Five most important search marketing news stories of the week

automated-content

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 new updates from Bing Ads and AdWords, plus a glimpse into the automated future where robots can write these search news round-ups instead of me.

*kicks coffee machine for not pulling its weight*

Upgraded URLs now available in Bing Ads

According to a Bing Ads blog post this week, it has launched Upgraded URLs to simplify tracking campaign performance.

With Upgraded URLs, you can quickly make updates to your tracking codes and keep your ads running. According to the post, the major benefits are:

  • More efficient tracking management: Manage and update tracking information for multiple URLs with a single shared tracking template.
  • Less down time, more conversions and clicks: Quickly and confidently make tracking changes to your URLs using an account-level tracking template without your ads being sent to review by our policy team.
  • Additional tracking insights: Track additional insights with new custom parameters and dynamic text substitutions to learn more about the source of your ad clicks.

And here’s a handy video that can explain things far better than I can:

More than half of large UK retailers struggle to connect in-store and online

New research by RetailMeNot reveals that while 92% of large retailers are now selling online, surprisingly nearly two-fifths are failing to offer consistent pricing across all channels.

Here are some more stats from the survey:

  • 59% of retailers are recognising that a lack of visibility across channels to be the biggest challenge they face today.
  • 42% are restructuring their business and integrating their in-store and online teams together, to deliver a more consistent experience.
  • Almost two-fifths are redirecting their usually separate channel-specific marketing budget toward one fully-integrated multichannel budget.
  • 73% of retailers are now recognising that mobile and email can help close this gap and are ramping up tech investment across multiple channels to drive online shoppers in-store.

Is automated content the next evolution for marketers?

As Al Roberts reported this week, marketers have high hopes for automated content. According to a study conducted by Forrester Research, a growing number of senior marketers in the US and Europe have positive sentiment around automated content production.

Three-quarters of those Forrester polled believe that automated content creation will make it easier “to maintain and update content,” a logical expectation.

More than half (56%) expect that automating content creation will give them the ability to produce content that is modular and can be assembled dynamically, while nearly half (47%) see automated content as a means to adjust and respond in real time.

Google AdWords will return null Quality Scores from September

As reported by Matt Southern in Search Engine Journal, Google AdWords will begin to report on null Quality Scores for both new keywords and keywords lacking recent click and impression data.

According to Matt, “Currently, when a Quality Score cannot be determined, AdWords defaults to reporting a score of ‘6′. Come September 12, you’ll start seeing dashes in place Quality Scores when you either add new keywords to a campaign, or have keywords in your campaign that do not have any recent activity.”

The global evolution of social media

We’re not above just popping something in the news round-up just because we think it’s cool, and luckily this is both cool and interesting!

The On Blast Blog has created a lovely interactive infographic of the evolution of social media across the globe, across all the major social changels.

You can see the infographic in action on the On Blast Blog.

global evolution

And that’s your lot for this week. I’m going to go apologise to the coffee machine now. It’s stopped giving me coffee. I think it’s upset.

36 indispensably useful social media tools for your business

hootsuite-core-analytics-screenshot

Social media management can become very time consuming, and that’s why we have compiled a list of some of the best tools to enhance your social efforts.

Whether you’re a small business or a large corporation, these tools can be useful for everyone trying to create a consistent social presence.

And many are free to use…

Social scheduling

Hootsuite

Hootsuite is among the most popular social media management platforms, offering an overview of all your social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, LinkedIn, Instagram), along with the option to create and schedule content, analyse performance, and monitor your favorite topics and hashtags.

It also features a Beta Campaign Builder, which makes social campaign creation even easier.

Buffer

Buffer is another popular option for social media management, focusing on content creation and scheduling, with a user interface that makes the process easier and faster.

What’s more, its Business version offers powerful analytics for content scheduled through the platform, analysing engagement, reach, the clicks on each post, and also the performance of your profiles at set or custom periods of time.

My favourite feature is the quick ability to re-buffer content, to spot for example the most successful posts and load them again at your posting queue, after any necessary editing.

Sendible

Sendible is a powerful social media management dashboard, blending content creation, scheduling and analysis of social accounts, also offering brand and reputation monitoring, along with Social CRM to turn followers into clients.

MeetEdgar

Edgar allows you to organise and schedule your content in order to make sure that your social networks (Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn) never run out of content.

What makes it special is the ability to load content to your library depending on its category, set your preferred posting schedule and let Edgar handle the rest.

SocialOomph

SocialOomph allows you to schedule content on your social networks, monitor your social activity, track keywords, and find the right people to follow.

CoSchedule

WP_FeatureGraphics_WPCal

CoSchedule is another useful tool to help you create, organise, and schedule your social posts and what makes it even more effective is its integration with a WordPress blog, which can help you plan, create, schedule and promote your editorial content.

Sprout Social

Sprout Social is a complete social media management platform, allowing you to schedule, publish, and analyse your content.

Moreover, it is offering a useful social customer service directly through its platform, with the reports on engagement and trends providing useful insights on your social activity and the topics you want to follow.

Monitoring

TweetDeck

Tweetdeck

TweetDeck may remind you of Hootsuite’s interface, but it is focused on Twitter, offering a complete experience for scheduling content, monitoring activity, tracking mentions, hashtags, topics, etc.

It can be very effective in real-time tracking and it even allows you to manage multiple accounts.

Brand24

Brand24 have been used by many brands as an efficient way to track real-time information, whether it’s about social insights, competitors, trending topics, or mentions.

