- Search engine ranking pages and algorithms are evolving quickly and you should keep pace with them to succeed.
- Did you know, 51% of all searches end without a click?
- Gone are the days when there are only organic text-based results on the page.
- Today, there are paid listings, zero-click searches, images, videos, maps, featured snippets, people also asked for boxes, and even podcasts that result in dismal click-through rates (CTRs).
- Branex’s digital marketing strategist, Irfan Ak has created a top 10 list that can boost your CTR in Google SERPs.
If you closely look at the first page of Google for any competitive keyword, you will find tons of elements on it. Gone are the days when there are only organic text-based results on the page. Today, there are images, videos, maps, featured snippets, people also asked for boxes, and even podcasts. Then there are paid listings which are visible on top of organic listings. SEO trends are changing quickly and it is impacting search engine results pages (SERPs). All this translates into declining organic reach, dismal click-through rate (CTR), and the rise of zero-click searches.
In fact, 51% of all searches end without a click. With search engines trying their best to fulfill user needs on search pages itself, fewer users will scroll down and click through your listing as they get the desired answer on the search page.
In this article, you will learn about ten effective ways to boost click-through rate (CTR) using SERPs.
1. Optimize for featured snippets
The coveted number one spot is no longer the target for digital marketers and digital marketing agencies. The focus has shifted to Position Zero. According to Ahrefs study, 12.3% of search queries have featured snippets. Search engines like Google pull data from the top 10 results to show as a featured snippet. If your blog or website is ranking on the first page of Google, you have an opportunity to grab the featured snippet and boost your visibility.
To do so, you need to understand the purpose of featured snippets. The main reason why search engines show featured snippets is that they want to provide a direct answer to a search query and if your listing does that, you have a bright chance of getting featured on a much sought-after position zero.
Secondly, featured snippets are displayed for long-tail keywords or questions-based queries. The focus is usually on offering short and precise answers to the user query and if your listing can do that while optimizing for long-tail keywords, it can rank on featured snippets.
2. Improve your rankings
According to a study conducted by Backlnko which analyzed 5 million Google search results, moving one spot up can increase your click-through rate by almost 30.8%. Even though, this might vary depending on your current position and the position you have moved to. The same study also found that jumping from 10th position to 7th position did not have the same impact as moving from 6th position to 5th position or 2nd position to 1st position might have on your click-through rate. Instead of striving for ranking on the first page of Google, you should focus on ranking in the top three positions as 75.1% of all clicks go to the top three spots.
3. Write captivating headlines
David Ogilvy, the “Father of Advertising” and Founder of Ogilvy & Mather, once said,
“On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”
What is the first thing that users will read when they look at your listing? It is the headline. It can literally make it or break it for you. That is why it is important to write attention-grabbing headlines. Add an emotional element to your headline as research has shown that including positive or negative sentiments to your headlines can increase its click-through rate by 7%. Backlinko’s study I referenced above also found that titles that contain 15-40 characters have the highest organic click-through rate.
4. Meta description and URL
Have you ever seen a search result closely? What does it contain? A search engine listing usually comprises of three things
- Meta Description
After optimizing your title, you should focus on optimizing your URL and meta description for click-through rate. Add your keyword in the URL as it will increase your clickthrough rate by 45% as compared to URLs that don’t contain the keyword.
Just like the title and URL, add your keyword in the meta description as well. Write a meta description in active voice and try to make it as actionable as possible. Don’t forget to add a call to action to persuade users to click on your listings. Make sure all the pages on your website have a meta description because pages that contain the meta description generate 5.8% more clicks than pages without meta description.
5. Add a schema markup
Search engines use a spider to crawl web pages and create an index of all those pages. The easier it is for search engines to crawl your website, the faster they will crawl your website and more likely your website to get indexed and ranked. By adding schema markup to your website, you can make it easy for search engines to understand what your website is all about and how different pages on your website covers.
There are different types of schema markups and implementing the right kind on your website can do wonders. For example, a review schema markup allows search engines to display ratings in your organic results. If your rating is good, it can increase your credibility, build trust, and help you attract new customers while increasing your click-through rate.
6. Optimize for Google My Business
Do you have a Google My Business page? If your answer is no, then you are missing out. Get your business featured on Google My Business and enter all the business details. Whether it is location-based searches, branded searches, or business-related or service-related searches, Google My Business results tend to show up.
Another advantage of using Google My Business is that it allows you to collect reviews and ratings from customers as well as allows your business to answer user questions. Both can help you build trust and win new customers. The more positive reviews your business has or the higher the rating, the better. It also offers some useful features to customers such as sharing business information with others or contacting the business directly.
7. Run well-targeted PPC ads
One of the best ways to overcome declining organic reach is to invest in PPC ads. Yes, they might be expensive in certain industries and might not work that well in other industries but if you are looking for quick results, PPC ads are your best bet, provided your PPC targeting strategy is on the money. Run PPC ads on branded keywords and prevent others from occupying your ad space.
When you run PPC ads, it attracts targeted traffic that is more likely to convert into paying customers. This means that it not only increases your click-through rate but also increases your conversion rates too. The key to success with PPC ads is to choose the right ad type according to your industry.
8. Optimize images and videos for SEO
As mentioned before, SERPs are no longer limited to showing organic results anymore. They also show images, videos, and featured snippets to name just a few. What’s even more interesting is the fact that SERPs showing images and videos are slowly but surely increasing in number. This means that you can optimize your images and videos to increase your chances of ranking on these SERPs.
Here are some of the ways you can use to optimize images for SEO.
- Use targeted keywords in image and video title, description, and alternate text
- Place the image and video in a section of the page or in content where it best matches the keyword intent
- Compress large size images and videos
- Add a caption to images
- Use common image sizes and optimal image formats
9. Give an irresistible limited time offer
Create a sense of urgency and use tactics such as countdown timer or mention the number of items remaining. When a user sees these things on your page, they are rushed into taking the desired action. Give a limited time offer that your target audience cannot resist, and you will see your clickthrough rate shoot through the roof. Don’t forget to add a call to action that tells users which action they should take next.
10. Optimize social media channel to show up in knowledge panels
Last but certainly not least is to optimize social media pages for knowledge panels. Search engines display these knowledge panels in order to present all your business information in a concise way. As a business, you can use this as an opportunity to connect your social media accounts and let users contact you directly from search engine results pages. For this process to work, all your social media accounts should pass the verification by Google. You can also use schema markup to highlight your social media accounts.
How do you boost your click-through rate using search engine result pages? Let us know in the comments section below.
The post 10 Effective ways to boost click-through rate (CTR) using SERPs appeared first on Search Engine Watch.
- There are SEO tactics you can apply even without significant expertise.
- These tactics even the playing field a bit for those who can’t hire a huge team or outsource to an agency.
- Paying attention to things like images and hosting can give your site a boost.
- There are simple link building tools that are free and easy to use.
- Applying these tactics will help you get in the SEO game and give your website a boost in search.
