How to optimize your Instagram account for search engines

Instagram is a powerful visual platform for digital marketers to take advantage of. Naturally, anybody taking part in a multichannel marketing strategy understands that efforts to market your Instagram profile should extend beyond Instagram itself.

Surprisingly, however, Instagram accounts are actually notoriously difficult to index and display in the search results.

This is because most Instagram users are, in fact, not so interested in promoting themselves, and in fact Instagram actually blocks search engines from indexing your Instagram images. The profiles themselves can still be indexed, but the images are not.

This represents a major hurdle for marketers hoping to get additional traffic to their Instagram account from the search results, but the hurdle is not insurmountable.

Let’s talk about how to optimize your Instagram account for search engines.

Make sure your profile is set to public

Instagram profiles are set to public by default, meaning that anybody can access your profile and all of your content. As a marketer, this is obviously how you want it. However, it’s a good idea to double check that your privacy settings were never altered and ensure that this hasn’t been changed.

To do this, go to your profile and click the hamburger menu icon:

Next go to “Settings” followed by “Account Privacy” and make sure that the “Private Account” toggle is set to “off.”

Set up social profile schema for Instagram

Google allows you to use schema.org markup to tell them which social media profiles are yours. If your brand gets a card in the Knowledge Graph, your social media profiles will then show up there:

Have your developer take a look at Google’s documentation on proper implementation of Social Profile structured data and ensure that your Instagram account is included.

Include your most important keyword in your Instagram name

The title tag for your Instagram page is automatically generated using your profile information, and it looks like this:

My Name (@username) • Instagram photos and videos

Including your primary target keyword under your profile name is the only way to get your most important keyword into your Instagram title tags.

We strongly discourage keyword stuffing here, but there is certainly a way to do this that is appropriate for your brand and your users. It’s simply a matter of changing, for example, “Casey’s” to “Casey’s Groceries.”

To update your name in Instagram, click the profile button:

Then just click the “Edit Profile” button and update the “Name” field.

Include a specific and keyword-rich bio

While editing your profile, you should also make sure that your bio is optimized for the search results.

You don’t have a lot of room to work with: your Instagram bio is limited to a maximum of 150 characters, similar to Google’s dynamic limit on meta descriptions.

Thankfully, “keyword stuffing” is more or less acceptable in an Instagram bio if you are using hashtag keywords, and the keywords are appropriate. Instagram hashtags are clickable links that take users to a list of posts with the same hashtag, so they are considered helpful for users.

If you have other brand accounts or influencers you work with, you can also include @ usernames here, and they will turn into clickable links.

The bio renders as html and is crawlable by search engines, and it is virtually the only text on your page, so this is where a massive chunk of the optimization takes place.

You can use a combination of TagBlender for Instagram hashtag research and the Google Keyword Planner for keyword research to arrive at what keywords to include here.

It’s a good idea to get at least a few words in your bio that aren’t just hashtags, however, in order to give the search engines a bit more semantic meat to work with. Flesh out your bio as much as you can given the limited space. Make it as clear as possible who you are and what you’re about.

While you’re editing your profile, you should of course also make sure that the “Website” field includes the URL for your brand’s website. While this link is unfortunately nofollowed, it still serves as a source of referral traffic and shouldn’t be neglected.

Treat your image caption like a title tag — because it is one

We tend to treat Instagram image captions as though they were meta descriptions, but we should be treating them more like title tags, because when Instagram creates a page for your post, the title tag includes the caption, like this:

My Name on Instagram: “this is my image caption”

So, here again we see how important the “Name” field in your profile is, since it also shows up here, even though your @ username does not. But the remainder of the title tag is taken up by your image caption.

This can result in some very messy and incomplete looking title tags in the search results:

The situation gets even worse when emojis are included.

I’m not suggesting that you keep the image caption short enough to stay within the title tag, since this would be a very, very short image caption.

However, it’s a good idea to check where your title tag will regularly cut off and make sure that the most important information is at the beginning of the caption and before the title tag cuts off.

As with your bio, make sure that your caption is focused and keyword rich, but keep in mind that this will also be acting as a call to action from the search results. A string of hashtags may make sense and look fine on Instagram, but in a title tag in the search results it will look a great deal more spammy.

Link directly to your Instagram posts

This is arguably the most important step in the process.

The Instagram web app is mostly buried in JavaScript, and that means that the links to your individual Instagram posts from your Instagram profile don’t count as “real” links according to Google. For this reason, the vast majority of Instagram posts are not indexed in the search results.

You can not promote your individual Instagram posts merely by promoting your Instagram profile. In order for anybody to find these posts in the search results, you will need to link to them directly from your other channels, making sure to copy the link that points directly to the post.

To get the link, click the ellipses in the bottom right corner of the post:

And then click the “Copy Link” button from the pop-up:

You will want to naturally include a link to your post from as many of your platforms as possible, within reason, in order to ensure that the post gets indexed.

This can be accomplished using Instagram recap blog posts, or by including citation links to your Instagram posts whenever you post an Instagram picture to your blog.

In Shopify’s Instagram followers guide, they also recommend following, liking, and commenting on your competitor’s followers posts, since about 34% of them will follow back. The more followers you have, the more links you’ll pick up from followers linking to your posts across various platforms.

Conclusion

While Instagram is not an SEO-friendly platform, taking these extra steps will help your Instagram profile and posts turn up in search results when similar brands will likely be invisible. We recommend working these steps into your process to give your Instagram profile a boost in visibility.

Manish Dudharejia is the president and founder of E2M Solutions Inc, a San Diego based digital agency that specializes in website design & development and ecommerce SEO. Follow him on Twitter.

Why Wikipedia is still visible across Google’s SERPs in 2018

Google is always evolving. But some things in the world of search never change.

One such thing is the presence of Wikipedia across the Google SERPs. From queries about products and brands to celebrities and topical events, Wikipedia still features heavily across Google searches – even while our habits as search engine users change (with voice and mobile increasingly having an impact), and while Google itself works to make its results more intuitive and full of rich features.

Back in May my piece No need for Google argued that wikis themselves were fantastic search engines in their own right (check out wiki.com if you want search results that delve into the content on Wikipedia as well as other numerous wikis). Wikipedia’s visibility on Google is testament to the continuing value and usefulness of “the free encyclopedia anyone can edit.”

So how does Wikipedia manage to maintain this visibility in 2018?

Natural ranking

Even in 2018, Google’s SERPs are still dominated by the organic rankings – a list of web pages it deems relevant to your query based on a number of factors such as size, freshness of content, and the number of other sites linking into it.

Unsurprisingly, Wikipedia’s pages still do the job when it comes to appearing in Google’s organic rankings. It has massive authority, having been established for nearly 20 years and now boasting almost 6 million content pages. There has been plenty of time for inbound links to build up and there are an ever-growing number of pages on the domain giving other sites more reason to link back.

