A marketer’s 10 step guide to Snapchat

Snapchat Age Demographic 600

There are more than 100 million users on Snapchat and they are not just millennials.

And as Snapchat introduces more unique features, it continues to grow as a valuable marketing tool.

*Source: GlobalWebIndex

1. What is Snapchat?

Snapchat was launched in 2011, primarily created as a messaging app used to share photos and videos with friends.

Since its birth, it has developed into much more than just a tool for messaging. According to eMarketer, Millennials make up 70% of the total amount of Snapchat users.

*Source: comScore / BI Intelligence

But that does not mean adults can’t use it too. In fact, the number of users aged 25 and over is increasing twice as fast as users under 25.

2. How do I set up an account?

Don’t worry, setting up an account is easy. Snapchat is free to download globally. After filling in the usual details like your email and name, the next step is to pick a username. This part is very important because people can only view your content if they follow you.

Users must type in your exact username in order to find you. Therefore, pick a unique and simple username that is relevant to your actual name.

Currently, it is very hard to find the username of a brand unless you know the exact username. Here is a master list of brands on Snapchat for easy reference and to give an idea of how they choose them.

3. How do people find me?

There are three ways to find people.

1. Simply add a user by typing in their username. In most cases, you will need to have already sourced this from somewhere else.

2. Using the Snapcode. This is the customisable pattern, which makes up each person or brand’s profile. It can be ‘scanned’ and automatically added onto a user’s phone.

For example, The Huffington Post promoted its presence on Snapchat by sharing its Snapcode on Twitter.

Add us on Snapchat for a behind-the-scenes look at all things HuffPost! Username: “HuffPost” pic.twitter.com/EUKTWC94XA

— Huffington Post (@HuffingtonPost) September 16, 2015

3. Use the ‘add nearby’ function. This scans for users near you who can then be added.

Here are more ways to boost your presence on Snapchat.

4. Photo/video messaging

Perhaps the most obvious difference between Snapchat and other photo- sharing apps is the timer.

This feature means that any ‘snaps’ sent to a friend self-destruct after a certain amount of time. Users can choose how long it will last from a range of 1-10 seconds.

This feature gives the app an ephemeral and fast-paced nature, encouraging users to check the app constantly.

Snapchat Timer Pokemon pic

5. Fun Filters

Snaps can be edited to show filters, effects, captions and drawings. In July 2014, Snapchat added ‘geofilters’.

These filters can be selected if the user is in a certain place. For example, here in ClickZ’s Asia office there are many geofilters, including one for Hong Kong, or for a more defined region within the city, geofilters for Quarry Bay and Taikoo Shing.

Snapchat Geofilter

There are also filters, which display the time and temperature.

Snapchat Temp filter

Probably the most popular effects, however, are the facial lenses, which allow you to turn your face into funny animals or shapes and send them to your friends.

Snapchat Face Filter 600_2

6. Sponsored Filters

Brands can pay for sponsored filters to be shown on Snapchat. For example, for the 2016 Super Bowl, Gatorade sponsored their own filter, which was viewed over a 100 million times in one day, according to Gatorade.

#SB50 may be over but the #GatoradeDunk @Snapchat lens lives on with 100 million+ views! Get dunked today. pic.twitter.com/1b7FHwE7No

— Gatorade (@Gatorade) February 8, 2016

7. Stories

When someone adds a snap to their ‘Stories’ timeline, they are letting all their friends know what they are doing and where they are.

These stories can be viewed multiple times up to 24 hours, after which it too self-destructs. By summer 2014, the use of personal stories had surpassed the one-to-one messaging as the most frequently used function of Snapchat.

Snapchat Stories_2

Aside from personal stories, live stories have since been incorporated into the service. This brings a streaming element to the platform. For example, earlier this year the live stories showed live videos of Wimbledon from users at the event.

Many companies have already realised Snapchat’s marketing potential, and are using Stories to interact with their customers and promote their brand.

8. Discover

On this page, you will find channels of ad-supported content from many major publishers, such as BuzzFeed, Mashable and CNN.

Not only is it a source of humour and fun, but by checking Discover daily you can stay updated with news headlines and celebrity gossip.

Snapchat Discover 600

9. Memories

This is Snapchat’s newest addition and allows users to save snaps and stories. It essentially becomes a personal album of your favourite Snapchat moments.

Memories also lets users post content from the past, such as a memorable moment at a wedding or party.

As a result, Snapchat is no longer just a self-destructing photo-sharing app. For marketers it means they can use more curated images in their campaigns. It also lets Snapchat compete more directly with Facebook and Instagram.

10. Why is Snapchat useful for brands?

Snapchat helps brands build a following and increase awareness, especially for a brand catering to younger people.

By using Snapchat, brands can humanise their identity and relate and engage better with their fans. For example, using Snapchat stories, a brand can broadcast live behind-the-scene footage giving users more insight into what the brand represents.

If a company wanted to promote an item quickly and with a large reach, Snapchat would be the perfect way to do it.

This article was originally published in longer form on our sister site ClickZ: a beginner’s guide to Snapchat.

How to implement Google AMP on your WordPress site as easily as possible

AMP by Automattic

With the news that Google will be rolling out its accelerated mobile pages (AMP) to all organic listings beyond the ‘Top Stories’ you’ll be forgiven for getting a little bit panicky.

Don’t worry. There are five solid reasons why you don’t need to panic…

1. You’ve got till the end of the year
2. Google AMP isn’t technically a ranking signal
3. It’s *fairly* easy to implement
4. The cynical among you will probably be proved correct that Google will just jettison the whole thing after a year anyway (see: authorship)
5. There are probably more important things to worry about

Right now though we’re going to concentrate on those top three points, because ultimately enabling AMP means providing a faster, more user friendly experience for mobile search visitors and it is, as I said, *fairly* easy to implement. So you may as well give it a go.

