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What five news-SEO experts make of Google’s new, “Full Coverage” feature in mobile search results

March 24, 2021 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • Google recently rolled out the “Full Coverage” feature for mobile SERPs
  • Will this impact SEO traffic for news sites, SEO best practices, and content strategies?
  • Here’s what in-house SEOs from The LA Times, New York Times, Conde Nast, Wall Street Journal, and prominent agency-side SEOs foresee

Google’s “Full Coverage” update rolled out earlier this month – but what does it really mean for news-SEOs? In-house SEOs from The LA Times, New York Times, Conde Nast, Wall Street Journal, and prominent agency-side SEOs weigh in.

As a news-SEO person myself, I was eager to get my peers’ opinions on: 

  • If this feature will result in greater SEO traffic for news sites?
  • If editorial SEO best practices and content strategies will evolve because of it?
  • If it will result in closer working relationships between SEO and editorial teams?
  • Or, will everything remain “business as usual”?

ICYMI: Google’s new, “Full Coverage” feature in mobile search

Google added the “full coverage”  feature to its mobile search functionality earlier this month – with the aim of making it easier for users to explore content related to developing news stories from a diverse set of publishers, perspectives, and media slants.  

Just below the “Top Stories” carousel, users will now begin seeing the option to tap into “Full Coverage”/“More news on…” for developing news stories. The news stories on this page will be organized in a variety of sub-news topics (versus one running list of stories like we’re used to seeing), such as:

  • Top news
  • Local news
  • Beyond the headlines, and more

Take a look at  in-action, here:

Google's "Full Coverage" feature

Source: Google

While the concept of Google “Full Coverage” was developed back in 2018,  it pertained strictly to the Google News site and app. The technology, temporal co-locality, works by mapping the relationships between entities – and understanding the people, places, and things in a story right as it evolves. And then, organizes it around storylines all in real-time to provide “full coverage” on the topic searched for.

The launch of Google’s new “Full Coverage” feature in mobile search, specifically, is exciting because it takes its technology a step further; able to detect long-running news stories that span many days, like the Super Bowl, to many weeks or months like the pandemic to serve to users.  The feature is currently available to English speakers in the U.S. and will be rolled out to additional languages and locations over the next few months. 

What five news-SEO experts think about “Full Coverage” in mobile search

Lily Ray, Senior Director, SEO & Head of Organic Research at Path Interactive on Google's "Full Coverage" feature
Source: Linkedin

1. Lily Ray, Senior Director, SEO & Head of Organic Research at Path Interactive

Lily Ray is a Senior SEO Director at Path Interactive in New York. She’s a prominent voice within the SEO community (with +15K followers on Twitter), and has been nominated for multiple search marketing awards throughout her career. She is well known for her E-A-T expertise.  Here’s what she had to say:

 

“Full Coverage appears to be another new tool in Google’s arsenal for displaying a diversity of perspectives and viewpoints on recent news and events. It’s a good thing for publisher sites because it represents another opportunity to have news content surfaced organically. It may also serve as a way for niche or local publishers to gain more visibility in organic search, since Google is specifically aiming to show a broader range of viewpoints that may not always come across with the major publications.

Hopefully, Google will allow us to be able to monitor the performance of Full Coverage via either Search Console or Google Analytics, so we can segment out how our articles do in this area compared to in other areas of search.”

Louisa Frahm, SEO Editor at The LA Times on Google's "Full Coverage" feature
Source: LinkedIn

2. Louisa Frahm, SEO Editor at The LA Times

Louisa Frahm currently serves as the SEO Editor at the Los Angeles Times and is also pursuing a master’s degree in communication management at the University of Southern California. Prior to the LA Times, Frahm was an SEO strategist at other high-profile digital publications including Entertainment Weekly, People Magazine, TMZ, Yahoo!, and E! Online. Here’s her take:

“I’ve always liked that element of Google News. It taps into readers (like me!) who are consistently hungry for more information. 

Working in the journalism field, I’m always in favor of readers utilizing a diverse array of news sources. I’m glad that this new update will tap into that. I’m interested to see which stories will fall into the “develop over a period of time” criteria. I could see it working well for extended themes like COVID-19, but big breakout themes like Harry and Meghan could also potentially fit that bill. 

A wide variety of story topics have resulted from that Oprah interview, and fresh angles keep flowing in! As we’re in the thick of 2021 awards season, I could also see the Golden Globes, Grammys, and Oscars playing into this with their respective news cycles before, during, and after the events. 

The long-term aspect of this update inspires me to request more updates from writers on recurring themes, so we can connect with the types of topics this particular feature likes. Though pure breaking news stories with short traffic life cycles will always be important for news SEO, this feature reinforces the additional importance of more evergreen long-term content within a publisher’s content strategy. 

I could see this update providing a traffic boost, since it provides one more way for stories to get in front of readers. We always want as many eyeballs as possible on our content. Happy to add one more element to my news SEO tool kit. Google always keeps us on our toes!”

Barry Adams, Founder of Polemic Digital on Google's "Full Coverage" feature
Source: Linkedin

3. Barry Adams, Founder of Polemic Digital

Barry Adams is the founder of SEO consultancy, Polemic Digital. He has earned numerous search marketing awards throughout his career and has also spoken at several industry conferences. His company has helped news and publishing companies such as – The Guardian, The Sun, FOX News, and Tech Radar to name a few. This is his opinion:

“The introduction of Full Coverage directly into search results will theoretically mean there’s one less click for users to make when trying to find the full breadth of reporting on a news topic. 

Whether this actually results in significantly more traffic for publishers is doubtful. The users who are interested in reading a broad range of sources on a news story will already have adopted such click behaviour via the news tab or directly through Google News. 

This removal of one layer of friction between the SERP and a larger number of news stories seems more intended as a way for Google to emphasize its commitment to showing news from all kinds of publishers – the fact remains that the initial Top Stories box is where the vast majority of clicks happen. This Full Coverage option won’t change that.”

John Shehata, Global VP of Audience Development Strategy at Conde Nast on Google's "Full Coverage" feature
Source: Linkedin

4. John Shehata, Global VP of Audience Development Strategy at Conde Nast, Founder of NewzDash News SEO

John Shehata is the Global VP of Audience Development Strategy at Conde Nast, the media company known for brands such as – Architectural Digest, Allure, Vanity Fair, and Vogue. He’s also the founder of NewzDash News SEO – a News & Editorial SEO tool that helps publishers and news sites boost their visibility and traffic in Google Search. This is his opinion:

“Google has been surfacing more news stories on their SERPs over the past few years, first Top Stories were two-three links then it became a 10-link carousel. Google then started grouping related stories together expanding Top Stories carousel from one to three featuring up 30 news stories. They also introduced local news carousels for some local queries, [and now, this new feature]. It is obvious that Google keeps testing with different formats when it comes to news. One of our top news trends and prediction for 2021 is Google will continue to introduce multiple and different formats in the SERPs beyond Top Stories article formats.

As of the impact on traffic back to publishers, it is a bit early to predict but I do not expect much boost in traffic. Do not get more wrong, this feature provides more chances for more publishers to be seen, the question is how many search users will click. And if users click, Google surfaces over 50 news links plus tweets which makes it even more competitive for publishers to get clicks back to their stories.

I did some quick analysis back in July of last year When Google Search Console started providing News tab data. I found that News Impressions are less than five percent of total web impressions. Not quite sure how is the new “Full Coverage” feature CTR will be and how many users will click! The “full coverage” link placement is better than the tabs, so we might see higher CTR.”

Claudio Cabrera, Deputy Audience Director, News SEO at The New York Times on Google's "Full Coverage" feature
Source: LinkedIn

5. Claudio Cabrera, Deputy Audience Director, News SEO at The New York Times

Claudio Cabrera serves as the Deputy Audience Director of News SEO at the New York Times. He is an award-winning audience development expert, journalist, and educator. Prior to working at The New York Times, he was Director of Social and Search strategy at CBS Local. Here are his thoughts:

“It can be looked at in so many ways. Some brands will look at it as an opportunity to gain more visibility while some will feel their strong foothold may be lost. I think it just encourages better journalism and even better SEO because it forces us to think outside of our playbooks and adjust on some level to what we’re seeing Google provide users. 

From a site traffic perspective, I can’t really comment on whether this has affected us or not but I do know there are so many other areas where sites have done serious research and testing into like Discover where audiences can grow and be picked up if you do see a drop-off. I don’t think the best practices of SEO change too much but I think the relationship between search experts and editors deepens and becomes even closer due to the changes in the algo.”

Conclusion

Google’s new “Full Coverage” feature in mobile search rolled out earlier this month and is an extension of the full coverage function developed for Google News back in 2018. The aim of this new feature is to help users gain a holistic understanding of complex news stories as they develop – by organizing editorial content in such a way that it goes beyond the top headlines and media outlets. In essence, giving users the “full coverage” of the event. 

News-SEO experts seem to be in agreement that this new feature will make it simpler for users to explore – and gain a holistic understanding of – trending news stories. As far as what this new feature means for SEO traffic and strategy, experts can only speculate until more developing news stories emerge and we can analyze impact. 

Elizabeth Lefelstein is an SEO consultant based in Los Angeles, California. She’s worked with a variety of high-profile brands throughout her career and is passionate about technical SEO, editorial SEO, and blogging. She can be found on LinkedIn and Twitter @lefelstein.

The post What five news-SEO experts make of Google’s new, “Full Coverage” feature in mobile search results appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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The five latest Google Ads features and how to make the most of them

March 16, 2021 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • Make no mistake, Google Shopping is still mostly a paid PPC channel, but you can also enjoy its free traffic
  • Video and display formats are not the type of ad you think of when it comes to online acquisition
  • They are more popular for brand awareness and influence targets
  • All conversions are not born equal, especially, when it comes to acquisition channels – a purchase on your site from a new customer has more value than one from a returning one
  • It’s easy to forget that most of the business still happens offline and that Zoom calls and online shopping are not all there is to life
  • Yet offline conversion trackings are not always taken into account
  • With Gallery Ads, Google offers a new ad format integrated into the Search Network
  • As these ad formats are for mobile displays only, their dimensions enable advertisers to make a stronger impact than with a text ad

Google released new smart features and ways to buy ads on its different channels. They allow marketers to increase their reach and to try new approaches. As always with the novelty, there will be a learning curve.

