First let me ask you: how many unread emails are in the “promotions,” “updates,” and “other” tabs of your inbox? When I got to work on Monday morning, there were 248. How many of those did I read, you ask? Three at best, and only because they were already my favorite news roundups. The others? Didn’t stand a chance. “Marked as read,” “deleted,” and otherwise wholeheartedly, happily ignored.
Long story short, consumers these days are drowning in emails. We have promotions, “we’ve missed you!”s, “rate our product!”s, and 100 other types of unread newsletters pouring from our inboxes and never getting close to our attention.
For a long time, it was businesses seeking out consumers
And while that obviously is still at play, the tides are shifting. It’s just too much content to keep tabs on. More and more, consumers are ignoring the bombardment and seeking out businesses on their own terms — when and where they want to look.
For a long time, SEO was a small group of nerds (*experts) sitting in a corner doing their thing, trying to convince everyone that search mattered and that there were ways to improve rankings.
For a long time, people kind of let them do their thing while not understanding what SEO actually was or fully grasping their value.
But now, the amount of content is suffocating. I don’t want to read 248 “other” emails to find the information I need. I want it know.
Where do I go? The place where 93% of online journeys begin: I search.
Now, businesses need to be found by searching consumers
As often happens when tech goes mainstream, all of a sudden businesses care a lot more about that group of nerds in the corner.
The question now turns to, “how can I make sure my business is found when and where my customers are looking?”
In a world of customer experience, I don’t want to bother consumers — I want them to happen “serendipitously” upon my product or service. I want to be there when they’re ready.
These days, customer journeys start not when a consumer walks into a store, or lands on my web page. Customer journeys start the second a consumer opens a search engine.
Desktop to mobile to voice
And to top it all off, the stakes keep getting higher. When I search on desktop, I probably look at the first ten results. On mobile, maybe I consider five. On voice? One gold spot at the top.
Exciting times for SEO and search marketing.
Topics to consider in search marketing
We’ll be covering all of these and more:
- The new customer journey
- Blockchain and the decentralized economy, and what they mean for search
- Optimizing for voice search
- Amazon and Amazon Marketing Services
- Visual search and ecommerce
- Strategies for search transformation
Needless to say, we’re pretty jazzed about the event. Speakers include some brilliant minds from SAP, Google, Microsoft, Adobe, LEGO, Hertz, Pinterest, Hilton, Conde Nast, and many more.
Mostly, we’re excited to see the continued rise of search marketing and how businesses adapt to better at being found by consumers.
This post also appeared on ClickZ.
WordPress initially started out as a ‘blog-only’ platform and now that it has extended as a full-fledged Content Management System, it remains a popular blogging platform. WordPress.com blogs have over 409 million monthly viewers who looked at 22.4 billion pages per month this past year.
This standalone fact is enough to justify the popularity of WordPress as people’s favorite blogging platform.
WordPress does provide a lot of helpful features for blogging enthusiasts who are looking to start their own blogging website. However, inexperienced bloggers do commit some mistakes in spite of all the online help available. In this blog post, we will review the most common SEO WordPress mistakes that bloggers commit out of either ignorance or sheer carelessness. Regardless of the reason, these mistakes affect the search engine ranking of their blogs and even their online reputation.
So, let’s explore seven of the most common SEO mistakes made by WordPress bloggers.
1. Not using the right SEO optimized blogging theme
If you are new to blogging, you might have missed out on the information that WordPress offers SEO optimized themes for your blogs which are highly helpful when it comes to the quest of online rankings. If you are not using an SEO optimized blogging theme, you are obviously a step behind than the others who are relying on them. There are a lot of SEO optimized blogging themes for WordPress that you could choose from such as Divi, MagPlus, Jevelin etc.
2. Missing on an SEO optimized contact form
Even if your WordPress blog is in its initial phase, it needs to provide a point of contact to its followers, even if they are less in the count than expected. A contact form serves the purpose just right. Your contact form is a conversion driver and optimizing it for the right SEO keywords will help your visitors easily find your blog, hence amplifying the traffic.
3. Not buying a domain
Are you running your free blog using WordPress with the default blog address you were allotted with? If the answer is ‘Yes’, you might not be pleased with what we are about to tell you. A blog or even a website runs well only when it runs as per the need of its target audience. A proper domain name provides an identity to your blog and prepares a path for the visitors to lay their expectations. Not buying a domain can damage the traffic expectations of your blog and kill its overall Search engine ranking.
4. Not optimizing blog images
A great blog comes to being only when its relevant content is paired with original and high-quality images. However, a lot of WordPress blog and website owners forget to tap the optimization of these images. It is very important to optimize the images you use in your WordPress blog. It helps your site load faster and even enhances your Google PageSpeed score.
To optimize your blog images, you can seek help from WordPress image optimization plugins such as Smush It, EWWW Image Optimizer, and TinyPNG. These plugins will help you compress your images without affecting their resolution and also take care of their SEO optimization.
5. Choosing the wrong keyword
Your blog’s reachability depends entirely on the Keyword chosen by you for its Search Engine Optimization. Keyword Research might be a very extensive concept but it can do wonders for your blog’s SEO if done in the right manner.
You have to work on an SEO Keyword strategy for your blog in a manner that you are using Keywords that define the subject of your content, are low in competition yet are commonly used by visitors for finding the information they are looking for. Finding Keywords that fit the bill for all these requirements can be quite a task and might overwhelm certain users. As demanding they might be, they require your focus or the attention if you are looking to rank your blog well.
6. Not focusing on loading speed
Your online blog’s loading time will highly affect the traffic on it and also the site abandonment ratio that follows if your blog takes a lot of time to load for its visitors. A loading time above 2-3 seconds can lead to a lot of visitors abandoning your blog.
