This is a sponsored post written by SEMrush. The opinions expressed in this article are the sponsor’s own.
According to recent SEMrush research, finding the balance between the creative element and search optimization is the most challenging task for copywriters. Some even believe there’s a clash between SEO and human-centered content creation.
It stands to reason that producing texts appealing both to people and search engines requires thorough research, and many writers see as a restriction on their creativity.
Is it still possible to marry SEO and content and make this alliance a happy one? We believe so.
Here are three points any writer should take into account in order to create catchy content that will also attract organic traffic:
- Choosing a trending topic.
- Increasing semantic relatedness.
- Raising chances of getting into Google’s Featured Snippet.
1. Choosing a Trending Topic
Point: Picking the right topic is way more than just a free flight of imagination. You have to define what content your target audience prefers, what factors influence their choices, and what exact words can drive them to action.
Tip: Dive deep into local communities, learn the joys and sorrows of your “buyer persona.”
It may also be advantageous to take a closer look at those who are already successful in your niche. What lets them dominate the minds and the SERPs? What subtopics do your rivals cover, what headlines do they use, etc.?
Topic Research scrapes, organizes and sorts popular search queries and Google suggestions. It also provides examples of the headlines your SERP rivals used.
Meet four needs with one deed: gain insights into real needs of your audience, find original topic ideas, reveal common patterns in your rivals’ content strategies, and increase your chances of getting a featured snippet.
2. Increasing Semantic Relatedness
Point: As time passes, Google continues to evolve and get smarter about how it understands words and term relationships.
Tip: To keep pace with the search engines you need to enhance your keyword research and include more semantically connected words in your writing to rank higher.
SEO Content Template comes in handy when you need to optimize the text on a single page without going into too much detail. Enter one or more target keywords, and the tool will analyze the first 10 pages from Google that rank for these keywords, and give you recommendations on which ones to use. The tool will also show you excerpts of your rivals’ texts with your target keywords highlighted.
SEO Content Template tool uses TF-IDF to provide you with the list of keywords with the highest potential. The list is automatically sorted by each word’s frequency.
SEO Writing Assistant is an extension for Google Docs that generates instant content optimization recommendations based on best-performing articles in Google’s Top 10. This gives content marketers an opportunity to check if their texts or the texts of external writers meet various requirements, such as general quality of the content, readability (appropriate reading-ease score, target and recommended keyword density.
3. Raising Chances of Getting into Featured Snippet
Point: Google’s featured snippet is something all content creators dream about because it guarantees maximum visibility for their texts and a serious increase in traffic inflow.
Tips: There are no surefire recipes to take you to so-called “position zero,” but some tactics are worth trying out.
- Identify the pages of your website that already rank in the Top 10 and try to optimize them for popular queries.
- Target question-based keywords and provide structured answers (paragraphs, lists, or tables may come in handy here).
- Make sure you use header tags correctly.
Just find what can be improved on your page and keep working. When you are dealing with highly competitive keywords, it is worth the effort.
Position tracking is a versatile tool that will among other things let you find the keywords with the potential of taking you to the featured snippet. You’ll see your position in Google’s Top 100 and the SERP features available for each word on your target device and in your target location. You’ll also be able to compare your progress against your competitors.
As you get closer to your goal, you’ll able to monitor your target snippets (whether you or your rival is featured) and the new ones that appear for your target keywords.
In the 21st century content just can’t do without SEO and vice versa. The amount of information offered to users is so great that even the best content is at risk of being lost if not carefully dealt with in accordance with basic SEO principles.
Will it harm creativity? With the right tools and a well-thought-out approach you’ll be able to automate the most burdensome part of the routine and uncover more inspirational insights and opportunities to get as close to your audience as possible.
Here are nine ways we know that search engines are currently using machine learning and how it relates to SEO or digital marketing.
When we first started hearing about machine learning in the early 2010s, it seemed scary at first.
But once it was explained to us (and we realized how technology is already being used to provide us with solutions), we started to get down to the practical questions:
- How are search engines using machine learning?
- How will it affect SEO?
Machine learning is essentially using algorithms to calculate trends, value, or other characteristics of specific things based on historical data.
Google has even declared itself a machine learning-first company.
If you want to learn more about the tactical side of this technology, Eric Enge has a great write-up on Moz explaining how machine learning impacts SEO from a mathematical standpoint.
Search engines like to always experiment with how they can use this evolving technology, but here are nine ways we know that they are currently using machine learning and how it relates to SEO or digital marketing.
1. Pattern Detection
Search engines are using machine learning for pattern detections that help identify spam or duplicate content. They plugged in common attributes of low-quality content, such as:
- The presence of several outbound links to unrelated pages.
- Lots of uses of stop words or synonyms.
- Other such variables.
Being able to detect these kinds of patterns drastically cut down on the manpower it takes to review everything by actual people.
Even though there are still human quality raters, machine learning has helped Google automatically sift through pages to weed out low-quality pages without an actual human having to look at it first.
Machine learning is an ever-evolving technology, so the more pages that are analyzed, the more accurate it is (in theory).
2. Identifying New Signals
These signals are sought after so Google can continue to improve the quality of search query results.