At SEISO, the reference PPC insight platform, we analyzed the impact of these updates on more than 13,000 accounts. Here is how you can make them work for you.

Content created in partnership with SEISO.

1. Get listed for free on Google Shopping

Make no mistake, Google Shopping is still mostly a paid PPC channel, but you can also enjoy its free traffic. Why is there a free option? After the introduction of the shopping channel, Google ousted most of the other price comparison websites from its SERP (Shopping.com, Shopzilla, BizRate, and others). The move was so aggressive that in 2017, the European Commission fined Google €2.42 billion (~$ 3 billion) for breaching EU antitrust rules by “giving an illegal advantage to another Google product, its comparison shopping service.” Although it is still going through appeal, Google has made changes to ensure other options are present on its services and SERP than its own. As for organic search optimization, you need to ensure your products appear in the first positions.

How to make it work for you

First, you need to start by optimizing your Shopping Ads and understand what products click and convert the most. For example, you can use SEISO Google Shopping Analyzer (Free to try) to get shopping reports. From there you can adapt your product feed and product pages to ensure you focus on products that are margin positive.  

SEISO Google Shopping Analyzer - Report

Source: SEISO Report for non-performing products in your shopping feed

Once you have trimmed the feed and pages, you can go to your Google Merchant Center account in the Growth Menu. There you will find a channel called “Surfaces across Google”. You want to set it to “ACTIVE”. This feature was initially available only in the USA and India but is being rolled out worldwide. 

Using Google Ads new features - Polish your Google Shopping Ads

2. Get impressions on display and YouTube ads but only pay for sales

Video and display formats are not the type of ad you think of when it comes to online acquisition. They are more popular for brand awareness and influence targets. 

But now Google wants to convince you otherwise. Why? Google has so much data on users’ profiles and their intents that they can predict what they will buy. Facebook has built its platform on what they know about the users from their browsing and sharing. Google knows the users very well: from the search queries, from the media they consume on its surfaces (videos and AMP pages), and its past purchases thanks to receipts received in Gmail. 

Thanks to this treasure trove of data points, the algorithm identifies which new video game console the user wants. And it only shows him the relevant ads when he is ready to buy. The ad will be more likely to convert and Google will get a higher revenue per page by only showing converting ads to users: win/win. 

Now you can run performance-based targeting for YouTube Ads and on the Display network. It usually means a lower reach than a CPM or a Trueview campaign but you will get incremental conversions while controlling your budget. 

Google Ads

But remember, this is a black box. The algorithm will decide to display your ad or not based on how much money it will generate for Google. If your products find an audience this is a virtuous cycle and you will get a lot of volume. If not, your campaign might not pick up at all. 

How to make it work for you

  • Use Smart Display with a tCPA or tROAS bidding strategy. This allows you to retain the benefits of the Smart Display framework without losing control.
  • Based on 13,000+ Google Ads accounts audited by SEISO, the best targeting are: “Similar converters” & “Custom Intent on your competitors”

You can use the audience analysis section of SEISO to identify which audience is the most relevant for you. And you can try it for free.

3. Customer acquisition is good but NEW customer acquisition is better

All conversions are not born equal. When it comes to acquisition channels, a purchase on your site from a new customer has more value than one from a returning one. Of course, loyalty is key and you need to take care of existing customers. But Search engine marketing is neither the main nor the most money-efficient channel to do so. CRM, whether through email marketing or earned social media are more efficient to re-engage your customers. The symbiosis between acquisition and loyalty is the best way to maximize your customer lifetime value.

Once you know how much money you can expect from a user in the long term, you are able to adapt the amount you are willing to pay for a new customer vs. an old one.

In Google Shopping, you can now take the lifetime value into account. Go in the conversion goals by clicking “Settings” in the left navigation of your Smart Shopping campaign. Use the “New Customer Acquisition” option. There, indicate the incremental price you are willing to pay per conversion for this type of customer versus a returning one. For example, if your CPA for a conversion is $ 42 and you set the new customer value to $ 38. It will let the campaign pay up to $ 80 for new customers and $ 42 for existing ones.

Google Ads

How to make it work for you

Make sure you are tracking your new customers, there are two ways to do so and you should use both:

  • Make sure your Google Ads account and your Google Analytics account are connected. This way, the algorithm is aware of all sales made on your website even if they came from another channel.
  • Set differentiated tags for new and old customers and let your ecommerce platform or your tag manager. You need to show one or the other tag depending on the status of the customer.

As a rule of thumb, you should align this with your promotion strategy. Focus on your product selection to boost your best-recruiting products. The ones that usually trigger the first sale on your website for new customers. 

4. Get offline! How to keep tracks on offline conversions

In these days and times, it is easy to forget that most of the business still happens offline and that zoom calls and online shopping are not all there is to life. Yet offline conversions tracking are not always taken into account. According to Google, 30 percent of mobile queries are local searches and it is the fastest-growing segment. And 75 percent of users making a local search will go to a store within 24 hours. This is a lot of conversions lost to online tracking.

Google Ads

The new version of the Google Ads’ local campaigns is here just for that. Local campaigns use GPS and Wifi to identify the location of the user. Google will display ads related to business advertising presence around the user’s current location. 

How to make it work for you

To succeed, you will need to set up an omnichannel tracking that integrates offline elements. From there you will be able to measure different types of conversion. You should create a set of conversion actions for each campaign:

  • In-store visits: Google automatically tracks walk-in traffic from user’s location captured from their Apps and OS). You will need to register all your points of sales addresses or GPS coordinates. 
  • Offline purchase thanks to offline the Conversions API or bulk sheets upload.
  • Online purchase through your regular tracking pixel.

Once your conversions start to show in the interface you will be able to optimize against each of these goals. Moving further you will be able to optimize the new full potential of each campaign against each target! To do so you try the SEISO campaign optimization tool for free. 

Source: SEISO PPC Campaign Optimisation Tool

5. Be creative! Push gallery ads over all networks

Gallery Ads and Showcase Shopping Ads on Search are good to be tested! 85 percent of respondents put more importance on visual information than text information. Visual information is preferred over text by at least 50% of respondents in all categories except for electronics, household goods, and wine and spirits (Intent Lab research, Feb 2019).

With Gallery Ads Google offers a new ad format integrated into the Search Network. As these ad formats are for mobile displays only, their dimensions enable advertisers to make a stronger impact than with a text ad. Google will continue to serve the same user with your creatives on new placements such as: 

  • YouTube: On the “Home” screens where more than 90% of users say they discover new brands & new products.
  • Discovery: Google Discovery App while scrolling the news feed and searching by interest.
  • Gmail: Through discovery, even though Gmail Ads are being rolled out, Discovery ads allow you to expand your reach from Gmail to other Google-owned surfaces. 

And of course, they are shown in the main result pages as Showcase Shopping Ads.

Google Ads

Google is always bringing in new features to test, The key to having a State of the Art Google Ads account is to test early. Once the features reach mass adoption you are already fully optimized and have secured the best positions.

There is much more to discover in the SEISO analysis report, including expert tips and best practices, account activity analysis, and more than 75 criteria sifted.

Are your Google Ads Campaigns optimized? Try SEISO for free TODAY, click on this link: www.seiso.io/en.

SEISO

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Five ways to innovate your ecommerce sales funnel

March 8, 2021 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • Pandemic-driven lockdowns have driven a lot of businesses online pushing the competition and increasing demand for more conversion optimization solutions
  • One of the most effective ways to increase your sales is to revamp your cross-selling tactics
  • To get more people down the sales funnel, you need to include off-site activities into consideration, that is, when your customer interrupts their buying process and how to return them to your site
  • To better understand (and meet) your customer journey, use semantic research of your target search query
  • Finally, keep analyzing your site’s sales funnel using Google Analytics

As more and more small businesses are going through digital transformation, there’s an emerging demand for new ways to attract and engage customers.

As online shopping is becoming a norm, both the competition and customers’ expectations are quickly growing.

How to create a more effective ecommerce sales funnel? Here are few fresh ideas:

1. Revamp your product recommendations

Cross-selling (that is, showing related products on all stages of the sales funnel) is one the most important – yet often neglected – components of the sales funnel. 

Did you know that cross-selling accounts for more than a third of Amazon’s revenue? Based on the public company’s data, 35 percent of what people buy on Amazon comes from product recommendations based on AI-driven algorithms.

No wonder Amazon is using cross-selling all over the site – from product pages…

Ecommerce sales funnel optimization tips - Example from Amazon

All of these cross-selling blocks are included on a single product page.

Source: Amazon

…to checkout pages using different methods to match a customer to better products:

Ecommerce sales funnel optimization tips - Revamp product descriptionsSource: PayKickstart

Cross-selling comes in many forms, including:

  • Personalized upsells: These usually show up on product pages to urge the customer to buy something they didn’t initially intend. These can be driven by the customer’s prior buying habits or the buying habits of other customers who have bought the current product
  • Product bumps: Showing matching products right on the checkout page
  • Email-driven upsells: Automated emails sent immediately after you pay encouraging you to buy more to add to the same delivery

Ecommerce sales funnel optimization tips - Email upsellingSource: Screenshot by author, March 2021

While cross-selling is a great way to increase your average order value, it’s getting harder and harder to convince customers to fall for it. To innovate your cross-selling strategy, you may try to:

  • Personalize your product recommendations
  • Try new formats (for example, testimonials, Instagram carousels, stories)

Dialogue AI is an ecommerce solution that implements both of the above by showing product recommendations based on individual browsing data as well as turns them into captivating stories.

Ecommerce sales funnel optimization tips - Using search intent and AI to recommend productsSource: Dialogue AI

Dialogue combines cross-selling with AI-powered personalization and story-telling. It is also a fully-scaled solution that requires minimum work. The platform keeps you informed on key marketing metrics through a handy dashboard:

DashboardSource: Screenshot by author, March 2021

2. Make your customer support part of the sales funnel

The ideal buyer’s journey looks like this: They land on a product page, add it to a shopping cart, submit their payment details and wait for the product to arrive.

Obviously, it doesn’t always look like that. Customers’ journeys are often interrupted, and in many cases, they are interrupted by customers themselves who get distracted or come up with questions they need answers to before completing the purchase.

