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From Accelerated Mobile to RankBrain

The four pillars of the future of SEO

What does the future of search engine optimization have in store for us? Columnist Pratik Dholakiya looks at recent trends to explain the direction our industry is headed in.

SEO has come a long way from being all about on-page optimization, building backlinks and creating “relevant” content. When I read popular search engine blogs, I notice a definite trend: SEO is moving toward a more inclusive strategy that goes beyond new ways of link building or content marketing.

A huge part of present-day SEO practices is brand building and influencing search queries themselves, as opposed to starting with a truckload of keywords and creating content around them. Therefore, while links, keywords, content and site optimization remain the building blocks of SEO, the columns on which the edifice is being built are taking on a different appearance. Let’s see what these pillars are.

  1. RankBrain

Although RankBrain is the third most significant ranking factor in the Google algorithm, it is perhaps the most misunderstood one. The speculations and counter-speculations never seem to end.

Since RankBrain was one of the few algorithm updates that Google first revealed to a major news publication, it has caught and held onto the attention of the general tech-reading public, in addition to search engine marketers.

I personally believe Google’s admission that they fully don’t understand RankBrain. However, this doesn’t mask the fact that they’ve made great strides in using machine learning to entrust their prized search algorithm to it.

Additionally, we do have some idea about what RankBrain does not do. According to Gary Illyes and Andrey Lipattsev of Google, RankBrain does not act on your backlink profile, content quality or click-through rate. It only helps the algorithm interpret queries better and match them with relevant page content.

And since Google can do what it does best with less human intervention, industry leaders unanimously agreed that it will gain more significance. So it was no surprise when earlier this year, Jeff Dean revealed that RankBrain now processes every single Google search (that’s at least 63,000 a second) — up from barely 15 percent nine months before.

The future has already happened here.

But you cannot do anything about it: Gary Illyes said at SMX Advanced earlier this year that there is nothing one can do to optimize a website for RankBrain.

  1. Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)

In February 2016, Google integrated results from its Accelerated Mobile Pages project into its search results in the form of a “Top Stories” carousel in mobile results. Six months later, Google started displaying links to AMP pages in the main organic search results.

Today, Google has 150 million indexed AMP documents in its index, and, encouraged by mainstream adoption outside the publishing industry (including eBay and Bing), has just announced that users searching from mobile devices will be directed to the relevant AMP pages even if an equivalent app page exists.

However, the average Google user hardly knows the significance of an AMP result yet. In an informal survey conducted by Glenn Gabe, only three of 44 respondents could correctly identify what the AMP icon in the SERPs stood for. And they clearly prefer the “mobile-friendly” label over the cryptic “AMP” coupled with the lightning bolt.

This means Google’s decision is definitely in line with their aim of “bringing the mobile web on par with native apps and keeping Google relevant in the increasingly mobile-centric world we’re living in,” as we pointed out in an article on the E2M blog not long ago. AMP is here to stay (and become omnipresent), whether you like it or not.

  1. The Knowledge Graph & rich answers

Google’s Knowledge Graph, which it launched in 2012, is its slow but sure attempt to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible,” in line with their mission. In a nutshell, it’s Google’s attempt at scraping — sorry, replicating — Wikipedia:

The Knowledge Graph is a knowledge base used by Google to enhance its search engine’s search results with semantic-search information gathered from a wide variety of sources.

The “wide variety of sources” includes Wikidata (to which Google moved its Freebase data and actively contributes), Wikipedia and the CIA World Factbook.

Typically, knowledge graph elements are in the form of boxes of structured information with links to authoritative sources of further information (not always, though). Common formats include the knowledge panel displayed on the right of a SERP and answer box, displayed on top of other organic results.

The number of queries that show ready answers in these formats continues to grow unabated, as ongoing studies from Stone Temple Consulting have shown. Currently, around 40 percent of Google queries display “rich answers,” which include featured snippets, but not knowledge panels:

Brand managers and marketers are increasingly looking to control the impression, conversation and queries that people have about them. Moving forward, one of the most effective ways to do that would be to try to influence what Google knows and has to say about you. Here are a couple of approaches from Propecta and Kapost that involve defining and connecting entities with markup, editing Wikipedia, and yes, not abandoning Google Plus.

  1. Real-time, integrated penalty filters

Now you see it, now you don’t. There it is! Oh, it isn’t. Google announced that they have finally updated Penguin (after what seemed like a never-ending wait of almost two years), noting that it is for the last time.

That’s because Penguin is now a real-time signal processed within Google’s search algorithm — data on your pages is refreshed every time Google re-crawls and re-indexes them.

