The evolution of search: succeeding in today’s digital ecosystem – part 2

In the first part of our discussion on the evolution of search, we looked at the change in customer behaviors, which has led to a struggle between search engines and apps to remain relevant.

We also started to dissect key parts of the new digital ecosystem, looking in detail at the most obvious manifestation of these indirect answers, the information that powers these, and the change in mindset required to capitalize on the opportunities direct answers present. In this second part, we will consider further the outputs of the fundamental changes to search—and what this means for SEO as a channel in the future.

Voice is important, but we’re looking at it the wrong way

It wouldn’t be right to consider the evolution of search and featured snippets without discussing voice search. Many are looking to this as the new frontier for search, doubling down on strategies to become the answer to questions that people ask. Voice search is undoubtedly taking off in a big way, with 2016 being a turning point in the growth of the channel, but there are two challenges “voice marketers” will face: firstly, there is still a stigma to using voice in public—consumers may use quick commands, but they are yet to embrace the full capabilities of smart assistants among other people.

Secondly, smart speakers are becoming a part of people’s homes in a big way, with an estimated 40% of UK homes due to have an Amazon Echo in 2018. Despite this, companies will struggle to convince their audiences to receive unsolicited branded messages without permission. This is more of a problem in the wake of GDPR and claims of smart devices “listening in,” and I expect more tolerance to come in the future.

Until that point, it doesn’t matter if you’re the answer; users won’t know who has delivered the results they are listening to.

A much bigger opportunity in voice, although falling a little outside of the search marketer’s remit, are “skills.” When the app store launched, many of the first apps were utilitarian or games; the idea of a “branded” app was yet to be developed. However, as smartphones became ubiquitous, the prevalence of apps increased. I believe the same will be true of “skills.” For now, many of these provide data that the assistants cannot store first-hand, such as bus times and weather information. Over time, however, these could provide a branded experience for more conventional voice queries. Already, skills allow brands to provide a personalized response across voice. Importantly, as skills must be linked, these are solicited; or, put simply, you can brand the answers you give to user questions in an agreed format. Right now, this is a powerful tool; in the future, this will be a game-changer.

For those still looking to own the answers, owning the data feeds is key. While you can optimize for this in the same way as featured snippets, it’s harder to convince voice speakers, whose sole result has to be infallible or users will stop asking, that you are the one result to rule them all. This is why I believe Yext’s recent announcement that they will be pushing information directly to Alexa is as critical a change to search marketing as the launch of Penguin or Panda. For the first time, key data and knowledge feeds can be directly inputted into and brands can not only influence the information that Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and other platforms have on them (which is currently the case with answer optimization), they can own the narrative entirely.

As search engines look to promote results directly in search (whatever the format), this is a giant step forward towards the digital ecosystem of the future and should not be underestimated.

Speed and mobile are intrinsically linked; new formats will enable this

We’re all bored of hearing the phrase “content is king”—in fact, the “is king” moniker has been done to death. “Speed is king,” this probably does not carry the weight it needs to; and this is a shame, because it runs the risk of overlooking a crucial part of web marketing in 2018. From a pure SEO perspective, speed is now linked to improved visibility, in the same way that the interstitial ad penalty penalized sites for pop-ups.

However, if you’re blocking pop-ups or reducing your page load times for search traffic alone, you are firmly missing the point. This isn’t an “SEO thing.” This is a user experience essential, based on the changing demands of the digital-savvy customer in the modern age of technology; an audience that expects to quickly access the content they wish to furiously consume. Any delays or blockers in this process can be disastrous—not only to the brand, but to search engines as a whole.

Popular apps provide seamless, tailored experiences to their users; to stay as information leaders, this has to be replicated across search. A slow response, even if it’s not directly the fault of the provider, only serves to drive users away.

This is why Google is backing new formats; from accelerated mobile pages to progressive web apps and all device-focused changes (including in their index), the search giant is looking to improve the quality of the mobile web, a challenge it is uniquely well-positioned to undertake. As SEOs we should be embracing this—it’s better for our users. Yet we are limited by questions around tracking and data integrity (which Google is looking to change) and by the main engines’ ability to crawl and index JavaScript content, a programming language that will be key to bringing about the change that Google, Bing, and other providers need to stay relevant to their users.

For now, the biggest threat is mobile and apps; as other emerging technologies become more widely adopted, particularly in the immersive experience space, both the web and search engines will need to catch up to survive. And I believe that not only is it the responsibility of SEOs to drive forward these changes, it is both absolutely in our interest to do so and intrinsic to the continuation of investment in our channel.

The future is bright, but SEO will never be the same

With the rise of apps and Google looking to push answers directly to users, reducing the importance of the website in the digital ecosystem, you could argue that the importance of SEO activity is dwindling. This would be a myopic view of the future; while the basis of our activity roadmap may change, there will be a requirement for optimization. As the major algorithm launches earlier in the decade fundamentally changed the way we operate and skills required to succeed in the channel, so too will the behavioral changes we are currently experiencing. As we have always done, we will adapt.

In his 2016 Brighton SEO talk, Jono Anderson argued that the digital marketer of the future will not need to learn new skill-sets but combine existing ones. For search marketers, this means focusing on specific areas of knowledge where we can be the most effective, instead of trying to know it all as we currently do. Most digital agencies have already separated content and SEO teams into two different, yet complementary work streams. Structuring technical and local experts into teams of their own is becoming more popular and in doing so, allows the marketers within them to shape their abilities around the requirements and objectives of their specialism.

Looking ahead, there will always be a place for search engines in the digital ecosystem, although their importance to the whole is yet to be decided. As such, there will be a continued opportunity (and need) for search marketing. The SEO of the future may be a very different person than now and the focus of digital agencies will be split between building brands, building web experiences, and structuring information to be easily understood by data feeds. But until agencies truly leave the ranking factors of the past behind and fully support this new digital world, powered by technology, convenience and customers, it will be at perpetual risk of becoming irrelevant to our audiences.

How to create an optimized career page for your website

With recruitment as competitive a market as it has ever been, it’s essential to ensure every careers page or job vacancy on your website is fully optimized in order to place it in front of the perfect candidate online.

They are some of the largest and most powerful websites around, but typically online job boards lack page authority, so while you cannot compete with them on a domain level, you can still outrank these huge companies with good SEO.