SEO is not easy. In fact, there are around 200 factors that go into determining where your website appears in search results. As such, optimizing your site for search can be a daunting task. Companies hire full teams of SEO experts or outsource the work to agencies to handle the huge workload that can come with executing an effective SEO strategy. Many companies, like yours perhaps, don’t have the resources to do this, however. Fortunately, there are a number of quick wins you can take advantage of to give your website a boost in search.
Try these five tactics to gain some quick SEO wins for your website.
1. Optimize images and visuals
The images and visual elements you place on your site, in articles, on pages, and all around, can be hugely valuable in giving an easy boost to your search rankings.
One example I like to point to is this image on the SE Healthcare website.
Image: SE Healthcare infographic ranking in image searches – Source
In working with SE Healthcare on the company’s SEO strategy for a new product launch, we were targeting keywords around the core of physician burnout. Over time, we noticed that this image actually started ranking. It started showing up for tons of searches for “physician burnout solutions” as a result. And those searches went straight to this image in an image search on Google.
Clicks on this result ended up with shares of our infographic appearing on social media as well as a serious lift in our search results for related searches. And we ultimately found that inquiries about related product lines began to rise as well.
So, make sure you’re doing the following to use images to give an easy boost to your search results.
Add visual elements throughout your site
First, adding images, infographics and other visual elements to your site just creates a better experience for users. Any time you can substitute a visual element to explain a concept rather than adding a thousand words of unnecessary text, it can go a long way in connecting with visitors.
Obviously, don’t eliminate text altogether or your SEO will suffer. But, be sure you add images in articles to enhance the articles. Add graphics to explain product features. Add high-quality images of your products. The list goes on, but you get the point. Images add tons of value to your site, and they can also help you rank in search. Google and other search engines love images.
Where to add images
To give you an idea of where you can place images to optimize your site, try the following:
Representative icons – Add representative icons above products and other elements to pull your visitors’ attention.
Image: Icons to represent services – Source
Infographics – Drop infographics into articles and other pages to visually explain concepts and add more value to keep readers on the page and scrolling.
Image: Example of an infographic to add value – Source
Demo Videos – These can really boost your ability to highlight your products by showing rather than telling.
Image: Demo video example – Source
Visual Coupon Codes – This is a great way to highlight discounts and entice shoppers on your site to make a purchase. Works great for ecommerce businesses.
Image: Visual discount codes – Source
Thumbnail Images – Make sure to add thumbnail images for your posts. These will show up as shown below.
Image: Example of using thumbnail images with posts – Source
Images in Blogs – Placing images through your blog is hugely important. You can use a header image as well as images throughout the post to illustrate important points.
Image: Example of adding a supporting image that expands on the info provided in the text within a blog post – Source
These are just a few ideas of how you can leverage visuals throughout your website to enhance the user experience and give your website a boost in search.
Embedding a YouTube video into your articles or your pages can really help boost stats like time on page and lower stats like bounce rate. When these stats head in a positive direction, Google will take notice.
Google loves sites that keep visitors’ attention and keep them on site. A video embedded in the middle of an article can add a minute or more to the time someone spends on your page. And the best part, you don’t even have to create the video.
For example, you could write an article about making Fall décor from egg cartons. Conduct a search on YouTube and find an example of someone doing this, and then embed it in the middle of the article. Not only will visitors read your copy, but they will likely also stop and watch the video, thus keeping them engaged longer.
Insert alt tags
Google is getting better at reading images and determining what they are showing, but the technology still has a way to go. To make sure Google understands the images on your website, you need to place alt tags in each one image upload describing the image. This helps Google determine what the image is showing and whether it relates to a specific search.
Images are super important for helping your site’s SEO performance, so be sure to follow the tips above to benefit.
2. Enhance website security
When you think of cyberattacks, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Whatever answer popped into your head, I bet it didn’t have anything to do with SEO. Many site owners fail to realize the negative impact a cyberattack can have on your site’s search rankings.
Google, however, is paying attention to a variety of reasons. If your website is lacking in security, and Google takes notice, your site could be in serious trouble.
How Google treats cyber attacks
If Google crawls your website and finds it has been hacked, the search engine giant could actually blacklist your website. When this happens, site visitors will see a notice saying something like “This site may have been hacked.” It goes without saying that visitors seeing that notice will likely navigate away from your website and look for answers and solutions elsewhere.
People see this warning and instantly click away, which can seriously damage your site’s stats. Google will undoubtedly take notice, and your site could be demoted. You may not even notice anything until you see a huge drop in traffic or a major rise in your bounce rate and decide to investigate. By that point, the damage will be done, and you’ll be forced to spend tons of time making things right.
There are a number of types of attacks that can hurt your site. Let’s take a look at a couple types of cyberattacks that can have a seriously negative impact on your search rankings.
DDoS stands for Distributed Denial of Service. This type of attack is becoming more and more prevalent. The cybercriminal will send massive amounts of bot-related traffic to your site, which can cause significant downtime.
This significant downtime can cause your search rankings to drop. Even 15-minutes of downtime can be a negative signal to Google, so just imagine what a whole week could do. For this reason, you need to take steps to avoid a DDoS attack in order to prevent a drop in search rankings.
This involves bad bots crawling your site and scraping content or stealing data. Obviously, you want to avoid an instance of data theft. Just think of all the major headlines that have been made in recent years from companies being hacked and customer data being stolen. A lesser-known bad bot is the content scraper. These bots essentially scrape your content and place it elsewhere. This compromises your site’s originality and uniqueness and can lead to your search rankings dropping.
These are just a couple of the types of hacks that can hurt your SEO. There are plenty more to be aware of, so you’ll want to do your homework and make sure your site is prepared.
How to protect your site
Fortunately, there are a number of proactive steps you can take to protect your site to avoid this negative impact on your SEO. Here are a few things you should be doing:
- Make sure you have HTTPS setup
- Install a strong firewall
- Conduct regular testing to uncover potential vulnerabilities
- Use multi-factor authentication for your website logins and even for email
- Install a security plugin
- Update your website regularly
- Use secure logins and passwords for your team (and update them regularly)
Doing these things can position you to avoid the negative SEO impact of a cyberattack and help you maintain the search rankings you worked so hard to earn.
3. Speed up the hosting
Multiple studies confirm that faster site speed does indeed result in better search results. There are a ton of factors that go into optimizing the speed on your site, but one simple factor that’s super easy to control is your site’s hosting provider.
Many of the technical things you can do to speed up your site take time and often require an expert. Fast hosting, on the other hand, simply involves making the right choice and then working with the hosting providers to get your site up and optimized.
There are a ton of hosting providers that offer hosting for $ 2.99 a month (give or take), but often those are shared hosting, which can be significantly slower. To really get the most out of your hosting and truly experience an increase in site speed, I recommend looking at the following types of hosting providers.
Managed WordPress hosting
I start with this because 38% of websites are built using WordPress. It’s my preferred platform, and for WordPress users, managed WordPress hosting can really help optimize your site and give a boost to your site’s speed. I use a managed WordPress hosting provider for my own website.
Managed WordPress hosting often comes with a higher level of support, enhanced security, and obviously since I’m bringing it up here, faster page load speed.
The cost can range from $ 50 to upwards of $ 200 per month, which makes this an affordable option for small- to mid-sized businesses.
