaking down silos isn’t simple, and it certainly isn’t a new concept. We’ve been talking about this for years, and while technology has made it much easier for sales and marketing to align, many companies still treat these departments separately.

How can we better align our sales and marketing efforts, specifically when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO)?

Obviously, there isn’t one answer, and for each organization it will be different. However, when thinking about SEO and sales, there are a few things we can do:

1. Set up monthly integrated meetings

When I worked in-house, the marketing team held weekly calls with the support team. The goal was to discuss common issues facing customers, identify problems or gaps on the site and ensure the marketing and support team were aligned with communication.

The same thing can apply to sales and marketing.

Set up monthly meetings to discuss goals, strategies, results and campaigns. The key to being successful is ensuring everyone knows what is happening, why it’s happening and how to address it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a marketing team launch a campaign without telling the sales team. How are they supposed to sell something they don’t know anything about?

Consider creating a Slack channel for the teams to communicate. Open lines of communication and shared knowledge equate to a more cohesive team.

2. Use sales data to inform SEO tactics

When we bring a new client on board, we spend a considerable amount of time talking through the sales process, evaluating existing sales materials, and in many cases, sitting through product demos and sales pitch decks.

We ask questions like:

  • Who is the target buyer?
  • Who is the decision-maker?
  • What are key issues you hear during the sales process?

While these questions may seem basic, they help determine how and where buyers search and what type of content we need to give them.

For example, if a client only sells to companies with over $100 million in revenue, addressing the challenges facing small business doesn’t make any sense. If the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) is the decision-maker, their main concern is likely tied to how your product or solution will help them financially.

Understanding the nuances of the buyer, the sales process and everything that comes with it is key to creating an SEO strategy that helps drive sales — which leads us perfectly into our next point.

3. Map your keywords to the customer journey

What is the goal of an SEO program? To be found by the right people, at the right time, in search results. More or less.

Easier said than done. We need not only to understand the buyer but also to understand the keywords our buyers are using and the search intent behind them throughout the entire customer journey.

That feels like a lot!

Fortunately for us, the data found in the material used to bring on a new client, the sales process, the pitch deck and common problems can help form the keyword research process.

A keyword research process must also adapt. It has to focus on themes and intent and can no longer be about selecting a few phrases and calling it a day.

Once you have your keyword themes, you can review with your sales team, start mapping them to the customer journey, and more importantly, begin applying them to the overall content and SEO strategy.

4. Create assets that work for everyone

As an SEO, you typically have firsthand knowledge of what content is needed, what content is being created and where that content lives. That isn’t the case for every department.

A few days ago, a client mentioned she found a bunch of really great content on the site that wasn’t linked from anywhere and was only being used for sales. The marketing team didn’t know about it, and we didn’t know about it. What could we do with it?

Understanding what is out there and how it can be used across marketing and sales can be beneficial to your overall strategy.

Let’s take webinars, for example. Most companies hold a webinar, and then you never hear about it again. But what if we took that webinar and used it across departments? What if we took that one piece of content and turned it into several? We could have:

  • A blog post summarizing the webinar which can be optimized for search, shared across social and sent out to everyone who registered for the webinar to re-engage them.
  • Short clips from the webinar which can be shared on YouTube, added into the blog post and embedded into landing pages for the sales team to utilize.

When creating assets, we have to think beyond search and consider how we can create something that benefits the organization as a whole.

5. Use SEO data to inform sales

We already talked about using sales data to inform your SEO strategy, but it also works the other way around.

As SEOs, we spend a lot of time in analytics working to understand how our site is performing, what our visitors like, what they don’t like and where we can improve. We also spend a lot of time looking at search results and competitors.

How much of that are you sharing with your sales team?

During the monthly meeting I mentioned above, make sure your sales team is aware of the following:

  • Top-performing content themes. They don’t have to know the exact pieces of content, but if specific areas are resonating with visitors, they can push that topic during calls or share the materials with prospects.
  • Competitor updates or campaigns. Very few people are looking at one solution and one solution alone. They are also looking at your competitors. The team should be aware of how competitors are performing, the type of messaging they are using and any other updates coming from them.
  • Customer reviews or complaints. What are people saying about you on the internet? What are the positives and the negatives? By sharing these with the sales team, they can proactively address potential concerns and promote positive reviews.

Sharing information between departments will go a long way in helping the organization. While the three bullets mentioned above may not seem significant to your efforts, they could be to someone else’s.

Tying it all together

Aligning efforts across the organization, specifically between SEO and sales, can make both teams better and drive growth faster. It may not be easy to get a process in place, but if you start with communication, the rest will follow.

Source: How to align SEO and sales teams so everyone benefits – Search Engine Land

06- Mar2018
Posted By: DPadmin
39 Views

Top 4 Reasons Your SEO Isn’t Increasing Sales

Due to the degree of difficulty and ever-increasing complexity of search engine optimization, you can’t fully erase the qualms of small businesses when it comes to ROI.

You can’t really blame them though. After all, if I’m pouring in over a thousand dollars a month on a strategy that doesn’t improve my sales, I’d begin to question my investment decisions, too.

But before you hit the brakes and abandon ship, you need to understand that SEO is a “go big or go home” kind of commitment. It’s not something you can casually do on the side — overshadowed by a collection of other marketing strategies — and expect it to produce substantial results.

Statistics show that the top result on Google has a 33.64% click-through rate. This is significantly reduced to only 5.61% on the fourth position — tapering off to only 0.95% by the tenth.

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Image source: Advanced Web Ranking

In other words, you either go all-in with everything you’ve got, or give up SEO altogether. Just do yourself a favor and decide now — will you keep pressing on, or call it quits?

Still here? Good.

It’s time to set the direction of your SEO campaign straight. But first, you need to identify the top reasons why it’s not producing results in the first place.

Let’s begin.

1. Your Campaign Is Led By Amateurs

It may sound harsh, but in SEO, there’s no room for amateurs.

You can’t expect to win against a stacked, full-service SEO agency if you only have a subpar “specialist” or team with half-baked strategies and truckloads of guesswork.

Sure, a budget SEO services company might be capable of putting your brand on Google’s first page. But even if they do manage to help you secure one of the top three spots, then they were most likely only targeting unprofitable keywords just to get you excited.

Remember that effective SEO requires a tremendous amount of work. It requires a team to be well-equipped and ready to take on even competitive keywords.

More importantly, they can design a system wherein your SEO efforts can directly translate to sales. This means they already know everything else in this list like the back of their hand.

2. You Didn’t Build Enough Branded Links

Here’s An Inescapable Fact: You’ll Never Snag One of the top three positions until Google trusts you.

From an SEO angle, brand building can be reflected across multiple areas. One of which is in the science of link building — more specifically, the aspect of keyword optimization.

A lot of new businesses make the mistake of optimizing too much for niche-related keywords. As a result, they build an unnatural backlink profile that doesn’t establish brand authority.

