What people search for: most popular trends, keywords, topics

Google Trends

People love using search engines, but what do they search for? Here are the best ways to discover the most popular topics, keywords and trending stories.

Google Trends: Allows you to discover the most popular topics on Google’s database, along with the latest trending news worldwide or by regions and subregions.

It also allows you to compare the popularity of multiple terms at a time and the relevant search queries since 2004. Also, Hot Searches help you discover the latest trending searches.

Google Autocomplete: Google’s autocomplete feature when conducting a search can be useful if you want a series of personalised suggestions, while it can also give you an idea of the relevant suggestions, or what other people search for similar queries.

Bing Trends: A report of the most popular trends of the previous year, also providing insights and stats on the popular search queries.

Bing Webmaster Keyword Research Beta: Find what people are searching for with Bing’s data its organic searches. A comprehensive description of this tool can be found in Bing Keyword Research Tool: Highlights & Limitations.

Bing Ads Marketplace Trends: This tool makes targeting easier for advertisers, as it analyses ad scheduling trends, device trends, and location trends. Read more about it in Bing Launches Marketplace Trends Site to Help Targeting.

Adwords’ Display Planner (replacing YouTube Keyword Tool): Google has decided to replace Youtube’s keyword tool with Display Planner through Adwords two years ago and many users were left shocked. Now you can search for your Youtube keywords through Display Planner on Adwords, by filtering the results to video keywords on “Get Ad Group Ideas”

Facebook Trending Topics: Facebook’s trending feature presents the most popular topics and hashtags, depending on the users’ likes, the location, and the general popularity of each story.

Twitter Search: Find what people are talking about on Twitter by keyword, hashtag, or user name. What’s more, advanced search offers many features, such as the use of emoticons and the attitude they are associated with.

twitter search

YouTube Trends: Youtube compiles lists of the most popular videos, by examining both the keywords and the video views. Trending videos are measured by the embedded video views, along with the actual views on Youtube, in order to highlight the unique trends that occur on the popular video platform.

AdWords’ Keyword Planner: Search for keyword ideas, compare how keywords perform, measure the keyword competition and improve your next campaigns.

Keyword Planner

Google’s Year in Search: Google presents the most popular topics of the year and the search queries they inspired and although it is only updated yearly, it may still offer an interesting insight on what people are searching for.

Übersuggest: Übersuggest promises to help you find new keywords that are not available in Google’s Keyword Planner. Narrow down your search by language, country, or search type, among Web, Images, Shopping, Youtube, and News.

Top Searches, Questions, Topics, Trends

We’ve compiled a list of our past articles with the most popular topics and searches of the past years to give you a better idea of the top keywords, searches, trends for each year:

2015

  • Bing reveals the top US and UK searches of 2015
  • SEW’s 10 most popular articles of 2015
  • How US consumers are researching holiday gift ideas in 2015

2014

  • Yahoo Shares Its Top Searches for 2014
  • Bing Reveals Top Searches for 2014
  • Ask.com’s Top Searches of 2014 & Predictions for 2015

2013

  • Google Reveals Top Searches of 2013: From Nelson Mandela to Twerking
  • 2013 Search Year in Review with Bing, Yahoo & Ask.com
  • Twitter 2013 Year in Review: Notable Features, News & Research

2012

  • Google Zeitgeist: Top Trending Global, Event, People Searches
  • Bing Top Searches: Those Kardashian People, iPhone 5 & Beyonce’s Baby
  • Yahoo Year in Review 2012: Election, iPhone 5 & Kim Kardashian
  • Ask.com’s Top Question: Will Robert Pattinson & Kristen Stewart Get Back Together?
  • Twitter Year in Review: Top People, Trends & Events of 2012

2011

  • Google Zeitgeist: Rebecca Black, Google+, Ryan Dunn Top Searches
  • Top Bing Searches: Bieber, Kardashian & Royal Wedding
  • iPhone Tops Web and Mobile Searches on Yahoo
  • Ask’s Top Question: Was Kim Kardashian’s Wedding Fake?
  • AOL Hottest Searches: Charlie Sheen, Casey Anthony & Harry Potter
  • Facebook Memology: Megan Fox, Rihanna, lms
  • Twitter’s Year in Review: Egypt, Rebecca Black, Social Good
  • Top 20 Global Social Video Ads of 2011 From Unruly
  • What were we watching this year? Let’s rewind 2011. – YouTube Blog

2010

  • Google Zeitgeist: The Year’s Top Searches
  • Bing’s Top Searches: Kim Kardashian Dashes to Top Spot
  • Yahoo Search Year in Review: BP, World Cup, Miley Cyrus
  • Ask.com’s Top Questions: Users Prefer Dunkin’ Coffee
  • AOL’s Hottest Searches: Bedbugs, Tiger Woods, BP
  • 10 Top 10s: Search Year in Review
  • Top 10 Twitter Trends
  • YouTube Rewind: Top Searches, Videos

This is an updated version of Lisa Raehsler’s article from 2013.

State of video advertising report: what are the most tolerable ad formats?

video12

As video content increases, it’s time for brands to understand their consumers, in order to deliver the most relevant ads to them.

Wibbitz conducted a survey in March about video consumption and consumer sentiments regarding video advertising, hoping to help publishers and consumers reach a middle ground.

Every publisher looking to expand its services to video content needs to understand its audience first, hearing their needs, in order to deliver the best video experience to them.

Here are the most interesting findings from Wibbitz’s report and what we can learn from them:

The changing state of video consumption

Video consumption has been increased during the past years and 26% of people who participated in Wibbitz’s survey responded that they are watching at least one video per day.

Mobile devices have significantly contributed to the increased video consumption, as they make videos more accessible and this can be confirmed by the fact that 55% of the frequent video viewers prefer watching them on their smartphone.

As for the most popular social platform to watch videos, Facebook is a clear winner, as 54% of them picked it as their first social destination for video consumption, and this can also be justified by Facebook’s decision to highlight video content on the users’ news feed, while the launch of Canvas made video advertising even more appealing.

However, these stats may change during the next year, as I personally predict a rise of video consumption on Snapchat.

Strong preference on silent ads

No matter how often people are watching online videos, they still don’t like ads with sound, or irrelevant messages.

45% of people answered that muted ads are more tolerable, while 39% of them considered targeted ads a crucial factor for tolerable ads.

Brands start understanding how annoying the sound in advertising may be and that’s why they are trying to send their message through the video, even with the addition of captions, to make sure they don’t lose the viewers out of annoyance.

The power of targeted ads

It is very important nowadays for brands to focus on targeted video ads, as users grow more impatient and less receptive to irrelevant advertising.

In fact, frequent video viewers care even more about the relevance of the ads, which means that it’s important for brands to keep them happy.

Facebook and LinkedIn video viewers seem to be more demanding, with 41% and 47% of them respectively preferring targeted ads from any other ad type.

Short ads

The rise of the demanding video viewers, who also tend to have a short attention span, creates the need for shorter video ads to keep them engaged, as 70% of people won’t watch an ad longer than 10 seconds.

