Question every part of your organic search strategy in 2017

business hand clicking Q&A or Question and Answer button

When was the last time you really tore apart your search strategy and looked at why it is what it is? We’re much more likely to make necessary, iterative changes to our campaigns – but I challenge you to make 2017 the year you question everything.

It’s an exercise that really doesn’t need to cost a lot of time or money, but the answers you discover could have direct, sizeable effects on revenue.

Here are some questions to start asking about your search strategy:

What even is our search strategy?

A simple question on its surface, but it’s a great place to begin. When was the last time you actually defined your approach to organic search? Does that initial plan still apply in today’s environment, considering the rise of mobile and voice search, and with new insights into searcher intent? Reexamine how your initial strategy might adjust to better serve your current business goals (and ensure that those goals align with what your brand and its leadership is trying to accomplish).

What have our competitors been doing in search lately?

Has the competition been acting as content creating machines, publishing highly ranked content for phrases that you hadn’t thought of yet? There are tools to help answer this question. On the paid side, consider BrightEdge, which offers a valuable “Data Cube” for uncovering keywords that your competitors’ sites rank for. Using this tool, you can recognize some of those content strategies, and adapt your own practices accordingly.

Alternatively, you can use SpyFu; its free version will give you a small sample of this type of information. If that doesn’t uncover all the content strategy pieces you wish to see (and it probably won’t for most brands), the low-cost upgrade to the paid version of SpyFu may be well worth it.

Another solution that’s more tedious to use (but completely free) is the “site:” operator in Google search. Simply enter “site:www.example.com”, and the results will be the pages that Google has indexed from that website. By adding a tilde (~) and a related broad keyword, you can then find related pages with that term. Such a query looks like this: “site:www.example.com ~keyword”.

Where are our customers?

Emerging technologies and new customer bases can cause changes in where your potential customers find their information – and how they search for it. This is where you need to dive into web analytics data and understand how your current visitors are arriving at your site. Is there a big shift to mobile for your customers? (Yes, generally mobile traffic is very much on the uptick, but this definitely isn’t the case for every single industry or company.)

When looking at current data, it’s important to be thoughtful about cause and effect – do the numbers represent visitors’ natural intents or are you influencing their actions? For instance, you might have low mobile engagement because your site is not optimized for that experience, and thus customers don’t stick around for long.

Outside of your analytics data, you can further scrutinize the landscape by extending your view to areas where competitors are active and you aren’t. Ask yourself: do those areas align to customers you also want to target?

What are we trying to say?

Does your content just talk about you, or does it meaningfully address your customers’ needs? Most people don’t like being lectured to – they’d rather have a conversation, or have their question answered.

Now more than ever, search engines focus on satisfying the intent behind a query rather than just aligning results to the words typed in the search box. Is your content satisfying those search intents, or is a content refresh in your future?

Is our site quick to load and secure?

Maybe you’ve taken all of 2016 to implement an awesome new design that makes visiting your site an engaging experience. That’s good, but have you been thoughtful about your site’s load time? Speed is still a crucial factor for earning better visibility in search engine results, as well as in delivering a good user experience.

A detail that’s too-often neglected, it may be time to revisit this data point and revise some pages.

Maybe you’ve also made some smart moves in getting more information about your visitors. You use perfectly placed lead forms, and return visitors are now signing in. But are all the sign-in pages secured?

Google has announced that Chrome will start flagging pages that have sign-in forms but aren’t secured with HTTPS as “Not Secure.”

That’s not a message that visitors will find too inviting. As search engines trend toward placing a greater value on security – and as customers are ever more expectant of it – it’s beneficial to consider implementing more secure measures.

By asking the right questions, and putting the answers into action, you can set your business on the path to a more updated and effective organic search strategy.

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

Top B2B content marketing metrics for 2017

A new year brings new metrics. Or maybe it’s just a good reminder that you need to evaluate your existing KPIs.

Which B2B content marketing metrics should you add in 2017?

It’s the perfect time of the year to evaluate your content marketing strategy and focus on the latest trends that will take your B2B marketing plan to the next level.

How about starting with the metrics that you need to pay closer attention to from now on?

Unique visitors

A content marketing strategy starts from your site and the unique visitors indicate the actual traffic you gained through your content.

It may not be enough to measure all your content marketing efforts, but it’s still the starting point for you to examine whether you managed to increase the interest towards your site’s content.

Bounce rate

If the site’s traffic indicates the interest towards your content, then a high bounce rate indicates the exact opposite. If your site’s bounce rate is high, this means that visitors are not interested enough to explore more pages of content.

If you want to lower your bounce rate, you might need to examine the content that led to the highest rate of engagement.

What differentiated it from the rest of it? How can you improve your content from now on to maintain your audience’s interest?

Along with the bounce rate, you can also monitor the time spent on your site, in order to examine the length of the average visit.

What can you learn from your bounce rate or the time spent on your site? Is it time to re-evaluate your content strategy?

Location

If you’re aiming for a local content marketing strategy, then it’s crucial to pay attention to the location of your visitors.

Do they reflect your target audience? How can you make your content more locally-focused?

What if there’s a new opportunity to expand your business to a new location?

Device

Mobile marketing is only getting bigger, which means that the analysis of the devices that the users visited your site are becoming more important.

First of all, is your site optimised for all the devices?

If it is, is your content’s formatting mobile-friendly?

If it’s not, how about adding it to your new year’s priorities?

After all, a mobile-optimised site brings more chances to reach a new audience that consumes content on-the-go and despite the challenges of their habits, they are still eager to explore new ideas.

Email

Email clicks

Email marketing is not just about the number of opens your campaigns achieved, as the actual clicks indicate a more precise interest towards your content.

Did you convince the recipients to actually click on your content, or did they leave without proceeding to any action?

It may be time to pay more attention to your CTA and the way you add links to your email campaigns, in order to increase your click rate and thus, the traffic back to your site (or any landing page).