The name speaks for itself. You won’t be sharing this hosting with anyone. It is 100% dedicated to your organization alone, which gives you a huge boost in speed. Unfortunately, this option also comes with a boost in cost.
That said, if you are seeing 100s of thousands of visitors to your site each month, this option is right for you. And if you’re seeing that level of traffic, and your site is optimized for conversions, you can likely afford it.
This option can cost a few thousand dollars, so if you aren’t quite there yet, it may be something to keep in mind for the future.
As you can see from the graphic below from Section.io, site speed can seriously impact the bounce rate of your website, which is why I stress the importance of the impact your hosting provider can have.
If these options aren’t the right fit for you, there are tons of other options. With shared hosting, for example, you can pay a bit more to get faster speeds. And with Cloud hosting, you get the benefit of lower downtime.
Whatever option you choose, make sure you talk to the hosting provider and ask questions about site speed and how their platform will help you boost the performance in this area. A faster site is an easy way to give a boost to your SEO.
4. Simplified link building
Link building takes a lot of time and effort. You need to conduct research upfront, and then the execution part, including the outreach to website owners, can be quite time intensive.
There are, however, a few methods you can use to grab some easy links and start slowly building up your arsenal of links.
Let’s take a look at two specific ways you can do link building effectively while saving some time and effort.
HARO (Help A Reporter Out)
This is a great resource. Help A Reporter Out, known in the industry as HARO, allows you to connect with journalists who are seeking sources for the content they’re creating.
You sign up for an account, and when you receive emails with a list of inquires each day related to the subject matter you select. For example, if you run a marketing agency, you can sign up for the business and finance emails. If you run a healthcare organization, you can sign up for the healthcare list.
Once you’re signed up, you’ll receive emails each day that list out queries from journalists asking for expert sources like yourself to provide your opinion or advice on particular topics. Those emails will look something like this:
Image: HARO email example
As you can see in the email, you’ll see a one-liner highlighting the subject of the query. If you see something that stands out (a subject you feel you could answer expertly), you can just scroll down through the email and you’ll see the full query.
The full query will have more details about the publication and what, specifically, the writer is looking for. Only answer queries where you truly feel you are an expert.
Once you find something that’s a fit, submit an email to the writer via the email link in the email you were sent. I recommend formatting it something like this:
By using this format, you’ll have a better chance of getting accepted, and when you get accepted, the writer will typically add a link back to your site from your quote.
If you keep an eye on your HARO emails and try to respond to 1-2 queries each day, you will gradually start to get your answers accepted, thus gaining valuable backlinks, sometimes from super high domain authority sites. I’ve personally grabbed links from sites like Content Marketing Institute (80+ DA) and Forbes (80+ DA), among others.
This is another easy link building win. All you need is the following information, and then you can start creating accounts for various directory sites.
- Elevator pitch for your business (aka, brief description)
- Your website’s URL
- Physical address and contact information
- Logo or image to accompany your listing
Some sites will allow you to enter more info, but you need to at least be armed with the basics above.
Start with the general sites like Yelp, Yellow Pages, and of course, Google My Business. Get those sites up, and then dig a bit deeper. Your industry will definitely have industry-specific directory sites, so don’t forget to fill out those as well.
By filling out directory sites, you are gaining links back to your website, but you are also setting up opportunities for your profile on those sites to appear in search when your site itself does not.
These are just a couple of easy ways to start building links. Begin with these tools, and as you start to get on a roll with HARO, and your directory sites are all set up, you can move onto more difficult efforts.
5. Check for broken links
One thing that can hurt your site is having broken links littering your pages. If you post a ton of content, it can be easy for broken links to slip past you.
For example, you link out to external posts to provide supporting information to your blog readers. Over time, the owners of the sites you link to may remove posts, or those pages themselves may become broken.
If you have a ton of broken links throughout your content, this can impact your SEO, and it can create a poor user experience.
Fortunately, there are lots of great tools you can use to check for broken links and then correct them. Here are a few options:
- SEMRush – This is a paid platform with lots of bells and whistles. There are a ton of great tools included, so if you want to go all-in on SEO, start here.
- Ahrefs – While Ahrefs has a great paid platform, they also offer a basic broken link checker for free. I highly recommend checking it out.
- Dead Link Checker – This is another free tool. You just type in your URL and the checker will scan your site and point out any issues with broken links that it finds.
Whatever tool you choose, you’ll want to locate broken links and either update them with links to new, relevant content or unlink them. Doing this can help keep your site clean and give your website a boost in search.
Applying these tactics can help you get a head start on your SEO efforts. While many SEO tactics are very time-intensive and super challenging, these four tactics are a bit easier and can give you some quick wins.
And the best part is that you don’t need to be a seasoned SEO vet to execute these tactics. Anyone can set up a hosting provider, for example. And typically, the hosting provider will move your site over to the new hosting, so all you’ll have to do is provide some login info.
And looking at HARO, connecting with reporters for high-quality publications can be extremely challenging. HARO helps level the playing field and gives you access to reporters in a much easier way.
So, get your team together and figure out the best approach to start applying these tactics. If you stay consistent and focus on the end goal, these tactics can really give your website a boost in search.
Anthony is the Founder of AnthonyGaenzle.com a marketing and business blog. He also serves as the Head of Marketing and Business Development at Granite Creative Group, a full-service marketing firm. He is a storyteller, strategist, and eternal student of marketing and business strategy.
The post Five quick SEO wins to give your website a boost in search appeared first on Search Engine Watch.
- Visual content offers a ton of value for your website.
- It can boost critical statistics such as time on page.
- Visuals guide the reader through your content more smoothly.
- They make your content more consumable and increase sharing.
- Google loves images that are optimized for search.
- Read on to learn more about how adding optimized images to your site can boost your search visits from your target audience.
- See examples of how companies are successfully incorporating visual content into their marketing and websites.
It’s no secret that visual content is hot right now (queue the Zoolander references). You know content formats like video, infographics, GIFs, memes, and more should be a part of your content strategy, but did you know these also impact your site’s SEO?
How does visual content impact SEO?
There is so much value to adding visual content on your website. While your written content serves the purpose of enabling you to naturally incorporate keywords and create more content to rank in search engines, the visual content you add to your site and elsewhere can help give that content a further boost.
1. Video content keeps visitors on the page
One stat Google loves is “time on page”. If visitors are checking out your site and leaving after an average of 10 seconds, that signifies to Google that your content is bad or isn’t relevant. By placing a video in the middle of your written content, you can keep people on page longer.
Think about it. Let’s say it takes someone 10 seconds to read the first two paragraphs of your article. Then, directly on your site is a video your visitors can easily click on that adds more value to the piece.
They click to view and end up watching the full two-minute video. This intrigues your visitors to dig deeper. Before they know it, they’ve been on your site for five minutes. This can give a huge boost to your time on page stats.
Video also impacts critical stats like your bounce rate, which is also a critical factor used by Google. The last thing you want is people visiting your site and bouncing away after just reading a few lines on one page. Video can help reduce your bounce rate and convince people to stick around.
While we’re on the subject, here’s a video from Neil Patel that explains this concept a bit more. In the video, Patel highlights a few ways (including video) that you can use to reduce your bounce rate.