If you really are serious about your blog’s loading speed, you must get a Caching plugin for your blogs such as W3 Total Cache, WP Fastest Cache or WP Super Cache. These plugins are easy to use and they make your WordPress blog speedy as well. You must also not refrain from investing in a reliable web hosting service because they tackle your blogging website’s server side issues and have their fair share towards your blog’s overall performance and speed.
7. Not focusing on content and readability
Probably one of the most important aspects of your blog is the content that you push through it. It needs to be of a top-notch quality when you are looking to commit no SEO mistakes in and around it. Make sure the following things about your blog’s your content:
- Create original content that is relevant as per the audience.
- Make sure that this content is readable and provides a ‘takeaway’ for the target audience.
- Blogging consistently will help you have a stable traffic on your blog. Use plugins like the Editorial Calendar to blog regularly.
A lot of experienced blog owners do commit technical and onsite SEO errors and then look for SEO agencies and content marketers to take care of their blog’s SEO. However, the most common mistakes can be easily avoided by creating a checklist of the must-haves.
Analyze your WordPress blog today and see if you are committing any of the mistakes mentioned above. Hopefully, you’ll be able to tackle them and remove them from your blog at the earliest. Once you have a solid SEO content strategy and a perfect plan of action for your blog’s SEO, you will definitely be able to refine and improve the overall SEO performance of your WordPress blog.
I don’t usually go for drastic headlines, but it does seem like some tides have been turning of late.
We’ve all followed the stories of data breaches, new regulations, fake news, hacks, ever-rising privacy concerns. Not to mention this week’s discovery that webmaster Google had a breach exposing private data from as many as 500,000 people. As a result of which, they’ll be shutting down Google+ for consumers.
Facebook and Google faced scandals of no small sort within months of each other. GDPR passed, and subsequent regulations are hedging their way into the US market.
But perhaps most interesting of all, on September 29 Tim Berners-Lee surfaced to announce the next “one small step” for the web. I may not speak for the masses, but when Berners-Lee pipes up about something I tend to lend my ear. Besides being best known as the person who invented the World Wide Web (how about adding that to your LinkedIn), he’s been quite on-point in following its evolution.
Curious footnote: the WWW started as a memo
As he tells the story himself from a TED stage, “I wrote a memo suggesting the global hypertext system. Nobody really did anything with it. But 18 months later — this is how innovation happens — 18 months later, my boss said I could do it on the side, as a sort of a play project…So I basically roughed out what HTML should look like: hypertext protocol, HTTP; the idea of URLs, these names for things which started with HTTP. I wrote the code and put it out there.”
And now look at us. Running whole businesses on that one widely explosive memo.
Anyway. Almost 20 years after the original invention, Tim Berners-Lee appeared on the TED stage to thank people for all their work contributing to the web so far and to ask support to push the web into the next phase.
From documents to data
Reflecting on the collaborative effort that had been the web thus far, in 2009 Berners-Lee said, “I asked everybody, more or less,”Could you put your documents on this web thing?” And you did. Thanks. It’s been a blast, hasn’t it?” He likened that first evolution to the next: from documents to data. In that talk in 2009 he asked people, governments, universities, the UN, anyone with large, unused, non-private data sets to open them up on the web.
Through data, we saw the magic of Hans Rosling showing us global development over time. We’ve seen data used to help in hurricane relief, to save a primeval forest, and of course to create entirely new industries, products, customer experiences, and interactions.
From one-way data to read-write data
Happily, we’ve seen open data in troves. But most of it has been one-way, for instance government data that can be viewed but not interacted with.
Which brings us back to: hey Berners-Lee, what have you been up to the last eight years?
Besides teaching computer science at both Oxford and MIT (again, casual), he’s apparently been working on a little side project called Solid, “an open-source project to restore the power and agency of individuals on the web.”
Built using the existing web, Solid is a platform that offers two primary benefits: data empowerment and data interactivity. It gives users the power to decide where data is stored and who can access which parts of it. It lets users link, share, and collaborate on data with whomever they want.
Next: power with digital giants to power with consumers?
All of this of course brings us back to the original question: have we reached the tipping point?
Some proponent the concept of “walled gardens,” where internet, media, advertising, search, and data power are concentrated in the hands of primarily four digital giants: Google, Amazon, Apple, and Facebook.
Those four companies continue creeping into our lives and homes in never before dreamed ways. But trust is waning. Earlier this year, Edelman found a “37-point aggregate drop in trust across all institutions” — a steeper decline than in any other market.
In the words on Berners-Lee, “For all the good we’ve achieved, the web has evolved into an engine of inequity and division; swayed by powerful forces who use it for their own agendas. Today, I believe we’ve reached a critical tipping point, and that powerful change for the better is possible — and necessary.”
What does internet in the hands of consumers look like?
Well, who’s to say? Right now it still looks rather swayed by those powerful forces who use it for their own agendas.
A platform like Solid, though, would usurp that. It’s at odds with the current value exchange. Instead of demanding users hand over personal data to digital giants in order to essentially use the web, Solid seeks to take one small step toward restoring the balance of the web as it was actually intended to be. We would each have control over data.
Just as we all “put our documents on this web thing” and “it was a blast,” a platform like Solid seeks data empowerment and data interactivity. Two things many of us struggle to imagine.
But then again, as Berners-Lee ended his post, “The future is still so much bigger than the past.”
Ps in case I haven’t already made this clear, it’s a pretty worthwhile read.
This post also appeared on ClickZ.
International brands have their work cut out for them. Building a consistent brand experience across multiple continents and to audiences that speak different languages is no easy task, and the process of translating individual pages from one language to another is time consuming and resource intensive.
Unfortunately, much of this work can go to waste if the right steps aren’t taken to help search engines understand how your site has been internationalized.