So Wikipedia is a massive, well-established site. It also does really well in the fresh content stakes. Around 35 million registered editors keep tweaking and adding to the site’s content, as well as countless more users who make changes without signing in. Additionally, more than a thousand administrators check and verify whether changes should be kept or reverted. This ensures the site is being amended around the clock – and Google is always keen to rank sites which are actively updated ahead of those which are published and never touched again.

Another element of Wikipedia’s natural ranking prowess is thanks to its on-site SEO. Here I’m referring to things like how it uses internal links to reference its own pages which are handy for both users and Google’s crawlers. Internal links are super easy to add when editing Wiki-pages – and thus appear peppered throughout most articles on the site. Also, note the site’s use of title and header tags, as well as its clean URLs.

These features aren’t the toughest SEO hacks in the world, but you can see how added together they keep Wikipedia visible across Google’s organic rankings in the face of increasing competition and ever-emerging SEO tactics.

Featured snippets

Wikipedia is doing well at remaining visible in other parts of the SERPs too. Featured snippets are the box-outs on Google’s results pages which appear above the natural results. They seek to give a summary answer to the searcher’s question, without the user needing to click beyond the SERP.

There is no mark-up that Wikipedia is including on its pages in order for its content to be included in featured snippets. Rather, it is the strength of the site’s content – which usually see a concise and clear (read: edited) summary at the top of each article page – which is helping Google’s crawlers to ascertain what information on the page would be useful to the user in that context.

“People also ask”

It follows that if Google is including Wikipedia articles in its featured snippets, that it also retains visibility (albeit small, before a user makes a click) in the search engine’s “People also ask” boxes.

Again, Google is crawling and delivering this content programmatically. When searching for “midterms 2018,” Google’s algorithm is smart enough to understand that searchers are also asking more long tail questions around that search term – and even if Wikipedia doesn’t have a presence in the organic listings (in this instance, most of these places are given over to news sites), it still receives some visibility and traffic by virtue of its clear, concise and crawlable content.

Knowledge graphs

Knowledge graphs appear towards the right hand side of the Google SERPs. They typically feature a snippet of summary text…

Images and/or maps…

And a plethora of scannable details and handy links…

They are generated in part from Google drawing on content the algorithm crawls programmatically (as in featured snippets), as well as that which is marked-up to alert the search engine to useful details. Businesses can increase their chances of being included in knowledge graphs by signing up to Google My Business and adding the necessary information to their profile, as well as by using on-site mark up.

As you can see from the examples above, Wikipedia content is frequently used by Google to populate knowledge graphs. Again, this is likely due to the natural authority of the site and the easily-crawlable text, rather than any SEO-responsible mark up. But it is a good example of showing how visible the domain is thanks to the strength of its content. Frequently, as is the case with the above “landmarks in plymouth” query, Google will opt to display the informational Wikipedia content (and elements from other sources) in the knowledge graph while giving over the rest of the SERPs to other pages – but it is still visible.

Site links

Another way Wikipedia is good at ensuring it grabs another bit of SERP real estate – as well as giving searchers more reason to click through to the domain – is by giving Google good reason to display its site links.

These are generated by a mixture of relevant links Google crawls from the page in question (“United States Senate elections” in the above example), as well as other related pages on the same domain (“Ras Baraka” is the re-elected Mayor of Newark, but his page is not linked from the elections page).

Wikipedia succeeds here, where the BBC doesn’t, by virtue of its flawless site-structure and liberal use of internal linking – making it easy for Google to draw out the most relevant links for the query.

Takeaways

There are a number of places in Google’s increasingly rich SERPs that Wikipedia doesn’t tend to appear as frequently, if at all. These include: image packs, video results, news and social carousels, sponsored (and retail orientated content), and local results. The reason for this is obvious in most cases, but not in all. Images and video do, of course, feature across thousands of Wiki-pages, but it is arguable that other sites are that bit better at optimizing this kind of content. After all, wiki software was established when much of the web was text based, so we can understand why Google may be more likely to display this content from more modern CMSs.

With that being said, seeing the degree to which Wikipedia is still visible across the SERPs not only highlights the increasing opportunity for SEOs to find some visibility amid increasingly competitive results pages, but also goes to show how important domain authority, good (updated, concise, edited, readable and crawlable) content and excellent internal linking is to acquire and maintain visibility on Google in 2018.

Amazon emerges as search advertising powerhouse

Amazon is already well-known for its rising dominance of the ecommerce market and other fast-growing segments like AWS, its leading cloud computing platform — now, their search advertising business is booming as well.

In fact, it’s on track to generate more than $10 billion in advertising revenues over the next year, a nugget found within Amazon’s most recent third-quarter financial results. In September, the global powerhouse unified its disparate ad products and systems under one brand, Amazon Advertising.

The accelerating growth of Amazon’s ad business poses a threat to established digital advertising platforms including Google and Facebook. The Seattle-based internet giant is forecast to push past Verizon’s Oath and Microsoft to the number three position behind the “duopoly” of Google and Facebook with market share of more than four percent this year. In comparison, the duopoly’s share of new digital ad dollars is declining, forecast to garner only about 48% of new ad spend in 2018 vs. 73% two years ago.

According to a recent Bloomberg TV segment on Amazon’s increasing share of total online ad spend, 54 percent of product searches across the entire internet now occur on Amazon, said Jumpshot CEO Deren Baker. Sponsored ads on Amazon have increased during the last 18 months, with clicks on product searches via sponsored ads on Amazon rising from three to seven percent. Two thirds of these clicks are on the first page of search results, said Baker, increasing pressure to run sponsored ads up against competitors and Amazon’s private labels.

In another extension of its full-court press to rapidly expand its online advertising business, Amazon is now testing a pilot program that lets advertisers use search queries to retarget ads across the web using its demand side platform. It’ll be the first time Amazon’s rich search data will be used outside the walls of its own platform for advertisers to capture shoppers’ intent and serve up more personalized ads.

Advantages over Google in brewing ad platform wars

With more than half of U.S. online shoppers starting their product searches on Amazon today, Google is at a disadvantage in understanding their purchase behaviors in detail. It doesn’t have the data intelligence that Amazon has in terms of what products were actually bought, when those transactions occurred, what journeys the shoppers took in purchasing their final selections, and what other products were added to shopping cart before the final check-out.

Based on that rich set of behavior-based data, Amazon can put it to work with smarter sales pitches that follow shoppers wherever they go on the internet through retargeting campaigns. This added layer of intelligence could help relieve consumer frustration and wasted ad spends that online search expert, journalist and entrepreneur John Battelle recently wrote about in a self-described “rant” against dumber ad retargeting campaigns.

While he’s described programmatic advertising as a “database of intentions” and “the most important artifact in human history, replacing the Macintosh as the most significant tool ever created,” Battelle complains that adtech is failing because people are sick of being followed by ad targeting so stupid that a fourth grader could do better. One ad he describes is for a robe on Amazon that he’d just purchased a few weeks ago that popped up while reading The New York Times – most likely served up via Google Adwords. With Amazon’s smarts, this can be avoided.