Unsubscribes and opt-outs

As with bounce rate, unsubscribes and opt-outs mark the lack of interest from recipients to keep receiving your email newsletters.

This may be due to:

  • lack of relevance
  • frequency problems
  • lack of personalisation

If there is an increased opt-out rate in your email campaigns, then this may be a warning sign that you need to reconsider your email marketing strategy as sound as possible.

Social media

Comments and shares

Engagement is important in social media and the best way to measure it is through the comments and the shares on each post.

Likes may still prove that your content was appreciated by your audience, but as they are more common signs of approval, the other two are appreciated more, as they require further actions.

It’s not just about clicking on the Like button, as users proceed to additional steps, whether they want to express their opinions over the topic through comments, or share the post to their own feeds.

This is the best type of approval and it shows that your target audience appreciates the content enough to feel the need to be involved in it.

Conversion

Lead Generation

If you’re serious about increasing your leads through content marketing, then your CRM may help you keep track of the new leads your generated through every platform.

This can be extremely useful when trying to understand the most effective types of content and the best distribution platforms for your marketing strategy.

Moreover, this may help you calculate how your existing leads react to your content, giving you a better understanding on the evaluation of your content marketing strategy.

Conversion rate

The conversion rate gives you further insights on the pieces of content that helped convert your leads into the sales funnel.

What types of content work better for your target audience? How can you convert the prospects into clients?

No matter what goals you set for the new year, these metrics can be very useful for the measurement of your efforts. Pick the ones that work better for you and get ready to update your KPI spreadsheet.

Data-driven attribution: the cure for discount code abuse?

discount_code_effect

This is sponsored content created in association with Fospha.

When measuring the effectiveness of discount codes, retailers often get it wrong. In this article, we’ll look at how data-driven attribution can help businesses better understand where discount codes produce the best ROI.

Retailers often don’t consider discount codes in the same way they do traditional marketing spend. On the one hand this seems appropriate; the cost is a percentage of top-line revenue at the point of conversion rather than upfront speculative spend. But viewing them as nothing but a conversion lever can lead to a dangerous disconnect in understanding the true cost of customer acquisition and retention.

In a multi-channel, multi-device world, it’s increasingly hard to acquire and keep customers cost-effectively. Discount codes are an easy and powerful short-term lever for growth that can be activated and ramped up quickly (through deeper discounting and broader availability etc.). But with the temptation their flexibility and impact affords, many retailers now run expansive discount code programmes without understanding their real cost.

The difficulty in tracking the long-term effectiveness of discount codes is compounded by the following factors:

  • A reluctance to adopt a cautious approach (A/B testing etc.), as retailers seek to maximise the returns from push far and wide through multiple marketing channels (with testing particularly challenging with affiliate and offline channels).
  • For businesses that rely heavily on repeat business, the effect on customer lifetime value is unknown, as retailers try to maximise revenue without conditioning their customers to buy only when discount codes are available.
  • Retailers running frequent or overlapping campaigns where it isn’t possible to fully measure the post-discount drop in sales, and it becomes difficult to measure what ‘normal’ performance looks like. This is illustrated in the chart below:

Feast and Famine: A chart showing the effect running discount codes can have on business performance.

The good news for retailers is that there’s an alternative to scaling back their discount code activity and running testing that limits top line impact. Data driven attribution modelling – focused on the end-to-end economics of the customer journey – can identify their true value and cost, stitching together all customer interactions through every marketing channel and platform visit over time and across devices. This helps build a complete understanding of the role each channel and lever plays in conversion (and at what point in the customer journey they play that role), so a business can identify where a discount code genuinely contributes to a conversion and where they are cannibalising (either totally or partly) a full-price sale.

By considering discount codes only one contributor in a complex user journey, retailers get better visibility on their value relative to other marketing channels and can distribute spend more appropriately. They can also use the insights into where and when in the journey discount codes should be used to optimise spend on customer acquisition and retention, leading to a more customer-centric approach to discounting that will yield long-term brand health benefits.

Fospha helps businesses use data insights to optimise their customer journeys. Click here to find out more.

Which Google algorithm changes impacted marketers most in 2016 – and what can we expect from 2017?

A possum lies with its mouth open on the ground, appearing to be dead.

Between the long-awaited rollout of Penguin 4.0, a strengthening of Google’s mobile-friendly ranking signal and the ‘Possum’ algorithm update impacting local search, 2016 was an interesting year for Google algorithm changes.

And with an upcoming move to a mobile-first search index already on the cards, as well as a penalty for intrusive mobile interstitials coming into effect on the 10th, 2017 promises to be just as eventful.

Looking back at 2016, which algorithm changes were the most impactful for marketers in the industry? And how can brands best prepare themselves for what might be around the corner? I spoke to Sastry Rachakonda and Ajay Rama of digital marketing agency iQuanti, along with Search Engine Watch’s regular mobile columnist Andy Favell, to get their thoughts on what’s to come in the search industry.

The most impactful algorithm updates of 2016

“Mobile-first indexing is probably the most significant change that happened this year,” said Rachakonda, who is the CEO of iQuanti, a data-driven digital marketing agency, “since companies were creating unique mobile content that was not the same as their desktop content. They did that for user experience. There were smaller snippets that were design friendly, but weren’t relevant and optimal for the search query.”

But while Google’s shift to emphasise mobile search even more heavily – which has included a much fuller rollout of Accelerated Mobile Pages into organic search results – was probably its most noteworthy update overall, Rachakonda believes that a different update was actually more impactful from a brand perspective: Possum.

‘Possum’ is the name given to a major update to local search on Google which came into effect on 1st September 2016, and which is thought to be the most significant algorithm update to local search since Pigeon in 2014. The name was coined by Phil Rozek of Local Visibility System, who thought it was fitting as after the update, many business owners thought that their Google My Business listings were gone, when in fact they were only filtered – hence, ‘playing possum’.

