Why a well-crafted SEO strategy is imperative for the holidays

Whether your business is in the B2B space or consumer goods, the holiday season presents ­­some unique SEO opportunities to capitalize on, and important pitfalls to avoid.

Ecommerce, brick and mortar retail stores, and even B2B businesses can experience unique opportunities by being visible in search at a time when people are actively shopping, researching, and getting caught up on work. The holidays are a time when there is a huge uptick in SEO activity, including purchasing through ecommerce and in-person at retail stores.

SEO strategy and content planning as we approach 2019

Much has changed in the SEO space over the past years, but the message from search engines like Google has not changed all that much. The name of the game is still to create better content and a better experience on your website for users, based on specific user search intent.

When forming your SEO strategy for the holidays you need to identify the problems your customers will be looking to solve, and how you can present the best solution. Here are the steps you should take in forming your SEO content strategy for the holidays.

1. Keyword research

Perform an exhaustive analysis of the keywords being used by your customers when they are searching for your products or services. Consider the specific issues your customers might have during the holidays related to your business. Visit competitor sites to identify the keywords they are targeting; Screaming Frog is a great tool to crawl a website and pull meta-data for all accessible pages. Use SEMrush to see current ranking terms for your website as well as competitors.

You can use a variety of SEO tools to perform keyword research including: Google Keyword Planner, SEMrush, Moz, Wordstream, and a variety of others. Identify all variations and organize into broad groups. Once you have created broad keyword groups (and even during research), it’s a good idea to check intent by examining search results for your chosen terms. Make sure the results line up with the subject matter and type of content that makes sense for your business.

2. Competitive SEO research

Once you have identified the keywords you are looking to rank for, take the time to examine the web pages that are dominating the search results. What about them is done well, where are they falling short? What types and depths of content are being showcased? Is it short informational videos explaining how to diagnose a home-improvement problem (like a broken garbage disposal at a holiday party), an extensive written blog post on fixing the issue, or is it a directory filled with local repair specialists?

You will want to fit in with what is already there as much as possible. You might write the one blog post that outranks all the ecommerce product pages, but this is less likely. The goal is to understand the intent of your audience and present the best solution possible. Google search results pages are your best resource here, the SERPs offer powerful data and insights into the intent and search behavior of your audience.

3. Content planning

If you have completed thorough keyword and competitor research, you should have some ideas on the types of content you want to create in order to outperform the competition. Focus on providing better information, easier and more straightforward solutions, and plenty of details so the user gets everything they need without leaving the page.

Organize content so it is easy to digest visually; use bullet points, simple charts, images, and videos. Keep text short enough to scan, with plenty of headings and sub sections so users can easily find the information they want. Lastly, research questions that your audience is asking related to the keywords you are targeting. Including questions with thorough and accurate explanations within your content is a good way to target voice search and rich snippets.

Ecommerce SEO during the holidays

If you sell products online through ecommerce, the holidays should already be on your radar and you likely have already been forming a strategy to maximize sales. SEO is still one of the biggest drivers of traffic and online sales across the board, so a well-crafted SEO strategy should be central to your overall digital strategy.

It’s still the same SEO

The rules for SEO don’t change with the season, so the same rules you follow the rest of the year still apply. The big difference is the stakes, and during the holidays the stakes are very high for many ecommerce stores. There are some things you can do to research seasonal SEO trends in order to create a strategy that capitalizes on the very best opportunities. If you can get access to monthly search volume for your target keywords (instead of just monthly average searches) you can plan ahead and target terms that you know are big during the holidays. Google Trends is also a great resource for identifying these kinds of seasonal SEO fluctuations across various keywords and topics.

In-person retail sales

While many brick & mortar retail businesses may not think about digital presence and SEO during the holidays, this is a major mistake to avoid. Lots of businesses don’t sell online and still depend on SEO visibility to drive foot traffic and in-person sales. If you are a business that gets lots of foot traffic during the holidays, you will want to make sure your local SEO listings are accurate, visible, and provide all credibility factors possible so that you’re the destination of choice for holiday shoppers who need what you’re selling.

Local SEO listing management

Make sure you have claimed your Google My Business page, that it is filled out as much as possible and has updated information and pictures. Make sure your important product/service categories are listed wherever possible, and there is a link to your website (if you have one). Lastly, make sure your name, address, phone number, and hours are accurate! If you stay open later during the holidays, you better make sure your listing doesn’t say you’re closed. You can use free audits from tools like Yext & Moz Local to check your local listings and get a list of other local directory sites you will want to claim and update your business listings on (most can be done for free with a little extra research). Although, be aware you may receive a sales call after using Yext as your info may be passed to their sales team. Both are solid services for managing local listings, and for the price Bright Local is another great option.

SEO for B2B businesses during the holidays

B2B businesses are the last type you might expect to have big SEO opportunities during the holidays, but you would be wrong! Although many B2B businesses are pretty dead during the holidays, the key stakeholders, c-suite executives, and other senior management personnel are often using this time to catch up on work initiatives and other high priority tasks they couldn’t fit in before the break.

Businesses opportunities from SEO can definitely materialize around the holidays. While search volume goes down for many B2B business topics, there are also amazing opportunities that can pop up from people filling out online forms or leaving messages during the holiday break. If you can get ahead with your SEO plan and be visible in the right spots when this time hits, you might find that your competition is out to lunch when the big opportunity you have been waiting for arrives as a result of your SEO strategy.

Tax write-offs

Another big consideration around the holidays is how businesses can lower their tax liability, SEO is a great investment around this time. The truth is that if you are waiting till the holidays to develop your SEO strategy, you’re unlikely to be successful. The good news is you have a huge opportunity to get ahead for next year!

Many businesses put off SEO investment until the new year because of annual budgets and the previous year’s planning. End of the year is a great time to get ahead and gives you an advantage over competitors who kickstart new SEO programs after the new year (of which there are always a ton). There is a great deal of SEO work that requires heavy research and planning in the initial phases and making these big investments at the end of the year can get you a few months ahead of the competition.

The holidays are a great time to take advantage of increased activity and purchase behavior, but it’s critical that you plan ahead and cover your bases. If you dedicate the proper time and resources into developing a well-crafted SEO strategy, you can capitalize on some significant opportunities during the holidays and reap huge rewards.

Chris Rodgers is CEO of Colorado SEO Pros.

Google Walkout: What the ‘five real changes’ demanded by staff will entail for the search giant

As I write this (1st November) thousands of Google staff in offices around the world have taken to the streets ‘to protest sexual harassment, misconduct, lack of transparency, and a workplace that doesn’t work for everyone,’ according to the movement’s official Twitter feed.

