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Search specialist shares five ways to adapt your search strategy in uncertain times

March 28, 2020 No Comments

The events of the last few weeks have had a dramatic effect on millions of people’s lives. Uncertainty over health, childcare, work, food and the wellbeing of loved ones has dominated all of our thinking over the past few days.

Not only has it changed the way we’re shopping and interacting with others, an expert at online search specialist Epiphany, Paul Norris, has looked at how it has impacted what users are turning to the internet for and advises how businesses can adapt their search strategy during this tricky time.

The Prime Minister’s speech on 13th March 2020 served as a catalyst for many to search for “working from home essentials” with searches such as computer chairs increasing by 185%.

As a nation, we also considered our options for emergency deliveries, including “wine delivery” services, which nearly tripled in just one week.

search strategy and trends in tricky times

As people’s searches change to reflect new (increasingly home-based and socially distant) situations, it’s important that marketers adapt to the shifts in search behavior.

Here are a few ways to navigate the next few weeks and to prepare for when we emerge from the current situation:

1. Identify and capitalize on emerging trends

Monitor your search query reports closely – look for increased use of convenience and supply modifiers as availability and fulfillment is valued more. Searches containing “near me” have started to fall as queries for “online” services have increased.

If your business offers quick deliveries (and can still fulfill them), ensure it’s prominent in messaging, listings and on-site. Searches for next and same-day delivery will only continue to grow.

2. Listen to your visitors – use your site search reports and Hotjar polls

Your on-site search function is an absolute gold mine in times like these – demand and behavioral changes from your visitors are picked up directly. Use the Site Search report in GA (found under “Behaviour” on the left-hand side) as a listening board.

closely monitor site search reports to effectively work on your search strategy

Surface the most-searched-for products and services on relevant high traffic pages. Rethink, test and measure your carousels and other key product and service listing elements where relevant. Enabling Hotjar (or similar) polls can also enable you to get more specific insight.

3. Shift budget into investment channels

If you’re pulling back on sales activation because demand is dropping, look to move that budget and resource into a medium and longer-term activity that will pay dividends when demand picks up. With the previous points in mind, conduct a meta-data review and weave more highly valued services such as next day delivery into titles and descriptions. Has content taken a back seat? There are some definite benefits to content strategy, planning, and creation with the headspace you’re afforded when working from home.

4. Bypass dev queues and do what you can from your CMS

Prioritizing your activity in a busy dev queue can be difficult at the best of times. If dev time is booked up because the team is completely promo and sales activation focused, do what you can. Are you able to edit content and optimize existing pages in the CMS? Can you create new landing pages in your CMS without tech intervention? If so, now is the time to utilize those capabilities.

5. Maximize performance where demand is strong

Identify where demand remains strong (or has even picked up) and do what you can to capture and convert it. Your top landing pages and product reports are a good first port of call and can provide you with some quick wins. Segmenting and analyzing site performance by product/area/service (depending on your sector) can help you identify and capitalize on bigger emerging trends. If you’re a retailer, think about splitting out essential and non-essential products.

Paul Norris is Senior Strategist & Head of London Operations at Epiphany.

The post Search specialist shares five ways to adapt your search strategy in uncertain times appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Search Engine Watch


Hitchhiker’s guide to the end of the third-party cookie as we know it

March 24, 2020 No Comments

Google’s planned cross-site tracking changes for Chrome are far from earth-shattering, and with a few safety checks, you should be good to go. Let’s take a look at what Google has planned and what folks in the ad tech and martech world need to do:

How Google Chrome’s privacy update affects ad tech

As of this month, Google has implemented a new secure-by-default model for cookies, enabled by a new cookie classification system.

This system will stop sending third-party cookies in cross-site requests unless the cookies are secure and flagged through SameSite, which is meant to prevent the browser from sending the cookie along with cross-site requests.

While SameSite is not a particularly new concept, this will be the first time a secure cookie flag will be a requirement for those using Chrome — not just a best practice, as it has been up until now.

Google implemented these new requirements with Chrome 80 on February 4 as the first step in a larger multi-year plan to phase out support for third-party cookies, leaving the ad tech and martech industry with just a few weeks left to make the necessary tweaks to ensure their cookies continue to function properly.

The Google Chrome update means a little change, but a lot of hype for ad tech 

Given similar changes that have already been made by browsers like Safari, this new update from Google is not something that should send advertisers into a panic.

If anything, these updates are part of the ongoing trend in creating more stringent policies regarding data and privacy.

While Google represents the most immediate change, Mozilla and Microsoft both have similar updates planned in the future. But while this may soon become the new norm, advertisers need to prepare now in order to avoid data loss and chaos later.

When it comes to privacy updates, fortune favors the prepared 

So, what steps should anyone in the ad tech industry take to make sure they aren’t caught unaware?

First, any organization that hasn’t already moved to HTTPS must do so before the changes go into effect, or risk having their cookies discarded by Chrome.

Second, any tech vendors that use tracking cookies will have to set SameSite cookie attributes with one of three values: “strict,” “lax,” or “none.”

A setting of “strict” means that a cookie will not work on any website other than the domain in which it was placed. A setting of “lax” allows cookies to be shared across domains owned by the same publisher, and a setting of “none” allows full third-party cookie sharing, providing other security requirements are met.

Today, “SameSite=None” is the default within Google Chrome, but as of February, developers have to manually enable “SameSite=None” in order for cookies to continue working.

If they do not, cookies will automatically default to “SameSite=lax,” and will cease working across all websites.

What’s the future of cookie-based tracking?

Given Google’s expressed intent to “make third-party cookies obsolete,” it’s clear that the industry needs to be prepared for a world without the ability to track users with third-party cookies.

As I’ve said before in the context of Apple’s ITP, the best way to future-proof your partnerships program is to take advantage of server-to-server tracking — in other words, APIs.

I believe APIs are the future of online tracking, and not just because they provide a way to circumvent browser policies.

When an advertiser can communicate directly with a tech platform without relying on a browser as an intermediary, it means better attribution and less sharing of user data — and that’s a win for everyone.

Matt Moore is a Product Marketing Manager at Impact, and he’s been in the affiliate and partnerships space for the last six years. He’s always on the lookout for a good story to tell or a good dog GIF to share.

The post Hitchhiker’s guide to the end of the third-party cookie as we know it appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Search Engine Watch


How to grow your YouTube rankings with the right SEO tools

March 21, 2020 No Comments

We’re all aware that YouTube’s video consumption grows every year, so it’s kind of obvious that YouTube search engine is huge, possibly being outdone only by Google. 

There is also a simple fact: YouTube video content will always have lower competition compared to text.

Still, to rank high, SEO matters. Optimizing for YouTube includes many tasks, and doing them right requires some tools.

From writing the perfect description to looking up what your competition did right, there is SEO software for all aspects of YouTube optimization.

In this list, those tools are organized first by functionality: keyword research, channel audit and competition research — and second by the tools’ complexity.

YouTube SEO tools to choose the perfect keywords and topic

Tool highlights: YouTube Autocomplete, Google Keyword Planner, Rank Tracker, Keywordtool.io, Kparser, Keywords Everywhere.

The topics for your YouTube videos need to be carefully optimized. What you need to do is communicate to the search engine that out of all the videos targeting a particular keyword you are the best one. This is done by filling out your title, description, and tags.

For beginners

If we’re talking about just getting suggestions for this one YouTube video, we don’t need to go beyond the free tools.

SEO is not always about advanced, expensive software packs. Here, we’ll use what YouTube gives to us by default.

Go right on YouTube and type into the search bar the beginning of the topic you may have vaguely in mind. YouTube will then present you with a list of options, showing what people mostly search for connected to that.

YouTube rankings

Simply go through a bunch of letters of the alphabet. You’ll get plenty of video ideas that you can then further research and find out if this is your topic.

So while this is free, which is always a bonus, and it doesn’t require you to go anywhere from YouTube, there are still some drawbacks. Like you can only look up one word at a time, and there’s zero info on your results, and so on.

Sure, if all you’re after is creating one video a month, that method could suit you fine.