Since Amazon’s business plan seems focused on becoming the everything company, marketers will naturally be drawn to spending more with the emerging advertising powerhouse. For example, now with its new Whole Foods business, Amazon can make correlations between online and offline shopping behaviors. It also has insights into video and music preferences through its 100-million plus Prime members. And, Amazon is consistently the “go-to” e-commerce player for major shopping events from Cyber Monday to Mother’s Day to Prime Day.

Lastly, and importantly, Amazon is a step ahead of incumbents in terms of all the purchase data is has tied to attribution, the science of assigning credit and allocating dollars from a sale to the marketing touchpoints a customer was exposed to prior to a purchase. This metric is used by companies to help optimize campaigns and allocate future ad spend based on performance.

Some cautions about what Amazon needs to get right

According to advertiser feedback from Amazon’s new retargeting pilot for its demand side platform, some agencies chose not to participate in pilot stage because they can’t use blacklists or evaluate ad inventory for brand safety issues. Avoiding ads being placed next to brand-inappropriate content has emerged as what many describe as an industry brand safety crisis.

While Amazon has been a beneficiary of brand marketers moving budgets closer to the point of sale due to a brand-safety backlash on other search and social channels, it needs to deliver brand-safety features for off-platform campaigns to pick up significant steam. Like many other ad giants, it will face more scrutiny in terms of user privacy concerns as it moves beyond its own walled garden where it owns all the data and interactions and doesn’t need to be concerned with ad blocking. Beyond its own walls, Amazon needs to rethink and reshape its data policies.

Historically, Amazon has faced complaints about its advertising tools and lack of support for marketers to implement campaigns. It needs to improve self-service capabilities and provide excellent service for advertisers to grow its business significantly.

From a broader societal and legislative perspective, Amazon needs to be mindful of its impact on media publishers in a world that’s now dominated by three ad platforms: Google, Facebook, and Amazon. It is sure to be more closely monitored by legislators who already view Amazon as a growing target for monopoly concerns. Also, as Amazon’s knowledge of our buying patterns and inner desires rises, along with its ad business, it may be increasingly scrutinized for being a good corporate citizen that does not play into unhealthy, hyper-consumerist tendencies.

Gary Burtka is vice president of U.S. operations at RTB House, a global company that provides retargeting technology for global brands worldwide. Its North American headquarters are based in New York City.

Amazon emerges as search advertising powerhouse

Amazon is already well-known for its rising dominance of the ecommerce market and other fast-growing segments like AWS, its leading cloud computing platform — now, their search advertising business is booming as well.

In fact, it’s on track to generate more than $10 billion in advertising revenues over the next year, a nugget found within Amazon’s most recent third-quarter financial results. In September, the global powerhouse unified its disparate ad products and systems under one brand, Amazon Advertising.

The accelerating growth of Amazon’s ad business poses a threat to established digital advertising platforms including Google and Facebook. The Seattle-based internet giant is forecast to push past Verizon’s Oath and Microsoft to the number three position behind the “duopoly” of Google and Facebook with market share of more than four percent this year. In comparison, the duopoly’s share of new digital ad dollars is declining, forecast to garner only about 48% of new ad spend in 2018 vs. 73% two years ago.

According to a recent Bloomberg TV segment on Amazon’s increasing share of total online ad spend, 54 percent of product searches across the entire internet now occur on Amazon, said Jumpshot CEO Deren Baker. Sponsored ads on Amazon have increased during the last 18 months, with clicks on product searches via sponsored ads on Amazon rising from three to seven percent. Two thirds of these clicks are on the first page of search results, said Baker, increasing pressure to run sponsored ads up against competitors and Amazon’s private labels.

In another extension of its full-court press to rapidly expand its online advertising business, Amazon is now testing a pilot program that lets advertisers use search queries to retarget ads across the web using its demand side platform. It’ll be the first time Amazon’s rich search data will be used outside the walls of its own platform for advertisers to capture shoppers’ intent and serve up more personalized ads.

Advantages over Google in brewing ad platform wars

With more than half of U.S. online shoppers starting their product searches on Amazon today, Google is at a disadvantage in understanding their purchase behaviors in detail. It doesn’t have the data intelligence that Amazon has in terms of what products were actually bought, when those transactions occurred, what journeys the shoppers took in purchasing their final selections, and what other products were added to shopping cart before the final check-out.

Based on that rich set of behavior-based data, Amazon can put it to work with smarter sales pitches that follow shoppers wherever they go on the internet through retargeting campaigns. This added layer of intelligence could help relieve consumer frustration and wasted ad spends that online search expert, journalist and entrepreneur John Battelle recently wrote about in a self-described “rant” against dumber ad retargeting campaigns.

While he’s described programmatic advertising as a “database of intentions” and “the most important artifact in human history, replacing the Macintosh as the most significant tool ever created,” Battelle complains that adtech is failing because people are sick of being followed by ad targeting so stupid that a fourth grader could do better. One ad he describes is for a robe on Amazon that he’d just purchased a few weeks ago that popped up while reading The New York Times – most likely served up via Google Adwords. With Amazon’s smarts, this can be avoided.

Since Amazon’s business plan seems focused on becoming the everything company, marketers will naturally be drawn to spending more with the emerging advertising powerhouse. For example, now with its new Whole Foods business, Amazon can make correlations between online and offline shopping behaviors. It also has insights into video and music preferences through its 100-million plus Prime members. And, Amazon is consistently the “go-to” e-commerce player for major shopping events from Cyber Monday to Mother’s Day to Prime Day.

Lastly, and importantly, Amazon is a step ahead of incumbents in terms of all the purchase data is has tied to attribution, the science of assigning credit and allocating dollars from a sale to the marketing touchpoints a customer was exposed to prior to a purchase. This metric is used by companies to help optimize campaigns and allocate future ad spend based on performance.

Some cautions about what Amazon needs to get right

According to advertiser feedback from Amazon’s new retargeting pilot for its demand side platform, some agencies chose not to participate in pilot stage because they can’t use blacklists or evaluate ad inventory for brand safety issues. Avoiding ads being placed next to brand-inappropriate content has emerged as what many describe as an industry brand safety crisis.

While Amazon has been a beneficiary of brand marketers moving budgets closer to the point of sale due to a brand-safety backlash on other search and social channels, it needs to deliver brand-safety features for off-platform campaigns to pick up significant steam. Like many other ad giants, it will face more scrutiny in terms of user privacy concerns as it moves beyond its own walled garden where it owns all the data and interactions and doesn’t need to be concerned with ad blocking. Beyond its own walls, Amazon needs to rethink and reshape its data policies.

Historically, Amazon has faced complaints about its advertising tools and lack of support for marketers to implement campaigns. It needs to improve self-service capabilities and provide excellent service for advertisers to grow its business significantly.

From a broader societal and legislative perspective, Amazon needs to be mindful of its impact on media publishers in a world that’s now dominated by three ad platforms: Google, Facebook, and Amazon. It is sure to be more closely monitored by legislators who already view Amazon as a growing target for monopoly concerns. Also, as Amazon’s knowledge of our buying patterns and inner desires rises, along with its ad business, it may be increasingly scrutinized for being a good corporate citizen that does not play into unhealthy, hyper-consumerist tendencies.

