How did the 2018 SERP changes impact organic search?

example of featured snippets update 2018

Search industry has seen its share of updates over the years. The folks that have been in the industry long enough know Google introduces multiple changes in its search algorithm yearly.

These changes range from being minor to major changes. Panda, for instance, affected the search engine result page (SERP) in substantial ways.

When such changes happen, there tend to be various articles in the industry notifying the trend and changes.

Usually articles are news based in nature: “Google launched this change or those changes.” But they lack an informative recommendation on how the reader should digest this information.

In this article, we’ll review the major SERP changes brought to us in 2018. For each update, we’ll discuss a practical tip to respond accordingly.

2018 SERP changes and recommendations

2018 was not a dull year! Google released several SERP feature updates.

As Google updates its algorithm to better align with users, the SERPs have gone through a look and feel makeover.

These changes always create new challenges for the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) professionals. We must constantly develop new SEO strategies to ensure that our content is still optimized to be featured in SERPs.

Let’s take a look at some of the changes we see in today’s SERPs.

One of the biggest changes that has occurred? Gone are the traditional text-only SERPs.

Today’s SERPs highlight video, images, featured snippets, knowledge graphs and related products.

Therefore, one has to consider the different content format that are being displayed in the SERPs. And develop strategies to create and optimize these group of content types.

1. The HTTPs rigmarole

In July, it was confirmed that chrome security warnings were really happening.

After the initial warnings, Chrome 68 began marking all non-HTTPS sites as “not secure.” The idea behind this change was that HTTPs provided more encrypted connections and more security.

This also altered the way the SERPs looked. The regular HTTP sites started to fall behind.

On plain HTTP, your connection is not encrypted when you load a website. This means that anyone on the network can see, gather, and alter all and any information.

Recommendation

The recommendation here is simple one. Make encryption easy — migrate or build your site on HTTPS.

2. Mobile first

Mobile first has almost become a buzz word.

The mobile first update was more geared towards recognizing the mobile content consumption and ensure that the mobile speed were taken into account for the SERP.

Today adults in the US spend an average of 3 hours and 35 minutes per day on mobile.

The mobile page speed update takes into account the page loading speed for mobile results. These changes were rolled out in July.

In an effort to deliver the best experience for searchers across all devices, mobile-first indexing means Googlebot will only crawl and index the mobile version of a page. And of course, this has directly affected the SERP we see.

The better the page load speed, the higher the performance in SERPs.

Recommendation

As a business owner you can leverage Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), Google’s open source project. It will allow you to dramatically improve the performance of the mobile web.

Secondly, leverage the user intent in the keyword used for content and tags. Even image alt attributes have become more relevant in mobile search.

3. Featured snippets and knowledge panels

Technically speaking this one came in December 2017, but its impact resonated throughout last year.

Google made changes to the way SERPs are laid out. Primarily, we started seeing expanded Featured Snippets, improved Knowledge Panels, and suggested content.

All three of these elements align with user intent and improve the user’s search experience.

Featured snippets

Let’s take the feature snippets first.

Most featured snippets are triggered by long-tail keywords.

There are several kinds of featured snippets – numbered, bullet points, tables, and paragraph.

For larger B2B enterprise clients, the paragraph snippets are most relevant.

Paragraph featured snippets result from the content that Google pulls straight from your website. This content can best attempt to answer the searcher’s question directly within the SERPs.

Paragraph types are the most prevalent category of featured snippets.

These snippets usually provide answers to question queries, such as “how to,” “what is,” or “why is.”

However, these are a double edged sword. They cannibalize organic search clicks because user queries are often answered directly in the SERP and the user doesn’t have to click the link.

Recommendation

If your page already ranks on the first page for your target keywords, you can increase your chances of being featured by optimizing the content to give a better answer and organize information and facts.

Knowledge panels

Google leverages Google Maps or Google My Business listings for these.

Therefore you see such panels related to brands, businesses, or organizations. These can include images, facts, social media links, and related searches.

example of knowledge panels update 2018

Recommendation

Ensure that your image tags are appropriately optimized, and that business listings are up to date. Doing so will allow for accurate and desired information to display.

4. Related products

Google has also started providing related products within the SERPS.

They display brand logos that are clickable. However, there is no defined statement by Google on how they are selecting these featured products.

example of related products update 2018

There is a theory that Google observes the users making consecutive searches for similar entities and the related tweaks they then make in their quereis.

One can say that Google provides the user with not just the related search query, but almost deliver the best search suggestion.

They take the user behavior and intent into account to generate the best SERP.

Recommendation

How can we as business owners influence this SERP?

If we make an educated guess, we can leverage internal links. These links signal to the search engines about a site’s navigation, architecture, hierarchy, page authority, and product relationship.

All of this will allow Google to display the related products.

5. Video optimization

One of the more visual changes in the SERPs has been the inclusion of video carousel in the search result. There seems to be absolutely no competition between the carousel and any of the other SERP features. The video carousels solely compete with organic results for SERP space and can appear next to any combination of other features.

Which URLs Appear in the Video Carousel? When it came to the vast majority of the accompanying URL are from YouTube. That said accompanying URLs is another element that is changing. Now Google is actually giving weightage to video on the domain than YouTube. Of course, they have to be an optimized asset to be featured. This change rolled out in June.

example of video optimization update 2018

Recommendation

As a business owner you can enhance your URL’s reach by ensuring the video is embedded on your page and you have applied the traditional best practice with regards to video optimization. Such as, providing the appropriate tag and having relevant textual content around the video that describes it.

6. Image search

Images have had multiple level changes. One the image packs are now part of the traditional SERPs. Second, when a user clicks on an image, they’ll be taken to Google Images. Do note that the user is still not taken to the website directly. Third, the image search now displays filter options right on the top the results. Lastly, the images itself have a short tag line below it.

example of image search update 2018

Recommendation

This makes use of image alt tags and relevant keywords within the tag a critical step in image optimization.

7. Extension of length of titles and descriptions

This one had two level of changes, one where the character limit was increased and second when the changes we rolled back and the older character limits were restored.

This change actually is a good warning for all.

Recommendation

Don’t give a knee jerk reaction to any changes. Test them out. View your result and plan a more comprehensive roll out.

Tanu Javeri is Senior Global SEO Strategist at IBM.

The post How did the 2018 SERP changes impact organic search? appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Data: Local search trends from 2017-2018

local search trends

We talk a lot about local search and local search trends here at SEW and in the industry as a whole.

How have consumers changed the way they interact with local businesses? How can local businesses respond? And what can we anticipate about future trends?

Yext recently released some interesting findings on local search trends based on their internal data.

They analyzed a sample of more than 300,000 customer business locations active from January 1, 2017 to December 31, 2018.

What can we learn from this data about how consumer search behavior changed in 2018 versus 2017? And what might these changes tell us about the year ahead?

Key local search trends from their analysis include:

  • Consumer interactions with businesses increased: New business reviews up 87% YoY.
  • Businesses across industries saw more interactions via AI-enabled services than their own websites. Up to 2.7 times as much traffic on third-party sites.
  • More consumers took action in search results: 20.1% increase in clicks to call, clicks for directions, and clicks to the website.
  • Local pages saw increased consumer actions (i.e. pages for booking appointments, placing orders, etc.): Up 30.4% YoY.
  • We spoke with Zahid Zakaria, Yext’s Senior Director of Customer Insights and Analytics. Zahid leads the data team behind these new findings.

