Video and search: YouTube, Google, the alternatives and the future

When it comes to being visible online, video content is increasingly proving its worth as a way to grab attention and – crucially – to engage meaningfully with internet users.

Currently, one third of all time spent online is accounted for by watching video and it is predicted that 80% of all internet traffic will come from video in 2019.

Videos are engaging growing numbers of users and are consequently having an impact on the SERPs. Forrester estimates that the chances of getting a page one spot on Google increases by 53 times with video. This also translates into clicks; video has been seen to boost traffic from organic listings by as much as 157%.

Video is appearing in an increasing range of contexts and the type of video content available to marketers – such as live streaming, 360 and virtual reality (VR) – is diversifying. So how is the way we search for video changing?

YouTube: the video search engine?

YouTube is the second most popular site in the world according to Alexa. It receives around 30m visits per day.

The behavior of its users also proves the stickiness of video content. Visitors on average spend more than 8 minutes on YouTube per day, and each visit takes in an average of over four pages on the site.

However, YouTube’s popularity and high rates of engagement do not mean that all these users are coming to the site and using its search tool to find the content they need. We know enough about YouTube behavior to understand traffic is most likely to enter the site via a link to a certain video (often from Google) and that users frequently navigate on-site by clicking the suggested videos in the sidebar or watching what the service autoplays next.

That said, there is some research out there to highlight how big a search engine YouTube is.

Back in 2017, Moz and Jumpshot looked at (US only) data which split up Google’s properties and included other leading sites (e.g. Amazon) in an effort to better understand search behaviors. Of ten sites, YouTube ranked third for search share with 3.71% of searches. This is lower than Google.com and Google Images, but ahead of Yahoo!, Bing and Facebook.

Video and Google Search

While 3.71% may seem like a relatively small piece of the pie, when we remember the scale of search activity, YouTube certainly holds its own as a property of this type.

While it is important to understand ranking, visibility and optimization with regard to YouTube’s SERPs, search marketers also need to be aware of the importance of Google. YouTube gets more than 16% of its traffic from search and nearly two out of every hundred clicks on Google’s search results pages goes to a YouTube video.

And we can expect this relationship between the two platforms to get stronger.

Google has owned YouTube for more than 10 years and it’s unsurprising that the clear majority of videos the service includes in its SERPs are hosted there. The search engine is also constantly exploring ways for displaying video results in an increasingly rich and intuitive way.

The above example for the search “how to use a baby bjorn” shows the rich feature video carousel in the top position of the SERPs. As we might expect, all of these results are from YouTube.

[For more analysis of YouTube and Google Video SERPs see Amanda DiSilvestro’s great piece published last autumn.]

Alternative options and alerting Google to video hosted on your own site

It doesn’t take too much time searching for video on Google to see that there are alternatives to YouTube. In the first case, there are a number of direct competitors to the service.

Vimeo, for example, has marked itself out as a quality high definition alternative to other video platforms, even while YouTube et al have made moves to offer HD too. Similarly, Amazon-owned Twitch specializes in live-streaming and is a key destination for millions of gaming fans worldwide. Live-streaming certainly happens elsewhere, but Twitch has succeeded within that niche.

Marketers don’t necessarily need to upload video to YouTube or other similar sites in order to be ranked in Google’s SERPs. With suitable on-page markup and sitemaps, video can be hosted on your own site and Google will have a good chance (though nothing is guaranteed!) at indexing this content for relevant searches. Of course, these videos need to be well-optimized with regard to their title, description and thumbnail too. [There’s more information about on-site video optimization here.]

Social video

When researching competitors to YouTube, we should also look at social media platforms; how video content is being shared by marketers and brands within their feeds, and how users are finding video on these platforms.

Back in February, HubSpot published some interesting data looking into how social channels are increasingly becoming destinations for video across selected markets.

While YouTube is clearly seen to be the dominant place to watch video online, Facebook is showing signs of catching up. This is particularly the case in the Latin American markets, where Facebook reaches more than 300m people.

Like Google, Facebook is responding to the desire its users have for watching video. This is reflected when searching on the service, with playable content being very clickable and dominant when making searches, and users also being able to filter video results. Around 1.5bn searches occur on Facebook every day.

The service is also increasingly keen to promote live video content, as well as emerging types of rich video content such as 360 and VR with its Facebook360 arm.

The challenge for Facebook regarding how it delivers content to users via its site search function, is that it needs to balance content uploaded from within the friend networks of its users, with other public posts – and of course it’s keen to favor the former. It is also a closed ecosystem, and will only crawl content that has been shared within the platform.

This is great opportunity for marketers, though. They can work to create video content that is tailored for, and visible in, the Facebook newsfeed. But this content also needs to be searchable within the platform by ensuring key phrases are used in posts. It is a relatively uncompetitive ecosystem in that regard – especially compared with YouTube and Google.

Predictions for the future of video search

Video and search is a fascinating area. It’s fair to say that looking at YouTube, Google and Facebook is just scraping the surface when speculating how the landscape is likely to change.

Social platforms are undoubtedly seeing more video content hit their feeds. This is coming from the users themselves, but also from the brands and marketers wanting to engage with them. It is so important for social media channels to have engaged users, so it’s understandable that they want to promote the use of video in that context.

Additionally, we know that YouTube and Google depend on each other – and we can expect they will continue to do so. Even when social channels can start matching YouTube for video viewer numbers, it is always going to be difficult for videos shared via social channels to compete with YouTube in Google’s SERPs. The same goes for alternative video platforms and even perfectly optimized on-site video with great markup. YouTube always seems to have the edge in Google, and it looks set to stay that way for the time being.

But technologies and behaviors do change. One way Google is forced to make non-YouTube video content visible is when users are searching for a niche – such as the Live TV game streaming found on Twitch or HD content found on Vimeo. Users may well begin circumventing searching for video content on Google/YouTube altogether should Facebook and other social platforms really succeed in being ‘the platform’ for 360 and VR video content.

With new video technologies always emerging, and with 5G and the Internet of Things just around the corner, web properties that can be the first to really succeed in pushing other types of video content before YouTube will see searchers come to them first. YouTube, with the help of Google, may continue to dominate, but it can’t be all things to all people in the world of video.

