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Search transformation projects: Q&A with SAP’s Siddharth Taparia

October 14, 2019 No Comments

At The Transformation of Search Summit next month, we’ll be hearing from a panel on “Embarking on Search Transformation Projects.” One of those panelists will be Siddharth Taparia, SVP and Head of Strategic Transformation and Partner Marketing at SAP.

Siddharth has grown his career in marketing at various companies, including spending the past 11 years at SAP.

siddharth taparia, head of marketing transformation at SAP

For many search marketers, embarking on search transformation projects can seem daunting and unclear. Siddharth’s expertise lies in leading marketing transformation efforts, and he’ll share insights on what’s he’s learned along the way.

Tell us a bit about your role at SAP?

I serve as head of SAP Global Partner Ecosystem and SME Marketing. In this role, I oversee SAP’s entire global partner ecosystem – with nearly 20,000 partners – including companies like Google, Microsoft, Amazon Web Services and Deloitte. We also market to the invaluable small and midsize space. My team is responsible for providing excellent support and resources for existing partners and helping to grow the network with new partners.

What are your key priorities over the next twelve months?

My key priorities over the next 12 months will include supporting SAP revenue and growth aspirations through innovative partner marketing, communications, and enablement. We will continue to be laser-focused on creating great partner experiences, extending the company’s reach to more customers, and driving SAP brand value.

What is your biggest challenge in achieving those?

Our biggest challenge is to make sure that we stay focused and look at the big picture. We are a large team within a large, global company. The path to success comprises many components that must come together in a cohesive manner.

What’s your advice to others who may be facing similar challenges?

As with many areas in life, communication and collaboration is key. Everyone on the team needs to be on the same page when it comes to understanding the plan, the strategy, and the goals. More importantly, the communication has to be a two-way street. It is vital to establish a culture in which people feel comfortable asking questions and providing feedback.

What’s an interesting trend you’re seeing in the market right now?

It is interesting to see the growth of AI and how it is becoming more and more sophisticated. AI is providing unprecedented personalization, which makes for memorable customer experiences. When it comes to search specifically, AI is helping to make it easier to find the information you need faster and with more accuracy than ever before.

How do you expect it will change in the next 6-12 months?

The rate at which AI is evolving is truly astronomical. By its very nature, AI gets better with time. With more data and new algorithms over the next several months, accuracy will continue to improve and forecasting and anticipating customer needs will become even more precise.

Tell us a bit about your session at the Search Summit?

I am excited to be a part of the panel discussion, “Embarking on a Search Transformation Project.” It is crucial for companies to not only incorporate search into their overall martech strategy; they must continue to evolve their search strategy to include new search technology. Search needs to be a core part of every marketing strategy and tactics.

What are you looking forward to most at the Summit?

I enjoyed being a part of the Summit as the keynote speaker last year, and I am looking forward to sharing ideas around the fascinating topic of search. Search is such an important topic to all industries, and the Summit will provide an excellent opportunity to learn about the latest developments within this field.

What’s one of your favorite search technologies and why?

I have been following the development of voice search for quite some time now. It is my favorite search technology because it has come so far in such a short amount of time. Additionally, it’s an engaging, convenient, and fun way to obtain information!

What’s something you do every day that helps you be more successful or productive?

I am a voracious reader. Every time I take a break from a meeting or a call I try to read something new or interesting that expands my horizons. I also love to learn new things — so whenever I am in a meeting I often have a lot of questions.


Thanks Siddharth for the insights, and looking forward to learning more at the event.

Hope to see you all there!

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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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Optimizing for voice search in 2019: Q&A with Amine Bentahar

September 28, 2019 No Comments

As we gear up for The Transformation of Search Summit at the end of October, we have another speaker Q&A. This time we’re hearing from Amine Bentahar about his upcoming session on voice search optimization.

Amine Bentahar is the Chief Digital and Operating Officer at Adantix Digital. He’s also an author and member of the Forbes Agency Council.

amine bentahar speaker interview

Amine’s session will be about “Optimizing for position 0: Everything you need to know about voice search.”

Tell us about your current work

Amine Bentahar: I’m the Chief Digital & Operating Officer at Advantix Digital. I’m in charge of operations and ensuring that we are delivering the best quality work and exceptional results for our clients.

I’m also responsible for the overall digital and marketing strategy for many of our key clients which includes publicly traded companies, companies backed by major VC and PE firms, and mid-sized companies from various industries. 

What are your key priorities over the next twelve months?