A few months earlier, Google also integrated Panda into their main algorithm (though unlike Penguin, it does not update in real time).

Notice a pattern here? Google wants to make spam fighting a central, automated function of serving search results.

This is a very positive sign for website owners — cleaning up spammy backlinks and getting rid of poor-quality content will bring quick results. Marketers struggling to justify extra efforts to improve the quality of their websites will now be able to put their money where their mouth is.

Conclusion

It is clear that Google will focus on machine learning, understanding of semantics, connections and patterns and user experience in the future.

SEO at the moment is very closely tied to content marketing. While Google can interpret content and derive its relevance to search queries with a very high degree of success, it is constantly focused on making refinements to improve how timely, contextual and useful this content is to the searcher. The Knowledge Graph, rich answers, RankBrain and AMP all serve this purpose, while integrated penalties maintain the quality of results.

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originally published 9/28/16 in Search Engine Land

check out the original article for great graphs

 

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SEO + PPC = SEM Harmony

Anna Crowe wrote this sponsored post for Search Engine Journal on behalf of Bing Network, and I found it to be a good summary of the current marketplace with useful suggestions.

The Effectiveness of Search

SEM is considered one of the most powerful marketing channels. But does SEM really help drive traffic to your site?

It’s a question many search marketers have heard from clients 🙋, especially since SEM is taking up a large chunk of marketing budgets.

With so much of our time being spent optimizing for user experience and so much of our work measured on conversions, SEM has become a major part of our marketing roadmap — a new way to optimize your brand without leaving your desk.

Understanding the success of your search campaigns is a must for any business looking to drive traffic to their website. To better understand the effectiveness of SEM, let’s look at the research.

In An Overcrowded Space, SEM Finds Your Niche

SEM’s effectiveness is dependent on how strategic you are in your roadmap.

When your tasks and goals are clearly defined, and you have a little wiggle room for experimentation, SEM will be a consistent lead generation for your business.

“Search engine marketing and search engine optimization are critically important to online businesses. You can spend every penny you have on a website, but it will all be for nothing if nobody knows your site is there.” — Marc Ostrofsky, Author of Get Rich Quick

Take a look at these case studies to investigate how SEM can be a lead generator.

Teri Merrit discusses how Marriott International used SEM and SEO to drive demand and customer engagement to book group meetings. By setting growth metrics and tracking the analytics, they exceeded their total booking revenue, received a high conversion rate of 14%, and increased online submissions by 84%.

In 2015, Seer Interactive had 76,587 incremental conversions on Bing Ads for all their clients. One of their clients generated $461,159 in revenue from just Bing Ads! I’m not surprised because Bing has seen a massive 35% click growth year over year.

No, this isn’t magic. It’s the work of a great SEM strategy. Some industry experts would argue that it isn’t SEM itself, but rather improvements from the business as a whole. As you can see from above, the proof is in the numbers.

Search Ads Drive In-Store Sales

For businesses who want to see in-store sales, search ads seem to work the best.

Consider case studies like this one from Century Novelty. Utilizing Bing Shopping Campaigns Century, Novelty saw an increase in revenue by 1237% and return on investment grew by 20%. This isn’t shocking, as 25% of clicks on Bing Network are queried only through Bing.

Or, look at this study from Pinterest and Oracle Data Cloud. Together, they measured in-store sales of 26 different Promoted Pin categories. The results? Promoted Pins drove five times more incremental in-store sales per impression.

And, of course, Facebook recently launched several new local advertising options. French retailer E.Leclerc tested a Local Awareness campaign, and they saw 12% of clicks on their Facebook ads were then followed by an in-store visit within a week.

Chobani even saw a 9% increase in sales by utilizing SEM and SEO on multiple search engines.

As you can see above, research has proven that a strategic approach to search ads can not only build awareness but improve your bottom line.

SEO + PPC Create SEM Harmony

It is beneficial for a business to combine the powerful forces of SEO and PPC together if you need to produce results at a faster rate.

The reason is that new SEO tactics take time; since you don’t know what to expect from your competitors or the SERPs, you are inclined to create an SEO strategy for long-term growth.

With a PPC strategy, you know what lies ahead. Growth and lead generation require less time.
The combined efforts of SEM creates benefits in other ways too; it’s best to start with an idea and experiment to see what works best in your niche.