Luke Richards is a Search Engine Watch columnist.

The ultimate guide to meta tags: why they matter and how to optimize them for impact

Whether you work in an agency or in-house, SEO success has a lot to do with influencing other functions, for example, web development, site merchandising, content marketing, PR, etc. As SEO professionals, we do have our own secret sauce to cook with: meta tags.

Although meta tags are only used for search engines, they are still an essential part of Google’s core algorithm and must not be ignored. We will go through the most common meta tags and highlight their usefulness so you can easily check if you’re spending enough time where it counts.

Meta tags defined

Meta tags, or HTML elements, are codes of text that help search engines and website visitors better understand the content found on a website page. Meta tags are not the actual content that is featured on the page.

The purpose of meta tags is instead to describe the content. Therefore, these HTML elements are found in the section of the HTML page, not within the section. Since meta tags need to be written in the HTML code, you may or may not be the one implementing the tags, but knowing what’s most essential will set you up for success.

Why is it still important?

We know that SEO is evolving and the importance of keywords has changed, but let’s keep in mind the impact of the actual query that is being searched for. A search query is formulated in words, and search engine users are essentially scanning the SERPs for the words they entered into the search bar.

Search engines understand that their users are expecting to see results containing the exact words they entered. Let’s say I’m thinking of starting a business and run a search for the query “how to come up with a business name.” As I scan through the SERPs, my eye is looking for pages that contain the words “come up with business name.” While search engines may indulge in semantic search and latent semantic indexing, serving up results that contain the exact words of the search query will remain a strong asset.

Must have meta tags

Title tags and meta descriptions are the bread and butter of SEO. These are essential HTML elements that are needed for a page to rank well organically. As a refresher, let’s look more closely at them and why they are on the list of must haves.

Title tags

A title tag is an HTML element that describes the topic of a page. It is displayed at the top of the browser in the title bar and in the listing titles of a search engine results page. The presence of a search friendly term in the title tag is still a strong relevancy signal for search engines. Also, search engines will bold keywords from the user’s search in the title. This helps attract a higher click-through rate because internet users scan search results looking for their search term. If they don’t see it, then they are less likely to click on the listing, therefore, reducing CTRs.

Title tags must be relevant to the content on the page. The main keyword should be the first word in the page title, and the closer to the start of the title tag a keyword is, the more helpful it will be for ranking purposes.

Meta descriptions

A meta description is an HTML meta tag that provides a brief description of the page. Although it is not visible to users on the site, search engines often use meta descriptions as the brief snippet of text underneath a title tag in the search engine results. Well-written meta description tags, while not important to search engine rankings, are extremely important in promoting user click-through from search engine result pages.

Meta descriptions should be written using compelling copy. Since the meta description serves as advertising copy in search results, this is your chance to draw searchers in. Describe the page clearly and use a friendly marketing voice to create an appealing description that will attract a higher click-through rate.

Alt text for images

Alt text is an attribute added to an image tag in HTML to help search engines understand what an image is about. Although search engines cannot see the images we post on our websites, they can read what is featured in the alt attribute. While most searches are not image related, there is still a strong opportunity to acquire organic search engine visitors and boost brand recognition through impressions earned for images.

Alt text should be written clearly and contain text that describes the image. If your image is of an object, consider using adjectives like the color or the size of the object to provide more details on what exactly the image is displaying. Moreover, alt text is not for search engines only: they represent a necessary element to meet basic accessibility standards. Alt text provides a clear text alternative of the image for screen reader users.

No follow tags

Google defines “nofollow” as a way for webmasters to tell search engines not to follow links on a specific page. The rel=”nofollow” attribute can be quite beneficial in ensuring that PageRank is not being transferred across links found on your site. Nofollow tags are essential if you are participating in any kind of paid sponsorship with the intent of earning links.

No index tags

The “noindex” tag is used to notify search engine crawlers not to include a particular page in it’s search results. These tags are essential if there is content on your website that you would like to keep out of the search results. Noindex tags can be implemented either as a meta tag or as an HTTP response header.

Nice to have meta tags

In a highly competitive organic search landscape, “nice to have” meta tags, while not as essential as those listed above, should not be overlooked.

Canonical links

The canonical link element is used when a page’s content is available through multiple URLs, creating duplicate URLs. In order to consolidate the duplicate entries and help the search engine select the best URL, we recommend using a canonical link to indicate which the indexable URL should be.

Simply identify a single preferred URL (generally the simplest one), and add the rel=”canonical” link element, using that preferred URL, to every variant of the page. When Google crawls the site, it will consolidate duplicates within it’s index to the preferred URL.

HTML heading tags (H1-H6)

HTML heading tags are a key component of semantic search, as they provide key contextual clues to the search engines and help them better understand both a page’s content and its overall structure. Search engine bots use the order of heading tags (,

, etc.) to better understand the structure and relevance of a page’s content. Therefore, HTML heading tags should be ordered on the page by their importance (h1 is considered the highest, h6 is the lowest). In the absence of sectioning content tags, the presence of a heading tag will still be interpreted as the beginning of a new content section.

Meta robots attribute

The meta robots attribute is a piece of code used to instruct search engines on how to interact with a web page. Similar to a robots.txt file that informs search engines on how to crawl a web page, the meta robots attribute provides parameters to search engines on whether they should crawl or index a page’s content.

The “only if” meta tags

Meta keywords

Only necessary if you want to provide your competitors with a list of the keywords you are targeting. In the earlier days of SEO, the meta keyword tag was an element used to describe the keywords that the web page was focused on. Until 2002, the meta keywords tag was used by some search engines in calculating keyword relevance. It was abandoned because it was too difficult for many website owners to identify appropriate keywords to describe their content, and because unscrupulous marketers stuffed the tag with unrelated keywords in an attempt to attract more organic search traffic. All modern search engines ignore the meta keywords tag.

Social meta tags (open graph and Twitter cards)

Social meta tags are used when you want to control how the content of a page shows up when it is shared on social media sites. Open graph tags are a set of meta tags that can be added to any page of a website, and help define the content of the page, such as the title, description and image via social media.

