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Moz Local Search Analytics and industry trends: Q&A with Moz’s Sarah Bird and Rob Bucci

October 7, 2019 No Comments

Moz is known and loved by many in the SEO community not only for their tools, but also for the ways they’ve contributed to SEO education via their blog, Whiteboard Fridays, Search Ranking Factors study, and more.

We caught up with Moz’s Sarah Bird and Rob Bucci to learn about what they’ve been working on and trends they’re seeing in SEO. Sarah is CEO of Moz and has been at the company since joining as the eighth employee in 2007. She’s helped grow the company from a few hundred customers to now more than 37,000. Sarah holds a J.D. and previously worked as an attorney before getting into the startup space.

2018 Sarah Bird Moz CEO headshot

Rob is VP of R&D at Moz. He previously was CEO of STAT Search Analytics, which he helped build since 2011 and which was acquired by Moz in October 2018. 

rob bucci VP R&D moz

Their company is headquartered in Seattle, where Sarah is based, and they also have a large office in Vancouver, where Rob is based.

In this conversation, we focus mostly on Moz’s interest in and work on local search, as well as better understanding queries the way that Google understands them.

SEW: Tell us about what you’ve been working on lately around local search?

Sarah: We’re really excited — we think this is the golden age of search. More people are searching than ever before, and they have more devices and opportunities to use when searching. That’s come also with changes at Google of not wanting to just be a portal or a gateway to websites, but to actually allow users to transact and interact right there on Google property. Google is more of a destination now and not just a gateway.

What we’ve noticed is that while we may have more searches than ever before, not all those searches are created equal. Some searches are simply not commercizable anymore for anyone but Google. But we think you still have some great opportunities, particularly in the local space.

Research coming out from Google, others, and our own internal research is really showing that local intent searches lead to a purchase much more quickly.

And it’s hyper-local. You can get a different search result on one street corner, then walk four blocks and get a different search result on that corner. It means that more people can actually play the search game. There’s much more SEO opportunity in local.l

A big theme at Moz right now is focusing on making local search more understood and easier to do for SEOs.

Rob: In today’s Google, there’s really, for the vast majority of queries, no such thing as a national SERP anymore. Everything is local. Google gets a lot of local signals, especially from mobile devices. And the mobile device doesn’t say “I’m searching from the U.S.,” it says “I’m searching from the corner of 5th avenue and Tucker Street.” Google takes that information and uses it to create a SERP that has all sorts of content relevant to that specific local area. 

We’ve been helping our users adapt to that reality by building out a set of functionality that we call Local Market Analytics. It allows users to get actual, on-the-ground reality that a searcher would see in the area where they’re searching.

Part of how we do that is by sampling within a given market. Let’s say a market is Toronto, San Francisco, or Seattle. Local Market Analytics would sample from several different zip codes within that market to pull out an average rank or average appearance on that SERP. So truly, this is the actual appearance in that market.

We have studies that have shown that even for sites that don’t have brick-and-mortar locations, their performance varies dramatically depending on where their searcher or their customer is searching from. 

We hope that this functionality better allows our users to adapt to this new reality and make sure they can have the right data to build the foundation of their strategies.

Moz Local vs Local Market Analytics

Sarah: We at Moz are dedicated to local search because we know it’s so commercializable and because we know there’s so much organic opportunity. Because it’s so hyper-local and focused, there are some really interesting ways of thinking when you view local search.

We’ve relaunched our Moz Local product. The new Moz Local allows you to do even more than the prior version. We’re enabling, even more, review management which is super important for search right now, as well as more Google posts and more subtle GMB management. Moz Local is separate from Local Market Analytics, and there’s a good reason for that.

With the new Moz Local, you really need to have a physical location in order for it to be valuable.

But Local Market Analytics doesn’t require you to have a physical location. It just requires that the kind of queries that you care about will vary by location.

Rob: For local SEOs, the spectrum of things that they care about is varied. On one hand, they’ll care about the appearance of their business’s local listings — the accuracy of that data, review management, and having the right distribution partners for those listings. Moz Local, especially the new version that we’ve launched, handles that side of the equation very well.

Where we believe the market has been traditionally underserved has to do with the performance of a website itself in organic search results. As those organic search results get increasingly hyper-local, we’ve found that local SEOs have been underserved with the quality of data they’ve had in order to build their local strategies.

Local Market Analytics seeks to solve that part of the problem: performance of their websites in hyper-local organic search.

What kind of feedback have you gotten about the tool so far?

Rob: There’s a ton of excitement. We talked about this at MozCon, and it really resonated with people: this idea that “Yes, I search from my phone all the time and see a lot of local results, even when I’m not looking for a local business, and I see my search change.” Or agencies that have customers in three different areas and they’re asking why the rankings they’re sending aren’t the same as what their clients are seeing, because they’re impacted by local.

I think a lot of people intuitively understand that this is where Google is. Google is by nature right now intensely hyper-local. So there’s a great hunger for this kind of data. Historically, people have thought they just couldn’t get it.

A lot of times people get accustomed to the idea that we can’t get what we need from Google — that the data just isn’t available. 

So when we’re able to show them that the data actually is available, and that we’ve built functionality around it, there’s a lot of excitement.

Local Search Volume: New functionality

We also rolled out our new Local Search Volume functionality. It’s a brand-new data point that people traditionally haven’t been able to get. 

Most products on the market can tell you “search volume in the U.S. is X and in Germany it’s Y.” That’s very broad — nationwide. But when we care about tracking the market of Toronto or San Fran or Memphis, we want to know what our search volume is in that city. People have traditionally thought that they couldn’t get that data, but we’ve now made it available, and we’re really excited about that.

Right now, we’re doing it on a city basis, and we’ve rolled it out to states. I don’t want to over-promise. I would love to have it be more specific, and that’s certainly something that we’re thinking about.

What’s going to be really cool is when we can get to a place where we help people understand demand per capita in their markets. 

Let’s take an example. We might think that Brooklyn is the epicenter of pizza. But when we actually look at New Hampshire and the number of searches there versus how many people are in that market, we might find that the demand per capita for pizza is greater in New Hampshire than in Brooklyn.

Being able to show people if there’s a big untapped opportunity — I’m really looking forward to empowering that kind of analysis.