It even provides an influencer score to help you discover the right people, along with a sentiment analysis to filter each mention.

Klear

Klear (formerly known as Twtrland) allows you to monitor, report and analyze social users, finding the right people for each occasion by accessing 500 million profiles, 60,000 categories and 5 years of historical data.

Brandwatch

Brandwatch offers social insights and monitoring of a brand’s social conversations, while there’s also the option to analyse trends, hashtags, people to find what’s relevant for your brand.

The coverage of more than 80 million online sources makes the platform very effective, with social listening, reputation management and competition monitoring making ROI easier.

Social Clout

Social Clout is another monitoring tool that allows you to track even in real-time conversations in Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, LinkedIn, or Instagram, while it also offers keyword research, analytics, sentiment analysis and competitive analysis.

Analytics

Facebook Insights

Facebook Insights is a reliable analytics platform for Facebook Pages, as it offers the main insights that are relevant for brand pages.

From the best times to post to a basic analysis of the audience, it can be a useful starting point for the analysis of the most successful posts, while “Pages to Watch” can also help you track your competitors.

Twitter Analytics

Twitter Analytics is simple but still effective to analyse the performance of your tweets, the impressions, the engagement, the followers, also featuring the top tweets, the monthly performance and the visits to the profile.

twitter anal

Buzzsumo

Buzzsumo is used by many brands as a powerful platform to analyse the content that performs better for any topic, or competitor, providing social data for any page.

This can be very helpful for a brand trying to understand the type of content that works well, from the topic, to the right social channels.

It is also useful for finding the key influencers for each case, while it can show the most shared posts for each topic, useful insights into what people talk about (and how a brand can jump in any of these topics).

BuzzSumo

LikeAlyzer

LikeAlyzer is another useful tool that helps you analyse your Facebook Page and the effectiveness of your content.

It helps you explore the best ways to handle the content of your Facebook Page by monitoring and comparing what could lead to further success.

FollowerWonk

FollowerWonk was created by Moz to analyse your Twitter profile, helping you discover, measure, optimise your efforts, while it may also be useful when you’re trying to discover the right influencers.

It’s an easy way to sort your followers by the number of tweets, following, followers, or even the social authority.

Crowdbooster

Crowdbooster helps you measure and optimise your social media efforts, providing real-time data, hashtag reports, analysis of your most popular posts on Facebook and Twitter, while it may also help you discover the most engaged fans and followers.

Audiense

Audisense (formerly known as SocialBro) offers a free tool for Twitter users (with up to 5000 social contacts -both followings and followers-) allowing you to analyse your followers, their region, their interests, segmenting them accordingly, and also helping you discover more relevant people to follow.

It also helps you select the best times to tweet. Although it might not be suitable for brands, it’s still a useful tool you might want to try out.

Monitoring Hashtags / Trending topics

Spredfast

Monitor online conversations, search for hashtags and find what’s relevant for your brand. There’s also an option for optimal scheduling time and management of multiple social accounts.

Hashtagify

Hashtagify

This is another popular option for discovering, analysing and amplifying your content through the search of the right hashtags, but also the right influencers.

Keyhole

Keyhole is a real-time hashtag tracker for Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, helping you discover the best opportunities for your brand to jump on a relevant trending topic.

Tweetbinder

This is another popular option for big brands, as it helps you analyse, curate, display, and search for hashtags, keywords, and mentions in Twitter and Instagram.

Creating visual content

There are many tools for visual content creation and here are only some of them, giving you an idea of all the different ways that you can create visual content to improve your social efforts.

Canva

Canva

Canva is probably among the most popular choices for the creation of visual content and it’s extremely useful when trying to create the right visual content for each social network.

From the customization of imagesize, to the numerous available templates, it’s a reliable solution for any type of image that you want to have ready as fast as possible, without compromising on its quality (and without being a graphic designer).

Pablo by Buffer

Buffer has built Pablo to help you create visual content while you’re using its scheduling platform, offering a simple and fast solution for your social posts.

It may not be as powerful as Canva, but it still has a large library of images and it helps you create appealing images for all the popular social networks.

Adobe Spark Post

Adobe wanted to create its own quick solution for visual content creation, and it created Spark Post, as an alternative to Canva. In fact, there’s a big similarity between the two.

Stencil

Stencil (formerly known as Share As Image) is another useful option for the quick creation of visual content, offering more than 700,000 backgrounds and 200,000 icons for you to create the perfect image for your social post.

The user interface is simple and effective and you may save your image as a template to speed up your next creations.

More options to consider

IFTTT

IFTTT

IFTTT is a powerful automation platform that can be useful in many different ways. It relies on the “cause and effect” and it helps you link one platform with another, to simplify your posting on social media.

For example, you can activate the option to automatically post all your Facebook posts to LinkedIn, which means that IFTTT will save you time from manually doing it on your own.

Moreover, you can activate the option to save all your Instagram posts to Google Drive, to create a backup of your posts.

There is a large database of available “recipes” and I suggest you try this out, as it can be very useful, though it’s always important to keep automation in moderation to make sure you don’t surrender too much control over your social posting.

AgoraPulse

AgoraPulse can be very useful for your the management of your Facebook and Twitter presence, offering customer relationship management software, applications, analytics reports, contests and more.

Socedo

Socedo is a very useful tool for the automation of the lead generation through social media. It works with Twitter and LinkedIn and it may help any business find the right leads and include them in its sales funnel.

SocialFlow

SocialFlow allows you to manage all your paid, owned and earned campaigns in a useful platform that also helps you discover the posts that would be relevant for your business.

