10 tips for marketing success on LinkedIn

LinkedIn Global penetration_LinkedIn

Using LinkedIn for personal and professional branding is easy, so why do so many brands and individuals get it so wrong?

At ClickZ Live Jakarta, Chris J Reed, global chief executive officer and founder, Black Marketing, shared his 10 tips for success on LinkedIn.

“You all have terrible profiles – I know, I’ve seen them,” Reed told delegates.

How to improve that? The first step is understanding LinkedIn’s role as a business-to-business (B2B) and a pier-to-pier (P2P) network, in a business context. “It’s not Facebook, it’s not Twitter and it’s definitely not Tinder,” says Reed.

Who uses LinkedIn?

The platform is establishing a significant presence in Asia. India and China now make up LinkedIn’s two biggest markets after the United States.

It has a growing presence in many APAC markets including Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong and Indonesia.

*Source: LinkedIn

China’s adoption of the site in particular is a surprise to some, says Reed. It’s one of the few global players to make inroads in this market – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google for example, are all blocked in China and can only be accessed with a VPN.

The preferred social commerce app is local player WeChat, which has been adopted by 700 million users. Reed says professional Chinese are increasingly setting themselves up on LinkedIn, then using WeChat to do the chatting, so it is not uncommon to see a WeChat QR code in the contact information window of a China-based professional on LinkedIn.

“In Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou, you get a lot of people realizing that if they want to go outside of China, you can’t use WeChat, and you can’t use the data on WeChat to find the decision makers like you can on LinkedIn,” adds Reed.

Reed’s 10 tips for success on LinkedIn

There are four steps to success on LinkedIn, says Reed. These are:

  • Personal branding
  • Company branding
  • Content marketing
  • Social selling

He notes that social selling can only start once the other three are in place first.

Here’s how to get started:

1. Your Profile Photograph

It’s all about being genuine, says Reed. “People don’t trust people they can’t see.”

In your photo, be:

  • Smiley
  • Have a silvery or red background
  • Be genuine (i.e. don’t post an image of yourself as George Clooney)

CZLJKT_LinkedIn_Geaorge Clooney_600

Don’t:

  • Chop off your head
  • Use Shutterstock images (and at the very least remove the watermark!)
  • Post photographs with animals (save that for Facebook)
  • Use party / drinking images
  • Show group pictures (“How do you create a relationship with someone if you don’t who they are?)
  • Be anonymous
  • Be overly creative, such as covering your head, or changing your physical appearance
  • Post images of a kinky or sexual nature – what Reed calls the “What on earth were you thinking?” images. These belong on Tinder, and only Tinder.
  • Call yourself Darth Vader

If you get the photograph right, it increases your views 14 times, says Reed.

2. Your background picture

The background image should be something bright and shiny that communicates visually what your personal brand is, says Reed.

For example, a city scene reflecting your country of abode, like the Sydney harbor bridge or the Hong Kong harbor. Sunset and sunrises project warmth. Accepting an award shows recent accomplishments.

Don’t:

  • Do nothing at all
  • Use the blue default option provided by LinkedIn. Given there are 30 default backgrounds to choose from, choosing the plain blue one is just lazy, says Reed.
  • Use bushfires, natural disaster scenes or images that project chaos.

3. Profile headline

LinkedIn is like Google and YouTube, and can be used as a key search engine to be found, says Reed.

To do this, fill the header and career windows with as many keywords as possible.

Here is Chris Reed’s profile, which emphasizes keywords: Black Marketing, LinkedIn power profile, speaker and entrepreneur.

CZLJKT_LinkedIn_Chris J Reed home page_600

“You are communicating your personal brand by the words you use here,” says Reed.

Don’t write:

  • Lonely and young girl / I am a hot girl
  • Wife of… husband of… (it’s a professional site)
  • Generic / ambiguous slogans such as: problem solver, strategy officer etc.

“Your headline appears everywhere. Every time you share, comment or like, it comes up. And all these things are marketing your brand,” says Reed.

He adds that people are more likely to click on someone when they know what their brand is about.

4. Combine both for maximum employer branding

LinkedIn is all about employer branding, says Reed.

In cities like Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai people have a choice about who they work for. “They want to work for leaders they respect and companies they want to work for,” he says. So use your employees as ambassadors for your brand.

A great example of blending both the personal and the employer brand is the profile page of Ali Bullock, the sponsorship and social media manager, Infiniti Formula One.

CZLJKT_LinkedIn_Ali Bulloch_600

Bullock does a good job here of combining his personal brand with a job he seems to love.

Reed says businesses also need to consider having consistent branding for employee pages whether that’s the use of company logos and mission templates.

Incorporate CSR into branding campaigns. Here’s an example from SchemeServe which is using its famous purple hat in a CSR campaign to #MakeMayPurple.

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Employees have jumped on board the campaign with these quirky purple hats.

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The company has also been able to incorporate the charity campaign into its LinkedIn content marketing strategy in the form of blogs and visuals.

5. Add your personal brand story

This begins by writing the summary in the first person (not the third person). “If someone walked into this room and started talking in the third person, you would move away from them because you would think that was very strange,” says Reed.

6. Add experience

When writing the summary, Reed suggests:

  • Not over mentioning the current employer – “It’s not about your current role, it’s about your career.”
  • Include information around: why you came to Asia, what awards have you won, what associations, chambers, organizations are you a member of.

A good example is this summary from Simon Kemp, regional managing partner, Asia, We Are Social.

CZLJKT_LInkedIn_Simon Kemp_600

Don’t:

  • Do nothing at all (and leave a blank)
  • Write things like: “A lifelong passion for problem solving. This is too generic. Think of ways to differentiate your personal brand, advises Reed.
  • Post a hardcopy of your CV on LinkedIn – LinkedIn IS your CV.