To help you prevent this, we’ve collected a list of “Do’s and Don’ts” to help guide your internationalization efforts and ensure that your pages get properly indexed by search engines.
Do conduct language specific keyword research
The direct translation of a keyword will not necessarily be what users are searching for in that language. Rather than simply taking the translation at face value, you will have more success if you take a look at your options in the Google Keyword Planner to see if there are other phrasings or synonyms that are a better fit.
Remember to update your location and language settings within the planner, listed just above the “keyword ideas” field:
Don’t index automatic translation
Automatic translation can be better than nothing as far as user experience goes in some circumstances, but users should be warned that the translation may not be reliable, and pages that have been automatically translated should be blocked from search engines in robots.txt. Automatic translations will typically look like spam to algorithms like Panda and could hurt the overall authority of your site.
Do use different URLs for different languages
In order to ensure that Google indexes alternate language versions of each page, you need to ensure that these pages are located at different URLs.
Avoid using browser settings and cookies to change the content listed at the URL to a different language. Doing so creates confusion about what content is located at that URL.
Since Google’s crawlers are typically located in the United States, they will typically only be able to access the US version of the content, meaning that the alternate language content will not get indexed.
Again, Google needs a specific web address to identify a specific piece of content. While different language versions of a page may convey the same information, they do so for different audiences, meaning they serve different purposes, and Google needs to see them as separate entities in order to properly connect each audience to the proper page.
We highly recommend using a pre-built e-commerce platform like Shopify Plus or Polylang for WordPress in order to ensure that your method for generating international URLs is consistent and systematic.
Don’t canonicalize from one language to another
The canonical tag is meant to tell search engines that two or more different URLs represent the same page. This doesn’t always mean the content is identical, since it could represent page alternates where the content has been sorted differently, where the thematic visuals are different, and other minor changes.
Alternate language versions of a page, however, are not the same page. A user searching for the Dutch version of a page would be very disappointed if they landed on the English version of the page. For this reason, you should never canonicalize one language alternate to another, even though the content on each page conveys the same information.
Do use “hreflang” for internationalization
You may be wondering how to tell search engines that two pages represent alternate language versions of the same content if you can’t use canonicalization to do so. This is what “hreflang” is for which explicitly tells the search engines that two or more pages are alternates of one another.
There are three ways to implement “hreflang,” with HTML tags, with HTTP headers, and in your Sitemap.
1. HTML Tags
Implementing “hreflang” with HTML tags is done in the <head> section, with code similar to this:
<title>Title tag of the page</title>
<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”en”
<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”es”
<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”it”
Where hreflang=”en” tells search engines that the associated URL https://example.com/page1/english-url is the English alternate version of the page. URLs must be entirely complete, including http or https and the domain name, not just the path. The two letter string “en” is an ISO 639-1 code, which you can find a list of here. You can also set hreflang=”x-default” for a page where the language is unspecified.
Each alternate should list all of the other alternates, including itself, and the set of links should be the same on every page. Any two pages that don’t both use hreflang to reference each other will not be considered alternates. This is because it’s okay for alternates to be located on different domains, and sites you do not have ownership of shouldn’t be able to claim themselves an alternate of one of your pages.
In addition to a language code, you can add an ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 country code. For example, for the UK English version of a page, you would use “en-GB” in place of “en.” Google does advise having at least one version of the page without a country code. You can apply multiple country codes and a country-agnostic hreflang to the same URL.
2. HTTP header
As an alternative to HTML implementation, your server can send an HTTP Link Header. The syntax looks like this:
Link: <https://example.com/page1/english-url>; rel=”alternate”; hreflang=”en”,
<https://example.com/page1/spanish-url>; rel=”alternate”; hreflang=”es”,
<https://example.com/page1/italian-url>; rel=”alternate”; hreflang=”it”
The rules regarding how to use them are otherwise the same.
Finally, you can use your XML sitemap to set alternatives for each URL. The syntax for that is as follows:
Note that the English version of the page is listed both within the <loc> tag and as an alternate.
Keep in mind that this is not complete. For it to be complete you will also need separate <url> sections for the Spanish and Italian pages, each of them listing all of the other alternates as well.
Don’t rely on the “lang” attribute or URL
Google explicitly does not use the lang attribute, the URL, or anything else in the code to determine the language of the page. The language is determined only by the language of the content itself.
Needless to say, this means that your page content should be in the correct language. But it also means:
- The main content, navigation, and supplementary content should all be in the same language
- Side by side translations should be avoided. Don’t display translations on the page, just make it easy for users to switch languages.
- If your site offers any kind of automatic translation, make sure that this content is not indexable
- Avoid mixing language use if at all possible, and if it is necessary, make sure that the primary language of the page dominates any others in substance
Do allow users to switch languages
For any international business, it’s a good idea to allow the users to switch languages, usually from the main navigation. For example, Amazon allows users to switch languages from the top right corner of the site:
Do not force the user to a specific language version of the page based on their location. Automatic redirection prevents both users and search engines from accessing the version of the site that they need to access. Google’s bots will never be able to crawl alternate language versions of a page if they are always redirected to the US version of the site based on their location.
Turning to Amazon for our example once again, we are not prevented from accessing amazon.co.jp, but we do have the option of switching to English:
Don’t create duplicate content across multiple languages
While you should not canonicalize alternate language versions of one page to another, if you use alternate URLs for pages meant for different locations but the language and content are identical, you should use the canonical tag. For example, if the American and British versions of a page are identical, one should consistently canonicalize to the other. Use hreflang as discussed above to list them as alternates with the same language but for different locations.
Use these guidelines to make sure users from all of your target audiences will be able to find your pages in the search results, no matter where they are located or what language they speak.