It also offers keyword tracking and the right segmentation to increase the effectiveness of your campaigns.

Inkybee

Inkybee is very useful when you’re trying to discover the right influencers and celebrities that could benefit your brand’s social efforts.

Bit.ly

Bit.ly may be known as a link shortener, but it is also has a useful analytics platform to monitor the effectiveness of your posts.

As it can be integrated in all your editorial and social efforts, the analytics platform can become very useful.

Tailwind

Tailwind

Tailwind is a very useful tool for your Pinterest and Instagram marketing efforts.

It first started focusing on Pinterest, helping you discover content, schedule posts, monitor conversations, launch promotions and analyse its results, but it soon expanded to Instagram, making it even more appealing.

Tweepi

Tweepi is a tool focusing on Twitter, helping you discover the right influencers, interacting with them and keeping track of the engagement and the way the conversation goes.

Little Bird

Little Bird is another tool that helps you discover, target and engage with influencers on social media.

In summary

There are so many tools out there that we could add to this list, so here I’ve listed a mixture of the most popular tools, along with some lesser known ones that could be useful for you.

Feel free to bookmark/share/save this list for future reference and we’d love to hear your own suggestions for additions.

How UX designers and SEOs can work together

SEO optimisation can be improved with the analysis of your data

There’s been an awkward separation between UX and SEO in previous years, and it’s always difficult to move past an ‘us and them’ mentality. But if your business is going to be on track for success, then both need to be working in harmony.

It is the duty of SEOs to stay perpetually up to date with how Google algorithms work so be sure you listen to their opinions, even if they’re talking design issues.

Thankfully, SEO and UX are gradually merging into the same thing, which is good news for everyone.

Visitors receive a better experience, businesses have a guide on how to satisfy their customer needs (assuming they research how the algorithm works) and UX designers and SEOs can finally put their differences aside and work together.

Here are several practical ways in which SEOs and UX designers can achieve this goal…

Website visitor metrics to help UX

Nowadays, the job of SEOs is centred around understanding as much as possible about the website in order to inform the design process.

To gain a thorough understanding, data gathering will involve looking in Google Analytics for typical metrics such as audience demographics, user journeys, popular page content, what users are searching for on your site, how long a user will remain on content, how quickly a website loads and how far a user scrolls down a page.

This data is extremely important for designers as it helps them create a website architecture, layout and depth of content that will help their users navigate easily to content that they’re interested in without thinking too hard.

In other words, SEOs discover the kind of experience users want and UX designers implement it.

Analysing Google ranking positions to spot areas for UX improvement

Knowing where pages on your website rank is important, especially during the research phase.

To a designer, an SEO gathering Google rankings won’t help their design process because it appears to be more of a marketing activity than a UX one. However, understanding where pages on your website rank/don’t rank will make an SEO question the pages on the site and investigate technical issues, content and competitors that are ranking well.

From their analysis, an SEO can make sure designers are supplied with content more fitting to users’ expectations. This content can be integrated into the website. SEOs can also report on any technical issues to consider during the user’s journey, such as popups and internal linking.

Ongoing reporting and improvements

When a new website (design) is launched, it’s the start of the journey, rather than the end of a project. UX designers produce a product based on experience, skill and insight, but, despite their best efforts, the user may experience some pains when using the website.

In order to monitor and interpret potential UX problems, it’s vital the website is set up in a manner that allows you to gather real experience data. This insight will drive future website changes to alleviate any pain experienced by the user.

This is where SEOs can help.

In order for Google Analytics to track accurate user behaviour on websites, it’s important that goals and events are configured correctly. In addition, setting up advanced segments and filters will help provide in-depth understanding rather than vanity metrics.

Be wary of vanity metrics – they can completely skew an understanding of how well the user is experiencing the website.

Finally, it’s also vital to connect the Google Search Console as the data provided can help fix broken links, speed up a website, improve mobile friendliness and provide more engaging metadata, helping the relevance of the content to the end user.

Jamie Schaedel is Technical Director of Dusted and a contributor to SEW. This is an adapted version of his previously published blog post.

Five factors for global SEO success

top countries for internet use

Building a search presence globally might seem like fighting through mobile and laptop screens one at a time, but it’s actually much easier than that.

Around the world, in the realms of a number of search engines are billions of internet users, across 201 potential markets.

http://www.internetlivestats.com/internet-users-by-country/

Businesses with global aspirations will have plenty of options for growth, but wildly hammering duplicate pages across numerous websites and changing the page title obviously isn’t going to work, so what is?

1) Cross country research tactics

Use every SEO tool at your disposal to build up an image of how a website is performing across regions, this includes the geotargeting section of your analytics, any ranking software used and link location/IP tracking.

In the first instance it gives an immediate insight to how a website performs multi-nationally, beyond this it allows for the creation of keyword targeting and user profiling. Each essential in their own right.

In the end you’ll want an understanding of how the website performs in each target location separately, with a view to identifying common trends in each location for improvement.

world map

Build a strategy out from here covering each element or measurement you are after, start with the basics:

simple chart

You can expand this to include lead types, landing/exit pages, interaction on site, abandonment and even PPC campaign success. Look at each location individually initially and then pair information across regions and countries to identify strengths and weaknesses in particular areas.

2) Seasonality and cultural differences

Getting the desired result in any SEO campaign takes an element of planning alongside seasonal trends, global SEO is no different.

Think about the different breaks in search volumes in each market, search trends, top search engines used and user journeys.