AB: Implement a voice search strategy for all of our B2C and B2B clients, and continue to leverage voice search as a channel to drive new customer acquisitions for our clients. 

What is your biggest challenge in achieving those?

AB: Most companies haven’t allocated a budget specific to just voice search, and aren’t taking the time to truly understand how their customers are either looking for information or shopping through voice.

Because of this, we are having to spend a lot of time educating companies about the importance of having a voice search strategy and budget. 

What’s your advice to others who may be facing similar challenges?

AB: Educate your teams or clients on voice search and how it’s changing the way customers are shopping or looking for information. 

What’s an interesting trend you’re seeing in the market right now?

AB: The integration of voice search technology in cars, TVs, appliances and other devices. 

How do you expect it will change in the next 6-12 months?

AB: With all the money being invested in R&D by the big players (Amazon, Google, Apple and Microsoft), I would expect to see this trend to continue growing, and for voice search technology to be available on even more devices. 

Tell us a bit about your session at the Search Summit?

AB: My session will be about optimizing for voice search and more specifically about the steps companies must take to rank for position 0. We will help attendees understand how voice search works and how to develop organic content to be “read” by Alexa or Google Home. 

What are you looking forward to most at the Summit?

AB: I’m looking forward to meeting other thought leaders and marketers and learning from their experiences about things that are disrupting the search world. 

What’s one of your favorite search technologies and why?

AB: Voice search as I find it somewhat amazing especially when you see the fast adoption rate of the technology and how it’s impacting the way customers are now searching. 

What’s something you do every day that helps you be more successful or productive?

AB: I do my best to exercise everyday and also I take at least 30 minutes of my day to read either about marketing or management. 

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Luxury marketing search strategy, Part 3: Integrated marketing communication

September 24, 2019 No Comments

In the first two articles of my luxury search marketing series, we discussed the consumer mindset, what motivates and drives shoppers to purchase, and then the strategies and tactics that can be used to reach those shoppers and maximize results.

Now, I’m going to tie everything together. In the third and final article of the series, we’ll discuss the importance of an integrated marketing communication (IMC) campaign in the luxury goods industry and why it’s a must if you want to survive in today’s ultra-competitive and highly fragmented search landscape.

What is integrated marketing and why do luxury brands need it?

Today’s consumers are bombarded with messaging from many different marketing channels. Integrated Marketing cuts through the clutter by delivering a unified and seamless brand experience for consumers across channels. Integrated Marketing delivers a seamless experience with one clear message that is relevant to consumers no matter what channel they are using.

In the second article of my series, we discussed how the luxury consumer craves an experience. Luxury shoppers search online to find the luxury items they want, discover new experiences, and to engage with their favorite brands wherever, and to make their purchase whenever they want1. Therefore, creating seamless experiences along the customer journey is especially critical for luxury brands.

Understanding the consumer decision journey is crucial

The consumer journey is no longer a linear path-to-purchase. It has evolved into a complicated and dynamic process during which consumers interact with many different touchpoints along the way. Reaching consumers at the moments that most influence their decisions should be our goal as marketers. McKinsey’s Consumer Decision Journey applies touchpoints for these different opportunities to influence consumers.

The consumer decision journey is a circular decision-making process with four phases:

  1. Initial consideration
  2. Active evaluation – information gathering, shopping
  3. Closure – the moment of purchase
  4. Post-purchase – ongoing exposure to the brand

For search marketers to leverage the consumer decision journey, you need to find ways to get your brand into the consumer’s initial consideration set. We can do this through SEO and integration with other marketing channels.

Integrated marketing and SEO

Search marketers strive to maximize brands’ and companies’ visibility through top search engine rankings. This visibility is key to making it into the consumer’s initial consideration set. I’ll share some integrated marketing strategies that will help improve your SEO and overall business results.

1. Integrate organic and paid search marketing

Numerous studies2 have illustrated how SEO impacts the number of clicks that paid ads receive. Google has shown that when a site has strong organic results, the site is likely to see an increase their click-through-rate for paid search ads on the same search results page. Other studies have shown that the reverse is true – paid search can improve the results of organic search campaigns.

Putting it into practice

Align organic and paid messaging: You want unified messaging, not conflicting messaging. All messaging should be aligned and customer-centric. One way to achieve this is to include top-performing paid ad copy into your organic meta descriptions. For example, one of my paid search counterparts at our agency identified that the term “award-winning” performed the best in their ad copy. We have incorporated it into our meta descriptions to improve organic click-through-rates and to present a unified message to the searcher. This maximizes SEO performance while delivering a seamless experience for the luxury customer.