The apparently ‘dead’ Google My Business listings gave the Possum algorithm update its name. Image via Wikimedia Commons

The update seemed mostly aimed at improving the quality of the local search results and removing spammy listings, which meant that some businesses who had engaged in less-than-kosher practices in order to rank found themselves demoted.

“Possum has been the most impactful update for brands by far,” said Rachakonda. “One of our Fortune 500 clients in the insurance industry saw a 7% drop in keyword rankings, which resulted in a 13% loss of month-on-month traffic. We believe this was due to some outdated tactics their previous agency used to get them ranked, which clearly Google wasn’t fond of.”

While some businesses saw their traffic drop off as a result of Possum, others were seeing a remarkable recovery thanks to Penguin 4.0, which deployed after much anticipation in late September. The original Penguin update in 2012 targeted and devalued inorganic links, such as links which had been bought or placed solely to improve rankings, which led to significant losses in traffic for businesses who had engaged in those practices.

As Chuck Price explained in an article for Search Engine Watch in December 2015, “After Penguin, bad links became ‘toxic’, requiring a link audit and removal or disavow of spammy links. Even then, a Penguin refresh was usually required before one could see any signs of recovery.”

But thanks to the Penguin 4.0 update in 2016, these refreshes now take place in real-time, leading to significant recovery for brands who had already taken action to remove and disavow the bad links. Marcela De Vivo took a look at how this recovery works in practice, and what site owners can do to improve their situation if they haven’t already done so.

What’s on the cards for 2017?

As I mentioned in my introduction, at least two updates in 2017 are already certain, both of them relevant to mobile search. One, Google’s penalty for mobile sites with annoying interstitials, is due to go live tomorrow, and our search news roundup last Friday featured some new clarifications from Google about what kind of interstitials will be affected by the penalty.

The other is Google’s move to a mobile-first search index, a major shift which reflects the fact that the majority of Google search queries are now coming from mobile devices. While we don’t yet have a date for this change, Google confirmed in October that the change would take place within the next few months, which means that Google’s primary index could switch to mobile any day now, and brands would do well to prepare themselves. I asked Andy Favell, Search Engine Watch’s resident mobile specialist, what advice he would give to brands who want to be prepared.

“Google has done an excellent job of focusing companies’ minds on the importance of having a mobile-friendly website. The stick approach – the fear of harming the search ranking – has worked wonders for driving adoption of mobile or mobile-friendly sites.

“However, companies should have been focusing on the carrot – building websites that would appeal to some of the billions of mobile web users out there. The beauty of mobile first is that a mobile-friendly site is often a much better desktop site. That is still true today.

“Rather than worrying about trying to make Google happy, brands should concentrate on the mobile users, consider who they are, their context, and what they want, and provide that the best possible way – i.e. intuitive, fast-loading, good UX and usability. Businesses that do this will get more traffic, more happy users and more conversions.

“That’s not just good for business, it’s good for your search ranking also. Because Google wants what’s best for the search user.”

Brands will need to prepare themselves for mobile search becoming Google’s primary index some time soon in 2017.

Those are the changes we know about so far. But what do those in the industry think is coming for search in 2017? Ajay Rama, Senior Vice President of Product at iQuanti, believes that the mobile-first index will take up most of SEO mindshare over the coming year, but he also has a number of predictions for how voice search – which has become a huge part of the search landscape since 2015 – may evolve and change things.

“As voice search starts becoming mainstream, we might see the beginning of a SERPless search – search without a SERP page,” predicts Rama. “We could see early tests in this space where we will see Google Assistant and search being seamlessly integrated into an interactive search experience. Assistant interacts with the user to ask the right questions and take him to the target page or a desired action, instead of showing a SERP page with various options. In this new experience, ads would have to be reinvented all over.”

Given that Google’s innovations of the past few years, from semantic search to Quick Answers, have increasingly been geared towards understanding users’ exact intentions with the aim of finding a single, ideal result or piece of information to satisfy their query, it’s not hard to imagine this happening. Rama also foresees a much more extensive rollout of Google’s voice-controlled Assistant to go along with this.

“Google Assistant will become part of Android, and will be available on all Android devices. Talking to the device in local languages becomes mainstream, and Google Assistant will lead this space. Their machines will learn all accents and all languages, and will soon become a leader in the voice devices, especially in non-English speaking nations.”

A Google search results page for 'voice search'.

Can you imagine Google search without the SERP? With the expansion of voice search, it could become a reality.

While it’s hard to imagine that all of these developments will take place in 2017 alone, there’s definitely a possibility that we’ll see them begin. Google Assistant is already reported to be learning Hindi as a second language, and more languages could well follow if the uptake of Hindi is a success. However, Google Assistant is fairly late to the game compared to established voice assistants like Siri and Cortana who have been around much longer, and have had more time to refine their technology. So is it still possible for Google to pull ahead in this race?

With this change in the way we search comes a change in the way we market, as well; and if the search results page is to disappear one day, advertising will have no choice but to colonise whatever takes its place. We’re already seeing a shift towards an ‘always-on’, always-connected culture with devices like the Amazon Echo constantly listening out for voice commands. Rama believes that Internet of Things-connected devices could easily start to ‘spy’ on their owners, collecting data for the purposes of marketing – “Advertisers would love to get into living room and dinner table discussions.”

This might seem like sobering food for thought, or a whole new world of possibilities, depending on your perspective. Either way, it will be extremely interesting to see whether search continues to develop along the path it seems to be taking now – or whether it veers off in other, even more unexpected directions.

Five 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.

And a happy 2017 to all of our Search Engine Watch readers! This week, we’ve got a health-conscious New Year’s update from Bing, a new AI-powered search engine which is transforming scientific research, and a look at why the fake information epidemic could be damaging to local search.

A new AI powered search engine is changing how neuroscientists do research

Google’s work in the realm of artificial intelligence and machine learning has succeeded in making web search more intuitive, effective and useful than it’s ever been before. But until now, the same couldn’t be said of scientific research.