The next step is selling your vacancy to the candidate, which can sometimes be a tough process, but one that your job pages can definitely help you out with.

How should you go about doing this?

Conduct thorough keyword research

Your first port of call to ensure your careers pages are fully optimized is to conduct some thorough keyword research in order to identify relevant keywords to target on your job pages.

Location-specific job searches invariably have a favorable ratio between search volume and keyword difficulty (competitiveness), so it’s crucial to ensure you are targeting properly before you begin to optimize.

Use internal links

Internal links are your chance to tell Google which pages on your site are the most important. You can manage your internal links as you wish, but one recommended strategy is for any page you are trying to rank, you should point internal links at it from the more powerful pages on your website.

A good way of finding these authoritative pages is by using the ‘Top Pages’ category in ahrefs (other tools are available) which will filter your pages by URL rating (authority) in a descending order. You are left with a list of your most powerful pages ready to be linked from.

When trying to boost vacancy pages, adding natural looking anchor text along the lines of ‘Like what you are reading? See our latest job openings’ and linking to the live positions can work well.

Internal linking is an oft-underutilized strategy in SEO and Andy Drinkwater is one of the more prominent voices on the topic often sharing useful, actionable information with the SEO community.

Maximize your content

Ensure the copy featured on each of your careers pages is optimized to rank well. Your content should be specific to your company and the individual role, with a minimum word count of 250 words.

Make it enticing! And if your company has a personality, ensure you show it.

The copy itself should be relevant and informative to the user, answering any specific queries they may have. The more information you can give the prospect the better.

Avoid duplicate content at all costs and try to be creative – you can assume the job seeker is looking at a number of job posts so you really need to try and stand out here.

Go behind the scenes

Provide potential employees with a look behind the scenes at your offices before they apply for a role. This is likely to benefit both you and the prospective employee as they can see if the environment appeals to them.

An office walkthrough is the ideal way to show what life is like at your company, plus the tour footage can form part of your Google Business listing (if recorded by an accredited Google Business). Appearing alongside your company address and telephone number, it’s an effective way to boost your site’s local SEO.

If you really want to stand out from your competitors, however, why not invest in a 360 degree tour of your office? This can also be VR-based. Interactive and realistic, it’s the next best thing to being in your office in person and will help a prospective employee to really visualize working for you.

Once you’ve taken these factors into consideration, you also need to think about Google Jobs.

What is Google Jobs?

Having launched in the US in 2017 and the UK in July this year, Google’s new job search tool Google Jobs looks set to radically alter the way job seekers search for roles, also impacting recruitment agencies and their processes.

Google caused a disturbance in the flight industry with the launch of Google Flights, which saw an immediate uptake in bookings from customers who were frustrated by the tendency of airlines to withhold information about additional costs such as baggage fees whilst booking, in order to make their flights appear cheaper.

Inc.com attributed the success of Google Flights to increased transparency to customers, who are able to see all the relevant costs prior to booking a flight, plus any predicted delays. The impact of the launch of Google Flights was immediate, with Business Insider stating the platform was…an embarrassment to the airline industry”.

The search engine’s success in identifying and capitalizing upon weaknesses in the travel and tourism industry is expected to be replicated in the recruitment industry with the launch of Google Jobs.

Simply recognizing users’ frustration at a lack of information, collating results at once and then proceeding to provide this information immediately results in a more valuable service for users.

What does the launch of Google Jobs mean for job vacancies online?

Google Jobs has been designed to simplify and speed up the process of job-hunting for the job-seeker. At the US launch of Google Jobs last year, Google CEO Pichai Sundar announced that the purpose of the tool was tobetter connect employers and job seekers”.

Users are able to filter roles by key criteria such as necessary qualifications and experience, working hours, salary and commute. Recruiters and employment platforms currently working with Google Jobs include LinkedIn, Monster, Glassdoor and Payscale (but interestingly, not Indeed).

The impact on recruitments companies will be severe. Even if you were ranking #1, you will now have the Google Jobs ‘import’ sitting above you plus the usual PPC ads.

While it’s safe to assume that Google will weight Google Jobs above all other recruitment platforms, it is worth bearing in mind that the company recently received a $5 billion fine from the EU for abusing their Android dominance, so they may – initially at least – proceed with more caution than usual.

What does this mean for my job vacancy?

Google Jobs pulls through vacancies from many recruitment company sites and jobs boards. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, there isn’t the ability to get your (a SMEs) specific role featured in the platform without posting it on one of these jobs sites/boards.

For businesses who have steered clear of these in the past, now may be the time to start to signing up.

We can assume Google Jobs’ popularity is only going to increase so if you want to maximize the chance of your vacancy being seen, don’t get left behind.

Five easy tips to improve the creative assets for your next campaign

Most designers and other creative professionals are well aware that people don’t always know the best way to work with them. “Clients from Hell” is a popular site lampooning this fact, featuring actual conversations between designers and their clients.

While things aren’t that bad for most designers, there are still improvements to be made. A survey we recently conducted at Wrike gives us some new insights into the challenges that creative professionals face when trying to get work done.

It turns out that some of the biggest challenges are caused by lack of visibility and lack of process between creative pros and their stakeholders in business roles. Great creative isn’t the result of magic. Ideas can be stoked, molded, and coached to greatness. But teams needs to be on the same page about how to best work together, and have respect for the stresses each other face.

Remember that creatives are partners – and experts

One of the top three challenges creatives identified in our survey was “being seen as a service provider, and not a partner.” This mentality likely means that people are sending ideas to creatives and ask them to execute, rather than collaborating with the creative team to generate ideas early on in the project to help develop impactful concepts.

By education and by nature, creative professionals often look at marketing and storytelling differently. Their creative and artistic perspectives are just as valuable as their counterparts in business and operations, and yet, they are not always treated that way.

When we ask creatives to execute ideas from non-creative teams, we underutilize their strengths for simplifying complex ideas into visually striking pieces of art. 54% of our survey respondents said another leading challenge is there’s “not enough time to be creative”. Increasing creative’s involvement in the early stages of campaign planning should help overcome this challenge, which will yield strong dividends in the campaign’s results.

