Facebook is expanding into Search Ads. What will this mean?

Facebook has decided to test Search Ads in selected industries in the US and Canada. What does this experiment mean for the search advertising industry?

Facebook is always eager to try out new monetization ideas. This time there’s a really interesting one with an attempt to test search ads.

It was back in 2012 when Facebook tried Sponsored Results for the first time, but the experiment didn’t last long.

This time, Facebook is re-introducing Search Ads in its search results and Marketplace, which takes them into direct competition with Google.

More details about the experiment

Facebook has decided to test a small set of advertisers from the automotive, ecommerce and retail industries in the US and Canada.

These advertisers are able to pick the placement of ‘Search Results’ in Ads Manager and they are currently not charged for the specific placement. A business cannot currently run a search ad without running a news feed ad first. Thus, it currently serves as an extension to an existing ad, but it can still offer useful insights to Facebook about the success of this experiment.

Moreover, there is no option yet to target specific keywords or phrases in the beta phase, which could change in the future if search ads roll out to more advertisers.

Image: Techcrunch

The ads are repurposed news feed ads of image or carousel format since videos are not currently supported. Search ads won’t appear on desktop and they will have a clear label of ‘Sponsored’ tag to help users understand why they are seeing the specific result. Users are currently able to opt out from seeing the ads but they are able to hide them temporarily.

Facebook has not shared screenshots yet of how the ads look like.

The idea is to test the search ads to a selected audience before it rolls out to more advertisers globally.

Is Facebook competing with Google?

This is an interesting move from Facebook and we’re expecting more similar experiments to come from the big social network. Google may be dominating the search advertising industry, but Facebook is not shy of its attempt to increase its advertising revenue.

With an advertising revenue that exceeds $33 billion worldwide in 2018, Facebook is looking for new ideas of monetization. As its user base grows, there are more searches taking place every day. Although not all searches are commercial, there is still an opportunity to capitalize its popularity.

Source: Statista

Instagram ad revenue seems to be on the rise and Stories are quickly turning into an engaging type of content. Search ads can now open a new path for revenue growth that will bring Facebook in direct competition with Google.

Should Google worry then?

There is no indication yet that Google should be threatened. It’s not clear yet if this experiment will quickly roll out to all countries and advertisers. However, it gives us an indication of Facebook’s next plans and they cannot be ignored.

Going beyond Google, it can be an interesting disruption in the search advertising industry. More advertisers could be willing to try out Facebook’s beta phase to reach an audience that goes beyond Google and Bing. Facebook has already established a powerful position in social advertising so it shouldn’t be really hard to expand its services in new territories.

After all, showing search ads in the Marketplace can enhance the ecommerce marketing tactics in the platform, right before the decision process.

Keeping both users and advertisers happy

Facebook users have already adjusted to seeing ads in the news feed, which means that there may not be a hard time adjusting to another placement.

It’s just on Facebook to make sure that there is a balance between user engagement and revenue growth. It’s critical to keep the ads in context with the searches to avoid having bigger problems with the trust among users.

2019 should be an intriguing year in the clash of the tech titans so we can’t wait to see how this experiment will turn out.

The post Facebook is expanding into Search Ads. What will this mean? appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

How to start your freelance SEO career

To be honest, Search Engine Optimization is not everyone’s cup of tea. To help our websites scale better in terms of their search engine rankings, we often end up hiring expert SEO professionals or agencies that do the deed for us.

Even if we begin to take on the SEO tasks all by ourselves, there is always a time for seeking professional help when we are stuck at difficult points in our SEO journey. This further implies the importance of SEO professionals in the life of website owners. Now, that brings us to the relevance of the career as an SEO professional.

If you have substantial SEO knowledge and had always wanted to be an SEO professional, it’s worth considering going the freelance way. We bet you might have even given this a thought, at least once.

A freelance SEO career can be a fulfilling experience in terms of the kind of work contribution and finance as well. Hence, it is a great way to take charge of your career in your hands and be a professional success, working on your own terms.

So, how do you exactly start a freelancing career as a Search Engine Optimization expert? Let’s find out.

Gauge the understanding of your SEO expertise

If you choose to impart your services in SEO as a freelancer, you will have to be equipped with all that is about SEO. Once you have gauged that understanding of your skill level, you must then ensure that you are in possession of proper resources, tools, and software that would be needed to meet the SEO needs of your clients.

You must be skilled to handle the SEO of all kind of websites, regardless of the website builders they are built on. This understanding will help you reach out for the right projects that fall under your skill set and perform better.

Get a website and list your services

Before establishing yourself as a freelance SEO professional, you will need a website to market your skills and your services. Having a website puts your credibility on the right front and brings you forward as a reliable candidate for potential clients.

Again, listing your services is beneficial in terms of staying clear about what SEO services you offer. This will save time off your grid as well as that of the clients who might get in touch with you to get their project started.

List yourself on freelancing portals and start bidding

Once you have made up your mind regarding your career as an SEO freelancer, you will have to look for leads for getting hired on projects. Very similar to putting out your business on an ecommerce platform, you can sell your freelance SEO service as well.

Finding the right leads can be an overwhelming job for many new freelancers in situations where they are not aware of the sources of these leads. Here are a few Freelance bidding platforms that can help you get hired easily.

Upwork
Freelancer
Guru
Toptal
People per hour
Simply Hired
Fiverr
Look at what the leading SEO freelancers are doing

In order to be able to perform well as a freelance SEO professional, you are obligated to work like one. Studying the professional work ethics of successful or in-demand freelancers will help you create better job cover letters, make better bids, and seal in on great project deals.

You can even try being an active part of Freelance communities so that you can stay aware of the changes in freelancing trends and even create a strong union of like-minded professionals who can help you in dicey situations such as an event where your payment gets clogged by a client.

Commit to a work schedule and stick to it

Freelancing is not always all fun. It requires commitment like no other daily profession.

Being a freelance SEO, you will be expected to quickly churn rankings for your clients. This means that you will have to put in all your efforts into that direction. All these efforts require you to timely deliver work as per the client’s expectations and work on a schedule.

Begin with a small budget and garner reviews

Starting out on your freelance SEO career, you might not always catch the bigger fish. But in order to land up with bigger projects, good work recommendations, and client reviews can come to your rescue.

These reviews are really important in building your credibility as a reliable freelancer. You can start taking up smaller projects and as you finish them, you can request the client to provide you with feedback as well as reviews.

The feedback will be helpful in enhancing the quality of your work, whereas the reviews will help you get more projects.

Sell your freelance services with complete dedication

By asking you to sell your services with complete dedication, we mean that you should build a very strong cover letter strategy so that you can increase your chances of getting hired for a project or a job that you have applied for.

As an SEO freelancer, your cover letter will be quite different from that of the other freelancers. Your cover letter should talk about Online content strategy, Keyword development, Website analytics, Organic and paid traffic, Web traffic management, and growth, ROI analysis, SEO best practices, Social media platforms etc.

Keep adding a new set of skills

Once you have started your freelancing career, you will gain a lot of working experience. However, since all your working time will be involved in completing and working on projects for your clients, you might run out of new skills/technical knowledge that has just happened to brace the market.

Hence, it is important for you to stay informed and work on adding new skills to your existing skills set and expand your knowledge of SEO. This will help you be competent enough to expand your work horizon and take on new projects that you might have earlier not even thought about.

Know your worth

All of us go for the freelance life only because of two beneficial factors: the freedom to work at one’s own will and financial gain.

It is true that an established freelancer is capable of making more money than other regular work professionals. But, that will only be possible for you when you know your real worth and are able to gauge the pricing of your projects as per them.

SEO is a flourishing industry, thanks to its growing digital prominence. This also brings about the fact that there are more professionals involved in the competition than ever. This competition has a negative effect on the pricing on the projects because a lot of SEO professionals are ready to work at real low rates than average. This affects the pricing in the SEO industry overall and the clients tend to go for cheaper SEO professionals.

