The Transformation of Search Summit: Strategies and tactics to harness the next generation of search marketing

On October 19, Search Engine Watch will host The Transformation of Search Summit in New York City, in partnership with ClickZ and Catalyst.

Dedicated to the key trends affecting consumer behavior and search marketing today, this 1-day event will provide a host of insights and practical tips for business leaders, senior marketers and search specialists.

Speakers include:

The importance of search as a medium for connecting with consumers cannot be understated, and the facts certainly substantiate this:

  • Over $90 billion was spent on search advertising in the US in 2017
  • 93% of online journeys begin with a search engine
  • 96% of Google’s annual revenues come from search ads.

And yet, pinning down exactly what search is can be a difficult endeavor. In essence, search arises at moments of need or desire; when people want to know, do, or go, they reach out to a search engine.

These moments are increasingly fragmented across devices at home, at work, and on the go.

While the commercial opportunity that search provides is rising, it is no longer a text-only medium and Google is seeing some competition from the likes of Amazon and Pinterest. Many voice-based searches do not involve a screen, while visual search uses images as an input to deliver results.

The underlying nature of search remains constant; people want answers or suggestions and brands compete to provide them.

However, marketers must keep pace with these developments and acquire new skills if they want to deliver the experiences the modern consumer demands.

The pace of change in search is only accelerating over time, and those who do not evolve in line with the industry will be left behind.

The Transformation of Search Summit, which will be held at Convene on W 46th Street, will cut through the noise to provide actionable insights on the trends that are transforming search today.

Comprised of talks by specialists from across the technology landscape, the event will go much deeper than the standard platitudes to discuss the points that will transform search over the coming months and years. Furthermore, each session will contain a list of tips that marketers can apply at their company today to drive better results.

This applies equally to organic search and to paid search, with some core themes cutting across both marketing media.

Key Themes at The Transformation of Search Summit

  • The new customer journey
    Customer journeys are increasingly fragmented; simultaneously, consumers expect cohesion in their interactions with brands. This event will look at how these journeys have changed, including some new research from ClickZ and Catalyst, before delving into the ways marketers should prepare to take advantage.
  • Voice search
    Digital assistants, driven by artificial intelligence, are an increasingly prominent feature in our homes and on mobile devices. In fact, there are now over 1 billion voice searches per month and this number will only rise over the coming years. But just how big an impact is voice having on search in real terms? What are the specific strategies brands need to apply to avail of this trend?
  • The rise of Amazon and Amazon Marketing Services
    As Amazon’s online retail dominance grows, what impact will it have on the consumer’s path to purchase; how should search marketers respond; and what opportunities does Amazon Marketing Services offer?
  • Blockchain and the decentralized economy
    We will explore what impact this new technology is already having on marketing, and what search marketers should be on the lookout for as this powerful technology gains traction in every aspect of online interactions.
  • Unlocking the power of AI
    AI is here to stay. It’s transforming our world and revolutionizing businesses. In fact, Gartner estimates that by 2020, 85% of customer interactions will be managed without a human. Leveraging automated bidding solutions, discovering advanced methods for audience targeting, and understanding key considerations around AI opportunities such as voice search, digital assistants and chatbot are just the tip of the iceberg.
  • Data protection and privacy
    With the recent string of data breaches and The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming into effect in Europe, data protection and privacy has made its way into the headlines of most newspapers and the minds of all marketers. What are the latest data regulations that you need to be aware of; what can we expect to see coming into effect over the next 12 months; and how can you balance compliance with operationalization to deliver the experiences customers expect?
  • Visual search and ecommerce
    Pinterest has the highest average order value ($50) of any major social platform with nearly 2 million people pinning products every day. With the rise of mobile and movement to voice, image search is often overlooked, but is an important part of your modern search marketing mix. How can you take advantage of this trend and what actionable steps do you need to take on Pinterest and other visual search platforms?
  • The changing nature of leadership
    With all this change it is important to take a step back and look at what you should be doing in the short, medium and long-term. Here we will explore the cultural, structural and practical steps business leaders can take to manage budgets, empower their teams and ultimately ensure that they balance risk with reward.

Who should attend?

The Transformation of Search Summit is aimed at business leaders and search professionals, with a split focus on strategy and tactics. Attendees have already been confirmed from companies including Marriott, Price Waterhouse Coopers, and Kaiser Permanente.

How can I sign up?

For more information and to sign up for the October 19 event, please click here. Early Bird rates are available until September 14.

Emerging technologies present huge opportunity for content marketing

In any role, it can be all too easy to fall into a comfort zone; you figure out a method that works, perfect your execution and watch as the fruits of your labor flood in. And repeat.

Of course, this can be a perfectly acceptable approach, but resting on your laurels can potentially cost you in the long term. While you’re using your tried and tested way of working over and over, your competitors are not only catching up, but trying out new ways of working that could leave you behind.

Digital and content marketing is an industry that prides itself on innovation. It is, of course, the data-driven offspring of traditional marketing, but results from Zazzle Media’s recent State of Content Marketing Survey revealed that even our industry is guilty of dragging its heels when it comes to jumping on emerging trends and technologies.

For example, just 2% of marketers surveyed said that voice search would be a key focus for them this year. While this is somewhat caveated by the fact that 17% of the marketers we asked are going to introduce voice search into their marketing mix in the next year, it’s still a low percentage of people who are eager to take the reins and own this space.

This trend continues across the survey, with the three least used channels comprising emerging technologies that have generated a lot of hype and excitement in the marketing space.

Just 13% of marketers are using programmatic as a marketing method and despite the massive growth and spread of virtual reality (VR) in marketing in 2017, only 6% are using this channel right now.

So why are these percentages so low?