Yes you should be providing the fastest, most user friendly mobile experience within your non-AMPed web pages anyway. And yes surely it would be better for Google to promote education on how to provide better, faster mobile pages, rather than insisting that webmasters implement what is essentially a quick fix.

But right now, Google is pushing AMP, and this is how (after much frustration and banging my head against a laptop) I successfully implemented AMP for my own site.

1) First you’ll need…

This is very specific to my own experience, and you may have a much easier, or much more difficult, route.

However if you have a WordPress site, all you’ll need is to download a couple of plug-ins and have access to Search Console. You may also need access to your web development hosting platform if things don’t run smoothly.

2) Download the Automattic AMP plug-in…

At first we used a plug-in from PageFrog that promised to deliver AMP content and Facebook Instant Articles in one handy tool. However this proved to be unworkable and glitchy.

Instead we downloaded the Automattic AMP plug-in as recommended by Yoast

Once you’ve enabled the plugin, it adds a standard meta tag in the head of your webpages to help Google recognise that AMP enabled versions of them exist.

You can check for yourself, by adding the /amp/ suffix to the end of any URL on your site.

Here’s one of our normal webpages on your desktop:

methods unsound webpage

Here’s the same webpage on your desktop with the AMP suffix:

methods unsound AMP page

As you can see it’s very basic stuff. But have no fear, we can style it out!

3) Download the Yoast Glue plug-in

Yoast has developed its own simple to use plug-in called Glue that adds styling options for the Automattic plug-in.

Once you’ve enabled Glue, you can see the settings under SEO>AMP>Design. Here you can set the colours and fonts to be closer to your original desktop page, as well as uploading your own logo and adding you own custom CSS.

Here’s a quick example of our AMP page after a couple of minutes spent in the settings…

methods unsound AMP page with styling

It’s not perfect yet, but it’s getting there.

Next you’ll need to check that Google is indexing your AMP pages properly…

4) Visit Search Console

If you don’t have Search Console, then sign-up right now, or ask the webmaster for permission.

Once you’re inside, select your site from the dashboard, then click on Search Appearance>Accelerated Mobile Pages.

Upsettingly for us, and right up until just a few days ago, Google was reporting us having 258 AMP pages with errors, and this figure only increased the more we published.

Search-Console-Accelerated-Mobile-Pages-report

Luckily Google provides a handy tool to check exactly what may be the cause.

5) Run the AMP validator tool

As you can see, we have a problem with ‘user authored Java script’ which can block Google indexing the AMP content.

Click on the specific issue you need to address…

map errors

This will take you to a list of error-filled webpages. Click on the first page…

amop pages failing

You’ll now see a two-step tool for discovering your errors.

validator tool

1) Will take you to a help page featuring the HTML reference for AMP.

2) Will run the validation tool to test for errors.

Click on number 2. This will bring up the HTML for the webpage and pinpoint exactly where it’s failing.

AMP fail

For us, it’s that tricksy bit of Javascript flagged above.

Reading along the code revealed its origin. A reporting tool called New Relic, that we had enabled through our web development host Pantheon.

It was entirely our fault. We enabled it and we didn’t realise the Javascript it placed within our HTML would block AMP.

All it took to fix the problem was logging into Pantheon and deactivating New Relic.

Within days we saw an improvement. And after around six days, we now have 328 successfully indexed AMP pages! Just look at the way those streams cross…

amp page checker

Also the 67 pages showing errors haven’t been indexed yet. When I run the validation tool, they come up as clear.

So now all that’s left to do is sit and wait for AMP pages to appear in organic results, and for our new mobile-first audience to come trickling in.

*sits twiddling thumbs, stares out of window, sighs*

A marketer’s 10 step guide to Snapchat

Snapchat Usage Growth 600

There are more than 100 million users on Snapchat and they are not just millennials.

And as Snapchat introduces more unique features, it continues to grow as a valuable marketing tool.

*Source: GlobalWebIndex

1. What is Snapchat?

Snapchat was launched in 2011, primarily created as a messaging app used to share photos and videos with friends.

Since its birth, it has developed into much more than just a tool for messaging. According to eMarketer, Millennials make up 70% of the total amount of Snapchat users.

*Source: comScore / BI Intelligence

But that does not mean adults can’t use it too. In fact, the number of users aged 25 and over is increasing twice as fast as users under 25.

2. How do I set up an account?

Don’t worry, setting up an account is easy. Snapchat is free to download globally. After filling in the usual details like your email and name, the next step is to pick a username. This part is very important because people can only view your content if they follow you.

Users must type in your exact username in order to find you. Therefore, pick a unique and simple username that is relevant to your actual name.

Currently, it is very hard to find the username of a brand unless you know the exact username. Here is a master list of brands on Snapchat for easy reference and to give an idea of how they choose them.

3. How do people find me?

There are three ways to find people.

1. Simply add a user by typing in their username. In most cases, you will need to have already sourced this from somewhere else.

2. Using the Snapcode. This is the customisable pattern, which makes up each person or brand’s profile. It can be ‘scanned’ and automatically added onto a user’s phone.

For example, The Huffington Post promoted its presence on Snapchat by sharing its Snapcode on Twitter.

Add us on Snapchat for a behind-the-scenes look at all things HuffPost! Username: “HuffPost” pic.twitter.com/EUKTWC94XA

— Huffington Post (@HuffingtonPost) September 16, 2015

3. Use the ‘add nearby’ function. This scans for users near you who can then be added.

Here are more ways to boost your presence on Snapchat.

4. Photo/video messaging

Perhaps the most obvious difference between Snapchat and other photo- sharing apps is the timer.

This feature means that any ‘snaps’ sent to a friend self-destruct after a certain amount of time. Users can choose how long it will last from a range of 1-10 seconds.

This feature gives the app an ephemeral and fast-paced nature, encouraging users to check the app constantly.

Snapchat Timer Pokemon pic

5. Fun Filters

Snaps can be edited to show filters, effects, captions and drawings. In July 2014, Snapchat added ‘geofilters’.