Improve pages with low-quality scores: Identify the pages where you have a low-quality score and work to increase it. Higher costs-per-click can be reduced by improving landing page experiences and page load times. Identify paid keywords that need organic support. Improving organic content for these keywords can help to drive your paid search campaigns and improve your campaign’s efficiency.

2. Capitalize on events

Leveraging event marketing3 is another way to reach potential customers and build brand awareness. You can leverage specific event types based on your industry to build brand awareness, and as an additional benefit, drive direct and referral traffic. Recurring seasonal events, fashion shows, and international fairs are likely to have strong search volume. These types of events present a great opportunity to increase your brand’s visibility during key moments throughout the year among a highly engaged audience.

The luxury watch brand, TUDOR, created a dedicated page on its website for Baselworld, an international watch and jewelry industry event. This dedicated page is optimized for “New TUDOR Watches – Baselworld 2017” and the content speaks to the new models of watches that would be debuted at the show. This type of page offers another avenue to generate organic visibility and traffic to the website.

Putting it into practice

Create a dedicated event page: You can create a page on your website that’s dedicated to a specific event type. For example, brand.com/eventtype-2019. This page can be used for PR and shared on social networks to help build search authority and brand awareness. Make sure that the brand message you share is consistent across all customer touchpoints.

3. Utilize visual social networks

Don’t limit your SEO to just Google. Visual and social networks4 like Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube present a significant opportunity for brands to generate awareness and visibility. Pictures and videos are powerful mediums capable of evoking the aspirational emotions associated with luxury purchases. Don’t forget, one of the primary reasons people buy luxury goods is to display status. Brands should be taking advantage of this by publishing content that helps luxury consumers fill this need.

CHANEL frequently creates this type of content. The “Inside CHANEL” campaign is a great example of how you can leverage images and videos. “Inside CHANEL” gives people an exclusive look into the brand’s history and it does this by sharing the brand’s story through pictures and videos. In addition to the “Inside CHANEL” website, the campaign’s videos are hosted on YouTube making it easy to share them among your social networks.

Putting it into practice

Create visual, aspirational content for social networks: Think about the type of content that people will want to share to impress their friends and peers. When creating this content like pictures or videos remember that it should evoke the types of emotions that make people want to share it.

Content creation tips

  • Define your target audience and ensure that they are searching on the channel where you want to publish your content – Are they females and/or making the buying decisions? If so, Pinterest can be a good fit.
  • Ensure this content has an exclusivity aspect to it. Ensure that people feel like they have access to something special. It should be original and unique.
  • Make the content easily sharable across your social networks. The last thing you’ll want is to have a great piece of content that’s difficult for people to share.
  • Ensure that the messaging is seamless across channels. Remember, the hallmark of an integrated marketing campaign is messaging that is consistent across channels.
  • Ensure your content is optimized using descriptive image alt text. Make sure you are using the right image format and file size that is optimal for the channel. Each social channel has different tips to maximize visibility within their platform. Make sure you consult their guidelines.

Recap

We’ve covered a lot of ground in this luxury marketing search strategy series. To wrap things up, let’s summarize some of the key points for successful SEO and search marketing in the luxury industry.

The first article discussed the reasons why we buy luxury goods—because of how they make us feel and because we crave an experience along with the exclusivity. Let’s not forget about the role of dopamine in the process, which is where the anticipation of the reward comes in.

The second article covered the SEO importance of creating emotionally fulfilling content and keyword intent research. We also discussed why you need to invest in your meta description to make it more enticing. It’s important to win the click and entice consumers to learn more about your brand, and ultimately, convert.

Finally, the third article covered the role of integrated marketing for luxury brands and the benefits of a consistent brand theme/message across all customer touchpoints. Aligning your paid and organic search efforts, capitalizing on events, and creating visual, aspirational content that can be shared across social networks is a must.

Final thoughts

As marketers, our goal should be to support the organization’s vision, mission, and values, and work hard to improve the company’s bottom line, regardless of the channel. It’s a collaborative effort between multiple marketing channels. It’s all too easy to default to a siloed approach, so we constantly push ourselves to think outside the box and develop inventive solutions for the challenges facing our customers. That’s where our real value as SEOs will shine through.