Sarah: This ties into what I alluded to before – we need to understand queries and types of search results like Google does. Search results vary dramatically nowadays, with all kinds of SERP features. All of this impacts whether there’s a click at all, and certainly the clickthrough rate.

We are doing a bunch of R&D right now to make sure that we can help our audience of SEOs understand queries like Google, and also understand what a search result might look like for a kind of query, and what impact that could have on CTR. This stuff is more in the R&D territory. Local Search Volume is part of that interest and investment on our part.

When it comes to the distribution of clicks between organic, paid, and no-click searches, some people see the rise of paid and no-click searches as disheartening. You sound optimistic. What’s your response to those trends?

Sarah: Absolutely for some part of searches happening, if you’re not Google you can’t take advantage of it. The value stays with Google — that is absolutely true. But the overall number of searches continues to rise — that’s also a trend. 

And I believe very strongly that just because there isn’t a click doesn’t mean there isn’t some value created. 

We have these old ways of thinking about whether or not you’re successful in SEO. Those ways are deeply entrenched, but we need to let go of them a bit. Traffic to your website is no longer an accurate measure of the value you’re getting from search. It might be a minimum — that’s at least the value you’re getting. But it’s nowhere near the maximum. 

I think that brand marketers, who come from different disciplines, have always known that visibility — how you show up and how compelling it is — that those things matter, even if you can’t measure it like old-school SEO or PPC.

There’s a danger in equating an increase in no-click searches with a decrease in the value of SEO. 

We should shift our attention to not just “am I showing up” and “am I getting traffic,” but “how am I showing up in search results?” 

What does it look like when someone lands on your search result? Are they getting a phone number? Are they getting what they want, the answer they need? Is your search result compelling? 

That’s part of what’s driving our interest in thinking more holistically about what a search result looks like and feels like, and how users interact with it. We want to know more about how you’re showing up and how Google thinks about queries.

Those two concepts: How does Google understand queries, and what does a search result look like, feel like, and how does the searcher experience it — those are related.

Rob: There’s still a ton of value out there, especially just for building a sense of credibility and brand authority. 

We live in a world, right now at least, where we’ll continue to see Google chipping away at these opportunities. They’re a business and they’re trying to maximize shareholder value. They have a natural inclination to grab as much as they can. 

We shouldn’t get despondent because of that. There’s still a lot of value there. Even with no-click SEO, you can still deliver a lot of brand authority. 

What are other trends that SEOs should be paying attention to?

Rob: One of the other areas we’re thinking about is how do we better help our customers think about queries in the same way Google thinks about queries? 

Google goes a lot deeper than just understanding which words mean what. They look at the intent of the searcher — what are they trying to solve? We’re really interested in helping people think about queries in that way.

We have some really interesting R&D work right now around intent and understanding what Google thinks an intent is. How can our users use that information to adapt their content strategies? That’s an area that’s really ripe and that people in the industry should be paying attention to. It’s not going anywhere. I’m really excited about that.

How do you go about understanding how Google understands intent?

Rob: Without getting too deep into it, there’s a number of ways that one could do it. One might be inclined to look at the NLP (natural language processing) approach — what might these words mean when used together and what might they say about the state of mind of the searcher? That’s a viable approach rooted in NLP and ML (machine learning).

Another approach might be to look at the SERP itself. Google has already decided what it is. I can look at what Google’s decided the signals are to what the intent is. Both of these are approaches one might use.

SEO is an ever-changing industry. What skills should people be focused on developing or learning about in the next few months?

Sarah: From a skills perspective, this is what I’ve always loved about SEO and what makes it challenging to be great at, but something that’s critical nonetheless — it’s a great blend of art and science. 

You have to be technical, but you also have to be able to put your mind into the user. Or rather, you have to be able to think about what Google will think about what the user thinks. 

What could the ultimate user be trying to accomplish, and how will Google follow that? 

You also have to have a strong technical foundation, so you know how to go out and execute. But those aren’t necessarily new skills.

Rob: I think people always look for what’s new, but sometimes we overlook the basic fundamentals which never go out of style. It’s about reaffirming what’s really important. 

There are two basic skills I think all SEOs need:

  1. You need to be able to interpret data. You need to be able to look at a bunch of disparate data points and weave them together into a narrative. What is it telling you? In doing that, people need to get really good at overcoming their own self-serving biases about interpreting data in a way that’s convenient or how they think the world should line up. The ability to interpret data is critical to an SEO who’s going to succeed at finding new opportunities that no one else has spotted.
  2. Understanding how to talk to people in a way that will get them to do what you want them to do. That really comes down to understanding how your content should be optimized and what you should be saying on your pages. What problem are you trying to solve for them and how are you trying to solve it?

Those are good fundamental skills I think people should continue to focus on, rather than thinking about, “I need to learn Python.” That’s a lot of distraction and it’s very specialized. 

Learning Python or R might seem sexy because technical SEO is having a renaissance right now. But at the end of the day, it’s not a basic skill you need to succeed in SEO.

SEO is a broad career and discipline. If you find yourself in a role that requires you to know that stuff, great. But I wouldn’t make that sweeping advice to the entire SEO industry because I think it’s a bit of a distraction.

Thanks so much to Sarah and Rob for talking with us!

Ps — They’re running a pilot program for their Local Market Analytics tool. It’s invite-only but anyone can register interest to be selected. They’re quite excited about it and would love feedback from the industry.

The post Moz Local Search Analytics and industry trends: Q&A with Moz’s Sarah Bird and Rob Bucci appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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Interview with Tony Uphoff: Digital Marketing for B2B Manufacturing Industry

September 19, 2019 No Comments

Most of my clients are from B2B industrial manufacturing. I have many challenges with this industry because my clients’ products and services are very specific, niche websites.

I have developed new B2B SEO and PPC strategies in my everyday hands-on experience by managing multiple projects. In addition, there is another challenge that the industry is facing, the adaption to digital transformation.

Tony Uphoff interview on B2B SEOI decided to talk about B2B with Tony Uphoff, the CEO of Thomas. Thomas is a leading resource for product sourcing and supplier selection. Tony is the video host of the popular, “Thomas Index Report” on industrial sourcing trends, and he is a regular Forbes.com contributor who writes about the industrial marketplace.