Gary Burtka is vice president of U.S. operations at RTB House, a global company that provides retargeting technology for global brands worldwide. Its North American headquarters are based in New York City.

The post Amazon emerges as search advertising powerhouse appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Organic reputation management & brand protection

Driving visitors to your site is about much more than just rankings. Branding is playing a larger and larger role in acquisition.

In this article we look at the importance of branded searches and provide guidelines to help you understand, keyword by keyword, what you need to do to maximize your branded traffic. All you’ll need is Google Search Console and as many days of data as possible.

Firstly let’s go over why this is important.

It’s your company’s traffic

Branded traffic is very rarely traffic you’d be happy to have leak through to another site. Aside from reviews and similar searches, you’d hope that 100% of branded searches land on your site. Unfortunately we see that this is not always the case. Between the floorboards of SEO and PPC there are cracks that rob you of valuable visits, sometimes deliberately, often by simple chance — regardless, we want to help you reclaim that lost traffic.

In a recent talk at BrightonSEO, Rand Fishkin of SparkToro (and previously Moz) suggested that the future of SEO is in the SERPs and less “on the site.” While there is a growing trend in enhanced search results, data cards and featured snippets, there will always be an place at the table for digital (organic) brand reputation.

Who cares about your brand’s reputation?

This isn’t just about traffic or revenue. Your reputation can affect a number of crucial potential relationships both with individuals and other companies or institutions. Some of the more important potentially affected parties are listed below:

  • Consumers
  • Business partners
  • Stockholders
  • Marketers
  • Journalists
  • Prospective employers and employees
  • Co-workers
  • Personal contacts

Branded vs non-branded traffic

If I were to offer you 100 new visitors that come via a branded search or 1000 who come via a generic non-branded search term, which would you chose? I suppose the answer will depend on a range of factors, one of which is your conversion rate. Regardless, it’s likely that exposure to the brand will have increased their likelihood to either convert or to investigate — and then convert!

Understanding what percentage of your traffic is branded will help you to understand just how valuable this tool and article could be to your company.

Measuring your brand / non-brand split

In this (optional) section we’ll walk you through how to see your brand vs non-brand split without any need for paid tools or insane extrapolations of GA data. This is an optional step but will be relatively easy even for a “novice nerd” to follow. If you’d like to leapfrog this and don’t want insight into your branded traffic split, then skip ahead.

1. Start by ensuring you are logged in to a Google account with access to your Google Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools).

2. Following this, visit https://datastudio.google.com in a separate tab and create a fresh blank report.

The phrase: “It’s so fine and yet so terrible to stand in front of a blank canvas” comes to mind!

3. Now, click in the bottom right of your screen to create a new data source.

4. Select the Google Search Console connector as shown below.

5. You may need to provide authorization to Google Data Studio.

6. Now find your site in the list and select URL Impression and the ‘Connect’ button in the top right.

7. You should now be presented with a list of fields, however, we want to make a new one! Simply click the ‘add a field’ button.

8. The code you need can be seen below, you’ll need to replace the example brand with your own. The expression we have used will look for any search term containing either “zaz” or “le me” to determine whether the keywords are branded or not, keep this simple and short.

CASE WHEN REGEXP_MATCH(Query, (“.*zaz.*|.*le me.*”) ) THEN “Branded” ELSE “Non-Branded” END

You can add more between the speech marks with a |.*text here.* expression.

9. Give the field a name (such as ‘Branded Split’), save it, and we’re almost there!

10. You may still need to add the data source to the blank template, select it from the list to the right and click “Add to Report”

11. Your report will change into a grid and you can now make your chart show brand vs non-brand.

12. Select the type of graph you want to use (I favor area graphs personally) and draw an appropriately sized rectangle. When the graph is selected you’ll need to adjust the ‘Data’ menu to show:

Time Dimension: Date

Breakdown Dimension: Branded Split (or whatever you called your field)

Metric: URL Clicks

13. You can adjust how the chart displays in the ‘Style’ menu, below is my example where I have disabled stacking to show separate lines.

14. Changing your metric to ‘Impressions’ can allow you to quickly see the difference between the two, it often helps to highlight where you may rank for a huge keyword that is unrelated such as a celebrity or a similarly named brand.

15. While this information is useful you may find it difficult to understand how the data averages out – as such, a pie chart may provide you with a clearer ratio. Naturally, a high ratio of branded search increases the importance of this article and our associated tool.

16. You can use data studio to list the keywords making up these impressions/clicks etc, but for the purpose of this investigation we’ll just be using Google Search Console directly from now on.

If you’ve enjoyed this dabble into Data Studio, let us know in the comments and we’ll be sure to produce more insightful posts using it.

Keywords to Protect

When looking for the keywords you want to assess, ensure you consider the below aspects of your company.

  • Your Name
  • Company
  • Brand(s)
  • Product(s)
  • High profile employees
  • Handles/usernames
  • Brand and Reviews
  • Brand vs Competitor

Tool and training for brand reputation

1. Zazzle Media offers a free [gated] Google Sheet available here for brand reputation protection.

2. Make a copy of this sheet on your own Google account or the shared business account you have for all things ‘web’.

3. Name the sheet to whatever you like.

4. In the Dashboard tab – Cell B3, pop your root domain such as zazzlemedia.co.uk or wonga.com.

5. The only other input on the Dashboard tab is for you to list your keywords between B6 – B27.

6. You can find these quite easily by nipping into GSC and filtering by your brand. Alternatively you can do this with your Bing WMT account, however the important keywords will likely be the same regardless of search engine.

7. Add both the appropriate brand keywords and the associated impressions to the table. We’ve used Wonga in our example data.

8. Your impressions won’t be weighted but it can help you identify high impression (high importance) keywords that have low scores.

9. Now that you’ve entered your keywords into the Dashboard you can move to the Scoring tab.

10. You’ll notice there are 10 positions for each keyword, to mirror the results page in either Google or Bing – depending on where you are running your investigation. Simply enter the full URL of the pages into the Full URL column.

11. The domain column will fill out automatically. If you’ve accidentally removed the formula just enter the below code into cell E6 and drag down

=IFERROR(REGEXEXTRACT(D6,”^(?:https?://)?(?:[^@n]+@)?(?:www.)?([^:/n]+)”),””)

12. Similar to the domain column, the Title column will also fill out automatically. Again if you’ve removed the formula, enter the below code into cell F6 and drag down too (and stop deleting the formulas!)

=ARRAY_CONSTRAIN(IFERROR(importxml(D6, “//title/text()”),”Please Enter Manually”),1,1)

13. The titles should automatically fill out due to the importXML feature, however it’s not always 100% perfect, you may need to manually enter a title. The titles are only used to help you judge the impact any article might have and naturally relies on competitors/sites having appropriate titles.

14. Lastly you’ll need to score the URLs from -10 to 10 the table below suggests how you should score, but always take into account where the page is ranking too, a slightly negative article in position 3 is potentially worse than a competitor in position 9.