These filters can be selected if the user is in a certain place. For example, here in ClickZ’s Asia office there are many geofilters, including one for Hong Kong, or for a more defined region within the city, geofilters for Quarry Bay and Taikoo Shing.

Snapchat Geofilter

There are also filters, which display the time and temperature.

Snapchat Temp filter

Probably the most popular effects, however, are the facial lenses, which allow you to turn your face into funny animals or shapes and send them to your friends.

Snapchat Face Filter 600_2

6. Sponsored Filters

Brands can pay for sponsored filters to be shown on Snapchat. For example, for the 2016 Super Bowl, Gatorade sponsored their own filter, which was viewed over a 100 million times in one day, according to Gatorade.

#SB50 may be over but the #GatoradeDunk @Snapchat lens lives on with 100 million+ views! Get dunked today. pic.twitter.com/1b7FHwE7No

— Gatorade (@Gatorade) February 8, 2016

7. Stories

When someone adds a snap to their ‘Stories’ timeline, they are letting all their friends know what they are doing and where they are.

These stories can be viewed multiple times up to 24 hours, after which it too self-destructs. By summer 2014, the use of personal stories had surpassed the one-to-one messaging as the most frequently used function of Snapchat.

Snapchat Stories_2

Aside from personal stories, live stories have since been incorporated into the service. This brings a streaming element to the platform. For example, earlier this year the live stories showed live videos of Wimbledon from users at the event.

Many companies have already realised Snapchat’s marketing potential, and are using Stories to interact with their customers and promote their brand.

8. Discover

On this page, you will find channels of ad-supported content from many major publishers, such as BuzzFeed, Mashable and CNN.

Not only is it a source of humour and fun, but by checking Discover daily you can stay updated with news headlines and celebrity gossip.

Snapchat Discover 600

9. Memories

This is Snapchat’s newest addition and allows users to save snaps and stories. It essentially becomes a personal album of your favourite Snapchat moments.

Memories also lets users post content from the past, such as a memorable moment at a wedding or party.

As a result, Snapchat is no longer just a self-destructing photo-sharing app. For marketers it means they can use more curated images in their campaigns. It also lets Snapchat compete more directly with Facebook and Instagram.

10. Why is Snapchat useful for brands?

Snapchat helps brands build a following and increase awareness, especially for a brand catering to younger people.

By using Snapchat, brands can humanise their identity and relate and engage better with their fans. For example, using Snapchat stories, a brand can broadcast live behind-the-scene footage giving users more insight into what the brand represents.

If a company wanted to promote an item quickly and with a large reach, Snapchat would be the perfect way to do it.

This article was originally published in longer form on our sister site ClickZ: a beginner’s guide to Snapchat.

What are the top 10 most popular search engines?

google

You know, apart from the most obvious search engine. And possibly the second most obvious one too. In fact I’ll start again, what are the eight most popular search engines after Google and Bing?

The first list below contains the most popular search engines currently available, ordered by most to least popular in the US. The ranking is according to eBiz, it’s in order of estimated unique monthly visitors and is accurate as of August 2016.

The second list is a global overview of most popular search engines, according to Net Market Share, which is ranked in order of market share and is again accurate as of August 2016.

As opposed to our previous list of search engine alternatives to Google, this list will concentrate purely on informational searches rather than say… Gifs or copyright free images.

US

1) Google

Estimated Unique Monthly Visitors: 1.6 billion
Alexa Rank: 1

Why should you use it?

With 72.48% of the world’s market share of search, as a marketer you don’t really have a choice not to use it for both paid and organic reach.

As an every day user, for all of our cynicism and occasionally flippant references to The Circle, you have to admit Google is utterly indispensable in your every day life. For every interference (the constant curtailing of organic results) there are 10 triumphs… Google Maps, Gmail, the terrifying relevance of Knowledge Graph, the killing of payday loan ads, AMP…

Where the heck would we all be without the… yes, I’m going to say it… search giant.

2) Bing

bing

Estimated Unique Monthly Visitors: 400 million
Alexa Rank: 22

Why should you use it?

As I said in earlier in the year in the aforementioned ‘alternatives to Google’ post, there are some great reasons to choose Bing:

  • Bing’s video search is significantly better than Google’s.
  • Bing often gives twice as many autocomplete suggestions than Google does.
  • Bing has a great linkfromdomain:[site name] feature that highlights the best ranked outgoing links from that site, helping you figure out which other sites your chosen site links to the most.

3) Yahoo

yahoo

Estimated Unique Monthly Visitors: 300 million
Alexa Rank: n/a

Why should you use it?

Well that’s all a but up in the air at the moment, as Verizon has just purchased Yahoo for $4.8 billion dollars and is planning on merging it with AoL.

Yahoo will continue to operate independently pending regulatory approval of the deal, which is expected to be completed by early 2017. After this, all of Yahoo’s news, finance and sports platforms will be added to AOL’s media assets, which include The Huffington Post and TechCrunch.

4) Ask

ask

Estimated Unique Monthly Visitors: 245 million
Alexa Rank: 31

Why should you use it?

Despite Google’s determination to be the ultimate font of all knowledge on its own SERP, Ask is still good for specific question related searches, with results centring on Q&A related matches.

And hey, sometimes it’s nice to get help from a butler.

5) Aol Search

aol

Estimated Unique Monthly Visitors: 125 million
Alexa Rank: n/a

Why should you use it?

As mentioned above, the AOL you know and possibly love may become a different beast once Verizon Communications merges it with Yahoo.

Let’s remember simpler times…

6) Wow

wow

Estimated Unique Monthly Visitors: 100 million
Alexa Rank: 767

Why should you use it?

Because it works more like a news site then a search engine, which is handy if you want everything in one place. There is a strong lean towards news and celebrity based articles rather than pure Wikipedia-style information, but the handy links to related social channels and wiki pages are useful.

7) WebCrawler

webcrawler

Estimated Unique Monthly Visitors: 65 million
Alexa Rank: 674

Why should you use it?

