Why local search should be part of your ecommerce strategy

local search

As local marketing becomes more important, it’s time to focus on local search strategy in order to beat your competition.

David Whatley, Founder & Managing Director of MiShop.local delivered an interesting presentation at BrightonSEO on the difference between global and local marketing and how a physical presence can help local search.

Defining local search

Local search is simply when people search for “product” or “service” + “location.”

It should include the following elements:

  • Consistent NAP (name, address, phone number)
  • Consistent Categories
  • Rich content (business description, photos, logo, videos, keywords)
  • Customer reviews
  • Links to location specific web-pages

Along with a listing in Google My Business and other local listing sites for an increased effectiveness.

Local search is a bridge between the high street and your website and it offers an opportunity for local retailers to to outperform their competitors with a web-only presence and drive more traffic to their site.

What do people search for locally?

People usually search for:

  • Opening time
  • Directions
  • A number to call
  • Store information
  • A website

It is important to understand the local customer journey and optimise the store pages to promote both the store and the website.

Store pages may be a customer’s first impression for a business, and that’s why they should be:

  • Informative
  • Inviting
  • Inspiring

Common issues with local landing pages

Many local landing pages are not as helpful as they should be, lacking:

  • Basic store information
  • Calls-to-action (CTAs)
  • Click-t0-call
  • Clear link to ecommerce services

This is slowing down the purchase journey for customers, whether it occurs through the store, or online.

Although visitors are primarily looking for local information to visit a store, this doesn’t mean that they may not turn out into online customers when learning about your ecommerce services.

How to create a good local store page

screen-shot-2016-09-08-at-13-34-40

Schuh has created a useful local store page, including:

  • Location-specific landing page
  • Location-specific stock check
  • Location-specific content in schema
  • Clear store page naming
  • NAP in microformat and consistent with local listings
  • Opening times
  • Suggestion of adding Click to Collect (for relevant stores)

Schuh is known for its focus on mobile, which led to an increase of sales, and the details above help a consumer understand in a matter of seconds whether the visit was useful, or not.

By the time a user decides to visit a local store page, you can’t afford to miss the opportunity to provide the necessary information, while it is also suggests showcasing the ecommerce side of your business.

For example, Debenhams’ ecommerce site has a store finder, but local search results don’t point to it, and there is also no store page to link to.

screen-shot-2016-09-08-at-13-51-02

Is your store page mobile friendly?

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The increasing use of smartphones makes mobile optimisation even more important for a local business, as this may determine whether a customer will consider buying from the specific business, provided that all the details are available.

It’s a combination of good local content and UX that every store page should consider, helping customers find information as easy as possible.

screen-shot-2016-09-08-at-14-16-45

Using an address for local search

There are four types of business address (retail, concessions, offices/depot, service area business), with the first two being more important for customers, as these are the ones they will probably use to search for your business.

A retail address should be listed with unique NAP, offering the necessary information for the local store and anything that a customer may search for.

screen-shot-2016-09-08-at-14-17-29

Concession brands must be listed with their own unique NAPs and even though it may be more time consuming, it will also be more effective for customers looking for specific details for each one of them.

screen-shot-2016-09-08-at-14-17-59

Takeaways

  • Local search is the bridge between the high street and your website, or else, a bridge between bricks and clicks.
  • Your physical address may be strategically used in online search to increase traffic and sales (although you may also use local search without a physical address).
  • Your NAP details must be listed consistently and link to the store page to make the process easier for customers.
  • Local search may focus on guiding customers to the local information they are searching for, but you may still raise awareness of your ecommerce services.
  • Don’t forget to optimise your store pages for local and mobile

Six ways you can watch your competitors watching you

log-analyser

You watch your competitors, they watch you, so let’s see what they’re looking at.

I’m reasonably certain we’ve all had a good look around our competitor’s ecommerce sites and I’m pretty sure they’ve had a good look around ours as well.

It’s been industry practice to do ‘competitor shopping’ for decades – but in the digital world where everything is measurable is there anything we can learn from them while they are trying to learn from us?

Firstly to be able to achieve the following we will need our competitor’s IP address. This is most likely not the IP address of their web server, but the IP address of their office / home. If your competitor is medium to large in scale then it’s likely they will have a static IP address or one or several IP address ranges.

If they are smaller then they may well be operating on a dynamic IP address (which changes every time they re-boot their router or loose connection).

For the purpose of this post I’ll be talking about IPv4. While some ISPs are switching to IPv6 the former remains dominant (and also potentially easier to track), once my ISP updates to IPv6 I’ll let you know how these techniques work with that protocol.

Now the tricky part: we need to find out our competitor’s IP address. There are many way to do this, from checking their subdomains for the DNS settings of a windows server style server.domain.com domain (some penetration testing tools may be your friend), through to hopping on to their public wi-fi.

There are also companies who maintain databases of public-facing static IP addresses for medium/larger companies which you can search for a fee. I’m sure you can use your imagination for some other methods…

So now we have their IP address what are some things we can keep an eye on?

1. See which pages on your site they are looking at

Log files can be an incredibly useful (if slightly overwhelming) source of data about how your site is being used, and if we have our competitors IP address we can use them to see which pages on our site they have been looking at.

You can search through the bare logs but depending on your logging level these could be noting every single resource they access (including images, scripts etc.) – so I’d recommend using a log file analyser than can drill-down by IP address.

This will let you know exactly which pages of yours they are looking at and when.

2. What technology do they use?

Looking at the log files will also give you their browser header information – this will let you know their operating system, browser & screen resolution. Although not the insight of the century you can see if they are testing your site on different devices – or just generally what their desktop technology stack is.

You can also sniff out their IP address using either a plug-in or some code and inject an analytics event, allowing you to track and report on them and their technology in Google Analytics or your analytics tool of choice.

3. What times are they looking?

Again looking at the log files – you can see what time of the day they are checking out your site.

Another albeit small insight into their world – how late are they working? How late do they get into the office?

4. Watch them browse

Session recording is an extremely useful tool in any ecommerce professional’s tool-box.

Many of these tools give you a number of filtering options including filtering by IP address. If we have their IP address we can surface the recordings of them using our site and see exactly what they are focusing on.

5. See if they are programmatically checking your prices

There are numerous ways of automatically checking a competitors prices, some cloud hosted and some stand-alone apps.

To check for the latter we’d need to dig into the logs to see if there are any spikes in visits from their IP address – if so chances are they could be price checking (although it could be another tool such as Screaming Frog, URL profiler etc.).

One way to defend against this and mess with them at the same time is to detect their IP and give them incorrect pricing data – just make very sure the IP address is definitely them.

For cloud based services this can be more difficult as they will often operate across numerous IP addresses and / or proxies but again you can check your log files for spikes from particular IP addresses / ranges and take action as above if you notice a pattern.