The truth is, no matter how well you set up your knowledge base, many people will still want to contact your customer support team before buying. This is where lots of buying journeys may be interrupted unless you set things up properly.

Set up email follow-ups

Any customer interactions should be recorded and there always need to be personalized follow-up based on the customer’s action (i.e. whether they ended up completing the purchase or not).

Depending on your current CMS platform, you may already have access to email automation that would allow personalized follow-ups.

Ecommerce sales funnel optimization tips - Set up follow up mails

Screenshot Source: Sleeknote

Brand your customer support team’s emails

This is something that is actually missing in the screenshot above. It is important to both personalize and brand your email follow-ups to gradually grow brand recognizability and ultimately generate more repeat sales.

Remember – Your emails mean to bring your customer back to your site. It needs to revive the interrupted buying journey, so links to your site are essential. At the bare minimum, add a clickable logo and a detailed email signature prompting your customer to take an action.

3. Mind your brand-driven search query

What is it that tends to interrupt your buyers’ journey? If it’s not reaching out to your customer support, it is usually:

  • Checking your product reviews
  • Looking for your coupon codes or special deals

To better understand your customers’ journeys outside of your site, research your branded keywords (i.e. those keywords that contain your or your product name). Google Suggest is a good place to start:

Ecommerce sales funnel optimization tips - Rank for branded search queriesSource: Screenshot from Google, of March 2021

These are all as-you-type search suggestions that may impact your customers’ journey. Make sure your pages and off-site assets rank #1 for all of these.

Start viewing all of these queries as part of your sales funnel. Do you have a landing page (or landing pages) that would do a good job getting people to continue their journey on your site? Or do you rely on third-party sites to do that?

The latter is not the wisest decision. 

Remember that these queries are often used in the middle of the funnel (right before your customer completes their purchase), so this should also be reflected in the copy.

3. Create search intent-driven copy

Whether your landing (i.e. product) page relies on organic traffic or not, using search intent to drive your copy creation is a good idea. Semantic-analysis-driven search intent analysis is the only method we have to predict customers’ expectations prior to being able to analyze the actual user on-site behavior.

Semantic analysis will help you understand your customers’ journeys better:

  • What is it they may be looking for and where may their research take them?
  • Which products may they also be interested in?
  • How to catch their attention better?

All of these questions can be answered by semantic research. Text Optimizer is the easiest tool to use here: It will grab Google’s search snippets returned for your target search query and return underlying concepts that will help you create a better-targeted copy or copies:

Semantic analysisSource: Screenshot from Text Optimizer

It is also a good way to rank your pages higher in Google, but that is beyond the scope of this article…

To this end, also don’t forget Google’s most recent recommendations on providing better information for shoppers.

5. Analyze your sales funnel

Finally, monitoring your sales funnel is a must, obviously. While conversion monitoring is not usually included in SEO metrics, most SEO analytics platforms can provide sales funnel analysis. As such, Google Analytics provides a comprehensive conversion tracking that includes sales funnel visualization.

  • To start, use this guide to set up conversion tracking in your Google Analytics
  • Then, proceed to Conversions -> Goals -> Funnel Visualizations to analyze your sales funnel:

Analyze your sales funnel to optimize your ecommerce salesSource: Screenshot from Google Analytics, March 2021

Google Analytics will show where your customers are heading instead of completing their buying journeys.

Don’t forget the basics!

Fundamentally, it all comes to providing a user experience that customers want to return to. That being said, the more happy customers, the better!

Source: DigitalEagles

So while working on your sales funnel, don’t overlook the basics: Keep an eye on your customers’ feedback, monitor your brand mentions, and always strive to optimize a better customer experience.

Conclusion

Innovation is an integral part of digital marketing. Global lockdowns have changed shopping behaviors dramatically and increased demand for digital transformation and innovation. Hopefully, the five steps above will help you make your ecommerce sales funnel more effective.

Ann Smarty is the Brand and Community manager at InternetMarketingNinjas.com. She can be found on Twitter @seosmarty.

The post Five ways to innovate your ecommerce sales funnel appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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Five ways to use machine learning in digital marketing

February 13, 2021 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • According to Gartner, 30% of companies were already using machine learning in at least one part of their sales process in 2020.
  • Apparently, if you want to improve your digital marketing, you will need to focus on Analytics, Personalization, and Optimization. And machine learning can help you with all these.
  • ML can be used across all aspects of digital marketing, be it search engine optimization & marketing, social media, email marketing, paid advertisements, or even content marketing.
  • Co-founder of Lbswebsoft, Birbahadur Singh Kathayat discusses practical ML applications and techniques that can enhance your digital marketing.

Until the last decade, the terms artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) were considered something related to robots and machines willing to take over the human race. But today, machine learning has already started transforming the way we live our life. The presence of technologies built on AI and ML can be felt across all walks of our life.

Machine learning and digital marketing

30% of companies were already using machine learning in at least one part of their sales process in 2020.

Intelligent machine learning applications can be used to increase the outcomes of digital marketing implementations. This advancement can help companies with personalization, big data management, and delivering a better customer experience.

Apparently, if you want to improve your digital marketing, you will need to focus on Analytics, Personalization, and Optimization. And machine learning can help you with all these.

Moreover, ML can be used across all aspects of digital marketing, be it search engine optimization & marketing, social media, email marketing, paid advertisements, or even content marketing.

Here are some of the ways ML-based applications and techniques can be used in digital marketing –

1. Improved customer experience 

Delivering a high-end customer experience is one of the objects in whatever an organization does. Integrating ML-enabled chatbots in your digital marketing process – to be specific, on your website can add to the customer experience you deliver.

About 80% of customers want their chat queries answered quickly. That’s when an AI and ML-based chat software can be your savior.

Apart from zeroing the wait time for customers, chatbot integration ensures 24 x 7 x 365 availability and allows you to broaden your database without any manual interference, once trained, and implemented successfully.

Chatbots also allow you to transfer calls or chats to human agents at any point of time during the conversation.

There’s another way chatbots can be used in marketing. You can train and make the chatbot learn (because this machine is designed to learn) to send emails, chat messages, and follow up messages on their own.

This way, you can send your customers important information related to your new offers and product launch.

And in turn, you will get a sea of information related to consumer behavior and product performance. These metrics can be used for developing strategies in the future.

2. Content creation and curation

Even in 2021, content is still the king. Content rules all forms of marketing. Without content, you wouldn’t be able to market your brand.

Content creation and content curation both require hours of brainstorming and digging. Here, machine learning tools can save you plenty of time which you can use in other crucial areas demanding your attention. It can help you improve what you write and publish.

Curata, Flipboard, Pocket, and Vestorly are some of the most popular content curation tools you can use to create highly engaging stories to post and share.

These ML-based content curation solutions can organize information and content, suggest bytes and contents, and create compelling curated content with their brilliantly designed templates.

The use of machine learning applications has also eased the way people write or create content. The auto-correct on your cell phone or Gmail compose box are a perfect example of machine learning technology.

We are yet to develop a technology that can write on its own without human intervention. But there is a tool, Quill that can create descriptions from a large set of data.

There are many AI and ML-based content creation tools such as frase.io that can help you research the topic and summarize long texts quickly. Built on conversational AI, the tool can continuously optimize the content on your website for better engagement and experience.

Emails are still a powerful marketing tool. The tool called Phrasee can help you create result-bound email copies and subject lines.

3. Website UI/UX

The user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) of a website are among the most important aspects of digital marketing. They are directly related to your website’s search ranking and visibility.

Machine learning tech can also help improve website design. We have already mentioned that you can analyze and find valuable insights related to the behavior of users and the performance of your website using advanced ML tools.

The technology will allow you to create websites that your users find practical and useful. Leading website building tools – such as Wix, Weebly, and WordPress – use technology and analytics to build simple yet effective and useful websites.

4. Marketing automation

If you use marketing automation tools, you can expect more than 10% revenue growth within a year. That’s the reason why over 79% of renowned brands have started using marketing automation in the last three years.

Automating your marketing will take your growth strategy to the next level. Tools built on machine learning can decode and learn from trends, suggest actions based on history and past experiences, and provide accurate analytics to help you develop strategies and take actions that yield.

Customer segmentation, pitching to the exact audience, and sending follow-ups become non-human tasks with advanced ML-based marketing tools. After every implementation and campaign, the tool learns automatically and shows scopes for improvement for future campaigns.

5. More optimized advertising

The traditional way of advertising includes choosing the right ad content and selecting the right channel or platform to display your ad. You will also need to work on finalizing the right time to show your advertisement. This is more a manual job with high chances of ads not delivering to expectations.

With AI-based advertising tools, such as Facebook Ads or Google Ads, you can pitch well-optimized ads to your audience. They allow you to find the right audience for your ad and cut your advertising cost significantly.

Apart from reaching your potential customers, you can display ads in a variety of formats and multiply the outcomes from different angles using these advanced ad channels. Just for a glimpse, you can find potential customers based on the traits of your existing customers or the customers of your competitors.

Not just that, you can send your ads when your average audience is most active. This new-age technology saves your time and spends while improving your returns on investment.

Last but definitely not the least

Social media is the most used marketing tool after email. It has also emerged as the main tool to deliver customer service in real-time. Customer engagement, brand promotion, and lead generation are also the top activities of brands on social media. You can use AI and ML technologies to strengthen your social media.

ML-enabled social listening tools help you with reputation management. Using these tools, you can monitor what your followers and non-followers are talking about you and your products. You can track the mentions of your brand, keywords, hashtags, and related products.

This is where you have a chance to reach out to unsatisfied customers, resolve their issues, and convert them into happy customers.

You can also understand which type of content at what time is engaged (or criticized) most. This will help you plan your social media content next time.

Moving forward, you can also use the competitor analysis data to create your campaigns.

Your SEO can also leverage innovative ML tools. SEM Rush, Hubspot, Moz, and other leading SEO and digital marketing tools have AI and ML behind their development.