References

  1. The Meaning of Search Engine Optimization for Luxury, LuxeDigital – https://luxe.digital/digital-luxury-speakeasy/search-engine-optimisation-seo/
  2. How Organic SEO and PPC Impact Each Other, Brightedge –https://www.brightedge.com/content/how-organic-seo-and-ppc-impact-each-other
  3. Why Luxury Brands Should Capitalise on Events, Luxury Society – https://www.luxurysociety.com/en/articles/2018/03/seo-strategy-why-should-luxury-brands-capitalize-events/
  4. 10 Marketing Strategies for Luxury Brands that Deliver Results, VentureHarbour – https://www.ventureharbour.com/luxury-brand-digital-marketing/

Jennifer Kenyon is a Director of Organic Search at Catalyst (part of GroupM). She can be found on Twitter @JennKCatalyst

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How Google Enforces Category Diversity for Some Local Search Results

September 17, 2019 No Comments

More Diversity in Search Results

Earlier this year, we were told that Google was making an effort to make the search results we see more diverse, by showing us fewer results from the same domains in response to a query. Search Engine Land covered that news with the post: Google search update aims to show more diverse results from different domain names.

Shortly before that news about more diverse results in organic search came out, Google was granted a patent in May which told us about how they might enforce category diversity in showing different points of interest in local search results, This post is about that effort to make local search results more diverse.

More Diversity At Google in 2013, in Past Search Results

Back in 2013. Google’s Former Head of Web Spam, Matt Cutts, published a video about more diverse search results in response to the question, Why does Google show multiple results from the same domain?

So this isn’t the first time we have heard about efforts from Google in trying to give us more diverse results, and they came out with a patent around that time to provide more diverse results as well.

I remember getting a phone call around 6 years ago from a co-worker who asked me why a client’s high ranking organic result might disappear from search results. I asked for the query and the client’s name and ran the search. The top-ranking result was a local result for the client. I told my co-worker that I was seeing that, and she told me that our client also used to have an organic result showing for that query, and a local result that wasn’t quite as high. It appeared that the organic result had been removed, and the local result had been boosted.

Coincidentally, I had written the following blog post the day before: How Google May Create Diverse Search Results by Merging Local and Web Search Results. I told my co-worker about the patent I had written about the day before, and sent her a link to that blog post. We were able to explain to our client what appears to have happened to their organic result for that query, that it looks like Google’s desire to have more diverse search results cause their page ranking organically was “merged” with the local result.

Category Diversity in a Patent Granted in 2019

I hadn’t seen anything quite like that merger between organic results and a local result happen again after that. It is impossible to tell if Google has been using that kind of merging since then. But that patent was all about providing more diverse search results to searchers. So when I see a patent, like this new one that tells us it exists to provide more diverse search results, I find myself wondering what, if anything could have been removed to make search results more diverse. If someone searches for “things to do in Carlsbad, California,” and they are provided with a list of restaurants to eat at, that would be disappointing, because while there are some nice restaurants here, there are plenty of other things to do.

By expanding to a category diversity from a diversity-based upon pages from the same domain, Google is giving us more diverse search results.

This new patent tells us about this category diversity in the following way:

When a searcher asks for points of interest information at a certain location, the local search system may generate a collection of candidate POIs and receives information relating to each candidate POI’s respective category and a score and rank within the category for each, and, for categories a searcher may select, promotes or demotes the score of each ranked candidate POI within its respective category through a scaling process.

It really is impossible to tell if Google has already implemented this patent which was granted in May. I tried some searches at different places to see if they showed diverse results for those places, and was given diversity in what I was being shown:

When I search for [points of interest Raleigh, NC], I get results that start out with a carousel of top things to do in Raleigh:

Points of Interest Raleigh

When I search for ][points of interest Carlsbad, Ca], I get results that start with a carousel of top things to do in Carlsbad:

Points of Interest Carlsbad

I wasn’t surprised to see carousels for those particular queries, and I tried a few more, worded a little differently, which didn’t trigger carousels. The patent doesn’t mention carousels, though. But those results do show some category diversity.

The patent does provide a lot of details on how Google might demote some listings that are in categories that are over-represented, and promote some listings that are associated with categories that are under-represented.

category diversity

The summary of the patent gives us the process behind it in a nutshell, telling us that the method behind it, includes receiving a request to:

Identify points of interest (POIs),
Obtaining data identifying

  1. Candidate points of interest (POIs) that satisfy the request
  2. A respective category associated with each candidate POI
  3. A non-scaled score associated with each candidate POI, ranking, for each of one or more of the categories, the candidate POIs associated with the category, based on the respective non-scaled scores, scaling, for each of the one or more categories, the non-scaled scores of the ranked candidate POIs associated with the category, ranking the candidate POIs using the scaled scores, for the candidate POIs that are associated with the one or more categories, and the non-scaled scores, for the candidate POIs that are not associated with the one or more categories, and providing data that identifies two or more of the candidate POIs, as ranked according to the scaled scores and the non-scaled scores

It goes on to provide much more depth about how category diversity might be achieved. And reading through it, it makes sense, that in an area where you may have a variety of 30-50 places that someone might want to visit, and five of those are Italian Restaurants, and the rest include other kinds of restaurants, museums, parks, beaches, theatres, stores, playgrounds, stadiums, nightclubs. You wouldn’t want to just tell a potential visitor to that location that there are five Italian Restaurants there and nothing about the diversity of other kinds of places.