    He’s been at Yext since August 2015, and spends nearly all of his time focused on client data. How can they unify data? What are the right metrics? How does an impression on a listing compare to an impression on a page? How can they understand the insights in local search trends?

    These questions and more led them to this analysis. They’d seen that the local search market has been consistently growing, but wanted to find what insights demonstrated that growth.

    First, about the data set and the approach

    “We deal with tremendous data here at Yext,” Zahid said. “We power more than a million businesses globally. And we do quite a bit to ensure that all the work we do is based on a very complete data set.”

    For these local search trends, the data set includes:

    • More than 300,000 individual businesses
    • Reviews for more than 150,000 business locations
    • Actions on local pages for more than 59,000 business locations

    Timing: Every data point included in this set remained live for the entirety of January 1, 2017 — December 31, 2018. So it wasn’t affected by clients opening new locations, etc.

    Distribution: They examined business primarily located in the US, and also had significant representation of businesses in Western Europe (mainly the UK, Germany, and France).

    In other words, quite a clean and thorough data set to work with.

    They examined how metrics compared from the 2018 calendar year versus those same metrics for the same businesses for the 2017 calendar year.

    So what did they find about local search trends?

    The biggest takeaway was that consumers are interacting more with businesses via local search and local listings. Local interactions as a whole have increased.

    Perhaps because search technology has gotten better, perhaps because SEOs are nailing it, but this rang true across the board, including Google, Alexa, and Siri.

    As Zahid said, “There is unbelievable consumer interaction data happening on websites.”

    What do those interactions look like?

    1. New reviews per business location increased 87% in 2018 versus 2017

    In other words, the volume of reviews per business nearly doubled this past year.

    Whatever the reason, consumers seem to be feeling more comfortable treating an online business page as the representation of the business itself. And they seem to show little reserve in expressing their opinions there.

    Beyond that, though, consumers take time and effort to leave a comment. They want to return the interaction.

    And these brand interactions only increase the value of focusing on these listings.

    2. More interactions via AI-enabled services than business’s own websites

    “AI-enabled services” includes any consumer-based service powered by AI.

    This could be traditional search, voice search, voice assistants, chatbots, Google, Alexa, Siri, Facebook, Yelp, Bing, etc.

    Yext found that across nearly all industries, businesses have seen a greater proportion of their brand interactions happening via AI-enabled services rather than on their own websites.

    73% percent of high-intent traffic occurs off a business’s own website.

    Most businesses see 2.7 times the traffic on third-party sites verses on their own website.

    (Caveat: these two stats were actually isolated to May 2017, in a survey of 20,107 business locations. We’re including them here as they represent a portion of the broader data set and local search trends as a whole.)

    Consumers may find a business in an off-site interaction. They then would visit a business’s local page to take action.

    This represents a fundamental shift in how consumers find out about and interact with a business.

    Marc Ferrentino, Chief Strategy Officer at Yext, commented on this point:

    “For twenty years, the brand website was the entry point for customers. People would go to the homepage and navigate to find the information they needed.

    We’ve found that the customer acquisition funnel is no longer on the business website. Brand interactions in third-party AI-powered services are rising across the board as consumers engage with businesses off-site.

    By the time they get to a business website, they’re ready to transact, and go straight to a local landing page to do so, often bypassing the homepage entirely.”

    3. More consumers took action in search results

    Within search results, there was a 20.1% increase in clicks to call, clicks for directions, and clicks to a business’s website.

    Yext called these “Customer actions per business location.”

    As we’ve seen since the beginning of local search, many consumers search in “micro-moments” of need. They’re often ready to make a purchase, walk into a store, place an order, etc.

    Yext’s data shows that this trend is becoming even more prevalent.

    4. Actions on transactional local pages saw increased 30.4%

    Some businesses have “transactional” local pages, where consumers can book appointments, place orders, sign up for information, etc.

    Increasingly, these pages are where the action is.

    On this, Zahid elaborated, “When I as a consumer click the website link that shows up in a listing profile, what do I do? Surprisingly, it’s not get directions or make a phone call. It’s actually everything else.”

    Consumers, it seems, increasingly want to complete their task — whatever they went searching for — via the page itself, without having to call or visit a location.

    At the beginning of local search, we met consumers who wanted to make a phone call or get directions.

    What we’re seeing as a trend, however, is that consumers don’t want to call to make an appointment, or get directions to a store to buy something.

    They want to take those actions from the local page itself.

    Zahid advises:

    “Keeping that listing local is critical. A brand who takes a consumer from a local listing to their homepage just took that consumer from a local experience to a non-local experience.

    For example, say I want to go get a haircut and the first thing I see when I land on that website is the exact wait time. It’s much better at capturing that micro moment of intent and turning it into a conversion.

    That could be an online conversion, like in financial services, maybe requesting quotes. Or an offline conversion — maybe I just walked into the store, or made a phone call, booked that time to get my hair cut.”

    Key takeaways for SEOs based on these findings

    So we’ve seen the above local search trends. Customers interact more with local business pages. They leave reviews. They take actions — increasingly beyond just calling and getting directions. And they come through a different point of entry than they have for the last twenty years.

    With that information, what can we do moving forward? Zahid pulled these four takeaways.

  • “Obviously number one, ensure your listings data is accurate.”
  • “Number two, think about your consumer journey. Think about the things you want to curate on a local landing page when a consumer hasn’t been able to find information on a local listing. Each industry is so different, depends on that consumer journey. Be there, do the best you can to answer consumer questions accurately.”
  • “And third, when consumers are taking their time and effort to leave feedback, their expectation is to be heard. These are valuable interactions you need to cater to, especially as we’re seeing the whole search industry shift from “how many links” to listings management, knowledge cards, and conversational AI.”
  • “Your local landing page is your visual merchandising for that locality. We do so much in the old world for visual merchandising. Treat your local landing page that way. Help people know why they should come to your store. Promote those interactions. Visually appealing, experience optimizing.
  • Based on these local search trends, how should we act in 2019?

    Based on this data, what can we predict about the rest of the year? And what can we do with that information?

    Zahid drew three primary conclusions.

    1. Understand the interactions of local pages and listings — understand what works and what doesn’t

    “So the algorithm updates? Analyze your listings data. See how that changed from your organic data. See how they interact.

    From the the last update we had some really interesting stories of clients that won and clients that lost. It’s very interesting to see how some that won had made great use of things like schema. They’ve really gone above and beyond.

    Looking at the interaction of what you do on your local page and how that impacts your listing visibility is incredibly important. These two properties work together. Optimize engagement not just on listings, but on landing pages. Think of them as one thing that you’re optimizing.

    That’s one. Make sure you understand those interactions.”

    2. Think about consumer questions and answer those

    “Don’t forget about the world of voice and conversational AI as you think about your content strategy.

    As we see the shift to voice assistants, think about how you’ll win here.

    Answer the actual questions. Pull from inward sources. What are consumers looking for? What can we answer?

    If you think from that perspective, you’ll be poised to win.”

