How marketers can position their company to grow with Generation Z

Generation Z, the current 13-17-year-olds, have been mobile since middle school.

Compared to millennials, who were mobile pioneers, Gen Z teens are mobile natives, according to Think with Google. This group is one of the only groups affected by advertising on the basis of whether the product is “cool” or not.

Getting their first phone is a major milestone for Gen Z-ers, and video rules their viewing habits – with a total of more than three hours a day spent watching online videos. They are mobile shoppers, and it is very important for them to stay connected via texting and messaging apps.

So what does this mean for marketers preparing for growth? Well, a lot of it is obvious, but getting there is the tough part.

Gen Z marketing: A few statistics according to Think with Google
Gen Z represents more than a quarter of the U.S. population (26 percent) with an annual purchasing power of $44 billion.
Getting a phone is no. 3 in importance for teens, behind graduating school and getting a license, and teens say they connect with people more via text than face-to-face interaction.
38 percent preferred to interact via text versus just 15 percent in person.
Teens even text those they are in the same room as – three in 10 teens say they text people they are spending time with in person.
More than 50 percent of teens said their social media followers are important to them, giving them social currency. This is important to note for advertising to teens. Their peers influence gen Z-ers – if their friends are talking about a product, they endorse it more than others.
Teens are on screens a majority of the time, which isn’t surprising since most teens had a smartphone by age 12. Compare that to current 18 to 24-year-olds, who had their first smartphone at age 16, and 25 to 34-year-olds at the age of 20.
How Gen Z spends its time

As for apps and platforms, Gen Z uses Snapchat and Instagram the most. Facebook is still consumed daily, but that’s what it is used for – consuming, not sharing. Snapchat is seen as a fun way to interact with friends and peers without their thoughts being shared or permanent.

Connecting offline, teens find sports teams as the best way to connect in the real world, or IRL (in real life). Game consoles and television also play a big role in a teen’s day-to-day life.

Gen Z teens are switching from texting to mobile messaging apps and spend most of their time using those messaging apps, watching videos online and social networking.

Advertising to Generation Z

Sixty-eight percent of teens make purchases online. They also react more positively to ads aimed at them, with teens their age doing things they do. Gen Z doesn’t go to a store unless they know the brick and mortar store has what they want. For most teens, the top three aspects that make something cool are:

If friends are talking about it
If they see an ad about it
If it’s something personalized to them

In order to reach Gen Z teens, companies need to be mobile friendly, personalize their message to teens, use photos, reach them through social media and be philanthropic.

Teens are on their phones more than they are not, so it is correct to assume if they are your target audience, you want to market your brand on mobile. This is the perfect start to implementing other things we’ve learned about Gen Z. Smartphones are No. 1 for use, followed by tablets, laptops, TVs and gaming consoles.

Gen Z-ers spend most of their time watching videos, listening to music and messaging on their mobile devices. Not surprisingly, targeting Gen Z’s video usage, music and social networking apps is the best way to get through to them.

Use advertising with imagery

So, we’ve found the way to get to Gen Z-ers; now let’s talk about how to implement it.

Teens react positively to advertising they can connect with personally – imagery of teens like them doing things they do will get their attention. (However, beware of cheesy stock images which looked too staged, as these will appear inauthentic and could have the exact opposite effect).

Teens want things that are cool or make them unique – how is your brand going to do that?

Not all social media is created equal

Knowing how teens use each social media channel is important. Facebook is more for consumption than sharing – so don’t rely on teens using Facebook to boast about your product, but you can reach them via targeted ads as they scroll. Snapchat is most popular among this age group.

Gen Z likes the idea of sharing their day and ideas via a disappearing photo or video – it’s short-lived, not permanent, and they like that. With social networks being a common ground for haunting any person with mistakes and leading to easy bullying, it’s easy to see why an app that provides communication that doesn’t stick around is popular these days. Snapchat ads and the “Discovery” section for brands are a great place to find your target teen audience.

Instagram’s rates for shopping and targeting audiences are increasing. The app has seen growth in reported conversions for sponsored ads and even those brands which are followed organically. Instagram is another forum to easily target the Gen Z population – again, use photos they can relate to featuring kids their age.

Be philanthropic

Teens also find companies using their brand to make a difference as important. If companies have a good online profile and if their friends are talking about it, the “cool” factor for teens will increase.

Teens want the brands they associate with to make them feel good – companies with great philanthropic efforts are important to Gen Z-ers.

The takeaway

Gen Z has been mobile since a very young age and understands the online platform more than any other generation. They want things fast and easy—shopping from the comfort of their home rather than visiting brick and mortar stores—truly making them the most mobile generation.

How are you planning to scale your business to accommodate Gen Z? Is this something you are already preparing for in your overall marketing strategy? Let us know your thoughts and your experiences in the comment section below.

Amanda DiSilvestro is a writer for NoRiskSEO, a full service SEO agency, and a contributor to SEW. You can connect with Amanda on Twitter and LinkedIn.

How video impacts mobile web performance and UX, part 1: data and download speed

Graph shows the growth of mobile data, and the increasing share of mobile video (as described in the text).

Mobile video is great. When it works.

Implemented correctly, video or audio *should not* impact the speed that pages load on a mobile device and when the play button is pressed, it needs to start quickly and work well.

Video content is top of the agenda for many brands. It is proving a great way to engage customers and visitors, but when viewed on mobile devices, particularly those on cellular connection, video (and to a lesser extent audio) should come with a health warning.