Let’s take a look at a few case studies:

  • Maryland Tub & Tile partnered with G3 Group to restructure their PPC campaigns and overhaul their SEO strategy. The combination of paid search and organic resulted in 325% increase in traffic.
  • Hedges & Company saw a 30% increase in sales from organic traffic and a 68% increase in PPC traffic with an automotive client.
  • Through targeting more relevant keyword terms, A/B testing, and creating content that attracts links, Digital Third Coast increased organic conversions by 49.4% and gained 851 view-through remarketing conversions for Olivet Nazarene University.

The SEM strategy you create impacts the overall goals of the business. When deciding what tactics will fill your marketing calendar, be specific; test until you discover what is most effective for your brand.

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See the original SEJ article

 

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Niche for Your Brand

Anna Crowe wrote this sponsored post for Search Engine Journal on behalf of Bing Network, and I found it to be a good summary of the current marketplace with useful links to case studies.

The Effectiveness of Search

SEM is considered one of the most powerful marketing channels. But does SEM really help drive traffic to your site?

It’s a question many search marketers have heard from clients, especially since SEM is taking up a large chunk of marketing budgets.

With so much of our time being spent optimizing for user experience and so much of our work measured on conversions, SEM has become a major part of our marketing roadmap — a new way to optimize your brand without leaving your desk.

Understanding the success of your search campaigns is a must for any business looking to drive traffic to their website. To better understand the effectiveness of SEM, let’s look at the research.

In An Overcrowded Space, SEM Finds Your Niche

SEM’s effectiveness is dependent on how strategic you are in your roadmap.

When your tasks and goals are clearly defined, and you have a little wiggle room for experimentation, SEM will be a consistent lead generation for your business.

“Search engine marketing and search engine optimization are critically important to online businesses. You can spend every penny you have on a website, but it will all be for nothing if nobody knows your site is there.” — Marc Ostrofsky, Author of Get Rich Quick

Take a look at these case studies to investigate how SEM can be a lead generator.

Teri Merrit discusses how Marriott International used SEM and SEO to drive demand and customer engagement to book group meetings. By setting growth metrics and tracking the analytics, they exceeded their total booking revenue, received a high conversion rate of 14%, and increased online submissions by 84%.

In 2015, Seer Interactive had 76,587 incremental conversions on Bing Ads for all their clients. One of their clients generated $461,159 in revenue from just Bing Ads! I’m not surprised because Bing has seen a massive 35% click growth year over year.

No, this isn’t magic. It’s the work of a great SEM strategy. Some industry experts would argue that it isn’t SEM itself, but rather improvements from the business as a whole. As you can see from above, the proof is in the numbers.

Search Ads Drive In-Store Sales

For businesses who want to see in-store sales, search ads seem to work the best.

Consider case studies like this one from Century Novelty. Utilizing Bing Shopping Campaigns Century, Novelty saw an increase in revenue by 1237% and return on investment grew by 20%. This isn’t shocking, as 25% of clicks on Bing Network are queried only through Bing.

Or, look at this study from Pinterest and Oracle Data Cloud. Together, they measured in-store sales of 26 different Promoted Pin categories. The results? Promoted Pins drove five times more incremental in-store sales per impression.

And, of course, Facebook recently launched several new local advertising options. French retailer E.Leclerc tested a Local Awareness campaign, and they saw 12% of clicks on their Facebook ads were then followed by an in-store visit within a week.

Chobani even saw a 9% increase in sales by utilizing SEM and SEO on multiple search engines.

As you can see above, research has proven that a strategic approach to search ads can not only build awareness but improve your bottom line.

SEO + PPC Create SEM Harmony

It is beneficial for a business to combine the powerful forces of SEO and PPC together if you need to produce results at a faster rate.

The reason is that new SEO tactics take time; since you don’t know what to expect from your competitors or the SERPs, you are inclined to create an SEO strategy for long-term growth.

With a PPC strategy, you know what lies ahead. Growth and lead generation require less time.
The combined efforts of SEM creates benefits in other ways too; it’s best to start with an idea and experiment to see what works best in your niche.

Let’s take a look at a few case studies:
  • Maryland Tub & Tile partnered with G3 Group to restructure their PPC campaigns and overhaul their SEO strategy. The combination of paid search and organic resulted in 325% increase in traffic.
  • Hedges & Company saw a 30% increase in sales from organic traffic and a 68% increase in PPC traffic with an automotive client.
  • Through targeting more relevant keyword terms, A/B testing, and creating content that attracts links, Digital Third Coast increased organic conversions by 49.4% and gained 851 view-through remarketing conversions for Olivet Nazarene University.

The SEM strategy you create impacts the overall goals of the business. When deciding what tactics will fill your marketing calendar, be specific; test until you discover what is most effective for your brand.