Different markets will mean users have different routes to eventual conversion. A fantastic starting place for managing this is to use Google’s Journey to Conversion tool per region. This will give immediate insight to average search to sale trends and aid in attributing budget accordingly across target markets.

marketing channels

marketing channels germany

The two above examples show the routes to conversion for Business and Industrial customers in both US and Germany – two of the top 15 markets outlined earlier.

Notably, the initial awareness of both begins in different locations online, and paid quickly follows. However, the big difference is where organic search falls into the mix.

Understand the role organic search plays in each target market and utilise the space effectively.

3) Go multilingual

If you’re targeting multiple languages, then ensure the website runs in this way and add hreflangtags to each page to ensure the right website is showing in the right location.

This is the greatest and most immediate signal to send to search crawlers to let them know the site offers different options.

In the above mentioned research you’ll also have a bunch of key phrases and search trends per country, so it’s possible to adapt and update page information based on the user intent and the types of searches likely to draw leads in each market.

Multilingual-ness also works in content. Build up internal linking and strength of the website in content or blog sections of your site. Building authority takes time, but stick with it.

4) Domain extensions

Beyond the hreflang tagging, it is important to also include the use of domain extension. Simply owning a redirecting to the relevant hreflang extension allows for you to control the brand presence around the world.

For example, software company Talentia Software uses multiple domain extensions to manage the different types of output across European markets.

As such, dependant on location, we see:

UK website:

talentia uk

Spanish website:

talentia spanish

Italian website:

talentia italian

5) Link building

Link auditing, link building and eventually content marketing should take place in each target location.

The main approach here, like any link building campaign, is to split target linking websites into target campaigns.

Each country should have a pool of websites worth targeting to increase the content that engages users to do something on a page: those that provide resources, those which offer a platform for a brand to be heard and finally those which are simple listings.

Splitting five target locations, in to four broad boxes, gives you 20 options for global link targeting and makes the entire process much more manageable from an inside source.

table of links resources and country

Any global SEO campaign is going to take effort and time, the varied nature of markets and user trends is a tricky variable to manage. Simple steps and an outward facing approach make the entire approach simpler, easier and much more manageable.

Keith Hodges is an Account Manager at POLARIS and a contributor to SEW.

Google AMP update: who benefits the most?

A simple flow chart to determine if your brand should implement Google AMP

Google continues to shake up mobile search in its goal to perfect user experience. Earlier this month, they announced that they will extend the reach of Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) to all mobile search engine results.

Whereas the original rollout limited AMP results to the “Top Stories” carousel, this update will allow all types of publishers to serve AMP pages within the mobile SERP.

However, this extension will not have as much of an impact on organic traffic. Google has explicitly stated that moving to AMP will not necessarily result in a rankings boost. Instead, if a webpage is ranking and has an AMP version available, Google will serve the AMP URL.

Recap: what is AMP?

AMP is an open-source initiative meant to create a more streamlined mobile user experience by reducing page size and load times. I previously speculated about AMP’s potential impact on publishers when Google announced the original February 2016 rollout.

Since then, AMP adoption has been wide. The AMP Project website lists close to 300 big-name brands using the framework, and Google estimates that there are 4 million new pages being indexed every week.

With this latest change, we can expect to see adoption increase precipitously.

Who will benefit from implementing AMP?

Of course, this raises the question of which sites will benefit the most from AMP.

According to Google’s Washington Post case study, there was a 23% increase in return visitors with AMP. It stands to reason that if a large percentage of your site’s traffic comes from mobile users and you’re constantly churning out content, then AMP makes sense, as the shorter load times mean higher content consumption rates. Not to mention that the one-time implementation of the AMP framework will affect an exponential number of pages as time goes on.

A simple flow chart to determine if your brand should implement Google AMP

Who shouldn’t implement AMP?

It’s also worth noting that AMP is not without its detractors.

Based on anecdotal data, AMP Top Stories may actually result in lower CTR from the SERP. So it’s likely that the AMP icon next to traditional search results will also not have a significant impact on CTR.

And if the bulk of your site revenue stems from ad formats or partnerships that aren’t AMP-compatible, then AMP may not be right for you either.

Furthermore, if your brand doesn’t have a mobile-optimized site (whether responsive, subdomain/subdirectory, etc.), then AMP is not a band-aid. In these cases, your site is already at a disadvantage in mobile search, since mobile-friendliness has officially been a ranking factor since April’s community-dubbed “Mobilegeddon” update.

Therefore, if your site doesn’t already show up as mobile-friendly, having an AMP version (paradoxically) does not count as a mobile site and will not improve your organic visibility.

The better use of development resources would be to create a mobile-friendly version of your site, as mobile users can also reach your content in a variety of other ways (direct traffic, referrals, other search engines, etc.).

If your mobile experience is rooted in using an app, then app indexation is a much better route than AMP. This includes app-first experiences (like Uber) or sites with extensive security features that are not easily accessible in browsers (like bank apps).

Last but not least, it’s no coincidence that AMP encourages users to stay within Google’s ecosystem (if the persistent blue “back” bar is any indication). If your business relies on seamless multiple-page sessions, AMP is likely not the best experience for that, as it limits top level navigation and links open in new browser windows.

amp pages

Clicking a Top Stories carousel link loads an AMP page with the option to swipe for more related AMP-formatted content (see the persistent AMP bar at top with carousel indicator dots)

amp pages on serp

Clicking an AMP results from the standard mobile SERP will open a stripped down version of the page with fewer navigational options, and a persistent blue bar with a call-to-action that brings users back to their Google search

Future considerations

There are a lot of big ifs in Google’s roadmap for AMP, many of them outside of Google’s control.

