On August 1 2018, Google rolled out a new algorithm search update, targeting broad searches across the globe.
This was the third algorithm update of the year, although many professionals in the SEO community have called this the biggest update since Penguin in 2012.
The algorithm update was picked up by all search monitoring tools as we saw a spike around the beginning of August and continued fluctuations for around one week.
Advanced web rankings
Which sectors were impacted the most?
Research by Sistrix highlighted that the industries affected the most were ‘Your Money or Your Life,’ known as YMYL for short, which relates to the health and finance sectors, followed by eCommerce sites. Companies that saw notable drops included Pandora (-28%) My Protein (-24%) and Wales NHS (-18%).
Which SEO techniques were penalized and rewarded?
Whilst Google has not disclosed much information on the features of this algorithm update, the SEO forums and communities have been exchanging their thoughts and have highlighted the following factors:
What you can do to stay on top
Google has responded to queries on twitter by saying that ‘you should not do anything’ if you have been penalized and ‘there is no quick fix.’ But if you have been stung, why suffer from worse search results and less traffic? We highlight some key pointers below:
Mobile first: Mobile first-indexing is now fully under way, and those websites that do not have a mobile version, are not responsive or have a separate mobile site – will now face the music.
A number of sites have been complaining this month about not ranking for their brand name – however, this has coincided by not having a mobile version of their website.
In addition to a simple mobile design, mobile-friendly sites can maximize their results under Google’s mobile-first index by:
Content: In a world where content is king, Google has hinted for website content have expertise, authority and trust, known as (E-A-T). This is particularly relevant for the “Your Money, Your Life’ industry of health and money – where they would like medical information to be distributed by professors and doctors, rather than bloggers gaming the SEO system.
As the story goes, typing your health symptoms into Google can fill you with paranoia and anxiety – but a shift towards more authoritative content should make this a thing of the past.
But how can Google tell if an article about diabetes, cancer or disease is written by an expert or not? Whilst there are not any ‘quick fixes,’ it is common sense that bloggers are more likely to reference other websites more, since they are basing their writing on other opinions. When compared to a legitimate medical professional, they are simply writing their opinion without needing to reference.
In the case of health insurance comparison website MediCompare, they have historically used bloggers to ramp up their content and when the algorithm hit, their rankings fell like a stone.
However, a removal of all their external links, an increase in internal links and removing of heavy content, showed a recovery within 48 hours:
1st – 12th August
13th – 15th August
Speed: Site speed and loading time have been on Google’s radar for years and while it has always been a ranking factor, this is now crucial for good results. Previously we might have seen sites ranking at position 1 despite poor site speed, but this may no longer be the case.
Subsequently, SEOs and designers should now look at building websites with site speed in mind and simple ways to do this include browse caching, compressing images to below 100kb and compressing code where possible. Useful tools to assess your site speed include GTmetrix and of course, Googles Pagespeed Insights.
Overall, it appears the algorithm update is geared towards content being more authoritative and by providing users a better experience on mobile and with faster loading times across all devices. This certainly makes SEO harder than before – as ranking a site with a basic design and adding content is becoming a thing of the past. Whilst the health industry was clearly the biggest target in this algorithm update, SEO professionals must truly stay on top of the game. Otherwise we could find this algorithm update having a significant impact on all other industries and changing the face of SEO as we know it.
The world has fundamentally and irreversibly changed; since the launch of the smartphone, technology has enabled on-demand access to information and opened a Pandora’s box full of anything our hearts desire. This is challenging for marketers to find new ways to connect with audiences. For search engines, this was a turning point in the services that they offer.
Where before, “web search” brands – the likes of Google, Yahoo, Bing and Baidu – were consumers’ first port of call, they are now rapidly losing share to new competition (particularly Amazon, WeChat and Facebook) and formats (primarily from voice and apps).
Personalization has become a key battleground too, as customers don’t just want quick results, but tailored suggestions that are directly relevant to their lives. Search engines are having to adapt to stay relevant, bringing a much-needed change in dynamic between SEOs and the major players in the space.
Adapting search engines to the mobile-first user
Before discussing how to react to the change, it’s important to consider how and why we are in the situation we find ourselves in. With the launch of the App Store in 2008, users have been able to connect directly with the brands they love. But historically, this was only valuable if you knew exactly what you wanted and, more importantly, unhelpful if you sought to browse products from multiple providers.
With users turning to search to fulfill their needs, the apps evolved. While search engines gave customers choice, they were not able to provide a recommendation.
There was a growing user need for the ability to aggregate and tailor information; to provide choice, but save time browsing – and it was in this space, coupled with the increasing ubiquity of mobile technology, that Airbnb, Amazon and other brands started to thrive.
These platforms have become synonymous with the services they provide. We no longer want to browse across different websites to find the products we need, when we can look in one place – and so the balance shifted from search more towards apps.
Search engines are evolving to counter this challenge. A great example of this is Google Maps, which (albeit still an industry-leading service) has massively improved the features it offers to business (e.g. through Posts) and agencies via its Google My Business platform.
But there is a clear change in approach from Google around this; where before the focus was on collating information and limiting the customization options, this has shifted to providing marketers (and small businesses) with an extensive set of tools through which to enhance their listing and stand out from the crowd – and, importantly, increased support and guidance on how to use these.
The theme of search engines working more closely with search marketers is important, as this is both a necessity for both parties – and an opportunity.