That’s all changing with the development of a new, free search engine, Semantic Scholar. Adam Stetzer wrote for Search Engine Watch this week about how the AI-powered search engine is changing the way that neuroscientists do research, using data mining and natural language processing to truly understand the links between research – and what this means for similar search options like Google Scholar.

How Instagram became a powerhouse for social commerce

2016 was a busy year for Instagram, with more users, more brands, and a host of new improvements and features all joining the platform. In November, Instagram tested out a new shopping feature in a bid to woo ecommerce brands and give users a way to shop more visually.

This week, on Search Engine Watch’s sister site ClickZ, Tereza Litsa spoke to Olapic’s Paul Sabria about the steps that Instagram has taken to turn itself into a social commerce powerhouse, and what we can expect from the platform in 2017.

Bing rolls out health-conscious search updates in time for New Year’s resolutions

Bing has rolled out a health-focused update to its search platform just in time for everyone to turn over a leaf in the New Year.

In late November, we saw that Bing had launched a carousel of shopping flyers to promote deals in time for Black Friday. Now whenever you search for “workouts” or “exercises” on Bing, it will deliver a carousel of images which link to a wide variety of exercise options.

Users who search for information on yoga and pilates will also be rewarded with a carousel, and occasionally a how-to video on a specific pose at the top of search. Meanwhile, the Bing app has new updates aimed at making the food search experience “even richer”, including information on calorie counts and low-fat recipes.

Image: Bing blogs

Bing’s new updates are obviously aimed at providing more intuitive, quick answers to users’ search queries in the same way that Google already does with Quick Answers and featured snippets. While they might be on a smaller scale, the tie-in with different times of year such as Black Friday and New Year is a fun way to introduce these features and draw users’ attention to them through the things they are most likely to be searching for.

How the fake information epidemic will hurt local search in 2017

Headlines about the online fake news epidemic have been everywhere since the US Election, particularly if you follow news about publishing or social media. But Wesley Young, Vice President of Public Affairs for the Local Search Association, believes that this problem is set to get worse in 2017 – and that it will be damaging to local search in particular.

In a column for Search Engine Land, Young laid out how the issue of fake news and information can hurt marketers, along with eight ways that false information is currently being used which marketers should be aware of.

“As consumers search for information to help make purchase decisions, uncertainty about the veracity of the information they receive impacts the effectiveness of local search marketing. Online advertising already faces challenges gaining consumer trust, and the proliferation of fake content will only hurt it more. Worse, you may be spending money on advertising that no one ever sees, be competing in an unfair market, suffer from hits to your reputation or pay more than you should for marketing products or services.

Being aware of how false information is being used will help marketers avoid problems and identify when they may be affected, saving them from both headaches and wasted dollars.”

Google clarifies details of its mobile interstitials penalty

As part of Google’s ongoing efforts to improve the experience of browsing the mobile web, a penalty for sites which use annoying mobile interstitials – pop-ups which appear while a website is loading and cover the entire page – is due to take effect next week, beginning on 10th January.

The question of what kind of interstitials, exactly, will incur penalties has been the subject of considerable discussion amongst the SEO community. This week, Google provided some further clarification on the issue in the form of a tweet from Webmaster Trends Analyst John Wu.

He was responding to a query from Kristine Schachinger, technical SEO expert and founder of digital marketing agency The Vetters, about whether the penalty will only affect interstitials which appear when users are navigating from the search results page to a mobile site, or whether it will include interstitials which appear when navigating between pages of the same website.

@schachin @methode yes

— John ☆.o(≧▽≦)o.☆ (@JohnMu) January 4, 2017

Schachinger further enquired as to whether the penalty would affect interstitials which appear between an AMP page and a regular site page, to which Mu replied,

“I haven’t seen an interstitial there, but that would be seen the same as site-page -> site-page.”

10 online marketing strategies to make you a unicorn [infographic]

unicorn-marketing-power-law

Everyone who knows me knows I’m obsessed with unicorns – not just the magical beasts you’ll often find hanging out near rainbows but marketing unicorns.

What’s a marketing unicorn, you ask? It’s one of those magical campaigns that’s so effective it performs in the top 1-3% of all marketing campaigns.

Marketing unicorns are so special that, even though they’re rare, they end up delivering almost half of the value of your overall marketing efforts. For example, here on the WordStream blog, our top 50 articles drive as much traffic as thousands of others (the marketing donkeys) combined. I call it the Unicorn Marketing Power Law.

This is why it’s so key, as a marketer or business owner, to find your own unicorns and make the most of them. There are unicorns in every corner of the online marketing world – unicorn ads, unicorn blog posts, unicorn webinars, unicorn emails.

These are the campaigns with exceptional click-through rates, conversion rates, open rates, and engagement rates.

So if you find a unicorn, CLONE IT! An idea or piece of creative that does well in one online marketing channel is bound to do well in your other marketing channels as well. As I’m always fond of saying, you have to go all in on your unicorns.

I’ve spent a lot of time experimenting with different online marketing strategies this year. Below you’ll find the best of the best – my top 10 favorite online marketing strategies that create and exploit unicorns to give you the best possible bang for your buck.

Check it out and share – I’ll provide a little more detail into each of the 10 strategies, which include strategies for SEO, PPC, content marketing, social media marketing, remarketing, and more, below.

My 10 Most Unicorn-Worthy Online Marketing Strategies

#1. Aim for super-high organic click-through rates

Does organic CTR matter? YES! Now more than ever! If you want to compete in the new SEO reality, you’ve got to raise your click-through rates and other engagement factors. Here’s our process:

  • Find content with average or below-expected CTR for its rank
  • Ditch boring titles and test emotional, relatable headlines that promise value
  • Improve intent match to reduce bounce rate and pogo-sticking
  • Bonus: Data indicates raising CTR can move up your rank!