I was curious to know what Tony thinks about the challenges that B2B manufacturing companies are facing when adapting to digital transformation and data-driven culture. I know that my fellow B2B marketers who are dealing with the same challenges will find a lot of value for themselves as well as B2B manufacturer business owners. We also spoke about SEO, KPIs, and lead generation in B2B. Here is my interview with Tony.

Karina: How do manufacturing and B2B advertising differ from wholesale and B2C advertising?

Tony: There are some key differences, but also some similarities that many people overlook. One difference is that B2B purchasing often involves a longer sales cycle. Buying a piece of capital equipment or choosing a new supplier is not something to be taken lightly. A lot of research and vetting goes into the process as there is a material risk for the buyer, both, personally and professionally.

Another key difference is that B2B buyers aren’t typically completing a one-off purchase. They’re looking to find a supplier they can partner with for the long-term. As for the similarities, a B2B purchase is more personal for the buyer than many people understand. While B2C purchases are often very personal, consumers identify with certain brands that they want to be associated with. But with B2B, purchases are often personal similarly because the buyer that makes the decision on the purchase has a lot on the line.

Karina: Manufacturers have long relied on trade shows and other physical events for marketing and sales. Do you see this trend changing?

Tony: Yes. Many businesses understand that the digital transformation of industrial marketing and sales is here to stay, and they’re trending away from traditional methods such as trade shows and word-of-mouth exposure. There are still several well-attended mega-trade shows, as well as smaller ones, hosted every year, but we’re seeing that those types of events are typically taking up a smaller percentage of the marketing and sales budgets of the customers we work with.

Karina: Are U.S. manufacturers finding a greater need to make their marketing more data-driven?

Tony: Yes, because the buyer is in control of the sales process in today’s industrial world. Today’s buyers have unprecedented levels of information at their fingertips. Buyers are as much as 70 percent of the way through their buying process before they engage with a sales rep. This is a massive shift in the way businesses need to reach, engage and sell to industrial buyers thanks to the digital transformation of marketing and sales. Companies that still rely on old-school marketing tactics to try to drive growth and retain customers are going to find it increasingly difficult to stay relevant in today’s market.

Karina: How long do you think will it take for B2B to fully adapt to data-driven, analytics, and digital marketing?

Tony: The industry is still in the early stages of the digital transformation of marketing and sales. While we’re seeing a good number of businesses that are aggressively and enthusiastically embracing the transformation, we are also seeing a significant number of businesses that have yet to make a real commitment to a digital strategy. It may be a generational challenge as these incredibly successful industrial and manufacturing businesses were built and grown by Baby Boomers whose expertise is in engineering, product design, and manufacturing. Nearly half of the users of Thomasnet.com are millennial buyers who are helping to accelerate the digital transformation.

Karina: The industrial manufacturer’s market is very niche and faces big challenges in content marketing due to specialization and sometimes very low search volume results. How can content marketers take advantage of this?

Tony: For our customers with niche markets, the niche works to their advantage simply because it’s in the lower competition of their industry. From an SEO perspective, this makes it easier for them to stand out on result pages. There are a huge number of categories in manufacturing that are not at all niche. However, there’s massive competition in areas such as “CNC machining” and “metal stamping”. Whether in a highly competitive category or a niche category, we’ve learned from our customers that the pillar page strategy works well for overarching terms. Then we drive users to niche terms.

Karina: What is the right approach for digital marketers to run successful digital campaigns for the B2B Industrial manufacturer sector?

Tony: Getting their website in order is the foundation for everything else. Is it responsive? Is it secure? Is it easy to use, comprehensive, and informative? It’s also important to implement a program that reaches buyers at every phase of the industrial buying process. Understand that building brand awareness is often just as important as generating leads. In terms of strategy, it’s easy to get caught up in all the tactics and solutions, but while the vehicle is important, the most important thing industrial marketers need to keep in mind is that whatever they’re putting out there. It needs to resonate with a specific persona that has a specific job to do. Marketing and advertising content should be focused on helping your ideal customer(s) solve problems and accomplish important tasks, specific to where that buyer may be in their buying journey.

Karina: What does the future of publishing look like?

Tony: While it’s obvious that much of the publishing world is moving to digital platforms — if they haven’t already — a more relevant question is “What does the future of advertising look like?”. For years advertisers have relied on display networks, buying data on users and employing programmatic advertising. Not only has this proved to be quite costly and relatively ineffective, but privacy laws such as GDPR are making this approach obsolete. The trend today has publishers moving away from those broad ad-serving networks to the “walled garden” approach. A “walled garden” approach is one in which they’re creating their own ad networks and selling advertising directly on their online assets. Interestingly, this approach mirrors the ad sales approach that publishers in the print world have used for over a century.

Karina: What KPIs should B2B businesses focus on in marketing?

Tony: Obviously, lead generation in the form of marketing qualified leads and sales qualified leads are a key KPI for digital marketing. But as I mentioned earlier, it’s important to build brand awareness as well. The reason is simple – when your sales team calls a lead that has never heard of your company, just getting that lead to continue the conversation is a challenge. When the lead is aware of your brand before the salesperson calls, that person is more likely to be receptive to the call. Other important KPIs are the cost of acquisition and average order value – and internally, businesses should also focus on RFI/RFQ response time. We’ve surveyed tens of thousands of industrial buyers, and invariably one of their pet peeves is the lack of responsiveness from suppliers to which they’ve requested information. Today, all the great marketing in the world will have little value if you aren’t following up on incoming RFIs and RFQs within a day – and preferably the same day you receive them.

Karina: How is Thomasnet.com using data and analytics to add services that bring new elements of value to their advertisers?

Tony: The first-party data generated by users on Thomasnet.com®, as well as data that is captured by buyers interacting with customer product information generated by our Thomas Product Data Solutions and our Thomas Marketing Services, gives us incredible insights into in-market buyers of products and services. We’re approaching three petabytes of buyer behavior data that helps us understand what buyers are interested in, how their purchase process works and when, where and how they’re engaging with content as a part of their buying journey.