Taking the step from ten blue links to “position zero”
Customer attention spans are dropping to seconds. This is a behavioral change that will underpin all future developments in the search space. As customers’ appetite for knowledge grows, we provide more information and the technology to allow for faster, more informal ways to consume this content.
I believe that as humans, we’ve passed the critical moment from which we cannot return; our brains are now fundamentally hardwired to continue looking for the next thing, and to succeed, marketers need to consider this as a broader psychological change. One that alters the way we do everything, not just create more content to slake our perennial thirst for more.
But what has this got do with search? In short, everything – and we’re already seeing the output of this change. As users seek to click less, the number of featured snippets showing for queries is rapidly increasing and there is an ever-growing number of rich result formats being launched into the wild.
These not only provide answers directly to searchers but, in many cases, offer a similar experience to the apps that search engines are losing out to. And yet, for some, “optimizing for position zero” has become the new “build a responsive site”, pre-Mobilegeddon.
A well-intentioned idea, but one that will not be executed upon until it is too late. This is ultimately the wrong approach and one that will cost your brand, business or clients dearly if you wait.
Unlike mobile, optimizing for answer queries is difficult. To start with, the latest stats put the number of new, unique queries seen every day at around 15%. The optimist will say this is an opportunity and should be a key area of focus for growth. However, the realist will rightly ask how you can create a response to a query that doesn’t yet exist.
This comes down to a broad change in mindset. Often, we are limited in thinking only about how to keep customers in the conversion funnel, or “customer transaction management” as Martin Newman of Practicology recently referred to it.
This approach will yield a good return, if you can make it work, but the space will be competitive (unless you have a truly unique product or service) and it’s likely someone will have already beat you to the punch.
Rather, we need to do true “customer relationship management” and think about the touchpoints you could have with your customers, based on what they need, outside of your brand.
Here, you’ll find searches that are yet to be owned, in places your competitors aren’t even looking – but your customers are.
A world in color, not two hundred ranking factors
Identifying the opportunity is, however, only part of the challenge. You may now have a better understanding of which area to target, but appearing in that space is another matter entirely.
When optimizing for the traditional ten blue links, search marketers often revert to the original concept of 200 ranking factors. This breaks down into themes of focus – accessibility, relevancy, authority, etc. – but the basis of our strategy is to satisfy a predetermined list of items we believe (through industry-wide testing and experience) have an impact.
However, I believe this is a limiting view, although that’s not to say that this approach doesn’t still work – it does – but it’s the difference between watching a film in black and white versus full color. In both you’ll see what’s happening: in color you’ll notice the detail, and this will add to your knowledge of the plot and the world the story is based in.
Google uses an algorithm to rank its results; this is the first thing SEOs learn when starting out. We also know that it uses machine learning to power parts of this and to test new features.
However (and this is key to understanding how to optimize for position zero), Google has access to trillions of data points around search and we know that, since 2012, it has mapped these out into “things, not strings”. This isn’t something we consider when focusing on our core 200 factors, but the information it receives clearly comes from somewhere and where there is a process to collate, there is an opportunity to optimize for this.
Google lists three steps to how search works – crawling, indexing and serving – but there’s a fourth. If crawling is “finding” the information, indexing is “cataloguing” and “storing” it, and serving is deciding how to display this back to users, we’re missing a step around “understanding” the information; often referred to as “parsing”. This is the part we know (definitively) the least about, but is fundamental to showing as an answer result.
This concept was deftly explained by Gianluca Fiorelli in the 2016 revision of his “Wake up SEOs, the new Google is here” post. Over the past 18 months, one thing has become clear – this is truly the future.
However, many still believe that “knowledge graph optimization” still centers around adding structured data. Undoubtedly, this is important, but as Gianluca states, “semantics (or the links between concepts and language) is more than structured data” and that we need to consider both the code itself and the website architecture.
To succeed in today’s digital ecosystem, we must build well-structured repositories of knowledge that crawlers can use to quickly engage their time-poor, information-hungry audience.
We must look to the user journeys and touchpoints our customers want to take, not the ones we think we should create for them. To again quote Martin Newman, “we must become customer-obsessed or die”.
Clutch’s survey of 384 consumers of online business content found that 87% of respondents frequently encounter business content using search engines, slightly more than the 85% who find business content through social media and 75% who encounter content most frequently on company websites.
The study indicates that B2B audiences are avid consumers of business content online and use content to inform their purchasing decisions.
By optimizing content for SEO and for their target customers, companies can engage B2B audiences online and work to transition them through their sales funnel to conversion.
B2B audiences consume content frequently and according to their purchasing intent
Clutch’s survey supports industry research that B2B customers extensively research companies and products online as part of their purchasing process.
The survey found that 88% of B2B audiences consume business content online at least once a week.
For the most part, the reasons why B2B audiences consume business content online reflects their buying intent and determines the type of content they prefer.
For example, 45% of B2B audiences read business content online to stay informed about industry trends, the most common reason cited among respondents.
This broad reasoning for consuming content demonstrates low purchasing intent. Thus, this group likely fits in the “awareness” stage of the conversion funnel and consumes content to learn more about a business or an industry before moving forward in their purchasing process.
As a result, they reported blogs and articles as their preferred type of content, since blogs and articles are more likely to focus on broader topics such as industry trends.