More details in briefs

According to our survey, the second biggest challenge for in-house creative teams when it comes to working with other departments is “not enough details in briefs”. This means that designers are often left to forage for the details they need in meetings or follow up emails; both of which take valuable time away from doing higher value, creative work.

Creative team managers and their operations team should require comprehensive briefs from other departments in the organization. This can be achieved by creating detailed request forms with mandatory fields that call for rich descriptions of needs, context into the how the assets will fit into a broader campaign to help the business reach its goals, and links to outside examples or existing relevant assets. This will allow designers to focus on producing great work; not gathering information before they can even begin.

Keep your communications organized

Above all else, it’s critical that communications between designers and non-designers stay organized. It’s not uncommon for designers to get feedback from multiple stakeholders, their art director, a brand manager, and fellow designers. That’s a lot of conversations to track and without proper tools in place, constructive feedback may fall through the cracks – lost between emails, chats, and other collaboration tools.

Communications fragmentations is a big problem for digital workers. In another survey our team conducted, respondents said that “missing information” was their number one source of stress while trying to work. This doesn’t have to be the case. You can give each asset a single, clear thread, which makes all files and comments easy to find, and easy to take action upon.

Review your assets on time

42% of our respondents said half or more of their projects are delayed, citing the number one cause for delays as “reviews and approvals aren’t completed on time”. Take this into account when you’re working with a designer. There is a domino effect as designers are juggling multiple projects, so delays in one can lead to delays in another. Help them out by taking the time to review your assets and offer speedy approval or feedback as needed.

Designers can keep the process moving by setting deadlines for feedback and providing a clear timeline for milestones and deliverables. Designers should also make their production calendars available to the departments that depend on them. The visibility into their busy schedules and workload should provide the soft persuasion needed to encourage stakeholders to take action.

Minimize ad hoc requests

An ad hoc request is something that seems small to the person making it, but it still requires time and energy from a designer. 61% of designers say they get ad hoc requests at least once per week, which is probably not surprising to any designers reading this article. A small update to an existing asset may only take a few minutes, but it’s disruptive to the creative flow of someone whose focused on larger, brand defining concepts.

Creatives can help themselves by filtering all requests through the same process for scheduling and prioritization. “It’s just a quick tweak,” shouldn’t be an excuse for derailing a designer’s entire schedule. Creative managers aren’t doing their teams any favors by accommodating ad hoc requests without pushing back. It should be the responsibility of other departments to do a better job of assessing their desired assets well in advance and planning accordingly.

Designers can help their non-creative stakeholders by putting processes in place that foster execution with clarity with respect for competing priorities in an organization. Non-creatives can help designers by thinking strategically about their needs well in advance, which will help reduce ad hoc and last minute requests.

Better together

This relationship can be strengthened through the use of digital tools for collaborative work management that walk stakeholders through the steps of submitting detailed briefs, and designers through the steps of delivering and iterating on their creations. As partners, creatives and non-creatives can produce great work that define their brands and products – on time.

How to plan content marketing for an ecommerce business

It’s 2018 and running an ecommerce business is a lot more than just selling your products and services online. It requires you to handle everything; inventory management, promotion, shipping, replacements, refunds, order management – pretty much a lot on the plate.

Amidst all these job obligations, we hope that you have not managed to ignore the importance of the content marketing strategy for your ecommerce business.

Well, the right content marketing strategy will get your business the recognition it needs. Aimed at creating the content that fits the audience’s perception well, this strategy will also help you boost your sales and retain existing customers because it lets the content speak for your eCommerce endeavor.

So, what is the right plan when it comes to crafting the best content marketing strategy for your eCommerce business? Let’s explore.

Portray a bigger story

Storytelling is a unique art that has braced digital trends and customers nowadays tend to be more interested in stories rather than factual descriptions. This applies to the content marketing strategy of your ecommerce business as well.

Let your content speak for itself about how your products have managed to avoid consumerism woes of many. This might sound stupid but this definitely has worked for many brands, an emotional background to these stories will help your content and audience connect better.

Spice up this story-laced content with pictures and videos to keep your audience looped. You can either run a separate page for this storytelling section on your eCommerce website or you could simply replace the traditional blog.

Serve a humanitarian purpose

From the business point of view, this move exists to seek a considerable amount of attention. Based on the scale that your ecommerce business is currently running on, you can opt for Charity Collab.

For example, Michael Kors collab with Watch Hunger Stop to eliminate world hunger that supports 16 million children over 70 countries. Through these collabs, your business is able to support a social cause and talk about it with their customers in a pursuit to raise awareness and build social credibility. Your eCommerce business can run a story/blog for this purpose and engage the customers in it. This will send out a super positive impression of your business as to how socially committed it is.

Build partnerships

Online business is definitely cooler than traditional business ways because it has inspired a trend of embracing competition and even working with them. Your ecommerce business can build great content around this strategy by partnering with the firms in competition and others as well.

Building partnerships with other members of the digital sphere can help you tap a new section of the audience as well as expose your line of products to customers who are loyal to other brands.

Influencers are everywhere

Influencer marketing has become the soul of online marketing and promotion of several brands and businesses. Your business can get in touch with key industry individuals who will drive your brand’s message to the prospective customers who follow these influencers on social media.

The online customers heavily rely on the opinion of these social media influencers, who use popular social media pages to market your content and products.

Provide some free value to customers

In an effort to market the content for your ecommerce business, you cannot always expect to make money churning moves and not move a brick for free. A great content marketing strategy for an ecommerce business will always entail the use of offline as well as online resources to garner the attention of the customers.

Offering an offline value resource such as physical coupons, newsletters, a trial of new products, FAQs sheet etc. can spark a sense of physical hoarding in the customers. Make it a point to send these for free because not a lot of people would be interested in paid stuff. Freebies are a great way to get your content marketed and make sure that new people try them out.

Involve your audience in your content

When your eCommerce website is planning its content, it is a great idea to involve your audience in it. You can simply ask for their suggestions for the next blog post or the suggestion regarding what features they might want to see next on your online website. Doing so will make the audience feel important which is an indirect way of promoting your business now that your customers trust it.

Be persistent with a content theme

Not yet followed by many new ecommerce websites, a content theme is definitely a great way of staying uniform in your ecommerce site’s content.