When it comes to optimizing website content, there’s typically a lot of talk about the importance of choosing the right keywords and drafting compelling headlines – but the impact of meta descriptions on a website’s on-page SEO too often goes overlooked.
While you may think you have ticked all the boxes to boost visibility of your ecommerce site, the absence of an accurate meta description might just be costing you traffic and sales.
So, what are meta descriptions? They are short, unique snippets that describe a webpage. Think of what you would write if you had to advertise the webpage – that is exactly what meta descriptions need to include.
Many people tend to leave meta descriptions blank without realizing the effect it has on search results. A powerful meta description leads to a rise in click-through-rates which boosts the SEO ranking of your page. Simply put, they form the first impression of your website, so you rather make it a good one.
Here are 6 ways you can optimize meta descriptions to ensure clicks.
Whether it’s seeking the nearest plumbing services or discovering the best hotels in Maldives – everyone on Google has come looking for answers to a problem.
Put yourself in a customer’s shoes and think about what they could possibly ask to which your business can pose a solution. Your meta description needs to answer their question and impart value to entice them to click on your website.
While the meta description length has been extended up to 300 characters in order to make them more “descriptive”, it is always safe to stick to 160 characters so that the description does not appear abrupt and incomplete which can be rather frustrating for readers.
Let’s face it – emotion sells. Whether it is arousing urgency, anger, joy, trust, curiosity – any piece of content that evokes emotion is likely to be more effective in persuading readers to act. The same needs to be applied while drafting meta descriptions too.
You need to identify the emotional benefits a customer will attain by considering your brand and leverage it to drive traffic. Use words such as ‘attractive’, ‘enormous’, ‘powerful’, ‘unparalleled’ among others to strike a chord with your readers in just those two to three lines.
Use calls to action
Calls to action (CTAs) are powerful words that one must incorporate in the meta description because they communicate a clear purpose and urge readers to take a step forward.
However, this is not the place to use obvious calls to action such as ‘read more’ or ‘shop now’. Instead, you should use words like ‘save more’, state an offer or a tangible benefit such as free delivery or a free 30-day trial in the meta description to make better use of this space.
Choosing relevant keywords is one of the most critical steps for SEO optimization. That said, stuffing your content with these keywords won’t fetch you results. What’s important is strategically placing them in sections that can make a difference such as the meta description.
When Google displays search results, the search words are displayed in bold and it helps to have them highlighted in your website’s meta description tag which indicates relevancy and catches the reader’s attention too.
You are likely to have many keyword suggestions from research. In such cases, prioritize the keyword that has maximum impact for the particular webpage and use it in the meta description instead of fitting them all in 160 characters.
Each of the pages of your website are unique so why must they have the same description? If more than one page of your website shares the same description, then they are competing with each other because it means that they are talking about the same thing. This results in Google pushing your website lower down the rank.
So, don’t get lazy here and duplicate meta description content because that just gives the wrong signals to Google, deeming them to be spammy or repeated content which can hurt your search results.
Use rich snippets
Have you noticed some meta descriptions contain links, reviews, ratings and video images among others? Those are referred to as rich snippets. Contrary to normal snippets, rich snippets include structured data to give more detailed information to the search engine, helping people make a better decision before clicking websites.
Rich snippets give users quicker access to information through their visually appealing formats, images and relevant information that ultimate enhance click-through-rates. So, whether it is adding a contact number, product reviews and ratings or direct links – consider incorporating rich snippets in your meta description for it to stand out and attract clicks.
Hence, even though meta descriptions don’t directly affect page rankings, it is recommended to optimize them to drive clicks and generate traffic. If you are unsure how you meta description will appear, you can use this free tool to do a quick test before going live.
The event that started in a room above a pub has come a hell of a long way. Thousands were queueing up well before the doors opened. Our day kicked off in Auditorium One with three sessions on Content Marketing.
Ross Tavendale from Pitchbox began with an insightful recount of its first large retainer of $ 50K generating zero links. The reason? The ideation sessions were too subjective. This led to them re-looking at the ideation framework and focus on data-led campaigns. The advice being that you need to ask the question: ‘Why are we doing this?’ Because the data said so. A simple and yet highly accurate statement.
Millennial attention through social media
Sarah Bradley was up next and gave insight into how brands can gain millennials attention through social media. These included being more personal, authentic and creating social responsibility infused content. Her view is that millennials are crying out for brands to ‘get to know them’. They respond to a ‘just ask us’ approach so focus on community management and give them the opportunity to influence the content. If you want to take it a step further, Bradley suggested handing over the reins to your social media or search for a week to the very people who you are selling to as a viable experiment.
Test. Analyze. Repeat.
Heading to Auditorium Two, I found a packed room with every chair and every centimeter of space taken by an audience truly engaged with the content on offer. JP Sherman from Redhat made the claim that ‘knowledge graphs are fun’. While this might be a stretch too far, the data does show that they perform. He gave the sage advice to measure the end results and then track it back. Test. Analyze. Repeat. If it fails, Test. Analyze. Repeat. Until it stops failing. Sound advice.
If the main stages drew in large crowds, the syndicate rooms were actually where the content became more detailed and educational. As CEO of Tug Nick Beck said: “The auditorium speakers might be pay to play but they do deliver solid sessions. However, the real insights come from the smaller stages where the focus is on delivering content which is detailed and educational. The undeniable fact is that BrightonSEO is still the place to be!”