On the other hand, B2B audiences that read content to further research a company’s products or services, or to help them make a final purchasing decision, gravitate towards content that speaks to their high level of purchasing intent. Fittingly, this group prefers product descriptions and reviews more than other forms of online content.
SEO services allow businesses to engage B2B customers
The frequency at which B2B buyers use search as part of their purchasing journey, combined with the need to engage potential customers with broad content preferences, underscores the importance of effective SEO for B2B companies.
Investing in SEO helps B2B companies engage their target customers where they are: search engines. If companies are able to optimize their site and content for key search terms, they increase their chances of engaging their target customers through search.
“SEO remains an important way for B2B audiences to find content. Don’t forget, though, that it involves optimizing content not just for search engines, but also for the people behind the queries,” Kim Moutsos, vice president of editorial for the Content Marketing Institute, said in the report.
To optimize for specific audiences, businesses need to optimize their content according to their various sets of target audiences. To do this, they need to have a very solid understanding of their target customers and how they consume online content.
Customers at the bottom of the funnel, for example, are very intentional when they consume content online: they are specifically looking for content that discusses products, services, and providers that best fit their needs.
Diverse content marketing strategies help maximize engagement
Because B2B audiences demonstrate such a broad range of content preferences, both in terms of topics and format, businesses that want to engage them online need a wide-ranging content marketing strategy.
For example, creating a “state of the industry” report for a site blog helps to engage B2B buyers at the top of the funnel – those who read business content online to learn about industry trends.
To engage buyers near the middle of the funnel – who read business content online to review whether a company’s products can benefit their business – B2B companies need to create and maintain product pages and descriptions on their websites.
Finally, encouraging reviews from former clients and actively maintaining and populating listings on third-party directories helps businesses engage B2B customers at the bottom of the funnel – those who read content to make a decision about whether to purchase products or services from a business.
Understanding how audiences engage with content provides benefits for B2B companies
Clutch’s research ultimately underscores the value businesses can achieve when they understand how B2B audiences engage with content online.
Specifically, understanding the online channels and type of content that B2B audiences prefer, in addition to the reasons why they consume business content, can help companies create a content marketing strategy optimized to engage their target customers at different stages of the buying journey.
In addition, B2B companies also need to optimize their content for SEO to ensure that their target customers encounter it through search, their online channel of choice for finding business content.
Grayson Kemper is a content developer at Clutch, a research and reviews platform for B2B marketing and tech services and solutions. He specializes in SEO research and writing.
Google recently updated its search quality rating guidelines, which has had a profound impact on the way that content is created. Publishing a revised 164-page document, the leading search engine is now paying greater attention on what users are searching for and what information they end up reading.
The tech giant has not been afraid to say that it has a focus on enhancing the user experience across the platform, and the changes that have been introduced for content creators reinforce this statement for marketers around the world.
While well-crafted onsite content can help strengthen your brand’s message and highlight your industry expertise, you’ll also need to produce creative offsite content that will help your business secure the best online coverage across a range of publications to increase rankings while amplifying your brand.
There are multiple elements that cover on-site content, and when done correctly, effective on-site content can help increase your website’s search rankings. If you’re looking to become the go-to brand/service for your prospective customers, it’s crucial that you appear at the top of the results page.
Ultimately, blog content on your business website is there to support the user’s journey while providing them with the most insightful information that they need during their visit. This could also support them when making a purchase, as they see you as a more trustworthy figure. There are a few techniques you can use to make sure that your on-site blog content performs exceptionally well.
The first step to creating blog content is to understand who is reading it — usually this will be your main demographic who already have an interest in your products or services. Although you’ve positioned yourself as an authoritative figure, you need to speak to your website visitors as if they’re on your level for both acquisition and retention purposes.
You also want to avoid any industry jargon, as this can be an instant turn off for a reader. It’s important to be transparent with your audience and tell them the information that they need in a concise way that still delivers the same level of information.
You also need to use your blog content as a way to tell your audience that you’re better than your competitors. This can be achieved through showing off your USPs — whether these include next-day delivery or a lengthy warranty on products. If you’re creating an article on your site that drives information to the reader, they won’t mind you being slightly advertorial, as this can also be beneficial to them.
Internal links are a must in your blog post, but only if they are relevant. If you’re discussing a certain product or service that you offer, you should be linking to the relevant page to help improve the overall page authority.
It’s essential that you end your blog post with a call to action, because if a reader has made it all the way through your article, they’re already invested in your business and are more likely to perform an action.
Creating off-site content is completely different from making blog posts for your business website. This time, you’re not trying to appeal to your customers but to journalists and major publications that will drive authority to your website while having the ability to increase brand visibility.
It requires a full team of innovative and creative people to come up with outreach ideas that can support an SEO campaign. You should have an aim to create pieces of content that can be outreached to different publications that cover various niches. For example, an article that discusses how technology has improved health and safety in the workplace would appeal to technology, business and HR websites, all of which can improve your link building strategy for your online marketing campaigns.
This also means that you must carry out extensive research into what is relevant in the news. From an outreach perspective, this can allow you to see what type of content journalists are looking for and what is currently working well in terms of online coverage.
As well as this, you should also be looking at creating content around national or international events or celebrations — as editors are more likely to pick up this type of content because it will appeal to a wide audience and generate an overall buzz. Recently, we saw this with the World Cup and will soon see the same with the upcoming Christmas period.