Let’s talk about the product listing on your site as an example. Your website could follow a generic page layout for each of these products in the catalog. However, the layout must be uniform and consistent across the listing. By that, we mean that the content length of the description, the use of target keywords, and the overall aesthetic appeal must remain the same.

You can eventually change the theme to keep things fresh and kill the boredom. Also, if you have been looking for some inspiration to keep things at your ecommerce website tempting, ecommercebooth.com is a highly valuable resource.

A guide for customers to keep everything covered

The best way to keep your audience hooked to the website of your ecommerce business is to provide them everything related to the product you are dealing in. By everything, we mean to mention the product guide, the installation guide, the customer point of contact, product description and images, customer reviews, FAQs related to the products etc.

An educational guide in the form of a listicle, a blog post, or a video will drive new leads to your ecommerce website simply for the fact that how useful your brand is capable of becoming in order to product-educate its customers.

Case studies for your phenomenal products

Your ecommerce website will always have some products that are comparatively more popular than the others. If your business is offering solution-based products, you can tap into its significance by creating content around it. To accomplish that, case studies are great.

Roundup posts FTW!

Roundup posts that go like “Top 10 electronics gadgets to buy this summer” are doing great in 2018. Why not integrate them into your ecommerce content marketing plan as well?

You can be creative and can compile a roundup blog post for the most popular products from your site. This will become a great resource for promoting more than a single product through a single post without them sounding sale-focused. If you have a budget, you can buy sponsored space on famous blog sites and ask them to publish these roundup posts for you.

Usher the customer into your personal/professional journey

If suitable to the line of business for your ecommerce endeavor, you can choose to unveil the personal/professional story behind your business idea through text-based or video-powered content on your website. This is, again, a semantic advantage for your site’s content strategy.

Hire expert bloggers

Last but not the least, the best thing that you can do for your site’s content is to hire expert content creators or writers who understand the right brand tone and know how to create content that converts. They might cost you a considerable amount on your content strategy budget, but they will be worth it.

Content marketing is all about targeting the right set of audience and making an attempt to convert them into loyal customers through targeted content that attracts them. By having a clear understanding of what your ecommerce content marketing strategy is expected to deliver, your work will become easy. For the rest of the part, the above-mentioned tips will help you plan a great Content Marketing strategy to improve your eCommerce business.

However, research is the key to making sure that you are adding new trends to the list. So, stay tuned to this space for more information.

The Page Speed update: what SEOs need to know

Page speed has been a ranking factor for desktop searches since April 2010, but it was never officially a ranking factor for mobile searches (despite what we’ve all suspected for a long time). Not until July 2018, that is, when Google rolled out the Speed Update.

Google’s pushing for a faster mobile experience

The Speed Update is the latest in a long list of speed-related updates, tools, and technologies that Google has developed over the last decade – many of which specifically target the mobile experience.

For example, PageSpeed tools, such as the modules for servers like Apache and Nginx, PageSpeed reports in Google Search Console and Google Analytics, and plugins like the PageSpeed Chrome Developer Tools extension have become par for course since their introduction back in 2010.

Since then, Google has introduced tools such as the Mobile-Friendly Test to help websites gauge their responsiveness.

They’ve also launched Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), which allows content creators to make lightweight and lightning-fast versions of pages for their mobile audiences, and Progressive Web Apps (PWA), which load content instantly regardless of a user’s network state.

And, in the past 6 months alone, Google has further introduced an onslaught of new speed-related tools, including:

  • Lighthouse – helps users automatically audit and optimize web pages
  • Impact Calculator and Mobile Speed Scorecard – grades your mobile site’s speed and calculates what impact your site speed is having on your conversion rates and revenue
  • Chrome User Experience Report (CrUX) – a database of real user experience metrics from Chrome users.

Google also transitioned to ‘mobile-first’ indexing in February 2018, which means it now prioritizes the mobile versions of websites over desktop versions when it comes to ranking and indexing.

And last but not least, the Speed Update has ushered in page speed as a ranking factor for mobile websites.

Recent changes to how Google measures page speed

Another recent change you may have noticed is that PageSpeed Insights looks a little different these days. Entering a URL a few months ago would return a report that looked something like this:

As you can see, your site receives one rating and it’s evaluated based on a set of clear technical criteria: redirects, compression, minification, etc. Optimizing, while not always easy per se, was straightforward.
But if you plug in your URL today, you’ll see a screen that looks more like this:

Now you’re scored according to two different categories: speed and optimization.

Optimization is the new name given to the technical checklist you were already familiar with. Anyone who’s used the PageSpeed Insights in the past should instantly recognize these recommendations.

Speed, however, is something new. It’s scored based on two new metrics: First Contentful Paint (FCP), which measures how long it takes a user to see the first visual response from a page, and DOM Content Loaded (DCL), which measures the time it takes an HTML document to be loaded and parsed.

These two new metrics are the game-changers because even if you were measuring them before the update (most SEOs I know weren’t), there’s a high chance that Google’s numbers don’t match yours.

So why the disconnect? Well, while you’re measuring DCL based on your website’s optimal performance, Google is pulling its results from its CrUX database. In other words, these metrics are based on real user measurements.

That means that even if everything looks perfectly optimized on your end, Google may consider your website to be ‘slow’ if most of your users have poor connection speeds or outdated mobile devices.

In other words, Google’s switched from measuring ‘lab’ data to ‘field’ data. Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do to improve field data except for optimizing your website to make it even faster.

Our experiment measuring the impact of the Speed Update

My team recently conducted a series of experiments to determine what impact, if any, the Speed Update has had on mobile rankings.

First, we analyzed one million pages in mobile search results to understand the relationship between page speed and mobile SERPs before the update. Our research revealed that a page’s Page Speed Optimization Score had a high correlation (0.97) to its position in SERPs. FCP and DCL, however, had almost no bearing on a page’s rank.

Three months later, after Google’s Speed Update went live, we ran the same experiment. Again, we analyzed one million different pages and we collected Optimization Scores, median FCPs, and median DCLs for each unique URL.

What we discovered is that the correlation between a page’s average speed Optimization Score and its position in SERPs remains static: 0.97.

We also discovered that there is still no significant correlation between a page’s position in mobile SERPs and the median FCP/DCL metrics.

The only change we did notice was an industry-wide increase in the performance of mobile pages: the ranking on the first 30 positions in mobile search improved by 0.83 Optimization Score points between our first and our second experiments.