    3. Map data sources to answer future questions the right way

    “Look inwardly at data hygiene and what you need to get that information out there

    Think five years in advance. Make a roadmap of how all these answers sit. Think about it now to carve a strategy.”

    What are your go-to methods for data analysis?

    Given the general influx of data marketers have to deal with, and given that Zahid heads up a data team that has to deal with swarms of data points from millions of individual businesses — I couldn’t resist throwing in this question.

    His answer? No secret sauce.

    Like most of us, he first turns to Google Analytics and Google Search Console to look at his own website data and ask what trends are there.

    Then he moves to other website sources: Google My Business, Facebook, etc. He’ll also use listings such as Yext’s own Intelligent Search Tracker, Brightedge, and various other rank trackers.

    After that, he’ll look at third party industry level sources of information: Google Trends, publications.

    Taking all of those things together, he’ll take a holistic look at what’s happening.

    “Cleaning data is a lot like cooking,” he explained. “The first step is sourcing your ingredients. Source your data sources. Don’t just cook with one ingredient.”

    One of the most challenging things?

    “Merging a URL with a listing, and looking at a lot of different data sources together. A listing is not a URL. Some URLs are associated with a location or have UTMs directed to them. Tools like Yext help you unify that with the object as a core concept. Otherwise, you should do a mapping exercise. Where did all your data come from, what all do you have to look at?”

    Final thoughts to keep in mind on this data set

    In closing, Zahid gave one friendly caveat: These are trends, not benchmarks.

    “What we know about this data is that it’s a reflection of a lot of things. Trends that are coming. For this data, all these customers were on Yext. They saw certain growth, certain increases. But we think it’s a pretty good reflection of the trends. Use this as a directional thing. Not the exact number — you don’t need to compare yourself exactly. Use it to indicate where you should be going.”

    The post Data: Local search trends from 2017-2018 appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

    Google Search Console for small businesses [Video]

    What’s changed in the new Google Search Console? And how might those changes affect us?

    In this article, contributor Mike Zima gives us a text / video combo showing us around the updated Search Console. Specifically we explore how these updates can be beneficial to small businesses.

    Watch the nine minute video here, or read the text below.

    Ps, he filmed it in Mallorca, Spain, so you really might want to check out the video.

    First, it was Google’s mobile-first index. Now, it’s the new Google Search Console.

    These might seem like they’re designed to make your life more difficult (or at least, more confusing). But in reality, these updates, especially the updated Search Console, can make your life as a small business owner easier.

    Here we list the three important features in the update, how they work, and why they’re great tools for small businesses to use in growing their search strategy.

    The Performance Report

    The most powerful section of the redesigned Search Console is the Search Performance Report, previously known as the Search Analytics section.

    How it works

    The Search Performance Report contains features that are similar to the old Search Analytics, which is helpful for those trying to make the change over to the new system. In fact, if you liked the functionality of Search Analytics, you’ll love Search Performance.

    Search Performance offers more long-term data than Search Analytics, showing you up to 16 months of search performance data for a more complete long-term analysis.

    Like Search Analytics, you can overlay various performance metrics (total impressions, total clicks, average CTR, average position data, etc.) with one click. The difference is that you don’t have to choose between filtering for a search query, search type, country, or device—you can look at all of them at the same time. The only downside is that you can only overlay two comparisons at once, for example, desktop vs. mobile.

    Why it’s good for you

    If you need to see all of the necessary information in order to make an educated decision about your SEO strategy, this is the tool for you.

    You can see your short-term and long-term performance at quadruple the previous range offered—allowing you to track campaigns through their entire life cycle and take action.

    Better still, you won’t have to jump between graphs to juggle information. It’s all in one place and ready for you to begin using.

    In short, it’s hard to find a tool that will give you more insight into your search strategy.

    The Index Coverage Report

    The Index Coverage Report is a combination of the old Blocked Resources and Index Status sections.

    How it works

    The updated report is a great way to stay up-to-date on how your site URLs are indexed.

    Let’s say you discover an issue with your URLs. Clicking on those error URLs will bring up page details and diagnostic tools.

    Now, you probably have several teams that work on fixing a problem like this, right? Which means those teams have to have the correct information (not to mention, the same set of information!) at the right time in order to fix the issue and keep your site running with minimal disruption.

    At the top of the report is a share button that allows you to send the diagnostic information to all the relevant team members who need it. This will create a shareable link, sort of like when you share a Google Doc.

    Of course, you also need to be able to see when a problem has been resolved so you can know to move forward to the next item.

    Plus, if the problem has been fixed, Google can update their index accordingly. The Index Coverage Report allows you to validate a fix. This signals to Google to crawl the page and reprocess the affected URLs at a high priority.

    Why it’s good for you

    The Index Coverage Report is fantastic for small businesses because it’s a free and easy way to monitor how your site is performing in the Search Index. It helps you spot issues quickly, get information quickly to your team, and fix problems with minimal downtime.

    With the Index Coverage Report, your site can perform better and faster and your team can stay on top of their game—no matter how big or small the problem is.

    AMP Status

    AMP Status, or Accelerated Mobile Pages Status, is a way for website owners to validate fixed AMP URLs.

    How it works

    In the former version of Google Search Console, you would get a list of AMP URLs with errors and recommended fixes, but you couldn’t request that Google process the repaired AMPs.

    The new Search Console remedies this issue by allowing you to validate repaired URLs and request higher priority processing.

    The Console will run several tests once you validate a fix to see if you’ve handled the problem properly and will let you know right away whether the page passes muster.

    If it does, Google will go ahead and process the remaining pages. If it doesn’t, it will give you a notification and recommendations.

    In addition, the new Console has an expanded validation log so you can see a list of all fixed URLs as well as URLs that failed validation or are still pending.

    Why it’s good for you

    This is good for your business because it helps you stay on top of your URLs. You can see exactly where the issue is and how to fix it, then you can take charge of it. You can share the information with your team, work on a solution, and verify that solution right away.

    From there, you don’t have to wait to get indexed again. You can ask for priority processing to make sure your site starts performing as soon as possible. And that means you can spend less time worrying about your search strategy and more time putting it into action.

    Ready to use the new Google Search Console?

    The new Google Search Console is designed with your business needs in mind. Google’s developers took requests and feedback from businesses like yours to create a more robust Search Console than ever before.

    We hope this article has given you more insight into the new Search Console and how you can take advantage of its features to see success in your own business.

    Have any questions? Leave a comment below or on the video!

    Mike is the Co-founder of Zima Media.

    The post Google Search Console for small businesses [Video] appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

    How to automate yourself to success in PPC

    Here are some ways you can get automation to play nice and to drive your KPIs in a controlled and accountable way. Learn how to automate yourself to success in PPC.

    Since the main purpose of Paid Search (like all marketing) is to communicate and persuade humans to choose a business, manual management is unlikely to disappear entirely.

    However, Google, in particular, have been investing massive sums in machine learning so as to reduce marketers’ reliance on human management of campaigns.

    Whilst we’re in this hybrid stage (a little like where we’re at with self-driving cars) it pays to not entirely reject automation.

    Also, with the gradual takeover of Google Ads’ new UI, some legacy bid rules setups will be changed or removed. So getting accustomed to the more AI-style automation will be important in the coming months.

    Here are some ways you can get automation to play nice and to driving your KPIs in a controlled and accountable way.