Publications and journalists will not take content pieces that are too advertorial, as they want to provide readers with content that is informative and unbiased — but that is not to say they won’t credit you with either a brand mention or a link to one of your target pages.
Although content creation for both on-site and off-site may look similar, they can be very different in tone, format and objective.
We all know the immense importance of local search. It’s about dominating the SERPs for search queries which are closely tied to the user’s location, therefore driving customers to your business with a user intent that is very tangible and very immediate.
In terms of local searches, Google will rank your business based on relevance, distance and prominence. Your Google My Business listing plays a vital part in boosting your rankings for local search, as well as cementing your online presence outside of your website.
From our experience, Google My Business listings are definitely not leveraged enough. There is a tendency to set up a listing, verify it and then forget about it. Yet there are so many reasons to ensure you have a fully optimized listing and one that you update regularly. First and foremost, Google My Business profiles are still the most influential factor in local search results.
As if that wasn’t enough, it has never been more important to bolster your presence in the SERPs. SEOs are increasingly facing the woes of the ‘walled garden’, where users are no longer needing to click-through to websites. More often than not, all the information they could possibly need is available in the various features of the SERPs. Although this may be having a detrimental effect on website traffic, it doesn’t mean you can’t leverage the situation. It’s only increased the importance of having a fully optimized GMB profile that will rank highly and generate business.
With a top-notch GMB listing, you can rank highly in local packs, significantly boosting visibility and therefore engagement. It will also help bolster your appearance in Google Maps results, plus you can take advantage of Google reviews. And just in case you need another reason, the service is free. There are not many marketing tools quite as powerful as your Google My Business listing that are also completely free of charge. You’d be mad not to take advantage of this.
Set up and basics
Before we get onto the really juicy stuff, it’s worth covering the basics. Some of these may seem obvious but you would not believe how many times we see the same simple mistakes over and over.
Claim and verify
The first step is to figure out whether or not you already have a GMB listing. This is important because duplicated listings can occur and are just confusing for everyone involved. Even if you don’t recall having created one, a loving customer may have done it for you, or a rogue colleague being far too efficient. Simply do a quick Google search of your business (also try this in Google Maps) and see whether a profile pops up for your business. If so, you’ll need to claim it as your business. If not, you’ll need to create a new one. Once done, you’ll need to verify your ownership – Google will send a friendly postcard to your business address with a code. You’ll then need to enter the code to verify it. It’s all very MI5.
Fill out information
Once verified, don’t just stop there. Fill out all relevant information and ensure it is accurate and kept up to date. There is nothing more frustrating than a GMB listing with the wrong opening times: cue angry customers who could have had an extra hour in bed. Also, remember to add any special hours or holiday times.
Be sure to keep the business name as the business name – don’t go shoehorning any sneaky keywords in or you’ll be at risk of violating Google’s guidelines. Write an accurate and enticing description in line with Google’s guidelines and choose a relevant category. This can be a sticking point for many businesses who feel that none of the categories accurately describe the business. It can be very frustrating. Luckily, there’s a relatively new feature called ‘Services’ where you can add products and services to your business, which will help with the categorization process both from a search engine and user perspective.
Make sure you pay attention to NAP consistency – in other words, that your name, address and phone number, as well as any other information, are all consistent throughout the web. Check other directories and also your own website. It’s a simple concept but mistakes are surprisingly common and it can make a big difference to your local rankings.
Again, an often overlooked aspect of your GMB listing and one that can make a very noticeable difference to click-through rates. People are visual beings and some snazzy photos will help build an overall positive image of your business. Include a logo, a shot of your premises if applicable and any other photos which you think will help to effectively promote your business. Ensure they are professional, appealing and kept up to date. Think about what might help push a customer to a buying decision.
Be sure to follow Google’s best practices in terms of formatting; the recommended specifications are as follows:
You’ll see throughout your Dashboard that Google makes a point of reminding you about photos: “Businesses with recent photos typically receive more clicks to their websites.” They couldn’t make it much clearer than that – if Google says it, then do it.
As of January 2018, you can now add videos to a listing. It’s not something we’ve seen many businesses take advantage of, yet we all know how popular video content is. Any videos you add will appear within the photos section. Just be sure to follow Google’s video guidelines.
Google reviews have been around for a long time and it’s no secret how influential they are. In fact, positive reviews make 68% of consumers trust a local business more. Don’t just sit back and wait for the reviews to pour in. Even if you’ve got the most earth-shatteringly awesome business, people still need a gentle nudge towards the review section. Actively encourage reviews because if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
Raking in those positive reviews isn’t enough. It’s also good practice to respond to reviews, especially negative ones. Even if a review seems unfounded or overly rude, be sure to keep your cool and respond in a calm and collected manner.
A heavily underused feature of Google My Business profiles is the Google Posts section and it works in a similar way to posting on social media. Posts are displayed as mini updates in a carousel as part of your knowledge panel, although they expire after seven days. As with a standard social media post, you can add media, some copy and a link to a website. It’s always a good idea to include an image but be careful of them being cropped within Google Maps. It’s therefore worth checking how the image formats on both desktop and mobile.
You can use Google Posts for a range of different functions, but it may be helpful to use the four official post types as a guide: What’s New, Events, Offers, Products. The ‘What’s New’ post type could be populated with exciting announcements, general updates and your latest articles. Don’t forget to add a CTA to your posts to encourage engagement and conversions.