So, what’s the takeaway? At this point in time, it’s very important to continue improving your Optimization Score. FCP and DCL metrics seem to play a minor role where search results are concerned, but the standards for the top positions in SERPs keep increasing.

Advanced checklist for optimizing page speed

Optimizing mobile page speed requires you to test your page speed first. Before you begin making any improvements, plug your URLs into PageSpeed Insights. Or, if you find the thought of checking every page one-by-one exhausting, use a tool that can monitor all of your pages at once.

My team uses the tool we developed, WebSite Auditor. It’s integrated with PageSpeed Insights, which makes it easy to test, analyze, and optimize each page’s performance. GTMetrix and Pingdom are two other great tools for testing and optimizing page speed.

Once you’ve tested your mobile site speed and identified areas of improvement, it’s time to get to work:

  • Ensure each page has no more than one redirect
    – If you need to use a redirect: use 301 for permanent redirects (e.g. deleted content) and 302 for temporary redirects (e.g. limited-time promotions)
    – Googlebot supports both JavaScript-based redirects and HTTP redirects
  • Enable compression to reduce file size
    – Gzip all compressible content or use a Gzip alternative (e.g. Brotli)
    – Remove unnecessary data whenever possible
    – Use different compression techniques for HTML codes & digital assets
  • Aim for a server response time of

  • Gear up your paid social plan for Q4

    Q4 is right around the corner and it’s imperative to do some legwork now to set yourself up for success once the holiday season is upon us.

    Paid social is likely to have a significant impact on your overall efforts – not only in building the funnel but actually delivering end-of-the-funnel conversions.

    So how do you set yourself up for success? Here are my top five tips for what to take care of now.

    Personas, personas, personas

    Do your audience research. Comb through your internal data and understand who your customers are – even if you think you know this like the back of your hand, do some research to see whether any segments have changed or emerged.

    What are their characteristics, behaviors, and traits? Think about demographics, household income, interests, and likes. Additionally, leverage audience insights tools from both Google and Facebook to get a richer, more layered sense of who your customers might be.

    Once you have this information, you can create your various personas – the different types of audiences that would be interested in your product or service. Now you know who to target.

    Channels

    When you truly know your customers, you’ll get additional insight into what channels you should be advertising on. Facebook, of all social media channels, is always a given because of its enormity and ability to get very granular with its targeting.

    But which other social media channels might be right to advertise on? Did you find out that one of your target personas happens to consist of senior-level business people? If so, LinkedIn may be worth a try.

    If your audiences like to consume information, news, and technical knowledge, Twitter would be a great channel to pull those folks into the funnel.

    Are you going after females who tend to research, be fashion-driven and creative, or perhaps are big DIY-ers? Pinterest could help you achieve scale.

    Test the different relevant social media channels, get a sense of where your audiences lie, and understand where you can fill the funnel with an engaged and interested audience.

    Audience

    Now that you know your personas and the channels you’d like to reach them on, you’ll need to develop a number of audiences and begin doing some rapid-fire testing to understand which targeting types work best for your business.

    If you have a strong CRM list, begin with lookalike audiences – segment your customer list into groups of identifiable characteristics, build a lookalike from those, and test away. Also consider testing layers on interests, demographics, etc., to gauge what fine-tuning those lookalikes may do to performance.

    Then, of course, leverage the other targeting styles within the platform – use a combination of interests, behaviors, and demographics to really get granular and as close to your personas as possible.

    As all performance marketers know, granular can be great – but keep in mind that you don’t want your audience size to get too low. Healthy volume (the general recommendation with Facebook is to have audiences of at least 200,000) makes the job of an automated bidding algorithm easier as it has more people to work with, more data to flow in, and more ability to understand what is working and run tests to replicate success with other audiences.

    Creative

    Don’t forget your creative: it plays a hugely critical role in paid social – it’s what gets people to notice you, click on your ad, and get into the funnel in the first place.

    When approaching creative, remember to try to be as clear and straightforward as possible when discussing your business. Ideally you want your audiences to know who you are, what you do, and why they should care. If your creative achieves this, with great imagery and copy, your customers are qualifying themselves by engaging.

    If you’re in ecommerce, think about featuring top-selling products, or most clicked on/viewed products on the site. If you’re a service provider, think about why people use your service, what their most favorite things about it are, and what value it can really bring to one’s life.

    Then: test, test, test. Be smart about it, though – come up with a testing roadmap in which you have brainstormed unique and different copy themes, value props, images, products, testimonials etc., so that you can analyze what’s resonating with your audiences.

    Additionally, don’t forget to tailor your creative/copy towards specific audience segments. The more personalized you can get with the audience you are targeting, the better.

    Landing pages

    Just as with creative testing, test out your landing pages. Figure out what types of audiences or creative mesh with what types of landing pages you have. Again, it’s always about a tailored experience.

    One recommendation I always give is that, if you don’t necessarily have the means to develop multiple landing pages, at least leverage dynamic copy on your pages. This is where you can pass through a parameter in your link and have your page update to feature messaging that flows with that ad copy theme.

    If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m a big fan of testing – especially before the seasonal rush hits. Test as much as you can prior to Q4 so you can understand who the right audiences are for you to target, the appropriate social media channel mix to use, and the perfect combination of creative and landing page to hit a home run when it comes to conversions.

    Is it important for SEO to rank first in 2018?

    When starting with SEO one of the top goals for businesses is to rank first on the search results.

    It is the equivalent of success and lots of SEO professionals were working hard through the years to deliver a good ranking to their clients. As SEO is changing though, is it still relevant to aim for a #1 ranking on SERPs?

    And if it’s not a priority anymore, what should you do instead?

    Defining success in SEO

    Every company would like to show up as the first result in a search engine. And it’s not just for the sake of vanity, as the top ranking increases your chances of improved awareness, traffic, authority.

    There are more than 40,000 search queries processed by Google every second, which means that there are more than 3.5 billion searches every single day.

    We were reporting back in 2013 how the top listing in Google’s top position receives 33% of the total traffic. The second position received 17.6% of the traffic, while the fifth result only received 6.1% of the traffic.

