A guide to testing your paid social ads to enhance ROI

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While display and paid search ads have their place in every digital marketing strategy, social media advertising is often an overlooked paid channel.

Paid search is great at capturing user intent, but is a poor channel for proactive targeting customers, feeding the top of the funnel

before the user has the purchasing intent. With click through rates from Facebook ads more than eight times better than paid search, there is definitely an opportunity to move some of your advertising spend onto social but it is important to utilise ad testing in order to maximise your ROI.

This post is split into three sections; the theory behind advert testing; the specific elements which can be tested along with which ones deliver the greatest benefit and; a useful list of actionable insights we’ve developed from personal experience.

We’ll focus mainly on Facebook as it is the by far the biggest platform, and it provides the most elements which can be tested.

What is a paid social test?

Split testing is the main competence utilised in paid social advertising which allows you to measure the ROI from your campaigns.

Split testing compares two versions of an ad or campaign, with only a single element changed between them. This allows you to measure the performance of the opposing elements and keep the one which is working.

To properly determine a winning element, it needs to achieve statistical significance i.e. the probability that the relationship between variables is caused by something other than random chance and will be repeated.

This is an important concept to understand. If we flip a coin twice and it lands on heads both, we cannot assume that the likelihood of heads being 100%, as the sample size is too small; we know that the odds of this happening is 1 in 4. At which point are we confident with the result we get? What’s the probability of getting no tails should the coin be fair?

In this example it is at 25%, when significance is normally assumed at 5% or less, so we can see that this is not a significant test, we would need 5 consecutive heads in order to prove significance because only 3% of experiments on a fair coin will yield the results we see.

Statistical significance is complicated to work out when sampling size varies between testing pots, so I would just go ahead and use this tool to make it easier.

Which elements can be tested?

Now we have the theory, let’s expand a bit on the actual elements we should be testing on social media platforms.

There are a large number of elements which can and should be tested; imagery, titles, copy, ad type, bidding, target audience, etc. If we want to test three images with three titles, three different bits of copy with three different ad types that’s already 81 separate adverts which need to be created (3 to the power of 4).

You will also need to pump enough budget into each advert to achieve statistical significance. We would recommend starting small with only a few tests at once.

The below list is in ascending order by impact to ROI of change:

Design:

  • Image – Image testing provides the greatest potential gains. You’ve got loads of variations you can test here; ad image vs text overlay; featuring a human vs not; close up vs wide shot.
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  • Headline – A whole blogpost can go into how to craft the perfect headline but the fundamentals of this article will still ring true. No matter how carefully you have crafted your headline, it could still fall flat on its face. You need to be testing always; test punctuation, call to action, industry ‘lingo’, capitalisation, branding vs non branding, specifics vs generalities, are you expressing urgency?
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  • Placement – On Facebook you can choose between Facebook news feed, mobile news feed or right hand column, as well as Instagram and the Facebook network. We tend to see the best results from the desktop news feed followed by mobile, but that is not to say your audience may respond better on Instagram, or there might not be potential in the right hand column.
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  • Landing Page – I have seen enough ad campaigns fall flat on their face through poor landing pages which do not match the messaging on the advert. Without a custom landing page, users will be left confused as to why they landed on the page and they’ll probably bounce quickly, killing your ROI. Your headline, imagery and call to action all must sing in tune with your ads.
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  • Post Text – Most people don’t get as far as reading the post text so this is one of the less important elements to test. You still want to make sure it ads value to your ad but I wouldn’t hide any important information in here that will entice clicks – try to expand on your headline here.
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  • The Call-to-Action Button – This element is pretty low on your priorities to begin with but it may be useful once other elements in your testing have been exhausted.
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    Ad Targeting:

  • Country/ location – If you’re using multinational targeting it is definitely worth splitting it down by country. Your adverts will probably need to reflect the changes here too though, so it isn’t the easiest element to test. Remember, you’ve also got the opportunity to break down your targeting by people living in the location, or people recently in the location – though these aren’t always the best options to test.
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  • Gender – Splitting by gender is the second most important targeting option here. If your product is gender neutral you will want to create gender-specific versions of your advert, testing different designs on both.
  • Interests – Interest targeting is one of the most important skills to master. We’d recommend trying to identify shoulder niches to lower your CPC here. Whilst you might be pushing a baby product for example, every marketer out there will be targeting ‘mummy’ and ‘baby’ interest groups. Think outside the box – Mums will babies tend to be at home during the day and may follow daytime TV interests. There will be less competition for these interests which can lower your CPC.
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  • Age – Another straightforward one. We’d recommend sorting different ad sets to split your users by age bands.
  • Custom audiences – As with interest targeting, custom audiences allow you to build a targeting group based upon visits to your website (or specific pages) as well as your email list. You can do some really advanced stuff with custom audiences, such as splitting your website visitors by conversion action (or abandons from cart), website visits in the past 3, 10 or 30 days, or perhaps the last time they visited. Besides testing, interest and custom audience targeting are the other main competencies of social advertising which are probably deserving of a blog post in itself.
  • Other demographics – The following targeting options probably have less potential benefits than the previous so we wouldn’t go down this route unless you are confident with your tests on the previous elements. Try to focus on different relationship statuses and tailor your adverts accordingly. To go back to the previous example, it may be worth tailoring your baby product adverts at newlyweds.
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    Others:

  • Ad Type – This is an important element to test. The downside is that it can only be done at campaign level so your adverts may actually end up competing against each other which will inflate the CPC. The potential benefits do outweigh this though so push on. There are many options here; testing clicks to website vs boosted post vs conversion ad is always a good place to start it your goal is conversions. You can add in the new lead gen ad here too if you are looking for… you guessed it; leads!
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  • Bidding strategies – These bidding options are an advanced feature and are probably best left alone if you are just starting out. We’ve got four options here; CPM (the amount you’re bidding is the maximum you want to pay for 1000 impressions), CPC (you will only pay when a user clicks on the ad), oCPM (this one only displays your adverts for the people most likely to convert) and CPA (only bidding on the maximum you want to pay for a specific action). There are limitations to some of these bidding strategies, such as CPA can’t be used to promote external website campaigns. If you are running a conversion ad we would recommend you stick with oCPM but the other options might be viable depending on your goal.
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    Actionable insights for testing social advertisements

    Exclude useless experiments

    Use common sense to exclude unnecessary elements. If your service area is limited to a certain town, or your product is only suitable for women, you can exclude locations and genders immediately.

    It is also worth noting here that Facebook provides you with a report on the location, gender and ad placement so it is probably worth skipping these over with your first test, you can then rule out some of these in further tests.

    Define macro experiments

    With initial tests you shouldn’t be focusing on subtle differences such as capitalisation or the colour of the background of an image. Test big differences. Use a photograph compared to a cartoon image. Use a personal headline compared to a click bait one.

    Start small and reallocate budget once a winner is found

    Don’t go all in allocating a 50/50 split of your total budget into your first test. For every winning budget there has to be a loser, and you will be losing money every time you commit to a test. This is necessary but the alternative is worse; would you rather waste 50% of your budget or 100%?