    What’s great about automation?

    I am the Head of Account Management at ESV Digital, and we have always employed automation in a number of ways so we’re no strangers to letting computer power take the reins.

    However, we always monitor the effect on performance and the decisions made by our silicon-hearted friends.

    There are currently two broad types of automation right now:

    • Bid automation, which is designed to help you achieve a specific goal for your campaigns.
    • Content and keyword creation (e.g. ad messaging, extensions etc.), which can help you show your ads to the right audience. Your keywords should match the terms your potential customers would use to search for your products or services.

    Bidding

    Screenshot taken by the author from Google Ads.

    The simplest and also most risky element is the bid automation. It’s simple because in Google Ads it boils down to simply setting a performance target and seeing what happens. The risk is in the fact that…you merely set a performance target and see what happens!

    There are more rule-based ways to bid but they are somewhat limited both in control and in the fact that they cannot take advantage of the more target-oriented bidding schemes (called Smart Bidding) which bid per query (based on all the context of that query, such as user history, browser, location etc.).

    To simplify your decision on which option for bidding to go for, look at the data levels in your account. If it’s dealing with many hundreds of conversions per day, you’re likely going to see a pretty good performance with Smart Bidding. If you’re talking a couple hundred or less per day, you’re going to need to set it on only the highest-converting parts and generally, the rules will work better.

    The reason is Smart Bidding is entirely algorithm-based, which needs data. The less data, the less accurate. So scale is extremely important if the algorithms are going to do the right thing more often than not.

    Do:

    • Ensure your campaign structure is set up to make the most of the bid automation. If you’re dealing with mainly Broad traffic, try first to get it to majority Exact traffic. This will ensure less can go wrong.
    • Get negative keywords in place to reduce the likelihood of an explosion of useless traffic when bidding commences.
    • If performance and volumes are wildly different across devices, think about splitting them out so the algorithms can concentrate on the most consistent data. The more “reliable” the data set, the less the algorithm will introduce quirks. Essentially, if you know statistics, it’s getting the groundwork done to maximise the R2 ratio.
    • Start any of this with the highest volume campaigns to test what target is working for you before rolling out to the rest of the account.

    Don’t:

    • Set up multiple portfolio smart bidding schemes and set them live at once – you’ll go crazy!
    • Expect it to be perfect first time. Never is.
    • Try to instantly turn ROI from 2 to 45 in a week. Gradually increase the target over time.
    • Try this without robust conversion tracking!

    Content creation

    Screenshot taken by the author from Google Ads.

    This automation segment comes in a variety of flavors and purposes. The major examples of automation you have tangible influence over are:

    • Ad Customizers: populates ads based on a sheet of options linked to a criteria (e.g. user location or device).
    • Countdown customizers: highlights upcoming events, like sales or special events.
    • Dynamic Search Ads: uses your website to target your ads and find customers searching on Google for precisely what you offer.
    • Responsive Ads: utilises your assets (images, headlines, logos, and descriptions) to automatically generate ads to be shown on the Google Display Network (in Beta on Search and already fully launched on display).
    • Dynamic remarketing: shows your ads to people who have previously visited your website or used your mobile app.

    Other elements that are not really in your hands include:

    • Review extensions (out of 5 stars).
    • Social Extensions.
    • Location Extensions.
    • Automated ads (that create new ads where ad groups have less than 3 active ads).

    The advent of Google Ads scripts allows the more code-loving amongst us to really automate creative in almost any way you like but most users will limit themselves to using Google Sheets to populate ad copy with Countdowns and Ad Customizers.

    Screenshot taken by the author from Google Ads.

    Do:

    • Exploit these carefully – done wrong, you could really embarrass your brand.
    • Creatively implement them to get ahead of complacent competitors.
    • Test heavily – some will work best on top-funnel and others at bottom-funnel areas.

    Don’t:

    • Use them everywhere, you need to be accountable for what they do.
    • Cut corners any more than you would on static content.
    • Implement them without a solid plan so you know what is out there at any given time.
    • Forget about Quality Score – don’t try to be fancy at the expense of ad relevance.

    This should serve as a good introduction to this subject and we hope it will be very helpful when managing your PPC campaigns.

    Steve Plimmer is the Head of Account Management US at ESV Digital.

    The post How to automate yourself to success in PPC appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

    Google Activity Cards: Inviting users to be better connected with their past search activity

    google activity card

    The latest tweak to Google’s search results which lets us browse, save, and delete results from similar searches we’ve made before is the next step in the company’s journey toward making the SERPs even more intuitive, tailored, and useful.

    Access to our respective search histories is not a new Google feature. Each of us can – if we have a Google account – simply click Settings > History, and from there browse, search for, or delete any past searches we want to.

    The launch of Google’s new activity cards on January 9th appears to be building on the principle of giving the user more control.

    So what functionality do they offer? And what are their implications for transparency, SEO and how we move around online?

    What are Google activity cards?

    For certain searches, we will begin seeing a small card marked “Your related activity” at the very top of the SERPs. We can expand this card to show results we have clicked on when making similar searches in the past.

    The spiel from Google is that this is particularly useful for long running tasks:

    “Whether it’s meal planning for a new food regimen, researching new stretching routines for post-gym recovery or picking up a new hobby. You might come back to Search to find information on the same topic, hoping to retrace your steps or discover new, related ideas.”

    Bringing bookmarking/pinning functionality to search

    There is more to activity cards than merely offering another set of results to peruse.

    In a couple of clicks users can save searches to collections. This gives another layer of organization where users can view and scroll through a digital pinboard of relevant past searches they have made.

    It is also just as simple to delete any unwanted results from the card too.

    google activity card

    More transparency?

    We have known for a long time that certain search results appear because we have clicked through to that page in the past.

    Activity cards make things more transparent, even for the most casual Google user.

    It is now far more clear to visualize what in a set of SERPs is appearing there because of our own behavior rather than the strength/popularity of the content according to other users.

    Implications for SEO and user journeys

    It’s a little too early to see any definite implications these cards will have for search engine optimization and how much they will change our journeys as users.

    Bear in mind that at this stage the cards are only appearing for selected searches. Specifically, the cards appear on so-called long running tasks where Google deems them relevant.

    That said, for results that do include activity cards, those cards can be seen to occupy the most important part of the SERP. They appear right at the top of the page, even above sponsored listings.

    This might frustrate digital marketers if we see sponsored and organic listings in the main SERP receive less traffic.

    It also might make life a little more difficult for newer sites if Google’s users – for certain searches, at least – already have a well-clicked plethora of personally trusted domains.

    Additionally, those who are skeptical about the risk of digital echo chambers may also view such personalized results as a problem rather than a solution.

    Broadly a positive move

    While it remains to be seen whether activity cards make any drastic changes to search and our habits, I think they are a positive move in terms of transparency and control for the user.

    We found many key takeaways from the recent appearance of Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai at Congress in December.

    One of the main ones, though, was realizing just how difficult a task Google has in assuring everyday search users that they can trust the search results.

    Google spend a lot of energy helping users believe that the results they receive appear due to metrics such as whether content is fresh, popular, or has been visited by the user before – rather than by favoritism or bias on the part of the company itself.

    These clearly-labelled activity cards might promote greater awareness of just why users receive the results that they do.