You could argue that this is to be expected, but, 13%, 6% and 3% are staggeringly low numbers for trends that are touted to be the next big thing. And while ensuring foundation services such as written content and SEO are up to standard is essential, so is making sure your services are futureproof and ready to tackle the next big shift in marketing activity.

Brands also have the opportunity to win big by using emerging platforms in creative and engaging ways. In fact, we’ve already seen a number of examples of marketing campaigns incorporating these technologies to great effect, capturing consumers’ attentions in ways not possible through more mainstream techniques.

Pepsi’s Unbelievable Bus Shelter

How do you take a regular bus stop advertisement and turn it into a talking point among London commuters? As part of their promotion for their #LiveForNow campaign, Pepsi created an augmented reality bus shelter, which combined real-life imagery of London’s surroundings and overlapped it with some pretty interesting scenarios.

Showcasing everything from alien invasions, marauding tigers and even a giant robot attacking the city, this campaign managed to capture the imagination of the public and has so far clocked up over eight million views on YouTube. Sales of Pepsi Max were also up 35% year over year for the month the creative was live.

TOMS Shoes & AT&T: “A Walk in Their Shoes”

Shoe brand TOMS Shoes partnered up with internet provider AT&T to create a VR experience entitled “A Walk in Their Shoes”. The experience chronicles the journey of a Toms customer from California who he travels to Colombia to meet a child who benefits directly from his purchase.

AT vice president of brand marketing, Fiona Carter, told Fast Company that the goal was to celebrate Toms’ success over the last decade in an exciting and new way.

“What we love about this is that it’s a really immersive way to experience the impact that buying one pair of Toms shoes can have, in this case on one boy in Colombia,” says Carter. “It’s a powerful way to show how to make a difference in the world.”

Missing People make the most of advertising budget through programmatic

Innovation doesn’t have to be flashy, and while VR and augmented reality set pieces are effective visually, sometimes emerging platforms can help enhance reach.

The charity Missing People made the most of this concept by enhancing its outdoor advertising spend by shifting a portion of their budget from print to programmatic.

Before using programmatic, the charity was only able to advertise one appeal per week for a missing child across the whole of the UK. However, since investing in this method, the charity is able to run more targeted, location-based appeals outdoors that can be replaced as soon as a child is found.

Ross Miller, director of fundraising and communication at Missing People, told Marketing Week:

“When we first started using out-of-home, 50% of children we appealed for were found alive. When we switched to a more programmatic use of out-of-home our response rate went to 70%. People respond to a message that is relevant to either where they live or a location.”

Conclusions

These examples prove that emerging platforms have a role to play in content marketing in 2018 and beyond, and perhaps it’s a question of confidence as to why more marketers are hesitant to rolling out these new methods of working.

Content marketers need to prove their worth – having confidence in the practices, and being brave with the opportunities available will allow marketers to test, iterate and learn from their marketing efforts and emerging platforms have a large part to play in this.

The end of 2018 could look very different for marketers’ results if they’re brave with these new methods.

The SEO challenges of an ecommerce website

When it comes to SEO, there are many challenges that a website has to go through. The problems, however, depend entirely on what type of site you are running. For an ecommerce website, it is easy to get things wrong when it comes to SEO.

In this article, we will discuss those challenges and also share some workaround (solution) related to the challenges. If you own an ecommerce website and are struggling with SEO, this article is for you.

1. Writing a strong product description

There are a number of challenges with providing a strong product description for all the products on your website. Generally, an ecommerce website consists of thousands of products, and they are automated to a certain extent. This leads to poor SEO quality when it comes to content and providing value to the reader.

Search engines, for example, will find little to negligible unique content to crawl. With so many pages to crawl and rank, no new content will result in no SEO exposure. According to reports, pages that rank on the first Google page have an average length of 1890 words.

As an ecommerce store, you need to update as many product information as you can, especially for the products that you want to rank on. Also, try to work on duplicate content and write unique content for all the products you have.

2. Low quality content

Written content should be of high quality. The need for high-quality content has risen after Google’s Panda Algorithm release. Also, as already mentioned, try to write unique and easy-to-read product description.

3. Loading speed

Website loading speed is one of the main reasons why visitors abandon a website or their cart. If you are running an ecommerce site, you shouldn’t neglect the time it takes for your website to load.

In short, every second counts and the longer it takes to load the website, the higher the chances of lower conversion rate, high bounce rate and so on. To get started, you need to have your website loading time somewhere between 2 seconds to 3 seconds. Anything above 3 seconds, you will start losing your visitors which in return will mean lost revenue.

To solve this problem, you need to get a good hosting and then do some website tweaks by installing cache plugins to optimize it further. If you are not sure which hosting to choose, you should go through genuine web hosting reviews on the web. Also, try to read multiple reviews from different sources to validate the findings and then finally jump to solving it.

For an ecommerce firm, it is always a hard time to optimize a website as they list thousands of products. On top of that, each product contains multiple images which also needs to be optimized. The best way to solve this is to take care of this from the start through using image optimization techniques such as compression.

4. SSL

SSL is essential for any website, and it becomes more critical when it comes to ecommerce. SSL is part of the technical SEO and provides not only security but also improves SEO in the eyes of Google.

SSL protects the content that is shared between the user and the website. On top of that, visitors are more likely to trust an ecommerce website that has SSL as they can use their payment options without worrying about data theft.

Right now, getting SSL is not at all hard. The firm Let’s Encrypt, for example, provides free SSL certificates.

5. Managing user reviews

For the starters, you will find many ecommerce websites who don’t let users review products or manage reviews properly. This approach can seriously damage a website’s SEO. A study done by Yotpo revealed that putting reviews on the ecommerce website resulted in a 30% growth in just one month.