To help you understand this, let’s take a look at the homepage backlink profile of one of the biggest brands in the e-commerce space — Amazon:

  • Amazon.com – 30%
  • Amazon – 28%
  • www.amazon.com – 16%
  • https://www.amazon.com/ – 12%
  • Niche-relevant keywords – 6%
  • Others – 8%

Notice anything peculiar? Yes, up to 58% of their homepage backlinks contain a branded anchors — 86% if you include the naked URLs.

Put simply, you need to optimize for branded anchor texts on your homepage if you want to .

Think about it — authoritative brands that legitimately draw the attention of online users would naturally amass branded links to its homepage. That’s why you should aim to have at least 80% of your homepage links to have a branded anchor text.

3. You Forgot To Build Your Brand

In online marketing, brand building can pertain to different activities.

Influencer marketing, for example, is one endeavor that will definitely benefit your brand. It describes practices that will let you leverage the authority and online reach of other experts, brands, or other customers to improve your reputation and boost buyer confidence.

Granted, being on Google’s first page is impressive in its own right. But the influx of traffic you can achieve is meaningless if your visitors don’t have even an ounce of trust in your brand.

A common solution is to have a steady supply of relevant and useful content for your target audience. The more valuable and accurate information you freely provide, the easier your content consumers will turn into paying customers.

Another area of brand building is investing in social signals that incorporate social proof numbers and user-generated content.

For instance, if one of your posts have garnered thousands of likes, re-shares, and positive comments on social media, other users would become more receptive of your value propositions. Your content’s potential for links would also exponentially increase as more people share and engage it.

Some of the best ways to generate social proof is to launch social media contests and track brand mentions with a social listening tool.

4. You Don’t Score Your Seo Leads

Keep in mind that brand discovery through search engines is only the first step in the customer’s journey. They may not complete a purchase during their first visit, but you can show them the path to conversion by delivering content that matches their needs.

This is where the art of lead scoring steps in.

According to statistics, companies that have an effective lead scoring system can improve their lead generation ROI by up to 77%. It’s a marketing strategy that involves giving points to leads whenever they perform actions, and then sending them off to the sales team whenever they reach a certain “point threshold”.

For example, if one prospect clicks to a webinar landing page via a newsletter, then they can be attributed a point. But once they do attend your webinar, then their lead score can be increased by 5-10 points.

With SEO in mind, lead scoring begins by assessing the search terms and links they used to find your site.

If they used a keyword that signals a high purchase intent, then it might be ideal to send them off to the quickest path to sales. But if they arrived at your homepage via a branded link, then they most likely need a more proper introduction to your brand’s story and unique value propositions.

Conclusion

Remember, SEO is an incredibly intricate mechanism with a lot of moving parts. Considering the

fact that SEO can be bloody expensive, you can’t really blame small businesses who are hesitant to adopt an SEO strategy in their marketing.

Hopefully, learning the reasons why SEO isn’t affecting your bottom line would set your direction straight. If you’d like to know more about the SEO landscape in 2018, feel free to check out this post. Good luck!

Source: Top 4 Reasons Your SEO Isn’t Increasing Sales

06- Mar2018
Posted By: DPadmin
17 Views

5 ways to improve your search engine marketing campaign

The coming year is going to be a landmark year for local SEO. Google has begun to roll out its mobile-first index, putting more focus than ever on mobile optimization.

Mobile searches are intent-driven, with an immediate local focus at play. Local and national brands will reap big rewards by targeting users when and where they search.

Approximately 50 percent of individuals who perform a location-specific search will visit a store location on the same day. Given the increasing trend of high-intent searches and limited search-engine results page real estate, brands need to work harder to get in front of consumers when they are most likely to purchase.

By adopting a mobile-first focus and aligning with on-the-go user intent, brands can succeed at the local level even if they are competing with brands several times their size at the national level.

What this means is that local search-engine marketing is one way small businesses can truly compete with huge brands — and succeed.

So, how can you put a limited marketing budget to use to reach high-intent customers, edging out bigger brands? Here are five ways to successfully implement location-based targeting in your SEM campaigns in 2018.

1) Adopt a mobile-first mentality

The rise in location-based targeting goes hand-in-hand with the surge in mobile searches. Google noted that searches including “nearby” or “near me” (hyperlocal searches) increased twofold between 2014 and 2015.

Interestingly, this trend is already changing with “near me” and other location-modified searches declining as searchers know their results will be relevant because they were conducted on their phone. Eighty percent of those hyperlocal searches occurred on mobile devices, so you should stop treating mobile optimization as optional.

Implement a responsive design on your mobile website, prominently feature your contact information above the fold and include a click-to-call button to make the path to purchase simple for mobile users.

2) Optimize Google My Business

How can anyone hope to find your business on a results page if you haven’t properly optimized your Google My Business profile? Get featured on the local three-pack when users conduct hyperlocal searches by making your business appealing to Google and to customers.

Pay attention to the details: Ensure that your business is connected to the correct categories to appear in relevant searches; upload attractive, professional photos of your business; and encourage satisfied customers to leave a review to boost your visibility.

3) Account for voice search

At the Google I/O conference last year, we learned that one in five queries via the Google app and on Android devices come from voice search, and that number is poised to increase substantially in 2018. Digital assistants like Siri are improving, and voice searches are becoming more convenient.

Voice searches are all about convenience, and users who are walking or in transit will be posing hyper-specific queries with an intent to buy that day.

To take advantage of this rise in voice search, center your SEO around long-tail search keywords that reflect conversational language. And remember, voice searches aren’t limited to smartphones: Smart home hub sales increase every year, and voice search is a substantial component of these devices.

4) Consider in-store customers

Many shoppers look to their smartphones for information even after they’ve entered your store. This is not cause for alarm. Often, they are searching for product reviews or clarifying which model, size or color of a product they want to purchase, according to Google.

Optimize mobile functionality to assist customers in these moments. Tools like Google’s Proximity Beacon API can help developers create in-store messaging associated with promotions or featured products. Leverage APIs to create an app that can connect in-store customers with product reviews, discounts, related products and helpful FAQs in order to increase conversion and drive brand loyalty.

5) Create compelling local content

An organic method of driving traffic to your website is to write content that is useful for local customers. For example, if you sell mobile devices and electronics in the Houston area, consider writing an evergreen piece of content highlighting the best neighborhoods for cell reception.

In addition, write content featuring any popular geographical landmarks around your business. If anyone searches for businesses near that landmark, your content will improve your location-based targeting capabilities, placing you on more users’ search results.

Using these strategies, you can structure an SEM campaign around hyperlocal searches, driving conversions and increasing overall brand awareness. And the best news for small business owners is that these hyperlocal strategies can help your company compete against competitors and budgets many times the size.

Source: 5 ways to improve your search engine marketing campaign – The Business Journals

26- Jan2018
Posted By: DPadmin
31 Views

The 7 Most Common Concerns of SEO Newcomers

If you’ve never done so before, embrace SEO! Try it for yourself before you write it off as a “gimmick” or a “risk.”

As someone who’s been practicing SEO for the better part of a decade, I find that my typical concerns are not at all aligned with those of people learning about SEO for the first time.

There are millions of business owners and marketers not using SEO, despite the sheer number of proponents advocating for its effectiveness (and the availability of reliable metrics on its potential ROI).