Such information is expressed via two protocols: Open Graph (for Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest) and Twitter Cards (for…you can easily guess), and is used by the respective social media to present the snippet of the pages that users share. Through Social Meta Tags you can for instance make use of a title, description or image specifically targeted for social media audiences, in order to boost CTR from this channel.

Hreflang attribute (commonly referred to as Hreflang tag)

Only if…you have a global website with multiple countries and languages being featured. Google recommends using hreflang tags to specify language and regional variations of your pages (regardless of where they are hosted: subfolders, subdomains or separate domains).

The objective of having Hreflang tags on your site is to provide Google with the most accurate information on localized pages, so that the search engine can serve the relevant language version in search results. There are two ways you can implement the Hreflang tags: directly in the HTML document or in your sitemap.

As you’ll see, meta tags come in many forms and some are more critical than others. But they truly are easy wins that provide great ROI, simply as they require a low amount of resources and still have a high impact. We hope you’ll use this ultimate guide to meta tags as the foundation of your SEO strategy for continued success.

Johann Godey is SEO director at Vistaprint.

Rise in voice search for local businesses brings new opportunities and challenges

2018 has already been a big year for voice search and virtual assistants, with Alexa making its way into hotel rooms and Google Home racing ahead in sales. However, recent developments from Google suggest that what started off as a neat way to order milk, play music, and switch the lights on has become something that will soon be having real-world consequences for local businesses.

The current SEO landscape is already tricky for local businesses. Google Maps’ business listings have been trimmed from a maximum of seven listings to three in search results. Google My Business has evolved into a listing which features elements that take the place of social media (GMB Posts), forums (GMB Q&A), and includes many points of conversion, resulting in visitors no longer needing to visit your site for the information they need. On top of that, all that great work being done to create useful content is often swallowed up by Google featured snippets even when you do get a top ranking.

With the addition of voice search, we can expect things to shake up even more, presenting more challenges and opportunities for search marketers.

Of note is Google’s announcement of Google Duplex at their I/O conference in May. Google Duplex will call local businesses for you, replicating the human voice as closely as possible, and its artificial intelligence (AI) will have conversations with staff to make reservations and orders on your behalf. There are a lot of ethical implications of this technology, but for the purposes of this article we will focus on how this relates to consumers’ current use of voice assistants.

What do consumers want most from voice search and local business?

In recent research carried out by BrightLocal, consumers were asked how they used voice assistants and voice search for local business. One of the questions asked about future developments in voice search and showed that, of all the potential uses for local business, people just really want to be able to book restaurant tables and order food without talking to any humans.

The top three most demanded voice search functions involve finding restaurants, grocery stores, and food delivery, with clothing, accommodation, and medicine following closely behind. It’s interesting to note that food, housing, clothing, and medicine are pretty much ‘must-haves’ in the modern world, so it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that these come in first. (Infrequency of need also explains why business types like senior living facilities and accountants appear at the other end of the scale.)

These results firmly back up Google’s strategy on voice search. If Google Duplex is as powerful as it seems, businesses could soon be training staff how to recognize and speak to an AI assistant on the phone.

How often do people search for local businesses using voice search?

The Voice Search for Local Business Study also revealed that 46% of voice search users use voice search to find local businesses daily. That’s nearly half of all people with a voice assistant on their phone asking Alexa, Google, Cortana, Siri and friends for details on local businesses almost every single day.

What started off as a craze has quickly become a trend. Voice search has gained so much traction that its place in the search ecosystem is pretty much secured, and the ramifications of this for local businesses is huge.

What can local businesses do with voice search?

Though proliferation in homes is on the rise, voice search is still in its relative infancy so while local businesses can do a fair amount to boost the chances of appearing in voice search results, it’s important to see it as a growing technology and plan for the future as well as the present.

If your local business website isn’t fully marked up with structured data, its content is not as likely to show up in voice search for non-business-related queries. Google has said that structured data is only going to play a bigger part in ranking for rich results and featured snippets, so it makes sense to future-proof your website by including all the relevant structured markup you can.

Once your structured markup is in place, it’s back to good old-fashioned local SEO. When searchers use voice search to find a local business, they’re most likely to be given results from the Google Local 3-Pack. Ranking here is dependent on a variety of factors, but the key areas to consider are:

  • Relevance to the query and connections to other sites relevant to the business
  • Prominence: review ratings, mentions on social media and in the press
  • Proximity: how close the business is to the searcher.

When voice search is used ‘on the go’, proximity plays a much larger factor in rankings as Google knows that people moving around are more likely to want something near to them than someone stationary, at home or at work, who may be planning their journey and for whom proximity isn’t such a key factor.

These are the things you need to keep in mind when trying to capture voice search users:

  • Create content relevant to their needs
  • Tailor your Google My Business listing details, description, and category to suit what people on the go are most likely to search for.
  • always keep an ear out for your competitors in voice search results. If they’re capturing that critical first place in rankings, it’s time to take a look at what they’re up to.

Conclusions

Voice search is growing exponentially, and when something becomes this prominent it behoves the major search engines to make changes to the ways they work to make these experiences more fluid and enjoyable for the end user. Your part in this is to be prepared by future-proofing your website with schema, by ensuring it’s fully mobile-responsive (for when voice search results bring up website snippets on mobile), and by always keeping the changing nature of consumers in mind.

Many local business owners suffered by failing to prepare when Mobilegeddon first rolled around, so I encourage you not to make the same mistake when it comes to voice search.

Laying the foundations of good SEO: the most important tasks (part 1)

Nobody ever said SEO was easy. It not only requires a myriad of different methods that evolve over time and follow no particular pattern, but is also impacted by ever-changing search engine policies.

Yet SEO is actually quite methodical. While you will need to mix and combine multiple on-page, off-page, local and other factors to come up with an effective SEO strategy, you can’t just start anywhere. You must prioritize tasks — from basic to advanced SEO — to succeed.

If you do not begin by laying a foundation, you will end up spending a lot of time without achieving the results you need to support your bottom line.