6. Screen their calls

Your competitors may be calling your sales or customer service team to test your policies, dig for information or just to see if you offer any discounts for bulk purchases etc. This one can get a little technical, but if you have all the parts in place isn’t too hard to do.

As with the analytics scenario earlier on we need to write some script to detect the competitors IP address and then display a different phone number to them and only them.

You’ll need to tie this phone number into your phone system and display some specific text when a call comes in on that number – when you see that text you’ll know what to do.

Bonus tip: block your competitors clicking on your adverts.

Both Google and Bing allow you to block ads by IP address – so if you’re worried about your competitors clicking on your ads then you can stop your adverts even appearing to them.

Assuming you have their IP address the rest is easy – how to exclude by IP in Google adwords and in Bing.

Stuart Kerr is Head of digital at Liberty Games, an Ecommerce consultant and a contributor to SEW.

Six major differences between Facebook awareness and conversion campaigns

facebook-promoted-posts

Facebook is the biggest social network on Earth, and Facebook advertising has long been known as a great social advertising channel to drive user awareness and engagement.

However, in recent years Facebook has made incredible improvements to its advertising service and has become one of the best digital ad channels for conversion-driven campaigns.

In many verticals, Facebook even outgrew Google in driving large numbers of leads and orders, such as in fashion, banking, lead-generation, and more.

Facebook conversion campaigns have some fundamental differences from Facebook awareness campaigns, in terms of goals, KPIs, ad types, ad messages, and landing page activities. But not everybody realizes this difference, especially traditional marketers.

Thus, we often hear clients asking “Why don’t our ads show up all the time?” or “Why isn’t our reach very high?” Even though their Facebook campaigns are generating steady, high sales volumes at a low cost-per-acquisition.

In order to achieve great conversion performances with Facebook advertising, you should realize the major differences between the two types of campaigns.

Different campaign goals

Most awareness campaigns focus on audience communication. The key question being “How can we reach the most target users and engage them with our message?”

Conversion campaigns are more result-oriented. The key questions are “How can we get the most sales, or leads, or user signups with the given ad budget?” and “What is the maximum ad budget we can spend to get the most conversions at an acceptable CPA?”

For example, a brand may want to reach the largest relevant consumers possible to spread the word about a new innovative product, but a retailer would prefer to have a lot of people making purchases on the site or in-store.

Similarly, a local beauty school would prefer to get a high number of prospective student signups more than reaching the most “relevant” people in their local area.

Different KPIs

For awareness campaigns, the KPIs should measure the communication’s effectiveness. In Facebook, the metrics are: reach, visits, shares, comments, likes, cost-per-engagement, fan growth, etc.

For conversion campaigns, the KPIs are about business performance, such as number of conversions (leads/orders/signups), CPA (cost-per-acquisition), ad spend, average order size, lead quality (follow up success rate) etc.

Different user interactions

Awareness campaigns often focus on how users interact with the ad itself, and less on how users interact with the web pages. Website visits are viewed as “ad clicks”. Very few awareness campaigns measure user interactions on the site, such as newsletter signups or submitted forms.

In conversion campaigns, the conversion actions mostly happen on the website itself, not in the ad, such as making a purchase, signing-up for membership, or downloading an app. This adds an extra layer of complexity to the campaign optimization and requires a lot more effort.

New Facebook ad types like Facebook Lead Ads now allow users to sign up directly from the ad itself, without needing to go to the site. We’ve seen this type of ad dramatically increase conversion performance.

Different ad types

While actual results depend greatly on each situation, in general, some Facebook ad types works better for conversion campaigns, some work better for awareness campaigns, and some can work for both.

Facebook promoted posts are great for engaging your customers and building loyalty. But if you run a conversion campaign, it may not be the best choice to drive direct conversions.

Facebook promoted posts to engage customers

Facebook newsfeed ads and right column ads can achieve great results for awareness campaigns and conversion campaigns. The new carousel ad has excellent storytelling capability, but also generates good conversions.

facebook-carousel

Facebook carousel ads for painting classes

For conversion campaigns, newsfeed ads often perform much better than right column (RC) ads. Because RC ads work similar to banner ads, RC ads often achieve a very high reach but a lower conversion rate than newsfeed ads. Facebook remarketing can enhance the RC ad performance, but it will depend on the remarketing list size.

Other Facebook ad products are designed for specific businesses:

Facebook lead ads work amazingly well for lead-gen campaigns, as users can submit information directly on the ad itself without the need to go to the landing page.

Facebook product ads are excellent for Ecommerce sites to generate orders.

facebook-product-ads

Facebook product ads for ecommerce

Different ad messages

To write effective ads for conversion, there is a rule: “Clarity trumps persuasion.” High-conversion Facebook ad copy often communicates the values and usage of the products/services, how they help solve consumers’ problems, and good pricing and promotions to motivate them to act.

Meanwhile, awareness ad copy tends to focus on emotional storytelling to influence brand perception in consumers’ minds.

facebook-right-column-ads

Facebook Right Column Ads – focus on sales, free shipping and easy returns

Different campaign optimization

In awareness campaigns, the consumer research phase is critical to set up the campaign and write ad messages that communicate effectively with audiences.

In conversion campaigns, while consumer research is equally critical, the ongoing testing and optimization process is the key to achieving great results.

No matter how great the research is, in most cases the conversion campaigns do not produce optimal results on day one. By rigorously analyzing all the numbers, and testing every element of the campaigns, from campaign/ad set structure, ad copy/images, targeting, bidding, and landing pages, we can find winning combinations that generate best returns.

Thus, conversion campaigns rarely run as “set it and forget it”, but demand on-going tweaks and monitoring.

Facebook advertising can be a powerful digital channel for both awareness campaigns and conversion campaigns. By understanding the fundamental differences between the two campaign types, you can better organic your next Facebook campaign to success and deliver the right KPIs that clients are looking for.

Mike Le is the Co-Founder and COO of CB/I Digital, a digital agency in New York. You can connect with Mike on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Five most important search marketing news stories of the week

card search UI

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 a couple of potential upheavals to Google SERPs and the core algorithm, as well as updates to Knowledge Panel and a warning on spammy widgets.

Google experiments with new desktop SERP layout

As I reported earlier this week, in among Google’s 1,000s of minor experiments a few users were served with a rather fundamental change: a new desktop SERP layout featuring mobile-style cards.

The number of results on the card-based SERP is exactly the same as the ‘standard’ layout and the snippet width is significantly longer (roughly 20 extra characters).

Google has experimented with this card-based layout before in 2013, and again earlier this year in May. The fact it keeps reappearing obviously means Google has seen positive use of the new layout.

Google’s core algorithm saw a few minor changes

Over the weekend it became clear to everyone tracking this sort of thing (SEOs mainly) that there was turbulence in Google’s algorithm.