If AMP sees wider adoption, then we’ll likely see more ad technologies adopt to be AMP-friendly. And if certain content formats receive good engagement, then Google may roll out standardized best practices for displaying that content (like they did with microformats).

Lastly, Google may also roll out AMP to support Ecommerce functionality as well. Back in June, eBay became a self-appointed guinea pig, creating AMP versions of their product listing pages (but not the auction pages themselves).

It was a proof-of-concept that shop sites could use AMP for mid-funnel content, and a potential argument for Google to extend functionality to pages with transactional functionalities as well.

Of course, the checkout process would be a big hurdle to overcome, much like ad formats. Perhaps linking from AMP listing pages to deep-linked app product pages could be a viable strategy.

Takeaways

If your site is already mobile-friendly, and you want to encourage content consumption, AMP may be right for you. When AMP is available for non-news publishers, we’ll likely get more case studies from Google about user interaction behaviors.

However, if you want to get ahead of the curve, Google has provided documentation and it’s straightforward enough to implement AMP.

Kenny Chung is the Manager, SEO, DigitasLBi and a contributor to SEW.

Marketers have high hopes for automated content

automated-content

In a poll conducted to accompany the ClickZ Intelligence Digital Trends 2016 report, nearly a quarter of respondents identified content marketing as the key trend for their company this year.

But despite the widespread adoption of content marketing, companies still face numerous challenges in putting it to use effectively. For example, the majority of companies don’t have a dedicated content marketing team. Instead, many task their marketing departments with content marketing responsibilities.

Given the difficulties companies face in producing content, it’s probably not a surprise that according to a study conducted by Forrester Research on behalf of cognitive content platform provider Persado, a growing number of senior marketers in the US and Europe have high hopes for automated content production.

Three-quarters of those Forrester polled believe that automated content creation will make it easier “to maintain and update content,” a logical expectation.

More than half (56%) expect that automating content creation will give them the ability to produce content that is modular and can be assembled dynamically, while nearly half (47%) see automated content as a means to adjust and respond in real time.

But marketers’ expectations don’t stop there. Indeed, large percentages of those surveyed believe that automated content creation won’t just increase volume and speed, but help them improve the efficacy of their content marketing altogether.

For instance, 43% believe automated content creation will help “customize content to achieve better customer engagement” and 38% think it can help them “leverage customer emotional triggers in order to deliver more impactful content.”

30% and 29% even anticipate that automating content creation will increase new customer acquisition rates and boost customer loyalty, respectively.

Unrealistic expectations?

The problem for marketers is that automated content creation technologies may not be able to deliver on those more ambitious expectations.

Even the co-founder of Persado, the company that commissioned the Forrester study, told TechCrunch, “to get to a place where a machine can turn out an article with (ideally) some creativity and critical analysis will take another 20 years.”

What’s more, the biggest problems organizations face in making content marketing work are not about technology, or even content production, as evidenced by the fact that half of content companies produce is never put to use.

Instead, the biggest challenge holding content marketing back is lack of clear strategy and the third biggest is conflicting goals between departments.

content-barriers

So while automated content production will almost certainly increase as content marketing becomes an even more important part of the digital marketing mix, to take real advantage of these technologies, companies will need to ensure that their content marketing efforts are grown up.

Ecommerce blogging: five proven reasons why it should be part of your SEO strategy

evergreen

Should ecommerce businesses blog?

That’s a question many ecommerce business owners find confusing; it’s easy to visualize the benefit a small business with a few products can get by blogging, but when you run an ecommerce store with hundreds or thousands of products, is there still any benefit to blogging?

Apparently, there is.

According to research by Seewhy, 99% of people won’t buy on their first visit to your site. There’s also a popular marketing axiom called ‘the rule of 7′. It says that many of your prospects won’t buy from you until they have seen your marketing message at least seven times.

To top it all, there’s the issue with SEO. Google and all other search engines that matter LOVE content; having more content – especially targeted, optimized content – will go a long way to boost your overall search engine rankings, leading to more sales for you.

If you run an ecommerce store, blogging can still serve as a good way to give yourself a dramatic boost in search traffic and sales.

Here are five proven ways to use blogging as a core part of your ecommerce SEO strategy:

1) Publish longer, more comprehensive content

When you want to compete with major competitors who are often willing to spend millions of dollars on SEO to promote individual product and category pages, blogging just might be your saving grace.

It’s no secret that Google really loves content, and having rich and informative content of any kind automatically gives you an advantage over a product page.

If you want to compete for major keywords, however, you need more than just “content.” You need comprehensive evergreen content.

Several studies have been conducted to determine the kind of content that leads to high search engine rankings and the consensus is that longer content of above 1,000 words rank better.

In fact, an authoritative study by serpIQ concluded that you need content of at least 2,000 words to rank in the top 10 positions in Google.

There are many benefits to publishing longer, more comprehensive content. These include:

  • Google and other search engines naturally loves authoritative, comprehensive content.
  • You have a higher chance of getting more traffic through long-tail keywords.
  • Research shows that longer content get more social shares and backlinks – all factors that influence search engine rankings

If you really want to make blogging work for your ecommerce business, be sure to invest in long-form content.

2) Publish more content

You need to work on your content frequency if you want blogging to really work for your ecommerce business. Publishing whenever you feel like it, or publishing one or two articles a week, won’t cut it for an ecommerce business.