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

The post Five ways to use machine learning in digital marketing appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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Smart Bidding: Five ways machine learning improves PPC advertising

February 10, 2021 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • The machine learning-enhanced “Smart Bidding” capabilities available in Google Ads offer an easy way to see the campaign results you want while allowing you to take a more hands-off approach.
  • You can use Smart Bidding on the campaign level or, if you prefer, you can apply it to your entire ad portfolio, allowing you to optimize all of your campaigns using Google’s ML algorithms.
  • Marketing consultant Gabrielle Sadeh explains five different objectives that Smart Bidding can optimize for – and when to use each.

PPC advertising is a core part of many brands’ online marketing efforts. Unfortunately, getting the most out of your PPC bidding can be a tricky process, to say the least.

Some brands find themselves bidding too much for keywords, ranking highly for a brief period but blowing through their marketing budget. Others don’t bid enough, and never see themselves achieving the conversion rates they hope for.

The good news is that there is a smarter way to bid. Google’s Smart Bidding options, which are readily available via Google Ads, offer an easy way to see the campaign results you want while allowing you to take a more hands-off approach.

These advanced algorithms draw from several contextual signals to drive performance, and some of these signals are only available when using Smart Bidding. These include factors like local intent, remarketing lists, ad characteristics and seasonality. Bidding strategies are also available at a portfolio level, allowing you to apply machine learning to optimize all of your campaigns.

By letting Google’s machine learning algorithms take on a load of PPC bidding, you can focus more of your efforts on other marketing and conversion tactics, like optimizing your ad copy or landing page designs. Google Ads currently offers five Smart Bidding options — here is how each one can improve your PPC advertising.

1. Target Return on Ad Spend (ROAS)

Target ROAS, helps you maximize the value of your campaign based on how much revenue you’d like to get for each dollar you spend on PPC advertising. For example, if your goal is to achieve $ 7 in sales revenue for every $ 2 that you spend on clicks, that means you have a target ROAS of 350%.

After inputting your target ROAS, your Google Ads campaign will set bidding for cost per click campaigns in an effort to meet this goal. 

Target ROAS is strongly reliant on your historical data. Google requires that your campaign have at least 15 conversions over 30 days for when using Target ROAS to optimize search ads, and there are other minimums for other ad types. 

For best results, however, you should achieve 50 conversions over a 30-day period prior to implementing Target ROAS bidding. This way the algorithm has data to learn from.

According to Google’s own internal research, this bidding method can increase conversion value by an average of 35%.

2. Target cost per acquisition (CPA)

Target CPA allows advertisers to set a target goal for cost per acquisition (CPA) that they wish to achieve with PPC advertising campaigns. When you use this parameter as your optimization target, Google’s Smart Bidding algorithm aims to achieve conversions at an average cost that is equal to or less than your target CPA. 

This way, you can grow your sales without running the risk of overspending.

If you already have a Google Ads account, Google will draw on your historical data to recommend a Target CPA when you are setting up bidding. It’s often a good idea to follow this guideline, as setting a goal that is significantly lower than your current CPA could cause your conversion rate to crash.

PPC advertising - Smart bidding

Source: KlientBoost

In one recent case study published by KlientBoost, switching a client from manual bidding to Target CPA-based Smart Bidding resulted in a 107% increase in conversion rate, while also decreasing the cost per conversion by over 40%. By drawing from your historical data and contextual signals, Target CPA is an easy way to get more conversions for less.

3. Target impression share

Not every PPC campaign is going to be focused on direct sales and conversions. Many brands try to increase the number of search ad impressions they receive as a method of generating demand and awareness for a brand and its services. 

Quite often, these ads can prove effective in helping you gain new leads. Target impression share bidding will optimize your bids in order to maximize your ad impressions on the SERPs.

As part of this Smart Bidding strategy, you can select to have your ads shown at the “absolute top” of the search results page, near the top or anywhere on the page. Users can adjust these targets as they see fit — so your ads could appear at the top in some search results, and in a sidebar in others.

Device optimization can be especially important in this strategy. In a case study from Metric Theory, Target Impression Share bidding, the total cost per click increased with both mobile and desktop devices. However, the campaign increased mobile spend by an impressive 87%, as the bidding diverted to lower-cost mobile users.

PPC advertising - Impression share targeting

Source: Metric Theory

Because target impression share bidding is based on real-time data, it overrides the bid adjustments from your manual campaign. The one exception is the ability to turn off mobile bidding.

4. Maximize clicks

Similar to target impression share, choosing to maximize clicks as your Smart Bidding parameter is not necessarily focused on increasing your conversion rate. However, this can still be a viable bidding strategy for your PPC campaigns.

With Maximize Clicks, Google adjusts bidding to get as many clicks within your average daily budget parameters. Drastically increasing traffic to your website can serve as a valuable method of collecting data for future campaigns in preparation for transitioning to Target ROAS or Target CPA bidding. 

Getting more users to your website can strengthen your branding and help you build lists — an invaluable strategy for B2B companies that rely on more personalized sales calls. 

Indeed, a case study from PPC Hero found that while Maximize Clicks was universally successful in increasing the total number of clicks, and generally successful at reducing campaign costs per click, these campaigns had a tendency to deliver fewer conversions. 

Like Target Impression Share, Maximize Clicks campaigns should focus more on awareness and leads than actual sales.

This campaign option does allow for a few manual adjustments, such as the ability to schedule your ads to be shown (or not shown) on specific days or times.

5. Maximize Conversions

For conversion-focused digital marketers, Maximize Conversions is a highly appealing Smart Bidding option. As with Target CPA and Target ROAS, this bidding strategy draws from a mix of historical data and contextual cues to optimize ad placements.

The big difference with Maximize Conversions is that it is less focused on your acquisition costs and more on volume. This can be especially helpful when you’re working with a small budget. 

Increasing your sales volume in the early stages of your company will spur word of mouth growth in the future as more customers leave reviews for your products and share their impressions with others via word of mouth. This will make future campaigns more cost-effective thanks to the social proof you will have created for your brand.

Using machine learning for PPC advertising

Source: Google

However, this strategy doesn’t account for ROI — it just seeks to spend the total available budget to achieve the maximum number of conversions possible. This could increase your cost per acquisition or daily spend, which makes this option less than ideal if you are closely tracking those metrics.

A smarter way to bid

Trying to determine which bid will maximize your campaign goals without blowing through your budget can be a tough balancing act. By turning the heavy lifting over to machine learning, you can ensure stronger outcomes for your campaigns while also giving yourself more time to further optimize other key advertising elements.

The post Smart Bidding: Five ways machine learning improves PPC advertising appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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Five hacks to enhance your organic CTR and rankings in SERPs

January 28, 2021 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • Issues with increasing your site’s organic traffic may be attributed to low organic CTRs.
  • Creative title tags helps your site create a positive first impression.
  • Limit your meta description to under 160 characters to avoid truncation.
  • A well-optimized, keyword-rich URL can increase organic CTRs by 45%.
  • Leverage the power of rich results to steal SERP real estate from your competitors.

Appearing in Google search engine results pages (SERPs) is a must-have for any business looking to further their online presence and increase their market share. But if your goal is to grow your website traffic or increase sales, merely appearing on the first page isn’t enough. With Google progressively changing from a search engine into an answer engine, more and more search users are completing their search without leaving the SERPs. To win in today’s zero-click era, it’s become paramount for businesses to occupy more real estate in SERPs and be more visually engaging to search users. If your website is having little luck with increasing its organic traffic, your troubles may be attributed to low organic click-through-rates (CTR). Improving click-through performance is an essential facet of ensuring long-term online success, both on and off Google. 

So what can you do to improve your site’s organic CTR?

Whether you run an e-commerce shop, operate a cooking blog, or manage your client’s site, these five well-tested CTR enhancing techniques will positively boost your organic CTRs, driving more targeted traffic to your site.

And the best part? All of these techniques are easily actionable and are all within your control.

Let’s get started.

1. Get creative with your title tags

A traditional organic SERP listing has three main elements:

Headline: A blue clickable link that denotes the title of the page.

Description: A brief snippet of what contents can be found on the page.

URL: The internet address of a specific web resource.

Your search listing’s title tag (the headline) has significant importance to both the search engine and its users. As an HTML element, search engines use your title tag to understand better the information contained within the page.

Search visitors, on the other hand, use the title tag found in SERPs to make a first impression about your business. Because it’s displayed in a prominent blue color, how you craft your title tag can be a make-or-break factor in its clickability, impacting organic CTR.

But search results aren’t the only places where title tags are used. Because the <title> tag element is found in your page’s HTML code, your title is also displayed at the top of your web browser’s tab and when your content is shared across social media networks.

So how should you write title tags to make them irresistible to search visitors?

Here are five fundamentals to apply to your title tag writing

Aim for a title tag length of 35-55 characters

According to research performed by Backlinko, title tags between 15 and 40 characters have the highest CTR. A title this short, however, can provide a challenge – how do you fit your keywords in and make the title tag compelling? 

In my experience, the sweet spot for a title tag is 35-55 characters in length. A length in that range keeps the title tag short and punchy and ensures it does not truncate in search results, which generally happens at around 60 characters or 600 pixels.  

Use tools like SERP Simulator and SERP Preview Tool to check title tag length.

Place your primary keyword closer to the beginning

Frontloading your title tag with your target keyword increases that keyword’s prominence, giving more weight to its importance. Plus, most users typically only see the first two words of any given headline. Placing your keyword at the beginning helps to make the keyword more obvious, and thus appear more relevant to users scanning the SERPs.

Never keyword stuff

While keyword placement is essential, avoid titles that are just filled with irrelevant keywords or variations of your target keyword. Title tags stuffed full of keywords are unappealing to search users and are CTR killers.  

Add emphasis on capitalization

Capitalizing the first letter of every word in your title tag is general copywriting best practice. To make your title tag stand out even more and add emphasis to high-impact words, consider capitalizing the occasional odd word.

Minimize the use of stop words

Stop words like “a”, “the”, “on”, “or”, and, “etc.”, can add unnecessary length to your already restricted character limit. To better position your title tag, use high impact, power words like best, exclusive, insane, and so on.

Once you’ve mastered the art of title-tag writing, it’s time to move on to the next step.

2. Meta descriptions

The snippet below the headline in the SERPs is commonly (but not always) pulled from your page’s meta description. In addition, an HTML element, the purpose of a meta description is to summarize a web page’s content.