    Be conservative with your budget, set aside a smaller piece to begin to test with. Once you have a winning advert you need to allocate your resources into it, but don’t forget to save some of the budget for further testing.

    Create Personas

    This step is incredibly important and should be completed before you even begin a single advert. Create a number of different customer personas based upon your expectations.

    You will then be able to feed this information into the design and targeting of your adverts. Your tests will then be able to feed back into your initial assumptions to create a more realistic persona.

    Avoid overlaps of targeting

    When testing different audiences, such as a custom audience compared with an interest group, it is possible that individual users may land in both groups. This doesn’t make a fair test as any affected users will be exposed to both sets of adverts so will not make an unaffected decision.

    Employing negative audiences eliminates this issue so make sure you exclude all other audience groups from your test pot to keep your test legitimate.

    Never stop testing

    This can’t be emphasised enough. All split testing will ever achieve is telling you which element is better than its alternatives. You can never have the best advert possible from a single test of a single element. Keep testing.

    Use trackable links

    Nothing kills an experiment like forgetting to mark up your variations with separate tracking codes. You’ve just lost all insight and will have to repeat your test. Mark up each individual advert with a separate tracking code to properly record each variation in your analytics platform.

    Use free social media to test

    You don’t have to jump straight into paid advertising. Utilise your current audience to beta test imagery and copy. You can’t accurately split tests as there will be a number of additional elements which cannot be excluded i.e. time of day, day itself or the week when you post your variations. But this is a free way of getting some insight.

    Stop ads as soon as statistical significance is reached

    Once your test reaches statistical significance you must turn it off. If there is a clear winner, you are just wasting budget on the losing advert. Statistical significances function is to give you confidence in your results – use the insight or continue to waste money which could be spent elsewhere.

    Don’t lose sight of your main objective

    Whilst constantly tweaking your headline or interest groups to eek out that extra few clicks for your money, it is important to keep your main objective in mind at all times. If your goal is conversions, then perhaps focusing on your CTR is not ideal.

    Click bait may lead to a surge in traffic, but also an increased bounce rate. Don’t mislead the user, make it as clear as possible the outcome you want from them before they click.

    Now, there has been a lot of information contained within this blog post. So if you only take one thing away it should really be the methodology involved in testing.

    Make an assumption on how you think your element will affect the outcome – then test it and refine your assumption accordingly. Always look at your adverts as attempting to prove a premise. Never rest on your assumptions; keep testing and always refine.

    Sam Underwood is a Search and Data Executive at Zazzle Media and a contributor to SEW.

    Guide to Google ranking signals – Part 6: Trust, Authority and Expertise

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    Last week we published the fifth instalment of our complete guide to Google ranking signals.

    It concentrated on ‘duplicate content and syndication’ and the practical ways you can ensure your webpages are passing on PageRank and not being ignored by Google.

    This week we dive into trust signals, paying particular attention to Google’s Page Quality Rating.

    Page Quality Rating

    Last year, Google published an extensive document laying out exactly what it looks for when it comes to evaluating your search quality.

    In order to work out your Page Quality Rating, Google takes into account the following most important factors:

    • Main content quality and amount
    • Website information/information about who is responsible for the website
    • Website reputation
    • Expertise, authoritativeness, trustworthiness

    We’ve already looked at ‘quality content’ in a previous instalment of this guide, so let’s explore the remaining three elements: trust, authority and expertise.

    Authority

    As stated in our article on what is an authority website? An authority website is a site that is trusted. It’s trusted by its users, trusted by industry experts, trusted by other websites and trusted by search engines.

    The strength of your authority will ultimately come down to the strength of your website’s content, which we’ve covered in earlier chapters.

    There are also many other on-site areas where a site can build trust and authority…

    Site Architecture

    1) Your site needs to have a logical architecture. The homepage should be accessible at all times, and all your categories and subcategories should be thematically grouped together in your main navigation.

    2) An easily accessible search box will aid the user experience, and help people looking for more specific information. If a searcher can’t find a specific page, make sure your search results offer something in a way that’s still relevant.

    3) All your categories should be accessible from the main menu. All your web pages should be labelled with the relevant categories.

    Identity

    4) Your website should have an easy to locate Contact Us page with an appropriate amount of contact information – emails, business address, business phone number.

    5) Your Contact Page’s information should also match your WHOIS data.

    6) An About Us page explaining your website’s purpose, it’s history and including profiles of your owners and senior employees will help engender trust in visitors.

    4) On every webpage it should be clear who is responsible for the website (whether individual, organisation or publisher) and who created the content on the page (the author).

    Trust

    5) If you’re a business, it may be a good idea to start a blog on your website. Not only will this keep your site up-to-date with fresh content and encourage repeat visits (and increase the frequency of search engine crawlers), but also show that you’re a relevant, trustworthy business.

    6) User reviews and testimonials that you’ve uploaded yourself onto a webpage will probably be ignored by Google’s Page Quality rating.

    Instead Google pays attention to third-party expert testimonials from independent sources – reviews, references, news articles. Recommendations from professional societies, are strong evidence of very positive reputation.

    7) A few negative customer reviews aren’t going to affect your Page Quality rating too much, particularly if you have thousands. Customer reviews also tend to be checked for their content rather than the actual rating itself.

    That being said, you clearly need to rethink your product or customer service if negativity begins to increase.

    8) You must include a Terms of Service and Privacy Policy explaining your use of cookies.

    Expertise

    9) If you purport to be an expert site, then you’d better make sure you have experts writing for you. Even if you’re site is an entertainment site or fashion blog.

    To use a few of Google’s own examples:

    • High quality medical advice should come from people or organizations with appropriate medical expertise or accreditation. High quality medical advice or information should be written or produced in a professional style and should be edited, reviewed, and updated on a regular basis.
    • High quality advice pages on topics such as home remodeling or advice on parenting issues
      should also come from “expert” or experienced sources which users can trust.
    • High quality pages on hobbies, such as photography or learning to play a guitar, also require expertise.

    Google will routinely check on the ongoing quality of your ‘expert’ site.

    10) Don’t worry if you don’t have any formal training or education in your chosen area, Google will take into account the “amount of life experience” that makes them an expert on the topic and will value this as “everyday expertise.”

    Five 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 around the world of search marketing and beyond.

    This week we have Facebook, Amazon and Meerkat all trying something new.

    Spoiler alert: respectively, being Craigslist, banning reviews, not existing anymore.

    But first, let’s check in with the Big G…

    Google’s first SERP now displays fewer organic results

    Page one of Google search now displays fewer organic results (around 8.5 links instead of the 10 it used to traditionally show) according to new research from Searchmetrics.

    Nearly every search query now includes at least one example of boxed out content such as app suggestions, videos, images, integrated Twitter cards etc on the first page.

    There are also significant differences between Google’s smartphone and desktop results, with 34% of desktop results including at least one images box compared with only 14.4% for smartphones.

    Facebook targets eBay, Craigslist with Marketplace

    This week saw the launch of Facebook Marketplace, “a convenient destination to discover, buy and sell items with people in your community.”