Users are increasingly impatient with slow-to-load and stalling video and will start to abandon a video after waiting just two seconds, research from UMass and Akamai shows.

This column, the first of three parts, will take a close look at how and why video affects page performance. In the second part, we’ll look at the impact of video autoplay and audio on page performance, as well as what makes a poor viewer experience (VX).

Finally, we’ll explore how to detect, avoid and remedy issues to prevent users tuning out.

Video is a massive mobile data hog

The provision and consumption of video on mobile devices via web and apps is growing rapidly. Mobile video is already 60% of total mobile data traffic worldwide and is expected to be 78% by 2021 according to Cisco’s Visual Networking Index (VNI).

All other elements will grow over the next five years, but their proportion of overall traffic will be less. Audio will be 5% compared with 8% today and mobile web will be 14% compared with 30% of traffic today.

Video – and audio – used wrongly or inefficiently will impact mobile user experience (UX) – or should we say: “viewer experience” (VX) or “listener experience” (LX) – massively, but not necessarily in the same way as oversized images and poor or inefficient use of JavaScript.

Images and JavaScript, as seen in previous columns, are the biggest causes of slow loading mobile web pages. As discussed below, video can still contribute to page size and therefore contribute to page load delays, particularly (it seems) where autoplay is used, as we will discuss below.

But the biggest impact on VX comes after page load when the video is slow, or fails, to start or stalls.

The two charts below are from HTTP Archive, which twice monthly records the page size and download speed of the homepages of the top 1 million sites to desktop and mobile devices, using the excellent WebPageTest.

The first chart shows the breakdown of content types by bytes – images, JavaScript, video, stylesheets, HTML and fonts – as an average of all homepages recorded on April 15, 2017.

Video is 128kB or 5.5% of the total bytes loaded (2312 kB or 2.3MB). This might appear small, until you realize that 97% of pages monitored by HTTP Archive have no video content (we examine this surprising stat below).

Pages that do have video content will therefore show a higher proportion of video content.

The second chart (captured April 15, 2017) shows the content breakdown for the homepage of the US digital agency Huge. Here video content is 727kB or 14.5% of the total bytes. The total weight of the page is 5MB, which is a homepage worthy of the company name, and, when measured, took 25.8 seconds to load on a mobile device, according to HTTP Archive.

To be fair, many agencies (digital, media, advertising et al) have surprisingly slow loading, heavy weight sites (considering the importance of digital to their businesses), though Huge is exceptionally large. A trimmer example is Young and Rubicam. On the same date the Y&R homepage took three seconds to load 783kB on a mobile device (on other dates it took nine seconds) according to HTTP Archive.

Video shouldn’t affect page load size or download speed

Implemented correctly, video (or audio) should not impact the size of the webpage or the speed that pages load on a mobile device, according to the experts.

Even when video is present on the page, to render the page, the browser only needs to load the video container, teaser image, start button etc. it doesn’t need to download the entire video (as the visitor may not want to watch it at all). Thus video and audio ought not to be a significant proportion of content recorded by HTTP Archive / WebPageTest – as we will see when we look at the most popular sites.

Sam Dutton is a Developer Advocate at Google who provides educational materials and workshops for techies in mobile video. He explains:

“Video is not a big issue for page loading, since in general video shouldn’t be part of the cost of loading a web page.

“HTTP Archive measures the bytes to load a web page, not the total bytes crossing the internet. When you load most web pages, you don’t load a video (but you do load images, HTML, CSS and JavaScript).

“Top sites are less likely than less popular sites to require video for page load since (hopefully) the top sites realize the detrimental effects on page weight and (therefore) bounce rates, etc.”

In the next part of this series, we’ll find out why video autoplay is bad for accessibility, how audio impacts page performance, and what can cause a poor viewer experience on mobile.

Google Answer Box Strategy: The Dos and Don’ts

There is significant evolution occurring, on an almost daily basis, when it comes to Google’s search engine results page (SERP).

Recently, Google’s SERP has gone through yet another evolution, with the addition of a rich featured snippet known as Google’s Answer Box. Since its initial launch, the Answer Box Snippet has continued to gain traction, but it wasn’t until 2016 that brands really started utilizing it.

To get a better understanding of how companies use it, our team at iQuanti ran an internal analysis across multiple enterprise SEO organic footprints in multiple industries, and found 4-6 times the growth of keyword terms now triggering an Answer Box result.

As we all know, Google tries to interpret search intent based on selected keywords and associated behavior models. Within this model, Google attempts to surface a relevant result and display it within the SERP as a highlighted boxed result – known as an Answer Box.

Google is known to test features, innovations and algorithmic updates often, leading us to question whether or not these tests will become a permanent fixture on Google. So is the Google Answer Box here to stay?

Right now, all indications say yes – not least the patent that Google has filed around the Answer Box intellectual property. This means that it could be well worth your time devising a strategy to maximize your chances of achieving a Google Answer Box.

Why is achieving a Google Answer Box important?

To answer this question, we might well ask in return: Why is any organic rank position important?

Rank positions attract search users’ clicks – also known as “click-throughs” – which are measured in CTR, or Click-Through Rate. A higher rank improves CTR, which increases traffic to your website.

The absolute position of the answer box sits above all other rank positions and is now coined as “Rank zero”. So what is better than being ranked first in Google search? Being in rank zero.