Google posts are very prominent in Google Search so if you’ve got something important to say, then say it!
Did you know that anyone can suggest an edit to your profile? That includes your worst enemy trying to sabotage your business. It’s therefore essential that you keep an eye on your profile and monitor any suggested changes, even if you don’t have any enemies. It could be a well-meaning customer who just doesn’t have a clue. Or it could be an internet troll. Either way, business owners are not always notified.
Users can also answer questions about your business, which may be a scary prospect for some. Google likes user-generated content as it’s all part of building a user-centric community. Just make sure that you’re keeping a wary eye out.
This is one of the most important sections of your GMB listing. It’s all very well having an all singing and all dancing listing, but the fun starts when you see how many conversions it’s generating. It’s pretty standard practice to track all key events and conversions on a website itself, but the conversions generated by the GMB listing are so frequently overlooked. Yet your GMB listing is often the first port of call for customers looking for a phone number to get in touch.
And you know the best bit about Insights? You can even find out whether customers found you via a direct brand search or via a ‘discovery’ search. This information is vital in terms of reporting, as it allows you to see how successful your SEO work has been in terms of propelling your GMB profile to the top of that local pack for key search terms.
Find out handy information like whether your GMB profile was viewed on Search or Maps, as well as customer actions, such as website visits, direction requests and phone calls. You can also see how successful your photos have been in comparison to other businesses like yours. These comparison graphs are great for pitting yourself against competitors to see where you may be falling behind on the optimization front. It also enables you to do a bit of testing with which photos work best for views and click-throughs. The Insights section is a treasure trove of information, so pay lots of attention to it.
Optimizing your Google My Business listing is not rocket science. It’s very straightforward and simple changes can have a profoundly positive effect on your SEO. Given it’s an area so often overlooked by other businesses, there really is a whole wealth of ranking opportunity up for grabs.
Google’s continued dominance as a search giant was evident in its third quarter earnings call, as it grew advertising revenue 18% year over year to $19.8 billion (Alphabet, as a total company, wasn’t too bad either, up 20% in total). Total paid clicks grew 33% year over year, while the cost per click dropped 11%.
So, what does this all mean? Simply put, Google is still a dominating force for both consumers, and therefore advertisers. This is an undeniable fact, but what is up for debate is how consumers and brands interact with the results Google returns to consumers.
Paid and organic increase
There have been significant updates over time in an effort to keep up with changing consumer and advertiser demands. This year so far, voice search, local listings, and mobile indexing have been big topics.
In an effort to monitor these changes, I have been tracking the search results activity for a number of brands over the past 9 years. I took 50 terms across five verticals to see how many times the same brand appears in paid and organic listings. The findings this year are very interesting.
Overall, it is clear that between Google’s changes (both algorithmically and an increasing number of paid listings), as well as each brand’s growing focus on search engine marketing, the amount of companies that appeared in both paid and organic listings reached its highest point in 9 years at 27%.
This was driven by the offset in categories going in two separate directions. Retail has gone down the last two consecutive years; I believe this is owing to an increase in Google shopping results, non-branded paid search, ROI challenges, retailers’ experiences, and of course, Amazon.
While retail is at a low, travel has increased consistently over time. I believe this category is growing as a result of direct booking on travel sites that comes with price guarantees.
The tech category also saw a spike. A big contributor to this trend is the branding that is occurring in the industry. Consumers aren’t just searching for smart speakers, they are specifically searching for Alexa and Google Home, for example.
These companies have done a good job circumventing shopping at the category level, and have jumped directly to branded terms. We’ve never seen a category have greater than 50% overlap of paid and organic brands listed. Given this trend, this year technology spiked to 68%.
Appearance in search results
In addition to brands balancing their paid and organic results, I also wanted to start watching how often four paid search ads, shopping listings and local listings appear in search results. Google has been offering these different ‘sections’ of the search results page in an effort to answer a consumer’s query with the information they might be looking for.
I’ve identified two major takeaways from this. First is the decrease of listings with four paid search ads. Year-over-year, every category is down, with the exception of the financial services industry, which makes sense given the competitive nature of this category and the high value of the products. These keywords have the highest CPCs of any category. So naturally, brands are willing to pay and Google is willing to take their money.
Shopping ads are fairly flat across these categories. They are prevalent for verticals where products can be purchased, and are not displayed in the other categories. Shopping is incredibly important for the retail vertical and I expect this trend to stay the same as the retail war with Amazon and consumers wages on.
The second trend is one that is not a surprise for BrandMuscle given our focus on local, but might be for many who are catching on to the importance of local in the mobile world. Local listings are now shown across all verticals and growing in key sectors like retail. This is extremely important to pay attention to for two reasons:
What can brands take from this?
So what are the key items brands need to think about with these trends?
Local listings are growing and demand attention. Do some searches for your category terms. Are local listings being shown? If so, are you included in those listings? These are ranked in two ways:
Are your locations name, address, and phone number accurate across Google, Facebook, Yelp, and others? You’d be surprised how often these are incorrect. Spend some time focusing on cleaning up this data and monitor your results – I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
It’s important to consider your integrated strategy for both paid and organic search. Brands are owning more and more of the search real estate. It is vital that you have a strategy that does not give up ground to these brands, but focuses on your core strengths and differentiators. For example, perhaps you can’t afford to buy the keyword ‘car insurance’, but you can own ‘SR-22 insurance’ as a term, given your company’s key strengths.