    Similarly, there is also something to be said for introducing casual users to be more hands-on with taking ownership of their search activity.

    Users still need to click through to Settings to view/delete searches from all their history. However, seeing how easy it is (just a couple of clicks) to browse and delete results in the activity card may promote other ways users can find things they’ve searched for in the past. It can also help users remove things they want to get rid of.

    The post Google Activity Cards: Inviting users to be better connected with their past search activity appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

    How to scale your social media marketing to build traffic and leads

    ContentCal month

    Scaling is all about making repetitive tasks more productive to be able to focus on more creative things and experiments.

    I know a lot of people will cringe at the idea of scaling social media marketing because it is supposed to be all about human connections.

    There are also many people who don’t believe you can attract any substantial amount of clicks from social media.

    Well, both may be true but only if you do that wrong:

    That’s not possible to build good traffic from social media without at least some sort of automating / scaling.

    • Social media audiences are fragmented: You cannot catch all of your social media followers with one single update.
    • Social media is multi-platform (has been for quite a while) and it’s impossible to be everywhere at the same time.
    • Social media won’t send you any traffic unless you are constantly there both engaging and broadcasting.

    And while truly effective engagement cannot be efficiently scaled, you can scale all other parts of the puzzle, at least to some extent:

    • Social media posting
    • Social media tracking and analysis

    Let’s see:

    Cross-post with calendar publishing tools

    Even if you have a dedicated full time social media team at your disposal, constantly publishing on social media is difficult to achieve. Big corporations have rotating shifts that handle it but for most of us we have to operate on a smaller scale, especially budget wise.

    We can get around that by publishing scheduled posts, which includes cross-posting from one platform to another. That will cut the time spent on social media in half.

    That doesn’t mean that all of your posts should be pre-made and scheduled, or that they should go to every single platform. It still takes intelligent planning.

    My personal method is to sit down every month and plan a month’s worth of social media posts based around content that is going to be circulated and is already scheduled to post. Using ContentCal, I get all of those posts ready to go on all platforms.

    ContentCal is an affordable social media editorial calendar with some cool productivity features:

    • It makes things easy to delegate (Your team members may add posts to a “Pinboard” for you to drag and drop them throughout your calendar)
    • It makes it easy to review your monthly calendar and make sure you have something to go live daily
    • It make it a breeze to update multiple platforms with one click

    From there, my team will dedicate time every day to manage regular social media interactivity. They will respond to posts, find brand mentions using listening tools and searches and do the more thorough work involved in the process.

    Supported platforms: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram

    Put your content in front of influencers where they expect it

    The power of influencer marketing cannot be overstated. Twitter has become a particular powerhouse for the tactics, but Instagram, YouTube and even Snapchat are gaining a lead. Cultivating a relationship with influential social media users is mutually beneficial and can have lasting effects on your brand.

    I have done the long term version of this, which takes a lot of time and effort for both you and the influencer. Viral Content Bee (Disclaimer: This is the project I co-founded) strives to make it easier by connecting you and the influencers straight away.

    viralcontentbee

    You share their content, they share yours. Both get some much needed exposure and without shady pay deals. It is easy and effective.

    The main thing it eliminates any possible frustration of the “being used” feeling when influencers receive pitches to share something daily. Instead, they join that platform to find your content: All you need to do is to put it there.

    Supported platforms: Twitter, Linkedin, Mix, Pinterest, and Tumblr.

    Track your growth and learn from that growth

    Growth for its own sake is important enough and that doesn’t even get into the importance to a brand, organic traffic and profitability. But one thing we sometimes forget is what we can learn from exponential growth and how it applies to future campaigns.

    Some things work. Some things don’t. We need to be able to clearly see which is which and change it up accordingly. This is where watching every one of your social channels is critical, so you can respond to every tick up or down you may see.

    Over time you will also begin to notice trends that can have a huge influence on your branding. Business can change their entire social direction based on the findings of these types of analytics.

    There are endless tools for this purpose. My personal favorite is Cyfe because it is an all in one business dashboard that is fully customizable. You create your own widgets, monitoring whatever you want to and all for $19 per month (they have a free version but if you are going with a higher number of channels you will want to pay the money for the full features).

    Cyfe

    Cyfe can manage both social media monitoring and growth for you, from one single dashboard.

    Furthermore, the best widget I ever created was a Google Analytics dashboard that monitored the traffic that came from each one of my social media accounts. It really showed where my team and I needed to focus our energies.

    Supported platforms: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, Google Analytics…

    What NOT to scale

    Some things you just cannot scale or automate well, so it’s better to stop trying.

    • Always participate in discussions. Interactions boost your social media “rank” making your updates more visible. This is true for all networks but especially Twitter where you can join any discussion out there, without being invited. Here’s a nice article on how to find comments on Twitter and engage with them.
    • Always engage with your social media mentions: Until we have a social media bot smart enough to talk to your customers online in public without sounding like a bot, do it manually. It will also give you a better feeling of your audience and customer base which is very useful in the wrong run.

    Truth be told, marketing is going to be more and more automated going forward. Technology is making authentic and effective personalization possible, so marketing automation (including social media automation) discussion should mature. If you want to see your social media marketing bring any kind of ROI, automate.

    And how do you scale social media for it to bring more traffic and leads? Share your tips!

    The post How to scale your social media marketing to build traffic and leads appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

    Voice search optimization guide: Six steps for 2019

    guide to voice search optimization

    Have you ever tried to search for some data online when you were multitasking and couldn’t type the text? It would be quite challenging without the opportunity to conduct voice search.

    According to PWC report, 71% of respondents would rather use their voice assistant to search for something than physically typing their queries.

    And what’s most important is that the differences between spoken and typed queries may cause different SERP results. Which in turn means that your competitors’ voice search optimized websites have better chances of engaging your potential customers or subscribers.

    Want your website rank as high for voice queries as for the typed ones? This article will give you the six key steps to undertake for 2019.

    Voice search evolution

    Remember when voice search required calling a phone number from your mobile device and saying your search query?

    That was what voice search looked like in its infancy (to be more precise, in 2010). And to little surprise, few people actually used it.

    Since then, voice search has improved significantly.

    On June 2011, Google announced they were starting to roll out voice search on Google.com.

    At first, the feature could be accessed only in English. Today, we have a choice of about 60 languages supported by Google Voice Search.

    With the Hummingbird update in 2013, the concepts of typed and spoken search changed a lot.

    The updated algorithm emphasized natural language processing and was aimed at considering the users’ intent and the context of the query. From then on, search questions structured in sentences have returned more relevant answers.

    With voice search, people typically ask a long question as they would normally speak. Hence, the Hummingbird update gave a huge push to voice search optimization.

    Why do we need to optimize for voice search?

    Experts differ on their opinions about voice search optimization. However, most all of them agree that it’s an important part of the SEO process.

    We spoke with Jenny Halasz, speaker and consultant on SEO, and Shane Barker, digital marketing strategist, to get their insights on voice search optimization for 2019.

    “While voice search is certainly the future of how we will do most searches, there’s not really too much you can do to optimize for it that is different than regular SEO optimization,” Jenny says. “Because Google’s goal will always be to return the best result based on the person, location, and history, it’s hard to guess exactly what the right answer for a query will be.”