However, if that is not convincing enough, let’s dive into our data analysis. On average, the Google Answer Box secures an astounding 32.3 percent CTR.

This means that for the given term(s) triggered within your organic footprint, you are either securing approximately 32 percent market share of that volume, or losing it – which makes for a significant opportunity.

Is rank 1 still rank 1 with Google Answer Box present?

Short answer: No. Based on several data analysis across several keyword sets and vertical markets, our team concluded that without an answer box present, organic rank 1 position yields on average about a 25 percent CTR (branded and non-branded have different standard CTR curves).

However, what happens when an Answer Box is present on that same exact keyword? Our data shows on average that when an answer box is present, the average CTR for that same keyword in the same number 1 rank position drops to about an 18 percent CTR.

Looking at the chart below, we can see that without any loss of rank position (maintaining rank 1), the CTR for the six keyword examples declines rapidly when an Answer Box result surfaces into the equation is but not achieved.

Then, once the answer box is achieved, the CTR climbs back up, surpassing the organic rank 1 position to the upper echelon of 30-35 percent. This behavior is represented both in branded and non-branded keyword sets within the SERP.

This confirms that just as important as ranking top organically is to your enterprise SEO campaigns, you cannot overlook the integration of a strong strategy to acquire the answer box triggers.

5 easy steps to develop a Google Answer Box strategy

Of course it does not take much convincing on the importance of this rich featured snippet within Google’s landscape, but how does a brand start developing a sound strategy that can acquire these results?

Instead of just publishing another article about how powerful the Answer Box is, we came up with a simple 5-step strategy that will give brands a better understanding of how to implement a Google Answer Box strategy.

Step 1. The footprint triggers

The first part of this plan is to know and understand which keywords are triggering an Answer Box. Start by pulling the organic footprint of your brand’s domain, which is every organic keyword you are ranking for, regardless of rank position.

Then use a tool (like SEMrush or ALPS) to tell you which keywords are triggering a featured snippet. If you are really curious, you can map these data points across the last year and see how your own organic footprint has grown within the Answer Box landscape. It may just unlock some answers for why you have experienced traffic loss without an apparent cause.

After segmenting out the data for your own footprint, I would recommend doing it for you competitors as well. Everything is public knowledge so no need for guilt or be surprised when they do it to you.

By overlaying their data across yours, you can gain a deeper understanding of your competitive landscape. From there, you can also run a gap analysis to see which keywords within the competitive footprint are triggering the Answer Box that you do not have within yours. We will save this data for quadrant 4 of the prioritization matrix.

Step 2. 2×2 prioritization matrix

The second step is to prioritize and categorize all of this data. In order to do this, I recommend a simple 2×2 matrix.

In order to be considered for Google’s Answer Box, you need the proper authority and relevance. So for the first quadrant, take a look at all the keywords that currently rank in a top 5 organic rank position (authority needed to win a result). This means the web page in market for those keywords already have adequate authority signals.

The second quadrant would be the keywords filtered by highest volume and mixed authority (largest impact to traffic based on volume). What this means is that if you acquire an answer box result for high volume keyword terms, they will drive the most traffic to your website. However with mixed authority signals, you may need to work on building authority to those pages and key terms.

The third quadrant would be the keyword terms that have authority signals from rank 5+, or first page keyword terms and mixed volume. This means you will need to try to boost the rank and relevancy to get a payout.

Lastly, the final quadrant is those keyword triggers from your competitive landscape that we referenced above (new pages, new volume). These are keywords that you do not have any content or an existing rank for, which equates to new opportunity and new volume.

Step 3. A game of jeopardy

Now the fun begins. Having all of these keywords that trigger an answer box is one thing, but more importantly is knowing how and why they create that trigger for Google.

As I mentioned in the beginning of this article, Google is trying to interpret intent and understand what you are really looking for. So if the answer box is providing an answer, you just need to figure out what the question is. Welcome to Jeopardy!

This is subjective, however, as you also need to try and understand what question(s) Google is trying to answer, and then make sure your website is answering them. This truly is about the user experience.

Step 4. Answer elements – expanding your on-page content

According to Google’s patent that has been filed on Answer Box results, the algorithm is calculating “answer elements” and providing an accumulative score.

To translate this into simple terms, this means that if website A answers the mystery question with a paragraph of text and a direct answer, it receives a score.

If website B answers that same question, also with paragraph text in a direct fashion, however also answers it with expanded elements (tables, charts, graphs, etc.) then website B has answered the question with more answer elements, thus achieving a higher answer element score.

In addition, if website B expands and answers “halo” questions (surrounding or supplementing questions), then it is not only providing more answer elements but a stronger user experience. If it is good for the user it is good for Google.

To help illustrate this, here are a few of the many forms Google has introduced into the answer box where you can see different types of answer elements displayed.

Text Version

Bullet Version

Image Version

Table Version

Step 5. Understanding the role of authority: Do I have to be ranked 1?

How does authority or rank play a role? Can only rank 1 achieve an Answer Box? No.

I have seen up to rank 5 position still acquire the Answer Box within Google’s SERP. As with all SEO, there is a contribution of both authority signals and relevancy that make up the winning answer.

So yes, you will need to have enough topical authority to render your relevant content authoritative, but it does not look like you MUST be ranked in first position to secure the Answer Box result.

It is nice to see Google reward the most relevant result to the Answer Box versus just the large gorilla in the rank 1 position.

Wayne Cichanski is Sr. Director of Search Strategy at iQuanti.