There’s a reason (or multiple reasons) for this. Specifically, most of the people I encounter who are avoiding SEO have at least one major concern preventing them from following through with — or even just learning more about — this strategy. So, to help clear up some misconceptions and get in touch with an audience less familiar with SEO, I came up with this concise list of some of the most common concerns I typically see and hear about from SEO newcomers:

1. The ROI

Most SEO newcomers wonder about the “real” ROI of the strategy. Increasing your search visibility is a good thing, clearly, but it takes a lot of time and effort to accomplish those rising rankings, and there’s no guarantee how much extra traffic they’re going to send your way. On top of that, you need to think about your conversion rates: If they’re not high enough, that traffic may not be worth it.

But while these concerns are to some extent valid, it’s important to remember that SEO is a strategy that’s both flexible and intended for the long term. So, if you aren’t seeing a positive ROI after a month or two, try changing tactics and/or improve your methods until you start seeing positive momentum.

2. The time investment

As I mentioned, SEO is a long-term strategy. You won’t see results in the first week, and probably not even in the first month. You’ll spend hours optimizing your site, or thousands of dollars hiring an agency to do the work for you. If your company is short-staffed, or you’re already busy with existing marketing strategies, you may not be willing to make the time investment in learning and practicing SEO.

However, you don’t need to go over the top to start; even a few simple changes to your website’s structure and visibility can give you a boost, and provide a foundation that you can grow when you do have time.

3. Technical SEO

If you’re hesitant about the effectiveness of SEO, it’s safe to assume you don’t have much technical experience with website development or programming — and that the prospect of technical SEO intimidates you.

4. The penalties

The prospect of Google penalties strikes fear into the hearts of most webmasters — or at least the ones who don’t fully understand them. After the emergence of major updates, like Panda and Penguin, search optimizers have thrown around the term “penalty” to scare SEO novices into thinking that one simple mistake could instantly tank their site’s rankings.

Certainly  it’s true that if you do something that decreases your trustworthiness (such as publishing questionable content or building spammy links), your authority and rankings could fall. But even this outcome is nothing that’s beyond repair—and these mistakes are pretty easy to avoid.

 

   

MARKETING>SEO

The 7 Most Common Concerns of SEO Newcomers

If you’ve never done so before, embrace SEO! Try it for yourself before you write it off as a “gimmick” or a “risk.”
The 7 Most Common Concerns of SEO Newcomers

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own..
As someone who’s been practicing SEO for the better part of a decade, I find that my typical concerns are not at all aligned with those of people learning about SEO for the first time.

Related: 10 Fundamentals to Understanding SEO

There are millions of business owners and marketers not using SEO, despite the sheer number of proponents advocating for its effectiveness (and the availability of reliable metrics on its potential ROI).

ADVERTISING

There’s a reason (or multiple reasons) for this. Specifically, most of the people I encounter who are avoiding SEO have at least one major concern preventing them from following through with — or even just learning more about — this strategy. So, to help clear up some misconceptions and get in touch with an audience less familiar with SEO, I came up with this concise list of some of the most common concerns I typically see and hear about from SEO newcomers:

1. The ROI

Most SEO newcomers wonder about the “real” ROI of the strategy. Increasing your search visibility is a good thing, clearly, but it takes a lot of time and effort to accomplish those rising rankings, and there’s no guarantee how much extra traffic they’re going to send your way. On top of that, you need to think about your conversion rates: If they’re not high enough, that traffic may not be worth it.

But while these concerns are to some extent valid, it’s important to remember that SEO is a strategy that’s both flexible and intended for the long term. So, if you aren’t seeing a positive ROI after a month or two, try changing tactics and/or improve your methods until you start seeing positive momentum.

2. The time investment

As I mentioned, SEO is a long-term strategy. You won’t see results in the first week, and probably not even in the first month. You’ll spend hours optimizing your site, or thousands of dollars hiring an agency to do the work for you. If your company is short-staffed, or you’re already busy with existing marketing strategies, you may not be willing to make the time investment in learning and practicing SEO.

Related: Your SEO Checklist: 4 Steps to Optimizing Your Website

However, you don’t need to go over the top to start; even a few simple changes to your website’s structure and visibility can give you a boost, and provide a foundation that you can grow when you do have time.

3. Technical SEO

If you’re hesitant about the effectiveness of SEO, it’s safe to assume you don’t have much technical experience with website development or programming — and that the prospect of technical SEO intimidates you.

Fortunately, technical SEO is a lot less “technical” than it sounds, as I outlined in SEO 101: A Guide for the Technically Challenged.

4. The penalties

The prospect of Google penalties strikes fear into the hearts of most webmasters — or at least the ones who don’t fully understand them. After the emergence of major updates, like Panda and Penguin, search optimizers have thrown around the term “penalty” to scare SEO novices into thinking that one simple mistake could instantly tank their site’s rankings.

Certainly  it’s true that if you do something that decreases your trustworthiness (such as publishing questionable content or building spammy links), your authority and rankings could fall. But even this outcome is nothing that’s beyond repair—and these mistakes are pretty easy to avoid.

“True” Google penalties are manual actions that come into play only under the most egregious circumstances — such as when you’re intentionally and repeatedly trying to manipulate your rank.

5. Public perceptions

I’ve spoken to business owners who were afraid of the consequences of their audience finding out they used SEO as a strategy to earn traffic. In this context, they see SEO as a cheap or gimmicky strategy that could negatively affect the public’s trust in them.

Maybe this was true back in 1999, but today’s SEO is built on a foundation of providing high-quality content to a targeted base of users; it’s about providing value, not tricking search engines into ranking you higher.

6. Targeting

You might also be concerned about the idea of targeting your audience and specific keywords. The world of search is a big one; even if you serve a niche industry, there are hundreds — or even thousands — of keywords and topics to choose from, and your choices could make or break your strategy.

Fortunately, there’s some wiggle room here; you can choose to target words based on volume, competition, relevance or a customized mixture of all three. That may sound complicated if you’re uninitiated, but even after just an hour or two of diving into keyword research, you’ll find that everything will start to make more sense.

7. The complexity

The sheer apparent complexity of SEO is enough to turn some people away entirely. There are literally hundreds of factors that could influence your rankings in search engines, and even more considerations to bear in mind when you factor in content marketing and conversion optimization.

This is true, but none of those hundreds of factors are, by themselves, especially complicated. It will take you some time to learn them, but they’re all perfectly digestible: It just takes time to become acquainted with them.

There are some legitimate concerns about SEO for newcomers; it isn’t a strategy you can master quickly, nor is it guaranteed to pay off. But given enough time, investment and dedication, anyone can plan and manage a respectable SEO strategy that yields a positive ROI. And as long as you’re playing by the rules, there’s no significant danger that you’ll earn a penalty or damage your reputation in the process.

So, dive in! Embrace SEO and learn more about it, perhaps even trying it for yourself before you write it off as a gimmick or a risk; you might be surprised what you’re able to accomplish.

