What’s the difference between responsive, adaptive and mobile-friendly sites?

spirit-desktopp

spirit-mobile

Mobile adaptive sites and mobile responsive sights are the same, and both are synonyms for mobile-friendly… right? Not quite. Here’s a breakdown of the differences.

Last year, Google shook up the industry by switching up its mobile search algorithm to favor mobile-friendly sites. A fairly self-explanatory term, “mobile-friendly” refers to, well, a site that works on the smaller screen of a mobile device.

Mobilegeddon was a natural response to the natural shift in people’s browsing preferences, which are increasingly moving toward mobile devices. In an uncharacteristically transparent move, Google let everyone know about the update nearly two months ahead of time, even including tips for increased mobile-friendliness: avoiding software like Flash, which isn’t common on mobile devices; text that’s big enough to be read without zooming; links and buttons spaced far enough apart to accommodate fingers.

But while it’s clear what constitutes a mobile-friendly site, there’s still a level of confusion around what makes a mobile-friendly site different from a mobile responsive site, and what makes that one different from a mobile adaptive site.

Friendly vs. Responsive

Mobile-friendly sites aren’t necessarily designed specifically for a mobile device. Rather, they’re versions of sites that work across different devices. Think of a mobile-friendly site as mobile-optimized, whereas a responsive site is mobile-first.

A site that’s mobile responsive changes – or responds – based on the device it’s viewed on. For example, a desktop site may have a multi-column layout, which a mobile-friendly site may have on a smaller scale so users can see everything without having to scroll. But a mobile responsive site will have a single-column layout that translates better to the smaller screen.

See how Spirit Airlines’ mobile website is just a smaller version of the desktop site?

Contrast that with H&M, whose mobile site is completely different. The desktop site’s layout wouldn’t translate to mobile very well. On a smaller screen, those six tabs across the top would either be visually overwhelming or too small to read.

hm-desktop

hm-mobile

Responsive sites have many of the same characteristics that make a site mobile-friendly, such as having the right kind of navigable spacing. But they differ in key ways. Responsive sites are reliant on mobile operating systems, in addition to having dynamic content that changes depending on where it’s viewed.

In other words, every responsive site is mobile-friendly. But not every mobile site is responsive. If you want to test a site’s responsiveness without having to look it up on multiple devices, simply change the size of your browser to see if the site alters itself.

To keep the Spirit and H&M examples going, I looked at both sites on my browser before making it narrower. I made it so much narrower that it’d be impossible for either site to fit perfectly, but notice how the tabs along the top of H&M’s kept getting closer together so they all fit. And speaking of tabs, yes, I know I hoard them and that I should be using the OneTab extension.

spirit-responsive

hm-responsiev

Responsive vs. adaptive

Mobile responsive and mobile adaptive sites are similar in theory, but different in practice. Both change their dimensions based on the browser and device where they’re being viewed.

Responsive sites adjust to any layout. Adaptive sites, on the other hand, only adapt at select points. The webmasters behind those want to ensure that the browser is a certain width, and the content will snap into place, rather than fluidly change sizes. In other words, an adaptive website has several different layouts, which can be deployed based on the size of the browser.

This GIF from Froont, a Latvian startup specializing in responsive web design, illustrates the difference perfectly:

gif-responsive-adaptiev

Steve Madden is an example of a brand with an adaptive site. Log onto the retailer’s website from your desktop and change the size of your browser.

Here it is, when my browser is at the normal width:

steve-madden-adaptive1

Here, my browser is a little narrower. See how some of the tabs disappear, but the logo looks the same? steve-madden-adaptive2

And now at this new width, the font has readjusted its size. Look at how much bigger the logo is.

steve-madden-adaptive3

Which one is best for me?

At this point, everyone should have a mobile-friendly site. Not everyone necessarily needs a site that’s mobile adaptive or responsive, but you probably should, if a significant portion of your traffic comes from mobile devices.

Adaptive is easier and significantly cheaper to deploy. Since the images are scaled down, rather than resized, adaptive sites often load faster, too.

But if your site is complex, you should think about going the responsive route, particularly if you have ecommerce offerings. Look at H&M’s desktop site; there are so many different things you can click on that it’d risk looking too busy on a smaller screen.

You should also have a mobile responsive site if your website features articles telling people to make their sites mobile responsive, obviously.

clickz-mobile-site

How to optimise your page images to increase site speed

brighton-seo-site-speed-for-content-marketers

Google’s official slogan is “Don’t Be Evil”, but it’s long been rumoured that the company has a second, internal motto that they tend to keep under wraps:

“You’re either fast, or you’re f***ed.”

We’ve written about site-speed in the past, and there’s no doubt of its importance (if there is, stick around for the stats section of this post) but for content marketers, improving the speed of your website is often seen as a particularly arduous technical exercise that’s completely out of your control. Only a back-end full-stack engineer can speed things up significantly, right?