But if you’re looking to implement YouTube into your marketing strategy fully, it won’t be enough. You’ll need a more convenient SEO tool covering YouTube optimization.

For a full-on video campaign

To go a little more in-depth, turn to Google Keyword Planner. There, you’ll have an easier time putting in a bunch of possible topics and getting some good results in return.

YouTube rankings

Now, not to be blasphemous. But I was never a fan of Keyword Planner. For example from the screenshot: I searched for “Turkish rap” and the data on searches it gives is “10K to 100K”? There’s a 90K difference in there that really matters.

On top of that, you can only search 10 keywords at a time. And if you’re serious about YouTube SEO, you’ll be looking up dozens of them.

So if what you’re looking for is seriously comprehensive data, turn to Rank Tracker (full disclosure: it’s my project). Since it’s a holistic tool, you’ll get a bunch of things there, but for now, we’re interested in Autocomplete Tools.

There, choose YouTube Autocomplete, and get extended results.

YouTube rankings

As this is the full-on YouTube rank checker and keyword research solution, suitable for SEO in general also, you will get a whole bunch of info.

A useful feature, among other things, is that you can sort your keywords by their length — this helps you better target those amazing long-tail keywords, which usually bring your videos a lot of clicks.

That said, this is a desktop-based tool, and as such, it takes a download and an installation to actually start using its full functionality.

If you can’t spare the time, Keywordtool.io and Kparser work perfectly for this aspect of YouTube marketing.

The catch with them is just that they are actually freemium-based. You can use them for free, but their functionality then is severely limited.

Both these tools give a good number of keyword suggestions specifically for YouTube. That said, they don’t give any additional information about them. They also aren’t free, and require you to cough up some dough to access their full functionality.

That said, as paid software, it fits a digital marketer working with a campaign of pretty much any volume.

If you’re dead tired of using additional tools in general, look into using a nice free tool, Keywords Everywhere. It functions as a nice and light extension to your browser.

You’ll get a slew of SEO information right in your browser, and will be able to do parts of your research “on the fly”.

What’s important is that you implement your keyword research, not just by adding keywords to your title, but to your description and tags, as well.

Tools for SEO audit of your YouTube channel

Tool highlights: YouTube Analytics, Social Blade, Quintly, TubeBuddy, vidIQ, Tubics.

For any kind of business, an audit is paramount. Running a YouTube channel is no different. You need to keep your hand on the pulse of what does and doesn’t work. You’ll be able to use those insights further on when building your YouTube strategy.

For beginners

Turn to the very useful YouTube Analytics (YouTube’s native tool) first. You’ll get a bird’s eye view of what’s happening with your channel.

And for a lot of us, YouTube Analytics is actually quite enough.

You get the info about your viewership, and what they prefer watching overall. You get a neat graph with the history of your viewership all laid out.

It’s not super comprehensive, but it gets the job done if all you want is a little statistics.

A good supplementary tool would be Social Blade. Simply enter your channel’s name and get some numbers on your channel.

There’s also a very fun Future Predictions feature available, which will show you how much your videos are projected to grow.

And although quintly is not a specifically YouTube-oriented feature, it works pretty nicely. In addition to data on subscribers, engagement, watch time of your videos, and so on, it provides a convenient reporting feature, useful for anybody managing a larger team.

For a full-on video campaign

Of course, if you want to go deeper, you should look into a tool like TubeBuddy. It is one of the best supplementary tools to YouTube Analytics, and, really, it deserves the hype.

There is an abundance of features presented here:


You can analyze your channel’s stats, get data on your videos, and perform competition research. You also can edit the thumbnails, annotations, and descriptions of your YouTube content.

From suggesting you tags (which, by the way, doesn’t seem to influence your actual SEO rankings much), to translating your video’s title and description, TubeBuddy is one of the best suites on the market right now, and it comes at an affordable price.

From $ 9/mo to $ 49/mo, you’ll get varied functionality. That said, even the free version is good enough to vastly improve your SEO.

Or, maybe you’d like to try something like vidIQ, which is also an all-in-one YouTube SEO solution.

It’ll give you tips on best publishing times, suggest your niche’s influencers to connect with, and so on. A handy browser extension lets you research competitors in the same way.

It also has the bulk editing of end cards for your videos. A small thing, but it’s such a time saver. That’s really the advantage that only those of us working with large-volume video marketing campaigns could appreciate.

Tubics is a similar tool. You get, in the same Swiss army-knife package, instruments for keyword research, and channel audit.

And if you need to check your videos’ and channel’s rankings, you could use a rank tracking tool. The tool can get pricey for a smaller channel, but the trial is free, and if you don’t feel like you’re getting enough out of it, you can just cancel any time.

Research your YouTube competition

Tool highlights: Rival IQ, NoxInfluencer, Socialinsider, Vaizle.

In the exact same way as with more traditional SEO for Google, YouTube SEO includes competition research.

Keeping an eye on what makes your competition’s YouTube content rank is one of the best things you can do for your own SEO.

Here the market leader is definitely a tool called Rival IQ.

With it, you will get a panoramic view of your YouTube competitors and their SEO rankings. Take a close look at what’s been working exceptionally well for their YouTube videos. From the kind of tags they use to title formats, try and learn what the best-ranking people in your niche are doing.

I also found NoxInfluencer to be suitable for competition research. For pretty much any niche or location you’ll see exactly what your biggest competitors’ YouTube profiles are.

There’s also YouTube Competitors Analysis Tool by Socialinsider and Vaizle. They provide a breakdown and comparison of your channel and videos to those of your competition, comparing the frequency of posting, videos’ stats, and more.

Conclusion

In 2020 SEO, businesses and agencies that pursue a holistic YouTube strategy will always be three steps ahead of everyone else. We need to determine every opportunity to create videos that will engage our potential clients.

Creating YouTube videos as part of your marketing campaign is tapping into a huge well of billions upon billions of searches for video content that was previously unavailable to us.

And that’s a well we shouldn’t dismiss out of hand.

Aleh is the Founder and CMO at SEO PowerSuite and Awario. He can be found on Twitter at @ab80.

The post How to grow your YouTube rankings with the right SEO tools appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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Nine site audit issues we always see and tips to tackle them

March 17, 2020 No Comments

After carrying out thousands of site audit activities across varying industries and site sizes, there are some stand out issues that are repeated over and over again.

Certain CMS platforms have their downfalls and cause the same technical issues repeatedly but most of the time these issues are caused by the sites being managed by multiple people, knowledge gaps, and simply the factor of time.

We tend to use two crawlers at Zazzle Media which will be mentioned throughout this post. The first being Screaming Frog, which we make use of when we need raw exports or need to be very specific with what we are crawling. The second being Sitebulb, which is much more of a site audit tool, rather than a crawler. We tend to make use of Sitebulb more due to being able to manage projects and the overall progress a site is making.

So let’s get started, with the issues we see time and time again.

1. Broken internal links

One of the more simple issues, but something that can be missed, if you aren’t looking out for it. Broken links can disrupt the user journey, and for the search engines, this disables crawl bots from connecting pieces of content.

Internal links are mainly utilized to connect pieces of content, and in terms of Google’s algorithm, internal links allow link equity to be distributed from one page to another. A broken link can disrupt this as if the link is broken causing failure of equity transfer from one page to another. In terms of PageRank, Google’s algorithm evaluates the number of high-quality links to a page in order to determine page authority.

Put simply, a broken internal link can negatively affect page authority and stop the flow of link equity.

The scale of this issue will vary dramatically depending on the type of site you are running. However, on most sites there will be some form of broken links.

Quick tip

A simple crawl will pick these up, running a tool such as Screaming Frog with a basic configuration will provide a full list of broken links, alongside the parent URL.

2. Meta title length

Based on the number of times this occurs, it can be a very minimal problem or something that could dramatically alter a whole business.

Short meta titles could indicate a lack of targeting while long titles would cause truncation and in turn, lower click-through rates.

Quick tip

To write the perfect meta title and descriptions which maximize pixel usage and CTA, we recommend using the Sistrix SERP generator tool.