    As reported by Al Roberts, through Marketplace, sellers can post the details and photos of the items that they’re looking to sell, and buyers can search for items for sale near them or in a specific location.

    A search function is available, and there are a number of filters offered, including category and price.

    Amazon now forbids incentivized reviews

    Amazon announced an update to its community guidelines that will put an end to incentivized reviews for products other than books.

    According to Chee Chew, Amazon’s VP of Customer Experience:

    “Our community guidelines have always prohibited compensation for reviews, with an exception – reviewers could post a review in exchange for a free or discounted product as long as they disclosed that fact. These so-called ‘incentivized reviews’ make up only a tiny fraction of the tens of millions of reviews on Amazon, and when done carefully, they can be helpful to customers by providing a foundation of reviews for new or less well-known products.”

    As Al Roberts points out however, Amazon will continue to permit authors and book publishers to provide advance review copies of new books, which is a standard industry practice.

    And for those not selling books, it will allow incentivized reviews through its Amazon Vine program.

    Remember Meerkat? Too late!

    Less than two years after its launch, Meerkat is no longer with us.

    Last week, the company behind it, Life On Air, pulled the Meerkat app from the App Store, as it focuses on its newest app, Houseparty, which as the name hints, offers multi-person video chat.

    As Al Roberts reports, despite protestations otherwise, it’s clear that Facebook Live and Twitter’s live app Periscope are to blame for the pivot.

    Google cracks down on fraudulent plumbers and locksmiths

    Google is rolling out an advanced verification process specific to plumbers and locksmiths.

    As Matt Southern reported for SEJ this week, all locksmiths and plumbers currently verified will have to go through the new verification process. Failure to do so before November 1 will result in the loss of verification and the removal from Google Maps.

    Why locksmiths and plumbers? Well apparently the ‘locksmith scam’ is a prevalent method for ripping people off, using Google My Business as bait.

    Here’s how it works, courtesy of SEJ:

    After being locked out of one’s home and not knowing what to do, a quick Google search brings up a list of local locksmiths.

    • Google returns AdWords ads and Google My Business listings for locksmiths promising cheap or inexpensive service rates.
    • Calling one of these bargain locksmiths actually routes you to an offshore call center, where they dispatch someone local to come to your door.
    • The locksmith shows up and, before trying any other options, immediately drills the lock open and slaps you with a large bill for the service.

    Hmm. I don’t know why I just taught you that.

    What makes people follow or unfollow a brand?

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    Social media may be a possible starting point to the sales funnel, but how do brands manage their social presence to appeal to their audience?

    A successful social presence for a brand should start with an understanding of its audience, as this will offer the insights on what content to create. This can affects its online reputation, its authority, its marketing efforts, and even its sales.

    Sprout Social Index for Q3 2016 presents some very interesting stats regarding the reasons that people follow, or unfollow, a brand, providing a detailed analysis of the users’ motives for each move.

    What annoys users?

    57.5% of users find the increased number of promotional posts annoying and it’s the first reason they get irritated by a brand’s presence.

    The prevalent reasons users are annoyed by branded posts are:

    – too many promotions
    – slang and jargon
    – not having any personality on their accounts
    – trying to be funny when they’re not
    – not replying to messages

    This means that brands need to balance the use of promotional content, improve their language and tone, be more responsive. There’s no need to try too hard to impress with your presence, when you manage to lead to the exact opposite result.

    Why do users follow a brand?

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    73.4% of users follow a brand due to interest in its product/service, while 58.8% of them are more interested in its promotions.

    Moreover, they are following a brand because:

    – They’re entertaining
    – Offered an incentive
    – Interested in their industry
    – To communicate with brand
    – Friends follow/like their content

    Thus, they usually need to be interested in the brand, or find an incentive to like it. However, they may also like if they find its content entertaining, which means that a brand’s personality can make a difference.

    Why do users unfollow a brand?

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    46% of users unfollow a brand after too many promotional messages, while 41.1% of them unfollow after finding a brand’s information irrelevant to them.

    It is also interesting that users are ready to unfollow a page if a brand tweets too often, or if it’s too quiet and less responsive. Even the frequent use of slang may be an important factor to them.

    All the reasons above indicate why brands should have their own strategy, a unique tone of voice and a balance in content to make sure that their audience appreciates their plans.

    How social media leads to a purchase

    It’s interesting that 57% of people who follow a brand on social media are like to make a purchase from it. However, it takes an average of 2-4 times for them to be exposed on the service, until they proceed to the purchase. Even if it takes more times, users are still willing to become customers, provided that they are happy with a brand’s presence and the way it presents the content.

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    Most liked industries on social media

    The retail industry seems to be the most liked among users on social media, followed by media/entertainment and consumer goods. All of them tend to focus on their users and engagement can be important, both to answer their questions, but also to create a human tone.

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    Most annoying industries on social media

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    The Government is considered the most annoying industry and the average response rate of 10.7 hours is not making things easier. Banking/finance, marketing/advertising and real estate are also following and it’s interesting for all of them to understand why users consider them “annoying” and how they can improve their presence.

    Assuming from the responses above, these industries tend to suffer from an excessive use of jargon, promotional messages, while there’s always the important of being authentic, having a human perspective and finding the right frequency of posting.

    Key stats:

    • 86% of social media users want to and do follow brands on social
    • 71% of users have unfollowed a brand because they were embarassed
    • 75% of users have purchased something because they saw it on social
    • 57% are more likely to buy from a brand they follow

    What brands can learn

    A social media presence for a brand is not just about posting content, or even monitoring the comments and counting the leads. It is important to understand your users, their expectations from your brand, or even their concerns regarding your presence, or your content.

    This allows the brand to adjust its strategy and create a human element and a tone that will increase the chances of building a more authentic relationship, building its credibility and thus, its online authority.

    Never ignore the users’ opinion and most importantly, never underestimate their voice.

    You can create a more “likeable” social presence by:

    • learning more about your audience
    • balancing promotion with value
    • writing in an authentic tone
    • avoiding jargon language
    • being responsive

    These will help your audience appreciate your social efforts and become more receptive to your content, which can ultimately increase the chances of gaining new (and loyal) clients.

    Penguin 4.0: a link builder’s perspective

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    It’s been two weeks since Penguin 4.0 was officially announced.

    Dr. Pete continues to report high Mozcast temperatures, and stories of recoveries are starting to spread across the net.

    Today I want to take a step back and share my thoughts about Penguin 4.0, as a marketer at a link building agency.

    As an industry we have been laser-focused on the roll out, recoveries, and any tidbits of information we can glean from Google and their representatives. This is all important information, but I want to share my broader thoughts about Penguin 4.0 now that it’s here, and what it reveals about the SEO industry as a whole.

    In no particular order, here are my thoughts:

    • Penguin devaluing links instead of demoting a site is an important step to a better relationship with Google, for all marketers and site owners.
    • I don’t believe the move to devaluing spam will make grey hat or black hat more viable. Manipulation will be harder than ever, so focusing on good links will remain critical.
    • Penguin 4.0 counters Negative SEO. Devaluing the links removes the (algorithmic) barb from NSEO.
    • The era of Penguin is coming to a close. I suspect to see fewer large algorithms moving forward.
    • Links are vital to Google’s algorithm, and the entire web. Penguin 4.0 reinforces that.