#2. Aim for super-high ad click-through rates

CTR isn’t just important for SEO (duh). It’s also incredibly important for paid ads, because ads with high engagement rates get better placements at a lower cost per click on Google AdWords, Facebook Ads, Twitter Ads and pretty much every platform. Here’s what you need to know about raising your ad CTR:

  • Tactics like Dynamic Keyword Insertion are boring and don’t create unicorn ads
  • Ads with the highest CTR focus on four key emotions: anger, disgust, affirmation, and fear
  • Bonus: High CTR ads usually have high conversion rates too!

#3. Forget everything you know about conversion rate optimization

Sorry to burst your CRO bubble, but the classic A/B test is a fairy tale – too often, we get super excited about early leads, but they tend to disappear over time. Either the test hadn’t reached statistical significance, or people were responding to novelty, but the effect didn’t last.

Here are a few more CRO truth bombs for you:

  • Aggressive CRO often increases lead quantity but reduces lead quality
  • To really move the needle, change your offer to something truly irresistible
  • Brand familiarity has a massive effect on conversions – so try remarketing!

#4. Remarketing is great … but try Super Remarketing!

Maybe you’ve noticed (ha) that in the current online marketing landscape, it’s harder and harder to get your content noticed. The competition is insanely fierce! That means everyone’s attention is spread thin. But all hope is not lost, aspiring unicorns!

  • With a smart social ad strategy you can promote your content to the perfect audience for pennies
  • Use social media remarketing to increase engagement by 2X to 3X
  • Then step it up with Super Remarketing: the awesome combination of remarketing, demographics, behaviors, and high-engagement content

#5. Hack RLSA for a Unicorn Surge of Leads

Regular old, plain-flavor RLSA is kind of a shell game: You’re basically cherry-picking your cheapest leads from a larger pool. Yes, you save money, but your lead volume is greatly reduced! Most people don’t want that, right? We want more leads AND lower costs.

the-problem-with-rlsa

Here’s how to use RLSA to get both, AKA Operation Unicorn Surge:

  • To reduce cost per lead AND increase volume in competitive markets, try Super RLSA!
  • Bias people toward your brand by using social ads to dramatically increase the size of your cookie pool

#6. Get your Facebook organic reach back

Newsflash, Facebook organic reach sucks. In fact, we recently discovered it’s even worse than we thought!!

The good news is, you can recover your reach! Here’s how:

  • Use preferred audience targeting to target organic posts like ads
  • Use Larry’s Unicorn Detector Pyramid Scheme
  • Invite people who like your content to follow your page
  • Post video content for way higher engagement rates – the key to organic reach

#7. Outsmart your competition!

Try these brilliant competitive advertising strategies:

  • Target users whose interests include your competitors
  • Disrupt your competitors’ videos with YouTube ads
  • Use your competitors’ brand names to keyword target your Gmail Ads
  • Download and target your competitors’ Twitter followers

#8. Use social ads to make an impression on influencers

Not a big name yet? No problem!

Here are some crazy awesome ways to use social ads to fool people into thinking you’re a big deal:

  • Build awareness of your personal brand by targeting ads at specific employees and specific companies
  • Write an awesome guest post for an influencer, then promote and amplify so it makes a splash
  • Tag your fave influencer and do an engagement campaign
  • Become a trending story on LinkedIn Pulse

#9. Learn how to REALLY run a Twitter lead generation campaign

Forget Twitter’s advice for running lead gen campaigns – it’s totally wrong! Do this instead:

  • Twitter Lead Generation Cards look too much like ads and charge you for useless engagements
  • Never use automatic bidding – it’s a trap
  • Instead, use funny images, emoji, advanced targeting options and don’t forget conversion tracking!

#10. Master the art of Medium publishing

There are insanely good reasons to republish your content on Medium – like reaching a much bigger audience with minimal effort. Here’s how to make the most of the Medium platform:

  • Don’t just republish your post – make it go hot! Include a powerful image immediately after the headline
  • Promote your post – if you get 200 hearts in a day, your article will trend and pageviews will skyrocket
  • Follow people who engage with your content to build your audience

That’s it – my absolute favorite online marketing strategies right now. Now go and find your own unicorns!

This article was originally published on Larry’s Wordstream blog. It is reprinted with permission.

How a new AI powered search engine is changing how neuroscientists do research

When you think of artificial intelligence, images of futuristic robots or memories of bad sci-fi films might come to mind. However, the reality of AI is actually a lot more tame: a friendly search engine, for instance.

But while we type our queries into Google and usually get fairly useful results, the same has not always been true for the information gleaned by scientific researchers.

Although existing resources like Google Scholar and PubMed provide scientists with resources much faster than the methods of old, they don’t always cover the nitty-gritty details that are needed.

Now, a new, free search engine called Semantic Scholar is using AI technology to help these scientists find relevant information much more quickly.

Semantic Scholar has been labeled a game-changer for these professionals, who previously had no way of effectively combing through mountains of dense research. While Google Scholar has a huge database – it has indexed more than 200 million articles to date – it’s lacking in terms of providing access to metadata.

It can help scientists find studies, but it won’t tell them how often a paper or author has been cited. Essentially, it can make a scientist’s job even more difficult because the research tool they’re using isn’t comprehensive.

But Semantic Scholar is different. Developed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen in conjunction with his non-profit organization, the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, Semantic Scholar first launched last November. Known as AI2, the non-profit built the engine in collaboration with Allen’s other research organization, the Allen Institute for Brain Science.

Originally launched as a research tool for computer science, Semantic Scholar’s real appeal is its AI-based design.

Instead of simply listing a study’s abstract and bibliographic data, this new search engine is actually able to think and analyze a study’s worth. GeekWire notes that, “Semantic Scholar uses data mining, natural language processing, and computer vision to identify and present key elements from research papers.”

The engine is able to understand when a paper is referencing its own study or results from another source. Semantic Scholar can then identify important details, pull figures, and compare one study to thousands of other articles within one field.

So why is Semantic Scholar a better option?

