Search engine optimization (SEO) is a fairly forgiving online marketing discipline. It’s a long-term strategy, so if you make one mistake, you’ll usually have plenty of time to correct it.
However, there are some important lessons every SEO practitioner must learn early on.
1. Don’t try to outsmart Google.
First, understand that you’re never going to outsmart Google. SEO is about understanding Google’s algorithm and working within it to provide better content for your visitors and, hopefully, earn higher organic search rankings in the process. If you try to find loopholes in that algorithm, or rely on “black hat” tactics to inch your way up the rankings, it’s only going to work against you in the long run.Too many newcomers believe they can get away with tactics like spamming links or stuffing keywords, but it never works for long; Google’s quality indicators have always been good, and they keep getting better, which means even if you get away with a tactic now, you probably won’t get away with it later – and you may find your website with an algorithmic or manual ranking penaltythat can be exceptionally difficult to recover from.
2. The same strategy won’t work for everyone.
Let’s say you’re working with a single client, and you have everything in order. You’ve picked the right keywords, you’ve developed great content, and you’ve built great links to see fast growth. Now you acquire a new client, with a different brand and a different audience. Do you use the same strategy?
It’s tempting for SEO newcomers to copy and paste the same approach, but this is inadvisable; your clients (or employers) will have different goals with their SEO campaigns, different competitors, keywords, and other variables, and may respond to different variables in strikingly different ways. Learn from your past strategies, and use elements from them in your new campaigns, but avoid trying to replicate any strategy in its entirety.
3. You have to change how you talk about SEO.
The more familiar you become with SEO, the deeper your technical knowledge will become. You’ll have an internal dialogue (or a dialogue with your peers) that freely uses terms like “robots.txt” or “meta data” like everyone knows what you’re talking about. But when you report your results to a client, or a boss who doesn’t understand the technical side, you’ll have to learn to talk about these technical factors in a way that makes sense to a non-SEO-expert.
Spend some time preparing to talk in this other level of language.
4. People don’t always search the way you expect.
When you start brainstorming keyword ideas, it’s a good idea to put yourself in the mind of the average searcher, imagining what words and phrases they might use to find a brand like yours. You may also use keyword research data to indicate which keywords are potentially most valuable for your brand. These are sound strategies, helping you both quantitatively and qualitatively predict how your users might search in the future.
But you should know that users don’t always search the way you’d expect them to; prepare to be surprised, and to adjust your campaign as you learn what your users are really searching for.
5. Only trust what you can measure.
You may think you have an amazing piece of written content, but how much traffic is it attracting? How many comments has it encouraged? You may think you’ve built a high-quality link, but how is it impacting your domain authority? How much referral traffic are you getting from it?
Even though you might feel like you’re developing an instinct for how campaigns develop (especially in the later stages of your career), it’s better to only trust what you can objectively measure.
6. Audit and reevaluate everything periodically.
Just because a strategy worked for you last year doesn’t mean it will this year. Things change too quickly, from the nature of the algorithm that drives how Google search works to the consumer preferences that drive search patterns. Accordingly, you’ll need to regularly reevaluate your tactics, determining whether they’re still worthwhile and finding opportunities to improve. I recommend doing a full sweep of your approach annually.
Monthly check-ins, when you report on results, are also a good idea, to spot high-level issues or successes in time to respond quickly to them.
7. Reading and talking is the only way to stay up-to-date in this fast-moving industry.
Remember what I said about things always changing? Early in your career, you’ll learn that to stay relevant, you need to plug yourself into the community. You’ll need to read relevant publications, and talk to other people like you on a regular basis if you want to stay relevant and up-to-date with the latest strategies. If nothing else, you’ll get helpful tips—and proactive words of warning if you’re taking the wrong approach.Are you familiar with these SEO principles? Good. You’re going to need them if you want to be successful. Though you’ll have many years to correct your behavior and accumulate assets like content and links to improve your campaign, if your underlying SEO philosophies are out of order, you may never achieve your true potential as an SEO ninja.
Keyword research is an integral part of any search engine optimization strategy – and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune.
Keyword research takes up a significant chunk of time, and this is the case for many marketers, website owners and content creators. But it is something that has been expanding outward toward small and medium business owners as well, as having a fully optimized website is a necessity in running a company with any kind of online presence.
In the past, it was a matter of putting in the leg work – often for hours a day – to find the best keyword strategy. Today it is much simpler as more tools have been developed to make the job much faster and easier than ever before. Unfortunately, many of those tools are costly and over budget for anyone but enterprise level brands.
To keep things more affordable you can use alternative tools – often several to compensate – that are low cost, or even completely free. Here are some keyword research tools that you won’t believe don’t cost a cent.
Ubersuggest can be used for both content research (and to help surpass any idea blocks) and keyword research tool. By entering a phrase or keyword, choosing the medium (i.e. web, images, Yahoo) and language preference, the platform will give you a list of related searches, along with search volume, CPC, and rate of competition by percentage.
For example, searching for “content marketing” gives 913 results with an overall volume of 18,100, a CPC of $23.25, and a competition rate of 0.58. Scrolling down gives you a breakdown of all the variants and how that changes, such as “affiliate ads” having a volume of 140, CPC of $4.70, and a competition rate of 0.36.
The tool requires no login and, unlike Keyword Planner (which shows a range), it shows the actual search volume and competition level.
Everyone knows about Google Keyword Planner and probably uses it, as it is the most accurate keyword tool on the web if your aim is to target Google search.
However, you may not have heard about Google Correlate, which is a very helpful and effective tool that works by taking searches and correlating them with trends happening both on the web and out in the real world. It establishes patterns that you might have never realized existed, and even lets you compare based on time period – both long and short term.