This makes it an obligation for you to work on stipulated rates as per your skills and not accept projects at any rate lower than that. This will also be a great way to freelance for you as only credible clients will associate with you, assuring absolute timely payment.

Conclusion

Beginning your career as a freelance SEO specialist will be full of challenges and opportunities. Before you make the move and sacrifice a significant amount of time and effort into making the transition, it is important for you to assess if you are the right fit for this kind of work opportunity. Search Engine Optimization is a task that requires dedication and time.

Make sure that you are able to deliver that. Be aware of your self-learning process and determine if you can adapt to Algorithm changes quickly. If all the answers are in positive, you can definitely get started with your SEO freelancing career in a jiffy.

The post How to start your freelance SEO career appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

SEO 2019: Nine tips for beginners

Interested in learning more about SEO in 2019? Here are the key trends you need to follow to improve your search optimization skills.

It’s easy to get confused by the information overload when you’re just starting with SEO. Too many tactics can discourage you from practicing your skills. However, it doesn’t have to be scary to learn more about search engine optimization.

That’s why we’ve analysed the key SEO trends for 2019 and what they mean to someone who’s just getting started with search engine optimization.

1. Start with optimizing your site for mobile devices

Mobile optimization is critical when you’re getting started with SEO. Start by testing your site’s performance and load speed across all devices.

Every delay in browsing may be a missed opportunity to engage a new visitor.

People are spending more time on their phones every year, which means that a new SEO strategy cannot ignore mobile optimization. Moreover, it goes beyond improving e.g. the site speed on your site. SEO in 2019 is about understanding the ‘mobile consumers’ and how their searching habits differ when they are on the go comparing to a desktop user.

Think of your own searching habits when you’re in a rush and you’re looking for a fast answer. Or think of the search result that grabs your attention. Chances are, it’s mobile optimized and it takes into consideration that you’re looking for a clear and quick answer without further delays.

2. Understand how users search

We tend to assume which keywords will perform better over others. Keyword testing is always a good idea but SEO nowadays is focusing more on understanding the search intent. It’s not enough to find an effective keyword that leads traffic to your site.

A long-term SEO strategy relies on search intent and the reasoning behind every search. Once you start understanding how your target audience is using search engines, then you’re able to optimize your site more successfully.

Searches are becoming more dynamic and it’s not enough to rely on assumptions. Start testing how your optimization can affect your search traffic and start applying more conversational queries to your keyword mix.

3. Write for humans, optimize for search engines

A successful SEO strategy does not ignore the human element when optimizing a site. We are not just picking good keywords to improve our site’s rankings. The goal is to pick the right keywords that your audience would use in a way that the content remains relevant and engaging.

Always start by thinking of your audience when creating your content. Your content should be both interesting and relevant to them so that they want to read more about it. Once you start understanding the content that your readers want from you, it’s time to focus more on its optimization.

It’s not enough to create good content if you don’t get people to read it. That’s why you want to optimize your content to reach higher in the SERPs.

There’s no need to start adding keywords in your content simply to appeal to search engines. Google and the rest have become way too sophisticated to reward such techniques.

On the contrary, the quality of your content and its relevance, for example, can help you increase your search traffic. Find the right balance between quality content and search optimization for the best results.

4. Analyse your existing search traffic

If you’re not sure how to get started and what to test then start by having a closer look at your current search traffic.

What are the best-performing pages? Which keywords is your audience using to access your content?

Analyse your top 10 posts and what they all have in common. Is it the quality of your content? The length of each post? Did you follow the best practices of on-site optimization?

Find the posts that work well as evergreen content and think of new ways to update them. A closer look at your search traffic and current SEO performance can even help you update your content calendar with topics that your audience would appreciate.

5. Stay up-to-date with the latest changes in SEO

If you want to master SEO, you need to follow the latest trends and the algorithm updates that might affect your tactics. As with every new skill, it’s useful to keep reading about it to stay informed about any recent changes.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced professional, it’s still important to keep reading about the latest SEO updates and what they mean to your strategy.

6. Learn the most important ranking factors

As we’ve just mentioned in the previous tip, it’s useful to dedicate some time every month to catch up with the latest SEO updates.

A great starting point is to read more about all the ranking factors that affect your position in the SERPs.

From the relevance and the use of the right keywords to the page speed and the use of backlinks, it’s good to learn how each ranking factor can affect your optimization tactics.

The list may be long, but here are some important ranking factors to help you optimize your page in 2019.

7. Never underestimate UX

User experience is becoming more important for SEO year over year. As Google is evolving, search results are becoming more personalized and the goal is to offer the best experience to the users.

The quality and the relevance of your content are very significant, but you also need to ensure that your site’s UX is appealing enough to encourage people to keep reading.

A good post cannot be engaging if your page is not, for example, optimized for mobile or if it doesn’t facilitate longer reads.

What you need is the right balance between great content and even better user experience. None of the two alone can lead to great SEO success.

Start analyzing your current bounce rate and the time spent on site and see how these compare with your site’s load speed.

Test your site’s performance across different browsers and devices and start improving all the issues that may risk you losing your readers.

8. Discover the link between social media and SEO

Social signals may not be among the ranking factors, but it’s still useful to understand how your social presence can affect your search results.

As social media becomes a bigger part of our lives, it can define a big part of our online presence and authority. The same occurs to all brands with an existing social presence.

Google has started integrating social results to the search answers in an attempt to present a more holistic idea of an online presence. By indexing more content to the search results, users are able to find the right answer to their questions as fast as possible. Thus, it’s good to keep in mind that your online presence and authority are not limited to your search results.

Similarly, social networks are turning into their own search engines where users are still looking for an answer to their questions. YouTube and Pinterest have become very popular visual search engines, while Twitter and Facebook can be helpful for finding more information about a person or a news event.

This means that our searching habits are changing and it’s useful to understand all the different ways someone can find your content on various channels.

9. Understand how voice search works

Voice search will be the biggest trend to shape SEO in 2019 and 2020. It is already seeing a growing adoption rate and more consumers are expected to use voice commands in 2019.

This means that search optimization should change to understand the new kind of search intent. People tend to use longer questions and more conversational queries in voice search. The challenge is to understand which keywords will be more relevant to your audience and how to measure the success of your strategy.

Although the measurement is still at an early stage, it’s still useful to understand the difference between text and voice commands.

The more we think as consumers, the higher the chances of answering their questions in the most relevant way.

Overview

SEO doesn’t have to be complicated. You can start the new year by boosting your skills to try out new ideas.

One step at a time can help you improve your site’s optimization. The best way to get started is to pay attention to your readers’ online habits.

How do they behave on your site?
What are your best-performing pages?
Which keywords do they use?
What can you improve today to boost your SEO strategy?

The post SEO 2019: Nine tips for beginners appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

An SEO’s guide to Google Analytics terms

We all know Google Analytics is a powerful tool for serving up actionable data. And one of the quickest ways to get that data is to be clear about what all those terms mean.

What does bounce rate mean and is it connected in anyway to exit rate? And how about sessions and page views?

If those questions sounds familiar but you’re not sure of the answers, read on…

Because as soon as you understand all the Google Analytics terms, you can begin to get closer to the actionable data you need, the kind of data you can use to increase visitors, sales, and sign-ups.

Google Analytics can show what pages you need to improve in order to rank higher in organic search. It shows you if your copy needs tweaking, keywords need updating, or meta-descriptions re-writing. It also tells you if your call to action button is converting or not.

See also: A guide to setting up Google Analytics for your WordPress site.

Bounce rate

What Google Says:

“A bounce is a single-page session on your site. In Analytics, a bounce is calculated specifically as a session that triggers only a single request to the Analytics server, such as when a user opens a single page on your site and then exits without triggering any other requests to the Analytics server during that session.”