Illyes also mentioned in the podcast episode that more of Google’s signals may become machine learning-based.
As search engines are able to teach technology how to run predictions and data on their own, there can be less manual labor and employees can move toward other things machines can’t do, like innovation or human-centered projects.
3. It’s Weighted as a Small Portion
However, even though machine learning is slowly transforming the way search engines find and rank websites, it doesn’t mean it has a major, significant impact (currently) on our SERPs.
In the same podcast interview, Illyes says that it’s just part of their overall ranking signal platform, and is weighted as a small portion of their overall algorithm.
Google’s end goal is to use technology to provide users with a better experience. They don’t want to automate the entire process if that means the user won’t have the experience they are looking for.
So don’t assume machine learning will soon take over all search ranking; it is simply a small piece of the puzzle search engines have implemented to hopefully make our lives easier.
4. Custom Signals Based on Specific Query
Machine learning in search engines may vary depending on the query category or phrasing, according to a July 2017 study done at the University of Washington.
Researchers used Russian search engine Yandex to analyze results for different queries. They found that the types of results displayed depended largely on the query category or phrasing.
This means that machine learning can place more weights on variables more or less heavily in certain queries over others.
Overall, it was found that personalized searches customized by machine learning increased the click-through rate (CTR) of results about 10 percent.
As the user entered more queries into Yandex, it was found that the CTR continued to increase.
This is likely because the search engine was “learning” about that specific user’s preferences and could base its information on past queries to present the most interesting information possible.
An example of this that is often used in conference presentations is a string of queries in one sitting and how the results change depending on what you last searched.
For instance, if I search “New York Football stadium” in an incognito browser, I get the answer of “MetLife Stadium.
Next, if I search in the same browser for just “jets,” Google is assuming that because my last query was about a football stadium, then this query is also about football.
As I continue my search, Google learns when I’ve turned into something else.
Searching for “Jaguars” in the same browser will bring up information about the NFL team the Jacksonville Jaguars (related to my last two searches).
But the instance I search “Zoo near San Diego” then start to type “zoo” again in the query box, Google suggests “zoos with jaguars” even though I haven’t searched jaguars a second time.
Search history is just one component of the search experience that machine learning uses to provide better results.
5. Image Search to Understand Photos
While these statistics have likely gone up (it was difficult to find more recent data), it shows that volume of photos that need to be cataloged and analyzed on the web daily.
This task is perfect for machine learning because it can analyze color and shape patterns and pair that with any existing schema data about the photograph to help the search engine understand what an image actually is.
This is how Google is able to not only catalog images for Google Image search results, but also powers its feature that allows users search by a photo file (instead of a text query).
Users can then find other instances of the photo online, as well as similar photographs that have the same subjects or color palette and information about the subjects in the photo, as in this example of a classic Christmas movie still:
The way the user interacts with these results can shape their SERPs in the future.
6. Identifying Similarities Between Words in a Search Query
Not only does query data get used by machine learning to identify and personalize a user’s later queries, it also helps create patterns in data that shapes the search results other users are getting.
Google Trends is a great front-facing example of this. A phrase or word that doesn’t mean anything initially (e.g. “planking” or “it’s lit”) may have nonsensical search results.
However, as its phrasing (and therefore, user searches) is used more over time, machine learning is able to display more accurate information for those queries.
As language develops and transforms, machines are better able to predict our meanings behind the words we say and provide us with better information.
7. Improve Ad Quality & Targeting for Users
This means that Ad Rank can be influenced by a machine learning system.
“Bid amount, your auction-time ad quality (including expected clickthrough rate, ad relevance, and landing page experience), the Ad Rank thresholds, the context of the person’s search” gets fed into the system on a keyword-by-keyword basis, to determine what thresholds are considered by Google for each keyword.
8. Synonyms Identification
When you see search results that don’t include the keyword in the snippet it’s likely due to Google using RankBrain to identify synonyms.
When searching for [phd degree] you’ll see various results with the word “doctor” or “doctoral” as they can be used, for many degrees, interchangeable.
Google even highlights the synonyms in some cases, this time with “phd degrees,” further indicating that it’s recognizing the synonyms.
9. Query Clarification
One of my favorite subjects is search query user intent.
Users may be searching to buy (transactional), research (informational), or find resources (navigational) for any given search. Furthermore, a keyword could be useful to one or any of these intents.
By analyzing click patterns and the content type that users engage with (e.g. CTRs by content type) a search engine can leverage machine learning to determine the intent.
An example can be seen with the query “best college” in a Google search. The results are reviews and list of colleges all in one SERP, with the universities listed at the top.
While machine learning isn’t (and probably never will be) perfect, the more humans interact with it, the more accurate and “smarter” it will get.
This could be alarming to some – bringing visions of Skynet from the “Terminator” movies – however, the actual result is likely a better experience with technology that gives us the information and services we need, when we need it.
There’s a joke that asks, “Where should you bury something that you don’t want people to find?”
Answer: On the second page of Google.
Sure, it’s corny. But there’s still some truth to that statement.
75% of people will never scroll past the first page on a Google search.
That means you can’t afford to be ranking on the second, third, or fourth page.
You just won’t get the clicks and traffic you need to make SEO worth your time and money.