Keep a close eye on Google’s changes. Google has been very active in staying ahead of consumer expectations and technology. This includes switching to mobile indexing and launching new tools for Google My Business, among other items. This requires focus and planning for businesses to adopt these changes and stay best-in-class.
Search is one of the most important tools in a marketer’s toolbox. These trends and feature changes make it an exciting place to work and spend time. I look forward to watching how brands react to these trends and monitoring more changes in the future.
SEO and user-generated content have a complicated relationship. On the one hand, user-generated content can give search engines more information to work with, improve your rankings for long tail search traffic, and encourage community activity that generates links and other positive off-site signals. On the other hand, user-generated content can be low quality, redundant, spammy, it can dilute authority, and sometimes it can even earn you a manual action from Google.
Here are three ways how to best to leverage your user-generated content for positive results.
1. Consolidate your user-generated content
It’s well known in the SEO industry that pages with more words tend to rank better, while it’s also typically acknowledged that this isn’t always the case, since a page with a higher word count isn’t always the most useful page for a user based on their query.
The correlations are quite clear, however. Backlinko found that the average word count of a Google first page result was 1,890 words:
There are many potential reasons for this correlation. The one I find most convincing is by way of a related correlation. According to a study by Ahrefs, top ranking pages in Google typically tend to also rank for thousands of other related keywords:
Pages that users seem to enjoy for multiple related queries give Google more data to work with than pages that only do well for a handful of queries. Search engines have a more convincing reason to rank pages these. Since pages with long-form content generally go more in depth and approach a topic from more angles, they also tend to reference a wider number of queries. This creates a snowball effect whereby Google ranks the page for more and more keywords until it becomes a central hub for a topic.
One potential issue with user-generated content is that its comprehensiveness can be hit or miss. Some users may write 10,000 word essays, while others might write a dozen words or less. A good solution to this is to pool together user-generated content, consolidating related content onto a single page.
Consider what Patrick Curtis of Wall Street Oasis had to say about how they achieved a 32% boost in search traffic. A full 99% of the content on their site was user-generated, with the obvious issue of creating inconsistent quality and depth. A primary goal of reworking the site was “merge and purge,” consolidating the content from multiple discussions about the same topic into only the two or three URLs that were performing the best.
To accomplish this, they migrated the user-generated content from the lower-performing pages into the higher-performing pages, unpublished the low-performing pages, and set up 301 redirects from the low-performing pages to the high-performing ones.
Using statistical analysis, they found that consolidating pages resulted in an average boost of 14%, while updating the title and H1 tags boosted them by 9%. This got them out of a five-year “plateau of pain”:
To consolidate content, we recommend the following:
2. Enable user reviews
If you are running a marketplace or selling products, you should strongly consider incorporating user reviews into your product pages or otherwise on your site. Like consolidation, user-reviews boost the word count on your pages and give the search engines more information to work with.
User-reviews also align very well with Google’s quality rater guidelines. Aside from directly mentioning reviews as a way of judging the reputation of a site, Google’s quality rater guidelines are driven in large part by how well the purpose of the page aligns with the purpose the searcher is seeking with their query, and how well the content meets that purpose.
On-page user reviews, so long as they aren’t suspect, help users evaluate the quality of the product in a more trustworthy fashion than anything you can provide alone. In fact, 84% of users trust online reviews as much as they trust their friends.
If you’re concerned that anything less than a perfect five-star rating is going to hurt sales, this fear is unfounded. Surprisingly, product purchases are most positively influenced by reviews with an average star rating between 4.2 and 4.5, presumably because excessively high ratings are seen as suspicious.
Various studies tell us that user reviews on average boost sales by 18%, that 63% of users are more likely to buy from a site with user reviews, that visitors who interact with reviews are 105% more likely to make a purchase, and that 50 or more reviews can lift conversions by an additional 4.6%.
When it comes to a boost in search engine traffic, the data shows the correlation as well. A study by Yotpo found that search traffic for 30,000 businesses improved quite dramatically over a nine-month period:
To incorporate user reviews, we recommend the following:
3. Content curation
Related to the idea of consolidating your user-generated content is the idea of curating your user-generated content.
Curated content is content that you create by collecting, organizing, reworking, and republishing content created by others. This is often thought of in terms of curating content created by other publishers, such as when a blog posts a monthly list of editorially selected top blog posts in the industry.
But content curation is by no means limited to repackaging content created by other professionals. You can also curate content created by your own audience and obtain positive SEO results in response.
CognitiveSEO lists National Geographic’s “YourShot” as a great example of this. They ask their audience to send them photographs as part of a contest, and publish the best photos to their YourShot subdomain. CognitiveSEO notes that this strategy has worked very well for National Geographic, earning them 649 referring domains, nearly 190k backlinks, and high page and domain influence.
Strategies like this require an audience, but not necessarily one as large as National Geographic’s. The University of Missouri Alumni Association, for example, was able to achieve a 15% lift in site traffic by leveraging image galleries. To do so, they:
The reason content curation like this works so well for attracting links is because it puts the users in the spotlight. Since a large number of users could potentially see their photographs published in YourShot, they get excited about the project and share the site on their platforms.
This creates buzz that earns natural links from users as well as from the press.