As it turns out, nothing could be further from the truth. As Tom Bennet from Builtvisible explained in his excellent recent talk at Brighton SEO. Here, I’ll run through some key points Tom addressed to show how and why you should concentrate on delivering a lightning-fast experience to users.

Why is site speed important?

Now, I mentioned stats didn’t I?

According to the official Google webmaster blog, site speed matters. Google itself spends an awful lot of time checking whether or not your site is keeping up with your competitors. If you are slower, then your place in the search results will suffer.

But that’s not the only important factor here. Site speed improves the overall User Experience. As a case in point, Tom mentioned this extraordinary stat from Firefox:

When Firefox increased average page load time by 2.2 seconds, form downloads increased by 15.4%. That equates to more than 10 million downloads per year.

Once you hear figures like that, the value starts to become clear. Tom also took time to quote Steve Souder, a pioneer of much modern web performance work:

So, we know we can do something about it. But where to concentrate our efforts?

What can we do about it?

To illustrate, Tom built a simple, fairly standard content page using bootstrap and jQuery. The content marketing industry churns out thousands of these every day, so it should be fairly relevant:

brighton-seo-site-speed-for-content-marketers

Next, we fire up the page and measure it using a combination of Yahoo’s Yslow and Google PageSpeed rulesets. Here are the initial results:

brighton-seo-site-speed-for-content-marketers

Taht F Grade is going to seriously hurt our credibility in Google’s eyes, and 3.9 seconds is going to seem like a grind for users. If you don’t believe me, count slowly to four. Would you be willing to wait that long for every page on a site to open?

But where should marketers focus their efforts to have the most impact?

On a typical page like this, images are by far the largest and most common element, so this is where we should be concentrating to start with.

brighton-seo-site-speed-for-content-marketers

Now, this isn’t just a case of opening up your images in Photoshop and making them smaller. Resolution does matter (we still want our pages to look beautiful), but only up to a certain point, so the first step is to check our image sizes:

brighton-seo-site-speed-for-content-marketers

As you can see from the page element, this image has been uploaded at 1024 x 683 pixels, but the user will only ever see it at a maximum of 420 x 289, less than half the upload size.

As always, it’s important to consider the User Experience, so let’s ask ourselves a few questions:

  • What formats should we be using for images? PNGs are great for images with fewer colours or transparencies, while PEGS are perfect for photos.
  • Dimensions: what is the maximum width and height at which the image will be displayed?
  • Finally, do you really need all of those images?

If you have text within an image, get rid of it and use an actual font instead, and use vector graphics or CSS for things like logos or shading on the page. As Tom put it

“The fastest HTTP request is the one not made.”

Google has a range of guidelines and advice on this available which you should check out.

So, Tom resized, reformatted or replaced his images. How did this affect the overall site speed?

brighton-seo-site-speed-for-content-marketers

Being diligent with images was enough to shave a whopping 1.2 seconds – or 30% – off of the total page load time.

It’s still not rocketspeed at this point, but it’s much, much better. Tom detailed several other useful tips during his presentation which I will try to cover in the future as well, but for now – time to tighten up those images.

Understanding intent through voice search

Enterprise-E_LCARS

It’s search Jim, but not as we know it.

The dream of an ultimate personal assistant isn’t a farfetched sci-fi fantasy like the interactive computing systems in Star Trek. It’s technology available today already being applied to search engines.

Leading visionaries in search technology, including Google’s Beshad Behzadi in his keynote speech at the SMX West Keynote to Satya Nadella at Microsoft’s Build conference, are articulating a vision of smarter and more capable personalized help that will drive efficiency, focus and ultimately, happiness.

Nadella believes the next big bet for Microsoft is “conversation as a platform.” This is a more intuitive and accessible canvass integrating into apps, as well as artificial intelligence (A.I.) and bots that can interact with other bots. While the devices and technology used to access search are evolving, search will still be an increasingly integral part of everyday life.

The evolution of A.I. through voice search

Today’s digital assistants like Microsoft’s Cortana, Apple’s Siri and Google Now are voice-search enabled and growing smarter with every interaction. According to comScore, 50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020.

Since voice search is more conversational and uses natural language, the A.I. is evolving to understand user intent and context based on the previous search queries, multiple step queries and user behavior.

google-voice-search

Words can provide invaluable substance to A.I. technology during the search process. For marketers, the longer query strings from voice search as compared to text provide richer user intent data. While a text query would typically be one to three words, a spoken query is often three or more.

For example, on my desktop I would search for “blue t-shirt.” But when it comes to a voice query, I might ask, “Hey Cortana, where can I find a cool blue t-shirt?” The conversational tone provides a signal of intent to purchase, style preference and desired shopping locations if I granted access to my location. It permits marketers to:

  • Build user-intent models to understand where the user is in the customer journey.
  • Match advertising campaigns (messaging and landing pages) to the right stage of user intent.
  • Develop site content with a conversational tone, providing specific answers to users’ needs and top questions. Voice searchers are looking for quick answers. Content answering specific questions will make your site a go-to resource.