And you need that organic traffic because 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine.
On top of that, there are over 1 trillion searches every single month!
A good SEO presence has the power to drive inbound traffic that could grow your business for years to come.
But the average-joe website owner doesn’t have the power to rank on the first page of Google for the best keywords.
There are already countless high-profile websites capitalizing on the top industry keywords.
And there are thousands of other bloggers trying to rank for that keyword as well.
That means the deck is stacked. And it’s not in your favor.
You shouldn’t give up, though! There are a few proven methods that I’ve used and found success with to show up on the first page of Google.
And the best part is that you don’t need the authority or links to rank for many of these keywords.
I can teach you how to show up for them anyway.
First, I’ll explain why you’re doomed for now.
And second, I’ll show you how to use this problem to your advantage to rank on the first page of Google despite your shortcomings.
Ready to get started? Let’s do it.
Why you probably can’t rank on the first page of Google anytime soon
I’m going to be straight with you:
You’re pretty much doomed. If you’re trying to get noticed and rank organically on the first page for popular industry keywords like “SEO Guide,” it’s not going to happen anytime soon.
If you’re just starting out, you’ve got no domain authority, a tiny backlink profile, and hardly any traction as a result.
And if you take a look at Google’s first page results for “SEO Guide,” you’ll quickly see what the major problem you’re up against is:
See what I mean? The domain authorities of these top page rankings are going to blow any new website out of the water.
Moz? 93 domain authority. Kissmetrics? 85.
How many backlinks does that #1 spot have? 18,389 to be exact.
That’s more than most of us will get on our entire site. Ever.
Plus, these guides have been up for years!
The Beginner’s Guide to SEO from Moz has been up for five years or so. Their website claims that over three million people have read it.
You get the idea.
Sites that have been around for a long time are going to dominate the top page rankings for popular industry keywords.
These people are producing stellar content and getting countless backlinks to their content.
If you’re just starting out, you need to pursue different strategies.
You can’t afford to wait around for five years to rank on the bottom of the first page for “SEO Guide.” Not with the number of hours and dollars it would take.
But that’s OK!
Just realize that you’re not going to rank organically for it right now.
The good news is that you don’t need to. There’s still hope.
The trick is to readjust your strategy and use different methods to still show up for your target keywords.
Here’s how to do it.
1. Start by dominating long-tail keywords
There are more long-tail keywords out there than big, popular ones.
Here’s a simple comparison to explain the difference:
And my own beautifully simple example:
- ‘Head’ keyword = “SEO guide”
- Long-tail = “SEO guide for small businesses 2017”
Each might not send you a ton of traffic. However, long-tail keywords do in total when you add a bunch of them up.
For example, I was able to increase my organic traffic to 173,336 visitors monthly using a long-tail strategy.
Long-tail searches also make up the majority of searches on Google.
You should target these long-tail keywords because they’re easier to rank for. And that means they’ll usually take less time and money.
So you’re not going up against the mammoth, industry-leading companies on these search engine result pages (SERPs).
Still skeptical of the power of long-tail strategies? I was, too, at first!But then I read about how Amazon makes 57% of their sales from long-tail keywords.
How? Because long-tail searches are looking for very specific information, whereas short-tail keywords are more general.
If you can give the searcher specific information, they’re going to stick around and convert.
Here’s an example SERP of a long-tail keyword search to help you get an idea of how it’s possible to rank for them.
Do you notice that the SERP isn’t overcrowded with industry influencers and top blogs?
Sure, there are still a few in there, but the top-ranking sites are ones that you’ve probably never heard of.
Instead of going up against a website with a 93 domain authority, here’s what the first ranking page for this long-tail search query looks like:
Now I’ve got your attention, right?
So sure, this keyword might have lower search volume than “SEO Guide.”
But remember that these long-tail keyword conversion rates are almost always higher.
And you know what I preach:
Traffic doesn’t mean anything if people don’t convert!If you’re getting 50,000 visitors a month from a popular keyword, but nobody is converting, it’s not doing you much good.
Instead of putting all your eggs in one basket for “SEO Guide,” create more content and optimize it for long-tail searches to dominate the SERPs!
Now let’s talk about a few ways to rank for the more popular terms that you just can’t seem to resist. And let’s do it without any ‘classic’ SEO.
2. Pay to reach the top of the AdWords search network
Now, you may be thinking, “Neil, my friend, my mentor, you do know that AdWords is not organic search, right?”
Well, just hear me out on this one, okay?
I’m going to start this one off with an example because it’s the only way to understand how truly effective this strategy can be.
So let’s fire up a search for “Best CRM.”
Here’s what the results page looks like:
It looks a bit different, doesn’t it? There’s not a single organic result until you scroll past the fold.
You’ve got four AdWords search network ads and a featured snippet from a single organic result.
It takes the user multiple steps just to reach the organic results and decide what to click on this SERP.
But something even more important jumps out at me here.
The keyword intent and the results that appear don’t line up.
Here’s what I mean.
Check out the first three ads:
They all talk about their own CRM and say that they’re the best in the industry.
That’s not surprising, necessarily. Everyone wants their products and services to be seen as the best.
But for this search, that’s a problem.
And more importantly, this is an opportunity for you to show up for that keyword.Here’s why.