2. Visuals help guide the reader through your content
Reading straight through a 1000-word article, no matter how well-written, can become tedious quickly. To keep site visitors flowing through the content, you can add things like infographics, screenshots, and more to help visualize the concepts you’re presenting and push your visitors further down the page.
Breaking up your content with related visuals allows readers to take a break from soaking up the copy and instead check out a few related graphics, videos, or other visual content. It also provides an opportunity for the reader to pause and look at a graphic that might more easily explain a complex subject you’re presenting or highlight some related stats visually to really drive home the impact, so they don’t get lost in the text.
Here’s a great example of an infographic that grabs readers’ attention and gives them something more to soak up in addition to just text. These are a few screenshots from a larger infographic that appeared in an article highlighting the state of SEO in 2019.
To view the full infographic, click here.
3. Google’s machine learning is learning to read visuals
While it’s not 100% clear how this works, it’s out there and known well enough that Google is actively learning how to read images on pages. With billions of images online, Google’s machine learning becomes adept at using shapes and other elements to compare and comprehend what the images on your site represent.
I mean, is there really much more I need to say here? If Google is focusing on learning how to crawl something and then attribute it to the value your site brings to the Internet, you need to pay attention. That’s why it’s so important to ensure your images are relevant and are formatted in a way Google can read them.
How can you use images to boost SEO?
So, now that you know the “why” part, let’s dig into the “how” part. It’s important to dig a bit deeper and explore some of the ways you can apply visual marketing to your efforts to boost your SEO.
1. Make sure your images add to the story
There is a ton of value in adding things like graphs, screenshots, and other content that actually relate to your article and adds value. There is decidedly less value in adding generic images that simply represent the concepts and don’t really add anything. Since we’re on the topic, why don’t I use some visuals to show you what I mean?
For example number one, you can see instructive screenshots dropped into this piece of content. These are screenshots from an article I recently wrote that details how to use HARO for SEO and backlink building. I used screenshots to walk readers through each step and provide them with actionable guides like the image of the email template and the walkthrough of how to set up an email.
On the opposite side, you have the images below that show an example of using images that relate to the topic but don’t really add value. This is another article on my site. I decided to test out generic images on this piece, as you can see in the screenshots below. The images relate to the content, but they really don’t add much extra.
As you can see, both do add a certain level of appeal to their respective articles. That said, for example one, the HARO article, has 12 times the number of page views, 11 more comments, and double the time on-page. So, you can see the value is clear that adding relevant images that add to the story brings a boost to your SEO.
2. Optimize your images
It’s not enough to just add images to your pages and posts. You also need to ensure they are optimized. If you ignore this step, you can run into issues with the performance of your site. For example, images that aren’t optimized can lead to slow load times on your site, and site speed is a critical ranking factor for Google.
To ensure you aren’t bogging down your site with heavy images, try using appropriate image types. The best formats to use are JPEG, PNG, and GIF. And as for videos, host the videos elsewhere (YouTube, for example) and then embed them on your site rather than uploading them directly.
Another important factor in optimizing your images is the tags you add. Just like you need to add meta tags to your posts, you need to add tags to your images as well. This serves as a way to tell Google (and let’s not forget other search engines, of course) what your images are about.
3. Take advantage of off-site search
You’ve likely heard this before, but it deserves being restated. YouTube is the second largest search engine. Second only to…drumroll please…Google!
So, why not take advantage of posting videos to YouTube and optimizing those videos to give you more content to rank in search?
While this is obviously an off-site strategy, if you create excellent video content and then optimize it properly to appear in search, your videos can grab some SEO value.
You can then add links back to your website in your video descriptions and on your YouTube channel, and as your videos become more popular, clicks from the links on your YouTube channel will give a boost to your site traffic.
Wrapping it up
So, you get it now, right? Images are good for the health of your website and the impact of your SEO strategy. They not only add some life to your website and grab readers’ attention, they also help you improve critical stats that can help give your SEO a boost.
If you’ve been using visuals in your content, your first step should be to review those visuals to ensure they are optimized. Make sure they add to the story and then check to catch any missed opportunities to enhance your files with the right file types along with proper tagging.
Using images and video content on and off your website is a no-brainer. In today’s visual world, it’s important to stay on top of the continuing trend toward a preference for visual content. Make sure to work visuals into your content to give your SEO a serious boost.
Anthony is the Founder of AnthonyGaenzle.com a marketing and business blog. He also serves as the Head of Marketing and Business Development at Granite Creative Group, a full-service marketing firm. He is a storyteller, strategist, and eternal student of marketing and business strategy.
The post How visual content can give a boost to your SEO and how to take advantage appeared first on Search Engine Watch.
- Reducing bad user experience of 404 errors by branding and customizing them.
- Including links to 404s allow users to navigate the website even when they come across a potential dead end.
- Boost SEO by placing your sitemap, homepage tab, and search bar.
- Usage of conversational language along with attractive visuals reduces user’s contempt and frustration.
- Mention of blog on your customized 404 error page promotes your intellectual prowess for possible users who might be interested in your content.
- Amanda Jerelyn shares some amazing methods to improve the SEO of your site even through 404 pages.
- Lastly, some tips to help you avoid 404 errors wherever possible.
Bad user experience can lead to your website’s demise and can also adversely affect your website rankings. This is why 404 errors are considered deplorable when taking into their perspective regarding both user experience and the search engine rankings of your website.
However, there are ways through which you can use 404s to boost your SEO, as in some situations, it is not a broken link but an error by the user that can cause them.
A 404 can be generated when a user types in a faulty address, and this may result in an error being generated on their browser that may look bad, but you can definitely address the situation.
According to a recent study conducted by Gomez, a commercial platform that runs tests for web performance, 88% of online consumers are less likely to return to a website after a bad experience.
In the light of this information, let us take a quick look at some of the ways you can use 404s to negate such inferences and strengthen your SEO.
1. Add links to them
Perhaps one of the best ways to make use of 404s is to design them so that it can link random internal pages from your website. This will allow you to get more website pages indexed through your 404 error pages. This can be achieved by running an algorithm that can help you to link out to a random number of internal pages.
Hence whenever a 404 page is generated, the links also change each time. According to Neil Patel’s own practice, he was able to boost TechCrunch search engine traffic by 9% in just a matter of 30 days. As far as search engines go, Google itself encourages developers to create custom 404 pages.
Since it is a standard HTML page, developers can customize it the way they want to, hence adding links to 404 pages shouldn’t be a big hassle.
2. Brand and customize them
The inconvenience user experiences when they run into a 404 can be quite infuriating; however, this is also a moment where you can use creativity to capture their attention. By branding and customizing your 404 pages, one can actually boost their website revenues and increase their conversions.
However, this might involve additional effort where a 404 page has to be properly designed and optimized in order to turn lost visitors into loyal customers. A standard 404 page doesn’t look good at all. In fact, it seems like coming for an era that was far less progressive. We understand that visuals play a huge role in attracting customers.
Several social media and marketing statistics proclaim the power of visuals, such as the fact that 96% of online shoppers watch a video about a product or a service before making a decision and that 88% of marketers prefer visuals in their published content.