The mass walkout is just the latest public display of employee anger within the search engine. It follows criticism of the company’s involvement with Project Maven back in March, high profile resignations over the leaked Dragonfly project in August, as well as the “Rubingate” scandal uncovered by the New York Times last month which saw key Android developer Andy Rubin given ‘a hero’s farewell’ and a $90m exit package after claims of sexual misconduct were made against him.

It would appear that the treatment of Andy Rubin (amid accusations that Google admitted to be completely credible) has been the key contributing factor to the well-orchestrated global protest.

Employees are united under a banner of five clear demands they want to see implemented within the organisation. Let’s unpick these proposed changes one-by-one to get a better understanding of how a multinational company might go about making them and why they are so important for the future of the tech industry.

1. An end to forced arbitration in cases of harassment and discrimination for all current and future employees.

Forced arbitration refers to the policy of companies who only allow their employees the right to solve disputes via processes of internal arbitration.

Many organisations have forced arbitration clauses written into the employment contracts for their staff and while it isn’t a bad route to go down when employees have the option to solve disputes this way (this is known as voluntary arbitration), forced arbitration means that anyone at the company who wants to bring forward a case does not have the right to sue, to make a class action lawsuit, or to appeal – and nor do they have access to federal protections such as The Equal Pay Act of 1963.

A change within Google which would end forced arbitration in cases of harassment and discrimination would signal a fundamental shift in corporate culture which has, to date, more often sought to protect the wellbeing of the company above the wellbeing of those who work on the office floor. It would ensure that any employee who is embarking on the complex and, often, emotionally difficult process of raising a dispute would have the right to raise it outside of the internal arbitration framework if they want to.

There is some advantage for Google itself when internal disputes are resolved by internal arbitration – but this change could certainly help rekindle their image as a progressive organisation.

2. A commitment to end pay and opportunity inequity.

Google is still plagued by a significant gender pay gap, as well as a lack of representation of women and people of colour at board level. In the US during 2017, the Department of Labor said that its audit of Google revealed ‘systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire workforce.’ This was followed by UK reports by The Telegraph this year where the company admitted that the mean average salaries for women working at the search engine were 17% lower than the salaries for men.

Of course, the ethical argument for pay and opportunity equity is clear, but there is increasing data which points to the business and economic value of diverse workforces. McKinsey’s illuminating Delivering through diversity report published earlier this year sees companies in the top quartile for gender diversity being 21% more likely to experience above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile. The most ethnic and culturally diverse businesses see even better comparative performance, with those in the top quartile earning 33% more than those in the fourth quartile.

3. A publicly disclosed sexual harassment transparency report.

The value of this quite straightforward. It will be useful for employees, future employees and the public to have a full understanding of the levels of harassment which have occurred within Google’s walls. It will also go some way to drawing a line under the problematic nature of the Andy Rubin resignation, and will set the company on a course of renewed transparency.

4. A clear, uniform, globally inclusive process for reporting sexual misconduct safely and anonymously.

This change will further set Google on course to improving the lives of people at all levels of the business. It would improve the rights for victims of harassment and would provide better support as they go through the process of reporting misconduct. It would also give employees more confidence in coming forward should they be unsure whether to report something.

The organisers of the protest sum it up well, ‘The improved process should be accessible to all: full-time employees, temporary employees, vendors, and contractors alike. Accountability, safety and an ability to report unsafe working conditions should not be dictated by employment status.’

The goal to roll this out globally would be a positive step for the tech industry at large – showing that the organisation can be united across borders in protecting the rights of all who work there.

5. Elevate the Chief Diversity Officer to answer directly to the CEO and make recommendations directly to the Board of Directors. Appoint an Employee Rep to the Board.

This will be the step which ensures numbers 1-4 are implemented and that there is the necessary accountability in place for these demands going forward. The CDO and Employee Rep will also be in the position to suggest changes in the realm of gender and ethnicity equity.

Five real positive changes for Google, its employees and the tech industry

It has been fascinating to see this protest play out across news sites and social media today. The walkouts in New York, Dublin, London, Berlin, Haifa, Zurich, Tokyo and elsewhere have shown that staff are united in wanting to see the company do better for their current employees, as well as the thousands of gifted programmers, developers, engineers etc. who are looking to the company as a potential source of work in the future.

It also gives Google a clear opportunity to listen to the needs of the very people who make the business work. If they implement these changes, and acknowledge that the actions of their staff are justified, then they can be seen as a leading light for worker’s rights and equity within the tech industry on an international level – a place which is too often seeing such values eroded.

Amazon Advertising tips from Bai and LEGO

At our Transformation of Search Summit earlier this month, we heard a fan-favorite session on Amazon Advertising.

In this session, John Denny (formerly of Bai, currently Cavu Venture Partners) and Luis Navarrate Gomez (LEGO) gave real strategies for how they leveraged both paid and organic search on Amazon to grow their companies.

Bai grew from a small niche brand to the number one beverage on Amazon. They were named “Vendor of the Year” by Amazon in 2015, and they were later sold to Dr Pepper Snapple Bottling Group for $1.7 billion.

Why Amazon Advertising?

In 2012, Amazon surpassed Google as the top destination for US online shoppers, and 55% of consumers turn to Amazon first when searching for products online.

Despite its popularity among consumers, Amazon Advertising is still in its early stages. As John and Luis mention, many buyers liken AMS these days to what it was like running Google search campaigns in 2005.

While there are certain hiccups, Amazon is increasingly being recognized as a viable competitor to Google search. Particularly for ecommerce, many marketers are moving budget from Google to Amazon.

And it seems those investments can pay off: In the spring of 2015, awareness of Bai was around 7%. A year later, it had tripled to 24%. At the beginning of 2018, it had passed 60%. Quite rapid growth for a beverage brand, not typically famed for skyrocket successes.

Bai is a quintessential example of a CPG company diving into digital and search marketing, finding that traditional top dogs in those categories haven’t yet done so, and being able to claim those high-ranking spots.

In this session, John and Luis divulge seven strategies they used on Amazon to get their brands to the top.

Tip #1 Go all in on Amazon Ad programs versus organic search

The paid positions are multiplying. All the “fair organic listings” are not as viewable to consumers as they seem. Many are drowned out — especially on mobile — by new categories like “Top-rated from our brands,” which features private label brands from Amazon.

They quoted an observation that “While [Amazon’s] digital shelf was originally a shelf democracy, it’s becoming more and more an advertocracy where you have to pay to exist and survive.”

Most advertisers are focused on Amazon search. Moving budget to Amazon search from Google. But Amazon’s key ad programs include both search and display (Amazon DSP).

#2: Winning brands on Amazon know organic brand impressions drive success

“Customers who bought this item also bought X” — this spot is a huge deal. Bai was able to appear organically in that position even when consumers searched for their competitors.