A user could leave a site because they lost interest, were confused, didn’t find the answer to their query, or did already found the information they were looking for.

The right kind of thinking here is this: What was the person expecting to find after searching for a keyword or key phrase. And does my site provide it?

If the bounce rate is very high, this is an indicator the site has a significant problem. Here are some helpful tips on ways to reduce bounce rate.

Alternatively, if the content is awesome and people spend a long time interacting with it, then that is known as “sticky” content.

If you’re just starting out with GA, here’s something to help get you started:

Clicks

The number of times people click on your link from the search results page is the number of clicks that appears on Google’s SEO report.

Clickthrough-Rate (CTR) is the number of clicks to your site divided by the number of impressions. Impressions are the amount of times your search link is shown to a searcher. So if CTR is high, the meta description is doing its job and converting searchers to visitors. However, if CTR rate is low then it’s worth testing different headlines.

Note that these clicks are not related to Google Ads clicks. These appear in Google Ads reports.

Entrances

If your site has more than one page then it has different entrance points, and Google records those separate entries.

Perhaps a blog post is performing well and bringing in traffic. Great. It might also show pages you want to be traffic-heavy are not performing properly.

Events

Events are certain user actions that happen on the site, and are created in line with KPIs.

For example, a site might offer a free download after pressing a button. So an event gets recorded each time the button is pressed. Now we have an event, we can extract actionable data. We know how many visitors the page had, and we know how many of those people we converted into button pressers.

Exit page

If an entrance page is where people arrive at your site, an exit page is where they leave.

A visitor may click through from the SERP, read the article, click on an internal link to read another article, then leave. Are there weaknesses on the exit page? This is easy to spot if one page stands out with a high leave rate.

Exit rate (% Exit)

The exit rate is calculated by dividing the number of ‘exits’ made from the page by the number of page views. However, a page with a high % exit rate may not necessarily have a high bounce rate.

But — and we said front and center these terms are confusing — a page with low exit rate is more likely to have a low bounce rate. That’s because users are probably heading to other pages on the site rather than exiting.

Hits

A hit is a request made to a web server to show a certain file. This could be a web page, an image or other things.

An event is considered a hit. A page view is a hit. All of these hits are grouped together in what Google calls a session. A session is a group of hits from one user. Google uses hits to determine the interaction between the user and the web page.

If the user takes no action for 30 minutes then Google ends the session.

Impressions

We first spoke of impression when looking at clicks. Impressions occur when your link is served up in the search results.

According to Google’s SEO Reports, impressions do not include impressions by paid Google Ads campaigns, which are recorded separately.

In short, when the user can see your link in the search results, that’s counted as an impression. And as you know, we use impressions and clicks to calculate the CTR.

Landing or entrance page

Both of these terms are used by Google to indicate the very first page a user lands on at the beginning of each session. This means in GA you can check which pages users most arrive at your site.

Page views

Page views are the number of times a visitor lands on any page of your website – these are called screen views on mobile.

Within page views, we first have unique page views. Google does not count multiple views of the same page by the same person in the same session as individual views. Instead, it counts them all as one unique view.

Then we have pages per session, also called ‘Average Page Depth’.

APD is the average number of pages viewed by a each user in one session and inside the analytics it includes repeated views of a single page.

Sessions

We encountered sessions earlier on. You already know that a session is the complete amount of time a visitor spends on your website.

You also know that each action a visitor takes is recorded as a hit. And all those hits are recorded within the session. This means in a 24 hour period you might have 100 sessions and 300 hits. The hits figure is equal to or higher than the sessions number.

There is a time limit on sessions. With standard GA settings, a session is ended after 30 minutes of inactivity.

Average session duration is the average time of a user’s session and the calculation to get this is to divide the session duration by the number of sessions.

Time on page

Time on page is the average amount of time that particular visitor spent on the page. If a page is text-heavy then there’s much more chance of each session producing a greater amount of time on page.

Google records average time on page. This is a simple calculation of dividing time on page by the number of page views, minus the exit number.

Users, visitors, or traffic — which one do you need to know?

Each of these terms describes visitors who access your site. Google uses these terms as and when they want.

There is, of course, a self-evident distinction between a new visitor and a returning visitor. Traffic generally expresses the total volume of people visiting the website. But traffic is split down into categories…

Direct traffic is when someone sends you the full URL to a website and you click on that link to go directly to the site. No search has has taken place. Direct traffic is common when sending out a link to your email list. Each person would directly access the site.

Next, we have organic search traffic. Organic traffic is free and targeted, and comes about from SEO efforts to rank the site as high as possible in those all-important Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). If the site is showing little to no organic search, then go back to the drawing board on the keywords in use.

Paid search traffic means the number of people who visited the site via Google Ads.

Lastly we have referral traffic. This means a search engine, another website or social media site has placed a link to your web page on their site and is referring traffic to you.

Further reading

Overview

Google Analytics: Misunderstandings that hold marketers back
A guide to setting up Google Analytics for your WordPress site.
12 add-ons when setting up Google Analytics

Reports

A guide to the standard reports in Google Analytics: Real-time reports
A guide to the standard reports in Google Analytics: Audience reports
Back to basics – Goal reports in Google Analytics
8 key Google Analytics reports for SEO

Tracking

How to set up event tracking in Google Analytics
10 Google Analytics custom events that track the untrackable
How to set up ecommerce tracking in Google Analytics

Analysis

Four easy calculated metrics you can implement in Google Analytics
Google Analytics for SEO – Basic Cohort Analysis

Custom segments

How to create custom segments in Google Analytics

Error pages

Fixing 404 error pages with Google Analytics

Beyond GA

Beyond Google Analytics: 10 SEO analytics and reporting tools

The post An SEO’s guide to Google Analytics terms appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Understanding 14 types of backlinks – ideal SEO boosters + those to avoid

For better or worse, search engines judge your website by the company it keeps.

This is why establishing backlinks with popular and authoritative sites plays an outsized role in whether your SEO sinks or swims: your placement on search engine results pages (SERPs) is heavily, heavily influenced by the quantity and quality of backlinks to your site. And while most types of backlinks bolster a site’s reputation and rankings (albeit to varying degrees), others can hamper your SEO efforts.

Three key variables determine the value that a backlink contributes to your site: 1) the recognized quality and authority of the linking site, 2) whether the linking site encodes the link with “do follow” status (providing full SEO value to the link), and 3) the link’s location on the website. In short, links from respected websites, set to “do follow” status, and posted within the site’s main body content will deliver the greatest value from an SEO perspective.

Here are 14 different types of backlinks, ranging from the most beneficial to those you’re better off steering clear from:

Backlinks Most Advantageous to SEO
1) Editorial backlinks

Editorial mentions that refer to your site – and include a link placed within relevant, high-quality content – make for the ideal backlink. Commonly, editorial backlinks are created when your own content is cited as the source of specific information (such as an article or infographic), when a company representative is quoted or interviewed, or when your site is included in a link roundup on a particular topic.

To attract editorial backlinks, create evergreen content that demonstrates your status as a thought leader, such that your site and your brand earn acclaim as a go-to resource for interviews and industry insight. Create engaging, shareable content that has the legs to go viral. To build out your content strategy, leverage SEO tools capable of recognizing popular keywords and topics that competitors have been successful with – but your site has yet to cover.

2) Guest blogging backlinks

When providing well-established sites with guest posts, it’s often possible to include an editorial backlink to your own site. Practicing guest blogging outreach to solicit valuable sites for these opportunities should be a key piece of just about any SEO strategy.

3) Backlinks in business profiles

Creating digital profiles for your brand on business listing sites, social media, industry directories, and review sites most often comes with the opportunity to post a backlink (or a few). Search engines view these entries as evidence that a site is well established.