3. Redirecting internal links

Redirecting internal links can cause problems for your site architecture as it takes slightly longer for users and search engines to find content. With content changing or products becoming sold out, either a permanent (301) or temporary (302) redirection is used. A 302 redirection tells a search engine to keep the old page, as the 302 redirection is simply a temporary measure. A 301 redirection instructs the search engine that the page has permanently moved, and will be replaced at the new location.

Redirection loops are when your browser tells the search engine to redirect to a page, which once again tells your browser to redirect to another page – which can happen over and over again until it hits the final destination. Redirection loops should be avoided at all costs, as this will increase crawl time and can send mixed signals to search bots.

The problem isn’t with redirecting a URL (if completed correctly), the issue lies within the links pointing to the URL redirection. For example, URL A redirects to a new URL B. But URL C still points to URL A – which is incorrect.

Sitebulb can crawl and find all the URLs that currently link to the redirecting URL, where you can then change the href target to point to the new URL via the CMS.

Quick tip

Redirecting URLs should be avoided where possible, as this can increase a search bots crawl time, in turn, potentially leading to the website’s URL being skipped within the allocated crawl.

4. Outdated sitemaps

XML sitemaps do not have to be static, as with larger websites to continuously update the XML file directory will be very time-consuming. It is recommended to use a dynamic .xml sitemap, as this ensures every time a piece of content, or media is added, your CMS automatically updates this file directory. A Sitebulb audit will highlight that your website has a missing sitemap.

It is really important to use Dynamic XML sitemaps correctly, as in some cases, the dynamic sitemap can end up adding URLs you do not want in the sitemap

Quick tip

If you are using a standard CMS such as WordPress search/sitemap.xml to the end of your domain, this should show your website’s sitemap.

5. Orphan URLs

Orphan pages, otherwise known as “floating pages” are URLs that are indexed and published but can neither be found by users nor search engines by following internal links. This means that an orphan page can end up never being crawled. A typical scenario of an orphan page could be a winter sale, where the page was once needed, but now due to the season isn’t needed anymore.

Essentially, when there are a few this is not harmful, however, when there is a large amount this it can bloat your website. The result, poor link equity distribution, keyword cannibalization (for which we have a separate guide here) and a poor internal linking experience for both search bot and user.

Quick tip

As this is a specific type of crawl, Zazzle Media uses Screaming Frog to crawl the sitemap data. At the same time, we run another crawl with either Screaming Frog or Sitebulb to find the orphan pages by comparing the two data sets.

Read our quick guide that concerns orphan URLs and how to deal with them for a more in-depth approach.

6. Site speed

Google has previously indicated that site speed is a crucial ranking factor, and more specifically is a part of its ranking algorithm for search engine results. This is because site speed is closely related to good user experience, slow websites have high bounce rates due to content taking a long time to load. A benefit from improving your websites site speed is that it will better the user experience, but also could reduce website bounce rate too.

Page speed checking during site audits

Source: Search Influence, 2017

Additionally, as site speed is directly related to lowering bounce rate, this should in turn boost revenues – as users are actively remaining engaged on your website for longer.

Quick tip

To check your website’s site speed, we recommend using Google’s very own page speed insights tool, where this will not only give you a page speed score, but also a host of recommendations on how to best improve your site speed and how you compare to search competition!

7. Hierarchy/structure

A website’s Hierarchy structure, otherwise known as information architecture, is essentially how your website’s navigation is presented to a search engine or user. The fundamental issue that most websites suffer from is page rank distribution.

Websites’ main pages or most profitable pages should be within three clicks from the homepage. Pages that are more than three clicks away from the homepage, subsequently receive less page rank distribution, and in other scenarios will only occasionally be crawled (if ever).

Without an effective hierarchy, crawl budget can be wasted. This can mean for pages within the depths of your website (more than three clicks away from the root) could rank poorly as Google is unsure of the importance of the page and link equity could be spread thinly.

Quick tip

An SEO and user-friendly site architecture is all about allowing search bots and users to seamlessly navigate your website. Flattening your site architecture can increase indexation, allow more keyword rankings, and in turn boost organic traffic.

8. Internal linking

Internal linking is an important feature of a website as this allows users to navigate your website, and most importantly (from an SEO perspective) allows search engine crawlers to understand the connections between content. An effective internal linking strategy could have a big impact on rankings.

It is no surprise to us when a Sitebulb audit states to review your internal linking strategy, as complex sites, with thousands of pages can get messy. A typical example of a messy internal linking structure could be anchor texts that do not contain a keyword, URL linking inconsistencies in volume (for PageRank distribution), and links not always pointing to the canonical version of a URL. Issues such as the ones listed can create mixed signals for search engine crawlers and ultimately confuses a crawler when it comes to indexing your content.

Quick tip

Sitebulb can complete an audit where this highlights any issues with link distribution, shows which pages receive the most internal links, shows any broken internal links / incorrectly used and so much more. We then digest this data to devise a strategy of how we can best optimize your website’s internal linking strategy.

9. Thin content

Writing unique pieces of content that provides value to a user can be incredibly challenging, and most importantly time-consuming! Hence, this is one of the most frequent issues we always see on website audits. More specifically, thin content is directly against Google’s guidelines and can result in a penalty worst-case scenario.

Search engines when crawling your website are looking for functional pieces of content to understand your business services and product offerings. Not only are search engines looking for functional pieces of content, but search bots also want to see your expertise, quality, and trust. Google has a huge 166 page ‘Search Quality Guidelines‘ document that explains what search quality constitutes. We recommend familiarizing yourself with this document to ensure that you write quality content for your website which is in line with Google’s search guidelines.

This is a regular issue that many websites overlook, but is a critical route to organic success.

Quick tip

A Sitebulb audit will identify any URLs with thin content, and prioritize the severity of the issue. Aim for about 350 – 500 words per page to succinctly communicate your information. However, the quality of this content is still a very important factor.

In conclusion

These are just some of the most common types of issues discovered from an SEO audit, and technical changes can be tricky as well as incredibly time-consuming to implement at times. Completing a technical audit of your website, and correcting any issues can lead to improving keyword rankings, organic traffic, and if the products/services are right, achieve more sales.

The sky’s the limit when it comes to search engine optimization and with the landscape constantly changing, this is a superior strategy to achieve long term competitive advantage in the digital landscape.

Fraser Gilbey is a Senior SEO Executive at Zazzle Media.

The post Nine site audit issues we always see and tips to tackle them appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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10 Silent killers that affect your website speed

March 17, 2020 No Comments

Time is the most valuable asset. Nothing is more frustrating than slow page loading. A slow website kills conversions and impacts search rankings. Google stated that it is important to consider website speed when determining search rankings.

Here are some interesting website load statistics:

  • An Akamai study showed that 47% of customers expect websites to load in a few seconds or less.
  • One second delay on Amazon could cost $ 1.6 billion on sales every year.
  • According to Pingdom, 78% of the top 100 retail websites take under three seconds to load.
  • One second delay on your page load results in a seven percent reduction in conversions.
  • The average load time on the desktop is 1.286 and 2.594 seconds on mobile.

Optimizing your website’s speed is not a necessity, but a must-have, especially if you want to beat out the slower competition. Once you notice that your site is loading more than three seconds, it’s time to figure out things that can slow down your website speed and improve the overall performance.

Let’s discover lesser-known causes of website slowdown and find the best solutions to deal with each one.

 1. Caching issues

Browser caching is very important for repeat visitors. Every time users come to your website for the first time, their browser stores all the files like images, CSS, and Java files for a specified period. The next time the visitors come back to the web page, browser caching allows these stored files to be served quickly upon the user’s next visit.

Reducing the number of round-trips results in faster page load times and improve user experience. Caching can definitely help you speed your website, but it’s not without its issues. If you don’t set up caching properly, it can hurt user interaction. It’s essential to develop a solid caching strategy to maintain strong user experiences.

If you don’t use WordPress, you can add the Cache-Control and Entity tags (ETags) headers to HTTP response headers. ETags are used to validate whether the client has the recent version of a record. While Cache-control is used to define browser caching policies in client and server responses. As a result, these headers help you reduce the need for visitors to download the same files from the server twice and reduce the number of HPPT requests.