Set up and check SEO tools

SEO deals with data, so your first priority should be to make sure your tools to collect and analyze that data are working properly. The most important are:

Google Search Console. You will not be able to track a site’s performance in Google search without this. It is also useful for keyword analysis, implementing and fixing technical SEO, and analyzing UX factors, for example
Bing Webmaster Tools. While not as popular as Google, around one quarter of all searches in the US are performed using Bing, and it does have some useful features that enable users to analyze keywords, inbound links, traffic and more
Google Analytics. Make sure that your Google Analytics account is properly connected to Google Search Console, then set up specific reports and goals to track your website’s performance stats (e.g. traffic, top-performing pages, page views, bounce rate, CTR)
Yoast SEO for WordPress. Since WordPress is one of the most popular CMS systems on the Web, chances are you will be using the Yoast SEO plugin. Intuitive and user-friendly, it helps with titles, meta descriptions, URLs, keywords, and content quality. More technical like sitemaps and robots.txt is also covered.
Keyword research

Keyword research is the foundation of all SEO activity. Once you have ensured that your SEO tools do their jobs, figure out which keywords you need to optimize for and which errors you need to fix to avoid penalties. There are three key areas to keep in mind:

Over-optimization. Keyword stuffing will quickly put you on the wrong side of Google, so you should ensure that keywords are placed naturally (you will notice if over-optimization is an issue). On average, you want to have up to five ‘required’ keywords and keyword phrases per page.
Long-tail keywords. It’s important not to use one keyword repeatedly, so to optimize for user intent placing long-tail keywords in your content is a must. Use Google Suggest, Google Keyword Planner and Keyword Tool to research the long-tail keywords your customers are searching for.
Synonyms and LSIs. Another way to show to Google that you cater for your audience is to include multiple variations of keyword synonyms and LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) phrases in your content. As a rule, these are low-competition keywords and you can rank for them pretty easily. Carry out some research using Quora, Reddit and other forums to figure out which keywords your customers use in searches. Tools such as KWFinder, LSIGraph and Answer The Public may also will help.
On-site optimization

To improve your site’s rankings in search engines, you must provide clear signals that your pages are better than those of your competitors. In other words, you need to excel at on-page SEO. Here are some key areas to focus on:

According to Brian Dean’s search engine rankings research, shorter URLs featuring one keyword rank better than longer URLs. Since Google prefers this format, it naturally makes sense to shorten them and place your target keyword in the URL to make it more descriptive.
Tags and descriptions. Titles, subtitles, alt tags and meta descriptions are important on-page SEO factors. Ensure that:
They all feature your targeted keyword
The title does not exceed 70 characters
h1, h2, and h3 tags are scannable (i.e. allow users to get a post’s meaning without reading it)
The alt tag allows users to figure out the image’s meaning if it is not displayed on the page
Meta descriptions are descriptive and feature LSIs for user intent.

External links. Links to trusted, authoritative websites are indicators that a piece of content is well-researched and well-referenced. Furthermore, they provide additional value to users. Use between five and eight external links in your content pieces.
Internal links. You should link your pages together to create crawling paths for Google bots and conversion funnels for your users. Place between two and five internal links per content piece.
Website structure, navigation, and UX factors. According to the three-click rule, users should be able to find any information on a website within three mouse clicks. No matter how much sense this rule makes, it comes down to the fact that any website must be easy to navigate and use, and its structure simple and cohesive.
Conclusions

In this article the author has shared his perspectives on the most important SEO tasks with regard to SEO tools, keyword research, and on-page optimization factors.

These three areas are the foundation of any SEO campaign as will they allow you to efficiently collect and analyze data, optimize the keywords your customers search for (and thus drive targeted traffic), and enhance your website by optimizing URLs, tags, descriptions, structure, navigation and UX.

Other areas to keep in mind are technical SEO (specifically, the factors related to mobile-friendliness and loading speed), content, and off-page optimization. These will be discussed in the next article.

How to avoid these common PPC mistakes

Whether you’ve just started with PPC or work in the industry for years, you still remember a mistake that you’ve never thought you could make. After all, human errors are part of our nature.

Every PPC professional is guilty of making at least one mistake at some point. Whether it was important or not, it’s good to recognise it to make sure you’re not repeating it.

We’ve decided to focus on the most common mistakes you can make when it comes to PPC and here’s a list that can serve as your next checklist on the mistakes you need to avoid.

Wrong targeting and bidding

An important part of a successful PPC strategy is the right targeting. Just because you have the ideal target audience in mind from previous campaigns doesn’t mean that you can guarantee future success.

The wrong audience for a particular campaign or objective cannot bring the desired results, that’s why you need to be careful when setting up your targeting options.

For example, you can narrow down your audience by selecting to use the option of ‘target and bid’. This option allows you to reach the people who are on your retargeting list without wasting your budget on users who wouldn’t meet your criteria. However, it’s common to overlook this tactic to use the ‘bid only’ option that can lead to confusing results, from lower traffic to expensive ads.

Another way to make a targeting error can occur if you’re not excluding the people you don’t want to reach. If you are remarking to a particular audience and you don’t narrow down your options, you risk paying more without seeing the desired goals. In a similar way, if you choose to create multiple lists for your remarking strategy, you may risk reaching the same audience several times, which will increase the total cost of your campaign.

Solution: Create a plan for your targeting and double-check all the options to ensure that you’re optimising your audience as much as possible. Keep an eye on your campaign once it starts to monitor the initial results.

Wrong use of keywords

Most PPC professionals focus on keywords to discover new opportunities for success. How often do you evaluate your keyword strategy though?

It’s common to assume that some tactics perform better than others, but it’s still useful to evaluate the results.

For example, you may be focusing on keywords that are too broad. This can be a good idea, but it can also a more expensive option. You can test long-tail keywords as a more cost-effective option that can lead to improved results in competitive industries.

Another common mistake is to ignore the use of negative keywords. It’s easy to forget them, but this can also affect your campaign results. Use them as part of your strategy to filter the keywords you don’t need to avoid paying for unwanted clicks.

Last but not least, many companies forget to bid on their own branded keywords. It may sound confusing or unnecessary, but if your competitors bid on your brand’s keywords, then you may miss on prospects who were willing to learn more about your business.