Using our free Thomas Webtrax™ platform, our customers (as well as other qualifying industrial companies) can see and use that data to turn anonymous web traffic into leads, and create more targeted, meaningful messaging when targeting those leads. We’re also introducing a weekly data feed that businesses can use to determine exactly which buyers are actively in-market within a certain segment or vertical of industry. Our Thomas marketing services team also leverages the buying and sourcing trends from our data to help their customers enhance their organic and paid marketing.

Key takeaways from the interview

  • Clarify the differences and similarities between B2B and B2C
  • Discuss the reasons why B2B is trending away from traditional to digital marketing
  • Understand how B2B marketing is adapting to digital transformation
  • The importance of B2B manufacturers companies to adapt to a data-driven culture
  • The challenges of content marketing in niche B2B businesses
  • The steps to run successful digital marketing campaigns for B2B businesses
  • The KPIs that B2B businesses should focus on

I had a great conversation with Tony where I understood better the transformation of the B2B manufacturer industry. The industry has evolved from hard copy directories like yellow pages to an entirely data-driven culture (happening now). This is a huge opportunity for marketers to generate leads. Then, it is key to fully understand and overcome the challenges.

Note: This interview has been condensed for publishing purposes.

Karina Tama is a contributor for Forbes, Thrive Global and the El Distrito Newspaper. She can be found on Twitter @KarinaTama2.

The post Interview with Tony Uphoff: Digital Marketing for B2B Manufacturing Industry appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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‘Behind the Screen’ illuminates the invisible, indispensable content moderation industry

August 29, 2019 No Comments

The moderators who sift through the toxic detritus of social media have gained the spotlight recently, but they’ve been important for far longer — longer than internet giants would like you to know. In her new book “Behind the Screen,” UCLA’s Sarah Roberts illuminates the history of this scrupulously hidden workforce and the many forms the job takes.

It is after all people who look at every heinous image, racist diatribe and porn clip that gets uploaded to Facebook, YouTube and every other platform — people who are often paid like dirt, treated like parts, then disposed of like trash when worn out. And they’ve been doing it for a long time.

True to her academic roots, Roberts lays out the thesis of the book clearly in the introduction, explaining that although content moderators or the companies that employ them may occasionally surface in discussions, the job has been systematically obscured from sight:

The work they do, the conditions under which they do it, and for whose benefit are largely imperceptible to the users of the platforms who pay for and rely upon this labor. In fact, this invisibility is by design.

Roberts, an assistant professor of information studies at UCLA, has been looking into this industry for the better part of a decade, and this book is the culmination of her efforts to document it. While it is not the final word on the topic — no academic would suggest their work was — it is an eye-opening account, engagingly written and not at all the tour of horrors you may reasonably expect it to be.

After reading the book, I talked with Roberts about the process of researching and writing it. As an academic and tech outsider, she was not writing from personal experience or even commenting on the tech itself, but found that she had to essentially invent a new area of research from scratch spanning tech, global labor and sociocultural norms.

“Opacity, obfuscation, and general unwillingness”

“To take you back to 2010 when I started this work, there was literally no academic research on this topic,” Roberts said. “That’s unusual for a grad student, and actually something that made me feel insecure — like maybe this isn’t a thing, maybe no one cares.”

That turned out not to be the case, of course. But the practices we read about with horror, of low-wage workers grinding through endless queues of content from child abuse to terrorist attacks, while they’ve been in place for years and years, have been successfully moderated out of existence by the companies that employ them. But recent events have changed that.

“A number of factors are coalescing to make the public more receptive to this kind of work,” she explained. “Average social media users, just regular people, are becoming more sophisticated about their use, and questioning the integration of those kinds of tools and media in their everyday life. And certainly there were a few key political situations where social media was implicated. Those were a driving force behind the people asking, do I actually know what I’m using? Do I know whether or how I’m being manipulated? How do the things I see on my screen actually get there?”

A handful of reports over the years, like Casey Newton’s in the Verge recently, also pierced the curtain behind which tech firms carefully and repeatedly hid this unrewarding yet essential work. At some point the cat was simply out of the bag. But few people recognized it for what it was.


Social – TechCrunch


Startups at the speed of light: Lidar CEOs put their industry in perspective

June 30, 2019 No Comments

As autonomous cars and robots loom over the landscapes of cities and jobs alike, the technologies that empower them are forming sub-industries of their own. One of those is lidar, which has become an indispensable tool to autonomy, spawning dozens of companies and attracting hundreds of millions in venture funding.

But like all industries built on top of fast-moving technologies, lidar and the sensing business is by definition built somewhat upon a foundation of shifting sands. New research appears weekly advancing the art, and no less frequently are new partnerships minted, as car manufacturers like Audi and BMW scramble to keep ahead of their peers in the emerging autonomy economy.

To compete in the lidar industry means not just to create and follow through on difficult research and engineering, but to be prepared to react with agility as the market shifts in response to trends, regulations, and disasters.

I talked with several CEOs and investors in the lidar space to find out how the industry is changing, how they plan to compete, and what the next few years have in store.

Their opinions and predictions sometimes synced up and at other times diverged completely. For some, the future lies manifestly in partnerships they have already established and hope to nurture, while others feel that it’s too early for automakers to commit, and they’re stringing startups along one non-exclusive contract at a time.

All agreed that the technology itself is obviously important, but not so important that investors will wait forever for engineers to get it out of the lab.

And while some felt a sensor company has no business building a full-stack autonomy solution, others suggested that’s the only way to attract customers navigating a strange new market.

It’s a flourishing market but one, they all agreed, that will experience a major consolidation in the next year. In short, it’s a wild west of ideas, plentiful money, and a bright future — for some.

The evolution of lidar

I’ve previously written an introduction to lidar, but in short, lidar units project lasers out into the world and measure how they are reflected, producing a 3D picture of the environment around them.

Gadgets – TechCrunch


The Importance of Educating Clients in the PPC Marketing Industry

June 28, 2019 No Comments

When a Search Marketing Agency pitches a new client, they may provide them a complimentary audit, initial strategy overview, competitive analysis, etc… However, once the client signs on the dotted line and the work begins, more often than not, overt time the client slips into the dark with regard to the specifics. These specifics consist of the day-to-day “blocking and tackling” of PPC. (keyword matching, search queries, ctr%, quality score, competitive bidding, affiliate hijacking, etc…). When something goes wrong with an account (and is always does), the PPC Marketer/Agency needs to explain the cause and effect and it is that situation where the client needs to know what they hell they are talking about.