AI, the ‘Added Ingredient’ for enhanced consumer experience and engagement

Technology giants like Microsoft, IBM and Google are focusing on new ways machine-based learning, A.I. and bots can analyze data. Personal assistants like Cortana, powered by Bing search intelligence, can request permission to gather data from email accounts, calendars, social networks, geo-locations and mobile apps to start learning about behaviors and preferences.

The A.I. engine analyzes the information to make recommendations before they have a chance to ask a question. The more interactions a user has with their assistant, the more accurate the predictive models can be – and the more her serendipitous proposals will delight us and make life easier.

A screenshot of a conversation with Siri in which the user (our editor Christopher Ratcliff) tells Siri "Open the pod bay doors HAL", a reference to the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Siri wearily replies, "Oh, not again."

For many, the end of the day reads like a frustrating laundry list of stuff that still needs to get done – including the laundry! Efficiency is now one of the keys to happiness, and technology give us back time to be in the moment.

If I give my personal assistant access to the locations that are important to me and my calendars, she can send reminders when I need to leave to make it on time to my next appointment. The predictive component A.I. can monitor traffic and figure out if I need to leave work now to pick my son up from day care because of a freeway accident. It can deep link into apps, such as Waze, and suggest the best alternative routes based on current road conditions.

Soon, this intelligence will integrate into shared intelligence across A.I. bots, and tasks such as renewing your driver’s license will be done on my behalf and save me time.

For marketers, it’s important to understand and adapt to this new technology to build immersive customer experiences. As deep-linking and intelligent agents are integrated into apps and products, consumer engagement with brands will reach the next evolution. This means there is more potential than ever to influence the path to purchase in the customer journey.

While “Beam me up Scotty” and journeys to the final frontier are not yet a reality for most of us, the capabilities and technology for building the ultimate digital assistant are almost here.

This new “other” way to get things done will make it more appealing for consumers to share personal data so that assistants can become more predictive and take actions on our behalf.

We’ll continue to use search, websites, and apps. But how we interact with them will provide more intent and context for A.I.s and bots to help us get things done in our daily lives. This way we can focus and be fully present in the moments that matter the most.

Steve Sirich is GM Marketing, Bing Ads, Microsoft and a contributor to Search Engine Watch.

For lots more information, download our Marketer’s Guide to Artificial Intelligence report, which takes a look at how AI can be used for marketing, now and in the future.

What are featured snippets and how do I get them?

Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 10.49.35

Rob Bucci, the CEO of STAT, delivered a fascinating talk at BrightonSEO last week about the mystery of featured snippets, using his observations after analysing one million queries.

Here’s a round-up of the talk, featuring Rob’s advice on why featured snippets are important and how to increase your chances of obtaining them.

What is a featured snippet?

A featured snippet is a summary of an answer to a user’s query, which is displayed on top of Google search results. It’s extracted from a webpage, and includes the page’s title and URL.

There are three types of snippets, depending on the query:

  • Paragraph
  • List
  • Table

According to Rob Bucci and STAT, paragraph snippets are the most common, occupying 82% of the featured snippets, with list snippets appearing in 10.8% of the results and table snippets in 7.3%.

Why are featured snippets so important?

With featured snippets you can leapfrog the competition to position zero. Even if you organically rank fifth. @STATRob #BrightonSEO

— Search Engine Watch (@sewatch) April 22, 2016

Featured snippets offer various benefits for any site that can use them effectively.

1. Maximum authority

By obtaining a featured snippet you prove that Google chose your page over others as the most useful one to users’ relevant queries.

2. Beating the competition

When Google chooses your site to be the quick answer to a specific question, the result is displayed above the organic results, which means that you beat the competition, including a site that may rank #1 for the particular search result.

3. Increase of traffic

Users like featured snippets as they provide quick answers to their questions and this benefits the chosen site with an increase in traffic, which could be upwards of 20-30%.

Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 12.35.54

How to earn a featured snippet

During his talk Rob Bucci offered practical advice regarding featured snippets and how to get them. Here are his basic steps that can bring you closer…

1. Analyse keyword opportunities

Use the right tools to start searching for keywords to target. Find the right keyword opportunity that could be ideal for your site.

2. Create new strategic content targeted at snippets

It’s a good idea to create new content while keeping featured snippets in mind, but it’s important that it doesn’t result in unnatural content. Always take into consideration user experience and use ideas that make sense to your vertical.

Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 10.46.42

3. Bring in Q&A formatting

Devote a complete page to a single question, if possible, and find a way to incorporate FAQ into content.

4. Make it easier for Google with subheadings, lists, tables, etc

Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 12.45.04

Help Google discover your content with basic on-page optimisation techniques.

5. Polish existing snippets for higher CTR

If you have existing snippets, then evaluate and edit them from time to time to ensure a constant traffic back to your site.