Meanwhile, curating the content editorially ensures that it is of high quality, resulting in a positive impact on how search engines interpret your site content.
Here are some pointers regarding curating user-generated content:
Properly deployed, user-generated content can be a massive benefit for your site.
User reviews can bump up your uniqueness score and help you rank for a wider variety of queries. Consolidating and moderating user discussions produces in-depth, comprehensive pages that pull in long tail. User contests and curation lead to link earning and other positive off-site signals.
Take advantage of these opportunities and make the most of your audience.
The rise of the modern B2B marketer is changing the way marketing and sales teams work together to generate new business and deliver ROI.
New research from Contentive, a global B2B marketing and events company, found that the role of the modern B2B marketing professional is rapidly shifting owing to the explosion of data, analytics and automation tools.
Contentive surveyed its trusted community of B2B marketing professionals to learn more about their key challenges and for a glimpse for what the future holds for B2B marketing.
The top three trends that are influencing emerging strategies are personalization, artificial intelligence and influencer marketing. The survey found that 57% of B2B marketers consider personalization as the key trend that will influence their marketing strategy for the next 12 months. With an increasing focus on using data and technology to craft personalized, tailored messages, the modern B2B marketer is constantly testing, iterating and optimizing different marketing channels to analyse the success of their marketing campaigns.
As a result, marketing budgets are no longer fixed, with 48% of marketers allocating budgets on an ongoing basis to effective channels. In many cases, this means marketing budgets are increasing, with 66% of respondents expecting their marketing budget to increase for the year.
Collaboration between sales and marketing is also increasingly important, with ever stronger focus on new business conversion as well as ROI from existing customers and website traffic. Top of the funnel leads are no longer the preferred campaign outcome. Marketers are increasingly challenged to deliver nurtured, or even sales qualified leads.
Key findings from the survey were:
To download the key findings from the 2018 B2B Marketing Survey, click here.
The SEO kills creativity mantra isn’t uncommon among content writers. Likewise, SEO experts often voice complaints that creative writing should take a back seat to SEO perfection.
The reality is that the best types of content marketing combine creativity with SEO value. Here’s a guide on the best ways to merge creativity and SEO for content marketing success.
How SEO got a bad rap – and why it’s stuck
Content marketing is still a new and shifting industry, and content creators who have been around for more than five years will remember its ugly early days. Many writers were first introduced to the world of SEO during the dreaded “content farm” years, when nothing mattered except how many keywords you could cram into a 300-word article.
Fortunately, this practice has pretty much died (because Google’s algorithm makes it a very risky practice). But for writers who worked on these content farms, the scars are deep and ugly. Sadly, a lot of strong writers turned their back on the digital marketing world during these days and never looked back.
If you’re in charge of recruiting or training writers to assist with your SEO goals, then make it a point to let them know you aren’t looking for keyword stuffing, and that you value creativity and writing talent.
The SEO tricks all writers need to know
Writers don’t need to be trained in every single aspect of SEO. If you’re hiring someone for their creative talent, odds are their interest in phrases like “robot.txt” and “sitemaps” is going to be pretty low.
Rather than trying to teach a writer how to be an SEO expert, instead, teach them the quick tricks they can use to optimize their content on their own. There are three key skills that all writers who want to work in digital need to know:
If you can teach writers these skills and why they matter, then you won’t overwhelm them with SEO techniques that don’t apply directly to their writing. Writers may grit their teeth, but equipping them with simple tools (like Ubersuggest or Keywords Everywhere), you’ll be able to get them to focus on SEO without having to hold their hand through every piece of content they create.
It’s easy to teach a creative basic SEO tactics, but next to impossible to teach someone who doesn’t have a creative streak how to make something unique.
Show content creators results in their language
It’s useful to include your content team in your regular reporting, but once again, try to tailor the information to what is most important for them. Show them how their use of certain keywords or content structure is improving and succeeding.
Every passionate writer wants people to read their words; show them results in this context. It’s not a big leap to say that increased organic traffic means a bigger audience reading their work, or that longer time on page means people are truly enjoying what they read. When a writer sees evidence that his or her content piece is getting attention, they’ll be more willing to include SEO-strong tactics in future work.
The boardroom: where creativity goes to die
There’s a vicious cycle played out in marketing teams every day. A content creator comes up with a creative idea. Maybe it’s a bit cheeky, or weird, or off-beat, but it’s very clever and has great potential to connect and surprise the audience.
Several other people on the team see the idea and love it. They think it’s hilarious. But then, the chisels come out.
“Could we change this word?”
“And maybe use a different image?”
“I’m not sure we want to say that, some customers might find that offensive.”
“I don’t get the joke.”
“This is totally off brand.”
And then the SEO team comes in:
“There’s no keyword in that headline. Can we add one in?”
The next thing you know, what was once a winning creative idea has been watered down by everyone else in the business. While it’s important that writers stay on brand and communicate a company’s message, it’s also important that people in the upper echelons of a business let the creatives be creative.
This applies to the SEO team. It’s vital that the content creators and the hardline SEO team work together to understand the intention of any given piece of content. Is it more important to drive people to the page via organic traffic, or is it more important to engage them once they get there? For most content pieces, you’ll have a blend of these two goals. But if you are focused on making sure you keep your bounce rate low and your time on page high, then sometimes you have to sacrifice clunky or awkward SEO-based phrasing for creativity instead.