Source: The 7 Most Common Concerns of SEO Newcomers

26- Jan2018
Posted By: DPadmin
28 Views

When SEO isn’t your SEO problem

Even the greatest SEO strategy won’t succeed if you can’t implement it properly. Columnist Casie Gillette discusses common client obstacles and how to overcome them.

If you’ve been doing SEO for any length of time, you’ve undoubtedly experienced your fair share of failures. And in many cases, frustratingly, the SEO program itself was not the issue. While I’ve discussed meta topics such as management challengesgetting executive buy-in, and the need for flexibility in the past, I haven’t directly addressed the question, “What do you do if SEO isn’t your SEO problem?”

As search marketers, we work our tails off analyzing data, search results, client websites and more, with the goal of providing recommendations that will move the needle. Unfortunately, the best recommendations in the world don’t matter if they aren’t implemented — and therein lies one of the biggest challenges of SEO.

Let’s look at a few common obstacles that can hinder an SEO program’s progress and discuss how we can overcome them.

Just following up

We’ve all been there: You’ve sent one, two, three emails and still have heard nothing back. How can you possibly get anything done if the client won’t even answer your emails?

It’s not a simple solution. People are busy; they have other priorities, and it’s our job to ensure our clients understand the importance and value of the program.

If a contact goes silent, there are a few options we can try.

Pick up the phone

Your clients are busy people, and many of them probably receive dozens or even hundreds of emails per day. That’s a lot of messages to sort through! While it can be frustrating to not receive a response, it’s possible your contact has more important emails to get through.

Pick up the phone. It’s so simple, yet we often forgot to do it. In the age of technology, everyone is emailing and texting. Talking to someone can go a long way.

Use an email tracker

If your emails aren’t being responded to, maybe you are sending them at the wrong time of day. Even worse, maybe they aren’t even getting to your client’s inbox.

Tools like Yesware and Bananatag show you when a person opens your email, allowing you to see if your emails are being read — and giving you an opportunity to follow up quickly. Did your client just open the email? Send another one while it’s top of mind, or give them a quick call.

Go to the next person

Sometimes, the only option is to go a level up. I only like to use this as a last resort — we certainly don’t want to make anyone look bad, but at the end of the day, the program’s success is tied to our ability to make things happen.

I disagree with you

As a marketing consultant, you typically end up working directly with an organization’s internal marketing team — a marketing team with experienced professionals, brand knowledge and more often than not, a whole lot of opinions.

For agencies, the key to program success is getting buy-in from key decision-makers. The person in charge needs to ensure that their team approves and implements what you are recommending. However, in some cases, the boss will rely on his or her team to make those decisions. And that’s OK. A sign of a good leader is trusting one’s team.

Unfortunately, the team may not always agree with what you are recommending. Perhaps they’ve done it a different way in the past or don’t think it’s worth the effort. How do we change their minds?

Lay out your strategy

It’s no secret that there’s a lack of education in the SEO world, both inside and out. The result? More work on the front end. Instead of just providing a recommendation, make sure you discuss the why. What is the overall goal, and how is this suggestion going to help them get there?

Pick your battles

We provide a lot of recommendations. In many cases, we make recommendations that aren’t going to move the needle significantly but are best practices that will make the site better. Sure, we’d like these implemented — but sometimes it’s okay if they aren’t. We have to pick our battles.

Let’s take ALT text, for example. A few weeks ago, I had a client who disagreed with an ALT text recommendation my team had made. The client wanted to use something else, so they decided they weren’t going to implement our suggestion. And that’s OK — overall, it wasn’t a high-priority task.

In all likelihood, you won’t be able to implement every SEO recommendation you put forth — so be sure to save your fights for the ones that are really going to matter.

Run a test

For efforts that may require additional time and resources, it can be hard to get buy-in. Suggest running a test.

A few months ago, we provided recommendations to improve a client’s product pages. Unfortunately, the client didn’t want to spend the time and effort making the changes. Our suggestion? There’s a new product page launching, so why don’t we try the proposed improvements on that page and see how it performs?

The new page outperformed all the others — and as a result, the team is now ready to go back and revisit the rest of the product section.

Like most things in life, we want reassurances. If we can prove that our recommendations will get results, it makes it much easier to push for others down the line.

We don’t have time

Time. Precious time. How often have you uttered the phrase, “There’s not enough time in the day?” You aren’t alone.

We only have so many hours in our work week, so we have to prioritize the things that matter to us. Unfortunately, SEO isn’t always the top item on your client’s list of things that have to get done. How can we overcome this hurdle?

Agency implementation

We learned a long time ago that if we wanted things done, we needed to do them ourselves. While agency implementation takes time (and trust from the client), it ensures your recommendations are applied and the program can move forward.

Prioritize recommendations

There’s a thing I like to call “deliverable overload.” A client falls behind, but we continue to send out deliverables. Instead of working through them from start to finish, the client gets overloaded and is unsure where to begin.

Make it easier. When a client starts getting behind, the first thing I do is make a list of outstanding deliverables and prioritize them based on what’s going to have the biggest impact on the site and/or what can be done quickly. That makes it easier for the client to sort through our recommendations and start working on them.

Make your case with data

It’s extremely frustrating to have to put together a bad report for your client — especially when you know that the reason for the poor performance is that nothing was actually done.

If you aren’t making any headway, and if you aren’t able to implement the recommendations yourself, start pulling data. What metrics are important to the client? Show them how those metrics are (or are not) being impacted, and explain how your proposed changes can help.

Final thoughts

As search marketers, our jobs are hard. On top of doing great SEO work, we are managing different personalities, dealing with internal company issues and trying to manage our own day. But if we can proactively address the issues above, we can remove some of the biggest impediments to our SEO program’s success.

Source: When SEO isn’t your SEO problem

26- Jan2018
Posted By: DPadmin
26 Views

Take My Advice: Stop Taking So Much SEO Advice

If you want to be truly successful in SEO, you need to stop taking so much SEO advice. Here’s why.

There’s no shortage of SEO advice to go around. Heck, I’ve made a career out of it. I’ve listed hundreds of strategies companies can use to improve their rankings in search engines, and have provided updates as SEO develops, to guide search optimizers in the right way to respond to algorithm changes and new technologies.

For the most part, the advice you read on high-authority publishers and niche specialist sites is “good”—it’s not meant to lead you astray, and it usually provides factual, valuable information. But if you want to be truly successful in SEO, you need to stop taking so much SEO advice.

Wait, What?

I realize the bit of hypocrisy here. I’m dispensing advice that tells you to deliberately avoid taking advice—but I don’t mean you should ignore SEO advice altogether. Instead, I caution you to do three things:

  1. Double check the facts. Don’t just assume that an author knows what he/she is talking about. Do the research to see if other authorities have made similar claims, and how their experiments may have differed.
  2. Don’t follow tactics blindly. Make the effort to understand what you’re doing before you follow a step-by-step approach.
  3. Try new things for yourself. Dedicate some time to experimenting with new strategies of your own. It may seem riskier than just doing what other people have already done, but there are significant benefits to this experimental approach.

Here’s why.