Featured snippets in numbers

STAT analysed one million high-CPC queries for its latest study, in order to take a deep dive into featured snippets and here are the most interesting stats to consider:

  • Out of the one million queries that STAT analysed, 9.28% of them contained snippets
  • More than 70% of the featured snippets didn’t come from the very first organic result

Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 10.38.49

  • Featured snippets appear with an image 27.58% of the time.

Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 12.36.49

  • Keywords with high search volume show featured snippets twice as often.

Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 10.42.49

  • Higher query word counts result in featured snippets more often.

Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 10.43.12

  • Featured snippet URLs score slightly better on readability tests
  • Featured snippets had a 12.5% higher than average social share count (by examining Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest)

Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 10.45.14

Takeaway

You don’t have to come first in search to increase your authority and drive traffic to your site, provided that you start creating strategic content that may lead to well-earned featured snippets.

Featured snippets allow you to leapfrog to position 0. It gives you maximum authority too! via @STATrob #BrightonSEO pic.twitter.com/37vPzFt4oH

— BrightonSEO (@brightonseo) April 22, 2016

Five useful ways to create content for service and product pages

product page

Content development knows no bounds!

As you’re likely aware, every bit of your website or blog needs content development at one point or another. However, I find that many people get stuck when it comes to developing content for their business’s service and product pages.

It’s easy to get creative when writing a blog or creating a guest blogging strategy, but product and service pages can scare people off. We end up seeing pages full of boring, traditional text because the content on those pages may has been deemed “unimportant.”

It’s true that that this is a place where you might need to be more creative and you need to invent your own ways and ideas to produce content. But the good news is that if you do, product pages have an even better chance of ranking highly and getting more traffic as landing pages.

So, if you need some help figuring out how to invent new ways to create content for these pages, check out some of the ideas below.

Ask: what do people want to know about our products and services?

When you are stuck trying to develop content, a good starting place is to ask what it is exactly that your audience wants to know. After all, your products and services should act as a solution to their needs. Yet, do not leave your products and services as stand-alone documents, answer the questions that your customers are asking.

A really great way to do this is to have a creative Q & A section. You can either develop these questions (and answers) yourself based on what people ask you and your sales team the most, or you can actually turn to social media and emails where people have explicitly asked your product and service related questions.

In any case, developing content around this notion of product Q&A will show your ability to anticipate the needs of your customers, but it will also give you an interface that you can constantly update, change, and revise for fresh content.

Below is an example from QA Flooring Underlay Accessories:

In the example above you can see that under the various product and services tabs they have designed a Q&A section for customers to review. This is a great way to give them the “so-what” and the “why” explanations about your product.

An interactive sales person: be conversational

There are so many ways that you can be innovative in presenting these pages as a space for an interactive sales experience.

According to CopyPress, your website should act as an online sales person – not just offering descriptions of products, but focused on sales and giving your audience plenty of reasons that people might want to buy from your site.

This idea is most important when developing summaries for each product or service. You definitely need to have one, but you have to do it right.

Your description really should be more of a “brief summary.” While it doesn’t need to be lengthy, it does need to provide some explanation as to why the customer should choose to buy it from you.

Descriptions of the product itself are not enough. Take this as an opportunity to provide some information to your client so that they are not left with questions hanging over their heads before purchase. Here are some things your summaries should tell:

  • Why the product or service is useful
  • Why they have a need for your product (that they hadn’t considered before)
  • Why your company is the best option

Remember that you don’t want to overwhelm them with information – being concise and considering careful integration with this kind of content is key. Use first-person language to help answer the questions above, but keep out all of the fluff.

Keep your content organized and then move on to other elements of the page.

Create a sense of urgency

Creating a sense of urgency with content on a product/service page is a balancing act. On the one hand, you don’t want a buyer to think that a product they fall in love with is going to go away out of the blue once they purchase; but on the other hand you don’t want them to wait to purchase your product or sign up for the service.

One of the ways you can create a sense of urgency is by making sure that you utilise content on these pages to send that message.

Develop content that is going to get visitors hooked and also feel the need to buy or sign-up ASAP. There are a variety of ways to do this: promotions, monthly offers, showcased products, all of which involve creatively developing content which can be updated on a regular basis!

The example below from Shoedazzle shows how they used a monthly offer to help keep visitors hooked with their content:

shoedazzle ad

Make content unique and capture attention

Since this is an opportunity for creative freedom and being innovative, push the limits with uniqueness.

Here are some ideas that you can make content more unique on these pages and also increase conversions:

  • Pay attention to aesthetics like layout, style, and color choices
  • Find ways to use appropriate images and video
  • Incorporate your brand and mission as often as possible
  • Utilize customer reviews to make a claim for success stories and satisfaction
  • Make customer reviews visual
  • Link to other related content on your site
  • Add a “suggested” section based on demographics and user interest

All of these points are becoming more commonplace on product and service pages, but it’s still a great way to offer your audience something more.