Do you want to know what is popular on all major search engines, and not just Google? Keyword.Guru is a great tool that takes live searches and lets you know the moment you start typing what suggestions it has, so you can see what people are searching for at any given time.
There aren’t any real metrics, but not everyone likes to deal with numbers. This tool is less technical than some, but more accessible if you just want to see what searches are most common without all the associated information, which can be overwhelming to even seasoned keyword researchers.
Google, Bing, Yahoo, Amazon, Wikipedia, and YouTube: what do they have in common? Soovlecovers all of them, which makes it easier to get a good grasp of what is going on through multiple channels.
Being able to search YouTube for video content, Wikipedia for educational articles, and Amazon for sales info is especially helpful for getting a broader glimpse of the current state of search on the web. Soovle doesn’t generate any numbers for each keyword, but lets you quickly get a general idea of what interests your audience across a range of channels.
Akin to Keyword.Guru, it does it on the same page and with live search updates.
Bulk Keyword Suggest Tool
Bulk Keyword Suggest Tool allows you to dig into auto-suggest results from Bing, Amazon and YouTube. It was created by SEOchat and uses core terms to build a wider circle of phrases for use.
It is simple to use, easy to read and very fast to search. You can run a second or third bulk suggest and compare, then export your results or only specific ones based on how you click.
Bonus: Awesome freemium tools
Serpstat is a growth-hacking tool, and an effective at that. It has paid versions starting at $19 per month, allowing you to graduate to new levels as your business grows. However, there is also a free version that works with different iterations of Google based on country.
Serpstat calculates keyword difficulty for each search query, shows “special elements” (which inform us on search intent) and social media domains ranking for each term, and offers advanced filters to dig deep into each keyword list. It is also one of the few tools that also works on Yandex.
The graphs that are generated are simple bar graphs that effectively break things down and make it easy to understand at a glance.
WordStream has a freemium model and its full featured tool is around $260 per month with a discount option to pay annually. However, it also has a free, limited version that I like to use because it allows you to specify industry if you wish.
That makes it a little bit easier if the key phrase you are working with it more general and could apply to unrelated fields. You can also specify based on country, which is great if you don’t want to automatically target a US audience (something that many tools do since it is the largest Google market).
Do you have a tool you feel deserves to be on this list? Let us know in the comments.
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.
You know there are more platforms besides Google to exercise your marketing prowess, right? Yes, the Silicon Valley-based juggernaut still remains the bread and butter for digital marketers by a mile, but this doesn’t mean alternative or niche search engines should be left in the dark.
As you map out your strategies and campaigns for 2018, consider these five tips to help you optimize your presence on some of the web’s other heavy hitters including YouTube, Amazon, TripAdvisor, Yelp, and eBay.
YouTube: Focus on Descriptions and Thumbnails
From the drawing board to the edit bay, video production can consume so much time and effort. As a result, some miscellaneous, but nevertheless important, elements of the process might get put on the back burner.
Take it from Wpromote Senior SEO Manager, Justin McKinney: “Take advantage of product descriptions and thumbnails. Long-form product descriptions help YouTube understand what your video is about, and thus help your rankings. Compelling thumbnails entice people to click through to your videos.”
When writing out your keyword-rich description, be sure to put a link to the product page at the top. YouTube only displays around the first 100 characters of description. So, if viewers don’t click the “show more” button, make sure they at least see a strong call to action and link. It’s recommended to keep your description between 250 to 500 characters, but this isn’t a hard-and-fast rule. Depending on the length of your video, a transcript might be a suitable option if you’re looking to utilize all 5,000 characters that YouTube allots.
Thumbnails can determine whether a potential customer clicks on your video. Creating a compelling thumbnail might take some A/B testing, though. Experiment with bright-color backgrounds, text, close-up face shots, animation and other tactics to see what works. When you decide what’s best for you, ensure your thumbnail design stays consistent across the channel. Take a look at Klipsch’s YouTube page to understand this concept of consistency.
Amazon: Conversion > Content
Anyone who visits the world’s largest e-commerce store is obviously there to do one of two things: purchase something or dream of purchasing something. Therefore, it’s best to think like a buyer when it comes to your marketing strategy on Amazon. McKinney points out that “unlike traditional search, content is not king on Amazon, conversion is. Optimize your product listings for conversion and you will see ranking improvements.”
While the titles of your listings must include relevant keywords, they should also be easily readable and descriptive enough for buyers to know exactly what the product is.
Images are vital for conversion, too. Ensure your pictures are professionally shot, easy on the eyes, and at least 1,000 pixels by 1,000 pixels so buyers can enlarge the photo. Take time to brush up on Amazon’s image standards before posting anything.
TripAdvisor: The More Photos, The Better
Based on a 2018 digital transformation report, the bar graph below shows travel review sites, most notably TripAdvisor, as the number one source of information during the travel-planning phase, beating out word of mouth and traditional search engine results. These statistics prove that businesses, especially those in the hospitality industry, should establish a presence on TripAdvisor now more than ever.
Garnering high-rated reviews, responding to reviews and adding booking links to your page are all crucial tactics for optimizing your business on TripAdvisor. The quantity of photos posted on your listing helps keep potential customers engaged with your business longer.
“Imagery is very important to attract the customer, so show them what they want,” according to Wpromote SEO Director Bart Peters. “For hotels, people want to know what the room looks like. For restaurants, people want to see the food. TripAdvisor promotes that businesses with 30-plus photos have a 41 percent higher engagement than locations with 10 or fewer.”