And like your page title tag, a well-written meta description can positively influence CTRs. 

These 155 characters can influence 43% of search users to click on your site. And with nine out of ten search users clicking on organic search results vs paid advertisement, meta descriptions are your opportunity to draw some attention to your site.

How to write the perfect meta description

When it comes to writing the most compelling meta description for search results, start by researching SERPs. Having oversight on what your competitors are doing will help you better assess what descriptions are click-worthy among your target audience.

Here’s a quick checklist you can use to ensure your meta description is highly clickable:

  • Stick to Google’s optimal length

To optimize your meta description, be sure to keep the page’s summary under 160 characters and 130 characters for mobile searches. 

  • Add your most important keywords

Be sure to include your target keyword(s) in the description so they get highlighted in bold within search results.

  • Write descriptive copy

To further create snippets that entice search users to click, avoid generic descriptions as much as possible.

  • Don’t duplicate descriptions 

The pages of your site should have unique meta descriptions. Duplicating descriptions can cause Google to penalize your site.

  • Include a call-to-action
  • To add value to your description and entice more clicks, write your description with advertising in mind. 

If you have a lot of pages on your site, just focus on optimizing the most important pages. Why is this you would ask? 

Because Google ignores the meta description tag for 63% of queries. Focussing your efforts on pages getting little SERP visibility is not worth the time, especially when Google’s descriptions perform equally well, and sometimes better than custom descriptions.

Now that title tags and meta descriptions have been addressed, it’s time to turn our attention to URLs.

3. Use descriptive URLs

The third element of a traditional search listing is your page URL. And studies have shown that a well-optimized, keyword-rich URL can increase organic CTRs by 45%.

After all, when it comes to URLs in search results, wouldn’t you prefer to click on example.com/blog/ten-tips-for-seo-success rather than example.com/index.php?=5754225=t44=?p=987?

So what are the steps necessary to craft click-worthy SEO-friendly URLs?

The first step is to include the exact keyword you’d like to target in your URL.

When writing out your URL, avoid using special characters, stop words, and numbers. Special characters like the ampersand or “&” and numbers are best suited for your page title tag or header tag. Be sure also to only use lowercase letters and hyphens to separate words rather than underscores.

Lastly, keep your URL length short. Some studies have shown there is a correlation between shorter URLs and higher rankings. The average URL length of top-ten ranking pages is 66 characters.

Now that you grasp the basic SERP strategies to increase CTR performance let’s take a look at two advanced techniques you can start using on your site.

4. Turn your title tag donkeys into CTR unicorns

While it may be tempting to simply write a title tag and forget it, to get the very best results from your organic listing, you need to constantly optimize your title tags. As Larry Kim shows, this requires testing new variations and measuring their performance. 

The best way to fully optimize your title tags is to determine your site’s worst performers. These title tags we’ll call your donkeys. The best way to assess which title tags are underperforming is by going to Google Search Console and downloading your query data.

Once you have your query data, plot a graph that compares your Click-Through-Rates vs. Average Position for any queries you rank for in organic search. Add a trend line to your graph.

Now that you have your graph, target the keywords below the graph’s curve. These are your site’s biggest donkeys, the pages with the highest number of impressions but deliver lower than expected CTR for their ranking position.

To maximize your efforts, rather than testing new title tags and comparing their performance over time, consider doing some Google Ads “blitz testing.”

Blitz testing requires you to create a set of ads for the page you’re optimizing and testing at least 10 different headlines. 10 headlines are the bare minimum for blitz testing because it gives you a better chance at finding the headline that resonates best with your audience.

When you find your statistical unicorn from the Google Ads test, use that headline as your title tag on your re-optimized page.

The last hack we’ll be looking at will not only bring more visibility to your listing, but it has also been shown to bring in 2.7x more traffic from organic search.

5. Rich results

Leveraging the power of rich snippets allows your listing to occupy more SERP real estate and improve the visual elements of your SERP result, helping your site increase its organic CTR while satisfying search intent.

To experience success with rich snippets from organic search, it pays to know the most common schema types. While there are dozens of different rich snippets available, not every single one can be adapted for your business. Some are event industry-specific like flight information.

The most common schema types that will work for the majority of businesses competing in the SERPs include:

  • Review snippets: Displays a star and numeric rating below the meta description.
  • Recipe rich data snippet: Provides a step-by-step overview of a specific recipe.
  • How-To snippets: Provides step-by-step instructions for a specific task.
  • Sitelinks: Adds navigational links to key pages on your site below the meta description.
  • Search box snippet: Displays your site’s internal search box within SERPs.
  • Product snippet: Displays product information (price, reviews, stock availability) in SERPs.
  • Video snippet: Displays video information (thumbnail URL, upload date, transcript, etc.) in SERPs.
  • FAQ snippet: Presents commonly-asked questions and answers in the search results.

Now that you have a clearer understanding of the type of rich snippets available to you, follow this seven-step process to publish structured data onto your site:

  • Visit Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper.
  • Select the snippet type you’d like to create.
  • Paste your URL or HTML source to the markup helper.
  • Highlight the page elements you want to be included in the structured data.
  • Click the Create HTML button.
  • Copy and paste your generated structured data onto your page HTML.
  • Preview and test your new rich snippet in Google’s Rich Results Test.

Once you run your test, your schema markup will create a report that states the eligibility of your rich snippet. The information will also show any issues or warnings that will need to be fixed before your page can be published.

It should be noted, though, that having validated structured data in your page’s code doesn’t automatically guarantee that your search listing will display a rich snippet. Google will always provide the search user with the best search experience which, at times, may not require a rich snippet.

Now it’s your turn

By using the strategies above, your site can start to experience more organic traffic. This can significantly contribute to greater overall online success and, ultimately, increased site conversions. What’s more, the strategies provided here increase site traffic without creating more content or building more links.

With organic click-through-rates already on the decline, adapting these tips and tactics to your site will allow your brand to remain competitive in the current zero-click search landscape.

And the best part? All of the strategies mentioned here can also be used by any business, regardless of SEO experience or marketing budget.

Karl Tablante is Inbound Marketing Manager at SEO Sherpa.

The post Five hacks to enhance your organic CTR and rankings in SERPs appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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Five reasons why clients are leaving your agency

January 12, 2021 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • If you’re focusing solely on growth, you may not be seeing the huge impact that customer churn has on your agency.
  • Acquiring a new client costs 5X more than retaining an existing one.
  • Service Provider Pro uses their expertise of helping over a thousand agencies with their systems and processes to share five crucial reasons for why your clients are jumping ship.

There’s an age-old saying that acquiring a new client costs 5X more than retaining an existing one. If you’re focusing solely on growth, you may not be seeing the huge impact that customer churn has on your agency. Having helped over a thousand agencies with their systems and processes, we’ve seen this first hand. Here’s what you might want to keep an eye out for in case you see your clients jumping ship:

Content created in partnership with Service Provider Pro.

1. You’re reinventing the wheel with each client

Handling a project that involves other people’s time and work is not easy, and doing it with an unclear workflow, just hoping for the best each time, makes it that much harder. 

If your workflow is inefficient, some tasks might be eating up your workday, inching you closer to your deadlines and taking away the focus from where it should be: building your client relationships. 

For you, your team, and your clients to be on the same page, you need a set of repeatable processes that don’t vary greatly from client to client. 

That’s where productized services come in: simplifying access and workflow for everyone involved. Get acquainted with the main benefits here.

Productized services = selling services as products. And yes, productized services do work.

Clients like to sign up for a known service at an agreed-upon price. It’s clear for everyone what the deliverables are, what inputs are needed from their side, and what your team will do for them.

Productized services aren’t always results-based. In fact, most of the time they’re based around specific deliverables. In order to get these deliverables out to your clients in the smoothest (and fastest) way, it’s key that each decision-maker can locate the resources needed for the project’s goals, track its progress, and communicate it. Not only does this set a clear path and accountability for your team, but lets your clients know what to expect. There’s no place for doubt as to what is going on with their website.

2. You’re not demonstrating value effectively

And it’s not because it’s not there.

Your clients are investing in your services to see measurable results and a positive return on investment. If they don’t see ROI they’ll want to look for it someplace else. The results of your strategy may be there but if you fail to communicate them in an objective, meaningful way to your client, they might as well not exist.

A good way to help yourself with this is by creating consistent metrics that your clients can keep track of and look back on overtime. Data-driven dashboards are an easy way to put these metrics into focus without too much extra work on your end.

You really want to keep it clean and not overwhelm your reports and clients with too much data, keep it to the relevant metrics to your client’s goal. Loads of data that don’t necessarily resonate with the project can backfire and make it seem like you didn’t get what your client’s objective was, to begin with.

3. Your communication is not the best

Clients do business with people they trust. This sense of trust needs to be maintained, not just during the sales process, but throughout the project delivery as well.

If your clients cannot reach you or see the status or their project live, you’re leaving them to suspect the worst.

Vital information gets lost in messy email threads, scattered messaging across the team, and can get tricky to keep a neat channel of communication open.

Centralizing your communication and providing the means for your clients to access their project’s progress at any time can keep them in the loop and confident that you’re both moving in the same direction.

4. You make it easy to leave after the test run

Keeping your clients after their first project can be tricky. Some people are adamant that an SEO project is a one-time thing and they can work on their own after. If you want your clients to keep coming back to you, you have to ensure that not only are the results there but that getting them was a breeze.

If your payments and invoicing are in one place, your client communication in another, project management in another, and so on, not only does this make it hard to keep track of your progress to you and your team, but it’s a nuisance to your clients. 

With so many competitors out there, you should be using every tool in your arsenal to make the journey, from audit to implementation, a seamless process that will differentiate your agency.

5. You’re not clamping down on involuntary churn

You’ve taken all the steps to make sure your services are top-notch and keep your clients coming back and they stay with you until the unspoken enemy of your bottom line shows up: payment failure. 

Your client’s payment method fails and, since the ball is in their court, it’s easy to think that they should notice and correct it. But it doesn’t always happen. That’s leaving money on the table that most businesses can’t afford to pass up. You wouldn’t want to lose clients just because their card expired. 

Preventing this can be as easy as sending renewal reminders and following up when their payment fails. Do make sure to keep your emails inbox-friendly to avoid your notifications ending in the spam folder.