MozCast measured a ‘temperature’ on Thursday 2nd September as a sweltering 108 degrees and experts across the UK noted the following peaks in their own monitoring.

I know we’re not supposed 2 trust SERP monitoring tools 4 updates but just in case I’ll just leave this here. #SEO pic.twitter.com/LcvrGZ5Cy7

— Dawn Anderson (@dawnieando) September 3, 2016

John Mueller stated in the video below (five minutes in) that the Google update was NOT Penguin 4.0, so you can “cross that one off your lists.”

However there was a slightly more concrete change to the Local Pack with Google issuing a quality update which removed some spammy local results.

Site reviews now appear in Google Knowledge Panels

According to Google’s blog post, its new ‘Reviews from the web’ service brings aggregated user ratings of up to three review sites to Knowledge Panels for local businesses and attractions.

local2

All you have to do is implement the review snippet markup and meet Google’s criteria, and your site’s user-generated composite ratings will be eligible for inclusion.

Google would like to ‘strongly’ remind you about links contained in widgets

Google does its best to penalise any sites caught manipulating PageRank with spammy links and yesterday it decided to remind webmasters about the danger of adding keyword-rich, hidden or low-quality links in widgets.

Apparently some widgets (like you might add to your WordPress site) can add links to your webpages that you did not editorially place and contain anchor text that the webmaster does not control. Because they’re ‘unnatural’, they’re considered a violation of Google Webmaster Guidelines.

Here are a couple of examples…

awesomewidgetwinwin

somanyvisitorssuchwow

Google’s webspam team may take manual actions on unnatural links. But can resolve or avoid this by making sure you add a rel=”nofollow” attribute on the widget links or remove the links/widgets entirely.

Update to the layout of search ads in Google Play

Google first introduced search ads to its Google Play store last year to improve app discovery and now its “fine-tuning the ads experience… to deliver even more growth for the developer community.”

According to an Adwords blog post, these are the changes…

  • For app-specific searches on Google Play, ads in their current form will not be shown at the top of the page. Instead, the organic result for the app will show at the top of the page, followed by additional organic results and possibly ads for other relevant apps.
  • A relevant, additional ad will start to show on Google Play for some queries like “music streaming app” and “exercise app.” This new ad spot gives developers an additional opportunity to promote the apps you’ve worked so hard to build.

10 ways to promote your WordPress blog for beginners

social media marketing

If you’ve just started your WordPress blog and want everybody to read your content, then you should promote your blog on multiple online platforms.

Creating and launching an appealing and informative blog is not enough. For better results, you need to get serious about its promotion.

Marketing has always been a great way to drive the targeted audience towards your brand or product. You can convey your organization’s message to a large number of people by making the use of effective marketing techniques.

Similarly, a blogger optimizes their posts with the aim to better represent them across various web platforms, where they can generate traffic to the site.

But, due to the stiff competition, it’s now even more gruelling making your blog a success. Also the techniques for promoting a blog never remain the same due to the ever-changing panda and penguin updates by Google.

That’s why I’ve collected the 10 tried & tested ways that can effectively promote your WordPress blog.

1. Create quality, engaging content

The first step you need to do is to create quality, informative and engaging content for your blogs.

You need to understand that many people have great experience in the same niche as you. So make sure that you write a blog post that can solve the problems of these readers and give them a rich reading experience.

Plus, it should stand up to the expectations of your target audience. By
providing them their most desired content, you can efficiently improve the web presence of your blog.

2. Install the most suitable theme

The overall look and feel of a blog can make or break the visibility of your site. Web design is a vital aspect that leaves a first and the last impression on visitor’s mind.

Therefore, you should search for a theme that can beautifully showcase the purpose of your blog to your visitors.

So, take your time and choose a theme that both looks great and can enhance the usability of your blog, A great user experience is something that will encourage visitors to stay on your blog longer.

3. Social media marketing

Market your blog posts on social media platforms, including Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Instagram, StumbleUpon etc. to drive more web traffic. If you want a successful blog, you need to post or share your content to relevant groups.

You can also set up a Facebook page where you can add all your targeted visitors, and a group of the same niche. Then you can share the links to your posts via your Facebook profile.

You can also add social sharing icons on each of your blog post to allow your readers to share your content on their own social media accounts.

4. Customize permalinks

You can optimize your content by ensuring the URLs of your blog posts contain relevant keywords. WordPress can generate a permalink for you automatically, but before you hit publish make sure that it’s keyword-rich and readable.

Try to optimize the permalink in a way that it reflects your content instantly to visitors.

5. Use guest posting

guest post

Guest posting means writing and posting a blog post or an article on someone else’s website or blog.

Now, you might be thinking how guest posting can boost the web presence of our blog? But it is a great strategy that can promote your blog to a large population base online.

You can use a guest post to encourage visitors to come to your blog. This technique not only promotes your blog but also gives you external link from more authority sites, which can improve your ranking on search engines.

6. Create search-optimized blog posts

Rank higher on Google, Yahoo, and other search engines by optimizing the titles and descriptions of your blog posts. WordPress offers a ton of robust SEO plugins such as Yoast SEO, All In On SEO etc. that will create SEO-friendly meta descriptions and tile tags for each of your posts.

Make sure your meta descriptions and title tags contain all your relevant keywords, are readable for humans and accurately describe your content in an appealing way.

7. Make use of YouTube videos

YouTube is an ideal social media platform where you can convey your audio-visual message to your potential visitors in an engaging way.

Although, it is a popular marketing technique, you need to be very creative from your side.

You can begin with a video that is simple, which can help you get the hang of crafting future videos for your blog. Thereafter, you can do something more creative and innovative.

8. Email marketing

Vector illustration of email marketing flat design concept.

Email marketing is one of the most prominent ways that can help you promote your blog. You just need to create an email list and keep on adding new subscribers to generate quality leads.

The subscribers in your email lists will hopefully help you share and promote your content across different web platforms. So, you should build a massive email list in order to get more web traffic to your address.

9. Add your blog post to social bookmarking sites

You should add your blog post to social bookmarking sites as it can help drive extra traffic to your website.

But keep in mind that you should choose quality bookmarking sites to submit your post. Low quality sites won’t do any good for your blog and they can harm you in long run.

10. Update your blog posts regularly

Make sure that you update your blog on a regular basis.

Creating regular content gives your readers something to come back for and lets Google know that you’re serious about what you’re doing.

Conclusion

With the help of these proven tips, you can promote your WordPress blog across all web platforms with an objective to drive more web traffic and generate quality leads.

Lucy Barret is a Sr. WordPress Developer at HireWPGeeks, a WordPress Development Company, and a contributor to SEW.

Which is the king of mobile: China or US? Where is the biggest opportunity?

dna29_smartphone_sales_china_sm

The numbers for mobile subscribers and mobile web users in China are mind blowing, but when the enormity of the population is taken into account, how does China compare with the US on mobile?