Reported most useful SEO tools
The man who is famous for wearing an orange suit and writing ‘Spaghetti Code’ Christoph Cemper, gave a detailed list of the most useful SEO tools including:
- Google Search Console – see real rankings; see real DTR; get link data; combine link data
- Google Analytics – combine GA with Google search console; collect historical data
- Google Tag Manager – speed and tracking
- Keyword tool.io – comprehensive keyword database
- Keyword tracker.io – SEOmonitor.com. No fancy stuff
- XENU – errors; broken links; unlimited; free
- Screaming Frog – real free for up to 500 URLs
- Site bulb
- Yoast SEO – supports word press
- JSON -LD Tester –
- Structured Data Testing Tool
- HREF LANG Checker – free tool; make sure HREF language link to the right pages and check the ref of those
- JS – CSS Beautifier
- Link Clump
- User Agent Switcher – see cloaked stuff
- Keywords Everywhere – chrome extension; search volume; CPC; competitor
- Link Redirect Trace
- LRT Link Checker Extension
- LRT SEO Toolbar – shows SERP numbers; experts; SERP sorting; domain metrics and keyword rankings
- LRT Power Trust
SEO is about trust
Checklists were a common theme throughout BrightonSEO and Alex Rapallo, Digital Marketing Manager at Barclays Corporate Banking, summed it up: “The atmosphere here has a great social vibe without the expected corporate element. The content has been more checklist base this year and this lends itself to delivering more digestible takeaways to take back to the workplace. One of the overriding takeaways is that SEO is about trust. If you rank well in SEO, your brand is perceived as a more trustful company.”
Amazon SEO tools
Prabhat Shah from DaytoDayeBay gave another checklist session on Amazon SEO tools and why Amazon SEO matters. In fact, throughout the day, Amazon showed why it deserves it’s place in the trioply, as it was referenced more frequently throughout the event and eclipsed Google which was notably absent from the discussions and speaker content.
- Sonar – helps find the keywords that people search in keywords. See product relevancy visually; identify most searched keywords; show competitors
- Sellics – helps manage PPC campaigns on Amazon; what no of product is ranking; which page you’re ranking on; gets a list of converting and non-converting keywords
- Splitly – A/B testing for images, keywords, titles, and hidden keywords
- Helium IO Magnet
- Keyword tool. Io
- Amzdatastudio – helps to find out the keywords that are ranking other peoples’ products
- Amazon KW Index Checker – finds out if a particular keyword is ranking your product or not; bulk upload and search volume
- Jungle Scout – estimated bid price
- Misspelling Checker
This educationally led session was one of many during the event. David Stubbings, Senior Content Manager at Guinness World Records said:
“It’s about learning and getting an understanding of technical solutions that will benefit our SEO. I had an expectation that BrightonSEO would be more tech focused this year, What I have found is that it has provided more practical learning and has encouraged me to think differently.
SEO is more important than ever and one of the key reasons for this is voice activation, of which SEO has an obvious advantage in capitalizing.”
Future views of SEO and SERPs
The livener before lunch was the enigmatic Grant Simmons, VP at homes.com who stole the show with an interactive session on SEO toolbelt which will vanquish Google SERPs. From his claim that those who work in SEO are question engineers to his advice that success will come from questioning not why your competitor is above you, but what you are missing that is ranking you below them. Compare and contrast on each aspect from the snippet to the image to the title tag and improve on each area. If the juice isn’t worth the squeeze, don’t waste time on it. Filter and focus on what is important to your business.
The afternoon may not have had as many stand out sessions but there were plenty that provided future views of SEO and practical nuggets. Three sessions covered SERPs with the most interesting approach coming from Patrick Reinhart with Indexation, Cannibalization, Experimentation, Oh My! Oh my indeed as his views were strong and well presented. This session was one of many that were of a high standard.
Interactive content: harder for Google to cannibalize and more valuable to the user
Rand Fishkin closed the event with bullish statements such as “The harder a tactic becomes the more of a competitive advantage it gives us”. It seems like Rand’s relationship with Google has soured somewhat, and he definitely let that come across in his talk!
Fishkin presented a view that Google is ranking google-hosted sites more highly (sites where you can scroll through the site without ever having to leave the search engine results page). Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn are now following suit – e.g. ranking blogs hosted on LinkedIn more highly than those hosted elsewhere. The intention of which is, of course, to keep you on that site, rather than directing you away. Fishkin did give some advice on how to respond.
Leverage every scrap of traffic google still sends to your site, use clickthrough rate estimates in keyword research, shift content marketing to keywords Google is less likely to cannibalize – longtail.
And the best advice of all is to “interactive content is the way to do content marketing in the future” – harder for Google to cannibalize and more valuable to the user.
“The harder this gets, the better we do.”
While Rand doesn’t like the way it’s going – he doesn’t think it’s right or ethical, he thinks it’s monopolizing – but “we live in the real world”. It is in this world that he offers solutions on what you can do to combat Google cannibalizing your SEO; control what appears for your brand – monitor the SERPs and Influence the publishers to get listed on other more highly ranking websites.
Rand is a short-term pessimist but a long-term optimist: “the harder this gets the better we do” and BrightonSEO was certainly the place where optimism was rife.
Veronica Irons, Head of Digital at Guinness World Records adds: “There are misconceptions about an event dedicated to SEO that it will be boring. The reality is that BrightonSEO is far from that. The quality of sessions has been exceptional and appeal to all disciplines. Ultimately, SEO is definitely something you can’t ignore.”
Not only is SEO something you can’t ignore. BrightonSEO is an event that cannot and should not be ignored. Until next year Brighton!
Eoin O’Neill is CTO & Global Head of SEO at Tug
The SEO industry is growing rapidly—estimated to balloon to $ 79 billion by 2020. Even though you may already be doing great with SEO marketing, you should not ignore the potential benefit of a virtual private network (VPN) on SEO strategies. A VPN is a solution that helps connect two parties on the internet anonymously and using an encrypted network that is private. It is mainly used to protect your online privacy and access content that is not available in a particular zone.
So, how does a VPN benefit SEO? Let’s get started.