    This meant that back in the day, the initial goal was to show up on the first page of SERPs and then to work harder to reach the top. It’s not always easy to achieve it and the authority of your site certainly plays a big role, but it was still considered the ultimate goal.

    SEO has evolved quite a lot since 2013, which means that even the definition of a successful SEO strategy has changed. It’s not enough anymore to aim for a top ranking. At least, not in the organic search results.

    How SEO is changing

    The big difference with SEO ranking through the years is that search engines are becoming smarter. Users are happier with the ease of finding what they’re looking for and businesses have to adapt in the way SEO works.

    There may still be companies that aim for the top ranking in SERPs, but is this still the definition of SEO success? If we want to combine success with ROI, then is it enough to rank first?

    There are growing discussions on the organic drop of CTRs even on popular terms.

    This is due to the changing nature of SEO and how users search for a result.

    You’ve probably noticed on your own that search has evolved and you won’t necessarily reach the first organic search result to find the answer you’re looking for.

    Google’s focus on adding additional boxes and ads at the top of the SERPs reduced the chances for people to notice the organic results.

    Think of it, nowadays you may be distracted by:

    • PPC Ads
    • Knowledge Graph
    • Social Information
    • Featured Snippet
    • News
    • Local information and Maps.

    It’s not a distraction per se, but rather a new way of finding the answer to your questions.

    This is a good change for the user, so all you need as a company is to adjust to this change when planning your SEO strategy.

    Thus, you don’t necessarily need to aim for a top ranking, but you can still optimize your content to increase your success.

    In this case, the definition of success becomes more practical and it refers to:

    • Increased clicks
    • Improved authority
    • Engaged users.

    Tips to consider when aiming for SEO success in 2018

    SEO becomes more sophisticated year-by-year and this means that your goals are also evolving. It’s not enough anymore as an SEO professional to promise top ranking.

    Here are six tips to consider when adjusting your SEO strategy:

    Aim for a good ranking, not a top ranking

    There is already a change in perception of what counts as SEO success. It’s definitely important to rank as high as possible in SERPs, but you don’t need to aim for the top position to see an increase in clicks and engagement. Find the best way to improve your ranking step-by-step by paying close attention to Google’s updates.

    Keep focusing on optimization

    This is a good old tip but it’s still applicable to a modern SEO strategy. Do not ignore optimization of your copy either on your site or how it shows up in search results. Spend the right time to build a result that is relevant, appealing, and engaging.

    Be creative

    Search ranking is becoming more competitive, which means that it’s harder to rank on top of search results. This doesn’t mean that you can’t find SEO success though. You can go beyond organic search results to succeed, whether it’s with ads or an additional optimization to land first on featured snippets and answer boxes.

    Here’s everything you need to know about featured snippets and how to make the most of them.

    CTR affects ranking

    Focus on your clickthrough rates. Your CTR affects ranking and there is a confirmation coming from Google’s engineer Paul Haahr. He mentioned in a presentation that a high CTR can affect your ranking as it gives the signal that your page grabs the users’ attention. Rankbrain can actually affect ranking to results that show up higher than they should have been, with the number of CTRs determining the permanent position.

    Thus, make sure your page is appealing, optimize the headline, the description and the content to bring an increased number of visitors to your content.

    Never sacrifice the quality of your copy

    As you manage to bring in new visitors to your site, you want to ensure that they’re enjoying your content. Content is still a very important ranking factor for Google and it’s always a good idea to focus on the quality of your copy.

    Find the best way to add value and make sure that your content is relevant for your target audience. Keyword optimization can still be useful but it’s the quality of your copy that will determine your ranking. Link building is still important, which reminds us that some basic SEO strategies are still prevalent even in an updated way.

    Engagement matters

    Once your new visitors land to your page and enjoy your copy, the next step is to keep them coming. You don’t want to increase your one-time visitors, but you’d rather have them visit your page on a regular basis. Thus, you want to convince them to proceed to further actions, whether it’s clicking on a CTA button, subscribing to your newsletter, requesting a demo, or even visiting multiple pages.

    The time they spend on your site helps search engines understand if your content is relevant for them. In fact, the RankBrain update placed ‘dwell time’, the time a user spends on your site, as a very important ranking factor. It’s not enough anymore to bring in new visitors if they are not interested in learning more about your content and your site.

    A good way to increase engagement is to focus on user intent and how people use search engines. Think like a user, not a business and create an optimized copy that will be both enticing and useful.

    Should we stop aiming at ranking first?

    You can still involve the top ranking as part of your goals, but it’s good to understand how SEO is changing. It could be a welcome addition to reach the top of the SERPs for your favorite keywords, but it’s even better to bring the ROI that will justify your efforts.

    SEO is going beyond vanity metrics and it is focusing on delivering the best user experience. The more you spend time on understanding your users, the higher the chances of a successful SEO strategy.

    Key takeaways from Google’s latest algorithm update

    On August 1 2018, Google rolled out a new algorithm search update, targeting broad searches across the globe.

    This was the third algorithm update of the year, although many professionals in the SEO community have called this the biggest update since Penguin in 2012.

    This week we released a broad core algorithm update, as we do several times per year. Our guidance about such updates remains the same as in March, as we covered here: https://t.co/uPlEdSLHoX

    — Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) August 1, 2018

    The algorithm update was picked up by all search monitoring tools as we saw a spike around the beginning of August and continued fluctuations for around one week.

    SERP metrics

    Advanced web rankings

    Which sectors were impacted the most?

    Research by Sistrix highlighted that the industries affected the most were ‘Your Money or Your Life,’ known as YMYL for short, which relates to the health and finance sectors, followed by eCommerce sites. Companies that saw notable drops included Pandora (-28%) My Protein (-24%) and Wales NHS (-18%).

    Which SEO techniques were penalized and rewarded?

    Whilst Google has not disclosed much information on the features of this algorithm update, the SEO forums and communities have been exchanging their thoughts and have highlighted the following factors:

    • Mobile first-index
    • Content and on-site linking
    • Site speed.

    What you can do to stay on top

    Google has responded to queries on twitter by saying that ‘you should not do anything’ if you have been penalized and ‘there is no quick fix.’ But if you have been stung, why suffer from worse search results and less traffic? We highlight some key pointers below:

    Mobile first: Mobile first-indexing is now fully under way, and those websites that do not have a mobile version, are not responsive or have a separate mobile site – will now face the music.