Take Just Fab for example. Their layout has different tabs you can click with different information, one tab being reviews. The layout is easy to understand and covers everything a customer would want to know without being overbearing:

just fab product page

Continue to brainstorm for new approaches

When you are trying to be innovative in developing your product and sales pages, it is always your best bet to turn to the people that know the product best.

Ask your employees the aspects of products they have to explain over and over again. Ask your regular customers what it is that they love about your product. Ask members of your local community why they choose to shop at your store (online or in-person) over others.

While there is not necessarily a one size fits all plan for creatively developing these pages, figuring out what your brand wants to say and how these pages need to tell your story boldly to new clients is one step of the equation.

Remember, doing this market research will be an opportunity for you to continuously develop and grow the content on these pages, and this in turn will help your SEO. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to make your service and product pages as appealing and interesting as they can be.

The takeaway

When you start with a question, “what do people want to know about our products and services?” you are making this effort customer-centered, and that is going to be apparent for those who land on your product pages.

Consider your site an interactive salesperson, where your job is to convince people through summaries (rather than boring old product descriptions) why your products are the ones they should choose.

You also need to create a sense of urgency, so that people feel just the right pressure to sign-up today rather than tomorrow.

In the end, you can do these things by making content unique and attempting to capture the attention of your audience from the very beginning. There are a lot of ways to do this, but beginning with brainstorming is just one way you can get the ball rolling!

Do you have experience developing your product and services pages with fresh content? Let us know in the comments section below.

Five of the most interesting SEM news stories of the week

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 08.54.05

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 have masses of stats and a surprising dearth of Google related news. Yes Google merely comprises 2/5 of this week’s stories. To make it for it next week, Google is planning on shutting down the internet until you nofollow all you ill-begotten links.

Half of all weekend searches are made from a mobile

Bing Ads has released insight into UK consumer behaviour on mobile devices, revealing that one in two searches over the weekend are now made from smartphones or tablets.

Data from search trends across the Bing Network last year has shown that retail sees the highest share of weekend mobile device searches (54%) with travel (48%) and finance (36%) rounding out the top three.

The number of questions asked on smartphones grew by more than 20% year-on-year. Searches asking ‘what’ have nearly doubled (+48%) and those asking ‘which’ are up by more than a third (+32%).

Under 35s account for more than half of smartphone queries (55%), whilst over 50s continue to dominate searches on tablets (40%).

Yeah I made you think it was all just from one mobile didn’t I? Apologies.

Google has officially killed toolbar PageRank

We knew this day was coming, mainly because we covered it more than a month ago, but as of last Friday PageRank has officially been removed from public and third-party eyes.

Google will still use the (admittedly massively outdated) signal internally, but for now it will be their little secret.

17% of enterprise marketers still don’t have a content strategy

As Chris Lake reported this week in CMI’s content marketing trends 2016, despite huge investment, only just over a third of marketers said that they had a documented content marketing strategy while the rest either didn’t have a strategy or one that was written down.

You can now search and listen to podcasts in Google Play

Rejoice users of Android in the US and Canada, Google Play has adapted the same technology it uses for its music service and launched contextual podcast playlists to make it easy for you to find the right podcast, for whatever the occasion, for whatever your mood.

Untitled-1 (1)

That occasion mainly being “I want a podcast that’s the same as Serial” and the mood being “I’m annoyed that this podcast isn’t as good as Serial.”

Spend on social advertising jumps 86%

Spend on social advertising made a sudden rise to 86% year-on-year in the Q1 2016, thanks to a 122% rise in mobile ad spend, according to the latest report from Kenshoo.

Growing spend on Instagram ads and Facebook Dynamic Product Ads helped drive total social spend in Q1, significantly higher than Q4 2015, going against the normal seasonal ad buying pattern.

In paid search advertising, much of the 13% YoY growth in spend during the quarter came from marketers investing 77% more on smartphone ads. They also spent 98% more on Product Listing Ads than in Q1 2015, generating three times more clicks than a year ago.

The dangers of ‘Googlizing’ your site

Baidu_screenshot_600

By optimizing your website for Google, you could be sabotaging your site for Baidu in China and Yandex in Russia and Eastern Europe.

It is an undeniable fact that Google has the largest search market footprint in the world. As a result, there is an endless supply of resources and information about how to optimize search for Google. As such, I understand how important it is for website owners to make sure that their sites are optimized and perform well in Google search results.

However, by optimizing a site solely based on Google’s algorithm changes and abilities, you may actually be de-optimizing a site for other search engines. This de-optimization could devastate your site’s performance in some critical markets.

If a market like China is important to your business, you need to ensure that the changes you are making to improve Google performance also work well for a search engine like Baidu.

For Russia and some eastern European countries, it needs to work for Yandex.

There are many differences in SEO best practices among search engines including local regulations, domain, and hosting location. Below are some of the updates that you may have implemented or are planning to implement to your site that may ravage your organic search traffic from Baidu.

JavaScript and AJAX

Last year, Google confirmed it could crawl and index links and content within JavaScript and AJAX. This was of course great news to many website owners as it would help improve their site experiences.