Solution: Pay close attention to your keyword choices and find the ones that work better for your plans.

Inconsistent messaging

A good PPC strategy requires a great landing page. However, it’s common to design a landing page independently from the PPC ads, which leads to several possible inconsistencies:

Design
Copy
Focusing on different goals
Different personas

Your landing page should be an extension of your PPC ads. There needs to be a continuity that starts with design and UX and moves to the brand, the messaging and the KPIs.

For example, you cannot create a PPC campaign that focuses on increasing sales and then create a landing page that doesn’t facilitate a quick shopping option.

Similarly, you cannot target a younger audience without testing your landing page across or devices.

These mistakes can also affect your Quality Score from Google that has to do with the relevance of your ads and your landing pages. This could risk paying more to reach your target audience and it’s a mistake that you don’t want to commit in the future.

When it comes to the messaging, your PPC ads should not trick your target audience to click into something that’s completely irrelevant to them. You need to create a sequence that will add value to make the next steps seem logical. It’s about tapping into the psychology of the user to blend UX and advertising to generate the best results.

Solution: The next time you’re about to set up a landing page, compare it with your involved PPC ads and ensure that the copy and the design are consistent. Use the landing pages to guide your visitors on a journey that will bring them closer to your desired goals.

Overview

The best way to avoid making common PPC mistakes is to optimise your strategy depending on your needs. Pay close attention to your goals and adjust the targeting, the bidding, the budget and your copy accordingly.

What’s important is to understand all the important factors that can harm your PPC strategy to ensure that you minimise the risks of any possible future mistakes.

How to transfer insights from search to social campaigns

When running paid campaigns on both search and social, it’s imperative to take all learnings from each channel and apply them to the other. This allows you to take an holistic view of your marketing efforts and optimize each channel with insights you wouldn’t get by keeping things in silos.

Search is all about capturing those who have intent related to what you’re selling. Extrapolating and recognizing the audiences expressing that intent should be your goal when it comes to gathering search engine marketing (SEM) learnings.

This article covers some of the easiest ways to gather learnings from SEM and leverage them in paid social.

Pull demographic data

As you run your search campaigns and collect significant data, you should pull in insights on gender, age, household income, and parental status. Google automatically segments out different brackets within these categories to provide insight into how each performs (e.g. how males behave versus females, or ages 18–29 behave versus ages 30–39).

As you gather this data, you can then determine which demographics are converting on your ads and which demographics are poor performers. This will be vital when you craft your audiences to target on social – where you can go after your top performing ages, genders and household incomes, while excluding poor performers. It allows you to be efficient with your budgets based on information you’ve already gathered.

Pull geo data

Similarly, you should take a look at geo data:

  • Are there specific locations and areas that don’t perform for your business?
  • Are there high performing geos?

Group together geos with similar performance, and leverage that in your social targeting.

For example, imagine you sell luxury home furniture. Using your search data, you have found that your audiences tend to be middle-aged females. Top performing geos are the coastal states; the Midwest performs ok; and the southern states have the worst performance. Segment out ad sets into two groups of geo-targets for your various audiences: one goes after the coastal states, and the other goes after the Midwest. Adjust your budget and bids according to expected performance, then optimize as the social data comes in.

There is, however, one caveat to this: don’t get so granular that audience sizes get too small (segmenting your audiences at the state level based on performance could significantly reduce audience sizes). However, what we have noticed with Facebook is that the smaller the audience, the higher the cost per click (CPC) tends to be. By grouping similarly performing geos together, you are able to retain control over performance yet reap the benefits of moderate CPCs.

Modify social ad copy with search insights

You should always be testing different messaging and copy themes on search. Once winners are validated, transfer those themes into your social ads. They may work as well, worse, or better, but you’ll have a good idea that the message will resonate.

Use Google’s audience insights tool to inform paid social

Take your top converting audiences within Google and run an analysis on the audience insights tool to get additional information about who they are, which can be extremely valuable across channels:

  • What are their interests?
  • What types of devices are they typically using?
  • What are they in the market for?

You can then directly take that information and begin crafting audiences to test within social platforms such as Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram. As a result, your search campaigns will being doing double for your spend: they’re getting you direct responses and helping optimize your performance on other major platforms.

The take-over of augmented and the future possibilities

The vast potential to create, interact and educate with augmented reality (AR) is quickly gaining popularity. In the past, AR gained media attention for simply existing, but recently, companies have been applying the strategy to their marketing campaigns and reaping the rewards.

As we move further into the digital world, the benefits of implementing AR are staggering. For instance, AR has an average dwell time of 75 seconds – affording companies an unprecedented chance to appeal to their consumers. Flow Digital, a Newcastle-based digital marketing company, are sharing why 2018 is the takeover of the media channel, and what it means for the future.

The statistics driving AR

In the past two years, the AR industry has experienced unprecedented growth. We can largely attribute the early success to the pioneers of AR, Pokémon Go which became the most downloaded app in 2016 with over 750 million to date.

By 2020, the number of AR users is expected to surpass one billion and by 2021, the market for AR, and VR, is estimated to reach $215bn. The benefits of implementing AR are reason enough in these statistics – particularly for e-commerce, marketing and automotive brands which are the industries that experience the largest growth with the communication tool.

E-commerce uses

Ikea Place demonstrated the potential for the natural partnership of AR and retail. Since launching in 2017 – using Apple’s ARKit tech – the Ikea Place has been downloaded two million times. The potential for allowing users to actually see what items look like in their home will significantly boost revenue.

Similarly, AR provides companies with the opportunity to target impulse shoppers. If you can showcase how their life can vastly improve with this cactus plant on their new coffee table (no doubt that it will), you can catch them before they even realised the need for such a product.

Estée Lauder recently rolled out AR into their marketing campaign – adopting the ‘try before you buy’ method. Users could ‘try’ various makeup products using their Facebook messenger chatbot, with the company experiencing a rise in social media engagement.

However, it’s important to note the limitations in an AR world for both e-commerce and marketing. While we can certainly appeal to more consumers and provide the ‘wow factor’ so many prospects look for, we must take into account the lack of adverts. Marketing ads and header bidding do not have a place in augmented reality, so companies will have to get creative.