As the length of the video increases, only 51% of people will watch up to 10 seconds, but there is an increased chance they’ll watch up to 30 seconds in such cases.

Thus, the duration of the video along with its relevance, affect users’ watch time and the engagement can only be achieved with great content that will convince viewers to keep watching for more than 30 seconds.

video4

Skipping ads

It is becoming common for consumers to seek for ways to skip an ad, especially if it’s annoying or irrelevant, with 61% of them admitting that they always skip video ads, if possible.

However, it has also been observed that not everyone takes a real action regarding ad skipping, while half of the respondents are more likely to appreciate a mute ad.

This is another reminder for brands to use the sound in advertising appropriately, only to enhance the viewing experience and not to make users skip the video faster.video5

Autoplay

Autoplay in video advertising can be annoying and 42% of the respondents share the same opinion, but mobile video consumption may change this soon.

It seems that mobile users are more receptive to autoplay ads and this could be related to the highly targeted content they’re exposed to. However, Snapchat users don’t seem to agree, as 55% of them find autoplay ads intrusive.

Apparently the opinions are still divided about autoplay in video advertising, which brings a great opportunity for brands to turn around the unhappy users with non-intrusive content that is highly relevant to their audience.

video6

What brands can learn

All the above observations can help a brand understand what video consumers want, in order to produce the right content for them.

Here are the key points to remember:

  • Relevance is key. Video consumers expect highly targeted advertising that fits their interests and their browsing habits. This increases the chances for them to keep watching a video. A personalised experience is always appreciated, so there’s no need to create video ads without knowing your audience first.
  • Silent ads can increase the engagement, as you can still send your message effectively without any disruptive sound. If there’s an indication that your audience hates the sound in your video ads, then it’s time to focus on the visual side of advertising.
  • Focus on mobile. Video consumers on mobile devices have been increased, which means that you should make sure that your content is optimised for mobile, making the viewing experience pleasant.
  • Keep it short. Even if you create a longer video, make sure that the first seconds are appealing to help users stay engaged.

Five SEM trends ecommerce retailers should expect for the rest of 2016

CPCs in North America

With the advertising industry becoming more and more competitive each year, many online advertisers are now using search marketing to supplement their organic search results as a way to stand out from the crowd.

Although it comes at a price, this form of marketing can provide relevant, high-quality traffic and help with brand exposure, two qualities of many which can be highly beneficial for online retailers.

Despite paid search marketing becoming an increasingly popular choice amongst retailers for increasing customer acquisition rates, it can be very profitable. Just earlier this year, Adobe announced the results from its latest Digital Advertising Report, stating that while CPCs in North America were stable with a 0% increase, costs actually decreased in Europe and Asia Pacific with a 4% decline YoY in 2015.

What’s more, click-through rates are also improving for paid search, with CTRs increasing by 14% in Europe in 2015. Not only does this show that advertisers are significantly improving the quality of their campaigns, but also that consumers are responding to the ads that they are seeing.

This goes to show that this is the right time for online retailers to invest in SEM if they have not done so already. However, the web changing constantly and new developments arriving daily, what will retailers need to keep their eye on if they are to stay in the game for the rest of the year?

1. Mobile to become increasingly important

The increase in mobile use is changing paid search drastically. In 2015, Google announced that in 10 countries more than half of all searches are now on mobile devices than on computers. What’s more, Adobe went even further stating that mobile search spend (smartphone + tablet) is approaching 38% of total ad spend (up 22% YoY), and phone-based CPCs cost 24% less than on desktop.

If ecommerce retailers are to respond to consumers’ expectations and offer them an excellent buying experience on mobile devices, it is necessary for them to have a mobile optimised version of their site, or risk losing impatient and frustrated users.

2. Adapting strategies to voice recognition

The increasing importance of mobile is also set to have an impact on technologies such as voice search. As terms entered through voice search can be very different to those entered through a keyboard, it is possible that all websites will have to review their content strategy and ensure that it reflects these new “natural language” searches.

3. More importance placed on Google Shopping

In February 2016, Google announced its decision to favour paid shopping ads over AdWords text ads in the right-hand side of SERPs. With this move, the search engine is placing an increasing amount of importance on Google Shopping, which is rapidly pushing PLAs to be the ad format of choice for online retailers.

4. The power of targeting: from keywords to audiences

The way advertisers used data changed drastically last year. While Facebook and Twitter perfected their custom and tailored audience features, Google announced its Customer Match targeting. Such technology is confirming a significant trend for PPC: users are becoming so accustomed to personalisation that they are now expecting it. For advertisers, this means that creating truly targeted campaigns should be a priority to engage customers.

5. Campaign automation

With consumer behaviour changing constantly and variable factors such as the weather influencing how users shop, campaign automation is a trend that many ecommerce advertisers should be adopting in the coming year to maximise the profitability of their ads.

Automated solutions will allow campaign managers to adapt their advertising to individual platforms (AdWords, Google Shopping, Facebook etc), which will save them a considerable amount of time that can be spent working on campaign objectives or perfecting their multi-channel strategy, for example.

Mark Haupt is UK Sales Director at Twenga Solutions and a contributor to Search Engine Watch.

Why companies create content – part three: to answer customer questions

customers using social media

Part one of our series on Why Companies Create Content we looked at changing customer perception and part two focused on making use of public opinion.

This next instalment explores how companies can best construct content to respond to the frequent (and not so frequent) queries that come from their audience.

Part three: To answer customer questions

As consumers we’re a demanding bunch – we don’t just expect excellent customer service, we insist on it and shout from the rooftops when companies aren’t doing what we ask of them.

With the ability to browse shops or do our banking 24/7, it’s only natural that you imagine there’d be someone there to answer your queries during the same time period.

With our favourite social apps at our fingertips, it’s only natural that instead of listening to Greensleeves on never-ending repeat with a call centre or sending an email into a virtual black hole, we target our questions (or ire) at companies directly, and publicly.

Studies vary in the actual specific figures, but it’s suggested that around 20-40% of people opt to use social media to direct questions at a business rather than to go trawling through their website or calling up an actual human being.

source: Zendesk

Let’s put this to the test – before you crack on with reading the rest of this article, I want you to take part in a little experiment – open up Twitter (or your preferred social network) and send a simple question to a company.

I tried this out this a couple of years ago during a lecture to 30 students at Brighton University taking a Digital Media degree. During the 90 minute session, only two responses were received. Not the most scientifically valid survey that’s ever been conducted, but nevertheless that’s a pretty poor hit rate.

This could be something like asking @pret which of their menu items are suitable for vegans, or enquiring about bank holiday opening hours to @chesterzoo. Anything you like to any business you choose, as long as it’s a reasonable question they should be able to answer with relative ease.

@theclarkeybear @_ChloeGreen_ Maybe! There aren’t any plans yet but we’ll suggest it to our Food Team.