For an ecommerce website, it is essential to understand that there are both positives and negatives of enabling user reviews on your website. However, if you see it from the SEO perspective, it is always better to have user reviews enabled on your site.

You also need to manage reviews to ensure that they have a better impact on your website SEO so don’t just allow any discussion and avoid fake or unnecessary reviews to keep your ecommerce website SEO healthy.

6. Site design and redesign

Another big challenge for an ecommerce website is having a proper site redesign, responsive and supportive of a multiple screen size. Many new ecommerce websites mainly focus on getting their site online without brainstorming their website design and optimizing it for SEO and user experience.

The biggest challenge here is to redesign the website after it has decent traffic and content. There is a huge change of growth if the design/redesign is done correctly. One such example includes Seer Interactive redesigning their client’s website with the client seeing a 75% increase in organic traffic.

Pawan Sahu is a digital marketer and blogger at MarkupTrend

Audience expansion and discovery: how to get ahead

One of the reasons we love paid search is because it performs, but its intent-driven nature means it’s not the channel to build scale. The way to do that is get in front of relevant audiences and generate demand for your product/service. This is where channels such as paid social come into play, and one of the best channels to really hone in on targeting various audiences is Facebook.

The most obvious ways to get in front of relevant audiences on Facebook are:

  • Lookalikes – leveraging CRM lists to create audiences that look similar to your customers. Get more advanced by segmenting your customer list into groups of identifiable characteristics (e.g. high lifetime value, high average order value) and target lookalikes of those groups
  • Use demographic data and interests of your prime customer base, and target people based on what you already know.

If you’re a semi-sophisticated marketer, you’ve already targeted the most obvious audiences. So what’s next? How do you continue to scale and find more audiences? In this article, we discuss some of the ways you can move forward with finding additional, relevant audiences to test to help push performance and scale.

Poach from competitors

You should absolutely be testing and targeting audiences that like your competitors. They are highly relevant, and as a bonus, you may be able to steal market share from your rivals. For good insights, go into interest targeting on Facebook, input your competitor names, and dig in.

Use Audience Insights tools from Facebook and Google

Advertisers can always use more personas, so it’s helpful to figure out characteristics of relevant audiences that may help you recognize new folks to target.

In Facebook’s Audience Insights tool, input your top competitors/brands and take a look at the audience make-up. For example, if you’re a cosmetics store/brand, you could put in audiences that have interest in Sephora and understand various traits such as demographic info and likes/interests. This can help expand on different personas to build and test in Facebook.

Google has a similar insights tool through which you can leverage Google’s data on your converting audiences to understand any additional traits and behaviors you may not have already known. Here is an example:

You can develop personas using the above information and craft additional audiences in Facebook to test. In the above scenario, for example, you may decide to create the audience “Female, age 25-34, Interests: Fashionista, fashion, etc.,” and target this exactly in Facebook (see below).

With the information presented to you from Google Insights on your existing customers/converters, you should be able to develop a variety of different personas, then create audiences based on those personas and test them in Facebook. For example, let’s say you’re selling machines that make single servings of popcorn. Your audience is probably full of young, single people who are huge Netflix fans or sports fans, for example. Popcorn is also gluten-free, so that gives you a huge segment to target if you haven’t already thought of it.

Get creative

It’s important to think about ways you can find new audiences without pulling the obvious levers. For example, if you know that your customers have a high household income, it’s likely you’re already targeting those incomes in Facebook and Google. But what are other ways to reach these people?

Target those who like and purchase more expensive brands. This will open doors to larger audiences (Facebook may not know their house-hold income, but since they purchase high-end products, chances are you are getting in front of relevant eyes). Another example: if you know your customers are ‘fashionistas’, then you can target those who like specific fashion bloggers (e.g. interests: Chiara Ferragni, Olivia Palermo).

You should also look at the top-converting placements in your Google Display Network (GDN) campaigns. If you’re spending a significant budget within GDN, this information can be very telling. For example, when running ads on a luxury home furniture site, we discovered that a large chunk of their converters were on celebrity gossip sites. You can take that information and craft an audience to target within Facebook.

Of course, if you have a bigger budget, you can (and should) invest in analytics software and support that pulls third-party information, and information from people visiting your site. But you can get a lot of insight for free – and should be taking advantage of that no matter how refined your paid analytics are.

Artificial intelligence for marketers

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has blown up in the past few years and is quickly starting to take over the world of business marketing. From digital assistants like Alexa and Google Home to Siri and search algorithms, AI allows consumers to access the information they want quickly and efficiently.

It’s predicted that the world of AI is only going to continue to grow until it’s incorporated into most aspects of our business and personal lives. Biz Journals anticipates that “62% of enterprises will use AI technologies by 2018”, which has increased from the 38% of businesses that were using it in 2017.

Freeing up marketers’ time

Some are afraid that AI is going to take jobs away from marketers by performing tasks usually carried out by humans, but this isn’t the case.

Rather, AI is able to quickly carry out a lot of the time-consuming, tedious tasks previously required by small business owners so that their time can be freed up to focus on more in-depth tasks that require a human’s level of personalization. Let AI handle tasks like recommendations and customer service so that marketers can focus on being creative and developing imaginative, engaging campaigns – something that AI is definitely not capable of doing.

Customer service is one area in which AI – specifically chatbots – should absolutely be used. In 2018 consumers expect to have their questions and concerns answered immediately, any hour of the day and day of the week, and this is a demand that humans can’t possibly meet, but robots can.

In addition to freeing up time for marketers, AI is accelerating marketing and sales. Ama.org explains that by “giving robots access to [your] brand you’re giving consumers the same access”. Embrace this thought and give AI opportunities to expand on your marketing efforts. Consumers are using AI in their search efforts in order to find what they’re looking for faster than they ever have before. Marketers need to make sure their content is optimized to meet these demands.