Yelp: Respond to Reviews Regularly and Quickly
Although responding to reviews can be a time-consuming task, your business will thrive in the end since engaging with reviewers helps improve local SEO. Your response times can also affect your Yelp ranking, which can give you an edge over your competitors. A clever way to boost your Yelp ranking is to weave keywords into your responses. For example, if you own a computer repair shop and receive a positive review, write: “Thank you for letting us repair your computer. Please recommend us to your friends who live in the San Francisco area.”
You do not need to reply to every single review. Use your best judgment to decide when it’s appropriate to respond. As for negative reviews, always try to make amends. According to Moz, it’s 25 times more expensive to earn a new customer than to retain an existing one, so be sure to apologize sincerely and accept complete responsibility.
eBay: Be as Specific as Possible
Online shoppers don’t have time to scroll through thousands of listings, especially if they type a broad keyword like “men’s shoes” into the search bar. That why it’s imperative to fill out your item specifics when posting products on eBay. The photo below shows all the specifics that can be included for a men’s shoe listing. The number of specifics vary from item to item, but whether there are 5 or 25 specifics, make sure to provide as much information as possible so shoppers can find your product easily, which can lead to more conversions and higher rankings.
For your listing description, write at least 200 characters with relevant keywords at the beginning and end of your description. To help improve rankings and conversions, you could apply the 80/20 rule. This means 80 percent of your content involves the product itself, while 20 percent is used as promotion for your eBay store.
If your business needs help optimizing on alternative platforms in 2018, these five suggestions are sure-fire ways to improve your rankings and boost conversions.
Read more at https://www.business2community.com/seo/5-tips-alternative-search-engine-marketing-02044433
Digital marketing is like playing the drums; everyone thinks they can do it.
Inevitably, the layman writes content stuffed to the brim with a target keyword and cannibalizes his/her own webpages by using the same five keywords across all of their webpages.
As infallible as we sometimes think we are, even the best of our industry can make some pretty hairbrained mistakes.
Sometimes the best way to move forward is to take a step back and go back to SEO basics.
As Google and Bing’s algorithms continue to evolve and incorporate new technologies for search, so do our strategies.
Between optimizing our content for voice search, desktop visitors, mobile swipers, and our social media followers, the task can feel impossible and overwhelming.
Breathe a little, you’re not alone.
As much as the medium may change, the same principles still remain in place and so too do the same basic errors.
Here are eight common SEO mistakes that even the experts still make.
1. Presenting a Poor Internal Link Structure
As your website balloons in size with all of your awesome content, you’re bound to encounter some pretty basic internal linking errors. This includes everything from producing mass duplicate content to 404 page errors cropping up.
Internal links provide five valuable functions for your website:
- Providing clear pathways to conversion pages.
- Spreading authority to webpages hidden deep on your site.
- Providing additional reading or interactive material for users to consume on your site.
- Organizing webpages categorically by keyword-optimized anchor text.
- Communicating your most important webpages to search engine crawlers.
Resubmitting an XML sitemap to search engines is a great way to open up crawl paths for search engines to unlinked webpages.
Along the same lines, it’s important to use your robots.txt file and noindex tag wisely so that you don’t accidentally block important webpages on your site or a client’s.
As a general rule of thumb, no webpage should be more than two clicks away from the homepage or a call-to-action landing page.
Reassess your website architecture using fresh keyword research to begin organizing webpages by topicality.
HubSpot provides a great guide for creating topic clusters on your website that arrange webpages by topic, using semantic keywords, and hierarchy to their shared thesis.
2. Creating Content for Content’s Sake
Best practices dictate that you should produce content consistently to increase your brand’s exposure and authority, as well as increase your website’s indexation rate.
But as your website grows to hundreds of pages or more, it becomes difficult to find unique keywords for each page and stick to a cohesive strategy.
Sometimes we fall for the fallacy that we must produce content just to have more of it. That’s simply untrue and leads to thin and useless content, which amounts to wasted resources.
Don’t write content without completing strategic keyword research beforehand.
Make sure the content is relevant to the target keyword and utilizes closely associated keywords in H2 tags and body paragraphs.
This will convey full context of your content to search engines and meet user intent on multiple levels.
Take the time to invest in long-form content that is actionable and evergreen. Remember, we are content marketers and SEO specialists, not journalists.
Optimized content can take months to reach page one results; make sure it remains relevant and unique to its industry when it does.
3. Not Investing in Link-Worthy Content
As we understand it, the quantity and quality of unique referring domains to a webpage is one of Google’s three most important ranking factors.
The best way to acquire links is naturally, leveraging stellar content that people just want to link to.
Instead of investing time in manual research and creating hundreds of guest posts a year, why not invest in a piece of content that can acquire all of those links in one day of writing?
Again, I bring up HubSpot, which provides a great example of this. Every year, they provide a list of industry statistics they scour from the internet, such as “The Ultimate List of Marketing Statistics”, which serves as an invaluable resource for anyone in the digital marketing industry.
As previously stated, invest the time in crafting long-form content that adds value to the industry.
Here, you can experiment with different forms of content, whether it’s a resource page, infographic, interactive quiz, or evergreen guide.
Dedicate some of your manual outreach strategy to promote a piece of content published on your own website and not someone else’s.
4. Failing to Reach Customers with Your Content
Continuing this discussion, you need to have a strategy in place to actually get people to view your content.
I believe that much of the industry and many businesses don’t invest as many resources into content promotion as they do production.
Sure, you share your content over social media, but how much reach does it actually acquire without paid advertising?
Simply posting your latest article on your blog, social media channel, and e-newsletter limits its reach to a small percentage of your existing audience.
If you’re looking to acquire new leads for your business, then you’ll need to invest more resources into promotional tactics. Some strategies include.
While it’s rather chicken and egg, you need to promote content to get links to it. Only then can you begin to acquire more links organically.