    Is that enough to cover? Let’s see.

    Penguin devaluing links instead of demoting (punishing) sites makes the web a better place

    Google wants to punish spam. I understand that.

    But algorithmic demotions shouldn’t have been part of the equation. Penguin never should have been punitive—it never should have demoted sites.

    Building in a layer of penalization (even if Google didn’t call it such) led to fear, uncertainty, doubt, frustration, misinformation, and an overall worse relationship between Google and SEOs, marketers, entrepreneurs, and site owners.

    This poor relationship was further exacerbated by confusing recovery information, uncertainty surrounding whether your site was affected, and lengthy, unknowable wait times between data refreshes (and updates), which was the only way to recover.

    The Penguin 4.0 move to devalue spam links—as opposed to demoting entire sites—is the best news to come out of Penguin 4 so far. This is what SEOs, business owners, and marketers have wanted from Penguin since day one.

    If Google doesn’t want to spam to affect their results, then they should do just that: find a way to make sure spam doesn’t impact their results. Find a way to ignore spam.

    This comment from Danny Sullivan on Matt Cutts’ infamous rant against guest blogging in 2014 is the perfect summation:

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    Danny’s right: Google can’t take a zero tolerance policy on links. Not when links prove so vital to the web. Especially when Google’s advice everywhere else is promote, promote, promote.

    Penguin 4.0, fully integrated into the core algorithm, is a good step in the right direction. Google shouldn’t seek to mold the web to match their algorithm—they should mold their algorithm to the web.

    Penguin 4.0 will hopefully improve the relationship between Google, SEOs, site owners, and businesses.

    Devaluation instead of demotion ISN’T going to lead to a new wave of manipulation

    It’s an easy logic chain to follow:

    Now that Google’s not punishing spammy backlinks- only devaluing – there’s less risk in building said spammy links. Worst case scenario the links are ignored by Google.

    Add in the fact that Penguin happens in “real time” and is granular, and it’ll be easy to test which links are easy to secure but still add value to a page. From there all that’s left is to mass build those links and manipulate the algorithm. Right?

    This is NOT reality. This will not be the case.

    First, if the logic chain is easy to follow, I guarantee the ranking engineers and webspam team at Google have considered it and made sure such manipulation won’t be possible.

    Second, manual penalties still exist. It would be easy for the webspam team to follow in the wake of large-scale Penguin link devaluations and hand out manual penalties.

    Finally, I don’t believe it will be as easy as assumed above to observe and predict the effect of Penguin, for three reasons:

  • Real time isn’t instantaneous.
  • Devaluation has less impact than demotion.
  • Granular is less noticeable than site-wide.
  • The release of Penguin 4 has had the lowest impact of any Penguin to date. Anecdotes and data are still only beginning to spread across the industry, despite the official release on September 23rd.

    In my opinion, it’s going to be harder than ever before to accurately observe and measure the effect of Penguin. It’s going to be hard to track the impact and understand whether or not a link type is having the intended effect.

    There will be instances where Penguin can be manipulated and tested in isolation. Even then, it will be difficult to be sure. To take that data, the information, and apply it to the live web?

    It’s not going to work.

    Manipulation isn’t a good bet anymore. It hasn’t been since the first release of Penguin.

    If you want real visibility in search, you’re better served spending time investing real value into your website and promoting appropriately.

    So skip the manipulation. Do the hard work of creating value and promoting that value to the right audiences, in a way that will result in links. Optimize opportunity, and work strategically. Don’t try and manipulate the algorithm with tricks and hacks.

    Negative SEO won’t work with the new Penguin

    The entire concept of negative SEO was predicated on triggering a manual penalty or algorithmic demotion by pointing spammy links at a website.

    If the new Penguin only devalues spammy links, then pointing those links at a competitor will achieve nothing.

    Wait, scratch that. It will achieve something: it will waste your time.

    Which is as it should be.

    There shouldn’t be more potential benefit in harming a competitor than building up your own brand and visibility. Although its existence was often questioned, the opportunity of Negative SEO was too high. Spam links are easy to create, easy to control, and if they result in a manual action or algorithmic demotion, then spam links had a high impact as well.

    Penguin 4.0 and the move to devaluing bad links should end much of the value of Negative SEO. The only potential exception would be if you’re able to earn your competitor a manual penalty—but that’s something Penguin can’t fix. At least with this update, the Penguin factor in Negative SEO has been removed.

    And I for one couldn’t be happier – I want to create, not destroy.

    The era of Penguin is coming to a close

    Large, manual updates are difficult for Google. They typically result in negative publicity, critical scrutiny of their algorithms, and unhappy site owners.

    With Penguin 4.0, Google has officially moved Penguin into the core algorithm. With this change, Google has also made it clear there will be no further Penguin announcements in the future.

    The era of Penguin is coming to a close.

    But more than that, I believe Google won’t unveil large, named updates to the public as often. Machine learning, deep learning, and AI continues to improve, and I suspect it will be harder and harder to understand when a new element is introduced to the algorithm.

    Consider the past few years. Matt Cutts has moved on, to be nominally replaced by John Mueller and Gary Illyes. Gary was clearly burned in his attempt to coordinate a Penguin release date. RankBrain was announced only after it was solidly in the algorithm, and only then to shine positive light on Google and their accomplishments. Amit Singhal has been replaced by the former head of AI.

    There is very little benefit for Google in confirming or releasing large updates.

    Traditionally, we only notice a handful of significant updates across the year. Google’s inside search states they made 665 changes in 2012 alone.

    I believe Penguin 4.0 marks the beginning of an era in which Google can update their algorithm with machine learning and AI, and not be forced to rely on large, manual updates that occur outside of the core algorithm.

    If Google is able to reduce their large, noticeable updates, then we can certainly expect less communication as well.

    Links will be vital to the web for the foreseeable future

    Ever since the original release of Penguin in 2012, SEOs have been predicting the release of a new, vital signal into search.

    And all we got was RankBrain.

    Here we are in 2016, and Google continues to invest into fine-tuning their link quality algorithm.

    Guys, just create great content. Links are dead. Just ignore that Google is still putting resources in 2016 towards better assessing them.

    — Jon Cooper (@PointBlankSEO) September 24, 2016

    In fact, a Google Search Quality Senior Strategist just recently stated that links are one of the top two ranking factors (he named links and content as the top ranking factors).

    It’s safe to say we can quit predicting the death of links. Links remain vital to the Internet, humanity’s ability to use the web, and search engines’ ability to serve quality results in search.

    If driving traffic, building an audience, and growing relationships are important to your website, then links need to be addressed in your marketing strategy.

    Penguin 1.0 didn’t change that, nor did Penguin 4.0. The only change is quality—today, securing real links that represent a vote of confidence is more important than ever before.

    Top trends marketers need to know for the holiday season

    echo

    The holiday shopping season is approaching and the marketers have to target consumers in the most relevant way. Which marketing and ecommerce trends should they look out for?