Take the example of Pepsi, turning the average bus shelter into a fake window. Relying on a camera to capture people and vehicles in the street, they showcased images of crashing comets, a rogue cheetah and a man flying away while holding onto balloons. While it may not have been your ‘typical’ advertisement for the drink, the ad certainly proved engaging.

Future of video content

Video content has certainly seen a boom – particularly because of an increasing number of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram users. Today, there are more than 22m daily views on Facebook, Snapchat and YouTube, with the number continuing to grow.

360-degree views are universally appealing, enabling users to go behind-the-scenes with the brand. If there’s anything we can guarantee, it’s that consumers love a nosy. Typically, videos afford companies 2.5 seconds to catch the attention of their prospects. However, AR provides brands with an average of 75 seconds dwell time, offering a staggering amount of time to share relevant content.

Implementing AR

We have touched on implementing AR above, and the reasons for doing so are almost endless. Essentially, you are bringing your products and services to life. A static digital advert becomes an interactive catalogue or brochure. In doing so, you are improving the experience of communicating with your brand, leaving more information at their disposal and helping them to make informed decisions. In return, you should see a substantial lift in consumers trusting your company, word-of-mouth sales and potentially ROI.

Social media will only benefit from AR. It’s likely that consumers will share their interactions with your brand on their social platforms – particularly with a specific hashtag – and thus build your following. There is also the opportunity for partnerships with social media platforms. For example, Fanta partnered with Snapchat for their Halloween campaign, offering users a unique Snapchat filter if they scan their limited edition cans.

In simple terms, using AR helps to build transparency. All successful relationships start with trust, and you can even take your customer behind-the-scenes with this communication channel. Share how the product was made, guide them through the delivery process and we can guarantee you will see an increase in interaction.

Partnership of AR and PR

There is a natural partnership between AR and the PR industry, for which we could see an increase in the use of the marketing channel for events. Something as small as including a QR code to your event invite – producing a unique illustration or even animated brand logo – creates a layer of interest. Similarly, product launches can experience the benefit. If you can take your audience into the augmented world, highlighting the key features of your product, you will likely see results. Perhaps, rather than share the product in detail, you could leave a trail of breadcrumbs. Each time a QR code is scanned, more is revealed about the product.

AR transforming other industries

E-commerce and marketing are industries experiencing a boom due to AR, but the medical sector is also seeing the technological advancements. Go Surgery, the brainchild behind Touch Surgery, offers step-by-step guides to performing surgical procedures, as if in real time. The procedure is holographically projected onto a screen. Likewise, the Microsoft HoloLens AR glasses have been used to aid in reconstructive surgery.

One industry in particular which should reap the benefits from the rise of video content is hospitality. For example, guests can explore the rooms before booking and companies can even go so far as to allow guests to review the room when using the app. Likewise, restaurants can share the experience of dining with the through AR.

Companies, such as WayRay, are offering Navion, a system that directs you while you drive. Basically, it’s like Google Maps on the road, but you don’t have to keep looking at the Sat Nav. Navion shows exactly where you want to go, continually adjusting to anything in front of the car.

Ultimately, AR spells the dawn of a different age. Those companies who embrace and adapt will certainly see the rewards, especially when labelled pioneers of the channel.

ClickZ Enterprise SEO Tools Buyers Guide: Ahrefs Review

ClickZ, Search Engine Watch’s sister site, has launched an innovative new series of buyers guides, created with the aim of cutting through the complexity of the technology landscape to help our community of readers to make better decisions about vendors.

The second guide in the series is dedicated to enterprise SEO tools.

With $80 billion predicted to be spent on SEO services annually by 2020, these software packages play a vital role in helping marketers derive insights from masses of data.

The core component (60%) of the ClickZ SEO tools vendor guide scoring comes from our customer survey, which received over 1200 responses and evaluated technologies across the following six areas:

Scores were awarded across 36 sub-categories, with six grouped under each of the categories highlighted in the image above.

A further 20% of the scoring came from the ClickZ expert advisory board, which features representatives from Vodafone, LEGO, GroupM, and Macy’s.

The author attended interview sessions with all six vendors in the guide, along with at least one other member of the advisory board. The output of these interviews were scores that make up the final 20% of the results seen in the guide.

Ahrefs: Company Profile

Ahrefs has quickly become a staple of many SEO toolkits, based on the depth of its backlink data and the comprehensive nature of its site audit capabilities.

This came through in our survey, with 80% of Ahrefs users stating that they use the tool for backlink tracking. Its approach to this field is sophisticated, taking into account the traffic that backlinks refer to a domain rather than focusing purely on the acquisition of a link in itself. Furthermore, the Ahrefs database has link data from over 220 billion pages across more than 200 billion domains, with 4.1 million pages crawled every minute.

The new technical SEO audit tool is a significant improvement to the platform and helps to position Ahrefs as a real contender in this space. This feature scored particularly well with our panel of industry experts.

Moreover, Ahrefs is undoubtedly one of the most comprehensive solutions on the market for keyword research and analysis. Its vast database contains over 6 billion keywords and, combined with a user-friendly interface, this makes it a reliable and helpful platform for both novice and advanced SEOs.

The Ahrefs content index contains over 907 million pages too, which allows for sophisticated and in-depth content ideation. The full scale of the Ahrefs databases can be discovered here.

With a range of further innovations in the pipeline, the company’s ambition now is to provide a comprehensive SEO solution to compete with the established enterprise tools. Built on a robust dataset and an increasingly lengthy list of useful performance tools, Ahrefs is in a great position to become a leader in the enterprise SEO space.

Ahrefs: The ClickZ Customer Survey Results

The three areas in which Ahrefs received its highest scores from current customers were backlinks, site audits, and keyword research. In fact, it was the highest scorer out of all the technologies we reviewed for its site audit capabilities.

Ahrefs has continually built out its list of features to encompass all of the areas that matter to the modern search professional. As the platform evolves over time, its commitment to delivering the most consistent and insightful data to customers remains very much intact.

This begins with keyword research, where this vendor boasts a database of almost 6 billion keywords. This was reflected in its scores for this category, which were high for both keyword research and keyword suggestions. Ahrefs also provides users with access to sophisticated SERP analysis tools, which allow for in-depth analysis of performance by content type.