A study on earned brand impressions found that layering in display on top of search increased organic brand impressions by 90%.

At this point, they move past the “basic course” and into the expert.

#3: The Pulsing strategy

By using a strategy called pulsing, Bai was able to generate revenue that looked like this:

Essentially, they chose specific days and times of year to increase / pulse their ad spend, and found that the ROI on those days was significantly higher.

They continue with four more expert insights — but we’ll leave those for the full-length video.

Other highlights:

  • “A lot of executives hear about ads on Amazon and say, “great, let’s rock and roll! But the reality on Amazon is you can’t rock and roll anywhere if your product is out of stock.”
  • Amazon works very differently in different markets. For instance in France, Amazon provides detailed guidelines for how to write product names and descriptions, and restricts their results accordingly
  • People trying to game reviews on Amazon, and how Amazon is reacting
  • Pros and cons of using vendor vs seller relationships on Amazon

They also were able to get 50% of their subscription revenue to be monthly auto-replenishment orders.

Watch the full session

Whether you currently use Amazon Advertising or are thinking of adding it to your search game, these are some excellent and practical growth tips.

Here’s the link to their session, “Tips from insurgent brands: How to success hack Amazon Advertising.”

John Denny is VP Ecommerce & Digital Marketing at Cavu Venture Partners, and Luis Navarrete Gomez is Head of Global Search Marketing at LEGO.

5 UX tips for better SEO results

When Google’s Search Quality Senior Strategist Andrey Lipattsev was asked about Google’s most important ranking factors, he gave three: content, links, and RankBrain.

We’ve known for a long time that links impact websites’ search rankings and Google has for a very long time emphasized the importance of quality content. What is RankBrain all about, however? Unlike content and links, RankBrain is influenced by behavior metrics that indicate that users actually find a site to be useful. These behavior metrics, more than anything else, are influenced by the usability of your website — in other words, user experience (UX).

If you’ve been focusing on content and links at the expense of user experience, you won’t be able to maximize the performance of your website in the search engines. The following five UX tips will give you an SEO advantage.

1. Work on your site’s mobile compatibility

Google hasn’t hidden the fact that it pays a lot of attention to a site’s mobile compatibility. Anyone who has been in SEO for more than a few years will remember mobilegeddon, and mobile-first indexing is a thing: in other words, coming to terms with the realization that most of the usage of its search engine comes from mobile devices, Google has decided to start indexing the mobile version of a website first.

In other words, if your website does not have a mobile version — or if the mobile version of your website is not properly optimized — then you could lose more than half of your search traffic.

Below are some tips to ensure your website is mobile compatible:

  • Use a responsive website design that adapts to mobile devices or create a mobile version of your website that is properly redirected for mobile users.
  • Ensure that content is consistent across your mobile site and desktop site.
  • Make sure that all the content formats used on your mobile site can be crawled and indexed.
  • Ensure that metadata is consistent across the mobile and desktop version of your site.
  • Ensure that your sitemap is also accessible on your mobile site.

2. Optimize your website speed

Just how important is the speed of your website? Research shows that a single second delay in site load time can reduce your conversions by 7 percent, and that 40 percent of people will abandon a website that takes more than three seconds to load. In other words, people don’t like slow websites. And that explains why Google keeps strengthening page speed as a ranking factor.

While Google has long been using site speed as a factor to rank desktop sites, it recently began to use site speed as a ranking factor for mobile sites in July 2018.

You can make your website faster by doing the following:

  • Enable caching
  • Use a CDN
  • Remove unnecessary scripts and plugins
  • Compress your images
  • Combine your background images into CSS sprites
  • Minify your JavaScript and CSS

3. Optimize your site architecture

Another UX tip that will give your site an edge in the search engines is to optimize your site architecture in a way that is easy to use and search engine friendly. For example, take a look at the following screenshot from the website of Lookers:

In particular, pay attention to the navigation bar and you will notice a few things:

  • The navigation links are clear and descriptive enough to make people know what they will get without much thought.
  • People are presented with links to all the key pages — so they don’t have to waste time looking for what they want. One of the hallmarks of good site architecture is that it enables people to get to where they want with fewer clicks.
  • The format and presentation of the navigation links is consistent — both the link structure and the description.

Not only will a good site structure make your site more accessible to readers, while at the same time making it easy for the search engines to crawl your website, but you are also likely to be rewarded by sitelinks. Here’s what a Google search for Lookers turned up:

4. Use breadcrumbs navigation

A breadcrumb is a secondary navigation system that helps users know where they are on your website and that can help them trace their way back. Besides the fact that breadcrumbs make it easy for users to navigate your website, they also make it easy for Google to see how your site is structured and while increasing your site’s indexability.

Here’s a look at SEW’s breadcrumbs:

As you can see, from the screenshot above, the trail goes like this “Home >> Industry >> The end of Google+ after a data breach and how it affects us.” In other words, it makes it easy for the user to trace his/her steps back to the primary category of the article, then to the homepage.

5. Work on your content readability

While we tend to focus on the technical aspects of UX when it comes to SEO, content also plays a great role in UX as far as the big G and other search engines are concerned. Making the following tweaks to your content will give you an edge:

  • Ensure your content is properly formatted. Use a lot of subheadings, bullets, and numberings to make your content more easy on the eyes.
  • Use short paragraphs and avoid long blocks of text.
  • Work on your content grammar, spelling, and structure.
  • Spice up your content with visuals and multimedia.

Conclusion

While good UX can give you an edge when it comes to SEO, it does more than that: it ensures that users actually use your website while guaranteeing an improvement in ROI and conversions.

How should PPC and SEO work together to gain visibility?

Getting PPC and SEO to work together effectively is always a key goal, whether we’re managing just one of the channels or both of them.

Although it sounds easy in principle, it’s generally not. A typical request cropping up is around sharing top-performing PPC ad copy by category and using this to update meta descriptions.

Sharing ad copy performance is something PPC teams should definitely be doing with their SEO counterparts; but unless your meta descriptions are awful the impact here is minimal.

This brings us to the first problem you encounter — although there is lots you CAN do, picking and prioritizing what you do when is vital.

The second common request is switching off PPC ads when you rank in position one (P1) organically. Initially this makes perfect sense and gets the attention of sharp CMOs and CFOs. But this is the second key challenge to overcome; how do I get the right data in the right place to know if it’s actually working.

Let’s take a typical example: car insurance. Here we see MoneySuperMarket ranking P1 organically:

The inevitable push comes; can we turn PPC off in [car insurance] because it’s really expensive and we’re ranking P1 organically.

Well, probably not. Yes, your report is accurate: you rank P1 organically. But you’re actually the fifth result on that page. On my work monitor the organic ranking is well past halfway down the page. On mobile you’re well below the fold:

This is where getting the right data is key.