7. Add visual content

Pictures do tell a thousand words on LinkedIn. Video, pictures, images and infographics should be included where applicable. See Simon Kemp’s profile page above as another example of this.

8. Create a content marketing strategy for LinkedIn

Marriott Hotel is a great example of a strong content marketing strategy. Not only does the brand itself have well-established pages, but it has great employee engagement across the site.

Arne Sorenson, president and CEO at Marriott International, has 350,000 connections. Sorenson uses LinkedIn to market himself, in order to market the brand. His followers include employees, customers for F&B, for MICE, event organizers, and people buying room rates. So how does he engage them all?

When Marriott recently announced the purchase of Starwood Hotels, Sorenson used a LinkedIn blog post to talk about the importance of people. The blog has had 90,000 views, 2000 likes and 200 comments.

CZLJKT_LinkedIn_Arne Sorenson_Marriott_600

“He could have sent out an EDM, or used Facebook, instead he used LinkedIn. And he used that in a positive way. He’s using it to talk about issues his employees are thinking about,” says Reed.

It’s the “Richard Branson” effect, adds Reed. Richard Branson has 9 million followers on LinkedIn, which is more than Google, Facebook and Apple combined.

“You want to work for Virgin because of Richard Branson. If Virgin didn’t have Richard Branson, you wouldn’t want to work for them,” he says.

9. Develop your company page

Brands which have developed great company pages include Chinese telecommunications brand Huawei, Hong Kong publisher South China Morning Post, beauty brand L’Oréal, Australian bank, ANZ and Marriott Hotels.

Huawei uses engaging content to explain what it does, to its almost 900,00 followers. The South China Morning Post uses its news content to position itself as the place to get the facts. L’Oréal doesn’t talk make-up, instead shares inspiring posts on how to be a female entrepreneur, or startups around beauty salons. ANZ talks about fintech, entrepreneurs and female leadership, rather than talking about bank rates or deposit accounts.

CZLJKT_LinkedIn_Huawei_600

In its content marketing, Marriott is careful not to talk about room rates or what it’s like to book the hotel. Instead it talks about LinkedIn, leadership and meetings.

“They have realized that if they talk to people in a business context, people will think they are a business hotel and therefore engage with them,” says Reed.

10. Create new business

Now that you’ve got your personal branding, company branding and content marketing in place, it’s time to start social selling.

Use content marketing to:

  • Sell your services
  • To engage with customers / clients
  • To find investors
  • Build a network of active people
  • Share content with them
  • Become an influencer to do content marketing in groups

Don’t:

  • Do nothing at all
  • Put a blog up with a link that doesn’t work
  • Post anything about people who are dying or sick. It’s not appropriate for LinkedIn.
  • Bring religion into posts or pages

Conclusion

LinkedIn will market your blog for you, whether that’s through EDMs or giving you data about who actually sees your pages and posts. This data changes every day, including showing who is viewing your content.

“Connect with these people and say thanks for reading my blog. Start engaging and being active with people on LinkedIn,” Reed says.

His final advice is not to forget the gamification nature of LinkedIn. “The more you do, the more you succeed.”

The Marketing Immediacy Mantra: how to deliver excellent real-time experiences

Analysis of 13 Billion Email Opens  2015 Market Share StatsLitmus Blog

Engaging consumers in the micro-moment is becoming a top goal for direct marketers, however, unless marketers are able to deliver value with each interaction, they risk alienating customers. Here are some tips for getting started:

There’s a new sheriff in the land of marketing: immediacy.

Otherwise sometimes know as instantaneous, now, pronto, boom. Immediacy is the mantra that runs the marketer’s realm, from program planning, to data and analytics and, most importantly, every aspect of automated lifecycle communications across all digital channels.

‘Now-ness’ is the new necessity when it comes to putting data into action to drive consumer experiences and conversions in the moment.

Of course, the driving factor is fast-acting consumers with mobile devices 24/7 accessing anything and everything – they continue to push the immediacy shift.

With 55% of email opens on mobile (and climbing) according to Litmus, we have more opportunities to impact with marketing immediacy and value than ever before. In many businesses, it’s really get faster or go home time.

With immediacy running the show today, marketers need a clear roadmap with vision for speed and agility to close the gap around any latency to action. The challenge is to instantly connect cause and effect across the lifecycle.

This process honors the concept of Consumer-First Marketing, where marketing is truly aligned with a consumer’s contextual state, by recognizing and responding in the most relevant way possible to add value.

To deliver on this, data attributes from every channel need to be accessed in near real-time and put into action.

With the Immediacy Mantra breathing down our necks, let’s consider what needs to be done to achieve immediacy in the delivery of consumer experiences:

Ask, ask and ask again

Marketers need to be in the business of asking questions. They will not always be overt questions to a consumer, but can be in the form of both explicit and implicit information gathering across all channels.

This continual asking will continue to shape contextual opportunities in the moment. For example, simply asking and knowing a consumer’s location opens up an array of real-time communication opportunities.

Marketers should also be asking themselves what data attributes are worthy of being put into action and tested across channel communications. The days of demographic segmentation are behind us, today we need to keep studying how to use real-time data in many forms to deliver value immediately.

Don’t believe me? Consider this example from Dr. Peter Gentsch, founder of Business Intelligence Group, as recounted by Brian Solis in Forbes.

Act and React

Immediacy is all about fast action and reaction. This is where marketers need to do an assessment across resources.