Here is a little richer description of how Google may go about enforcing category diversity in response to requests for information about points of interest at different locations:

  1. Selecting, as the one or more categories, one or more categories that are each associated with more than a predetermined number of candidate POIs the predetermined number is two
  2. The method includes selecting, as the one or more categories, one or more categories that are each associated with one or more candidate POI
  3. Scaling, for each of the one or more categories that are associated with only one candidate POI, the non-scaled score of the ranked candidate POI associated with the category comprises multiplying the non-scaled score of the ranked candidate POI associated with the category by a factor of one
  4. Scaling the non-scaled scores of the ranked, candidate POIs includes increasing the respective non-scaled scores of the top n ranked candidate POIs
  5. Scaling the non-scaled scores of the ranked, candidate POIs includes leaving unchanged the non-scaled scores of one or more of the top n ranked candidate POIs
  6. Scaling the non-scaled scores of the ranked, candidate POIs includes decreasing the non-scaled scores of one or more of the top n ranked candidate POIs
  7. Dynamically determining a scaling factor to use to scale one or more non-scaled scores of the ranked, candidate POIs of a particular category based on a non-scaled score associated with a top ranked candidate POI of a different category; and/or the method includes dynamically determining a scaling factor to use to scale one or more non-scaled scores of the ranked, candidate POIs of a particular category based on a quantity of the candidate POIs of the particular category identified in the data.

That is a fairly complex approach to achieve diversity of results, but it seems to be one that will provide results that are truly diverse.

The patent on category diversity for local results can be found at:

Enforcing category diversity
Inventors: Neha Arora, Ke Yang, Zuguang Yang
Assignee: Google LLC
US Patent: 10,289,648
Granted: May 14, 2019
Filed: November 14, 2016

Abstract

Methods, systems, and apparatus, including computer programs encoded on a computer storage medium, for enforcing the category diversity or sub-category diversity of POIs that are identified in response to a local search. According to one implementation, a method includes receiving a request to identify points of interest (POIs), obtaining data identifying (i) candidate points of interest (POIs) that satisfy the request, (ii) a respective category associated with each candidate POI, and (iii) a non-scaled score associated with each candidate POI, and ranking, for each of one or more of the categories, the candidate POIs associated with the category, based on the respective non-scaled scores. The method also includes scaling, for each of the one or more categories, the non-scaled scores of the ranked candidate POIs associated with the category, ranking the candidate POIs using the scaled scores, for the candidate POIs that are associated with the one or more categories, and the non-scaled scores, for the candidate POIs that are not associated with the one or more categories, and providing data that identifies two or more of the candidate POIs, as ranked according to the scaled scores and the non-scaled scores.

Takeaways

If I didn’t mention this patent, you may not have noticed a need for it. If it didn’t exist, and every time someone searched for something like [things to do in Carlsbad], and the same 5 Italian Restaurants showed up as things to do in town, you would notice that there isn’t much diversity.

I do find myself wondering what isn’t being included in These local results that are enforcing category diversity, but I do like seeing that diversity.

And if I want to see all of the local Italian Restaurants in the area, I can try another search for just for [Italian Restaurant].


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Dynamic Search Ads For Beginners

September 1, 2019 No Comments

Learn what Dynamic Search Ads (DSAs) are, how to set them up and how they can be used alongside remarketing.

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How to check Google search results for different locations

August 30, 2019 No Comments

One of the fundamental truths about SEO is that no two Google searches are the same.

The logic behind it is simple, things you’ve Googled, read and watched are stored for at least three months before your Web & App Activity is deleted, if at all.

This, together with data on devices you use as well as places you go – both in terms of location history and the current IP – lets Google deliver personalized results. While this is convenient, you end up in the infamous “filter bubble”.  

In a world of highly customized SERPs on the one hand, and a host of ranking signals for local search Google uses in its algorithms on the other, pulling relevant ranking data is as challenging as it gets.