SEO Isn’t One-Size-Fits-All

For starters, SEO isn’t a one-size-fits-all strategy. What works for one business in one industry isn’t necessarily going to work for someone else. For example:

  • National and local SEO function on different algorithms. Local SEO demands a separate set of tactics and strategies, which simply aren’t relevant to you if you’re pursuing national SEO. Fortunately, it’s easy to filter out irrelevant articles in this split, but it’s an example of just how different SEO can be for different companies.
  • Competition can make or break a strategy. Next, understand that the level of competition you’re dealing with can make or break a given strategy. If an influencer reports that their homepage moved up three spots for a given keyword term after producing a new video every week, that doesn’t mean you’ll see the same results; if you have far more competition, you might not move at all, and if you have far less competition, you might not need nearly as much effort to see the same results.
  • There are thousands of influential variables that can’t all be isolated. SEO is ridiculously complicated; even though we’ve pinned down a number of ranking factors, and how much impact they have (relatively speaking), it’s still hard to determine exact root causes for each shift in rankings we experience. For example, let’s say an article goes viral on social media and subsequently rises in rankings. It would be easy to think that its ranking increase was a direct result of those social shares, but in reality, it was likely a secondary factor—such as increased inbound links as a result of those social shares—that did the trick.

Misinformation Is Easy to Spread Unintentionally

I’ve written recently about a problem in the SEO industry related to the emergence and spread of inaccurate SEO information. This isn’t a product of people deliberately trying to lead others astray; instead, it’s a natural result of the industry.

SEO is necessarily imprecise in some ways (since Google doesn’t formally publish exactly how its ranking algorithm works), the nature of the industry changes quickly, and the SEO community is ravenous for new information, which many search optimizers are quick and eager to provide.

The end result is that information often gets published before it’s fully verified, and it’s easy for readers to form first impressions of articles that may reflect isolated incidents rather than broad trends. It’s also easy for this information to spread, since many influencers and community members share new information without checking its validity for themselves (I’ve been guilty of this too—we all have).

Misinformation is Often Spread Intentionally, Too

Aside from well-intentioned SEO professionals jumping the gun with unverified information in an attempt to be the first to publish new information, the internet is full of self-proclaimed “SEO experts” who eagerly spread false information in order to make a profit. Forums and low-authority blogs are where I most commonly find bad information being perpetuated.

For example, before Google’s Penguin algorithm update in April of 2012, it was considered a “best practice” to obtain as many inbound links as one possibly could, regardless of the quality of those links, and the anchor text used for those links needed to be “exact match” keywords. That is, if your keyword was “green widgets” then the link to your website should always say “green widgets.”

Today, this is precisely the kind of practice that will get your website penalized by Google. But lurking in the dark confines of small blogs and community forums are snake-oil salespeople, proclaiming that they can get you thousands of high-quality links in a day, each with perfectly keyword-optimized anchor text, and all this for the low price of $100. To many SEO newcomers looking for a cheap start to their SEO campaign, this seems like just the deal they’ve been looking for. After all, they know that more links is generally a good thing, so why not take the deal?

Clearly, this is just one type of SEO scam perpetuated by lurkers, but they are numerous. Distinguishing trustworthy SEO advice can be difficult for business owners who are just getting their feet wet with SEO, and it can be a minefield of misinformation designed to confuse business owners into spending their money unwisely.

Experimentation Is the Best Way to Learn

According to a scientific study of—ironically enough—science students, it’s easier for people to learn by doing than it is to learn by traditional forms of instruction. You can read and regurgitate information about SEO all day long, but until you get your hands on a campaign, doing your own keyword research, writing your own content, and doing your own measurement and analysis, you won’t develop a subjective, innate “feel” for how SEO works.

There’s nothing mystical going on here. Over time, as you venture into SEO on your own, you’ll get better at intuitively troubleshooting problems (the way auto mechanics can tell what’s wrong with a vehicle just by listening to it), and you’ll end up tinkering with tactics that even industry leaders haven’t considered. Ignoring the advice—and sometimes contradicting it—can lead you down an even more innovative path.

Conclusion

SEO advice is, for the most part, good. It will help you learn more about the industry, come up with better ideas, and might even inspire you to try something new. But you shouldn’t rely exclusively on advice, verbatim, to fuel your strategies.

If you want to see the best results, you need to take SEO advice with a grain of salt, think critically about what you’re reading, and ultimately use your own research and experience to fuel your progress.

Source: Take My Advice: Stop Taking So Much SEO Advice

25- Jan2018
Posted By: DPadmin
51 Views

The ultimate guide to choosing keywords for ROI | Search Engine Watch

Keyword research is not easy. Every SEO has done it, but few will ever master it completely. In this guide we go beyond raw search volume data to metrics that

This is not supposed to be just another keyword research post. This post is about going beyond raw search volume data, using metrics which will help you choose keywords which deliver the best ROI for you right now.

To start with I am going to assume you have carried out your keyword research already, and are starting off with a comprehensive list (if not, our complete guide to keyword research for SEO will help you do this).

The more keywords, the better: you want to start with a massive data set and then use the below points to whittle down your keywords.

Here is the full list:

1. Get Cost Per Click data

Cost Per Click, or CPC data is invaluable to SEOs. Why should we have to test one keyword’s effectiveness against another’s when the PPC guys have already got it figured out?

If marketers aren’t spending money to appear on the keyword, it’s clearly not commercially viable. We want to be using CPC data to exclude keywords.

Any keywords with less than 50p CPC clearly isn’t commercially viable, so ditch them from your list, and prioritize all those keywords with over £1 CPC.

2. Focus on what you already rank for

This point is about prioritizing short term goals. There is no point focusing on a keyword, no matter the search volume, if you don’t rank for it.

Moving a keyword which isn’t ranking to page 1 is going to take time, and will only start delivering traffic right at the end. Moving a keyword from position 11 to position 9 can take no time at all, and you will see the traffic coming through instantly from managing to get on the first page of Google.

Below is the classification we use at Zazzle Media to secure short-term wins for our clients and to help them to manage their expectations too. The position range column refers to the ranking position of each keyword on Google.

Position RangeOpportunity Group
2 – 4Short Term
5 – 20Quick Win
21 – 39Medium
40+Long Term

Click-through rate studies all show that it’s page one or nothing, and as ‘Short Term’ and ‘Quick Win’ all sit on page 1 & 2, the vast majority of your traffic will be coming from these.

Long term keywords should not be ignored, especially if they can deliver significantly more traffic than other keywords, however your keyword optimisation strategy should reflect the effort-to-benefit ratio which the above classification will identify.

3. Choose the easy options

SEO is not done in a vacuum. For every campaign you invest in, there is always going to be a competitor out there investing more than you.

Ranking above a bigger brand is hard, very hard! If you’re not up for going toe-to-toe, budget-wise, with the big players in your field, then you’ll need to go after the easier keywords.

You can outrank more authoritative sites with more specific, more engaging content. However, as a rule of thumb we use referring domains as a signal of competitiveness on the keyword.

We use Majestic’s Open Apps to get referring domain data at scale. However, any backlink audit tool is sufficient. It’s best to look both at domain and URL level with this, with extra weight put on URL level (a 75/25 split).