In this post, I will discuss some specific instances where it’s in the best interest of both parties to educate one another in order to not only grow the business, but to keep the relationship from turning sour.

Discuss What Metrics Matter Most

Regardless of how seasoned a client/prospect might be with regard to “PPC metric lingo”, it’s in the best interest of both parties to explain which metrics matter the most and why. Sometimes, Adwords metrics such as interactions, engagement rates, etc… are not exactly accurate on measuring success. Success is should identified by conversions. For example, take this scenario.

  • Increased Impressions: In general, one might think this is a good thing but depending on the targeting and platform, absolutely NOT and here’s why.
    • Search Networks: More impressions can reduce the CTR% which in turn lower Quality Score and hence, result in higher costs and worse AVG Position. This also results in additional “irrelevant” traffic that will drive up budgets and lower the overall Cost/Conversion.
    • Display Networks: Depending on the bidding options, (especially CPM) an increase in impressions will only drive up costs. Need to make sure CPC is set to this option.

The Influence of Competitors:

When a company enters the world of PPC Marketing, they will encounter competitors not only bidding on similar keywords, but also their “sacred” brand terms and this can have a detrimental effect on the overall performance of the account. It’s important to keep a watchful eye on this and develop strategies to counteract this problem. Here are some strategies to protect the brand:

  • Make sure the client files their trademark with Google to ensure no one else can use their trademarked term in text Ads.
  • Send an email/letter to all Affiliates and Resellers that they are NOT permitted to bid on the trademarked name in any of their Text/Banner Ads.
  • Contact competitors directly and ask them to stop bidding on their trademark terms. (if they do not oblige, getting legal assistance would be beneficial)

Attribution of other Online or Offline Advertising

Attribution can be a tricky thing to interpret, especially to a client, but it’s imperative to tell a story that makes sense. Understanding attribution varies depending on the life cycle of the client (history, offline advertising, social media presence, etc..). Typically, a new advertiser will have to rely on “non-brand” terms to drive the most relevant traffic to their product or service. Once history as been accumulated and more people get familiar with the brand, consumers will ultimately type in their brand name (Search Engine, Direct/Bookmark) to get to their site.

The client needs to understand that it will take time to grow their brand and that this is a revolving cycles. For example, “non-branded” terms are more costly and do not provide many conversions so we automatically want to pause the campaign. Bad Idea! Quite often, the “non-brand” terms are the first point of contact that introduce the brand. Yes, it costs more money, does not result in an immediate conversion, but over time it’s what generated the customer.

Importance of “After-the-Click”

Perfecting the fundamentals of Quality Score in a campaign is a good thing. Buuuut….. it’s only half the battle. The other half is persuading the customer to take an action and frankly that is the only thing that matters here. Even though the term “after-the-click” is simple in its meaning, execution is another story. It is this strategic obstacle that can be achieved, but requires constant and intelligent testing to ensure maximum effectiveness. Bottom line: The client needs to understand that in order to maximize their Ad dollars, they will need to the invest time and money into these strategies. The following Tactics would include:

  • A/B Landing Page Testing
  • Cart/Form Testing
  • Audience Testing
  • Promotion/Offer Testing

The Trust Factor:

It’s very easy for customers to trust the platform that they are advertising on. There is this “fuzzy / comfortable” feeling that if Google recommends it, then it must be a good strategy. However, I would strongly recommend that any of the Google’s Opportunities  (even though sometimes justified) need to be viewed as a just a suggestion, not an immediate decision. Remember, Google is a lucrative business because they want advertisers to spend more money with them. Increasing traffic and spend may sound good on paper, but they do not come with any guarantees in terms of conversions. When appropriate, clients need to understand the difference.

In Conclusion:

There is a “fine-line” that needs to be met where Agencies need to maintain control the PPC Accounts, while allowing the client to continue to interact and take part in the overall strategy. One way to overcome any potential issues is to educate them on all of the intricacies that may occur throughout the client-agency relationship. Once the client has developed a good rapport with the agency, it becomes easier to properly manage their performance expectations.


PPC Marketing Consultant | Google Ads Agency


Regulation in the SEO industry – Impossible or essential?

June 8, 2019 No Comments

We all get them, the offers of free SEO audits, of thousands of backlinks from “DA 40 and above” sites for just $ 10 and the “helpful” list of spurious SEO issues with your website.

Checking your junk folder every morning reveals another round of emails offering the SEO-moon-on-a-stick for a low, low price. As an SEO working for a search marketing agency I used to find receiving these emails misplaced but amusing.

Screenshot of email received listing questionable SEO issues with the Avenue Digital website

Email received listing questionable SEO issues with the Avenue Digital website

I no longer laugh at these emails. These annoyances, although easily ignored through the press of the “delete” key, reveal something more sinister about the SEO industry – really anyone can offer SEO services. What the SEO-literate might discard as part of their daily email purge others will read, digest and panic over. Receiving an email claiming you could be losing hundreds of dollars a day through the poor optimization of your website is enough to make anyone outside of the industry sit-up and take notice. Small businesses appear to be particularly vulnerable, and it’s not just emails that they are subjected to. During my time working as an in-house marketer, I became aware of just how often businesses are pestered over the phone by people claiming to work for Google, who, in reality, wanted to sell links or directory listings. I’ve also seen the regret of local businesses who have taken them up on their offer and then needed to turn to a legitimate SEO to fix their sites after they’ve accrued manual actions or dropped off the SERPs for their core, revenue-driving terms.

The problem, as I see it, is that “legitimate SEO” is a subjective term. Within our industry, there are no definitive criteria someone must meet before they can call themselves an SEO.  Whereas in other professions there are minimum qualifications before one can practice, with search engine optimization the barrier to entry is a laptop and enough knowledge of the lingo to convince a layman of your expertise.  How, then, are prospective clients supposed to determine if the practitioner they are looking to work with, or hire, actually has the ability to do a good job?

My agency, Avenue Digital, has been trying to combat this issue with education.  Our guide on how to find the best SEO agency for your business is the culmination of years of talking to clients about their previous disappointments with agencies and our own experiences of taking over the websites of clients who have suffered at the hands of mavericks. Unfortunately, this is just one step in the right direction. Does there need to be more done to protect vulnerable businesses from the expensive mistake of hiring a poor performing SEO or agency? Does our industry need to be regulated?