Keyword universe

One way in which we’re improving SEM data for our clients is via a Keyword Universe. This isn’t perfect by any means, but it gives us a working framework on which to build our reporting and optimize efforts. A template can be found here.

It uses PPC search query data as a starting point. It’s important to use this; instead of the Paid v Organic report you can find in Google Ads or Search Ads 360. The reason for this is that Shopping search query data isn’t included in this report, so for retailers you’re likely to be missing out on a ton of data!

Layer this with organic data from Search Console and you’ll start to be able to build up an idea of your coverage.

Pulling in conversion data at a keyword level for PPC is easy; organic not so much. What we recommend here is using the category column to categorize your terms and then pivot up. You can then assign landing pages to categories and understand organic conversions and revenue. Not a perfect solution, but it gives you something to work with.

Then you can add in search volume estimates from Google Keyword Planner or other tools you may use. You can use this to figure out what your paid, organic, and SEM share of voice is. This gives you a few ideas:

  • Where is PPC very dominant and SEO not so much? What can you do to improve rankings across these terms?
  • Are there areas where PPC has coverage but conversion rate is poor, and you can perhaps sacrifice this spend and allow organic to pick things up?
  • Do you have a good share of voice across SEM across your key categories?

You can then add in search queries where you only rank organically and see if you want or need PPC coverage.

Finally, you could add in keywords you might want to target and ask the PPC team to run some tests to see what kind of volume and competition you will be up against. Run PPC temporarily until organic rankings get up to scratch.

The categorization element of the report is the most time-consuming.

Brand testing

As you can see, the argument for switching off generics can be blurry at best. However, we tend to also see an argument for switching off brand. It’s generally the next conversation once a client realizes that turning off a generic head term is perhaps not going to have the impact there were expecting.

Again there are a multitude of options and approaches here but we’ll cover the most common ones:

  • Turn all PPC brand off because we’re ranking P1
  • Leave PPC brand on all the time and gun for 100% impression share
  • Switch off desktop

There are tech providers out there which offer, in various guises, ways supported here. The important thing to remember is that you are not allowed to scrape Google search results if you are also making changes to bidding. So for example, ad monitoring platforms which can tell you what competitor creative is for certain terms can do that because they are allowed to scrape the results — but they cannot use this information to make automatic changes to your account. That means an account manager jumping between both monitoring tools and search engines on a daily basis to eke out minor gains. It’s possible; but probably not a sensible use of time.

The challenge we have with the strategies outlined above, respectively, are:

  • Turning it all off will lead to drop in traffic and a potential drop in orders and revenue.
  • This can be expensive; you don’t necessarily need to protect your brand all the time, and you can use saved budget elsewhere (i.e use it to grow your brand with YouTube)
  • You lose data because you aren’t bidding for your terms.

As such, we’ve been establishing a more balanced approach – which takes time, but will help save budget and, most importantly, keep the data flow going so you can explain WHY the results are as they are.

Key steps to a more balanced approach

1. Understand the lay of the land:

  • Use Google Ads to report on your top spending exact match brand terms. You’ll also want to include search impression share and search exact match impression share.
  • If you are in position 1, with 100% exact match share (or 95%+ overall search impression share), you can probably stand to save some budget by reducing your costs-per-click. If you aren’t in P1 with 100% impression share then this gets more complex; and you’d need to understand the reasons for not being at those levels. However, you can still follow the next steps to help you monitor overall performance.
  • You’ll also want confirmation you are ranking P1 for the terms you are looking on PPC. It would be very rare that you wouldn’t be — but worth checking!

2. You now want to identify a target search exact match impression share. This is a little bit finger in the air as the idea is to drop this gradually over a period of weeks; but you need a starting point. We’d recommend:

  • If the auction for your terms is usually aggressive then play it cautiously – drop from 100% to 95% and monitor from there.
  • If the auction tends to be weak (i.e not many competitors) you can afford to drop to 90% or 85%; but we wouldn’t recommend going lower than that in week one.

3. A report template can be found here. All you need to do here is to populate the table with your data. Take the PPC data from Google Ads for the campaign you are testing and then Google Search Console data and look for your branded terms.

4. Fill out the report every week, with both your PPC and SEO teams feeding into it. What you are hoping to achieve is SEM traffic staying static and your overall PPC investment declining.

Key benefits of brand testing

This is a good starting point for brand testing. The key benefits are:

  • If you keep spend going through Google Ads, you can monitor your cost savings, your traffic drop and how aggressive the auction is getting.
  • It allows you to measure where the point of no return is; once you start seeing SEM traffic drop, you can bump up your bids a little bit to regain the traffic – although we’d recommend not being too jumpy here. Day by day things will change – look at this over weeks rather than days.
  • A common concern is the time taken to manage this; but typically you are looking at a handful of keywords – no more than 10 which actually spend the greater share of budget – and making changes maximum twice per week.

Build an environment that encourages sharing

Aside from the more practical tips outlined above, we’ve found the most important strategy in getting PPC and SEO to work well together is enabling a method for the teams to talk to each other. If this is internal it should be easy; but across different agencies it’s likely to be a bit more difficult. Our top tips for this are:

1. Establish a monthly learning deck. This changes from client to client but typically looks like this:

  • A top-line view of performance versus targets for key metrics (orders, revenue, ROAS, traffic to site, etc.). Do this for each channel individually.
  • A review of the tests / learnings that have been made in the past month
  • It’s also important to focus on what is important to both teams, including:
    • New keywords / new negatives from PPC
    • Any kind of landing page testing
    • Any kind of a copy testing
    • Any data regarding audience from PPC. We’re finding content teams are able to use PPC data to help ideation. For example; what are people’s affinity segments, what are their detailed demographics?
  • A review of what is coming up and anything that’s currently in progress.

2. Have a monthly call. This can be tweaked depending on the scale of work that’s going on; but monthly works for a lot of our clients. It takes 30 minutes and we run through the monthly learning decks and highlight areas of opportunity. One example of a benefit here was landing page testing. An SEO team had struggled to make a case for changes to the organic page because the internal brand team were winning the argument on what the page should look like. We used PPC landing page data to evidence how a change in the position of a call to action had a significant impact on the conversion rate of the page; immediately the SEO team got the green light to start testing new page designs and performance improved!

3. Make sure you’re sharing anything you think may be relevant. Sometimes even the smallest detail can be important. For example SEO teams may be planning for AMP pages; but that means new Floodlight tags for PPC teams if they are using SearchAds 360.

4. Don’t forget about the other teams. I know this is an SEM post; but audience data is already a key pillar. Search has had to play catch-up with the likes of Facebook; but the stuff PPC teams have access to at their fingertips is extensive. Make sure the social and programmatic teams know about it!