In the previous column, we compared how the largest Chinese and US companies – specifically banks, retailers and internet companies – were performing and reporting their mobile performance. The conclusion: US companies – particularly the big US retailers – have a lot to learn from their Chinese contemporaries.

In this column we are going to consider if the mobile opportunity in China is larger than in the US. This might help explain why Chinese companies appear to take mobile more seriously than US companies.

When you want to rate and compare the size/potential of the mobile market in a given country there are a number of key metrics to take into account.

These criteria vary a little by business vertical, but for retailers and other companies interested in m-commerce, these following are a good starting point (with some headline stats):

  • Smartphone sales (China: 2.5x North America).1
  • Smartphone penetration (US: 72%; China: 58%).2
  • 4G subscribers (China: 2.3x North America).3
  • 4G coverage (US: global rank 7; China: rank 16).4
  • 4G speed (China: rank 31; US: rank 55).5
  • Mobile internet users (China: 8x US).6
  • Mobile commerce (China: 4x USA – est.).7

Sources (full details and links in sections below): 1. Canalys; 2. PEW; 3. China mobile operators; 4. Open Signal; 5. Open Signal; 6. CNNIC; eMarketer; 7. Analysys; eMarketer.

For the purposes of this column, the population of China is taken to be 1,371.2 million and US 321.4 million (Source: World Bank)

Smartphone sales

China is the world’s largest smartphone market, by miles.

Smartphone sales in China are approaching half billion units annually, which is about one third of the global market, (Source Canalys, August, 2016).

As shown in the graph, the Chinese market is more than 2.5 times the size of entire continental market of North America (the size of the US market wasn’t specified).

To put this in perspective: to match smartphones sales in China market every man, woman and child in US (321.4 million) would have to buy a new smartphone every eight months.

Why do analysts count smartphones? People with smartphones are more likely to spend more time surfing the web, because the experience is more enjoyable than on a feature phone and smartphones tend to come with more generous data allowances.

Smartphone penetration

Arguably more important than smartphone sales is market penetration. Generally data suggest that a larger proportion of US people use a smartphone – today. But with the high purchase rate in China, we should expect the gap to narrow.

N.B. There is no standard for calculating penetration – so analysts might be measuring the proportion of smartphones among: mobile connections; unique mobile users; or the population.

Also results are often based on surveys (sometimes quite small ones). This is why valuations vary and comparisons between countries/sources are tricky.

  • A survey by Pew estimates that smartphone penetration in China was 58% in spring 2015, compared with 72% in the US. The global median was 43%. (Source: PEW February 2016).
  • The GSMA estimates there were 890 million smartphone connections in China, at the end of 2015, with a smartphone adoption rate of 68% (Source: GSMA June 2016).
  • ComScore estimates that 9 million people in the U.S. owned smartphones in February which is a penetration rate of 79.3 percent mobile market penetration (Source: ComScore April 2016).

Mobile broadband in China: 4G subscribers

Arguably a smartphone without a data connection isn’t smart at all… it’s just a phone.

This is why it is important to study both the number of mobile broadband connections and the geographical coverage in a country. 3G or “third generation” mobile networks and handsets are gradually being upgraded to so-called 4G networks, which are usually based on LTE technology. 4G networks have more data capacity, which mean faster web performance and better video and audio playback.

According to Open Signal (see below) the average speed of a 4G LTE mobile connection worldwide at the end of 2015 was 13.5Mbps compared with 3.5Mbps for 3G, 0.1Mbps for 2G and 6Mbps for WIFI.

The three main Chinese operators share 591 million 4G customers between them out of a total 1.3 billion mobile subscribers or 45% of total subscribers.

  • China Mobile has 429 million 4G customers (133 million still on 3G) out of 837 million customers. Handset data traffic on the network is 1,252 billion MB (Source: China Mobile Q2 2016).
  • China Unicom Monthly has 72 million 4G customers (it no longer reports 3G users) out of 260 million customers. Handset data traffic is 327 billion MB. Unicom also shares ARPU average revenue for user which is RMB 79.4 (US$ 11.9) for a 4G user, compared with RMB 47.3 (US$ 7.1) for and average user (Source: China Unicom Q2 2016).
  • China Telecom has 90 million 4G customers (it no longer reports 3G users) out of 207 million customers. Handset data traffic is 15kTB (est. 15.2 billion MB?) (Source: China Telecom Q2 2016).

The excellent thing about the Chinese operators is that they have been sharing performance data on the same page on the website for many years.

This makes it very easy for investors, analysts, journalists, government agencies, business partners and customers to easily source and compare to get the information they require.

Mobile broadband in US: 4G subscribers

To find data from US operators, requires hunting through earning releases, PDFs, presentations etc. Despite performing this tedious trawl, I was unable to ascertain 4G subscriber numbers for either AT&T or T-Mobile at all.

This makes it impossible to find any meaningful comparison between US operators or between the US and China.

As readers of the previous column (which compared mobile disclosures of Chinese v US banks, retail and internet companies) will already have noted: public companies in US (and other western countries) have a lot to learn from their Chinese contemporaries about data transparency when it comes to mobile performance.

  • Verizon has 88.9 million 4G devices on the network, which is 79% of retail connections (113 million); smartphone penetration is 86% of total connections. (Source: Verizon Q2 2016)
  • AT&T – no 4G subscriber numbers available in annual report or Q1, Q2, 2016 (Source: AT&T)
  • T-Mobile – no 4G subscriber numbers available in annual report or Q1, Q2, 2016 (Source: T-Mobile)
  • Sprint – 4G subscriber numbers unclear, but has approx. 18.5 million Tri-band LTE phones on network, which is 31% of total connections (Source: Sprint investor update Q1, 2016)

Ovum estimates that there are 253 million LTE subscriptions in North America (Source: Ovum Q1 2016, via 5G Americas). This is 57% of subscribers, which is larger than China’s 45% penetration, calculated from the operator stats.

Even taking into account that Ovum’s North America numbers will include Canada, possibly Mexico and others, this suggests that the US LTE share must be substantial, and thus that AT&T and/or T-Mobile must have a significant 4G subscriber base, which makes it surprising (as well as frustrating) that the companies don’t share the data.

dna29_global_lte_5ga_ovum

Mobile broadband: 4G speed and coverage: China v US

What’s the point in having a 4G phone and data contract, if you have no coverage?

All customers, but businesses in particular, really need to know which of the available operators has the best coverage in their region. Imagine how important this will be for M2M based services, which require an always on fast connection… machines, obviously, can’t go outside to get a better signal.

A useful source (there are others) for 4G coverage and speed is the crowd sourcing app Open Signal, which sits on users phones passively monitoring operator performance, it then collates and compares the results for different countries, based on average speeds of the operators.