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Check out the original article

 

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Argument for Organic

Why Organic Search Results Provide Higher Value to Users

There are basically two ways of online advertising, and it’s paid advertising and SEO (search engine optimization). Both of these advertising techniques work great if you know how to properly structure it. But there are a few distinctions between them. One huge benefit of SEO is that organic search results are considered as free cool information and not an advert that is trying to sell something. Basically, people naturally get to think, that those organic search results between the top and the bottom ads, are non-commercial, provided by independent bloggers and news sites. After a survey research that we did, asking the people what they normally prefer and go for, either ads at the top of the Google page or the organic search results, the majority of people said that they always click on organic searches, considering it a much more reliable source of information than paid ads.

This is the number one reason why we are convinced that getting the website or blog on the first page is so important. Besides, it requires extended knowledge of SEO to make it work for you, especially in the competitive market. I am not saying that the paid advertising doesn’t work, not at all. If you create a great ad copy for the specific product or service, it could be very well worth it and the traffic start coming to the website of an offer almost immediately, and it’s a great way to test the new product or service, how it performs on the market.

But when talking about the trust and growth of a business, implementing SEO is very important. As I mentioned earlier, to properly execute an SEO campaign requires very deep knowledge and skills, mainly in the highly competitive niches. It also takes some time and patience until you see the results, but once the website gets to the first page of Google, it’s just a matter of maintaining the position and the organic traffic just rolls in 24 hours, 7 days a week. Another huge benefit of the organic search listing is that you can rank the website or blog on the first page for the keywords and phrases where some businesses pay easily around between 100 – 300 dollars per click! So, hopefully, everyone can see the value of organic search results.

Let me ask the simple question. How much do you think that the particular business is willing to pay to the SEO expert to get their website on the first page of Google if they are easily willing to pay 200 dollars per a single click to their website or an offer?! I know, it’s crazy to imagine the monthly budget of these companies and businesses, it’s going to 4 – 5 figures per month spent on advertising. So, if I can cut down the cost to half for them by implementing the advanced SEO skills and strategies, do you think that they would go fo it? There is no doubt they will.

And it gets all even better.

I and a couple of other SEO professionals have developed the technique that can secure even more than one spot on the first page of Google, just like shown in the video and screenshot. By maintaining more than one position on the first page, the chances that someone (potential customer) will click and end up on your website are much higher.

Educating the Businesses

By being in the SEO business for a good while, I can see that there so many businesses and even a big multi-million dollar companies that still have no much of a clue about what is SEO and how exactly it could help them in their business. So, as I mentioned before and the first thing that I always say to the business owner is, that it’s just another way of online advertising without actual advertising. The majority of internet users don’t consider it as ads, but cool, independent and free info.

We really should educate all business on this subject and present them the undeniable benefits of search engine optimization for their business. I have seen so many sceptic business owners when trying to explain what is SEO, that they literally thought that I am some kind of confidence trickster making this stuff up. But believe that this is going to be more important year by year, and businesses that will hop on the fast accelerating train now will gain the massive advantage against those that stayed behind because of their scepticism. So, I urge all the business owners to seriously consider this fact and their current situation and place in the market.

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See the original article plus graphics at Business2Community

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Skyscrapers and Premiums

Small businesses in particular cannot escape the importance of link building.  This post provides some great tips.

6 strategies to build links for your small business website in 2016

Small business owners often don’t know where to start when it comes to local link-building for SEO, so columnist Pratik Dholakiya shares his tips and suggestions.

Link building remains the cornerstone of most search engine optimization efforts. According to Moz’s “2015 Search Engine Ranking Factors Study,” links have the strongest association with higher search rankings of all the (known) attributes used by Google in its core ranking algorithm.

But one of the most common issues for small businesses is the struggle to build quality links. Lacking familiarity with current SEO best practices, many small firms still fall for the infamous black hat tactics to get links.

That is a mistake.

You see, search engines will continue to crack down on link exchanges, paid anchor placements and other shady approaches to building links.

Therefore, it is best to avoid these “old school” methods and focus on relevant, authoritative links that drive real traffic. Here are six ways to build such links for your small business website in 2016:

  1. Partner with niche-specific influencers

Niche-specific influencers have connections with readers that bypass the “industry atmosphere” and form meaningful relationships. You can establish content partnerships with influencers who serve relevant content to your target audience.