What does voice search mean for your local SEO strategy?

The ubiquity of virtual assistants like Siri, Cortana and Alexa, together with improvements in technology, has led to an uptick in voice search queries.

For businesses that rely on local search traffic, this has important ramifications for their strategy.

So how can businesses ensure they aren’t left behind when it comes to local search?

Produced in collaboration with Brandify.

OK, Google…what’s going on with voice search?

Voice search is a growing trend that has been pinging the radars of savvy search marketers for the last few years.

In 2016, conversational AI company MindMeld surveyed smartphone users in the US, finding that 60% of users who used voice search had started using it in the last past year – indicating rising adoption rates. This is backed up by Mary Meeker’s 2016 Internet Trends Report, which found that Google voice search queries in 2016 are up 35x over 2008, now making up 20% of searches made with the Google Android app.

It’s not hard to see why. Voice searches are fast (humans can speak at 150 words per minute, versus typing at 40 wpm), convenient (instant, hands-free) and increasingly reliable.

Rising word accuracy rates are a big factor. Usage in the US grew from 30-65% between 2013-2015, with 35% citing improvements in technology as the primary reason for adopting it.

In its early stages, voice recognition had an accuracy of below 80%, rendering the service buggy and difficult to use. Today, Google’s word accuracy rate is over 90%.

But the real driver of widespread adoption has been the omnipresence of virtual assistants like Siri, Cortana, Google Assistant – all of whom will automatically perform a web search if they are unable to answer a question natively.

SEO company HigherVisibility surveyed 2,000 mobile phone users and found that 27% of respondents use voice search assistants daily, while another 27% use them at least once a week.

What does this mean for search traffic?

More searches using natural language

Whereas regular searches usually just include keywords (‘IHOP opening times’), voice searches tend to be structured using full, grammatically correct sentences (‘what time does IHOP open on a Sunday?’).

In fact, Google is currently working to better accommodate these so-called ‘natural language’ queries. At the Google I/O developer conference last year, Google CEO Sundar Pichai revealed Google Assistant’s ability to handle follow-up questions without the need to re-state the context.

This allows you to search something like “Who directed The Revenant?” followed immediately by “Show me his awards”.

More searches on mobile

The convenience afforded by voice search comes into its own when users are on mobile. Although available on desktop web for Google and via Siri for Mac (as of OSX Sierra), voice searches don’t make as much sense in a desktop environment.

Higher Visibility found that over half (53%) of those that used voice search used it when driving, and another 21% used it when doing another activity.

More searches with local intent

According to Meeker’s Internet Trends Report 2016, mobile voice-related searches are 3X more likely to be local-based than text-based queries. This makes local SEO critical for businesses seeking to appear in these results.

What does it mean for your marketing strategy?

Look to target long-tail and natural language keywords in content

For the question-answering content on your site, consider how someone might phrase their search query as a full sentence. If you’re stuck for inspiration, your website analytics should reveal at least one or two search terms that tick this box.

Creating an FAQs page is an easy way to optimize for this, as it both asks and answers the most relevant queries for customers – and puts full questions in prominent header tags.

Optimize your site for mobile

In October 2016, global mobile / tablet web browsing finally exceeded desktop, with the former accounting for 51.3%, and the latter 48.7% according to StatCounter.

Mobile-friendliness has been a ranking signal since 2015, but it’s particularly important for businesses who receive traffic from local search from mobile users – such as searches appended with ‘near me’.

Improve your local SEO to target searches with local intent

Google’s Venice update in 2012 improved the triggering of Local Universal results (aka the ‘three-pack’, shown below). This box pops up when faced with queries that have relevant local results, like my Neanderthal request for “food near me”:

Basic SEO advice aside, here are a few simple steps to improve your ranking in these results:

  • Verify your Google My Business listing including a long, unique and correctly-formatted description that includes links to your business. You should also upload high-resolution photos, opening times, a phone number and a business address that matches your website.
  • Use a consistent name, address and phone number (NAP) across your online profiles. That includes your Google My Business listing and your website. This information needs to be exact.
  • Acquire and maintain positive reviews as these have been shown to affect your ranking in local search results. For more on how to manage your reputation online, check out our handy guide: ‘How to handle negative reviews and manage your brand’s reputation‘ over on our sister site, ClickZ.

This article was produced in collaboration with Brandify. Click here to read our collaborative content guidelines.

This article originally ran on our sister site, ClickZ, and has been republished here for the enjoyment of our readers on Search Engine Watch.

Google just released verified customer reviews: 3 ways to come out on top

Customer reviews play an important role in the success or failure of a business.

Just think, before you try out a new product or service, don’t you usually go online to read the reviews and see what kind of experiences other customers have had? In addition to boosting your online reputation, reviews can also be used to boost your visibility and authority online.

Google has always been a great place to look for reviews; their trusted stores feature contains a lot of helpful insights and information about a wide variety of popular businesses.

That being said, they recently decided to do away with trusted stores in favor of a new type of review: verified customer reviews. Now it’s up to businesses to learn the difference between the two as well as how to optimize this new feature in their favor.

Below I’ll explain more about what verified reviews are as well as suggest some ways businesses can use them to come out on top of the competition.

What is a verified customer review?

A verified customer review is a review a customer can leave after making a purchase from a company’s website. It differs from a typical Google review in that in order to leave one, a customer MUST make an online purchase, so the business being reviewed is required to have an online store.