What are people looking for when they type in “Best CRM?”
Are they looking for Salesforce or Zoho or Pipedrive right now?
No. They’re looking for a CRM comparison to see which one is the best. They want to consider their alternatives and options before deciding.
You can validate this by looking at the organic results, which all feature comparison articles and reviews.
Google wants to help the searcher find what they’re looking for as fast as possible.
That means the top organic results usually reflect the searcher’s intent.
So instead of looking for a branded PPC ad about one product being the best, a searcher is looking for CRM comparisons!
Now, do you remember those top 3 PPC results? They’re probably not getting any clicks because they’re not answering the searcher’s question.
The content doesn’t match the intent behind the search query.
But look at the 4th result:
If I were a betting man (which I am), I’d bet you that this low-domain-authority website is getting countless clicks for “Best CRM.”
I’d bet that this ad outperforms the ones above it.
This no-name site can rank with the big boys because they’ve done a better job matching keyword intent with their ad.
It’s practically cheating the system, and it works perfectly.
Now check out all of the traffic you have the opportunity to steal without competing for it head-on with massive brands in the organic rankings:
Instead of preaching about their product, the fourth ad lines up their content to look exactly like the organic results.
However, they show up before the organic results with no effort spent on link building.
You don’t need to organically rank for a keyword to get traffic for that keyword. Just remember to match the searcher’s intent and mimic the organic results to drive traffic.
3. Write more blog posts than your competition
What’s the downside of a long-tail keyword strategy?
You can’t stuff a bunch of random keywords onto the same page. You should still focus on one or two keywords per post, max.
That means you’re going to have to create a lot more content!
This is no great secret.
If you write more content, you’ve got a better shot at ranking on the first page of Google.
The more you write, the more pages get indexed, and the more traffic you bring to your site.
If you’re writing 5-10 posts a month, it’s still not enough.
Your competition and industry leaders are writing 16+ every single month.
You can’t reasonably expect to outrank a competitor or catch up to an industry leader by writing less, can you?
You need to write like your business depends on it. Because based on the information above, it does!
And it can’t be any old 500-word blog post that you slap together in an hour.
Here’s what the top content on Google looks like on average.
Everything on the first page of Google is over 2,000 words.
That means that you need to write more in-depth content that guides users through the process of solving their problems.
This content should be actionable and filled with images, examples, and step-by-step instructions.
Now is about the time when you start thinking, “How on Earth am I going to carve out time to write more?”
If that’s the case, maybe you need to hire someone.
The good news is that content marketing costs 62% less than other marketing mediums. All while generating 3x the number of leads.
If you want to start ranking for the top keywords, you need to produce valuable, unique content — and lots of it.
On top of that, you also need to optimize your content to generate the highest CTR possible.
Why? Because optimizing headlines and meta descriptions for searchers can result in a 10% increase in CTR.
And an increase in CTR means you’re on your way to ranking higher.
Here’s an example:
Why do you think this Search Engine Land post outranks the post below it?
Take a look at that headline!
Instead of a basic headline, they make you think about what you just searched.
It goes against the grain of normal, acceptable advice. It’s like a pattern interruption that causes you to stop what you’re doing.
Now you’re rethinking everything you once thought was true!
Here are a few powerful headline templates to try immediately to boost your organic CTR:
[ ______________ ] Using These 5 Strategic Moves
10 Quick Moves to [ ________________ ] and Increase Revenue
How I Used These 5 Moves to [ ____________ ]
Interested in more headline tips to increase your CTR and boost your rankings? Start with my in-depth guide on headlines.
4. Get reviewed and featured in round-ups
Sometimes, spending money on PPC ads to rank higher for keywords isn’t an option.
Spending too much time and money on creating long-form guides to rank for your desired keywords also may not be feasible.
Luckily, you can still get your name featured in top-ranking content! All while doing a fraction of the work.
Rather than having your official site placed on the top page of Google from AdWords or organic rankings, you can get featured in round-up posts with minimal time and effort.
Here’s what I mean:
Just go to Google and search “best SEO tools 2017”:
All the results are roundup-style posts in which the authors review and analyze the top tools.
It’s basically free advertising.
You can get your name out to thousands upon thousands of consumers a month who are clicking on those top-ranking posts.
For example, let’s click on the first result from PC Magazine:
They cover each SEO tool, providing reviews of each feature the tools have and then helping to prioritize them for everyone else.
Now, you can use these roundup-style posts to your advantage. Rank well on these posts, and you’ll get tons of traffic in return.
For example, thousands of people are already searching for “SEO tools.”
Then you can conduct outreach to have your tool featured in those comparisons.
And that traffic can be huge:
If you’re featured on all of the comparison posts that already rank on the top page, you’re going to get traffic from each one of those.
And this traffic will already be primed to buy from you.
A few simple outreach efforts can now save you years of grinding away in obscurity to get your brand in front of eager searchers.
No time, no money, and just a little effort can still get your brand in the top results.
If the deck is stacked against you in one game, just switch the game that you’re playing.
Showing up on the first page of Google is nearly impossible if you’re just starting out.
That’s harsh, but it’s also true.
Industry leaders who’ve been producing content for years dominate all of the best keywords and SERPs.