Ahrefs drew particular praise in our review for its updated site audit tool, which can crawl and report on JavaScript-rendered pages. Importantly, this feature integrates well with the other data sources available within Ahrefs, such as the traffic and backlink metrics. As a result, Ahrefs does an excellent job not only of identifying technical errors, but also of demonstrating the impact that rectifying these issues has on performance.

Ahrefs’ Content Explorer tool, which uses data from backlinks, search traffic, and social shares to analyze topics, was a core reason for the platform’s high score for content ideation. The Buzzsumo-esque feature helps with long-tail keyword research, as well as highlighting the topics that resonate with different audiences. As SEO continues to converge with content marketing, this tool proves invaluable for their customers.

It was perhaps no surprise that Ahrefs was a leader in the backlinks section of our guide, as the company established itself on the SEO tools scene based on the strength of its backlink index. Ahrefs has since evolved into a range of new areas and is perhaps underestimated in this regard, but it is worth stating that backlink analysis remains a particularly impressive area of the platform.

This vendor scored well for the reliability of its link tracking and competitor analysis features, too. Ahrefs also contains a proprietary metric to calculate the strength of a website based on the quality and quantity of inbound links it receives, known as Domain Rating.

Overall, this platform provides excellent value for money, with monthly packages available at $99, $179, $399, and $999. A 20% discount is also offered when companies sign up to an annual package.

Ahrefs is also at the forefront of innovation with many of its features, so these packages provide access to a lot of insightful tools for a relatively low level of investment.

Across our panel of experts and a large quantity of current customers, Ahrefs scored very well across all categories and was seen by many as an indispensable SEO tool.

Eight steps for a bulletproof local search strategy

Appearing in local searches is something businesses need to be taking very seriously. The rise of mobile has made this concept even more prevalent. In fact, a study by Google found that 88% of ‘near me’ searches were conducted on a mobile device.

It’s important to realize that ranking on a local search (in any capacity) is no overnight job. Local SEO is extremely competitive and when it comes to any sort of SEO strategy, there is one thing to keep in mind: it changes constantly.

There are many different factors that come into play when etching out a name for yourself in the local market. Here are eight fundamental steps to get you started.

Prioritize titles and meta description tags

Titles and meta description tags are customizable elements that let users know what your website, or webpages, are about. Remember, most users scan the results of online searches very quickly, so these descriptions should be concise and easily absorbed.

When looking at title tags:

  • The typical title length is between 50 and 60 characters
  • Meta descriptions are between 160 and 200 characters
  • Each word needs be used strategically to give the user exactly what they want to know.

If you use WordPress, you can easily preview and analyze the descriptions of your web pages using the Yoast SEO Plugin.

If you want to attract local searches, be sure to include the name of the city or geographic area that you are targeting and try to position the keyword as near to the beginning as possible.

Writing titles and meta descriptions is an art form: you need to make every single element matter.

Use online directories and citations

Businesses now have access to all sorts of high-traffic online directories, including:

  • Citysearch
  • Angie’s List
  • YP.com
  • Yelp.

Getting your business listed on these sites is one of the best ways to improve local rankings. The primary bits of information to register are:

  • Business name
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Website URL
  • Hours in operation
  • Services offered
  • Credentials
  • Photos.

Be sure to update these accurately and consistently across the respective directories. Any errors or differentiation that make the information tough for Google to determine can have serious negative effects.

Google My Business: claim and optimize

Other than the major directory sites, one of the most important things local businesses can do is claim their company on Google My Business. If properly optimized, this is an incredible opportunity to gain exposure on the Google 3-Pack.

The verification process is simple. Google will send you a PIN to verify your business, then all you need to do is log in to Google My Business and enter the PIN number. This proves to Google that your business is legitimate. Once verified, you can optimize your description and all the necessary information to help customers learn more.

Actively pursue online reviews

It’s no secret that online reviews play a big role in purchasing decisions these days. In fact, studies have found that 84% of consumers trust them, just as much as personal recommendations.

Google also recognizes their importance and factors them into your rankings. Therefore, getting positive reviews needs to be something you are consistently pursuing. Keep in mind that you may need to ask customer to complete a review. You should also consider doing the following:

  • Outline your goals. How many reviews do you want each month?
  • Determine KPIs
  • Identify effective ways to follow up with customers for reviews
  • Know how employees/customer service will factor in
  • Have an approach to continuously optimize.

Software solutions like Trustpilot, Vendasta, and Get Five Stars are great for gaining and managing online reviews.

Social media and Google are the primary channels people look to in terms of reading reviews.

Your business’ Facebook and Google My Business pages are the two areas in which you should be focusing the bulk of your efforts – as reviews here are influential in boosting online visibility.

Produce local content

If you want to rank locally, you must produce high quality content that pertains to your area of operation. This can be through blog posts, online Q&As, or any other type of page that is specific to the local area. For written content, it’s best to keep the length in the ballpark of 1000 words.

When writing content, there are a number of factors to think about:

  • Understand your ideal customer
  • Know when and where they consume content
  • Align with the buyer’s journey
  • Keep your messaging consistent
  • Publish at a steady pace
  • Promote across your channels.

If you have a number of different locations, it’s a wise move to set up separate landing pages for each.

Creating and distributing branded content is one of the key methods for differentiating yourself in the market. With whatever you produce, be sure your messaging is relevant, informative, and actionable.

Use local structured data markup

Structured data markup, or ‘schema markup’, is a code added to your website that gives the search engine robots the necessary information about your business. This can be in relation to the products or services you offer, reviews, or what your content is about, for example.

Source

As barely 30% of the businesses do this, adding appropriate markup is one of the best ways to make a local business stand out among the crowd. Google has a user-friendly testing tool that allows you to check your markup and ensure it’s implemented correctly. Google’s Data Highlighter also makes this process even easier.

Local SEO is all about making life more convenient for the users. This concept also applies to the search engine crawlers.

Be socially active

Social media is dominating the business atmosphere for business and consumers alike. With nearly one third of the world’s population being active on at least one of the major platforms, businesses need to make it a point to remain active, especially within their local market. There are many things you can do in this regard.