4) Backlinks from webinars

Webinars (and recordings of them) offer particularly valuable content for sites to link to. Sites will often embed webinars in their own pages along with a link and mention of your brand as well. Use tactics similar to blog promotion to achieve these backlinks: sites you target for guest blogging may also want to add your webinar as a resource.

5) Free-tool backlinks

Offering a valuable tool – for free – is another strong method of earning both attention and backlinks that have a deep and long-lasting impact on SEO. This can mean creating a simple-but-useful asset, such as a cost calculator valuable to those in your industry, or providing a lite version of a paid tool you offer. To encourage backlinks, promote the tool with sites that have a similar audience to your own (using SEO tools to uncover them), as well as your guest blogging site targets.

Other SEO-Boosting Backlinks
6) Acknowledgment backlinks

Sites often publish acknowledgements when a brand makes a donation, or has a representative speaking at or sponsoring an industry event, etc. SEO tools that recognize where your competitors earn their backlinks can help you identify and strategize around potential opportunities for earning your own acknowledgements as well.

7) Guest post bio backlinks

If a site that accepts guest blogging doesn’t allow backlinks within the content, it usually will do so within the author’s bio. Even when outside of editorial content, these backlinks still have a positive impact on SEO.

8) Badge backlinks

One clever technique for establishing backlinks is to come up with a badge to award to other brands as recognition for their status or achievement in some capacity. When those sites proudly post the badge on their sites, you get a link back to your own. Again, you’ll want to make deft use of SEO tools to recognize sites with similar audiences to yours, in order to determine targets for your badge program.

9) Backlinks derived from press releases (on topics worthy of media interest)

When your brand has a newsworthy announcement to make, putting out a press release can serve as a foundation for your PR and marketing tactics, while also producing backlinks from publications that cover the announcement and the published release itself.

10) Comment backlinks

Posting genuine and relevant commentary on content – and including a backlink – is usually acceptable if it adds value to the conversation. However, if executed in a spammy manner, this technique can end up having negative effect on your reputation with search engines. Be careful not to overdo it.

Types of Backlinks to Avoid
11) Paid Links

Search engines are built to assess your site’s value based on its genuine, earned popularity with other sites. Google warns that buying and selling links can negatively affect a site’s placements in search rankings. When you buy links in pursuit of an SEO advantage, you don’t get what you pay for.

12) Backlinks in press releases that are not newsworthy

Creating press releases solely for the sake of producing backlinks is a spammy practice, which may have a negative effect on SEO.

13) Low-quality or irrelevant directory links

Creating profiles in directories that aren’t trustworthy and respected (or in those that simply aren’t related to your brand) can be viewed as spam and harm your SEO efforts.

14) Low-quality forum backlinks

Forum posts by your brand – and especially any that include backlinks – should be limited to high-quality forums and genuine discussions. Attempts to spam links on these venues may have an effect opposite to what is intended.

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

The post Understanding 14 types of backlinks – ideal SEO boosters + those to avoid appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Year in Search: the top Google Search trends for 2018

Whether you’re working in marketing, SEO or content, it’s useful to know the top search trends for 2018 to learn more about your audience.

2018 is almost over and Google has compiled a list of the most popular search trends for the year.

Google search has turned 20 years old in September and it’s interesting to think how our searching habits have changed in these two decades.

That’s why their annual Year in Search is a good reflection on the changing search trends, the latest cultural moments or events that shaped the most popular searches, but also what we can learn from all of these.

Here are the most popular search trends of 2018.

People search for good

According to Google, the world was searching for “good” in 2018 in a higher frequency than the previous years. The trend was popular enough to inspire their video’s story for the year.

People searched for different kinds of queries, from “how to be a good dancer” to “what makes a good role model.”

It has been a busy year full of unexpected and sad stories but it’s interesting to notice that people are searching for good news, inspiring stories and positive ideas.

There are many brands that already benefit from this trend by focusing on social good and how they can make an impact while increasing their brand awareness.

What it’s useful to remember is that ‘good stories’ cannot be forced. If your brand is trying too hard to inspire its audience, then the result might not be successful.

What are the most popular searches of 2018?

The most popular search queries have to do with:

  • big events
  • people who were in the spotlight
  • practical ‘how to’ questions
  • help to find a location
  • bigger questions answered briefly

It’s common every year to see on the top searches popular actors, singers, movies, sudden losses, or sports events so the most popular searches are not always really surprising. However, they can still give us an idea of what makes a ‘popular search’ or how one search term is more popular than another at a global level.

Search is direct and simple

What we can also notice is that the ‘how-to’ and ‘what is’ search queries are simple and direct. People are not typing complicated queries when looking for an answer. They want to find the result as fast as possible and it’s useful to keep it in mind when updating your SEO strategy.

Even if you’re not aiming for a popular and general keyword, it’s still a good way to understand how to simplify your keywords.

We search for answers to all kinds of questions

We have reached a point in our online habits that we use online searches to find the answer to any question. Whether it’s a practical question or a query to find a specific location, Google search is what comes to our minds first. Our mobile-first world makes us seek answers to all our questions as fast as possible.

Location-based marketing is becoming more popular every year and it’s useful to notice how people use the ‘where’ search queries to find either practical answers to a location or just to satisfy their curiosity about something that they’ve come across. Croatia’s popularity as a location, for example, had probably to do with the national team’s success in the recent World Cup.

Moreover, people also search locally to find their polling place, which is part of the trend of increasing local searches. Searches are not always general but they can be very specific and it’s useful for a marketer to consider all the opportunities that come along with local search marketing.

In a year of ups and downs, the world searched for “good” more than ever before. Here’s to all the good moments from 2018 and all the people who searched for them. #YearInSearch https://t.co/hj2FnX4mR4

— Sundar Pichai (@sundarpichai) December 12, 2018

Overview

A closer look at this year’s search trends show that the queries are becoming more direct, specific, personal and even conversational.

People are using Google Search in a functional way and they need to find an answer to their question as fast as possible.

Marketing is pushing us to predict the search trends before they even happen or simply to act faster than our competitors.

These trends can help us plan better campaigns, content, or ads by understanding what people search for, how the search queries are changing and how we can predict their search journey.

You can explore the trends in more detail here.

If you want to keep up with what people search for, here are the right tools to try out.

The post Year in Search: the top Google Search trends for 2018 appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

5 schema markup values to use in local SEO

schema markup google my business

Local SEO has never been more important for marketing because of Google’s continued algorithm updates aimed at helping small businesses attract more customers. A local SEO strategy should be a proper mix of factors like:

  • Google My Business profile
  • Consistent NAP across Internet (name, address, and phone)
  • Local citations
  • Social media
  • Local link building
  • Google reviews
  • On-page optimization

All these methods, trust me, are being used by all your competitors to good effect. Where webmasters tend to relax, that’s where your opportunity waits. And one method that is making waves right now is schema markup. Add it to your website and let your business reap the SEO benefits. Here’s a guide to help you out in your local SEO schema markup execution.

Understand schema markup

Put the schema markup code on your site, and help customers find more descriptive and informative results from the search engines. Consider the competitive and saturated state of the market, and you’ll figure out how schema markup helps your business gain an edge over the competition, bridging the link between browsing and converting customers.

Check out a schema markup in action below:

Enter the search query ‘SEO services’ and you immediately get a list of SEO companies in and around your location. This is one type of schema markup you are able to deploy on your site for helping visitors find a specific product or service. Let’s look at some of the different schema markup values for local businesses and how they are capable of improving the visibility of your company.

Learn how to implement local business schema markup

Read Google’s guidelines before you tinker with schema markups so you have a better idea about what to do and how to do it. Try to learn as much about coding as possible as some languages tend to be problematic, like Microdata. But simpler and more comprehensible options like JSON-LD are also available. Keep in mind that you don’t need to be a pro coder to work with schema markup. Simply follow all the instructions carefully.

Choose the correct template and adhere to it while creating code. But don’t reject the opportunity to be more descriptive and add value. Use elements, like Google Maps location, website URL, and social profiles for the best results.