Understand local SEO using a VPN
There are many locations that a company might want to target. For example, you can be in Australia and want to target India. However, if you do a quick Google search, it will show local results from Australia—not a specific result for India that you wanted. As an SEO specialist, you may want to know what the people of India are searching for. Moreover, you would also want to know about the competition around those areas. If that’s the case, you should use a VPN.
A VPN can seriously change how you do research about a local market. By using a VPN, you can trick Google into thinking that you are from India (or any region that you are trying to learn about). This also means you can do a local search and learn about the local audience needs and try to understand what queries they are using. All this information can change how you perform in other areas.
Why use a VPN when you can always use targeted ads? Well, first, you need to learn about what the local audience searches for. Clearly, there is an added advantage in knowing local searches. Moreover, you can also see competitors local ads and learn how they are targeting the audience.
Last, but not the least, you can also know how your ads are being served in local areas.
Protect privacy when working
SEO is a competitive market. To succeed, you need always to be ahead of your competitors. This means hiding your steps when you visit your competitors or when you mimic/modify their strategies.
All of this sounds good, but the competitors can easily track your IP and know about you ahead of time. This can lead them to your site which turn will open up the possibility of them copying your strategy. As competition is high, you should always try to hide your steps or at least hide your strategy from the competitors as much as you can.
That’s not the only problem. Google can also track you if they find anything suspicious. They can know if you are buying backlinks—not good.
The solution for all these problems is to use a VPN. It doesn’t matter if you are running a website that is new or old, you should always hide your digital footprint as much as you can. With a VPN, you can do your research and stay hidden at the same time. This will improve your chances to grow in the market.
Do remote SEO work
With the rise in remote work, there is no denying that we need to protect our privacy when working online. Also, as an SEO specialist, you need to have access to the different tools which might be restricted due to the location from which you are trying to access it. For example, China blocks most of the Google services. But if your main focus is SEO, you must have access to Google.
That’s why you should use a VPN to have stress-free access to any tool, website, or service you want. This will improve your productivity, and you won’t have to think twice when working.
Get past the Google’s search query reCAPTCHAs
Working as an SEO specialist, you are always expected to to keep a tab on certain SEO stats and keywords that are relevant to your project. Not only that, but you also need to search for new keywords every now and then. However, Google might flag you for doing too many searches too often. If you are flagged, you will constantly be redirected to Google reCAPTCHAs.
You may also get a different error which might say that there is unusual traffic from this network. Now to proceed further, you need to solve a reCAPTCHA every few searches. This can lead to a loss of productive work. Also, it is no fun to fill reCAPTCHAs all the live long day.
To solve the issue, you must use a VPN. A good VPN can change IP addresses, making you work with a flow. VPNs are also useful in building a blog, and that’s why you will see good blogging guide always encourage new bloggers to use a VPN.
Why should I use a VPN when I can use proxy?
One of the common questions that we receive is why use a VPN when a proxy can be used to the same effect? That’s partially true, but there are many advantages of using a VPN over a proxy. With a VPN, you can:
- Work faster than with a proxy
- Change the IP address on the fly
- Not have to worry about reCAPTCHAs
- Work with cross-platforms
- Secure your connection completely
- Protect your privacy
- Have a stable and great user experience
What do you think about using VPNs for SEO benefits?
We’re all scrambling to keep up with digital transformation, navigate which new technology is right for us, and nail that elusive “omnichannel, seamless, ultimate customer experience.”
Yet in all the hustle, we may be missing one of the most important pieces of the transformation process: bringing our internal teams with us. Before we can transform our digital prowess, we need to transform our company culture.
Last week we spoke with Siddarth Taparia, SVP and Head of Marketing Transformation at SAP. He argues that digital transformation is preceded not by technology but by people, and shares what SAP is doing to ready themselves for the future.
As a sidenote, Siddarth will be giving the keynote at the Transformation of Search Summit in NY on Oct 19. We touch on some of his views on the future of search in this conversation.
ClickZ: Tell us a bit about your position and what you work on.
Siddarth Taparia: I’m responsible for all marketing from a transformation perspective: how we need to transform, what role technology is playing in our transformation, and behavioral changes we work on.
SAP as a company has close to 400,000 customers worldwide. We operate in over 100 countries, and have roughly $ 28 billion in revenue every year. We have one of the largest ecosystems of partners, ranging from large technology companies like Microsoft and Amazon, to services partners like EY, to all our hundreds of channel partners.
CZ: You’ve got one of the largest companies in this space. How do you understand which technologies are right for you? How are you structuring your transformation?
ST: When I think about transformation, I’m not thinking about technology first.
That may sound a little counterintuitive because we’re a technology company. And to this day, technology remains a tool that is powering transformation. But the transformation itself is about two things: it’s about business results, and it’s about people.
When you bring those things together, that’s what brings transformation.
Change is hard—often what we’ve found is that changing the technology is the easy part. Changing the behavior of people takes a lot longer. We don’t think about the technology first. We think about what business results we’re trying to drive. Then we think about what technology.
I’m a big believer in what Peter Drucker said: “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” We can have the best strategy in the world. But to drive it into real change, we need to bring about a cultural change—that’s the hard part. Change management is not to be underestimated in any of this.
CZ: Could you give us an example of how SAP manages change?
ST: One of the big changes we’re in the process of driving right now is “how do we create a highly personalized experience for our customers when they come in?” Technology works best when it disappears. We want to make sure our technology disappears and our customers get a beautiful, personalized experience.
In order to make that happen, we have to drive a lot of internal change. We have to break a lot of silos between sharing of data. We have to look at what we know about our customers from other sources and how we can integrate it. That oftentimes means we have to change our internal processes.