5. Optimizing for the Wrong Keywords
So you invested the time in crafting a piece of long-form content, but it’s not driving large-scale traffic to your website.
Just as bad, your visitors have low time on page and are not converting.
More than likely, you’re optimizing for the wrong keywords.
While most of us understand the importance of long-tail keywords for informational queries, sometimes we run into some common mistakes:
- Failing to segment search volumes and competition by geography.
- Relying too much on high volume phrases that don’t convert.
- Focusing too many resources on broad keywords (external links, internal link anchor text, etc.).
- Ignoring click-through rates.
- Trying to insert awkward exact match phrases into content.
- Ignoring AdWords value.
- Allocating target keywords to irrelevant content.
- Choosing keywords irrelevant to your audience.
It’s important to actually research the search phrases that appear in top results for both national and local searches.
Talk to your customers to see what search phrases they use to describe different elements of your industry. From here, you can segment your keyword list to make it more relevant to your customers.
Use keyword tools like Google Keyword Planner and SEMrush’s keyword generator for relevant keyword ideas.
Don’t forget to optimize for informational and commercial search queries.
6. Not Consulting Paid Media
As the industry currently stands, SEO focuses on acquiring and nurturing leads, while paid media focuses on acquiring and converting leads.
But what if we broke down those silos to create a cohesive message that targeted the buyer at every step of the journey?
As an SEO provider, do you even know what your client’s advertising message is or the keywords they use? Are you promoting the same products/service pages with the same keywords as the paid media department?
There is a lot of insight that SEO consultants can learn from PPC keyword research and landing page performances that can aid them in their own campaign.
Beyond this, Facebook and Twitter’s advertising platform offer robust audience analysis tools that SEO consultants can use to better understand their client’s customers.
By focusing on a unified message and sharing in each other’s research, SEO consultants can discover keywords that convert the highest and drive the most clicks in the search results.
7. Forgetting About Local
Google’s Pigeon update completely opened up an entirely new field of local SEO.
Between local directory reviews, customizing a Google My Business page, and the local three-pack, local SEO is highly targeted and high converting.
Consider some of the statistics:
- 50 percent of searches over a mobile device result in an in-store visit that day.
- Half of local, mobile searches are for local business information.
- Anywhere between 80-90 percent of people read an online review before making a purchase.
- 85 percent of people trust reviews as much as personal recommendations.
It’s important to segment your keyword research for both local and national intent.
If you provide local services, be sure to create content that reflects local intent, such as including city names next to target keywords and in the body of content.
While most of us focus on growing business at the national scale, the importance of local SEO should not be ignored.
8. Not Regularly Auditing Your Own Website
One of the biggest mistakes we all make is not continuing to optimize our own site and fix mistakes that crop up over time.
A site audit is especially important after a site migration or implementation of any new tools or plugins.
Common technical mistakes that occur over time include:
- Duplicate content.
- Broken links.
- Unoptimized meta tags.
Duplicate content can occur for a number of reasons, whether through pagination or session IDs.
Resolve any URL parameter errors or duplicate content from your cookies by inserting canonicals on source webpages. This allows all signals from duplicate pages to point back to the source page.
Broken links are inevitable as you move content around your site, so it’s important to insert 301 redirects to a relevant webpage on any content you remove. Be sure to resolve 302 redirects, as these only serve as a temporary redirect.
Auditing your website is paramount for mobile search. Simply having a responsive web design or AMP is not enough.
Be sure to minify your CSS and JS on your mobile design, as well as shrink images, to provide a fast and responsive design.
Finally, one part of the audit that is often overlooked is reevaluating your onsite content strategy. Most industries are dynamic, meaning that new innovations crop up and certain services become obsolete overtime.
Remodel your website to reflect any new product offerings you have. Create content around that topic to showcase its importance to your hierarchy to both search engines and users.
Continually refresh your keyword research and audience research to find new opportunities to scale and stay relevant.
Everyone is susceptible to mistakes in their craft and one of the best ways to rectify them is to consult the best practices.
My best bit of advice: Keep your mind nimble and always take a step back here and there to evaluate whether you are doing the best to scale your or a client’s business.
As Google has scaled up its Shopping products in recent years, there has been a growing consensus in the retail search marketing space that Shopping ads are one of the most effective ways to win valuable consumer clicks.
This is especially true of the non-branded, broader search terms that are typical of the early stages of the customer journey.
During this phase, Google Shopping ads – commonly referred to as Product Listing Ads, or PLAs – are considered to be a key means of engaging consumers early, and boosting new customer acquisition.
If the trends that we are currently seeing continue, 2018 will be a year of increased investment in Google Shopping ad formats across product-based search.
While text ads are still the most popular advertising format in many categories, retail-specific categories tell a very different story, with spend on Google Shopping ads far outstripping text ads in retail categories.
A new study by AI-powered search intelligence platform Adthena, analyzing 40 million search ads from more than 260,000 retailers, has shed light on the extent to which Google Shopping ads have come to dominate retail search marketing.
In this piece, we will look at some of the key findings from the report, explore the causes of Google Shopping’s phenomenal expansion, and consider what retailers can do to “future-proof” their search marketing strategy against upcoming shifts in the market.
Content produced in collaboration with Adthena.
The growth of Google Shopping
The Google Shopping ad unit has evolved considerably over the past few years, with increased attention and prominence afforded to Shopping ads in the search results page. This has resulted in a rise in clicks and impressions that has fueled the growth of Google Shopping ads in retail categories.
As of Q1 2018, Google Shopping ads are driving 76.4% of retail search ad spend in the US, and 82% of retail search ad spend in the UK – an overwhelming majority in both instances.