There’s no reason SEO and creativity can’t go hand in hand, provided content creators and SEO leaders are willing to work together and compromise. Writers who want to work in digital marketing must be willing to learn the basics of content optimization. SEO experts need to learn when it’s appropriate to sacrifice SEO elements for creative engagement. Meeting in the middle on creativity and optimization is a recipe for success.
SEO can boost the traffic to your site by paying closer attention to what your visitors want from you. It can help you create the content that your readers will enjoy while optimizing your pages to be as useful as possible.
The first steps towards search engine optimization can be scary, but you can start implementing small changes to improve your rankings in search results.
After all, SEO success doesn’t happen overnight, so it’s better to start with the small changes that will gradually lead to greater success.
Defining SEO success can be subjective, but in general, we want to:
11 tips to keep in mind when you start optimizing your site
Focus on your content
A good start to search engine optimization is to pay attention to your content. Keywords can help you become more specific to your search objectives, but you still need to create quality content.
Your content should make sense to your readers first, rather than the search engines. It used to be a common suggestion to add all your keywords throughout your copy but this risked the chance of alienating your audience. The modern approach to SEO requires you pay attention to the quality of your content to stand out with your copy.
Understand your keywords (but search like a human being)
You need to perform a keyword research to find the best keywords that will bring you success. The next step is to include them in your copy in the most natural way. It’s important to understand that your keywords are your search terms that people will search for your site. They need to make sense and they shouldn’t be too general.
Think the way you’d perform a search. Would you search for ‘search engine optimization tips’ or ‘best tips for SEO beginners’? The more specific you get, the higher the chances to find your niche audience.
Think like a user
Once you start searching like a user, the next step is to also think like a user when you’re improving your site. You don’t have to be an SEO expert to make small tweaks to your site’s performance.
For example, how fast is your load page? If your site is too slow then this will also affect your search rankings. Moreover, if your site is not optimized for all devices, then Google probably won’t place you high in the search results.
User experience becomes more important than ever and you need to consider all the changes that will make your site easier for your visitors. Seek suggestions from people who visit your site for the first time. The feedback can be valuable.
The art of the headline
Your headlines should be short but descriptive. It’s suggested you create headlines of 50-60 characters. This is the limit of what search engines access so even if you create longer headlines, the rest won’t be tracked.
Use the headline to describe your content and the page that the visitor will access. Make it appealing, but not misleading. Feel free to be creative, provided that you still stay loyal to the context.
Add internal links
Internal links help you highlight the value of your content. It’s a good way to increase your traffic while boosting your SEO, one page at a time. Every link should have a different focus keyword to avoid cannibalizing your own content.
Add external links
External links can also bring value to your site provided that you use them in moderation. You don’t want to lose your readers by leading them to a page that serves as your competitor. Make sure you’re only linking to pages of high authority to increase the process of building trust while adding further value to your content. Treat link building as a strategy and avoid the temptation of over-stuffing your content with external links.
Involve social media for authority building
It’s common to ask whether social media affects your SEO strategy. Although there is no direct correlation between the two, it is still useful to build your social presence while improving your search rankings.
The more visible you are, the higher the chances of building your credibility by reaching a wider audience. After all, tweets can show up in search rankings and social success can still lead to multiple benefits.
Create fresh content but don’t forget your older content
Fresh content can serve as a ‘signal’ that you’re regularly updating your site. Whether it’s a blog post or any tweaks to keep your messaging new, it’s good to add new content from time to time.
Except for new content, it’s also useful to revise your existing copy. Your older blog posts can end up having bigger value than your latest ones. SEO takes time to work, which means that the older your post, the higher it can land in rankings.
Make sure you create good content and you use the right keywords and keep an eye on the performance of your older posts to keep them up-to-date. This can be a good tactic to boost your site’s traffic without necessarily creating new posts.
Add meta tags
Title tags describe the content of your page. It’s the language that helps search engines understand what your site is about. This is where you need to add the right keywords that are more relevant to your page.
Moreover, a meta description provides the right context for your title tags helping both search engines and people to get a quick glimpse of your content. A meta description should be no more than 160 characters and you need to pick your words wisely. This is the copy that may convince users to click on your page.
Optimize your images
SEO is not limited to written text, but it can also extend to images. As visual content becomes more popular, it’s critical to optimize your images to make them easier for people to find them.
Luckily, it doesn’t take time to optimize your images, here’s a guide to help you improve image optimization.
Think of image search as a new chance of building traffic to your site.
Local marketing is gaining ground as more marketers try to reach more targeted audiences. As Google invests in local advertising, there is also a growing space for local SEO. Keyword strategies focus more on local audiences and the copy can be optimized to fit different targeting.
A good way to keep up with local SEO is to learn as many details as possible about your target audience. Think what their local needs are and what keywords could bring you more traffic to your site.
SEO nowadays is all about providing an excellent user experience by paying attention to everything that includes the copy, the design, the keywords and the insights from your target audience.
Always think like the user and try to be relevant and useful with your content. Don’t ignore keywords but make sure you use them only when appropriate.
Last but not least, SEO takes time so don’t lose hope if you don’t see any difference in rankings after your first tweaks.
Pleasure to introduce my self i am Sean Webb i am 27 years old from Manchester, UK.I am doing affiliate marketing and have spend lots of time learning how to rank easy to medium competition keywords. I have recently started PPL and Video Marketing and learning more about it.