This is something I’ve been mulling over for a while, so I threw the question out to SEO Twitter, and was surprised and impressed by the volume of responses.

It appears that many SEOs in the industry are in favor of doing something to bring a quality standard to our work. There were many suggestions; qualifications, ongoing professional development, and governing bodies.

The issue

Unlike medicine which has a set of accepted premises and procedures that each aspiring doctor must train in and be tested on, SEO is highly disputed and one person’s “best practice” is another’s route to failure. In response to my question about regulation Dawn Anderson, MD of Move It Marketing raised a very good point that, “the industry is based largely on educated opinion. We cannot even agree on subdomains versus subfolders.” How then are we to regulate an industry that can’t even agree with what “right” is?

It’s true that as SEOs our methods often differ, but is there a way we can ensure that all people offering it as a service are upholding a minimum standard of quality?

Governing body

An obvious way of regulating the industry would be through the formation of a body that oversees the conduct of registered members. Through membership the SEO would agree to be subject to the governance of the body, adhering to its rules. Members could be recorded on a list that would be available to companies to access in order to check if the agency or contractor they are considering is a member.

This would have its own limitations, however. As previously discussed, agreeing on rules under which the SEOs would operate would be tough. It would be simple to agree on client treatment and standards of reporting for instance, but as there’s no universally agreed upon method of conducting search engine optimization. It would be hard to police the methods and results of these registered practitioners.

External auditing

For a governing body to be successful at monitoring the work of its members there would need to be a robust auditing process.  Stephen Kenwright, SEO speaker and trainer suggested, “The most obvious way for a regulator to work in this industry is to turn Google’s webmaster guidelines into a checklist and audit an agency’s accounts like Ofsted in schools.”

Twitter message from Stephen Kenwright suggesting regulation through a Google-inspired checklist

Twitter message from Stephen Kenwright suggesting regulation through a Google-inspired checklist

This would ensure that members are adhering to the guidelines that Google sets out for inclusion in its search engine and could help protect clients from suffering manual actions as a result of poor SEO practice.

External auditing checklists may need to be extended past Google’s guidelines. In order to ensure SEOs’ optimizing for other search engines are still monitored but not hampered in their efforts, the list would need to be more generic. There is also the question of how “grey hat” SEO would be treated under this system.

There might also be client privacy issues and the associated paperwork could be too time-consuming for sole-practitioners to bare. Fees would likely need to be charged which could be cost prohibitive for newer agencies or contractors.

Code of practice

Perhaps the answer isn’t in a series of rigid rules, but a code of practice that the practitioner signs up to?  As SEO Consultant Ric Rodriguez suggested, “regulating the industry is going to be really difficult. To start with, we’d need to establish a baseline code of practice, which given the subjectivity of the channel, is difficult in its own right”. This is a fair point, how does a code of practice get universally accepted in an industry that does not have an agreed upon standard of “good practice”? As Ric suggests, “given SEO is unpredictable, it’s hard to regulate mis-selling around results because no one can predict them”, so perhaps the code should center around tempering the promises made to prospective clients, to prevent unrealistic expectations following impossible claims.

Education

Suggestions have been made that the onus shouldn’t be on the SEO industry to regulate itself but on educating clients to make more informed decisions.  Rodriguez proposed, “what I think could work is an established body, that puts out information on “good advice”, offers a support function, that’s impartial […] it’s not regulation, but it may help filter out bad selling practices”

Through the formation of a trusted body that provides support and advice, businesses with little understanding of SEO good practice might feel more confident in what to look for in SEO support. They would have access to impartial experts who could provide advice on whether an agency seems trustworthy.

Ethics clauses

Another argument is that the risk is so great that SEO consultants should make a point of formalizing their commitment to their clients’ successes in their contracts. This would give clients legal recourse if they felt their agency had not met their agreement, however they would only be as enforceable as local laws allowed and it would be natural for agencies or individuals engaging in shady practices to opt-out of including these clauses or make them so loose they wouldn’t really protect the client from much.

Certification

If the industry and self-regulation are too hard to achieve then perhaps the answer lies in increasing the knowledge and expertise of SEOs and recognizing this through qualifications. Many tool providers and agencies offer SEO training programs of varying subject matter and complexity, often accompanied by a certificate. These go some way to reassuring clients that their prospective SEO partner knows a thing or two about the industry but they don ‘t necessarily guarantee that the knowledge gained through the course could be put into action effectively on their or others’ campaigns.

The other issue with training courses and certification is the qualifications are only good at certifying the knowledge gained at that moment in time. With the way digital marketing and SEO progress, it would be hard to prevent a certification from becoming outdated quickly.

Continuing professional development

Perhaps then, if the certification process isn’t sufficient due to the ever-changing nature of SEO, we need to look at continuing professional development. Institutes like the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) in the UK marries both the certification and ongoing development process well. Members of the Institute become “chartered” after displaying sufficient knowledge of marketing either through the CIM qualifications or work experience. Once they are chartered they need to undergo a certain number of hours to continue professional development each year in order to remain chartered. A similar system for the SEO industry would ensure that practitioners are kept current on developments through attendance at conferences, training courses, and meetups.

Conclusion

It’s important to ensure that clients and in-house teams are confident that the SEO they get support from knows what they are doing. How this is achieved is a more complex issue. As with SEO itself, there isn’t a cut and dry solution. One thing is clear however, for the quality of SEO provision to improve education is key – both for practitioners and the businesses who hire them.

Helen Pollitt is the Head of SEO Avenue Digital. She can be found on Twitter @HelenPollitt1.
Share your views, opinions, and suggestions in the comments.

The post Regulation in the SEO industry – Impossible or essential? appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Search Engine Watch


Google Ads conversion rates by industry: How do you compare?

January 5, 2019 No Comments

Google Ads is an expensive game if you get it wrong.

So, we figure you’re doing what you can to measure the performance of your campaigns. But just how are you doing that?

Our best guess is you’re using your own historical data to measure your success. Of course, the inbuilt problem there is that it’s only your data. And there are few actionable insights you can get from it.