So why refrain from using visuals and not branding your 404s? The answer is that you should definitely not only brand them but also customize them to make them even more appealing for your users.
3. Put in a search bar
Another great tactic to follow with your 404 pages is to add in a search bar. This is further reflected by the study published by the Search Engine Journal, where 81% of users think less of a brand if it’s outdated, and that 40% of users consider search box as the most important feature.
Therefore this should be plenty of reasons for you to make this change happen. A search bar added to your 404 is like sweet candy to a small kid who just dropped their ice-cream.
Surely it is not what they were expecting, but with the power of search in their hands, they can begin their adventure anew. Plus, a nice consolidating message to go along with it would also work wonders.
It is all about compensating for the error they just ran into. Hence you are covering damages and making it easier for your users to recover from them.
4. Include mentions of popular landing pages
Remember that your main goal is to create attention for your online users and direct them to your most profitable and viable landing pages. Hence even when your customers accidentally land themselves on a 404 error page, you can continue your efforts to divert their attention from the error and towards your most popular products and services. It is like a never-back down approach.
Sure, you would be offering them some comforting words to soften the impact created by the error. However, marketing is all about never quitting. Hence your 404 actually becomes like a landing page. It is true no one would actually land on a 404 with intention.
However, when they do, you will be prepared for them to divert the traffic to the most popular pages on your website. This can downright act out as a recommendation for your users. According to a recent report by McKinsey and Company, 35% of Amazon’s and 75% of Netflix’s revenues are generated by their recommendation engines, respectively.
5. Place your sitemap
If you are from the SEO side of things and adept in the knowledge that encircles the mastery of search engine rankings, then you know for sure that sitemaps can be extremely good for your websites. Since they are listed in search control, there is no doubt that Google does pay attention to them. Hence it would be great for your 404s to include a sitemap on them.
This will allow users to easily navigate through your website without leaving your website or going back to the SERPs (search engine result pages) to start their journey all over again. Hence you would be effectively reducing pogo-sticking. This will thus enhance your users’ dwell-time.
6. Use conversational language
It must be pretty obvious by now that a remedy for a 404 lies in offering users a human touch that softens their impact, and this can be further augmented with the use of conversational language.
You want your customers and website visitors to feel less infuriated, and in order to do that, you need to spread out some comfort for them so that they do not feel agitated.
This can be reflected by a recent study by Business 2 Community, where they emphasize the use of conversational marketing. According to the study, 79% of consumers are willing to use messaging apps for customer service, 82% consider immediate response as extremely important, and 36% of companies are actively using live chat for marketing and sales.
Hence the idea over here is to make your users feel as if you are directly speaking to them, and this can help break the ice and reduce the tension created.
7. Get to homepage tab
Probably one of the easiest get around for your 404 pages is to link back to the homepage. What you are doing is here is giving your customers the easiest route to start their search all over again without letting them go and trying to keep them on your domain.
8. Mention your blog
Blogs are considered a good choice for your audiences as well. While they may not be good for directly influencing their behavior, they can certainly create awareness that your domain does publish interesting content that users might find interesting to read.
It’s just a small nudge in the right direction. Obviously, customers who are looking to buy products or hire services would like to be directed to their requested pages, but mentioning your blog on a 404 is like saying, “hey there, we have more in store for you!”
Many students nowadays also go through blogs while they buy research papers online to increase their pool of knowledge relating to their field of study.
9. Avoiding the 404 Error
Lastly, I would like to share some guidelines with you to help you avoid 404s where you can possibly manage to reduce them. This will only make your user experience skyrocket and help negate dissonance from users. Here are some quick tips:
- Log into your Google Search Console account.
- Check the Coverage report to see how many URLs are returning error codes.
- Use the URL Inspection Tool to find more details about each error.
- A 301 redirect is considered a good option for rectifying a 404 status.
Why are we doing this after all of the discussion above? This is because having too many 404s can prove to be detrimental to your user’s experience. Hence if you are notified about their existence, you should resolve them.
The 404 error codes undoubtedly leave a negative impact on your users and visitors. However, there are various ways you can make them add value for your customers.
I hope this post was able to offer you some meaningful ways through which you can use 404s in an interactive manner to boost your website’s SEO. For more questions regarding the topic, please feel free to post your queries in the comment section below.
Amanda Jerelyn currently works as a Marketing Manager at Dissertation Assistance, a perfect place for students to buy academic writing services from expert dissertation writers UK. During her free time, she likes to practice mindful yoga to keep herself fit and healthy.
AMP technology can help you boost your content strategy for 2020. Here’s how to get started today.
It was back in 2016 when Google announced the launch of Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). The rise of mobile consumption made it imperative to aim for a seamless user experience through smartphones and AMP seemed like a great solution to it.
According to an early study, Google AMP pages load four times faster and use eight times fewer data than traditional mobile-optimized pages.
The idea was to provide an open-source framework that can make the mobile experience better and faster. Several publishers started implementing AMP but not all of them were initially able to measure the success of their efforts.
The state of AMP by the end of 2019
There were several interesting announcements around AMP in 2019 to keep an eye on.
On July 25, Google Images announced:
“Google Images made a series of changes to help people explore, learn and do more through visual search. An important element of visual search is the ability for users to scan many ideas before coming to a decision, whether it’s purchasing a product, learning more about a stylish room, or finding instructions for a DIY project. Often this involves loading many web pages, which can slow down a search considerably and prevent users from completing a task. As previewed at Google I/O, we’re launching a new AMP-powered feature in Google Images on the mobile web, Swipe to Visit, which makes it faster and easier for users to browse and visit web pages. After a Google Images user selects an image to view on a mobile device, they will get a preview of the website header, which can be easily swiped up to load the web page instantly.”
The use of AMP in Google Images is improving the speed of searching for visual content. The increasing demand for visual searches creates the need for improved user experience. This announcement proved that AMP is not just about the written text but it is going to affect complete websites and the way we perceive content.
Moreover, Google recently announced that the AMP framework will join the OpenJS Foundation. This is a move that can make AMP even more accessible without relying too much on Google. According to Malte Ubl of AMP’s Technical Steering Committee:
“Google will continue to be a strong supporter of AMP. Google is already a platinum member of the OpenJS Foundation and will continue to provide additional financial and other forms of support to the foundation to ensure a thriving AMP community and ecosystem. The team of Google employees contributing full time to the AMP open-source project will also continue to do so”.
It is estimated that since 2016, more than 25 million domains have published more than 1.5 billion AMP pages. This move can signal an even higher number of pages using AMP to improve the user experience.
According to Google, 53% of mobile visitors abandon a page that takes more than three seconds to load.
How AMP can affect your content strategy
AMP can make a useful addition to a content strategy in many different ways:
1. Improved UX
Focusing on accelerated mobile pages can have a significant impact on user experience. A good content UX can lower the bounce rates on your page while it can also help your visitors stay engaged.
2. Increased conversion
The more time a visitor is spending on your content, the higher the chances of conversion. It’s not always enough to provide high-quality content to increase conversions. The speed of the site, the overall user experience, and the design of your page can still affect your conversions.