WebCrawler has a far clearer delineation between paid search ads and organic results. It also seems to feature far more natural ‘blue links’ than Google.

8) MyWebSearch

mywebsearch

Estimated Unique Monthly Visitors: 60 million
Alexa Rank: 405

Why should you use it?

Uh… don’t.

According to the Malware Wikia, MyWebSearch is a spyware and search toolbar program that allows the user to query various popular search engines and comes bundled with an exhausting suite of ‘goodies’ such as such as Smiley Central, Webfetti, Cursor Mania, My Mail Stationary, My Mail Signature, My Mail Stamps, FunBuddyIcons… the fun goes on and on.

Most damningly of all though, Malware Wikia reports that despite it not carrying any malware attributes, an independent repair lab has classified the toolbar as a nuisance because of “slowdowns in return for features that are already built into many modern web browsers.”

9) Infospace

infospace

Estimated Unique Monthly Visitors: 24 million
Alexa Rank: 2,110

Why should you use it?

You may be using it already… InfoSpace is a “provider of white label search and monetization solutions” and it also operates its own branded search sites, including the metasearch engine Dogpile, as well as Zoo.com and WebCrawler (as mentioned above.)

10) Info.com

info.com

Estimated Unique Monthly Visitors: 13.5 million
Alexa Rank: 1,938

Why should you use it?

Info.com aggregates results from the indexed web AND social media channels. It monitors real-time social conversations and according to them, it delivers “newsworthy, trending, and popular results before they hit the indexed web.” These streams are classified into structured topics which provides additional context and insight.

Bonus: 11) DuckDuckGo

Honourable mention to DuckDuckGo, the new kid on the block that doesn’t store your personal information, which has managed to accrue 13 million unique monthly visitors and is currently the 11th most popular search engine in the US.

Worldwide

Here’s the marketshare worldwide for search engines…

search engine market share

1) Google – 72.48%
2) Bing – 10.39%
3) Yahoo – 7.78%
4) Baidu – 7.14%
5) Ask – 0.22%
6) AOL – 0.15%
7) Excite – 0.01%

The 12 pillars of mobile commerce design

ASOS mobile first

What are the key factors behind an effective m-commerce site, one that will meet the needs of the modern multichannel consumer?

This week sees the release of our new m-commerce report, DNA of a Great M-Commerce Site Part 2: The 12 Pillars of Mobile Design, and here we present those pillars…

1. Mobile-first web design

The mobile-first philosophy dictates that all websites – mobile, tablet, PC – are designed, optimised and developed for the mobile device, connection, user and context.

This made-for-mobile web design is then enhanced or altered, where necessary, for different devices, connections and users.

Whether the site under development is a dedicated mobile site, an adaptive site or a responsive site (see table below for explanations and examples), mobile-first design demands starting with a clean sheet and developing an m-commerce platform that is dedicated to serving the target mobile user and fulfilling their needs.

One such example is ASOS. The site targets a younger audience which uses mobile a lot, and combines great usability with content created for its target customers.

This includes style feeds and features such as #AsSeenOnMe which provides customers with the opportunity to upload a photo of themselves adorned in ASOS gear.

2. User-focused

A good m-commerce site design should be underpinned by knowledge of what the target user wants and needs from it.

This can be found from market research, user testing, monitoring behaviour on site (through A/B testing, heatmaps etc) and gaining feedback from users.

3. Elegant simplicity

M-commerce sites should be focused on the main tasks users want to achieve and making that as simple as possible to achieve.

Nobody wants a bloated jack-of-all- trades that does lots of things badly.

According to Daniel Rowles of Target Internet, TransferWise is a great example of this principle in action:

“Too often companies try and pack too much functionality into their sites and apps, and by being all things to all people, they end up being nothing to anyone! Many supermarket and banking sites/apps fall into this category.

Through clear usability-based testing and an overall focus on user experience, it’s possible to make complex mobile services simple.”

4. Contextual relevance and intention

Mobile devices are, of course, portable, and there are different situations in which customers will use it to access your website. This is the context.

There are also different reasons why they might want to use it, the intention.

The more a retailer knows about a visitor’s intention and the context of their visit, the better they are able to offer the most relevant content, offers and services to meet their goals.

According to Ronan Cremin of DeviceAtlas, very few sites ‘do anything meaningful with mobile contextual information’:

“Apart from the really obvious one (location) there are other possibilities like detecting if a user is literally on the move or not (accelerometer), is the battery low etc. etc.

One important point about all of these contextual cues is to use them as hints rather than hard deciding factors because the cost of getting things wrong based on an incorrect assumption is high.”

5. Reducing friction

Mobile usability can be a challenge with a smaller screen, variable mobile internet speeds and forms to complete.

Making the process as smooth as possible has to be the goal for retailers.

Typical friction points are product searches, form filling and payment entry, and delivery selection.

The answer, as is so often the case, is to learn from user behaviour and to test and improve the site on a continuous basis.

mobile_friendly_awwwards_webby_cz22 (1)

6. Anticipate customer desires and concerns

Entering into a new financial relationship is always going to involve a degree of unease for the customer, particularly so when this occurs remotely.

Making a purchase from a vendor you haven’t dealt with before (on this platform) necessarily involves an element of form-filling, which is an inconvenience at any time, but can be particularly tedious on a mobile device.

One of the most important roles of the web designer and UX designer is to make the purchase/form-filling process as easy, carefree and frictionless as possible.

This is done by minimising what is required of the customer, while justifying what is necessary. Get it right and you stand to win a loyal customer, get it wrong and you could lose the sale and the customer.

7. Cross- platform brand and identity

Brand identity is important. It can be what makes people recognise, identify with, be loyal to, trust and shop from your store.

In a homogenous digital space, there is a huge opportunity to differentiate from the masses based on real- world credibility. Independents can’t compete with the big boys on price, but they can compete on identity and service. This should resonate through the design of the both PC and mobile web presence.

daunt_books_cz24 (1)

8. Express your physical- world expertise online

Let’s use the example of Piccadilly Records here, an independent retailer whose expertise sets it apart from bigger rivals.