Now, we’re not saying it’s useless. These metrics will show you if you’re improving month-on-month, but the data will only show you how you’re improving against yourself.

Because when you look at your own historical data, pretty much all you can take from it is: are we doing better than we were doing before?

If the answer is no, then back to the drawing board, but if the answer is yes, you’re doing better than before, so good for you.

But how does your data stack up against the average across your industry?

We’re going to go out on a limb and say you don’t know the answer. You don’t know how you stack up against industry averages. And we’ll tell you why you don’t know…

Because that information is not so easy to get your hands on, and for most businesses it’s to all practical intents impossible.

And until you do know how you’re doing against industry averages, you’ll never know if your campaign is a true blockbuster.

Numbers: Google Ads across industry

A few years ago, Wordstream started running analysis of their client accounts to find answers on conversion rates, cost per click (CPC), click-through rate (CTR), and cost per action (CPA) by industry.

We also covered this back in 2016, if you’d like to compare how the numbers have changed.

These figures are based on a sample of 14,197 client accounts in all verticals — totaling more $ 200 million in aggregate Google Ads spend.

Their stated goal was to establish CVR (average conversion rate) for both search and display ads.

They ran the analysis across 20 different industries including the following:

  • Auto
  • Advocacy
  • B2B
  • Consumer Services
  • Dating & Personals
  • Ecommerce
  • Education
  • Employment Services
  • Finance
  • Health
  • Hospitality
  • Home Goods
  • Industrial Services
  • Insurance
  • Legal
  • Medical
  • Real Estate
  • Technology
  • Travel

So, what is the average conversion rate for Search and Display?

On average then, Google Ads advertisers are getting conversion rates of 3.17% on the Search network and 0.46% on the Display network. These averages have climbed significantly over the past couple years, an encouraging trend for agencies and advertisers alike.

How do those figures compare to what you are seeing — are they a relief or a shock?

Benchmark figures are important to your business

Without a benchmark it really is next to impossible to say how well you’re doing.

Maybe you had a CVR of 0.5% and you boosted that up to 1.5% — if you report that based only on your own historical data then it sounds great, right? However, you now know that the industry benchmark for the Search network is 3.17%. So if your CVR is 1.5% then you’re a long way behind the industry average.

And if your campaign isn’t hitting the average, then there’s no way to dress it up. A lot of work needs to be done just to get it to average levels. Let’s be blunt, who wants to be average?

Ask anyone if they want to be average and you already know the answer you’re going to get – nobody!

Now, if you’re not even halfway to the average CVR then average might seem attractive – but you can do so much better than average. Don’t settle for it. Use the average as marker, get your campaign up to the average and then do all you can to push it over and above. Make it a super high performing unicorn instead!

via GIPHY

Now, we know that the top 10% of advertisers are getting five times better than the average rates. Once you get past that average marker you can go onto create highly profitable campaigns.

Okay, that’s the Search network, now what about Display ads?

The top converting ads on the display network will surprise you

What do you think the top converting ads on the Display network are?

Perhaps ecommerce? Or maybe travel and hospitality because they are so much fun compared to insurance?

Well, as we said, you might be surprised.

Ecommerce along with travel and hospitality are among the very lowest of all conversion rates across all industries on Google Display ads.

The number one winner is…

Dating and personals!

That’s right. Converting at an average of 3.34%, this swelling industry has outflanked finance and insurance to lead the pack for average CVR in terms of Display.

The top five best converting industry types (according to SEW) for Display:

  • Dating and Personals 3.34% CVR
  • Legal: 1.84% CVR
  • Employment Services: 1.57% CVR
  • Finance and Insurance: 1.19% CVR
  • Auto: 1.19% CVR

And who comes in at the bottom of the pile for Display?

The very worst CVR of all industries is…

Home Goods. The CVR here is an abysmal 0.43%.

The top industry smashing it for Search CVR is dating and personals. This has a staggering 9.64% CVR on the SERPs, which is an unbelievable 2.66% higher than legal in a distant second place.

Here are the top 5 converting industries for Search:

  1. Dating and Personals: 9.64% CVR
  2. Legal: 6.98% CVR
  3. Consumer Services: 6.64% CVR
  4. Employment Services: 5.13% CVR
  5. Finance and Insurance: 5.10% CVR

Knowing these benchmarks is vital to your business. As we stated from the get-go, you need to know where you stand against others in your industry. This is the only meaningful way to accurately estimate your costs and ROI. If you don’t do this, you’ll take the historical data you have and maybe think you’re doing well — when really you’re way behind even the average.

Here are the rest of the numbers for Google Ads conversion rates by industry for Search and Display:

google ads conversion rates by industry

Image Source: WordStream

The post Google Ads conversion rates by industry: How do you compare? appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Search Engine Watch


Search industry news and trends: Best of 2018

January 1, 2019 No Comments

It’s that time of the year again: reflecting on the year that’s past as we prepare for 2019 lurking around the corner. In this article, we have a roundup of some of our fan favorite pieces from 2018 on news and trends from the search industry.

From alternative search engines to future trends, best online courses to algorithm updates, these were some of our highlights from the past year.

We also have a roundup of our top articles on SEO tips and tricks here.

1. No need for Google: 12 alternative search engines in 2018

While many of us use “googling” synonymously with “searching,” there are indeed a number of viable alternatives out there. In this article, we try to give some love to 12 alternative search engines.

Most of us can name the next few: Bing, Yandex, Baidu, DuckDuckGo.

But some on the list may surprise you — how about Ecosia, a Co2-neutral search engine? With every search made, the social business uses the revenue generated to plant trees. On average, 45 searches gets one more tree for our little planet.

2019 might be a year for a little more time spent with some G alternatives.

2. Which is the best search engine for finding images?

Human beings process visuals faster than they do text. So it makes sense that in the last decade, the number of images on the internet has ballooned.

In this post, we compare the best search engines for conducting three categories of image search on the web.

First, general / traditional image search, looking at Google, Bing, and Yahoo.

Then, reverse image search, looking at TinEye, Google, and Pinterest.

Third, free-to-use image search, looking at EveryPixel, Librestock, and the Creative Commons.

3. The 2018 guide to free SEO training courses online

As all good SEOs know, this is a never-ending process. The SEO world seems to be constantly evolving, and nearly everyone in the field has learned their snuff largely through online material.