You need to ensure that you’re constantly creating new content that promotes your core categories and product pages. For this to really make an impact you need to publish more content.

Interestingly, statistics from Hubspot show that businesses that publish 16+ blog posts per month get up to 3.5 times more traffic than businesses that publish less than four blog posts per month.

As the statistics show, content quality alone isn’t sufficient. Quantity and frequency matter too. Publishing more content will make blogging more effective for your ecommerce business.

3) Make your blog a core part of your internal link building

Internal link building is one of the most effective and underrated on-page SEO techniques. Many people are crazy about getting links from external sources, which can be time-consuming, yet they ignore precious real estate on their own websites that can help improve SEO visibility for some of their key pages.

In a recent case study, Mention was able to increase their search traffic by a whopping 373% in 6 weeks by implementing on-page SEO strategies. Apparently, internal link building played a key role in this increase.

It’s highly unlikely that people will want to link to a commercial product page on your ecommerce store, but they are much more likely to link to an informative article on your blog. This leads to more page authority for your blog posts, which you can channel to key product pages by directly linking to them from your articles.

4) Make it a core part of your link building strategy

To enjoy great search engine rankings you need a lot of links, but how likely are people to link out to a product page on your ecommerce store without receiving some sort of compensation from you? Highly unlikely.

However, how likely are they to link to your blog? Very likely.

Linkbuilding

You can effectively use blogging to boost your domain authority and search traffic to your individual posts; these individual posts can then channel this traffic to your top product and category pages.

Many people have reported experiencing a massive boost in search traffic from using an outreach strategy like the Skyscraper Technique to promote their blog posts, but it’s highly unlikely that you can use similar strategies to boost traffic to ecommerce pages.

For these techniques to work, you need quality content for people to link to. The solution is instead to write high quality content (on your blog), then do effective outreach to get people to link to this content. The content improves in search engine rankings, links back to your product pages and funnels some link juice and traffic back to these pages.

Also, the data doesn’t lie. Statistics from Hubspot show that businesses that blog get 97% more links than businesses that do not blog.

5) Answer user questions

Most of the queries people type into Google and other search engines are in the form of questions. If you run a wedding ecommerce store, it isn’t unusual to have people searching for “what is the best wedding dress?”

WEDDING DRESS SEARCH

Naturally, you can’t title your product pages “what is the best wedding dress?”, but you can create a blog post with just that title. This blog post can then go further and compare various wedding dresses based on certain factors and then link to these individual dresses on your store.

Blogging makes it easy to create content tailored to queries users have. You can then use this content to drive traffic and sales to individual products.

Conclusion

I’ve been a blogging coach for years now (having helped thousands of people setup their own blogs). However, I’ve found the question of whether blogging can be used for ecommerce to be one of the most confusing ones among business owners.

On the surface, there seem to be no connection between blogging and ecommerce. When you consider the above usages of blogging however, it makes sense that it is a perfect fit for an ecommerce business.

Robert Mening is a blogging consultant, entrepreneur and founder of the Website Setup blogging project.

Snapchat moves into personalised mobile search

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Is Snapchat considering an expansion into contextual search as a way to experiment with new promising features?

Snapchat is not ready to surrender from the continuous effort to stay competitive and although a battle with Facebook and Instagram may be hard, it is still examining new paths to expand, hoping to maintain its relevance.

Snapchat is buying Vurb

According to The Information, Snapchat is about to buy Vurb for more than $100 million, flirting with personalised mobile search.

The deal is rumoured to include both cash and stock options, leading up to $200 million for the purchase of the winner of TechCrunch Disrupt of 2014.

Although Snapchat doesn’t usually confirm all its moves, Business Insider has confirmed the deal, which means that it’s time to learn more about Vurb and why Snapchat paid this sum to acquire it.

What we need to know about Vurb

Vurb is a personalised search and recommendation app that compiles data from many different apps in order to facilitate the mobile search function for users in the most simple and personalised way.

It sounds like a mobile version of Google’s Knowledge Graph, but in a more appealing way, including more options.

Vurb is promoting its app with the phrase: “search less, do more”, which shows its focus on tailored searches full of rich content and personalised recommendations.

It’s an app that lets users read reviews before planning a movie night, get directions through Google Maps, request an Uber ride, or make a reservation to their favourite restaurant.

What’s more, it is also offering dynamic and shareable lists named Vurb Decks as a personalised curation of a user’s favourite places and interests. While Vurb Chat enhances communication and once again makes the sharing of any type of information easy and functional.

The focus on community is shown by the ability to follow recommendations from influencers and friends, while the Today tab that was recently introduced allows people to stay up-to-date with the latest worldwide trends, again depending on their interests.

Last but not least, search results are prioritised depending on the user’s personal preferences, the location, the time, or even the local weather.

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It feels like a competitor for Google Now, or Siri, but now it’s up to Snapchat to decide how to use this technology.