Getting PPC and SEO to work better together is a bit like the attribution conversation. It’s not always perfect; but it’s better than doing nothing! Hopefully these points give you a jumping-off point.

Martin Reed is PPC Account Director at Croud.

10 fun facts (and a typo) from the original Google paper by Larry and Sergey

Yesterday while I was having a blast reading “The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine,” I happened across some fun facts.

We got into some of the more technical goods from the paper yesterday, but figured these would also be an worthwhile — or at least more enjoyable — read. Friday and all.

1. “Wow, you looked at a lot of pages from my web site. How did you like it?” – people encountering a crawler for the first time

They note that they received almost daily emails from people either concerned about copyright issues or asking if they liked the site after looking at it. For many people with web pages, this was one of the first crawlers they had seen.

“It turns out that running a crawler which connects to more than half a million servers, and generates tens of millions of log entries generates a fair amount of email and phone calls. Because of the vast number of people coming on line, there are always those who do not know what a crawler is, because this is the first one they have seen. Almost daily, we receive an email something like, “Wow, you looked at a lot of pages from my web site. How did you like it?” There are also some people who do not know about the robots exclusion protocol, and think their page should be protected from indexing by a statement like, “This page is copyrighted and should not be indexed.”

More innocent times.

2. A billion web documents predicted by 2000

“It is foreseeable that by the year 2000, a comprehensive index of the Web will contain over a billion documents. . . The goal of our system is to address many of the problems, both in quality and scalability, introduced by scaling search engine technology to such extraordinary numbers.”

Now in 2018, there are reportedly 130 trillion documents on the web — an extraordinary number indeed. And sure enough, their search has scaled to meet it.

3. Google took up 55 GB of storage

“The total of all the data used by the search engine requires a comparable amount of storage, about 55 GB.”

Now, Google is 2 billion lines of code. As noted by one of their engineering managers in 2016, the repository contains 86TB of data.

4. “People are still only willing to look at the first few tens of results.”

Please note: “tens.”

They write about the need for more precision in search. Remember the days when people regularly clicked past page 1?

5. Percentage of .com domains: from 1.5 to 60, to now 46.5

They note how “commercialized” the web was already becoming, leaving search engine technology “to be largely a black art and to be advertising oriented.”

“The Web has also become increasingly commercial over time. In 1993, 1.5% of web servers were on .com domains. This number grew to over 60% in 1997.”

According to Statistica, the number of .com domains is down to 46.5% as of May 2018.

“With Google,” they wrote, “we have a strong goal to push more development and understanding into the academic realm.”

6. “There are two types of hits: fancy hits and plain hits”

After going into some technical detail about optimized compact encoding, they reveal that they’ve their complex compact encoding preparations are categorized simply — endearingly — into fancy and plain.

7. Already defending user experience in anticipating search

From the start, it seems Brin and Page fought for users to not need to excessively specify their queries in order to get desired information. They wrote:

“Some argue that on the web, users should specify more accurately what they want and add more words to their query. We disagree vehemently with this position. If a user issues a query like “Bill Clinton” they should get reasonable results since there is a enormous amount of high quality information available on this topic. Given examples like these, we believe that the standard information retrieval work needs to be extended to deal effectively with the web.”

It’s interesting that this was so clearly in their thinking from the beginning. At last week’s Search Summit, Googler Juan Felipe Rincon said, “The future of search is no search, because search implies uncertainty. Instead, it will be about how you populate something before someone knows what they don’t know.”

8. There was a typo

In the second paragraph of section 3.2, they write “Couple this flexibility to publish anything with the enormous influence of search engines to route traffic and companies which deliberately manipulating search engines for profit become a serious problem.”

Did you catch it? The verb should be, “companies which are deliberately manipulating search engines become” or “companies which deliberately manipulate search engines become.” Of the utmost gravity, we know.

Just goes to show that even if an incomplete verb phrase won’t keep you from doing some pretty cool stuff in the world. And of course, that even the best of us need editors.

9. Search Engine Watch shout out

We tweeted this yesterday, but felt the need to share again for extra emphasis. Our very own Search Engine Watch was cited in the paper, stating that top search engines claimed to index 100 million web documents as of November 1997. Been a fun 21 years.

10: They chose these photos

Happy Friday, everyone.

Google’s PageRank algorithm, explained

pagerank algorithm

Earlier today, Dixon Jones from Majestic shared on Twitter a thorough, digestible explanation of how PageRank actually works.

I gave it a watch myself, and thought it was a good moment to revisit this wild piece of math that has made quite a dent on the world over the past 20 years.

As a sidenote, we know as of 2017 that while PageRank was removed from the Toolbar in 2016, it still forms an important part of the overall ranking algorithm, and thus is worthwhile to understand.

Jones starts with the simple — or at least, straightforward — formula.

For those who don’t adore math, or who may have forgotten a few technical terms since the last calculus class, this formula would be read aloud like this:

“The PageRank of a page in this iteration equals 1 minus a damping factor, plus, for every link into the page (except for links to itself), add the page rank of that page divided by the number of outbound links on the page and reduced by the damping factor.”

Back to the original Google paper

At this point, Jones moves forward in the video to a simpler, still useful version of the calculation. He pulls out excel, an easy 5 node visual, and maps out the ranking algorithm over 15 iterations. Great stuff.

Personally, I wanted a bit more of the math, so I went back and read the full-length version of “The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine” (a natural first step). This was the paper written by Larry Page and Sergey Brin in 1997. Aka the paper in which they presented Google, published in the Stanford Computer Science Department. (Yes, it is long and I will be working a bit late tonight. All in good fun!)

How’s this for an opening line: “In this paper, we present Google, a prototype of a large-scale search engine which makes heavy use of the structure present in hypertext.

Casual, per their overall, continuing style.

As an extra fun fact, our very own Search Engine Watch was cited in that Google debut paper! By none other than Page and Brin themselves, stating that there were already 100 million web documents as of November 1997.

Anyway, back to work.

Here’s how the PageRank calculation was originally defined:

“Academic citation literature has been applied to the web, largely by counting citations or backlinks to a given page. This gives some approximation of a page’s importance or quality. PageRank extends this idea by not counting links from all pages equally, and by normalizing by the number of links on a page. PageRank is defined as follows:

We assume page A has pages T1…Tn which point to it (i.e., are citations). The parameter d is a damping factor which can be set between 0 and 1. We usually set d to 0.85. There are more details about d in the next section. Also C(A) is defined as the number of links going out of page A. The PageRank of a page A is given as follows:

PR(A) = (1-d) + d (PR(T1)/C(T1) + … + PR(Tn)/C(Tn))

Note that the PageRanks form a probability distribution over web pages, so the sum of all web pages’ PageRanks will be one.