4G/LTE coverage:

  • The first chart (below) measures 4G/LTE coverage, based on the proportion of time the average LTE users’ handset in that country remains connected to the operator’s 4G network.
  • US achieves a coverage of 81%, which ranks it 7th in the world; China achieves a 76% coverage ranked it 16th. Just to put these impressive performances in perspective: the UK which is much smaller nation geographically than either US or China scores an embarrassing 53%, ranked 55th in the world. (Source: Open Signal, Q4 2015).

4G download speed

  • 4G download speed, shown in the second chart, is different matter. China is ranked 31st with an average download speed of 14Mbps while the US is in the slow lane ranked 55th with 10Mbps.
  • To put these speed scores in perspective: the fastest 4G speeds globally are enjoyed in Singapore at 37Mbps. The average is 13.5Mbps. UK is ranked 29th with 15Mbps, slightly ahead of China. (Source: Open Signal, Q4 2015).

dna29_lte_speed_coverage

When you break down these national scores, OpenSignal reveals ratings for five US operators, but only one Chinese operator (albeit the world’s largest operator).

  • Verizon: national 4G coverage 87%; 4G speed 12Mbps
  • AT&T: 83%; 8Mbps
  • T-Mobile: 81%; 12Mbps
  • US Cellular: 75%; 6Mbps
  • Sprint: 70%; 7Mbps
  • China Mobile: 77%; 14Mbps

Looking forward to 5G

Ericsson predicts that by 2121 China will have 1.2 billion 4G connections, one quarter of the global total. (Source Ericsson Mobility Report Q1 2016)

That’s means that in five years 87.5% of the Chinese population will have a 4G connection. However by then China will also have already launched 5G services (which will deliver much faster download speeds).

GSMA Intelligence (Mobile Economy Asia Pacific, June 2016) expects China challenge US for leadership in 5G:

Asian markets such as South Korea, Japan and China are driving the development of 5G mobile technologies, in a similar way to how Europe pioneered 3G and North America led 4G.

With high or rapidly growing levels of 4G adoption, supportive governments and ambitious launch targets (linked to flagship sporting events), operators in these countries are challenging North American counterparts such as Verizon, which is initially focusing on 5G as a fixed-wireless solution. We expect to see some kind of commercial 5G launch in all three countries by 2020, despite the fact that 5G standardization is not scheduled to be completed until then.

Mobile internet users: China

As you’d expect, China is the world’s largest community of mobile web users. But when you take into account the size of the population, the penetration rate is has a long way to go to catch up with the US.

The main difference between China and the US is the proportion of web users who are mobile only. In China one quarter of web users only use mobile devices to access, never a PC. In the US this is one tenth. It is growing rapidly in both countries.

According to CNNIC (China Internet Network Information Center) China has 656 million mobile web users as of June 2016, which is 92.4% of total internet users (710 million). Of particular note is that 24.5% of Chinese Internet users are mobile only.

This suggests that 47.8% of the Chinese population are mobile web users.

CNNIC’s six-monthly reports are a gift to all fans of mobile/internet stats. The latest (38th) report wasn’t available in English at the time of writing. These stats are from a (Google) translation of the press release.

Mobile internet users: US

The US doesn’t have an agency like CNNIC, issuing regular web/mobile updates, but you can get an idea from analysts.

eMarketer estimates there were 259.7 million internet users in the US at the end of 2015. Of these 236.6 million (91.1%) are mobile web users. 27.8 million (10.7%) are mobile-only web users. (Source: eMarketer March 2016)

This suggests that 80.8% of the US population are mobile web users.

Mobile commerce: China

M-commerce in China is huge. Perhaps four times as big as the US. It is also a much more significant proportion of both e-commerce and total retail sales.

CNNIC estimates that 339.7 million Chinese people regularly engage in m-commerce, at the beginning of 2016. (Source: CNNIC January 2016). This is 82.2% of total ecommerce users and 24.8% of the population.

In Q1 2016 the Chinese m-commerce market was worth an estimated RMB 747.68 billion (US$ 111.96 billion). While year-on-year growth rate is slowing it is still a stunning 109.6%. Mobile accounts for 70% of all e-commerce transactions. (Source: Analysys August 2016)

To put these in perspective; if the China’s quarterly m-commerce remained the same for the rest of 2016, m-commerce in China would be comparable as the GDP of countries such as Iran, Thailand or Austria – all Global top 30 countries (Source: Wikipedia/World Bank).

dna29_chinese_m-commerce_2016q1

Mobile commerce: US v China

Retail m-commerce in the US is predicted by eMarketer to be worth US$ 123.13 billion for the whole of 2016, with an annual growth rate of 39.1%. Mobile will account for 32% of ecommerce and only 2.6% of total retail sales in the US (Source: eMarketer, May 2016)

Assuming the Analysys and eMarketer analysts are comparing similar data, this means that Chinese mobile consumers spend almost as much in one quarter as US mobile consumers spend in one year. If spending continues at a similar rate throughout the year (a conservative estimate), Chinese m-commerce would be four times as big as the US.

Compared with the relative populations – four times as many people live in China as the US – this is not so surprising. But when you consider that total (offline/online) retail expenditure in both countries is very similar – see stats from eMarketer (August 2016) below – the differential becomes much more significant.

dna29_mcom_us_retail_us_china_emarketer

Mobile commerce: competition: China v US

The outstanding thing about m-commerce in China, apart from the size of the market, is the domination of 96% of the m-commerce market by just two vendors.

  • Mobile Taobao and Tmall (the multivendor internet marketplaces of Alibaba Group) has 86.7% market share according as of Q1 2016.
  • com (the direct to consumer vendor, formerly known as Mobile Jingdong) had 9.3%; (Source: Analysys August 2016)

Numbers are less clear on the US m-commerce market, but it appears that it is more competitive. Forrester reportedly estimated in October 2015 that Amazon and eBay share one third of US m-commerce.

dna29_m-com_share_china

Conclusion

On sheer numbers – smartphones, 4G subscribers and mobile web users – China is undoubtedly the king of mobile, but when you take into account the size of the population the US comes close on penetration, and leads on some measures including smartphone penetration.

For most US companies the mobile internet opportunity is almost as compelling as it is for their Chinese counterparts.

Where China really excels is m-commerce. This market isn’t just huge, it’s also growing very rapidly. Mobile dominates e-commerce, accounting for a 70% share. It accounts for a much larger share of total retail than it does in the US.

The fact that two companies control m-commerce in this vast Chinese market is a bit alarming. It may discourage companies from taking the independent route, rather than using Alibaba’s Taobao or Tmall.

The m-commerce opportunity in the US is still one of the largest in the world. But the retail business needs to start asking why mobile still plays second fiddle to e-commerce and why it is still such a small percentage of retail as a whole.