In this case we’ve had to make sure we’re thinking about the customer journey first—before thinking about our internal organization and systems. We’ve had to look at the journey and say “here’s where the customer comes to us, here’s where they make certain decisions, here’s what the rest of their journey looks like, let’s optimize for that.”
Oftentimes, marketing teams are set up by certain structures: brand, events, advertising, digital. But it turns out the same customer is coming to an event, looking at an ad, going to sap.com, and having a one-on-one conversation with a salesperson. We’ve had to turn our systems and processes inside-out so we can have integration of data.
So first and foremost, we need to educate our employees about what we’re doing and why. Every employee in SAP marketing right now can tell you what we mean when we say customer journey. Then we think about how we can work with employees to provide better connectivity across our own systems. How do we change our technology and processes so that they’re not visible to the customer, but they accomplish what the customer cares about: when I go to your website or go to an event, you know enough about me to pick up the conversation from where it was left off last, so I’m not repeating information or having an experience that’s not highly relevant to me.
We’ve been working through this challenge for quite some time, especially as new technologies like AI and machine learning come in and are playing such a big role in terms of providing a much more personalized customer experience.
CZ: From a theoretical or strategic standpoint, that all makes perfect sense. But from a technological side, can you talk about what steps you take? How do you find the right technology?
ST: This is an ongoing journey for us—we’re in it right now. We have almost daily conversations on how to streamline our processes, how to make our CX better, and how to use technology to make that happen.
Right now, we’re looking at how we can send fewer emails to our customers and instead have them naturally come in and find us when they have a need.
None of us wants more emails in our inbox. What is the combination of products that serves us best to be able to be found when customers are searching? We’ve looked at third-party solutions, emerging solutions, and in this case—we’re lucky being a tech company—at our own products. Naturally we have a content marketing strategy so our content is relevant and can be found on Google at the point of need. Not proactively pushing it into inboxes, but ready to be found when the customer is looking. Once they find us, we can engage with them and continue to advance their journey.
If our goal is to improve CX, what are the specific actions we want to take? We want to move away from pushing out marketing messages like email, and toward letting customers come to us and engage at their point of need.
Then we ask what type of technology we need. That could turn into a broad discussion about if we need to change our content marketing strategy, or about how we nurture our customers and provide them the right information. Once we’ve identified those big blocks, we look at the specific technology pieces.
Then the business case kind of builds itself. You’re saying this is what we want to do, this is how we want to do it, and these are the technologies we need to deploy it.
A big part of it is working with our business—operations, sales, front end of customer journey—and leadership team to make sure what we’re doing aligns.
Once we’ve done all that, that technology implementation is the relatively easy part in this day and age. The challenge becomes working with people and educating them on new ways of defining things.
So for instance, that sending fewer emails will improve customer experience and drive better results. There’s always skepticism involved.
People say, “I’m sending out 1000 emails with a 1% open rate and we’re getting a certain return from that. Why do I need to change it?” The conversation at that point is, “it may be working well today, but look at the trends: people are opening less email, paying less attention to information being pushed to them, and using more search and social recommendations to go find information they need.”
We have to educate and enable our people so they can go through the journey with us.
And then of course one of the most important pieces is being able to provide results: how was our email working before vs our end-to-end personalization programs now?
CZ: Can you give any other examples of what SAP does to make sure employees are drivers of technological transformation, rather than reticent toward adapting it?
ST: Our leadership is very in tune with asking, “why are we doing this?” and always bringing it back to a business objectives. When we’re able to explain it internally, then usually we’re able to explain it to our employees very well—it will drive leads, revenue, etc.
Marketing changes almost every 18-24 months completely. The key is bringing employees along on that journey.
Right now, we’re putting in place a heavy duty training program for our employees, so they can build up their digital skill sets for the future. Those skill sets change every 2-3 years, because the market is moving so fast. We want not just our leadership, but every single employee in SAP marketing to be thinking about the skill sets of the future, technologies of the future, and new ways of doing business to drive results.
Change requires a big amount of culture and mindset shift.
In the old world, SAP used to sell on-premise software. The customer would buy their own server, their own computers, and deploy the software. They would pay for the software once and then use it forever. Now, that model has completely changed. With cloud and SaaS, customers are paying a subscription—they’re essentially renting it as they go, which is a huge shift in the market.
From a marketing standpoint, focusing on the point of sale is now just the first step in the customer journey. What used to be kind of the last step—the customer bought the software—has become the first. Now, they need to deploy it, they need to be productive on it, and they need to continue to use it, or they’ll go to your competition. They don’t have a big investment in it, and can just change providers. The care of a customer after they’ve bought something from us is now tremendously important for a company like SAP. That’s a huge shift in mindset for employees—now thinking about the entire customer life cycle.
We started an initiative called Customer First, thinking about how we can have customers for life. Where are our customers in their journey? Are they productive? Are they making use of it? Are they getting business value from it? That’s been a big change for us.
So again, we focus on educating employees on what the new business model is and why it’s changing, and what new technologies they need to think about.
With that, it’s also changing the internal KPIs and metrics we use for success. Now we think about how marketing contributes to adoption and customer lifetime value. KPIs, employee mindsets, technologies we use, and processes we follow internally all have to shift. That’s a big change we’ve driven internally in marketing over the last couple years.
CZ: Search is obviously a key channel to be able to pick up on customer signals without sending a bunch of emails. What’s your view on the changing role of search, and the role of search as part of the broader marketing transformation?
ST: To me search is the most important starting point for any conversation you’re going to have in the future with a customer. Forget B2B and enterprise technology, the business that we’re in. In our personal lives, if you’re thinking about buying a new exercise machine or a new book, where do you go? You go to Google, or Bing, or DuckDuckGo, or whatever your preferred search engine is. That’s the starting point of the customer journey today.