This is demonstrated by features such as staff picks. As report author Andy Favell says:

“The noteworthy aspect to the site is the Staff Picks recommendations. The beauty of the independent record store is that they are staffed by music obsessives, who love to give advice to lesser mortals. Piccadilly has successfully migrated this expertise from the physical to the digital world.”

piccadilly

9. Multichannel convenience

A mobile presence shouldn’t be a silo. Customers expect the same products, service and prices whatever the channel.

There is a lot of behind the scenes integration required to make this happen, but the reward are there if retailers can offer a true multichannel service.

One such offering is click and collect, which joins up online and offline channels, and provides a convenient option for customers.

Walmart is great here, displaying its collect in store services prominently on its mobile site.

walmart

It also offers convenient returns, meaning customers can return items purchased online to a local store if they prefer.

10. Cross- platform conversion

Customers will regularly switch between mobile, online and physical locations during the product research and buying process.

This causes issues for both the customer – who has to recall the products of interest – and the retailer, who a) doesn’t wish to lose the sale to a rival, or b) wants to understand which channels contributed to the purchase.

Some on-site features can help to achieve this link between channels. These include:

  • Click and collect.
  • In-store ordering for home delivery.
  • Saving items for later.

The customer doesn’t distinguish between a retailer’s various digital platforms, or physical stores, if available. The customer journey is proven to be highly fragmented, with customers often interacting and engaging on multiple channels before a purchase is made.

Retailers need to stop trying to account for each channel separately and instead look to support the user as they move between channels.

Here’s an example from Very. Mobile users can save an item for later, and then pick up where they left of on desktop, or vice versa.

very save for later

11. Usability and mobile-friendliness

An m-commerce site is there to sell products and, while conversion rates may often be lower than on desktop, a well-designed site should perform well.

There are two aspects to this:

  • How easy it is to use the website or web app on a mobile device?
  • How easy it is for the mobile user to complete their task?
  • The answer, as before, is to comprehensively test mobile usability and to continuously look to improve.

    very

    12. Performance

    The size of mobile pages and the speed at which they download is arguably as important to mobile users as mobile-friendliness.

    Here’s why:

    • Page speed has been a factor in search rankings for much longer than mobile-friendliness.
    • Mobile page speed is clearly on the agenda at Google. It has an initiative called Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), which is aimed at helping companies – mostly news publishers, to date – speed up web pages.
    • Page speed looks set to become a factor in the next mobile update from Google.
    • Improving page speed improves conversions. For example, Schuh has focused on page speed, and is nearly twice as fast as many of its rivals.

    The new report, DNA of a Great M-Commerce Site Part 2: The 12 Pillars of Mobile Design, looks at each of this pillars in great detail, containing tips for improvement, and contributions from Home Depot, Somo and more.

    How to create winning ad copy using a scientific approach

    ad formula

    I have a question for you: what’s the program you first turn to when creating your ad copy? If you’re like the majority of people today, your answer would be Excel.

    Unfortunately, that might be the wrong answer.

    While Excel is a fantastic program and is central to our day-to-day life in PPC, it’s not the best place to start with brainstorming ad copy.

    Why?

    If you’re writing text while constantly checking the length in the corresponding LEN() column, you’re stymieing your creativity. There’s a better way to create winning ads.

    Let’s take charge of the whole process with a simple framework for brainstorming and ad copy creation that earns results.

    The conversion formula

    When in doubt, turn to science.

    The conversion optimization industry is a fantastic source of inspiration here. It’s literally a part of their job to understand the target audience and pinpoint how to best persuade them to take action. Exactly what we want our ad copy to do.

    The folks at MECLABS came up with a conversion formula that can be a framework for ad copy creation:

    Let’s break this down. The formula says that the probability of conversion is dependent on:

    • The motivation of the user (when am I ready to buy?)
    • Plus the clarity of your value proposition (why should I buy from you?)
    • Plus incentive to take action minus friction in the process
    • Minus anxiety about giving personal information to complete the transaction.

    Think of Zappos as an example of a business model that follows this formula. Their motivation and value proposition is a wide selection of shoes to fit a large variety of sizes at affordable prices, delivered right to your door. However, the shoe doesn’t always fit.

    They understood the friction and anxiety points of the shoes not fitting and having to spend money on return shipping. Cleverly, they minimized this by offering fast and free shipping- both ways. Think about it, would you shop from Zappos if they didn’t have free return shipping?

    We can take this formula and apply to an ad copy framework.

    It works best if we take each element from the formula as a focus point. We can then ideate on the best tactics to highlight the focus areas, and then go through and brainstorm potential messaging to speak to the tactic.

    Here’s a sample of what it could look like:

    ad framework

    This gives the brainstorming process a little more structure while still allowing for creative freedom. Ads can then be compiled and written by picking and choosing from the different focus points.

    An ad that follows this conversion framework might look like this:

    Ad sample

    Using this framework for ad copy creation gives you three important things:

  • More discipline in your copy brainstorming. The framework reminds you to hit from all angles, and you’re less likely to forget important points.
  • You can share this with your client to explain your process and to make the case for trying something different.
  • It can make you more organized as you build a library of copy that you’ve tried. Consider creating a grid where you enter new copy for each tactic.
  • A brainstorming suggestion that won’t make you roll your eyes

    There’s a lot of research on the effectiveness (or non-effectiveness) of brainstorming. But the bottom line is that at some point you’re going to need to sit down and put some time into thinking about fresh ad copy. Whether you call that a brainstorm or a working session or lunchtime is up to you; it’s all of those.