Adthena’s research found that in the US, this 76.4% of search spend was responsible for 85.3% of all clicks on AdWords or Google Shopping ads between January and February 2018. In the UK, the 82% of retail search ad spend invested in Google Shopping ads was responsible for 87.9% of clicks.
These figures confirm that Google Shopping ads are still offering good value to retailers in terms of spend/click ratio, and suggest that the value of Google Shopping ads has not (yet) reached saturation point, with room for growth in some key areas.
Mobile is one of these: according to Adthena’s research, although shopping ads on desktop generate a slightly greater share of clicks, Google Shopping ad spend on mobile now matches that of desktop, supporting evidence that mobile search is serving as a crucial touchpoint for product purchasing decisions.
Presently, Google Shopping ads on mobile are driving 79% of device ad spend in the US, and win 87.9% of clicks. With Google shifting more and more emphasis onto mobile search, this is likely to become an increasingly important area for retailers to invest in, and we may yet see these numbers grow further.
However, how much longer can Google Shopping continue its rise before the market eventually becomes saturated? To answer that, we need to understand what has fuelled Google Shopping’s dominance of the retail search market in the first place.
What is fueling Google Shopping’s retail dominance?
Ashley Fletcher, VP of Marketing at Adthena, believes that prominence and reach are the two key factors that have driven the rise of Google Shopping ads in retail search marketing.
Google’s introduction of a carousel for desktop Shopping ads in October 2016 was the first major change which gave increased prominence to Google Shopping ads. Since then, the ad unit has only developed further, with even more different formats for advertisers to benefit from.
“The unit has evolved both in terms of prominence on the page and in terms of ad features,” says Fletcher. “It’s also very rich in content – particularly on mobile – with multiple variants of the unit available to advertisers.”
In the US and the UK, the number of ads in the desktop carousel has even doubled as of February 2018 to surface 30 paid listings. This may go some way to explaining the particular dominance of Google Shopping ads in the US and UK – as we saw from the statistics in the previous section.
Then there’s reach: as Fletcher explains, in the past year, Google Shopping Ads have begun influencing users higher up the purchase funnel through far broader terms, appearing for much more generic product searches than before.
“In the last year, Shopping ads have started to trigger on a lot of the upper-funnel, generic terms – like “red dress”, or “black dress”. This is really driving users into a brand experience around those generics: it encourages the user to start drilling into those terms, and conduct longer-tail keyword searches off the back of that.
“These are very high-volume terms, keywords with a lot of traffic – so mastering that could be a challenge for search marketers, but you now need to be present at the top of that funnel, as well.”
While these developments have spurred a huge surge of growth in Google Shopping ads over the past two years, Fletcher believes this expansion won’t continue for long.
“In 2018, we’ll get closer to saturation point,” he says. “I don’t think there’s much room for further growth.
“Then I think we’ll get into the space we were in with text ads, where advertisers will be limited on spots, margins are going to be squeezed – meaning CPCs are going to increase – and it will come down to marginal gains: how can you optimize performance, as growth slows down?”
What can retailers do to get the most out of their ad spend in that environment?
“First and foremost, being able to manage at scale is a must-have,” says Fletcher.
“Secondly, master your categories. If you are a retailer, then knowing that you’re winning in – for example – men’s board shorts, and getting down to that level of knowledge with your categories, is essential.
“If you don’t do that, then you’ll have a very blinkered view of what’s going on.
“If you’re a department store retailer, for example, and your products reach more than 200 different categories, there is a dependency on knowing how well you’re performing in each of these categories. You’re going to have different competitors in each one: the challenge is knowing that, and making sure you are still winning there.”
Adapting for the future of search marketing
The rapid uptake of Google Shopping ads as the most significant part of retail ad spend budgets reveals how quickly search marketers adapt to new formats and opportunities.
As search advertising practices continue to change and new formats are introduced, advertisers will need to maintain this agility in order to keep ahead of the game.
“Google Shopping can be quite daunting for some advertisers when they take their first steps into it,” says Fletcher. “But if you do that with enough research, and enough context about what’s going on in each of your retail categories, you’ll have a far better chance of surviving.
“If you don’t follow the trends, adopt early, and understand these channels, you will get left behind.”
Amazon Shopping, for example, is a growing force in the retail search landscape which Fletcher believes will only play a bigger role in years to come, threatening to erode the dominance that Google Shopping currently enjoys.
Even as they take steps to future-proof their search marketing campaigns in the realm of Google Shopping, search marketers should investigate the opportunities presented by Amazon, in order to ensure the longevity of their search marketing strategy going forward.
Contributor Dave Davies explains the many layers and aspects of Google Voice Search and how to optimize your content for it.
OK, Google … how do I optimize for voice search?
Ask that question and you’ll discover even Google doesn’t know but is trying to learn.
For those of us in the search engine optimization (SEO) field who want to stay up to date, waiting for Google to figure it out isn’t much help. We need to know what’s going on, and we need to know it before our competitors get the jump on us.
Who uses voice search?
Before we dive into the approaches we need to take to optimize for voice search, let’s take time to gain an understanding of who is using it.
Our friends over at Stone Temple Consulting published their findings after surveying 1,000 people on their use of voice commands. Here are some highlights:
- People are becoming more comfortable using voice search in public.
- The 35-to-44 age group is the largest segment using voice search.
- The 25-to-34 age group is most comfortable using voice search in public.
- The heaviest users of voice search have an income above $50,000 per year.
Add to this the Gartner research that predicts 75 percent of US homes will have a smart speaker by 2020:
It appears we will have a deep saturation of a technology with strong buying power in the near future.
You may be thinking, “Yes, Dave, we know voice search is important, and we know who is searching using voice, but what can we do to get our content in front of it all?”
Excellent question. Let’s take a look.