Read the reports:

DNA of a Great M-Commerce Site Part 1: Planning

DNA of a Great M-Commerce Site Part 2: The 12 Pillars of Mobile Design

Five keyword myths you need to forget right now

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Keywords are often misunderstood in SEO, so it’s time to debunk the most popular myths around them.

Laura Hogan, Head of Search in Ricemedia, decided to focus on keyword myths in her presentation in Brighton SEO, and it was a useful reminder on all the misconceptions around keywords in the SEO industry.

Popular misconceptions about keywords

Myth 1: on-site exact match anchor text no longer works

Laura Hogan shared an example on how anchor text can still work, leading to an increased rank, even without link building.

In this particular case, there was 24% CTR from the specific anchor text, reminding us that we can still apply anchor text optimisation in our content.

However, it’s easy for anchor text to look like spam for Google, so make sure you don’t try too hard with its optimisation.

Tip: think about keywords within your on-site content. Anchor text still works, don’t be scared to use it.

Myth 2: keyword research is a waste of time

It’s never a waste of time to undertake keyword research when you’re trying to understand what people search for and how you can target them.

According to Brandwatch, there are 40k searches on Google every second, which makes it imperative to find what people search for and how you can approach them.

Which terms are they using and are you sure you don’t end up using jargon?

Make sure you avoid the common keyword research mistakes to save time and drive the right customers to your site.

Tip: keyword research is the foundation of your strategy. Explore how people search to increase the chances of reaching them.

Myth 3: only target high search volume keywords

Don’t aim at generic keywords, or too specific ones, but rather think of what people use to search and buy your products/services.

Think of the questions that lead customers to your site and focus on the keywords that will increase the conversion.

Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 13.12.25

Use your content, optimise your category and product pages to maximise the chances of displaying your site to your prospective customers.

Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 13.12.30

Tip: ranking for a number of low volume keywords may have more value than one high searched keyword.

Myth 4: meta descriptions have no value

A meta description is the short paragraph that describes your content in SERPs and it can influence a user’s decision on whether they should visit your site or not. It has to be descriptive, relevant and attractive.

As our attention span becomes shorter, it is more important to consider what appears in SERPs and how to optimise your meta description to increase the visitors that click through to your content.

Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 13.14.39

Tip: Continue to use meta descriptions as part of your strategy, there’s ranking value in them.

Myth 5: URLs don’t need keywords or a hierarchy

There are over 46 billion pages indexed in Google, which means there’s a lot of competition out there.

If you think that urls don’t need to be optimised, you might have to reconsider your strategy, as both users and search engines appreciate clear URLs.

A hierarchy allows you to organise your pages and explain their relationship and their importance, facilitating the ranking of them.

Think of your users, and imagine what they would think of this URL?

Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 13.17.22

Tip: stop using poor ULRs. Friendly ones are better for the user, too.

Takeaways

Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 13.18.48

Laura Hogan summarised her presentation with the following tips regarding keywords:

  • Don’t be afraid to be creative and experiment with your keywords, until you find the ones that work best for you.
  • Use exact match for your anchor text in your onsite content and test its performance.
  • Don’t keep aiming for high search volume keywords if they don’t lead to the desired conversions.
  • Optimise your meta descriptions and add the right keywords to describe your content
  • Make your URLs user-friendly.

Keywords are definitely not dead @lauralouise90 of @Ricemedia #brightonseo pic.twitter.com/SIUuU28CPg

— BrightonSEO (@brightonseo) September 2, 2016

Why retailers shouldn’t overlook the value of m-commerce apps

comscore_m-web_v_app_shopping_cz25

Recent stats suggest that the mobile web has the edge over apps in terms of m-commerce sales, but this doesn’t mean retailers should dismiss apps.

Five to ten years ago, after the release of the first iPhone and before the widespread adoption of responsive design, there was a genuine decision to be made between apps and mobile web for retailers.

For a time, before Apple’s rivals got their acts together, mobile web essentially meant iPhones. In turn, this meant that having a mobile commerce app was a real alternative to a mobile website, and could deliver a better user experience in many cases.

Now things are different, and few would argue that an app should be an alternative to a mobile web presence, but rather whether retailers should have an app as well.

In this article I’ll look at the stats, as well as the arguments for retailers building mobile apps to complement their mobile web presence.

Mobile web vs apps: the stats

Recent comScore stats revealed that, in five of the top European markets, the mobile browser is more popular than the app for shopping.

A US Forrester/RetailMeNot survey (PDF) (August 2015), found that 43% of respondents had purchased by mobile browser in the previous quarter compared to just 30% who had purchased by app.

These stats suggest the mobile web is ‘winning’ but they don’t necessarily tell the whole story.

Indeed, in the UK, just 32% of retailers have mobile apps, while many more have mobile-friendly sites. So, many customers simply don’t have a choice between apps and mobile web, depending which retailers they choose to shop with.

Stats from a recent Criteo report show a different perspective. It finds that apps account for 54% of mobile sales among its clients, ahead of 46% for mobile web.

app_web_m-com_criteo_cz25

The conclusion to draw here is that, while mobile web will always win for volume of traffic, apps can compete on sales and transactions.

Or, to put it another way, mobile app users buy more.

Why might app users buy more?

There are a few possible reasons, mainly around the ability to store customer data and tailor the experience for users.

1. Loyal, repeat customers are more likely to download apps

Apps allow retailers to provide a better, more personalised experience for their most loyal customers.

These loyal customers are also the most valuable in terms of revenue for many retailers. It can pay to provide an app that enhances the shopping experience for them.

For example, I use the Majestic Wines app regularly as it records my purchase history and preferences. So I know which wines I’ve enjoyed when I need more.

IMG_3011

I’ve never actually shopped direct from this app, as I tend to head to the local store, but it still adds value for me as a loyal customer.

Apps target these loyal customers and enable retailers to target this segment more effectively.

2. Data and personalisation

Apps can be great from a data perspective, as Olly Cooper, Co-Founder of Bijou Commerce explains:

“Apps can provide a wealth of data, and this can be extremely valuable in terms of product popularity, and also for understanding individual customers and providing a personalised shopping experience.

The level of data acquired through an app allows retailers to adapt and improve their service in real time. We know that personalisation drives sales, and an app is uniquely able to fulfil this.”

3. Ease of purchase

A well-designed mobile-friendly site should make purchase, and checkout, as smooth as possible.

However, saved payment and address details on apps can make the checkout process that much easier as customers will simply need to enter a username and password in many cases.

4. In-app notifications

Apps also have the functionality to send push notifications to users, informing them of special offers, new products, and generally prodding them to make a purchase.

It works too. A study by Netmera (2015) showed that push notifications increased the number of orders by a massive 180%.

NETMERA push notifications

According to Olly Cooper:

“The ability to send personalised offers that will be almost immediately seen by customers, with a track record of success, is a feature that singlehandedly proves the value of apps.”