Compare the average difficulty score for your keyword set against the URL on your site you wish to target the keyword on, and rule out any keyword massively out of reach.

4. Focus on traffic, not search volume

So, if I’m searching for a fashion item… I type in ‘dresses’ only to see that the results page is full of women’s dresses – this isn’t what I wanted! I then have to change the search to ‘men’s dresses’ to get the desired result. Think about the thousands of other men in my position!

But seriously, some keywords will have more clicks per search, some less. Did you know the clicks per search for the phrase ‘Chelsea Boots’ is only 0.64? This means that out of every 100 searches, it only results in 64 clicks.

A search volume of 25,000 looks absolutely massive, but a clicks per search of only 16,236 massively reduces what was a huge keyword.

We get this information from Ahref’s keyword explorer, and it really is impossible to do it any other way. You can get a lean towards how strong a keyword is through inspecting the SERPs and seeing the conformity of the ranking URLs. Are all the websites similar? Or are we seeing informational mixed with commercial results, mixed genders, etc.?

Google is all about delivering the best results for its users, and a mixed bag of results is a quick indicator that it doesn’t know what the user wants, so we’d anticipate lower click volume. It’s impossible to do it this way at scale, but will help you choose between a few keywords.

5. Use seasonal data/trends

Lots of businesses rely on seasonal traffic, which will completely invalidate average search volumes. Make sure your traffic estimates are based on when you are busiest, and focus your strategy on delivering growth at that point in time.

This means on-page and technical changes made months in advance, before consolidating link equity to key pages when they need it most.

Equally so, Google trends is your friend; go after keywords with an upward trend (obviously), don’t prioritize a dying keyword. You can get exports of your top keywords and use a SLOPE formula to determine whether your keyword is increasing or decreasing.

This is especially handy for your long-term keywords, to determine their true value.

6. Focus on keyword categories, not individual keywords

When completing keyword research, your keywords should be tightly categorized and mapped to individual URLs or directories. This allows us to see opportunity at a grander scale, helping you redraw the boundaries, and think more naturally about optimization.

Optimizing for individual keywords is so far outdated – content marketing helps us move beyond this and optimize for topics (this guide will help you do so). This helps us to be more informative and more comprehensive than our competitors. By grouping keywords by tight semantic relationships, you will not only have the head term, but also all the queries people have.

Think about it: what is more relevant and more authoritative than a directory/website that has great, in-depth content for every stage of the funnel?

Focusing on groups of keywords is not only more natural, but will deliver more opportunity for traffic growth as your supporting content ranks for keywords in its own right. If you have done enough to capture the right keywords, you can get conversions through bottom of the funnel, informational keywords.

The above six points will help you to have a more strategic approach to your initial keyword research, which enables you to get the best out of the resources you have – and get above the competition.

Source: The ultimate guide to choosing keywords for ROI | Search Engine Watch

25- Jan2018
Posted By: DPadmin
27 Views

5 Reasons Clients Fire Their SEO Agency (And How to Easily Avoid Them)

Is one or your clients about to split? Here are some common reasons clients decide to fire their SEO agency and actions you can take to prevent it.

The agency-client relationship can be fragile.

This can be especially true of SEO agencies, given the long-term commitment required to see optimal results. A lot can change during that time and, sometimes, a client decides it would be best to part ways.

However, this really doesn’t have to be the case. There are some predictable, avoidable reasons clients decide to split with their agency.

I spent more than seven years working at digital marketing agencies and learned (sometimes the hard way) to sense when clients were unsatisfied. There were some common patterns that played out over time.

The good news? A bit of honesty, clarity, and some positive results can save your agency-client relationship.

Here are five reasons clients choose to fire their SEO agency and some actions you can take to avoid getting fired.

1. “We Can’t Implement Your Recommendations”

SEO is fundamental to increase visibility, but it is harder to achieve this if you don’t control the website. As a result, hefty tomes filled with SEO recommendations can end up gathering dust in the client’s inbox.

With some larger clients, I’ve seen thousands of technical recommendations go unimplemented. The clients’ (quite valid) argument has been that these only have a value as they relate to website improvements. Without seeing the light of day, the recommendations are essentially worthless.

There are numerous reasons why this occurs. If the client isn’t in a position to give the agency direct access to the site, it usually means going through a web development queue every time a change is suggested. Should other recommendations take precedence over yours, you may find that SEO gets lost in the crowd.

Dev queue

How to Avoid This:

  • Present a business case for your recommendations. Communicate, in terms everyone can relate to, why it’s good for the client’s business to follow your team’s advice.
  • Get to know the hurdles your client faces when implementing SEO updates. Work together to overcome them.
  • Set targets for everyone. It takes a team effort to improve a site for SEO, so it’s worth creating a dashboard to track how many changes have been seen through and where the bottlenecks are. This helps to quantify and visualize any issues.
  • Build relationships with senior leaders at the client’s business.Sometimes the client requires an organizational change to get SEO bumped up the priority list. Without senior-level approval, that is unlikely to happen.
  • Add a caveat in contracts (in some cases). This can state simply that should the agency’s SEO recommendations not be implemented within a reasonable time frame, any agreed performance targets need to be revised.

2. “SEO Isn’t Delivering Like Our Other Channels”

The gift and the curse of SEO can be its long-term effectiveness as a performance channel. In theory, everyone is on board with the fact that SEO takes longer than PPC to bring positive returns.

In practice, it’s easy to grow impatient when you see how SEO stacks up against PPC or even paid social in the immediate short term.

The agreement between agency and client about how long SEO takes to work becomes particularly fraught if things start to trend downwards. Even a slight week-on-week dip in visibility can be cause for concern.

To marketers accustomed to paid search, it can be difficult to shift mindsets and accept that there are rarely instant fixes in SEO. Barring a serious technical problem, in SEO these dips can’t be reversed so readily. They must be put into a wider context and investigated in detail before actions are taken.

How to Avoid This:

  • SEO isn’t supposed to deliver like other channels, so the best way to avoid this scenario is to work on developing trust in your approach. Set expectations appropriately at the outset and provide frequent updates.
  • Make sure your team identifies any performance changes. If the client notices it first, you can seem either negligent or keen to hide something. If you feel the client may be concerned with what they see, get in touch first to allay any fears.
  • Offer to educate your client’s team if they aren’t so familiar with SEO. Clients are usually open to learning more about digital marketing.
  • If things simply aren’t turning out like you thought they would, be honest. Performance won’t improve without everyone getting on board with a new approach. That starts with an up-front conversation about what’s gone to plan, what hasn’t, and what you need to do to turn things around. Clients appreciate a bit of integrity more than anything else.

3. “We’re Not Sure What We’re Getting for Our Money”

A lot of SEO work goes on in the background. We spend a huge amount of our time analyzing trends, identifying opportunities, and preparing documents.

seo work

We have to put this time in if we want to compile an effective strategy. However, the client rarely sees this. Our processes can be hidden, with only the outputs to show.