If your website is running on WordPress, you can use cache plugins for better performance. WP Rocket is a great premium cache plugin that includes a lot of extra features like lazy loading, database cleanup, CDN integrations, and many more. You don’t have any technical skills to set it up to have faster websites.

2. Overloaded database

An overloaded database can be a silent killer when it comes to website performance. One of the pitfalls with WordPress websites is that your database is overloaded with multiple post revisions, deactivated plugins, saved drafts, and others. Trackbacks and pingbacks don’t have any practical use in WordPress. Ensure to disable both of them because they clog up your database and increase the number of requests.

Make sure to delete other garbage files like spam and trash folders, transients, and database tables that can also slow down your website. As I mentioned above, WP Rocket is one of the easiest ways to schedule and clean up these files every week. You can optimize your database using the ‘Database’ tab.

database overload that slows the website speed

Source: Screenshot made by the author 

Using WP Rocket, you can also schedule an automatic database cleanup.

3. Outdated CMS

Running an outdated version of your CMS can slow down your website and cause different security vulnerabilities. Most CMS like WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal let you know once any update is available. Having the latest versions of plugins and any software will result in faster load times.

In case you haven’t still updated your CMS or don’t get any notice, run a regular page speed test on different pages of your website to find out whether the latest updates or versions of the software are compatible with your web hosting or available fixes that can improve the overall performance of your website by making them faster to load.

4. Excessive usage of social media scripts

Social media has become a crucial part of every website. No matter how large your website is, you still need to connect social media to your site and make it easier for users to share your posts. The excessive usage of social media scripts and plugins can kill your site’s performance.

Limit the number of social media plugins and scripts that you don’t use at all and find alternate ways to schedule and automate your social media tasks. Zapier is a great website service that can help you automate these tasks and reduce the burden on server resources and your website.

When it comes to sharing options at the end of each post, it’s a great way to easily share your publications, but these options can add a lot of load to your website. Try not to use them at every single page of your website and include only the essentials.

5. The use of chatbots

Chatbots are great for handling customer inquiries. According to Salesforce, 69% of customers want to use chatbots to speed up their communication with a brand. But there are two sides to the coin. Chatbots can hurt your website speed in case the script isn’t implemented properly and can take your website longer to load.

It’s important to ensure that your chatbot is loading asynchronously. I mean when your chatbot performs any action on your website like initiating a conversation with a customer or sending pings, this action should be routed by external servers. So, make sure to use the right code that enables this action. Check whether there is any problem with a chatbot script using Google’s PageSpeed Tools.

For easier set-up and simple communication, you can use an out-of-the-box solution like Tidio that doesn’t require any coding skills and takes only a moment to create a chatbot. The best thing is the ability to communicate with customers in one simple dashboard. The tool also integrates with different third-party apps to provide better customer service.

usage of chatbots that slows the website speed

Source: Screenshot by Tidio

6. Broken links

Broken links are not only a pain for website visitors but a real drain on bandwidth. I’ve recently made a detailed analysis of one of my clients and have detected a lot of 404 errors in Google Webmaster Tools. Once I’ve fixed them, the average load time per user boosted from seven seconds to two seconds, and there was a huge decrease in bounce rate.

So, if you have many broken links on your website, you are just wasting resources. Moreover, they can hurt user behavior metrics and negatively affect your rankings. To detect broken links, I would recommend getting audit reports with the SE Ranking Website Audit. The tool sorts all your web pages by status code to view which ones are 404.

Source: Screenshot by SE Ranking

One of its major benefits is the ability to go deeper than others and find out crawl errors that other tools don’t. Once you get these broken links, you can fix or remove them for good.

7. Render-blocking JavaScript

Every time your website loads in the browser, it sends out calls to every script in a queue. That queue of these scripts should be empty before the website appears in the browser. If this queue is very long, it can slow down your web pages without allowing visitors to fully view the site. These kinds of script queues are called the render-blocking JavaScript and CSS files.

To make your web pages load faster, Google recommends eliminating render-blocking scripts. Before removing them, identify which scripts cause problems using Google’s PageSpeed Insights. 

Most website owners use different traffic and conversion analytics platforms to analyze and measure any type of traffic and conversions with one click. Most of them are installed by using JavaScript code that can slow down your website. The best way to track different events is to use Finteza whose main tracking script (downloaded from the Finteza server) doesn’t impact website performance and can be embedded into the page asynchronously.

Source: Screenshot by Finteza

8. Accelerated mobile pages (AMP)

Everyone knows that Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) is a Google project created to speed up web pages on mobile devices by adding an “AMP” stamp next to your mobile snippets. While the idea of having a fast mobile website with content sounds like a great idea, there are some challenges when it comes to AMP.

While creating AMP improves website performance, it removes all of the dynamic features that slow down websites. In other words, it changes the design of your website and provides less functionality for your visitors that can result in reducing conversions. According to this case study, Kinsta saw their mobile leads drop by 59% after adding AMP, so they disabled it.

So, use AMP carefully as it can lower your mobile conversions. If you still want to use them, do it properly (more instructions here). Make sure to validate AMP for Google Search and fix any possible issues.

9. Gravatars

While Gravatars offer convenience and easy customization to your user base, there is one drawback, speed. This is not really visible on smaller websites, but if you have a large website with a lot of blog comments, you will notice much of a slowdown. You have some options to fix that:

  • Disable Gravatars in WordPress
  • Remove comments that don’t have value
  • Use caching Gravatars like Harrys or Optimum Gravatar Cache
  • Reduce your Gravatar image sizes
  • Paginate comments in WP Disable

10. Invalid HTML and CSS

If you stop using invalid HTML and CSS codes, that will increase the rendering time of web pages and the overall site performance. Make sure to create HTML and CSS that aligns with the W3C standards if you want browsers to interpret your site more consistently.

Check your HTML through the W3C HTML Validator and CSS through the W3C CSS validator. One of the options is to validate HTML with the Grunt HTML validation package and Stylelint.

Bottom line

A slow-loading website is something that will turn your customers away before they can visit your website. To keep your site running well and loading fast, you need to focus on these web performance killers and do the best to prevent these issues and make your site more efficient.

Irina Weber is Brand Manager at SE Ranking. She can be found on Twitter @irinaweber048.

The post 10 Silent killers that affect your website speed appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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Top tips to grease your email marketing wheels in 2020

March 10, 2020 No Comments

Sometime back the COO of Facebook had blurted out some unfortunate things about email marketing – that emails are going away and that marketers will have to focus on teenagers of today to finalize the marketing strategies of tomorrow, and so on and so forth.

Food for thought

Emails are timeless, dependable, unsung moneymakers that have invariably found continued success and more customers for almost 50 years now. And still, there’s no stopping it.

In fact, researches by Radicati Group found out that there were 3.9 million email users in 2019, and the market is expected to grow over to 4.3 million by the end of 2023.

email marketing

This means, over half of the world population has been using emails in 2019 and the medium happens to generate more ROI than what meets the eye – $ 44 per dollar spent

Underlining the strength of emails, yet another research by Drift and Survey Monkey revealed that 65% of respondents in the past 12 months have communicated with organizations via emails, ranking it way above the rest.

email marketing

Being around for so long, this phenomenon in economics is known as the Lindy effect.

The Lindy effect

Author Nassim Taleb in his popular book ‘Antifragile’ speaks about the Lindy Effect. According to him, the life expectancy of a business or an idea is in proportion to its current age.

Taleb states, “If a book has been in print for forty years, I can expect it to be in print for another forty years. And, if it survives another decade, then it will be expected to be in print another fifty years. Every year that passes without extinction doubles the additional life expectancy.”

Now, emails have already been around for 50 years, and so we could expect to see it around in 2070 as well. But then no, you can’t just get out there and shoot emails.

As email marketers, first and foremost, you will have to think about re-inventing the existing email marketing strategies in a big bang way if you wish to sustain your business’ email ROI in 2020 and beyond.

Simply put, email marketing will have to embrace videos, personalization, data, mobile, among many other strategies to retain their respective audience base.

This post is an attempt to highlight the key strategies that businesses need to adopt in 2020 to grease their email campaigns in 2020.