Many of them have been spending millions on big-budget ad campaigns, too.
So you can’t expect to rank first when you’re new.
The competition is already so far out ahead. They’ve been accumulating thousands of links and countless shares while this business was still a twinkle in your eye.
Their brands are well-established, and their authority is too high.
But you still need organic traffic to thrive and keep your business growing.
Thankfully, there are a few workarounds.
Try researching and producing content for long-tail keywords. The volume might be lower, but so is the competition.
Use sneaky tactics like PPC ads to rank above the organic results for an extremely popular ‘head’ keyword that you know you’ll never be able to rank for organically.
Try getting reviewed in roundup-style posts to get featured on top articles.
There’s plenty of unconventional methods to get your brand in front of the traffic that you crave.
You just have to get a little creative and understand that you might not always rank for the top terms.
But other methods exist to get similar results if you know where to look.
What strategies have you used to rank on the first page of Google?
From its inception in the early 2000s to now, the popularity of targeted pay per click (PPC) advertising has grown dramatically. Due to this popularity and success, many businesses not currently using the system are considering making the move. However, it is important to carefully consider the pros and cons of PPC — and how to create the ideal environment for a successful PPC campaign — before jumping on the bandwagon. When deciding whether or not to involve PPC in your marketing strategy, you must first thoroughly examine your existing business and marketing practices to maximize PPC’s potential.
1. Consider If You Need And Can Handle A Visibility Boost
If sales are slower than you’d like and your business doesn’t appear on the first page of a search engine’s results when you search for the product or service you’re promoting, you may want to consider PPC to increase your visibility. However, you should also make sure that you are prepared for the boost you may receive. Consider if your business can handle an influx of potential customers; if your sales team struggles to follow up with prospects consistently or you have limited resources to increase production, you may want to improve those aspects of your business before exposing it to more consumers. Drowning in more consumer interest than you can handle can be detrimental to your image — and your sales.
You should also consider if your website is ready to maximize the potential of an increase in traffic. Is the landing page aesthetically pleasing and easy to navigate? Have you been keeping up to date on the latest data-driven practices regarding web development to maximize your site’s potential? It is important that your landing page and overall website, not just your advertisement, results in conversions. If the site isn’t ready, it may be best to wait before implementing an intensive PPC strategy or you can lose the momentum built by your advertising.
2. Consider Your Target Market
In order to maximize your click-through rate (CTR), you must have a strong understanding of your audience. Users are more likely to click on ads targeted to them, so targeted PPC advertising has great potential. For instance, if your business thrives on local involvement, geotargeting your ads can positively impact your CTR (and, in turn, your conversions). However, if you’re interested in a broader campaign that doesn’t focus on a specific demographic, such as increasing general brand recognition, PPC may be less effective than a carefully-monitored cost per impression (CPI) campaign that does not target specific keywords or locations.
When considering your target market, you should also think about customer value. It’s important that a click on an ad — and the subsequent visit to your site — costs less than what the visit is worth. For instance, if you pay $2 per click for an advertisement but the product you’re selling is only $3, then paying for PPC is not helpful. However, if you pay $2 per click and the product is $600, the profit margin is much wider.
3. Consider Your Budget
One commonly touted benefit of PPC advertising is that it doesn’t necessarily cost much to start, as prices per click can be relatively low. However, it’s important to take care and avoid bidding wars for keywords if your budget is limited, as certain industries’ costs per click can be high. Although projecting a budget for PPC can be difficult, there are several blogs and other tools out there to help simplify the process.
When considering your budget, you should also factor in the cost of having an expert in PPC on your marketing team. PPC can be an involved strategy, as advertisers must keep up with the near-constant changes to Google AdWords, research and list the best keywords, develop campaigns, set up PPC landing pages, and consistently analyze account performance. This can get expensive, so make sure that you consider these costs before implementing PPC.
4. Consider The Possibility Of Combining Multiple Options
Implementing PPC into your marketing strategy should be combined with other efforts. Studies have shown that combining PPC with strong organic search strategies is ideal to maximize profits, as users see a “natural” high ranking on Google (by having your website come up on the first page of a search) as lending legitimacy to a sponsored PPC advertisement. Thoroughly weighing the pros and cons of PPC and CPI advertising and figuring out a combination that works best for your goals will result in the highest number of conversions.
When navigating the murky waters of PPC advertising, it is easy to get swept up in the strategy without first considering your specific business needs. By examining how PPC can affect your business, you can maximize the potential of a targeted audience.
“So what actually is SEO?”
“How do you get started in SEO?”
As the owner of a Search Engine Optimization company, I get asked these questions everyday, and the answer is always changing! Search Engines make algorithm changes constantly and at Guardian Owl Digital we help our clients experience ROI from, keep up with, and understand how changes impact their business. From the above Pie Chart by Moz, you can see just how much goes into actually optimizing a website for online visibility.
So how do you get started? I always advise trying to accomplish these 7 tips first. If you can accomplish all 7, GREAT! You saved yourself around $600 of work and can let the experts take over!