Ensure that updating information is as easy as possible for your clients. Your subscription recovery page shouldn’t be locked behind a login process or having your clients jump through hoops to the point where it’s easier to just ditch. 

If you can notify clients when their payment fails and give them a simple one-click link where they can update their billing info it’s gonna be a game-changer. Better yet, it should show right away whether the new payment method has failed or succeeded.

Keeping your clients happy doesn’t have to be hard

There are so many pieces to the puzzle that it definitely can seem daunting. Using all the tools in your arsenal, letting software pick up the slack for you, and giving your clients some self-service options can really be a game-changer for your client’s retention and their happiness. That’s what makes it all worth it, right?

The post Five reasons why clients are leaving your agency appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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Five strategies to promote your business using LinkedIn Stories

December 31, 2020 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • LinkedIn Stories feature allows you to create a video that runs no longer than 20 seconds and host it on your profile.
  • The format will help kickstart conversations and nurture the relationships that are core to everything that happens on LinkedIn.
  • These are a good way for brands to share a behind-the-scenes peek into their business’ professional moments.
  • The feature is expected to promote business content in an area whose netizens are purely composed of professionals, thus helping users build relationships with followers.
  • The feature has been rolled out in select countries, with plans to introduce it to a new country every week or so.

Did you know that more than 500 million people watch an Instagram Story every day, and over one-third of those videos are business-related? In a fresh respite for professionals and businesses who would until now take recourse to Instagram to publicize their business, LinkedIn stories have arrived to help professionals share their on-the-fly moments. Much like Instagram Stories, the LinkedIn Stories feature allows you to create a video that runs no longer than 20 seconds and host it on your profile. Once the “story” has been uploaded, it will be accessible by people for an entire day before it goes away.

According to LinkedIn, the feature was a long time coming. Pete Davies, the head of Consumer Products at LinkedIn, was quoted remarking about the usefulness of the feature as “…stories spread for a good reason: they offer a lightweight, fun way to share an update without it having to be perfect or attached to your profile forever.”

But, first things first. Should you even use Instagram stories? More importantly, what are they, and are they any different than the mainstream story feature from other popular social networking platforms?

In a word, yes. Through LinkedIn Stories, you will have a great opportunity to demonstrate your brand from a different angle and interact with your audience in a way they’re familiar with. 

What are LinkedIn Stories?

The LinkedIn Stories feature is a format that allows you to display and share specific content with your audience through an image slideshow or 20-second that is available for 24 hours before it is automatically gone. The video or the image slideshow disappears after a full day since it was posted.

This feature is, in essence, the same as the ones that exist on Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat, and has more or less the same functions. Users can add stickers, ask questions (AMA), place text overlays, use @mention to credit, or introduce other LinkedIn accounts.

Thus far, the LinkedIn Stories feature has been rolled out in select members and pages in the countries of the Netherlands, United Arab Emirates, Brazil, and Australia. Although, if you are itching to have a go at LinkedIn Stories, sit tight. According to LinkedIn, the feature will be rolled out to one new country every few weeks.

LinkedIn Stories example

However, the talking point here really is LinkedIn’s shift stories and how emblematic it is of social media’s evolution since the inception of a certain Facebook called centralized news feed in 2006. Today, stories have become the norm, and profile users opt to share their “in the moment” experience rather than devoting themselves to a binding feed post.

stat on Instagram stories

Source: Later.com

This aligns with the fad observed with Instagram over the course of the last few years, with an increasing number of people posting more stories and fewer feeds. This was confirmed by a recent study by Later, where influencers were found to now post 33% fewer feeds than they used to in 2016.

So, what meaning does this hold for businesses?

Put simply, this feature will offer a novel, temporary way to share information with your professionally-associated followers (LinkedIn connects). And while it might feel challenging to carve a name for your brand in a bustling online space, there are a host of elements you can peruse to morph a seemingly daunting prospect into a creative new opportunity to further your business objectives.

Benefits of LinkedIn Stories

We already know that, while belonging to different channels, the stories feature is essentially the same as the last one’s. What distinguishes LinkedIn stories the primary difference (and draw) of LinkedIn Stories is the business context.

Now, rather than using the feature to share lifestyle tips with relatives and friends, brands and marketers may share their stories with peers and future prospects. This material may be highly promotional.

Studies show that stories are gradually turning into the new favorite and preferred way to access material on social media channels. However, that is not to suggest that stories will fully replace the LinkedIn feed post. But, providing the stories features offers users the ability to broaden the scope of their LinkedIn content and reach a wider target audience.

This highly offbeat style of material promotion also enables LinkedIn users to provide a deeper insight into the people behind the business. This is especially helpful for company owners, entrepreneurs, and businessmen who want to capitalize on that trust factor with prospective customers and future clients.

LinkedIn Stories offer the most powerful opportunity for interaction. In a recent study, it was revealed that as many as 25% of Instagrammers swipe up when they come across a branded post. With LinkedIn Stories, the same feature and thought process will be replicated on a channel that is completely dedicated to business networking.

However, it’s important to note that while your stories might not directly result in a sale, you are promoting your brand and creating an air of awareness about it. What’s infinitely more exciting is that this promotion will make you come across people that you can talk to directly to open the doors to better opportunities.

Take Instagram, for instance. As many as 50% of businesses over the world make at least one story every month that promotes their brand or product. And this is where the low hanging fruit becomes apparent. Armed with the right strategy, you can make use of a fantastic opportunity in the form of LinkedIn Stories to generate a buzz around your brand.

Five strategies to promote your business through LinkedIn Stories

At first sight, the stories feature, regardless of the channel it belongs to, seems like something that is entirely dedicated to the consumer: they are informal and sate the hankering for instant gratification. But, if you were to look at it a little closer, you would see how this feature can help B2B companies connect with each other on a deeper level to build engaging relationships.

If you are already familiar with the inner workings of the stories feature on other networking platforms, you won’t find it difficult to shift base to LinkedIn Stories for business-related purposes after it has been made available to everyone. Listed below are five ways you can use it for your business when the time comes.

1. Share real-time activities

LinkedIn Stories have a limited life span, making them ideal for communicating less refined, off-the-cuff material right in real-time.

Sharing real-time event updates is also a great strategy, mostly because events are a significant source of leads for many businesses, and 85% of them consider interpersonal meetings central to their marketing plan. LinkedIn Stories let your followers view excerpts of events from a first-person perspective.

From enterprise-wide announcements to award ceremonies, sharing snippets of events in the form of live stories is a tremendously useful way to showcase the goings-on at your company.

This is also an incredible way to generate an extra buzz around your brand. Consider requesting event coordinators and speakers to share short sounds of information about a new product or feature or possibly even feature a BTS look of any extra details in store!

2. Share customer testimonial stories

Irrespective of the generation you are from, the odds are that you trust people’s advice more than any other form of content marketing. This is what makes testimonials and user reviews such a powerful tool for marketing.

With the millennial generation soon climbing up the organizational ladder and becoming decision-makers, they will be searching for goods and services that have demonstrated that they can make professional work easier. They will look for vendors that have the products with the features that they desire, so filming your satisfied customers and posting a short clip on LinkedIn in the form of a story might just be the perfect way to catch their attention.

3. Share business tips and updates

Stories are the perfect way to generate demand. Your most loyal supporters are going to see your story. If you post something about your brand, tease the new features of a product, or make something exclusively available on LinkedIn, they will share it with others. Talk about word of mouth!

4. Share trending news or announcements

If you are among the privileged few brands who have gotten to use the LinkedIn Stories feature first, the chances are that you will get a massive amount of additional airtime with your LinkedIn followers.

Keeping that in mind, it may be a sensible move to use this new forum to post all your essential brand news.

5. Host corporate Q&As

Much like Instagram Stories, the stories feature on LinkedIn is the perfect way to show what goes on behind the scenes and gives you the chance to share the more humane side of your business.

By hosting a pep talk or a Q&A session on LinkedIn stories, you can show the people that make up your brand. Not only is it another great way to share your brand story, but it is also helpful when it comes to creating brand loyalty.

In order to gain more questions for your Q&A session, you can request your followers to submit questions to you in advance. This can be done either through direct messaging or via a conventional LinkedIn feed post.

The do(s) and don’t(s) of LinkedIn Stories

Begin your story strategy with a positive growth mindset. LinkedIn Stories are not simply a means of communicating; they present a powerful tool for promoting interaction, learning about your audience, and improving the business.

Do spend time building a strategy

Consider how short bits of information better suit the brand’s wider content marketing strategy.

Which kind of subjects and press do your followers enjoy? Do you produce new content only for stories or reuse them from other platforms?

Don’t spend time behind perfecting every story

Note that stories are only available for 24 hours after you publish them. Moreover, stories that appear too organized and designed sort of miss the mark. Stories are supposed to feel random, so try to have the same mentality as you do when you post Instagram or Facebook stories.

Do relate to followers

People desire real connections from businesses. Let your brand persona shine a little and share more about yourself. It’s the perfect way to strengthen your brand’s mission, vision, and values.

Don’t be too casual

It’s really easy to let go and get caught up in the moment, which could prompt you to post something regretful when you know it’s going to disappear in 24 hours. Consider creating some boundaries for your stories dedicated to your brand.

Conclusion

If you’re communicating job openings or are releasing a commodity, capitalizing on this latest platform to reach out to a wider audience is certainly a smart move. If Instagram Stories are anything to go by, the first adopters of this feature will put themselves ahead in the race to improved brand awareness.

Aayush Gupta is Sr. Manager, Brand & Marketing at Uplers. He likes to stay on his toes when it comes to marketing and doing things worth risk-taking. He loves traveling and exploring local cuisines. In his free time reading books with coffee is all he wants.

The post Five strategies to promote your business using LinkedIn Stories appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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How NLP and AI are revolutionizing SEO-friendly content [Five tools to help you]

December 29, 2020 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • Natural language processing (NLP) is one factor you’ll need to account for as you do SEO on your website.
  • If your content is optimized for NLP, you can expect it to rise to the top of the search rankings and stay there for some time.
  • As AI and NLP keep evolving, we may also eventually see machines doing a lot of other SEO-related work, like inserting H1 and image alt tags into HTML code, building backlinks via guest posts, and doing email outreach to other AI-powered content editors.
  • While it seems far-fetched right now, it’s exciting to see how SEO, NLP and AI will evolve together.
  • Writer.com’s Co-founder and CEO, May Habib discusses in-depth about SEO content and shares top tools to help you through the content creation process.