Having the right partnerships, both internally and externally, to deliver data-driven experiences that add value in the moment is key. Evaluating the people, partners and processes that go into consumer experience delivery is the first stop on the fast track to success.

There will most likely be an evolution required, so take time to do this well, as it will set the stage to deliver on the future vision. During this evolution, continue to focus on data attributes that can be put into action to deliver immediate value.

For example, a marketer knows ‘Consumer A’ recently browsed hotels in Palms Springs on a mobile device and they like shopping stylish brands and golfing. What could a hotel marketer do to add value to this consumer’s vacation planning process? So many possibilities. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Deliver value, again and again

An important note about the immediacy mantra is that value is equally imperative to speed. If you are immediately reacting and reaching out with something that the consumer doesn’t see value in, you are doing more harm than good.

With Consumer-First Marketing, the magic is in being able to deliver consumers value at the precise time and place that it’s needed most.

With a lens toward this focus and ongoing testing and optimization, marketer’s can begin to deliver value again and again. Often, the biggest value is also timeliness and immediacy, such as the fast-tracking shopping options we see today at Amazon, or the transparency and value of the mobile experience Uber and Lyft provide when seeking transportation.

Showing consumers you are there to provide for them and not waste their time can be a true competitive advantage.

Yes, immediacy rules today, and it’s important to get it right in the moment. By asking the right questions (and asking again), having the ability to act and react in real-time, and delivering continued value, marketers can begin to craft excellent consumer experiences and deliver value at the moment in time when the consumer is most apt to act.

What is your team doing to take on the immediacy mantra during 2016?

Catherine Magoffin is the Director of Strategic Services at Selligent

Q&A: The Prince’s Trust’s Rebecca Galambos on digital transformation

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Rebecca Galambos is senior digital transformation director at the Prince’s Trust, with some valuable insights into the ‘millennial generation’ through her work.

Rebecca will be speaking about this at our upcoming Shift event in London on May 24/25th. I’ve been asking Rebecca about what digital transformation means to her…

Can you give us a sneak preview of your presentation at Shift?

I’m going to be speaking about how digital transformation and frugal innovation are just as relevant to the third sector as to the world of commerce (arguably even more so given the tight funding environment).

How useful is the term ‘millennials’? Does it over-simplify a group of people with very disparate interests and needs?

As with all stereotypes it is somewhat helpful but can quickly become a lazy shorthand… today more then ever the individual has to come to the fore.

How do you target this market? What has worked for you?

Simplicity in our branding. Bite sized communication. Meaning and depth of our messaging.

From the young people we work with, the lesson is that you have to be mobile-enabled. Good design , speed and simplicity matter. Apps that are tailored to your audience. Short, bite-sized communications Social is very important.

One important point is that young people are motivated by meaning. Whatever you are communicating, selling, or encouraging them to do has to have some meaning.

People more socially and economically aware. Inequality in wealth and opportunity is growing and roughly 800,000 young people in the UK are not in employment, education or training.

A lot of young people are very aware of socio-economic issues and are interested in products with meaning.

We also talk a lot to young people. For example, we have UX groups that try out different technology and ways of engaging with us. Then we have deeper research into how they’re feeling. Any organisation, whether selling or supporting young people, has to have a dialogue and keep it going.

What does digital transformation mean to you?

It means nothing less then a total reinvention of an organisation’s business model through the lens of the customer whilst incorporating all the advantages which digital brings in terms of speed, agility, low cost and new models of customer interaction.

How much of digital transformation is about technology and how much is about culture?

There is an old saying ‘culture trumps strategy every time’ and I think that applies equally with digital.

Having said that digital also provides new and innovative ways of engaging with employees so done well can work with the grain of an organisation’s culture

What are the biggest obstacles to a successful transformation project?

Stakeholder alignment – do the senior team share a common view of the goal…often they do superficially but once the detail emerges it can quickly be apparent that they are not aligned.

What has worked for you at Prince’s Trust?

Openness, innovation, frugality, light touch but inclusive governance, bring our customers (the young people) into all phases, design, development and testing.

It’s about understanding the customer journey and delivering value for that customer. In our case, on my current programme, that means young people. I’ve been looking at simplicity, speed, and making things friction free to deliver the best possible experience. This drove me to look at transformation and digital change.

To me, transformation is combination of business process change, technology change and the change in ways of working. This used to be called change management and now we talk about transformation.

Perhaps one of the reasons for that is that we can now deliver a great package of technological change, as well as effectively restructuring teams and organisations. Only when when you put it all together and wrap around it with proper cultural change and ways of working that it really becomes attractive.

You have talk to people, no matter how good your process or methodology that you bring along is. That process is your pots and pans but its the ingredients that matter. It’s all about people and understanding whats important to them. Digital transformation starts with people.

Rebecca will be speaking about digital transformation at our Shift event in London on May 24/25th. You can also hear an interview with Rebecca on our latest Digital Marketing Podcast.

Five ways to slash ad spend and achieve results right now

country exclusions

You know what’s great about PPC? Even when your account is in the dumps, you can make small changes that can have a big impact on its performance and your ad spend.

And sometimes all it takes is a little bit of creativity.

So in the spirit of making small steps to improve your PPC, and building on my tips from last month, I’m going to share with you five ways you can get creative to save ad spend (and even make some money through more targeted advertising) in your PPC account.

The usual

Most PPC professionals know the usual ways to cut wasted ad spend, and hopefully you’re doing the following on a regular basis:

  • Managing your negative keywords (in my PPC operations guide, I recommend this be a monthly task for most)
  • Managing and excluding irrelevant sites from your Google Display Network campaigns (daily is good here for most)
  • Filtering out non-converting and/or sky-high cost-per-acquisition keywords, ad groups and campaigns

But, have you thought about things like:

  • Excluding countries from remarketing campaigns?
  • Tiered bidding?
  • Ad delivery options?
  • Ad scheduling?
  • Testing ad positions?