In most cases, clients don’t have the time or expertise to even get the fundamentals in place because they are running their own business! That’s why were here:)
In addition to managing SEO and consulting for our clients, we provide additional services like Paid Ad’s on Google & social networks, Google Analytics data mining, link building and strategy, and content recommendations. All of these services are needed to help our clients gain visibility and continue to rank high on search engines!
If you got this far and your head is spinning, give us a shout! We can provide a free visibility report to help you get started! Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 502-822-6695.
Doesn’t it seem like shopping for the holidays arrives earlier and earlier every year? When purchasing a Halloween costume, Christmas decorations are already for sale. But this isn’t anything new.
During the last few decades, consumers have become accustomed to the mania that surrounds “Black Friday,” arguably the most popular shopping day of the year. More recently, online shopping has evolved and taken on a life of its own in the form of Cyber Monday, which falls on November 30 this year.
Since 2010, Cyber Monday has repeatedly been the biggest US online shopping day of the year. In fact, last year’s sales surpassed the $2 billion mark, with mobile traffic accounting for 45% of all online traffic. Online retailers – you better be prepared.
My tenure in the SEO space has given me a large amount of experience helping online shops prepare for the holiday onslaught. As we all know, SEO is key to any campaign, including holiday-centric ones, and is an ongoing and time-sensitive practice that cannot be ignored. Incorporating a SEO strategy into your Cyber Monday efforts this year is crucial and must be done well in advance.
How in advance? You should have already started.
1. Don’t get stuck in rush hour traffic
I would begin by putting a comprehensive plan in place prior to the season. Determine the products or services that are most important to your business and begin to research specific metrics such as keyword traffic, competitive analysis, and possible long-tail keyword options. The last thing you want to be doing before the big push is scrambling last minute to understand these key audience indicators.
Remember, if you are targeting keywords that have high traffic and lower competition, you have a better chance to move up the SERP in a timely manner.
2. Give yourself a boost
There are several tactics for an advertiser when it comes to boosting organic rankings as the holiday season arrives. Once you have crafted your plan, you can begin building rich and engaging content.
Rich content can come in the form of a comprehensive blog post about a specific product, or even additional text on your site’s product page that better informs a potential buyer and assists them in making a quicker purchasing decision. Adding to existing product pages tells search engines you are actively seeking traffic for specific products.
In terms of content that incorporates graphics, I suggest infographics as they enable you to display a substantial amount of pertinent information visually and can be shared on social media channels.
The richer and more comprehensive your content is, the better your ranking potential is.
3. Attract the right crowd
Another proven strategy I suggest is utilising your engaging content to attract influencers and other similar authoritative sites that may be interested in linking to your content. There has been a debate in the SEO space over the past few years on the importance of link building and the impact it has on organic rankings. Most seasoned experts in this field would still agree that building a high-quality and diverse backlink structure will have a significant impact on your organic rankings, especially if you are linking quality off-site content to quality on-site content.
Content marketing and rich content, such as the aforementioned infographics, are both popular and effective practices in building these links. The more engaging and creative your content is, the more sites will pick it up and help send link juice and authority signals to your site.
The end result
Once results are in, ongoing analysis and development is the best next step. Analyse what was successful and what didn’t work so well for next year’s Cyber Monday, you are armed with knowledge that will increase your chances of success.
To put it simply, in order to have a good SEO plan for Cyber Monday, and the holidays in general, you must plan ahead as best possible. SEO is a long-term commitment not just specific to any given holiday, and one that can provide and optimise ROI when practiced correctly. Be sure to close out Q4 on a high note, with SEO on your side.
Entrepreneur magazine contributor, Mike Templeman, shares his thoughts on the SEO snake oil being solicited by top agencies and advertisers alike. SEO takes time and like Mike references, there is no “overnight” fix or silver bullet that can take you to the top.
Don’t get burned by a snake oil salesperson when it comes to your company’s SEO needs.Do you know what snake oil is? It’s a term used to describe any product with questionable or unverifiable quality or benefit. If you read this Wikipedia article on the topic, you’ll see that real oil from snakes used to be prescribed as a cure for everything from small cuts on up to arthritis and skin diseases.
And a recent study came out touting that companies will be spending $65 Billion on SEO this year.
Now, as the title to this article would imply, I believe that the SEO industry, and the digital marketing industry in general is full of snake oil salespeople. Individuals who knowingly are selling a product that either will not work for the buyer or that they know is of inferior quality.
Let me explain. I run a marketing agency. I have to hear dozens of horror stories every week about wasted budgets, sites damaged beyond repair, digital campaigns that produce zero results and everything else business owners and marketers are terrified of. These stories are the grownup versions of the campfire stories we told each other as children. Except now, they end in the loss of millions of dollars. Terrifying, I know.
Now, I mentioned that I run an agency, as such you’d think that we’d have a pretty good grasp on marketing. But you wouldn’t guess that if you looked at my spam folder. I receive hundreds, yes hundreds of unsolicited emails every day from marketers promising to take my brand to the #1 spot in Google (total lie). Or to bring me thousands of visitors in a matter of weeks (liar liar pants on fire). They tell me that my site is breaking numerous rules set forth by the search engines and if I don’t fix them my company will die a fiery death (oh really?).
Related: Here’s What Really Matters for SEO in 2016
These are the Exhibit A’s in the snake oil industry of digital marketing and SEO.