— Pret (@Pret) May 4, 2016

Post any interesting findings – good, bad or ugly – in the comments section below. Did they get back to you? Did they direct you to email their customer support team? Did they point you to a piece of content on their site? If so, did it do the job of answering your query?

Every which way but loose

With all the talk of chatbots being the future of brand communication, businesses are set to put a lot of resource into AI, attempting to second-guess customer queries and build complex response frameworks that will provide an adequate replacement for traditional customer service.

It’s a natural progression from social media based communication, and for those businesses that get it right, the investment will be worthwhile. The danger for some businesses however is that the shiny interface will just be another segway into a crappy, unloved FAQ section of their website.

Even one of the most beautiful and user-friendly apps on the web can’t get this type of interaction right. Typeform’s Help Center looks great, but ask it a question and it misses the mark by quite a long way.

typeform help

And NatWest don’t seem to want to answer one of the more basic of questions they’re likely to face.

natwest help page

Sky’s Virtual Assistant clearly isn’t ready for anything resembling a conversation, telling me to go and find what I was looking for myself.

sky help page

If this is the future then count me out.

Boiled down to their barest of bytes, messenger bots are simply a navigational aid, directing people to information. Even those that are able to pass the Turing test are only ever going to be as valuable as the content that powers them, and based on the use of social media for customer questions, at least 60% of audiences are still likely to prefer other methods.

The way that people access information is important, but not as important as how the actual information itself is presented.

Help is at hand

If chatbots are to be successful from a customer query perspective, as well as being tagged appropriately, content needs to be presented in formats that are appropriate for the mediums they’re being communicated through.

Some companies seem to be veering towards that approach already, however some are lagging.

While it doesn’t seem to have hampered their growth, Uber has fallen into the trap of bog-standard text based info on their Help section, where a few images (or even better, an animation of someone completing the task) would have offered an immensely more useful explanation.

uber help page

Showing someone how to do something is generally far better than telling them. You’d think that the How to upload GIFs to Giphy page would be a prime opportunity for a visual explanation but alas, it’s just text.

giphy help

Putting visuals to good use, Google supplements its help section with GIFs helping you get to grips with the finer points of the products.

Short but effective, the humble Gif features heavily in Slack’s feature announcements, leaving no ambiguity in how to access and use the latest upgrade.

Time lords, rejoice. Now you can browse the deep past without leaving a channel: the new “Jump to date” feature. ✨ pic.twitter.com/3P00iWuHT2

— Slack (@SlackHQ) April 22, 2016

And taking customer support to extreme personalisation levels, Intercom responds to queries with GIFs showing exactly how to accomplish certain tasks.

@akebrattberg Might you be referring to hover-over info for Segments and Tags on profiles? Here’s a gif! -SS pic.twitter.com/ca5EAaDSdy

— Intercom (@intercom) March 16, 2016

Don’t FAQ it up

FAQs and help pages have traditionally been made up by the questions companies wanted to answer, but if conversing via social media has taught brands anything, it should be that the frequently asked questions are actually very different from those they thought their customers had.

Whatever future methods of customer support prove most popular with consumers, close communication between helpdesk and content teams is paramount.

You can have the fanciest technology combined with the most knowledgeable support-staff, but this all needs to feed into superb content that provides excellent answers.

To answer customer questions effectively, business should be aiming to build an ever-expanding bank of well presented, easily accessible information that covers things people actually want to know.

If this is in a format that’s simple to understand and can be served up in seconds the vast majority of your customers will walk away happy whether they’ve tweeted you, messaged a chatbot, visited your help section or called up Diana in your call centre.

As an aside to this seven part series, check out Ayima’s free DIY Content Marketing Strategy ecourse, designed to help you improve the ROI of your content.

Searching for Video, Images, Audio, Gifs, Podcasts, Memes & Radio: a directory of search engines, finders & generators

Here’s an up-to-date list of all the available video or video file search engines, audio and sound search engines, podcast directories, meme generators & Gif finders at your disposal.

Jump to a section:

ImagesGifsMemesVideoRadio StationsSoundsPodcasts

Images

Bing

http://www.bing.com/images?FORM=Z9LH1

Bing offers an image search engine that uses trending searches from across the web to create this stream of image results. It even allows you to personalise your stream when signing in.

Everystockphoto

http://www.everystockphoto.com/

This is a search engine for free photos, indicating the license for each one, helping users find the exact image they’re looking for and the license it’s associated with.

Flickr Creative Commons

https://www.flickr.com/creativecommons/

Flickr is an awesome resource for photos, and you can use any that are labelled with a Creative Commons licence.

Freeimages

http://www.freeimages.com/

Browse 388,444 photos and illustrations and find the one you’re looking for.

Getty Images

http://www.gettyimages.co.uk/

If you’re looking for creative and editorial photography of high quality, then Getty Images is the right resource for you. You can buy any image either with credits, or a subscription plan.

Google Images

http://images.google.com

Find images from across the web, as discovered by Google’s crawler-technology.

Imgur

http://imgur.com/

The most popular images on the web, ranked by popularity.

Ixquick

https://eu.ixquick.com/

Startpage by Ixquick blends Google search results with privacy, promising more convenience and maximum privacy protection.

Pexels

https://www.pexels.com

Large database of free photos for personal and commercial use.

Picsearch

http://www.picsearch.com/

An image search service with more than 3,000,000,000 pictures.

Pinterest

https://www.pinterest.com/

Pinterest may not be your first choice when looking for an image, but it turned out into a powerful search engine for images.

Pixabay

https://pixabay.com/

Over 640,000 free stock photos, vectors and art illustrations.

Unsplash

https://unsplash.com/

Free high-resolution photos focusing mostly on nature and lifestyle photography, only requiring a credit and link to the photographer.

Wikimedia Commons

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Main_Page

An database of 31,590,351 freely usable media files.

Yahoo Image Search

https://uk.images.search.yahoo.com/

Search or browse to find pictures on the web. Flickr users can now find their own images through Yahoo’s image search.

Yippy

http://new.yippy.com/about-yippy-search

Yippy, previously known as Clusty, queries several top search engines to combine the results and generates them in an ordered list based on comparative ranking.

Gifs

GifMe

https://gifme.io/search

GifMe search is powered by users collecting and tagging over 804,886 Gifs.

Giphy

Giphy is the largest online database and search engine for Gifs and it’s the most popular choice for many users when looking for a Gif to support their content.

Imgur

http://imgur.com/r/gifs

Find the best Gifs ranked by popularity.

Memebase – Cheeseburger

http://memebase.cheezburger.com/senorgif?ref=subnav

Find the Gif you’re looking for or browse the feed to discover new ones.

Twitter

https://twitter.com

Twitter collaborated with Giphy to embed its search engine when creating new tweets and this helped users have access to a huge Gif library with just one click.

Tumblr

https://www.tumblr.com

Tumblr allows its users to search for all the available Gifs when creating a post, making their use even more convenient.

Memes

Animal Advisor

http://animaladvisor.net/

A meme search engine containing “947,359 dank memes.”