  • Post about local topics
  • Consistently publish engaging content
  • Share content
  • Get content shared
  • Interact with locals
  • Keep followers in the loop.

Search engines like to see that you are taking the time to engage with the world around you and on social media. In return, your profile will be more visible to local users. If you’re not taking advantage of this, it’s a safe bet that your competitors are.

Show community spirit

Long before the days of the internet, showing interest in the local community was one of the best ways to gain exposure, build relationships, and convey what the main purpose of your business. This idea still holds true, even today; the only difference is that the tools and landscapes to do so are different.

There are all kinds of activities that you can use to get your name out there in the community. Sponsoring events from time to time is a great way to get mentioned in local content/news. Making it clear that you are dedicated to serving the area can be an influential factor in improving your rankings.

Over to you

Following these steps to improve local SEO is not a one-off action; ranking high in the SERPS requires strong and persistent efforts. Furthermore, you will need to keep an eye out for new trends and how to capitalize accordingly. As the search engines are constantly changing, knowing what to do when an update is rolled out should be pre-defined.

Manish Dudharejia is the President and Founder of E2M Solutions Inc.

A guide to HTML & meta tags in 2018

We’ve previously covered HTML meta tags & meta tags here and in some depth here, but as with most things in SEO, it’s an ever-changing landscape and the accepted usage and definitions of tags is often changing.

It’s worth mentioning that if you’re in this realm of SEO optimization, you should also be getting the low-down and implementing structured data to ensure crawlers get the best experience possible.

HTML meta tags vs meta tags – what’s the deal?

Firstly, it’s time to clear up some of the confusion around HTML meta tags and meta tags. The difference between the two tag types is largely arbitrary, with the syntax for an HTML meta tag meaning it’ll contain the word meta within it, whereas a tag defined as a meta tag doesn’t necessarily have to.

The decision for which do or don’t are defined by W3C and are open to change over time, however, what’s important for us to remember is that they both serve the same purpose, that is which is that they are used to provide search engines with information about a web page

Sidenote: Some people include header tags as meta tags, but as they describe one element of a page, not the contents of a page as a whole, we’ve decided to leave them out. However, it goes without saying that ensuring you’re optimizing your header tags will help search engines, and more importantly users, understand what your content is about.

With that cleared up, we can get down to business and take a look at a selection of both HTML and meta tags that we think are useful when performing SEO.

Hreflang

So to start off on the wrong foot, the Hreflang tag isn’t technically a tag. It is an attribute, but it is an important attribute that can help tell Google which language you’re content is using on a webpage.

If you have a site which uses multiple translations, or that serves different territories, you should definitely use Hreflang to ensure that the correct language version is being served in the correct versions of Google. This can help search engines rank your content better, and more importantly ensures users in different territories get the right experience.

An example code snippet for targeting a webpage at English language users in the UK:

Canonical tag

Another very important one is the canonical tag. Set it up incorrectly and you risk losing visibility in the SERPs and causing real issues for your site. Used correctly, however, it’s a great way of telling search engines that a webpage URL is the defacto version. It’s the best way to avoid duplicate content issues on your site, caused by search engines crawling multiple URLs that contain the same or close to identical content on them.

In general, if a search engine finds multiple URLs with identical content, it’ll have a harder job determining which is the original and which is the duplicate. This can lead to lower rankings for both, or worse, an important page won’t rank.

An example code snippet for canonical tag use:

Content type tag

The content type tag is used for defining a pages content type and the character set it uses. Using this helps your browser understand and decode a page, and is therefore important.

An example code snippet for content type tag use:

Title tag

Probably one of the more recognizable and used tags for anyone carrying out SEO work. The title tag is used to specify what the web page is about. They’re displayed in your browser tab to give users a steer, and more importantly are used by search engines to generate the results we see in the SERPs.

From an SEO perspective, optimizing your title tag to contain topics/keywords information about the contents on the page can help to improve your rankings for those topics/keywords. Currently you can expect Google to display between 50-60 characters of your title before it’s truncated, so keep an eye on length when writing these.

An example code snippet for the title tag, which sits within the head tag at the top of your webpage:

Example.com | The best examples on the web

Meta description tag

Similar to the title tag, the meta description tag is well known and provides you with an opportunity to tell search engines and users in the SERPs what your webpage content is about. While not a direct ranking factor, you should optimize your meta description to provide a compelling succinct account of your web pages content.

If Google doesn’t think you’ve done a good enough job, they may choose to replace your meta description tag with their own interpretation, often using content from the opening few paragraphs of your site.

An example code snippet for meta description tag:

Viewport tag

The viewport tag is a useful tag for helping browsers understand and control the dimensions of your web page.

In the past, there was no need for this tag as everyone viewed webpages on desktop on similar sized displays, but with the rise and rise of mobile and tablet usage, many of which have different dimensions, it’s now more important to ensure that you’re telling the browser this information.

Correct implementation of the viewport tag will ensure that users experience your site in the correct way, and if there are

An example code snippet for the viewport meta tag:

Robots meta tags

There’s a large number of robot meta tags you can use, all of which will help search engine crawlers do their job of crawling and indexing web pages across the internet. Not all search engines will follow all commands, but below are a few examples of robot meta tags and what they ask the crawlers to do:

Nofollow
Tells crawlers not to follow any of the links listed on that page, and also not to pass any equity to linked page
Noindex
Tells crawlers not to index that page
Noimageindex
Tells crawlers not to index images from that page
Noarchive
Tells crawlers not to include a cached version

An example code snippet for the robot meta tag:

Open graph (OG) meta tags for social

Finally, we have the OG meta tags for social. While less a direct focus for SEO, ensuring you have correctly implemented OG meta tags for social can help ensure your content looks great when it’s shared, can help to improve engagement with posts and ultimately increase traffic.

Needless to say, there are a range of other tags you can use on your website, and this list isn’t exhaustive, but hopefully gives you a steer on some of the more important and useful tags you can use on your website to make it the experience better for both search engines and crawlers.

Joshua is an SEO specialist and strategist at atom42