These things can help you manage ad spend even more. Let’s look at those closer now.

1) Country exclusions in remarketing

Sometimes when you set up a remarketing campaign, even though you’re just targeting the US, you’ll often see traffic from other countries and it’s because they’ve been to your US website.

One of our client’s remarketing campaigns had a ton of traffic from countries outside of the US and Canada, but they’re not actually doing business in other countries, so we just excluded those.

By excluding countries outside of the U.S. and Canada, we were able to shave off a pretty penny.

2) Tiered bidding

Tiered bidding is one of those things that PPC pros usually have either a strong preference for, or don’t do at all. At my agency, we typically always do tiered bidding, but most of the accounts we inherit haven’t.

The gist of it is this (and here’s a good article on the nitty-gritty details): you can use multiple match types to bid on the same keywords to help control budget.

Say you use three match types: exact, phrase and broad. The idea of using tiered bidding is that you spend more money on the terms that are highly relevant. In turn, AdWords is going to give more play to the keyword type you’re willing to spend more on.

The exact match should be very targeted, whereas broad match will likely bring in some irrelevant terms. That’s why you’re going to bid lower on broad and higher on exact match, like the following example:

  • Exact match $1
  • Phrase match $0.75
  • Broad match $0.50

If you’re looking at ways to save money and focus on the more targeted traffic, you might consider this tiered bidding plan to get you there.

3) Standard ad delivery

Ad delivery options determine how quickly you want the ad platform to use your budget each day. With AdWords, there are two settings, standard and accelerated:

  • Standard delivery (the default option) tries to show your ads throughout the entire day to make sure that you don’t spend your whole budget in the morning and cause your ads to stop showing for the rest of the day.
  • Accelerated delivery tries to show your ads more quickly until your budget is reached. With this option, your ads can stop showing early in the day if your budget is spent.

At my agency, we almost always start with accelerated ad delivery with the goal of maximizing our chances of ad impressions while the demand is there.

On a few occasions, though, we’ve stepped out of our comfort zone to try standard delivery, and it can work well to save ad dollars—especially when you have a highly competitive space with a lot of search volume throughout the day.

4) Ad scheduling

Speaking of ad delivery, ad scheduling gets into the days and hours that an ad can show, and can help you boost conversions in a pinch.

At my agency, our go-to strategy is to deliver ads on all days at all hours (which happens to be the default setting in AdWords).

Normally with this setting, you’ll see things naturally slow down when the demand is not there. Going with the default setting tackles what happens when the outliers are looking for your services or products after hours.

For example, one of our B2B PPC clients can spend $1,000 a day Monday through Friday, and as low as $100 per day on the weekends. And they do get some leads that trickle in on Saturdays and Sundays, so why not grab those low CPA leads when possible?

Recognizing that sometimes you’ve got to tighten the belt even more, it’s simple to pause ads on weekends or during the late night and early morning hours with ad scheduling.

5) Ad position

Google officially changed the way desktop ads display in the search results in February 2016. No longer in the right-hand side bar, ads now display above and below the organic listings (up to seven ads with three being the average for the top area).

If you’re trying to save a little cash, don’t be afraid to test by targeting a lower position on the page – like Position 4, even if that means you’re at the bottom of the page.

Early results show that Position 4 still gets play, and early tests that my agency has been performing show ad spend is way down for Position 4, but revenue is holding steady.

On the mobile side, we used to always vie for Position 1 (or else you might as well not have been on the page at all), but lately, we’ve been seeing three ads show up before the organic listings on a mobile device, so you can play with your ad position there as well, and possibly save some dollars.

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Get creative

Sometimes, saving on ad spend and bringing in more targeted conversions is all about creativity and being willing to test.

Ultimately it’s about using the knowledge of the business and your understanding (or the help files!) of the features available to you to come up with a system to reduce ad spend while bringing in more targeted buyers.

Do bounce rates affect a site’s search engine ranking?

bouncy castles

The bounce rate debate continues…

Bounce rates and how they affect a website’s ranking on Google has been discussed, dissected, and dismembered over and over again.

As fully transcribed on this site, a conversation between Rand Fishkin, CEO of Moz, and Andrey Lipattsev, Google’s search quality senior strategist, led to a surprising discussion on click and bounce rates affecting search rankings.

Rand stated that he has recently been running a few experimental tests with various crowds of 500 to a couple thousand people.

Everyone participating was prompted to take out their cellphones, laptops, and digital what-have-yous and perform a specific search. Once the search listing appeared, he had everyone in the crowd click one of the listings at the bottom of the results page and then click away from that site. He then monitored the results over the next few days.

Rand found a whole bunch of inconsistencies. In a little more than half of the experiments, the ranking did change on the search engine results page (SERP), and in a little less than half of the experiments, the rankings did not change.

This begs the question:

Do bounce rates affect a site’s search engine ranking? If so, how much?

Lipattsev believes that for each individual search query in the experiment, the generated interest regarding those specific searches impacts the rankings change rather than just the clicks and bounces.

He said that if a certain topic is gaining a substantial amount of searches and an increase in social media mentions, Google would pay more attention to that rather than a site getting more clicks.

Lipattsev says that it is certainly doable to determine exactly what causes a large rankings jump for an individual listing, but Internet-wide, it is much more difficult.

All this being said, what actually is a bounce rate?

The bounce rate is the percentage of visitors to a particular site who navigate or “bounce” away after only viewing that individual webpage.