Some clients have had a bad experience with an agency, too. I’ve seen plenty of clients approach a new agency with a paid link penalty in tow. It’s understandable that this causes a certain guardedness about SEO agency practices in general.

If we keep our processes out of sight, that skepticism will only increase. From there, the relationship is hard to retain.

How to Avoid This:

  • Spend time going through your statement of work with the client. Make sure they understand what each item is, how long it will take, and why you think it’s the best use of their budget. That way, there should be no surprises and they are free to amend things as they see fit.
  • Stick to your project plan. If there are any deviations from this, discuss them with your client and confirm the changes in writing.
  • Use a shared project management tool like Basecamp or Teamwork. This provides visibility into your team’s daily tasks and helps to assign items to the client, too.

4. “You Haven’t Delivered on Your Promises”

This one stereotypically befalls the salespeople who promise incremental, oftentimes stratospheric, improvements in performance — up and to the right to infinity. This can help get the sale, but then it’s the SEO account team that has to make good on the promise of triple-digit growth.

SEO Forecast

However, this isn’t the exclusive domain of the over-eager salesperson.

We can all get a little carried away just through the desire to please a new client.

This can leave us with performance targets that loom large on the horizon once the honeymoon period is over.

Additionally, this applies to the account team you provide for the client. I’ve seen agencies put forward an account team in a pitch document, then deliver an entirely different set of people once the ink dries on the contract. This makes the client feel like they are being taken advantage of from day one.

How to Avoid This:

  • Make it clear what exactly is being promised to a client. Performance projections, for example, can be viewed as legally binding. Clients can feel that they are buying that traffic by signing with your agency. Your methodology for calculating a forecast (if you do decide to supply one) and all caveats to this must be provided in a transparent manner.
  • As an agency, it is essential to have a clear code of conduct, both internally and in your interactions with clients. Make this explicit in your initial written agreements with a client so they feel assured that you’ll stick to your word.
  • Let your client meet their account team during the pitch phase. Often, an agency will send their best salespeople to try and seal the deal, but all the clients I’ve met really want to meet the people who will be working on their account.

5. “We Feel Like We Can Take It From Here”

“What will your SEO agency provide after month three?” Many clients have been asking this question of their agencies lately.

The perception is that the heavy lifting of technical SEO and on-site implementations will be done within this period. After that, surely it’s just about occasional maintenance and some reporting, right?

This can lead some clients to feel like, after they’ve received the initial audits and strategy documents, they’ve got all they need from an SEO agency. Basically, they think they can “take it from here.”

We know they’re wrong (obviously). But the onus is on us to make the case.

An SEO specialist can add to any conversation that relates to a client’s website. This is as valid in month 12 of the contract as it is in month one – perhaps even more so.

Our efforts have a cumulative effect. SEO practices provide more value through their application over time. This applies to our technical SEO work, content marketing, and digital PR.

The full impact of our work is lost if the relationship is severed after just a few months.

How to Avoid This:

  • Provide case studies that show the positive effect your SEO team has on a client’s business over time. This should demonstrate that you need at least six months to make a real difference.
  • When preparing a service-level agreement, make reference to specific time frames. Clients may feel that they are getting everything up front, but some of our work only really kicks into action in month four or later.
  • A lot of clients have good reasons for believing they can take up the mantle from their agency. Perhaps they have hired an in-house SEO specialist, for example. In this case, offer to transition your activities over to their team and make sure the client is in the best possible shape for success.

Source: 5 Reasons Clients Fire Their SEO Agency (And How to Easily Avoid Them)

25- Jan2018
Posted By: DPadmin
33 Views

Has AI changed the SEO industry for better or worse?

Columnist Jayson DeMers explores the impact of Google’s shift toward machine learning and discusses what the future will look like for search professionals.

With Google turning to artificial intelligence to power its flagship search engine business, has the SEO industry been left in the dust? The old ways of testing and measuring are becoming antiquated, and industry insiders are scrambling to understand something new — something which is more advanced than their backgrounds typically permit.

The fact is, even Google engineers are having a hard time explaining how Google works anymore. With this in mind, is artificial intelligence changing the SEO industry for better or worse? And has Google’s once-understood algorithm become a “runaway algorithm?”

Who was in the driver’s seat?

The old days of Google were much simpler times. Artificial intelligence may have existed back then, but it was used for very narrow issues, like spam filters on Gmail. Google engineers spent most of their time writing preprogrammed “rules” that worked to continuously close the loopholes in their search engine — loopholes that let brands, with the help of SEO professionals, take advantage of a static set of rules that could be identified and then exploited.

However, this struck at the heart of Google’s primary business model: the pay-per-click (PPC) ad business. The easier it was to rank “organically” (in Google’s natural, unpaid rankings), the fewer paid ads were sold. These two distinctly different parts of their search engine have been, and will always be, at odds with one another.

If you doubt that Google sees its primary business as selling ads on its search engine, you haven’t been watching Google over the past few decades. In fact, almost 20 years after it started, Google’s primary business was still PPC. In 2016, PPC revenues still represented 89 percent of its total revenues.

At first glance, it would stand to reason that Google should do everything it can to make its search results both user-friendly and maintainable. I want to focus on this last part — having a code base that is well documented enough (at least, internally within Google) so that it can be explained to the public, as a textbook of how websites should be structured and how professionals should interact with its search engine.

Going up the hill

Throughout the better part of Google’s history, the company has made efforts to ensure that brands and webmasters understood what was expected of them. In fact, they even had a liaison to the search engine optimization (SEO) world, and his name was Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s Webspam Team.

Cutts would go around the SEO conference circuit and often be the keynote or featured session speaker. Any time Google was changing its algorithms or pushing a new update to its search engine, Cutts would be there to explain what that meant for webmasters.

It was quite the spectacle. In one room, you typically had hundreds of SEOs who were attacking every loophole they could find, every slim advantage they could get their hands on. In the very same room, you had Cutts explaining why those techniques were not going to work in the future and what Google actually recommended.

As time when loopholes were closed, Cutts became one of the only sources of hope for SEOs. Google was becoming more sophisticated than ever, and with very few loopholes left to exploit, Cutts’s speaking engagements became crucial for SEOs to review and dissect.

The ‘uh-oh’ moment

And then, the faucet of information slowed to a trickle. Cutts’ speaking engagements became rarer, and his guidelines became more generic. Finally, in 2014, Cutts took a leave from Google. This was a shock to insiders who had built an entire revenue model off of selling access to this information.

Then, the worst news for SEOs: He was being replaced by an unnamed Googler. Why unnamed? Because the role of spokesperson was being phased out. No longer would Google be explaining what brands should be doing with each new update of its search engine.

The more convoluted its search engine algorithms were, the more PPC ads Google sold. As a result of this shift, Google capitalized immensely on PPC ad revenue. It even created “Learn with Google,” a gleaming classroom where SEO conference attendees could learn how to maximize PPC spend.

An article by Search Engine Land columnist Kristine Schachinger about the lack of information on a major algorithmic update, and Google’s flippant response by interim spokesman Gary Illyes, had all of the SEO industry’s frustration wrapped up in a nutshell. What was going on?