“Medical breakthroughs should not be hindered by the cumbersome process of searching the scientific literature,” Allen stated in a press release. “My vision for Semantic Scholar is to give researchers more powerful tools to comb through millions to academic papers online, to help them keep up with the explosive growth of science.”

As it stands now, scientists can use other search engine databases as a jumping-off point, but what they find often requires additional research.

The results don’t give the full picture of a study, its variables, or the overall impact. The CEO of AI2, Oren Etzioni, notes that the current options can result in too much information with no real ranking method.

“If you’re dealing with information overload, you want these things to help you cut through the clutter, [and] slice and dice the results.”

Because the search engine uses natural language, it’s able to think and make judgments about which studies are most relevant to a given search.

TechCrunch notes that “it can make intelligent judgements on … which related or cited papers are most relevant, or what other work the current paper has helped lead to… Results are fast, relevant, and easily sorted or drilled down into. For a scientist who frequently consults such articles, this is a huge advance.”

What does this mean for Google Scholar?

AI2 doesn’t want to compete with Google; that would be a fool’s errand, says Etzioni. They just want to provide a better option. “Our goal is to raise the bar” by providing scientists with more effective options to conduct their research, he says.

In fact, many scientists are planning to use both engines to conduct their research, in part because the current state of Semantic Scholar is somewhat limited in comparison to more established engines.

In addition to computer science, Semantic Scholar now covers the neuroscience field and is able to search 10 million published papers. While that sounds impressive, it pales in comparison to Google Scholar’s current database.

The future of Semantic Scholar

Despite its shortcomings, industry professionals see huge potential in Semantic Scholar. Not only is the engine free of charge, but due to its design, it’s more powerful and thorough than other available options.

Developers have already expanded its territory to the biomedical and neuroscience fields, and they intend to keep growing.

Etzioni says that the engine could eventually become a hypothesis engine, guiding scientists to look at the bigger picture or to view a problem from a different angle.

In so doing, it could act like a department head who points out when a method was previously effective, or an area that has remained untested. It could help give scientists direction and result in better quality research.

And even though the engine is still being developed, it’s already been quite successful. Since Semantic Scholar was first launched, 2.5 million people have used the service and have performed millions of searches.

It may still have a long way to go as far as indexing, but the institute hopes to fully expand the engine’s biomedical research library by the end of 2017. By putting AI at the service of the scientific community, Semantic Scholar ensures that only the best and most relevant studies are used. This will, in turn, lead to higher quality and more advanced research — a concept that stands to benefit everyone.

Five quick tips to boost your SEO in 2017

It’s the right time of the year to evaluate your SEO strategy and examine the best ways to improve it during 2017. This doesn’t have to be a complicated process, though.

New year’s resolutions are not just about our personal goals, so it may be the ideal moment to focus on your business goals and seek for the best ways to boost your SEO presence to improve authority, value and ranking.

If you’re wondering how to start fixing your SEO for 2017, here are a few suggestions you might find useful.

Add value

As simple as it sounds, it’s important to create content that adds value, while it maintains its relevance for the target audience.

It’s not just about creating quality content, but also about knowing your audience, to the extent that the content is useful and has more chances to be ranked higher in the search results for the relevant queries.

Quick tips to add more value with your content:

Examine your existing content and find the most popular topics
Learn more about your audience and find the questions that you’re going to answer
Find the best way to use combine timing and context, in a way that you’ll be able to beat your competitors
Do not hesitate to expand your niche area, provided that you’re still useful for your target audience
Facilitate the browsing experience

User experience is critical to SEO, so it may be a good idea to test how it affects the traffic to your site.

In fact, user experience starts even before the user visits your site and according to Forrester, 93% of online experiences start with a search.

Thus, it’s important to proceed to the necessary tweaks that ensure a smooth visit:

Test your site’s link and fix the broken links to minimise the error pages or the duplicate content
Your content should be appealing both for users and search engines and thus, both readability and crawlability should be taken into consideration
The navigation should help the user browse the pages without problems. From the menu structure to the link structure and the page’s design, even a slight detail may impact the user experience
A page’s speed is crucial, so don’t forget testing it from time to time. From heavy images to unnecessary scripts, there is always a reason that your site gets slow.
AMP may also be relevant to your site and Google seems to prefer the pages that start using it. Is it time to experiment with it?
Invest more time in your content

It was already clear from 2016 that search engines focus on the actual content rather than its optimisation.

There’s no need to spend more time on the optimisation if your content is not appealing enough for your audience.

Monitor the keywords, the site’s stats, the levels of engagement on each topic and find what users really expect from your page.

Think of new ideas to expand your content, or even to invest in evergreen content, and make sure you think like a reader, rather than a search engine.

Are the topics and the structure appealing to your target audience?

Remember, the combination of seamless user experience with quality content can have a very positive impact on your SEO rankings.

Optimise visual content

Visual content is more important than ever. It manages to supplement text in the best possible way (or even to replace it) and it certainly can affect SEO.

We tend to forget how visual content should still be optimised for search engines, but luckily it only takes a few minutes to boost its SEO performance.

Think carefully of the titles
Don’t forget to add alt text, metadata and keywords
Pay attention to the file’s size
Create a video transcript to facilitate your content’s discovery from search engines
Consider the idea of hosting the video to your own site, not just Youtube
Be unique, add personality and make your visual content shareable
Keep your online footprint up-to-date

Your online presence goes way beyond your site. The problem is that we tend to forget how our online footprint may extend to all the different platforms we may try out at some point and then abandon.

It’s certainly a great idea to experiment with new platforms to promote your presence, but make sure you keep them up-to-date even if you stop using them.

Let’s say you have a Google+ page, but you’re not using it anymore (or you tend to forget to share your content there). Are the details accurate to help users find more about your business?

Here’s a new task for your calendar in 2017, create a spreadsheet that monitors your online presence and check once a month that the information is up-to-date.