Find the best schema markups for local business SEO

Use the following five schema markup values across a variety of website types to achieve the desired results:

  • Organization schema markup

  • Harness the power of organization schema markup to produce brand signals capable of improving your website snippet presence and Knowledge Graph entry in the search engine results pages (SERPs). Do not forget to signify your corporate contact details, social profile links, and logo.

    Example (with JSON-LD)

    { “@context” : “http://schema.org”,
    “@type” : “Organization”,
    “legalName” : “Over The Top SEO”,
    “url” : “https://www.overthetopseo.com/”,
    “contactPoint” : [{
    “@type” : “ContactPoint”,
    “telephone” : “+1-800-550-3101”,
    “contactType” : “customer service”
    }]
    “logo” : “https://www.overthetopseo.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/contact-img.jpg”,
    “sameAs” : [ “https://www.facebook.com/OverTheTopSEO”,
    “https://twitter.com/overthetopseo”,
    “https://google.com/+OverTheTopSEO”,
    “https://www.youtube.com/c/overthetopseo”,
    “https://www.linkedin.com/company/over-the-top-seo-ltd/”,
    }

  • Website schema markup

  • Use website schema markup to view the Sitelinks Search Box feature for company SERPs. Help your website name get featured in the search results. Of course, you need to have an existing site search for enabling the Sitelinks Search Box element.

    website schema markup

    Example (with JSON-LD)

    {
    “@context” : “http://schema.org”,
    “@type” : “WebSite”,
    “name” : “Over The Top SEO”,
    “url” : “https://www.overthetopseo.com/”,
    “potentialAction” : {
    “@type” : “SearchAction”,
    “target” : “https://www.overthetopseo.com/?s={search_term}”,
    “query-input” : “required name=search_term”
    }
    }

  • Breadcrumbs markup

  • Experience the power of breadcrumb rich snippets when you generate them for your pages in the SERPs using the Breadcrumb schema.

    breadcrumbs schema markup

  • Site navigation schema markup

  • Use the SiteNavigationElement markup to improve the way search engines understand the structure of your website and boost navigation. Also, use this to influence organic sitelinks.

    site navigation schema markup

  • Video schema markup

  • Every serious marketer knows how important videos are to business SEO. This medium can prove useful when you’re trying to rank in search engines. In fact, for certain search queries, video content often outranks sites, especially when it comes to “how to” type of content.

    Hosted or embedded video content can be leveraged through VideoObject schema. Just as Google mainly displays video rich snippets for streaming platforms like YouTube, this schema markup can help rich snippets from your online website show up in the Google Video Search. video schema markup

    What properties are necessary?

    • name
    • description
    • thumbnailUrl
    • uploadDate

    Find the most useful elements of schema to describe your video to search engines below:

    {
    “@context”: “http://schema.org”,
    “@type”: “VideoObject”,
    “name”: “Name of the Video (title you gave it on YouTube/Vimeo/Website)”,
    “caption”: “whatever caption you’d like this video to have – this isn’t a mandatory field but i would recommend it”,
    “description”: “A short description of your video: keep it concise (like your Video Meta Description in YouTube and Vimeo, so approximately 150 characters).”,
    “thumbnailUrl”: “http://www.example.com/thumbnail.jpg”,
    “embedUrl”: “A URL pointing to a player for the specific video. Usually this is the information in the src element of an tag”,
    “uploadDate”: “2017-04-05T08:00:00+02:00”,
    “duration”: “PT1M33S – this section has to be in ISO8601 formatting”,
    “contentUrl”: “http://i.vimeocdn.com/video/515473390_100x75.jpg?r=pad”,
    “embedUrl”: “http://www.example.com/embed?videoetc”,
    “interactionCount”: “2347”,
    “transcript”: “A transcript of your video is helpful for SEO – it’s also great for adding more detail about the video for search engines to understand given that the description above is so short”
    }

    Implement video schema markup

    Visit Google Tag Manager and create a custom HTML Video Schema tag. Copy the format given above and alter the fields to reflect your video details. Ensure that it runs on the page containing the video by turning on the preview and debug mode. Once you’ve verified that it is firing, publish the video and give it a try in the Google Structured Data testing tool.

    Maximize the potential of schema markup values

    Get richer results and greater benefits from schema by sticking to a few rules. First, list all the schemas that are commonly used. Second, find all the schema types that you think will come in handy to achieve your local SEO goals. There are lots of different categories out there, so be sure to explore the full list and see which markup type fits your business better. Third, always mark up. There is a huge range of item types available, and the more content you mark up, the greater the rewards. But ensure that you mark only that content which is visible to your website visitors; marking up content hidden in page element like hidden div’s will not yield any results.

    Validate the schema markup

    Take your time to perfect the code and when you finally think that it is ready to be deployed, run it through the Structured Data Tool from Google. Chances are that you will find this tool to be immensely helpful and it can be a great resource when you’re quickly trying to validate the code prior to uploading it onto your site. Keep in mind that you are likely to come across numerous tools that exist solely to help you create the necessary code. But the problem is, most of them are not high quality and can feel highly dated. So, it is best if you develop a code that is entirely reliable, like the ones mentioned above, and then alter the elements to fit your requirements as and when you must.

    Upload your schema markup

    To simplify the process of uploading your code, always stick to the custom HTML tag from Google Tag Manager. If your business is situated across various location, it is recommended that you devise codes for each of them and then implement them on your location pages to get the desired results. As soon as the code is set up and ready in the container, all you have to do is hit the publish button and then complete the verification process via the structured data tool from Google by drawing upon the URL of your website. Now, you will notice that the Local business markup is being noticed by search engines.

    Concluding remarks

    Despite the impact of schema markups on local SEO, not many websites and businesses have taken advantage of it. So, pull ahead of the competition by learning and implementing the relevant microdata to enhance your search results. They may seem like a lot of work, but if you follow all the instructions mentioned above carefully, you should have no trouble putting your business on the map and attracting more people to your company.

    The post 5 schema markup values to use in local SEO appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

    Top social media trends for 2019

    How will the social media landscape change in 2019? Here are the key trends you need to consider for a successful marketing strategy.

    Social media marketing needs to be frequently adapted to the changing trends. The rapid pace that social media platforms evolve requires from marketers to be alert if they want to maintain successful tactics.

    2018 had been a busy year for all social media platforms. There were lots of positive and negative stories that had to do with their usage and it’s now time to review our social marketing strategies.

    Here’s a closer look at the key trends of the year and how they will affect 2019 to help you proceed to the necessary changes to your tactics.

    Messaging will grow even more

    Messaging apps have already passed social media apps in usage and it seems to be a trend that will dominate 2019. People are moving beyond public posts on social media to private messaging, whether it’s simply about reaching their friends or even to stay in touch with their favorite brands.

    What makes messaging interesting is that brands can find the much-desired engagement that they’re seeking by understanding how people use messaging apps.

    Back from 2017, marketers believed that messaging is the first trend that will affect their social strategies.

    WhatsApp, Messenger, Viber, WeChat hold a large percentage of the messaging market and they already introduced additional features to go beyond messaging, from Stories and news updates to automated bots for customer service and e-commerce functions.

    Source: Statista

    There is a whole new world to try out as a brand and we’re already seeing big brands and publishers tapping into the messaging trend.

    I’ve asked Debbi Dougherty, Head of B2B Marketing and Communications at Rakuten Viber, on how brands can use messaging apps as a growing trend and here’s what she said:

    Moving into 2019, media will continue to seek ways to find its place with younger generations. Tapping into these audiences will be impossible without the presence of a centralized location where users can conveniently interact with content. Messaging apps offer the most ideal platform to achieve this, providing ease-of-use and personalized experiences that aren’t possible through traditional channels. For newspapers, in particular, their ability to transition onto social platforms like messaging apps is critical to the future of their readership. It not only helps them extend their reach globally, but gives them access to an entirely new demographic of users.