Voice search ranking factor
Clearly, the environment is changing rapidly, and it is difficult to predict specifically how users will interact with their devices using voice.
The winners in the voice space will be those who pay close attention to the various devices that launch and how they are used.
Understanding the new device capabilities and who is using them is step one.
Recently, Greg Sterling covered a study done by Backlinko on voice search ranking factors.
The study is based on 10,000 Google Home search results and is close to what I’ve experimented with on my own device on a much smaller scale.
In the findings, they note some results may be due to causality, while others may be coincidence or correlation. Understanding what’s at play is crucial to understanding what Google is looking at.
There are several key takeaways from the Backlinko study I feel are important to note:
- Answers are 29 words on average. When you’re structuring the data you want to become a voice “answer,” make sure it’s short and to the point. This means formatting the page so an answer can be easily drawn from it and understood to be a complete answer to the question.
For example, ask Google what the Pythagorean theorem is and you’ll hear this 25-word reply:
- The average writing level of a result was targeted to the ninth-grade reading level, so keep it simple.
- Presently, voice search results seem to serve a more generic audience. I don’t expect this to last long; ranking for the present requires writing to the masses.
- Google may eventually cater the reading level to the individual searching and implied education level of the query.
- The average word count of pages used to draw voice search results was 2,312 words. This suggests Google wants to draw results from authoritative pages.
With each page we create, we need to keep in mind the entity we are discussing and the intent(s) we need to satisfy when trying to optimize for voice and general search.
An entity is basically a noun connected by relationships.
If answering the question, “who is Dave Davies,” Google needs to search their database of entities for the various Dave Davieses and determine the one most likely to satisfy the searcher’s intent. They will then compare that with the other entities related to it to determine its various traits.
When someone searches for Dave Davies, Google usually assumes they are looking for Dave Davies of The Kinks and not the author of this article.
I will get to why in a minute. Let’s look briefly at how Google connects the various entities around the musician Dave Davies.
A very small connection structure to illustrate might look something like:
What we are seeing here are the entities (referenced in patents as nodes) and how they are connected.
So, for example, the entity “Dave Davies” is connected to the entity “Ray Davies” by the relationship “Has Brother.”
He would also be connected to the entity “February 3, 1947” by the relationship “Has Birthday” and the entity “Kinks” by the relationship “has Band.”
Other people in the band will also share this entity point with Dave, enabling them to all appear for a query such as:
OK Google, who was in the Kinks
to which Google will reply:
The band members of the Kinks include Ray Davies, Dave Davies, Mick Avory and others.
To illustrate further the connected understanding Google applies to entities and their importance, they allow Google to respond to multiple questions without explicit direction and to understand the weight and prominence of specific entities to determine which to rank.
For example, Dave Davies of The Kinks is a more prominent entity than Dave Davies the SEO, so if I ask “who is Dave Davies,” it will reference the Wikipedia page of the Kinks guitarist.
Understanding the entity relationships and how they’re referenced on the web helps Google determine this but it’s also the reason why we can follow up with the question, “OK Google, who is Dave Davies’ brother,” and “Ray Davies” is given as the answer.
This is what will provide us the blueprint for creating the content that will rank in voice search. Understanding how entities relate to each other and giving concise and easily digested information on as many related topics as possible will ensure that Google sees us as the authoritative answer.
And not just for the first questions but also supplemental questions, thus increasing the probability our content will satisfy the user intent.
This explains why the Backlinko study found longer content tended to rank better. A longer piece of content (or a grouping of pages, well-connected/linked and covering the same subject) is not just more likely to answer the user intent and potential follow-up questions but also eliminates any possibility that the entity selection is incorrect.
Let’s consider my own bio here on Search Engine Land. Why does Google not accidentally select this bio when answering the query, “who is Dave Davies?”
The bio is on a strong site, is tied to entity relationships such as my position, website and Twitter profile. That is a lot of information about me, so why not select it?
Wikipedia has enough content on the Dave Davies from the Kinks page and enough supporting entity data to confirm he is the correct Dave Davies.
What we see here is that covering as many related entities and questions as possible in our content is critical to ranking well for voice search. It extends beyond voice, obviously, but due to the absence of anything other than position zero, voice is far more greatly impacted.
Earlier, I mentioned Google determines which entity the user is likely to be referencing when there are multiples to select from.
In the end, it comes down to intent, and Google determines intent based on a combination of related factors from previous queries.
If I simply ask “OK Google, who is his brother” without first asking it about Dave Davies, Google will not be able to reply. Google uses a system of metrics related to authority and relevance to determine which would win in a generic environment.
While not all patents are used, some iteration of their patent “Ranking Search Results Based On Entity Metrics” probably is. According to the patent, Google uses the following four metrics to determine which entity is strongest:
- Relatedness. As Google sees relationships or entities appear relatedly on the web (e.g., “Dave Davies” and “Ray Davies”), they will connect these entities.
- Notability. This relates to notability in the field. Basically, it takes into account the popularity of the entity in question and also the popularity of the field as a whole. The music industry is a bit more notable than the SEO industry, and the Kinks are listed as one of the most influential bands of all times.
- Contribution. Google will weight entities by reviews, fame rankings and similar information. Some may suggest Dave Davies of the Kinks is a little more famous than I am.
- Prizes. More weight will be added to an entity or aspect of that entity based on prizes and awards. This isn’t referring to a lotto but rather something like a Grammy. Had I won a Nobel Prize for SEO, I might have been selected.
There is more to determining the generic intent reply than a single patent, but this gives us a very good idea how it’s calculated.
The next step in ranking on voice search is to isolate which entities will have these metrics and cover them by writing targeted content well.
Cover the core answer, but also consider all the various entities connected to that answer to reinforce that you’re referring to the same entity and also have the authority and information to give the best answer.