How Snapchat could use Vurb’s concept

  • Adding search: the contextual search function in Snapchat’s platform can offer numerous new opportunities and we’d love to see its evolution with such an addition
  • Going local: the personalised search results based on interests, but also the location of each user may lead to further integration of localised marketing. How about snaps that activate “Vurbs” from local businesses?
  • Improving chat: chat communication can become more interesting and certainly more functional, with the integration of Vurb’s concept, leading to further engagement among passionate Snapchat users, since they may be able to book any reservation directly from their favourite platform.
  • Boost discovery function: new Snapchat users tend to complain about the lack of proper discovery among friends and celebrities, at least not in the way they may do in other social networks, and Vurb’s personalised discovery could contribute towards the improvement of this problem.
  • Creating its own bots: what if Snapchat created its own bots, following Messenger’s plans, to integrate Vurb with its chat app to help both users and brands?
  • Boosting engagement: Snapchat was already proud of its highly engaged audience that visits the app daily and this could grow even more if Snapchat users were able to perform more actions directly through the app.
  • Increasing conversion: Snapchat is focusing on the Discover section lately, hoping it can attract more brands to its platform, while helping users find interesting snaps. Vurb may be a very useful addition for this direction, as it may increase the conversion rate, for example, blending the curation of snaps from a movie premiere, with the ability to purchase your tickets through the app. How does that sound?
  • Geo-ads monetisation: We are unsure whether Snapchat is thinking towards this direction (at least for the time being), but it would be an interesting idea to see localised results featuring relevant advertising from nearby businesses. This could be very appealing for many business owners trying to approach a demanding target audience, enticing more brands to join the platform.

Snapchat gets serious

All the above suggestions on how Snapchat could use Vurb offer an indication of how such an acquisition may open new paths for the popular social platform, but yet, we are still waiting for Snapchat to make any official announcement, or even to present a new technology in the near future that could hint the integration of Vurb.

In case you’re still wondering whether the addition of Vurb was a good idea for Snapchat, here’s a title found on Vurb’s blog regarding its app, which I personally found as the best summary on what Snapchat sees in the particular app:

“The Next Step for Mobile Search: Community, Content, and Personalized Recommendations”

We cannot predict what the future holds for both the apps, but what we can tell is that Snapchat is probably heading in the right direction, trying to stand out with its own unique features while evolving them to maintain its relevance.

It won’t be easy in the next months (not even to mention the next years), but such acquisitions indicate that it is becoming serious about its future and its usefulness, both for users and brands. And this is a good sign.

10 tips to get your website to the top of Google search

micro moments

Back when we first published a 10 step guide on how to top Google search, the world of organic and paid search was a vastly different place.

Sure it was only three years ago (almost to the day), but my how the landscape has changed.

In 2013, to get to the top of Google it was merely a manner of doing some killer keyword research, ensuring your site had a good and clear structure and making sure you had a ton of high authority backlinks coming your way.

And although these are all still very relevant practices today, we also now have to contend with these brand new factors too…

Disclaimer: there are hundreds of things you need to do to improve search visibility, this is a list concentrating on the more recent developments.

1) Optimise for RankBrain

RankBrain is Google’s machine-learning AI system, which has been revealed by Google to one of the top three ranking signals in its vast array of contributing factors.

Google uses RankBrain to handle ambiguous or unique questions that have never been asked before. Brand new queries make up to 15% of all searches a day – and as Google processes 3bn searches daily – this means that 450m searches a day are entirely unique.

Machine learning is clearly necessary to cope with this huge demand, and for search marketers it may be difficult to truly optimise for.

However according to our recent post on how to optimise content for RankBrain, you can do so in a number of ways, the most important being… Create content that answers unique queries that are particularly relevant to your audience personas.

This will take time, research and a little trial & error, but with enough references and supporting information in your clearly formatted, long-form content, you may start to see more visibility for relevant queries.

2) Optimise for ‘near me’ search queries

According to Google, ‘micro-moments’ are the “critical touch points within today’s consumer journey, and when added together, they ultimately determine how that journey ends.”

This basically points to mobile as being the key driver for local search, and how essentially you should be optimising for exactly that.

As Chris Lake mentions in his post on optimising for micro-moments, mobile searchers are a) very active and b) not brand loyal, so there’s a huge opportunity, especially as many businesses are lagging behind due to poor mobile user experiences.

The advice here is to be all about anticipation, relevance and ease of use…

3) Optimise your local presence

Following on from the last point, it’s no good optimising for ‘near me’ search queries if you’re not actually ‘there’. So you need to sort out your local SEO.

You can do this by optimising your Google My Business page. Among many others things, you’ll need to make sure you have the following features…

  • A long and unique description of your business.
  • Choose the right categories.
  • Key information on opening times.
  • Lots of imagery.
  • Regular updates.
  • A local phone number and business address.

And one of the other major local SEO factors is making sure you have lots of visible customer reviews, which as Graham Charlton states are “vital for local businesses, whether or not they sell online, thanks to their sheer prominence in local search results.”

4) Optimise for natural language and voice search

In Mary Meeker’s 2016 Internet Trends report, it states that Google Voice Search queries have risen 35x since 2008.

voice-search-queries

Why this explosion in voice search? Voice input is 4x faster than typing, you will therefore have access to faster results. There are obvious accessibility issues. People have difficulty typing on certain devices. People also like to avoid confusing menus. Ultimately no matter how mobile-optimised a site is, or how big our phones are getting, searching on a mobile is still damn fiddly.

Google has worked hard to improve its search engine so it can better understand superlatives, ordered items, points in time and complex combinations.

The key to optimising for voice search therefore is to provide content for more direct questions. Those that are spoken in a far more natural language than the one we normally use when typing into a search engine, where keywords are dominant.

5) Answer a question

Following on from optimising for natural language is being able to directly answer questions with your content.

Google scrapes third party websites in order to present searchers with a clear on-SERP answer to their more ‘knowledge-based queries’ (when is Kanye West’s birthday? etc). Although Wikipedia used to be the dominant site in these answer boxes, this is becoming less so as Google recognises that more quality expert content is coming from other publishers.