1. Mobile-centric emails

If anything, the mobile-mindset is sweeping across the digital marketing spectrum. According to email usage stats by emailmonday, email opens are happening more on mobile than desktop.

email marketing

This means, if you still haven’t got your emails mobile-responsive, you are leaving a lot of money on the table.

Now, the question is how to optimize your emails for mobile?

Simple, you need to cut down the size of your copy, images and the overall design to suit the mobile format. A concise copy gives a clear view of the CTA button, which, in turn, leads to more visitors to your landing pages, blogs or product pages. More importantly, shorter copies make the emails much more scannable.

Here’s an example by campaignmonitor on how short copies offer clean, easy-on-your-eyes email experience to subscribers while checking their messages on mobile.

Unlike the first image, the second image is perfectly tailor-made for mobile screening.

The benefits of such copies can be seen clearly when you open such an email on mobile:

  • Sufficient white space in the copy offers an easy reading experience
  • The image on the first fold inspires further scrolling
  • A short copy means the CTA appears clearly. This saves the recipient from scrolling further down to reach a CTA button.

In case any additional copy or data needs to be added, you could accommodate that on the landing page to which your email CTA directs.

Further, make sure to test your emails from a user perspective. You cannot leave this to chance because users might spare only some time to check your emails on their phones. If they don’t like what they see, they are sure to delete your emails at once, let alone read the message.

2. Voice-friendly emails

Being mobile-centric is just one thing. By and by, you will have to make it voice-technology-friendly as well as the use of voice technology is growing worldwide.

In 2019, almost 112 million people, in the US alone, used a voice assistant, at least monthly, on different devices.

If you look at it, that’s quite a huge pool of users who’d love using voice-enabled emails as the technology progresses in the future. Some of the popular voice-assistant technologies currently in use include Amazon Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant, Samsung’s Bixby, and Microsoft Cortana.

Presently, if you are using Amazon Alexa it will help you do five basic things with your email.

  •  Read it
  •  Reply to it
  •  Delete it
  •  Archive-it
  •  Switch to the next message

This could prove to one of the most effective and ingenious email marketing strategies of this century as it makes your message heard despite the busy schedule of subscribers. So, even if your email recipient is busy pursuing some other activity, a voice-enabled email would help you to quickly figure out the content of your email.

Even Apple’s Siri is programmed to offer you similar functionalities. You can check out How Alexa Reads Your Emails & Impacts Email Marketing blog to get further ideas on how to use Alexa for your emails.

3. AI-driven emails

Not long ago, email marketing was purely driven by human instinct, be it the subject line or the send time. It was spray and pray strategy, more or less.

No more. AI has taken the hassle out of email marketing as marketers can now make accurate predictions, that too, not just with the subject lines but the send time as well. Plus, it also offers amazing recommendations.

How does AI do that?

AI, powered by machine learning, makes use of massive data to arrive at decisions that keep evolving as it learns. Though humans are involved in AI training initially, but then, by and by, they evolve themselves to find their own solutions and pathways.

Here are a few top use cases of AI in email marketing:

A. Craft outstanding subject lines

AI-powered by NLG, which runs on large and structured data sets, is quite good at churning out outstanding subject lines that could even beat copywriters’ hands down. In addition to subject lines, AI is quite capable of generating content for social shares, press releases and more. From word choice to emojis and sentiments, the copies are spot on and delivered quickly.  And, more than anything generates more opens for your emails.

B. Optimization of  send times

In 2020, marketers will have to optimize email send times based on historical open patterns of the audience. Say, for example, if Jonny opens his inbox between 10.00 am and 1.00 pm then you need to make sure that your emails reach his inbox during that period of time and not later.

But then, his sister Joanna opens her inbox around 5.00 pm. Manually it’s almost impossible for marketers to shoot so many emails, at different points in time, especially when tens of thousands of customers are involved.

This is where AI could chip in with its expertise. AI is programmed to handle problems of scale easily. The technology dissects mountains of data to come up with a predictive model for every contact on your list. This way, every individual, on your list, is sent an email at a time when they are most likely to open it.

C. Smarter segmentation of email marketing lists

Segmentation of the email list enables marketers to develop a relevant buyer persona, which, in turn, helps them shoot tailor-made emails.  Such segmented email campaigns are known to increase revenues by a whopping 760%. However, such segmentation, though it yields good results, isn’t good enough.

Combined with AI, smarter segmentation, on the other hand, helps you generate a list that significantly accelerates open and click rates. This is because it thoroughly analyzes the behavior of the current customers and finds patterns that help you segment the audience in new ways. And, the brilliance of it is, that it gets the job done faster than what any humans could do.

Customization is central to capturing today’s audiences. And with smarter segmentation, you get optimized email lists that help your emails perform better.

4. Video centered emails

Yet another way to bolster your email marketing efforts is to add videos to your email campaign. It’s one of the proven ways to increase leads, educate customers and, in the process, enhance brand awareness.

And being a clear differentiator in terms of content, it manages to stand out from the mass of emails that you receive every day. They offer several advantages:

  • Immediately hooks the audience and drives engagement
  • More impactful than plain text as it communicates product or service information better and faster. This, in turn, ensures a faster response rate from users.
  • Complex topics are easily explained
  • Videos are viral in nature
  • Wide social media sharing, thus boosting a brand’s SEO ranking

Also, don’t forget, if your client’s emails are not HTML5-compatible, they won’t be able to view your videos. In such cases, you could do two things: One, you could create an image that looks like a video image. Once the user clicks on it, it would direct the user to YouTube. Just ensure that your video is on an autoplay mode. Two: Embed GIFs or cinemagraphs. According to Experian Research, 72% percent of brands using animated GIF or a cinemagraph experience higher transaction rates.

5. AMP for emails

As it turns out, AMP or accelerated mobile pages was introduced by Google to speed up the mobile web, specifically the landing pages, blog posts, and even full websites.  Now, with millions of domains already under the “AMP”ed umbrella, the open-source technology is expanding its reach to emails as well.

AMP for emails will allow email marketers to create more interactive and actionable emails with the help of AMP elements. Broadly put, when you add interactive features such as accordions, confirmation, carousels, and purchase buttons in your email, AMP will allow you to take actions inside their emails without opening a new tab or visiting the website.

Additionally, emails can be updated in terms of news articles, weather, stock prices, and so on.

Of course, each of these things is possible when you run a third party script Javascript inside these emails. However, according to Google experts, running a third party script inside an email may cause loads of security issues, which is not the case with AMP for emails.  In this case, the documents are analyzed for spam, phishing, among many other things, which, in turn, ensures the safety of the user.

Other benefits of AMP for Emails

The technology will swap static content with a more dynamic web-page like the content. So users will be able to receive highly personalized content on-demand in the form of current product prices, weather updates, news, and so forth.

It’s a red hot technology. Only a few marketers are experimenting with this technology. This means you have the edge over your rivals if you have a clear cut idea on how to use AMP elements inside your emails while interacting with the users.

Known email service providers such as Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook support AMP technology. This means you can add AMP elements into the emails for most of your subscribers.

Examples of AMP emails

Pinterest: AMP allows you to enlarge each of the images, inside the email, and see more detailed information, instead of visiting the Pinterest webpage.  

Source: sendpulse

Doodle: With the help of the Doodle website, AMP for emails can help you create, manage, and respond to polls. Plus, you can set dates for meetings without opening a new tab.

Source: sendpulse

Bonus point

Overall quality should be the goal

Integrating all the latest technology and all is fine, but then don’t forget it’s the rudimentary aspects that make your emails click-worthy, that is content and design. So, by all accounts, take into consideration the following points while designing your email.

A. Content

An email shouldn’t have more than 50 words because a reader won’t be putting in more than 13.4 seconds to read it.

So, how do you write a compelling copy in 50 words?  Litmus recommends the following tips:

  • Short sentences
  • Limited jargons
  • Localization

B. Design

Some simple ways to make email designs accessible and effective to a broader audience:

  • Use Real text HTML
  • Be cognizant of font sizes, line spacing, and text justification
  • High contrasting colors
  • Ensure visual hierarchy

C. Code

To make sure that your emails can be read as soon as they are opened you need to slightly tweak your code. A solid code-base assures accessibility.