Unfortunately, Baidu is not good at crawling and indexing content within JavaScript and AJAX, yet. Using JavaScript for site navigation kills traffic from Baidu immediately after a new site launch. In one example, we saw how shortly after a new site launch, the number of Chinese pages indexed by Baidu decreased from 86,300 pages to 174 pages.

In November last year, Yandex announced it would start to crawl JavaScript and AJAX, and warned site owners not to block their JavaScript and CSS files. However, just because Yandex can now crawl and index those links and content, doesn’t mean pages will start to show up higher in search results. Yandex measures the value of the pages based on not only the content, but also the incoming links and other statistical data.

Recommendation:

Where possible, do not use JavaScript and AJAX for navigation and content that need to be crawled and indexed by Baidu. If you still wish to use JavaScript and AJAX, create a separate Chinese site with static links in the navigation, and important content in HTML.

Yandex has created special mechanisms to give greater visibility in the search results for pages with JavaScript and AJAX.

Meta keywords, meta description and header tags

Content entered in the meta keywords, meta description and header tags might not be considered as important as it used to be for Google, but it still plays an important role in SEO for Baidu.

Google Meta Head_600

Recommendation:

Therefore, place meta keywords and meta description tags in the section on all pages. You can leave them blank for other country/language sites, but be sure to fill them out on Chinese pages. Also use ~ tags on pages. They may not help as much against Google, but they also won’t hurt. It’s best to use them in your webpage templates to help your Chinese pages.

Subdomain vs. sub-directory

While most performance tests show that segmenting the country or language using a subdirectory performs better for a site without a country code top-level domain, some international SEO experts still advocate the use of subdomains.

Google’s Webmaster Help Guide allows businesses to use either method. However, Baidu specifically suggests using subdirectories.

Recommendation:

If you wish your Chinese site to perform well in Baidu’s search results, you need to set your Chinese site as a sub-directory such as, “Yourdomain.com/cn/,” or “Yourdomain.com/zh-cn/and not as a subdomain such as, “cn.yourdomain.com.”

Content placement within the web page

Google and most major search engines have become really good at crawling and indexing entire pages of content.

However, Baidu is not as good as doing the job, yet. It is also known that when Baidu re-crawls pages that have been indexed before, it only crawls the first 1000 bytes or so of the content to see if it has new information. If it doesn’t find anything new, it stops indexing the rest of the page, and moves on to the next one.

Recommendation:

Always place important content (including keywords) at the beginning of the page. If you update any content in the bottom half of the page, submit the URLs of those pages to Baidu using Baidu’s Webmaster Tool for re-indexing.

Yandex also has its own Webmaster Tools, where you can review your web site performance, submit XML sitemaps, and take other actions to improve your website.

There are many other algorithmic differences between the Google, Baidu and Yandex search engines. If China and Eastern Europe are important markets for your business, make sure that you take balanced SEO strategies that work for all of your target search engines.

Understanding our love of visual content

Appealing visual content

We are experiencing an omnipresent visual domination lately and it’s not expected to change any time soon. So what makes us love visual content?

Whether it’s an image, or a video, people prefer consuming information in a visual form, as it’s more appealing, which leads to an increased engagement. Human beings are naturally drawn to visual content and any type of it may enhance a post’s performance.

Types of visual content

Visual content is a broad term that includes many types of content and the main ones are:

  • Images (photography, quotes, memes, screenshots, GIFs, etc)
  • Infographics
  • Videos
  • Podcasts
  • Presentations
  • Data graphs

All of them can be very engaging and a mixed use of them can create an effective content marketing strategy, provided that they are used appropriately for each medium, always by taking the audience into consideration.

Visual marketing at the forefront of social media

Social media has significantly relied on visual content, as it manages to grab the users’ attention, while its varying types (eg. the rise of infographics, or the domination of videos) allow it to maintain its popularity.

It is estimated that 63% of social media is made up of images and we assume that this number will only increase in the next years (especially if we also add videos to it).

Every popular social network could attribute its success to the right use of visual content and the way it is offered to the users, in order to create the right balance between words and visuals.

According to BuzzSumo, Facebook updates that include an image had 2.3x more engagement than those without one.

buzzsumo

Moreover, Buffer reported that tweets that contain images lead to 150% more retweets.

retweets buffer

Away from Facebook and Twitter, visual appeal has contributed to the rise of new platforms that exclusively rely on visual content, such as Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, Tumblr, etc.

All of them (almost exclusively) focus on images and videos and that’s what makes them so popular, with users loving the simplicity of adding content to them, while brands face the challenge of experimenting with new types of (visual) content to maintain and increase engagement.

Why do we prefer visual content?

The psychology behind our love for visual content

According to Jakob Nielsen, users only read 28% of words when visiting a website, with the trend of skimming rather than reading a text becoming prevalent in the online information overload.