5. Customer experience

Helen Colclough, Ecommerce Development Manager, River Island:

“Customers perceive native apps to be a cleaner shopping experience, more trustworthy when they consider signal speed or security and an easy way of quickly accessing their favourite retailer’s digital channels in comparison to the mobile web.

Apps are the new browser bookmarks, email newsletter, credit card AND shopping list. Habitual usage of your app both in store and online is the Holy Grail of the engaged returning customer and absolutely worth pursuing.”

So, do retailers need apps as well as mobile-friendly sites?

The answer to this question will depend on the retailer in question. Many will consider that just having a responsive or some other mobile-friendly site will be enough.

It may be for some, but retailers should at least consider the potential benefits of apps, as Olly Cooper explains:

This decision needs to be regularly reassessed, based on the changes surrounding the mobile and retail industries, competitors, and of course the individual situation of each business.

It may be more of a challenge to achieve app downloads, but ultimately, once you’ve managed to claim that real estate, the investment starts to pay off.”

One example of this is the Missguided app. The retailer recently decided to release an app, and so far it’s working.

Nitin Passi, founder and CEO, said:

The revenue run-rate of the Missguided shopping app went from zero to £30m within just four months of the app launch… the app now makes up 13% of our online revenue.”

missguided app

There are potential downsides to apps. Retailers need to account for development costs, while it can be a challenge to get your app on customers’ smartphones, and to get them to use them regularly.

For this reason, apps may not be for everyone but it would equally be unwise to dismiss them altogether.

Apps can be great tools for improving customer retention, and they allow retailers to be more device-specific than the mobile web allows. Essentially, this allows retailers to tailor the customer experience more effectively and provide some of their most valuable customers with a better all-round experience.

Over on ClickZ Intelligence, we have some detailed best practice reports on m-commerce. These are:

  • DNA of a Great M-Commerce Site Part 1: Planning
  • DNA of a Great M-Commerce Site Part 2: The 12 Pillars of Mobile Design

How to market your online business for free

schema markup for recipe

Four years ago, Carrie Hill wrote a brilliant guide on how to market a small business website. However as the world of online business marketing is a tumultuous place, the 2012 article was well overdue for an update.

So here we present a brand new guide, full of updated information and tips to give your online business a boost without the need of a credit card.

Please note: some of the tips below are from Carrie Hill, but have been updated to reflect any changes.

32 things you can do right now to market your website for free…

1) Set up and verify your Search Console account with Google. Here you’ll be able to monitor your site’s performance, identify issues, submit content for crawling, remove content you don’t want indexed, view the search queries that brought visitors to your site, monitor backlinks… it’s all good stuff.

2) Set up a Bing Webmaster Tools account and verify it, because it’s not all just about Google.

3) Update or create your XML sitemap and upload it to Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools.

4) Claim, verify, and update your Google My Business listing. This is extremely important. It’s free and will enable you to appear in local search results for queries specific to your products or services.

5) Install Google Analytics, even if you have existing tracking software on your site. The program will open up a world of data and analysis which you can take advantage of. Especially if you monitor your visitors behavious on-site and see what content they love.

6) Send a press release. Yes they do occasionally still work. Here are a few of the best free press release sources you can use, as recommended by Carrie Hill…

  • 24-7PressRelease.com
  • PRLog.org
  • IdeaMarketers.com

7) Send the press release to any niche media outlets that may be interested in what you do.

8) Find a niche social media site or forum within your industry and participate. Be helpful, provide relevant and useful information, and your word of mouth advertising will grow from that engagement.

Here are some examples provided by Carrie Hill:

  • Travel or hospitality business – Tripadvisor.com forums
  • Photography store – Photo.net or RockTheShotForum.com
  • Wedding Planning or Favor site – Brides.com or Project Wedding forums

9) If there isn’t a forum out there for you, consider starting one.

10) Setting up a joint benefit with local businesses or other companies in your niche can help you reach new audiences.

11) You could also try cosying up to a social influencer. Although remember if your trading goods or services for promotion, this will need to be labelled as ‘sponsored content’.

12) Comment on other websites and blogs within your industry. Offer original, well thought out, sensible information, and be sure to leave your URL.

Chances are there will be a nofollow tag attached so you won’t gain any ‘link-juice’ but you could gain a bit of traffic and some credibility as an authority. As Carrie Hill states, “This is not blog comment spamming, this is engaging in a conversation relevant to your website’s topic.”

13) Write a “how-to” article that addresses your niche. Make it clearly formatted with lots of nice images. Google loves easy to read explainers.

14) Use an article to answer a question in your niche. Answer boxes are becoming more prevalent in SERPs, and this content is pulled in from the most authoritative resource. Here’s a guide to answer boxes that will help you become that resource!

/IMG/279/281279/google-direct-answer-distance-to-mars

15) Write unique meta title tags for all of your pages. This is still extremely important from both a user perspective and for SEO.

16) Write unique meta descriptions for all of your pages. This is again, extremely important. Make sure the copy is as appealing and easy to read for humans as much as possible.

17) Start a blog. There’s nothing wrong with getting the basics of blogging down by using a free service from Blogger or WordPress. You could even try using Medium for an extra SEO boost.

18) Make sure your Bing and Yahoo Local listings are up to date.

19) Use your Bing Webmaster Tools account to look at your incoming links. How do they look? Are all of the sites relevant and on-topic?

If not, reevaluate your link building practices and start contacting any of the irrelevant sites you can and ask them to take down your link. A clean and relevant incoming link profile is important; cleaning up bad links is a necessity until we can tell Google and Bing which links we want them to ignore.

20) Make a slideshow of your products or record an original how-to video and upload to YouTube. Be sure to optimize your title and descriptions for YouTube. Once it’s uploaded, write a new page and embed the video on your own website. Add a transcription of the video if possible.
youtube tags

21) Try a new free keyword tool for researching website optimization. There are lots of free ones you can try in our expert-recommended list of free SEO tools.

22) Build a Facebook Page and work to engage those that are interested in your product or service. Facebook is a lot more difficult to master than it used to be if you’re not paying for reach, thanks to News Feed algorithm changes, but it’s still worth doing.

23) Start Tweeting or start doing it much better than you are now – it’s a great way to network with like-minded individuals. Also your Twitter feed will now show up for branded searches on Google.

24) Pinterest is still hot. If you have visually stimulating content that is relevant to the site’s demographic, you can find great success right now. Be sure you’re using solid practices for optimising Pinterest for search.

pinterest descriptions

25) Create a list in Twitter and follow profiles of industry experts you know and trust. Use this as your modern feed reader. As Carrie Hill states, “I don’t use RSS feed readers anymore. I like content that has been vetted by my peers and is worthy of a tweet or two.”