3. Reducing load time
Your site’s visitors expect a seamless experience from the very first second. The longer it takes for your content to load, the lower the chances to keep someone interested.
4. Beating competition
Not all websites are invested in AMP technology. It’s not too late to review your site’s speed and start exploring the best ways to use AMP for your content. If your content is already relevant to your visitors and you combine it with a fast experience, then you can end up ahead of your competitors.
Content as a priority
AMP technology is helping developers and marketers understand the importance of delivering a great experience at all levels. From designing your website to the creation of the actual content, everything needs to provide the best experience to all your visitors. This is always helpful in making the content a priority of your website. The loading speed is not enough if the copy is not relevant and informative.
Embracing the omnichannel experience
It’s more important than ever to embrace a multi-channel approach in your web development and also content marketing. Not everyone is accessing your content from the same device. As the load time makes a great factor on a site’s user experience, AMP can help you speed up your content, whether it’s on desktop or on a mobile device.
AMP might not be an official ranking factor but site speed can significantly impact your ranking in the SERPS. Implementing AMP technology to your site can improve your rankings while delivering great user experience.
How to start
It’s not too late to get started with AMP technology. Here are the first steps that you can follow:
- Review your site’s current load time, you could use GTMetrics or some online tools that are similar
- Set up AMP (you can install the AMP plugin if you’re a WordPress user)
- Validate the pages that you want to involve
- Look at the content that you want to include if you need to make any changes
- Start measuring the success of your posts
- Keep reviewing the content performance and the load time
It’s quite easy to start applying AMP to your website to improve the speed of your pages. Your visitors will appreciate a faster load time and you will start reaping the benefits of it.
Content marketing, UX, and web design have never been more interlinked and it’s a great opportunity to make the most of them in 2020.
Cole McKeon is President at Revealize Inc.
The post How AMP technology can boost your content strategy appeared first on Search Engine Watch.
SEO plays a role in the success of most online businesses, but it’s kept in a silo. SEO focuses on organic traffic online, while other strategies operate independently around it. What happens when you break down the silos and start working SEO into other company functions?
The ‘Rule of 7‘ suggests that people need to see your messages at least seven times before they start to take notice of your brand. By combining your SEO efforts with ongoing marketing, advertising, and other activities, you can start to accelerate the number of times and channels by which people are seeing your messaging.
SEO and SEM are really just two sides to the same coin. SEO focuses specifically on monitoring and improving organic traffic to your website while SEM has a broad focus on improving conversions through mostly paid strategies. Many companies consider these two activities different enough to keep them separate, a strategy that makes sense when you look at the individual functions that differ from SEO and SEM.
However, when SEO and SEM are collaborating, you can often get better results for both departments. Both activities rely heavily on targeting keywords to draw in more people. By sharing keyword data and insights, both departments can work on targeting and optimizing for the best keywords and phrases, creating a more unified approach that puts content and ads in front of the same audience consistently.
When a website is well optimized, it can improve the results of SEM campaigns. Good SEO practices help Google and other search engines to consider your site as a legitimate source of information. This is good for your organic search placement, but also for your ad placements since search engines are more likely to promote more credible websites.
SEM is also vital during the early stages of an SEO campaign. By using PPC ads as you work on your SEO for a new website, you can start getting more traffic and legitimacy that may speed up your long-term SEO results and help you reach your goals faster.
If you’re using a CRM (customer relationship management) software, you can have a powerful impact on your SEO by utilizing the system to complement ongoing SEO activities. The three most distinct benefits of this collaboration are:
1. Insights about other companies your customers use
CRM systems can help point you toward other services or companies that your customers engage with on a regular basis. With this knowledge, you can approach those companies for guest posts or content collaborations. You’re more likely to get a “yes” if you can show the other company how your customers are related and the value you can offer that’s complementary to what they already offer.
The more relevant, high-quality links you’re getting, the better the results you can expect from your link building strategy.
2. Keyword insights related to holistic customer experiences
SEO analytics are great for showing you where customers can from and which keywords they searched to find you. But what happens if that customer took an unconventional journey?
CRM software is better at tracking the full customer journey, allowing you to gain some insight into the circumstances that brought a person to your website. You’ll be able to see when and where they engaged with you, along with keywords and phrases that may have influenced them along the way.
3. Unified content on all platforms
CRM systems let you see what’s going on all around so you can see how well your messages are mashing up. Whether you’re hosting expert webinar presentations, publishing a series of blogs about a relevant topic, or posting short social media videos, you’ll be able to see how these things are impacting your customers positively or negatively.
Having more data is necessary for successful SEO. You need to know what’s working, where, and why. CRM lets your SEO team draw from more complete data while ensuring that every outgoing message lines up with your ongoing SEO strategy.
If you’re not already combining SEO and social media marketing (SMM) activities, it’s time to catch up. Social media isn’t a good place to worry about keywords and typical SEO strategies, but it’s a very complimentary service that can drive a large amount of traffic to your website directly or to the search engine to look for you.
Messaging and brand voice displayed on social media should match that on other platforms and throughout your content marketing. Social media is a unique platform that’s more informal and comfortable for people wanting to interact with your business. While SMM doesn’t directly impact your rankings, it has an enormous indirect benefit and helps get your content in front of more people, resulting in more backlinks, more engagement, and higher traffic numbers overall.
Give your SMM team guidelines about how to effectively promote your SEO optimized content. SEO teams should make it incredibly easy to share content on social media (high-quality images, easy quotes or snippets, and the works). They should include social media features integrated into the website itself, while SMM teams should put in the work to make sure SEO content is getting out in front of their audience when it’s appropriate. In this way, both teams can help each other succeed.
Traditional marketing has very little overlap with SEO. Since traditional marketing is more concerned with marketing that makes sense in the real world, rather than on the internet, it’s a completely different type of marketing. However, there is an important point of overlap that shouldn’t be ignored. Both marketing and SEO work with specific customer data, refining your brand messages and outreach based on who and how you’re reaching the most people.
Marketing is concerned with knowing as much about your customers or potential customers as possible. If you have a marketing focus that’s not exclusively limited to online marketing, it’s still important to combine these two departments to allow them to share their data back and forth.
The goal of collaborating
At the end of the day, you want to present a unified brand image that gives people the right impressions no matter how they access your brand. Your messaging may vary from platform to platform, but your brand voice should always be the same. All your teams should be working together to reach the same broad company goals and milestones.
When you start from the top and work your SEO strategy into every facet of your business, it’s easier to accomplish or even surpass your goals.
The post Boost SEO teamwork through unexpected collaborations appeared first on Search Engine Watch.
No story, no sales. Think it’s an exaggeratedly bold statement? I dare not. In fact, according to Arianna Huffington, “People think in stories, not statistics, and marketers need to be master storytellers”.
Moreso, statistics have it that storytelling can boost conversion rates by 30%. Even 62% of B2B marketers hold storytelling in high regard as an effective content marketing tactic.
Since marketers trust the power of storytelling so much, there must be something to it, right?
This article will be aimed at studying exactly what makes storytelling an insanely effective content marketing tool. In the process, I’ll also share some practical ways content marketers can weave in stories to their content that will drastically improve their conversion rates.