Frinkiac

https://frinkiac.com/

3 million screencaps taken from The Simpsons to help you find the right meme for every occasion.

Imgur

http://imgur.com/memegen

Find the most popular memes of the web and customise them accordingly by changing the text.

MemeCenter

http://www.memecenter.com/

Find every meme you’ve ever wanted.

Video

AOL On

http://on.aol.com/

AOL On is a video search platform that provides reports of all the latest news in the form of short videos, helping you to catch up with the trending topics.

Bing

http://www.bing.com/?scope=video&nr=1&FORM=NOFORM

Bing allows you to find the videos you’re looking for across the web and it displays the results in thumbnails. What’s more, it also offers search suggestions and relative results to help your searching.

Blinkx

http://www.blinkx.com/

Blinkx is offering high-quality, personalised, curated video content and it numbers more than 35 million hours of online video.

Clipblast

http://www.clipblast.com/

Find trending videos in a large video search engine index with an easy interface.

Dailymotion

http://www.dailymotion.com/gb

A popular choice for video searching, attracting 300 million users from around the world who watch 3.5 billion videos monthly.

Google videos

https://www.google.com/videohp?hl=en

Google’s video search may be an alternative to Youtube, as they don’t seem to provide the same results for each query, helping users find what they’re looking for without leaving the search platform.

Metacafe

http://www.metacafe.com/

A large video database that specialises in short-form video entertainment.

Moving Image Archive

https://archive.org/details/movies

A large collection of free movies, films and videos.

Vevo

http://www.vevo.com/

Vevo is a music video search engine that hopes to help you find exactly what you’re looking for and it numbers more than 12 billion monthly views. http://www.digitaltrends.com/movies/vevo-acquires-showyou-subscriptions/

Yahoo

https://video.search.yahoo.com/

Yahoo’s video search allows you to search for videos across the web, with its interface being familiar and functional.

Yandex

https://www.yandex.com/video/

Yandex is another video search engine that helps you find the video you’re looking for by organising the most popular videos depending on their category.

YouTube

http://www.youtube.com

The most popular video search engine is probably your first choice when looking for any kind of video, and that’s why it ranks as the second most visited site on the web. http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/youtube.com

Radio Stations

Internet-Radio

https://www.internet-radio.com/

Internet-Radio offers more than 46,462 radio stations to discover the one that suits your music tastes.

PublicRadioFan.Com

http://www.publicradiofan.com/

A customizable web site that provides one-click access to public radio programming from around the world.

Radio-Locator

http://www.radio-locator.com/

A searchable database of over 15,000 radio station web pages and 10,000 audio streams.

Radio Tuna

http://radiotuna.com

Radio Tuna is considered the first real-time search engine for online radio and it profiles radio stations by the actual music they’re playing, organising the best music from every genre.

Shoutcast

https://www.shoutcast.com/Search

Shoutcast is an online directory of radio stations with over 50,000 music, talk, sports and community radio stations from all over the world.

TuneIn

http://tunein.com/

Discover new radio stations in a database of more than 100,000 stations all over the world.

Sounds

http://www.findsounds.com/

Search for sound effects in a database that processes more than 2,000,000 sound searches for more than 300,000 users monthly.

Soundhound

http://www.soundhound.com/

Search, discover and play music directly through your phone.

Internet Archive

https://archive.org/details/audio

A large audio archive with almost 3 million results of sounds and audio to choose from.

Freesound Project

http://www.freesound.org/

A collaborative database of Creative Commons Licensed sounds.

Soungle

http://www.soungle.com/

Find any sound effect and use the filters to narrow down your results.

Free-Loops.com

http://free-loops.com/

Find all kinds of free loops and audio clips.

Podcasts

Marketing Podcasts

https://marketingpodcasts.com/

Discover podcasts that can help you become a better marketer.

Miro Guide

http://www.miroguide.com/audio/

Search for your favourite podcast in a functional search engine that also features many useful categories for further browsing.

Podcast Directory

http://www.podcastdirectory.com/

Search and download from more than 10 million podcast episodes.

PodBean.com

http://www.podbean.com/all

Find the podcast you’re looking for, or browse the categories to discover new ones.

Podbay.fm

http://podbay.fm/

Search and browse from a large collection of podcasts, and find what you’re looking for with quick results as you’re typing.

And finally, check out our post: 14 search engine alternatives to Google.

Six most interesting search marketing news stories of the week

Google_Firebase Analytics_Dashboard_600

Welcome to our weekly round-up of all the latest news and research from around the world of search marketing and beyond.

This week we might as well rename the weekly round-up ‘a ton of new stuff from Google’, as there’s nothing but new products and announcements from the big G for as far as the eye can see.

Next week we’ll try and do an exclusive Ask Jeeves round-up.

Google I/O reveals the future of artificial intelligence

As Mike O’Brien reported this week, Google’s annual conference revealed plenty of product announcements and improvements, with artificial intelligence taking centre stage thanks to its new Google Assistant tool.

Google Assistant combines voice search with the rest of Google’s AI capabilities and integrates various other third party products including Uber, Fandango and OpenTable. “While Siri can tell you what time The Jungle Book is playing, you can’t actually purchase tickets through her.”

Other announcements from Google I/O

Mike already covered these in detail, but I’ll quickly run through the list again:

  • Google Home: an answer to Amazon Echo, which lets you control various aspects of your connected home.
  • Allo: a messaging app with Google’s AI built in. The suggested responses will be based on your past responses, in both text and image form.
  • Duo: a video-calling app that includes a live stream of the person calling, allowing you to potentially gauge their mood. Mostly furious probably.
  • Daydream: Google’s own virtual reality (VR) platform. Unlike Cardboard, which works with any smartphone, Daydream will only work on new phones with specially-built sensors and screens. It will contain VR versions of YouTube, StreetView and Netflix.
  • Android Wear: Google’s smart watch will be updated to include a tiny keyboard, the ability to show data from any application, and automatic activity activation.

Google launches a mobile analytics platform for apps: Firebase

In a very busy week, Google also announced a new analytics tool, which Sophie Loras has covered in detail here: Google launches Firebox.

The analytics platform is free and unlike Google Analytics, it’s designed specifically for mobile apps, so developers can see what users are doing inside the app, how paid advertising campaigns are performing with cross-network attribution and where users are coming from.

All viewed from a single dashboard:

BBC closed its Food website, controversy ensued

In one of the more sensitive, politically charged stories of the week, the BBC mothballed its 11,000 free to access recipes in order to save budget and to seemingly bow to government and commercial pressure.

bbc recipes

In Graham Charlton’s article (found in the above link) we debate the various SEO ramifications of de-indexing content and shutting down site-search.

However as an update, the BBC have ‘climbed down’ from the decision and moved the recipes to its ad-funded Good Food site.