Score
Notes
-10
Site actively tries to discourage users from using your service. Potentially a very damning review or customer complaint/scandal.
-5
Site loosely attempts to acquire your visitors with no benefit to you. This could be natural crossover with another brand’s service or review aggregator.
0
Neutral site that is unlikely to alter brand perception. Or is a totally unrelated brand. Alternatively the incorrect page on your site.
5
Positive story against your brand such as a news story or great review. Alternatively a useful (but not 100% perfect) page on your own site.
10
The correct page on your site that should be ranking or an acceptable secondary page that is helping you to own the SERPs.

15. We’ve filled the sheet in with the company Wonga.com who recently closed their doors and are no longer offering new loans. This combined with the cannibalistic nature of lenders meant that we were guaranteed a vibrant set of results.

16. Once you have scored every URL you can move back to the Dashboard tab.

17. You’ll find automated lists of both the positive and negative sites, there is a good chance your site will be the only positive but this depends heavily on the media’s representation of your brand.

18. The original tab where you entered your keywords will also now have scores for your site. You’ll find an overall average, an external site score and a score specifically for pages that your site has featured in the SERPs. In the example we’ve produced there is (or was!) a clear need for Wonga to own their reviews more and improve their targeting of “wonga login”.

19. Below the automated graphs and keyword table you’ll also find a simple score for Offence, Neutral Game and Defence.

  • Offence: This score shows how well you’ve optimized your site’s pages within the search results. A low score suggests the wrong pages are ranking.
  • Neutral Game: This is an overall score of your brand’s performance within SERPs, taking into account both your site and competitor sites.
  • Defence: This figure shows how negative the other sites are in the search results, it excludes your site entirely from the scoring.

20. Individual keyword scores are certainly more actionable however the overall scoring provides you with a good benchmark for brand protection KPIs.

Hopefully you’ve been able to gain some interesting insight into your brands perception within branded search results and, if needed been able to make use of the training recommendations made within our tool.

Improving Organic Brand Reputation

We’ve provided a ‘Training’ tab that suggests some of the basic but nevertheless critical points around brand protection. Following these is a great starting point, however if you have additional resource beyond managing these factors consider doing a similar exercise with a copy of the sheet for your competitor’s terms – put yourself in their shoes and discover how they are doing certain elements better than you.

To hark back to the example we showed earlier for Wonga, one of their primary competitors was QuickQuid who just have a simple page to target this term:

It’s better than nothing, and is a good step towards trying to outrank the Trustpilot page that might be a darn sight more damaging.

If you need additional support or help with managing your digital reputation – get in touch! And be sure to get the tool to help you with managing your brand reputation in the SERPs.

I hope you’ve found the tool and associated insight to be useful. Please let me know how you get on @StuartShawUK.

What startups need to know about SEO and domain names

SEO is a huge part of a business’s overall online reputation, and every startup needs to go through it as well.

If you are a startup, you cannot simply ignore the crucial factors of your business i.e. the domain name of your website and its SEO strategy. So, what does your startup need to know about SEO and domain names? Let’s find out.

Choose the right domain name that reflects your brand

To begin with, always appropriately name your startup business. It is important to consider the foundation of your startup and what it stands for, bearing in mind that this name will be your startup’s first and sometimes only impression, especially when it comes to funding.

Once you have arrived at a business name for your startup, your next big challenge would be to decide on the domain name. A domain name carries a lot of value in terms of your website’s digital marketing aspect as well as the first impression of your business. So, choosing the domain name can just be as challenging as choosing the niche of your startup.

A short and simple domain name that preferably carries the name of your brand is highly recommended. A long domain number or the one with numbers is a strict no-no. A unique domain name with sensible extension based on the nature of your business operations can do better for you. A “.com” extension is still preferred by many and it has its own SEO benefits. Including your keywords can help you rank better in search engines.

If you are having a difficult time arriving upon your ideal domain name, you can seek help from several tools available such as DomainIt, Domainsbot, NameStation etc.

Target the right keywords

Once you have a final thought around the domain name of your startup business, it’s time to jump right into the “keyword” bandwagon. But, make sure that you do that cautiously. Since you are new to the business website competition battlefield, your efforts will require double the throttle to get the engines working.

Using long-tailed keywords is highly recommended if you are a startup. This will make sure that your chances of ranking for a certain service offering/product become higher as compared to the other startups that are not running this strategy.

Obviously, there are great keyword suggestion and research tools available in the market to help you. The Ahrefs Keyword Finder tool helps you discover thousands of great keywords to rank for, analyze their ranking difficulty, and calculate traffic potential. In fact, it is touted to be the most complete keyword research tool on the market. All you need to do is enter up to 10 “seed” keywords into Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer and you’ll get a huge list with thousands of great keyword ideas.

The KWFinder tool is an easy-to-use keyword research tool that helps you get an idea about the perfect keyword for your new startup business. It features the most accurate keyword difficulty score which makes it simple to find profitable keywords you can really rank for. You can use this tool to get real-time keyword SEO difficulty in one click and expand your keyword research thanks to immediate Google SERP analysis based on specific SEO metrics.

The Google Adword Keyword Tool helps you reach the right customers for your startup business with the right keywords by helping you get keyword ideas to help build your campaigns with the Google Ads Keyword Planner. With this tool, you can discover new Keywords, compare Keyword trends, and start choosing better keywords.

Put up fresh content that imparts value

This should be the most important rule that you should abide by, always. Your startup’s business website exists for a reason; to inform your audience about the content that is relevant to your industry and help them stay posted about the latest updates. Hence, you should create good quality content and put it out for your audience to consume if you really want to stay ahead with the SEO if your website.

Update blogs once a week

If you are aware of the right blogging tips meant for business websites, you probably know that blogs are crucial for the well-being of your website. If you are a startup business that has recently rolled out their business website or are planning to do so, make sure that you blog at least once a week so that the Search engines stay in the loop and keep your site indexed.

Bonus tips
Don’t forget to take care of your site’s On-Page and Off-Page SEO optimization.
Create a strong link profile for your website so that you can accomplish a good amount of internal linking and also receive external links to and from your site. A great link profile is a huge SEO booster for your startup’s business website.
Use of the right SEO audit tools is just as important as everything else, regardless of the site builders in use. These SEO Audit tools such as SEMRush, Screaming Frog, Majestic SEO gauge your SEO strategy and help you have an idea of what you might be missing.
Your startup can scale the competition and gain brownie points in terms of SEO by abiding by the responsive web design. Hence, put efforts in the direction to making your website mobile-friendly and highly responsive.
Last but not the least, pay attention to your site’s speed. Your startup’s website should not take more than 2 seconds to load. Always invest in a reliable Web hosting service provider.
Your site’s user experience will bring a new set of audience to your site and retain the existing ones. So, never underestimate their prominence.
Conclusion

Even if you are a freshly-brewed startup business, your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy remains to be the heart of your online success. Good content, high SERP rankings, and satisfied customers will be the ones to take your startup to a more established phase of its being. Hence, if you are a startup, SEO can provide you the much-needed edge and maximum leverage more than anything else. This also makes it imperative for you to understand a lot about SEO and also how domain names can make or break your game.