AI will be able to increase brand sophistication by analyzing copious amounts of consumer information. It uses machine learning to anticipate what a customer wants and needs faster than any human is able, and in turn this increases brand engagement and sophistication, and promotes customer loyalty.

The fact of the matter is that humans just don’t have the capability to access and analyze the huge amounts of customer data that AI can go through in a matter of seconds.

Data analysis

In order to truly reap the benefits of AI, it must be used correctly. AI should be used to deliver highly personalized and relevant messages. Consumers don’t want to feel like they’re being marketed to by a robot, even if that is the reality of the situation.

Generation Y and Z consumers want “a truly personalized experience [on websites] and within messages”. In the past, businesses could develop big marketing campaigns that appealed to huge amounts of people and they were wildly effective; but those days are gone.

Chatbots and virtual assistants are ‘the face’ of AI marketing and should be used accordingly. Although AI in marketing is more than just digital assistants, products like Alexa and Siri get most of the attention from businesses and from consumers.

CIO.com makes a good point in saying this could potentially be because these assistants act like humans, and even though consumers love computers and all their capabilities, they still want to feel like they’re interacting with a human. Remember this when crafting your AI marketing efforts and make sure your campaigns have that human element to them.

Also keep in mind that search queries using digital assistants are only supposed to increase in the coming years, so make sure your mobile site is optimized to meet this demand.

Social media marketing

AI can also be used in social media marketing. It’s already been used for targeting advertising, but AI can do so much more in the field of social media to help followers connect and engage with brands.

AI can quickly scan through social media content, data, and user history to help marketers create more relevant content. Facebook uses AI extensively to do things like automatic face tagging in photos to determine which stories show up in a user’s newsfeed.

Despite how much better AI can make the user experience on social media platforms, many companies are still hesitant to incorporate it into their own social media marketing efforts. Hopefully this article has shown that instead of taking away jobs from marketers, AI will be able to free up some time so that they can focus on tasks that need a human element to them instead of drowning in data and mundane chores.

Have you incorporated AI into your business marketing plan? How do you anticipate AI impacting your company’s marketing goals? Comment in the section below! Also, for more information on how AI is projected to impact marketing in the future, check out this article by Search Engine Watch.

Amanda DiSilvestro is a writer for No Risk SEO, an all-in-one reporting platform for agencies. You can connect with Amanda on LinkedIn, or check out her content services at amandadisilvestro.com.

Keyword stuffing is terrible for your SEO. Here’s what to do instead

There’s a seemingly intuitive – but in practice misguided – logic that continues to lead marketers astray when trying to optimize website content for SEO. Since search engines are designed to accept keywords as input and show search results that are most relevant to those terms, you might reason: “Why not cram those keywords into my content as much as possible?” Well, because you’ll be doing a lot more harm than good.

This practice is called keyword stuffing, and it actually used to be fairly successful – until search engines wised up to it and began penalizing websites that did it. Today, stuffing a keyword into your content too many times can actually knock the stuffing out of your search rankings, or even cause your content to be removed from search listings entirely.

Why is the practice of keyword stuffing so problematic?

Search engines are in the business of connecting an audience with the content that will satisfy their search intentions, which means they use algorithms that do their very best to favor high-quality, informative content. When content isn’t written for a human audience, but is instead structured to game an algorithm, the result is usually a spammy and artificial read that doesn’t serve a site visitor’s needs and (in almost all cases) doesn’t deserve their attention.

Consequently, keyword stuffing is rightfully considered a black hat technique that goes against SEO best practices.

How does keyword stuffing work – and how do you know if you’re doing it?

Unfortunately, many marketers and content creators still practice keyword stuffing (believing it to be an advantageous strategy for the logic described above). However, doing so can and will cripple their sites’ standings with search engines as a result.

Here are two examples of the more common keyword stuffing varieties (i.e. do not do these):

Repeating the keyword over and over, in full view of your site visitor

Say that a kitchen appliance ecommerce site wants a content page to rank highly in search results for the term ‘most affordable toaster’. An example of keyword stuffing would be if they unnecessarily included the phrase ‘most affordable toaster’ line after line, even jamming in ‘most affordable toaster’ where the term is out of context or irrelevant to the content topic. Most affordable toaster. In the most egregious cases, the content may just repeat the keyword in a block of text. Did I mention most affordable toaster?

There’s actually a useful equation that should be applied as a best practice to govern how often a keyword ought to be included in a piece of content. While the guideline is flexible, it’s best to aim for a keyword density of 2% or less, where keyword density = the number of times the keyword appears in the copy divided by the number of total words in the copy. For example, the above paragraph is 88 words and includes ‘most affordable toaster’ five times, giving a keyword density of 5.7% – much too high!

Including the keyword invisibly

In an attempt to avoid alienating readers by making them read spammy, unhelpful copy, some sites will stuff keywords where they aren’t visible. This can include camouflaging text by making it the same color as the webpage’s background, or placing text within the page’s code, such as in meta, alt, and comment tags. Even more so than with visible keyword stuffing techniques, these efforts are aimed solely for the consumption of search engine crawlers and not actual human readers.

This attempt to fool the algorithms that determine search rankings is (once again) not as clever as it might seem, because search engines actually can and do recognize these misguided efforts and penalize pages’ search rankings in response.

Using keywords correctly

As with most aspects of life, doing the right thing is the right thing to do if you want your site’s visibility to grow. Attempting to deceive search engines with keyword stuffing shortcuts isn’t going to work – following legitimate SEO best practices will.