Modern websites are at the mercy of algorithms, which dictate the content they show in the search results for specific keywords. These algorithms are getting smarter by the day, thanks to a technology called machine learning, also known as artificial intelligence (AI).

If you want your site to rank in search results, you need to know how these algorithms work. They change frequently, so if you continually re-work your SEO to account for these changes, you’ll be in a good position to dominate the rankings. 

Natural language processing (NLP) is one factor you’ll need to account for as you do SEO on your website. If your content is optimized for NLP, you can expect it to rise to the top of the search rankings and stay there for some time.

The evolving role of NLP and AI in content creation & SEO

Before we trace how NLP and AI have increased in influence over content creation and SEO processes, we need to understand what NLP is and how it works. NLP has three main tasks: recognizing text, understanding text, and generating text.

  • Recognition: Computers think only in terms of numbers, not text. This means that any NLP solution needs to convert text into numbers so computers can understand them.
  • Understanding: Once the text has been converted into numbers, algorithms can then perform statistical analysis to discover the words or topics that appear together most frequently. 
  • Generation: The NLP machine can use its findings to ask questions or suggest topics around which a writer can create content. Some of the more advanced machines are already starting to put together content briefs. 

With the help of NLP and artificial intelligence (AI), writers should soon be able to generate content in less time as they will only need to put together keywords and central ideas, then let the machine take care of the rest. However, while an AI is a lot smarter than the proverbial thousand monkeys banging away on a thousand typewriters, it will take some time before we’ll see AI- and NLP-generated content that’s actually readable.

As AI and NLP keep evolving, we may also eventually see machines doing a lot of other SEO-related work, like inserting H1 and image alt tags into HTML code, building backlinks via guest posts, and doing email outreach to other AI-powered content editors. While it seems far-fetched right now, it’s exciting to see how SEO, NLP, and AI will evolve together.

Major impact from Google BERT update

In late 2019, Google announced the launch of its Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers (BERT) algorithm.  BERT helps computers understand human language using a method that mimics human language processing. 

According to Google, the BERT algorithm understands contexts and nuances of words in search strings and matches those searches with results closer to the user’s intent. Google uses BERT to generate the featured snippets for practically all relevant searches. 

One example Google gave was the search query “2019 brazil traveler to usa need a visa”. The old algorithm would return search results for U.S. citizens who are planning to go to Brazil. BERT, on the other hand, churns out results for Brazilian citizens who are going to the U.S. The key difference between the two algorithms is that BERT recognizes the nuance that the word “to” adds to the search term, which the old algorithm failed to capture. 

How NLP and AI Are Revolutionizing SEO-Friendly Content [5 Tools That Can Help You] - Google search query example

Source: Google

Instead of looking at individual keywords, BERT looks at the search string as a whole, which gives it a better sense of user intent than ever before. Users are becoming more specific with the questions they ask and are asking more new questions, and BERT breaks down these questions and generates search results that are more relevant to users.

This is great news for search engine users, but what does it mean for SEO practitioners? While it doesn’t exactly throw long-standing SEO principles out the window, you might have to adjust to accommodate the new algorithm’s intricacies and create more content containing long-tail (longer and more specific) keywords. Let’s move on to the next section to learn more about creating BERT-optimized content.

Developing SEO-friendly content for improved Google

When we perform SEO on our content, we need to consider Google’s intentions in introducing BERT and giving NLP a larger role in determining search rankings. Google uses previous search results for the same keywords to improve its results, but according to the company, 15% of all search queries are used for the first time. The implication here is that Google needs to decipher these new questions by reconstructing them in a way it understands. 

With this in mind, your SEO should factor in the criteria below: 

Core understanding of search intent

While keywords still play an important role in Google searches, BERT also pays close attention to user intent, which just means a user’s desired end goal for performing a search. We may classify user intent into four categories:

  • Navigational: The user goes to Google to get to a specific website. Instead of using the address bar, they run a Google search then click on the website link that appears in the search results. It’s possible that these users know where they want to go but have forgotten the exact URL for the page.
  • Informational: The user has a specific question or just wants to know more about a topic. The intention here is to become more knowledgeable or to get the correct answer for their question. 
  • Commercial: The user might not know what they want at the moment, so they’re just looking around for options. They may or may not make a purchase right away.
  • Transactional: The user is ready and willing to make a purchase and is using Google to find the exact product they want.

Unlike old search algorithms, the new Google algorithm captures user intent better because it considers the whole context of the search terms, which may include prepositions such as “of”, “in”, “for”, and “to”, or interrogative words such as “when”, “where”, “what”, “why”, and “how”. Your SEO strategy should produce content that:

  • Answers a user’s question or addresses a need right away
  • Provides value to the reader
  • Is comprehensive and focused 

You might need to conduct more research about ranking sites for your keyword and check out what kind of content gets into the top results. It’s also a good idea to look at the related searches that Google suggests at the bottom of the results page. These will give you a better idea of user intent and help you draw an SEO strategy that addresses these needs.

Term frequency-inverse document frequency

You might not have heard of the term “Term Frequency-Inverse Document Frequency” (TF-IDF) before, but you’ll be hearing more about it now that Google is starting to use it to determine relevant search results. TF-IDF rises according to the frequency of a search term in a document but decreases by the number of documents that also have it. This means that very common words, such as articles and interrogative words, rank very low. 

TF-IDF is calculated by multiplying the following metrics:

  • Term frequency: This may either be a raw count of instances of a keyword, the raw count adjusted for document length, or the raw frequency of the most common word. 
  • Inverse document frequency: This may be calculated by taking the total number of documents, dividing it by the number of documents that have the keyword, then getting its algorithm. If the word is very common across different documents, the TF-IDF gets closer to 0. Otherwise, it moves closer to 1. 

When we multiply the metrics above, we get the TF-IDF score of a keyword in a document. The higher the TF-IDF score, the more relevant the keyword is for that specific page. As an end-user, you may use TF-IDF to extract the most relevant keywords for a piece of content. 

Google also uses TF-IDF scores in its NLP engine. Since the metric gauges the relevance of a keyword to the rest of the document, it’s more reliable than simple word counts and helps the search engine avoid showing irrelevant or spammy results.

Sentiment importance

Consumer opinions about brands are everywhere on the internet. If you can find a way to aggregate and analyze these sentiments for your brand, you’ll have some powerful data about overall feelings about your business at your fingertips. 

This process is called sentiment analysis, and it uses AI to help you understand the overall emotional tone of the things your customers say about you. It involves three key activities:

  • Knowing where your customers express their opinions about your brand, which might include social media, review sites such as Yelp or the Better Business Bureau, forums, feedback left on your site, and reviews on ecommerce sites such as Amazon.
  • Utilizing AI and NLP to pull data from these sites in massive quantities, instead of gathering a random sample consisting of just a few comments from each platform. This gives you a clearer overall picture of customer sentiment.
  • Analyzing data and assigning positive or negative values to customer sentiments, based on tone and choice of words.

Crafting an SEO strategy that places importance on customer sentiment addresses common complaints and pain points. We’ve found that dealing with issues head-on, instead of skirting them or denying them, increases a brand’s credibility and improves its image among consumers.

Salience and category

If you want to better understand how natural language processing works, you may start by getting familiar with the concept of salience. 

In a nutshell, salience is concerned with measuring how much of a piece of content is concerned with a specific topic or entity. Entities are things, people, places, or concepts, which may be represented by nouns or names. Google measures salience as it tries to draw relationships between the different entities present in an article. Think of it as Google asking what the page is all about and whether it is a good source of information about a specific search term.

Let’s use a real-life example. Let’s imagine you do a Google search to learn more about how to create great Instagram content during the holidays. You click on an article that claims to be a guide to doing just that but soon discover that the article contains one short paragraph about this topic and ten paragraphs about new Instagram features. 

While the article itself mentions both Instagram and the holidays, it isn’t very relevant to the intent of the search, which is to learn how to document the holidays on Instagram. These are the types of search results Google wanted to avoid when it was rolling out BERT. Instead of trying to game the system to get your content to the top of the search results, you need to consider salience as you produce your online content. 

Five tools that can help you develop SEO-friendly content

Given all the changes that Google has made to its search algorithm, how will you ensure that your content remains SEO-friendly? We’ve gathered six of the most useful tools that will help you create content that ranks high and satisfies user intent.

1. Frase

Frase (frase.io) claims to help SEO specialists create content that is aligned with user intent easily. It streamlines the SEO and content creation processes by offering a comprehensive solution that combines keyword research, content research, content briefs, content creation, and optimization. 

Fraser - Tools to create SEO-friendly content

Frase Content, its content creation platform, suggests useful topics, statistics, and news based on the keywords you enter. If you’re working with a team, the Content Briefs feature tells your writers precisely what you need them to produce, reducing the need for revisions and freeing up their time for more projects. 

2. Writer

Writer (writer.com) realizes that we all write for different reasons, and when you sign up, it asks you a few questions about what you intend to use it for. For example, you might be interested in improving your own work, creating a style guide, promoting inclusive language, or unifying your brand voice. 

How NLP and AI Are Revolutionizing SEO-Friendly Content [5 Tools That Can Help You] - Writer

Writer’s text editor has a built-in grammar checker and gives you useful real-time suggestions focusing on tone, style, and inclusiveness. Writer also offers a reporting tool that lets you track your writers’ progress for a specific period, such as spelling, inclusivity, and writing style.

3. SurferSEO

Surfer (surferseo.com) makes heavy use of data to help you create content that ranks. It analyzes over 500 ranking factors such as text length, responsive web design, keyword density, and referring domains and points out common factors from top pages to give you a better idea of what works for a specific keyword. 

Surfer - Tools to create SEO-friendly content

You can see Surfer’s analysis at work when you use its web-based text editor. You will see a dashboard that tracks what the app calls the “content score”. It also gives you useful keyword suggestions.