So how do you ensure a solid code-base?

  • Enter alternative text for images
  • Make HTML tables accessible to screen readers
  • Use semantic HTML
  • Specify a language in the HTML

Going by the Lindy Effect, email marketing, at the very least, is going to around for the next 50 years. So, no matter what, make it a point to update your current email marketing tactics with the latest technologies, be it AI, voice, video or AMP for emails.

The post Top tips to grease your email marketing wheels in 2020 appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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Four essential ecommerce site optimizations that drive sales

March 7, 2020 No Comments

The whole point of marketing is to deliver the right message to the right audience at the right time. But what about conversion optimization? How do you know which tool to use in which area of your ecommerce site that’s key to the customer journey? What’s better for a particular campaign?

In this article, we cover a list of ecommerce site optimization suggestions and tactics that can boost your sales.

1. Design and UX

A. Optimize your home page

So, there’s the home page of your ecommerce site. The first thing your target visitor expects to see on it is the product/service you’re selling.

Since a person’s eye first falls on the center of the page, it is better to attract his attention with a bright thematic image of the main product.

Suppose the image has worked and the user has decided to stay. Now he would like to know what shop he got into, whether it’s worth buying here. The vision moves to the bar in the top of the site, where it’s necessary to place:

  • Company logo – always in the upper left corner
  • The search bar
  • Contact details (obligatory – phones, in addition – addresses and hours and other means of communication, button to order a call). According to the survey results, 90% of respondents confirmed that they once became the victim of fraudsters when making online purchases. This means that the trust of customers must be earned, and detailed information about the store – one of the effective ways.
  • Shopping cart (always on the right)

Here you can also find a horizontal menu with product categories or information pages (delivery and payment, reviews, FAQs).

Becoming acquainted with your shop, the visitor will surely want to explore a variety of products. As usual, on the left side of the screen, they will look through the category menu. A left sidebar is an appropriate place not only product categories, but also news, promotional, and top products, if necessary – the benefits of buying.

B. Simplify your product categories

The visitor gets to the category page in one of three ways – goes from the main page, goes from the search, goes from advertising. In each case, they want to see exactly the products they’re looking for.

On this page, everything should be extremely simple, clear, and convenient – especially the images of goods to make sure that the person got to the address.

The left-side docket provides the advantage of sorting products in customized searches and detailed views.

Important: If the product is out of stock, it’s better to gently notify the client – to offer to buy under the order or notify about the receipt of goods.

If the visitor opened the product card, the main thing they want to see here is a good photo, price, a button to buy. These are the elements that need to be highlighted and worked through.

Therefore, only high-quality professional photos may convince the customer to make a purchase, with the possibility of magnification, taken from different angles. Place a photo in the left upper part of the card. Being acquainted with appearance, the client for certain will be interested in the description of the goods.

The card should be compact but filled with the basic characteristics, feedback and evaluation of the product by customers (psychological trigger of social evidence). This will increase confidence in the store.

The order of placement of all elements in the product card should follow the logic of the client: What is the product/service? How much does it cost? How to buy and get?

This information is offered to the person consistently, which corresponds to the AIDA marketing model:

Attention → Interest → Demand → Action

2. Understand and fix server site errors

Much has been written about the usability of the site. Today, anyone who has their own ecommerce site understands what is needed at the start. But, even working with large sites, you can notice a certain tendency of repetition in usability shortcomings. One of them is related to displaying server errors.

A. Error 404 is helpful

The 404 error page is one of the most common and yet undeservedly forgotten errors. Keep in mind that our main task is to ensure the longest interaction between a user and the site. That’s why even the 404 page should not lose a user at least but redirect them to another useful section of the site.

Act as a guide and prompt your site visitor the following steps: “Return to Home”, “Order a call”, “Pick up similar ones?”

Again, act creatively – it’s a whole free page on your resource. Ask yourself, “what can be placed there?” Once again remind your target audience about the company with the logo, give a coupon/discount to the “Top Sales”, make an announcement of upcoming promotions, lotteries or the opening of new sites.

Do not forget about the correct title for pages 404 error. For example, “404 Not Found”. In a series of open tabs in the browser is much more convenient to see immediately “broken” URLs.

And, of course, check that all links on your 404 page are working.  If you redirect the user to the main page or directory, the links must be correct and working. Finally, owners of ecommerce sites, in particular, should know basic information about HTTP code errors and how to fix them.

3. Improve the shopping experience

A. Setup structure so visitors can easily find products

If you have a good understanding of your business, it will be easy to identify the main product categories and divide them by their key attributes.

But if you are just starting your online business, you may have problems forming the structure of the catalog. In this case, you need to arm yourself with your own buying experience and proven recommendations for building a directory structure, analysis of competitors and their comparison with popular search engine queries.

Try to form a directory tree by keeping a balance between sections. There are some rules to follow when creating a directory structure:

According to the psychology of perception of information, 7 is the optimal number of sections of the highest level in the directory, in which the user can simultaneously capture the view.

In each subsection, there should be no more than 100 items. If any category has hundreds of items, and there are only 10-20 product cards in the neighbouring categories, it means that you should divide a large section into subdivisions or create a handy filter for key features.

The maximum level of nesting sections – no more than three: The buyer should go from the catalog to the product card in three clicks:

Section – First click > Subsection – Second click > Product – Thirsd click

The catalogue should be balanced: in each section, there should be an approximately equal number of subsections, and in each subsection – an approximately equal number of goods.

4. Tweak and test your ecommerce checkout process

A. Offer a variety of ways to buy wisely

Let’s start with the fact that there is no and can’t be a single ideal list of payment instruments for all sites. The list of payment methods is formed depending on several key factors:

  • The size of the average check
  • The geography of business
  • Goods or services
  • Habits of clients (buyers)

Next, we will give you some tips that will make the page of choice of payment methods as effective as possible.

B. Do not follow the logic of “the more, the better”

In most cases, only a couple of payment instruments are really in demand. The largest selection of payment methods provides its customers with coupon services, online software stores, ticket offices, and other services. In the vast majority of cases, 99% of online payments will fall on two-to-three payment instruments. Do not forget that most customers prefer to pay for large physical goods on delivery and check the quality of goods before buying.

C. Structure your payment methods

If you provide your clients with a wide range of payment instruments, create a separate section for bank cards, a separate section for electronic money, and a separate section for payments via mobile operators. Visualize payment methods with icons and logos. In large amounts of text, attention dissipates, sometimes it is difficult to understand how they differ. All discounts and commissions should be immediately converted into the final amount of the order.

D. Don’t scare the client with terminology

Your buyer does not have to know the terminology common among Internet entrepreneurs. Separately, it should be noted that even payment service providers, not to mention stores, often use completely different terms to denote certain phenomena of “payment reality”. Talk to customers in their language, and get rid of rejections at the stage of choosing a payment method and at the stage of payment, the additional burden on the call center and other consequences of misunderstanding.

E. Do not pass on your work to the customer

Often ecommerce businesses that accept payments through several payment services (aggregators, payment service providers, bank-acquirers) offer their customers to choose, but most likely, they hear about any for the first time.

F. Do not overload the payment page with unnecessary links

The buyer should not be distracted by unnecessary information and leave the payment instrument selection page. This breaks the conversion chain and negatively affects the proportion of successfully paid orders.

G. Let customers checkout as guests

Do you need to force a user to remember another login and password? I don’t think so. You should not create another obstacle to the client’s way of payment. Forcing users to register an account on your site is too obsessive, especially for first-time buyers. Mandatory registration is another winner of the “killer conversion” rating.

Usability research conducted by Smashing Magazine has shown that the main reason why users dislike registering accounts is waiting for unwanted spam. The study also noted that many customers do not understand why they need to register at an online store to buy something, while in offline stores they do not require registration when buying. Another disadvantage of registration is that it adds a few additional fields to fill, which delays the process of ordering and negatively affects the conversion. To make life easier for customers and increase the chances of a favorable outcome, it is necessary to minimize the customer’s time for ordering and request only the necessary minimum information from them.