It all begins with creating content with real visitors in mind, and then building out that content to meet their needs. Google offers guidance on producing quality content pieces around targeted keywords, suggesting that sites should “focus on creating useful, information-rich content that uses keywords appropriately and in context”.

One important technique – which is nearly the opposite of keyword stuffing – is to be sure that each content page focuses on a single primary keyword that is closely representative of the content as a whole. Ideally, this keyword should be a popular search term with minimal competition, making it a ripe target for your page to achieve a high rank. By focusing each page on a separate keyword, you make it significantly easier for search engines to understand what each content page is about and will avoid keyword cannibalization (where two or more of your pages end up fighting for attention).

Another best practice is to make sure content pieces include more than 300 words in the main body copy. Doing so alerts search engines that the content is probably robust enough to offer valuable information, and it helps with ensuring a keyword density of under 2%.

And while keyword stuffing will earn negative results, it’s a good practice to incorporate secondary keywords, keyword synonyms, and long-tail variations of the primary keyword within content copy in order to reinforce the topic’s focus.

It’s also perfectly acceptable (and smart) to place the primary keyword once within page elements, including the page title, one or more subheadings, the title tag, meta description, one or more image alt tags, the first paragraph, and near to the end of the content.

By avoiding keyword stuffing while still providing search engines clarity around the keywords that your content pieces should be associated with, you can:

Earn the higher search ranking placements that lead to more robust organic traffic
Provide the quality of content that rewards (and brings back) your audience and customers.

Kim Kosaka is the Director of Marketing at Alexa.com, whose tools provide insight into digital behavior that marketers use to better understand and win over their audience.

How to organize your keyword lists

Ahrefs clicks

Keyword research is a fundamental tactic that I have seen completely transform the overall marketing strategies of those who take it seriously.

In fact, just about any marketing area begins with keyword research, be it competitive analysis, traffic growth, content planning, or PPC strategy. It has always been the foundation of online marketing and it still is – even though it’s rapidly evolving.

I have seen clients go from barely functioning marketing plans to full-scale content marketing projects that up their rankings and conversions. Keywords are serious weapons.

Why organize keywords?

Keyword lists are messy. They contain every little variation of each particular query because they include whatever enough people spontaneously type into the search box.

We search in a more disorganized way than we speak. For example, we could search ‘research keywords’, ‘how to research keywords’, ‘research keywords how to’, ‘keyword research tips’, or even ‘keyword research how to tips’ – and all of that will basically mean the same thing (i.e. we want to know how to research keywords).

Keyword research tools like SEMrush and Ahrefs will provide you with hundreds of thousands of those keyword strings (as well as marketing inspiration).

But, how do you make sense of all those lists that leave us with a huge pile of dumped keywords organized with no rhyme or reason? How do you turn them into plans and actions?

This is precisely why you should be taking the time to organize your keywords. It might not be a very fun process, but it is a very important one.

Here are some tips.

Usefulness and value

One popular way to organize your keywords is by usefulness of the keyword. How you define that is up to you, but many marketers categorize it by price per click balanced with the projected click rate. They also look at how likely it is that the keyword would help them rank on the first page or (more recently) get a featured snippet:

  • Top: the absolute best and most expensive keywords that you might try and target in the future, depending on time and budget, as well as how useful the end result would be in light of those factors
  • Moderate: middle ground keywords that cost less than the top, but have the highest potential within that price level. This is where most of your research should lead you and the largest portion of your spreadsheet is going to be dedicated to these
  • Bottom: the cheapest keywords to target aren’t worth much when it comes to primary keyphrases. However, you may want keep an eye on them anyway and sometimes look to them either for inspiration on future phrases (to expand on), or as secondary/tertiary phrases for projects that require them.

Featured tool: I like using Ahrefs “clicks” data to determine most useful phrases, i.e. phrases that are able to send a lot of traffic, and those where my site ranks pretty well already:

[No other keyword research tool beats this insight.]

Relevancy

The abundance of keyword strings in your lists often mean pretty much the same thing. They are always in your way preventing you from focusing on other important aspects of keyword research, so getting rid of those (or rather grouping them) is the first thing to do.

This is where keyword clustering comes in handy. I have already explained the tactic in detail here.

Featured tool: Serpstat looks at Google SERPs for each phrase and determines related queries by overlapping URLs. This is pretty much the only tool that can do that, to the best of my knowledge:

Serpstat grouping

Search intent

Another way to organize keywords is by intent, which is usually more straightforward. Set some goals about what you want to accomplish – not just with keyword research but your whole brand. Use that to inform your keyword strategy and separate each goal by intent so you have a list of keywords for each.

Say that you want to target the market for affordable time management programs. You will want to increase brand visibility, get a featured snippet in a popular query and bring more attention to your social media. Make keyword lists for those three goals.

Usually search intent puts keywords into four groups:

  • Commercial ‘high intent’ intent: these users are ready to buy now
  • Informational intent: these users are willing to read, not ready to buy but may opt-in and stick around for a bit longer
  • Transactional intent: these users can be both (researching, then buying)
  • Navigational intent: these users are interested in a specific brand. Depending on whether that’s your brand or someone else’s, you may want to turn them into believers or snatch them for the competitor.

Featured tool: searching Google itself will give you some idea on what Google has found the intent to be. For example, if you see shopping results, you can be fairly sure Google has come to the conclusion that most of these searchers wanted to buy things.

Search intent

[Chart source: Digitaleagles.]

Brand-focused queries

These should be a separate tab in your spreadsheet. Every company needs to make it easier for people to find you. Do this based on your brand name, [competitor alternatives], etc., which is an easy way to make sure your bases are covered and a simple way to organize your research.