Google updates Search Console’s ‘Search Analytics’ with AMP filter

Although you’ve been able to see how Google indexes your accelerated mobile pages in Search Console for a short while now, Google has just started rolling out an AMP filter in the ‘Search Analytics’ report.

amp-queries

Just had to the ‘Search Appearance’ option on the top filter selection and you’ll be able to see any queries that brought mobile searchers to your AMP content. Although my own Search Console has yet to be updated, so thanks to Search Engine Journal for the image.

Google introduces ‘Rich Cards’ markup

Google is rolling out a new search result format, based on its rich snippets, that use schema.org structured markup to display results in an “even more engaging and visual format.”

As you can see, the format is for mobile use…
rich-result-evolution

Google will start to show rich cards for two content categories: recipes and movies, and will initially appear in mobile search results in English for google.com.

There is also already a Rich Card report set up in your Search Console…

rich cards

The cards are easy enough to implement, I’ve tried it out with a few webpages already, and I’ll let you know the results in due course.

Shhhhh! Don’t tell anyone but SEO tools are great for market research and completely free

google search

SEO isn’t anything new, there are very few people involved in marketing who don’t have some appreciation of how you might need to make an active effort to appeal to the search engines.

Despite that awareness, a lot of marketers will have no idea of the great tools that search marketers have on their hands that are great for market research and completely free (or at least freemium).

As David Ogilvy said:

“If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think.

We try to write in the vernacular.”

It’s easy to take for granted, but when someone goes to a search engine and starts typing they are literally telling you what they want to know. It might be what they want to buy, it might be what they want to research. They’re using their own words and they are telling you exactly what they want. That’s pretty profound, however you look at it.

Google have come up with an acronym to describe this phenomena. They call it the Zero Moment of Truth or ZMOT for short.

What do they mean by ZMOT? It is that moment when you grab your laptop, mobile phone or some other wired device and start learning about a product or service you’re thinking about trying or buying.

A busy Mum, looking up head lice treatments on her mobile phone as she waits to pick up her son at school.
An office manager at their desk, comparing laser printer prices and ink cartridge costs before heading to the office supply store.
A student in a cafe, scanning user ratings and reviews while looking for a cheap hotel in Barcelona.
A winter sports fan, pulling out a mobile phone to look at video reviews of the latest snowboards.

There’s loads of research that’s been carried out into the ZMOT, it should be required reading for anyone working in marketing.

If you can understand these moments, you as a business are in a really strong position. And there are some great free tools we can use to research and understand these moments.

Keyword Planner Tool

The original and the best keyword research tool, with data taken straight from Google, we can quickly see how many people are searching for a phrase on the search engine and how that compares to other terms.

keyword planner

Okay the volume estimates aren’t that accurate but within seconds I can see four times as many people searched for Donald Trump last month compared to Hillary Clinton. A couple of seconds more I can see 7.5 million searches for One Direction and reassuringly 20.5m for Wikipedia.

But the tool doesn’t just work for big high traffic keywords, it also works for the more detailed and less common search terms. I would never have guessed there are more than twice the number of searches for “beach wedding dresses” compared to “designer wedding dresses”.

Every sector will have dozens of gems hidden like this, where you can learn more about your customers using a tool that just requires a Google login.

Google Insights

While Google’s Keyword Planner tool is great at showing us that more people are searching for this or that, it’s not so great at helping us understand the “when”.

There’s often seasonal, cyclical and sometimes terminal patterns in search behavior. We can take that search behavior as a proxy for demand, the more people searching for Holidays in Tuscany is usually a pretty good indicator that more people want to buy them.

If I were to ask you which month of the year is the most popular to search for Gym Membership? Every single person would reply saying January, and they’d be right. That kind of seasonal variation is no surprise.

You might assume the rest of the year is pretty even. You may bung most of your budget and marketing efforts into January and spread the rest evenly throughout the rest of the year, that would be a mistake. You’d miss a second, albeit smaller, peak around August and September.

Google Trends doesn’t just help you identify when to time your campaigns, it can also benchmark your whole company’s performance.

google trends

I can see significantly fewer people searched for snowboarding in Feb 2016 compared to 2015. If I’m reporting flat growth on sales for that month compared to the previous year, I’m actually doing a good job, not a bad one, as it might have initially seemed.

Answer the Public

Typically SEO’s talk about keywords or keyphrases when we describe what people type into the search box, if we were being more accurate we should probably call them search queries.

I try to encourage myself to call them queries more often. That’s because the person looking at the screen is ultimately asking a question. It might not always be phrased as a question but sometimes it is. And that’s why I’m a huge fan of Answer the Public, it’s a tool with one simple purpose, understanding the questions people have about a topic.

answer the public

When you start typing into Google it tries to guess what you were typing before you’ve even finished typing. These suggestions are triggered by two things, search volume and mention volume. Are people searching using those words and are websites using them as well?

These suggestions are the datapoints which feed Answer the Public. You type in a seed concept and it spits out visualisations on questions people have around that topic.

Proper genuine customer insight from a free tool. Here are just two screenshots from the tool – there’s a business plan, content strategy and social media programme right here in these screen shots:

answer the public screenshot

answer the public wheel graph

Buzz Sumo

How people search is really interesting but knowing how they respond to content and how widely it gets distributed on social is of huge interest to search marketers. But the interest shouldn’t just stop with search marketers.

Buzz Sumo is a great tool at understanding your marketers needs and content preferences. Buzz Sumo isn’t completely free. It’s a freemium tool with a great free option, it allows you to search for a term and see what topic is popular on social or, my preference, search for a competitor and a see what their greatest social hits are.

None of these tools will be unknown to search marketers but I don’t think they’ve done a great job sharing the value of these tools with the wider marketing and business world. I think they are really helpful and best of all, they’re free.

Beginner’s guide to server response codes

Page not found

Each time you visit a web page, a bureaucratic exchange takes place between your computer’s web browser and a distant web server.

Your web browser (called the “client”) begins the exchange by submitting a request to the web server for code, images, and other information.

The web server, always on the alert, returns a tiny message that says, “I received your request and here is what you can expect in the next few moments.”

This tiny message, including a server response code, is helpful to both the waiting client and human beings optimizing the experience.

Server response codes may appear to be errors at first glance; they’re most obvious when what the user wants to happen, doesn’t. On deeper inspection, these informational codes exist for every properly functioning online interaction. Server response codes, also called status codes, are feedback that your website is built correctly and web server functioning as intended.

Status Code Ranges

A status code’s leading number indicates its general meaning, making the codes predictable even if you don’t know the details. Every career SEO ought to know these by heart.

2xx – Successful

The general goal is to send the client to a web page with this response code range.

3xx – Redirection

These frequently misunderstood response codes help update the client’s outdated request.

4xx – Client Error

The request went wrong and the error is by the client. The most frequent response in this range is a broken link—the client requests information not existing on the server.

5xx – Server Error

The request went wrong and the error is by the server. Fixing this generally requires developer intervention.

Typical Status Codes

A large number of status codes are reserved by consensus, so web professionals can share an understanding of standard responses. The codes below appear regularly when you’re responsible for a website experience.