    The truth is, the amount of time people spend on messaging apps has grown exponentially and is much higher compared to any other platform, including social media. Brands need to recognize this and adjust accordingly.

    Data breaches make trust more important than ever

    The reason that messaging apps became even more popular is the growing lack of trust in social networks.

    It’s been a turbulent year for Facebook, for example, which made many users uncomfortable in sharing their data.

    Privacy concerns are increasing and it makes all social media platforms realize that trust is crucial. Facebook is learning the lesson the hard way that you need to be more mindful about the use of data.

    As a brand, the growing discussion about social data and privacy concerns brings out the importance of building trust with your audience.

    It’s useful for a brand to be transparent with its audience, whether it’s about admitting their mistakes or even to update their audiences on a recent change. Such factors can help their customers trust them and even be more open to hearing more from them in future campaigns.

    Narrowing down the focus on specific channels

    Social media marketing is becoming more competitive and the most successful professionals realize that you need to focus on the best-performing channels for your business.

    Gone are the days when you had to join Facebook simply because ‘everybody was there.’ Nowadays, it’s more important to go after niche audiences that are relevant to your business. There’s no need to broadcast the same message to all platforms if you don’t see a successful result from it.

    Don’t be afraid to limit down your work to two channels, for example, if you’re noticing that these two channels will bring you the best ROI.

    We can all start the new year by making the most of our time and spending it on the channels that are only worth our attention.

    The more distractions we are having, the higher the chances to lose our focus. Start by analyzing where your audience is and which channels work better for your business goals.

    Review your current performance and set goals to improve it in the right direction that you want to move.

    The ad spend is increasing but you’ll need to consider ad saturation

    Social media advertising has been on the rise the last few years. We are now able to create social ads in multiple channels and it’s up to us to decide on the objectives and the type of ads that we want to use.

    There has been an increasing success for many brands that used paid social in the marketing mix. It’s no surprise that there is a growing ad spend across marketers.

    For example, Instagram’s level of engagement has intrigued more marketers to increase their ad spend to the channel, both on the feed and the Stories.

    As Facebook was becoming more saturated with the existing competition, Instagram started showing up as a great alternative to promote your brand.

    A growing ad spend indicates the increasing interest in a platform, but it can also signal the start of an increasing cost to promote your business.

    Instagram Feed and Stories seem to bring a good ROI for many brands, but what if more marketers create ads for the specific platform?

    2019 will probably see an even further increase to marketers’ social ad spend, with Instagram growing in popularity.

    However, it’s good to consider that it’s not a good idea to rely too much on one platform, either for organic or paid growth.

    There is only a set space for ads in each platform so the competition may push the costs to increase.

    Videos, podcasts, and live streaming

    Blog posts can still be effective in 2019. Long-form posts can still engage readers, provided that they are appealing and properly formatted to facilitate the reading experiences across all devices.

    Content consumption though goes way further than written text, with videos and podcasts seeing great success.

    From the rise of YouTube to the introduction of IGTV, social media platforms were always interested in highlighting video content.

    Facebook has even adjusted their algorithm to ensure that video posts show up more frequently on our feeds.

    Video marketing is becoming more appealing both for brands but also for users who notice the content that stands out.

    It’s only a matter of time until videos take over the whole social media world. 2019 will be the year that more brands will experiment with different types of video among different channels:

    • Short videos with captions are really appealing to mobile users and are also accessible to everyone. They can be found on any social media platform with Facebook favoring them in their algorithm. They can make really effective ads and they’ve already been used quite extensively from ads.
    • Vertical videos on Snapchat and Instagram Stories grow really fast in popularity and we already see many ads in a vertical format. It’s a format that will grow even more like a trend due to the improved viewing experience in mobile screens.
    • Long videos of powerful storytelling can still keep an audience engaged. Whether it’s YouTube, Facebook, or even IGTV, there is an increasing need for video stories that can be interesting enough to convince the viewers to watch more than a few seconds.
    • Live streaming is also another big trend that is now available across many different platforms. Users turn into broadcasters and brands become publishers to come closer to their audience. There are numerous opportunities to benefit from a live streaming strategy.

    Except for videos, podcasts have also seen a growing success. Audio content is bringing the radio days back as a great way to catch up with your favorite stories and brands when you’re on the go.

    More marketers are experimenting with podcasts, either to build their own personal brand or to promote their business. What makes podcasts special is the fact that they still focus on the content rather than the promotion. People subscribe to a podcast because they are interested in the content, whether it comes from a brand or another person.

    AR to become more mainstream

    Social media and AR are making a good combination the last few years and it’s only a matter of time until we see an even more applied use to further channels.

    We have already seen how brands involve AR to facilitate the customer experience. Augmented reality can make the brand message engaging, fun and possible more actionable. Having the option to try out, for example, a pair of glasses before buying them can lead to an increased number of sales.

    Facebook is greatly investing in AR in an attempt to dominate the field, which means that they understand the potential that this investment may bring.

    They have already announced the introduction of AR ads to make social commerce more appealing. Moreover, AR Camera effects are also available in Messenger to ensure that messaging and customer experience will keep improving.

    The goal is to keep the users to the platform, while brands can capitalize the trend by seeing an improved customer satisfaction.

    What do all these trends mean?

    Social media marketing is going towards a stage that focuses more on ROI, new technologies and a trusting relationship between the brand and the customers.

    The only way to survive in-between data breaches, emerging technologies and new platforms is to ensure that you:

    • Understand your audience
    • Review your social media marketing strategy
    • Allocate time and budget to new tools and technologies
    • Keep your focus on what works
    • Do your best to build trust with your users in every campaign

    The post Top social media trends for 2019 appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

    Six most common travel SEO mistakes to get right in 2019

    tough development queue

    Here’s a bold statement: “SEO in the travel industry is immensely challenging.”

    The sheer number of pages to manage, complexities of properties, flights, accommodation, availability, occupancy, destinations, not to mention the crazy amount of APIs and databases to make a travel site function, can all make life tricky for an SEO, particularly when it comes to the development queue…

    Having said that, there are still common mistakes and missed opportunities out there that have the potential to be really impactful and believe it or not, they don’t actually require a huge amount of resource to put right.

    So, here’s a list of the six most common travel SEO mistakes to get right for 2019:

  • Forgetting about index bloat

  • There are a LOT of facets and filters when it comes to commercial travel category pages, arguably the most of any industry.

    Typically with every facet or filter, be it; availability, location, facilities, amenities nearby, occupancy etc. A URL is created with the associated parameters selected by the user.

    If not handled correctly, this can produce thousands of indexable pages that have no unique organic value to users.

    This is a problem for a number of reasons:

    • It can be confusing for search engines because they can find it tricky to identify the best and most relevant URL to rank and show users depending on their query
    • It can dilute domain level ranking signals drastically
    • It can cause a huge amount of duplicate content issues
    • It can waste crawl budget which for big travel sites is super important

    Combined, this can cause big losses in rankings, traffic and subsequently conversion!

    How to identify index bloat

    Go to Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools) and check your ‘Index Coverage’ report or, in the old version, check ‘Index Status’ to see if you can see any spikes or growth in ‘Total Indexed’ pages. If you notice something like the graph below and it’s not expected, then there may be a problem:

    index bloat graph

    If you find there is a big increase and you can’t explain why, conduct some ‘Site:’ operator searches and spot check areas of your site where this may be commonplace to see what you can find.

    Here’s an example of index bloat from the page speed tool ‘Pingdom’. It seems as though every input a user executes produces an indexable URL:

    index bloat example

    Once you’ve found a problem like this, review the extent of it with a Screaming Frog crawl. This way you can see how many URLs are affected and distinguish between whether they are actually indexable or not.

    For example, there may be a few hundred pages that are indexable but have not yet been found and indexed by Google.