    There’s a big marketing opportunity during the holiday shopping season, but there’s also a challenge of listening to consumers’ demands and delivering the right message to them.

    I’ve been talking to Michael Klein, director of Industry Strategy for Retail at Adobe, about the top trends in marketing and ecommerce and how they affect consumer behaviour.

    How is online spending expected to change during the holiday season of 2016?

    We anticipate that Thanksgiving and Black Friday online sales will continue to grow. More than ever, consumers are using mobile devices for their browsing and buying activities while away from their desktops, which contributing to online sales growth. Black Friday, which saw $2.74B in sales in 2015, could eclipse Cyber Monday’s $3B sales figure from 2015 for the first time in history this year.

    Additionally, what we started seeing last year is people shopping online later in the holiday season. According to Adobe Digital Insights data, in 2015 there were 31 days of at least $1 billion in online sales between Nov. 22 and Dec. 22 – a drastic increase in billion-dollar days over years past – and the largest increase in YoY in online sales occurred the week before Christmas.

    We expect this trend of online shopping continuing later in the season in 2016, as well.

    What’s the biggest trend of the year?

    The importance of personalization. Consumers demand a personalized, engaging experience – whether they’re online or in-store. Marketers will continue to offer more value to shoppers who are willing to share information.

    In fact, 43% of businesses will increase the amount that they spend on in-store technology this year. This includes the rise of voice-enabled shopping, augmented reality, virtual reality and personal shopping bots.

    Image: CMO

    How is the retail industry changing with the rise of mobile shopping?

    Last year, 50% of shopping visits and 27% of online sales were driven by a mobile device according to Adobe Digital Insights.

    Consumers are actively shopping via mobile web and applications, across their smartphones and tablets. As such, retailers must continue to become more mobile than ever and offer convenience to consumers.

    Expect to see retailers increasingly utilizing mobile to showcase last-minute deals, conducting mobile promotions to stay top of mind-for holiday shoppers on the go and more. We will also see increased conversion rates for mobile shopping, especially given the iOS 10 updates that now embed Apple Pay into both Safari and iMessage for one-click purchase while on an Apple device.

    Should marketers focus more on mobile consumers?

    Absolutely. As more shoppers turn to mobile for shopping, marketers must focus on the mobile experience. This includes ease of navigation, mobile optimization and providing a seamless way for people to easily enter payment information. Failure to focus on the mobile experience risks customers not making a purchase turning to competitors.

    Mobile search also continues to be critical for the mobile consumer when they’re out and about. Between 2013 and 2015 there was a 76 percent growth in shoppers using mobile search to find a product or a particular retailer. During this same time period, we saw a 40 percent decrease in shoppers directly going to a retailer’s brand URL.

    Marketers must focus on providing a personalized, mobile experience both online and in-store, such as:

    • Use mobile payments options in-store to streamline the checkout process and meet consumers’ demands of efficiency
    • Arm store associates with mobile devices to support better customer service, access to inventory availability and checkout services
    • Use video and chatbots to inspire online purchases and increase the number of items within the shopping cart

    How could VR change the shopping experience?

    I saw an interesting stat recently from a survey by Greenlight VR – 53% of respondents would be more likely to purchase from a brand using VR than one that doesn’t.

    The potential for VR in retail is huge. For example, think about the ability to allow shoppers to try on a dress or suit virtually via a retailer’s app and adjust venue settings to reflect a cocktail party or important meeting.

    Or during a cross-country flight perhaps a traveler has an opportunity to virtually accessorize, and have that tie clip and cuff links he loves packed up and waiting when he lands in London. VR provides an opportunity to lure tech-savvy consumers with digitally-driven shopping habits.

    VR may not make it into the physical store, but will be a game changer for consumers who are at-home, or traveling where they will have a secure location to view VR content without the feeling of vulnerability by having a headset on.

    That being said, I think that AR will be bigger than VR, especially in categories such as home furnishings and home improvement.

    There is a growing trend of conversational commerce with AI and bots the past year. How can retailers take advantage of it?

    AI and chatbots have the potential to inspire purchases and increase the number of items in people’s shopping carts. Yes, this can lessen the load of your customer service team and sales associates, but the bigger opportunity maps back to personalization and engagement.

    Look at Amazon’s Echo, for example. Echo ushered in the wave of conversational commerce, making it easy for people to simply ask what they need.

    Similar to Amazon, retailers can take advantage of conversational commerce by offering online shoppers a “conversation” fueled by AI that helps them find what they need. This also further bridges the gap between best of in-store and online shopping experiences.

    As for Facebook Messenger and other messaging apps, retail can learn from the travel industry and benefit from delivering a better experience than simply a search query that takes a consumer back to mobile web. The day will eventually come when retailers actually deliver product results within messaging apps.

    We have seen an increased interest in online grocery shopping. How could grocery retailers adapt their strategy during holiday season?

    Massive growth in online grocery shopping (66% YoY according to Adobe Digital Insights) is happening beyond major tech and urban centers, reflecting people’s desire for convenience and time savings.

    This means digital strategies to reach online shoppers have become a must for grocery retailers marketing to consumers. This is especially important around Thanksgiving and dinners during Christmas of Hanukkah as families plan to cook for families and friends. Since over 95 percent of groceries are still purchased in a physical store, grocers must ensure they provide seamless experiences that cater to both the online and in-store.

    Is “buy online, pick up in-store” another reason for customers to pick one retailer over another?

    It can be, especially for consumers shopping at the last minute that are worried about gifts not arriving in time for the holidays. People look to retailers that can promise same-day, last minute delivery or offer “buy online, pick up in-store” options that alleviate concerns that items ordered the week prior to Christmas won’t ship in time.

    Additionally, this option can mitigate high shipping costs. Perhaps more importantly is the ability to buy online and return to a physical store which recent reports indicated was the number one reason why a consumer would choose a brand.

    Email and display advertising had been very popular last year during holiday season. Should we expect a change this year?

    Email is the lifeblood of retailers and can be attributed to as much as 35 to 40 percent of business, so we will continue to see our inboxes flooded with emails.

    Display will also be a key driver as brands become more aware of abandoned shopping sessions and carts. As stated above, personalization in will be key to stay relevant, but retailers must not cross the line where they’re viewed as creepy.

    How does social media affect online shopping?

    Social media messaging platforms present new opportunities for retailers. Smart retailers will look to tap into new ways to engage with consumers during the holiday shopping season using Facebook Messenger, Snapchat and more in a personalized, contextual and conversational way.

    Additionally, user-generated content (UGC) presents an opportunity for retailers to build consumer loyalty and trust and increase engagement that not only leads to purchase, but drives advocacy to sell to others. UGC is one of the most effective ways to influence purchase decisions by creating real-time, engaging experiences that individuals can relate to.

    What can we learn from online user behavior to be more effective in marketing?

    Learning from shopper behavior is critical and marketers must take action from data to maximize value and provide a better, more relevant and personalized customer experience.