4. Alli AI

Alli AI (alliAI.com) offers you a quick, painless way to perform SEO on existing content. All you need to do is add a single code snippet to your site, review Alli’s code and recommendations, then approve the changes. Once you approve the changes, Alli implements them in minutes.

How NLP and AI Are Revolutionizing SEO-Friendly Content [5 Tools That Can Help You] - Alli AI

Alli does this by finding the easiest links to build. If you prefer to do things manually, the tool also shows you link building and outreach opportunities. If you’re struggling to keep up with all Google’s algorithm changes, Alli claims it can automatically adjust your site’s SEO strategy.

5. Can I Rank?

Can I Rank (canirank.com) compares your site content to other sites in its niche and gives you useful suggestions for growing your site and improving your search rankings. Its user interface is easy to understand and the suggestions are presented as tasks, including the estimated amount of time you will need to spend on them. 

How NLP and AI Are Revolutionizing SEO-Friendly Content [5 Tools That Can Help You] - Can I Rank?

What we like about Can I Rank? is that everything is in plain English, from the menu to the suggestions it gives you. This makes it friendly to those who aren’t technical experts. It also presents data in graph form, which makes it easier to justify SEO-related decisions.

Bottom line

Google changes its search algorithms quite a bit, and getting your page to rank is a constant challenge. Because its latest update, BERT, is heavily influenced by AI and NLP, it makes sense to use SEO tools based on the same technologies.

These tools – such as Frase, Writer, SurferSEO, AlliAI, and Can I Rank? – help you create content that ranks. Some of them check for grammar and SEO usability in real-time, while others crawl through your site and your competitors’ sites and come up with content suggestions. Trying out these tools is the only way for you to know which one(s) work best for you. Stick with it, and you’ll stay ahead of the game and create content that performs well for years to come!

May Habib is Co-founder and CEO at Writer.com.

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Five SEO tips that capture holiday attention and boost sales

December 8, 2020 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • The best time to prepare for the holidays was 6 months ago. The second best time is now.
  • Stay ahead: pinpoint a launch date for next year’s holiday season by backing into link acquisition needs for target SERPs.
  • Holiday-related URLs on your site are not temporary. They should be evergreen components of your year-round organic strategy.
  • Tap into the previous year’s Google Search Console data. Identify holiday-related terms you’ve surfaced for and make sure you have intent-aligned pages for them.

The end-of-year holiday season is stressful. And whether you celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or Winter Solstice, Las Posadas or Festivus, as a digital marketing professional, your day-to-day job doesn’t do much to reduce that stress.

Between the Q4 rush, the abbreviated weeks due to bank holidays, and having to juggle a litany of “real world” holiday prep, the holidays for people like you and me often leave us feeling like we have more work than there are hours in the day.

I get it. It’s a lot. Despite being in the middle of a pandemic, we must make good on the promises we’ve made to our teams and our customers. We’ve got quotas to hit and metrics to make. As a result of that fact, every year around this time, Victorious receives a lot of requests for guidance on how best to prepare organic search channels to capitalize on the holiday season, specifically Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

The problem is that these requests tend to come three to six months too late. But as the old saying goes, “The best time to start is yesterday. The next best time is now.” So, if you’ve found yourself reading this article and feeling a little behind the eight ball, read on.

Understand link acquisition needs

If you work in an organization that is metrics-driven and requires data to inform projects, one of the more straightforward methods to discerning when to launch your SEO holiday prep is ascertaining the number of Referring Domains (RDs) that are needed to have competitive parity from an off-site perspective with the sites you want to emulate. Once you have that number, you can work backward to land on a start date.

Here’s an example. For the query “black Friday clothing deals”, the average number of RDs for the top five results this year is 51.

Holiday shopping - Black Friday

Now, let’s say that your link acquisition efforts — when firing on all cylinders — are able to net you 10 links a month to a specified URL. And for the sake of the example, let’s assume that the URL is brand new with zero RDs.

From here, it’s a simple math problem. You take the average number of RDs for top-five results, subtract the current number of RDs of your target URL, and divide that by your monthly link acquisition rate. The product of this is the number of months you need to achieve competitive parity.

So, for our example, we’re looking at needing to start 5.1 months before the holiday we’re planning around — in this case Black Friday — to make sure we’ve appeased the off-site needs of these specific SERPs needs.

Note: Not all links are created equal. You may need more or less than the average based on the quality of the links you’re acquiring. Yet, starting with the absolute count arrived at above and adjusting your efforts as the months’ progress is recommended.

Understand content needs

With your launch date locked in, understanding your content needs is a good next step. To do that, we’ll be utilizing SurferSEO. SurferSEO allows us to find out the word count we need to strive towards, the mix of important and semantically-related keywords to include, and more.

Creating a query for holiday shopping

After navigating to SurferSEO’s Content Editor, you plug in the query that you want to gather intel on, change the settings to your liking, and hit “Create a query”.

At Victorious, we usually default to utilizing the “Mobile” setting in the toggle shown above because it’s a better representation of what Google is looking for given the presence of mobile-first indexation. Additionally, we include NLP entities to give us as much info about the semantic makeup of the top five results as possible.

After running the query, you should see something like this:

List after running a search query for holiday shopping

Competitive selection is very important. You need to make sure that you’re selecting non-anomalous results. For example, in our results for “black Friday clothing deals”, Walmart is in the top five with a total word count of five. Although this number isn’t accurate, a quick review of the URL in question shows that it is very thin on content and most likely ranking due to the strength of the Walmart domain as a whole. Because of this, we won’t include the result in our list of competitors to review.

After you’ve chosen your top five competitors, SurferSEO will begin returning content guidelines to follow in the form of total word count, a number of paragraphs, and more. While you can spend some time going through and modifying the options available to you, we recommend making it easy on yourself and moving forward with their recommendations by clicking “Let’s go”.

Result on search query performance

By this point, you should now have a word count range to target with your content, as well as insight into the individual words and NLP entities that you should include ensuring competitive parity from the content perspective.

From there, it’s as simple as unleashing your writers on the prompt and guidelines provided.

Create evergreen deals pages

When I asked the Strategy team here at Victorious for their hot takes for holiday SEO tips, I got a great scalable suggestion from one of our strategists, Vlad Davniuk, and Lead SEO, Pablo Villalpando: create a singular deals page for each holiday deal permutation you identify in your keyword research process.

For example, instead of creating a new page every year targeting things like “New Years 2020 deals”, “New Years 2021 deals”, etc., you should create a single “New Years (year) deals” page that you update every year based on a review of what Google is rewarding that year content-wise around that query.

By maintaining one page that you update on a yearly basis, you open up the ability to accrue links year-over-year rather than needing to “reset” with each new year, ultimately saving you a lot of time and resources.

In treating these pages as a part of your core strategy — taking care to not neglect them, but also not hyper-focus on them — you can avoid a lot of the stress you’d experience if you had to do this process every holiday season from the ground up. Approaching these pages as “evergreen” pages provides a template for you to work from and templates are always time savers.

Still need convincing? Here’s the tactic being utilized in the wild by ASOS. Navigating to their “black Friday clothing deals” URL, we’re met with the below:

Creating evergreen deal pages for holiday shopping 2021

However, a quick review of the screenshot captured just months ago by the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine shows this:

Archive of deal page

If a $ 3.4B company such as ASOS is utilizing this tactic, it doesn’t hurt to give it a shot!

Google My Business promo posts

Another tip from Victorious Strategist Vlad Davniuk involves the use of Google My Business posts. If you’re a business with a local presence, your Google My Business can be an immediate source of capturing holiday attention through the use of posts promoting your holiday deals. See the example here (though unrelated to holiday deals specifically):

Use Google My Business promo posts

The only caveat with this one is that your potential customer will need to be fairly far along in their purchase journey since the posts won’t surface unless your business is specifically searched for.

That said, here are the steps to publishing a post on Google My Business according to Google:

  • On your computer, sign in to Google My Business.
    • If you have multiple locations, open the location you want to update.
  • From the menu, click
  • At the top of the page, choose the type of post you want to create: Update, Event, Offer, or Product.
    • Click the elements you want to add to your post: photos, videos, text, events, offers, or a button. Enter relevant information for each post addition you choose.
  • Choose to publish or preview your post.
    • To publish your post: In the top right, click
    • To get a preview of your changes: Click If you want to change your post, in the top left, click Back. Edit your draft until it’s ready to publish.

Look at previous year’s Google Search Console clicks and impressions

Another tip from another one of our Lead SEOs, Kenny Spotz, is to dive into your site’s Google Search Console data to glean insights into any previous Cyber Monday, Black Friday, and general holiday queries that your site surfaced for last year.

If you don’t yet know your way around Google Search Console, here are the steps to getting to the type of data shown above:

  1. Navigate to your site’s property within Google Search Console
  2. Click “Search Results” in the left-hand navigation
  3. Click “Date” and set the range to 16 months
  4. Click “Query” and filter the data by “Queries containing”, “black Friday” (or any other variants you’ve identified, for example, cyber Monday, Christmas, and the others)

Once you’ve identified the queries that your site has shown up for in the past, reconcile those against the URLs on your site that are surfacing for those queries, and assess whether or not they adequately address the query’s intent.

What you’re looking for are queries you’ve ranked for in the past that is being served up via URLs that are fundamentally mismatched with those queries’ intents, for example, a general curling iron product page that Google has a history of surfacing for Black Friday-related queries.

Once you’ve got the list of intent mismatch, you’re able to group the queries thematically and build out content based on those themes. And because Google has already shown to favor your site for those queries, you can make the assumption that you have some authority built up already for them. As a result, building out pages dedicated specifically to those holiday-related themes can be quick wins.

In conclusion

If the holidays took you by surprise this year, the above should get you set up to be better prepared next time. At the end of the day, prepping for the holidays organically is not unlike the approach you take now around “tangible” product launches.

And it’s here that most people make the mistake. The pages you build out to capture holiday attention and sales should not be treated temporally. The more you look at them as a core aspect of your organic strategy, the easier it will be to plan, execute, and maintain a system around this in the future.

Houston Barnett-Gearhart is Director of SEO at Victorious, where he not only oversees the Strategy team, responsible for delivering superior SEO campaigns to Victorious’s customer base but also drives innovation of product and ideation of new ways to deliver even more amazing SEO to our customers.

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