    I’ve found three steps to be pretty effective in coming up with new ad copy for paid search. I’ve also found that if I just do the same old thing over and over, I get no new ideas! So change things up and consider these tips:

    1) Build your foundation

    Another way to say this is “do your research.” Understand the voice of the customer, what their needs, fears and other triggers are. You can do this by surveying the customer certainly, but a faster and equally effective way to do this is by speaking to customer service reps. Ask them:

    • How does your product or service help customers?
    • Why do customers want to buy what you sell?
    • What are most common questions you answer? Common objections you hear?
    • And what about the competition; In what ways are they better than you? Or weaker?
    • Is there a different audience for your product or service than you assume? For example, sailboat owners use climbing gear when they work on their masts; if you’re selling climbing gear, are you considering this audience?

    In this part of the brainstorm, leave no stone unturned. Consider every possible angle, problem, solution and question.

    2) Go crazy

    This is where you actually start writing. And I strongly encourage you to step away from Excel; that application is not conducive to creative inspiration.

    Instead, turn to Word or pull out a stack of plain paper, a lovely pen and cup of fresh coffee. Let your ideas come without thinking about word count. Just write it all down, free form.

    To keep things organized, you might put ads into categories that fit the framework above. Some will hit especially hard on the value prop, some will be all about removing friction and some will combine all the aspects in the framework.

    3) Create your final ads

    Some people aren’t fond of editing down all their beautiful work; to me it’s the biggest joy because I know I’m mining for diamonds at this point. Find the ads that stand out to you and refine them.

    Taking this top down approach means you can be more strategic about your ad extensions. You know your overarching messaging, so you can separate out the content that would be better as an ad extension, or tailor the overall ad based on which device it will show on.

    When you’re done with all this creative work, you can get back to the comfort of Excel and your reports and data. But in the meantime, mine your creative streak for all it’s worth.

    Do you have a special brainstorming practice for ad copy that you find is very effective? Please share it so we can all get smarter and more creative.

    Purna Virji is Senior Bing Ads Client Development and Training Manager at Microsoft and a contributor to Search Engine Watch.

    Seven tips to squeeze more revenue from Google Shopping Ads

    closely monitor your prices

    Google Shopping ads continue to be mission critical for ecommerce search marketers.

    Even when Google removed the right-side ads in February, it didn’t dare touch the highly popular right-side Shopping ad (previously PLAs) unit for shopping results.

    A look at Merkle’s Q2 digital marketing report proves this point, as you see a 43% year-over-year increase in ad spend on Google Shopping during Q2 and clicks are rising 71% year-over-year in Q2.

    Here are seven tips on how to squeeze even more revenue from Google Shopping campaigns.

    Tip #1: Monitor prices and rank vs. the competition

    When I meet with clients and review competitor ad data, I often find that my clients’ prices are much higher than the other sellers listed.

    This tip is a basic one: keep close tabs on competitive prices for your products. It’s impossible to do this manually so we usually use The Search Monitor as a tool to help monitor shopping data.

    In addition to prices, the data in this tool also reveals your product’s average rank as well as screenshots of the Google shopping ad itself.

    Tip #2: Work with partners to dominate the shopping results page

    While your company cannot appear more than once in the same PLA shopping ad unit, your products can. And who wouldn’t want to double their exposure to push out another competitor?

    The trick is to work with your partners to make sure you’re bidding high enough on the same keywords to increase the chance you’ll both appear. ‘Partners’ could be your affiliates, retailers, or distributors.

    work with partners

    Tip #3: Learn from competitors’ ad copy

    Your data feed sometime change hands a few times before it gets to Google, so the most advanced Google Shopping marketers constantly monitor these elements in the SERP to confirm their ads are as compelling as those of other sellers.

    There is more data on our ads than you can shake an Excel table at but start by looking at ad copy, and reviewing how Google is displaying your product names from your feed versus those of sellers of the same product. You often times find a simple mistakes you can fix easily.

    Then, expand the review to other ad elements and competitors. How do your product reviews compare? How many sellers are displaying payment methods? Use this knowledge to write kick ass ads that convert!

    Tip #4: Make the most of the Special Offers

    The Special offer field is a relatively new addition to Google shopping ads. Are you using it? If so, are you seeing the same positive results our clients are seeing?

    When collapsed, it’s an exceptional way to make your ad stand out from the crowd. When clicked, it becomes a strong call-to-action, complete with a sales message, expiration date, promo code, and Shop button.

    Start by monitoring your competitors’ use of this field, and then make sure your offer is at least comparable to what they offer, if not much more compelling.

    special offers in adwords

    My first four tips were ones that I have used to make quick, large gains in their campaigns. I’ll conclude with three more advanced tips by Ty Martin, the founder of AdBacon

    Tip #5: Take the power back

    When you first launched Product Listing Ads, you may have been surprised to find that Google PLAs didn’t allow you to target ads to specific keywords. Instead, with PLAs, Google’s algorithms decide which products will show for which queries.

    But now you can take the power back and achieve query-level targeting— and the bidding precision that comes with it.

    By exploiting a smart configuration of negative keywords and campaign priority, you can segment campaigns to specific types of search queries – branded, product-based, or other queries. With this hack, you’ll achieve better segmentation, which drives better bidding precision and improved ROI.

    Tip #6: Find out where you stand in terms of share of voice (SOV)

    In your text ad campaigns, you’re probably already looking at “Average Rank Position” and “Impression Share” to get a full picture of your visibility compared to competitors on important keywords. Those two metrics answer the age-old question, “Am I maximizing my opportunity on the keywords that are most important for my business?”

    But that’s not possible in Google Shopping, because AdWords doesn’t have keyword-level PLA reporting. How can you know your brand visibility for important queries?

    You need a PLA Share-of-Voice metric to provide this answer. This essential metric combines impressions, rank, and ad location data to score your visibility by keyword. Trend this for your most (and least) profitable keywords to identify opportunities to adjust your bids.

    Tip #7: Reduce corruption in your GTIN

    Lastly, here’s a very specific tip concerning your data feeds. In May of this year, Google began requiring every advertiser to include GTIN (Global Trade Item Number) in their product feed. This hack is for your team members who are personally handling product feeds – opening them or passing them on to others.