So find out what questions your site can answer and create content that does exactly that. It will help if you’re as succinct as possible, you phrase the question in the headline and you answer the question as soon in the article as possible.

6) Pay for it

Some things are still very much a truism now as they were in 2013… You can just ignore all of these tips just by paying your way to the top with PPC ads.

Although you will still need quality ad copy, relevant landing pages and high customer rated products (especially if your entering into the Product Listing Ads space), but yes, you can still throw money at the problem.

However, here we’ll tell you why your ads don’t necessarily need to come first in the new look SERPs anymore.

23-of-all-search-topics-have-4-pack-ads

7) Get in Top Stories, implement AMP

Getting your site into Google News has always been a sure fire way to drive short-term traffic to your content.

It’s not great for evergreen appeal, but if you can be hot off the presses with good quality news stories than it can also be great for other sites linking to you as a source.

Top Stories is the mobile equivalent of the desktop In the News section, and right now this section is filling up with Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). AMP is Google’s open-source program that allows webmasters the ability to create super-quick, stripped-down, instantly loading versions of web-pages for mobile users.

AMP isn’t a ranking signal yet, but if you’re appearing in Top Stories than having AMP pages will help improve user experience. Here’s a tutorial on how to implement AMP successfully.

Also note that AMP results will be appearing throughout the mobile SERP by the end of the year.

8) Be mobile optimised

You should have this nailed by now. Although three years ago many of you didn’t, and back then it wasn’t a ranking signal. It is now though!

But to help you out, we’ve published this massive and comprehensive guide to testing the mobile usability of your site. You’re welcome.

9) Speed up your website

As I mentioned earlier, AMP is certainly helping to speed up the mobile web. Although it is controversial in nature, and isn’t necessarily the best solution to improving the speed of websites in general as it just feels like a ‘quick fix’.

You do still need to prioritise the speed of your actual site, not just grafting on Google-owned patches. Site speed is a ranking factor, but there are many ways you can improve performance.

First, check your site speed using this tool and then you can access a report breaking-down where you can improve.

You can also make a huge difference in reducing page load by following these image optimisation tips for site speed.

10) Optimise your Twitter presence

Although this may be the final tip in this list, it’s obviously not the last thing you can optimise to get to the top of Google. However one major change to the SERP in the last few years has been the introduction of tweets.

Last year, thanks to a deal between Twitter and Google, tweets are now indexed on SERPs. So if you search for a brand, publisher or personality, you will now see a live timeline of their latest tweets.

search engine watch serp

So make sure you tweet regularly, have a fairly substantial following and for goodness sake don’t say anything you’ll regret because it will probably remain cached for a couple of hours.

Five ways analysts can take their skills to the next level

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As I’ve been writing about tools and tactics quite a bit lately, I thought for this month’s column I’d take a step back and share some ideas on how you can become a better analyst.

And improving our analysis skills as marketers goes beyond broadening our career options and helping us be better at our craft.

It should actually improve all areas of your life as a byproduct of nurturing our critical thinking skills. Some ideas follow that I apply in my own life and hope you’ll consider too.

Find a passion outside work which involves developing hypotheses

The scientific method, as you know, is a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge.

You’re already applying this to your marketing and analytics practice by putting it to work for testing and optimization efforts (for example, having a hypothesis that a new landing page with less clutter will convert better, which you then test).

But beyond work, you should also, in free time, be involved in something which flexes your prediction muscle.

Whether this manifests as fantasy sports, investing in startups or some other activity which involves future predictions (and cool datasets!), this can be a fun and rewarding way to sharpen your mind and will help you see analysis problems in a new light.

Learn to fill in the missing pieces, be comfortable working with imperfect data/information

100% perfect data is really only possible in a controlled lab setting with expensive and fine-tuned equipment. While, of course, we should ensure our analytics implementation is setup correctly to keep our own data as clean as possible, we must also get comfortable working with a “good enough” information.

This is necessary in order to be agile in how we work and keep projects moving forward. A great analyst will work out the way to fill in the missing pieces and make effective projections (while of course providing a rationale/caveats where needed).

You want to get confident enough to make recommendations and create analysis’ based off “minimum viable data.”

Have a sandbox project to test new tools

If you are truly serious about improving your skills, doing analyst work in your live business environment isn’t enough.

The reason being you can’t test and tinker with any new tool without permission or change settings at whim, you likely have compliance and managers to work through.

But a sandbox project such as your own site, app or side business provides a place you can test, tinker and experiment in a no-stress setting.

Bonus: our team at Google recently launched an Analytics Demo Account for this very purpose.

Live and breathe your company and sector metrics (beyond what you’re accountable for)

Being a great analyst isn’t about just running reports and delivering insights that are your remit.

Rather, the best analysts have their finger on the pulse of the bigger pictures and are deftly able to put their own work into context with the larger organization and sector as a whole.

The analysts I talk to that leave a lasting impression are the ones who can speak articulately about various areas of the business and how they make impact across teams and functions.

Be a part of the industry, network and collaborate with peers

I’m personally a big believer in educating others about digital marketing and since starting my career well over a decade ago I’ve spent time both at and outside of work helping others learn our craft.

Our industry is tight knit and so being an active participant who helps others is of great benefit (not to mention fulfilling).

For you, whether this takes the form of speaking/attending events (such as ClickZ Live), starting your own local analytics meetup, or even making friends with other analysts near you to talk shop this is a valuable use of time.

Adam Singer will be speaking at ClickZ Live San Francisco in August.