    Start with your goals – is it to improve conversion rates, or to see more items added to shopping carts? Then use data from online behavior to identify trends and inform your marketing activities and customer interactions accordingly. This is about having a 360-degree view of the customer, which consists of their interactions both online and offline (versus in silos).

    What’s the best way to target online consumers during holiday season to turn interest into sales?

    This also maps back to retailers’ having a 360-degree view of customers. This way retailers can drive personalized offers and promotions for each individual.

    How can marketers target a younger audience?

    This is about understanding the younger audience’s preferences. There’s no one-size fits all approach; rather you need to take a data-driven marketing strategy.

    Every consumer interaction regardless of demographic must be personalized based on behavioral, real-time contextual and even third-party data to personalize interactions as much as possible. That said, what I can share is a survey we conducted recently of 1,004 white collar workers unveiled that consumers prefer to receive marketing offers via email versus other channels, including millennials (ages 18-34).

    What’s the best advice you could give to retailers when planning their strategy for the holiday season?

    It may only be October, but retailers have already started planning for the holidays months ago. Consumers spent a record-breaking $83B online during the 2015 holiday season, according to Adobe Digital Insights, and we expect online shopping to surge even higher this season.

    In order for marketers to attract and retain consumers during the upcoming holiday season, they can’t miss a moment with their audience. This means ensuring that the right mobile marketing strategy is in place across all marketing communications including email, ads, search, etc.

    And, it also means being tapped into the latest innovations around voice shopping, VR and AR, social media and grocery shopping. As a marketer, ensuring your mobile strategy is buttoned up and that you’re using the newest technologies to reach and engage with shoppers, will be key to success this holiday season.

    The changing SERP: understanding and optimizing above and below the fold

    69-ctr

    Google SERPs continue to change regularly to better reflect the needs of the end-user. For brands to successfully attract organic traffic, they need to be able to keep up.

    Considering that our research at BrightEdge shows that an estimated 51% of the traffic to your site arrives through organic, the changes in the SERPs remain a pressing concern for all brands.

    The position of a result on the SERP, as well as the different rich results that appear at the top, all impact how many clicks each website receives.

    What customers want to see when they type in a particular query will heavily influence where they click and the types of results that will satisfy their needs.

    Google has been working to better understand intent so they can improve their user satisfaction. Brands that are able to similarly cultivate their understanding of user intent will therefore see improved positioning in the SERPs and present greater appeal for the users themselves.

    Recent changes we have seen in the SERPs

    Google attracted considerable attention for their changes to the SERP earlier in the year when they removed the ads along the side bar and increased the allowed space for the ads above the organic results on certain queries.

    What brands need to be paying even more attention to, however, is the increased emphasis by Google on the intent-focused SERP.

    Source: http://www.brightedge.com/sites/default/files/BrightEdge-Research-Demystifying-Google-SERP-Layout-Changes-2016_0.pdf

    We have all been seeing signs of this for years. Google interprets certain queries as being indicative of certain desires. That is why when you phrase your query one way, you might get images of the keywords, but another might get you the local 3-pack.

    Micro moments

    Lately, Google has also been drawing our attention to the idea of micro-moments.

    Micro-moments occur when people reflexively turn to a device increasingly a smartphone to act on a need to learn something, do something, discover something, watch something, or buy something. They are intent-rich moments when decisions are made and preferences shaped. This is all according to Google.

    It is important to see this shift not just as another optimization checklist, but rather a new worldview in the arena of SERP and optimizing keywords.

    Brands that learn how to operate within the intent-focused SERP, taking micro-moments into account as they design their strategies, will be able to harness more traffic, revenue, and reach than those that do not.

    This new system requires brands to understand their users on a more intimate level so they can design their strategies and their sites to better address their needs.

    How is this intent-focused understanding impacting the SERPs?

    Google has been working to create SERPs that align with user intent for a while. The recent emphasis on the micro-moment has taken this a step further.

    Google focuses on four main types of micro-moments that brands should familiarize themselves with to succeed.

    • The I-want-to-buy moment
    • The I-want-to-know moment
    • The I-want-to-go moment
    • The I-want-to-do moment

    Google is working to understand what people seek when they type in queries that fall into one of these categorize. T

    hey then answer these queries using any one of a number of different combinations of features such as maps, PPC, organic results, and images.

    Google also recently introduced the new AMP pages, the quickly-loading mobile pages that help to provide users with rapid answers while on the go. The push for news-oriented sites to markup their pages for AMP reveals the dedication of Google to improve the I-want-to-know micro-moment experience.

    micro-moments

    Source: https://think.storage.googleapis.com/docs/4-new-moments-every-marketer-should-know.pdf

    They have also recently been experimenting with different rich cards and answer boxes along the top for certain queries.

    Recipes, for example, which presume an “I-want-to-know” moment, will display an answer box with a popular recipe and image at the top.

    It is also interesting to note the difference between the queries “bedroom ideas” and “how to decorate a bedroom.” “Bedroom ideas” is viewed by Google as more of an I-want-to-know moment, with images featured on the SERP. When you add in “how to decorate”, however, Google starts to include ads along the top in addition to an answer box, appealing to those who are interested in purchasing furnishings.

    For websites to function within this intent-focused SERP, they need to use hybrid marketing departments.

    PPC and SEO people need to be able to come together to create an online presence that will be displayed favorably on the search results pages above and below the fold.

    They can use the right times to develop different types of content to ensure that their material is meeting the intentions of users. The better users are able to understand user intent with the different micro-moments, the better they will be able to prepare their sites and their content to appear well on the various SERPs.

    How do brands adapt to the intent-focused SERP?

    1) Study the intentions of users within the different micro-moments

    Brands need to become intimately familiar with what people are likely looking for when they are in these high-intent moments. Look at your consumer data, particularly your mobile data, and what brought people to your site, what types of people converted, and what types of content were most successful.

    Consider all the types of micro-moments that will apply to your business in different situations. A retailer, for example, might want to focus most of their energy on the I-want-to-buy moment and the I-want-to-go moment if they have a brick-and-mortar store in addition to online listings.

    They should not neglect, however, the I-want-to-know moments that might appeal to users early in the buyer’s journey.

    2) Create a list of keywords that center around your understanding of user intent

    These keywords should be carefully selected through keyword research that lets you uncover popular terms that will be used by your prospects throughout their buyer’s journey.

    Consider the micro-moments that will impact your visitors most strongly at the various stages of their journey. For example, those in the early stages are likely to land on your site through, “I-want-to-know’ moments, while those at the end will be more impacted by the “I-want-to-buy” micro-moment.

    3) Investigate what is displayed on the SERPs for your keywords above the fold

    See if there are local 3-packs and maps appearing, how many ads show up, and the number of organic results that appear, to name a few. The more insight you have into how the SERP is displayed, the easier it will be to develop a targeted digital strategy.

    4) Optimize your content with the layout of the SERP in mind

    While all content should go through basic SEO optimization to maximize organic ranking, you also need to find the optimal opportunities to buy paid ads for above the organic results as well as optimizing for Quick Answers, Google Local, and images.

    By making sure you have optimized the right aspects of the content, you can be confident that it will rank as highly as possible while also appealing to the visitor by understanding their needs and wants in the moment.