    A number of sites have been complaining this month about not ranking for their brand name – however, this has coincided by not having a mobile version of their website.

    In addition to a simple mobile design, mobile-friendly sites can maximize their results under Google’s mobile-first index by:

    • Having clear information above the fold (whether it is an h1 tag or call to action button)
    • Not hiding their content – whilst most desktop content is hidden on a mobile, this is still very important and should still be included. Accordion tabs can be a neat way of presenting this.
    • Not covering up content with pop ups – so for cookie consent or GDPR opt-ins, you can effectively place them on the bottom of the screen, rather than as a pop up.

    Content: In a world where content is king, Google has hinted for website content have expertise, authority and trust, known as (E-A-T). This is particularly relevant for the “Your Money, Your Life’ industry of health and money – where they would like medical information to be distributed by professors and doctors, rather than bloggers gaming the SEO system.

    As the story goes, typing your health symptoms into Google can fill you with paranoia and anxiety – but a shift towards more authoritative content should make this a thing of the past.

    But how can Google tell if an article about diabetes, cancer or disease is written by an expert or not? Whilst there are not any ‘quick fixes,’ it is common sense that bloggers are more likely to reference other websites more, since they are basing their writing on other opinions. When compared to a legitimate medical professional, they are simply writing their opinion without needing to reference.

    In the case of health insurance comparison website MediCompare, they have historically used bloggers to ramp up their content and when the algorithm hit, their rankings fell like a stone.

    However, a removal of all their external links, an increase in internal links and removing of heavy content, showed a recovery within 48 hours:

    1st – 12th August

    13th – 15th August

    Speed: Site speed and loading time have been on Google’s radar for years and while it has always been a ranking factor, this is now crucial for good results. Previously we might have seen sites ranking at position 1 despite poor site speed, but this may no longer be the case.

    Subsequently, SEOs and designers should now look at building websites with site speed in mind and simple ways to do this include browse caching, compressing images to below 100kb and compressing code where possible. Useful tools to assess your site speed include GTmetrix and of course, Googles Pagespeed Insights.

    Overall, it appears the algorithm update is geared towards content being more authoritative and by providing users a better experience on mobile and with faster loading times across all devices. This certainly makes SEO harder than before – as ranking a site with a basic design and adding content is becoming a thing of the past. Whilst the health industry was clearly the biggest target in this algorithm update, SEO professionals must truly stay on top of the game. Otherwise we could find this algorithm update having a significant impact on all other industries and changing the face of SEO as we know it.

    The evolution of search: succeeding in today’s digital ecosystem – part 1

    The world has fundamentally and irreversibly changed; since the launch of the smartphone, technology has enabled on-demand access to information and opened a Pandora’s box full of anything our hearts desire. This is challenging for marketers to find new ways to connect with audiences. For search engines, this was a turning point in the services that they offer.

    Where before, “web search” brands – the likes of Google, Yahoo, Bing and Baidu – were consumers’ first port of call; they are now rapidly losing share to new competition (particularly Amazon, WeChat and Facebook) and formats (primarily from voice and apps).

    Personalization has become a key battleground too, as customers don’t just want quick results, but tailored suggestions that are directly relevant to their lives. Search engines are having to adapt to stay relevant, bringing a much-needed change in dynamic between SEOs and the major players in the space.

    Adapting search engines to the mobile-first user

    Before discussing how to react to the change, it’s important to consider how and why we are in the situation we find ourselves in. With the launch of the app store in 2008, users have been able to connect directly with the brands they love. But historically, this was only valuable if you knew exactly what you wanted and, more importantly, unhelpful if you sought to browse products from multiple providers.

    With users turning to search to fulfill their needs, the apps evolved. While search engines gave customers choice, they were not able to provide a recommendation. There was a growing user need for the ability to aggregate and tailor information; to provide choice, but save time browsing – and it was in this space, coupled with the increasing ubiquity of mobile technology, that Airbnb, Amazon and other brands started to thrive. These platforms have become synonymous with the services they provide. We no longer want to browse across different websites to find the products we need, when we can look in one place – and so the balance shifted from search more towards apps.
    Search engines are evolving to counter this challenge. A great example of this is Google Maps, which (albeit still an industry-leading service) has massively improved the features it offers to business (e.g. through Posts) and agencies via its Google My Business platform. But there is a clear change in approach from Google around this; where before their focus was on collating information and limiting the customisation options, this has shifted to providing marketers (and small businesses) with an extensive set of tools through which to enhance their listing and stand out from the crowd – and, importantly, increased support and guidance on how to use these.

    The theme of search engines working more closely with search marketers is important, as this is both a necessity for both parties – and an opportunity.

    Taking the step from ten blue links to “position zero”

    I mentioned earlier that customer attention spans are dropping to seconds. This is a behavioral change that will underpin all future developments in the search space. As customers’ appetite for knowledge grows, we provide more information and the technology to allow for faster, more informal ways to consume this content. I believe as humans, we’ve passed the critical moment from which we cannot return; our brains now are fundamentally hardwired to continue looking for the next thing, and to succeed, marketers need to consider this as a broader psychological change. One that alters the way we do everything, not just create more content to slake our perennial thirst for more.

    But what has this got do with search? In short, everything – and we’re already seeing the output of this change. As users seek to click less, the number of featured snippets showing for queries is rapidly increasing and there is an ever-growing number of rich result formats being launched into the wild. These not only provide answers directly to searchers but, in many cases, offer a similar experience to the apps that search engines are losing out to. And yet, for some, “ optimizing for position zero” has become the new “build a responsive site”, pre-Mobilegeddon. A well-intentioned idea, but one that will not be executed upon until it is too late. This is ultimately the wrong approach and one that will cost your brand, business or clients dearly if you wait.
    Unlike mobile, optimizing for answer queries is difficult. To start with, the latest stats put the number of new, unique queries seen every day at around 15%. The optimist will say this is an opportunity and should be a key area of focus for growth. However, the realist will rightly ask how you can create a response to a query that doesn’t yet exist.

    This comes down to a broad change in mindset. Often, we are limited in thinking only about how to keep customers in the conversion funnel or “customer transaction management” as Martin Newman of Practicology recently referred to it. This approach will yield a good return, if you can make it work, but the space will be competitive (unless you have a truly unique product or service) and it’s likely someone will have already beat you to the punch. Instead, we need to do true “customer relationship management” and think about the touchpoints you could have with your customers, based on what they need, outside of your brand.