    How to fix index bloat:

    • Noindex – Use a page level meta ‘noindex’ directive on the culprit pages
    • Where possible redirect – index bloat can happen as a result of mountains of historical 404 pages too, 301 redirect them into the most appropriate page to consolidate
    • Canonicalisation – apply an absolute canonical tag to the culprit pages to indicate that they are duplicate
    • Pagination – where possible use rel=”next” & rel=”prev” markup to show that pages are part of a series
    • URL parameter tool – By far the easiest but arguably the most risky method is using Google’s parameter handling tool to indicate the purpose of the culprit pages, be careful though, this can cause bigger problems if implemented incorrectly

    Expert tip

    If any of the above are difficult to get implemented in your dev queue and you don’t trust yourself using the parameter handling tool, you can actually noindex web pages & directories in your robots.txt file. You can actually add lines reading:

    Noindex: /directory/

    Noindex: /page/

    This could save you a lot of time and is fully reversible, so less risky if you have control over your robots file. If you’ve never heard of this, don’t worry it is supported and it does work!

  • Unemotive meta titles

  • It’s pretty staggering but in the UK, there’s a lot going on in January for travel — it is certainly the biggest spike in the year for many brands, followed by ‘holiday blues’ peaks after summer.

    Here’s the trend of interest over time for the query ‘tenerife holidays’ (a destination famed for its good weather all year round) to show you what I mean:

    search trend over time of "tenerife holidays"

    January might be a bad time to experiment because of the higher interest but, the rest of the year presents a great opportunity to get creative with your titles.

    Why would you?

    Simply, keyword heavy titles don’t inspire high click-through rates.

    Creative titles entice users into your landing pages, give your brand a personality and increase your click-through rate. This sends strong positive relevancy signals to Google which helps towards highlighting that your website is the best for the initial user query.

    Here are a few things you can try with supportive content and commercial landers:

    • Get emotional, people buy holidays on the experiences they anticipate having. Play on that with your titles – how will products/content from this page make the user feel?
    • Where possible use a numbered list to be as descriptive as possible
    • Use strengthening words such as premium, secret, amazing, proven, guaranteed
    • Tie in emotional hooks using words like; fun, adventure, seamless, safe, welcoming, luxury, relaxing
    • Experiment with ‘price from’ and actually quote pricing in the title
    • Switch up your ‘PHP’ generated title tags for property pages and experiment with more descriptive wording and not just PROPERTY NAME | LOCATION | BRAND – but don’t remove any keyword targeting, just improve those titles.

    Expert Tip

    Write five completely unique title tags for the same page and test each one with a Facebook or PPC ad to see whether they outperform your current iteration in terms of engagement.

  • Poor merchandising

  • As previously mentioned, the travel industry experiences peaks and troughs of consumer behavior trend throughout the year which causes the majority intent to switch dramatically across different months in the year.

    So, having a deep understanding of what users are actually looking for is really important when merchandising high traffic pages to get the best conversion out of your audience.

    In short, gaining an understanding of what works when, is huge.

    Here’s some tips to help you make better merchandising decisions:

    • Use last year’s email open rate data – what type of content/product worked?
    • Use Google Search Console to find pages that peaked in organic traffic at different times
    • Involve the social media team to get a better understanding of what your audience is engaging with and why
    • Use Google Trend data to verify your hunches and find clearer answers
    • Use UGC sites such as Quora to find questions users are asking during different months of the year. Use the following site operator and swap out ‘holiday’ for your topic: ‘site:quora.com inurl:holiday’ and then filter by custom date range on your search

    Often consumers are exposed to the same offers, destinations and visuals on key landing pages all year round which is such a missed opportunity.

    We now live in a world of immediacy and those in the industry know the challenges of users cross-shopping between brands, even those who are brand loyal. This often means that if users can’t find what they are looking for quickly, they will bounce and find a site that serves them the content they are looking for.

    For example, there’s an argument for promoting and focusing on media-based content, more so than product, later in the year, to cater to users that are in the ‘consideration’ part of the purchasing funnel.

    Expert tip

    Use number five in this list to pull even more clues to help inform merchandising

  • Holding back on the informational market share

  • I grant you, this is a tall order, travel advice, blogs and guides are a standalone business but, the opportunity for commercial travel sites to compete with the likes of TripAdvisor is massive.

    An opportunity estimated from our recent Travel Sector Report at 232,057 monthly clicks from 22,040 keywords and only Thomas Cook is pushing into the top 10.

    travel sector graph of number of keywords ranking

    Commercial sites that don’t have a huge amount of authority might struggle to rank for informational queries because dedicated travel sites that aren’t directly commercial are usually deemed to provide better/unbiased content for users.

    Having said that, you can see clearly from above that it IS possible!

    So, here’s what you should do…

    …focus on one thing and do it better than anyone else

    Sounds pretty straightforward and you’re probably thinking ‘I’ve heard this before’ but, only a handful in the travel industry are actually doing this well.

    Often you see the same information from one travel site to the next, average weather, flight times, the location of the country on a map, a little bit of fluff about the history of the destination and then straight into accommodation.

    This is fine, it’s useful, but it’s not outstanding.

    Let’s take Thomas Cook as an example.

    Thomas Cook has built a network of weather pages that provide live forecasts, annual overviews as well as unique insights into when is best to go to different destinations. It even has a tool to shop for holidays by the weather (something very important to Brits) called ‘Where’s Hot When?’

    Thomas Cook where's hot when?

    The content is relevant, useful, concise, complete, easy to use, contemporary in design and, most importantly, better than anyone else’s.

    In short, Thomas Cook is nailing it.

    They have focused on weather and haven’t stopped until it’s as best as it can be.

    Why did they bother with weather? Well it’s approximately a third of all travel-related informational searches that we found in our keyword set from the Travel Sector Report:

    travel sector graph number of searches and ranking

    Apply Thomas Cook’s methodology to something that is relevant to your audience, it could be; family attractions, adult only tour guides, Michelin star eateries, international laws families should be concerned about, the list is plentiful!

    Find something, nail it.

  • Ignoring the gold in on-site search

  • There are some big travel sites out there that don’t have an on-site search function which is a huge missed opportunity. Travel sites are inherently difficult to navigate with such a volume of pages, site search is quite often a great solution for users.

    As well as this, it can give marketers some amazing insight into what users are looking for, not just generally in terms of the keywords users might be using but also the queries users are searching on a page by page level.

    For example, you could drill down into the differences between queries searched on your homepage vs queries searched on specific landing pages to spot trends in behavior and fix the content gaps from these areas of the site.

    You could also use the data to inform merchandising decisions to address number three on this list.

    In doing this, users are actually telling you exactly what they are looking for, at what time, whether they are a repeat visitor or a new one and where they’ve come from to visit your site.

    If you spend the time, this data is gold!

    If you can’t get buy in for this, test the theory with an out of the box search function that plugs straight into your site like searchnode. Try it for six months, you might be surprised at how many users turn to it and you will get some really actionable data out of it.

    It’s also super easy to track in Google Analytics and the reports are really straightforward:

    1. Go to Admin

    google analytics add searchnode search box to your site

    2. Click ‘View Settings’

    google analytics view settings

    3. Switch ‘Site search Tracking’ on

    google analytics site search tracking on

    4. Strip the letter that appears in your site’s search URL before the search terms e.g. for wordpress this is usually the letter “s”: www.travelsite.co.uk/?s=search-term

    5. Click ‘save’, boom you’re done.

    Let Google collect data, extract it monthly and dig, dig furiously!

  • Ignoring custom 404 errors pages

  • Who doesn’t love a witty 404 page. More and more often you’ll find that when webmasters optimize a 404 error page they make them lighthearted. Here’s a great example from Broadway Travel:

    broadway travel 404 error page

    There is a reason why webmasters aim for a giggle.