To see the Exhibit B’s you’ll need to reach out to an agency of your choice and ask to speak with their sales team. Odds are you’ll end up talking with someone that will guarantee that your wildest dreams will be fulfilled by focusing on SEO. Or maybe they’re a social media agency. If that’s the case, their silver bullet will undoubtedly be social media. Either way, they’ve got the tonic that will cure your website’s disease. And if you act now, you’ll be guaranteed results!
Look, as someone who has worked in SEO and every other digital medium for the last decade or so, I can tell you that there are no silver bullets and that nothing is guaranteed. I also know that SEO doesn’t work for some companies. Just like PPC isn’t for everyone, nor is social media. After all, billboards and commercials don’t work for every industry, so why would digital marketing be any different?
But let’s examine what makes a lot of SEO services snake oil and give you the information you’ll need to protect yourself.
Why is it snake oil?
Snake oil originated in the medical industry. It was used as a cure for ailments. It was easy for salespeople to pull the wool over they’re buyers’ eyes because back in the day, no one really knew what the heck was going on with their bodies. Medical information wasn’t as readily available. And since medical conditions are by nature quite scary, the sufferers were ready to believe anything that was thrown their way.
Well, guess what? The Internet is the new medical industry when it comes to snake oil. You see, the Internet is still not that old. It’s really only become prolific over the last 20 years or so. With that being the case, most people don’t understand the ins and outs of it. Yes, like a medical condition, they can tell when something is wrong. But they’re not really quite sure what the cause of the issue is. Enter the snake oil salespeople.
Whenever there are uninformed customers, there will always be predatory groups looking to take advantage of that situation. And with a 65 Billion dollar industry up for grabs, the streets are running wet with snake oil right now.
Related: 10 Questions to Ask When Hiring an SEO Consultant
What I’ve seen.
While some snake oils can be rather harmless, when it comes to your digital marketing snake oil is anything but. For instance, I wrote an article a few years back about a large company that was removed from the Google search results due to their digital marketing activities. They had some sloppy marketing being done and it ended up making them disappear from the search results. Harmless, right? Wrong. You see, this company relied heavily on their search results for new leads to their call center. This call center was staffed by dozens of people. These people had families, mortgages, and relied on that income.
Well, when the phones just stop ringing one morning, it’s going to be very hard for a company to keep employing an entire sales floor. And while the company did their best to avoid the inevitable, they eventually had to face the facts and they ended up laying off the entire department.
So this one company that unfortunately trusted a snake oil salesperson, ended up having to lay off almost 50 people at a time when the economy wasn’t doing so well. I’m sure there was a lot of financial pain felt by these families.
So, yes, snake oil SEO can be extremely dangerous in today’s digital economy.
How do business owners avoid getting burned?
This is probably the most important part of this article. As I mentioned earlier, the reason these groups are able to prey on consumers is because of the lack of information. To this end, you need to gird yourself with knowledge. Do research on the topic you’ll be discussing with your potential agency partners. Have talking points and specific questions that you’d like answered. By doing this, you’ll be able to avoid the bottom-of-the-barrel snake oil salespeople that can’t even face mild scrutiny.
Related: The Top 4 Reasons SEO Is Dead
Once you’ve weeded those ones out, you’ll want to really do your research on the agencies that have made the first cut. Check the background of the founders, look for third party reviews. Ask them for case studies, testimonials, and references. Do not look at a slick sales deck and assume that because they can put together a decent PowerPoint that they can provide you with proper marketing services. I’ve seen hundreds of dreams crushed on the expectations set by a nice sales presentation. Any group you don’t feel 100 percent comfortable with should be cut after this.
Now that you’ve made it to your third round of choices, you’ll want to watch what they produce for you very closely. Don’t accept an agency that does not give you full visibility into what they’re doing. I can’t tell you how often I see shoddy work being done, and the business owner would have been able to identify that work as being shoddy, but because they weren’t aware it was being done, they had no way of stopping it.
Because of this you’ll want to make sure that the group you’re working with is willing to show you everything they’re doing and will actually take the time to explain and train you on what they’re doing. After all, an informed client is the best kind of client.
And if you follow these steps, you’ll be assured that you’ve probably weeded out all of the snake oil salespeople and you’ll be working with a reputable agency. Now, this doesn’t guarantee that you will get great results. As I mentioned above, sometimes SEO isn’t a solution for all industries and sometimes marketing campaigns don’t result in massive successes. But those are the chances you should be willing to take. If you know you’re working with the right group that does things the right way, then you’re in it together. And the engagement should feel like a partnership, rather then a vendor relationship.
So, as you’re out there trying to spend your marketing dollars wisely, watch for those shady characters that are touting the magical properties of their services. Odds are, there’s a lot of snake oil in their pitch.
The vertical lead generation programs for credit cards, auto insurance, mortgages and travel insurance will start winding down Tuesday, February 23.Google’s lead generation product known as Google Compare, will start sunsetting this week.
In an email sent to partners and acquired by Search Engine Land, the Google Compare Team told Compare partners on Monday night that the product will start to wind down on Tuesday, February 23, 2016. Google Compare will shut down completely in both the US and UK — the two markets where Compare is offered — one month later on March 23.