Traditional Google reviews could be left about anything (an online purchase, an in-store purchase, a customer service experience, etc.) and they could also essentially be written by anyone, even though Google discourages fake reviews.

There is no way to verify that the person leaving the review actually made a purchase. These types of reviews are not going away, but because of their flaws it was necessary for Google to introduce a more reliable way to leave feedback.

Image via thesearchmarketingshop.com

Verified reviews stand out in the way they are obtained; after a customer makes an online purchase, they’ll be sent an email with a link asking them to leave a review. If they haven’t made a purchase, they won’t receive an email and they won’t be able leave feedback.

This is great for other customers who now have a trustworthy way to determine whether a business is worth pursuing; they don’t have to try and guess if a review is authentic or not.

That being said, it’s going to require some extra work on the part of entrepreneurs. You have to set up verified reviews, and then it will take some time to build up a positive reputation.

Thankfully there are some things you can do to enhance your chances of coming out on top.

How to sign up for verified customer reviews

The following steps come straight from the Google Blog and explain exactly how you can enable customer reviews.

  • Sign in to your Merchant Center account (or sign up if you do not have an account).
  • Select “Merchant Center programs” from the dropdown in the upper right-hand corner.
  • Click “Get Started” in the Google Customer Reviews card and accept the Program Agreement.
  • Add the survey opt-in code to your website.
  • Optional: Add the badge code to your site wherever you want. This will make the badge appear on your site, allowing you to display your seller rating and show customers that you’re integrated with Google Customer Reviews.

Image via Google

The key here is to remember that you have to opt-in for this feature; you won’t automatically start receiving verified reviews. Thankfully, it’s free, and if you follow the few simple steps listed above, you’re bound to start getting reviews in no time.

That being said, because verified reviews are a relatively new feature, not much is known on exactly how to best optimize them in your favor. The essence of them is that they’re left by true online customers, so we’re going to focus on how you can collect as many positive reviews as possible.

1. Offer an incentive

Unfortunately it’s often the customers who have bad experiences who are most likely to leave a review; most people can’t be bothered to take the time to write about a positive experience.

This may change if you offer some kind of incentive for leaving a review (you can’t specify that it has to be a positive one, but most likely it will be if you run an incentive program).

Include information about the incentive in your company newsletter, post about it on social media, and advertise it on your website.

You can offer something like free shipping or a percentage off their next purchase for taking the time to leave a verified review; people love free stuff, and it might just be enough to encourage them to take the extra few minutes to follow the link and leave the review. It never hurts to ask!

2. Follow up the link with a personal email

Google is already making it incredibly easy to leave a review by automatically emailing a link to customers, but there’s no reason why you can’t take it a step further and follow up their email with your own. Just because Google is asking them to leave a review doesn’t mean they’re going to do it.

Customers will appreciate a more personalized email from you explaining why reviews are important to small businesses and how much you would appreciate them reviewing the product they just purchased, as well as your business overall.

If you don’t want to send an email you can also follow up with a phone call if you have that information. It’s much easier to say no to a computer than it is to a human, and many people are receptive to the idea of helping a small business succeed.

Throw in an incentive for leaving a review and you’re golden!

3. Respond to both positive and negative reviews

It’s not enough to just ask people to leave a review; you also need to respond after they’ve done so. If they leave a positive review, reach out and thank them for taking the time to do so.

If they leave a negative one, it’s even more imperative that you respond and try to rectify the situation. Find out exactly what they’re unhappy about and try to make it right.

Even if you can’t satisfy that particular customer, other patrons will see that you’ve taken the time to address the concern and try to fix the issue and they’ll appreciate that. One or two bad reviews don’t necessarily have to ruin your reputation as long as you handle them appropriately.

For more out-of-the-box ideas on obtaining good customer reviews, check out this article from HigherVisibility.

Regardless of how you get them, reviews are essential for business success and we recommend that you take the extra time to cultivate relationships with your customers so that they’re motivated to leave positive feedback.

Now that verified customer reviews have been introduced, we foresee Google reviews holding even more weight with customers, so it’s important that you collect positive ones for your business.

Have you opted in to verified customer reviews yet? Do you have any ideas on how you can use them to come out on top? Comment in the section below!

Amanda DiSilvestro is a writer for HigherVisibility, a full service SEO agency, and a contributor to SEW. You can connect with Amanda on Twitter and LinkedIn.

5 reasons to give SEO experts a seat at the website planning table

Maybe it’s your company’s yearly planning session, or maybe the meeting is being called because your website is in dire need of a refresh.

Whether the goal is to help form a new layout for the website, or to start creating the content calendar for the year, the planning sessions will naturally have product heads, key executives, and marketing managers in attendance.

As your company conducts this careful planning process and dreams up the site’s future, there’s one other important voice that should be at that table: your SEO expert. Whether this is an in-house individual or an external SEO agency or consultant, the knowledge this person can provide will have a critical impact on the site’s ultimate success.

Here are five ways that your go-to SEO expert can positively affect the outcome of your website project:

1) Ensure that your site has a design that’s search engine friendly

Just as it’s the job of your designers to ensure that the website is inviting and communicates elegantly with users, your SEO expert’s responsibility includes making sure the site communicates all the right information to search engines.

Your SEO lead can help tailor a site design that delivers essential company/product information from the homepage, in a way that assists search engines in efficiently learning all they need to know about your site. By doing this, your SEO expert sets the stage for your site to be viewed more favorably when it comes to organic search rankings.