    5) Bring SEO and PPC professionals together

    With the emphasis on optimizing for the entire SERP above the fold, your brand needs to bring these different departments of search engine marketing together. They will need to work together to understand what users are looking for during particular micro-moments and meeting customers where they are.

    Google is continually adjusting their SERP to make it more aligned with intent-focused marketing. They want the sites listed to address customers’ needs in the moment. Those that are able to do this will be rewarded on the new intent-focused SERP layouts.

    By carefully analyzing the micro-moments and the ones that apply most to their customers, brands can start to optimize their material for visitor intention and see greater success from the search results pages.

    A complete Local SEO guide for small businesses

    painting-classes-google-search

    A practical local SEO guide for business owners.

    Have you ever used Google to find something nearby? Like searching for “sushi”, “locksmith” or “nightclub”? If your business has a physical address such as a storefront, you should consider using local SEO to get new customers.

    Local SEO helps you get customers using a location keyword in their search (such as “Irving Park Plumber”) or who simply search from a device with geolocation enabled, such as a smart phone. Local SEO also helps you to rank higher on Google Maps pages.

    For example, The Art Studio NY, the top-rated painting school in New York, ranks #1 for local search term “painting classes nyc”:

    The local listing of The Art Studio NY includes NAP (name, address, phone number), Google Map, Google Reviews, hours of operation, website, and directions. This local listing format is very helpful in driving business.

    So how can we achieve good local search rankings?

    According to Moz.com, the major local search ranking factors are:

    moz-search-ranking-factorsmoz-search-ranking-factors

    According to Moz, on-page signals such as NAP (name, address, phone), optimized meta tags and titles, and domain authority are the most important ranking factors (20.3%) for local SEO.

    Here are a few best practices for local SEO:

    #1: Verify your Google My Business listing

    Google My Business connects your business with customers. Go to Google My Business and claim your Google My Business page, If you haven’t already. Google will send a verification code to your address, and you simply enter that code into Google My Business.

    The verification process may take 1-2 weeks.

    Once you’ve verified your account, make sure that your NAP (name, address, phone) is correct, choose the right categories for your business, and provide a unique, engaging description. Upload some high-res images, add your hours of operation, and most importantly, ask your customers to write reviews for your business.

    Google will display your local business information on the right column as below:

    google-my-business

    #2: Use consistent contact information across your online profiles

    Make sure the business name, address, and phone number of each of your staffed locations (aka NAP – Name, Address, Phone) is consistent throughout the site (homepage, contact us page, footer, etc) and on other websites like Google My Business, Yelp and Facebook.

    For example, beauty school The Beauty Institute – Allentown location, NAP is set consistent on multiple places (http://allentown.thebeautyinstituteskp.edu/)

    Sitewide header (add address and Zip code to the header):

    site-wide-header

    Homepage map:

    homepage-map

    Sitewide footer:

    sitewide-footer

    #3: Embed a Google Map in your website

    Embed a Google Map on your website. You can use the map on Contact page or Footer section. But do not just embed a map that points to your address. You should points to your actual Google Plus local listing.

    embed-a-map

    #4: Include Geo tag to show your location to search engines

    Include geo tags if your business is location specific. These tags can be generated via many online tools such as http://www.geo-tag.de/generator/en.html, and is placed on every page of the website. They let the search engines know where you’re based and improve your rankings for local search terms.

    



    #5: Apply business-related rich snippets

    You can add schema markups for NAP (name, address, phone), geo coordinates (read more here), and specific business-related snippets, like event snippet, school snippets, and more.

    These rich snippets help search engines understand your site content better, and show your local listings to more relevant local searches.

    You can look up the schema format at https://schema.org/docs/schemas.html. The schema generator http://www.microdatagenerator.com/ is helpful to quickly generate schema.

    To verify the schema and rich snippets are correctly applied, check with Google Testing Tool: https://search.google.com/structured-data/testing-tool.

    For painting school The Art Studio NY, the relevant snippets include:

    Local Business snippet: (school name, phone, location, hours of operation).business-snippet

    School Snippet: Show information about the school.

    school-snippet

    Event Snippets: Display class schedule. Each event/class will be displayed on SERP (search engine result page) as below:

    event-snippet

    Person snippet: This snippet is applied for instructor page, to display instructor information

    person-snippet

    #6: Optimize meta tags and page content for local keywords

    Meta title & description tag: Include your city and state in your title tag and your meta description tag. This can boost clickthrough rates for local search results.

    New York Art Studio – Art Studio NYC – The Art Studio NY

    Heading tag: You should include your city in your heading H1 tag.

    For example: http://allentown.thebeautyinstituteskp.edu/

    heading-tag

    Page content: It’s also important, but often overlooked, to include your location within your page’s content. Make sure your website shows your location in as many places as it makes sense.

    Logo: The logo of your site should be optimized with local keywords.

    For example: With The Beauty Institute, the logo of the main site and logos of each campus site are optimized:

    • Edited logo file name to add local keyword
    • Edited alt tag of logo to add local keyword

    ”Beauty

    inspect-element

    Image Alt tags: Your alt text (the text that describes your images) should also include your city.

    ”The

    #7: Create separate web page for each location

    If your business has multiple locations, it’s almost always better to build separate location pages with strong content for each location. For example, The Beauty Institute uses multi-site WordPress to create separate subdomains for each of its schools in different locations: Ambler, Philly, Allentown, and Stroudsburg.

    It is important to make content in each location unique, instead of using the same content template and only replace location data. Here are a few ideas to make local content unique:

    • Adding testimonials from customers from each city you service.
    • Differentiate what you do in one location vs. another. Offer city-specific, service-specific, or product-specific specials, schedules, and calendars.
    • Participate in local events, or sponsor local events, and write about those local events to create unique content.
    • Interview experts inside or outside of your company to get city-specific or product-specific content.
    • Build an location-based blog for each location to keep your content fresh. Include your city in the alt tags for images and videos, and consider writing out transcriptions.

    #8: Submit your site to local directories to build citations

    A citation is an online reference to your business’s name, address and phone number (NAP). Local directories are a useful resource for building citations. These citations are valuable even if they aren’t linked, as long as they’re displaying your NAP consistently.

    For multi-location or multi-practitioner businesses, point the link on all citations to the correct corresponding landing page on your website. For example, you should point all Philadelphia citations to your Philadelphia landing page on your site.

    You can use tools such as Bright Local or Yext to find any existing citations you have, and then update them all at once to make them consistent. You can also use the tool to check out your competitors’ citations.

    Bright Local citation tracker for The Art Studio NY:

    citation-check

    Also, remember to set up alerts through social listening tools like Mention or Google Alerts to track new mentions of your competitors’ NAP listings.

    #9: Ask your customers to write (a lot of) reviews

    Customer reviews, especially from credible sources like Google My Business, Yelp, and Facebook, have the solid impact on Google local rankings. Just don’t try to get too many reviews at once, because Google might found your activities suspicious.