    Similarly, Shane notes:

    “Facilitated by the launch of voice-based digital assistants like Siri and Alexa, voice search now constitutes a significant part of all online searches. And its share is only going to rise to a level that SEO experts can’t deny its importance.

    The question is, who will be best prepared when voice search takes up a majority share of all searches? And the answer to that is SEO experts who are devoting their time to it now.

    However, there is another side to it. Though voice searches are likely to be a really important part of SEO in the future, it is not the case now. While my advice would still be to start preparing for it, I would advise against allocating a substantial part of your budget to it.”

    So, start learning about the nuances of SEO for voice search. That said, don’t go overboard and hire a team for it — at least not yet.

    The best place to start? Learn about Google’s Hummingbird and other algorithm updates and how they’ve changed the dynamics of SEO.

    For past articles about Hummingbird, read:

    • Google Hummingbird Takes Flight: Biggest Change to Search Since Caffeine
    • Why Google’s Hummingbird Algorithm Isn’t for the Birds
    • Marketers Talk Hummingbird, ‘(Not Provided)’ & More Ahead of SES Chicago 2013
    • Keywords, and #Hashtags, and Hummingbird! Oh My!
    • What ‘(Not Provided)’ & Google Hummingbird Mean for Small Business SEO
    • After ‘(Not Provided)’ & Hummingbird, Where is Google Taking Us Next?

    Now, let’s turn to how to actually go about voice search optimization

    Typed and spoken searches will output different results. Which means that optimizing your site for a traditional search doesn’t always look the same as optimizing your site for voice search.

    The most significant concern about voice search? People using voice search on mobile will get only one top result. This one result is affectionately dubbed “position zero,” and everyone wants it.

    By 2020, half of searches will be conducted by voice.

    So by 2020, half of your potential customers won’t see your website even if you’re fourth in the SERP.

    Ranking number one — or securing position zero — will be the main goal for every business owner.

    So, what are the essential factors for you to consider optimizing for voice search?

    Six essential factors to consider in voice search optimization

    1. Featured snippets

    If you’re not familiar with the name “featured snippets,” you almost certainly recognize what they look like. Featured snippets appear at the top of the SERPs. Google pulls the most relevant content and places it in a box like this:

    featured snippet

    Featured snippets matter because up to 30% of 1.4 million tested Google queries contain them.

    You can be sure that if the results include a featured snippet, your voice assistant will pull its answer from there.

    So if you want to rank in voice search results, you should focus on providing such quality data that Google displays it in the featured snippet.

    For more on featured snippets, read:

    • What are featured snippets and how do I get them?
    • How to optimize featured snippets for voice search

    2. User intent

    When people search for your website, do they want to buy something or are they looking for information?

    User intent tells us the the reason a person typed their query into a search engine in the first place.

    Sometimes intent is obvious and clearly expressed in the query with words such as “buy,” “price,” “how to,” “what is,” etc. But other times, intent hides only in a user’s mind.

    Intent may or may not be expressed.

    Regardless — thanks to the Hummingbird update — Google digs into the context of the search query. They investigate sites’ content and provide you with whatever answer is deemed most relevant.

    For example, I may search for “oscar winners.”

    In the most likely scenario, I’m interested in the most recent awards ceremony — not in results from 20 years ago.

    Search engines understand this, and take it into account.

    Therefore, you should consider user intent when creating content, in order to enhance the relevance of your pages to specific search queries.

    So if you want to optimize your page for a featured snippet, your main aim should be understanding user intent and giving your audience an immediate answer.

    On this topic, Jenny Halasz says:

    “Try to match your customers’ intent with your content, seek to answer questions, and provide details wherever possible. The same steps you take now to optimize for answer boxes are going to help you in voice search too.”

    For more on user intent, read:

    • How to move from keyword research to intent research
    • How to optimize for user intent in search

    3. Long tail keywords & questions

    When searching for information via voice assistant, people behave as if they’re talking to a human.

    Most of us won’t use short, choppy keywords. We’ll ask questions and use long phrases.

    As Shane Barker puts it:

    “Use more conversational keywords and phrases that people use while speaking, not while typing. Essentially, these will be long-tail keywords but phrased in the way people speak.”

    By the way, using long tail keywords is good practice not only for voice search optimization but also for traditional SEO.

    In fact, key phrases containing more than two words face less difficulty (or competition) and provide higher chances to rank at the top.

    As I’ve already mentioned, people tend to use questions for voice search along with long phrases.

    For instance, when typing a query, a person will likely use the most relevant keywords and write something like “the best coffee in NYC.”

    Voice query, on the other hand, sounds much more natural.

    First of all, talking to your voice assistant, you would start with “Hey Siri…,” “OK, Google,” etc. These phrases make you think you’re communicating with your device, not just conducting a keyword-based query. So when looking for the best coffee, you’re most likely to ask a question: “Hey Siri, where can I drink the best coffee?”

    To find out what questions your target audience may ask (and not spend too much time doing it), you can use tools such as Answer the Public or Serpstat Search Questions. Disclaimer, I work at Serpstat and thus am obviously more familiar with the tool.

    Using our tool, for example, you would simply type the word or a phrase best describing the subject of your content. From there, you would be shown how people usually search for that topic.

    long tail keywords and questions

    Make sure you answer searcher questions

    Shane Barker notes:

    “Answer your customers’ common questions on your website or blog. Use a conversational tone for phrasing these questions, to rank well for voice queries.”

    When you choose the questions you’re writing about in your post, add them to the pages around your site.

    You can also create H2 headers using these queries and provide answers in the body text. Answer the questions concisely and make sure the main idea is stated briefly.

    After you answered the question directly, you can also cover other related search questions. This helps you rank for as many variations of queries as possible.

    And to not lose your position in featured snippets, keep your content fresh and update it regularly.

    For more on keywords, read:

    • The comprehensive guide to voice search keyword research
    • Four tools to discover and optimize for related keywords

    4. Page speed

    Page speed means the time needed for your page to load. This also influences whether or not your page will appear in voice search results.

    Picture a person using voice search — they’re likely on the go and/or in a hurry.

    So to reach those searchers, page speed optimization really is high priority.

    As a first step, analyze your current website speed with PageSpeed Insights.

    This tool tells you whether your site’s current loading time is fast enough, and suggestions for how to make it even faster.

    Note as well that mobile speed is more important than desktop for voice search optimization. This goes for overall design as well — make sure your website is mobile-friendly since a majority of voice searches happen via mobile devices.

    page speed

    For more on Page Speed, read:

    • Google PageSpeed Insights: Tips to score 100/100
    • How to increase page speed to improve SEO results
    • The Page Speed update: what SEOs need to know

    5. Structured data

    Structured data is code added to HTML markup and used by search engines to better understand your site’s content.

    Using structured data, you can help search engines crawl and read your content efficiently.

    With schema markup, you can better control the way you provide information about your brand, and the way machines interpret it.

    Implementing structured data results in rich snippets which are known to increase click-through rate, drive traffic, and bring you competitive advantages.

    In the image below, the parts highlighted in red show where these rich snippets differ from normal ones:

    structured data

    Having this data can also help your pages appear in featured snippets and, consequently, in voice search results.

    Specifically, you can use structured data markup to provide better information to mobile devices about your website and its content.