You never know how useful this may turn out to be!

5 #GivingTuesday Campaigns That Won (and 3 That Lost)

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Most people are familiar with Black Friday and Cyber Monday as some of the busiest shopping days of the year; businesses spend months preparing their holiday campaigns in order to make the most of these two days. But each year it seems that more and more companies are also taking advantage of #GivingTuesday by finding ways to entice their audience not only to purchase holiday gifts, but to donate and give back to charities and nonprofits.

In this article, we’ve analyzed 8 of these campaigns from 2016 to find out which ones have what it takes to engage readers and meet their fundraising goals, and which ones unfortunately fall flat. Read on to learn more about what makes a #GivingTuesday campaign a winner or a loser.

The Winners

#1 The San Diego American Marketing Association (AMA)

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The San Diego AMA is a nonprofit, professional organization geared towards providing information, education, resources, and connections for those looking to further their career in marketing. They created this #GivingTuesday campaign in order to encourage people to donate to their 2 scholarship programs: The Social Impact Scholarship and the Diversity Leadership Scholarship. There are quite a few things they did right in this campaign, namely:

  • They explained briefly what #GivingTuesday is all about
  • They included their goal (to raise money for the scholarships) in the beginning of the email
  • They linked the 2 scholarships to pages that give more information about them
  • They included a plug for a future event the organization is hosting
  • They included a section dedicated to teaching readers about how to refuel their content strategy, which is essentially a preview of what the organization does for those who join.
  • Finally, they thanked the groups that sponsor them.

All in all, I consider this a winning #GivingTuesday campaign for the AMA because it was simple, eye-catching, and full of great content.

#2 The San Diego Fleet Week Foundation

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The San Diego Fleet Week Foundation is a nonprofit group that supports Military Veterans by putting on entertaining events during Fleet Week. The event is held annually, and any proceeds raised that exceed the operating expenses for Fleet Week are donated to military charities.

We consider this #GivingTuesday campaign a win because:

  • They included pertinent facts about why Fleet Week is a necessity in San Diego (they have the largest military concentration in the world)
  • They explained their goal clearly and in the beginning of the campaign- to encourage people to donate $20 to provide lunch for a family of 4
  • They explained how this campaign has been a success in the past (they’ve provided over 1200 meals for service members and their families)
  • They included a button to donate right in the email, making it quick and easy to give money
  • They provided a link to their website for those looking to learn more
  • The email is colorful yet easy to read, and it contains real pictures of servicemen and women in the community who will benefit from the donations.

#3 PayPal

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Most people are familiar with PayPal seeing as it’s one of the most popular ways to send money electronically. It only makes sense, then, that they would create a #GivingTuesday campaign devoted to sending money to those who are less fortunate. Their campaign is a little different; for one thing they’re not a nonprofit, and instead of supporting one group, charity, or organization, they let users choose the charity they wish to support. Here are some reasons why we consider this campaign a great one:

  • They created a campaign that compliments their business. PayPal is all about making it easy and simple to send money to others, and that’s the premise behind this fundraiser. They’ve made it easy and simple to donate to thousands of charities around the world.
  • Another major bonus is that they plan to add 1% to each donation made; this adds up to a pretty substantial number, and there aren’t many companies offering to do so.
  • They included 2 separate buttons for people to donate, truly making it quick and easy.
  • They explained the security of their donation process, which also emphasizes the security of PayPal in general.
  • They included a nice photo of a young girl to put a face on the donations.
  • They suggested several big-name charities that people have the option to support, and made it possible to click on their icons to learn more about the charity and as another way to quickly donate money.
  • Note: If you do choose to click on a charity icon, it directs you to a nice page that explains that 101% of your donation will go to the charity, PayPal will cover all the fees, and you’ll immediately receive a tax receipt.
  • Finally, they included a link at the bottom of the email encouraging users to go to their website to purchase a variety of gift cards to meet their holiday shopping needs- a plug we think they deserve considering their offering to add money to others’ donations.

#4 Illinois State University

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The University in Normal, IL hosts a #GivingTuesday campaign every year with the purpose of raising money for various programs and projects across the campus. This campaign is successful because:

  • They are asking readers to break last year’s record of donations, which creates a sense of purpose and urgency in the campaign.
  • They state, in numbers, exactly how much money they’ve already raised and how much more they’d like to raise, making their goal transparent and easy to understand.
  • They provide a link for people to donate right in the email
  • They’ve also created their own special hashtag, #GivingTuesdayISU, to spread the word about their campaign on social media
  • The email is short and sweet but still contains all the pertinent information that readers need to know about the campaign
  • They send readers periodic updates on how the campaign is doing, and if you click on the “donate” link you’re taken to a page that shows exactly how much they still have left to raise.

#5 Workshops for Warriors

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Workshops for Warriors is a nonprofit school that trains and certifies veterans into advanced manufacturing careers. Their #GivingTuesday is a great one- here’s why:

  • The headline clearly states the purpose of the organization- to support military veterans
  • Throughout the campaign they provide videos of veterans explaining why they need assistance and how Workshops for Warriors is able to provide the much-needed help. This gives a very personal touch to the fundraiser.
  • They also included a specific goal for the funds raised- to build a new building that can train 450 veterans as opposed to the current 120.
  • They include an easy-to-see donate button.
  • They use a pull quote to help break up the catch and keep interest
  • They link to social media at the end so you can share the campaign and also access more success stories from veterans.

A Few Campaigns That Could Use Some Work

#1 Pro Kids The First Tee of San Diego

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Pro Kids is a sports program that teaches kids the game of golf while also teaching them life lessons and leadership skills. While the program seems to be full of positive attributes, unfortunately their #GivingTuesday campaign didn’t use this to their advantage. Note that this message did come into my inbox the day before Giving Tuesday, but there were still opportunities missed. They ended up on this list because:

  • The “Be ready to support Pro Kids” headline seems like they’re telling readers to donate as opposed to asking them.
  • Because of this poorly worded tagline, I almost missed the part where the board of directors have agreed to match all donations. This should be a huge part of the email, not just a small line tucked away at the top (still though, wonderful idea!).
  • There are no personal stories, photos, videos, etc. anywhere in the email. While it says you’ll be helping 100 underprivileged kids, I have no idea who these kids are. Where are their photos? Where are the success stories?
  • The email doesn’t say anything about what the Pro Kids organization is; I had to Google it myself in order to learn about their goals and mission statement.