For instance, you can be a regular contributor to their blogs and occasionally link out to your own landing pages. Consumers are more likely to trust these links over one or two sponsored posts for two reasons:

  • They trust the influencer to only allow contributors who provide value; and
  • a regular contribution from a small business owner/employee is seen as an honest contribution.

Consider the case of Paul Downs, a contributor at The New York Times’s You’re the Boss blog (now discontinued). He started a custom furniture business in 1986 and grew it over the years, sharing his expertise with other small business owners through his column.

He has a link back to his website from The New York Times. He achieved this link and exposure through his regular contribution to the blog, which offers advice to small business owners.

  1. Leverage local partnerships

If you’re addressing people in a particular geographic area, then forming partnerships with local organizations can be an opportunity to get backlinks from their websites. In that case, you may already have existing partnerships, so all you need to do is get in touch with partner websites for link placement.

Aim for locally owned franchises and businesses instead of big corporations. You can also replicate the first link-building strategy by contributing to local blogs. And apart from local business blogs, you may come across official community blogs and local news blogs that welcome guest contributions.

Another thing you can do is sponsor local events that cater to small businesses. This can get you links from the event’s sponsorship page.

Apart from events, you can sponsor award ceremonies, conferences and charities.

  1. Use the skyscraper technique

Invented by Brian Dean of Backlinko, this technique simplifies the link-building process by not requiring you to reinvent the wheel. Instead of coming up with new content ideas week after week, you can simply take what’s working for others (including your competitors!) and improve upon it. There are three steps to the skyscraper technique:

  1. Discover top-performing content in your niche. Top-performing content can be determined based on the number of times it has been shared on social media or the quality of links pointing to it. You can use a tool like BuzzSumo to search the content that has performed well and a tool like Open Site Explorer to analyze the quality of its backlinks.
  1. Create something better. Perhaps the top-performing content is low on practical examples or case studies. Or maybe it doesn’t go into as much detail as it could. You can deliver more value on the same theme by creating a more in-depth or comprehensive piece of content on the same topic.
  2. Promote your content via outreach. Reach out to relevant websites and influencers via email and social media. (Hint: Look at websites and influencers that are already linking to the content you’re improving upon.) Give them a heads-up about the new piece, and that includes the most recent information and examples.

The skyscraper technique is also considered “content marketing for link builders.” Various reports reveal that this technique has helped businesses build organic links and drive traffic to their websites.

  1. Search for business mentions

Finding business mentions that do not include links on community resource pages, forums and so on is a convenient and cost-effective way to build links. In addition to using the brand name when trying to uncover backlink opportunities, use other relevant keywords that would be listed on the page in addition to your business name to narrow down your search.

With BrandMentions, the web mentions database, you can discover mentions of your business and relevant keywords in the last 24 hours, last week and last month. Choosing “English” as the preferred language will further narrow down mentions. BrandMentions can be used with Google Alerts to research new mentions.

 

After you click on a particular URL, use CTRL+F (find function) to search for your brand on the page. You may find articles that are dedicated to your business or indirectly mention your business but don’t include a link to your website. Get in touch with the authors of these articles and ask for link insertion.

  1. Create a resource page

Depending on your locality, you can create a local resource page that includes useful information for small businesses in your area. For instance, if you’re a clothing retailer in Washington, DC, you can create a list of the best wholesalers and manufacturers in your city.

When you provide useful information, other businesses (even competitors) will link to your resource page. You can partner with local subject matter experts to create information-rich resource pages; the efforts put into these pages will pay off once they capture the attention of businesses in the industry.

 

A resource page can then be cited when participating in Q&A websites and local business forums. It might even land you interviews and guest appearances (webinars, podcasts and so on), providing opportunities to build links from participated content.

Also, check sites like Help a Reporter Out for additional linking opportunities.

  1. Create premium content

If you want to get backlinks from major publications and leading industry blogs, you need to create premium content — content that demonstrates thought leadership and isn’t just a complication of tips or lists from other small business blogs.

Premium content includes:

  • white papers;
  • e-books;
  • resource pages;
  • in-depth blog posts;
  • podcasts;
  • case studies;
  • infographics; and
  • co-created guest posts.

While premium content pieces require more time for completion, they have a much higher chance of being linked to than a standard blog post.

Partnering with other businesses that are not direct competitors can cut costs while giving all partners an opportunity to attract authority links.

Final thoughts

Before your competitors gain an edge over your website in SERPs, make a resolution to jump on the link-building bandwagon. The strategies mentioned above will help you gain links and enjoy better search rankings for your website.

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See original post including graphic examples at Search Engine Land.