    So, if you do everything correctly and produce content interpreted by search engines as highly relevant (and if you get a bit of luck), your snippet will become featured:

    structured data

    Here’s what that looks like in the code:

    structured data code example

    To find out how you can implement structured data to your site, use Schema.org vocabulary. They have a set of schemas which enables SEO experts to markup their websites.

    When elaborating structured data, you should remember it’s easy to become spammy. Use the data which is relevant to the content you provide.

    And finally, keep updating your markup, as everything tends to be constantly changing. As we all know far too well, websites are never finished.

    For more on structured data, read:

    • 5 schema markup values to use in local SEO
    • The complete beginner’s guide to Schema.org markup
    • Structured Data First Steps: Adding Schema Location Markup to Your Website
    • How to Add Reviews to Your Site Using Schema Structured Data Markup

    6. Local SEO

    A BrightLocal report found that 58% of consumers use voice search to find local businesses.

    This comes as little surprise, since most people use voice search when they’re walking or driving somewhere. Mostly though, people use voice to discover where they should go.

    People who search for “best donuts in LA,” are looking to discover donuts near them.

    If you own a donut shop in LA, then, you want to include your city when optimizing keywords.

    This also stays true for states, neighborhoods, and even countries where your business works.

    Most importantly, people conducting voice search will likely use the phrase “near me”

    Say I decide to eat some donuts. I’m more likely to say “OK Google, donuts cafe near me,” than “donuts cafe in Los Angeles.”

    In this case, the search engine will use my location to understand which cafes are closest to where I am at the moment.

    To appear in the relevant results for such queries, though, you don’t add the actual phrase “near me” to your content, of course.

    As Jenny Halasz explains:

    “Keep in mind that “near me” queries are simply adding a location intent to a search. It’s not necessary to actually use the words “near me” on your site anywhere. If you want to rank for “pizza near me”, then, by all means, track that keyword’s performance on your ranking tools, but don’t worry about putting “near me” in your actual site code.”

    Rather, most search robots use Business Listings information.

    To optimize for Business Listings information, you would need to go to your Google My Business page.

    On there, make sure you’ve added all the necessary information, such as brand name, address, opening hours, etc.

    Shane Barker notes:

    “Optimize your Google My Business listing and provide accurate and updated contact information. A lot of voice searches are for local queries and listing your business there will help you rank better for such queries.”

    For more on local SEO, read:

    • How to optimize your Google My Business listing
    • Voice search and local SEO: How to get started?
    • How to optimize your local business for voice search
    • Online-to-offline search value is exploding with ‘near me’ searches
    • The rise of ‘Micro-Moments’ and how to optimise for ‘near me’ search queries

    To wrap up

    People already use voice search widely — and its popularity will only grow dramatically in the coming years.

    Those who already take voice search optimization into account in their SEO will improve their content visibility significantly, as voice search results increasingly narrow results to only top pages.

    While it may seem ominous now, the future with voice search is clear. These six steps to voice search optimization will help you prepare to stay on top.

    The post Voice search optimization guide: Six steps for 2019 appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

    Top skills for PPC, Paid Search, and SEM Specialists in 2019

    top 10 ppc skills

    The new year often comes with a resolution to find a new job. As such, many companies put off their hunt for new talent until after the holidays.

    That makes January the perfect month to review resumes and make sure they’re up to date on the skills employers are looking for.

    And for those looking for jobs in PPC, paid search, and SEM, employers could be looking for surprising skill sets this year.

    A new study from SEMrush analyzed more than 4,500 PPC job listings on Monster and Indeed in countries around the world, from the US and the UK to India. The results showed quite a few region-specific needs for new hires.

    At the same time, some skills remain universal.

    Here are employer-identified top skills from around the world, along with experts’ advice for how to make sure your 2019 resume has the skills employers are seeking.

    Content produced in collaboration with SEMrush.

    The top skills for PPC, Paid Search, and SEM by region

    In the US, employers look for Excel skills

    The US was the only country in the study that ranked Excel proficiency as its number one most desirable skill. A full 36% of employers prioritize a knowledge of Excel for new hires.

    If you’re hoping for a new job as a PPC/SEM specialist or strategist in 2019, you really need to make sure you’re focusing on your knowledge about VLOOKUPs, advanced charting, and pivot tables.

    Joel Bondorowsky, PPC optimizer, online marketing expert, and founder at PPC Designs, said:

    “Vlookups are a function of Excel that is on top as the most important. Without knowing how to perform a lookup, an employee will not be able to combine performance data from two different reports, such as an Adwords spend report with a product sales report. Employers in all of these countries are mostly looking for workers to help sell products in that specific market.”

    In the UK and India, content marketing reigns queen

    Perhaps a bit surprisingly, 35% of postings from the UK listed content marketing as an in-demand skill for PPC specialists and strategists.

    In India, the number climbs even higher. 42% of employers look for content marketing skills.

    While those numbers seem a bit unexpected, Nitin Manchanda, SEM expert and global head of SEO at Go Euro, wonders if startup culture might be a contributor.

    “I would not consider ‘content marketing’ as the most trendy skill for this profile, which is the case for Indian and the UK market,” Manchanda says. “Maybe these are job posting from startups which are looking for an all-rounder who could contribute to Content Marketing as well.”

    The top skills in PPC, Paid Search, and SEM overall

    Ad creative still really counts

    In 2018, “automation” kept the industry abuzz about what the future might hold in terms of jobs lost out to AI.

    But according to Bondorowsky, the conversation around automation leaves out a key element: Only humans can fully understand what it takes to target exactly the right message to the right customer.

    However, understanding how to combine automated tools with human insights becomes an important skill to have as the industry changes.

    “Automation will also never interest people into having a desire to purchase a product, and then take action to do it,” Bondorowsky says. “Only internet marketers who understand the tools to target people with different intent that can write ads to appeal to them can do this. Looking at 2019 and beyond, I can only stress this point. People buy from people, not machines.

    Automation and AI do not replace online marketers, but rather supplement them.

    The best PPC campaign managers in 2019 will understand how to use the advanced technology we are given to communicate our sales message like never before.”

    In a similar vein, the study noted the rising need for “people and relationship” skills

    Alongside ad creative and automation comes the need to be able to effectively deal with people.

    Ad creative becomes essential as “people buy from people, not machines.” Automation becomes key as it simplifies workload and repetitive tasks.

    But as Patrick Schrodt, PPC Expert & Founder at TitanPPC, notes:

    “Automation makes the job easier, but then harder to sell to an end client if the perception is a client can “self manage” on their own. So ultimately this means there is another skill required that’s not really on the list mentioned, and that is “people and relationship” skills.”

    The PPC, Paid Search, and SEM expert of 2019 will not only be able combine the power of ad creative and automation, but also skillfully engage the people behind them.

    Audience engagement metrics matter more than ever

    Keywords have been a longstanding priority. But according to Dido Grigorov, SEM expert and SEO specialist at Serpact Ltd. & NetPresenta Ltd., audiences — not keywords — should be a PPC specialist’s main focus in the coming year.

    “A good PPC specialist should be more focused on audiences in the future, not on keywords like before,” Grigorov says. “Audience engagement metrics will continue to be more and more important, which is expected and absolutely normal. We make campaigns for people, it’s understandable to evaluate them according to the engagement metrics in priority.”