Usually, the term ‘bounce rate’ has a negative connotation associated with it. People think that if a visitor only visits one page and then leaves, it’s bad for business. Their logic isn’t that flawed, either. After all, a high bounce rate would indicate that a site does not have the high-quality, relevant content Google wants out of its top ranked sites.

A great Search Engine Journal article shows nine negative reasons why your website could potentially have a high bounce rate, including poor web design, incorrect keyword selection, improper links, and just bad content. It’s true that these high bounce rates can reflect poorly on a website… sometimes.

So, what gives?

Having a high bounce rate on something like a ‘contact us’ page can actually be a good thing. That’s more of a call-to-action site, where the goal of that particular page is to have the user find the contact information, and then actually contact the business. The visitor got what they came for and then left. Extra navigation around the website doesn’t really mean anything in this case.

Of course, if your site is more content-driven or offers a product or service, then your goal should be to have a higher click-through rate (CTR) and more traffic to each page.

But what about Google?

Does Google know your bounce rate and are they using it to affect rankings? This Search Engine Roundtable article provides the short answer (which is “no”).

Many organizations don’t use Google Analytics, so Google has no way of tracking their bounce rate information. And even with the analytics that they can trace, it’s difficult to determine what they actually mean because every situation is different.

There are many factors that go into determining how long a visitor stays on a particular webpage. If a visitor remains on a site for over 20 minutes, they could be so engaged with your site’s content that they can’t even imagine leaving your wonderful webpage… or… it could mean they fell asleep at the screen because your website was so boring. It’s too difficult to tell.

If you are operating one of those websites that should have a lower bounce rate, these tips on lowering that number should be able to help. Some highlights include making sure each of your pages loads quickly, offers user-friendly navigation, avoids cluttered advertisements, and features quality content!

If bounce rates don’t affect Google’s rankings as much as you thought, you wonder how significant other ranking factors are. Well, Google recently revealed that magical information. They narrowed it down to three top ranking factor used by Google to drive search results:

  • Links: strong links and link votes play a major role in search rankings.
  • Content: having quality content is more important than ever.
  • RankBrain: Google’s AI ranking system.

It’s no shock that links and content matter, but RankBrain is still relatively new. It’s Google’s new algorithm to help determine search results (after factoring in links and content). RankBrain filters more complex searches and converts them into shorter ones, all the while maintaining the complexity of the search, thusly refining the results.

Google’s newest AI technology – and whatever other secret technologies they are working on – may resolve the never-ending debate over bounce rates, but it’s certainly going to be a difficult process.

More research is to come and Andrey believes the challenge to make bounce rate click data a strong and measurable metric is “gameable,” but Google still has a long way to go.

“If we solve it, good for us,” Andrey said, “but we’re not there yet.”

There is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to SEO and all its intricacies. The greatest answer to any SEO question is always “it depends.”

How Google fights webspam and what you need to learn from this

google webspam

Google has this week revealed its annual report on how it has policed the internet over the last 12 months. Or at least how it policed the vast chunk of the internet it allows on its results pages.

Although it’s self-congratulatory stuff, and as much as you can rightfully argue with some of Google’s recent penalties, you do need to understand what Google is punishing in terms of ‘bad quality’ internet experiences so you can avoid the same mistakes.

It’s important to remember that Google for some people IS the internet, or at least the ‘front door’ to it (sorry Reddit), but it’s equally important to remember that Google is still a product; one that needs to make money to survive and (theoretically) provide the best possible experience for its users, or else it is off to DuckDuckGo they… uh… go.

So therefore Google has to ensure the results it serves on its SERPs (search engine results pages) are of the highest quality possible. Algorithms are built and manual reviews by actual human beings are carried out to ensure crappy websites with stolen/thin/manipulative/harmful content stay hidden.

Here’s how Google is currently kicking ass and taking names… and how you can avoid falling between its crosshairs.

How Google fought webspam

According to Google, an algorithmic update helped remove the amount of webspam in search results, impacting 5% of queries.

The remaining spam was tackled manually. Google sent more than 4.3 million messages to webmasters notifying them of manual actions it had imposed on sites affected by spam.

Following this, Google saw a 33% increase in the number of sites that went through a spam clean-up “towards a successful reconsideration process.” It’s unclear whether the remaining sites are still in the process of appealing, or have been booted off the face of the internet.

Who watches the watchmen?

More than 400,000 spam reports were manually submitted by Google users around the world. Google acted on 65% of them, and considered 80% of those acted upon to be spam.

Hacking

There was a huge 180% increase in websites being hacked in 2015, compared to the previous year. Hacking can take on a number of guises, whether its website spam or malware, but the result will be the same. You’ll be placed ‘in quarantine’ and your site will be flagged or removed.

Google has a number of official guidelines on how to help avoid being hacked. These include:

  • Strengthen your account security with lengthy, difficult to guess or crack passwords and not reusing those passwords across platforms.
  • Keep your site’s software updated, including its CMS and various plug-ins.
  • Research how your hosting provider handles security issues and check its policy when it comes to cleaning up hacked sites. Will it offer live support if your site is compromised?
  • Use tools to stay informed of potential hacked content on your site. Signing up to Search Console is a must, as it’s Google’s way of communicating any site issues with you.

google spam fighting

Thin, low quality content

Google saw an increase in the number of sites with thin, low quality content, a substantial amount likely to be provided by scraper sites.

Unfortunately there is very little you can do if your site is being scraped, as Google has discontinued its reporting tool and believes this problem to be your own fault. You just have to be confident that your own site’s authority, architecture and remaining content is enough to ensures it ranks higher than a scraper site.