Luckily, there are a bunch of ways to pop the filter bubble, targeting the one thing that seems to be dominating personalized search – location.

Not only does it determine what users see in search results, but it also helps business owners address the issue of inconsistent SERP performance across their service areas.

The thing is, doing your local SEO homework doesn’t stop at continuous content improvement and link building, targeted specifically for local search. Poor performance can still be an issue – one that is oftentimes attributed to not having enough of a customer base in a certain location. Therefore, the problem can only be diagnosed by checking SERPs for the entirety of the geographical area covered.

Without further ado, let’s look at how you can fetch rankings for different locations manually and using designated tools – all from the comfort of your home.

Country-level search

First off, decide on the level of localization.

For brands working in multiple countries, pulling nationwide results is more than enough. For local businesses operating within a city, ranking data will differ district by district and street by street.

Check manually

So, say you want to see how well a website performs in country-level search. For that, you’ll need to adjust Google search settings and then specify the region you’d like to run a search for. And yes, you heard it right: simply checking that you have the correct TLD extension is no longer enough since Google stopped serving results on separate country domains a while back.

Now, in order to run a country-specific search manually, locate Search settings in your browser and pick a region from the list available under Region Settings.

google-regional-settings

 

Alternatively, use a proxy or VPN service – both work for doing a country-wide search.

Use rank tracking software

To automate the job, turn to the rank tracking software of choice, for example, Rank Tracker. The results will pretty much reflect the SERPs you fetched having manually adjusted search settings in the browser.

There you have it – non-geo-sensitive queries and multilingual websites performance tracking are all taken care of.

City-level search

Doing SEO for small or medium-sized business comes with many challenges, not the least of which is making sure your website shows up in local search.

Whether you have a physical store or simply provide services within a specific area, tracking ranking coverage on the city level will ultimately improve findability, and drive leads and customers.

Check manually

To manually run a search limited to a specific city, use the ‘&near=cityname’ search parameter in your Google URL:

As the name suggests, “&near=cityname” lets you pull SERPs near a certain location. While this method is easy to master, many claim that it’s unreliable, with results often delivered for a larger city nearby.

city-level-search-in-google

Still, the trick is nice to have up your sleeve as a quick and sound way of checking city-specific rankings manually.

Another silver bullet of local search that is sure to hit the city target is Google Ads’ Preview and Diagnosis Tool.

The Ad Preview and Diagnosis tool lets you pick a location, specify a language as well as user device – and fetch local SERPs regardless of your current whereabouts.

Use rank tracking software

Pretty much every rank tracking tool out there is able to run a city-specific ranking check.

Rank Tracker, Ahrefs, SEMrush, Whitespark, AccuRanker, BrightLocal – you name it – all boast the functionality and deliver local search results. That said, picking the right software for you and your business is a two-fold process.

First, take the time to look into the supported locations for search, since some of the tools, like Whitespark or SEMrush, have a somewhat limited location catalog. Second, you need to double-check that the software you’re most interested in is using their own database, with results relying on a well-designed and trusted crawler.

Doing this type of research helps you safeguard that you are able to easily see accurate SERPs for the location of your choosing.

In case you’re new to city-level ranking checks and/or baffled by the variety of options on the market, go for a single-dashboard tool: BrightLocal would be a perfect example of clean design and intuitive navigation.

Better yet, all data lives on BrightLocal’s website, which adds to the overall user-friendliness and lets you easily automate the monitoring of top search engines for multiple locations.

Street-level search

Google’s Local Pack is the place to be when running any kind of business. With over half of searches run from mobile devices, a single Local Pack may take up as much as an entire results page on a smartphone.

Both Maps and Local Pack results are extremely location-sensitive. Always keep that in mind while you’re doing your research. In order to verify that your business shows up for the right locations within a city, the search is to be narrowed down to a specific street address.

Check manually

Not to say that you cannot configure an address-specific search by yourself. Even manually, this is still perfectly doable.

However, unlike relying on a toolkit that would basically do the whole process for you, setting up a highly localized search in a browser involves multiple steps and also requires some groundwork.

  1. To start off, you need to get the exact geo-coordinates of the location you’d like to run the search from. When in doubt, use a designated tool.
  2. In your Google Chrome browser, open DevTools: navigate to the top right corner of your browser window and click on Tools > Developer Tools. You can also press Control+Shift+C (on Windows) or Command+Option+C(on Mac).

manually-checking-search-results-using-developer-tools

 

3. Navigate to the three-dot menu icon in the top right corner: from there, click More Tools > Sensors. This step is also the appropriate time to give yourself some credit for getting that far in Google search configuration.