200 – OK

A 200 response from the server means, “Everything is great, and I’m sending the information you requested.”

This response code is generally ideal. Every first time a web page loads in your browser, this is the code received. To a search engine crawler, a 200 code says “I want you to keep this link as-is in your index.”

How could this response be an error? A few weeks ago I was looking to buy a shirt. A specific brand ranked well in search results and I immediately found pages of product links from their site that fit what I wanted. I clicked on the first product link and landed on the correct page, but there was no way to choose options or buy the shirt.

I went back to the search results and tried every link from that brand on the first page, with the same result.

With some research, I found that their web server showed a 200 response for every page that ever existed on their site. Because of this, old products were not removed from the search index and outranked buyable products in search results.

301 – Redirect Permanently

A permanent redirect acknowledges the client’s request and says, “That information now resides somewhere else.”

Instead of loading the old information, the server begins an updated request—a 301 response leads to a 200 response from the new location.

If the client is a search engine, the requested location is replaced by the new location in a search index.

A 301 response is ideal for correcting visitors who come to the wrong version of your domain, like non-www redirecting to www. This code is also great when you update and move content within your site. The idea is to make sure visitors to the old content are redirected to the updated content instead.

This response code is an error when the old location is still relevant, should be indexed, and needs to retain indexing signals. It’s also an error when the new location isn’t relevant to the old location; misuse of redirects is a common spam indicator.

302 – Found/Temporary Redirect

Temporary redirects acknowledge the client’s request and say, “I found the information you want, but it’s somewhere different at the moment.”

The server begins a new request, resulting in a 200 response from the new location. If the client is a search engine, the originally requested location is retained in a search index.

Google’s John Mueller has pointed out their algorithm does not penalize for 302 redirects, and the index will eventually treat a 302 as a 301 if it remains long enough. Likewise, a 301 response may be treated as a 302 by Google if there are enough signals to them that the old location is preferred.

This response code causes problems when a link should lead to a permanent new location (301) or a not found (404) response instead. Some developers erroneously chain 302 and 301 redirects together, increasing a page’s load time with every redirect.

304 – Not Modified

The 304 status code redirects to a file previously cached by the client.

The server says, “I have your request, but the information you want hasn’t changed since the last time you asked for it. Let’s not waste time; get the file you downloaded last time.”

This response code involves a lot of logic between the client and server in order to communicate how long cached information will be accurate. It can also indicate when cached information should be updated with a fresh download.

This status code doesn’t get nearly the attention its 3xx siblings do, but when you hear, “Please clear your cache to see the changes,” or have a talk about cache expiration headings, 304 is your code. Balancing caching with fresh content is an art complicated enough to warrant its own article.

403 – Forbidden

A 403 response is the server saying, “I understand your request but I won’t give you the information.”

This response is given when the client doesn’t have the access level the server requires. It’s a correct response when an unauthorized client is attempting to access sensitive areas of a website. This status is usually sent to search engines who try to crawl administration pages of a website.

This status code is an error when you intend the client to access the information. This happens commonly with over-engineered robots.txt files, but can be the result of a misconfigured web server.

404 – Not Found

The server says, “I can’t find that information, and it probably never existed.”

The most widely-recognized status code, a 404 serves the important function of informing the client that what it seeks does not exist.

Some people are so convinced the 404 is a complete error that they’ll go to great lengths to prevent a server from using it at all. They may redirect clients instead, leading to loops of links where the searcher never finds what they want as they follow a path that doesn’t end.

The 404 tells search engine crawlers that they’ve found a dead end and should look to another location—important when a crawler has limited resources to spend on a website.

The 404 response is not usually an error with the server, but the result of outdated or mistyped links leading to that location. If you see multiple 404 results from internal site links, fix the offending links immediately. If you see multiple 404 results from external links that can’t be updated, consider a 410 response instead.

410 – Gone

This status code is the server’s way of saying, “That information used to exist, but doesn’t anymore.”

It tells search engine crawlers and other websites that the requested information was available only for a limited time, and they should remove their links to it.

Search engine crawlers will continue to test a 404 page in case it’s appearing in error, but a 410 response is regarded as absolute. Because of the 410 status code’s specific meaning, developers often choose to prevent mistakes by returning a 404 for all “not found” and “gone” instances.

503 – Service Unavailable

The 5xx range codes take more digging to fix, and function as actual server errors. The 503 status code is more common—used when the server is overloaded and unable to respond to requests. The overload could be the result of misconfiguration, or a sudden and extreme increase in website traffic.

5xx range codes like the 503 are always priority fixes; you can’t optimize what clients can’t access.

In Summary

Server response codes are an important aspect of understanding the information sharing process. Knowing each code’s appropriate use is a necessary skill, even if it’s not your role to configure the server itself. The idea is to communicate exactly what you intend, and the correct configuration depends on your goals.

Aimee Jarboe advises mid-market retailers at Virid, an ecommerce platform and services company. You can connect with Aimee on LinkedIn.

Google’s recent SERP changes and tests: everything you need to know

Two mobile screenshots side by side, both showing searches for "Marks and Spencer near me". The search on the left is from 29th February, as shown by the Google Doodle at the top for a leap year. Both screenshots give brief address details and opening hours of each branch, but the screenshot on the right also has distance details (e.g. 0.1 miles).

What could it all mean for SEO?

I should stress first of all that none of these changes are confirmed to be permanent, and could revert back or change further over the coming weeks and months as Google refines its plans for the SERP.

It’s definitely too early to start altering your strategy based on what has been reported so far, especially as there are a lot of different changes being reported to different extents by different users.

But there’s no harm in considering how they might affect SEO, especially if these changes are any indication of what Google has in store for the future.

The most immediately obvious benefit of longer title tags and descriptions is more room to fit in keywords. While this is true, it’s also 2016, which means we can do a lot more interesting things with the extra characters – after all,

Over the past couple of weeks, Google has been spotted introducing some interesting changes to the look and layout of its search results pages.

The first, as we reported in our round-up of key search marketing news on Friday, is that Google appears to have increased the length limit for title tags in the SERPs to around 69-70 characters.

Long title tags being tested again in the SERPs. Seeing 69 and 70 character results today. pic.twitter.com/esiKTctV96

— Ross Hudgens (@RossHudgens) May 6, 2016

Title tags on mobile have lengthened even further, some now clocking in at a whopping 78 characters, giving rise to a bit of a dilemma for SEOs wanting to optimise for both desktop and mobile.

Featured snippets have also grown in size, while descriptions now seem to be able to fit a larger number of characters onto one line, although the overall length of descriptions appears to be staying the same for the moment.

Meanwhile, Google is also conducting some A/B testing of different link colours, in a move reminiscent of its infamous “fifty shades of blue” test in 2009. Some users have noticed Google trialling different shades of blue in their search results, while others are protesting a change in link colour from blue to black.