PageRank or PR(A) can be calculated using a simple iterative algorithm, and corresponds to the principal eigenvector of the normalized link matrix of the web. Also, a PageRank for 26 million web pages can be computed in a few hours on a medium size workstation. There are many other details which are beyond the scope of this paper.”

What does that mean?

Bear with us! Here’s our formula again:

PR(A) = (1-d) + d (PR(T1)/C(T1) + … + PR(Tn)/C(Tn))

Note this is the same as the picture above, except that the photo “simplifies” the second part of the equation by substituting an upper case sigma (∑), which is the symbol for a mathematical summation, i.e. do this formula for all pages 1 through n and then add them up.

So to calculate the PageRank of given page A, we first take 1 minus the damping factor (d). D is typically set as .85, as seen in their original paper.

We then take the PageRanks of all pages that point to and from page A, add them up, and multiply by the damping factor of 0.85.

Not that bad, right? Easier said than done.

PageRank is an iterative algorithm

Perhaps your eyes glazed over this part, but Brin and Sergey actually used the word “eigenvector” in their definition. I had to look it up.

Apparently, eigenvectors play a prominent role in differential equations. The prefix “eigen” comes from German for “proper” or “characteristic.” There also exist eigenvalues and eigenequations.

As Rogers pointed out in his classic paper on PageRank, the biggest takeaway for us about the eigenvector piece is that it’s a type of math that let’s you work with multiple moving parts. “We can go ahead and calculate a page’s PageRank without knowing the final value of the PR of the other pages. That seems strange but, basically, each time we run the calculation we’re getting a closer estimate of the final value. So all we need to do is remember the each value we calculate and repeat the calculations lots of times until the numbers stop changing much.”

Or in other words, the importance of the eigenvector is that PageRank is an iterative algorithm. The more times you repeat the calculation, the closer you get to the most accurate numbers.

PageRank visualized in Excel

In his video, Jones gets pretty much straight to the fun part, which is why it’s so effective in just 18 minutes. He demonstrates how PageRank is calculated with the example of 5 websites that link to and from each other.

He then brings it back to the calculations in excel:

And demonstrates how you would iterate by taking the row of numbers at the bottom and repeating the calculation.

Upon doing this, the numbers eventually start to level out (this was after just 15 iterations):

Or as some might caption this photo, “Eigenvectors in the Wild.”

Other interesting observations Jones raises:

  • Link counts (just total numbers) are a bad metric. We need to care more about each page’s rank.
  • It’s the ranking at the page level that counts, not the domain authority. PageRank only ever looked at individual pages.
  • The majority of pages have hardly any rank at all. In his example, the top 3 out of 10 accounted for 75-80% of the total ranking.
  • So finally, here’s the original tweet that got me down this long, riveting rabbit hole. Hope you all enjoy the same!

    Here you go. How PageRank REALLY works https://t.co/OO7J0KChsr cc @RyanJones and @JosephKlok & anyone else willing to retweet.

    — Dixon (@Dixon_Jones) October 25, 2018

    Yandex: Beating Google in Europe’s biggest internet market

    Welcome to the fourth in my series on alternatives to Google. It follows my piece No need for Google back in May and my in-depth reports on Ecosia, DuckDuckGo and Baidu.

    Today we turn to Yandex. Since we last covered Russia’s search giant (way back in 2015) the engine has reasserted its dominance over Google in the market. It has a presence in other countries too and is branching out into numerous other tech verticals.

    So let’s take a look at search in Russia and what Yandex is doing well in order to solidify its position. And what does the future hold for the brand and Russian search market at large?

    A top-level view of digital Russia

    Russia is the biggest internet market in Europe. It boasts more than 109m web users reaching 76% of the total population (according to Internet World Stats).

    The size of the market may not be much of a surprise, but the country’s digital landscape does have some unique traits. Desktops, for instance, are still the leading devices by which Russian users engage with the digital world. According to StatCounter, more than 75% of the platform market is accounted for by desktop use – with mobile and tablet weighing in at 22% and 2% respectively.

    This proportion of mobile/tablet users compared to desktop users is far smaller than other big European internet markets such as the UK (where handheld devices now equal desktops), as well as the continent as a whole (where mobiles account for around 45% of digital platform use).

    Yandex vs. Google: Two separate battles on desktop and mobile?

    It is arguable that Yandex’s popularity in the Russian market may be linked to the continuing popularity of desktops in the region.

    If we look at the overall search market across all platforms (again, using StatCounter data), Yandex’s share has grown from 38% to 53% between 2014 and 2018. If we focus in on desktops, we see Yandex’s share peaking at nearly 60% a little earlier this year.

    It is a different story when we look more closely at the mobile/tablet search sector. In fact, things are almost exactly flipped with Google currently boasting 58% share of the market and Yandex second at 40%.

    What is Yandex doing well?

    At first glance, Yandex doesn’t look much different to Google. The English-language Yandex.com homepage – with its generous white space and spare pictogram links to ‘images,’ ‘video,’ etc. – arguably bears even more similarity to the Google homepage than it does to the busier magazine-style design it uses for the Cyrillic versions of its own pages.

    To US and UK audiences, then, Yandex’s Cyrillic design might look a little old fashioned. But this layout hints at the desktop-centric users it is appealing to in its domestic market. While in the design sense, the needs of the Russian market plays its part in keeping things quite traditional, the engine has been ahead of the curve in other ways. For instance, in being able to understand the unique nuances and inflections of the Russian language. This was certainly an initial USP for the engine, and is no doubt fundamental in keeping so many domestic users coming back to the service rather than making their searches elsewhere.

    Aside from its dependable search functionality across text, image, video, and its portal homepage elements, Yandex has long been quick to branch out into other digital and technology services. Yandex.Disk is its cloud storage offering giving P2P sharing functionality and the ability to search your files straight from the search bar. Alice, the service’s voice assistant is taking the brand’s speech and language recognition capabilities even further.

    More recently, Yandex.Music – with its smart playlists and massive library of streamable songs – has just launched in Israel (it’s first territory outside of the former Soviet Union). Yandex Taxi is also on the verge of launching autonomous cabs in the nation’s capital Moscow. Yandex’s developments inside and outside of search are united in that they are always quick to plug the gap in the Russian market as soon as the technologies are viable, and they are increasingly underpinned by machine learning and artificial intelligence.

    The future for Yandex and Russian search?

    Looking to the future, Yandex does potentially face some challenges. While the brand’s market share is on the upward trajectory, so too is the migration of Russia’s desktop users to mobile devices. This trend might be slower and steadier in Russia than in other markets, but the move to mobile must surely be seen as inevitable – and is likely to be key in giving access to the 24% of citizens who are currently disconnected.