If you want to rank in voice search, you need three things:
- A strong domain.
- Strong content.
- Content divided into logical and easily digested segments.
Out of the three, I feel that easily digested content and weight are the most influential elements.
Of course, getting a site up to par with Wikipedia is a massive undertaking, but I suspect we will see this weighting drop in importance as Google gains confidence in its capabilities to actually determine quality content and context.
You may have heard a voice search revolution is upon us. It seems a new article pops up every day saying marketers need to drop everything and get in line.
Usage is up and rising, but does that mean more opportunities for marketers?
My family of five in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois, has been using Google Home for a little over a year. We use it daily and now have five Google Homes in the house since the kids got Google Home Minis for Christmas.
Google returns personalized data in MyActivity, which you can filter by voice search queries. It’s not easy to extract, but when I did it manually, I extracted a total of 3,188 queries that mostly occurred between October 8, 2017, and January 10, 2018. These were mostly queries using Google Home, but some of them were voice queries from smartphone, desktop and tablet.
I have three kids under 8 years old, so not every query was crystal clear. When I categorized the queries, “unknown” was my sixth-largest category, and it comprised queries like my six-year-old daughter asking Google Home, “Does Google Home belong to me or my little brother” and queries I didn’t know we were making, like “All right, Blake if you’re going to be good you can come down,” after I told my 3-year-old he could come down from his time out.
But the findings largely show what my family uses the Google Home for. I am sharing my findings in hopes it will help other marketers find actual ways to promote their businesses with these devices and will provide value to themselves and to searchers.
Keep in mind while most of these are Google Home voice queries, we also search by voice from our smartphones and tablets, and those voice-based queries are included here as well.
By far, the number one thing we asked of our Google Home was to stop, which usually meant to stop playing “Cherry Bomb,” “Ghostbusters,” “Jingle Bells” or some other song my 3-year old decided was worthy of playing 10 times a day.
The next top query for us is “shazam,” which is not the music recognition app in our case, but my programmed shortcut for “turn the lights on.”
The 12th most popular query, “hot diggity,” is my programmed shortcut for “turn the lights out.”
Of the remaining top queries, none of them go to local or organic search results, which offers nothing for marketers to take advantage of:
Turning the list of more than 3,000 queries into a tag cloud of our most frequently used words shows my family likes to use the smart speaker for playing music, turning the lights on and setting timers and alarms more than anything.
When I categorized all 3,000 queries, that’s exactly what I found. Playing music, stopping music, timers, alarms, turning lights on and off and adjusting volume are by far the most popular uses my family has for Google Home, making up a full 72 percent of our usage over three months.
After the “unknown” category at 4 percent, the remaining 24 percent of usage breaks down to 3 percent looking for information on weather, 2 percent looking for information on music, and 19 percent comprised of 56 categories with 1 percent or less of usage.
Although this is just my family we’re talking about, it aligns pretty well with the usage categories mentioned in the Smart Audio report from January 2018 released by National Public Radio (NPR) and Edison Research.
In the report, they cite playing music as the #1 activity by far that the smart speaker is used for socially:
Although the time of day wasn’t something I looked at in my family’s data, the top tasks that Edison Research and NPR found in their survey were top tasks for my family as well:
Maybe of interest to marketers is that only one of the 3,000-plus queries in my dataset was an Actions on Google query, with zero percent of the total usage. My family may be an anomaly, as the smart audio report said that 43 percent of smart speaker owners would be interested in using skills from companies or brands they follow on social media. But for us, Google does a good job doing what we ask, and we don’t feel the need to use another assistant.
Prior to Google releasing the directory of Actions on Google, it wasn’t all that easy to know what skills were available. Hoping this will change going forward as Actions on Google is a clear opportunity for brands if the traffic is there.
Even more important for marketers than Category is the specific intent of the query. As I mentioned in my first column on Google Home, the only actionable categories for marketers currently available other than Actions on Google are Facts, Info and Local Guide.
Facts and Info correspond to the query intent Know and Know Simple (as defined by the Google Quality Rater Guidelines), and Local Guide corresponds to the Visit in Person query intent. However, those intents made up just 23 percent of my family’s usage, with 75 percent going to Do-Device Action queries, which don’t even use search results for their answers:
Effectively, Know Simple query intent is not all that actionable, as it simply reads a short answer without giving context, leaving just 11 percent of the queries that might lead to a site link. And of those, only a little more than 40 percent are powered by search results, and thus possible for marketers to gain visibility for.
If this doesn’t look like much of a voice revolution to you, you’re not alone. When it comes to query intent and categories of queries used by my family over three months, usage may be high, but the opportunity for marketers is relatively low.
Query length is often mentioned when talking about voice search, as Microsoft and others have said that voice queries are generally longer than typed queries. That is true with my family as well, with the average word count at four and the average length of 20. Word count and query length differ, though, based on intent.
The arrival of the Pinterest Lens and Google Lens has ignited a battle for visual search engine supremacy. Beyond opening up a new revenue stream for e-commerce stores, visual search could completely alter consumer habits and purchasing decisions.
In a world driven by instant gratification, visual search can open the door toward “snap and surf” purchasing, streamlining the search interface. This provides a promising outlook for e-commerce stores that develop their product listing ads (PLAs) and online catalogs for the visual web.
While still in its infancy, optimizing for visual search could greatly improve your website’s user experience, conversion rate and online traffic. Yet images are often given very little attention by SEO experts, who generally focus more on optimizing for speed than for alternative attributes and appeal.
While visual search won’t displace the use of keywords and the importance of text-based search, it could completely disrupt the SEO and SEM industry. I’d like to discuss some of the fundamentals of visual search and how it will affect our digital marketing strategy moving forward.