2) Discover and make the most of content opportunities

Your content specialists ought to work hand in hand with your SEO expert to craft content that has legs and delivers business value. The right content selection process can lead to subject matter that works for you, naturally pulling in traffic by providing desired information on the correct topics.

Your SEO expert can really help inform this process, identifying those content opportunities that will bring in new customers and then optimizing that content so that it receives the visibility it deserves.

3) Optimizing updates to page content, metadata, and locations

When making any changes to the structure of your site, make sure your SEO expert is involved.

How your site is designed to move visitors from page to page – and the content and metadata within those pages – have a determinative effect on how search engines value your site. Your SEO expert can inspect the user flow of your site’s pages and suggest any content changes that would be beneficial.

Your expert might also take the opportunity to rewrite metadata and update pages to follow the best practices for heightening visibility in search engine queries.

4) Utilize the possibilities of off-page content

From videos to presentations and beyond, remember there are opportunities to gain visibility for your brand away from your website. In certain cases – which your SEO expert should be able to recognize – these pieces of content can ultimately contribute to your brand’s SEO by enhancing your overall presence in search engine results.

For example, a video screencap displayed in search results can capture clicks and attention, and ultimately increase traffic to your site.

5) Execute large-scale SEO initiatives

When making preparations for a site redesign, it may also be an optimal time to pursue major SEO initiatives.

Some site-enhancing projects worth considering: adding HTTPS to make the site more secure (and trustworthy for visitors), or adding schema markup where appropriate – likely for videos, recipes, products, etc. – to enable search engines to provide users with more informative results.

Kevin Gamache is Search Strategist at Wire Stone, an independent digital marketing agency for global Fortune 1000 brands.

How to optimize Google My Business listings for multi-location businesses

Being listed on Google My Business (GMB) is an essential part of any local SEO strategy.

But how can businesses with multiple locations make sure they aren’t penalized in search rankings?

Produced in association with SweetIQ.

Google My Business

Google My Business was rolled out in 2014 to make it easier for local businesses to be found via search. It had an added benefit of allowing businesses to stay on top of reviews, and to perform analytics on interactions like clicks, views, calls and requests for directions.

In other words, it became the first step in any local search marketing strategy.

Today, a well-maintain GMB listing remains a vital source of traffic and, ultimately, revenue – especially for businesses competing for location-specific keywords.

Google’s ‘three pack’ of local search results, which is triggered by search terms with local intent like “restaurants Venice Beach”, is given significantly more prominence than organic results in both desktop and mobile SERPs. In fact, organic results are not even visible above the fold for mobile users.

Google’s mobile SERP for ‘restaurants Venice beach’ (left) vs ‘Venice beach’ (right). Screenshots courtesy of Andy Favell

Essential for SEO

Since Google reduced the number of local results from 7 to 3 in 2015, it has become more important than ever for businesses to feature as high as possible in these results. And with 1 in 3 Google searches now having local intent (according to digital marketing expert Jordan Kasteler) there is more traffic up for grabs than ever.

On the flip-side, competition for this traffic is fierce, meaning mistakes can cost you dearly. The Local Search Association estimates that over $10bn worth of potential annual sales are lost because of missing or conflicting information in Google My Business listings.

For businesses with multiple locations, this is a real problem; each business location has a unique address and contact details. How can big businesses ensure they aren’t penalized for conflicting information on their Google My Business profile?

First steps

Luckily, Google is well aware of this problem, and allows business owners to claim multi-location business listings. However, in order to be verified by Google as such, a few conditions must first be met. A business must:

  • Have at least 10 locations
  • Not be a service business
  • Not be an agency managing several clients

The local 3-pack for ‘pizza delivery New York’ returns Domino’s Pizza – a chain with many hundred locations

Optimize your multi-location business

After claiming your multi-location business on GMB, the next step is to optimize your listing. But before you can do this, you must first understand what factors influence your chance of appearing in the local ‘three pack’.

The most important of these is accuracy across all platforms. This means making sure every piece of information about your business is consistent across all the websites it appears on, including Yellow Pages, Yelp, Facebook, Foursquare, Apple Maps, Hotfrog and, of course, your own website.

Google bots crawl all of these pages and, when encountering information about your business, will compare it to your GMB listing to establish its validity. Any inconsistencies will raise a red flag about the accuracy of your information and will likely lead to your GMB listing being penalized in the rankings.

How do you ensure accuracy between your listings?

1. Claim and verify all your locations using a single, unique GMB account.

Make sure you delete any duplicate listings or accounts that may have been created by other staff members in other locations.

2. Ensure your business name, address and phone number (‘NAP’) are an exact match wherever they appear.

The easiest way to achieve this is to simply copy and paste from your GMB listing.

3. Optimize your store locator on your central website so it’s crawlable by Google.

Google considers your website the most ‘official’ source of information regarding your company, so ensuring Google can access it is essential.

4. Use a microsite for each of your store locations.

This gives each location a unique reference and separate About page – each with an accurate NAP that Google can crawl.

5. Use a Local Marketing Platform to manage all of this information.

It allows you to see what Google sees, and check and edit data for all your store location from a single interface – ensuring complete accuracy across all platform. Most can also provide advice on optimizing store locators for your website, along with detailed analytics on user interactions, traffic sources and more.

To learn more about optimizing GMB listings for multi-location businesses, and to understand how to turn GMB data into actionable insights, download the SweetIQ Guide to Google My Business.