    Google is in a good position to benefit from any growing appetite for mobile search in Russia. This is due in no small part to the prevalence of the Android OS which currently accounts for more than 69% of the mobile OS market (including tablets).

    But the Russian search market is a complicated one and things are very hard to predict. I wonder if Yandex will be able to make good in the mobile search sphere if, for instance, Russian consumers are lured by the advanced voice recognition services of Alice? Could new internet users be ‘straight to voice’ in the same way populations have been ‘straight to mobile’ in other emerging markets? Additionally, if other Yandex-branded apps, across such verticals as video and ecommerce, see further visibility as more Russian users come to mobile, will this help keep more mobile users on Yandex-owned mobile sites when they are searching for these respective types of content?

    There might be more questions than hard predictions here, but out of all the alternatives to Google, Yandex is arguably one of the more clear-cut success stories. Winning once more in a massive domestic market with plenty of room for growth, growing in other countries and verticals, as well as pushing the technology envelope wherever it can. I’d be surprised if it went down without a fight, even if a Russian mobile boom happened tomorrow.

    SEO for web designers: What you should know

    A great website is a powerful combination of quality content, appropriate web design, ample SEO efforts, and marketing. Web design and SEO go hand-in-hand, and both play a part in developing an SEO-optimized website.

    This further lays emphasis on the major role played by web designers in building the entire website and its online reputation as well. To get better at SEO, web designers need to get a deeper understanding of the commercial aspects of websites. Apart from creating killer designs, web designers should always be aware of some of the basic SEO insights that can implement positive change in their entire web design approach.

    In this post, we’ll discuss the basics of SEO for web design, whether you’re building a new website or revamping an existing one.

    Site structure

    The structure of your website is essentially how your audience gets around. There is always a peculiar way for the information to flow on a website. This path is taken by every visitor to reach their destination i.e. the information they are looking for. Every web designer must keep the fact in mind that if the site visitors are having a hard time going around the website or reaching their point of destination, the site’s traffic will always be affected.

    To put simply, the structure of the site is the casual flow of navigation for new and experienced website visitors alike. The web design should be approached in such a manner that all visitors can seamlessly experience the site’s navigation and get around it with utmost ease.

    As a general rule, pages should be no deeper than 4 clicks from the homepage. This will help your site’s SEO by allowing search engines and users to find content in as few clicks as possible. Make sure the navigation isn’t complex for the user nor confusing for search engines.

    The compulsion of a responsive, mobile-friendly web design

    Mobile traffic as a share of total global online traffic in 2017 was 52.64%. Well, that means that every web designer needs to get the fact that a mobile-friendly website will help them get better at the traction of the traffic. A responsive website is highly favored by search engines and it can only happen when the web designers approach it in the correct manner.

    Having a responsive web design will help your website adjust to the pixel-width of the screen upon which they are being viewed. This will work to equate and enhance the user experience on every device. Less work for the audience means that they spend more time on your website. So, don’t be that website that 57% of internet users say they won’t recommend because of a poorly designed website on mobile.

    Image optimization is crucial

    Web designers play a very crucial role in deciding the aesthetic appeal of the website they are working on. Right from the typography, the use of colors, patterns, geometric shapes, symmetry etc., they also handle the choice of images that would make it to the website.

    Hence, optimizing the chosen images is a must because large images slow down your web pages, creating a roadblock for optimal user experience. Depending on the website builder in use, web designers can optimize images by decreasing their file size by either a plugin or script. This also happens to be a core instruction in the blogging tips furnished by reputed bloggers.

    Speed optimized web design

    Web developers and designers have to be at the beck and call of the client and the team, owing to revisions and bug fixes. In this haste, they often avoid optimizing their web design for a fast loading web speed. Did you know that a website that takes more than 2-3 seconds to load can face a higher abandonment rate as compared to others?

    Roping in the importance of page speed from the very beginning is just as important as laying the building blocks of the website. If the project manager or client is inexperienced, web designers must guide them through the importance of investing in a reliable web hosting service as well because that definitely affects the loading speed of the website and other server-side issues.

    Using the right tools

    Web designers aren’t expected to be the best at taking care of a site’s SEO, but they should at least have a surface-level understanding of how their SEO tip-offs can help the website function improve immensely.

    There are a few tools that should be at the disposal of every web designer such as the GTmetrix. This tool can help them analyze their site’s speed and make it faster. It will also provide them with insights on how well their site loads along with actionable recommendations on how to optimize it. Tools like Responsive Web Design Testing can help them test their website’s responsiveness across multiple devices with different screen sizes instantly in just simple steps. To top it off, the very popular Screaming Frog SEO Spider tool can help these web designers with a website crawler, that allows them to crawl websites’ URLs and fetch key onsite elements to analyze onsite SEO.

    Conclusion

    The design of the website and its SEO are the two moving parts of the same entity. Hence, it should be the aim of every web designer to furnish their knowledge of web designing with the key SEO elements that are a must to be considered before, during and after a website design task. They must understand that they are the ones that will set the SEO fireball rolling. In an attempt to embed the site’s SEO into the design process, we hope that our basic SEO insights for web designers will be of huge help to experienced and new web designers, alike.

    Transformation of Search Summit roundup

    This past Friday we held our inaugural Transformation of Search Summit here in NY. Let’s just say, we’re already looking to book our venue for next year! On a scale of one to success, it was smashing.

    Firstly, thank you (yet again) to all who came out to sponsor, speak at, and attend the event — couldn’t have done it without you.

    As frequenters of many events ourselves, we did our best to ensure this one was full of high quality, fluff-free content. None of those talks where you get the end and think, “okay, but take out the buzzwords, and what did they say?” We asked for the moon, and our wonderful speakers delivered.

    Some particularly rich (dare we say featured) snippets from the day:

    Where search is heading

    Siddharth Taparia, SVP and Head of Marketing Transformation, SAP, kicked off our morning speaking on the future of where search is heading. Social is the new storefront. The top 500 retailers earned 6.5 billion from social shopping in 2017, up 24%.

    With the rise of voice search, position 0 is the ultimate prize. Over half of search queries will be voice based by 2020. A quarter of US homes have smart speakers. 92% of 18-29 year olds have smartphones. 90% increase in capabilities for voice search with only 8% error rate

    Protecting privacy is a big deal. Alexa is coming to the office, the hotel, healthcare, the car, even learning. When you put a chip in everything, the whole world becomes a security threat. Even Google and Amazon are not immune to these.

    New research: The Era of Ecommerce

    Kerry Curran, Managing Partner, Marketing Integration, Catalyst & Clark Boyd, Research Lead, ClickZ, presented our headlining research report for the day: The Era of Ecommerce. Among many things, this research found a notable gap between how consumers browse, purchase, and behave online, and where advertisers put spend to reel those consumers in. Hint: not the same places.