Another way to do this is to target phrases that are negative and then prove them wrong with content. An example would be a phrase like, “Is [product name] a scam?” When users search it, they will find that no, you are not a scam and are not listed on any scam sites. This reassures them, even though the original search was negative.

Don’t forget to research all kinds of queries your (or your competitors’) brand includes:

Serpstat

Search query brand

[You may also want to label these queries by sentiment to give your content team more clues on how to address each one.]

By modifier

I always do these in their own list. A modifying keyword is one that uses an adjective to describe what is being searched for. For instance, they may search for ‘cheap project management platform’ or ‘free ways to manage teams’.

Words like free, cheap, top, best, etc., are fantastic modifiers and are easy to organize in their own section. Once you have had some trial and error you will know which work best.

Organizing by modifiers helps you evaluate your niche trend to match your content and conversion funnel strategy. Do your potential customers tend to search for cheap or exclusive types? Are they looking for DIY or pre-built solutions? Organizing by modifiers gives all those important answers.

I wrote about this type of keyword organizing in an older article at Moz:

Organize by modifiers

Use a template that includes all relevant information

Finally, make sure you are using as much information as possible. Add volume/clicks, difficulty and anything else you can think to use. You may also consider adding labels for which type of action each keyword requires:

  • Optimize old content
  • Create new page.

As well as page type it’s good for, e.g.:

  • Product page
  • Product list
  • Blog post
  • Video, etc.

There may be more labels if you are optimizing a local business website. Michael Gray described some in his article here.

That information should also include how it is working over time. I have made graphs with Excel using the data and gotten a much clearer picture of what is and isn’t bringing in the results I want. You can tweak from there.

Do you have a tip for organizing keywords? Let us know in the comments.

What to consider when selecting marketing channels

Selecting the marketing channels to use is a complex decision – there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for distributing your product. Whether you’re just getting started or you’ve been in business for a while, it can be difficult to find effective ways to reach your target market.

One way to make the process simpler is to break down all the factors that play into channel selection. Your customer base, your available resources, and your product itself can all help guide your decision. Take the following factors into consideration as you weigh your options, and you’ll have an easier time choosing the right marketing channels for your business.

What are the physical attributes of your product?

Sometimes the physical attributes of a product dictate how it should be distributed. Not everything can be easily shipped, and some items need to be handled more carefully than others.

If your product is large and heavy, for instance, shipping it across the country may not be practical. And if you sell something perishable – like food or cosmetics – you’ll probably want to get that product into customers’ hands as quickly as possible. In cases like these, it’s best to look for a short marketing channel.

However, if your product is durable and easy to ship, you have more options. In this case, a longer distribution channel with more middlemen may give you certain advantages, like a wider distribution area.

What kind of brand image do you want to create?

Your brand’s overall image is shaped by your customers’ buying experience, from start to finish. Where and how a person buys your product is just as important as the quality of the product itself. As you consider your options for distribution channels, ask which support the kind of brand image you want to cultivate.

For instance, if you want people to associate your brand with uniqueness or exclusivity, you probably wouldn’t want to sell your products at Walmart, even if that meant reaching more customers. Rather, you’d probably want to target more exclusive retailers, or even focus on distributing your product online yourself.

How technical is your product?

The more specialized or difficult your product is to use, the more you’ll benefit from using short marketing channels or selling directly to customers. That’s because people are often reluctant to take a risk on an ‘intimidating’ product unless they’ve built up some trust with the business first. Leads must feel assured that you’ll help them with setup and provide tech support if something goes wrong. For example, if you sell specialized software or complex machinery, you’ll probably want to focus on choosing leads carefully and building relationships with them – not distributing your product as far and wide as possible.

Are you selling to individuals or businesses?

Business to business selling requires a different approach than business to consumer selling. If you’re selling to individuals, retail may be a good option for you, since most B2C businesses don’t need to build personal relationships with customers.

However, if you have a B2B business, retail is out of the picture. It’s too impersonal, and it won’t put your product in front of the right customers when they need it. Direct selling or selling through an agent will likely be your best bet.

How big and geographically diverse is your target market?

Where do you want to sell your product, and how many people do you expect to buy it? Look for marketing channels that can accommodate both the area you want to cover and the volume of customers you’re anticipating. For a small, local business, this could mean setting up your own store or selling your product door-to-door. If you want to reach a wider market, the internet is a good option that’s accessible even to small, new businesses.

Where and how does your target market like to shop?

Do some market research and figure out how your target audience prefers to shop. Do they visit retail stores? Do they place bulk orders online? Are they inclined to make impulse purchases, or do they research products carefully before making a decision? Knowing your market’s shopping habits will make it easier to position your product where buyers can find it.

How much time and effort can you spend on distribution?

Distributing a product takes a lot of resources and organization. Handing the product off to a middleman makes the process easier for many businesses. However, if you have the resources to do your own distribution through direct selling or an ecommerce site, you retain control over how your product gets into customers’ hands. You might also make more profits in the long run.

Which marketing channels do your competitors use?

It’s important to know how your competitors sell their products to customers. If you aren’t sure which channels your competitors are using, do a little research to find out.

You can use this information in a couple of ways. The first way is to adopt the same marketing channels your competitors use, or find very similar ones (and this includes social media). This strategy can work well because you know that your competitors’ channels have a built-in market for the types of products you sell.

Another approach is to avoid your competitors’ marketing channels entirely. Instead, look for different channels where your rivals have no reach, and sell there. This can be a very effective way to cut down on competition. However, it can be hard to find marketing channels that are both effective and untapped in your field. If you’re good at thinking outside the box and you have the resources to do plenty of promotion, this strategy might be worth a try.

Which channels offer you the most advantages?