    Here, you’ll find searches that are yet to be owned, in places your competitors aren’t even looking – but your customers are.

    A world in color, not two hundred ranking factors

    Identifying the opportunity is, however, only part of the challenge: you may now have a better understanding of which area to target, but appearing in that space is another matter entirely. When optimizing for the traditional ten blue links, search marketers often revert to the original concept of 200 ranking factors. This breaks down into themes of focus – accessibility, relevancy, authority, etc. – but the basis of our strategy is to satisfy a predetermined list of items we believe (through industry-wide testing and experience) have an impact.

    However, I believe this is a limiting view, although that’s not to say that this approach doesn’t still work – it does – but it’s the difference between watching a film in black and white versus full color. In both you’ll see what’s happening: in color you’ll notice the detail, and this will add to your knowledge of the plot and the world the story is based in.

    Google uses an algorithm to rank its results; this is the first thing SEOs learn when starting out. We also know that it uses machine learning to power parts of this and to test new features. However (and this is key to understanding how to optimize for position zero), Google has access to trillions of data points around search and we know that, since 2012, it has mapped these out into “things, not strings”. This isn’t something we consider when focusing on our core 200 factors, but the information it receives clearly comes from somewhere and where there is a process to collate, there is an opportunity to optimize for this.

    To the day, Google lists three steps to how search works – crawling, indexing and serving – but there’s a fourth. If crawling is “finding” the information, indexing is “cataloguing” and “storing” it, and serving is deciding how to display this back to users, we’re missing a step around “understanding” the information; often referred to as “parsing”. This is the part we know (definitively) the least about but is fundamental to showing as an answer result.
    This concept was deftly explained by Gianluca Fiorelli in the 2016 revision of his “Wake up SEOs, the new Google is here” post. Over the past 18 months, one thing has become clear – this is truly the future. However, many still believe that “knowledge graph optimization” still centers around adding structured data. Undoubtedly, this is important, but as Gianluca states, “semantics (or the links between concepts and language) is more than structured data” and that we need to consider both the code itself and the website architecture.

    To succeed in today’s digital ecosystem, we must build well-structured repositories of knowledge that crawlers can use to quickly engage their time-poor, information-hungry audience. We must look to the user journeys and touchpoints our customers want to take, not the ones we think we should create for them. To again quote Martin Newman, “we must become customer-obsessed or die.”

    Research says B2B audiences find business content most often through search

    Clutch’s survey of 384 consumers of online business content found that 87% of respondents frequently encounter business content using search engines, slightly more than the 85% who find business content through social media and 75% who encounter content most frequently on company websites.

    The study indicates that B2B audiences are avid consumers of business content online and use content to inform their purchasing decisions.

    By optimizing content for SEO and for their target customers, companies can engage B2B audiences online and work to transition them through their sales funnel to conversion.

    B2B audiences consume content frequently and according to their purchasing intent

    Clutch’s survey supports industry research that B2B customers extensively research companies and products online as part of their purchasing process.

    The survey found that 88% of B2B audiences consume business content online at least once a week.

    For the most part, the reasons why B2B audiences consume business content online reflects their buying intent and determines the type of content they prefer.

    For example, 45% of B2B audiences read business content online to stay informed about industry trends, the most common reason cited among respondents.

    This broad reasoning for consuming content demonstrates low purchasing intent. Thus, this group likely fits in the “awareness” stage of the conversion funnel and consumes content to learn more about a business or an industry before moving forward in their purchasing process.

    As a result, they reported blogs and articles as their preferred type of content, since blogs and articles are more likely to focus on broader topics such as industry trends.

    On the other hand, B2B audiences that read content to further research a company’s products or services, or to help them make a final purchasing decision, gravitate towards content that speaks to their high level of purchasing intent. Fittingly, this group prefers product descriptions and reviews more than other forms of online content.

    SEO services allow businesses to engage B2B customers

    The frequency at which B2B buyers use search as part of their purchasing journey, combined with the need to engage potential customers with broad content preferences, underscores the importance of effective SEO for B2B companies.

    Investing in SEO helps B2B companies engage their target customers where they are: search engines. If companies are able to optimize their site and content for key search terms, they increase their chances of engaging their target customers through search.

    “SEO remains an important way for B2B audiences to find content. Don’t forget, though, that it involves optimizing content not just for search engines, but also for the people behind the queries,” Kim Moutsos, vice president of editorial for the Content Marketing Institute, said in the report.

    To optimize for specific audiences, businesses need to optimize their content according to their various sets of target audiences. To do this, they need to have a very solid understanding of their target customers and how they consume online content.

    Customers at the bottom of the funnel, for example, are very intentional when they consume content online: they are specifically looking for content that discusses products, services, and providers that best fit their needs.

    Diverse content marketing strategies help maximize engagement

    Because B2B audiences demonstrate such a broad range of content preferences, both in terms of topics and format, businesses that want to engage them online need a wide-ranging content marketing strategy.

    For example, creating a “state of the industry” report for a site blog helps to engage B2B buyers at the top of the funnel – those who read business content online to learn about industry trends.

    To engage buyers near the middle of the funnel – who read business content online to review whether a company’s products can benefit their business – B2B companies need to create and maintain product pages and descriptions on their websites.

    Finally, encouraging reviews from former clients and actively maintaining and populating listings on third-party directories helps businesses engage B2B customers at the bottom of the funnel – those who read content to make a decision about whether to purchase products or services from a business.

    Understanding how audiences engage with content provides benefits for B2B companies

    Clutch’s research ultimately underscores the value businesses can achieve when they understand how B2B audiences engage with content online.

    Specifically, understanding the online channels and type of content that B2B audiences prefer, in addition to the reasons why they consume business content, can help companies create a content marketing strategy optimized to engage their target customers at different stages of the buying journey.

    In addition, B2B companies also need to optimize their content for SEO to ensure that their target customers encounter it through search, their online channel of choice for finding business content.

    Grayson Kemper is a content developer at Clutch, a research and reviews platform for B2B marketing and tech services and solutions. He specializes in SEO research and writing.