4. In the Geolocation dropdown, select “Other” and paste your target longitude and latitude coordinates.

5. Run a search and retrieve the SERPs for the exact location you specified.

In case you aren’t particularly excited about a multistep search setup, try the Valentin app, it lets you check search results for any location with no DevTools involved.

Use rank tracking software

If anything, rank tracking for multiple precise locations is the one job you want automated and done for you by a tool that was specifically developed for local search.

There you have the idea behind SEO PowerSuite’s Rank Tracker designed to, among other things, pull hyper-localized SERPs for unlimited locations. Configure as many custom search engines as you wish. On top of that, set up scheduled tasks and have local search results checked autonomously.

Not only do I rely on Rank Tracker because it has been built by my team but also because it’s the only toolkit out there that automates what both Chrome and Valentin app help you configure manually. And of course, ranking data retrieved by the software is precise and easily exportable.

Another tool that lets you visualize – quite literally – any business’ search performance across a service area is Local Falcon. Created for Google Maps, the platform runs a search for up to 225 locations within any area specified.

With an overview of your search performance at hand, you can make better targeting choices while expanding outreach and winning new customers.

Final thoughts

Given that there are as many SERP variations as there are searches, rank tracking may feel utterly discouraging: if no two users get to see quite the exact same results, why bother? Well, the sentiment is totally understandable.

But in fact, it all boils down to understanding the reasons behind tracking rankings in the first place.

Is it to see how quickly your SEO efforts transform into higher positions in SERPs? That’d be one. Is it to make sense of the changes in traffic and sales at every point and in every location? Sure.

Big and small, businesses today simply have to keep tabs on their rankings not just country-wide but even on a street-by-street basis. There is hardly any excuse to ignore a single metric here.

Not just that, in business as well as SEO there is no such thing as an unexplainable dynamic. And more often than not, you have to take a closer look to see the root of any problem.

We all understand that rankings in themselves aren’t the only metric of success. It’s not as straightforward as having more traffic, getting more business is the main goal.

But it shouldn’t in any way undermine the overall importance of tracking rankings as a tried and tested way of checking that your website is served among relevant search results.

Local search is all about making sure your customers see you and get to you. So use it to your best advantage – whether you go for checking manually or using rank tracking software.

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

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Augmented Search Queries Using Knowledge Graph Information

August 24, 2019 No Comments

What are Augmented Search Queries?

Last year, I wrote a post called Quality Scores for Queries: Structured Data, Synthetic Queries and Augmentation Queries, which told us that Google may look at query logs and structured data (table data and schema data) related to a site to create augmentation queries, and evaluate information about searches for those comparing them to original queries for pages from that site, and if the results of the augmentation queries do well in evaluations compared to the original query results, searchers may see search results that are a combination of results from the original queries and the augmentation queries.

Around the time that patent was granted to Google another patent that talks about augmented search queries was also granted to Google, and is worth talking about at the same time with the patent I wrote about last year. It takes the concept of adding results from augmented search queries together with original search results, but it has a different way of coming up with augmented search queries, This newer patent that I am writing about starts off by telling us what the patent is about:

This disclosure relates generally to providing search results in response to a search query containing an entity reference. Search engines receive search queries containing a reference to a person, such as a person’s name. Results to these queries are often times not sufficiently organized, not comprehensive enough, or otherwise not presented in a useful way.

Augmentation from the first patent means possibly providing additional information in search results based upon additional query information from query logs or structured data from a site. Under this new patent, augmentation comes from recognizing that an entity exists in a query, and providing some additional information in search results based upon that entity.

This patent is interesting to me because it takes an older type of search – where a query returns pages in response to the keywords typed into a search box, with a newer type of search, where an entity is identified in a query, and knowledge information about that entity is reviewed to create possible augmentation queries that could be combined with the results of the original query.

The process behind this patent can be described in this way:

In some implementations, a system receives a search query containing an entity reference, such as a person’s name, that corresponds to one or more distinct entities. The system provides a set of results, where each result is associated with at least one of the distinct entities. The system uses the set of results to identify attributes of the entity and uses the identified attributes to generate additional, augmented search queries associated with the entity. The system updates the set of results based on one or more of these augmented search queries.