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Analysis Tools for SEM

Opace reveals 5 effective search engine marketing tools you need to know about

These days, everything is online and that’s why virtually every company has a website and most are now active on social media. But, if you really want to make the most of your digital marketing it is important that you are always a step ahead of your competitors who are in the same field.

Mr. David Bryan, Managing Director at Birmingham SEO agency Opace comments “Search engine marketing has got a bad reputation over recent years but it’s never been so important. Whether it’s organic SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) or paid advertising using AdWords or Bing, search engine marketing is at the heart of most businesses’ digital marketing strategies”. These five search engine marketing tools suggested by Opace will help to promote your website by boosting its visibility on search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo.

Rank Checking Tools: Understanding keywords and their rankings is critical to any SEO campaign.SEO professionals need to keep a check on three basic parameters of any SEO campaign they are working upon. They are – profit, trend of traffic and conversions. Rank checking tools often help in analyzing how well a specific keyword or group of keywords will perform on a particular search engine and where that website ranks for that keyword. They also help in showing how much a particular keyword’s popularity and ranking has grown over time. It has a special feature that displays how your ranking has changed with respect to time. Two rank checking tools that we would recommend are – Moz.com’s Rank Tracker and Link Assistant’s Rank Tracker.

Link Analysis Tools: The link analysis tool is also an essential part of any SEO campaign. It provides in-depth data about historic inbound links and also helps to detect fresh links. Many modern tools also help to identify link spam, negative SEO or links which may contribute to a potential Google/Penguin penalty. Tools often also help users to download all of the links in Excel or CSV format, providing valuable data such as the IP address, domain age, Domain Authority (DA), Google Page Rank (PR), Trust Flow, penalty risk, anchor text and much more. The most important tool is Google Search Console (formally known as Webmaster Tools).The tool is free and provides the most important source of inbound links data available as it’s coming directly from Google. The other tool that would recommend is Open Site Explorer by Moz.com.

Search Analytics Tools: Having good search analytics is a crucial marketing tool. They provide a graphical or numerical presentation of how much traffic a website is attracting, how good the traffic is (bounce rate, time on site, conversions, etc), where the traffic is coming from (clicks, referrals, paid advertising, etc) and provide an indication of how well users are engaging with the content. If used properly, these tools will provide invaluable data and show how successful your marketing efforts are. Google Analytics is probably the most well know and data-rich tool available. It’s also free which a major benefit is. A slightly different tool that we would recommend is Hot Jar, which shows visitors active on your website in real-time and in a highly visual way, so that you can see where they’re clicking and scrolling. The tool will even capture video recordings to show the user’s journey on your site.

Competitive Research Tool: Various data providing services have centered on providing competitor research and comparative data to their clients over a long period of time. Competitive research tools can provide a lot of useful data, including the best keywords to use, percentage of traffic driven by a particular keyword and data showing competitor links and marketing efforts (e.g. social metrics). These tools often help to differentiate among the traffic driven by paid search ads and organic search. Some popular competitive research tools include Google Trends, SEMRush, Alexa and HitWise.

Keyword Research Tools: Keywords (or key phrases) are considered to be the soul of search on any search engine. In order to get your organic listing or ad to the top of the search page it is necessary to really understand the keyword and what it’s going to take to get you to the top. In organic search, it’s important to know the search volume, how many other sites are ranking for the keyword/phrase and how well established those sites are – understanding their age, popularity, inbound links and social metrics is important.

For paid advertising, such as Google AdWords, it’s necessary to identify and bid for the right keywords, so you need to understand the competition and set a suitable ‘cost per click’ bid and campaign budget. It is advisable not to make any hasty decisions while selecting keywords or go for a “carpet bomb” approach as you will exceed your budget very quickly and won’t get much meaningful data from it. The most popular keyword research tool is Google Keyword Planner (formally known as the AdWords Keyword Tool) which can be used for both organic SEO and paid search advertising. Other tools such as Keyword Spy can also provide valuable data.

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Read the original Examiner article here

 

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Social’s Push and Search’s Pull

I’m republishing the first in a series on cross-channel marketing by columnist Josh Dreller.  He discusses how paid search and paid social efforts can work together to improve overall marketing efforts in this post.

The State Of Cross-Channel Paid Search, Part 1: SEM & Social

In just about every survey ever conducted on the value of a cross-channel marketing approach, most marketers acknowledge that using coordinated marketing channels has the potential to be more valuable than operating siloed channels individually.

Of course, that’s an easy thing for marketers to theoretically agree with…

Meanwhile, in almost every survey conducted on the current state of cross-channel marketing, a minority of marketers feel that their organizations are armed and ready to coordinate multiple channels.