Storytelling is part of the human framework. The history of storytelling helps us know that telling stories is how we have been passing valuable information for centuries. Our ancestors were smart. They knew that there was something about the power of using stories to pass across information to their audience, and they made the most of it. That is why folklores were very popular in many cultures. And in the Bible, Jesus made most of his illustrations using stories, or what we call parables.
So, what makes storytelling so powerful? Stories make it easier for people to relate to your content. Why? Because a story told well creates a picture in the mind of your target audience and they see things play out in their mind.
For instance, after reading “There was this playful dog wagging its tail in excitement” you won’t be able to stop yourself from creating the picture of the dog in your mind. There is nothing hypnotic about that, it is just how our minds work.
So when you’re talking about a product or service and you start describing the experience in the form of a story, your audience sees it play out in their minds. They feel the same emotions they would have felt if they had the product or experienced the service. And if they can picture themselves having a great experience from what you offer, it creates a longing to buy from or hire you.
How can storytelling change the game in content marketing?
If storytelling is that powerful, imagine infusing it into your content. As content marketers, we’re constantly looking for ways to develop content that can efficiently reach the target audience and obtain the desired results. And judging from the statistics in the introduction, storytelling seems to do the trick.
Chris Haddad is an interesting case study. He was able to get his conversions up 400% just through the use of stories in the landing page of his product.
How did he do it?
Chris sold information products that taught women how to attract the perfect partner. Initially, the landing page of his product listed the benefits of buying his product. That was responsible for the two percent conversion rate. That wasn’t good enough. So, he switched his strategy.
Instead of just listing out the benefits, Chris shared the story of how his wife (who was his girlfriend at the time) was able to get him interested in her and keep him. That simple adjustment resulted in an eight percent conversion rate.
Three ways to introduce stories in your content
Chris is just one out of several other people who were able to do wonders to their conversion rates just by using the art of storytelling or what I call “story-selling”. Now that you know what storytelling can do to your conversion rates here are some ways you can weave a story in your content.
1. Let your customers tell their story about their experience with you
A research conducted by Nielsen revealed that 92% of people will trust a recommendation from someone they know while 70% will trust a recommendation from someone they don’t know. This means that we’re more inclined to believe what other people say about a product or service.
So, when a client shares their experience with your product, service or brand, then it will have a great effect in influencing the decision of your target audience.
Patagonia does a great job of sharing their customer’s testimonials. Former customers are encouraged to share their stories around WornWear clothing and it makes the reader all warm and fuzzy inside (pun intended).
2. Make your ideal client the hero
Did you know that you can use a story to get your target audience to play a more active role in the use of your product or service?
Every story has a hero and most times the hero is the most loved character in the story. You can create a story that paints a picture of your customer’s journey to solve a problem they’re facing and make that customer the hero in the story.
This will require you to take the focus off yourself and your business and put the spotlight on your potential customer. You’re only a partner to their success and not the one who “did the work” that contributed to the success of your customer. (I know you know the truth. Just don’t tell anyone.)
Salesforce captured this reality when they shared the story of how Room & Board, a brick and mortar furniture business was able to give their own customers a more personal in-store experience online.
3. Take them on a journey
Take the hand of your potential customers and lead them on a journey. There are different journeys you can take them on. You can take them on the journey through their problem and show them the path to finally solving the problem they’ve been battling with.
As they follow you on that path, your ideal customer will be able to identify where they’re at in the journey and see you as the bridge to where they want to be.
Another way is to take them on a journey through your story. How did you start the business and why? What challenges did you face and how were you able to surmount them? This can inspire a sense of purpose and meaning in such a way that they will associate your offers not just with what they gain from you but with a greater cause.
Where can you place your story in your content?
Now that you know the ways to introduce stories into your content, as a bonus, let me give you a quick hint on where exactly in your content you can insert your story. There are three places your story can show up:
1. At the opening
This is one that’s quite common. As you start reading, watching or listening to content, it starts off with a story. In this instance, the story is the hook that will get your audience wanting to read, watch or listen to all your content.
A classic example of this is Jon Morrow’s article titled ‘On Dying, Mothers, and Fighting for Your Ideas’. It perfectly captures the attention of the readers and reels them in.
2. At the closing
After dishing out great value to your target audience, you may decide to end your content with a story to clearly illustrate what you’re talking about. Stories that you put at the end of your content should be one that practically shows how the value you shared comes to play or gives a picture of why you shared such value to your audience.
3. As part of the explanation
This may be more common than the other two I just shared with you. While sharing an important fact in your content, you may want to give it a bit more context with a story. The story helps explain the concept in such a way that your target audience can relate with the explanation you shared.
For example, the screenshot above is an article I wrote on how to turn your hobby into a profitable business, I made five points and weaved in a different story in each point. And using those stories my readers found it easier to understand the point I was trying to make. And by understanding these points, I could take them on the content marketing journey that ultimately converts readers to leads.
Check out this other example by Neville Medhora from his blog post titled ‘How to Publish Your Book Online for Free’. In this blog post, he shares how he was able to write his own book. You’ll see him refer to how he set a completion date for his book.
Wrapping it up
Storytelling is an age-old tool that was used to educate, entertain and encourage anyone who cared to listen to the stories. These stories were shared with others, thus increasing the pace at which they were shared.
Now that you know the power of storytelling, you can replicate the same effect when you work stories into your content. Because according to Brian Eisenberg, “Effective content marketing is about mastering the art of storytelling. Facts tell, but stories sell.”
It will take a lot of practice to be an expert storyteller, I know, but you’ll realize it’s worth it in the end.
The post How to use the art of storytelling to boost content marketing results appeared first on Search Engine Watch.
A review rating increase of just 0.1 stars can boost a location’s online conversion rates – such as phone calls, website clicks or requests for directions – by 25%, according to new report from location marketing firm Uberall released yesterday.
A 25% rise in conversion can “also mean a 25% increase in foot traffic every day,” said Uberall SVP of Marketing Norman Rohr in a statement. The “Reputation Management Revolution Report” [free, registration required] also finds that a jump from a 3.5-star rating to 3.7 can see a disproportionate jump in conversions of 120%, the highest growth jump available.
A business’ priority on this front, then, should be to acquire 3.7 stars or above at all of its locations, Uberall said. Reviews and ratings of businesses are frequently posted by consumers on sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Facebook, Instagram, Foursquare and Google, among others.
‘Near me’ searches
Additionally, 4.0 and 4.4 stars also represent key review benchmarks in terms of affecting user actions. At 4.4 stars, bigger businesses start to achieve higher conversion rates than SMBs, which outperform larger businesses below 4.4.
Based in Berlin, Uberall offers a platform that helps businesses optimize for “near me” customers, including review management and making it easier to find relevant info, like directions or opening times.
The report also found that:
- Mobile searches for brands and products “near me” have exploded, with 82 percent of users having conducted a “near me” search. Among millennials, the “near me” search rate is 92%.
- Nearly half of all consumers have left a review online, and 95% report that reviews influence their buying decisions.
- Replies by brands to their reviews can have a substantial effect on acquiring new customers. The report said that a 30% reply rate is the benchmark threshold. For example, enterprise locations that reply to at least 32% of their reviews were rewarded with 80% higher conversions than direct competitors.