What startups need to know about SEO and domain names

SEO is a huge part of a business’s overall online reputation, and every startup needs to go through it as well.

If you are a startup, you cannot simply ignore the crucial factors of your business i.e. the domain name of your website and its SEO strategy. So, what does your startup need to know about SEO and domain names? Let’s find out.

Choose the right domain name that reflects your brand

To begin with, always appropriately name your startup business. It is important to consider the foundation of your startup and what it stands for, bearing in mind that this name will be your startup’s first and sometimes only impression, especially when it comes to funding.

Once you have arrived at a business name for your startup, your next big challenge would be to decide on the domain name. A domain name carries a lot of value in terms of your website’s digital marketing aspect as well as the first impression of your business. So, choosing the domain name can just be as challenging as choosing the niche of your startup.

A short and simple domain name that preferably carries the name of your brand is highly recommended. A long domain number or the one with numbers is a strict no-no. A unique domain name with sensible extension based on the nature of your business operations can do better for you. A “.com” extension is still preferred by many and it has its own SEO benefits. Including your keywords can help you rank better in search engines.

If you are having a difficult time arriving upon your ideal domain name, you can seek help from several tools available such as DomainIt, Domainsbot, NameStation etc.

Target the right keywords

Once you have a final thought around the domain name of your startup business, it’s time to jump right into the “keyword” bandwagon. But, make sure that you do that cautiously. Since you are new to the business website competition battlefield, your efforts will require double the throttle to get the engines working.

Using long-tailed keywords is highly recommended if you are a startup. This will make sure that your chances of ranking for a certain service offering/product become higher as compared to the other startups that are not running this strategy.

Obviously, there are great keyword suggestion and research tools available in the market to help you. The Ahrefs Keyword Finder tool helps you discover thousands of great keywords to rank for, analyze their ranking difficulty, and calculate traffic potential. In fact, it is touted to be the most complete keyword research tool on the market. All you need to do is enter up to 10 “seed” keywords into Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer and you’ll get a huge list with thousands of great keyword ideas.

The KWFinder tool is an easy-to-use keyword research tool that helps you get an idea about the perfect keyword for your new startup business. It features the most accurate keyword difficulty score which makes it simple to find profitable keywords you can really rank for. You can use this tool to get real-time keyword SEO difficulty in one click and expand your keyword research thanks to immediate Google SERP analysis based on specific SEO metrics.

The Google Adword Keyword Tool helps you reach the right customers for your startup business with the right keywords by helping you get keyword ideas to help build your campaigns with the Google Ads Keyword Planner. With this tool, you can discover new Keywords, compare Keyword trends, and start choosing better keywords.

Put up fresh content that imparts value

This should be the most important rule that you should abide by, always. Your startup’s business website exists for a reason; to inform your audience about the content that is relevant to your industry and help them stay posted about the latest updates. Hence, you should create good quality content and put it out for your audience to consume if you really want to stay ahead with the SEO if your website.

Update blogs once a week

If you are aware of the right blogging tips meant for business websites, you probably know that blogs are crucial for the well-being of your website. If you are a startup business that has recently rolled out their business website or are planning to do so, make sure that you blog at least once a week so that the Search engines stay in the loop and keep your site indexed.

Bonus tips
Don’t forget to take care of your site’s On-Page and Off-Page SEO optimization.
Create a strong link profile for your website so that you can accomplish a good amount of internal linking and also receive external links to and from your site. A great link profile is a huge SEO booster for your startup’s business website.
Use of the right SEO audit tools is just as important as everything else, regardless of the site builders in use. These SEO Audit tools such as SEMRush, Screaming Frog, Majestic SEO gauge your SEO strategy and help you have an idea of what you might be missing.
Your startup can scale the competition and gain brownie points in terms of SEO by abiding by the responsive web design. Hence, put efforts in the direction to making your website mobile-friendly and highly responsive.
Last but not the least, pay attention to your site’s speed. Your startup’s website should not take more than 2 seconds to load. Always invest in a reliable Web hosting service provider.
Your site’s user experience will bring a new set of audience to your site and retain the existing ones. So, never underestimate their prominence.
Conclusion

Even if you are a freshly-brewed startup business, your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy remains to be the heart of your online success. Good content, high SERP rankings, and satisfied customers will be the ones to take your startup to a more established phase of its being. Hence, if you are a startup, SEO can provide you the much-needed edge and maximum leverage more than anything else. This also makes it imperative for you to understand a lot about SEO and also how domain names can make or break your game.

The post What startups need to know about SEO and domain names appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Google and Facebook back Berners-Lee’s Case #ForTheWeb

On Monday, November 5, Tim Berners-Lee unveiled a document called “The Case for the Web” which outlines principles to protect and enhance the web’s future, as well as craft a collective contract for May 2019.

He revealed these plans for a contract at the Web Summit in Lisbon, together with his organization, the Web Foundation.

Signers to join the contract thus far include Facebook, Google, the French Government, Sir Richard Branson, the Georgia Institute of Technology, and more than fifty other organizations and key individuals. Amazon has reportedly not yet joined.

The contract is expected to be finalized in May 2019, the year when the web celebrates its 30th birthday, and when half of the world’s population is expected to be online.

When asked which particular groups he’s targeting to join, Berners-Lee pronounced, “Everybody, everybody.” The hope is that any and all companies, individuals, and governments will participate in crafting this contract. You can show your support here, and also participate on Twitter with #ForTheWeb.

Why do we need a case for the web?

The document begins by chronicling a bit of web history: how we’ve grown from just one website in 1990 to nearly two billion websites at the end of 2018 — or one website for every four people in the world.

Much of that explosive growth has brought life-saving change: uncovering corruption, overthrowing dictators, providing emergency relief from natural disasters, sourcing truth, giving countless people access to education, advancing innovation, creating millions of jobs.

But much of that growth has also carried disastrous consequences: election interference, cyber bullying, misinformation, discrimination, spread of hate speech and terrorism, data breaches and privacy scandals.

For better and for worse, the web has “changed lives and altered the course of history. . . It has changed the way we communicate with each other, opening up new worlds and new ways of thinking, even if we haven’t left home.”

The document then discusses how “the web we know and love is under attack.”

Right now it’s not for everyone — over half the people in the world aren’t online, and most of them are marginalized populations (specifically those from low-income countries and women).

And right now, the vast majority of internet power is concentrated in the hands of a few giant companies:

“More than 90% of online searches go through Google, giving the company tremendous power over what people see when searching online.2 More than half of cloud services run on Amazon. Facebook boasts over 2.2 billion active monthly users, and users of Facebook-owned WhatsApp top 1.5 billion. The responsibility that weighs on the shoulders of these companies and others like them could hardly be greater.”

What is to be done, then? That’s exactly what Berners-Lee and the Web Foundation are trying to accomplish here: “to establish the open web as a public good and a basic right.”