Hoping that @google change the colour of links back to blue soon. These black links are making me sad. ☹️#Google pic.twitter.com/yH4SRJbbpj

— D-J Gordon (@iamdjgordon) May 8, 2016

So what do we know so far about the new changes, and what impact could they have on SEO if they’re here to stay?

Extended title tags, descriptions and more

The longer titles in Google search results were first spotted by the sharp-eyed Ross Hudgens, who reported on Twitter that he was seeing title tags of 69 and 70 characters on Google.

While it’s still not confirmed whether the longer titles are a test or here to stay, at the time of writing (nearly a fortnight on from Hudgens’ tweet), I’m still seeing title tags as much as 68 and 69 characters long in search results for Google.co.uk.

70-character title tags were once the norm on Google, until Google increased the font size of titles from 16 pixels to 18 pixels in 2014.

After that, the optimum length for title tags was between 55 and 60 characters. But since Google did away with right-hand-side ads on the SERP earlier this year (possibly with the eventual goal of widening search results in mind), it has had a bit more width to play with.

Two side by side screenshots of Google search results, showing a search for "Who was the US president when the Angels won the world series?" The left-hand screenshot is narrower, and the titles of the top results are all cut off after eight or nine words. The right-hand search result is wider, and the title tags are all displayed in full, with no truncating.Then and now: the old style of search results, left, versus the new, right

The SEM Post reports that altogether, the width of Google search results has increased from 500 to about 600 pixels wide, decreasing the space between results and the Knowledge Panel on the right-hand side by 5 pixels to make room.

It’s important to note that pixels, not characters, are the measurement that Google actually uses for search results and title length. We use characters as a more practical measurement, which is why character limits can only be an approximation, because characters like ‘w’ take up much more pixel space than characters like ‘i’ or ‘l’.

It’s not just title tags which have been affected by the search results widening: meta descriptions are also being given more room (about 100 characters) on each line, and in some cases displaying three lines of description instead of the usual two, which is a huge change.

However, Google is still cutting many of them off at two lines and around 150 characters, meaning it’s probably too early to start rewording your meta descriptions just yet.

The width of featured snippets has also increased from 556 pixels wide to about 645 pixels, while the height has decreased by about 30 pixels, leaving the same amount of text within the box but also giving more room for title tags.

Finally, the three-pack of search results that appear at the top of the page when you make a local search has also widened to the same width as featured snippets while keeping the same height, allowing Google to add in a little more detail about the locations of local businesses.

Two screenshots of the 'local map pack' in Google search results side by side, showing search results for Shoe Zone branches in London. The left hand screenshot is narrower, and contains the branch name, street address, phone number and opening hours. The screenshot on the right is wider, and each result also has distance details (e.g. 1.3 miles) as well as the other information.Left: the old ‘map pack’ of local search results; Right: the new, wider map pack

Meanwhile, on mobile…

Google’s SERP changes don’t just apply to desktop. The length of mobile title tags has reportedly increased to as much as 78 characters, putting them at a couple of keywords longer than the new title tags on desktop.

The change on mobile was first reported by Jennifer Slegg on the SEM Post a couple of days ago, although interestingly, I have a screenshot from April showing a search result with a 76-character title tag – which might indicate that I was part of one of Google’s famous “1%” tests in which it trials a new change with just 1% of its users.

A mobile screenshot showing two Google search results with long title tags. The top search result is headlined, "Does any one else get this? : I have felt shivers up and down my spine story ..." which is a title tag of 76 characters in total. The second search result is almost as long, titled "Autonomous sensory meridian response - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia"A search results screenshot taken on 25th April

The three-pack of local search results on mobile also seems to have changed a little, at least since this screenshot that I took back in February, with Google choosing to include ‘distance from you’ information even at the expense of showing address details, possibly to provide consistency with the level of detail that desktop search now features.

What could it all mean for SEO?

I should stress first of all that none of these changes are confirmed to be permanent, and could revert back or change further over the coming weeks and months as Google refines its plans for the SERP.

It’s definitely too early to start altering your strategy based on what has been reported so far, especially as there are a lot of different changes being reported to different extents by different users.

But there’s no harm in considering how they might affect SEO, especially if these changes are any indication of what Google has in store for the future.

The most immediately obvious benefit of longer title tags and descriptions is more room to fit in keywords. While this is true, it’s also 2016, which means we can do a lot more interesting things with the extra characters – after all, it’s not just about keywords any more.

A photograph of a long-tailed widowbird perched on a stalk in a grassy field.Longer title tags and descriptions would give SEOs more leeway to use long-tail keywords.
Image by Dr. Ron Matson, available via CC0 (public domain image)

The first is that longer titles and descriptions would allow more room for long-tail keywords, three or four-word phrases that tend to indicate that searchers are closer to taking action or making a purchase, making them extremely valuable for marketers.

Similarly, the increased room in search results would give website owners more opportunity to use natural language in their titles and descriptions.

Natural language queries are search queries that use full, everyday language instead of short, disjointed keywords. They are becoming more common as voice search is on the rise and search engines are increasingly able to interpret specific, multi-part queries.

In theory, SEOs should adapt to this trend in order to give their websites the best chance of ranking for natural language search queries, but with a limit on how much will fit on the search results page, this is easier said than done.

Extending the length of titles and descriptions might be Google’s way of acknowledging this and adjusting the SERP to allow for it.

Finally, another benefit of longer title tags is that in some cases, it can make room for brand names at the end of a title, which is useful for making sure your brand stamp is on a search result without necessarily having to sacrifice any valuable content.

The increased width of featured snippets probably won’t make big difference as long as the amount of text within stays the same, but they’re still an excellent way to leapfrog your search competition if you know how.

Meanwhile, the wider map pack could be great news for local SEO, as it gives enough room to display short descriptions plus precise address details, distance (at least on Google.co.uk – I’ve noticed screenshots from Google.com don’t appear to have this feature) and phone number, all without truncating.

A screenshot of the new wider three-pack of local search results, showing three types of shoe shop near Hammersmith. Each shop is given a short description, plus an exact location (e.g. Kings Mall Shopping Centre), a distance away (e.g. 0.2 miles), a street address (e.g. 43 King Street) and a phone number, with opening hours below.

The new length difference between mobile and desktop title tags probably presents the most interesting challenge for SEOs. There has always been a bit of a difference in the way that title tags display on desktop versus mobile, with mobile title tags displaying across two lines instead of one line on desktop.

But if the longer title tags that we’ve been seeing on desktop and mobile both become hard changes, then many site owners will have to make a call: optimise for desktop, or for mobile? Or try to find a middle ground?

Ultimately it will depend on context: the type of business, the information that needs to be included in the title tag, and the types of customers that the business most wants to cater towards. A business with primarily mobile traffic might decide that it’s worth sacrificing a bit of readability on desktop in order to improve their chances on mobile.

There’s also the possibility that more website owners will choose to spin off their mobile presence into a separate site – m.example.com – instead of simply employing a responsive design for their main site, in order to have the best of both worlds.