If you have been served a manual penalty for ‘thin content with little or no added value’ there are things you can do to rectify it, which can mostly be boiled down to ‘stop making crappy content, duh’.

1) Start by checking your site for the following:

  • Auto-generated content: automatically generated content that reads like it was written by a piece of software because it probably was.
  • Thin content pages with affiliate links: affiliate links in quality articles are fine, but pages where the affiliates contain descriptions or reviews copied directly from the original retailer without any added original content are bad. As a rule, affiliates should form only a small part of the content of your site.
  • Scraped content: if you’re a site that automatically scrapes and republishes entire articles from other websites without permission then you should just flick the off-switch right away.
  • Doorway pages: these are pages which can appear multiple times for a particular query’s search results but ultimately lead users to the same destination. The purpose of doorway pages are purely to manipulate rankings.

2) Chuck them all in the bin.

3) If after all that you’re 100% sure your site somehow offers value, then you can resubmit to Google for reconsideration.

For more information on Google’s fight against webspam, read its official blog-post.

And finally, I’ll leave you with this terrifying vision of things to come…

robots and people

Three research-driven PPC tips for the automotive industry

us auto industry revenue

If you’re an automaker or car dealer, 2016 should be a good year for sales.

Intensive research conducted by my data scientist colleagues at Bing Ads shows that digital media, especially search, will be the perfect place to capture the attention of prospective petrol-heads as they venture out on their car-buying journey.

What’s driving solid car sales?

Well, interest rates as well as fuel rates are low while the consumer index, according to an IBISWorld industry report, remains high. As a result – additional disposable income and improved credit scores – demand for cars is also likely to increase. In fact, auto sales are forecast to grow through 2020, with growth peaking in 2018.

So what can car manufacturers and dealers do to ensure they make the most of this opportune time?

Here are three solid tips, to help you accelerate towards some meaningful digital connections with potential auto-shoppers:

Look to the younger audience for hybrid, electric or diesel vehicles

If you’re a green car manufacturer, make sure you’re appealing to the millennials. “The Harris Poll” from Harris Interactive revealed that 57% of US millennials (18-37) would consider a traditional hybrid for their next lease or purchase. Compare that with just 43% of Baby Boomers willing to do the same.

There is one drawback – the higher price points is seen as a deterrent. Research from J.D. Power revealed that almost one in four buyers of gas-powered vehicles avoided the hybrid model due to cost.

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Take action:

  • Customize your creative to appeal to the younger generation, focusing on advances in technology and positive environmental impact.
  • Add bid modifiers to your search campaigns based on age group, bidding up for the age ranges most likely to purchase a green vehicle.
  • Alleviate cost concerns through your creative.
    • Use ad copy to highlight discounts and offers – six in 10 car shoppers are influenced by promotions according to a RadiumOne study.
    • On your landing pages, share additional financial incentives they may receive such as government subsidies or lifetime fuel savings.

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Use the fact that brand loyalty is scarce to your advantage

According to a Facebook study, only two in five shoppers have an early brand preference – in fact very few shoppers are exposed to digital ads early in the purchase process. This means there is a ripe opportunity to build brand and model awareness.

Microsoft’s internal data shows that consumers considered an average of 9.8 makes and 11.4 models prior to making their purchase decision.

PPC can be vital in this process since most shoppers will conduct their research online before visiting a dealership, according to Accenture.

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Take action:

  • Bing’s Remarketing in paid search or Google’s RLSA ads are your friends here.
    • Bid on competitive terms
    • Consider bidding even on luxury vehicles to account for aspirational searches

Use ad copy that’s proven to work

Digital ads are the most influential type of ad during the car-shopping process – more so than TV or print according to a study of U.S. car shoppers by G/O Digital. Yet the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) reports that only 36% of auto marketers in the U.S. use paid search advertising.

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With a quarter of car buyers reporting via a study by Nationwide that they find shopping for a car to be as stressful as preparing taxes or buying a home, effective ad copy can make a big difference.

When we think of ad copy, don’t limit yourself just to words. Car-buying is a visual process, with four in 10 searches being for images of cars. Microsoft’s internal data shows that 45% of consumers viewed more than 36.7 car images on a search engine.

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Mobile devices mustn’t be ignored either. According to research by SessionM, seven in 10 smartphone users use their mobile device when shopping for a vehicle.

Here’s how the usage breaks down:

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Take action:

  • Add image extensions to your ad to grab searcher attention and showcase latest or most popular models.
  • Take advantage of new ad formats such as Google’s auto-specific ads or Bing Ads’ new video extensions for mobile devices (currently in beta).
  • Use words that work. Here are the top five ad combinations across devices:

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  • Don’t forget the Sitelink extensions. These are a fantastic and underused opportunity to simplify the car buying process. Microsoft data shows that Sitelink extensions can result in a 13% improvement in Click through Rate (CTR), with Enhanced Sitelinks having a 22% average higher CTR.

These data-driven tips PPC tips for the auto industry compiled by data scientists from Bing Ads are sure to help you on your road to an extra-profitable 2016. Digital media, especially search, is the perfect place to insert your brand right at the start of the car-buyer research phase.

By the smart use of visual cues, demographic targeting and by paying attention to what ad copy resonates best, you’ll be well on the way to an empty car lot by the end of the year!

Feeling inspired? Share your favorite tips and ideas in the comments below.

Purna Virji is Senior Bing Ads Client Development and Training Manager at Microsoft and a contributor to Search Engine Watch.

How to use site search to improve conversion

Site search - how to improve conversion

Ian Scarr, the Regional Vice President for EMEA of SLI Systems delivered a very interesting talk at Internet Retailing Expo about site search on ecommerce sites and how it can increase a conversion with a series of steps.