    There’s a lot more we could (and surely will) write about this report — not to mention that it was already 50+ pages long. For now I’ll direct you here for more information and here for the free download — enjoy!

    How blockchain will affect search

    Jeremy Epstein, CEO, Never Stop Marketing. For those who have never heard Jeremy speak, he is the best kind of fireball on stage. Spirited and smart, with the perfect sprinkle of self-deprecating humor. Jeremy speaks often on blockchain and the decentralized economy, and at this summit he focused on what those will mean for search. There’s a new sector — still in its infancy — of decentralized content that poses unique challenges in the search world: hard for search engines to index, curated by the audience, and where revenue generated goes directly to the creators of that content.

    Panel: ClickZ, Adobe, Microsoft, Google

    Panel discussion: Clark Boyd, Research Lead, ClickZ. Pete Kluge, Group Manager, Product Marketing, Adobe, Christi Olson, Head of Evangelism, Microsoft. Juan Felipe Rincón, Global Lead, Trust & Safety Search Outreach, Google

    This was an interesting panel discussion on what awaits us in the future of search — things like connecting content and searches over several days, and more gender equality for women who search in emerging markets. They of course touched on types of search, and how Amazon is affecting the industry.

    Visual search, which starts to answer the long-held question of “how do you search for something if you don’t know what it is?” and which particularly rings true for retail: this person has a nice scarf, where did it come from, where can I get one?

    They also discussed how the input:output exchange of search is changing. It used to be only text:text. Now it can be image:voice, voice:voice, or any number of expanding options.

    We need a bit of a mindset shift. We do a lot of our planning in terms of old paradigms, but more and more searches are being done by default, through lots of entry points.

    They voiced how the future of search is no search, because search implies uncertainty. Instead, it will be about how you populate something before someone knows what they don’t know. In the future we won’t be searching, AI will do it for us. The experience of a user going through search is not here’s a keyword, here’s what I need. Sometimes we actively search, sometimes we want to be kept informed about things interesting to us.

    And finally, bringing us a bit back to our feet — they reminded us that while we talk a lot about the future and transformation of search, a lot can be done now. Particularly around visual search, there’s still a lot of basic groundwork that people aren’t doing, such as using alt tags on images and making sure our visual content is properly described. As Rincon put it, “Look at the web as if you didn’t have eyes.”

    Mobile search

    Jason White, Director, SEO, Hertz. Fun fact about Jason: he started off doing SEO in 2003 because he competed in cycling races and worked at a bike shop to get discounts on parts, and the bike shop wanted to sell excess inventory in the winter. Fifteen years later, he’s Director of SEO at Hertz. Yet another quintessential example of great, self-taught SEOs who stumbled into the field and were pleasantly surprised to find it stuck.

    Best quote from Jason? “You’re going to have a smart toilet bowl at sometime in your life. What will it say about you?” He talked about the future of IoT and security. We learned our data is worth $250 per year, and it’s going up every year. And finally, that billions of queries are made every day, 15% of which are completely new — ones Google says people had never searched for before.

    Amazon and Amazon Marketing Services

    John Denny, VP Ecommerce & Digital Marketing, Cavu Venture Partners (formerly Bai Brands). Luis Navarrete Gomez, Head of Global Search Marketing, LEGO

    This was a particularly hands-on session with 7 excellent tips for leveraging Amazon and Amazon Marketing Services, i.e. both paid and organic search. And it was certainly from a trustworthy source — John Denny helped lead Bai beverages to be named 2015 Vendor of the Year by Amazon.

    They related how running search campaigns on Amazon has been a struggle, one which many compare to what it was like running Google search campaigns in 2005. Happily, there’s been some rapid development of ad tech platforms changing the game of late.

    They also talked about the tangible nature of Amazon campaigns versus elsewhere on the web — marketers selling physical products. As John put it, “A lot of execs hear about Amazon ads and think great, let’s rock and roll! But the reality on Amazon is that you can’t rock and roll anywhere if your product is out of stock. Build your foundation first.”

    The full-funnel search approach

    Claudia Virgilio, GVP of Strategic Partnerships, Kenshoo spoke to us about the importance of taking a full-funnel search approach. Amazon advertising has 197 million monthly unique visitors, and $4.6 billion spend.

    How to optimize for voice search

    Melissa Walner, Director, Global SEO, Hilton led another particularly practical session, coming from a brand that certainly gets asked a lot of questions — everything from “what’s the address of my hotel” to “what are fun things to do in Maui with kids?” Melissa had great insight into how to optimize specifically for voice search, and viewing SEO these days as not just search engine optimization so much as search everywhere optimization and search everything optimization.

    She pointed out that 1 billion voice searches are made each month already, and that by 2020, 30% of all searches will be done without a screen.

    In a voice search world, position 0 is queen: 80% of google home responses stem from a featured snippet. She then gave great tips for securing those featured snippets, on both high-level strategic and in-the-weeds technical levels.

    Visual search and ecommerce

    Clark hopped back up to cover visual search and how it affects ecommerce. One key quote from this session was pulled from our research report, from Amy Vener of Pinterest: “Shopping has always been visual. We’ve just been taught to do the opposite online.”

    93% of consumers consider images to be be key deciding factor in a purchasing decision.

    61% of consumers aged 18-34 discover new products through social media. If consumers start purchasing directly through these social platforms, that could pose a big problem for someone like Amazon.

    We also learned about structured data to help search engines understand content, and the importance of always marking up price, availability, image, and product name. For the curious, the Pinterest engineering blog is quite open on how their visual search works.

    Panel: UPS, Codecademy, Heineken, Condé Nast

    Panel: Andrew Spikes, Head of Global Paid Search, UPS. Kunal Arya, Performance Marketing Manager, Codecademy. Nikolai Zeinikov, Ecommerce Director, Heineken. John Shehata, VP, Audience Development Strategy, Condé Nast

    To close out the day, we had a final panel discussion on strategies for search transformation. Panelists from UPS, Codecademy, Heineken, and Conde Nast carried us through with light-hearted, quippy, down to earth thoughts on how they strategize search at their organizations.

    They reminded us that almost 80% of successful add to baskets happen through search, and that people use search because they can’t easily find the products.

    They also exemplified how SEO teams are still very much “lean beasts.” One of them mentioned that even at such a large company, their “search” team was a mere four people — and two of them were UX/UI. “When I first started, it was a huge mess,” he said. Further proof that a lot can be done with few hands on deck, and that strategy has a lot to do with choosing what not to do.

    All in all, it was an excellent, enlightening day. We’ll have some more in-depth video content to come on specific sessions. Until then, another s/o to those who joined us!