    #10: Put locations in Social Media profiles

    Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and Pinterest are the most popular social media sites you should appear to promote your local business. Always include your contact information where you can, and make sure the contact information are consistent with your website. (Twitter doesn’t allow addresses or phone numbers, though).

    Active social channels could be a strong local ranking factors, and indicating you have a credible and healthy business.

    Summary

    People are searching for lawyers, schools, restaurants and local shops online, especially via mobile devices. If you run a local business, let’s follow the above tactics to optimize your website for local search, and earn your share of new business!

    Google Optimize and Session Quality Score: a brief guide

    image06

    Google announced on its Analytics blog and at SMX East the launch of some intriguing updates to its Analytics platform.

    Notably a free version of Optimize 360 and a new metric, Session Quality Score.

    Optimize: what is it?

    Optimize 360 was launched as an enterprise-level product in March this year, and is essentially a landing page testing tool that allows site owners to test page layouts and copy without changing a page’s source code.

    This new version, for which users can sign up to trial now, will be available for anyone with an Analytics account worldwide, free of charge.

    How will it work?

    The functionality is similar to the likes of Optimizely (as is the name), with the significant advantage of an automatic and direct tie to other Google products, such as DoubleClick, AdWords and Audience 360.

    The opportunities for remarketing to highly qualified leads are clear, as are the possibilities for testing different copy for a range of audience segments, so this news will be assessed in detail by Search professionals.

    Session Quality Score: what is it?

    This is a new metric due to be launched later in the year and it is a very interesting announcement.

    Google says that Session Quality Score will “predict the likelihood of a visitor making a transaction (purchase) on your site or app”, based on past behaviour, data taken from similar users, and myriad other factors.

    Driven by the same machine learning technology that drives its Smart Goals product, this is another reflection of Google’s objective to become a ‘machine-learning first’ company.

    What does all of this mean?

    At a time when device, personalization and customer engagement factors are increasing in importance, this is certainly welcome news as marketers try to target users in ever-more granular detail.

    How effective these features are at launch remains to be seen, but given the technology and backing behind them, there is good reason to believe both Optimize and Session Quality Score will have a significant impact on site owners and search marketers.

    10 best tools for generating super-hot leads

    ClickMeeting

    What tools do you have in your toolkit to help you find prospects? LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, an email subscription list, etc.?

    All of these are great, but wouldn’t it be good to automate the process, and bring in more targets?

    Of course it would!

    Basic tips to increase leads

    Before investing into tools, make sure you have some basic things in order:

    • Make sure your pages are super fast. A slowly loading page is one of the most frequent reasons for a bounce. Use Page Speed tool to find what’s slowing your site down.
    • Make sure your pages are hosted reliably. Downtime means your site will not even have a chance to convert. Use Uptime Report that monitors uptime on major hosting platforms
    • Make sure your site is mobile-friendly. Most of your visitors are likely to load your pages from a mobile device. Use Mobile-Friendly Test tool from Google.

    Tools to generate more leads

    These are the 10 tools that will help you do it (and know what to do with those leads when you find them).

    ClickMeeting

    Webinars have been found to be one of the most effective ways to collect leads.

    ClickMeeting is the webinar hosting platform which is simple to use and has API for just about any other lead management software you are using.

    ClickMeeting is surprisingly affordable and truly reliable. You can also use polls and surveys during your webinar to better engage your audience.

    Leadformly

    Leadformly

    We all know one of the best forms of lead generation: information from the target themselves. Forms have been a staple for marketers for ages, but they took a bit of a sag online when they became too cumbersome, and were asking too many questions.

    Leadformly creates sharp, well made forms that actually convert. No more struggling to come up with questions that can actually help you make a sale; this tool will guide you through the process, and use their expertise to generate questions that work for you. They start at just $49 per month, which has 250 leads per month.

    But if you’re willing to pay a little more, you can get more than 100,000 leads per month with their Team package. Be sure to check out their webinar.

    Found.ly

    Found.ly

    There is a serious lack of useful, easy to use B2B prospecting platforms out there. This one on the top of the list as one of the best. Found.ly is simple, has a ton of features, and it generates a lot of leads between businesses that you might have missed with other tools.

    Don’t let the 12 minute explainer video fool you, anyone can use this tool without any fuss. Right now it is in beta release, so it will probably have a couple of bugs and issues.

    But the foundation for the service is solid, and there will be future feature releases to come in later versions. It is worth requesting an invite and becoming an early adopter.

    LeadGenius

    LeadGenius

    LeadGenius isn’t about generating a lot of leads, it is about generating better ones. It targets the best possible prospects, and gets accurate, up to date contact information for them.

    Then it helps you best engage with each one, so you are using a more snappy, effective form of interaction that leads to better results.

    I see this as a great tool for influencer marketing in particular, since it helps you to gauge the best targets out of the millions of people floating around cyberspace.

    Ringostat

    Ringostat

    While emails, forms, chatbots and social media are all important sales and customer engagement tools, phone calls still remain the number one point of contact.

    Many people would prefer to make a call than speak to someone in a chatroom, because it allows them to interact more freely. Likewise, sales agents can upsell or snag initial signups better over the phone than they can online.

    Ringostat works to get more people calling from your website. They claim this can improve conversions from your site by up to 50%.

    Unbounce

    Unbounce

    You have probably heard about this tool before, but if you have never used it I cannot recommend it enough. Landing pages are an important lead generator, especially pre-launch as you are in the hyping stage.

    Unbounce is a landing page creation platform that helps you to make gorgeous, professional tier pages, even if you have never made one in your life. You don’t need to be a graphic or web designer; they lead you through the process step by step, and give you everything you need. All with a focus to convert, not just inform.

    Engageform

    Engageform

    This is another form generator, but with a twist. It’s specialty is online quizzes, surveys, and polls. Have you ever seen those quizzes on Facebook that ask what member of FRIENDS you are, for example?

    Given the common aesthetic of those tools these days, it was probably made using Engageform.

    It is super quick and easy to use, attractive, and effective. Whether you are making something fun to engage your customers and connect to their social media profile, or you are asking them for valuable feedback, you can do it with this tool.

    Turnstile

    Turnstile is super basic, and that is its strength. You select your email provider, and it will generate contact information for people you want to connect with. That is it, no frills, but all the data you want.

    Still need more? They allow you to create custom HTML protocols that can mine for more. But they point out that the most important details are already included.

    Marketo

    Marketo

    Marketo is a five-part platform. It covers lead generation, email marketing, mobile marketing, customer based marketing, and consumer marketing. All five of these tasks are automated, and that is a big plus.

    Manual prospect mining is among the most tedious, exhausting tasks in sales. Anything that makes it easier and faster is going to be a must have for anyone in the business sector.

    When you look at the happy customer list, which includes MyFitnessPal, Glassdoor, and Curves, you see how their features can really be put into practice.

    Segment.io

    Segment.io

    Do you have a multi faceted employee team, such as separate departments for sales, help desk, and social?

    If so, Segment.io is the perfect tool to get them all on board and operating together. It captures customer data at every set point, and send it to everyone who needs it.

    Have a tool you think should be on this list? Let us know in the comments!