What are the 3 key focus areas of “The Case for the Web”?

The Case for the Web outlines three main efforts the contract hopes to further.

Accessible and affordable for everyone

  • Accelerate the rate at which people are coming online
  • Drive down the cost of internet access so that people can afford to connect
  • Focus on connecting women

Safe and welcoming for everyone

  • Protect personal data online
  • Ensure automated decision-making is fair and unbiased
  • Combat online bullying, harassment and abuse
  • Ensure governments respect people’s rights online

Empowering for everyone

  • Work toward a diverse, multilingual web
  • Treat all online traffic equally
  • Put the power back in the hands of the people

What are the core principles?

The core principles thus far include mandates for each governments, companies, and citizens.

Governments will:

  • Ensure everyone can connect to the internet — so that anyone, no matter who they are or where they live, can participate actively online.
  • Keep all of the internet available, all of the time — so that no one is denied their right to full internet access.
  • Respect people’s fundamental right to privacy — so everyone can use the internet freely, safely and without fear.

Companies will:

  • Make the internet affordable and accessible to everyone — so that no one is excluded from using and shaping the web.
  • Respect consumers’ privacy and personal data — so people are in control of their lives online.
  • Develop technologies that support the best in humanity and challenge the worst — so the web really is a public good that puts people first.

Citizens will:

  • Be creators and collaborators on the web — so the web has rich and relevant content for everyone.
  • Build strong communities that respect civil discourse and human dignity — so that everyone feels safe and welcome online.
  • Fight for the web — so the web remains open and a global public resource for people everywhere, now and in the future.

How feasible are these?

At a glance, many of these principles seem far-fetched and idealistic, maybe even naive. We don’t have to be the first to remind you of the data breaches, scandals, and privacy concerns that have wrecked havoc on 2018.

And yet.

When asked about why people would join his effort, Berners-Lee told CNET, “We’re not expecting anyone to do it out of altruism. We’re expecting them to do it out of collaboration.”

Some of the core principles are obviously easier than others — for citizens at least, many of us are already committed to being creators and collaborators, but many of us find it hard to protect an environment where everyone feels safe and welcome online.

Many companies are already making efforts to respect privacy and personal data (thank you, GDPR), and many are at least trying to develop technologies that support the best in humanity (TBD on how that’s going, i.e. social media rank with hate speech).

Particular governments will certainly have the biggest strides to make in ensuring the internet is available, working, and private to all.

As far as feasibility, many of these goals — while lofty — are at least attainable in some hoped-for future.

If nothing else, now certainly feels like the time when people will be most willing to hop on board to at least try. The climate of late (looking at you, Google Walkout) points to a renewed sense of people starting to take matters of human rights and wellbeing into their own hands, instead of waiting on those with all the power to do it for them.

It doesn’t hurt that the person calling for change is the inventor of the web himself — most people would be hard-pressed to call any more of his ideas impossible.

To realize these changes? He’s calling on “everybody” to help.

Everybody includes you, too

On the nearly sixty groups and individuals already signed up, Berners-Lee commented on the “richness” of the list — that we want everyone from large companies to groups of women in developing countries. “If we’re going to decide on the way we all together work towards having a web that has the right values,” he said, “we don’t want it to be a white guy’s contract, we want it to be a contract with everybody.”

It seems he really is interested in not just the Googles and Facebooks of the world, but the smaller actors too — anyone who uses the internet.

Or as he put it in 2014,

“If we spend a certain amount of time using the internet we have to spend a little proportion of that time defending it, worrying about it, looking out for it… Do me a favor, fight for it for me.”

You can show your support here, and also participate on Twitter with #ForTheWeb.

The full report, “The Case for the Web,” can be read here.

Branded search vs direct search: How to optimize for brand-driven queries

Branded search

So you have built a brand, large enough for it to be searched on Google? Now, how well are you ranking for all those branded queries?

A few days ago Joy Hawkins posted a very insightful thread distinguishing between two important brand-driven search queries:

  • Branded searches are searches for brands that you sell (even if it’s a part of your business name) that returns a list of results.
  • Direct searches are searches for your specific location that return a Knowledge Panel (also referred to as “Authoritative OneBox”).

For example, [State Farm] search triggers local-three-pack results. That’s a branded search:

[State Farm Shannon Barr] returns a knowledge graph: That is a direct search:

Direct search

This classification makes your local search optimization strategy much more clearer and better organized:

  • Create and optimize your third-party brand assets to dominate as many results for your direct search results as you can
  • Collect all your branded search queries and create the optimization strategy to rank high (as well as appear in local-three pack)

Let’s discuss the above two points in more detail:

1. Dominate direct search results

Here’s one important thing that you need to always keep in mind when creating your strategy for these: More often than not, this search is driven by ROPO / ROBO (research online purchase/buy offline/online) behavior.

What this means is that those searchers already know you and are ready to purchase. In fact they are so ready that they take time researching you online.

This is huge.

This also needs to push you to keep a closer eye on those direct search results and what first impression they make when someone looks at them for the first time.

The first impression matters here. A lot.

With that in mind, perform and repeat the following exercises on a regular basis:

  • Perform that direct search (this may include your full business name, your business name plus your business address, your business name plus your / the owner’s name, etc.)
  • Evaluate reviews and ratings (rich snippets) searchers see right away. Should you spend some more effort on a particular platform (Yelp, Facebook, etc.) to improve your overall rating there? Should you try and push any of your other listings higher in search, those where you have managed to build a better rep? Should you try and obtain verified presence at new local platforms (probably those that rank high for your competitor’s name). Smaller local directories can give you better, easier controlled rich snippets, e.g. Business.com, DirJournal, BizJournals, etc.
  • Evaluate third-party assets those trigger (your interviews, standalone reviews, articles about you, etc.). Should there be other – more favorable 0 assets pushed there? (For example, events you spoke on, your other interviews, books, etc.) Should more of those be publicized? (E.g. publish and promote that video where you were speaking!)
  • Evaluate visual search results those trigger (images and videos). Can those be hurting that important first impression? Should I be publicizing more images, including photos, visualizations, etc.?
  • Visual reputation

    The search results are always evolving, so it’s important to perform those exercises on a regular basis as well come up with and implement a new plan at least yearly.

    2. Collect and organize your branded search queries

    This is one of those steps that’s unbelievably missed by many, even big, brands.

    Remember: Your important branded search is not just your actual business name. There are hundreds and (for bigger brands) even thousands of ways your potential customers are searching for you online.

    Branded queries

    Here are a few most important ones to keep an eye on:

    • ROPO queries (these are ready to buy) Your brand name + reviews
    • High intent queries (almost there!): Your brand name + your product / feature. Here’s a bit more on this type
    • Navigational queries (your site navigation should be addresses): Your brand name + contact / login
    • Competitive research (these customers are the easiest to lose!) Your brand name vs your competitor’s name. *Wistia is doing a great job optimizing for those: Notice their well-optimized landing pages for these types of queries. Example:

    Competitive queries

    And here’s another thing to remember: You want to rank #1 (and if possible #1, 2 and 3) for all of those! Otherwise, you may lose a customer to a competitor or a blogger who is suggesting a better alternative or simply advises against your brand.