Content produced in association with SweetIQ. Click here to read our collaborative content guidelines.

5 most interesting search marketing news stories of the week

Welcome to our weekly round-up of all the latest news and research from the world of search marketing and beyond.

Google has been busy this week, performing several interesting tests including two fairly major ones concerning hotel reviews and job listings.

Meanwhile, Bing makes its homepage a little more interactive, and Google has announced that Similar Audiences will be available for Search and Shopping in AdWords. Finally, one Googler put a persistent SEO myth about 404 pages to bed once and for all.

Google is testing a new UI for hotel reviews

Toronto SEO specialist Sergey Alakov discovered the test last week, exploring its implications in a post on his personal blog. The test shows a new review carousel that amalgamates reviews from third-party sources like Expedia and booking.com.

There are a few changes to the review system too, with Google now displaying average scores for Room, Locations, and Services & Facilities. Clicking through to the reviews section also shows an average score for different types of traveler – like Couples, Families, and Solo.

Image courtesy of Sergey Alakov

…alongside a new Job Portal to help users find job listings

SEO and Moz-affiliate Dan Shure broke the test via Twitter last Friday with a screenshot of a Knowledge Panel-esque feature for active job listings. Clicking through results in an expanded results page which allows segmentation by industry, title, type, location, company type and employer.

Speculators were quick to spell doom for the recruitment industry, with one contributor linking to a Google Hire page.

Image courtesy of @dan_shure

Bing is sharing the story behind its homepage photos

Bing’s homepage has sought to differentiate itself from the stoic simplicity of Google with high-res, eye-catching background images.

An article from Search Engine Land noted that Bing homepage now displays the source of these images, and offers the option to download and share it via social media.

Google announces a new audience solution for Search and Shopping

In a Google+ post, the Google AdWords account revealed that their Similar Audiences feature would now be available for Search and Shopping. Here’s the full text of the post:

Remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA) (https://goo.gl/J6csaJ) help you reconnect with people who’ve been to your site, but engaging both new and loyal customers is just as important to your business. Starting today, we’re rolling out similar audiences for Search and Shopping along with Customer Match for Shopping to help you use your own data to reach the right customer with the right message: https://goo.gl/sa2VMK

Google confirmed you won‘t be demoted for linking to a 404 page

There has been some speculation over the impact of linking to 404 pages, which provide a potentially negative experience for users. SEOs have asked: does Google care?

Well, in response to a tweet from SEMPost writer Jennifer Slegg, Gary Illyes (@methode) confirmed that Google doesn’t take it into account:

@jenstar What? No. Why on earth would that be a good idea?

— Gary Illyes ᕕ( ᐛ )ᕗ (@methode) April 29, 2017

Not much room for ambiguity there.

The 4 scariest online marketing disasters and how to avoid them

serpstat

My favorite funny anecdote is that one day an online marketer wakes up in horror from the nightmare that he has lost all his passwords.

I actually get that nightmare too, but mine is worse. It’s that all my passwords have been stolen.

As marketers, CEOs and managers we deal with too many fears daily: We have too many disasters to avoid. No wonder we get frequent nightmares.

Let this article serve as a checklist to help you avoid some of the most unfortunate and embarrassing online marketing disasters (and hopefully give you more nights of good sleep).

1. Keep an eye on your domain renewal date

Life gets in the way: Either you get too busy with personal stuff or you lose an employee who used to be responsible for your domain renewals. Or maybe your card expires and your registrar’s notifications go straight into your spam box.

Many things can happen preventing you from renewing your domains, and one day you may discover that your most important domain belongs to someone else.

It’s a total nightmare that has happened more than you think – and to a few really huge brands!

As a business owner, keep a close eye on your domain expiration dates and possibly renew them for many years ahead (the maximum amount of time you are allowed to hold a domain is 10 years) or set up an auto renewal. While neither of the above methods will guarantee your domains are safe forever, these will at least increase your odds of keeping them for as long as you need them.

There are also new registrars that provide enhanced security, keeping your domains safer. For example, LCN gives you an option to receive text messages seven days before expiry. And Godaddy gives you almost 20 days after expiry to allow you to get those domains back.

2. Keep an eye on your rankings

Another unfortunate thing that may happen to your business is the loss of your Google rankings. Now, it used to be easier to spot. A manual penalty would hit (and you’ll be notified via a helpful message inside your Webmaster Tools account) or a Penguin update would be announced and you suddenly see 50%-90% of your Google traffic gone.

Inside Google Analytics, you could even identify which phrases exactly were hit (oh how I miss those good old times when we didn’t know what “non-provided” meant!). It would be hard to miss such a drastic change.

Now those easy days are over. Google updates are no longer announced. Even if you keep track of the news and you hear webmasters talking about some mysterious traffic fluctuations, you might not even notice any changes in your analytics graph.

These days, Google is trickier. In many cases the loss of traffic is very gradual, so one day you log in to your Google Analytics account and suddenly notice the unfortunate trend: You have been losing traffic for months!

The solution is to monitor your rankings on a continuous basis using a tool which notifies you of both positive and negative trends – even mild ones.

I am using Serpstat to monitor my rankings, mainly because they have many useful tools under one roof, so I can use the same login to run a quick competition research, check my rankings or even do a quick SEO diagnostic.

3. Keep an eye on your downtime

The simplest way to lose an online customer is to send him/her to your site only to be greeted with a broken page. All the websites go down at some point, including the biggest ones like Twitter, Google and Facebook, etc.