Thus, visual content engages with a reader as fast as possible and in the most interesting way and that’s why publishers tend to rely on it even more every year.

The main reasons that we prefer visual content over plain text are:

  • It beats our short attention span
  • Its simplicity is tempting for any subject
  • It manages to engage with the reader and increase the time spent on content
  • It manages to communicate complex concepts in an appealing way
  • Its appeal increases the chances for the readers to share the content
  • It stimulates our minds, especially when it is linked with an emotion

Column Five has created an infographic on the power of visual communication and it presents three main reasons why we love visual content: Appeal, Comprehension, Retention.

visual content1

Appeal refers to the natural attraction towards visual content, and the way it succeeds even in a short attention span, comprehension is linked to the way our brain translates data to simplify them and retention is related to the memorable experience that visual content tends to create.

visual content3

How science proves our love for visual content

The psychology behind our love for visual content

It has been observed that 90% of the information sent to our brains is visual, with our brain responding to it 60,000 faster than it does for text.

Thus, our brains need a visual representation to process information faster and create a connection between the visual object and its concept. It’s impressive how the visual perception in our brain makes such a complex task easy and this could also be the scientific reason why an “image is worth a thousand words.”

The psychology behind our love for visual content

However, this is not an automatic process, as our brain still needs to rationalise the connection. Visual perception and the calculation of the surroundings rely on the person’s past experiences and memories that could be relevant to the exposure to the specific information.

According to neurobiologist Semir Zeki of the University of London,

“The brain has to actively construct or invent our visual world. Confronted with an overwhelming barrage of visual information, it must sort out relevant features and make snap judgments about what they mean.”

Scene perception, or else the perception of scene gist is the process that our brain performs to perceive the world, from the objects, to the connections they create to our brain, and Monica S. Castelhano and John M. Henderson proved in an experiment in 2008 how even the colours may affect the activation of a scene gist.

castelhano and henderson

Visual content may even become appealing in a way that we cannot explain and this is usually related to the emotions it may evoke.

The magic connection between visual content and emotions

The effectiveness of visual content can be further enhanced with the use of the right emotions.

A visual stimulation can create a visceral reaction by evoking a feeling that may even be subconscious, and that’s what makes it inexplicable to us when trying to understand what makes an image more appealing to us comparing to a similar one.

The psychology behind our love for visual content

Visceral reactions form the strongest connections on visual content and they occur from the brain’s part that is also related to our survival instincts, which means that the reaction may be more direct and intense.

Visual content needs to indicate somehow the emotion it aims for, either with the colours, the subject, or even with associations that lead to an easier connection which can elicit the right feeling.

For example, this photo brings out the feelings of security and positivity with both the colours and the people contributing to it, appealing to the idea of the family and the bonding it creates as an association.

pexels-photo-large

Image: negativespace.co

Five tips for amazing visual content

Focus on quality

People appreciate the quality of the visual content, so don’t ignore it when creating visual assets. If you feel that you can’t find the right images, then here are some great free image resources of high quality images.

High quality images affect the effectiveness of visual content

Image source: Unsplash

Use visual assets in context

Visual content can be very effective as part of a content marketing strategy, but always when it is created and distributed in context, by delivering what your target audience will appreciate. For example, a high quality picture of an airplane you just found may be impressive, but can you add the right text to make it relevant to, say, young mothers you are targeting?

Be consistent with colours and filters

The choice of colours in visual content is very important, as this will associate a series of emotions afterwards, which means that the consistent use of colours should lead to a commitment regarding the emotions you want to elicit with your content.

psychology of colours

Image source: Aftercopia

Don’t underestimate typography

Typography can be interpreted as the first visual impression of your text and you want to make sure you engage enough with the reader to keep reading the text.

Thus, typography is a crucial part of your visual content, whether it’s a blog post or even an infographic, and it’s time to focus more on it from now on.

typography

Designer: ligatureloopandstem.com

Text is still important

Last but (certainly) not least, visual content can boost your content marketing strategy, but it cannot replace the actual written content.

Find the right balance between words and visual content and don’t reduce the quality at any point to both of them.giphy (3)

Image: Gfaught.tumblr.com

Be precise, informative and interesting and appealing visual content will serve as the right boost for your text.

Shift London: Are you ready to join the #Digirevolution?

Shift_Digital_Marketing_event_London

What makes a digital influencer?

Is it follower numbers? The ability to find and create great content? Or just a genuine passion for transformation and digital change?

On May 24th and 25th, we’ll be hosting our new Shift event in London, and we want to find the biggest influencers online to be help us drive digital change.

The gurus and visionaries who are kindling conversation about digital leadership and the drive towards truly customer-centric business models. Senior marketers, digital gurus and business leaders tasked with implementing digital transformation and responsible for driving marketing strategy across data, digital, acquisition, search, customer experience, analytics, user experience and customer service. Anyone who wants to transform.

With this in mind, we’ve created #Digirevolution, and we want you to join us.