What is visual search?
There are currently three different visual search processes being employed by major search companies:
- Traditional image search that relies on textual queries.
- Reverse image search that relies on structured data to determine similar characteristics.
- Pixel-by-pixel image searches that enable “snap and search” by image or by parts of the image.
In this article, I’m focusing mainly on the third type, which allows consumers to discover information or products online by simply uploading or snapping a picture and focusing their query on the part of the image they’d like to research. It’s essentially the same as text search, just with an image representing the query that’s being matched to it.
TinEye provided the first visual search application, which is still in use today. This form of image search matched the image to other images on the web based on similar characteristics, such as shapes and colors. Unfortunately, TinEye provided a limited range of search applications by failing to map out the outlines of different objects in an image.
Today’s image recognition technology can actually recognize multiple shapes and outlines contained within a single image to allow users to match to different objects. For example, Microsoft’s image search technology allows users to search for specific items pictured within a larger image.
Microsoft is even working on detecting when the selected portion of the image has a shopping intent, showing “related products” in these instances. Unfortunately, Microsoft’s visual search is fairly limited to a few verticals, such as home appliances and travel.
Right now, this technology is limited. What companies like Pinterest, Microsoft and Google are investing in is a visual search application powered by machine learning technology and deep neural networks.
The idea is to get machines to recognize different shapes, sizes and colors in images the same way the human brain does. When we look at specific pictures, we do not see a sea of points and dotted lines. We immediately identify patterns and shapes based on past experiences. Unfortunately, we still barely understand how our minds interpret images, so programming this into a machine presents some obvious complications.
Visual search engines have come to rely on neural networks that utilize machine learning technology to improve upon its process. Companies like Google benefit from their wealth of information that allows its Lens application to constantly improve upon its search functionality. Google Lens is not only able to identify different objects within pictures but is also able to match them to locations near you, provide customer reviews and sort listings by the same principles that govern its own search algorithms.
Implications and future
So, what does this technology entail for users and businesses? Imagine being able to snap a picture of a restaurant and have a search engine tell you the name of the restaurant, the location, peak demand times and menu specials for the night. This technology could feasibly be used to snap a picture of a pair of shoes from a magazine or from a stranger and enable you to order them right there.
For e-commerce stores, visual search puts people very high in the funnel. With some unique images, product reviews and a good product description, you can entice buyers to make a purchasing decision on the spot.
This will also open up the field of competition a little bit. The Pinterest visual search engine is by far one of the most disruptive on the market. However, Pinterest’s search engine only redirects pinners to posts on Pinterest, meaning you’ll need to develop a presence on this platform to reach those audience members.
With the rise of voice search and natural language processing (NLP) accompanying this trend, this technology could help kick-start the trend of interface-free SEO. (Although I suspect that keywords and text-based search will still retain its importance, even for shopping and purchasing decisions.)
In terms of optimizing for visual search, some of the most fundamental SEO practices will still apply. Structured data remains incredibly important, especially for visual search algorithms like Microsoft’s that still rely on it to match characteristics.
It’s important that images are displayed clearly and free of clutter so that visual applications have an easier time processing them. Beyond this, you should stick to the basics of image-based search optimization:
- Add descriptive alt-text to images for indexation.
- Submit images to an image sitemap.
- Optimize image titles and alternative attributes with targeted keywords.
- Set up image badges and run them through a structured data test.
- Optimize for ideal image size and file type.
- Utilize appropriate schema markup for images and content pages.
- Optimize images to render on mobile and desktop displays.
Visual search will provide a new revenue stream for e-commerce stores and vastly improve the user’s shopping experience. This could have a major impact on SEO and paid media, bringing back a renewed focus on image optimization, which has long been ignored by SEO practitioners. This new frontier of search will only reinforce existing strategies for SEO and make the need to optimize for mobile search and your visual web presence more prescient.
A research from OMD China tracked search behaviors of 150 individuals for two weeks across all their devices to understand what truly works for search advertising.
Search remains an essential component of every marketer’s arsenal, yet in China there is little understanding of the practice beyond spends, keywords and bidding.
Bhasker Jaiswal, managing partner of marketing sciences at OMD China, added that China’s search landscape has changed so fast that generic (pay-per-click) strategies don’t suffice.
Generic PPC strategies just don’t suffice anymore.
And it was marketers’ duties to delve further. The latest industry research report from OMD China, dubbed “DIVE SEARCH”, tracked search behaviors of 150 individuals for two weeks across all their devices, collecting over 13,000 search strings to shred some lights on consumer search behaviours, as well as how search advertising influences their purchase decisions.
They don’t really care about your product.
According to the study, a majority of the consumer searches are actually about basic life necessities. Product and service related searches only make up 19% of total search.
The less they know, the more they search.
Interestingly, females search far more than males in the automotive category (8.1 vs 5.8) and males search more on skincare than females (6 vs 4.7), indicating that those who actively search your products online are not always your target customers.
When they search, they dive.
Consumers are also found to be “information-hungry”. 90% of searchers go beyond the first search page, and 80% use more than one search engine.
No surprise, mobile eclipses PC.
Consumers switch search device depending on time of the day, but in general, mobile is used for its availability and PC for viewability. Mobile has exceeded PC to become the number one device used for search (52% vs 41%).
Search advertising does have a role
Impact of search advertising on consumer purchase decision is still significant, and it’s figure-proven. For the auto category, 69% of users find Brandzone more attractive than regular search pages, and 83% of them will click on promotional links to get more information.
Older generations adopt audio-search more than younger ones
Consumers are adopting new search technology; 97% of searchers use auto-completion while searching, and 68% use voice or picture search. Older generations use these features more often than the young for convenience.