    If you open and re-save the file in Excel, you may be corrupting the GTIN and not even realize it. And that makes the Google algorithm less likely to show your product when people search for it – leading to a decline in click volume.

    shopping campaigns

    The good news is there are a couple ways to fight corruption of your GTIN. Option #1 is a manual hack. Immediately after opening the file in Excel, right-click the GTIN column, choose “Format Cells” and then set the custom format to “00000000000000.” That’s 14 zeros. This tells Excel to display the entire number with no truncation and guarantees that when you re-upload the file, the GTIN information will be perfectly preserved.

    Option #2 is to download and use this free Excel Add-In that I created to do the work for you in a single click.

    Final Thoughts on Google Shopping Ads

    Google Shopping is a hot ad format for retailers and the competition is not expected to wane any time soon. The seven tips I’ve shared are meant to help in all parts of the Google Shopping process, from data feeds to targeting to ad content, metrics and competitive strategy.

    You’re now privy to the secrets that most sophisticated Google Shopping advertisers use to beat the competition. Please share your feedback or thoughts in the comments below.

    What should I do when I discover a competitor’s Private Blog Network (PBN)?

    pbn-discover-competitors

    Wherever you land on the private blog network (PBN) argument, it always pays to have a plan in place for when you encounter a competitor’s network.

    For many, the adherence to Google’s policies on search ranking manipulation resembles that of a religious zealot. For others, a PBN is simply a component part of getting ahead of the game.

    Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum, you will from time to time discover a competitor’s PBN lurking behind an entry above you in the SERPs, or perhaps powering up from below.

    I frequently find PBN’s when doing link research, and often find myself wondering what should I do. I even spent some time trying to research if there was an effective way for Google to use Recaptcha to detect spun content on PBNs.

    First: determine just what type of PBN you are dealing with

    Are you looking at a group of sites that have been built from the ground up, just to be used for ranking their clients or themselves?

    A PBN of this nature will often rely on some other more rudimentary grey/black hat tactics, such as web2.0 link wheels and directory links.

    Or is the majority of the network built from ‘resurrected’ sites. In this scenario you will see that the domain does not always match the theme of the site itself, and that the links coming in don’t always seem to match the content of the site either.

    In this scenario, someone purchased a domain that already had authority and trust flowing to it from other sites, and then built their new site on the old domain. This can be easily verified by going to archive.org and inspecting what the site used to contain.

    Or simply check to see if there seems to be a juxtaposition between the anchor text hitting the pages and what the page actually contains.

    Second: map out as much of the network as you can

    If you have discovered the PBN it is because you have used a third party crawler such as Majestic or ahrefs to notice the backlinks coming out of it and towards your competitor.

    There are of course ways that a PBN owner can block these third party crawlers and still allow Google and Bing crawlers in, however since you found it this is beside the point.

    If the PBN owner has allowed you to discover their network, then there is a good chance that they are also breaking a few of the other age-old PBN rules, such as not having the network overlap and link to multiple sites.

    Try and build up a spreadsheet of every site that is benefiting from the PBN, in fact there is a good chance that this research will actually show you who owns the PBN in the first place.

    Once you have a list of everyone benefitting (quite often this is simply the SEO agencies entire client book), then it is time to make a list of every site that is contributing to the network.

    This will quite often include many sites that linked to one of the domains before it actually became part of the network.

    Third: decide if you will intervene or observe

    Some people have a staunch position against filing webspam complaints, or any form of negative SEO what so ever. If you don’t believe in running to Google and reporting violations, there are still some very valuable options for you upon mapping out the PBN.

    If you keep the client list monitored, then any time that there is another large algorithm update, such as a new instalment of Penguin or some other algorithm change specifically designed to take out PBN’s, then you already have a spreadsheet of domains that you can check.

    When the update comes, you can check to see if the domains that were previously being propelled forward by a PBN have in fact been penalized. If they have, then you are in a unique position to provide services to them.

    You pre-empted the penalty, so you are in the perfect position to help them recover from the penalty.

    The choice simply becomes a) do you warn them before or b) let them know you can help after the matter.

    If you decide to intervene, there are a few options

    The most obvious option is to file a webspam complaint in which you alert Google to the existence of the PBN. Many webmasters complain that this often does not seem to achieve very much, almost as though they were expecting the internet police to bust down some doors and immediately right the perceived wrong doing.

    Just remember, this path will not typically bring about fast-paced action.

    A less common alternative for intervening

    Sometimes you know that the network is bolstered by links that are coming in that were never intended to be there. For example a link built from a reputable website that went to a site that has since had its domain name dropped.

    In this situation, you can perform an outreach campaign to the contributing sites, alerting them to the fact that they have links directed to a site that has since changed ownership.

    An email would be as simple as:

    Hi

    I see that you linked to XYZ from your page *url* some time ago. I thought you may be interested to know that XYZ is no longer in business, but their domain name has actually been bought by someone else.

    If you look again at the URL you originally linked to, you will see that it is no longer the same website.

    I thought you would like to know

    Regards

    This is a much less direct form of intervention, but by all accounts it can actually yield some great results; albeit negative results.

    Even if you don’t want to run to the authorities when you discover your competitors PBN, you can still actively work to strip it of its power!

    Joshua Ballard is the founder of Paradox Marketing and a contributor to SEW. You can connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.

    Five most interesting search marketing news stories of the week

    mobile amp organic search

    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 huge double-hit of news from the world of accelerated mobile pages and a few social updates, one of which proves that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Until the lawyers come in and everything turns sour.

    Google AMP is coming to organic search results

    As I reported a few days ago, Google has announced that AMP support is coming to organic search results, not just news or top stories.

    If you’re currently on a mobile you can just click on the following link for a live demonstration: AMP Demo

    Google has reiterated that AMP is still not an actual ranking signal, although time will tell, especially when more and more people realise how much quicker these fast-downloading, stripped-down webpages really are.

    AMP will begin appearing throughout the SERPs “later in the year.”