In conclusion

The answer to increasing online sales is simple, use the tools listed above. All of the tips on internal and external factors we’ve covered in this article are based on a long experience with customers and the term of world-renowned online stores.

Feel free to share your thoughts and queries in the comments section.

Birbahadur Singh Kathayat is an Entrepreneur, internet marketer, and Co-founder of Lbswebsoft. He can be found on Twitter @bskathayat.

The post Four essential ecommerce site optimizations that drive sales appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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Social learning: How to optimize your Facebook PPC campaign

March 3, 2020 No Comments

For many of us, social media is a mysterious and ever-changing corner of the internet. Networks rise and fall at rapid rates, but one always seems to stay at the forefront of our minds. It’s clear that Facebook is the place to be, and 2.26 billion users may feel inclined to agree. If you feel like you’re not getting the most out of Facebook PPC ads (or are too afraid to take the plunge right now), you may have asked yourself how effective campaigns can take place through the social network. 

As the data shows, Facebook is only a narrow second-place to YouTube in terms of popularity among US audiences, and the world-renowned social network is twice as popular as its nearest like-for-like competitor. 

(Image: LYFE Marketing)

Naturally, this means that your PPC campaigns will be accessible for more users if utilized on the pages of Facebook. If your business has serious ambitions focused on attaining more customers or scaling as efficiently as possible, it’s certainly worth looking at building some PPC campaigns to go on Facebook.

But how exactly can users optimize their PPC campaigns? And just how effective could Facebook PPC actually be? Let’s delve into how businesses can optimized their Facebook PPC campaigns in a way that drives conversions and generates growth: 

Optimize your sales funnel

Facebook ads perform a little differently to Google ads, for example.

In the case of PPC advertisements placed via Google, it’s clear that audiences will be actively looking to buy the products or services in question, whereas with Facebook, it’s far more likely to be the case that you’re appealing to audiences who are simply browsing with little intention of making an immediate purchase.

This could potentially be problematic if you’re looking to operate on a smaller budget for advertising. 

With this in mind, it could be more useful to create a Facebook campaign that’s more focused away from the act of making an immediate purchase. Through using Facebook as your platform, it’s potentially most useful if you run a series of campaigns at the same time, all with different goals which could lead to creating your own social sales funnel. 

One of the most purposeful funnels you could create as part of your Facebook PPC campaign could focus on engagement. This helps to lure new customers in and is perhaps most effective when undertaken through the medium of video. 

It’s worth taking a moment to consider exactly who your target audience are before focusing on crafting a campaign that builds meaningful connections with them. 

Be sure to build engaging content for prospective customers and optimize your campaigns. When an uploaded piece of media has attained a healthy number of views – say, over 2,500 – create a new conversion campaign that targets users who viewed around 25% of your video.

By targeting audiences who have already engaged in viewing your campaign, it’s possible to yield much higher conversion rates as opposed to marketing in a more unfocused manner

Build exposure through frequency

It’s possible to monitor the number of times one specific user views your advertising campaign through ad frequency. This is an important metric because audiences that witness your ad repeatedly are more likely to recall it.

It’s important to leave your mark within campaigns – but be careful of overdoing your frequency – if your ad appears too often, it’ll only lead to users ignoring your branding. 

To help you take control of your exposure, be sure to place a frequency cap on your advertising report. Once the audience is saturated, your PPC costs will slowly begin to increase.

If you notice sharp increases in your costs, it could be worth duplicating your ad set and re-launching it for new targets – thus helping to realign your campaign for new audiences. 

Make your budget go further

A/B testing is always a great way of checking which type of campaign is best for your business.

When you first create your PPC setup for Facebook, you’ll likely be running two-to-three ad sets with multiple adverts within each set. To pick which ad set is more effective, it’s important to study the metrics available to see which campaign is best helping you accomplish your goals. 

When you’ve determined which ad is performing best, gently allocate more budget towards the set – a steady boost of about 10-20% will help to optimize the money you’re using without taking too many dangerous risks. 

If you continue to see encouraging results, repeat the process each day until you see signs of diminished returns on your investment. 

To help to study your ad performance more forensically, Google Analytics has a reliable platform for gaining insights into campaigns, while external platforms like Finteza can provide rich insights into your overall website performance as well as deep traffic quality checks. 

Fine tune your target market

Proper placements bring perfection to PPC campaigns. It’s possible to use automatic placements here as well as edit your settings. There’s no right or wrong answer here, but different options will benefit different types of campaign. 

For example, if you decide to incorporate Instagram into your ad reach, it’s reasonable to expect far greater engagement, but it’s likely that you’ll see far fewer comments or likes if you choose to place your ad as a Facebook page post.

Another effective add-on comes in the form of Facebook Messenger, which generally performs well when it comes to conversions. Audience Network placements can often increase a brand’s reach but it’s important to constantly monitor your metrics to ensure that no budgeting is being wasted. 

Get the right bidding option

Facebook uses an auction-based system when running advertising campaigns. Simply put, the social network chooses the most appropriate ad for audiences based on the level of money bid by a company and its performance on the website. 

The bidding system utilized by Facebook is becoming more complex than earlier in the 2010s however, and now users need to choose how they want to optimize their ads. Advertisers need to pick the type of campaign they want to run – whether it’s based on conversions in the form of link clicks, landing page views, or certain on-site interactions. 

Naturally, this will require some introspection and businesses will need to have a clear idea of their respective advertising goals before determining the bidding option that best suits them. 

Recycle ads to preserve engagement figures

It’s vital that your advertisements go down well with their intended audiences. More popular ads will be viewed widely as more favorable among users, and will likely receive considerably more engagements from targets.

However, many of the ad tests that you’ll perform to optimize your PPC campaigns will remove your comments and restart your engagement stats for each post. 

This can be a nuisance because of the value of likes and comments to advertisers, however, it’s possible to utilize the technique of ‘social stacking’ in a way that helps to keep all interactions in tact for all to see online. 

To perform social stacking, go to the ad preview page for the existing advertisement you’re aiming to keep. Click on the drop down menu to the top right of the preview and select the option ‘Facebook Post With Comments’. Copy the end of the existing URL for your ad and then choose to ‘Use Existing Post’ when setting up a new campaign. Paste the copied Post ID from the previous step and voila – a brand new PPC ad with all the relevant likes and comments carried over.

Peter Jobes is the Content Marketing Manager at Solvid, a digital marketing agency who specializes in SEO, paid advertising and website designing.

The post Social learning: How to optimize your Facebook PPC campaign appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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Is SEO dead in 2020?

February 29, 2020 No Comments

The death of SEO is a topic that’s been batted around for years but is 2020 the year SEO, an industry with a history dating back more than 25 years, finally kicks the bucket?

TikTok, digital PR, voice search – new terms have been coined and new social networks have popped up in the past few years. As industry experts take a look back over the past year and forecast trends for the coming year, the inevitable question comes up time and time again: “Is SEO dead this year?”

The answer, of course, is no. SEO is not dead.

If you’re a business reading this article because you’re wondering whether to invest your hard-earned cash in SEO, is it still a viable marketing strategy for 2020, or whether to spend it more wisely elsewhere, read on.

Why do people say SEO is dead?

So if SEO is as wildly successful as we’re proclaiming, then why do people claim SEO dead?

Put yourself into the shoes of a site owner whose whole experience of SEO is those shady emails that manage to avoid your inbox’s spam filter: “Dear Sir, you must be curious to know, in spite of having popular keywords and many backlinks why your website is not visible on the first page of major search engines.” 

Or think of those in traditional marketing who work outside of SEO. According to a study, 61% of business owners cited that “increasing brand awareness” is important to them – how many of these understand that SEO is one of the most effective ways to organically increase awareness of your brand? While we know that the number one position on Google is reported to capture up to 31.7% of search traffic, according to one study, as compared to around 17% in the number two position, all the way down to just two percent in position 10, they may not.

Let’s consider those stats in real terms, think of a sector with a highly competitive high search volume keyword, for example, “cheap flights”. This has 550,000 average monthly searches. If you’re in position one in Google for that search term, that’s a potential of 176,000 people reaching your site through that search result alone every single month.