From our perspective, it’s incredibly important to think about how we show up on search. We’ve made a lot of investments in paid search, but we also think about SEO for our own content. Our content strategy is highly based on search—we make sure that our content, thought leadership, research, and the work we’re doing actually ends up being seen by customers. The way to do that is through search.
It’s the ultimate editorial of our time. If you don’t show up on the first page of Google search results, you might as well have called it a day and gone home, because it’s never going to be seen by your customers. From our standpoint, one of the most important things is to make sure that each of our products shows up in the search results for their categories. We make sure our owned, earned, and paid efforts align with our search strategy. This is a change that’s been around for quite some years. We’ve been working with Google, Bing, and others. Search engines have been highly relevant to us for more than five years now in terms of thinking about search as a logical starting point in the customer journey.
CZ: As things like voice search increase, for example, what’s your view on that?
ST: I think of it in two parts. Already in the last couple years, with a large volume of search moving from desktop to mobile, the relevance of the number of search results became much more important. You could see maybe fifteen results on your desktop, but you only see five on your mobile. That’s point 1. Point 2 is that when you then go to voice, it goes from five to maybe one result.
Not only do you have to have a proactive search engine strategy, you also have to have a very proactive brand strategy.
We as a company are one of the most valuable brands in the world—the 17th most valuable according to the latest brand rankings. We’re one of the most valuable brands in Europe. That helps us stand out from the crowd. It helps us get recognized.
Voice search is highly relevant—we’re thinking about it every single day. The number of results is shrinking, and people are paying attention to fewer things.
A combination of a more proactive search strategy and a stronger brand—we’ve gone from #21 to #17 just this year—both of those things help our rankings. Some people see our results and can’t tell a difference from one company to another. As consumers we tend to go with brands that are recognized, trusted, and have been in the business for a long time. The value of brand is not to be underestimated in this day and age.
Q4 is right around the corner, and that means digital marketers need to be on top of their game in planning, building, executing, and converting. But when you are looking to really scale revenue and new customers this holiday season, you’ll have to incorporate some branding strategies.
Now, I work for a performance digital marketing agency, so everything we do is always tied back to the question, ‘Well, is it improving performance?’ So when I say branding, I’m talking about the avenues that will allow you to get very targeted so that you can be sure you are hitting relevant audiences for your business. Better yet for performance marketers, there is a way where (to some extent) you can measure the effects these branding plays have on performance (I’ll get to that in a bit).
In this post, I’ll break down channels to test for branding, and then I’ll talk about how to measure the performance of those branding channels/campaigns. Let’s get started.
This channel has huge reach, and it’s a great way to cast a wide net and get exposure for your brand. The biggest downside with YouTube is that, if you’re not careful, you can spend a lot of your budget ineffectively.
Here are a few targeting recommendations to effectively get in front of the right audiences and have a positive impact on performance:
- In-market audiences – With this targeting, Google identifies users who are actively shopping for certain categories. Additionally, if you know the demographics of your target audience, you can layer on gender and age targeting to get more selective about the folks who see your ad.
- Custom intent audiences – You can also take things one step beyond in-market audiences and develop your own custom intent audiences. With custom intent audiences, you enter a list of search terms that align with what your ideal audience uses to find your product/service. Google will then use that list to define and reach the ideal audience for your business; this lets you go beyond Google’s predefined audience segments and reach people as they’re making a purchase decision.
What makes Instagram’s stories feature so great is that it takes advantage of all of Facebook’s granular targeting capabilities, which means you can get right in front of the specific personas you want to target (including interests, demographic, behavioral, as well as lookalikes and custom audiences). You can also get specific with the devices you want to target, so if you know, for instance, that your core purchasers are typically iPhone users, you can limit targeting to those devices.
I would recommend initially starting off with your top-performing Facebook audience and refine testing from there.
Native is a great way to deliver your ads to massive audiences who are in the mindset of consuming content. Native offers tons of channels: Outbrain, Taboola, Yahoo Gemini, etc. My recommendation is to start with Yahoo Gemini – in particular, the following ad types.
Yahoo mail ads appear within your Yahoo mailbox. You can leverage Yahoo’s capabilities to target by age, gender, interests, and custom audiences. Typically, I recommend targeting users interested in your competitors as they would be highly relevant; that, coupled with layering on age/gender data, will get you close to the personas you want to go after.
Additionally, as you test across Yahoo’s wider network with native, one highly recommended ad format to use would be carousel ads, which come in either desktop or mobile format.
Desktop carousel ads allow advertisers to show a more premium format for their ads:
Mobile carousel ads allow advertisers to use up to 5 images to tell a visual story:
One caveat: not all sites are set up to take carousel ad formats. The sites that are set up for carousel ads tend to be higher-quality properties, so it’s a nice bit of self-selecting when you put carousel ads into play.
How to measure branding performance
Okay, now that you’re casting a wide net and building awareness for your brand, how can you quantify the value of those efforts? Although it’s not easy to assign value to every aspect, we’ve found some strategies to be helpful.
One technique we use is by tagging our ads with utm parameters, indicating the channel, campaign, targeting and ad that a user is coming through on when they click the ad.
Then we develop remarketing campaigns or ad sets specifically targeting our brand awareness efforts. (For example, we remarket specifically to those who have clicked on our Instagram Story ad.) This separates our brand awareness efforts within our remarketing campaigns, which allows us to quantify conversions (and conversion rates) of those who have been exposed to our brand via our broader branding initiatives. It’s not perfect, but it helps us define how successful our branding efforts are.
With users brought in through branding campaigns, it’s important to remember that the buying journey can be longer – even if you’re a retail brand in Q4. If you’re looking to capitalize on your user base for the holiday season, there’s no time like the present to bring in this new audience and get the nurture/remarketing engine running.
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