Some marketing channels will offer you more advantageous partnerships than others. Make a list of the channels you’re considering, and ask yourself the following questions:

Will certain middlemen promote your product more than others?
How will your choice of middlemen affect your bottom line? How can you maximize your profits?
Do any channels have particularly favorable or unfavorable policies? For instance, if a potential partner wants the exclusive rights to distribute your product, that might not be a good deal for you
What kind of reputation does each channel have? Is their business financially sound? Are they known for being reliable and pleasant to work with?
The take-away

There are a lot of moving parts to consider as you select marketing channels for your product. Deciding doesn’t have to be overwhelming, though. Weigh these nine important factors, both on their own and in relation to each other, as you consider your options. By putting plenty of thought and analysis into your decision, you’ll give yourself the best possible odds of selecting marketing channels that benefit your business for years to come.

Amanda DiSilvestro is a writer for No Risk SEO, an all-in-one reporting platform for agencies. You can connect with Amanda on Twitter and LinkedIn, or check out her content services at amandadisilvestro.com.

Gamification: here comes a new challenger

Over the past few years, marketing segmentation has come on leaps and bounds, whether it’s building separate social audience clusters or sites adapting user journeys based on behavior. But, despite these ongoing improvements to content personalization, there’s still so often something missing… a hook or perhaps a different perspective altogether.

In this article, we’ll look at what gamification means for you and your business as well as delving into some of the best examples around and why they work so well.

What is gamification?

Gamification simply means using game mechanics, designs, and architecture techniques to engage with a range of users. Progression is heavily featured to ensure users are consistently motivated to achieve goals that ultimately benefit both the user and the provider.

Gamification doesn’t necessarily mean playing games. Simply put, it’s a guided ‘points system’ that encourages you towards certain behaviors that are mutually beneficial. It’s important that the system isn’t so complicated that it only caters to the super techy, as such broad appeal is often a must.

Traditional gamers are often an elitist bunch, we thrive on challenges so much that they can define us (or our avatars). Games have easily outstripped Hollywood in terms of revenue-grabbing entertainment, as the toggle graph below clearly shows.

Why is it so effective?

In a nutshell, it works by adding an additional layer of cumulative bonus to the common process of purchases or actions that would have otherwise been undertaken regardless of any additional reward. Gamification also speaks to the very human desires of competition, status, achievement and social interaction.

The Octalysis model

You may have seen this model floating around since 2003 from Yu-kai Chou (http://yukaichou.com/) but it’s so important in understanding why gamification works that it deserves a read-through. I’ve done my best to summarize it for you. Firstly, if you find people claiming to be experts, or licensed members of Octalysis. Bear in mind that models should always be open to interpretation and that as a business, you should strive to be the experts on your customers, their behavior and how to change it.

The model starts with eight core components:

Meaning

Elitism: being part of something unique to you or a collective that you want to belong to.

Beginners luck: the ease at which rewards can be obtained immediately on starting.

Free lunch: everyone can see meaning in free stuff.

Progression: whether it’s your career, black box score or swimming badge; admit it, you love to progress.

Samaritan: if your decisions or purchases help real people (outside of the game/process), the feel-good factor can be immense and provides justification for time spent/increased cost.

Eco warrior: helping the world is ‘on trend’ and has never been more important. If your points can correlate with trees planted or plastic recycled, you’ll be more inclined to continue.

Social influence

Friending: finding and developing friendships with like-minded individuals (potentially behind the digital safety of your device) can be easy and rewarding.

Social gifting: that feel-good factor where you’ve been able to provide your friends or kin with something of value.

Group progress: helping movements progress as a collective can be extremely rewarding, especially if it has an impact outside of your social circle.

Brag factor: getting one over on your colleagues or friends gives a good chance to brag.

Digital water cooler: not all businesses have a water cooler. Social networks allow people to lower their guards and have a good natter.

Conformity: while there are plenty of us who like to break moulds, conformity offers a sense of belonging and community.

Tutelage: teaching others is a great avenue for ‘feel-good’ vibes.

Unpredictability

Random rewards: Most people are natural gamblers and if you could win a prize of £50 or a random prize of £10, £30 or £100, rest assured most people would select the latter.

Sudden (unexpected) rewards: everyone loves surprises.

Seasonal bonuses: without overdoing it, latch onto trending events that are relevant to your audience or your product.

Avoidance

Rightful heritage: giving a user something (for free) making them feel like it’s theirs and threatening to take it away unless a desired action is performed.

Evanescent opportunities: requests for immediate action to win exclusive rewards or unlock a special power.

Status quo sloth: coercing users into changing actions into habits. Habitual behavior is difficult to break and requires effort, encouraging it can help drive brand/app loyalty.

FOMO: fear of missing out, making users think that by not performing an action they are minimizing their experience v the vast majority of other users.

Sunk cost prison: After investing time in a game, your decision to quit will confirm that niggling suspicion that it’s been a big waste of time.

Scarcity

Lack of abundance: avoid providing users with everything they need, we’ll chase what’s out of reach but get quickly fed up of what’s easily to hand.

Appointment dynamics: use time to coerce users into certain behaviors at certain times, seasonal events and prizes can be a great way to achieve this.

Torture breaks: cooldowns and diminishing returns can prevent users from abusing and/or getting obsessed with your service, it also prevents them getting ‘burnt out’.

Oren Klaff’s ‘Pitch Anything’ references scarcity and prizing in an interesting way:

  • We chase that which moves away from us
  • We want what we cannot have
  • We only place value on things that are difficult to obtain.

Ownership

Stuff: acquisition of physical or digital assets or products.

Potential avatar: ownership of a digital avatar and their wellbeing.

Personalized experience: something that is owned and cherished if it provides value.

Interaction: if your gamification provides users with the opportunity to interact with their treasured belongings (such as phones) it can strengthen the gamification experience.