Paint it Black

Last but not least, we have the news that Google has been testing different link colours on some of its users, with searchers reporting seeing a different shade of blue in their search results, as well as –much more outrageously – all black links.

Google is A/B testing different shades of blue on me. pic.twitter.com/PKf0TIyo1Z

— Rob Price (@robaeprice) May 9, 2016

My google links have turned black, They look horrible. Please turn them back to blue #google pic.twitter.com/hbF5lSkRpS

— facelessloser (@facelessloser) May 8, 2016

Instead of the usual purplish colour to indicate a previously visited link, the black search results are reported to turn a lighter grey when clicked on.

Setting aside the depressing visual impact of an almost-all-black results page, Google’s colour change experiments have some implications in search accessibility for users who are colour blind or have low vision.

Back in 2014 when Google removed the underlines in hyperlinks for its search results, leaving colour as the only visual clue as to which text was a link, Adrian Roselli wrote that: “Google misses the mark [for accessibility] in that the blue hyperlinks don’t have sufficient contrast with the rest of the text on the page.”

The darker blue text that Google is trialling in some places is an improvement on this, but the black link text that has caused so much upset comes with an additional set of problems.

With the exception of URLs just below the link text, which are still green, all of the text on Google’s SERPs is the same colour, with no other visual cues to distinguish links from regular text. Roselli explains why Google’s changes to the SERP fail accessibility guidelines on multiple levels:

“By dropping underlines, Google already ran afoul of Success Criterion 1.4.1 (which is only Level A) which requires something other than color to be used to convey information (such as the presence of a link).

By making the links the same color as the surrounding text, it now pushes that failure even further by not providing a 3:1 contrast ratio between the links and the surrounding text (which is outlined in Techniques for WCAG 2.0 as item G183).

Again, please don’t follow Google’s lead.”

The impact of this change, at least on the black SERPs that Google is trialling, could manifest in decreased click-through rates from users who find the new colour scheme visually confusing – or who find the new black links too depressing to click on.

Seriously Google this black links thing is killing me it’s like the guy from Bauhaus is wailing all my search results at me

— Gregor Stuart Hunter (@gregorhunter) May 9, 2016

Five places your business should source online reviews other than Google & Yelp

Amazon.com Help Customer Reviews

Hopefully by now you know how important it is to not only have local reviews posted for your business, but to incorporate those reviews into your overall marketing and advertising plan.

According to WordStream, “79% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, 85% of consumers say that they read online reviews for local businesses, and 73% of consumers say positive customer reviews make them trust a business more.”

It’s no wonder Google and Yelp is so important to a business’s online success. Unfortunately, many companies stop there.

Believe it or not, there are actually many different online platforms and avenues you can take to get reviews for your business that will still add value, so it’s important you direct your consumers to write those stellar reviews in more places than just the top two.

This will help give your business extra visibility, help give another audience more opportunity to review your business, and give you more ammunition to work with overall when published reviews in your marketing materials.

Below is a list of great alternatives to Google and Yelp to get you started:

Amazon Customer Reviews

Amazon Customer Reviews is arguably just as popular as Google and Yelp, but it has to be mentioned.

Amazon is a very popular site for consumers looking for reviews on a product they intend to purchase, and in fact a lot of people go to Amazon specifically for reviews even if they plan on buying the product somewhere else. Amazon has such a wide range of products for sale that there is almost always a review (or several) for the product you’re searching.

Amazon rates it’s products using a 5-star scale, and then purchasers are able to write their own reviews underneath. You can also sort those reviews into “most helpful” and “most recent” to narrow down what will most likely be a giant list.

Amazon also has a list of “top reviewers” that you can attempt to elicit to review your products. They have titles like “Top 100 Reviewer” and “Hall of Fame Reviewer” listed next to their names. A review from them could mean big things for your company! You just have to do the work to reel them in.

Consumer Reports

Consumer Reports has been around since 1936, making it one of the oldest and most trusted sources for product reviews.

Best Mattress Reviews – Consumer Reports

Consumer Reports has done a great job of changing with the times; they’re present on Twitter (@consumerreports), YouTube, and various other social media sites, so they have a solid following. Their mission is to reach as many people as possible, and so they understand the value of reaching out to a wide audience using whatever channels necessary.

Consumer Reports is unique in that it’s in-house testing laboratory and survey research center tests and researches all its products before posting reviews.

It’s a non-profit company and doesn’t accept any advertising, so it’s reviews are true and unbiased. According to Wikipedia, approximately 7.3 million people subscribe to Consumer Reports, so if you’re not using it for your business’s reviews you’re missing out on a huge, diverse audience of consumers.

Aabaco Small Business from Yahoo!

Aabaco Small Business from Yahoo! (formerly know as Yahoo! Local Listings) has several good options for business owners looking to increase their client base.

Business Directory Local Listings Online Local Advertising from Small Business

You can create a FREE listing by going to this website. You can also purchase an Enhanced listing for $9.95/mo, or a Localworks listing for $29.99/mo. Visit their homepage for more information on how the various plans relate.

With a Localworks listing you have the ability to reach a network of over 150 million local searches each month. You can list your business over more than 60 websites so that you are able to always control the information that is out there in order to make sure it is correct and factual.

An Enhanced listing gives you more photos, a company tagline, and a detailed business description. Similar to other listings sites, consumers are able to review and comment on your business. As a business owner, you have the option to respond to these comments. This opens the door to either recommend new products or rectify a bad transaction, sending the message that you are in touch with and care about your client base.

Foursquare for Business

Although FourSquare for Business isn’t as important as it was in the past, they still have an incredibly following.

foursquare-business-blog

According to their homepage, more than 50 million people use FourSquare for Business for product reviews, and more than 2 million businesses take advantage of the site in order to increase their sales and awareness for their company and products.

FourSquare works for reviews because people are able to leave photos, comments, and reviews for local businesses thus enabling them to have conversations with other locals about the benefits and drawbacks of a particular place. By using FourSquare yourself, you can learn from your target audience and improve your business to better meet their needs, so it’s a win all around.

Facebook Ratings and Reviews

If you didn’t know that Facebook was more than just posting statuses and liking photos, you and your business are missing out! Facebook is one of the most popular places to review and grow businesses. Facebook Ratings and Reviews is a new feature, but it’s rapidly growing in popularity.

Ratings Reviews Facebook Help Centre

Similar to Amazon, Facebook Ratings and Reviews uses a star system for their users to express their like or dislike of a company or product. The more people who review a business, the more likely it is to show up in someone’s Newsfeed; thus increasing brand awareness.

One downfall with Facebook is that your ability to respond to a review is limited based on the consumer’s privacy settings. For example, if their profile is extremely private, most likely you won’t even have access to the review, let alone the ability to respond to it and remedy a situation.

That being said, if reviews become a problem for you, Facebook does offer the option to turn them off but still list your business on their site.

Now that you know some great review alternatives to Google and Yelp, what are you going to use to increase the audience for your business? Have you had any luck with the sites listed above, or do you have any helpful tips for alternative sites? Comment in the section below!