Removing the brakes — the switch to an AI-powered search engine

At the same time, Google was experimenting with new machine learning techniques to automate much of the updating process to its search engine. Google’s methodology has always been to automate as much of its technology as it could, and its core search engine was no different.

The pace of Google’s search engine switch to artificial intelligence caught many off-guard. This wasn’t like the 15 years of manual algorithm updates to its index. This felt like a tornado had swept in — and within a few years, it changed the landscape of SEO forever.

The rules were no longer in some blog or speech by Matt Cutts. Here stood a breathtaking question: Were the rules even written down at Google anymore?

Much of the search engine algorithms and their weightings were now controlled by a continuously updating machine-learning system that changed its weightings from one keyword to the next. Marcus Tober, CTO of SearchMetrics, said that “it’s very likely that even Google Engineers don’t know the exact composition of their highly complex algorithm.

The runaway algorithm

Remember Google’s primary revenue stream? PPC represents almost 90 percent of its business. Once you know that, the rest of the story makes sense.

Did Google know beforehand that the switch to an AI-powered search engine would lead to a system that couldn’t be directly explained? Was it a coincidence that Cutts left the spotlight in 2014, and that the position never really came back? Was it that Google didn’t want to explain things to brands anymore, or that they couldn’t?

By 2017, Google CEO Sundar Pichai began to comment publicly on Google’s foray into artificial intelligence. Bob Griffin, CEO of Ayasdi, wrote recently that Pichai made it clear that there should be no abdication of responsibility associated with intelligent technologies. In other words, there should be no excuse like “The machine did x.”

Griffin put it clearly:

Understanding what the machine is doing is paramount. Transparency is knowing what algorithm was used, which parameters were used in the algorithm and, even, why. Justification is an understanding of what it did, and why in a way that you can explain to a reporter, shareholder, congressional committee or regulator. The difference is material and goes beyond some vague promise of explainable AI.

But Google’s own search engineers were seemingly unable to explain how their own search engine worked anymore. This discrepancy had gotten so bad that in late 2017, Google hired longtime SEO journalist Danny Sullivan in an attempt to reestablish its image of transparency.

But why such a move away from transparency in the first place? Could it be that the move to artificial intelligence — something that went way over the heads of even the most experienced digital marketing executives, was the perfect cover? Was Google simply throwing its proverbial hands up in the air and saying, “It’s just too hard to explain?” Or was Google just caught up in the transition to AI, trying to find a way to explain things like Matt Cutts used to do?

Regardless of Sullivan’s hire, the true revenue drivers meant that this wasn’t a top priority. Google had solved some of the most challenging technical problems in history, and they could easily have attempted to define these new technical challenges for brands, but it simply wasn’t their focus.

And, not surprisingly, after a few years of silence, most of the old guard of SEO had accepted that the faucet of true transparent communication with Google was over, never to return again.

Everyone is an artificial intelligence expert

Most SEO experts’ backgrounds do not lend themselves very well to understanding this new type of Google search. Why? Most SEO professionals and digital marketing consultants have a marketing background, not a technical background.

When asked “How is AI changing Google?,” most answers from industry thought leaders have been generic. AI really hasn’t changed much. Effective SEO still requires the same strategies you’ve pursued in the past. In some cases, responses simply had nothing to do with AI in the first place.

Many SEO professionals, who know absolutely nothing about how AI works, have been quick to deflect any questions about it. And since very few in the industry had an AI background, the term “artificial intelligence” became almost something entirely different — just another marketing slogan, rather than an actual technology. And so some SEO and digital marketing companies even began pinning themselves as the new “Artificial Intelligence” solution.

The runaway truck ramp?

As with all industries, whenever there’s a huge shift in technology, there tends to be a changing of the guard. There are a number of highly trained engineers that are beginning to make the SEO industry their home, and these more technologically savvy folks are starting to speak out.

And, for every false claim of AI, there are new AI technologies that are starting to become mainstream. And these are not your typical SEO tools and rank trackers.

Competitive industries are now investing heavily in things like genetic algorithms, particle swarm optimization and new approaches that enable advanced SEO teams to model exactly what Google’s RankBrain is attempting to do in each search engine environment.

At the forefront of these technologies is industry veteran and Carnegie Mellon alumni Scott Stouffer, founder and CTO of MarketBrew.com, who chose to create and patent a statistical search engine modeling tool, based on AI technologies, rather than pursuing a position at Google.

Now, 11 years into building his company, Stouffer has said:

There are a number of reasons why search engine modeling technology, after all these years, is just now becoming so sought-after. For one, Google is now constantly changing its algorithms, from one search query to the next. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that this doesn’t bode well for SEO tools that run off of a static set of pre-programmed rules.

On the flipside, these new search engine models can actually be used to identify what the changes are statistically, to learn the behavior and characteristics of each search engine environment. The models can then be used to review why your rankings shifted: was it on-page, off-page, or a mixture of both? Make an optimization on your site, and rerun the model. You can instantly see if that change will statistically be a positive or negative move.

I asked Stouffer to give me a concrete example. Let’s say you see a major shift in rankings for a particular search result. These search engine modeling tools start with what Stouffer coins as a “standard model.” (Think of this as a generic search engine that has been regression-tested to be a “best fit” with adjustable weightings for each algorithmic family.) This standard model is then run through a process called Particle Swarm Optimization, which locates a stable mixture of algorithmic weightings that will produce similar search results to the real thing.

Here’s the catch: If you do this before and aftereach algorithmic shift, you can measure the settings on the models between the two. Stouffer says the SEO teams that invest in Market Brew technology do this to determine what Google has done with its algorithm: For instance, did it put more emphasis on the title tags, backlinks, structured data and so on?

Suffice it to say, there are some really smart people in this industry who are quickly returning the runaway algorithm back to the road.

Chris Dreyer of Rankings.io put it best:

I envision SEO becoming far more technical than it is today.  If you think about it, in the beginning, it was super easy to rank well in search.  The tactics were extremely straight forward (i.e. keywords in a meta tag, any link placed anywhere from any other website helped, etc.). Fast forward just a decade and SEO has already become much more advanced because search algorithms have become more advanced.  As search engines move closer to the realistic human analysis of websites (and beyond), SEOs will have to adapt. We will have to understand how AI works in order to optimize sites to rank well.

As far as Google goes, the hiring of Sullivan should be a very interesting twist to follow. Will Google try to reconcile the highly technical nature of its new AI-based search engine, or will it be more of the same: generic information intended on keeping these new technologists at bay, and keeping Google’s top revenue source safe?

Can these new search engine modeling technologies usher in a new understanding of Google? Will the old guard of SEO embrace these new technologies, or is there a seismic shift underway, led by engineers and data scientists, not marketers?

The next decade will certainly be an interesting one for SEO.

Source: Has AI changed the SEO industry for better or worse?

08- Nov2017
Posted By: DPadmin
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This ‘Unmeasurable’ SEO Metric Is Incredibly Important

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:

Direct Traffic

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.

Customer Reviews

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.

Monitoring Mentions

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.

Source: This ‘Unmeasurable’ SEO Metric Is Incredibly Important