    Think about it… when users hit a 404 error page, 100% of the time there’s a problem, which is a big inconvenience when you’re minding your own business and having a browse, so, something to make you laugh goes a long way at keeping you unfrustrated.

    Time to name names, and show you some 404 error pages that need some work…

    British Airways

    british airways 404 page not found

    TUI & Firstchoice

    TUI and Firstchoice 404 page not found

    Expedia

    expedia 404 page not found

    Momondo

    momondo 404 page not found

    404 error pages happen over time, it’s totally normal.

    It’s also normal to get traffic to your 404 error page. But it’s not just any old traffic, it’s traffic that you’ve worked hard to get hold of.

    If, at this point, you’re thinking, ‘my site has recently been audited and internal links to 404 pages have been cleared up’.

    Think again!

    Users can misspell URLs, ancient external links can point to old pages, the product team can make mistakes, as meticulous as you may be, please don’t discount this one.

    Losing quality users because of a bad 404 experience is an SEO’s idea of nails down a chalkboard.

    Here are some tips to optimize your 404 pages:

    • Hit them with something witty but don’t be controversial
    • Feature the main site query forms prominently so users can conduct another ‘base’ search
    • Feature a site search option as well – an error page is a perfect opportunity to get users to conduct a site search to give you some insight into what they are looking for (number five on this list)
    • Include curated links to most popular top level pages such as destinations, guides, hotels, deals etc. This will allow users to start from at the top of each section and it will also allow search engines to continue crawling if they hit a 404 page
    • Re-emphasize branding, USPs, value proposition and trust signals to subconsciously remind users of why they’re on your site in the first place

    Even if you think your 404 is awesome don’t neglect them when they pop up:

    • Review the 404 page data in Google Analytics behavior flow to find broken links you may not have known about and fix them
    • Keep on top of your 404 pages in Google Search Console and redirect to appropriate pages where necessary

    404’s are often the bane of an SEO’s life and you might think about ways to get out of keeping on top of them.

    Sadly there aren’t any short cuts….

    …Bonus SEO mistake

    Creating a global 301 redirect rule for every 404 page and direct them to your homepage.

    This is surprisingly common but is poor SEO practice for a number of reasons, firstly you won’t be able to identify where users are having issues on your site when 404 pages pop up.

    You may also be redirecting a page that could have originally had content on it that was totally irrelevant to your homepage. It’s likely in this situation that Google will actually override your redirect and classify it as a soft 404, not to mention the links that may have originally pointed to your 404’s.

    Save your users, build a 404 page!

    Final thoughts

    No site is perfect, and although it might appear as though we’re pointing fingers, we want you to be able to overcome any challenges that come with SEO implementation — there’s always a bigger priority but keep your mind open and don’t neglect the small stuff to stay ahead of the game.

    The post Six most common travel SEO mistakes to get right in 2019 appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

    Google’s Pichai answers to Congress: The good, the bad and the frustrating

    The appearance of Google CEO Sundar Pichai in front of Congress yesterday has been eagerly anticipated by those of us following the company’s tumultuous year in the face of criticism from international press, human rights organizations, and its own staff.

    The hearing – lasting more than three hours – was titled Transparency & Accountability: Examining Google and its Data Collection, Use and Filtering Practices and promised to give Pichai an opportunity to publicly clarify the search giant’s position on consumer rights in regards to privacy in an increasingly data-dependent world – as well as reflecting on its openness as a business in the political context at home and abroad.

    Overall, the hearing was a bit of a mixed bag. This was less to do with the substance of Pichai’s answers and more to do with the flawed questioning from the assembled. Here are what I took away as good and bad responses from the Google chief, as well as a few of my frustrations.

    The good

    Some of Pichai’s most substantial answers came when asked about issues of diversity, the wellbeing of ethnic minorities, and the rights of women.

    He reiterated Google’s commitment to diversity and made reference to the fact that the business were the first to publish a transparency report on their diversity. He also pointed to combating the spread of white supremacy content on YouTube and made clear his and the company’s zero-tolerance attitude on hate speech.

    This was obviously comforting to the assembled congress men and women – particularly as the US has seen hate crimes rise by 17% last year, and online media is argued to be adding to the normalization of hate speech in the mainstream.

    Pichai was also asked about forced arbitration within the business – a subject that came to the fore last month as staff in Google offices around the world staged a mass walkout ‘to protest sexual harassment, misconduct, lack of transparency, and a workplace that doesn’t work for everyone.’

    His response was that the company have already enacted changes where forced arbitration for sexual harassment is concerned. This means that if employees want to bring sexual harassment charges against someone they now have the right to do so outside of the internal arbitration structure of the business (via a class action lawsuit, for instance). Pichai also expressed commitment to make changes (ultimately removing forced arbitration, I assume) outside of the realm of sexual harassment – giving more options and rights back to the employees.

    The bad

    As we expected, a number of questions during the hearing were focused on the rumored development of a new search product for the Chinese market.

    Pichai was initially quite firm that Google had no plans to launch a search product (currently referred to as Dragonfly) in China, but the more he was pressed on the subject, the more woolly that stance became. ‘We have undertaken internal effort,’ he said, adding later: ‘It’s our duty to explore possibilities to give users access to information.’

    Answers here were less substantial than those given in a recent Q&A with Pichai at the Wired 25 Summit in October. But we can see that internal development on a tool for the Chinese market is ongoing – even in the face of calls from staff to shut it down. Pichai’s stance is that pursuing work to give access to information for consumers everywhere (including China) is the human right he, and Google, is focused on. He did commit to being transparent as this work continues, but I have my doubts.

    Some of the other more difficult questions for Pichai concerned internal messages and discussions from Google staff regarding domestic politics.

    He was pressed on potential bias when a staff member admitted in an email to the company helping to get the Latino vote out in key states and not others during the 2016 election. Pichai denied such activities happened – at least in terms of Google itself working to do this. Another congressman questioned whether it was right that there should be a forum for the Resist (anti Donald Trump) group on Google’s staff network. Pichai said he was not aware of the group.

    The frustrating

    As we’ve seen, some of the questions on bias at Google are justified – although they frequently simmer down to semantics of the language used by staff when discussing politics on company time and in staff forums. Who is ‘we’ in the case of getting the Latino vote out in key states? Is the content discussed in the Resist group too political?

    There were also plenty of frustrating moments where the capacity of congress members to understand how an algorithm which takes into account a vast number of metrics (including freshness, how linked-to the content is, and previous individual search history) can sometimes deliver results that appear more or less conservative or liberal.

    I felt sorry for Pichai as he spent several minutes assuring one congressman that while his search for Donald Trump gave mostly negative results, the algorithm itself is neutral and the best content for the search query (in terms of quality and relevance) just so happens to not present Trump in a positive light. A few moments later, a congressman (presumably on the other side of the fence) expressed his disgruntlement after a recent vanity search to find most top ranking sites running stories about him were from the right wing news press.

    All too often congressmen were seen to bark at Pichai, “it’s a yes or no answer,” when it could never be. Some held their iPhones (not Android devices) aloft and expected Pichai to know whether any Google apps on it were saving location data. These instances managed to be both depressing and humorous, but they highlighted a number of dualities Google must contend with as it moves into 2019. As a business, it has to be at the forefront of technology dealing with the complex issue of the world’s information and data, while still making sure every day consumers can use it safely and successfully.

    At the same time, Google must be neutral in what it delivers to consumers – while having a staff that is always likely to lean one way politically more than the other, and also striving to be progressive in how it operates.

    And ultimately, it still has a mission to provide users – wherever they are – with the best search information. It is clear that in the case of China, some negotiation with a government known to operate surveillance has to happen. In the case of the US, the company has to answer to a political class that is so binary that it, by comparison, can seem very outdated.

    The post Google’s Pichai answers to Congress: The good, the bad and the frustrating appeared first on Search Engine Watch.