    But not just that! Think about all those “blended” search results that may distract the user’s attention from your brand:

    • Local pack
    • Videos
    • Images
    • Product results
    • People Also Ask, etc.

    Whenever these are triggered for your branded search, include a separate strategy for conquering those too, e.g. “[brand name vs your competitor’s name] needs a video”.

    Serpstat is a solid platform helping you research and organize all those branded queries in a meaningful way.

    • You can sort branded queries by search volume or keyword difficulty
    • You can see at a glance which blended search element each query triggers (as well as filter by any)
    • You can add all the branded queries to their rank tracking tool under a separate project to keep a close eye on how you rank:

    Serpstat keywords

    Serpstat’s output gives a very good insight into search results for each keyword without the need to actually search for each one in Google. This allows you to efficiently create a thorough branded search optimization strategy.

    You can read more about there keyword selection tool here.

    3. Optimize for local-three pack rankings

    Local-three pack has changed local search optimization a lot. It is also leaving a lot of local businesses and marketers confused because there’s not much obvious logic behind it, in some cases.

    There are no official recommendations helping us understand what can get a businesses into the well-used local three pack, obviously, but here’s what I was able to collect from reputable sources and my own observations:

    • Keep your local listing verified and completed (including those newer sections like Google Local Posts)
    • According to Bright Local, businesses appearing in the Google Local 3-pack have an average of 47 Google Reviews (work on those reviews).
    • There’s a huge on-page factor in play (Make sure those branded search queries are mentioned on your landing page)
    • As basic as it sounds but keywords help everywhere: In your business description on Google local, on your page (again), in your business reviews, etc.
    • Seasonal fluctuations. I’ve seen businesses with “March” in the business name suddenly appear in the three local pack during spring. I am not sure if there’s anything to do here to put this idea into practice but at least we know those rankings are not permanent.

    More on ranking in local-three pack: How to Start Ranking in Google 3 Pack ASAP

    Are you optimizing for your direct and branded search queries? Let us know in the comments!

    Data on why retail icon Sears fell in new ecommerce economy

    Sears, which long ago pioneered an early form of ecommerce through its catalog business, didn’t foresee a shifting landscape that started 25 years ago in Jeff Bezos’ garage in Seattle.

    While the U.S. retail giant could have carved out a strong presence in ecommerce, it failed to act back in 2005 when Amazon became the leading internet retailer. Instead, it launched its own big-box retail chains to try to turn tide on market share loss from Walmart, Target and others.

    Eleven years later in 2016, former CEO Eddie Lambert who stepped down after Sears filed for bankruptcy last month, warned of disruption to retailers like “Walmart, Nordstrom, Macy’s, Staples, Whole Foods and many others have felt the impact of disruptive changes from online competition and new business models.” Like many other retailers struggling to survive like Toys “R” Us, JCPenney and Macy’s, Sears is closing 142 unprofitable stores by the end of this year.

    Insights on Sears.com traffic and conversions

    To better understand Sears’ under-performance in the rising ecommerce economy, we analyzed data from Jumpshot‘s panel of 100 million devices that tracks more than five billion consumer actions per day. The data ranges from January 2017 to September 2018.

    One key finding is that Sears has barely grown online transaction volume for nearly two years. Through September, it posted almost exactly the same number of purchases, growing just 0.03% year over year. Traffic to the site has been declining. It’s down 16% for the year.

    While that means Sears is converting at a slightly higher rate with less traffic, the bad news is almost half of search engine traffic now comes from paid search ads. That’s up from just over 20% from the same time last year. Nearly half of its traffic comes from Google promotions.

    Sears’ private-label strategy didn’t stand the test of time

    The value for Sears’ historically strong brands like Craftsman, DieHard, and Kenmore has lost its luster. The retailer manufactured or sourced high-quality products to earn lasting trust that spanned generations and used them to generate loyalty. But, Sears failed to realize it could not rely on brand affinity forever, especially since brand loyalty is prevalent mostly among older generations who are the majority of Sears’ customer base. Instead, it’s limped along using the goodwill it’s generated to maintain sales or sell off its brands as assets.

    In comparison, Amazon’s winning private-label strategy has focused on acquiring retail dominance and then moving in on established brands with its own often cheaper and lower-quality products to squeeze out the competition.

    Jumpshot data shows that Sears’ strongest categories online are tools, appliance and shoes. Combined, they account for about half the transactions on Sears.com.

    The tools category is a bright spot for Sears. It grew 50% year-over-year growth last year and Sears.com is the fourth ranking domain in category behind Amazon, Walmart and Home Depot.

    But, 84% of tools purchases on Sears.com are driven by one brand, Craftsman, which represents about one-fifth of all online sales for Sears.

    Though they’ve sold the brand to Stanley Black & Decker, Sears has wisely retained licensing rights for its most valuable brand for another 14 years.

    Unfortunately, Sears performance for online sales in its two other top categories, appliance and shoes, is underwhelming compared to competitors.

    Its Kenmore brand drives 62% of all appliance sales on Sears.com, but appliance sales have been flat so far this year, down 0.1% year-over-year through the end of Q3. It ranks ninth in market share with only a 1.6% sliver of the pie by domain. Amazon outpaces the pack with a 69% market share in the category. Others ahead of Sears in online appliance sales include Walmart, Home Depot, Lowes, Kohls, Best Buy and Bed Bath & Beyond.

    Sears’ performance in the shoes category is far worse, and most of the traffic it is generating is tied to legacy brand DieHard boots.

    Four of the top six keywords leading to interactions with the brand include the DieHard name, and it’s paying for consumers’ attention with nearly half of its traffic from those keywords being driven by paid ads. Overall, Sears.com is ranked 17th among a crowd of competitors for market share by domain.

    Lack of ecommerce vision may sadly end in Sears’ liquidation

    In a plea to employees last month during a town hall meeting as Sears gears up for a do-or-die holiday season, Chairman Eddie Lampert said “we need to show material progress over the next few months” to avoid liquidation. In a past warning, he stated that Google and Amazon are forcing traditional brick-and-mortar businesses “to evolve or face dissatisfied users and shareholders, leading to major corporate actions.”

    Even if Sears didn’t surpass Amazon as the king of ecommerce, if it had acted earlier to adapt to a changing landscape, it could have been a fierce contender. If only Sears had seen the future of online commerce around the time of its Kmart merger in 2004, it could have successfully reinvented itself as a leader in a new internet retail economy. Instead it chose to imitate other big-box retailers instead of using its considerable resources to take on Amazon.

    As Kurt Vonnegut wrote: “Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are: ‘It might have been.’” Only time will tell with Sears’ final fate, but the future is not looking bright. If you follow the search engine data insights, they clearly show the strong likelihood of Sears’ downfall in light of the rise of ecommerce.

    Deren Baker is the CEO of Jumpshot.