Empowerment

Unlocks: allow users to unlock new things and levels of progression.

Real-time influence: show users that their actions are having an actual impact on the elements of life or the digital world you said that they would.

Instant feedback: giving users a review feature helps them to feel listened to and valued.

Time locked boosts: providing double points for certain periods of time can help users to feel ‘super powered’ for a short period of time.

Accomplishment

Status: because we all know being level 10 makes you way cooler than those level 6 scrubs.

Leaderboard: seeing how you stack up against other… competitors.

High fives: getting congratulations outside of the expected rewards is often encouraging.

‘Boss’ fights or large milestones: pushes to achieve harder tasks in fixed time frames can act as focus points.

You may find that you’re already using a gamification process within your current customer journey. According to Bitcatcha, which does website speed tests, over 50% of startups integrated gaming elements into their future plans, and over 70% of major businesses used gamification to encourage participation in 2016.

Some key examples of gamification are:

Nike Fuel and Nike Running Club

One the most popular exercise apps out there, NRC pits you against your friends and yourself. Constantly feeding you with your success as the App’s key reward system.

Monopoly: McDonalds

Nothing says western culture more than the two core pillars of our society, gluttony and wealth. McDonalds have teamed up with Hasbro to entice and incentivize the consumption of fries and burgers.

Nissan Carwings

The Nissan Leaf comes with this neat quirk where you can connect your mobile via an app and not only work to improve the vehicle’s efficiency but also rank yourself against other Leaf owners.

Code Combat

Here is a great example of knowing your audience. There is a gross crossover in the two fields of traditional RPG gaming and ‘coding nerds’: this educational platform is one of the best.

TOM’s Shoes (humanity hero)

Progression and free stuff is all well and good but imagine if you could see the impact your purchase had on another culture, one far less fortunate: Toms is a great example of this with their one for one campaign https://www.toms.co.uk/improving:lives

Operational improvements

Gamification can be used to help managers who are looking to introduce a more fun and motivating system that promotes not just the completion of tasks (some likely mundane) but also an eagerness and competitive drive to increase your employees desire to ‘get stuff done’.

Bluewolf : A business approach to gamification.

https://www.bluewolf.com/bluewolf:now/gamifying:social:collaboration:how:we:did:it:bluewolf

Chorewars : Rank up your character by completing household chores.

http://www.chorewars.com/

Habitica : Similar to the above, but with pixel art .

https://habitica.com/static/home

Theemailgame : Earn points by keeping your inbox clean and tidy.

http://emailga.me/

If you want to use gamification (or elements of) within your business, be it internally or externally simply make sure you consider as many points within the octalysis model as possible with a focus on free stuff, wider impact and social elements for end users; or for managers, proof of achievement, competition and end rewards.

Google Shopping and how to capitalize on your new shop window

Google Shopping has been growing in prominence in the search results, which is no surprise given the attractiveness of the image-based ads and the mobile-friendly experience.

Advertisers have enjoyed the extremely high conversion rates driven by the natural filtration shopping ads deliver. Much like an offline shopping experience, a customer can decide if they like an item (and the price) before the click ever happens.

As the Shopping results have matured, the higher conversion rates have naturally led to higher costs as the market balances out but only recently, Google announced a discount on clicks bought through a different comparison provider within Google Shopping results.

Clearly, Shopping presents a huge opportunity for many digital retailers. But when you take a step back, there’s another reason that brands should be focusing on this channel.

In addition to having high conversion rates because they filter out clicks from disinterested users, the Shopping results are a really good way to attract browsing behavior from a better qualified audience from higher up the funnel.

The results act as a shop window to your site, attracting in the right type of customer. Normally, non-converting traffic is considered to be of low value, but suddenly with Shopping this traffic is more targeted and so users are more likely to re-engage at a later time, or through a different channel.

When creating attribution models for clients we have noticed that Shopping often works best when viewed on a first click model. This strongly supports the idea that Shopping offers an inspiration-based path to conversion, attracting users to your site for the first time, when ordinarily they may have opted for a different competitor in the market.

Traditional search ads tend to compete on discounts and delivery messages, which are no match for the product desirability you can convey in well-optimized Shopping ads and campaigns.

So how can advertisers capitalize on this opportunity?

The path to Shopping success can be broken down into three steps – build, enhance and optimize.

At the heart of any good Shopping campaign is building an accurate and detailed Shopping feed. Without this, it will be near impossible to compete effectively. This task can be tricky without the right technical expertise, but there’s plenty of specialist third parties who can help. Once the feed is in good shape, building a basic structure using the low, medium and high priority settings, allows advertisers to focus on top performing keywords and also separate brand and non-brand searches.

Secondly, advertisers can drive more clicks and increase conversion rates by enhancing campaigns. What’s crucial here is sharing data and insight from traditional text ad campaigns. How can you tailor product titles and descriptions according to what is performing well in the text ads? Supplemental feeds are helpful here, allowing you to make changes on the fly, without altering the main feed. You can introduce sales messaging like this too.

Finally, how can you differentiate yourself from the competition and optimize effectively? It’s worth thinking about what needs to be conveyed in a Shopping ad that isn’t shown in the image.such as a premium material or high thread count. All the time bearing in mind that Shopping is a numbers game and there should be a clear correlation between cost per click and return.

Where the optimisation point becomes really interesting is if an advertiser has physical stores as well as ecommerce sites. There are further gains to be had here with store visit tracking showing extremely strong results. The propensity for a user to click on a Shopping result and then visit the actual store is very high.

It’s evident that Google Shopping results are the new shop window, attracting qualified visits to both an advertiser’s website and physical stores, and that capitalizing on Shopping offers advertisers value beyond the last click ROI.