Paid search has historically been a very siloed channel with its own metrics, processes and tools. It’s almost become its own universe, where even the best-paid search marketers have little understanding of how other marketing channels work.

But when you think about the fact that so many other channels eventually drive consumers to search engines, wouldn’t it be better if search marketers took a stronger position on how and where paid search can play in the cross-channel world?

The truth, search pros, is that your leadership is needed.

What’s Your Cross-Channel Point Of View For SEM?

If you are a paid search marketer who is reading this, what level of understanding do you have of how paid search can drive value to the rest of the channels in the marketing plan?

Put yourself in this hypothetical solution: Your boss (or your client, if you’re at an agency) has called all of the channel managers together for a week-long internal summit to figure out how to better coordinate a holistic marketing plan.

You’re up first. What do you say?

  • What’s your point of view on how SEM impacts and influences other channels?
  • How do other channels impact and influence SEM?
  • If you could make changes to move SEM towards omnichannel nirvana, what would be your plan for the next 12 months?
  • What would be the action steps required by your team to accomplish this?
  • What would be your “asks” to the other channel managers?

Without question, marketing is headed towards a coordinated, cross-channel approach. There are simply too many dollars on the line, and today’s consumer path-to-purchase is just too complicated to expect siloed marketing channels to have the impact they once did.

What will your place be in the cross-channel world? Over the next several posts, I will outline paid search’s current relationship with the other major marketing channels in order to kick-start your own thinking process and be prepared for the next (inevitable) evolution of this industry.

In the first post of this series, we will explore the relationship between paid search and social advertising.

As consumer social media adoption began to rise in the mid- to late 2000s, the first marketing angle with social was leveraging the organic opportunities with Facebook, Twitter and other early social media sites.

PR firms (and then social agencies) were the first to claim this territory, as organic social falls more into the marcom category than the advertising category. It was around this time that “social gurus” and “social ninjas” began to spring up to set their leadership in this space. The popular social tools at that time were strictly focused on organic posting and management.

As Facebook and other social publishers began to release ad platforms, brands began allocating some rather significant budgets toward social advertising, and it became increasingly clear that the PR and social agencies’ organic search expertise wasn’t translating as well in the paid media space.

Thus, the eventual stewardship of social advertising was passed to search agencies, whose expertise in bid management, text ad generation and ad analytics proved them to be better equipped to succeed in the auction-based channel.

Of course, not all social advertising is run by former or current search practitioners, but a large portion of enterprise-level spending (i.e., $200K+/mo) in the social sphere is funneled through marketers primarily trained in paid search.

With search folks taking over social advertising, the channel has flourished, with double-digit growth in the US expected to continue through 2017.

I’m not going to make the case that social advertising’s meteoric rise is attributed to search marketers taking over the channel. However, every new marketing channel takes time to build best practices, determine the right KPIs and metrics and figure out how to optimize to increase performance.

Search marketers and agencies brought proven tactics and solid thinking from almost a decade of paid search experience to social advertising. This immediately brought a comfort level with social advertising that brands could bank on.

Although it would be hard to go back and quantify the effect that this “instant expertise” had on brand adoption of social advertising, it would be hard to ignore how important a role search marketers played in the channel’s rapid growth.

Cross-Channel Tools Still Nascent With Paid Search & Social Advertising

The evolution of digital marketing channels closely follows the evolution of the tools available. For example, no matter how badly a marketer might want to run Reach and Frequency targeting on Facebook, if Facebook had never opened up that option in Power Editor, then it would be impossible to utilize that tactic.

The cross-channel tools in the digital marketing industry are really few and far between, as most platforms are truly single-point solutions (even if they have some cross-channel features). There has been some significant innovation in cross-channel measurement over the years, but media buying platforms have been slow to react.

It’s not their fault. Marketers themselves haven’t demanded cross-channel tools, so technology providers continue to invest primarily in silos.

Some of the larger paid search tech vendors have built some integration between their search and social tools, but it would be a stretch to say that a true cross-channel platform exists for these channels — which is a surprise based on the fact that so many search marketers are now today’s social ad practitioners.

The biggest difference between search and social is also what makes them complement each other so well.

Paid search is a pull medium, meaning that it requires a consumer to query a search engine to deliver an ad. This is a fantastic marketing channel because it reaches consumers while they’re in research mode and puts relevant ads in front of them based on their intent.