    AMP is now available for live-updating pages too

    In the second AMP announcement of the week, the AMP Project also launched a beta for a new component that “updates page content dynamically without additional navigation or reload.”

    As SEJ states, “this brings the power of AMPs to live updating pages, such as news publishers with live blogs used to break news as it unfolds.”

    To use , all you have to do is:

    • While the component is in beta, opt into the experiment by entering AMP.toggleExperiment (‘amp-live-list’) into your javascript console on your testing page. You can also opt in on the AMP experiments page for all pages served from cdn.ampproject.org.
    • In the HTML for an AMP page, wrap any live-updating content in and its children, ensure that each element has the required attributes and structure, and publish the page.
    • Whenever new information comes in, update the HTML for with new entries or changes to older entries, and re-publish the page.

    Yeah that all sounds straight forward enough. Will get on that. Oh hang on, I just need to take this call…

    Instagram takes on Snapchat, and isn’t even shy about it

    This week Instagram launched a new feature called Stories, where uses can create connected posts that disappear after 24 hours.

    Uh-huh.

    When pressed on the similarity between this ‘innovation’ and the entire point of Snapchat, Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom said to TechCrunch:

    “When you are an innovator, that’s awesome. Just like Instagram deserves all the credit for bringing filters to the forefront. This isn’t about who invented something. This is about a format, and how you take it to a network and put your own spin on it.”

    Sure.

    Also… CEOs that say “awesome” – that’s where we are right now.

    Facebook rolls out new layout for Pages

    Now, I actually thought this had happened ages ago as my own branded pages have looked like this for a while, but it turns out it’s only just been rolled out to everyone. AREN’T I SPECIAL?

    Changes include: your profile picture no longer interfere’s with you cover image, there are no longer any ads on the right-hand side and you now have a big shiny blue call-to-action.

    Coincidentally (I won’t lie and say I planned it, you deserve better than that) I wrote this piece on how to optimise your images for Facebook earlier in the week before the announcement, featuring the new sizes.

    fb header image

    For all you ego-surfers

    According to Venture Beat, Google has a new easier way to alert you whenever your name is mentioned on the internet.

    If you’re logged into Google and you’ve enabled it to save your web activity, when you Google yourself (chortle) it will show a widget at the bottom of the first SERP to help you quickly set up a Google Alert for your own name.

    Like this…

    my-account

    FYI: I can’t find a trace of Janelle Murrells anywhere. Google has created the perfect fake name!

    Five simple SEO practices to remember when setting up a new blog

    title tag on page

    When trying to optimise a new blog for SEO, most individuals and businesses can get confused. There’s sometimes too much information, and guidance can be very technical.

    Here I’ll be sharing a few techniques that can be carried out by someone with little or no previous knowledge of SEO.

    There are three top ranking signals used by Google to determine if a blog is relevant to a particular search query and how they should rank in search engine results pages (SERPs). They are:

  • Content – is the content applicable to the search query and how relevant is it?
  • Links – is your content good enough to be linked to, especially by authority sites.
  • RankBrain – artificial intelligence used in Google’s algorithm has become the third most important signal.
  • Here are five quick tips to get you started…

    Keyword research

    Creating your blog can be easy depending on your experience but the real work starts before you begin creating quality content.

    First you need to research and understand keywords your customers are using to search for your products and services.

    You want to avoid colossal mistakes such as:

    • Choosing over-specific keywords with no traffic.
    • Using umbrella keywords which are not concise enough such as men’s clothing. I would advise you go for long-tail keywords such as winter men’s clothing or snowboarding apparel for men, to beat the competition.
    • Choosing keywords which do not convert or are not relevant to your business.

    It’s not helpful or compulsory in any way to have your keyword in your domain, some years back it would have helped with ranking but since Google’s Exact Match Domain Update in September 2012, it is no longer important and helpful as it used to be.

    For a better understanding of keyword research and tools to use, check out this collection of free SEO resources, which includes tools to perform your research.

    Generate an XML sitemap

    XML sitemaps are files that list URLs of a site along with metadata about each URL (when it was last updated, how often it changes, and how relative it is to other URLs in the site) so that search engines can intelligently crawl the site.

    With the above-listed benefits of generating and submitting your sitemap to search engines, your content is understood better by search engines and it ranks better in the SERPs.

    Fix your permalink or URL slug

    Permalinks or URLs are important in optimizing a new website, having unnecessary characters in your URLs such as question and punctuations marks, irrelevant numbers might affect how your website is understood by search engines making it hard to crawl and indexed except for authoritative websites.

    When creating URLs for your blog avoid dynamic URLs such as www.mydomainname.com/?p=34322304, they are ugly and do not tell search engine crawlers and blog visitors what the URL is about. Instead use statics URLs like the ones used on https://searchenginewatch.com/static/guides.

    Title tag and meta description

    Each page on your blog needs to have a title tag, which outlines what the page is about. Having your keywords in your title tag can help your web page rank higher in SERPs. Title tags can exceed the 70 character limit and include your business or brand name with a keyword.

    Meta descriptions on your web pages outline in greater detail what the pages are about. To fully maximize your meta description, fill out the description with humans in mind as this determines whether users click through to your blog from search engine results.

    guide to primavera sound 2016 Google Search

    Mobile responsiveness

    Making your blog mobile responsive is a win-win for both you and your blog visitors leading to better SEO and higher rankings from search engines. According to consumer barometer with Google, In many cases, smartphones are used at least as often as computers for accessing the internet.

    mobile responsive

    With Google’s update to their algorithm, mobile friendly sites now rank higher than non-mobile responsive site. Head over to Google’s mobile-friendly test tool to determine the mobile responsiveness of your blog.

    Also, pay attention to your CSS and theme, this could deter your blog from responding properly on mobile devices, get a theme which was developed with clean code, that’s fast and intuitive.

    Conclusion

    There are countless SEO best practices when setting up a new blog but I covered the very basics that are compulsory. Use common sense and try to create great content that gains backlinks.

    What other practices would you perform on a new website?