- Small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMBs) that replied to only 10% of their reviews saw a similar impact. But SMBs have a higher average review reply rate (25%), compared to 12% for enterprises and 9% for global brands. Rohr noted that SMBs rely on customer reviews to drive brand awareness and visibility more than bigger brands, which can more readily buy visibility.
Asking for reviews
Rohr told SEW via email that businesses do better when they proactively ask for reviews. Without review solicitation, he said, “businesses will primarily face negative reviews,” because “customers aroused by an emotional experience tend to submit reviews on their own,” and that includes negative experiences.
This report analyzed sixty-four thousand large and small Google business profiles in the US, UK, France and Germany that utilized the Uberall platform.
The post ROI of improving online reviews: +0.1 stars can boost conversion 25% appeared first on Search Engine Watch.
This year’s TechSEO Boost, an event dedicated to technical SEO and hosted by Catalyst, took place on November 29 in Boston.
Billed as the conference “for developers and advanced SEO specialists,” TechSEO Boost built on the success of the inaugural event in 2017 with a day of enlightening, challenging talks from the sharpest minds in the industry.
Some topics permeated the discourse throughout the day and in particular, machine learning was a recurring theme.
As is the nature of the TechSEO Boost conference, the sessions aimed to go beyond the hype to define what precisely machine learning means for SEO, both today and in future.
The below is a recap of the excellent talk from Britney Muller, Senior SEO Scientist at Moz, entitled (fittingly enough) “Machine Learning for SEOs.”
What is machine learning? A quick recap.
The session opened with a brief primer on the key terms and concepts that fit under the umbrella of “machine learning.”
Muller used the definition in the image below to capture the sense of machine learning as “a subset of AI (Artificial Intelligence) that combines statistics and programming to give computers the ability to “learn” without explicitly being programmed.”
That core idea of “learning” from new stimuli is an important one to grasp as we consider how machine learning can be applied to daily SEO tasks.
Machine learning excels at identifying patterns in huge quantities of data. As such, some of the common examples of machine learning applications today include:
- Recommender systems (Netflix, Spotify)
- Ridesharing apps (Uber, Lyft)
- Digital Assistants (Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri, Google Assistant)
This very ubiquity can make it a challenging concept to grasp, however. In fact, Eric Schmidt at Google has gone so far as to say, “The core thing Google is working on is basically machine learning.”
It is helpful to break this down into the steps that comprise a typical machine learning project, in order to see how we might apply this to everyday SEO tasks.
The machine learning process
The image below represents the machine learning process Muller shared at TechSEO Boost:
It is important to bear in mind that some of the training data should be reserved for testing at a later point in the process.
Where possible, this data should also be labelled clearly to help the machine learning algorithm identify classifications and categories within a noisy data set.
It is for precisely this reason that Google asks us to label images to verify our identity:
This demonstrates our human ability to pick out objects in cluttered contexts, but it has the added benefit of providing Google with higher quality image data.
The pitfalls of an unsupervised approach to machine learning, and a training data set that is open to interpretation, were laid bare just last week.
Google’s ‘Smart Compose’ feature within Gmail has demonstrated gender bias by preferring certain pronouns when predicting what a user might want to say.
As reported in Reuters, “Gmail product manager Paul Lambert said a company research scientist discovered the problem in January when he typed “I am meeting an investor next week,” and Smart Compose suggested a possible follow-up question: “Do you want to meet him?” instead of “her.”
The challenge here is not restricted to projects on such a scale. Marketers who want to get their hands dirty must be aware of the limitations of machine learning, as well as its exciting possibilities.
Muller added that people tend to overfit their data, which reduces the accuracy and flexibility of the model they are using. This (very common) phenomenon occurs when a model corresponds very closely with one specific data set, reducing its applicability to new scenarios.
The ability to scale effectively is what gives machine learning its appeal, so overfitting is something to be avoided with care. There is a good primer to this topic here and it is also explained very well through this image:
So, how exactly can this subset of AI be used to improve SEO performance?
How you can use machine learning for SEO
As is the case with all hype-friendly technologies, businesses are keen to get involved with machine learning. However, the point is not to “use machine learning” through fear of being left behind, but rather to find the best uses of machine learning for each business.
Britney Muller shared some examples from her role at Moz during her session at TechSEO Boost.
The first was an approach to automated meta description generation using the Algorithmia Advanced Content Summarizer, which was then compared to Google’s approach to automated descriptions pulled directly from the landing page.
Meta descriptions remain an important asset when trying to encourage a positive click-through rate, but a lot of time is spent crafting these snippets. An automated alternative that can interpret the meaning of landing pages and create clickable summaries for display in the SERPs would be very useful.
Muller shared some examples, such as the image above, to demonstrate the comparison between the two approaches. The machine learning approach is not perfect and may require some tweaking, but it does an excellent job of conveying the page’s intent when compared to Google’s selection.
The team at Moz has since built this into Google Sheets:
Although this is not a product other businesses can access right now, an alternative way of achieving automated meta descriptions has been shared by Paul Shapiro (the TechSEO Boost host) via Github here.
Automated image optimization
Another fascinating use of machine learning for SEO is the automation of image optimization. Britney Muller showed how, in under 20 minutes, it is possible to train an algorithm to distinguish between cats and ducks, then use this model on a new data set with a high level of accuracy.
For large retailers, the application of this method could be very beneficial. With so many new images added to the inventory every day, and with visual search on the rise, a scalable image labeling system would prove very profitable. As demonstrated at TechSEO Boost, this is now a very realistic possibility for businesses willing to build their own model.
A further use of machine learning described by Britney Muller was the transcription of podcasts. An automated approach to this task can turn audio files into something much more legible for a search engine, thereby helping with indexation and ranking for relevant topics.
Muller detailed an approach using the Amazon Transcribe product through Amazon Web Services to achieve this aim.
The audio is broken down and delivered in a J-SON file in a lot of detail, with the different speakers on the podcast labelled separately.
There was not enough time in the session to work through every potential use of machine learning for SEO, but Muller’s core message was that everyone in the industry should be working towards at least a working knowledge of these concepts.
Some further opportunities for experimentation were listed as follows:
As we can see, machine learning truly excels when working with large data sets to identify patterns.
Tools and resources
The best way to get engaged is to combine theory with practice. This is almost always the case, but it is a particularly valid piece of advice in relation to programming.
Muller’s was not the first or last talk to reference Google Codelabs throughout the day.
There are more resources out there than ever before and the likes of Amazon and Google want machine learning to be approachable. Amazon has launched a machine learning course and Google’s crash course is a fantastic way to learn the components of a successful project.
The Google-owned Kaggle is always a great place to trial new data sets and review the innovative work performed by data scientists around the world, once a basic grasp has been attained.
Furthermore, Google’s Colaboratory makes it easy to get started on a project and work with a remote team.
Key takeaways: machine learning for SEOs
What became particularly clear through Muller’s talk is how approachable machine learning applications can be for SEOs. Moreover, the room for experimentation is unprecedented, for those willing to invest some time in the discipline.
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