26) Try a new way to write an ad for a struggling PPC ad group or campaign.

27) Review your Google In-Page Analytics and take note of how users are interacting with your page. Where to they click, what is getting ignored. Make changes based on this knowledge.

28) Make sure your business appears in Google Maps and add descriptions for your storefront, locations, and nearby useful points of interest. Make your map public and embed it on your own website. Add links back to relevant content on your site if possible to each point of interest.

29) You can make your search results appear more attractive by adding Schema markup to the HTML of your pages. This can help turn your search results into a rich media snippets, adding star-ratings, customer ratings, images, and various other bits of helpful info…

30) Try submitting your website to Google News. You can check whether your site is eligible here. Bear in mind that you will have to verify your ownership of your site and make sure your using meta-tags correctly.

31) Make sure you website is mobile responsive and is of a decent speed, as these are both ranking signals. You can check both these very important factors using the Google Mobile and Speed Test.

32) Keep reading Search Engine Watch for more free tips and tricks. Yeah!

What will make your social audience click (if it’s not clickbait)?

his reaction is priceless

Facebook is cracking down on clickbait. Again. So what will make your social media audience click now?

As kids we would be excited about the “Did You Know?” section in books and Ripley’s Believe It or Not in the papers. Not much has changed except now we get excited about headlines like, “His reaction is priceless!” or, “You’ll never guess what happened next!”

Image source

The golden yardsticks of success in social media used to be sharing and engagement figures. However, these have proven to be just vanity metrics.

If people think you are wasting their precious time (and bandwidth) like in the example above, you’re staring obscurity in the eye.

Facebook has started penalizing content that doesn’t keep readers glued to their site for a long time. If your content falls in this category and fails to engage your audience, you can be in trouble.

The new science behind clicks

There are many theories, theses and hypotheses on what makes people click. One of the most common culprit turning up in most of these theories is the “curiosity gap.”

However, this curiosity gap is closing with every passing day; click baiting is a gray area and can eventually lead to trouble.

What’s worse, you just see positive benefits at the outset, and end up creating more and more crap, without realizing that the damage is irreversible.

A quick way to find out if your social media posts are clickbait or engaging, benefiting or hurting your brand, is to try sponsoring your posts for a while.

Create an A/B or multi-armed bandit test with and one without cliffhanger headlines.

However before you start the campaign, make sure you implement the basic tactics that help increase your CTR. This will ensure that you get a sizeable audience (statistically significant base) to run your test on, so you don’t end up spending a lot of money on inconclusive results.

At the end of the testing period, you’ll find that your clickbait posts might get a click spike and warm response in the beginning, but your gains will eventually taper out as the social media platform starts punishing your post, as well as your account page.

On the other, your engaging posts might not exactly start a fire, but will reward you with more visibility over a longer period of time (more about this later).

So instead of hankering after clicks, learn how to increase your engagement rate.

The new science of clicks is very simple – create great content, use relevant images at the right places, use phrases that create a sense of urgency, and most importantly, don’t insult your readers’ intelligence.

The rise and decline of clickbait

The days of curiosity-inducing stories are numbered, if we are to believe Adam Mosseri, the VP of product management for the Facebook News Feed. Facebook has been battling clickbait spam since 2014, but this time their update promises to ban publishers and content farms who thrive on spammy content outright.

For those who live by clickbait, the writing on the wall is clear: when algorithms become smarter, when your audience becomes more discerning, what then? Barring clickbait articles, do you have the remotest idea of what makes your social media audience click?

When Facebook asked people what sort of content they preferred to see in their News Feed, an overwhelming majority of the respondents (80%) said they preferred headlines that were clear and unambiguous indicators of the content of the article.

Users don’t like to be misled or disappointed, so instead of inducing curiosity before they click through, induce awe and respect after they start consuming your content.

And it seems, Facebook is hard at work already. My Facebook feed seems magically cleansed, with no BuzzFeed, Upworthy, or other “viral” content plugging my feed.

The future of social media: best practice

I’d like to dissect a few posts from my Facebook as well as Twitter feed in an attempt to understand what kind of headlines and content will work in future.

Facebook:

This post is from BBC. I admire the fact that they haven’t used clickbait as a crutch and spoiled the emotional moment. The sheer use of raw emotion and disregard of any hashtags by BBC Sports as well as BBC News speak volumes about the changing science of clicks.

Look at the reactions and comments they’ve got, despite ignoring the so-called “social media rules.”

bbc facebook

Image source

Want to know how Facebook rewarded this post?

It is no secret that most posts live for only five hours on Facebook (it takes longer for food to be digested).

But look at the time on the above post closely. It was floating about in my feed an astounding 12 hours after it was posted!

This is the benefit I was talking about earlier. “Good” content may take time to catch up, but it will be eventually rewarded by social media users and platforms alike.

Twitter:

The 140-character limitation is a blessing in disguise for Twitter users. Thanks to this restriction, the Twitter feed is comparatively less spam-free. What’s more, Twitter users are a more discerning lot (I’m open for a debate on this opinion), which ensures clickbait doesn’t have a chance to survive.

But just to be sure, here’s a tweet from NY Times about their Rio Olympics Issue, which clearly spells out how your social media posts should be like:

The most dominant swimmer in the pool is Katie Ledecky. The question isn’t whether she’ll win, but by how much. https://t.co/WKoAbRiZhN

— The New York Times (@nytimes) August 8, 2016

The tweet is clear on what the article contains and promises not to insult readers’ intelligence.

Now compare it with the following and imagine being at the receiving end of such mindless tweets:

Everyone Knows What Katie Did But It’s NOT What You Think

Did This Swimming Sensation Strike Gold Or Nah?

Is Katie Ledecky THE Most Talked About Athlete In Olympic History?

No words, right?

Another great point about this tweet: note how the snippet provides further information on what the post talks about. It’s clear someone will click on the article only if this stuff interests them.

Here’s another example:

Creativity Pick: Ikea imagines Instagram for the 17th century in funny spot https://t.co/xR7Vq57fgF pic.twitter.com/DxJIILI35H

— Ad Age (@adage) August 8, 2016

Ad Age is not always particularly bright on Twitter, but this one pretty much sums up how to respect your audience on social media.

One glance and you know the tweet is about the latest Ikea ad, it is funny, and that it has been chosen by their team as a “Creativity Pick,” which means it would be good.

All in all, it’s a given that if you click on this tweet, you won’t go “Meh.”

Final words

We’ve seen some shining examples of how to respect your audience. True, you may get fewer clicks on your posts, but those clicks would be from people more likely to read your content from start to end and with a propensity to be loyal readers down the line.

In the future, this is what it will all boil down to. So stop obsessing over clicks and just worry about the quality of your content.

And if you have more examples or ideas on of how to engage your audience without a “churn and burn” attitude towards content or clicks, see you in the comments!