We’ve built a unique leaderboard that weighs up your social media credentials, examines the content you’ve been sharing and assigns you an influencer score. If you’re sharing content and using the #Digirevolution hashtag then we’ll feature you here on the blog every week until May 16th, when our top influencer will receive a free pair of tickets to the event.

We’ll be sharing your #digitrevolution tweets and comments, so join the conversation and tweet your way to the top of our digital revolution leaderboard.

What are you waiting for? Get tweeting leaders!

Interested in digital transformation, leadership and customer experience? Discover more about Shift and the #digirevolution.

New research reveals enterprise content marketing trends in 2016

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 08.52.12

Joe Puluzzi has released the CMI’s latest research into enterprise content marketing, and it’s well worth sharing, so I thought I’d discuss a few of the highlights (or lowlights, in some cases).

The study reveals that the vast majority of marketers have a long way to go before they become truly effective, with less than one in 20 reaching a level of maturity that pretty much guarantees success.

If you’re in need of some facts and figures to support a business case for content marketing, or are simply curious to discover what your B2B peers are up to, then pull up a cushion and take some notes.

Effectiveness

Just 22% of enterprise content marketers felt that they were doing the business, with the field still trying to achieve a level of effectiveness.

There is much work to be done. One of the biggest issues is how success is – or is not – being measured.

Clarity

Accurate measurement is the holy grail of marketing, but achieving data nirvana is a big problem for content teams.

Just 29% of marketers said they had clarity about what success looked like. The other 71% are presumably struggling with strategy, or have a lack of visibility over how they are performing.

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 08.52.43

Measurement remains a huge issue for many content marketing teams. It can be complicated, but it’s absolutely essential that the right steps are taken to figure things out.

A lot of enterprise marketers support sales teams who seal the deal offline, and they are reliant on sales to properly document their wins, in order to attribute success and discover what works best. The trouble is that sales folk naturally want to sell, rather than doing anything perceived as ‘admin’. Mindsets need to change.

Joining up the data is another major problem for many teams. Pulling together all of the data in one place is essential if you’re going to make sense of overall business performance. Platform integration is something that just needs to be done, if you really want to see what’s going on.

Strategy

Incredibly, given the amount of investment in this area, more than a third of marketers said that they had a documented content marketing strategy. The rest either didn’t have a strategy, or didn’t have one that was written down, which tends to be akin to having no strategy at all.

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 08.54.05

Further analysis showed that 75% of the most effective teams have a documented strategy, which proves the value in creating one that can be referenced and shared by those working at the sharp end.

One of the more surprising things I spotted was that only 30% of marketers have an editorial mission statement. I find this baffling, given the amount of freelancers and external agencies used by content marketing teams. There should be a clear framework, along with a house style guide, brand parameters, and so on. Otherwise you run the risk of screwing up.

Moreover, strategy – as well as goals, objectives and tasks – should not live in the ether. They need to be written down, in order to be managed, and measured. Content is not a fluffy game: it should serve a clear purpose, and has to be aligned with broader business goals. Otherwise, what’s the point?

If you haven’t yet figured this out then take a look at my content strategy canvas, which you can use as a template to help get your house in order.

It’s also worth saying that you should review your strategy on a regular basis. Schedule a recurring (perhaps monthly) timeslot to devote some brainpower to this. Monitor your progress, performance, and think about whether you need to adjust your course.

Collaboration

More than a third of marketers met at least once a week to discuss their work and formulate plans. That may sound like overkill, in an age of too many meetings, but more than 90% said that these meetings were “valuable”.

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 08.59.15

Budgets

The research found that budgets are slowly increasing, at least on a proportionate basis, with around 25% of total marketing budget being allocated to content (vs 23% last year). Almost half of enterprise marketers expect budgets to grow in the next 12 months…

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 09.37.08

An average of 36% of total marketing budget was spent on content marketing by the most effective teams, whereas the least effective only set aside 15%.

Maturity

Just 4% of marketers said they had reached a level of sophistication with content marketing. The rest of the pack continue to face the usual challenges and headaches: integration, budget, buy-in, measurement, and so on.

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 08.50.42

Of those that describe themselves as ‘sophisticated’ or ‘mature’, 82% said they were “effective”. Not a bad statistic for your business case, if you’re looking to scale up the team and measure success properly.

The future

Output is expected to increase in 2016, according to around three quarters of those who took the survey.

What’s hot? Events, videos and content made for social media platforms. Events were said to be the most effective tactic, though it’s definitely one of the most expensive and is difficult to scale.

By contrast, games, print newsletter and podcasts are used by less than a third of content marketers.

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 09.03.16

Goals

Engagement was said to be a primary goal by 82% of enterprise marketers, with sales and lead generation not far behind.

The metrics used to track success are largely skewed towards new business. The most important metric was said to be sales lead quality.

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 09.08.57

The full report contains a lot more data and is chock full of insight. You can download it for free here (registration required).

What do you think? Do leave a comment below…