Here’s a round-up of the talk, along with Ian’s tips on the importance of site search for every website.

Targeting the “spearfishers”

Ian Scarr started his presentation reminding us that “good site search should be for everybody” as every site should focus on helping its customers find exactly what they are looking for.

According to a report by Forrester Research, retailers should focus on “spearfishers,” meaning shoppers who visit a site looking for a specific product. This can be achieved by providing a useful site search.

Forrester Research also found that 43% of visitors navigate immediately to the search box, while searchers are 2-3x more likely to convert compared to non-searchers.

Reduce the path to purchase

Users need to have easy access to the products they are searching for and the number of clicks required to complete a purchase affects the conversion rate.

A rich auto-complete search engine can speed up the journey to a particular product and this helps customers complete the purchasing process.

What’s more, it may be useful to add recommendations for popular products and also redirects to specific pages on the site, which helps shoppers find exactly what they are looking for as fast as possible. For example, when the search displays only one result, you can redirect to the particular page directly and help facilitate the customer’s journey.

Understand your visitors

The search function should provide contextually relevant results, as any irrelevant result could affect the conversion rate.

It is important to understand what your customers are looking for and use the learning of their preferences to put the best performers first. Dynamic refinements allow you to let your customers decide what to merchandise, which leads to an increased number of conversions.

Site search - how to improve conversion

Optimise search

As the search gets more optimised, the likelihood of a purchase gets higher.

For example, there is no need to let a misspelling keep the user away from the right search results. By providing the properly spelled results the bounce rate is reduced, which increases the chances the users end up buying the particular product.
Site search - how to improve conversion

What’s more, you can also identify the key terms that are not converting for you, in order to promote or demote the products by pushing them either at the top, or the bottom of the results.

Site search - how to improve conversion

Build landing pages

Dedicated landing pages for PPC campaigns, or email marketing campaigns may help the conversion, as it increases the relevance and the user experience when searching for a specific product.

Site search - how to improve conversion

The analysis of the popular search terms may indicate the searches that require their own tailored pages, whether it’s about specific brands, or even specific products.

Provide an alternative

No matter whether users find what they are looking for or not, the search results can be enhanced with relevant recommendations.

For example, Amazon’s recommendations take 75% of the page and they seem to benefit the conversion rate, as they are all extremely relevant to the users’ searches.

It has been observed that recommendations lead to a 10-25% increase in site revenue, while there is also a 11% decrease in bounce rate.

Site search - how to improve conversion

Don’t forget mobile

As mobile usage gets more popular, it is more important than ever for every site to provide the same searching experience, both in desktop and mobile.

Less typing (and browsing) leads to an improved mobile experience, with speed and ease being critical for “spearfisher” shoppers.

Except for the tips mentioned above, mobile search should also be fit for the smaller screen, ensuring that users do not abandon the process early.

Site search - how to improve conversion

For lots more valuable insight on the changing face of digital marketing and ecommerce, attend our two-day Shift London event in May.

Why are SEOs slow to implement Accelerated Mobile Pages?

A column graph showing awareness of AMP among SEOs surveyed, with 21% of SEOs aware of AMP "in passing", 35% "have done SOME research" into AMP, 18% "have done A LOT of research" into AMP, while 25% are "not aware" of AMP.

It’s been just over two months since Google launched Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), its super-fast brand of mobile webpages running on an amped-up version of HTML.

Accelerated Mobile Pages are designed to speed up the experience of browsing the mobile web, providing page load times which are anywhere from 15 to 85% faster than regular mobile pages. We know that site speed has been a signal in Google’s search ranking algorithms since 2010, and that Google has repeatedly given ranking preference to sites which are optimised for mobile.

Given these two facts, together with the fact that AMP is Google’s own initiative, and it isn’t much of a stretch to conclude that AMP websites are likely rank much better in search than sites with ordinary mobile webpages.

Yet the first survey conducted since the advent of AMP has found that uptake of AMP among professional SEOs is still relatively low. The survey, carried out by SEO PowerSuite, looked at awareness and uptake of AMP among a pool of 385 SEO professionals in North America and Europe.

Of the respondents surveyed, less than a quarter (23%) had taken concrete steps to implement AMP on their mobile sites since the feature’s launch.

Overall awareness of Accelerated Mobile Pages among respondents was high: 75% of the SEO professionals surveyed were aware of AMP. But of these, 21% said they were only aware of the existence of AMP “in passing”, meaning that altogether, nearly half of SEOs (46%) were either unaware of AMP or had only a passing awareness of the feature.

Of those SEOs who hadn’t yet begun to implement AMP on their mobile sites, a high proportion (42%) intended to do more research before making definitive plans. 29% said they had plans to implement AMP in the next six months, and only 5% of respondents said they had no intention of supporting AMP on their mobile sites whatsoever.

The evidence suggests that AMP is fertile ground for getting ahead in search, and a full 80% of survey respondents believed that AMP would have a significant (49%) or moderate (31%) effect on search rankings. So why have SEOs mostly held back from implementing AMP on their mobile sites so far?

Creating an AMP version of your mobile site sounds like a concrete and straightforward way to get ahead in search results, but in practical terms it’s easier said than done. As Damon Kiesow, Head of Product at publishing company McClatchy, told Neiman Lab:

“Everything we know about building a webpage we have to relearn. But we’re relearning it from the premise of converting a current product over, not creating a product from scratch. It’s a fairly complex process!”