One thing I will say though is that the colors are excellent in this campaign. The designer did a great job, it’s just the content and CTAs that need some improvements.

#2 Monarch School

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The San Diego Monarch School is a K-12 program designed to help San Diego’s homeless youth receive an education. While their website provides a ton of information about the great work the program is doing, their #GivingTuesday campaign email unfortunately didn’t meet the mark. It’s on the list because:

  • It explains very little about what the Monarch program is, their purpose, and their goals. It also doesn’t link to their website, which fortunately does provide this important information.
  • It states that donations will help their literacy program, but it would be nice to have been provided some more information about exactly how the money will be spent- on more books, computers, a nicer building?
  • They came up with the GREAT idea to have a 3rd grade class take over Facebook and explain why reading is important, but we don’t see any of this in the email. Instead, all they provide is the Facebook logo and expect you to click on it and travel to another site. People most likely won’t do this unless they’re already hooked on this campaign. It would have been nice if they included a preview of what some of the students said (and their photos) in the initial email. Then readers might be more inclined to visit another web page to learn more.

#3 Kinship United

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Kinship United is a group that works with underprivileged countries throughout the world, helping widows and orphans get the resources they need to survive through the church and rescue groups. While it certainly is a noble cause they are working for, and their hearts are in the right place, this #GivingTuesday campaign falls a little short. Mainly because:

  • They don’t give any information about the specific #GivingTuesday project they are launching- their goal(s), what group they are targeting, etc.
  • There are no photos or anything else to personalize the campaign.
  • The email is disorganized and hard to follow because it’s missing headings and subheadings. It appears that random phrases and sentences have been bolded without a lot of thought into why.

However, one thing this campaign did great is ask others to share, which is something none of the others on this list can say. A great tactic that simply gets overlooked.

Make sure to check out this article to learn how to make the most of your email marketing strategy. Do you know any more #GivingTuesday campaigns that make good examples? 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.

Four most important search marketing news stories of the week

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

This week, we look at a new feature by Instagram that models itself on Facebook; moves by Google to tackle ‘non-authoritative’ sites which rank too highly; and an upcoming change which will make AMP content easier to link to.

Retailers struggle with the post-Black Friday lull

Just two weeks ago in our Friday search news round-up, we established that record-breaking levels of sales and spending mean Black Friday won’t be going anywhere for a while. But now, new figures from the NPD Group have cast doubt over whether retailers will make this holiday shopping season a success after all.

Al Roberts reported for Search Engine Watch this week on how heftier discounts and more abundant week-long deals than in previous years mean deeper holes for retailers to climb out of in order to match last year’s sales numbers.

The record-breaking Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales figures are evidence of the fact that more and more of consumer purchasing activity is taking place through digital channels. But it’s important to remember that despite the growing importance of their websites and mobile apps, many retailers still operate as multi-channel businesses, so the online sales figures only tell part of the holiday shopping story.

The question remains whether retailers can regain lost ground during what’s left of 2016, or whether discounts have been too heavy for them to make up the shortfall.

Instagram introduces saved posts

It seems that Instagram is introducing new features almost every week in a bid to keep up with other popular platforms. This week, we see Instagram taking a leaf out of Facebook’s book by introducing saved posts.

It’s easy to lose a post you like in a crowded Instagram feed, but now Instagram has developed a feature that allows you to quickly and easily collect your favourite posts together all in one place, by tapping the bookmark icon beneath the post.

Tereza Litsa looked into the feature over on our sister site, ClickZ, and analysed what the change could mean for brands vying for the audience’s attention on Instagram.

Google makes a move to tackle ‘non-authoritative’ information with Holocaust denial site

Amid an ongoing storm of fake news controversy and a debate about how far sites like Google and Facebook are responsible for the information we encounter online, Google recently came under fire for ranking a Stormfront Holocaust denial article as the top result for the search, “Did the Holocaust happen?” Carol Cadwalladr, writing for the Guardian, observed that “according to Google, it’s the most authoritative source on the internet on the “question” of whether or not the Holocaust actually happened.”

This week, Danny Sullivan reported for Search Engine Land that Google has made changes to its algorithm in a bid to tackle ‘non-authoritative’ information ranking too highly in its search results, bumping the Stormfront article down into second place. Danny Sullivan wrote an in-depth exploration of the change, and considered how Google can develop policies to cope with the growing proportion of “post-truth” content on the internet.

Google plans to makes it easier to share AMP content with URL change

In last week’s search news round-up, we reported on Accelerated Mobile Pages results showing up in Google Image Search, expanding the AMP experience beyond the Top Stories carousel and core mobile search results. Now, Search Engine Land has word of another upcoming change to AMP that will make it easier to share them.

One of the key features of AMP, and a big advantage for Google, is that users browsing Accelerated Mobile Pages stay within Google. While they are viewing content created by a separate publisher, the URL for that page reflects that they are still on Google. However, this fact makes it more difficult for users to share links to AMP content, as they may find the Google URL confusing; and has led to concerns by publishers that Google is making it harder to share and bookmark their content.

But this could change in early 2017. Google has told Search Engine Land that the header which appears above AMP content will soon allow people to more easily select and copy the URL of a publisher’s story.

Image: Search Engine Land

The header may also include options to share the article on social media. Given that Accelerated Mobile Pages were designed to speed up the web, this change would make it quicker and more convenient to share AMP content, and could lead to a wider embrace of AMP by publishers and webmasters in the process.