Social advertising is a push medium, meaning that advertisers simply push ads to consumers. Although a pull medium like paid search has proven to be an incredibly powerful way to capture consumer intent, it is limited by the need for consumers to search. Without a query, paid search does not have a way to reach non-searching consumers.

Thus, social advertising is a great way to generate the interest and demand that search can fulfill. And the relationship between these two channels is even more complex than that. Social can generate awareness, which drives consumers to search. Once they convert, they may then broadcast your products or services to their friends and families on social channels, which then sparks more searches.

Truly understanding how your customer base is impacted by both channels working well together will build cross-channel synergy that has more power than each channel working independently.

Moving Forward…

What are some other ways you can benefit from coordinating paid search with social advertising?

What are some ways paid search can help social advertising?

Cross-channel marketing is not easy when each channel has evolved separately in its own bubble. Measurement solutions like attribution can bring an organization together to help put the puzzle together.

But it is going to require more than simply looking back on campaign performance. Advertisers need leaders to reach across the aisle to their counterparts and think outside the box about how to best work with each other.

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First published by  Josh Dreller on January 27, 2016 at 9:08 am.  See the original with great graphics at SearchEngineLand .

 

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Local Search Lookout

5 Trends In Local Search

Columnist Jason Decker reviews the year’s biggest developments in local search marketing. Which of these has impacted you the most?

Local Search is a constantly changing landscape, and that certainly has been the case in 2015! The power of local search for a local business cannot be underestimated. A Bright Local study found that local search is the most effective digital marketing channel for local businesses. Here are my top five takeaways from a crazy year in local search.

  1. From Seven To Three, The Google Snack Pack

In my opinion, the single biggest change in local search in 2015 was the number of local resultsdropping from seven to three on Google’s search engine results page (SERP). These results are now lower on the page, too, with local ads taking up more premium space.

Don’t expect this to change! It’s now more important than ever to be in a top-three position in Google local results. Local businesses need to prepare, because “pay to play” is here to stay.

  1. Near Me & Location-Based Services

A recent Google study indicates that for local searches involving “near me” in 2014, 80% were conducted on a mobile device. Proximity searches (where the searcher’s location is automatically determined via phone location and IP address) are an increasingly important local ranking factor.

While you can’t optimize for each searcher’s location, local marketers must make sure that your local presence is strong in terms of important ranking factors such as NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number). Here are a few tips:

Make sure that your NAP is accurate and prominently listed on your website.

Add appropriate structured data markup to improve local search results and “near me” search results.

Ensure city and state appear in your title tags.

Ensure strong local links.

Ensure consistency of NAP across all local directory citations.

  1. Mobile-Friendly Site Required!

Earlier this year, Google basically demanded that all businesses have a mobile-friendly website. Many businesses that didn’t provide searchers with a good mobile experience saw significant drops in their mobile search results. Mobilegeddon was upon us.

With mobile searches now edging out desktop searches in the United States, a mobile website cannot be ignored. Along with a mobile-friendly website, a full-blown mobile marketing strategy must be in place to capitalize on the 78% of mobile local searches that result in an offline purchases. (For example, a search for “pizza delivery” will likely result in a purchase soon after.)

  1. Behavioral Influences

Searcher behavior has a larger impact on the algorithm than ever before. Sites with a low click-through rate, high bounce rate, or low time-on-site are being negatively impacted.

Study your analytics data. If visitors are bouncing at a high rate or exiting quickly, evaluate your site’s content, usability and paths-to-conversion. For example, make sure that the content in your organic listing is aligned with the content on the landing page. Last but not least, ensure your images and messaging are compelling.

  1. Naming Confusion Continues

So many names! “Google Local,” “Google Plus Local,” “Google Maps,” “Google My Business.” Which one is it? It’s becoming difficult for even the experts to keep up with all the name changes, and the lack of clear communication from Google doesn’t help.

What we know is that Google My Business is the primary interface for local business owners and their agencies (for now). We have recently seen Google move local business data and reviews away from the Google Plus social network. For example, practices such as Google +1’s and sharing information on the Google Plus network appear to be obsolete.

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Originally published in Search Engine Land 12/30/15 thanks to Jason Decker.

 

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Most Expensive Paid Search Terms

AdGooroo conducted a study in the first half of 2015 concluding “mesothelioma” (TX) is the most expensive single category to buy a keyword in.  Attorneys who are willing to pay over $270 per click for these targeted searches because of the potential financial rewards if a plaintiff they represent wins a lawsuit.  However, other categories, such as credit reports and insurance receive more search traffic and higher overall ad spending.

Below are summaries of each.  Full report at MarketingProfs.com.

 

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