Because AMP strips out a lot of the dynamic elements that slow down page loading time, embracing AMP might also mean that SEOs and search marketers have to do away with features that they depend on for business, such as comment systems, lead capture forms and other types of pop-up.

There’s also the very obvious fact that Google’s roll-out of AMP isn’t all that widespread yet. Accelerated Mobile Pages still don’t show up in search results outside of Google.com, meaning that many of the non-US respondents to SEO Powersuite’s survey may be deliberately holding fire until AMP will make a difference to search results in their country.

A screenshot of Google.com mobile results for "EU referendum", showing AMP-ified BBC News stories in the "top stories" carousel at the top of search results.Accelerated Mobile Pages still have yet to make an appearance in search results outside of Google.com

And of course, there is the occasionally-forgotten fact that the world of search consists of more than just Google. In a situation where implementing AMP would take a lot of time and resources, SEOs may be hesitant to go all-in on a feature that will only affect the standing of their mobile site on Google, especially if they market to a country which favours another major search engine, such as China or Russia.

Ultimately, SEOs have to weigh up the potential benefits of getting in on AMP ahead of their competitors and possibly securing a better spot on the Google SERP versus the drawbacks and costs of implementing the new protocol. SEO Powersuite noted in their published results of the survey that, “the delay in quick adoption [of AMP] offers an opportunity for agile marketers to get ahead of their competition in mobile search by implementing AMP immediately.”

They pointed out that getting in early with AMP has the potential to be beneficial for a long time thereafter, because “As any SEO professional working to overtake competitors knows, Google’s institutional memory is long. It can be difficult to get the search behemoth to “forget” (i.e. to stop ranking) brands it has mentally defined as industry leaders and therefore deserving of higher ranking because of AMP support.”

Therefore, investing resources in AMP at this stage could allow SEOs and search marketers to reap the rewards further down the line. It’s still early days, and with relatively few SEOs apparently having staked their claim with AMP so far, the field is wide open for others to make a move if they judge it to be worthwhile.

For lots more valuable insight on the changing face of digital marketing, attend our two-day Shift London event in May.

Why fighting mobile click fraud is a waste of time

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Fraud prevention is heating up in mobile. But trying to fight fraudulent clicks from mobile apps is a losing battle. Instead, try these three tips.

Every week, a new industry expert or solution enters the fray to solve the billion-dollar fraud market. That’s great. Collectively, we can only combat fraud if as many parts of the mobile marketing stack embrace the techniques and implementations available.

All the same, advertisers frequently want detection and reporting on fraudulent clicks.

We refuse.

Fighting clicks from mobile apps is not only foolish, but an utter waste of focus. Permanently out-fooling such fraud prevention filters is a trivial task for the average fraudster. At best, fraud detection for cost-per-click (CPC) campaigns would be a stopgap and an ersatz pacifier for concerned marketers. At worst, it’s counterproductive snake oil.

Here’s why.

The types of fraud occurring on websites only partially matches the types of fraud in apps. They work roughly the same: some software simulates the click and the conversion or install. However, on the web, this happens in a consistent environment where ad delivery is easily monitored inside the browser.

In fact, the whole journey from impression to conversion on the target website can be seen transparently and tracked with JavaScript and cookies. This allows you to check if a website is producing background clicks for cookie dropping. On the web, we have an array of tools for interacting deeper in the value chain.

In the app world, none of this works.

Cookies and JavaScript are extremely limited, if at all available. There are no insights into ad clicks beyond the pure HTTP requests and the data attached to them. Individual networks can perform spot checks, but the type of coverage required by effective fraud prevention cannot be achieved.

The reason HTTP requests and the data attached to them are completely unreliable is because they can easily be modified by fraudsters. A fraudster can make the HTTP request look like it comes from an iPhone when it’s actually from a connected toaster, or vice versa.

The only reason why fraudsters would hijack real devices on real networks is because they can’t fake the IP address. Server-to-server clicks even skirt that need.

Therefore, a background click from a device running a malicious app looks exactly the same as a legit click. Ever wonder why there are so many battery saver and flashlight apps?

An individual click will show up from a legit IP with real headers from actual devices, often with a legit device ID of a real user, making it even possible for one device to “click” for hundreds of other real devices. Individually, this click cannot be filtered out.

Clicks should still be placed under scrutiny in aggregate in order to prevent poaching of organic conversions via click spam. This approach, called “distribution modeling,” is a very promising approach to fix attribution rules and post-install datasets, but is not useful to detect and prevent false clicks and charges on CPC campaigns.

So what does that mean for your CPC campaigns?

Here are three pieces of advice, beyond the general recommendation not to run CPC on mobile:

1. Don’t keep CPC campaigns running forever

Turn off CPC campaigns as soon as they convert significantly lower than average, at sub-percentile click to install rates. Hundreds of people don’t decide to click your ad only to turn away at the sight of your app store page.

It’s much more likely that someone is faking a large amount of clicks, and those few conversions you are seeing are actually organic conversions that are being falsely claimed by the ad network.

2. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is

A very typical symptom of organic conversions being poached is that while the CPC certainly is expensive, the retention and downstream conversion rates look good.

This is again because the retention is being generated by organic users, that typically retain better than many paid users.

3. Place very high demands on the quality of incoming traffic

Write your quality demands into your IO precisely what platforms and countries you are targeting, if you are filtering anything like anonymous IPs, or any other measures you’re taking. Explicitly stating it in your IO places you in a much stronger position, should you ever need to return to your partners with bad news.

The oft-repeated adage is that mobile is very different from the desktop web. The techniques, methods and campaigns we can run on the desktop web don’t translate well to mobile. As a space, we have to progress from those ideas.

Paul Muller is the CTO and co-founder of adjust.