A summary of that process can be described as:

  1. Receiving a search query associated with an entity reference, wherein the entity reference corresponds to one or more distinct entities.
  2. Providing a set of results for the search query where the set of results distinguishes between distinct entities.
  3. Identifying one or more attributes of at least one entity of the one or more distinct entities based at least in part on the set of results.
  4. Generating one or more additional search queries based on the search query, the at least one entity, and the one or more attributes.
  5. Receiving an input selecting at least one of the one or more additional search queries and providing an updated set of results based on the selected one or more additional search queries, where the updated set of results comprises at least one result not in the set of results.

The step of generating one or more additional search queries means ranking the identified one or more attributes and generating one or more additional search queries based on the search query, the at least one entity, the one or more attributes, and the ranking.

That ranking can be based on the frequency of occurrence.
The ranking can also be based on a location of each of the one or more attributes with respect to at least one entity in the set of results.

augmented search queries - Planet of the apes example

This process can identify two different entities in a query. For instance, there were two versions of the Movie, the Planet of the Apes. One was released in 1968, and the other was released in 2001. They had different actors in them, and the second was considered a reboot of the first.

When results are generated in instances where there may be more than one entity involved, the search queries provided may distinguish between the distinct entities. They may identify one or more attributes of at least one entity of the one or more distinct entities based at least in part on the set of results. Augmented search queries may be generated for “one or more additional search queries based on the search query, the at least one entity, and the one or more attributes.”

This patent can be found at:

Providing search results using augmented search queries
Inventors: Emily Moxley and Sean Liu
Assignee: Google LLC
US Patent: 10,055,462
Granted: August 21, 2018
Filed: March 15, 2013

Abstract

Methods and systems are provided for updating a set of results. In some implementations, a search query associated with an entity reference is received. The entity reference corresponds to one or more distinct entities. A set of results for the search query is provided, and the set of results distinguishes between distinct entities. One or more attributes for at least one entity of the one or more distinct entities are identified based at least in part on the set of results. One or more additional search queries are identified based on the search query, the at least one entity, and the one or more attributes. An input selecting at least one of the additional search queries is received. An updated set of results is provided based on the selected additional search queries. The updated set of results comprises at least one result not in the set of results.

Some Additional Information About How Augmented Search Queries are Found and Used

A couple of quick definitions from the patent:

Entity Reference – refers to an identifier that corresponds to one or more distinct entities.

Entity – refers to a thing or concept that is singular, unique, well defined, and distinguishable.

This patent is all about augmenting a set of query results by providing more information about entities that may appear in a query:

An entity reference may correspond to more than one distinct entity. An entity reference may be a person’s name, and corresponding entities may include distinct people who share the referenced name.

This process is broader than queries involving people. We are given a list in the patent that it includes, and it covers, “a person, place, item, idea, topic, abstract concept, concrete element, other suitable thing, or any combination thereof.”

And when an entity reference appears in a query, it may cover a number of entities, for example, a query that refers to John Adams could be referring to:

  • John Adams the Second President
  • John Quincy Adams the Sixth President
  • John Adams the artist

Entity attributesIn addition to having an entity in an entity reference in a query, we may see a mention of an attribute for that entity, which is “any feature or characteristic associated with an entity that the system may identify based on the set of results.” For the John Adams entity reference, we may also see attributes included in search results, such as [second president], [Abigail Adams], and [Alien and Sedition Acts].

entity selection box

It sounds like an entity selection box could be shown that allows a searcher to identify which entity they might like to see results about, so when there is an entity in a query such as John Adams, and there are at least three different John Adams that could be included in augmented search results, there may be clickable hyperlinks for entities for a searcher to select or deselect which entity they might be interested in seeing more about.

Augmented Search Queries with Entities Process Takeaways

When an original query includes and entity reference in it, Google may allow searchers to identify which entity they are interested in, and possibly attributes associated with that entity. This really brings the knowledge graph to search, using it to augment queries in such a manner. A flowchart from the patent illustrates this process in a way that was worth including in this post:

augmented search queries flowchart

The patent provides a very detailed example of how a search that includes entity information about a royal wedding in England might be surfaced using this augmented search query approach. That may not be a query that I might perform, but I could imagine some that I would like to try out. I could envision some queries involving sports and movies and business. If you own a business, and it is not in Google’s knowledge graph you may end up missing out on being included in results from augmented search queries.


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New Releases on Hero Academy! Starting Pinterest & Apple Search Ads

August 21, 2019 No Comments

Hero Academy is Hanapin’s newest initiative featuring short and basic how-tos on paid advertising in a variety of platforms.

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Pinterest’s New Search Tool Puts Stress Relief in Your Feed

July 22, 2019 No Comments

Soon the company will begin placing anxiety-relieving exercises within its search results to help boost your mood.
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