The email to Compare partners:
From: Google Compare Team
Subject: An Update on Google Compare
Beginning on February 23, 2016, we will start ramping down the Google Compare product, which is currently live in both the US and UK. We plan to terminate the service as of March 23, 2016. As you know, Google Compare (formerly Google Advisor in the U.S.) has been a specialized, standalone service that enables consumers to get quotes from a number of providers for financial products such as car and travel insurance, credit cards and mortgages.
Despite people turning to Google for financial services information, the Google Compare service itself hasn’t driven the success we hoped for. We greatly appreciate your partnership and understand that this decision will be disappointing to some. But after a lot of careful consideration, we’ve decided that focusing more intently on AdWords and future innovations will enable us to provide fresh, comprehensive answers to Google users, and to provide our financial services partners with the best return on investment.
We’re grateful for all the feedback that you have provided over the course of this product’s development, and we are looking forward to partnering with you to achieve greater success in the future.
We will work with you during this transition and beyond. Please reach out to your Google representative if you have any questions and to discuss the next steps.
The Google Compare Team
Google has confirmed the email’s authenticity.
The company only recently began rebuilding the Compare product from the ashes of the Advisor program in the US. The single piece left standing from that initial effort was the credit card offering — savings accounts, CDs and mortgages had all discontinued. Compare for Auto Insurance launched just last March, starting in California. Then Google relaunched Compare for Mortgage quotes in November with Zillow and Lending Tree among the launch partners. Both of those relaunches had limited roll outs. In the UK, Google Compare has been running since 2012 for car insurance, mortgage rates, credit cards and travel insurance.
A Google spokesperson told Search Engine Land that while searches on these queries remained high, the product didn’t get the traction it hoped for and revenue was minimal. That’s in part due to the limited availability of the products in both the US and the UK.
In the UK, the Compare product also came under scrutiny in 2014 by the Financial Conduct Authority, the UK financial services industry regulator, when comparison sites complained Google was competing unfairly by placing its own product at the top of the search results. However, any legal concerns did not play a role in the decision to close Compare, we’re told.
What’s next? Google says the focus will primarily be on AdWords and transitioning partners to standard ad products. However, it may still focus on the space and look at new product avenues.
While the move will come as a surprise to many outside the company, apparently internally this decision to terminate Compare is not coming as a shock. The Google spokesperson said the company will help Googlers currently working on Compare find new roles within the company.
Structuring campaigns based on personas is can effective, but what happens when you have keyword overlap that dilutes your messaging?
Keywords and search queries can mean different things to different people. That’s where intent comes in. You might, for example, have one keyword that serves multiple personas.
So the work that you need to do to qualify those leads in a PPC environment typically happens at the ad creative and landing page level, not necessarily with the PPC campaign structure.
My agency recently inherited a PPC account that was building campaigns based on personas, and the strategy didn’t prove itself. (By the way, if you’re interested in the cabinet of curiosities we discovered when we got into the account, check out my column from last month.)
Using this account as a case study, I’ll share with you some important lessons on understanding keywords, what to do when they serve more than one audience type in PPC and what results you can see when you reorganize based on the moneymakers.
The Situation: Misguided Campaign Structure
The business in question runs on licensing and continuing education for a particular industry. So the company wanted to target two distinct personas based on those two different groups.
The previous PPC account managers had separated the campaign structure based on audience personas: continuing education seekers and new licensees.
That sounds okay at the outset, except the keywords that were in the continuing education campaign were some of the same keywords that were in the new licenses campaign — and frankly, any of them could cater to either audience.
Here’s an example of how it was structured:
Continuing Education Campaign
dog walking continuing ed
dog walking renewals
dog walking licensing
New Licenses Campaign
dog walking licenses
dog walking courses
dog walking license tests
For the continuing education ads, searchers landed on a page that catered to that side of the business, and for the new license ads, they landed on a page with info specific to that.
But the thing is, it was a crap shoot. Any new licensee or a person seeking continuing education could come in via “dog walking courses,” for example.
So in the off chance they did convert on a particular landing page, in my opinion, it was pure luck.
The Fix: Follow The Money
When we dug into the account, we rolled up our sleeves; we had work to do. And we did what we always do: Follow the keywords that are making the business money.
The client was at first hesitant and wanted to continue the way they had been: campaigns based on personas. (We did get past that.)
Once we restructured the campaigns with the keywords that drove traffic and conversions, we refocused the ad creative and the landing pages (our messaging strategy catered to both possible personas), and let those do the work of qualifying the personas:
The Results: 123% Lift In Revenue
With a little love, the account experienced a huge lift in conversion rates, transactions and revenue for the client year over year. We suspect this will only get better, as we are still testing our strategy and adjusting it as we go.
From the report, we see:
- A 39-percent lift in conversion rates.
- An 84-percent lift in transactions.
- A 123-percent lift in revenue coming from PPC.
The moral of the story is this: PPC managers and online advertisers need to do the work to understand the intent behind the keywords, and then work that insight into various steps in the funnel.
That starts with ensuring the account structure is sound, following the keywords that are showing the most ROI, and then using marketing insights to make the ad messaging and landing pages guide the audience down the path to conversion.