But to mix things up, add to this the fact that position number one in Google’s search results doesn’t mean exactly what it says it does all the time nowadays. Users will be first confronted with a (debatably) clearly labeled “Ad”, served by Google Ads based on a combination of what that site has bid for them and their quality score.

So some think that SEO is dead because paid media is the top dog

But we can counter this with the fact that position one in Google isn’t everything it says it is anymore. While there will, of course, be an ad at the top of the search results, this is often also followed up by a “Google Answer Box” and/or a knowledge panel. These are our zero-click searches and these don’t come easily. Google doesn’t just hand them out to anyone. It takes a combination of elements to make sure that you secure those placements:

  • Excellent on-page content
  • High-value links off the page
  • A good dash of the best technical SEO thrown

And a good deal, more hard work ensuring that you keep on top of all of this to remain in that position.

Even within the digital industry, people proclaim SEO is dying. Google’s algorithm gets ever-more vicious with every update. Sites can disappear from search results without a warning, and tactics that worked yesterday can cause penalties the very next. In order to sidestep this risk altogether, some will avoid investing time, effort, and money into SEO, but that means potentially missing out on those hundreds of thousands of Google referrals every single day.

But we also need to consider social media referrals, brand mentions in industry publications, influencer marketing, traditional offline marketing, and even word of mouth. 

Let’s delve a little further.

SEO’s past, present, and future

Just imagine a world without SEO, where would we be? That’s something impossible to even consider nowadays, in a time where the term “to Google” has entered the Oxford English Dictionary.

In 1995, the internet had only two billion users, today it is over four billion. To put this better into perspective, Facebook is now 15 times larger than the entire internet was in 1995. And at that time in SEO’s history, search engines such as Archie, VLib, and Veronica were simply virtual libraries with little to no ability to search. They were merely considered indices of web servers. Links didn’t pass any equity as to ranking in these engines simply because they didn’t offer any sort of ranking.

The digital world began to evolve quickly though, search engines started to rank pages based on OPIC (on page importance criteria) scores. And even then, SEO techniques were already evolving – keywords were key but discoveries such as secondary title tag manipulation causing immediate first position rankings were revealed by webmasters like Dave Naylor in forums like WebmasterWorld.

Understanding how the digital world and SEO have evolved is key to understanding how it works today. On the surface, SEO appears to be something simple – search engine optimization – what more could there be than making sure your website works well, looks good, has a few good keywords, and a few good links, right? 

In reality, there is far more to consider – RankBrain, E-A-T, and BERT are just a few updates that Google has introduced to their algorithm in the past few years that have changed everything. The world of search engines is ever-evolving, and SEO’s future looks bright.

SEO is just one part of a larger machine at work

While TikTok, digital PR, voice search and others, even traditional marketing, seem to be a threat to SEO as an industry, in reality, they’re all the cogs in one big marketing machine – and SEO is one of the biggest.

The question really should be – “Is SEO really still worth it in 2020?”

As the internet continues to grow at an ever-increasing pace, search engines that work effectively and efficiently become increasingly more important. Users now need search engines more than ever. It’s key to not forget that, at their heart, they’re simply a tool to help users find the best answer to their question as quickly as possible.

Even though at times, it seems like Google is personally victimizing your clients, they’re really refining their algorithms so that spammy sites that have no use to their users are less likely to break through into their search results.

Avoid defunct SEO tactics

Rather than thinking that SEO as a whole is dead in 2020, we need to be reframing it. If it feels like your SEO techniques aren’t working, there’s probably a reason Google just doesn’t have the time to pick out individual websites it takes a dislike to, and stop them from appearing in SERPS for no reason.

In reality, it’s more likely that your techniques are outdated and thus ineffective. In fact, outdated techniques may be harming your brand more than helping it. Think strong, relevant content over keyword-stuffed pages. Aim for naturally earned backlinks rather than paid ones for exact match anchor text links. Spend time on the “behind the scenes” parts of your website – the technical SEO that an everyday user will never notice but will feel the benefits of every time they use your site.

All Google wants when displaying search results is something that genuinely answers users’ queries and works well – and if your site does that then you’ll reap the rewards.

Is SEO worth the time and effort in 2020?

There’s only one answer to this big question, the stats speak for themselves – with over 40,000 search queries every second and an estimated 62.19 billion visitors annually, Google is the behemoth that rules the internet. Without it, or indeed any other well-functioning search engine, how would we find the content we need? 

In addition to this, usability is becoming far more important. With Google’s semantic technology that understands the intent behind longtail searches and allows users to have a “conversation” with technology, and recent reports that over half of Google’s searches result in zero clicks thanks to the Google Answer Boxes, Google Images, Google Maps, and other Google-owned properties. Never before has a search engine ruled so well.

Diversifying and refining SEO techniques is key to getting customers in a world where they don’t even need to leave a search engine to get what they need.

SEO is not dead in 2020, nor will SEO ever be dead, as long as the internet continues to exist.

Sian Thomas is a digital media executive at Bronco, a full-service digital agency based in North Yorkshire.

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A look at performance post Google’s average position sunset: Top vs side

February 25, 2020 No Comments

Average position as a metric has been retired since the end of September. This is a big change since for years clients, agencies, and any advertiser has always had at least a little bit of vanity management. By that I mean, everyone at some point submitted a bid with the sole goal of being “number one” and not any actual business metric.

This change was implemented to acknowledge that the average position is not meaningful when you are in a world of personalized search. Stopping vanity bidding is just a beneficial side effect. I wanted to take a look at some data, specifically CPC and CTR, to see how performance varies for top and side positions. I also wanted to look at how these metrics vary on Google.com vs. Search partners. What I found were some very interesting insights that might impact how you think about your campaigns.

When it comes to the differences between Google and it’s partners and top vs. other the keys are:

  • Google top vs. other has the biggest differences when it comes to CTR. The data showed a >900% increase in CTR across desktop, mobile, and tablet. This was the highest delta across the entire data set, expect for Partner top vs. other which was nearly 4x the difference.
  • Mobile for Google vs. the Partners was also a significant difference at 918%. This was noticeable because the desktop variance was only 30% (basically a tie). The importance of mobile can’t be understated.

CTR differences after average position sunset

When it comes to cost per click differences the variances were really noticeable when it comes to cost per click. The drop off between Google and partners was at least 100% and as high as 268%. The differences are driven primarily by demand. Many advertisers do not participate in the partner network. Therefore, demand is down and the cost per click would fall as well. This is where if the conversion rates are right you would be able to pick up some additional scale. The difference when looking at Google and Partners top vs. other is a much smaller delta. This just highlights the demand point above. The difference in mobile was only 13%. There are such a high demand and fewer spaces for mobile that the difference between top and side was the smallest of any data set that was reviewed.

CPC differences after average position sunset

While the CPCs weren’t that different the CTRs for Google mobile top were significantly higher than the search partners top. I thought this was worth showing the actual data to show the differences between mobile and desktop. The drop in mobile top is very high indicating a different search experience and relevance. The differences are very small and much lower CTR when looking at the “Other” positions.

CTR actuals at other positions after average position sunset

What action should you take based on this data?

1. Don’t manage to these metrics – Optimize them

Ultimately, you shouldn’t really care what the CPC is or what your CTR is. The goal is hitting your KPIs. If you need to pay $ 100 per click, but convert 100% of the clicks then it’s no different than paying $ 20 per click and a 20% conversion rate. That’s not to say you shouldn’t optimize to improve, you should. I’m just suggesting that metrics like top vs. side CTR are simply indicators on how you can improve. These are not your true KPIs.

2. Understand the value the search partner network brings your campaign

The search network provides scale to your campaigns and to Google for a revenue stream. That doesn’t mean in every case you need or require that scale. If you are struggling to perform break down your traffic by Google and the partner network. Look at not only CTR and CPC data, but also understand conversion rates. What would happen if you cut off the search partner network to both your volume and your cost per acquisition? Does this additional scale provide your business value or would it be better spent investing in other areas that perform better? This isn’t a one size fits all answer. You need to do the work and the result might be different by campaign or even keyword.

Note: The stats and observations shared by the author have been derived from BrandMuscle’s anonymized client data.
Feel free to share your observations in the comments section.

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