For anyone who’s new to the scene, this can be an encouraging thought. We all started mostly just poking around on the interwebs to see what to do next. And happily, a lot of the best SEO material is freely available for all.

In this article, we look at the best online, free SEO training courses. From Google to Moz to QuickSprout and more, these are fundamentals that anyone can start with.

We also highlight a number of individuals and businesses to follow in the industry.

4. Video and search: YouTube, Google, the alternatives and the future

One third of all time spent online is accounted for by watching video. And, it’s predicted that 80% of all internet traffic will come from video in 2019.

This year was further proof that videos engage growing numbers of users and consequently have an impact on the SERPs. In fact, video has been seen to boost traffic from organic listings by as much as 157%.

In this article, we explore how the ways in which we search for video are changing. From YouTube to Google Search, Facebook to Vimeo, video — and how we interact with video content online — has seen some interesting changes.

5. Are keywords still relevant to SEO in 2018?

Sneak peak: this one starts out with, “What a useless article! Anyone worth their salt in the SEO industry knows that a blinkered focus on keywords in 2018 is a recipe for disaster.”

We go on to explore why focusing on just keywords is outdated, how various algorithm updates have changed the game, and what we should do now instead.

Ps: the snarky take sticks throughout the read, along with the quality overview.

6. Google’s core algorithm update: Who benefited, who lost out, and what can we learn?

This was an interesting piece following an algorithm update from back in March. There were suspicions, Google SearchLiason tweeted a confirmation, and everyone had to reassess.

Via a simple query, “What’s the best toothpaste?” and the results Google outputted over the course of half a dozen weeks, we can trace certain changes.

What pages benefitted, what can those insights tell us about the update, and how do we handle when our content visibility nosedives?

7. A cheat sheet to Google algorithm updates from 2011 to 2018

Who couldn’t use one of these hanging around?

Google makes changes to its ranking algorithm almost every day. Sometimes (most times) we don’t know about them, sometimes they turn the SERPs upside down.

This cheat sheet gives the most important algorithm updates of the recent years, along with some handy tips for how to optimize for each of the updates.

Well, that’s it for SEW in 2018. See you next year!

The post Search industry news and trends: Best of 2018 appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Search Engine Watch


Podcast industry aims to better track listeners through new analytics tech called RAD

December 12, 2018 No Comments

Internet users are already being tracked to death, with ads that follow us around, search histories that are collected and stored, emails that report back to senders when they’ve been read, websites that know where you scrolled and what you clicked and much more. So naturally, the growing podcast industry wanted to find a way to collect more data of its own, too.

Yes, that’s right. Podcasts will now track detailed user behavior, too.

Today, NPR announced RAD, a new, open-sourced podcast analytics technology that was developed in partnership with nearly 30 companies from the podcasting industry. The technology aims to help publishers collect more comprehensive and standardized listening metrics from across platforms.

Specifically, the technology gives publishers — and therefore their advertisers, as well — access to a wide range of listener metrics, including downloads, starts and stops, completed ad or credit listens, partial ad or credit listens, ad or credit skips and content quartiles, the RAD website explains.

However, the technology stops short of offering detailed user profiles, and cannot be used to re-target or track listeners, the site notes. It’s still anonymized, aggregated statistics.

It’s worth pointing out that RAD is not the first time podcasters have been able to track engagement. Major platforms, including Apple’s Podcast Analytics, today offer granular and anonymized data, including listens.But NPR says that data requires “a great deal of manual analysis” as the stats aren’t standardized nor as complete as they could be. RAD is an attempt to change that, by offering a tracking mechanism everyone can use.

Already, RAD has a lot of support. In addition to being integrated into NPR’s own NPR One app, it has commitments from several others that will introduce the technology into their own products in 2019, including Acast, AdsWizz, ART19, Awesound, Blubrry Podcasting, Panoply, Omny Studio, Podtrac, PRI/PRX, RadioPublic, Triton Digital and WideOrbit.

Other companies that supported RAD and participated in its development include Cadence13, Edison Research, ESPN, Google, iHeartMedia, Libsyn, The New York Times, New York Public Radio and Wondery.

NPR says the NPR One app on Android supports RAD as of now, and its iOS app will do the same in 2019.

“Over the course of the past year, we have been refining these concepts and the technology in collaboration with some of the smartest people in podcasting from around the world,” said Joel Sucherman, vice president, New Platform Partnerships at NPR, in an announcement. “We needed to take painstaking care to prove out our commitment to the privacy of listeners, while providing a standard that the industry could rally around in our collective efforts to continue to evolve the podcasting space,” he said.

To use RAD technology, publishers will mark within their audio files certain points — like quartiles or some time markers, interview spots, sponsorship messages or ads — with RAD tags and indicate an analytics URL. A mobile app is configured to read the RAD tags and then, when listeners hit that spot in the file, that information is sent to the URL in an anonymized format.

The end result is that podcasters know just what parts of the audio file their listeners heard, and is able to track this at scale across platforms. (RAD is offering both Android and iOS SDKs.)

While there’s value in podcast data that goes beyond the download, not all are sold on technology.

Most notably, the developer behind the popular iOS podcast player app Overcast, Marco Arment, today publicly stated his app will not support any listener-tracking specs.

“I understand why huge podcast companies want more listener data, but there are zero advantages for listeners or app-makers,” Arment wrote in a tweet. “Podcasters get enough data from your IP address when you download episodes,” he said.

The developer also pointed out this sort of data collection required more work on the podcasters’ part and could become a GDPR liability, as well. (NPR tells us GDPR compliance is up to the mobile apps and analytics servers, as noted in the specs here.)

In addition to NPR’s use of RAD today, Podtrac has also now launched a beta program to show RAD data, which is open to interested publishers.

Mobile – TechCrunch


BlueJeans Network names industry vet Quentin Gallivan as CEO

August 9, 2017 No Comments

 BlueJeans Network, the cloud video and collaboration company, announced today that Quentin Gallivan, an industry veteran who has helped run several tech companies, will be taking over as CEO. Former CEO and company founder Krish Ramakrishnan will remain with the company and take on the role of executive chairman. He will also continue to lead strategy and innovation. Ramakrishnan doesn’t… Read More
Enterprise – TechCrunch