But how often is your site down? Most of best-known hosting providers have awful uptime statistics. If your site is hosted by one of them, it may be down more often than is excusable.

These downtimes are especially unfortunate (and frequent) when it’s a busy season and you are supposed to be making money instead of fixing your website. Make sure your site is ready for a holiday season ahead of time.

A great free way to keep an eye on your site downtime is to set up custom alerts inside Google Analytics. You can receive email alerts and text messages (the latter is for the United States only) whenever Google Analytics is not able to record any visits. You can also copy your dev team into each alert.

Google Analytics

4. Keep an eye on your brand name mentions

Online reputation management is not only about keeping your brand navigational search results nice and clean of various rip-off reports and negative reviews. It’s also about monitoring your brand mentions and addressing any negative sentiment as it comes.

In many cases a very pissed-off customer can be turned into a brand advocate if their concerns are addressed in real time. People are usually amazed to receive a public Twitter apology and are willing to give the company a second chance.

Twitter apology

I use Tweetdeck to spot my brand mentions as they happen. Tweetdeck delivers them right to my desktop, allowing me to skip those that don’t need a reply and quickly engage with those that require my attention.

I also use Cyfe to collect and archive Twitter mentions around the multiple brands I monitor, including my competitors. Cyfe allows you to monitor an unlimited number of Twitter search results – which is handy when you own several brands.

Cyfe

Are there business disasters you have successfully avoided? Please share your stories!

The psychology of language for paid search

The success of your PPC campaigns may depend on the language that you’re using. Here’s how to improve it.

Sophie Turton, Head of Content and PR at Bozboz, delivered an interesting presentation in Brighton SEO, offering useful tips on how to improve your language when creating PPC copy.

According to Sophie Turton, people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it – that’s what makes a powerful message more effective. Here are her tips on how to use psychology to improve your PPC copy.

The serial position effect

People are more likely to recall the first and last pieces of information they see, otherwise known as the serial position effect. This makes it even more important to craft your PPC copy carefully.

Keywords can help you highlight the focus of your copy, so it’s a good idea to experiment until you find the best ones to use. However, there’s no need to focus too much on their use, as they still can’t guarantee that the language’s effectiveness.

The best way to speak your audience’s language is to try to solve a problem. It has been observed that successful PPC copy tries to find a solution to a problem.

The success lies in the fact that there is an understanding of the target audience, which is proved by providing information that they want to know.

Emotional triggers

Emotions can influence and even determine our decisions. That’s why they can be used to improve PPC copy and make it resonate with consumers.

Once again, it’s vital to understand the target audience to deliver a powerful message. By focusing on the customers’ end game with the right emotional trigger, you’re increasing the chances of conversion.

What’s most important is to remember that your copy should not be about “you”, but rather about “them”. As you’re writing about your target audience, your copy needs to reflect this.

Direct and relevant copy can benefit from the right emotional appeal, and there seems to be a connection between this appeal and your customers.

According to Perry Marshall’s ‘Swiss army knife’ method, there is a relationship between your customers and the elements in their lives.

This relationship can be organised in five steps:

  • identify your customers
  • identify a thing your customers love
  • a thing they hate
  • their best friend
  • their worst enemy

Once you’ve managed to understand all the above, then the emotional triggers can become even more effective.

Social proof

One of the most effective psychological tricks when creating copy is to involve the power of social proof.

According to Revoo, 70% of consumers place peer recommendations over professionally written content. This means that people have more chances to be influenced by their friends, or even other consumers, rather than a brand.

A good way to use social proof is to include Google Reviews in Adwords. This increases the chances of building trust between the consumers and the product and it may even bring them closer to a purchase.

Moreover, it can be even more effective to back up the claim of social proof and this can be achieved by using review extensions.

Loss aversion

Another popular psychological tip is to focus on the scarcity effect.

According to neuroscience, scarcity can increase the demand for an object, as people seem to have an aversion to loss.

A sense of urgency can increase an ad’s effectiveness – this also plays into the FOMO (‘Fear of Missing Out’) effect.

In fact, it has been observed that ads that use a sense of urgency have up to 32% increase in CTR when a countdown timer is added.

Illusionary truth effect

According to the illusionary truth effect, there is a tendency to believe information to be correct after a repeated exposure to it.

This means that repetition can improve credibility and trust. An appealing call-to-action can make your message easily recognizable. By increasing the memorable experience, you are also increasing the chances for people to return to your message and your products.

A careful consideration of the language in PPC copy can help people remember your advertising and thus, pay more attention to it.

Dare to be different

It’s not surprising that people tend to remember the unusual over the common.

Creative use of language in your PPC copy can improve your message, helping people focus on it.

This can be achieved by:

  • thinking outside the box
  • using clever language
  • staying current with trending topics
  • telling a story
  • using humor
  • being creative with keywords

Takeaway

The language you’re using in your PPC copy can significantly increase the chances of people paying attention to it.

A closer look at psychology and the way it affects people’s perspective can help your PPC copy stand out.

If you want to start testing with the most popular psychological tricks today, start with these:

  • Ask “why”
  • Prioritize the headline
  • Experiment with keywords
  • Don’t underestimate FOMO
  • Make sure the end destination reflects the initial promise
  • Use data to support your offering (but don’t be verbose)
  • Be smart and sassy
  • Play to emotion and the love of the self
  • Always go back to the “why”.