    Top PPC skills among all countries analyzed

    In the table below, we see an aggregated list of top skills for all the countries that were included in the analysis.

    Note that almost every third job offer worldwide requires knowledge of Google Analytics, SEM, AdWords (now Google Ads), and Excel. Content marketing also comes in quite high.

    Skills in pay per click, web development, and Facebook could give a candidate a competitive edge. Notably, Bing and web design rank as less valuable, but still among the top contenders.

    How does your skill set stack up for 2019?

    If you’re among those seeking out new opportunities in 2019, analyze your professional profile and make sure you’re including the skills employers most value.

    Download the full white paper with other graphics by SEMrush, “Top Required PPC Skills and Platforms,” for a complete list of the top skills you’ll need to stay competitive in 2019.

    The post Top skills for PPC, Paid Search, and SEM Specialists in 2019 appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

    PPC advertising: Eight questions your boss will ask

    google keyword planner tool

    So, the powers that be want to know if PPC is the right solution for their business.

    Your boss will have many questions about Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising. So, as a marketer or assistant, it’s important to understand how this channel will help to reach your company’s online goals.

    Google Ads is the leading PPC platform. And you should arm yourself with info about its workings and how it will benefit the business.

    Eight questions your boss is likely to ask you about PPC

    1. What will it cost?

    Your boss will want to know what PPC will cost. This is often a difficult question because there are many factors to the costs that you’ll be charged including:

  • The budget amount that you’ll set for your campaigns
  • Which keywords you’re bidding on and the traffic volumes
  • When you would like to run your ads
  • The level of competition and how aggressive they are
  • It’s always best to start with a test budget. That will differ for each business type of course, but it should be sufficient enough to get you traffic that will help you assess the performance.

    I recommend a test budget of $600 per month which would equate to about $20 per day. So, within a month, you’ll be able to assess the performance of the ads and search terms and adjust accordingly.

    However, this will depend on the keywords you will bid on and the suggested bids. So, start by doing keyword research and use the forecasting tool to assess what you need to spend and what budget to assign your campaign.

    2. How long does it take to set up?

    Setting up Google Ads campaigns is quick and can be done in a couple of hours. Your boss is likely to ask this question to decide when to start running the ads. So it’s important to be able to answer it.

    However, it does depend on the type of campaign you are setting up and also the number of campaigns.

    Search campaigns for example are quick to setup and can be ready in a few hours. A shopping campaign on the other hand could take days or weeks. That’s because of the many features you have to setup and the lengthy review process. This includes:

  • Setting up a Google Merchant Center account
  • Creating a datafeed and submitting it to Merchant Center
  • Linking Merchant Center and Google Ads
  • Setting up the shopping campaign in Google Ads
  • It can take up to a week or two to get your shopping listings live on Google.

    3. Does it work?

    Naturally, your boss will want to know if PPC works. You can point to the thousands of businesses that use it and quote stats like “businesses make an average of $2 income for every $1 they spend in Google Ads”, to show that its working for millions of businesses.

    Of course, your boss will be more interested in knowing if it will work for her business. This is where you’ll need to carry out some research and produce some numbers.

    Google Ads has free research tools like the Keyword Planner tool. You can use it to research potential keywords for your campaigns and show the stats for traffic volumes and what you’re likely to pay.

    You can also use the forecasting tool to show the likely performance of your ads and where you will be positioned. All this gives insight to which market is looking for your products or services.

    4. Do we have the skills to set up Google Ads?

    Your boss will want to know if there is in-house talent to make Google Ads work for the business. As an advocate for Google Ads, you should have the answer on who will setup and manage campaigns.

    And you have a number of options:

  • Employ the services of a freelance expert
  • Engage a PPC agency
  • Get some training to do this effectively yourself
  • Employ a PPC Expert
  • 5. Are we tied into a contract?

    If you’re looking to partner with a Google Ads expert, your boss will want to know the terms. So, will a contract be required and if so, how long?

    This will depend on a number of factors. For example, if you’re looking to run a short campaign, for a few months, then it will be a short contract.

    Three month contracts are the norm. And this is usually sufficient time to know if your campaigns are working or not. You can use this as a trial period to show your boss the value of launching PPC campaigns.

    Many experts offer rolling contracts, meaning you can cancel at anytime.

    6. Should we not do SEO instead?

    For many businesses, the choice of online channel is between PPC advertising and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) And the choice is usually down to cost. PPC is perceived as costly because there’s always a charge, whereas SEO is seen as cheap because there’s no traffic costs.

    For that reason your boss is likely to gravitate towards SEO. However, there’re pros and cons to both channels and it’s important to be able to explain them to your boss.

    One major advantage that PPC has over SEO is that traffic results are instant, whereas SEO traffic can takes months, and that is not guaranteed.

    So you’ll need to be able to explain this effectively to get buy-in.

    7. What can we do to beat competitors?

    Your boss will be familiar with competitors in your niche. However, he’ll not have the knowledge on what they’re actually doing and how they’re performing with Google Ads. So you’ll do some competitor research using tools like Spyfu and SE Ranking.

    These tools are insightful and show you what keywords and ads competitors are using. You’ll also be able to spy into their average positions for each keyword and what their Cost Per Click (CPC) is.

    SE ranking example screenshot

    8. Where will Ads appear?

    If you’re running a search campaign, your ads will appear on Google and their search partner sites.

    The exact positions in the auction results will depend on a number of factors:

  • Your average bid
  • Competitors’ bids
  • Time of day
  • Location you’re targeting
  • Device it’s appearing on
  • Ad quality
  • These are the main factors to consider. And as you manage your campaigns, you’ll discover the best ad positions for your ads and adjust bids accordingly.

    Summary

    Whether you’re a digital marketer or an assistant tasked with finding out more about PPC advertising, it’s important to know how this channel will help your firm. This will help you explain its benefits to your boss and get buy-in to launch this channel.

    The post PPC advertising: Eight questions your boss will ask appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

    What were Google’s biggest search algorithm updates of 2018?

    Google”s Biggest Search Algorithm Updates Of 2018

    Search came a long way this past year. We saw the appearance of the zero-result SERP, featuring knowledge cards for answers such as conversions and times.

    We welcomed the mobile-first index and the mobile speed update. With the focus on mobile, we saw meta description lengths shorten from 300+ to 150 or so.

    We saw minor changes to image search and a renewed emphasis on “compelling and shareable content.” After testing video carousels on desktop SERPs for a while, Google decided to roll the feature out by replacing video thumbnails with video carousels across the board. Understandably, we’ve since seen more focus on producing video.

    Some algorithm updates occurred overnight, some happened incrementally. Some caused only ripples, and some turned the SERPs updside down.

    As we say hello to 2019, we want to take a moment to reflect on this past year. The algorithm changes we saw last year can be indicators of changes or trends to come. Search engines often make incremental adjustments to their filters.

    So, our friends over at E2M have created a visual and entertaining overview of what went down in Google Search over 2018 — and which might help give us an idea of where we’re going next.

    Google’s biggest Search algorithm updates of 2018 – A visual representation by E2M

    The post What were Google’s biggest search algorithm updates of 2018? appeared first on Search Engine Watch.